Shroud Can Still Be Targeted by Designers

We were kinda expecting something like this announcement, but not to this extent.

It all started with an innocent Tumblr question to Mark Rosewater:

dukkhasatva asked: Why did blue get Inkwell Leviathan? It bugs me that green, being the fatty color, doesn’t get the “evasion + shroud” fatty that’s good enough to see legacy play. Aren’t trample and shroud supposed to be primary green abilities?

Shroud (and now hexproof which has replaced it) is both a blue and green ability . Trample is a primary green ability (secondary in red), but it is something we let all colors have on gigantic creatures, which tend to show up at higher rarities.

Blue’s evasion is much better than green’s so the reason that shroud + trample + evasion shows up in blue is that blue has easier access to trample (on a large creature) than green has access to evasion.

And then there was the follow up:

jlennoxg asked: Did you just say hexproof has completely replaced shroud?

Yes, I did. It does not make sense supporting two mechanics that work that closely especially with different names. R&D spent a lot of time talking about it and decided to go with hexproof.

Note that this doesn’t mean that shroud is changing to hexproof on cards that have it. Shroud will be supported much as we support any keyword mechanic we’re not currently using (like say fear). But for the present (I won’t talk of the future because things can change), shroud is not being used on new cards.

Yeah. That happened. The bigger question is, What now?

With the introduction of Swiftfoot Boots and the like in M12, there was some talk about Shroud going away. I thought, and still believe, that Shroud moving forward should be used on bigger/undercosted creatures. Cards like Simic Sky Swallower:

Flying, Trample 6/6 for 7 creatures really shouldn’t have Hexproof.

I know that Timmies love their big creatures, and I imagine that some of them will have Hexproof. This was always the trouble with Shroud and Timmies; you want to play the big creatures and you want to enchant it with your stuff. That was always the rub with Shroud, it effected you and your opponents from doing anything.

From a design standpoint Shroud makes sense. To help keep the power of the creature/spell in check, if no one can target it, then it doesn’t becomes as potentially broken. Sure, there was the few exceptions (See: Morphling), but Shroud was the reason you could push certain cards. You, the player, dealt with the drawback because you got a better card than you would’ve gotten without that keyword.

But it did make it awkward for you to play with the card. Not that there was anything good that you could’ve played on Morphling if it had Hexproof instead of Shroud, but that ability to get around Shroud is what made Autumn Willow stand out. By paying one mana you could effectively make her Hexproof, and people wanted to play that. Shroud had a downside, and players were unhappy. With Hexproof (Yeah, even before it was keyworded), the player could feel like they had something more powerful.

This doesn’t mean Hexproof is better than Shroud, because it’s not. It’s just different. Would cards like Scythe Tiger have been better if they had Hexproof? Sure, but for every Scythe Tiger there’s an Argothian Enchantress which would’ve gotten worse because they would’ve had to balance it out. Rancor clearly wants to enchant her, but at two mana she’s too good. Crystalline Sliver is good at two mana giving Shroud to all Slivers. Giving Hexproof to all Slivers at two mana? Insane.

“For the present” means a couple of things when it comes from Mark Rosewater. Since he works so far into the Magic future, don’t expect cards in Innistrad or M13 to have Shroud, maybe even in the block beyond that. Things can change and in Magic, they always do.

I personally see this as a disappointment because I feel having both keywords opens up more design space. Hexproof is fun, and it has more upside than Shroud (they’ve been talking of trying to eliminate the number of “downside” mechanics that players don’t like), but they offer different deck construction and design possibilities. I understand the “we don’t want two similar keywords together” but I think with something like this it can make sense. Even though I’m sad to see this go, this decision is something I’m not going quit Magic over.

We’ve seen the beginning of the transfer from Shroud to Hexproof, expect to see more “reprinted fixed Shroud” cards within the next few sets ala Swiftfoot Boots (And if you notice, they have a 1 equip cost while Lightning Greaves has 0). Who knows, maybe even Argothian Enchantress is going to be “fixed”.

Or Morphling.

No, forget Morphling. Like that will ever happen. (Scary Music Stinger)


4 thoughts on “Shroud Can Still Be Targeted by Designers”

  1. Shroud is exactly the kind of “downside” mechanic they /shouldn’t/ be getting rid of.

    All-downside mechanics are a problem because some players evaluate cards as if the cost were invisible. The fact that the downside makes it cheaper doesn’t factor, they just see a 3/3 body with echo where they’d rather see a 3/3 body or a 2/2 that deals 1 damage to them every turn when they’d rather see a 2/2 that doesn’t.

    Shroud is *not* all-downside. It’s symmetrical. On its face, it is as good for you as your opponent and as bad for you as your opponent. Like Wrath of God. Like Balance and Earthquake. These are all very good cards that appeal to the same players who hate all-downside mechanics (well, maybe not Balance) because they can see the value in casting them and know that it doesn’t punish them any more than their opponent. It’s obviously not hard to get value out of symmetrical effects and that’s where Shroud becomes attractive.

    Not being able to boost your own guy is a small price to pay for a threat (or answer) that can’t be killed by a Doom Blade or Swords to Plowshares. Does shroud appeal to all players? No. Is hexproof strictly better and all-upside, yes it is. Do all mechanics need to appeal to the lowest common denominator? No sir. Hexproof has its place, but so does Shroud.

  2. “Downside” keywords are generally frowned upon by players. Each one says “We’ve got a whole bunch more cards with this problem.” This is why cumulative upkeep and landhome don’t exist, though oddly, defender does.

    Shroud’s not pure downside, of course. Nor is shadow, which has its own issues. The other one of these, protection, is also generally liked. I mean, the Sword of X and Y is popular.

    But I still see the potential downside of shroud.

    That said, can you see me Timming my illusion, recurring it with a Sun Titan, and using the graveyard trigger for something? I can.

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