Sunday, November 12, 2017

NaGaDeMon #06: More Mana, More Problems

Art by Wayne Reynolds

The nonwhite faction's mechanic is still pending. I've been working lately on the mana support required of a four colors matter set.

Let's talk about the Thoctar in the room. Specifically, hitting the correct colors to cast your spells that are more than two colors is difficult to do without putting in a decent amount of effort to fix your colors.

Back in Shards of Alara, a cycle of creatures existed with converted mana cost of exactly three, with one of each of the colors of one of the shards. They were rightfully powerful on-curve. The problem was that it was also unfeasible to consistently cast on-curve as well. This isn't desired.

In Khans of Tarkir, this was remedied by having their uncommon cycle of three-color creatures be of five mana instead of three.

Know what else was fixed moreso than Shards of Alara? Mana fixing. The Obelisks weren't too great, compared to mana rocks like the Signets. As the game goes on, the Obelisks wear out their usefulness as you gain the colors of mana you need in lands alone.

Khans of Tarkir improved this by having their Banners be able to sacrifice themselves to gift you a card, so that when the time comes when a Banner isn't serving its primary purpose, it can still be of use to you. The Cluestones in Dragon's Maze followed suit.

On the topic of mana fixing: Shards of Alara had 5 Obelisks and 5 Panoramas at common with 5 tri-lands at uncommon. Every one of these dealt with all three colors of their respective shard.

In Khans of Tarkir, there were no such lands at common that helped you with three colors at once. Instead, 10 land cards were devoted to providing you just 2 colors. 5 tri-color mana-fixing artifacts were retained in the form of the Banners. And tri-lands at uncommon again. 15 mana-fixing cards at common, and 5 at uncommon.

For the four-color set, this means:

  • Can't have four-color creatures that cost four mana. Prolly should be six mana.
  • Have more than 15 mana fixers but do what Khans did and don't have the mana fixers provide too much power to be able to enter five colors like what Shards of Alara allowed (in fact, Conflux encouraged this behavior with the domain mechanic returned).
20 mana fixing cards is a lot. And with the direction of not providing four colors in a mana fixer to mitigate the encouragement to go into five colors, this means maybe needing two mana-fixing cards in a game. But you know what else is a lot? Devoting two of your spells cast in a game to be mana fixers. Or devoting two of your lands to fix your mana. Splitting between lands and spells to make 1 mana fixing spell and 1 mana fixing land is a better experience. 

But how do we ensure that the diminished fixing of colors still is able to support this increase in the number of colors required to cast our sweet four-color spells? Let's try some stuff:

A unique thing about four-color multicolor versus three-color multicolor is that you don't have an imbalance between ally two-color combos and enemy two-color combos for which apply toward the greater multicolor identity. For Shards, a cycle of ally-colored gold cards is doubly applicable than a cycle of enemy-colored gold cards. Which is why the enemy-colored gold cards were at a higher rarity and fewer in number than ally-colored gold cards. 

For four-color costs, both ally and enemy two-color combos evenly benefit. This means there's no problem including all ten of the two-color combinations. So, ten spells that fix your mana with two colors. And ten lands that fix your mana with two colors. What's also neat is that a mana fixer that fixes two colors of mana and a land that fixes two colors of mana makes for four colors of mana between the two. 

But how many possible pairs of pairs are there in one particular group of four colors? There's three. Let's consider WUBR:
  • WU + BR
  • WB + UR
  • WR + UB
Now let's consider the spells (most likely artifacts) and lands:
  • WU artifact + BR land
  • WU land + BR artifact
  • WB artifact + UR land
  • WB land + UR artifact
  • WR artifact + UB land
  • WR land + UB artifact
Let's hope having one of the six combos above is likely to happen for you in Limited. Not that having two artifacts or two lands from the mana-fixing suite would be taboo to play in a game.

But how would they work? Here are some ideas:
  • The artifacts fortify (the ability from Future Site's Fortification land Darksteel Garrison) the lands and allow each other to produce mana of colors the other can create, and fortifications are supported by the flavor/theme of the set with kingdoms/castles that have Walls and Gates and Towers, etc.
  • Having two mana fixers that don't overlap colors causes a transform effect for better mana fixing
  • Having any two mana fixers utilize the "pair" mechanic found in Avacyn Restored's Soulbond mechanic
  • When mana fixing isn't needed: sac to draw a card? Cycling before even casting it? Do some other kind of benefit?
  • Having one mana fixer tutors out another mana fixer
  • Thematic: artifact mana fixers are conceptualized to be keys while the lands are Gates waiting to be unlocked with the Keys
  • All mana fixers across the artifacts and lands share the same subtype, and a cycle of common cards has cycling for that subtype (like how Wizardcycling was a thing)

*yawn* The doozy might be the "quad-lands" at uncommon (which is outside the common scope of this project). That's all for me for now.

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