Possibly Misguided Vintage Card Design Theory!

@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.

@hierarchnoble

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.
3/1

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.

@smmenen

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.

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

In a sense, this card was "too" successful. ... But to simultaneously attack Oath, Tinker, Yawg Will, Dredge, and more was perhaps a step too far, with the benefit of hindsight.

If your analysis on the impact of Cage is correct (and I feel like it probably is), I don't see that impact as problematic. Tinker was a serious problem and it isn't anymore. Oath of Druids is just on the edge of being a problem, but isn't, and Oath and Dredge are both very legitimate decks even given the presence of Grafdigger's Cage. If Cage had a serious impact on all of those things then it seems to me like it's one of the best designed vintage cards of all time.

Of course, all of that is VERY opinion based, I completely understand if somebody likes Tinker/Oath/Dredge games more than I do.

@brass-man

Its true that the card worked as intended, and I don't think it destroyed the format by any means. I do wonder how much it has helped Workshops to become the powerhouse it is today though. Natural predators of Shops and Oath have become much worse strategies because of Grafdigger's existence.

Would the option of not allowing powerful cards be played with opposing colors be possible? Like:

Green Ancestral Recall
Same as Ancestral Recall
This card cannot be played if your deck, hand, graveyard, or exile contains blue or black cards.

Not necessarily a hate card, but something to increase the power of other colors without people just cramming it in thier Xerox Blue decks.

I guess I'm veering close to getting off target. Surely we can all agree that Grafdigger's Cage was effective design, assuming the goal of that design was to make Dredge, Oath, Tinker, and Yawgmoth's Will a little worse. We may not agree on whether those things being worse was a good goal to have, which is fine.

I think the fact that Cage cuts across multiple archetypes is actually pretty relevant to my point about opportunity cost. People run Cage in vintage because it does more than just hate out one archetype. White decks run more Cage than Rest in Peace, despite Rest in Peace being a much more powerful anti-dredge card. Here the impact happens not because Cage is the best anti-dredge card, but because players are more incentivized to run it than something else. It has to be worth running to change the metagame!

@brass-man

There are actually two big reasons to run Grafdigger's Cage over Rest in Peace, even against dredge:

  1. Mana cost.
  2. Less effect on yourself.

The fact the card is so powerful that it competes with tailored hate pieces kind of underscores how incredibly powerful the bar is set for cards that actually have a real impact in Vintage.

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

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

In a sense, this card was "too" successful. ... But to simultaneously attack Oath, Tinker, Yawg Will, Dredge, and more was perhaps a step too far, with the benefit of hindsight.

If your analysis on the impact of Cage is correct (and I feel like it probably is), I don't see that impact as problematic. Tinker was a serious problem and it isn't anymore.

I don't agree. Tinker may have been too strong 10 years ago, but now it's too weak. One of the unintended consequences of Grafdigger's Cage in neutering the Big Blue deck was to strengthen Xerox and Shops decks too much. I think Vintage was qualitatively better in earlier eras, when cards like Yawg Will and Tinker were played more. Just as you said, that's a subjective judgement, but that's also my opinion.

@serracollector For the purpose of this thread I'd say that anything is possible. Assume you have WotC Carte Blanche and you had the authority to print a new card with those rules that wouldn't affect any other format.

Now to react specifically to the idea of a Green Ancestral, I think I might go off on another tangent where we may not agree 🙂

For me I just really don't care about the color difference. Because the cost of mana fixing is so low in vintage, splitting things along color lines has much lower impact than it does in other formats. I'm not sure green Ancestral would have the desired effect. If there was a green deck that would be improved by Green Ancestral, why doesn't that deck exist now with Tropical Islands?

Imagine a different version of your change. Imagine you banned Ancestral Recall and printed a Green Ancestral to replace it (without the blue/black clause). How would the metagame change? Would Ancestral-Stompy be the next top deck, or would Mentor just run a Tropical Island and not worry about Pyroblast anymore? Note that Oath decks don't even skip a beat. I don't know that there really is such a thing as color identity in the format ... I feel like people playing nonblue decks have given themselves an arbitrary restriction (like only playing cards that start with the letter 'B'), and they haven't realized you can usually just play whatever cards they want out of any color without really suffering.

Basically I think the card you described already exists? It's just Ancestral Recall. I'm kind of assuming this card gets restricted right off the bat. If it doesn't and Naya decks are allowed to run 4 Ancestral than I guess that's a different story. I'm not sure what that would do ... it could be problematic but it could be a good thing (Though possibly you just run it in Belcher decks? Does Green Eldrazi or Green Shops ruin things? not sure!).

I think the spirit of the design is exactly what I'm thinking about though ... it's a card that [decks you want to push] can use cheaply and [decks you want to weaken] can't, without explicitly being a hoser/hate card for [decks you want to weaken]

last edited by Brass Man

So, I have been giving this a lot of thought and I wonder if the cannot be countered text should be applied more.

Ancestral
U
Target player draws 2 cards and discards a card
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Lightning
R
Deal 2 damage to any target
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Erase
W
Destroy target enchantment or artifact
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Growth
G
Target creature get +2/+2
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Ritual
B
Add BB to you mana pool
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

I know none of these cards are not new but the idea that you get all 1 drops that cannot be countered would change Vintage.

last edited by moorebrother1

@moorebrother1

I think uncounterable, and not having the spell's cost be changed are the two major things. If say a mechanic were printed that was something like:
Immutable - This spell can not be targeted, and can not have its cost changed.
Now you throw that ability onto some cost efficient relevant effects in Vintage, and you have a bunch of new cards that Counterspells/Spheres can't interact with.

Or even just errataing/slight adjustment an existing mechanic:
Let's, for instance, take Morph. Let's make Morph an Ability (thus uncounterable and unsphere-able), and lets make it slightly more cost efficient (at 2 mana). We now have a whole ton of "new" cards that are playable in Vintage.

Cycling with an effect also fell under this class of uncounterable and unsphere-able, but most of the cycling effects were never made efficient or relevant enough. So its not as though these ideas haven't been explored before, they simply haven't been taken to the extreme needed to become playable in Vintage.

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

So, I have been giving this a lot of thought and I wonder if the cannot be countered text should be applied more.

Ancestral
U
Target player draws 2 cards and discards a card
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Lightning
R
Deal 2 damage to any target
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Erase
W
Destroy target enchantment or artifact
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Growth
G
Target creature get +2/+2
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

Ritual
B
Add BB to you mana pool
This spell cannot be countered by spells or abilities

I know none of these cards are new but the idea that you get all 1 drops that cannot be countered would change Vintage.

But are counterspells really the problem - if there is one - in Vintage?

last edited by Griselbrother

I think black decks have a problem actually beating oath of druids decks. The usual way around this is by "beating the oath by killing your opponent" in my experience. As a result I present to you the following card with UBx control decks in mind

UB
Price of Knowledge
Tribal Enchantment - wizard
As an additional cost, pay an amount life (you cannot pay more life than your life total).
Comes into play with x blood counters where x is half of the amount of life paid rounded down.
At the beginning of each upkeep remove a blood counter, if you do each player sacrifices a creature, If a player that did not sacrifice a creature, draw a card (only 1 card is drawn if any number of players do/can not sacrifice a creature). When there are no counters on price of knowledge, sacrifice it.

@busoftheundead I think black has an insane amount of creature removal. What you just proved to me is the fact that you cannot get through the counter spells. Toxic Deluge and Liliana of the Veil remove some many creatures in addition to diabolical edict or an old fashioned Terminate. A lot of people are playing Kolaghan’s Command for extra removal. Kevin Cron played that against me when I was Oath and took me down. There is also Abrupt Decay and Malstrom Pulse and Pernious Deed which are all fantastic against Oath.

I played Dark Times when could be played in Vintage and the issue there is Mental Misstep stop discard and Defense Grid will not protect and combo where you win with a creature beat down.

last edited by moorebrother1
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