Deep Analysis – The Mechanic that Wizards Missed Out On

I know that I have been idle for a while and for that, I’m sorry.

I have worked on several items off site, including competing in the Great Designer Search 3.  I competed in the first 2 GDS and I made to the third trial (Design Test).  The test this year was much harder AND had such a high cutoff.  This lead to me be eliminated during this part of the Great Designer Search 3.

I’ve been working on and off for several companies as a beta tester for other tabletop games for the past 10 years.  My goal is to be a game designer.  Now I feel that Wizards of the Coast missed a big opportunity again.  Today, I am going to share the mechanic that I was planning on using during Trial 3.

Past Experience

During my time as a beta tester, I’ve come across a number of mechanics that were inspired by Magic.  Rarely have I ever come across one that was never made by Wizards that fits so well in their game.

Several years ago, I worked with Alderac Entertainment Group on Legend of the Five Rings sets until they sold the license to Fantasy Flight Games.  One mechanic that made it to print was a mechanic called Courtesy.  The mechanic was designed as a catch up mechanic for factions that did not go first and in L5R CCG if you had lower honor, you went second.  The design of the L5R CCG was such that games were best of 1.  As such, the mechanic was fine but it has so much design space.  I had not thought about it until recently.

What got me thinking about this was an article by former Magic World Champion Brian Braun-Duin over on TCGPlayer.  In his article, he talks about how Hearthstone uses “The Coin” as a way to balance going first vs. going second.  Here is a quote that stuck in my mind after reading that article:

I don’t have the exact solution. I don’t know exactly what a fix should be to make it more balanced between going first or second. I just know that right now it is very unbalanced, and I think Standard, for one, would be a lot healthier if there wasn’t such a giant disparity between being on the play or draw. I would love to see WOTC experiment with ways to address this issue. I’m sure a solution exists – They just have to be willing to change things up and try new ideas.

Well BBD, I may have the answer to that question.

My mechanic is called Rebellious.

I named it Rebellious because the general consensus in Magic is that if you win the die roll, you usually choose to go first.  I haven’t seen a matchup in many years where going second is the right choice.  Only one Magic card (that I can find) that uses anything close to this is Gemstone Caverns from Time Spiral.  This is a subtle area where Design can leverage a subgame within a match that can swing games or matchups.  There is way more design space than just that one card and I can’t believe that Wizards hasn’t gone back to that idea.  Here is one of my examples that I designed:

Shock Bolt
[CARDNAME] deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Rebellious – If you didn’t go first, [CARDNAME] deals 3 damage to target creature or player instead.

Burn strategies always want to go first.  Losing a die roll is usually a nightmare for burn.  The theoretical card above would be playable as a simple Shock but it would be rather juicy as a Lightning Bolt.  This makes the play or draw option a bit more interesting.  Here is another one:

Expansive Discovery
Rebellious – If you didn’t go first, [CARDNAME] costs 1 less to play.
Search your library for a basic land card, card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.

Now ramp spells has recently moved from 1G to 2G in recent years.  This has made ramp decks in Standard almost impossible to play.  This design gives ramp a chance if they choose to go second.  This lets them flop who has the land advantage to the player that didn’t go first (assuming normal land drops for each player).

Now this theoretical card will probably be too good but:

Rebellious – If you didn’t go first, [CARDNAME] costs 1 less to play.
Counter target spell.

Control decks used to always want to go second.  The extra card was very important to their game plan.  These days with most hard counters at 3 mana or more and soft counters at 2 mana, going first so that you can get ahead on mana is more important.  This design flips this thought on its ear and gives you a powerful throwback.

Multiplayer Aspect

Another aspect of the trait is that it also works great in Multiplayer games.  Commander is a huge part of Magic these days and even Two-Headed Giant events happen occasionally as well.  Let’s look at a hypothetical card:

Mental Force
Creature – Elemental
At the beginning of your upkeep, you draw a card.
Rebellious – If you didn’t go first, [CARDNAME]’s ability reads “At the beginning of each upkeep, you draw a card.”

The card is quite good on its own as a late game beater for a control deck in a standard environment but it has even more power in a 4 player pod of Commander.

The Future

Since WotC passed on me for a third time, I decided to start a tabletop game publishing company, Alternate Dimensions Gaming LLC.  I’ve got a couple of game designs started (a deck building game and a trading card game).  I plan to have at least one of them up on Kickstarter by the end of this year.


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