Milling for 53
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Milling for 53

Two-Headed Giant “Four Colors Matters” Set Devlog #05: DESTROY!

“This is where it gets good. Good night. DESTROY BUSTER!”
— Destroyman, No More Heroes

Last time, we talking about pit crew gameplay and how —ERROR. Flying Vehicle malfunctioning. Free-fall descent velocity increasing. Crash-landing imminent. Estimated time of destruction: five minutes. Begin countdown.

FIVE

As usual, let’s show the good stuff first before blabbering about reasoning and conclusions and such:

(So much reminder text! Don’t try this at home.)

When exploring the mechanical identities of four-color groupings, we determined blue sucks at destroying stuff.

This meant needing a mechanic for all the other colors to have an excuse to make permanents go BOOM.

There are so many ways to care about something being destroyed. For example, whenever something is destroyed, you could:

  • Draw cards
  • Gain life
  • Destroy even more things
  • Take more turns
  • And so on

Not only that, there are nuances to what kind of destruction you care about.

You can’t just go off of creature deaths (morbid mechanic). That would exclude triggering off of artifacts, enchantments, lands, and planeswalkers.

Do you care about permanents hitting the graveyard? If so, that’d count sacrificing but not exiling.

Do you care about your own stuff getting destroyed? If so, would that encourage you to blow up your own stuff to trigger your own mechanic (e.g. you have no legal target for a Disenchant except on your team’s side of the battlefield)?

Do you care about counting each and every permanent getting destroyed? So, board wipes would create multiple bonuses?

And so on. To help me answer the questions above, I looked to what I’ve already defined about the set thus far.

FOUR

In Dragon Ball Z, anyone of Saiyan heritage can become dramatically stronger when recovering from near-death. The Saiyan Vegeta devised a plan to become critically injured from friendly fire to boost his power. This was smart. But it’s not something I want players to do with this four-color grouping’s gameplay.

The flavor for these peeps is gladiatorial. They’re here to wreck the opponent. Black may be OK with chopping off its own arm to gain an advantage. But if the mechanic is worded so that it cares about ANY destruction, we may get Vegeta behavior. Thus, we have our first decision: opponent’s stuff blowing up.

Furthering the gladiator flavor, this informs the type of reward we want to give to destroying opponents’ permanents. We want to give bonuses to creatures. There are multiple ways to do so.

You can “turn on” an attribute — such as becoming monstrous with the mechanic monstrosity. You could make creatures cheaper to cast or create creature tokens. And so on.

For this mechanic, I wanted to encourage players to turn sideways. What causes creatures to turn sideways? Evasion like flying or unblockability. Incentives, like the curiosity mechanic (drawing a card when dealing combat damage to a player). Or just plain combat math — your creatures are bigger.

We already have flying Vehicles. And dangling a carrot at the end of a stick after destroying stuff is too Rube-Goldberg-like. Buff creatures it is.

But how to enlargen them?

THREE

See Red illustrated by Steve Prescott

You cast Murder and destroy a creature. Congrats. Now your shiny new mechanic should make your creatures bigger. But how? Let’s see…

  • Put a +1/+1 counter on it whenever an opponent’s permanent is destroyed

Holy heck! That’s strong! The opponent trading with your creatures makes your other creatures with the mechanic even bigger. Don’t even get me started on when the opponent enters chump-block mode.

  • +1/+1 whenever an opponent’s permanent is destroyed

Okay, now this is just like a different flavor of prowess… what about +2/+2 or +3/+3? Oof, now that makes combat math agonizing. Do you block? If so, maybe double block? They might get SUPER buff and cause a blow out. Hmm…

  • As long as a permanent an opponent controls was destroyed this turn

Ah, OK! It’s like morbid but for more card types and only the opponent’s stuff. It only turns on and off each turn, doesn’t scale crazily. But… most permanents being destroyed would be creatures. And, most of the time, creatures die from combat. So the bonus here would need to matter outside of combat.

Which feels weird for gladiators…

TWO

Werewolf Ransacker illustrated by David Palumbo

Honing in, we see that we want to care if ONE OR MORE things were destroyed in a turn. As long as any destruction happened, we’re happy. Destruction happens often AFTER combat damage is dealt. But we want a reward that MATTERS for combat. The solution is +1/+1 counters — they stick around to matter for the next combat.

But as we determined earlier, +1/+1 counters over time can get out of hand. Cast Stone Rain on your turn, buff your gladiators. Cast Murder on their turn. Boost your brawlers again. Eep! Your Grizzly Bear is now a 4/4. So efficient.

So, I looked to slow things down. Additionally, I didn’t want it so that there was a “point of no return”. Once you hit a certain threshold of buff creatures, it can be hard for opponents to even keep up. Even if they grow at a slowed-down rate.

To solve this, I looked to requiring a maintenance of destruction. This is similar to the Werewolf mechanic. There’s a quality that both you and your opponent can influence: number of spells cast in a turn.

For this mechanic, if you attacked me with your big gladiators, what I can do is just take the hit. Or only block with creatures that won’t die. Or cast Fog. Or counter your destruction spell. This gives me an out to de-buff your fighters.

ONE

So now that we care about maintaining destruction: if we make it so that it matters during any turn, we get a couple problems.

First, a player deciding to attack you and your gladiators might be discouraged from letting you choose blocks. Because then the destiny of destruction is in your hands, and that feels bad for your opponent’s turn. And we don’t want to make it so that chump-blocking is strategic. That goes back to being a hacky Saiyan.

Secondly — dang, it’d be hard to ensure destruction during each and every player’s turn. Pretty much impossible with more than two entities (teams/players)!

Keeping it so that the condition is checked on your turn makes it more manageable to maintain. Checking AFTER combat ensures combat death matters. Then gifting +1/+1 counters is a reward that matters for continued combat.

The final piece — what’s the punishment for not maintaining destruction? Just take the counters away.

And the flavor that red, black, green, and white shares that makes the least sense for blue to experience and comes in waves? Adrenaline.

ZERO

Damnation illustrated by Kev Walker

All goes black. Shadow-y black. But what’s stirring in the shadows?

Join me next time when times get tough(ness).

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Bradley Rose

Bradley Rose

Magic: The Gathering and card game design.