Moxtober 2020 #03: Binding
During the month of October is #MTGMoxtober! Each day, I design a new Magic: The Gathering mechanic to fit the day’s prompt. Join Moxtober with your own Magic-related creations! Full prompt list here.
Day #01: Harvest
Day #02: Curio
Today’s prompt: #03 — “Binding”
NOTE: It’s tough to fit reminder text that clears up important ambiguity on that one line on the card. I look to Ikoria’s mutate mechanic for having a lot of complexity tucked away in its reminder text. In this case, I hope it’s understandable that, to cast a spellbook spell from exile, you have to discard a nonland card but also pay the mana cost of the card half you’re choosing to cast. Other cards would otherwise say “without paying its mana cost.” On the other hand, cards like the ones with the similar retrace mechanic make it clear by saying “in addition to its other costs.”
With that said…
Split cards can look like you’ve got an open spellbook. Imagine the binding running down the middle here.
Then I created a mechanic focusing on gameplay that feels like you’ve got access to a spellbook. After all, once you cast a spell from your book, it’s not like that spell’s page instantly burns up. Still there for casting again.
Having spells always on-hand reminded me of retrace. Having a cost that required you to discard a nonland card helped differentiate from retrace requiring a land card. This also made flavorful sense for reshaping your magic into you casting from your spellbook.
When it comes to pitching nonland cards, then, the key was to make sure to have card effects that are useful in the late game. Bonus points if the effects are good during both the early and late game.
For example, while you may design an efficient one-cost half of a spellbook card, you have to think about the potential nonland card someone is deciding to throw away in order to cast that spellbook spell. It’s turn six, and you’ve got a five-costed sorcery. Are you going to discard that just because you’ve got a very efficiently-costed two-cost spell? No way! You’ve got the mana — you’ll want to cast your five-costed spell.
On the Learn half: because you’re already discarding a card in order to be able to cast it from exile, I thought it’d be cute to roll that cost into the spell itself. This is why the effect gives you the option to discard a card. This can also make rummaging/looting-focused spellslinger decks to maybe want to consider this kind of spell to get incidental card advantage! And if anyone counters your Learn spell when you cast it from your hand, you won’t be down a card from paying an additional discard cost. :) I think that’s kinda cool, too.