Underground Plane - Set Mechanics

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Here's a set idea I've been considering: Underground plane. There is no surface, due to some ancient cataclysm or something. Most of the world is in darkness, and the native creatures have evolved to get around without conventional optics. Spellcasting and mana have also adapted to the lightless environment. But before I flesh out the world, I want to make sure the mechanics work, so here's what I had in mind.

Mechanic 1: Colorblind

Colorblind (You may cast this spell for its colorblind cost. If you do, it's colorless.)

Colorblind is an alternate casting cost that's always paid for with colourless mana. If you cast a spell for its colorblind cost, it's colourless while it's on the stack, and if it's a permanent, it remains a colourless permanent. As soon as a colorblind permanent changes zones, it resumes its normal colours.

Examples

Mushgrove Slime
Creature - Ooze (C)
Colorblind   (You may cast this spell for its colorblind cost. If you do, it's colorless.)
3/3

Echodactyl
Creature - Drake (C)
Flying
Colorblind (You may cast this spell for its colorblind cost. If you do, it's colorless.)
2/2

Lagmite Sentinel
Creature - Elemental Soldier (C)
As long as ~ is red, it has first strike.
Colorblind (You may cast this spell for its colorblind cost. If you do, it's colorless.)
2/3

Swallowing Chasm
Instant (C)
Destroy target creature.
Colorblind (You may cast this spell for its colorblind cost. If you do, it's colorless.)


The goal with this mechanic is to establish a theme of colour vs colourless matters, while putting a twist on limited by giving every deck access to certain effects outside their colours, albeit at significant markup. Also, when you're facing down an opponent with open mana, you never know what they might play, which I think plays into the "pitch-dark" flavour of the set.

My main concern is memory issues - how hard will it be to remember what creatures are actually colourless? I considered the ability putting a counter on permanents, simply as a marker, but that brings its own problems (like length of wording). Colour pie breaking is less of an issue, since artifacts can already perform most functions of coloured spells.

Colorblind will be seen in all colours, on both creature and noncreature spells.


Mechanic 2: Tunneling

Tunneling (This creature can't be blocked except by tapped creatures.)

Tunneling creatures can be blocked by tapped creatures, and only tapped creatures. Not much to clarify here.

Examples

Wurm Hatchling
Creature - Wurm (C)
Tunneling (This creature can't be blocked except by tapped creatures.)
2/2

Crevice Scorpion
Creature - Scorpion (C)
Deathtouch
Tunneling (This creature can't be blocked except by tapped creatures.)
2/3

Furyburst Lagmite
Creature - Elemental Berserker (C)
Haste
Tunneling (This creature can't be blocked except by tapped creatures.)
3/2

Double-Ended Annelid
Creature - Wurm (U)
Vigilance
Tunneling (This creature can't be blocked except by tapped creatures.)
6/6


A pretty simple evasive mechanic that should lead to some interesting gameplay decisions. To block a tunneler, you might have to swing with something you'd prefer to leave on defense for their non-tunnelers. On the other hand, small tunnelers will have a harder time getting in when you're on the back foot, so it's not an all-upside mechanic (and I'll probably cost it neutrally). Creatures with tap abilities effectively have tunneler-reach, so they'll serve a special purpose this set.

Tunneling will be primary in green and secondary in black and red.


Mechanic 3: Convoke

Convoke hits both the notes I want the set to hit - it cares about the colour of your creatures (giving colorblindness significance), and it taps creatures (giving players tunneler-blockers). My main concern is whether I can swing it flavourfully - it definitely works in green and white, but I want to spread it to all colours if possible.

I'd love to hear anyone's opinions on these ideas, on the set idea as a whole, and particularly on colorblind which I think is the riskiest mechanic.
My only concern with tunneling is that you might want to put something in the reminder text telling folks that tapped creatures can now block - just only creatures with Tunneling.
Your first mechanic reminds of cards like Tower Above + Flame Javelin, and sometimes getting creatures that are colorless doesn't seem important enough to deserve a keyword, especially because of the memory issued and because the keyword probably doesn't provide enough design space.. Your second mechanic is rather unintuitive and makes for complicated board states where you have to put lots of thoughts into everything to prevent doing mistakes.. You should expand your third mechanic so that being convoked matters and convoking matters, give spells abilities that activate when they're convoked and give creatures triggered abilities that activate when they're convoking something..
imo Convoke just fit in GW becuase of TOken theme and can easily be expanded.

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My only concern with tunneling is that you might want to put something in the reminder text telling folks that tapped creatures can now block - just only creatures with Tunneling.

That's a good point. I can't think of a concise, elegant way to word it though. Perhaps

Tunneling (This creature can be blocked by tapped creatures, and only tapped creatures.)

or

Tunneling (Tapped creatures can block this creature. Untapped creatures can't.)

Your first mechanic reminds of cards like Tower Above + Flame Javelin, and sometimes getting creatures that are colorless doesn't seem important enough to deserve a keyword, especially because of the memory issued and because the keyword probably doesn't provide enough design space..

mana was my original idea for colourless-cast spells, and in fact my inspiration for the set. However, after making a few cards, it was clear that it would look very ugly all over the set at common. Since it's strange-looking, it probably requires reminder text anyway, so it doesn't save me space. It's also much less flexible than colorblind - see creatures like the 2/3 for that gets first strike if you paid . You can't really do that with .

That said, memory issues are a concern. I think the mechanic's value will be determined by how cards interact with it (and coloured/colourless permanents in general) - on its own it's just an alternate cost.

Your second mechanic is rather unintuitive and makes for complicated board states where you have to put lots of thoughts into everything to prevent doing mistakes..

The point of the mechanic was to inject some strategy and consideration into an arena (choosing attackers) which is normally pretty cut-and-dry. I don't plan to have a huge amount of tunnelers, but I think the occasional conditionally-evasive creature complicating the board state can be a good thing - like maybe 1 or 2 tunnelers might show up in a given limited deck. I'll have to playtest a bit.

You should expand your third mechanic so that being convoked matters and convoking matters, give spells abilities that activate when they're convoked and give creatures triggered abilities that activate when they're convoking something..

I will definitely try and plumb the depths of convoke's design space.

imo Convoke just fit in GW becuase of TOken theme and can easily be expanded.

I agree, there's lots of room to play with convoke in other colours, mechanically. Doing it flavourfully, though, might be harder. Though maybe not. Hmmm...

Sling Scoria
Instant (C)
~ deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Convoke

...I like it


Thanks for the feedbag!
Here's another version that would avoid the memory issues:

Lagmite Sentinel ()()()
Creature - Elemental Soldier (C)
If no red mana was paid to cast ~, it enters play with two +1/+1 counters.
As long as there are no +1/+1 counter on ~, it has first strike.
2/3
That works well at uncommon+, but unfortunately not at common. It's just too complex. At common, even just having everywhere is pretty ugly.

Also, this version has only two effective ways to cast it: in a non-red deck as a 4/5 for , or in a mono-red deck as a 2/3 first strike for . Using any combination of red and nonred mana makes it useless.

It does bring to mind another, earlier version of colorblind:

Colorblind (You may pay rather than pay this spell's mana cost. If you do, it enters the battlefield with a -1/-1 counter.)

This had problems of its own - it was very poor on smaller creatures, it needed a different templating for noncreature spells, and it was too constrictive in terms of alternate costing.
Yeah, I just replaced one colorless mana with () and created the problem with multi-colored decks! It's not extremely complicated since only one of the multiple ability matters, depending on what you paid for the card.. The -1/-1 counters don't really make sense just to indicate whether colored mana was paid, but +1/+1 counters are perfect and they're often used for that anyway.. The mana costs for "colorblind" would have to be very strange to be different enough from cards with () mana costs, and three of the four creatures that you posted should have used the () mana costs..
Colorblind is way more elegant that 2/c mana
Your second mechanic is rather unintuitive and makes for complicated board states where you have to put lots of thoughts into everything to prevent doing mistakes..

The point of the mechanic was to inject some strategy and consideration into an arena (choosing attackers) which is normally pretty cut-and-dry. I don't plan to have a huge amount of tunnelers, but I think the occasional conditionally-evasive creature complicating the board state can be a good thing - like maybe 1 or 2 tunnelers might show up in a given limited deck. I'll have to playtest a bit.




Don't underestimate how complex the red zone is already. LOTS of new players--hell, even some fairly experienced ones--don't have the grasp of when to attack or block. I'm not convinced Tunnelling would make the game fun; only that it would make the game a bit of a headache. I like your other ideas, but tunnelling is not one I'm a fan of.
Make the game harder. Not sarcasm.
imo Convoke just fit in GW becuase of TOken theme and can easily be expanded.



It fits in more because they're the colors of community, hence Selesnya being the token guild.

If you want the flavor of digging tunnels, here's a way to do it:

Tunneling (This creature cannot be blocked by creatures with flying.)
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Colorblind is way more elegant that 2/c mana

Thanks for saying that, I couldn't think of a way of phrasing it without sounding slightly cocky but that's exactly why I'm not using .

Don't underestimate how complex the red zone is already. LOTS of new players--hell, even some fairly experienced ones--don't have the grasp of when to attack or block. I'm not convinced Tunnelling would make the game fun; only that it would make the game a bit of a headache. I like your other ideas, but tunnelling is not one I'm a fan of.

Well if two people are saying it then maybe I need to sit up and take notice. (I assumed a sitting position from prone as I typed that.) It's still an idea I want to play with, and see how it feels, but I'm also in the market for alternatives. Some evasive mechanic that captures the flavour of a small or large burrowing creature assaulting from underground.

Perhaps "(This creature can't be blocked by more than one creature.)" to give the feel of engaging in a tight, restrictive tunnel where you're forced into single file. Doesn't work well on small creatures though. Narrow too.

Or maybe "(Creatures with power greater than this creature's can't block it.)" meaning they can avoid bigger enemies by hiding in tunnels just wide enough for them. A twist on wandering wolf's ability. Doesn't work well on big creatures though, and green wants to pump its creatures up.

"(This creature can't be blocked by more than one creature or by a creature with greater power.)" Eh...

If you want the flavor of digging tunnels, here's a way to do it:

Tunneling (This creature cannot be blocked by creatures with flying.)

This is one I thought of but specifically don't want to do. How often do flyers block? They're usually the smallest things on the board and like to get in every turn anyway.


Thanks for comments!
Maybe something like this?:

"Tunneling (When ~ attacks, defending player may untap a tapped creature he or she controls and block ~ with it. Otherwise, ~ is unblockable until end of turn)"

This way it's not actually blocked by the tapped creature, but it still is in a way that doesn't change the core Magic mechanics.

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Tunneling already has an established way of working - it makes creatures unblockable, but only works on small creatures. There is also Mountainwalk (which is also a form of unblockability).

Maybe something could work against that, like:

Subsidance
Instant
Deal 1 damage to each unblockable attacking creature. Remove those creatures from combat.

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56287226 wrote:
190106923 wrote:
Not bad. But what happens flavor wise when one kamahl kills the other one?
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56957928 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
That makes no sense to me. If they spelled the ability out on the card in full then it would not be allowed in a mono-black Commander deck, but because they used a keyword to save space it is allowed? ~ Tim
Yup, just like you can have Birds of paradise in a mono green deck but not Noble Hierarch. YAY COLOR IDENTITY
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I quite like IceMetalPunk's implementation, at least from a wording standpoint.

However, the concern still exists that it makes the combat step counterintuitive, too complicated, and unfun - since it's almost the same, mechanically. It also has the unfortunate side effect of letting an opponent use a tap ability twice, which (I believe I read) is the reason provoke was never that popular.

@LMTRK: I don't really want to use the historical interpretations of tunneling, since those are far too narrow for a theme mechanic. Magic is full of different mechanics used to represent the same thing (Sengir Nosferatu and Screeching Bat for example - and you even found two different ones in your examples!).

Thanks for the suggestions though! Any and all feedback is appreciated.
Yeah icemetalpunk has a good idea. I'm no rules guru, but there may be a way to word the ability so that the untapping and blocking has to happen as one resolved activity so that you don't have time to retap. Perhaps (Defending player may only block this card by untapping a tapped creature and declaring it this card's blocker).

As for the effect of this ability on the game, I don't think it's necessarily going to make it better or worse, but definitely different. You'll need to suddenly start forcing attacks to you have potential blockers, etc. I think you'd really need to play test this ability to see if it makes things more or less fun.



As for colorblind... maybe Colorblind (You may cast this spell for . If you do it's colorless and comes into play with a blank counter on it).
Then permanents could have abilities like "If this creature has a blank counter on it it gets -1/-1", or an activated ability like "[cost]: [effect]. If this card has a blank counter, it doesn't untap during its controllers next untap step", etc. I know earlier you said that counters could get messy, but if you tie the colorless-ness and the colorblind disability all into one counter that is referred to on the card, it may work. That way you could use the "color vs colorless matters" theme, but also have some interaction with blank counters and blanked cards themselves.

For spells you'd probably just have to put in the spell's text "[Regular spell efffect]. If you cast this spell for its colorblind cost, [X happens] instead."

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allowing only tapped creatures to block will cause more attacks sp players can tap their creatures
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Cool plane idea! You could easily put the bad guy in green or red as the other colors look for a way to create/restore the sky... "Skylost"? For the name? I dunno.

I like colorblind, but it either needs to lose the colorless permanent component, or use a counter or something to avoid memory issues. Sidenote: This seems like a cool way to bring back colored artifacts.

Tunneling is too complex. The problem is it takes a rule you know and says, now it only works this way sometimes and sometimes its backwards. Blech.
I like both of them as they are Stein. I think people are far too concerned with Memory issues.

Colourblind is a great name, and it feels totally clever. I wouldn't let the Memory thing drag you down. In practical application it should be fine. I think what may happen is that you'll be running Green colorblind creatures in your Mono-black deck or something. Then it becomes quite obvious what kind of mana you spent.

Tunneling is lovely too. Encourages attacking and creatures with tap abilities. Maybe some Defenders that tap for cool stuff?

This looks cool. I hope to see more stuff in the future.

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Your guyses feedbag is so great, I'm gonna spoiler my responses just to waste less of your time. As like, a show of appreciation.

nukeshooter
Yeah icemetalpunk has a good idea. I'm no rules guru, but there may be a way to word the ability so that the untapping and blocking has to happen as one resolved activity so that you don't have time to retap. Perhaps (Defending player may only block this card by untapping a tapped creature and declaring it this card's blocker).


This solves the problem of letting them untap, use a tap ability, and avoid blocking, although there could still be big-butted creatures that can block effectively and you still don't want using their ability twice. If blocking with tapped creatures outright poses a rules/memory/intuition problem, this will probably be my go-to. Or maaaaybe...

(Defending player may only block this card by untapping a tapped creature, declaring it this card's blocker, then tapping it again.)

Though that STILL has unintended effects with certain abilities.

As for the effect of this ability on the game, I don't think it's necessarily going to make it better or worse, but definitely different. You'll need to suddenly start forcing attacks to you have potential blockers, etc. I think you'd really need to play test this ability to see if it makes things more or less fun.


This was my thinking, that it won't necessarily be a super fun mechanic, so much as effective evasion that changes up the pacing and general principles of the game a little. Which some, more technical players (I'm that kind of player) would find fun.

As for colorblind... maybe Colorblind (You may cast this spell for . If you do it's colorless and comes into play with a blank counter on it).
Then permanents could have abilities like "If this creature has a blank counter on it it gets -1/-1", or an activated ability like "[cost]: [effect]. If this card has a blank counter, it doesn't untap during its controllers next untap step", etc. I know earlier you said that counters could get messy, but if you tie the colorless-ness and the colorblind disability all into one counter that is referred to on the card, it may work. That way you could use the "color vs colorless matters" theme, but also have some interaction with blank counters and blanked cards themselves.


Maybe you're right. Perhaps the colouredness could be directly linked to the counter itself, a la Unleash.
(You may cast this for its colorblind cost. If you do, it enters the battlefield with a blank counter on it. As long as this has a blank counter on it, it's colorless.)
A bit wordy though. If I wanted to go with your version, I'd want to make a block-wide decision that either colouredness matters, or blank counters matter, but not both. And colouredness has way more interactions with the rest of Magic. So in the end, most of my cards would be the same, but the keyword would be longer and perhaps easier to track.
For spells you'd probably just have to put in the spell's text "[Regular spell efffect]. If you cast this spell for its colorblind cost, [X happens] instead."

This actually wouldn't be the worst. I mean it's not as elegant, but I won't forsake understandability for elegance's sake, and I'm not adverse to this solution in the case I do go with counters. Good thinking.


Matt_Hoelk
allowing only tapped creatures to block will cause more attacks sp players can tap their creatures

Yep. It would definitely lead to tough decisions where you have to decide if you want to crash in and let them swing back, or hold back and let them nick you with smaller tunnelers.


Exxile72
Cool plane idea! You could easily put the bad guy in green or red as the other colors look for a way to create/restore the sky... "Skylost"? For the name? I dunno. I like colorblind, but it either needs to lose the colorless permanent component, or use a counter or something to avoid memory issues. Sidenote: This seems like a cool way to bring back colored artifacts. Tunneling is too complex. The problem is it takes a rule you know and says, now it only works this way sometimes and sometimes its backwards. Blech.

Thanks! All story-related stuff is on the backburner, although I have a few ideas for factions. (Thallids are back, baby.) I'm glad to get these opinions on memory issues and complexity. I'm still mulling over the counter idea for colorblind. Tunneling could change but I'm going to playtest it first. I guess it sort of has "untap symbol" problems.


magicpablo666
I like both of them as they are Stein. I think people are far too concerned with Memory issues.

Thanks Pablo, I'm glad to hear it - you're like me, I'll bet, you have an easy grasp of new/complex mechanics and how they'd shape up a game and make it different from normal. Like, Time Spiral block lovers. Untap-symbol lovers.

That said, I don't want to be the guy who makes a set just for himself, or a small subset of players. You know, THAT GUY. It's got to be something everyone can understand enough to enjoy.

Colourblind is a great name, and it feels totally clever. I wouldn't let the Memory thing drag you down. In practical application it should be fine. I think what may happen is that you'll be running Green colorblind creatures in your Mono-black deck or something. Then it becomes quite obvious what kind of mana you spent.

Great - the name was one of the things I was wondering about, whether I should use something like "Translucent" instead. But the only opinion I've gotten so far is positive so, hooray. In a lot of cases, yeah you'll play it in a totally off colour deck. But then, there are also times when you'll be slightly colour screwed (something I set out to curtail with the ability by the way) and end up paying for a 2/3 that doesn't have first strike because you only had one mountain at the time. And then a turn later you draw a mountain and play a second 2/3 with first strike that looks exactly the same. I'm starting to think counters might be a good idea - or maybe that players would figure out they should use their own counters as that situation happened. Further study is needed

Tunneling is lovely too. Encourages attacking and creatures with tap abilities. Maybe some Defenders that tap for cool stuff?

Thanks! Personally, tunneling is exactly the kind of mechanic I'd want to play with and have around all the time. Evergreen style. But then, testing etc blah blah. I still haven't actually played with the mechanic. When I came up with tunneling one of the first creatures I made was this (it doesn't even have tunneling):

Burrowing Shieldshell
Creature - Crab (C)
: ~ gains hexproof until end of turn.
2/4

Blue's giant spider!

This looks cool. I hope to see more stuff in the future.

I got 8 hours a day every day to think of new goodies.
Hm, looks like you've got some definite thinking to do on this one. Maybe you do just need to do a rule alteration that works in a reminder text to allow tapped creatures to block, or of course the attacking player just has to deal with the danger of reused abilities.

As for the colourblind, thanks I like the intant/sorcery version. Counters may be the best way to mark anything related to colorblind status and thus I definitely understand if you want to go with the color(less) matters theme and not reference/affect the counters themselves. 

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