Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!

As to the merit of the card, I was definitely thinking the main idea was the concept; the card can be strengthened or weakened as need be with extra details. Andy, you're right I missed the Phyrexian mana detail.

At first I just wanted to hose Misstep, but gave up on much of that for better ideas. I thought hosing Force and Spheres (and Metamorph and Foundry Inspector) would be more fun. Weakening Force, by the way, greatly weakens Misstep since Misstep is more of a liability when it can't be fodder material. I would have liked this to have been playable for a Fish-style deck, but knew it would have to cost 3 mana and have more abilities for that to happen, and the 1-mana version is far more elegant. I was content with it enabling combo. I thought forcing the combo archetype into some amount of White (not a usual color for the archetype) was probably a fine cost. If that allows combo to become too prevalent, Force would have to be traded in for other hate like Arcane Laboratory. Making blue decks run enchantment kill is fine also.

Finally, I really like the "Ethereal" keyword ability that I added. There's probably some cool design space in making the stack affect the board, essentially turning all static effects, if countered, at least into instants with split second.

last edited by BazaarOfBaghdad

Andy, would this land version be more in line with what you're asking?

Saintly Hermitage.
[Legendary] Land
Add 1 [or W]. The mana cost of a spell or ability paid for with this mana may not be increased by abilities under an opponent's control.

last edited by BazaarOfBaghdad

So somethinh along the lines of:

Hidden Garden
T: Add 1 C.
T: Add one mana of any one color of your choice for each artifact your opponent controls.
2: Sacrifice -this- to destroy target artifact or non-basic land.

"Life's a garden, can you dig it?"


Split Second
If an opponent has 3 or more artifacts, you may play -this- for free.
Destroy 2 target artifacts.
(Split Second so they can't ravager or ballista in response to destruction, or Bounce with PO).

These are two ideas that help versus both Workshop decks and PO decks, and possibly splash versus others.

Sage of the Natural
Human Elf
-this- cannot be countered
Activated abilities of permanents require one G mana in addition to other costs.

Hoses fetchlands, wastes (for opponent), ravager, balista, trike, diving top, planeswalkers, time vault, etc etc
Would be very helpful for dude.dec (aka hatebears), but would prolly make jund too strong in modern.

Hippy Treelover
R/G (1 cmc, either color)
Human Activist
Cannot be countered by blue spells or abilities.
-this- cannot attack or block.
Pay 2 life, give -this- +1/+1 until end of turn.
Sacrifice -this-: Destroy X tagert artifacts, where X is -this- creature's power.

Obv implications.

Toll Bridge
Legendary Land
Creatures cannot attack you or planeswalkers you control unless opponent pays X, where X is that creatures CMC. Tokens require 1C to attack.

Exile Toll Bridge: prevent all damage and lifeloss dealt to you, planeswalkers or creatures you control this turn.

Helps versus many matches (storm, aggro, dredge), added exile clause so no Crucible shannagins. Seems fair as a Legendary land that does not tap for mana. Maybe too close to glacial chasm?

Equal Opportunity
When ever a token etb, that tokens controller must sacrifice it or another token.

Mentor, Pyro, Oath, Dredge, Saheeli, Stoneforge. This card would shake things up I think.

Are these good, too little, too much?

last edited by Serracollector

I personally think that Green is under powered right now, I and would like to see something bring it back as creature main stay color

Primal Moon
All non-basic lands are forests

last edited by moorebrother1

@bazaarofbaghdad I like a card like this but is should an artifact for 2 mana or a land like Cavern of Soul's that you pick a card type and use it to cast those spells at true cost.

Eden, Land of True Intent
When this land comes into play select a card type

Tap of one colorless mana

You may tap this land for any color mana to cast card of the chosen type and cost reducers, cost enhancers and cost fixers have no impact on this spells casting cost.

last edited by moorebrother1

The best Idea I've seen for a "fix vintage" card was:

card text: Players cannot play spells that cost more than the number of lands they control.

Choose whichever permanent you want it on, but this stops....Vintage. I personally would love to see it on a Leyline that costs 5-6 mana just for the LuLz.

Fastbond and Elves become the best things ever. Storm would have to wait til turn 4+to win. Same with 4+ land? Belcher (lulz). Stops all turn 1 spheres including Thalia. Makes Gush HORRIBLE. Stops turn 0 FoW, and Misstep. Duress and Thoughtseize become better. Dredge just auto loses? Oath would still be good, but prolly not hardcasting those Titans and Grizzles.

Death's Shadow would become a thing in Vintage.

I feel like literally every suggestion in this thread is exactly the sort of thing I posted about not liking. Reactive design that answers a specific threat while making the decks that run it worse relative to the field. Was my post unclear or too long to bother reading? Do people just not agree with my thinking on the subject? If not, that's completely fine, but I'd be interested in a discussion about where we differ.

@brass-man On the contrary, I recommended a Green - Blood Moon in the hope of helping green creature style decks. This card is no better that Blood Moon except slightly cheaper and would allow green creature decks like Elves a way into the format.

I think we need to expand the format. I like your premise for card design, because what people fail to realize is there was a time before a set of cards existed and a particular deck did not exist. Like how Dredge did not become a deck in Ravnica but cards from Time Spiral made it work with Bazaar.

I am looking around at Modern and Legacy and some core decks are missing in Vintage for various reasons. Reanimator is dead, Dark Depths decks are kind of coming back. Elves is dead. Fish decks are dead. Grow decks are dead. Painter decks are dead.

We have a different format and I like it, but expanding it to include creature style combo, and some better Aggro options is good.

When we think of Aggro in this format we think of Shops for obvious reasons, let's expand that. When someone says combo most people think or Storm or Paradoxical, that is great but what about Sneak and Show or Academy or Red Storm.

Vintage like all of the other formats builds on existing efficiency, which is why it took some months before a Paradoxical deck got going and why Storm decks look very different now than they did a year ago.

How do we break efficiency norms? Usually with cards like Treasure Cruise or Dack Fayden that are too efficient, and then we complaint about the remaining very efficient cards like Mental Misstep and Workshop.

To expand the format, we need to either break efficiency of existing cards and create new efficiencies that do not exist yet.

@moorebrother1 said in Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!:

@brass-man On the contrary, I recommended a Green - Blood Moon in the hope of helping green creature style decks. This card is no better that Blood Moon except slightly cheaper and would allow green creature decks like Elves a way into the format.

For clarification, do you think that the red Blood Moon has helped red creature-style decks and allowed red creature decks into the format?

@brass-man I have seen Moon man decks popping up lately. They do not play well on MTGO, but I think they lack a Win con playing as a prision deck. A green deck plays aggro and this is better disruption than say Root Maze or Null Rod. With Thorn gone you cannot play any green style Aggro and win. I know there are arguments about token decks but you can race them with Elves and win.

There is a reason Elves can be played in Legacy and not in Vintage and it is not because of Mental Misstep or Chalice of the Void or Young Pyromancer. It is the lack of disruption to stick a win-con in time before tokens.

I personally do not care much for Legacy and Modern is too slow. But, some of the card synergies are never tried in Vintage. It is not because they are not good just not efficient enough to be played in Vintage.

If we want to grow the format getting decks that people know how to play from other formats to be playable here is a good thing. I'm not trying to oversell that argument FYI, just saying if you own Elves and you just need say 4 to 8 cards to play Vintage you would.

last edited by moorebrother1

All the "answers" fall into the same problem that some control deck or combo deck will probably be able to abuse it. I think you really need a new build around card (or a serious general change in power level of cards from other colors) that isn't a Blue, or an Artifact (and isn't really playable by traditional blue or workshops decks). Red, Green, and White are all basically just used as secondary colors to Blue/Colorless. There is a lot of design space there. Its just a question of what exactly would said card have to read to actually have an impact on the format (and not be playable by an existing archetype).

@brass-man Hey Andy. I agree with you that pure hate cards are quite boring and they don't tend to make the cut for even "hate" decks in the long run. The reason Containment Priest was a bit of an exception is that apparently a 2/2 Flash Bear is still good even when the ability isn't relevant in a given game state. Tactics and gameplay have to be considered when designing a card to have an impact on any format and Vintage is no exception. Does this mean that I think "hate" cards are patently the wrong way to go? No. I just think that they are often the only way R & D THINKS they can go when faced with the challenge of weakening archetypes that may be too powerful while boosting others. The most interesting "mechanic" I see that a poster suggested earlier is "For each artifact your opponents control do X." I think that could be a fascinating mechanic to introduce to Vintage, but the major issue with it is that it might ONLY have a universal impact on Vintage and thus would not be relevant to Standard or Modern.

The other design space I've been wanting them to mess with is the mulligan decisions. I think it would be very interesting to have cards that give you boosts during the mulligan decision process but only if you meet certain requirements of cards in hand. Like perhaps something along these lines:

Font of Premonition 1W



When Font of Premonition enters the battlefield you may exile target creature, instant, sorcery, or land.

Prescience - If this card is in your opening hand you may reveal your hand to all players. If you reveal a creature card create a Blaspheme Token. If you reveal a sorcery or instant card create a Potion Token. If you reveal a Land card create Harvest Token.

Sacrifice a Blaspheme Token: Pay X life where X is the number of turns you've taken this game. Exile target creature.

Sacrifice a Potion Token: Pay X mana where X is the number of instants/sorcery in your graveyard. Exile target instant or sorcery.

Sacrifice a Harvest Token: Exile target land. Play this ability only if an opponent produced 3 or more mana this turn.

Now obviously this card is somewhat in the vein of a "hate" card because it is utility removal, but I think it is along the lines of an interesting mechanic. Prescience could be an interesting wrench to throw into Vintage that wouldn't just be a total replication of Leylines. I hate to say it, but I think Leylines were lazy design on the part of R & D and that they could have done WAAAY better with the "pregame" mechanic idea. I think that is an uncharted realm that we could dive pretty deep into without breaking any format particularly. Now I haven't balanced my proposed card hardly at ALL in my head, but I think it's a more forward thinking utility type of card that would attract players. What do you all think? How could Prescience be reworked to maybe be a new mechanic? Thoughts?


last edited by Stormanimagus

@stormanimagus I love your creativity so well done. However, I can't imagine the bonus I would need to get though for showing my opponent my entire hand at the beginning of the game for free.

@brass-man said in Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!:

I feel like literally every suggestion in this thread is exactly the sort of thing I posted about not liking. Reactive design that answers a specific threat while making the decks that run it worse relative to the field. Was my post unclear or too long to bother reading? Do people just not agree with my thinking on the subject? If not, that's completely fine, but I'd be interested in a discussion about where we differ.

I love the premise of this thread and this idea, but I am not a good enough game designer to even come close to taking an unbiased shot at this. The rest of the suggestions in this thread thus far have echoed this lack of creativity.

last edited by Guest

I don’t even view good design as solving a problem in an interesting way. More like, does it introduce interesting and new play patterns.

Dack Fayden and Delver did this. They helped reduce the play pattern of the endless control mirror.

Another direction Vintage needs to move as a whole is in a direction where damage matters enough that Smash to Smithereens is a 2-for-1. Building incremental value is an excellent play pattern. This is how you organically get answer cards into the metagame without making them inbred designs.

It’s kind of like the difference between life gain and lifelink.

@brass-man said in Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!:

I feel like literally every suggestion in this thread is exactly the sort of thing I posted about not liking. Reactive design that answers a specific threat while making the decks that run it worse relative to the field. Was my post unclear or too long to bother reading? Do people just not agree with my thinking on the subject? If not, that's completely fine, but I'd be interested in a discussion about where we differ.

How do you design a spell to interact with Shops in a meaningful way that isn't the point of the card? If the point is to make a balanced card that does ANYTHING useful, it just dies to the spheres (if not Revokers). Sure, you can use the cycling ability to do something perhaps, but again you're basically cheating at that point.

Same, thing for hosing the other dominant archetype: blue draw spells. Force of Will plus Swords to Plowshares is such a huge wall of idea-stopping that nothing subject to either can be considered a hoser. I mean, they printed unkillable Squee just now at 3 mana as a 1/1, I believe. It would have to be what - a 4-power creature with the same abilities to be relevant, and even then FoW and StP might be able to tempo it out.

So no, any legitimate contender to what you're looking for can't use the stack, otherwise FOW or Spheres will deny hoser status, however subtle it may have been crafted to be.


Does it actually have to be a good design or just a degenerately broken G/R/W card?

I mean really if they just printed something dumb like say:
Viper of the Sand - R
First Strike
Whenever a play casts an artifact or a blue spell, Viper of the Sands deal damage equal to its power to that player.

last edited by vaughnbros

@brass-man said in [Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!]

I want to call out, I think anything that could be called a hate card is really the wrong approach entirely and rarely works. (Grafdigger's Cage and Containment Priest probably worked, credit where credit is due).

I wonder if you are being too generous. Sure, they "worked" in the sense that they had their intended effect of weakening the strategies they were designed to attack.

But they were so effective at doing that that, in at least some cases, they neutered those strategies. The decline of Tinker preceded Dack Fayden, and is actually more attritable to the printing of Grafdigger's Cage. The same is true of Yawgmoth's Will.

Grafdigger's Cage is one of the single most important printings in the last 15 years. It's now consistently one of the most played cards in the format, but I'd argue that, in the long run, it's done quite a bit of damage to the format's structure and composition. I think more than any other card, it is responsible for the decline of the 'big blue' deck, not Gush or even Workshops raw power. With Grafdigger's Cage in most sideboards, it fundamentally reshaped this format from one that was built around cards like Yawgmoth's Will and Tinker to a far more homogeneous format.

In a sense, this card was "too" successful. A similar story exists about Priest, although not nearly to the same extent. I think Cage would have been better off not doing quite so much in a single card for a single mana. It would still be playable if it said "cards can't be played out of the graveyard and creatures can't come into play from the graveyard." But to simultaneously attack Oath, Tinker, Yawg Will, Dredge, and more was perhaps a step too far, with the benefit of hindsight.

In any case, I wrote an article 5 year ago on how to design for Vintage: http://www.eternalcentral.com/so-many-insane-plays-designing-for-eternal/

last edited by Smmenen

@bazaarofbaghdad said in Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!:

So no, any legitimate contender to what you're looking for can't use the stack, otherwise FOW or Spheres will deny hoser status, however subtle it may have been crafted to be.

So I'm very much trying to avoid cards with hoser status, that's the general idea - those cards pretty often aren't very good. The best anti-shops card that currently exists is Oath of Druids, which doesn't say "converted mana cost" or "artifact" anywhere on it. (I'm defining anti-shops card as the highest correlation between having the card in your deck and winning the match ... and honestly we don't have data on this, it's just an educated guess and I could be wrong.)

So if I were a wotc designer tasked with this (and boy I'm glad that I'm not), I would have to test the hell out of everything, but obviously none of us have put in the work so I'm sure my off-the-cuff designs are going to be problematic 🙂 I would LIKE to push archetype-proping cards like Delver and Oath but those are significantly harder to come up with.

Another approach though is having cards that impact the strategy directly but cost a player less to run.

The card Pulverize already exists and basically says "Destroy all artifacts, you can't stop this with Spheres." This is already one of the most powerful hosers I can imagine but basically has no impact on shops in the metagame.

Note that I'm not at ALL considering how these cards would impact other formats, or what rules contortions would be necessary (I'm not sure the game rules can actually handle the 'can't modify this cost' designs, but for hypothetical sake assume wotc is willing to figure something out to put cards in vintage)

reducing opportunity cost:

consider the two cards:
Better Energy Flux - 2U
Enchantment - it's just energy flux but the cost can't be increased.

Better Smelt - R
Instant or Sorcery, whatever - Destroy an artifact, draw a card.

"Better Energy Flux" is a more precisely anti-workshop card, but "Better Smelt" would have a bigger impact on the format as a whole, because people would maindeck it. Any deck can run it, but it's especially good in any deck that can take advantage of a mox-killing tempo swing.

Related to this, consider that the only way to improve a deck's matchup against another is to improve the quality of your [anti-deck] cards, or the quantity of them. Hoser design tries to push the quality of that hard higher and higher ... and at some point it will always work (0 mana, indestructible, artifacts have no abilities and cant' attack or block), but hitting that point doesn't always make things better. Cards that have a less dramatic effect but a lower opportunity cost can get people to increase the quantity of relevant cards. 8 Tormod's Crypt is more effective than 1 Leyline of the Void, if you have the space to run them.

Taking any small effect and leaving you with SOMETHING if your opponent has an answer to it is going to strengthen the position of decks not vulnerable to that card, making something cantrip is a pretty straightforward way to do that, but there are probably others. Making nonblue cards replace themselves is an example of something that wouldn't make sense in standard design, but I believe makes sense in vintage design. I really don't think the traditional view of the color pie makes ANY sense in this format. It's not how things work, and designing as if that's how things work isn't going to make it work.

I've thought that aggro could really get a push from just a cheap cantripping attacker more than a hate bear. A one mana 2/1 cantripping merfolk (or goblin? human? wizard?) that can't block would do a real number on more traditional blue control decks. Obviously that card couldn't be printed in standard but I think it could only improve (or have no noticeable impact on) vintage strategic diversity.

Another approach to reducing the opportunity cost of a card is tacking on the hate ability as a side effect to something people can use anyway.

Tiny Ob Nixilis - 2B
Planeswalker - 3 Loyalty
+1: target player loses 2 life and you gain 2 life
-0: exile target player's graveyard
-2: lose 2 life and draw 2 cards

There could be more cohesion between these abilities, but I don't think it's awful (fix it in flavor text). Something like this is the anti-dredge Dack Fayden. You wouldn't run this card in your sideboard over something like a Yixlid Jailer, it's just not as effective a hoser - but you could run it maindeck, and maindeck hate completely changes Dredge's metagame dynamics. You can probably do something similar against any problem archetype, have a reasonable value-generating engine, tack on a relevant but not backbreaking hate effect.

using mirror-cards to weaken a deck's position in the metagame

I mentioned this in the first post. These are probably tough to get right. A quick pass at one:
Uktabi Construct - 4
Artifact Creature - 2/2 - Destroy an artifact on ETB.

The contention is that a Workshop deck running this card is more likely to win against a Workshop deck that isn't. I'm not completely sure if that's true. Assuming it is, this card is not dead against non-shops decks, but it's not particularly great against them either. That's important because it's not so obviously bad against blue that a Workshop player can't afford to run them. If some people try the card, the arms race begins, and Workshop players have a split incentive to run cards that are good in different matchups. While there are differences between an optimal anti-mirror Workshop list and an optimal anti-blue Workshop list, those differences are very small. They're MORE than small enough to give Workshop decks a ton of sideboard space to work with, and in fact the more lock pieces we restrict, the smaller that gap gets. By increasing the distance between good anti-shop cards and good anti-blue cards, you create tension in how the deck needs to be built, and at some point the Workshop pilot has to choose a deck to have suboptimal matchups against. Design has to be pretty careful to build a card that's both costly to run and still worth running, but I think it can be done.


The existence of Cage is pretty brutal for Dredge too. There wasn't previously permanent based hate like that in Colorless. Completely changed the archetype.

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