The role of hybrid cards

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I think people are (still) getting the wrong message about hybrid, and this includes people inside Magic R&D.

This is my response to today's development article:

58105658 wrote:
I like that they planned tools to push for fewer colors, but I think the hybrid cards are an awful place to do that. By definition, hybrid should be played by more decks. A blue/black hybrid card can be played in white-blue, blue-black, blue-red, black-red, monoblue, monoblack, etc. If it has too many hybrid symbols, it can only be played in blue-black, monoblue and monoblack (okay, when the manabases are crazy, you can splash or whatever, but it's harder).

But you know what restricts a lot already? Gold. If you don't want people splashing, use many colored symbols. I hate when the line of gold and hybrid is blurred (and people often think of hybrids as gold cards, especially with the guild watermark and everything). Demigod of Revenge and friends was fun because it was one cycle in a block with other hybrid cards, the exception. With only three hybrid cards per color pair, I think it's irresponsible to put that many hybrid intensive cards.

Boros Reckoner could have cost , and it wouldn't be played except in Boros because part of why it's good is that you can ensure it lands on turn three. The same with Nightveil Specter if it cost . And it's not like you are trying to push monowhite decks using the Reckoner or monoblue decks using the already-awkward-with-few-colors Specter.

Then you would have had slots to put on hybrid cards that are actually exciting by any deck that played either color. Something to think about.



Which pretty much explains my worries. Less cards like Demigod of Revenge, Mistmeadow Witch and Cankerous Thirst. They can be done with gold.

For reference, here's RTR block hybrid cards that have many hybrid symbols in their cost:

Frostburn Weird - Though it may be because it's very pushed.
Deathrite Shaman - Not exactly, but the card is asking for versatility, and the green side is a bit too crappy compared to using both colors.
Rakdos Shred-Freak
Sundering Growth - Though, again, the effect is powerful, and you may want it in other decks because you're not pressured to play it on turn two consistently.
Burning-Tree Emissary
Nightveil Specter
Rubblebelt Raiders
Boros Reckoner

The appeal of something like, say, Spitemare is that the insane flexibility allows it to be played in any number of decks.
Red, white, red white, white-X, red-X, etc.

Things with an incredibly heavy mana cost like the Shadowmoor/Eventide God cycle, or Boros Reckoner have a different focus I imagine. They don't necessarily want them to be played in any deck that has either of the colors so much as they want those cards to be playable in mono-color decks.
Demigod of Revenge and Deus of Calamity have both been used as finishers in All-In Red lists, and that simply would not be possible if they were traditional gold instead of hybrid.

Things like Mistmeadow Witch and Cankerous Thirst would lose a lot of their appeal if they were gold.
Witch for example, can be cast on turn 2 if your lands are a mountain and an island, or a swamp and a plains. If it were it would not.
Cankerous Thirst can be cast if you're colored screwed and never draw your second color. No, it's not ideal then, but it's still playable.
Yeah, I think Boros Reckoner is fine. It's usable in monowhite decks and in monored decks, where Spark Trooper obviously isn't. Meanwhile Arrows of Justice is eminently splashable in Gruul, Orzhov, and whatever else. They've got different intended uses.

Note that all of Return to Ravnica's common hybrids have double coloured mana in their costs. This was clearly a deliberate design decision, to try to discourage people from splashing e.g. Vassal Soul into an Izzet deck (for some reason).

I dislike Mistmeadow Witch, though. (Design-wise, that is; as a Johnny deckbuilder I love the card.) It's only any good in a blue-white deck; it should be gold. There's no reason to drop it on turn 2, even: a vanilla 1/1 for 2 mana is bad even for .

(Okay, in Shadowmoor limited there was Steel of the Godhead, but really, it'd be preferable to have a vanilla and the Witch be gold than to have the Witch be "hybrid" in some sense  that's not really hybrid at all. In fact, better still would have been to make the Witch activate for , because Turn to Mist shows either colour can get the effect. But this isn't meant to be a rant about Shadowmoor. This is just an argument not to set too much stock in that one cycle of dubious hybrid cards, any more than we'd try to argue a general point from Augury Adept.)
Related to conversation:
Su92: I'm very disappointed with hybrid in RTR and GCR. In today's development article, they said they made hybrid intensive cards (like Boros Reckoner) to push decks with fewer colors. But hybrid should be played in many decks. The Reckoner, for example, can only be reasonably played in monowhite, monored or Boros, not Azorius or Rakdos. And you only do three per color pair so it seems like a wasted opportunity. I'd understand if you had no other way, but gold intensive cards could have done the same.


Mark Rosewater:

Ravnica blocks really aren’t the place where we push hybrid in the way you’re talking about. In Ravnica, hybrid is a tool to help us make cool guild cards not make cards that go in any deck using one of the two colors.


There will be blocks where hyrbid does that (Shadowmoor block being the historical high point) but not here. That’s not its purpose in this block.


The difference between Reckoner at :rwm: :rwm: :rwm: vs is that printed version can be played on two plains and a mountain. In the high-level constructed that we usually think about, sacred foundry makes that much less important, but for a casual player, whose mana base is 10 mountains, 11 plains, and two guildgates, it's very important.
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Things with an incredibly heavy mana cost like the Shadowmoor/Eventide God cycle, or Boros Reckoner have a different focus I imagine. They don't necessarily want them to be played in any deck that has either of the colors so much as they want those cards to be playable in mono-color decks.
Demigod of Revenge and Deus of Calamity have both been used as finishers in All-In Red lists, and that simply would not be possible if they were traditional gold instead of hybrid.

Yeah, I think Boros Reckoner is fine. It's usable in monowhite decks and in monored decks, where Spark Trooper obviously isn't. Meanwhile Arrows of Justice is eminently splashable in Gruul, Orzhov, and whatever else. They've got different intended uses.


I know the difference (and I find cool that hybrid intensive cards mean something different). But talking about Standard (which is the point of the article), I doubt there will be a monowhite or monored deck using the Reckoner, or a monoblue or monoblack deck using the Specter, so for the purposes of "Let's have two-colored decks, too.", gold would have been fine.

On the other hand, we don't get too many hybrid cards, so the difference between what decks can play Spark Trooper and Boros Reckoner in Standard isn't that big. Don't get me wrong. I love how these cards are different in that they make you play those two colors or monocolor. But if Reckoner was gold, we'd instead have a rare hybrid that could do its job as a hybrid. As it is, Reckoner does almost the same as if it was gold, except we have one less red-white hybrid.


Note that all of Return to Ravnica's common hybrids have double coloured mana in their costs. This was clearly a deliberate design decision, to try to discourage people from splashing e.g. Vassal Soul into an Izzet deck (for some reason).


I didn't catch on this. What a bad way to use hybrid, though, especially in common.

I dislike Mistmeadow Witch, though. (Design-wise, that is; as a Johnny deckbuilder I love the card.) It's only any good in a blue-white deck; it should be gold. There's no reason to drop it on turn 2, even: a vanilla 1/1 for 2 mana is bad even for .

(Okay, in Shadowmoor limited there was Steel of the Godhead, but really, it'd be preferable to have a vanilla and the Witch be gold than to have the Witch be "hybrid" in some sense that's not really hybrid at all. In fact, better still would have been to make the Witch activate for , because Turn to Mist shows either colour can get the effect. But this isn't meant to be a rant about Shadowmoor. This is just an argument not to set too much stock in that one cycle of dubious hybrid cards, any more than we'd try to argue a general point from Augury Adept.)



We agree on this. Hybrid to mask gold cards isn't really hybrid.

Things like Mistmeadow Witch and Cankerous Thirst would lose a lot of their appeal if they were gold.
Witch for example, can be cast on turn 2 if your lands are a mountain and an island, or a swamp and a plains. If it were it would not.
Cankerous Thirst can be cast if you're colored screwed and never draw your second color. No, it's not ideal then, but it's still playable.

The difference between Reckoner at :rwm: :rwm: :rwm: vs is that printed version can be played on two plains and a mountain. In the high-level constructed that we usually think about, sacred foundry makes that much less important, but for a casual player, whose mana base is 10 mountains, 11 plains, and two guildgates, it's very important.


I'm aware of the little differences, but you don't make Naturalize cost and do nothing if you didn't spend green mana, even though it could do something relevant like filling the graveyard or triggering Blistercoil Weird. Not using two colors to play those cards (and some hybrids, especially from Shadowmoor block) make the bad so so bad that its pretty much unusable, or at least a lot worse to what normally is available if you pick another average card. (By that I mean you can play Cankerous Thirst as a removal spell, but they wouldn't print "Target creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn" for with a straight face.)
In this case, I'm talking about the design, and what it tries to express. The Witch isn't "I'm a cool card that can be played with either color but gets better if you have both" as much as "I'm a white-blue card. Period.".

I feel like denying Hybrid access to Cankerous Thirst and Mistmeadow Witch-style cards artifically shrinks their (already very small) share of the mechanical pie. (Although, I feel more strongly about the former than the latter). Could either of them have been printed as a gold card? Yes. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be gold. If it's a gold block, we'll print Agony Warp. If it's a hybrid block, we'll print Cankerous Thirst. There's definitely room for both and hybrid definitely needs the option.

"Proc" stands for "Programmed Random OCcurance". It does not even vaguely apply to anything Magic cards do. Don't use it.

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I think it's because Deus of Calamity can be played in red, green, or red-green. Try putting a Rushwood Elemental in anything but monogreen. It's a different role, but it's not like R&D doesn't experiment with mana costs every now and then.
139359831 wrote:
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I feel like denying Hybrid access to Cankerous Thirst and Mistmeadow Witch-style cards artifically shrinks their (already very small) share of the mechanical pie. (Although, I feel more strongly about the former than the latter). Could either of them have been printed as a gold card? Yes. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be gold. If it's a gold block, we'll print Agony Warp. If it's a hybrid block, we'll print Cankerous Thirst. There's definitely room for both and hybrid definitely needs the option.


"Pay one color to get an effect, or two to get a better effect" is perfectly fine. However, cards like Invert the Skies are awfully overcosted with only one color, the same way you wouldn't play Kederekt Parasite 99% of the time without red permanent cards in your deck. Maybe Cankerous Thirst isn't the best example (because the removal part is probably playable and definitely has a role in Limited), but it's the idea of "let's push the 'play both colors' part of this hybrid card a lot" that bugs me a lot.

When a hybrid card asks for both colors before you start thinking about using it, it's doing it as wrong as when an artifact is only useful if you have white mana.
Yeah, there's nothing wrong with Cankerous Thirst. It's quite different from being an actual gold card, it's more like a split card with entwine.

Deathrite Shaman, too, I think is okay, simply because it's a one-drop and that's the only way of doing multicoloured one-drops. Besides, the card sees play in Modern in decks that are only splashing one of the two colours and are happy to just use two thirds of the card otherwise.

I'm not sure how I feel about Reckoner, but I lean toward it being okay in general but probably a better fit in a Shadowmoor-type block than a Ravnica one. There aren't too many of them in this block, but if you had a whole bunch, it would actually reward monocolour play over multicolour play. As was pointed out, Deus of Calamity and Demigod of Revenge saw play in (the same) mono-red decks, and those decks could play Boros Reckoner too if they wanted -- but try playing all three of those together in a multicolour deck. I agree that if pushing two-colour play is your goal, a bunch of CCD or CCDD mana costs makes more senes.

I do agree on Mistmeadow Witch, but that card really just speaks to the deeper problem with Shadowmoor which is that it wasn't supposed to be a multicolour block at all but became one to play better with Alara block.

None of these things bothers me nearly as much as the other side of the coin does. (That being Giant Solifuge and Augury Adept.)
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To be fair to Solifuge, it was an 11th hour change.
Augury Adept is an abomination, though. 
My feeling on the subject is that hybrid cards are actually gold cards that use hybrid costs in order to go in the right places.
You couldn't imagine Frostburn Weird to cost UR, it is much better as is. Nightveil Specter isn't able to go in another guild than Dimir, but you can still play it in mono-blue or mono-black grind. Biomass Mutation gets to be used by three different guilds.

It is much more interesting to design them as gold cards than to give them a very narrow design space which feels completely hybrid.
Really it's more like there are two tiers of hybrids: splash hybrids (1 or 2 hybrid mana) and theme hybrids (3 or more hybrid)

Once you hit that third hybrid mana, the concept of the hybrid changes into a theme based on the block.

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What do you call a splash hybrid?
What do you call a splash hybrid?


He means cards with only one or two hybrid mana symbols. However, I think some like Frostburn Weird and Rakdos Shred-Freak lose significant value if you can sometimes fail to drop them early, so it's not that "splash"-y.
The bigger issue with Shadowmoor isn't that; it's that its hybrid cards feel more multicolor. Fun game in Shadowmoor is Find the Bleed.
139359831 wrote:
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Yeah, Shadowmoor had a lot of cards that could have been gold, but that's the point.
Shadowmoor wasn't a gold block, it was a hybrid block.
Design always bends its rules to some degree to suit the needs of a setting.  
The bigger issue with Shadowmoor isn't that; it's that its hybrid cards feel more multicolor. Fun game in Shadowmoor is Find the Bleed.


That should be an easy game. Or a long one if you're taking turns naming bleeds.
I've skipped everything since the first post, so I apologize if I'm coming out of the blue here.

I think that multicolored and hybrid cards perform opposite functions.

Gold cards have a requisite mana weight of 2, and for this they should always be more outright powerful than other types of spells. The exception to this is ofcourse the gold-hybrid, but generally speaking those are usually powerful anyways because while they alleviate the difficulty in weighted mana, they do not eliminate it.

Hybrids on the otherhand exist to allow you to play an effect that fundamentally breaks some rules of the color pie by making a spell two colors, but castable with just one. I think Unmake and Firespout are great examples of this, in that they allow both colors to at some level break the rules for what they can and cannot do, and thus give flexibility to decks of each color represented. I honestly think RTR's hybrids are a little underwhelming because of this, but then again they really weren't the point of RTR and GTC, which is why we have amazing, powerful, but difficult to cast spells all over the place.

This is the dichotomy of multicolored cards (as I see it.)  Gold cards represent the most potent card for card spells, while hybrids represent the most flexible variants that highlight the idea of using one color of mana to cast a spell of a different color.
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Hybrids on the otherhand exist to allow you to play an effect that fundamentally breaks some rules of the color pie by making a spell two colors, but castable with just one. I think Unmake and Firespout are great examples of this, in that they allow both colors to at some level break the rules for what they can and cannot do, and thus give flexibility to decks of each color represented. I honestly think RTR's hybrids are a little underwhelming because of this, but then again they really weren't the point of RTR and GTC, which is why we have amazing, powerful, but difficult to cast spells all over the place.


I'd never heard someone say hybrid's purpose is to bleed effects in a color that shouldn't have it. :O 
Well some pairs necessitate bleeding to some degree, but I feel that they often use hybrid to test the waters with certain mechanics.

Memory Sluice, for example, I feel was R&D testing if straight milling felt sufficiently black, and now its par the course.
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I do agree on Mistmeadow Witch, but that card really just speaks to the deeper problem with Shadowmoor which is that it wasn't supposed to be a multicolour block at all but became one to play better with Alara block.

I don't really see how a block where about half of the cards are multicolored "wasn't supposed to be a multicolour block".

I'd never heard someone say hybrid's purpose is to bleed effects in a color that shouldn't have it. :O 

Surprised me too. That is the wrong way to go about designing hybrid cards.

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Surprised me too. That is the wrong way to go about designing hybrid cards.



Oh? Do set me straight then, if that's "the wrong way", then what is "the right way"? The fact is that gold cards already exist and since Ravnica: CoG, hybrids have been allowing you to cast spells that would normally belong to color A by using color B mana. The effect is to condense the colorpie (much in the same vain as Phyrexian Mana), and provide flexibility by letting colored mana act outside of it's usual behavior.

An example?

Burning-Tree Emissary  is a Priest of Gix/Priest of Urabrask variant that can be played in mono-:G:. It doesn't have to break the game to break the colorpie- and that makes the card occupy interesting design space.

Unmake allows :W: to Vindicate creatures without spending a drop of :B: mana, or waiting for an opponent to do something to permit retaliation, or even give them something in return.

I think my favorite example though is the ever-so-subtle Curse of Chains, which is responsible for the influx of hard Pacifism effects into :U:, especially for limited play. As Hairless pointed out, this is an example of when hybrids are used to test what is safe to bleed (see also Boggart Ram-Gang and Cap'n Tickles, which introduced Haste being safe to print on :G: creatures)
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Burning-Tree Emissary  is a Priest of Gix/Priest of Urabrask variant that can be played in mono-:G:. It doesn't have to break the game to break the colorpie- and that makes the card occupy interesting design space.


Mono-Green can produce mana by itself. This is very obvious. We hadn't see such an effect (mana when creature enters the battlefield), but it's nothing new for green - Quirion Sentinel.


Unmake allows :W: to Vindicate creatures without spending a drop of :B: mana, or waiting for an opponent to do something to permit retaliation, or even give them something in return.


Unmake (exile creature) is totally not Vindicate (destroy any permanent). It's just a cheap Angelic Edict, so it's not outside mono-white.


I think my favorite example though is the ever-so-subtle Curse of Chains, which is responsible for the influx of hard Pacifism effects into :U:, especially for limited play. As Hairless pointed out, this is an example of when hybrids are used to test what is safe to bleed (see also Boggart Ram-Gang and Cap'n Tickles, which introduced Haste being safe to print on :G: creatures)



Such effects hadn't started with Curse of Chains. Mono-blue had Dehydration in Mercadian Masques, Immobilizing Ink in Odyssey, Sleeping Potion in Planeshift.

[<o>]
Well some pairs necessitate bleeding to some degree, but I feel that they often use hybrid to test the waters with certain mechanics.

Memory Sluice, for example, I feel was R&D testing if straight milling felt sufficiently black, and now its par the course.
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You could find examples throughout Shadowmoor. It actually bleeds more than Planar Chaos.
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
---- Autocard is your friend. Lightning Bolt = Lightning Bolt
The argument that Boros Reckoner shouldn't cost ()()() seems like the same argument that Ball Lightning shouldn't cost . So from the start, you need to ask if you're okay with the latter. Because that's basically what we're dealing with: hybrid's equivalent of color forcing. It's just another tool in their arsenal.
The argument that Boros Reckoner shouldn't cost ()()() seems like the same argument that Ball Lightning shouldn't cost . So from the start, you need to ask if you're okay with the latter. Because that's basically what we're dealing with: hybrid's equivalent of color forcing. It's just another tool in their arsenal.


I don't have a problem with Demigod of Revenge, or even Boros Reckoner. As you said, they're fine, they're interesting in the subtle things that make them different from other hybrid cards.

My point is that, between the very small amount of hybrid cards we get (that is, their original appearance, the block where they expanded it, and here pretty much because they had to) even though they say that it's evergreen, we have a lot of cases like this (and intentionally so in this block). This reduces a bit their specialness, but also takes away the point of hybridness. And the guild watermarks + guild flavor plus this doesn't help the common misconception about what hybrids are supposed to be (many people treat them like gold cards).

Ball Lightning is fine. But having every red card with three red mana symbols is probably not. 
That misses the point to me. Even in a set as geared toward multicolor as Ravnica, you still want to support mono-color play a bit, since it's the simplest construction there is. By making a card cost ()()(), you allow mono-colored payments to exist while forcing a very multicolor feel. That is, you accomplish two of your biggest goals with one card. Something that costs () just doesn't do this nearly as well. I'd argue that hyrbids in Ravnica should tend toward more colored symbols case for case than other hybrid sets.

Elixer of Immortality can be played in any deck
Dryad Militant can be played in a deck with any green or white
Boros Reckoner can be played in W, R, or W/R
Daring Skyjek can be played in a deck with any white in it
Ball Lightning can only be played in mono-red
Counterflux can only be played in R/B

In summary, each type of mana cost has different functions.

Note: I do agree that some weird hybrid cards like Mistmeadow Witch and might as well be gold cards. 
Regular hybrid cards, however, are my favorites, as they can be used in a huge variety of decks.
Cards like Mistmeadow Witch live in this small world of "you should play both of these colors, but until you can, one is okay." It's not necessarily an important distinction to make. It's just one tool that allows multicolor designs in a hybrid setting. If you need a 1/1 on turn 2, costing () is worlds easier than [cm]wu[/mc]. That's why you see this function almost entirely on creatures; being an easy to cast body still has board impact.
And here I thought it was just that Shadowmoor was supposed to make us uncomfortable.
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
---- Autocard is your friend. Lightning Bolt = Lightning Bolt
Note: I do agree that some weird hybrid cards like Mistmeadow Witch and might as well be gold cards.


I must strongly disagree on Cankerous Thirst. The whole point of making it () instead of is that you can play it in a () or a () deck, functioning as either a green pump spell or a black weakening spell.
Note: I do agree that some weird hybrid cards like Mistmeadow Witch and might as well be gold cards.


I must strongly disagree on Cankerous Thirst. The whole point of making it () instead of is that you can play it in a () or a () deck, functioning as either a green pump spell or a black weakening spell.


I strongly mantain the idea that if a card is sucky enough in one mode, it doesn't count as being playable in one color. Same principle behind Mistmeadow Witch.

Of course, removal can't be that bad, but still. 
Well yeah, its optimal when you can "entwine" it, but the thing about Thirst and similar cards is that you have the option not to do both if you are unable or don't want to.
There's nothing wrong with that, and I like it because it helps define hybrid in a way that can't be defined with traditional gold spells.
Don't forget, Cantankerous Thirst is playable in a BU limited deck as a solid removal spell.

Limited is taken very seriously into consideration, above all other formats when designing cards.
Well yeah, its optimal when you can "entwine" it, but the thing about Thirst and similar cards is that you have the option not to do both if you are unable or don't want to.
There's nothing wrong with that, and I like it because it helps define hybrid in a way that can't be defined with traditional gold spells.

This.