Milling for 53
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Milling for 53

Two-Headed Giant “Four Colors Matters” Set Devlog #08: Ensemble

“WE ARE SEX BOB-OMB! 1, 2, 3, 4!”
— Kim, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

What makes for a music show?

Venue. Instruments. Musicians. Crowd. Lighting. Pyrotechnics.

Y’know. The usual logistics.

And then there’s just the aspects of music itself, whether its genre, lyrics, rhythm, and more.

With all these different factors, one might be able to craft a whole music-inspired plane. But we’re only focusing on one faction of this two-headed giant “four colors matters” Magic: The Gathering set.

Finding the Rhythm

As is tradition, here are sample cards showing off the nonblack groupings’ mechanic, before we dive deeper into the discussion:

Arriving at perform:

We first started with a plane inspired by Las Vegas. One aspect of Las Vegas are the shows you can attend. Amongst magicians, theater, and more; I chose to focus on music concerts. EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival), right?

We needed to drill down to the essence of a music performance in this world. And do so keeping in mind the flavor will be paired with an “Auras matter” gameplay. (As discussed in this mechanical identity piece before.)

With black being the color that is the most selfish, I looked at the opposite. The band. Together, you are greater than the sum of your parts. The gameplay should feel like you’re “working together.”

I played around with a rhythm mechanic. Then I realized I had strayed from the core identity of nonblack. I also dabbled in creating several insrument keywords like “guitar” and “keyboard”. That each are essentially the same keyword (same reminder text) but act as tags for different band configurations. That was still complicating the point.

For a music plane, this would make sense. Make a core rhythm mechanic. Make instruments matter. For this plane, just focusing on putting together performers.

P.S. I’m thrilled with perform’s replacement text in the same fashion as the overload mechanic. It’s a Magic design bucket list item for me to come up with another mechanic like overload. While I put in conscious effort in the past, it’s ironic that I wasn’t trying to do this when designing perform. It just “made sense” to want to break


— Captain America, Avengers: Age of Ultron

You might ask, “Why doesn’t perform benefit all creatures?” This makes complete sense, after all. Crowds get “enchanted” by the band.

This is for game balance. If a creature got +1/+1 from an aura and performed that to the entire team, it’s better than a Glorious Anthem! And rarely is an Aura simply going to be just +1/+1. You see Oakenform would really boost to give +3/+3 for everyone and just end the game. Too much of a killer combo, despite Auras needing help to balance out its 2-for-1 weakness against removal.

Instead, limiting it so that perform helps other enchanted creatures become better brings down the power level. It also makes more sense when the flavor is about “performing together.” These are your bandmates! Fellow Bards.

However, when limiting to just performers helping other enchanted creatures, Auras now still need a bit of work.

That’s where the Fans come in.

Couldn’t Do It Without You

“And above all, ARMY, love you and thank you so much. I wish my love can reach you.” — RM, BTS

The two new creature types introduced for this faction: Bards and Fans. This is essentially what makes up a music show. Musicians that vibe with each other. And an audience that gets to share in the experience of those vibes.

There’s a difference between the two types. EVERYONE in the show is enjoying the experience. However, the Fans receive the performance. The Bards are the ones that each contribute toward the amalgamation of music.

This plays out with the Auras. There are only so many Auras a team can throw into their decks. And only so many a set can inflate the numbers of to support an Aura theme.

You and your teammate would maybe be able to get a single Aura each then finally experience some performance-sharing. A lot of work to ensure there are multiple enchanted creatures.

What if creatures already were “enchanted?” Weird, right? In other sets, this wouldn’t make sense. But the fact that “enchanted” works for both flavor (they’re “wowed” by the music show) makes it so that the gameplay part is a lot easier to grok.

“Effects count this creature as enchanted.”

And because it’s such a unique effect, the creature type was also another opportunity to help hammer in the grokkability. If I had picked “Goblin”, you’d only have the ability to go off of to make the connection that these are fans at a concert. Putting “Fan” helps illustrate what the token is doing and why it’s supposed to make sense flavorfully and mechanically.

And the Bard creature type? Well, besides that it helps instantly communicate what a creature with perform is doing — it’s about damn time Magic got Bard creatures. If Frogs and Pangolins can eventually get their own creature types, so can Bards.

Next Act

Alter Reality illustrated by Justin Sweet

This was the final mechanic of the five four-color groupings of the two-headed giant “four colors matters” custom set. This still leaves unanswered: what are you going to do four-color cards? There’s one final mechanic that goes into all colors that acts as the glue to making four-color work.

BUT, before we get into that, the “next issue” of this devlog series will recap all five mechanics, with some revisions made in both name and function.

Until then, may you and your friends make something beautiful together.




Magic: The Gathering game design

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Bradley Rose

Bradley Rose

Magic: The Gathering and card game design.

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