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:

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
Counterspell (hard)1210111
Counterspell (soft)2122222
Draw cards2131233
Grant evasion1221201
Manipulate top of library1001132
Return sorcery/instant back to hand0011000
Switch power/toughness0001000
Modify type0000001
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)!

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