Milling for 53
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Milling for 53

“Etherium is limited. Innovation is not.”
— Tezzeret

“Wow.”

That’s the reaction you need for a Magic: The Gathering set you’re designing. It’s great to mine unexplored design space. Or combine old elements in new, refreshing ways. But as fellow Magic design enthusiast Trevor Cashmore advises — your set needs a wow factor.

A go-to example is Innistrad. Yes, Magic has never had a gothic horror set. Yes, flashback is back. Yes, Curses are a cool, new “enchant player” enchantment subtype. All exciting stuff. But what really caused a stir: double-faced cards.

Other examples were maybe not as dramatic but still impactful. Split cards. Sagas. Planeswalkers in Lorwyn. For this custom Magic set, this devlog is about revealing something that might count as splashy enough.

However, this is also about a mechanic that makes the whole set and the splash factor all work together.

Horse Power

As always, show don’t tell (too much) (before telling more).

On Episode 75 of Beacon of Creation, I brought up a four-color split card. The split card had two colors on one half and yet two other colors on the other half. This made for a nonblue card. To this, there were a couple of great points made by my co-hosts Adam Viktor Klesh and Tim Reilly.

Adam brought up that doing a split card with red-white on one half and black-green on the other half is a problem. The problem being that a nonblue team with a white-black player and a red-green player can’t cast both halves.

That’s a super feel bad. It’s a nonblue card. You’re a nonblue team. Your team deserves to cast it.

When solving for this awkward situation for a split card, Tim brought up the Battlebond mechanic assist. And then using that mechanic on a traditional four-color card (not split). Of course, assist only lets another player help pay for the generic part of the cost.

But Tim’s suggestion was a light bulb — just come up with a different keyword name to let your teammate help cast the color mana symbols of the spell. This means that a nonblue spell can then be cast by any combination of two players each playing their own non-blue color pair.

And that leads us to teamcast. It’s the glue that makes the two-headed giant format work for “four colors matters.”

And given that it’s a keyword, it helps to save space for a higher-rarity mechanic. The splashy one…!

Split Personality

So, going back to split cards, let’s first talk about the mechanic fuse from Dragon’s Maze.

Fuse was innovative for the design of split cards in that you can cast both halves! Crazy talk. You usually only just cast one half or the other.

Next, Amonkhet block let you cast one half of a split card THEN cast the other half sometime afterward. Super cool.

Other design space explored for split cards were what colors are amongst the halves. Dissension played around with gold cards and had a guild represented for each half. In Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, each half had the same color pair. (And used hybrid for the first time.)

But there has never been a four-color split card. Two one one half. Different two on another. But even if you have a mechanic that lets you and your teammate divvy up paying for the costs, it’s weird. Weird in that paying for half the cost of your half and then half of the other while your teammate does the same.

It’s better than the problem we first started with that Adam brought up. But still not quite right. If only there was a way to make each single color have freedom from each other color. Instead of having color pairs. But still be a four-color card somehow…

Oh wait a minute.

Four-told

Aha! Five different sides of a split card on a card. Was pretty sweet. But awkward that one of the fourths was further split into a split card.

But it was necessary to make sure that this card felt “complete.” There’s five colors of Magic. Leaving out one color would feel just …wrong.

Wait, unless…?!

That’s right — if you had a “four colors matters” set, it wouldn’t be weird at all to leave out a color. And then have clean fourths. Perfect. Er, almost. There’s more.

In this set, because each player is playing two colors, that means you can only cast two of the fourths. For whoever includes it in their deck. That sucks. Then it’s like a split card anyway.

Slapping on teamcast means your teammate can help cast the other two fourths. But it’s still awkward — your teammate can help you cast one thing of your card that you don’t spend any mana on. It’s like you drew your teammate’s split card and held it for them. Which is a neat thing to think about — but can be a feelbad where you’re not drawing a card for yourself.

So, if we use fuse technology and teamcast technology, and then update the comprehensive rules to say that fuse allows for casting any number of parts of a split card, whether they’re halves or fourths — then we’ve got something!

There’s one sticky part of this: when a set introduces a new keyword, new keywords usually only go without reminder text at rare or higher rarities. To pull this off, this uncommon-and-higher cycle required putting teamcast without reminder text, to save card space. Hope that’s not too taboo!

So, without further ado, and to close out this post, an example card of: a five-card cycle at uncommon and a five-card cycle at rare of these four-color split cards:

Teamcast makes the Dreamcast.

…something like that.

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