MTG: September’s Custom Cards: Dead Mechanics!

Ah, September draws to an end and with it, grows the slow and steady spectre of the horrifying month of October. Before the rising of the dead, though, we are going to look at the places they fall, and explore some Dead Mechanics.

After playing with echo as much as I did I found myself feeling wistful for some old mechanics that aren’t likely to come back. Wizards have said as much about some of them, with the Storm Scale, a guide for how likely Wizards are to reprint a mechanic into a standard environment again. This is a list that’s either extremely unpopular or dangerous mechanics for the kind of controlled environment standard is, and while it has had some surprises – Dice Rolling was on the ‘no-fly’ part of the list up until only a few months ago – it’s a great guide for things that Wizards have moved past and why.

Some of the high-storm scale mechanics are high because they’ve been replaced by better versions of the same idea. Bands was always an attempt to give attackers more options for spreading survival around in combat, and mechanics like Exalted address that without being a big mathy headache to explain. Fear was always an attempt to make a black-themed evasion ability, which was then displaced with Intimidate, and then that was displaced with Menace. These mechanics do not interest me much.

There are other mechanics that are likely not returning or coming to standard because their application is limited. Of that list, I made a collection of mechanics that I thought I could make interesting cards with.

  • INSPIRED is a mechanic that rewards things surviving multiple combat steps, and has real limited problems. Cards with Inspired have to have some way to tap that isn’t too easy (like, you won’t see Inspired cards with tap abilities). It’s still a mechanic that wasn’t pushed very hard because it was primarily meant for limited.
  • VOTING is a cheaty high storm number, because there’s no reason for this to show up in standard. It’s a multiplayer mechanic, it should stay there. But I design for Commander.
  • TRANSFIGURE is a mechanic with very, very limited application, and eats a lot of text on the card. It’s always going to reduce play variance, which means using it needs to be part of an interesting idea that doesn’t just turn into ‘tutor up the best thing.’
  • DELVE is a mechanic that’s very hard to balance because it’s usually broken at any speed. This hasn’t stopped them from revisiting the mechanic on some really powerful blue cards, mind you. The thing for Delve is that the delve cards that are reactive or just big idiots that attack and block, are usually not so bad, but still very desireable.
  • CIPHER is a mechanic with a very limited design space tied to the UB guild. It’s also a Dimir guild mechanic, and they struggled to fill it out originally.
  • CUMULATIVE UPKEEP is a strict downside mechanic that Wizards have said isn’t very popular. I love it, it has a built in growth mechanic after all.
  • MEGAMORPH is a mechanic I love but it’s pretty much doomed because it has a dumb name.
  • OUTLAST is a mechanic without a lot of remaining space that isn’t just very obvious.
  • STORM is a mechanic that Wizards are very cautious about, since you know, it has broken every format where it can win the game and pressurises whole subtypes of cards.
  • And finally, the UNTAP SYMBOL is a mechanic players tend to not understand, so it’s probably never coming back.

With those mechanics, I figured I’d make a month’s worth of cards, and see what I could make while creating within the confines of ‘not doing something broken.’

Special shoutout to Mimic Eggs, which got on the circlejerk bottom 5 of the week because people aren’t good at reading. Did you know you can’t use it to bank 9 mana or more from turn to turn? Well fuck, imagine if that was the point! And then I got to watch people who didn’t understand the card try to find ways to ‘fix’ the problem.

Hey, folks: If you want to stop the treasures from being immediately sacrificed, have them enter tapped.

You ding dongs.

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