02/14/2011 MM: "Fight Club, Part 2"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
I guess hypothetically we could make a creature that triggered off of not attacking but my designer instinct feels it's probably design space best left unexplored.



This is a typically depressing example of MaRo's aversion to intelligent design.  A creature that can either do the trick for which you selected it for your deck OR progress you toward winning the match - that's interesting, as it gives you choices and tension.  Instead, modern Magic consists mostly of cards that are utterly useless in one situation and stupidly overpowered in another.  Metalcraft creatures are a typical example - huge if you turn metalcraft on and worthless otherwise.  This kind of no-brainer design is bad for making a game in which every card is relevant - not that Wizards actually wants that, of course.

Also, the rules could easily handle last strike - either add another step in between "normal damage" and "end of combat", or just use the beginning of "end of combat".  Honestly, you need to stop listening to rules managers when they say something can't work; they're just being excessively linear in their thinking as usual.  Any rules problem can be solved by adding some loopholes; that little nebbish Melvin may think the result looks inelegant, but if it leads to a more fun game then who cares about the person who would rather read the rulebook than actually play.

Lastly, game design is NOT about putting obstacles in the way of the player's ability to play and enjoy the game.  And claiming that sorcery status is an obstacle to overcome is not very valid because there are very few ways of overcoming it.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi

Mark, I would love to get your opinion on something.


I was designing my own game a while back, and I was working with my friend.  I told him, "I don't want too much life gain."


We had a long debate about it, but I believe the best way to sum up my side would be something you've written in today's article:


"This is another example of the designers pushing the game towards completion. Strong defensive abilities tend to stall the game where strong aggressive ones make the game progress."


I feel life gain can ruin games.  He and I have essentially promised to not play Loxodon Warhammer against each other.


Comments on life gain = game-ruining?


 

Life gain can stall games, but it can also open new avenues for how to end them - see Test of Endurance or Necropotence.  And there are ways around it; the existence of life gain makes strategies like milling and poison viable and valuable.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I like life gain because my decks are naturally slow to get up and running. "Stalling" in small doses is only a bad thing for aggressive strategies.
In my completely unbiased view, not listening to a rules manager is among the worst things a designer can do.

Sheesh, next thing you know we'll be letting members of the creative team design cards!
I guess hypothetically we could make a creature that triggered off of not attacking but my designer instinct feels it's probably design space best left unexplored.



This is a typically depressing example of MaRo's aversion to intelligent design.  A creature that can either do the trick for which you selected it for your deck OR progress you toward winning the match - that's interesting, as it gives you choices and tension.  Instead, modern Magic consists mostly of cards that are utterly useless in one situation and stupidly overpowered in another. 



I think you're both kinda right. I wouldn't want to see a set with "when CARDNAME doesn't attack" as a big thing, but I do think it could create some interesting scenarios if it showed up occasionally at uncommon or rare.

Actually, that's one problem I have with MaRo's stuff in general. He seems to think oddly black-and-white with regards to the vaiability of a mechanic. There are lots of areas of Magic that would suck as a major mechanic, but would be fun in low doses sprinkled here and there, and I'm not sure he considers that.

Edit: OH! I just thought of one good reason not to bother: it really wouldn't be all that different from a tap ability.
I guess hypothetically we could make a creature that triggered off of not attacking but my designer instinct feels it's probably design space best left unexplored.

This is a typically depressing example of MaRo's aversion to intelligent design.  A creature that can either do the trick for which you selected it for your deck OR progress you toward winning the match - that's interesting, as it gives you choices and tension.  Instead, modern Magic consists mostly of cards that are utterly useless in one situation and stupidly overpowered in another.  Metalcraft creatures are a typical example - huge if you turn metalcraft on and worthless otherwise.  This kind of no-brainer design is bad for making a game in which every card is relevant - not that Wizards actually wants that, of course.

I think you're reading too much into his statement.  A simpler reason not to go there is that Magic already has a major mechanic that does basically this, in a much cleaner way: Activated abilities with in the cost.  Creatures (without vigilance) can only activate such an ability if they don't attack.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...
I read the section on banding and I thought, "Hmm, I always thought the en-Kor mechanic was a pretty good reinterpretation of what banding was trying to do, though I suppose there may have been some comprehension problems with it that I never personally encountered."

Then I saw that the next two card pictures were both Kor. Heh.

A simpler reason not to go there is that Magic already has a major mechanic that does basically this, in a much cleaner way: Activated abilities with in the cost.  Creatures (without vigilance) can only activate such an ability if they don't attack.

Also Johan if you want a more literal example. While there are a couple of things that can't be done with tap abilities, it probably isn't worth it.
Lastly, game design is NOT about putting obstacles in the way of the player's ability to play and enjoy the game.  And claiming that sorcery status is an obstacle to overcome is not very valid because there are very few ways of overcoming it.



Game design is about putting obstacles in the way of the player's goal. The player's enjoyment comes from overcoming those obstacles =)

Think of sorcery-obstacles in another way. For example, Assassinate. Now I must solve how to take the least pain from that nasty saboteur creature that could connect at least once.

• Infect (all colors but red ... so far)
• Battle cry (white & red)


O RLY


Then I don't see how a set with 'Pure' in the name could have infect =) Would be nice to have seen phyrexian green battle cry though.


• Bushido (white & red, but occasionally in all colors)


Noooo, what are you doing? Greater Morphling does NOT mean blue has a bushido guy! This should read:


"• Bushido (white, red & black, but occasionally in green)"



  • WRB because that's the Knight's wedge (White Knight, Black Knight, Silver Knight, Blood Knight), the colors that get more than 1 bushido dude (I'd say black's 6 is close enough to red's 9). Flanking too, should be "white, red & black, but occasionally in all colors".

  • The single green one is Isao, Enlightened Bushi! And I loved him because of that and the flavor text. That's a legend indeed, the one green samurai, and his unique perspective is needed in the war. THat's what I made from it anyways.


Please don't let Unhinged detract from that coolness =)


Alters How Damage Is Assigned


I miss Deathtouch in this list?

Hi Mark :>

I'd be interested to hear about the big questions of Magic.

What's it's future? Where is it going?
Have you ever thought about starting a new and better game?
Have you ever thought about changing a fundamental rule (or adding a stat)? Have you come close to doing so?
What are some of the big fundamental discussions that have happened inside R&D?
What have you learned from other TCG's or games?

I have a question that I would like MaRo to examine in more depth:

How do you find the balance between creating mechanics that are simple enough for newer players to intuitively understand with creating mechnics that will satisfy people who have been playing the game for many years?  

Is it simply market research, or is it more instinctual?  Do you have a set percentage of newer players from those tested who have to "get" a mechanic on first read in order for it to be considered a good design?

And do mechanics get created that are known to be enjoyable to veterans, but get scrapped exclusively because they aren't easy enough for new players to understand?  Do those sort of things just get moved up to higher rarities or become "one-of" cards rather than a mechanic?

As an unrelated side note, since MaRo brought the threads up, I would like to get MaRo's analysis of why exatly the tone of threads are usually negative, even if all real-world measurements of a set are positive (set sales, tournament attendance, etc).  Why does anonimity cause negativity? 

I'm most curious to hear an expansion of this:

In Unhinged design, we even had last strike (which allowed us to also make triple strike) but unfortunately the rules couldn't handle it so I had to take it out.



Perhaps I just haven't thought about this enough, but I'm not seeing the rules issues that would prevent this from being a thing. Combat damage assignment would become this with 'last strike':

- All creatures with 'first strike' (including creatures with double and triple strike) deal damage.
- All remaining creatures without 'first strike' or 'last strike' (including creatures with double and triple strike) deal damage.
- All remaining creatures with 'last strike' (including creatures with triple strike) deal damage.

My guess is that it would even open up some other interesting design space. (The Last Shall Be First [enchantment]: "All creatures with first strike deal damage during the last strike step. All creatures with last strike deal damage during the first strike step.")

I can understand that incorporating 'last strike' (and especially 'triple strike') would change the power-to-cost ratio of a number of cards in the game, but that's not strictly the same as saying that "the rules couldn't handle it".

Can someone provide an example that demonstrates how 'last strike' is a rules nemesis?

--
Pauper

I have a question that I would like MaRo to examine in more depth:

How do you find the balance between creating mechanics that are simple enough for newer players to intuitively understand with creating mechnics that will satisfy people who have been playing the game for many years?  

Is it simply market research, or is it more instinctual?  Do you have a set percentage of newer players from those tested who have to "get" a mechanic on first read in order for it to be considered a good design?

And do mechanics get created that are known to be enjoyable to veterans, but get scrapped exclusively because they aren't easy enough for new players to understand?  Do those sort of things just get moved up to higher rarities or become "one-of" cards rather than a mechanic?

As an unrelated side note, since MaRo brought the threads up, I would like to get MaRo's analysis of why exatly the tone of threads are usually negative, even if all real-world measurements of a set are positive (set sales, tournament attendance, etc).  Why does anonimity cause negativity? 




I don't know how much you were insisting on this disjunction so forgive me if I put words in your mouth but you bring up a division that's implicit in so many posts and articles. People in magic have created a sharp dichotomy between "new" players and "veterns" and treat these two categories like they are the two worlds of magic players and that these categories have definate attributes. Often this takes the form of "veterns" want complex mechanics but the "new" players need to be (to use the more negative way this is laid out) spoonfed and can't handle complex things.

In my opinion this really doesn't help explain design decisions about what kinds of mechanics get through because ultimately the category of "new" player is a transiant state and large design decisions shouldn't be made of a brief category. The reality is that there are a large quantity of people that aren't new but at the same time don't dedicate the time to learn every rule eccentricity or who just draft once a week or play the odd commmander game. I these are a large and permenant part of player base. They form the middle section of the spectrum between the little game exposure of "new" players and the game saturation of "veterns". Mechanics (especially block mechanics that are prevalent throughout a set) should be simple enough that as many casual players as possible get them while allowing people with more advanced rules knowledge to dip beneath the surface.

A simple test of a mechanic would be look at how often at a prerelease a judge is called, a good mechanic will have a few calls but not too many, since most of the players will get it, while some new players might need an explanation.

Mechanics need to be intuitive not just for new players but because many players don't know rules like judges do and aren't necessarily able or willing to take the time to decipher a massive block of reminder text. Further, if we allow a spectrum of game expose that includes casual players some-times FNMers, occasional PTQ grinders and other such people with varying game experiences, it follows that a mechanic needs to be not only simple to understand but also simple enough to function easily. Take for example level-up being set to sorcery speed. While making it instant would increase the stength and flexibility of the mechanic, it would also increase the games complexity excessively, especially in a limited format. While having a complex puzzle is fun once and a while, making a limited format too complex would result in slow play and agonizing games that aren't fun because their are too many moving parts. Have complex cards, but if you have to many and make them to necessary it alienates a large number of people that just want to sit down and play the card game they have played for years.

To summarize: the categories of "new" and "vetern" players do a disservice not only to the player base of magic but also to the decisions design has to make for new mechanics.

As to why these forums are negative: because the people who post here want to improve the game they love. To improve something, the logic follows, you must fix something thats not perfect. Hence the negative element. But an important part of feedback that many - MANY- people forget is that positive feedback is important to. Picking out faults is important but if thats all you do than designers can't tell what you liked about something. Sadly designers can't just take the problems people point out and infer what their likes are, but people forget that fact.
I'm most curious to hear an expansion of this:

In Unhinged design, we even had last strike (which allowed us to also make triple strike) but unfortunately the rules couldn't handle it so I had to take it out.



Perhaps I just haven't thought about this enough, but I'm not seeing the rules issues that would prevent this from being a thing.
...
Can someone provide an example that demonstrates how 'last strike' is a rules nemesis?

--
Pauper


The problem is that you have to create a new step (or phase or sub-phase or whatever you'd call it) to handle it. Right now combat damage happens in two steps, the first strike step and the regular step. "Last strike" would require a third step, after the regular damage step but before the end of combat step. (And yes, the "end of combat" step is a separate thing from damage resolution; it's not used much in recent sets, but it's still used on new things like Wicker Warcrawler once in a while, it's when most of the clockwork creatures lose their counters, and it's when proto-deathtouch abilities like Thicket Basilisk and Ohran Viper take effect.) Creating a new step would probably require an actual rules change. This is not an additional phase (a pretty simple thing from a rules perspective, seen on cards like Hellkite Charger and Paradox Haze), or skipping a phase (also simple for rules, like on Eon Hub), or changing the order of phases (which is limited to one Un-card as far as I know, Topsy Turvy), but creating a completely different one. What if there's some "end of combat" ability that really should happen before the "last strike" step, but others that shouldn't? What if there's some card that refers to the first strike and regular damage steps explicitly - does it get errataed to also refer to the last strike step or not? What happens if a creature with "last strike" gains first strike?

My guess is that it would even open up some other interesting design space. (The Last Shall Be First [enchantment]: "All creatures with first strike deal damage during the last strike step. All creatures with last strike deal damage during the first strike step.")



As written, this would basically give all first strike and last strike creatures double strike. (See? Rules are hard!) What you're saying would probably be better done by reversing the order of the first strike step and last strike steps, but I'm not sure.

Even if you wanted to avoid editing the rulebook and take care of it by having each "last strike" card create a new step and saying so in their reminder text, it's still a big change with the risk of unintended consequences. The designers generally feel free to push boundaries and play around for the fun of it in Un-sets, but apparently they felt that creating a new, never-before-seen step would have taken things too far.
A "last strike" ability on creatures is just a drawback, and not even a particularly exciting or swingy one; Design has been wise not to explore it too seriously.

If you're going to add an entirely new step to the freaking turn order, it had better be for a sweet, sexy new mechanic that everyone loves that you can sell your set on, not a lame drawback that is both unexciting and makes for tense, unfun decisions for the rest of your combats until he's dead.  It's not even like your opponent is the one messing with your combat; you put the last strike guy into the deck, making players feel stupid and mad at themselves for playing him; it's like you just gave all your opponent's creatures first strike!  It'll be a relief when he bites the dust and your combat returns to normal, which I don't think exactly signifies an exciting ability.

I'm not saying having last strike as an ability wouldn't be interesting, and I would've personally loved to see Mr. Last Strike in Unhinged, whether the rules can handle him or not (just change the phrasing a little!  You wouldn't have to make a whole new step).  However, in a normal modern set, with sellability, complexity creep, preservation of existing rules, and keeping the game fun all important factors, last strike is just a bad idea for a recurring keyword ability.
Life gain can stall games, but it can also open new avenues for how to end them - see Test of Endurance or Necropotence.



Let's not forget my personal favorite, Zur's Weirding.
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
I don't read MaRo as being too black-and-white.  I think he phrases things in his typical way for a few reasons:
1.  By the time he writes about it in the column, he's already been thinking / discussing it for a long time, and so is pretty clear on what he (and R&D to some extent) thinks is best.
2.  By nature he's a bit of a sales guy / persuader / communicator.  He can't help overstating a case that might really have some shades of grey.
3.  He's a writer of drama, and as such appreciates that creating some conflict and discussion in the fora is a Good Thing.

A secondary element of this is that MaRo's audience for the game (lots of casual players) is very different than his audience for his column (lots of expert players and designer types).  I suspect his statements make people feel like he's dumbing down how they think about the game, and under-appreciating their intelligence.  In fact, he's probably got a solid read on the audience for the game, and people need to stop misassigning comments about the players of the game, as if they were comments about readers of this column.  MaRo knows that you can figure out Banding or when to attack with Ulamog's Crusher (easy:  do it on turn 2 after reanimating turn 1 ).

Also - is it just me, or are the autocard popups showing blurry images of the cards?  They are still readable, but I recall them being sharper in the past.
I thought this two articles were really interesting.

I have also a question that hit me during reading:
Have you ever discussed changing the ruling of old rampage to new rampage??  I mean the old creatures wouldn't be overpowered in any way and get from pretty lousy and boring to somewhat casual relevant again. All except Varchilds suck hard, to name it.

I think it would be pretty cool to have that keyword viable again and that seems only possible if they update it to new rampage instead of simply keywording new rampage. The only strike against this is the reminder text on like three different rampage cards.


have a nice day guys


I wondered why MaRo wasn't doing part 2 of MBS design stories before I went back to the original article and read it properly. It's a real shame because I was looking forward to him frothing at the mouth about Serum Raker one way or t'other.
I thought this two articles were really interesting.

I have also a question that hit me during reading:
Have you ever discussed changing the ruling of old rampage to new rampage??  I mean the old creatures wouldn't be overpowered in any way and get from pretty lousy and boring to somewhat casual relevant again. All except Varchilds suck hard, to name it.

I think it would be pretty cool to have that keyword viable again and that seems only possible if they update it to new rampage instead of simply keywording new rampage. The only strike against this is the reminder text on like three different rampage cards.

have a nice day guys


I'll bet they stopped using rampage because it's so rarely relevant, because choosing to block with multiple creatures is so rare. I've done it, but I know I don't like to. In the plausible best-case scenario, where you use two creatures to block one attacker to kill it and only lose one of your blockers*, it's risky if they have a Giant Growth in their hand or some other combat trick, neutral in terms of card advantage, and takes up two blockers who could be used for something else. More likely, you'd have to use two or more blockers to kill one attacker, and if they have any kind of instant like a Giant Growth or Lightning Bolt, then you'd lose two creatures and fail to kill theirs.

At least with "new rampage", like Elvish Berserker or Ichorclaw Myr, it gets pumped up if it gets blocked at all, so there's tension between you taking a small amount of damage and a blocker taking a larger amount. Old rampage is mostly relevant with weird, build-around, Johnny-ish effects like Lure, and trample.

* Sure, that's not the absolute best-case scenario; the best-case would be them attacking when you need to double-block to kill it, but you wouldn't lose anything. But how often does that happen, and why would they attack with it at all if they could see that?
A few thoughts I've had from a creature power standpoint, maybe I have this wrong or I'm in the wrong column's boards:

What are some tried-and-true mechanics for red that exist as instants and sorceries that aren't damage?

I've always seen blue and red as the "spell" colors, but it seems as if blue has many more useful abilities than red has. Red ends up either being cannot block/damage/instant abilities (first strike, haste) which pretty much only affect creatures. Red isn't seen as much of a creature color (it's after green and white... is it tied with black, blue, or both?) but it seems as if Red is either playing direct damage spells, or plays hasty weak creatures... or that's it. When reading the article, I noticed a lot of red and white abilities, which makes sense since those are the two big combat colors, but realized white has better creatures philosophically than red. I understand unrestricted damage spells are very strong, but are they so strong that they've pigeon-holed red into such a simple design philosophy regarding competitively playable spells? Most of the time I see red in limited it's either I have lots of red damage spells and I can play it, or I don't have enough and I don't play it. The SoM block has been better for red, but not every block can be an artifact set where red can also impact the game more.

Why do higher rarities all take green's slice of the color pie? 

Green is without question the best color for the best creatures philosophically. However, when you move up in rarity for all colors, the power/toughness/mana cost ratio generally gets better and better which cuts into green's color pie right?. If all colors can get efficient creatures at higher rarities, that hurts green doesn't it? I mean, a 6/6 for 6 mana with a relevant ability in green should be philosophically stronger than a 6/6 for 6 mana with a relevant ability in any other color. Even artifacts have been cutting into this slice of green's color pie once in awhile. I made an example of Primeval Titan , Grave Titan , Wormcoil Engine, and friends, but every block will have some exceptions and continue to cut into green's color pie. My thought is that sometimes green should get some exceptions making an undisputed best creature in a set to compete. After seeing Thrun, the Last Troll I was extremely happy, as it's a perfect example of green getting a fantastic creature when so many exceptions for the other colors show up at higher rarities.

I thought this two articles were really interesting.

I have also a question that hit me during reading:
Have you ever discussed changing the ruling of old rampage to new rampage??  I mean the old creatures wouldn't be overpowered in any way and get from pretty lousy and boring to somewhat casual relevant again. All except Varchilds suck hard, to name it.

I think it would be pretty cool to have that keyword viable again and that seems only possible if they update it to new rampage instead of simply keywording new rampage. The only strike against this is the reminder text on like three different rampage cards.

have a nice day guys


I'll bet they stopped using rampage because it's so rarely relevant, because choosing to block with multiple creatures is so rare. I've done it, but I know I don't like to. In the plausible best-case scenario, where you use two creatures to block one attacker to kill it and only lose one of your blockers*, it's risky if they have a Giant Growth in their hand or some other combat trick, neutral in terms of card advantage, and takes up two blockers who could be used for something else. More likely, you'd have to use two or more blockers to kill one attacker, and if they have any kind of instant like a Giant Growth or Lightning Bolt, then you'd lose two creatures and fail to kill theirs.

At least with "new rampage", like Elvish Berserker or Ichorclaw Myr, it gets pumped up if it gets blocked at all, so there's tension between you taking a small amount of damage and a blocker taking a larger amount. Old rampage is mostly relevant with weird, build-around, Johnny-ish effects like Lure, and trample.

* Sure, that's not the absolute best-case scenario; the best-case would be them attacking when you need to double-block to kill it, but you wouldn't lose anything. But how often does that happen, and why would they attack with it at all if they could see that?



Yeah i agree and think you didn't get my point. ;)

I was asking if they could change the rules of "Rampage" so that it works like "new rampage" eg. for every blocker not every second.

It would make the old cards better (they are all bad except one) and letting wizard use "rampage" in newer editions instead of writing out the new rampage wording or creating a another keyword for it.

I'm going to answer all the questions for mark because that way I can either declare him wrong or copying me.  Cool


I was designing my own game a while back, and I was working with my friend.  I told him, "I don't want too much life gain."

We had a long debate about it, but I believe the best way to sum up my side would be something you've written in today's article:


"This is another example of the designers pushing the game towards completion. Strong defensive abilities tend to stall the game where strong aggressive ones make the game progress."


I feel life gain can ruin games.  He and I have essentially promised to not play Loxodon Warhammer against each other.


Comments on life gain = game-ruining?




My first instinct is to say "Your game has lifegain?  So I assume it has life totals and that the goal is to decrease the opponents?"  Make sure you're not falling into a mold just because you're used to it and assume that's how things are done.  You shouldn't change things purely to be different, but at the same time if you're too close to what has come before then there's nothing to appeal to people.  Look at the string of expensive MMOs denounced as "WoW Clones", none of which have been particularly successful.  Or how formulaic it is to make a board game on any subject matter where you roll the dice and move spaces.


Again don't be different just to prove you can, but when you follow a paradigm you should know you're doing it.


Now as to your question, consider a scale with "damage" on one side and "lifegain" on the other.  If your game has zero lifegain, it will still function just fine, right?  But what happens if you ever get to a point where lifegain is stronger than damage?  Now you've created the potential for never-ending games because the players are only making backwards progress.  And that's not a case of only lifegain, it's a situation where lifegain is a tiny percent more powerful.  So clearly a little goes a long way and since we should admit that balance will never be perfect you should definitely err on the side of "little to none."


That said, games are fun when players respond to each other, yes?  And since your opponent is damaging you then it is good to have something that feels like it combats that.  In Magic standards you should feel comfortable having lifegain that's as powerful as direct damage but not as powerful as creatures attacking.  Lifegain sorceries and instants have gotten more powerful than Healing Salve and Stream of Life over the years, but lifegain permanents haven't really gotten better than good ol' Ivory Tower despite creatures getting much better.


For a tentative step you might try just a little of a Drain Life or Lifelink type effect.  Not a lot, as that just turns into a tug-of-war.  But a little should be safe because it merely changes the balance of power without ever moving players backwards.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

Lastly, game design is NOT about putting obstacles in the way of the player's ability to play and enjoy the game.

 

Game design is about putting obstacles in the way of the player's goal. The player's enjoyment comes from overcoming those obstacles =)


Wonderfully said.  What would Super Mario brothers have been without obstacles?  An 8-bit animation of Mario meeting his girlfriend, followed by the credits.  


I'd be interested to hear about the big questions of Magic.

What's it's future? Where is it going?



$4.99 a pack.    I mean they've been very creative about reducing output per pack but eventually they'll bite the bullet and actually just raise prices directly.


Have you ever thought about starting a new and better game?


I'm sure he has but Gleemax is listening.  Though tactics surely indicates to me that the New Games department could use some Maro.


Have you ever thought about changing a fundamental rule (or adding a stat)? Have you come close to doing so?


You mean since Mana Burn? 


I personally have pondered the way you could change the balance, particularly in older formats, by changing the starting cards or life.  Not that they need it, but it's a powerful effect that's far easier to adopt than a banned/restricted list.


What are some of the big fundamental discussions that have happened inside R&D?


You mean since M10?  For a big one I'm going to guess that Mark and Aaron don't see 100% on eye-to-eye on what constitutes "Mythic", which is why Maro's original announcement of the rarity has been oft-referenced as "deceiving" and why since then Mr. Forsythe has been doing those "new direction" type announcements himself.


What have you learned from other TCG's or games?


My guess is that they looked at adaptor patterns, watching what makes someone who's never played a CCG pick one or the other (or why someone who's played multiple recommends one over the other).  That players who rip a pack want to see something they understand, something they can relate to, and something that excites them.  And that a "good card" is a contextual evaluation that you have to be well into the game to make so power is a less important part of the experience.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.



How do you find the balance between creating mechanics that are simple enough for newer players to intuitively understand with creating mechnics that will satisfy people who have been playing the game for many years?  



Don't underestimate the appeal of "intuitive" to veterans.  They can handle more complexity, but don't necessarily need it.  More importantly, the further back a players knowledge goes the more complicated the whole inevitably becomes.  For example, a new goblin printed means one thing to a new player ripping their first pack, something different to someone with a Lorwyn+ goblins deck, and something quite else to someone with an Onslaught+ goblins deck.  Sea-Gate Oracle might be a card a new player plays reluctantly since it doesn't do much damage.  The modern control player recognizes its value as a blocker.  The Classic Pauper player sees a great partner for Ninja of the Deep Hours.


Naturally the more cards in a players pool the harder it is for anything new to make a deck.  But if the cards have appeal to new players while being different from what came before, vets will be pulled to new decks too.


Is it simply market research, or is it more instinctual?  Do you have a set percentage of newer players from those tested who have to "get" a mechanic on first read in order for it to be considered a good design?


I'd bet it depends on who you ask.  Maro strikes me as the instinctual type, while some of the developers would likely be more left-brained.


And do mechanics get created that are known to be enjoyable to veterans, but get scrapped exclusively because they aren't easy enough for new players to understand?  Do those sort of things just get moved up to higher rarities or become "one-of" cards rather than a mechanic?


I'm sure they do, to both.  There are mechanics that don't exist at common, though.  For example, can you name the last time any Edict effect (opponent sacrifices a creature) appeared at common?  So there have certainly been new mechanics too that stayed at higher rarity.


As an unrelated side note, since MaRo brought the threads up, I would like to get MaRo's analysis of why exatly the tone of threads are usually negative, even if all real-world measurements of a set are positive (set sales, tournament attendance, etc).



You're talking about me aren't you?  It's because I'm right.  


Two things.  One, every business experiences the phenomenon that more people complain than compliment.  Probably because if they agree with you there's not much to say.  The compliment is that they keep buying, but "I'm not buying because you ticked me off" is harder to convey than "I'm not buying because of personal reasons" or "I never tried in the first place" or any other reason.


Second, I take the view that any business should be thrilled to hear complaints.  If customers are unhappy, they can


A) stick around and tell you.
B) leave and tell people who aren't you.


I say to a customer "please complain".  If something bothers you, let me know.  I can't necessarily do what you want, but I'd rather know about it than pretend you don't exist.  So Magic is lucky that people care enough to express their concerns every time there's a new pocket-picking policy.

If you're on MTGO check out the Free Events via PDCMagic and Gatherling.

Other games you should try:
DC Universe Online - action-based MMO.  Free to play.  Surprisingly well-designed combat and classes.

Planetside 2 - Free to play MMO-meets-FPS and the first shooter I've liked in ages.
Simunomics - Free-to-play economy simulation game.

As is often the case, how you communicate will often dictate the kind of reaction you get much moreso than what you communicate. Anonymous Internet users aren't always the best at this, and this has nothing to do with Magic


 


As an unrelated side note, since MaRo brought the threads up, I would like to get MaRo's analysis of why exatly the tone of threads are usually negative, even if all real-world measurements of a set are positive (set sales, tournament attendance, etc).



You're talking about me aren't you?  It's because I'm right.  


Two things.  One, every business experiences the phenomenon that more people complain than compliment.  Probably because if they agree with you there's not much to say.  The compliment is that they keep buying, but "I'm not buying because you ticked me off" is harder to convey than "I'm not buying because of personal reasons" or "I never tried in the first place" or any other reason.


Second, I take the view that any business should be thrilled to hear complaints.  If customers are unhappy, they can


A) stick around and tell you.
B) leave and tell people who aren't you.


I say to a customer "please complain".  If something bothers you, let me know.  I can't necessarily do what you want, but I'd rather know about it than pretend you don't exist.  So Magic is lucky that people care enough to express their concerns every time there's a new pocket-picking policy.




I wasn't really asking why people complain in general.  Specifically, I was just wondering MaRo's take on the phenomenom that threads are generally far more agressively negative (and often far more rude) than other forms of communication.  The only real difference between threads, e-mails, and phone calls is the anonimity it provides, hence it seems that anonimity causes people to be more negative and more rude than normal.  I think its a fair and interesting topic. 

Didn't superheroes teach us that anonimity makes a person do good? (not a real point, just an interesting aside). 
Didn't superheroes teach us that anonimity makes a person do good? (not a real point, just an interesting aside). 



I always thought it was more that anonymity keeps people from murdering your family when you do good?

Besides, villains have always been the pioneers in anonymity.  Just look at "Ski Mask Man".   
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
What are some tried-and-true mechanics for red that exist as instants and sorceries that aren't damage?



There's the "can't block" spells you mentioned, plus spell redirect, power boost, granting of first/double strike, artifact destruction, temporary creature steal, fast mana, and forcing blocks.  Then there's Savage Beating, too.

Although, to be fair, direct damage is usually the most relevant red instant mechanic.  Still, that's just because direct damage is one of the most relevant effects in the game.
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
Great articles, MaRo!  As a rules nerd, I particularly enjoyed the "Bands with others" one-liner ;)

In my completely unbiased view, not listening to a rules manager is among the worst things a designer can do. Sheesh, next thing you know we'll be letting members of the creative team design cards!

Announcing...

LEGENDS 2!



Magic Judge Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Rules Theory and Templating: "They may be crazy, but they're good." --Matt Tabak, Rules Manager*
One of my pet block ideas actually is a sequel to Legends, sort of. It could be really cool...or it could turn into Kamigawa. Or, God forfend...umm...Legends.
Have you ever thought about starting a new and better game?



IMHO they should if they haven't - there's only so much enjoyment you can get out of yet another format with red burn, white aggro, blue control, and the other two to three archetypes they've always had. If Wizards of the Coast doesn't do it (even if it's just an alternate game you can play with the same cards), somebody else will. Something like www.pagat.com/invented/magic_uno.html" title="www.pagat.com/invented/magic_uno.html">Magic Uno, but with more flavor.
Red isn't seen as much of a creature color (it's after green and white... is it tied with black, blue, or both?)

Neither. Slightly behind Black, but still ahead of Blue.

Jeff Heikkinen DCI Rules Advisor since Dec 25, 2011
What are some tried-and-true mechanics for red that exist as instants and sorceries that aren't damage?



There's the "can't block" spells you mentioned, plus spell redirect, power boost, granting of first/double strike, artifact destruction, temporary creature steal, fast mana, and forcing blocks.  Then there's Savage Beating, too.

Although, to be fair, direct damage is usually the most relevant red instant mechanic.  Still, that's just because direct damage is one of the most relevant effects in the game.



Red has also gotten the "discard your hand; draw cards equal to the number of cards discarded this way" effect. But on the whole it seems that Red is mostly about getting direct damage through to the opponent.
Apparently, Fork is red again.
I thought this two articles were really interesting.

I have also a question that hit me during reading:
Have you ever discussed changing the ruling of old rampage to new rampage??  I mean the old creatures wouldn't be overpowered in any way and get from pretty lousy and boring to somewhat casual relevant again. All except Varchilds suck hard, to name it.

I think it would be pretty cool to have that keyword viable again and that seems only possible if they update it to new rampage instead of simply keywording new rampage. The only strike against this is the reminder text on like three different rampage cards.

have a nice day guys


I'll bet they stopped using rampage because it's so rarely relevant, because choosing to block with multiple creatures is so rare. I've done it, but I know I don't like to. In the plausible best-case scenario, where you use two creatures to block one attacker to kill it and only lose one of your blockers*, it's risky if they have a Giant Growth in their hand or some other combat trick, neutral in terms of card advantage, and takes up two blockers who could be used for something else. More likely, you'd have to use two or more blockers to kill one attacker, and if they have any kind of instant like a Giant Growth or Lightning Bolt, then you'd lose two creatures and fail to kill theirs.

At least with "new rampage", like Elvish Berserker or Ichorclaw Myr, it gets pumped up if it gets blocked at all, so there's tension between you taking a small amount of damage and a blocker taking a larger amount. Old rampage is mostly relevant with weird, build-around, Johnny-ish effects like Lure, and trample.

* Sure, that's not the absolute best-case scenario; the best-case would be them attacking when you need to double-block to kill it, but you wouldn't lose anything. But how often does that happen, and why would they attack with it at all if they could see that?



Yeah i agree and think you didn't get my point. ;)

I was asking if they could change the rules of "Rampage" so that it works like "new rampage" eg. for every blocker not every second.

It would make the old cards better (they are all bad except one) and letting wizard use "rampage" in newer editions instead of writing out the new rampage wording or creating a another keyword for it.




They could do that. They could errataa bunch of old cards that basically only casual players who are unlikely to even read the website play for no other reason than to make them better. They could also errataChimney Imp to cost 2b, Wood Elemental to be able to sacrifice tapped forests and bands with others creatures to not have bands with others, but they don't do that either (though the last one might actually be a good idea >.>). It's bad to mess with old cards. The rules and balance have changed so often that there's a lot of old cards that should simply be left alone. For example, the big rules change made cards like Braid of Fire and Blinkmoth Urn a lot more powerful, while invalidating or worsening cards like Mogg Fanatic, Goblin Replica, Spectral Searchlight and half the Prophecy set (Citadel of Pain and the like).

Bygones are bygones and should be bygones. There's always the desire to fix the mistakes of the past, but that is better done by designing throwbacks to the bad/invalidated cards (like the new Replica cycle) than by going back and actively changing them.

For example, while I greatly enjoy the massive creature type update they did, it still annoys me that I have to hit Gatherer now and then to see if Cabal Archon is a Zombie or Battle Squadron a Goblin.

76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
Apparently, Fork is red again.



And you're using it to copy...
I thought this two articles were really interesting.

I have also a question that hit me during reading:
Have you ever discussed changing the ruling of old rampage to new rampage??  I mean the old creatures wouldn't be overpowered in any way and get from pretty lousy and boring to somewhat casual relevant again. All except Varchilds suck hard, to name it.

I think it would be pretty cool to have that keyword viable again and that seems only possible if they update it to new rampage instead of simply keywording new rampage. The only strike against this is the reminder text on like three different rampage cards.

have a nice day guys


I'll bet they stopped using rampage because it's so rarely relevant, because choosing to block with multiple creatures is so rare. I've done it, but I know I don't like to. In the plausible best-case scenario, where you use two creatures to block one attacker to kill it and only lose one of your blockers*, it's risky if they have a Giant Growth in their hand or some other combat trick, neutral in terms of card advantage, and takes up two blockers who could be used for something else. More likely, you'd have to use two or more blockers to kill one attacker, and if they have any kind of instant like a Giant Growth or Lightning Bolt, then you'd lose two creatures and fail to kill theirs.

At least with "new rampage", like Elvish Berserker or Ichorclaw Myr, it gets pumped up if it gets blocked at all, so there's tension between you taking a small amount of damage and a blocker taking a larger amount. Old rampage is mostly relevant with weird, build-around, Johnny-ish effects like Lure, and trample.

* Sure, that's not the absolute best-case scenario; the best-case would be them attacking when you need to double-block to kill it, but you wouldn't lose anything. But how often does that happen, and why would they attack with it at all if they could see that?



Yeah i agree and think you didn't get my point. ;)

I was asking if they could change the rules of "Rampage" so that it works like "new rampage" eg. for every blocker not every second.

It would make the old cards better (they are all bad except one) and letting wizard use "rampage" in newer editions instead of writing out the new rampage wording or creating a another keyword for it.




They could do that. They could errataa bunch of old cards that basically only casual players who are unlikely to even read the website play for no other reason than to make them better. They could also errataChimney Imp to cost 2b, Wood Elemental to be able to sacrifice tapped forests and bands with others creatures to not have bands with others, but they don't do that either (though the last one might actually be a good idea >.>). It's bad to mess with old cards. The rules and balance have changed so often that there's a lot of old cards that should simply be left alone. For example, the big rules change made cards like Braid of Fire and Blinkmoth Urn a lot more powerful, while invalidating or worsening cards like Mogg Fanatic, Goblin Replica, Spectral Searchlight and half the Prophecy set (Citadel of Pain and the like).

Bygones are bygones and should be bygones. There's always the desire to fix the mistakes of the past, but that is better done by designing throwbacks to the bad/invalidated cards (like the new Replica cycle) than by going back and actively changing them.

For example, while I greatly enjoy the massive creature type update they did, it still annoys me that I have to hit Gatherer now and then to see if Cabal Archon is a Zombie or Battle Squadron a Goblin.




Yeah but there are different kind of things. They changed the legend rule to make a set work. And having a creature type that isn't written on the card is sth worse than changing rampage to a slightly better effect. After all rampage is written on the card. Jut like the legend thing. Or walls.
There is no harm no look up on gatherer for it.

Well on the other hand its probably too close to Bushido then to be worth the effort.



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