Mechanics that never really worked

General forum

Posted on March 30, 2018, 8:25 a.m. by Argy

I'd be interested to know which mechanics you think did not work that well.

I know a lot of people didn't really like Flanking, or Megamorph, but I have used both of those quite successfully.

I never saw Improvise work very well. It's a worse version of Convoke.

greyninja says... #2

Partners! Just kidding I fuckin' love partners

Bushido is one that I played around with when I got back into mtg in my 20s. I felt like creatures would never deal enough damage, since they're under-vanilla when unblocked

March 30, 2018 8:44 a.m.

x12721 says... #3

Forecast, because it doesn't seem to fit the guild very well. I liked the later "versions" of it (Tetzimoc, Primal Death) but I believe the original was rather lackluster.

March 30, 2018 8:45 a.m.

landofMordor says... #4

The thing with Improvise is that it's a less broken version of Affinity for Artifacts... so it will always seem worse by comparison, but that doesn't mean it isn't decent by itself. It just has to be built around intentionally. Part of Improvise's problem is that there are only 2-3 good cards with Improvise, so it gets a bad rep.

I've never liked Morph at all, because to me it seems like you're paying 3 extra mana for a puny morph triggered ability. Take Ire Shaman for example -- to get the total effects of the card, I have to pay 3 and then R later. Useful for mana smoothing in Limited, yes, but not something I'd want to spend precious mana doing in Constructed.

Hm, other mechanics I've disliked... pretty much everything except color-matters from the Llorwyn/Shadowmoor block was hot garbage, and same goes for Kamigawa block. In recent memory, I didn't love Bestow, Emerge, etc. Exalted always is annoying to play against, too, since it's one of the few stacking mechanics out there.

March 30, 2018 8:52 a.m.

Argy says... #5

I love Bestow.

Enchant my Creature, but it can't be 2-for-1-ed as with most Enchantments?


Morph works really well with Deathmist Raptor.

However, those are just my observations.

We're not taking about mechanics you don't LIKE.

Talking about ones which you don't think have WORKED.

March 30, 2018 9:53 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #6

I mean, we should probably talk about that big ol' elephant in the room: Banding.

Banding is one of those abilities that should work. There are plenty of absurdly powerful combos you could assemble--I've always thought a combination of Breaker of Armies, Stuffy Doll, and Cooperation would be rather fun. On defense, a creature with banding can completely block a creature with trample, which is absurdly good, particularly given the numerous ways of giving creatures indestructible.

Now, it's pretty clear that I love the concept of banding, but there are several reasons why I do not think it worked.

  1. Banding requires tremendous support to excel on offense, but is from an era of Magic where cards tended to be less complex. There really are not any creatures that both have banding and a way to abuse it.

  2. Wizards had not quite figured out how to cost creatures with abilities when banding was released. 1/1s with banding (Benalish Hero and Timber Wolves) for 1 mana is quite reasonable--this is a card you want to throw in front of a trample user to buy you time. But it will not really help you much on offense. But once you start getting larger creatures like Benalish Infantry, the cost feels wrong--you're paying far too much for an ability that heavily requires other cards.

  3. Often times, banding creatures together makes them worse in combat. There are some combos you can use, but none of those combos work well with the existing set of banding cards.

  4. It's a wordy nightmare. I'm no stranger to complex legalese, and banding still gives me a bit of a headache.

  5. While nothing else really compares to banding's blocking ability, there are far, far better pseudo banding options for offense such as Odric, Master Tactician.

  6. The current selection of banding cards are far, far too slow for Legacy and Vintage, leaving only Commander. There are only two legendary creatures with banding. Ayesha Tanaka is just terrible, with a small body for 4 mana and an extremely situational ability. Soraya the Falconer has a wonderful ability to confer banding... but only to birds--a tribe which does not really have the support necessary to break banding.

March 30, 2018 10:40 a.m.

Icbrgr says... #7

I mainly play casual modern format games... personally feel that Bolster wasn't that great... Or at least I was never able to make it work efficiently... And whenever I did get rolling it was just a chore putting pennies/counters on everything. The exception for me was a janky dragon brew I made and played the Fate reforged Dromoka.

March 30, 2018 10:43 a.m.

shadow63 says... #8

I felt like afflict was good but it didn't get enough support.

March 30, 2018 11:37 a.m.

RazortoothMtg says... #9

I really don't think Outlast worked out that well- you just never felt like you could tap out both your mana and your creatures just for a single +1/+1 counter. If it had been an instant-speed ability, it would have been way better. Not to say I don't use some of them in my EDH decks, but Ainok Bond-Kin is just a way to give my stuff First Strike, not a way to slowly grow a big creature.

Meld also needed some help. I know a lot of people just dislike the mechanic in general, but I really like it. The problem is that there are only 3 meld pairs in existence, all of which are too slow/not strong enough for modern or were in standard, and the only format that would want them, Commander, is 100 card singleton, so getting both cards is a bit difficult, and if you're tutoring for them, why not go for some much cooler combo?

March 30, 2018 1:38 p.m.

Improvise is a funny one, actually. I've seen Inspiring Statuary pull some incredible stunts in EDH, essentially turning all of your artifacts into rocks for casting anything other than yet more artifacts. Other than that though, I can't say I've ever seen Improvise do great. I've seen a few castings of Battle at the Bridge that had real impact on the game, but more often than not the caster didn't even use Improvise.

There are a lot of mechanics though that I feel like failed simply for lack of support or even quantity. Take Ninjutsu for instance, with only 8 cards originally printed with it, 2 printed later in non-standard sets. Ninjutsu could have been genuinely great, and Ninja of the Deep Hours still seems to be a pretty popular and effective card. I'd love to be able to build a Higure, the Still Wind EDH deck but there's just not enough to work with.

One of my biggest complaints about WotC's design process is that they are so hasty to cram loads of mechanics into each set like they're throwing darts to see what will stick, and then never even revisit the stuff that worked! I get that some of it was supposed to be stuff that was tied to specific groups/factions/clans lore-wise, but man, I'd love to see Overload, Dash, Undying, Persist, Evolve, Battle Cry, etc etc the list goes on forever, return in some way. Put them on different colors, mix things up. I mean it seems like just now in Dominaria they're toying with triggered abilities that go off when you cast a kicked spell. Where was that kind of support for Overload, or Dash? Dash in particular to me seemed like such an interesting mechanic but they just... never did anything with it, it's just sort of... there. I mean Warbringer was a thing but... meh? There's only 18 Dash cards and of them 6 get little or no benefit from Warbringer.

As RazortoothMtg pointed out, there's only three Meld pairs. Excuse me but what? Even if this mechanic was a huge success, it takes WotC years to design and push out sets. If they're trying to "test the waters" by the time they know a mechanic is popular it's too late, it's going to take years to deliver us more cards with it and we'll have moved on. I hate to say it but with the way things work, they really need to be diving head first into new mechanics. The current system just makes everything seem so spotty and timid, like they're desperately afraid of screwing up, but that in and of itself is what they are screwing up.


March 30, 2018 10:33 p.m.

troyisepic says... #11

My vote is for Detain. It was a nifty idea, lock down your opponent's creatures and you can pick them apart. Unfortunately, the creatures with it cost too much mana so you can't detain a large amount of things, and you can't consistently do it without bouncing your stuff back and forth, and even if you do all that, you still don't have a real way to win either. It's a neat idea, and my first deck I ever built revolved around it, but it was a bad mechanic back in 2013 and it's a bad one now.

March 31, 2018 10:05 a.m.

landofMordor says... #12

You right, Argy -- I should have been more specific(: for me, "dislike" is synonymous with "poor performance."

You're right that the Deathmist Raptor puts in work, but I don't think we should judge a mechanic by its strongest payoff. (Just because Whir of Invention is played in Lantern Control doesn't mean Improvise is a great mechanic, you might say.) Because bottom line is, you're still paying roughly 3 mana more for a creature than you would otherwise, which doesn't make much sense to me in Constructed without jankiness like flickering. Yes, it's awesome in Limited, but I don't think the mana disadvantage is worth the payoff in higher levels of Constructed.

It's for a similar reason I don't think Bestow worked, although I would also argue the primary reason Bestow isn't awesome is that it has a narrower design space (must always go on Enchantment Creatures, carries a metric ton of reminder text that isn't obvious to new players). You're essentially "kicking" the Bestow creature -- again, awesome in Limited when games go long and mana gets big, but you'd never want to cast Hypnotic Siren for 1 or 7 in Constructed. Maybe I just haven't seen it used well, Argy(: I took a break during the Theros block and saw it as an outsider does.

RazortoothMtg, you're SO RIGHT. Outlast never felt good, with Bolster not far behind (that "least toughness" rider always felt like a huge downside).

I think a fair way to put a bit of closure on this discussion is that a lot of mechanics don't "work" as well outside of Limited, but that's not a bad thing. I'm so glad there are mechanics devoted to making Draft fun, but that doesn't mean I'd want to play them in the same format as Glorybringer or, heaven forbid, with Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

March 31, 2018 10:12 a.m.

SteelSentry says... #13

I would vote for Support. Not because it's bad or confusing like above examples, but because it's not an effect that deserves a keyword, especially since there are only 10 cards that use it and all of them have reminder text anyway. It just feels like they were a keyword short when designing the set.

March 31, 2018 11:04 a.m.

Argy says... #14

This conversation is just warming up.

I must be the most out there brewer in the world, based on a lot of the comments here.

Examples below.

Before I get to those, I totally agree about Outlast.

We couldn't even make it work in my friend's deck that had Abzan Falconer in it.

As people pointed out, the mechanic was just too slow.

landofMordor if you missed the Theros block then I'm not surprised that you don't see the beauty of Hypnotic Siren.

Thing was crazy. It gives you an early flier, good for Aggro, or a LATE flier, good for Control, that leaves a Creature behind if the Enchanted Creature dies.

I had it in so many decks.

StuBi has only built three decks in his life.

The first one was Fleet of Foot, which went heavy on the Dash theme.

To this day his favourite card is Sprinting Warbrute.

As with a lot of these mechanics, they sometimes work best when you only have a few cards with them, in your deck.

The most successful deck I ever built for StuBi, if not THE most successful deck I ever built, focused on Melding Gisela, the Broken Blade and Bruna, the Fading Light, and then equipping them with Stitcher's Graft.

Angelic High

Unfortunately StuBi doesn't write match reports, but the thing won so many FNMs that it wasn't funny.

12/13 with Flying, first strike, vigilance, and lifelink coming atcha.


Bolster is amazing in the DTK Cube I built.

Tarkir Skies

Mostly because of Enduring Scalelord.

I agree that it wasn't the best in Constructed.

Finally, banding.

Here, said my friend, build me a Mini Cube out of all these old cards I have.

(Argy looks at cards, sees that just about every Creature card has Banding on it)

Do not put Leviathan in that Cube, another friend said, no one will EVER pick that card.

The first time we play the Cube NO ONE is picking or , so I start to. We are playing 2HG. I happen to be partnering with my friend that said not to put Leviathan in.

Don't you pick that card, he warns me.

On the first go around of the last pack, I pick Leviathan.

Great, he says, we have lost.

We got ahead in the game, mostly through me saccing two Islands so that we could have a 10/10 Leviathan blocker sitting on the field.

It got to a stage in the game where our Opponents were down to six life, with a 2/2 and a 2/3 on the field.

I sacced two Islands so Leviathan could attack, paid to Band it with Icatian Infantry, and hit for game.


None of these anecdotes prove that any of the mechanics are great, just that they CAN work if you a build a creative deck that utilises them well.

Plus ... I just like telling Magic stories.

March 31, 2018 11:19 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #15

I am not sure I see how the banding helped in your story. Had you attacked with both creatures unbanded, victory was still assured (your Leviathan would be double blocked, dealing 5 damage to creatures, 5 damage to opposing team), and your Icatian Infantry would go unblocked, dealing 1 damage, for the total fatal 6.

March 31, 2018 12:41 p.m. Edited.

Argy says... #16

Oh I probably just mucked up the details.

The game was over a year ago.

All I remember is that it WAS the extra 1 Trample damage, attached to the Leviathan, that sealed us the game.

March 31, 2018 2:42 p.m.

RazortoothMtg says... #17

I pretty much agree with all that you said there Argy

My problem with Meld, however, is simply that there are only 3 pairs of Meld creatures i all of magic. Obviously melding two together is super cool and powerful, but I just saw it so rarely I forgot it existed until I put Hanweir Battlements into my Etali, Primal Storm EDH deck and decided to put in Hanweir Garrison just because, but after a significant amount of EDH games with the deck, I still have never melded the two (and this includes the significant amount of digging through the deck I do). The only time I've seen any creatures melded in an actual game was at the EMN Prerelease- few Midnight Scavengers/Graf Rats, and a friend who pulled a prerelease Gisela, the Broken Blade and a foil Bruna, the Fading Light and managed to meld them in the last game of the finals (obviously winning the game).

Another keyword I would very much like to complain about is Ascend. Not really because it went unused or was underpowered, but because I just hate things in Magic I have no way of interacting with, such as emblems and the city's blessing. Or maybe I'm just salty about losing too many limited games to Slippery Scoundrel. Who Knows.

And about Theros block, I personally really liked Bestow even though I rarely played with it (because topdecking Invisible Stalker turn 10 feels horrible, but topdecking Flitterstep Eidolon turn 10 feels great). However, Tribute from Theros block feels like a huge failure. Just the fact that giving your opponents choices with any card other than Fact or Fiction is just generally bad- if the option they give you is still a good play, you're already far far ahead.

April 1, 2018 9:57 p.m.

Argy says... #18

From what you said Ascend works. It's just annoying because it is effective.

As for Tribute, it may give your Opponent choices, but if the choices are both bad for your Opponent, that is a good thing.

There's almost nothing I like better than watching my Opponent agonise over whether or not to pay Tribute to Flame-Wreathed Phoenix.

I also LOVE the flavour that they must physically place Counters on the Creature, to pay Tribute.

Again, though, that's just my take. You may not have ever played against someone like me who can make those mechanics work.

April 2, 2018 3:40 a.m.

landofMordor says... #19

Argy lol that's exactly how I feel about Flame-Wreathed Phoenix in my Cube -- I kick myself for having including it when I make the wrong tribute choice. Why didn't I just slot in Inferno Titan???

Maybe it's a testament to WotC's design process that we can think of relatively few recent mechanics that haven't worked in either Limited or Constructed. And the ones that have failed (Support, Meld), I've noticed that MaRo and R&D are very cognizant of why they didn't work. RIX, for example, was a great set from a mechanics design standpoint. Ascend (while annoying) wasn't too bad, and there were very few other mechanics introduced (we still had Treasure, Raid, Enrage, etc). All of which address some of the issues we've discussed in terms of strong mechanical designs.

Thanks for the fun conversation, everybody! Cheers!

April 2, 2018 10:20 a.m.

Cybersix says... #20

I agree with Ninjutsu being cool but terribly unsupported.

Surprised nobody has mentioned Hellbent yet...If I've gotta top deck, I'd at least like to get something cool. I think it could be rescued if there were just some more interesting Hellbent cards.

April 3, 2018 10:38 a.m.

Argy says... #21

I think Heckbent was a LOT better. Like with Hazoret the Pervert.

At least you get to keep something in the tank.

April 3, 2018 10:58 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #22

My thoughts on Ascend (and Eternalize):

Ascend is a really cool mechanic. I like that it rewards you for going wide in unusual ways, and think it has great potential for being a deciduous keyword.

Except for one tiny problem--they had to go and call the emblem the "City's Blessing." This term is so tied up in Ixalan that it limits Ascends being used in future sets. It seems like a silly, arbitrary limit on the future use of the card. Eternalize has the same problem--it is so tied up in the lore of the Eternals that it limits future use of the keyword.

When designing mechanics, I feel the language of the terms and reminder text should be as neutral as possible. It seems silly for R&D to put a lot of effort into a cool, new keyword, only to find it flavourfully problematic moving forward.

I suppose Energy has the same problem, but I hated that mechanic, and would be fine with it going away forever.

My other problem with many recent keywords has been touched on by others in this thread--lack of support moving forward, resulting in a limited collection of cards utilizing the ability. This is particularly noticeable with the Ravnica Guild keywords--there are so many great ones suited for so many different styles of play. Hellbent, detain, unleash, etc. All would make fantastic deciduous keywords--but, alas, R&D has been focusing on evergreen + new mechanics in the most recent sets.

April 3, 2018 11:28 a.m. Edited.

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