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CardName: Terrains Cost: Type: Pow/Tgh: / Rules Text: Flavour Text: Set/Rarity: Conversation None

Created on 8 Aug 2013 by Jack V

History: [-]

2013-08-08 09:01:41: Jack V created the card Terrains

An idea kicked around in several iterations in Design Challenge was terrains, or battlefields. For instance, see:



I've been thinking about which aspects of the idea I like the most.

I want to make the next design challenge to design a terrain, but first I want to work out some basic principles.

Currently my assumptions are:

I will use the name Terrain (assuming Camruth doesn't mind), even if the concept changes.

Terrains are primarily interesting when attacking creatures need to go through one, but attacking player chooses which. Because that's easy to understand, but isn't easy to specify concisely in the rules text of a card of an existing type.

Specifically, I'm considering the rules that:

  1. Terrains are played attached to an opponent.
  2. Attacking creatures may attack in up to one terrain.
  3. As many terrains as possible must have a creature attacking in them.
  4. If there's multiple legal configurations, defending player specifies a legal combination of terrains to be used, and attacking player chooses which creatures attacking in those terrains. (This is necessary so playing an additional terrain doesn't let attackers bypass your existing terrain.)
  5. Optionally, a terrain can only have a creature attack in it if, it were a creature, it could block it -- eg. creatures with flying can ignore terrains, but creatures with or without flying can attack in a terrain with flying. (Although a creature with flying will have to attack in a flying terrain if that lets the ground creature attack in a ground terrain.)
  6. Creatures blocking a creature attacking in a terrain are considered "blocking in that terrain".

I think that allows several simple common effects to be terrains: eg. instead of pacifism, have a terrain which prevents all damage.

Open questions.

  1. How should beneficial terrains work (attach to you or to opponent? does any positive terrain let a creature use that instead of a defensive terrain, or does it need to use one of each?)
  2. What card type should terrains use? It would be most impressive as a new card type, but it would mean no existing cards would remove them. Creatively it would work well as a land subtype, but they should cost mana and not take up a land drop, so they don't really have anything in common with land as a type. (Is there any way to make that work? Maybe they are lands which "activate" into terrains somehow?) Balance-wise it might be nice if they were artifacts or enchantments so existing removal spells worked, but that doesn't really work creatively.
  3. Should there be any natural answer to terrains other than "play more creatures"?

Do those rules work well enough for a design challenge to say "design a terrain card"? What holes in the concept are there?

Simple examples:

  1. You have a terrain which says "attacking creatures in this get -1/-0". I have two creatures. I can attack with both, one attacking in the terrain, or attack with one in the terrain.

  2. As before, but one of my creatures flies. I can attack with the flier only (it wouldn't attack in the terrain but it could if I wanted), or attack with both creatures, either in the terrain. (Oops, I think this contradicts what I said earlier, I'm not sure I have the evasion rules right.)

  3. You have two terrains, and I have one attacking creature. You choose which terrain is used.

  4. You have three terrains and I have two attacking creatures. You choose which two terrains are used, but I choose which creature attacks in which terrain.

Hmm. Some of these rules are a little different to how I thought terrains worked in previous design challenges. In particular, I thought they were all symmetrical before, rather than attached to a player. Admittedly it allows a lot more interesting effects if only one player can get the effects, and it's rather more friendly with Wizards' current philosophy where they prefer all-upside mechanics to usually-upside-but-symmetrical as seen on Slivers and other lords. So I guess that makes sense. I'd certainly think it makes sense that when you cast a terrain spell you announce a player who it'll be attached to, and presumably terrain spells target; but allow it to be any player rather than saying they have to be played on opponents.

I also thought any number of creatures could attack through a given terrain, rather than just one, and creatures weren't forced to use terrains unless they say so like Inconvenient Marsh. Your rule 3 makes sense though. I agree some kind of requirement like that is best built into the card type - it makes it easier to make the cards relevant.

I think the idea of terrains with abilities like flying (your rule 5) is very confusing and best avoided.

Your rule 4 seems odd. It's a strange division of choices. I'd've thought it'd make most sense for the attacker to be able to choose any combination of terrains to attack through (obviously modified by any explicit requirements/restrictions that specific terrains might state), and any blocking creatures are deemed to be blocking in the terrain the attacker is in. Then terrains could say "Creatures attacking in ~ have +1/+1" or "Creatures blocking in ~ have +1/+1"; the former is nice for the attacking player, obviously, but the latter gives the attacker some choice which of their creatures has to suffer this penalty (and it'd be natural to put evasive creatures in here if you have any).

Thank you!

"Wizards' current philosophy where they prefer all-upside mechanics to usually-upside-but-symmetrical"

Yes, this was a deliberate change to emphasise the usual use of terrains, but I'd been mulling it over long enough I'd forgotten it was one of the things I changed.

"allow it to be any player rather than saying they have to be played on opponents"

Yeah, I don't mean you can't play it on yourself, just that the normal use is to play a terrain on an opponent.

Although, oops, I think I had that the wrong way round, it could either be "play on yourself, creatures attacking you need to attack through a terrain attached to you" or "play on opponent, creatures attacking you need to attack through terrain attached to their controller" and the first makes a lot more sense.

­I agree some kind of requirement like that is best built into the card type - it makes it easier to make the cards relevant.

Yeah. I wasn't sure, but I decided that was the interesting thing about terrains so I should focus on it. Alternatively, "bad" terrains can all individually say "at least one creature must attack in ~", but that's liable to be clunky.

"I think the idea of terrains with abilities like flying"

Point taken. It seems weird that flying doesn't help you avoid terrains, but maybe it's not worth worrying about.

"It's a strange division of choices."

Yeah, I think it makes sense conceptually but is hard to describe.

"Attacker chooses" is a lot more natural, but the trouble with that is that playing more terrains is bad, if it means the opponent's creatures can avoid your biggest terrains. If you get a mildly useful terrain on turn one, say "creature gets -1/-0" then you have to decide "should I play it now? but later on, my opponent's 5/5 flier can just attack through this and ignore my 'destroy attacking creature' terrain' if I draw it". That can be good, but it's a problem if there's a shiny new card type, but playing it is a mistake.

Maybe that just won't come up that much, but I'm not sure.

I also considered having terrains have an activation cost, so each turn defending player explicitly "turns on" the terrains they want to use each turn. That works very well in terms of groking how to use it (the reminder text can say something like "2R: at least one attacking creature must attack in ~" as an incidental way to specify it's mandatory), and gives development a knob to tweak, but tends to make the terrain design and play cluttered.

I also considered allowing terrains to "stack", so if you have a super-awesome terrain and a mediocre terrain, you can either combine them to obstruct your opponent's best creature, or use them separately to blunt two of your opponent's creatures. (The card frame can helpfully hint how you should use it.)

But those two ideas were definitely more complicated.

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