Pattern Recognition #92 - Custom Card Critique 4

Card Design Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


29 November 2018


Good day to you all! My name is berryjon, and this is Pattern Recognition! TappedOut.Net's longest running article series. Each week, I endeavor to come to you all with something new and interesting to talk about, be it the history of the game, mechanics, the backgrounds of individual cards, or something a bit more esoteric. I always try to be educational, and am quite willing to listen to your feedback. After all, I can't know everything at all ever!

And so, welcome back to another go around with those cards you guys submitted to me. If you don't know the score by now, well, I suggest going back over the previous three issues (they alternate with actual articles) to see what I'm doing.

First today comes from BlazingAbsol, and I can't tell if it's a Klingon or Starship Troopers Movies reference:

Today is a Good Day

Untap target creature. It gets +3/+0 until end of turn. Sacrifice it at the beginning of next end step. After this phase, there is an additional combat phase followed by an additional main phase.

Aftermath (cast this spell only from your graveyard. Then exile it.)
As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a creature.
Each opponent sacrifices a creature.

Right, so the first thing is that I don't see a card Type in there, so I'm just going to call it a sorcery and be done with it. I mean, it could be an Instant, but the more I look at the first half of it, the more it just makes sense being cast at that speed.

As an Aftermath card from Amonkhet, this is actually a pretty easy sell to see coming from that that set, what with the Glorious End that so many natives there seek to gain their God-Pharaoh's Gift of eternal service.

Oh man, the results of that are in a few months, aren't they? I can't wait to see how that turns out.

And why did my sarcasm meter explode? I just fixed that!

Back to the card though, I have to say that on the other hand, the name of the first half seems a bit long to fit in the name box of the card, so perhaps reducing it to Good Day might work out better? Die on the other side, is perfectly reasonable as a card name. In fact, it's so reasonable, that I'm surprised that it hasn't been used yet! The closest I could find was Die Young!

Anyway, aside from passing the Vorthos test with flying colours, what about the mechanics of it? The first half, Today is a Good Day is right there, solidly in Red's slice of the color pie, with untapping a creature, and gaining an extra Combat and Main phase on the turn. My concern, as minor as it is, is that this side of the card appears to be a little underpowered. Savage Beating and Relentless Assault are the closest pure examples of what this card does, and for the low cost of being more, they untap all you creatures, rather than just one.

The whole point behind the extra combat step is that you attack with all your creatures, rather than just one. Now, I could see a case where you only have one creature that can swing for the win because it has evasion or trample, but that's a fringe case, not a complete one.

I mean, sure, you get that additional +3/+0 on the card, but I honestly don't see that as being worth the minor cost reduction. I mean, Brute Force does better for the same missing cost, so it just seems a little lackluster here.

On the Aftermath side of this, sacrificing something of yours to take out something of the opponents is so deep into that it feels like Ice Age all over again! Well, not quite, but it appeals to my old school sensibilities.

Except the cost is too high. and sacrificing a creature just to kill (err, force to sacrifice - gets around that pesky indestructible) one creature is a bad trade off.

Sure, the flavour is there. One stalwart creature stands up, swings again in a last ditch effort to kill their foe, and takes out one of the defending creatures in the process, but the whole thing, taken together... well, it's just off.

I think this card actually works better in Mardu colors. Not because of any lack, but rather because when I see the first side of the card, it just strikes me as being something that's more than anything else.

If anything, I would focus on turning the front half of the card into a combat trick along the lines of Integrity with the sacrifice caveat just to emphasize the second half the card, then reduce the casting cost of Die to be a bit more on the aggro side of the equation. Just turn Today is a Good Day into a card, an you combine White's ability to have a surprise defender with Red's boosting ability (not that both colours lack in either, it's just a thing), to create an equally flavorful "One Last Charge!" that is then combined with the last half, where the creature you sacrifice takes out something that they shouldn't have been able to.

I'm not sold on that myself, but I just wanted to be evocative there. And by forcing the sacrifice of a large creature, rather than a random meaningless token, you actually get something out of this.

Next, we look to legendofa, who tries to do something with Kamigawa.

Ronin Rebel Leader

Creature - Human Samurai
Bushido 2, Dethrone
At the beginning of your end step, if Ronin Rebel Leader's power is 7 or higher, sacrifice it and create X 1/1 red Warrior tokens, where X is its power.

... Huh.

Alright, so let's break this down. Ronin Rebel Leader (and that sounds like a Star Wars call sign to me) is just begging to be in a large multiplayer game of Conspiracy, and you know what? I don't mind that at all. The Dethrone when paired up with his Rakdos colours gives the impression of someone who doesn't care who they are fighting just so long as they are attacking the most powerful side.

And of course, having Bushido 2 is an additional bonus there, but as I pointed out when I talked about Bushido over two years ago (Has it been that long already?) Bushido is a defensive mechanic, and not an aggressive one, which is what this guy wants to be. Aggressive, not Defensive.

His actual important ability is a curious one. What is the point of this guy sacrificing himself when he gets big enough? I can sort of see it with the Black aspect, going out in a blaze of glory of glory to inspire many to take up his cause? In Red?

Make no mistake, I like it. Changing out one large threat for a plethora of smaller ones is acceptable and well within the capacities of the colours in question. It's just that it seems... wrong for this creature. It's missing something to bridge the gap between the power building and the army creation.

Oh, and how dare you name the creature a REBEL and not give it the creature type? For shame! ;)

Back to business. I think that the best way to 'fix' this card, or to better connect the two abilities is to change how the Warrior generation works.

What we have here is a creature that wants to attack, but actively discourages being blocked. After all, if it triggers Dethrone, then is blocked, it becomes a 5/5 for the same cost as Xantcha, Sleeper Agent. But if you are being Dethroned, then unless you have a huge creature that can take the hit, wouldn't it be better to not block at all?

Or even better just remove the creature directly. Bounce it, Burn it, Fog it.

No, we need a reason to block the creature, and that if the block goes too well, to create the army.

So my first thought turns toward being if the creature dies, then you generate your army based on its power. And this isn't new, so it's not like there's precedent against it. But how to encourage something to block if this creature just gets bigger when blocked?

The answer lies in another Keyword from ages past. Provoke and the mechanic that shares the name. You can force a block against this creature, either allowing the Bushido'd up victory, or the defender can see the writing on the wall and dogpile the attacker and killing it, thus triggering the army creation.

So, let's look at it this way;

Ronin Rebel Leader

Creature - Human Rebel Samurai
Dethrone, Provoke, Bushido 1
When this creature dies, create X 1/1 Red Warrior tokens where X is this creature's power.

I reduced the Bushido in order to add Provoke, and to make the block a little more palpable. While I aimed to make the card cleaner and easier to understand, I am still concerned that there is a degree of complication here that need to be addressed in the way all the key works work together.

That, or Wizards will print it at Rare, and call it 'Balanced'. But my opinion on that is a matter of record.

In this version, I also removed the 7 power trigger to the card, instead making a death trigger. This has the added benefit of not forcing the player to watch what they cast and what static effects (like, say, a Glorious Anthem in play) could push the power over that point. It's an improvement, I hope.

Lastly for this week, we have Chasmolinker, and a card that confused me the first and second times I read it.

Augur of Oxidation
Legendary Artifact

When Augur of Oxidation enters the battlefield, choose a basic land type.
Non-basic lands of the chosen type don’t untap during their controller’s untap step. During each player’s upkeep, that player loses 1 life for each tapped permanent they control.
Whenever damage is dealt to an opponent, return Augur of Oxidation to its owner’s hand.

Yeah, only after reading it multiple times do I think I begin to understand this. This card punishes players for having non-basic lands with basic land types, or for being under freeze effects like from Frost Titan.

Now, here's the thing, the first two sentences are complex, hard to understand, and they just do weird things. And the target pool is ridiculously small. As in, 37 cards small. If the link doesn't work, of you don't want to click on it, we're looking at the 10 Beta through Revised Duels, like Badlands, the Shock Lands like Breeding Pool, the "Bicycle" Lands of Scattered Groves, the Late Lands of Cinder Glade, then Dryad Arbor, Leechridden Swamp, Madblind Mountain, Mistveil Plains, Moonring Island, Murmuring Bosk and Sapseep Forest.

So, really, what is the point of this card?

Sure, it bounces back to its owners hand when they take damage, but this card doesn't deal damage. It goes straight to life loss, which means that while the intent it to bounce it back it its owners hand every turn, it actually doesn't.

Therefore, let's work this card back from what I think the intent is. The Intent is to punish players for having non-basic lands, and while I am certain that the Commander crowd would despise this card on principle, it's the start we have to work with. Now, it also deals damage for having tapped lands during the upkeep step, after they should have untapped, and it is supposed to bounce back to the owner's hand when damage is dealt.

There's a lot that this card needs to work out to work properly, so let's go line by line. Choosing a Basic Land type is great and all that, but as I pointed out, that so severely limits what you can do with the rest of this card that it's self-defeating. If this card simply went after all non-basics, wouldn't that work out better in the long run?

Moving on, if we work from that point, do we force the card to tap all non-Basic lands as an Enters the Battlefield effect? I mean, sure, it would be awesome, but if I want this to be something workable in Commander, yet punishes players for their non-basic lands, the more this seems like a bad idea.

Now, untapping... Oh yeah, this card, as worded, doesn't work at all. However, if the card were altered to keep non-Basics tappped, then each player would pay life or take damage to untap them, that would provide interesting choices to each player. And this should affect each player, rather than just the opponents of the person who cast it.

And whenever damage is dealt... I mean, yeah, sure, this is a case of the card's creator conflating life loss and damage (I talked about that!), but the idea is that the player would take damage from the tapped lands, then the card would go back to the owner's hand, then ....

Then what? The poor opponent can't untap their lands now that it's the upkeep. And the original player can just cast this card again on their own turn, no problems what so ever! This is why I wanted this card to deal damage directly, rather than life loss. And to have the damage be an option to untap those lands.

Of course, this just means that someone has to take the hit, and everyone else gets a free ride, right?

Yeah, so that social aspect needs to be addressed as well. How can you just punish one player, and let the others get off? Especially given the order in which players will go around the table, this puts a larger and larger pressure on each player to just 'take the bullet'. But with the card as worded? All it does is affect the next player with that style of non-basic Land with a basic land type.

So, you know, other than, you know, everything, this isn't a bad card, and it ties well into last week's discussion about mana denial. This card definitely needs more work, but it's still something that can work. My work with it is done, and I'll have to pass it off to someone else to check my work, but as I said when I first started, this isn't a process that is easy or quick. It takes teams to sort out all the problems and make a set worth publishing.

Join me next week when I don't talk about your cards, but instead another subject that's been bugging me for a while, and it's one that I can lay right at the feet of Mark Rosewater himself.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #91 - Mana Denial The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #93 - With a Cause

BlazingAbsol says... #1

Thanks for reviewing my card!

I based the design of Today is a Good Day off of Seize the Day: only untap one creature, 4 mana to untap one creature, 3 mana for the “flashback”. Mainly, I tried to cost Die as conservatively as possible, since having a removal spell you get for free (in card advantage terms) is very strong. Wizards was very cautious in costing the original aftermath cards, so I tried to do the same.

I don’t know about making it Mardu though. Today is a Good Day is a mono-Red effect, and Die is a mono-Black effect. I suppose it could be 3-color in a return to Tarkir type set (like how Mantis Rider could be WR but has U because Jeskai), but other than that I don’t think W adds anything to the card.

November 29, 2018 9:19 p.m.

legendofa says... #2

berryjon Interesting card selection for this week--I kind of want to proxy up BlazingAbsol's card and your revision to my card and make a Rakdos deck.

You picked out the part I wanted to emphasize, in making it a card for multiplayer aggro. You also picked up that I forgot to put the Rebel subtype in... Good call on Provoke. Having the option to force the Bushido trigger is a nice touch. It also makes this guy seem like a cocky provocateur (appropriate for provoke)--not a bad thing. The idea behind flavor of this card was that the more they fight the Power, the stronger they get and the more followers they have, until they become a martyr to the cause. It seems like you started to get the intended flavor, and I wasn't sure it came through hard enough.

My one small concern with your revision is that it looks a little keyword-soup-y on top of the Warrior generation. Overall, your revisions make sense, and you kept the parts I wanted to stay. Thank you for taking a look at it!

November 30, 2018 4:03 p.m.

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