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

Updated on 27 Nov 2017 by Jack V

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2017-11-15 11:22:21: Jack V created and commented on the card Contraptions!

Contraptions in Un3!

And I'm pleased to see that my original analysis of why contraptions were nigh-impossible to get right is still mostly correct.

Rewording slightly with the benefit of hindsight, the difficulty as I saw it is that in order for the steamflogger boss ability to be useful, "assembling a contraption" has to be something that doing multiple times is usually useful.

Several other softer constraints also present problems: they should feel rube-goldberg-y so not all identical; the action of assembling them shouldn't be an action which could be covered by an existing magic word such as "create"; etc

There are very few times in magic where it makes sense for a creature to do a verb rather than the player. And steamflogger boss doesn't have any ability to assemble contraptions itself. So is "assemble" an extra game rule built into contraptions? If so is there any justification for that? Or is it an ability on some contraptions? Or on some creatures? But not only goblins (else boss wouldn't need to narrow it to goblins)? But are you really going to have a narrow keyword ability associated with a creature type but have other creatures have it as well?

One large category of designs are ones where contraptions are normal cards "artifact - contraption" from your deck. That doesn't really work because you'd never have enough that steamflogger boss's ability would ever be useful.

Another is they're a token artifact type like clues or treasure (which have become more common since steamflogger boss was first printed). But it's hard to make those feel steampunk-y, and it's hard to see where the rules to create them would go.

All that mostly still applies, but having a separate contraptions deck (and having contraptions go off every three turns) resolves almost all of the issues. More contraptions is better -- and feels great. But they're still all different, feel steampunk, and don't involve you searching for the most powerful single one. Assembling contraptions is useful enough, boss's doubling ability is useful even if it can't assemble contraptions itself.

But it wouldn't quite work in black border magic.

It's satisfying to see a resolution to a puzzle that seems convincing now I see it, but doesn't undermine any of the assumptions I hoped would be kept.

It doesn't seem to matter who/what assembles the contraption though; all it does is gives you an effect you can call on every few turns. Kinda like an archenemy scheme.

It would have been nice if, I dunno, each of the three slots on the crank were populated from different sources - so you could say "Turn 2 is the machine my steamflogger boss is working on..." Which I guess you can still say - but isn't mechanically menaingful.

I agree the solution they found is great, though.

Yep. The solution is good. I'm not even going as far as saying "it wouldn't quite work in black border magic". It's well-defined if you compare Contraptions with cards that leave parts of their functionality unexplained/implied like Hangman.

There is nothing inherently silver-bordered about this other than the name of the counter - compared to some other large mechanics we got in supplemental products on black border cards - e. g. conspiracies.

This seems to be a theme of the set - though there are some glorious exceptions.

Yeah, in general un3 seems closer to more normal magic than previous un sets (in terms of rules wackiness, art bursting all over the text box, less ambiguity etc) which makes sense -- a smattering of "really out there" cards is probably more fun than an entire set of "I don't know how to rule on this".

I maybe meant standard legal, not black border, I agree conspiracy is at least as wacky as -un :) I agree that contraptions apparently work in regular black border rules as-is, but I think wizards wouldn't at the moment do the "supplementary deck" thing in black border. (I had my hopes with the monsters you fought against in theros releases, but apparently that was just a one-off)

I feel like unstable is in the sweet spot of being too normal to count as a silver-bordered set, but still have the cards that don't function right so I hate it. As for contraptions, I consider anything that isn't black-border a concession that they couldn't solve contraptions. It's also not new; Emergents Genesis has this same mechanic with Helios's construct pile.

"There are very few times in magic where it makes sense for a creature to do a verb rather than the player. "

I never get this argument and restriction. Very rarely does it matter who is doing the action. The line between creature and player action is usually ambiguous.

"This creature assembles a contraption."

So what? Does the creature (card) move from the battlefield zone--on its own--over to the contraption deck and slide it into play?

There's a instant/sorcery spell that instructs you assemble contraptions. Are players equivalent to creatures now? Since you perform the same action as a creature. Is that bad design?

"When ~ enters the battlefield, create a 1/1 creature token."

Why is this a player action? Why not "it creates a token"?

"When ~ enters the battlefield, destroy target creature."

Again, why is this player action? Why not "it destroys target creature"?

"Add mana to your mana pool."

Why not "CARDNAME adds mana to your mana pool" directly? The same consequence will occur, but the latter is more flavorful.

I think, I agree that they COULD write all those verbs as done by creature rather than by player. There might be a few cases where it matters a little (e.g. in cases of protection, or if the rules need to be changed so instead of "when you draw a card" they say "when anything draws a card for you" or something).

But the point is, during future sight and since, they are all written with the player doing the verb. The exceptions are times when it specifically matters, such as dealing damage.

That's the sort of thing they might have changed during time spiral, but all the changes in time spiral, they went to some effort to make it clear this was a deliberate difference. It would be weird to choose just one card out of future sight, and write its rules text in a way contrary to the current templating guidelines in just one way that doesn't particularly stand out.

Of course, that only makes sense following the fiction that they designed Steamflogger Boss looking into the future where they could see the contraption rules. Obviously they didn't ACTUALLY do that, and you can easily say, "that was a mistake, they wrote in a way they wouldn't really have done, but it was acceptable enough so no harm done." But I still think it's a mistake, albeit a small one, to write Steamflogger Boss in a way that flouts the templating rules of the time, whether or not you think the templating rules should change in future.

Not to rain on Contraptions' parade, but I'm liking all of the other new "mechanics" that are coming out of the set more than contraptions. It seems like there are just too many bits and bobs that contraptions add to the game; in a normal draft, you'll need to draft contraptions, draft cards that assemble contraptions, and draft around the contraptions you drafted. In gameplay, not only do you need extra space for your contraptions deck, but you also need space for assembly as well. It seems fine for an unset but it's not something I'd want to see as a block mechanic, even if it was expanded upon and clarified.

I for my part am happy that something like "block mechanics" will no longer exist. I'm fine with set mechanics that can expand over multiple consecutive sets, but I was moving away from the concept of blocks as a custom card designer and am happy Magic proper does so as well.

And in that context Contraptions are fine: To create a singular set with a unique draft experience. It would be more worrisome if the goal was to make Contraptions evergreen.

The theme is extremely parasitic and I wish assembling Contraptions had an alternate path that would make them self-sufficient - though that would probably make them even more "mandatory" in Constructed.

I know this is slightly off-topic, but can I just say that I'm loving a lot of cards in this set? It feels like a big portion of them were made specifically for me.

There's a couple duds, but there are a good amount of cards that really push the limits of what Wizards considers okay to experiment on. Stuff like the "switch" effect of Mary O'Kill (where it doesn't trigger ETB effects and just switches states), the Augment mechanic, Do-It-Yourself Seraph, and more seem doable in black border, though maybe with a little tweaking.

"switch" was already done in future sight. Arcanum Wings

I had been using a switch mechanic in Archeia, but once Eldritch Moon came out, I realized emerge better suited my needs.

Pretty sure Arcanum Wings triggers ETB effects though. Exchange is well-defined keyword action already

I'm not sure whether it does, but I know that it DOES retain targeted status like Mary'O'Kill.

Just read through all the exchange and aura swap rules. It's not explicitly stated, but I always thought it didn't trigger ETB effects


You are misleading either factually or in the choice of words saying "I know that it DOES retain targets like Mary'O'Kill."

The Aura exchanged for Arcanum Wings will retain the permanent the original Aura was enchanting (though that's not a target - anymore; it might have been a targeted during the time Arcanum Wings was a spell if you cast it) and it does not retain target state i. e. you can use Aura Swap to avoid a Naturalize targeting Arcanum Wings and the exchanged in Aura will not be removed.

If you were incorrectly refering to the enchanted permanent as "target" then it's weird you mention this at all since neither the Killbots nor Mary O'Kill even seem capable of enchanting anything.

"Exchange" is an incredibly overloaded action in the rules, but as it applies to swapping objects across zones each object enters its destination zone as a new object and retains only those states explicitly called out in the rules: "If a card in one zone is exchanged with a card in a different zone, and either of them is attached to an object, that card stops being attached to that object and the other card becomes attached to that object."

"Switch" as of its reminder text does not so much move the two objects between zones as much as it swaps out the physical representations of the game objects and applies all the characterstics of the new representation if able.

I.e. if you "exchange" something onto the battlefield it will not retain tapped state since you actually create a new game object which are by default untapped (though card text and abilities may alter this), but if you "switch" the same old game object stays in place with all its relationships to other objects and its personal states and all changes result directly from the new printed characteristics of the card now associated with the game object.

I meant that if something is targeting your arcanum wings, and you swap it out, the spell that was targeting arcanum wings will now still be targeting the new aura. Reworded last post to more accurately communicate my intentions. Apologies

That's incorrect though. It's a new object, so anything targeting the Arcanum Wings fizzles.

I also got a ruling on whether it triggers ETB effects. It does.

Live and learn

So what's the general opinion regarding Contraptions as a mechanic. They need to have an environment built around them, but they don't break the rules on a fundamental level.

Would you use them in a custom set that is not "silver-bordered"?

No. Too complex, inherently silly, extremely parasitic, requires a lot of support.

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