Milling for 53
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Milling for 53

JumpSTARt: Battle Royale — Devlog #01: Packet Skeleton

JumpSTARt: Battle Royale is a fan-created star-format Jumpstart-style product. This blog post is part of a series chronicling its development.

Previous devlogs:
Devlog #00: Kickoff

Last time, we covered the custom rules of JumpSTARt: Battle Royale. This time, we’ll go over the packet skeleton, which is informed by the emergent mechanical themes of the twenty packets in this set.

The goal when designing each packet is to try to maximize the number of synergies it has with each other packet. For example, the Will packet rewards you for casting instants/sorceries. Thus, every packet will need at least one instant/sorcery.

You’ll find out in future devlog posts what each packet’s themes are. For today, we’ll see what forms the foundation of a packet.

Illustrated by Yongjae Choi

Packet Skeleton

Here are the card slots of each packet:

Spells (11)

  • 1 legendary partner
  • 6+ creatures (or cards that create creature tokens)
  • 1+ artifacts
  • 1+ instants/sorceries
  • 2 flex slots

Lands (9)

  • 1 or 2 Vivid lands
  • 0 or 1 Battlebond dual lands
  • 6 to 8 basic lands

A “flex slot” means it could be whichever card type, depending on the packet’s needs.

Most packets’ lands will be 1 vivid land & 8 basic lands. However, three of the packets are dual-colored. These packets will contain 2 vivid lands (1 per color), 1 dual land, 3 basic lands of one color, & 3 basic lands of the other color.

Illustrated by Jesper Ejsing

Other Packet Requirements

Here are the rarities each packet will have:

  • 1 mythic
  • 2 rares
  • 3 uncommons
  • 5 commons

These rarities are for the spells only. Adhering to this will have each packet land within similar ballparks with each other for power levels.

This means a complete deck’s spells will have 2 mythics, 4 rares, 6 uncommons, & 10 commons. In multiplayer formats, the need for larger-scale effects is increased. These more-potent spells tend to be at higher rarities, due to the contexts those cards are printed in (premier sets).

Here are the effects each packet should have:

  • 2+ creature removal
  • 1+ other removal
  • 2+ Warrior creatures
  • 1+ multiplayer-related effect
  • 3 gold cards, besides the partner (if the partner is gold)
  • 1 effect that fixes mana (or creates a Treasure) (if the partner is gold)
Illustrated by Randy Vargas

The “other removal” will include removing artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers, or straight up countering spells. The amount of removal per card type will be proportional to the amount of those card types present among the packets. (More artifact removal than enchantment removal, due to artifacts being a required card slot for each packet.)

The concept of teammates are in JumpSTARt: Battle Royale. This is not just for the sake of the star format but also to enable existing reprinted cards that mention “your team.” (As a sort of novel team-oriented experience.)

As it turns out, there aren’t many team cards; and of the few team cards to choose from, many check to see if there’s another Warrior on your team. So, to help us be able to include these cards, we need to sprinkle in at least a couple Warriors in each packet.

The multiplayer-related effect requirement covers cards that perhaps were released within a Commander, Conspiracy, or Battlebond context. JumpSTARt: Battle Royale’s unique dynamic creates an opportunity to shine a new light on multiplayer effects we’ve seen before. For example, what happens in the star format when one of Battlebond’s “friend or foe” spells is cast?

Almost-lastly, the mana bases of the gold packets means you’re a little less consistent on getting the right color. Sure, there’s added support (you have 2 Vivid lands & a Battlebond dual land), but there needs to be a little more oomph as a trade-off for having less-reliable mana. Answer: include gold cards.

Besides, this opens the door for any excellent gold cards that might be great in this environment but otherwise couldn’t be represented in the monocolor packets.

Finally, if it’s a gold packet, have an effect that creates Treasure or otherwise can fix mana. This could be a Rampant Growth effect somewhere, for example. It’s one extra bastion for smoothing over the multicolor mana base.

Illustrated by Carmen Sinek

Updates Since Last Post

Partner Advantage

I realized just how much of a downside it is to grant one of your teammates their partner when you cast yours. They get to have a +1 in card advantage thanks to your own efforts. Even without the card advantage, you’re enabling your teammate’s strategy when you might not want to, depending on the state of the game.

As such, I’d like to:

  • mitigate the advantage you’re gifting
  • incentivize you to cast your legendary partner

So, I’m introducing the Crowd Goes Wild / Crowd’s Favor rule (not sure on the exact name of the rule, yet):

  • Whenever one of your partners is “revealed” for the first time in the game, draw a card unless it is being tutored via another partner’s effect

By “revealed” I mean any of the following:

  • You cast it
  • It was milled
  • It was discarded
  • It was literally revealed by a card effect

This increases the variance between those who draw their legendary partners early and those who do much later (or not at all); but I like this trade-off in variance. Think of the acceptable margins of variance in Un-set products, especially with the floors and ceilings of some effects involving rolling six-sided dice.

The important thing is that a player who already has their titular character card in hand is encouraged to play it, despite boosting. As a boon, sharing the name of this rule helps paint the flavor of this being a free-for-all stadium of contenders (like Battlebond’s Kylem’s Valor’s Reach, but grittier).

FAQ NOTES:

  • You still get to draw a card when your legendary partner spell gets countered. However, remember that the “partner tutor” ability doesn’t trigger for your teammate when this happens, since that effect is upon your partner entering the battlefield.
  • If you tutored for your legendary partner, it doesn’t then draw you a card anymore. The +1 card from tutoring that partner = your drawn card
Illustrated by Daarken

The Fifth Player

Wobbles (of “the Goose” fame) brought up how the star format inherently makes the player going last (the fifth player) have a disadvantage. There’s four other players ahead of them, after all. Additionally, the unique nature of how turns work in JumpSTARt: Battle Royale might exacerbate the issue.

After all, I did design the format to ensure that it’s easier to overwhelm a player’s defenses (two attacking players, one defending player). Reason: trying to solve the problem with players being too afraid to commit to attacking in a game with many players.

I don’t have a solution I’m satisfied with, yet, for the raised issue. Wobbles did offer suggestions to go along with this critique, which is appreciated. I’m not sold on those, at the moment.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this disadvantage problem also occurs for “the fourth player” in Commander games. There are currently no mitigations for the disadvantage in that context — yet, that format is still wildly popular. JumpSTARt: Battle Royale is also meant to be a casual format, in the spirit of Archenemy, Planechase, Unstable, etc.

So, my approach will be this: until I’ve landed on a solution that I’m satisfied with during this theorycrafting / design stage, I won’t make a change to the rules I established in the previous post. Because I feel there is a nonzero chance that playtesting shows that JumpSTARt: Battle Royale is still fun, even if the fifth player is behind on taking their turns compared to the other players, there’s value still in leaving it as-is.

That’s All for Now

Next, let’s dive into packet designs.

Illustrated by Johann Bodin

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