Design Class – What Would You Pay For a Creature? How About Nothing?

And remember: Keep the Kobold population low. Have your Koblod sprayed or neutered.
And remember: Keep the Kobold population low. Have your Koblod sprayed or neutered.

Sometimes an idea is so wild, so out there, so insane that at first glance it won’t make sense. You’ll shake it off as insane and think never in a million years would this make sense. But this is exactly the idea that LSK on MTGSalvation came up with. To the message boards!

Here’s the theoretical card:
Minikin – 0
Artifact Creature – Mannequin
1/1
Imagine it were a M10 common, tacked on to the set as-is. Would it break limited formats? Standard? Extended?
It might allow for explosive openings, but that’s balanced by its low power.

Right now in Magic (to M10) there are six 0 casting cost creatures: three of them are Kobolds, and three are artifacts. None of these creatures have a power greater than 1. What would happen if Wizards decided to print a “free” 1/1 creature?

Some people suggested that it should have a drawback like “you can’t play other spells this turn,” or make it Legendary. All of this talk is nice, but it defeats the purpose of the goal. Could a 0-casting cost 1/1 creature see print? After all, we have a 3/3 for GW, a 2/2 for W, why couldn’t there be a 1/1 for 0? Let’s take a look what this entails.

1 – The creature can’t have a relevant creature type. If the creature was a color, it couldn’t be an Elf, Goblin, Soldier, Zombie, Sliver, Faerie, Rebel, etc (though Goat would be alright and I think Contraption would be funny). Each of these creature types are powerful enough on their own that they don’t need anymore help on the Tribal front for free. And a free creature for these creature types? Out of the question. Plus, it would pigeonhole this card into these and only these decks, making it less fun for everyone who would want to use this card.

2 – Anytime something is a cheap artifact, people look at two things that could exploit it: Affinity and Vintage. Looking at Affinity first, the question is: Would the Affinity player replace any other card to play this? At already has a free creature (Ornithopter) that is much better in the deck. Why? It has flying (getting over the ground creatures that Zoo/other decks have). The Affinity player would gladly trade that 1 point of power for evasion. Plus, it doesn’t get the +1/+1 counter that Arcbound Worker does when it dies (it gives 2 +1/+1 counters for 1 mana, 1 from Modular and 1 from being eaten) to Ravanger.

As for Vintage? Same question. If they wanted to play storm or Tinker, would they want a “free” creature that didn’t do anything (tap for mana, deal damage)? They already have several options already so a 1/1 wouldn’t matter. Decks that would want him as an attacker can do more than just a vanilla 1/1.

Cloudstone Curio3 – Cloudstone Curio. Aaron Frosythe said that Koblods couldn’t be reprinted because of this one card. Let’s hear it from him:

When I initially made the card Cloudstone Curio for Ravnica, lead developer Brian Schneider pointed out that the easiest combo with the card in Standard was two Ornithopters and a Soul Warden, which resulted in infinite life. To solve that problem, I suggested adding the “nonartifact” clause, which not only headed off the Ornithopter combo, but also any double-Mox infinite mana shenanigans that might have happened in Vintage. “Okay,” Brian said, “we just can’t print any Kobolds any time soon.”

If the creature was printed as a non-artifact creature, imagine an “infinite” storm deck. It requires a different engine then what they’re used to at the moment, but it would be broken. Even if you make the creature colorless it still makes it a non-artifact permanent.

The only change I would make would be to change it to uncommon to make it more unique. That and you wouldn’t see them all the time if they were common in limited. Would it be played? Limited, sure if there were ways to make use of it (Holy Strength/Giant Growth). Casual? No doubt, and I believe not too powerful (for those who are thinking if they get 4 of these in their opening hands that it would be too powerful tell me something: have you ever gotten 4 copies of a single card in a opening hand?) but fun enough to do different things with it. Could be a Johnny/Timmy card, not really a Spike card as long as it’s not completely absurd.

Can this card see print? Yes, I believe so. Then why hasn’t Wizards done it? Just because Wizards hasn’t printed a card doesn’t mean they haven’t thought about it, or they won’t. In the past couple of years, it would have seemed possible, but there are reasons why it might not have seen on cardboard (get put off to a set more in theme of a card, not enough space, etc…). People might complain of power creep (a topic I’ll get around to sometime), but in a different time it was alright to draw three cards for one mana. Does it mean I’m going to put it in my custom set? I don’t know yet, but I’ll give it a shot somewhere. See if I can push the envelope. The idea is a fun idea to mess around with and allows different people to do different things with it.

What do you guys think? Too powerful? You know the drill, comment here or on Twitter (twitter.com/mtgcolorpie).

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10 thoughts on “Design Class – What Would You Pay For a Creature? How About Nothing?”

  1. I don’t particularly like cards that would be too powerful given many of them. (Lightning Bolt.) But, it’s certainly not the end of the world. Four of these on the first turn would be too good, but that could be considered an understandable luck component.

    I also think Affinity would find a use for this card. I would consider taking out the modular guy for it. Once affinity is out of extended, I don’t think people would mind this card as much. Then again, helping affinity isn’t necessarily a bad idea anyway.

  2. Wow, you got me thinking. After that, I agree that a 1/1 for zero is a perfectly legal choice. It would certainly spawn ‘how-can-they-print-that?’ comments (also known as “hype”), but your thoughts prove that, if the creature type isn’t one that inspires combos, the card is indeed balanced.

    Another problem are mass-pump-spells like Overrun. Those can be rather ugly with extra creatures, but as the argument goes, there is Ornithopter already and this isn’t a problem in real-life magic today, so what would be different with (another) 0-cost 1/1. Also, it is balanced that there is mass-destruction (Infest and the like) that is more commonly played than pump spells.

    Maybe they didn’t print it yet because it, even as a vanilla, invalidates several 1/1-creatures for C. They haven’t printed many vanilla-type 1/1 in the last sets, so that could indicate preparations for the 1/1 for 0. If your card pool has a 1/1 mountainwalk Goblin for R or that hypothetical card – which one would you play? Perhaps none of them.

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  4. There’s not really any power-level concerns with such a card. None. Almost any combo or set-up that works with such a card works with ornithopter, a card that’s never been problematic. Do you have the opportunity for quick starts if you draw multiple of them early on? Sure you do. But as you mention, that’s a very infrequent case.

    As you touch on, I’m sure it’s an idea that they’ve mulled over many times. The reason that it doesn’t ever see print, I’m guessing, is twofold. First, there’s never been a good reason to do it. Card slots in sets are precious; if they printed everything that could be a card without really hurting anything, they’d be cranking out thousands upon thousands a year. They’ve shown that they’re willing to sit on cool ideas (Progenitus) for a long, long time, waiting for the right time for them.

    The second reason is the artifact creature power level quandary. Specifically, anything that artifacts get for some amount of mana, blue effectively gets for that amount of mana. While artifact creatures are on the balance slightly more vulnerable than blue creatures (varying based on whether artifact removal is getting much game and whether the black removal spell of the day can hit them), artifacts tend not to get random efficient creatures, because then blue effectively has them. (This motivated some design decisions in Mirrodin, which was stuck working around this limitation.)

    (Also, more than any particular creature type, the most dangerous thing that they could do would be to make the card white.)

  5. Wow, you cleanly explained why Memnite has to be what it is, before it was even printed! Makes me wonder if Wizards reads your blog…

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