Design Class – The Future of Red Looting

I was at FNM a while ago and I was talking to my friend Bill. We love to talk about Magic design (he also entered into the GDS2) and he always brings up engaging topics for us to discuss. While I was in the middle of a Commander game (which was called for time due to the store needing the space for FNM), Bill asked a question:

How do I feel about Red “looting?”

During the GDS2, many people had suggested that the looting ability move from Blue to Red. Looting, if you didn’t know, was coined after the card to the right. Basically it’s a draw and discard effect, also called “filtering”, especially if used in spells.

Is that ability Red and if it is, how will it see print?

Yes, it works in Red but only if the ability is tweaked. May I suggest this card as a reference before we continue on:

Goblin Looter – 1R
Creature – Goblin Warrior
Whenever ~this~ attacks, discard a card, then draw a card.

If you notice there are several differences. Instead of staying back and tapping for the looting effect at the end of the turn you have to attack with the creature. Red wants to be aggressive and long term planning be damned. It doesn’t want to sit back and try and figure things out. To get things going, you have to be proactive. What fits this is the increased power of the looter to want to attack.

Aside: I would love to see more “When ~this~ attacks” triggers in colors like Red, Green and White. Having a creature oriented based trigger makes it a natural fit for those colors (Red and White for being aggressive, and Green for having it tie into creatures). Something like:

Elf Drawing Guy – 1GG
Creature – Elf Warrior
Whenever ~this~ attacks, draw a card.

I’ll go more depth into some other time, but just something to think about. /Aside.

The most important change to the looting ability is the wording. Yes, it uses the rarely seen Drowned Rusalka wording.

But why?

With Blue, drawing a card first gives the player more options. They can discard the card they drew if they didn’t like it, or discard something else completely. Blue wants those options; Blue always wants options. Red, however, doesn’t care about all of that. Having an effect like that does two things:

One, it adds a random effect. You don’t know what you’re going to get (most of the time), but you have to give up a known quantity to get it. It’s like Pokemon, if you want to get a new ability and you’re full up, you have to lose an ability you have to gain something. Second, if you’ve emptied you’re hand (because you’ve played everything, you’re in Red), you get a bonus. You don’t have to discard if you have nothing in your hand, and you get the benefit of the draw. This clearly promotes being proactive with playing your spells (most of the time if they’re not being discarded). This idea has been seen before in Red:

I don’t know how many games I’ve seen a Red Aggro player have seven cards in their hand beyond the first few turns. This fits within the color and makes card creation a bit more interesting. One of the no-so secret problems with card design is the fact that Red commons suck to create. I’ll talk more about this in a future post, but Red needs more commons than “This creature can’t block,” or “deal 1 damage to this.” Red Looting has that possibility to make it there.

The other option with the discard is to make it random:

Minotaur Looter – 1RR
Creature – Minotaur Shaman
T: Draw a card, then discard a card at random.

You get the normal draw before discard wording here, but you have the randomness of the discard. That feeling is also Red as well. But why not the random discard first as in Goblin Looter?

You’re attacking, wanting to deal damage with Goblin Looter. The “tapping” effect is essentially sending him into the Red Zone. Here, most likely you’re going to sit back and use it at the end of a turn when you have at least 1 card in your hand. The lower number of cards in your hand, the better odds of discarding the card you just drew. Ironically, it gets better the more cards in your hand, something Red hates.

Sitting back and waiting is the opposite of what Red wants to do with most of its creatures. You’re taking the chance of Red’s inability to be prefect with the card draw for your looting effect. You might discard a card you might not have wanted or the one that you just drew. Sure, it can do the job, but you might like the results all of the time.

These two are just examples of things that can be done with the new Red looting ability. I would be on the lookout of it being in M12 since it was talked about during the GDS2 when card might have still been made. While we know that Bloodthirst is the mechanic returning for M12 (Works against Infect and great with Proliferate), if there’s a heavy collection of Red looters, I would imagine that Madness, another great Red mechanic, might make another appearance sometime near there.

Is this something Red should be doing? Yes, but only if they’re modified and just not straight colorshifted cards. Look, Red already stole Tim, they don’t need to steal Merfolk Looter as well.


3 thoughts on “Design Class – The Future of Red Looting”

  1. I feel strongly that red, of all colors, would be best served by this type of effect. “Throwing away” something (discarding) for “something else randomly” (drawing from a library) is both powerful and flavorful. Blue is the color that needs this effect the least because, most often, what it’s getting isn’t random at all. Blue has enough of the filtering effects to make it moot, and raw card draw is more powerful outright.

    A flavorful mechanic that’s actually capable to be leveraged for more elegant and thoughtful gameplay in red, in addition to busting face? Really, it’s time.

    And your Goblin would single-handedly revolutionize red-blue in my pauper cube. More likely, the Goblin would be a simple ETB trigger and become a virtual vanilla after that. Elegant for Core Set Limited, and not as obviously powerful. I feel your take is more akin to an uncommon or even rare (with some stat/cost adjustment or addition of haste) than a common due to the straight card draw capability.

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