Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day -15: Rare Cycle

Here's my rare cycle submission in response to this challenge from the last Great Designer Search. I looked over carefully the requirements of the test to make sure whether or not they specified that the cards had to be monocolored. I didn't see any such rule, thus, I went ahead with my idea for four-color cards, each card in the cycle having a missing color.

But, these aren't like the Nephilim cycle. I used hybrid mana symbols to allow for greater flexibility in what colors to use for the spells. (For example, a (W/U)(B/R) cost can be paid with WB, WR, or UR) Also, I decided to make them X spells. And, they had to be instants because of my simulation of the challenge.

One challenge of having these restraints is to have card effects that, no matter what colors were used, still matched up to what those colors can do according to the color pie. The first decision I made was pairing ally colors in the hybrid mana symbols. Then, for each hybrid mana symbol, I needed to know what both colors had in common so that no matter what color was chosen, it'll still be O.K. For example, white and blue both share the flicker effect (though, in this list, it's all white cards) as seen in the cards Turn to Mist and Mistmeadow Witch. I did use the flicker effect on one of the cards in the cycle, in fact. So, I turned to Gatherer to find all the hybrid cards for each ally-color pairing to find out what each color did to get a list of effects I could do for each color pair.

Another challenge was to have effects that accommodated the scalability of the X-ness of these spells. But let's see the cards already:

Rare Instant Tight Cycle
(Note: I decided that having the same mana cost and the same X component with four-color hybrid shenanigans meant this could count as a tight cycle.)

I believe this is the weakest card of the cycle, but I could be wrong. This is the card I used the flicker effect on.. For the black/red part, in case you didn't get the throwback from the title, I chose the common effect seen in the card Scar. There's synergy here in that you could save your own creatures from the -1/-1 counters being placed on them. 

However, there's two variables here (at least): how many creatures of your own can you save and how many -1/-1 counters can be placed on each creature. I solved this, which happens to also temper the possibility of this being too powerful, by requiring you to flicker your opponents' creatures as a meter for how many counters to place. (Those -1/-1 counters are permanent, after all.)

Both blue and black do milling, and I copied Giantbating's placement of red and green creature tokens (except those were temporary, and I made my token permanent). However, I didn't want a Giant creature token, so among the sea of many red/green hybrid cards that had Goblins and Giants, I found Giant Solifuge, an Insect. Perfect!

Again, there's two variables: The amount of milling and how big the creature could be. I didn't want to be boring and tie the X value to each effect (only two cards in this cycle do this), so, as you can see, the milled cards' mana symbols were incorporated. Besides, I need the two different mechanics to work together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts (which was one of the criteria that they were judging on for this challenge). In this case, the reason for the milling mechanic is that it's an insect manifested from the memories of a planeswalker.

So, how big does the insect normally get? Well, I only did a rough estimation, so I figured that about two-thirds of the cards revealed will be nonlands. And, of those cards, you'll get around three mana symbols on average. So, on average, if you paid 5 total mana, you'll get a 3/3. But, I could be way off.

Yes, the flavor is you eating the creature. But, it's for nourishment! This one's the most "boring" card as dealing damage and gaining life is quite obvious for their black/red and green/white color pairs. But, they're perfect to go together since the effects mirror each other. 

There are existing cards like Death Grasp, Drain Life, and Heat Ray that are similar to this card. Let's compare with Death Grasp. 

It costs the same amount of mana, but you straight up gain the life. What's with that? Well, that's because it's a sorcery. This one's an instant, so something's gotta give. So, in exchange for being an instant, Loathsome Lunch can only target creatures. And in exchange for being flexible in the colors that could be spent on this spell, it has a condition for whether you can gain that life.

Heat Ray is an easy comparison in that it also does X damage to creatures, it's an instant, and you also pay a red to do it. So, obviously, paying an extra mana means you get the benefit of another effect. Hooray, it's still balanced. And then there's Drain Life, but I think you get it by now.

This card counters the way it does because white and blue both have counterspells that do the "lapse effect". The other ability, destroying lands, stumps the opponent's mana base. 

So, what happens here is a three-way wonderfulness of blocking the opponent from progressing. There's stopping the spell temporarily, there's replacing their next draw with that same card, and then there's the possibility that they won't be able to cast that spell again because of the lost lands. Hooray!

But, destroying lands is serious business. That's why it's half of X, rounded down. So, to destroy two lands, you'll have to pay six mana. That's like Rain of Salt. Except, you know, this spell is better. But, in my defense, Lavaball Trap costs 8 for an instant, but it also does 4 damage to each creature. Last I checked, that's more than the two extra mana spent to get this additional effect. Which narrows down the land destruction being pretty much O.K. I know the fact that you could scale the spell with X means the card should have a bit less power, but it's fine. I'm just "pushing the power level" in this case, if anything.

This one's "interesting decision" comes with when to cast this card. You could cast it during your turn to gain unblockable beefed creatures (possibly), or you could cast it during your opponent's turn as a combat trick and get some card advantage (possibly).

I included the "at random" clause because I didn't want the opponent to choose what benefits you get. They'll always choose the worst one for you. Luckily, revealing cards at random seems to be perfectly O.K., anyway.

So, that's all the cards. On a side note, I think of my card names like fancy playtest names. They're not something like "Insect Mill" or "Counterspell Land Destruction", but neither do they seem to be finalized card names. That's O.K. They're not important, but I still try hard, for some reason. Somebody slap me or something.

Two cycles left: common and mythic.




  1. Why would I slap you for something like that? Seems like making names before the cards are ready would be a great idea!

    Also, I like cards with random effects, because it just makes the game seem more intense.

    I think you're going to do well in the competition, you know the cards well it seems.

  2. Oh my is that counterspell broken.
    Late in the game, if you and your opponent each have 12 lands (as control will have), and they cast DoJ, you decide to cast that counterspell you should win the game. They won't be able to pay the 10 (since that's what you'd obviously do) and they lose 5 lands of your choice, without targeting.
    So, not only did you Time Walk them you played a one sided Destructive Force where you get to destroy lands of your choice.
    Even before the late game it can be pretty devastating as this quick chart goes:
    Turn 4 (2GW) - 1 land of your choice
    Turn 6 (4GW) - 2 lands of your choice
    Turn 8 (6GW) - 3 lands of your choice
    And that's assuming you don't have an acceleration of your own (like Signets) to help speed up the process. I know that it's a rare, but that's a hugely format warping rare. It's too powerful and backbreaking no matter what mana cost you decide to play it.
    Plus, destroy land effects aren't really instants (save Boil, since that was against Blue decks).
    Other than playtesting to see power and some flavor reasons (Maybe instead of one big Insect you make many 1/1 ones) the other ones look at least ready to test. But boy, that Counterspell is heart breaking when it goes off against you.

  3. To MTG Color Pie:

    Well, just a few cards in red are instants, including Lavaball Trap from last year.

    However, I understand that the rule might've been broken for Traps (and it costs 8), but Fifth Dawn saw Rain of Rust, anyway. So, it'd be O.K. if, every once in a while (years), there's an instant red land destruction (that didn't hose a color specifically).

    I was aware of what the chart demonstrates and determined that it was fine. I think I underestimated how powerful this is, though.

    Even then, green doesn't have an instant land destruction, and that's my mistake. If that mana symbol were only red, I would place a tighter restriction on the land destruction.

    As for the counterspell part, it's not broken now that we're not considering land destruction. There's plenty of "unless controller pays X" spells that are cheaper. Now, for the lapse effect, I understand Memory Lapse may be too overpowered nowadays. Lapse of Certainty, though, was printed in Alara block. And you get to outright counter that spell.

    The problem is that another effect is supposed to be paired with it, which makes the card more powerful. Perhaps if the spell was returned to the hand (restricting to only an opponent's spell, too, so you couldn't do any Remand shenanigans) and paired with a less powerful red/green effect, it'd be O.K.

    In summary, I agree with you. It's broken. =)

    I like your suggestion for multiple 1/1s.

    To Josh:

    Thanks, Josh. I also like "random effects." It's like Cascade. That's an exciting mechanic.



  4. Yes, even once in a while you get instant land destruction spells, but few and far between (as you've pointed out).

    The counterspell portion is not broken at all if you take out the land destruction. It's just back breaking paired together since you knew what your next spell was going to be and, most likely, not get you back after your lands were nuked.

    As for what to put for the R/G effect? Maybe something dealing with the casting cost of countered spell. I was thinking of returning target creature from your graveyard to your hand since they both have has a little history of that. Or X too. It's up to you.

  5. I've got a new version brewed up. I'll include it in my next post along with the Mantis modification.