A "Brief"' Discussion on MTG Development - Understanding CMC Part One

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Thu, 2013-08-22 07:42
Kiku
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A Quick Explanation

Hey everyone, I've been noticing a huge trend start in both professional magic design (Wizards of the Coast) and freelance design (people like us who don't work for wizards and mostly design for fun). Simply put, cards are being costed very aggressively. This article is going to be the first part in a series that tries to explain exactly how to cost cards, and explain mathematically what keywords and power/toughness combos are worth. There's a lot of great material on how to design cards, but just not enough on how to develop them. This kind of information is crucial for creating a well balanced, enjoyable set, especially for freelance designers, who don't get to have a huge department behind them working on developing the cards they make. I will probably cover creature design, then instants and sorceries, with less common types being the last I cover. As one final note, this is not meant to be a short or easy read, I am trying to be as exhaustive as I possibly can with what I consider to be a very important subject matter for magic designers. Without any ado, part one of this series!

A "Brief" Discussion on MTG Development - Understanding CMC part one

In magic, each converted mana cost is allowed to have certain effects and mixtures of power and toughness. As a developer for your own set, you need to make sure your cards are at the appropriate Converted mana cost (CMC for short). Among the many things that determine a cards overall power level, arguably the most important point is the cards converted mana cost. Jace's Ingenuity and Ancestral Recall have almost exactly the same wording (the only difference is that recall lets you target any player), but the Ancestral Recall is so much stronger ebcause of the difference in CMC. Its tough to say exactly how ancestral recall ever got printed, even looking through Alpha we can see cards like Jayemdae Tome and Verduran Enchantress, which are considered to be well balanced card draw engines even under today's standards. My best guess would be that Richard Garfield wanted to create the boon cycle (Lightning Bolt, Giant Growth, Healing Salve, Dark Ritual) and refused to make it a loose cycle (every card costs exactly 1 of its color, and contains the number 3 at least once, thus making it a strict cycle). The point of this article is to help freelance designers understand exactly what is, and far more importantly what is NOT allowed at each CMC, so that we can avoid creating cards like ancestral recall, that are literally 4 CMC off where they should be.

The Concept of Fractional CMC and How to Determine a Cards Power Level

Simply put, magic doesn’t have enough spaces within its CMC’s to accurately cost every ability. To determine a cards power level, you must ask yourself how much every attribute of that card is worth. Try to add them up in such a way that the final value equals the cards actual CMC. Lets look at cards like Typhoid Rats or Trained Caracal for example. They are french vanillas(cards with just one simple keyworded ability), but we can’t say that deathtouch or lifelink costs a full 1 CMC from them. Being a 1/1 also must cost something (probably around ½ a CMC), and so we can say that on such small cards, lifelink and deathouch are also worth around ½ a CMC, thus adding up to 1 CMC total. Looking at a double dip French vanilla like Knight of Meadowgrain, we definitely can’t divide each of its attributes as whole numbers. I would say being a 2/2 is worth 1 and ¼ CMC, the lifelink is worth ½ a CMC and the first strike is worth ¼ a CMC. It is of course possible for a card to go well over what it should be getting at a certain CMC, which may well be the case with knight of meadowgrain if those abilities aren't really worth that little. Lets look at Baneslayer Angel next. Being a 5/5 is worth probably 4 ½ CMC, flying is worth ½ a CMC, lifelink is worth 1 CMC, and the protection abilities maybe around ¼ CMC each. That totals to 6 and and a half CMC being the appropriate cost for that kind of a card. You have to round when you have remainders left over like that, which is why many cards are overpowered or underpowered (the correct cost would actually involve half a CMC like on Little Girl .) Just for fun, lets attempt to make Baneslayer Angel fit as best we can. Being a 5/5 is worth 4 CMC, flying worth ¼ a CMC, First strike worth ¼ a CMC, lifelink worth ¼ a CMC, and both protection abilities worth 1/8th CMC. The question becomes, should some of those effects really be worth that little? If you can clearly see that they are not, you need to increase the CMC. As you've seen, to find the right CMC for a card requires using these fractional costs, and it is very possible to go even lower than ½. Examples of things that are worth less than ½ might be the anti regeneration clause on cards like Dark Banishing, which could be worth 1/4th. I'll cover creatures first for the purpose of these articles, and more specifically what I believe each evergreen keyword is worth in terms of CMC.

Understanding Scaling mechanics

Some mechanics are not always worth the same amount of CMC. Depending on what kind of creature has the mechanic, it can be far more valuable than on another creature. The most basic example is with lifelink. Lifelink tends to cost ½ CMC or 1 CMC, depending on the power of the creature it is on. A smaller creature like Trained Caracal gives you less life, and so you can get the effect at around ½ CMC, but on a larger creature like Voracious Hatchling, its worth much more as it can become up to a 6/6. OP cards come from not properly valuing how much better some mechanics are on certain creatures. Oddly enough, it can also work in reverse for a mechanic like deathtouch. The lower the power of the card with deathtouch is, the more it tends to be worth. On a creature like Grave Titan, deathtouch is still relevant, but he can already beat quite a large number of creatures without it, unlike Typhoid Rats who needs it to be able to kill almost anything.

Looking at each Evergreen Mechanic Separately

Deathtouch: This is a tricky one. Typhoid Rats is the most aggressive case of this keyword. In all honesty it might cost somewhere around ½ a CMC (assuming being a 1/1 also costs ½ a CMC). The major thing to watch out for with this effect is the toughness of the chosen card. Deathtouch is a mechanic that tends to slow games down if the creatures that have it are too hard to kill. Make sure most cards with deathtouch will usually trade with the creatures they meet in combat. If you want a card to have deathtouch and a high toughness, it needs a much higher CMC like Giant Scorpion. As far as Vampire Nighthawk goes, you should be very careful with making cards that efficient, and raise CMC and/or color density accordingly. If we try to squeeze everything into a formula for nighthawk we get this (2/3 costs 2 CMC, flying costs 1/3 CMC, lifelink costs 1/3 CMC, deathtouch costs 1/3 CMC). Should those abilities really cost that little to get?

Defender: Drawback keywords like defender are also a special case. Generally speaking, most cards with defender fall between 2 and 4 CMC. While being unable to attack does weaken a card, we still need to be careful about clogging the board with huge defensive cards. If the creature has very low power, it can have less CMC, but for any wall that’s capable of killing a lot of stuff like Wall of Spears or Crude Rampart the CMC needs to be fairly high for a defender. Defenders should help decks get to the late game safely, but should still be possible to destroy once your opponent starts hitting 5 or 6 CMC cards. As for cards with defender that can get rid of the effect, you should cost them almost as if they didn't have defender at all. Honestly a card having defender doesn’t usually let you lower the CMC by much, at most you can lower the CMC by 1/2.

Double Strike: Boros Swiftblade and Fencing Ace show the most basic rule for using double strike. The cards power should be half of what it would normally be for its CMC, because pump effects on double strike cards are that ridiculous. In the case of higher CMC cards, you can do funky things like make the doublestrike apply to multiple creatures (Kinsbaile Cavalier), grant undying or another keyword (Hound of Griselbrand) or other fairly strong effects, as long as you still cut the power by half. I would shy away form cards like Silverblade Paladin (too low a CMC, 4 would be the correct cost) because doublestrike is one of those mechanics whose strength is determined by power more than CMC. There are a lot of cards in magic that let you mess with that stat fairly cheaply so you should always go higher than you think you need to for double strike cards, and follow the rule of CMC = 2 times the power of the creature.

Fight: Prey Upon and Pit Fight are the standards here. In all honesty fight is a pretty tricky form of removal to use, because it requires having a creature large enough, and is therefore less reliable than more commonly used cards like Doom Blade or Oblivion Ring. Thus fight can be very aggressively costed. Even Ulvenwald Tracker proved that repeatable fight is okay at very low CMC, though I would warn against pairing that with any kind of protection ability or high toughness.

First Strike: You usually see this costing maybe ½ a CMC. It’s a very good keyword, but it really only becomes relevant when fighting against creatures with low toughness, deathtouch, multiple blocking creatures or creatures with the exact same stats. Usually, you will want the power of a creature with first strike to be no higher than the CMC it has. You should also be careful what you combine with first strike, as it is a very synergistic keyword (especially with deathtouch).

Flash: Flash is worth either ½ CMC or 1 CMC, depending on how much presence the creature has. If it has a particularly good ETB effect, or can be used well as a surprise blocker, make it cost 1 more CMC than normal, otherwise, ½ CMC more is usually fine.

Flying: Perhaps the most commonly used keyword, flying tends to be worth roughly ½ a CMC. On cards that particularly benefit from the evasion (say Hypnotic Specter), it should be worth slightly more.

Haste: This is a very hard mechanic to judge the power level of. It allows a creature to immediately get in the action, but beyond the first turn (barring a bounce spell), the ability will never be relevant again. This is most definitely a scaling mechanic. On Raging Goblin, it mostly just allows you to get it for 1 free point of damage early, but on Volcanic Dragon, it lets you immediately swing for a potential 4 to the face. Like most keywords, it tends to be worth somewhere around ½ to 1 CMC, and you need to use your best judgment when deciding which one to use. Generally ask yourself how devastating this creature getting to attack a turn early is and if it seems really good, value Haste at 1 CMC rather than a half. One kind of haste deserves special mention, the Goblin Chariot style haste. If you up the CMC of a very normal card by 1, you can add haste fairly easily (in this case Grizzly Bears).

Hexproof: This needs to cost at least 1 CMC. I don’t care that Wizards released Geist of Saint Traft or Invisible Stalker. They are both way out of line because Wizards didn't understand how to properly cost this relatively new keyword. A creature with hexproof is so hard to deal with, and can still receive the benefit of any equipment or auras you have. There are of course ways to deal with them like Wrath of God, Pyroclasm, Diabolic Edict, and killing the creatures in combat with some style of Giant Growth spell or just a huge creature, but in limited especially, these methods may not be readily available. Always value hexproof at 1 CMC. Round up for cards with this keyword. Invisible Stalker should have cost 2 mana symbolBlue mana symbol and Geist of Saint Traft should have been a 1/1 so there was more risk involved in attacking with him (½ CMC for 1/1, 1 CMC for hexproof, 1 ½ CMC for crazy angel making ability vs 1 and ¼ CMC 2/2, 1 ½ CMC angel ability and ¼ Hexproof). If your card is valuing hexproof at 1/4 CMC chances are it needs to cost more or have something radically changed.

Intimidate: This is also a scaling mechanic, namely scaling with how often creatures of the chosen color tend to be played by opponents, and of course with how many colors the card with intimidate has. If it’s on a particularly underplayed color for creatures (like blue or possibly black), it is quite valuable, as it nearly makes the card unblockable, and usually should be valued at around 1 CMC (see Accursed Spirit). On colors that have more creatures played, such as white red and green, it usually not worth more than ½ a CMC. It is worth noting that like flying, it is more valuable on cards that particularly benefit from the added evasion, like Blind Zealot or Heirs of Stromkirk. On multicolored cards, this effect is far less valuable, and so it can almost always be valued at ½ a CMC, if not even ¼ (see Immerwolf).

Landwalk: Like intimidate, which flavor of landwalk it is makes a big difference. Nonbasic landwalk is very strong because of the way most decks mana bases are built and so it is probably worth around 1 CMC. Basic landwalks are usually not worth more than ½ a CMC. Honestly landwalk is a fairly weak form of evasion that is kind of hard to build around, and so it can be quite aggressively costed, especially as many high level competitive decks don't use many basic lands.

Lifelink: I discussed this earlier, but this is one of the hardest scaling mechanics. The difference between small and large creatures with this effect is impossible to overstate. It can be worth ½ a CMC on something that a 1/1 or 2/2, but once you get past 3 or 4 power, you need to value it at 1 CMC or were going to have another Baneslayer Angel on our hands. Ask yourself, how much should gaining this creatures power every turn (until it dies) really cost?

Protection: The mnemonic for this ability is DEBT. Can’t be dealt damage by, enchanted by, blocked by, or targeted by X. Protection should cost anywhere between ½ CMC to 1 CMC. The strongest forms of protection are from red and black, because both colors have good creatures, lots of spells that target to kill creatures, and damage effects and each is worth maybe 3/4 or 1 CMC. Protection from blue is almost worthless, as blue decks rarely run a lot of creatures, have very few damage effects, and contain counterspells. Notably protection only effects a card once it’s on the battlefield and thus a card with protection from blue CAN still be countered, since it’s on the stack (even poor Progenitus). You need the cant be countered clause to deal with that problem (see Scragnoth). Protection from blue will still stop Mind Control, targeted bounce, and Dehydration style effects, but that pretty much all it’s good for so i wouldn't value it at more than 1/2 a CMC, possibly even as low as 1/4 CMC. Protection from green is okay because it does have a lot of big creatures, some negative enchantments like Arachnus Web , and a couple targeted kill spells. Protection from white is also nice, as they have a lot of targeted removal, negative enchantments, and relevant creatures. I would each at 1/2 to 3/4 CMC.

Regeneration: This particular keyword has gone through a lot of iterations over time. The best policy for regeneration seems to be weakening the creature’s toughness so that it has to keep paying for the effect and draining the mana pool of it's controller if they want to keep it alive. I would definitely consider Drudge Skeletons balanced, and I think 1 mana symbolBlack mana symbol is the best cost for regeneration. Other fair ones include 2 or 3 life or sacrificing a creature. As for how much you need to add to the CMC, I would say probably up it by 1 over what the P/T of the creature might normally be. You can also try the Cudgel Troll style regeneration. A 4/4 for 4 is very good, but by cutting 1 toughness off and putting it in Lightning bolt range, he gets regeneration at a very reasonable cost, because he can die quite easily to lightning bolt if you don’t leave mana up to protect him, and thus he eats away your mana base if you want to use this keyword.

Reach: This is a very simple keyword, just used to help defend against flying creatures. As such, it tends to be very affordable (Ezuri's Archers). This keyword is probably never worth more than ½ CMC, though it is vital to have enough cards with reach in colors like green that don’t get access to flying as much as the others.

Trample: Like lifelink, this mechanic scales very hard. It can be worth as little as ¼ or ½ a CMC on 1/1’s or 2/2’s (see Defiant Elf and Pygmy Razorback). On larger creatures, it is extremely valuable, as it negates one of the best strategies for dealing with huge creatures (chump blocking). I would value trample as being worth around 1 CMC on anything beyond 6/6, and being worth ½ CMC on 3/3-5/5 creatures. There are also many small creatures that have built in mechanics that can make them larger like Battering Krasis or Kavu Predator, and inherit trample on these cards should be worth at least ½ CMC.

Vigilance: The cost of vigilance should scale with how much you would want to use the creature in question for attacking and blocking. On Serra Angel, it’s worth about ¾ CMC (assuming 4/4 cost 3 ¾ CMC, and flying ½ CMC). Vigilance on a 1/1 or 2/2 is pretty weak, as they don’t tend to survive combat anyways, but combined with first strike, or on creatures that have 3 or more power it can be very good. I would recommend costing it at ½ CMC usually, and maybe up to 1 CMC on something bombtasic (especially if it has lifelink, because that lets you gain life with both combat steps).

Wrapup

I'd love to hear some feedback on this series, as I'm interested to see how you guys feel about it. Love it or Hate it, let me know!

Join me in the next article, when I discuss part two, the cost of commonly seen non-evergreen abilities on creatures!

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Thu, 2013-08-22 14:52
ArcAngle

A good read. I like how you noted that CMC value of some abilities scale with either the environment or the power/toughness of the creature they are on.
Another good point is that not each point of CMC is valued the same; 3 mana symbol is different that 2 mana symbolBlue mana symbol or 1 mana symbolGreen mana symbolGreen mana symbol or even White mana symbolBlack mana symbolRed mana symbol. This allows you to get more differentiation at a given CMC number.

Spoiler:

Thu, 2013-08-22 15:17
WindyDelcarlo
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ArcAngel is right. I think One of Mark Rosewater's articles was talking about the approximation of one blue mana, one red mana, stuff like that. He also talked about how, when you scale it up to bigger effects, the cost gets bigger.

Thu, 2013-08-22 18:45
Daij_Djan
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I enjoyed this article quite much, especially the in-depth mechanic analysis - even if I don't agree with it for the simple reason ArcAngle mentioned: CMC is only one costing factor, the amount and versions of colored vs uncolored mana symbols is just as important (if not even slightly more). Maybe more about this in the future articles?

Also it's not really suprising you had troubles adding up Knight of Meadowgrain's costs as that one is nowadays considered just as undercosted as Baneslayer Angel is (lesser board presence, though) Winking smiley

Also about how to cost a 1/1: Half mana seems legid, but there is Memnite as well..

Also never forget rarity. Yes, I know rarity is not only about power level at all (I really do), but in some regards it has to be considered for power level and costing as well. MaRo mentioned at least once for example, how Wizard's tends to grant mythics square stats (like a 3/3 at CMC 3) to push their appeal, which would not work at common..

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Thu, 2013-08-22 19:47
ArcAngle

I think it would also be good to talk a little bit about costing in general, after finishing your excellent discussion of CMC.
Ability and spell costing is just as important as creature costing, and non-mana costs are an interesting discussion in and of themselves.

Spoiler:

Sun, 2015-08-09 17:03
LeannHali

Use the keyword analysis is an important step in the research process, but not so much the number of configured device we go. All current methods of analytical tools to measure the wrong keywords to find the best, so use the information as a guide, but the law does not trust.<a href=http://icckeyworkz.com>keyword analysis</a>

Sun, 2015-08-09 17:38
jacqui-pup
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I really like this article and would like to see it

1) moved to Making Magic, and
2) updated with the new evergreens.

[center]"It's exciting to create something that demonstrates how clever you are, that you pushed in a direction that players didn't anticipate. The problem is that the point of game design isn't to be clever, it's to create a great game." --Mark Rosewater

Sun, 2015-08-09 17:54
Yoshi
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@Kiku: Do you think Invisible Stalker would be okay at Blue mana symbolBlue mana symbol?

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Mon, 2015-08-10 07:43
Tarvoc
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I think Invisible Stalker is never okay.

my colors

Freedom (Red mana symbol) through Knowledge (Blue mana symbol) and Organization (White mana symbol).

Mon, 2015-08-10 10:56
Yoshi
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Fair enough. It's that uninteractive...

Working on an alt-color pie at the moment. Check me out in forum games!
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Mon, 2015-08-10 18:47
Kiku
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There will be an update for this coming soon with some advice for generic spells, and updated creature keywords!

As for invisible stalker, I do feel that the proper cost is 2 mana symbolBlue mana symbol, because of how potent the combination of "can't be blocked" and hexproof are. Similar to the combination of lifelink and high power creatures, when you put these two mechanics together, caution is advisable. As a developer, you should be looking to make a card useful, but not dominant. You could push invisible stalker by making it cost Blue mana symbolBlue mana symbol, but It will already be quite strong at 2 mana symbolBlue mana symbol.

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Mon, 2015-08-10 19:31
Yoshi
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@Kiku: I think a lot of the problem with the stalker was how it interacted with buffs in other colors *ahem* green *ahem* white, and maybe if it was more color dense, it would be harder to fit those auras/buffs in.

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Mon, 2015-08-10 19:59
WindyDelcarlo
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Well, it also interacts with, you know, Sword of Fire and Ice

Mon, 2015-08-10 20:50
Yoshi
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You're right...

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If you need help with a community project, just message me and I'll be glad to help.

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Tue, 2015-08-11 01:22
hossboyz
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Everything interacts with Sword of Fire and Ice.

Tue, 2015-08-11 04:31
Waally1
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Someone needs to make an article on color pie like this too! Don't forget that intimidate has been removed in favor for menace, and protection won't be used as often. I'd be happy to join in the next article

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Tue, 2015-08-11 05:17
Horizons
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I think that Invisible Stalker is interesting because it's decidedly too good at 1 mana symbolBlue mana symbol but feels really weak at 2 mana symbolBlue mana symbol. I wonder if there are just some cards that are impossible to scale up and stay on curve, especially at lower cmcs where a 1 mana symbol mana difference can be a 100% or 33% increase in cost.

I suppose you could increase the Stalker's more irrelevant stat to make up for the difference.

Invisible Stalker 2 mana symbolBlue mana symbol
Creature - Spirit Rogue Uncommon
Hexproof
~ can't be blocked.
1/2(3?)

Thu, 2015-08-27 14:02
The5lacker
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Abilities don't all have the same "CMC value" all the time no matter what. Flying is worth much, much more on a 3/1 than a 1/3 (we've seen a 1/3 flier for 2 that nobody used, but I could never see a 3/1 flier for even 3 being available). That and you have to also judge color weight, appropriate colors for abilities, etc. etc.

The discussion of cards and their mana cost shouldn't be "Do all of these powers and their arbitrary costs add up correctly." The discussion should be "when is a reasonable time for this creature to hit the field, and what should be the opportunity cost of this creature?" Context is the most important thing to consider when designing a card, not what its cost should absolutely be based on a freaking chart. Don't consider what the card is, consider how the card plays.

Concept vs. Execution: The most important Making Magic article.

Thu, 2015-08-27 14:42
Horizons
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^ yeah I mean there are abilities that matter more in the early game and have very little consequence in the late game. But I believe that there is a formalization of rules at play that underlies the game which many of us know implicitly and intuitively but can be drawn out into the light of formula and that this is valuable especially to educate new designers.

Boundless Realms for instance, has a very good cost-to-card ratio at 6 mana symbolGreen mana symbol for approx 6-10 Rampant Growths. That's value. The equivalent in Volcanic Hammers would be a 6 mana symbolRed mana symbol card that deals 18-30 damage to target creature or player. However, one is significantly better than the other because burn has the potential to end games itself whereas the rampant growth is much better early game. So much so that this card:

Enormous Baloth 5 mana symbolGreen mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Creature - Beast Uncommon
7/7

has almost equivalent value to this (in function):

Mystic Baloth 5 mana symbolGreen mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Creature - Beast Uncommon
Tap symbol: Add Green mana symbolGreen mana symbolGreen mana symbol to your mana pool.
7/7

limited functionality like this is a lot of the logic that goes behind making hate-bears. You can make cards more interesting and unique (i.e. the second card) while still not making broken cards (because, for 90% of the time they will be used for the same things as the former card) and subtle effects that add up that synergize with a deck strategy really make decks more interesting but without breaking sealed environments etc.

EDIT: Come to think of it, burn spells (while being a simple effect) are actually one of the most precarious and interesting effects to cost right cmc-wise. So I think in talking about cmc value, burn spells probably are the last things you should use (so I broke my own rule haha).

Thu, 2015-08-27 16:23
WindyDelcarlo
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Slight note, but you can't determine how a card plays without playing it. So, you need a baseline to start so you can then make edits.

Fri, 2015-08-28 00:54
The5lacker
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"You need a baseline" is no excuse for lazy design-by-numbers. You want to determine how a card plays? Look at similar cards. Magic The Gathering is over 20 years old, you aren't starting from scratch with a new system all of your own.

CMC-costs of abilities are useless. Instead, use that big lump of neural matter between your ears to hypothesize how the card would actually play. What turn would it hit the field? How much infrastructure (mana fixing, etc.) is needed to get it running? When it hits play, how would your opponent react? Would they immediately attempt to remove it? Hope to trade against it? Try and out-race it? If you can't think through what your card does and only focus on what your card is, you will never be a good designer. And basing CMC on a chart of abilities does not tell you what a card does. It gives you information about the card, not information about how the card interacts with the game as a whole, which is the only important part. Magic The Gathering is not a purely theoretical game played in a vacuum. You must always consider how a card interacts with the other 119 cards in any given game (59 other cards in your own deck, 60 in your opponent's.) The goal should never, ever to be to crank out a formula. This is as much an art as it is a science, and to deny either half of that is to deny yourself the ability to grow as a designer and take your lessons with you into future projects, be they MSE sets or designing your own game down the road.

Concept vs. Execution: The most important Making Magic article.

Fri, 2015-08-28 01:45
Guitarweeps
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I would like to point at that although you are mostly right that you are talking about someone with years of experience already playing the game and in different formats. New designers don't have that experience yet which is the target audience of this. A baseline is great to have until you get that experience as long as you don't rely too much on it.

Much like music actually. As a young musician I used music theory a lot as it gave me a baseline to structure my songs and play with others. But as I got more experience I internalized the theory and transformed it into raw musical ideations that I never could have done with just the theory but probably never would have learned the skills to do without it.

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Fri, 2015-08-28 02:14
Horizons
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Yeah and you are right that the power level of cards is generated (in what is know as a "constitutive" system in continental philosophy) by the context and interaction with other cards. But Magic has a good way of creeping and nerfing the environment and knowing the rules for post new world order (which I think is honestly the best and the system we all pretty much use on this site) is the best and most interesting. And in that system is heavily governed by a lot of rules.

I.e. Cards with cmc one can basically equal 1.5 cmc value (i.e. Eager Cadet vs. Elite Vanguard) to be considered comparable and good. This is because of the cost of just having a 1cmc card take up a card slot os equal to 0.5cmc value. Then the cmc value ratio stays pretty much 1:1 until you hit 6cmc. Then it starts to creep up in cmc value until it hits truly exponential growth (i.e. Omniscience). This is due to a complex interaction of various factors most important pf which I think are that land drops become rarer and life points are fixed at 20. Change those factors and you create a totally different environment (i.e. EDH).

Also, you can roughly ascribe cmc values to certain abilities like Deathtouch & First Strike & Trample but when you start combining abilities you're right (like all three of those is truly an awesome force). You have to pretty much virtually "play with them in your head." The combinations and synergies cannot be completely formalized because Magic is pretty damn close to being Turing Complete (like languages). Being Turing Complete means that there are enough variables in it that it can have an infinity of combinations (like languages, binary code, and DNA). So you're right that it's impossible or at least totally fruitless to try to formalize all magic combos (like 3/3 flying and lifelink or 2/2 flying and first strike) with a cmc value but you can pretty easily do that for just flying or just first strike.

Fri, 2015-08-28 04:05
WindyDelcarlo
Administrator - MSE Add-On Award
WindyDelcarlo's picture

Now, the problem is, it's difficult to compare to something when you're making a card using two new abilities. The example we were tryign to figure out is "1/3, first strike, renown." The closest thing to compare is to a flying renown creature that costs 2 mana symbolWhite mana symbol. While certainly, when I decided to break it down to math it out, I could've used a different method, I would've come to the same conclusion regardless. A flying 1/3 renowner is better than a first striking one, so it could easily cost either 1 mana symbolWhite mana symbol or White mana symbolWhite mana symbol. I don't think anyone tried to say "These are exactly as they always are, and they should never change". Rather, the word "about" comes into play a lot.
Take, for example, split second. By itself, the ability tends to cost about 1 mana symbol (Krosan Grip as opposed to Naturalize, Sudden Shock as opposed to less-sudden Shock) but when it matters more, like Take Possession, it costs a bit more.