Thursday, January 29, 2015

Card Core Design #3: Number Crunch



Last time, I filled in the creature slots of the commons design skeleton with creature keyword abilities. Today, I start to fill in the basic effects that appear for each color at common as well as add in non-keyword creature abilities that usually show up at common. For example, "Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, DO SOMETHING."

Data Incomplete


I first started out with gathering data on what kind of effects usually appear at common in a core set. I only gathered data on white, blue, and black so far - so I'll have to finish red and green for next week's article. After gathering the numbers for each type of effect from cards found in each of the sets from Magic 2010 to Magic 2015, I then filled in my own numbers for each of those effects. In general, the numbers I put in are an average of the numbers written down for any one particular effect. There are some cases where, because undying exists, certain type of effects either don't get any number representation or is minimized.

Here's what the numbers look like for the first three colors:

UndyingM15M14M13M12M11M10
WHITE
Lifegain3532343
Small buff to 12323231
Small buff to all1311113
Destroy/exile enchantment1111111
Prevent damage or grant indestructible0111011
Tap creature1010111
Destroy artifact0110011
Grant keyword ability2201311
Big buff to 10011100
Punish attacking/blocking creature0111001
Create creature token(s)1212000
Put Aura card into hand0110100
Bounce to top of library0000011
Grant protection0000100
Opponent skips next combat0000100
Exile big stat creature1100000
BLUE
Counterspell (hard)1210111
Counterspell (soft)2122222
Draw cards2131233
Bounce2321211
Milling2112221
Grant evasion1221201
Diminish1111011
Manipulate top of library1001132
Twiddle1111100
Looting1100101
Return sorcery/instant back to hand0011000
Switch power/toughness0001000
Modify type0000001
BLACK
Discard2223232
Deflate2241121
Creature removal2111222
Return creature back to hand1111222
Small pump2033222
Gain life1102211
Card draw1111011
Life loss1001112
Direct damage1101201
Grant lifelink1111000
Creature token0011000
Land destruction0000100
Grant intimidate0000100
Grant deathtouch1100000

For white, since white sometimes cares about creatures having too large power or toughness, I relished the chance to put in a card that cared about that due to the larger creatures that have undying. To boot, having it be an exile spell would be extra good since, again, undying would trigger otherwise. In fact...


For blue, I valued having bounce for the interesting interactions that would have with creatures with undying.

And the tables above informed how I arranged my effects into my design skeleton's card slots. The tight squeeze is a real thing that happens, despite the large set size! Here's what I ended up with:

CodeCard DescriptionCard Design
CW01creature, small, vanilla
CW02creature, small, undying, flying1W. 1/1. Flying. Undying.
CW03creature, small, flying
CW04creature, small, undying
CW05creature, small, lifelink
CW06creature, small, first strike
CW07creature, small, token-making
CW08creature, small, lifegain
CW09creature, small
CW10creature, medium, vanilla
CW11creature, medium, flying
CW12creature, medium, vigilance
CW13sorcery, lifegain, enchantment/artifact removalSolemn Offering
CW14sorcery, token-making, remove +1/+1 counter
CW15instant, grant flying & undying
CW16instant, exile big stat creature
CW17instant, team buff
CW18instant, lifelink, first strike, small buffSwift Justice
CW19enchantment, Aura, Pacifism-like
CW20enchantment, Aura, small buff, vigilance
CU01creature, small, vanilla
CU02creature, small, flying
CU03creature, small, flying, flash
CU04creature, small, islandwalk
CU05creature, small, saboteur, card drawing
CU06creature, small, bounceVoidwielder, reprint
CU07creature, medium, vanilla
CU08creature, medium, flying, only block flying
CU09creature, large, Illusion
CU10sorcery, card drawing
CU11sorcery, loot effect
CU12sorcery, milling
CU13instant, counterspell, hard
CU14instant, counterspell, soft
CU15instant, counterspell, soft
CU16instant, twiddle
CU17instant, move counterMove a counter from target creature onto a second target creature.
CU18instant, bounce
CU19enchantment, Aura, lock-down
CU20enchantment, Aura, can't be blockedTricks of the Trade, reprint
CB01creature, small, vanilla
CB02creature, small, undying, Skeleton
CB03creature, small, flying
CB04creature, small, discard
CB05creature, small, sac creature for small pump
CB06creature, small, Shade
CB07creature, medium, vanilla
CB08creature, medium, flying
CB09creature, medium, ETB tapped
CB10creature, medium, undying
CB11creature, medium, life loss
CB12sorcery, creature removal
CB13sorcery, discard
CB14sorcery, return creature card
CB15sorcery, sac creature to draw cards
CB16sorcery, deflate
CB17instant, deflate
CB18instant, direct damage + gain life
CB19instant, creature removal
CB20enchantment, Aura, grant lifelink + deathtouch

Cleaning the Counter


Because this is a set that is making important use of +1/+1 counters, I hearken back to when there was heavy counter use and see what blue could do. I relished the chance to do a monoblue version of these cards:



Since this is a core set, I can't include either of these two cards, despite their being common, because they're hybrid. Great! I get to add another version to this library of counter-moving cards. 

Now, again, because this is a core set, I can't make the spell too complicated. I was tempted to have a card that said "Move a counter from target permanent to another target permanent that shares a card type." Permanents sharing card types? Oi. Too clunky for a common core set card. I did want to still tickle the potential for creative counter moving and not explicitly call out +1/+1 counters, though. For decks of older, Constructed formats that might want to make some cool use of moving charge counters around or something.

So, while I'll miss the chance to move around counters among planeswalkers (that'll be for another time), I'm satisfied with keeping the spell simple and restricted to creatures but keep it flexible in both who you can target and what kind of counters you can move. Like this:



What's interesting is that the wording I used here is not templated slightly incorrectly from the above cards of Bioshift and Fate Transfer. There was a new card from Fate Reforged, Daghatar the Adamant, that changed up how the wording goes for moving counters, so I decided to follow that template. Here's the card:



Lens of Truth


We're now entering into territory of much potential changes to the design skeleton with all the cramming we're doing and moving of effects and numbers around. While painting by the numbers is one method of filling in the design skeleton, I musn't forget other attributes of a set or core set that should be present. It's easy to have tunnel vision and do cold design like what I've been doing up until now. But if I continue to do so, I'll miss some important ingredients that make up the big picture.

This subject reminds me of the Book of Lenses, a game design book that helps you to examine your game designs from various, different lenses/perspectives. Up until this point, I've been designing with just one or two closely-related Magic Design Lenses. What I need to make sure of is that I account for each of the different lenses when I let myself have the time to get to them.

For example, what of the creature types for each color that should show up? If a lifegain effect on a card is a staple for white commons, perhaps the same can also be said for "red always has a Dragon creature at rare."

And what of the number of horizontal cycles? These lenses will be explored in a future post, whether that's next week after red and green have their effects filled in, or in two weeks after that. Until then, see you on the #mtgdesign Twitter-spheres (@bradleyrose)!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Card Core Design #2: Going South

"Southern Paladin" by Greg Staples

Last week, I created a design skeleton and filled in each card slot's card types along with some sense of creature sizes and where undying will appear at common. I also mentioned that white usually gets a Pacifism-like Aura along with another beneficial Aura at common. However, I didn't update the skeleton appropriately. So, I made sure now to include that Aura.

But I need to clear up a slot for that Aura. With 4 instants and 2 sorceries, I'm hard-pressed to eliminate either one of them to make room. If I get rid of a sorcery, then I feel white having just 1 sorcery in a large set is too few. If I get rid of an instant, then white would no longer have "lots of instants" when comparing 3 instants to 2 sorceries.

Since I got rid of a creature card slot in green and turned it into a creature-token-making card, and with white having 13 creature card slots currently, I could eliminate one of those slots and still have white retain its dominant position as the color with the most creatures. I eliminated a small creature slot figuring that the token-making card in white would have to at least be a small creature.

Now that that is that; this week, I'm filling in the remaining initial details for the skeleton. I'll also talk briefly of PAX South and how that relates to this set I'm working on.

Keyword Nerd

Here's the skeleton now:

CodeCard Description
CW01creature, small, undying
CW02creature, small
CW03creature, small
CW04creature, small
CW05creature, small
CW06creature, small
CW07creature, small
CW08creature, small
CW09creature, small
CW10creature, medium, undying?
CW11creature, medium
CW12creature, medium
CW13sorcery
CW14sorcery, token-making?
CW15instant
CW16instant
CW17instant, undying?
CW18instant, token-making?
CW19enchantment, Aura, Pacifism-like
CW20enchantment, Aura
CU01creature, small
CU02creature, small
CU03creature, small
CU04creature, small
CU05creature, small
CU06creature, small
CU07creature, medium
CU08creature, medium
CU09creature, large
CU10sorcery
CU11sorcery
CU12sorcery
CU13instant
CU14instant
CU15instant
CU16instant
CU17instant
CU18instant
CU19instant
CU20enchanment, Aura
CB01creature, small, undying, Skeleton
CB02creature, small
CB03creature, small
CB04creature, small
CB05creature, small
CB06creature, small/medium
CB07creature, medium, undying?
CB08creature, medium
CB09creature, medium
CB10creature, medium
CB11creature, medium
CB12sorcery
CB13sorcery
CB14sorcery
CB15sorcery
CB16sorcery, undying?
CB17instant, Undying Evil or other undying?
CB18instant
CB19instant
CB20instant
CR01creature, small
CR02creature, small
CR03creature, small
CR04creature, small
CR05creature, small
CR06creature, medium
CR07creature, medium
CR08creature, medium
CR09creature, medium
CR10creature, medium
CR11sorcery
CR12sorcery
CR13sorcery
CR14sorcery/instant
CR15instant
CR16instant
CR17instant
CR18instant
CR19instant
CR20enchantment, Aura
CG01creature, small, undying?
CG02creature, small
CG03creature, small
CG04creature, small
CG05creature, small
CG06creature, medium, undying?
CG07creature, medium
CG08creature, medium
CG09creature, medium
CG10creature, large, undying?
CG11creature, large
CG12sorcery
CG13sorcery
CG14sorcery
CG15sorcery
CG16sorcery
CG17sorcery/instant, token-making
CG18instant
CG19instant
CG20enchantment, Aura
CA01artifact creature, undying

Now that I have added "undying" to card slots, I'll finish off the keywords and place them on creatures. But before I do that, I need to see how many vanilla creatures I need to have at common, and then reserve those slots, so I know they're off-limits for adding keywords to.

Thankfully, Past Me wrote about vanillas and how frequently all of the different flavors (hehe) of vanilla show up in sets: "Neapolitan Needs Vanilla, Two"

Each Core Set usually has 10 creatures at common that are vanilla. Perfect, I'll give two to each color.

CodeCard Description
CW01creature, small, vanilla
CW02creature, small, undying
CW03creature, small
CW04creature, small
CW05creature, small
CW06creature, small
CW07creature, small
CW08creature, small
CW09creature, small
CW10creature, medium, vanilla
CW11creature, medium
CW12creature, medium, undying?
CW13sorcery, undying?
CW14sorcery, token-making?
CW15instant
CW16instant
CW17instant, undying?
CW18instant, token-making?
CW19enchantment, Aura, Pacifism-like
CW20enchantment, Aura
CU01creature, small, vanilla
CU02creature, small
CU03creature, small
CU04creature, small
CU05creature, small
CU06creature, small
CU07creature, medium, vanilla
CU08creature, medium
CU09creature, large
CU10sorcery
CU11sorcery
CU12sorcery
CU13instant
CU14instant
CU15instant
CU16instant
CU17instant
CU18instant
CU19instant
CU20enchanment, Aura
CB01creature, small, vanilla
CB02creature, small, undying, Skeleton
CB03creature, small
CB04creature, small
CB05creature, small
CB06creature, small/medium
CB07creature, medium, vanilla
CB08creature, medium, undying?
CB09creature, medium
CB10creature, medium
CB11creature, medium
CB12sorcery
CB13sorcery
CB14sorcery
CB15sorcery
CB16sorcery, undying?
CB17instant, Undying Evil or other undying?
CB18instant
CB19instant
CB20instant
CR01creature, small, vanilla
CR02creature, small
CR03creature, small
CR04creature, small
CR05creature, small
CR06creature, medium, vanilla
CR07creature, medium
CR08creature, medium
CR09creature, medium
CR10creature, medium
CR11sorcery
CR12sorcery
CR13sorcery
CR14sorcery/instant
CR15instant
CR16instant
CR17instant
CR18instant
CR19instant
CR20enchantment, Aura
CG01creature, small, vanilla?
CG02creature, small, undying?
CG03creature, small
CG04creature, small
CG05creature, small
CG06creature, medium, vanilla?
CG07creature, medium, undying?
CG08creature, medium
CG09creature, medium
CG10creature, large, vanilla?
CG11creature, large, undying?
CG12sorcery, undying?
CG13sorcery
CG14sorcery
CG15sorcery
CG16sorcery
CG17sorcery/instant, token-making
CG18instant, undying?
CG19instant
CG20enchantment, Aura
CA01artifact creature, undying

Giving a vanilla creature to the small and medium creature slots was pretty straight-forward. The only color where I don't know where I want the two vanilla creatures to be is green. I could have a medium and a large, or a small or a large, or a small or a medium. For now, let's leave those options open.

O.K., now for the creature keyword mechanics. I'll start with blue, the color with fewest keywords, to get warmed up.

BLUE

Blue gets the following creature keywords: flying, hexproof, islandwalk, flash. Here are the average numbers of each:
  • 3 flying creatures usually, sometimes 4 or 5
  • 0 to 1 hexproof creatures
  • 1 to 2 islandwalk creatures
  • 0 to 1 flash creatures
Let's settle on this:
  • 3 flying creatures
  • 0 hexproof creatures
  • 1 islandwalk creatures
  • 1 flash creature
As a general rule, common creature cards cannot have two creature keywords on one card. However, flying is so simple and easily understood that it is an exception to this rule (and sometimes reach or defender qualifies as an exception, too). So, let's first put the non-flying keywords onto creatures before adding flying.

Now for flying - most Core Sets had 3 common blue flying creatures. I'll stick with that for now, but this can change later. Hexproof has been scaled back since it was first introduced in Magic 2012. Hexproof has generally disappeared from common, and that's a good thing, since hexproof can get dangerously unfun. Better leave hexproof for uncommon, if anything. And then sampling 1 of each of islandwalk and flash sounds good for now.

There's usually at least one creature in blue common that is a pure French vanilla flier. So, I'll lock in one of those. Flash is usually found on a flying creature in blue, so I'll make one of the fliers have flash. Since I have just two medium blue creatures and one of them is already set to be a vanilla creature, I'll give myself more wiggle room by not locking down my final medium flier with flash and instead give it to a small flier.

CU01creature, small, vanilla
CU02creature, small, French vanilla, flying
CU03creature, small, flying, flash
CU04creature, small, islandwalk?
CU05creature, small
CU06creature, small
CU07creature, medium, vanilla
CU08creature, medium, flying
CU09creature, large, islandwalk?
CU10sorcery
CU11sorcery
CU12sorcery
CU13instant
CU14instant
CU15instant
CU16instant
CU17instant
CU18instant
CU19instant
CU20enchantment, Aura

GREEN

Green has these creature mechanics at common: trample, deathtouch, regeneration, flash, forestwalk, reach, hexproof, vigilance

Numbers:

  • 1 to 2 trample creatures
  • 0 to 1 regeneration creatures
  • 1 to 2 deathtouch creatures, and rarely 0 deathtouch creatures
  • 0 flash creatures
  • 0 to 1 forestwalk creatures
  • 1 to 2 reach creatures
  • 1 to 2 hexproof creatures
  • 0 vigilance creatures, and rarely 1 vigilance creature

I'm not going to have regeneration appear on any card in this set for two reasons: 1) Regeneration is a sucky, clunky mechanic that should eventually be fixed in Magic; 2) undying has a similar effect and would be put onto creatures or other cards that would normally have regeneration.

So let's do this:

  • 1 trample creature
  • 2 undying creatures
  • 1 deathtouch creature
  • 0 forestwalk creatures
  • 2 reach creatures
  • 1 hexproof creature
  • 0 vigilance creatures
I didn't want forestwalk creatures because I wanted more killing to happen, so that there are more chances for undying to trigger. Since I was pushing for 2 undying creatures, I got rid of any chance at dabbling into vigilance.

The larger your creature is for undying, the more costly and/or rare it should be. As such, I am not putting undying in the large creature slot. So that leaves a small and a medium creature for undying.

With one large slot that isn't vanilla, I could only choose one keyword to assign to it. Deathtouch doesn't do anything for large creatures. Among trample, reach, and hexproof, trample seemed like the best support for creatures swinging into the red zone and causing creatures to die. Trample it is.

With both large creatures locked down, that leaves 4 medium creatures. 1 is vanilla, and the other is an undying creature. I don't want to miss the opportunity for green to be able to block fliers with a size-able body, so 1 of those medium creatures will have reach. Keep in mind, though, that I could combine reach with undying, due to reach's simplicity. But it's best for now to err on keeping it more simple (and less powerful).

With hexproof being annoying and deathtouch being most effect at small, I put both keywords on small creatures. My second reach creature must also be small. And my second undying creature is also at small.

In an "Aha!" moment, the following happened:
  • I wanted a new common small green creature that isn't Young Wolf or a 1/1
  • Plants regenerate
  • Defender can be paired with another creature keyword, and undying defender hasn't been done before
  • A popular naming convention for Walls is "Wall of ______"
  • Since this plant would be instantly sprouting right back from the graveyard, I needed a fast-growing plant for the flavor
  • Magic has never done a "Wall of Bamboo" creature before:



Or:



So, here's what the skeleton looks like for green common at the moment:


CG01creature, small, undying, defenderWall of Bamboo. G. Plant Wall. 0/2. Undying. Defender.
CG02creature, small, deathtouch
CG03creature, small, hexproof
CG04creature, small, reach
CG05creature, small
CG06creature, medium, vanilla
CG07creature, medium, undying
CG08creature, medium, reach
CG09creature, medium
CG10creature, large, vanilla
CG11creature, large, trample
CG12sorcery
CG13sorcery
CG14sorcery
CG15sorcery
CG16sorcery
CG17sorcery/instant, token-making
CG18instant
CG19instant
CG20enchantment, Aura



RED

Red has the following keywords: haste, first strike, trample, intimidate, mountainwalk. Red also has the firebreathing ability at common often. And red RARELY has flying on its creatures. Note that double strike doesn't usually show up at common. I won't write it off for adding it during development, but I won't start off this skeleton with double strike written in.

Numbers on red creatures with the above abilities:
  • 1 to 2 haste creatures
  • 0 to 1 first strike creatures
  • Usually 0 trample creatures, rarely having up to 2 trample creatures
  • 1 to 2 intimidate creatures
  • 0 mountainwalk creatures
  • 1 to 2 firebreathing creatures/cards, rarely having up to 3 firebreathing creatures/cards
  • 0 to 1 flying creatures
Here are my chosen numbers:

  • 2 haste creatures
  • 1 first strike creature
  • 0 trample creatures
  • 1 intimidate creature
  • 0 mountainwalk creatures
  • 1 firebreathing creature
  • 0 flying creatures
I chose to make sure to have red have a firebreathing creature due to creatures with undying getting larger in this set, so that red, having no undying, had a way to combat them.

Like with forestwalk for green, I wanted to minimize evasion, which is intimidate (and mountainwalk) in red. So, 1 instead of 2 intimidate creatures was chosen, and I put intimidate on a small creature. 0 creatures for flying as well.

First strike and firebreathing aren't normally found on medium creatures at common. So they go in the small slots.


CR01creature, small, vanilla
CR02creature, small, intimidate
CR03creature, small, first strike
CR04creature, small, haste
CR05creature, small, firebreathing
CR06creature, medium, vanilla
CR07creature, medium, haste
CR08creature, medium
CR09creature, medium
CR10creature, medium
CR11sorcery
CR12sorcery
CR13sorcery
CR14sorcery/instant
CR15instant
CR16instant
CR17instant
CR18instant
CR19instant
CR20enchantment, Aura

WHITE

White has: flying, first strike, vigilance, flash, protection, lifelink; and in the following quantities:
  • 2 to 6 flying creatures, usually 4 flying creatures
  • 1 to 2 first strike creatures, usually 1 first strike creature
  • 0 to 3 vigilance creatures, usually 1 vigilance creature
  • 0 flash creatures
  • 0 protection creatures
  • 0 to 1 lifelink creatures
Numbers I chose:
  • 3 flying creatures
  • 1 first strike creature
  • 1 vigilance creature
  • 1 lifelink creature
  • 2 undying creatures
Since white is getting undying for the first time, I want to maximize the number of white creatures that have undying. So I give 2 to it.

Vigilance feels better on a medium creature rather than a small creature.

2 flying creatures felt like too few and 5 felt like too many. 3 or 4 is good.

Lifelink should definitely go on a small creature. It can get out of hand quickly with larger creatures.

First strike should be on a small creature.

There's only one common flier that has undying. And it's a 2/2 with a drawback. White is good at fliers. And blue doesn't have undying in this set. So, it's time for a different common flier with undying:




CW01creature, small, vanilla
CW02creature, small, undying, flying1W. 1/1. Flying. Undying.
CW03creature, small, flying
CW04creature, small, undying
CW05creature, small, lifelink
CW06creature, small, first strike
CW07creature, small
CW08creature, small
CW09creature, small
CW10creature, medium, vanilla
CW11creature, medium, flying
CW12creature, medium, vigilance
CW13sorcery
CW14sorcery, token-making?
CW15instant
CW16instant
CW17instant
CW18instant, token-making?
CW19enchantment, Aura, Pacifism-like
CW20enchantment, Aura

BLACK

The final undying color. Here's what appears at common for black: flying, deathtouch, intimidate, haste, lifelink, regeneration, swampwalk

Numbers:
  • 1 to 3 flying creatures
  • 0 to 2 deathtouch creatures, usually 1
  • 0 to 1 intimidate creatures
  • 0 haste creatures
  • Usually 1 lifelink creature
  • 0 to 1 regeneration creatures
  • Usually 0 swampwalk creatures, rarely 1 swampwalk creature
What I chose:
  • 2 flying creatures
  • 1 deathtouch creature
  • 0 intimidate creatures
  • 0 haste creatures
  • 1 lifelink creature
  • 1 or 2 undying creatures
  • 0 regeneration creatures

I'd rather minimize intimidate. Undying replaces regeneration for this set.

CB01creature, small, vanilla
CB02creature, small, undying, Skeleton
CB03creature, small, flying
CB04creature, small, deathtouch
CB05creature, small, lifelink
CB06creature, small/medium
CB07creature, medium, vanilla
CB08creature, medium, flying
CB09creature, medium
CB10creature, medium
CB11creature, medium
CB12sorcery
CB13sorcery
CB14sorcery
CB15sorcery
CB16sorcery, undying?
CB17instant, Undying Evil or other undying?
CB18instant
CB19instant
CB20instant

PAX South

While I'm no longer going to PAX South this weekend, I do suspect that during the time of PAX South or on the Monday afterward, there are going to be revealed pieces of information related to the summer Core Set.

Because of this, we may or may not get to see the returning keyword among the spoiled pieces of information. If we do see that the returning keyword is "undying," then we have a game of how close can we design tot the real thing? Othewrise, we'll not pretend we're doing some sort of competition in making a Core Set.

I'm out of time for now, so we'll pick up on this next week. Thanks for reading!