You Make the Card 4 – Round 4 (Aura or Non-Aura)

YMTC - Black
(Note: That link is this page’s address so it’s easier to share this page.)

And Black won the vote. Fine, I’ll just crumple up all my Red enchantment designs and throw them in the drawer of “stuff I’ll use sometime”.

Hopefully this vote also dispels the rumors that A) WotC is trying to control the vote by linking my articles (though I’m very grateful) and 2) that I have supreme power over the voting process.

I am not surprised that Black won the vote as I figured it would be Red or Black since the players want to complete cycles. They were the top two colors because that’s what people wanted to see. And now we’re in the all “important” phase of choosing if we want the aura card or not.

What we’re deciding here is if the card type line will read “Enchantment” or “Enchantment – Aura”. That’s it.

This might be one of the more lopsided votes that we’ll have throughout the whole contest but it’s not one to take lightly. By ignoring the vote, we could get stuck with a choice few of us want.

Vote for “Global Enchantment.”

Yeah, we don’t use the term “Global” anymore, but we did at one time. So, no, we’re not voting on “Enchant Worlds” either and that would be an aura anyway using modern templating. But there are two main reasons why you shouldn’t vote for Auras.

What it affects

Auras, by their nature, are narrow in gameplay design. Whatever you enchant, it really only affects that one aspect. Enchant a creature? It only really deals with that creature. You’re not going to get into Future Sight design here by selecting an aura that can enchant a card in a graveyard, or one in a person’s hand. Animate Dead is incredibly complicated in the rules because it switches zones and it has to continuously refer to that card while in a zone… On second thought, let’s not go there; ’tis a silly place.

Because auras affect one object, they are quite limited in their scope. Almost any design that you see that doesn’t benefit/hinder the enchanted object could very well be a regular enchantment anyway. Since they’re so small in scope, you can’t do as much with them as you could when it’s not an aura. Sure, giving a creature deathtouch by an aura is nice, but what about an enchantment that gives all creatures deathtouch, or at least one at a time with an activated ability. Auras focus too much on a small area when you can think small and large scale with regular enchantments. Again, this is all about design space and which one still has the largest area to work with.

Top-down design

And this is what hurts most auras out there, especially the “high-concept” ones. This is one of the reasons why even though “Form of the Dragon” seems awesome in concept, wouldn’t really get by to the vote. For each of the votes so far, all we’ve done is ship out mechanics, not entire cards. WotC doesn’t care about the playtest name nor the suggested casting cost. While I’m sure if we were really filling holes for real, we could at least suggest a name to help convey the idea of the card. That’s not going to happen here. We lose plenty of awesome design space that might look great with the entire package, but doesn’t look so good without it.

Here’s the list of auras in Modern. If you get past the usual -X/-X or lose of life mechanics, most of the auras work because of the name. Glistening Oil, an aura with the much loved “Rancor” ability, gets a bonus because of the story elements of the card which is something we have no control over. Again, a top-down design. Most of the Curses work because of the top down flavor that we just don’t have access to. Enslave? It doesn’t really work as a Black effect until you factor in the name.

Form of the Dragon
Form of the Dragon

Example: The entire package of Form of the Dragon looks great as you’re being turned into a Dragon. You deal 5 damage during your upkeep (5 power of a typical dragon), your life total becomes 5 at the end of every turn (like 5 damage that a dragon has), and you can’t be attacked by non-flying creatures (because you’re a dragon, who flies). The first line of rules text in the card is Red (deals damage), while the last two aren’t really Red (life gain if your life total goes less than 5 and Red has no-Moat cards (Raging River doesn’t prevent non-flying creatures from attacking). But by putting the pieces together, you can create a Red card.

Maro once told me this story about an uncommon card he made with the playtest name “Magnet Man”, or something like that. You activated it to force artifact creatures to block it, like “attracting” with a magnet. You could also activate it to “repel” artifact creatures that you didn’t want to block it, like similar poles with a magnet. Sounds pretty fun and flavorful, right? You can totally picture that card attracting and repealing creatures like an actual magnet.

The card got made, anyone want to guess what happened to it?

Auriok Siege SledThe card makes sense now when you see the whole story, but you lost the initial idea when it goes to something more final. Now, if this card was submitted without the top-down name, would it be as interesting or even taken seriously? Most likely not. Yes, Creative got its hands on this card, but that’s even more than what we have to work with.

While this point has a larger role in YMTC than just auras, it’s something to keep in mind when the design window is so small. We don’t have the luxury of pitching cards with design names to fill out the whole idea of the card. So you have to take on mechanics fully rather than relying on flavor (something we’ll get into with the next post). I’ve seen ideas that are great with the whole package, but we don’t get that here. Without being about to submit names, we’re losing so much more of that design space. Mix that with the aura’s limited scope of the card type, and suddenly we’re playing in a really small area.

Listen, you’re not going to get the Rancor-style aura, we don’t know if WotC will print more Curses (a top down flavor idea) and we certainly can’t “force” their hand do to this.  WotC will go through the ideas and pick out the mechanics that they think have potential, not which ones might be good if they have a good name (something we’ll vote on as well). I had a couple cool Red enchantment ideas that I wouldn’t have been able to submit anyway since it’s the name that sells the concept of the card, much like with Form of the Dragon.

I know some people aren’t taking the Aura/anti-aura discussion seriously; I was thinking about not writing a piece myself. It seems like this is a foregone conclusion, and it might be. However, I do think that this is an important decision. If you haven’t voted already, please do so. Vote Gloabl Enchantment. Next time, we’ll get into designing enchantments and what you can do with them in Black.


One thought on “You Make the Card 4 – Round 4 (Aura or Non-Aura)”

  1. We finally agree on something! Aura’s are too boring and too narrow, we don’t have access to the resources to make an interesting black aura. We could do something neat with an enchantment though, and possibly have it be playable too.

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