Double Damage, Double Fun

Posted in ARTICLES on January 17, 2003

By Randy Buehler

Way back in March I wrote an article about "The 'Almost' Mechanics" from the first You Make The Card contest. The short version of the story is that Mark read through over 5000 mechanic ideas that you guys submitted as candidates for what you had already decided would be a green creature. Then Aaron helped him narrow the down to a nice diverse set of 25, at which point the rest of R&D got to veto anything that we weren't willing to print on a green creature. My article talked about why we vetoed the mechanics that we vetoed, which included what I thought was the most elegant of the bunch (submitted by Wayne Alward):

Doublestrike Dude
CARDNAME deals first strike and normal combat damage.

Lost of people have proposed variations on first strike over the years, ranging from "firstest strike" to clunky ways to implement something they would call "double strike." The problem with most of those mechanics was that they were kind of wordy and then once you slogged through all the words to figure out what it actually did, it just wasn't all that interesting and/or didn't come up all that often.

Wayne Alward's version of double strike, however, was different from all those other proposals. This one was short and sweet, but it still managed to have a very interesting effect on the game. Mechanics that are as elegant as this one don't come along very often and my first inclination was that it was good enough to serve as one of the big new keyword mechanics for, say, a small expansion. Upon further review, it's not quite that good because it's so good with "Giant Growth" effects that you could never put it onto a cheap creature. Put this onto a 1-mana 1/1 and you can get a third-turn kill pretty easily with a combination of three Giant Growths, Reckless Charges, or similar cards. The flipside is that if every creature that gets this ability costs at least 4 mana then you're not making it the showcase mechanic of a set, but it's still a very cool, very elegant idea.

Of course, it's not green, and that's the real reason we rejected it from You Make The Card considerations. It belongs it a color that's good at first strike – red or white – and since "Mr. Babycakes" was already going to be green, R&D asked that it be excluded from the final list of ten candidates.

We kept it mind, however, and a month or two later when we decided that Legions could use a couple more exciting new cards for players to build decks around, double strike seemed like the perfect solution. We had initially been planning to reprint Mountain Yeti as one of the red uncommons in Legions, except it was going to be a Beast this time around and we were going to pair it with a 2RR 3/3 protection from blue mountainwalker. Those were reasonable cards to print, and every set needs a certain number of simple creatures that pretty much just attack and block. At that point in development, however, we felt Legions had a few too many creatures that fell into that category and those were the ones that were cut.

In the new Mountain Yeti's place went the following:

[CARDNAME]
3R
2/1
Creature - Beast
Double strike (CARDNAME deals first strike damage in addition to regular combat damage)

The card never changed from that point forward, and shows up in Legions as Ridgetop Raptor:

Ridgetop Raptor

Let the deck-building fun begin! I think four mana is enough to charge for a 2-power double striker, but I guess only time will tell.

Most mechanics are featured in one block and then retired until we bring them back in an appropriate future block. Some mechanics, however, like cantrips and trample, appear more often than that. They aren't specific to any one environment and instead get used whenever the designers deem them appropriate. Double strike will fall into this category.

Even though we didn't end up doing a lot of creatures with double strike, we decided to give it its own keyword anyway. Since we plan to put it on more cards over the years, giving it a keyword will make things simpler and pay off in the long run (this is essentially the same logic that led us to give "fear" a keyword). In addition, giving it a keyword actually makes the rules simpler. If you dig deep into Magic's comprehensive rules, it turns out that the first strike damage step only happens if there's a creature in play that has first strike. Well, now it's going to happen whenever there's a creature in play with first strike or one with double strike.

Ridgetop Raptor isn't the first card that was heavily influenced by the readers of MagicTheGathering.com (that honor goes to Clone – which was on the Reserve List until a very lopsided poll from last March), but it's a pretty impressive contribution nonetheless. Hats off to Wayne Alward, who thought he was submitting a mechanic suggestion for one card and wound up adding a whole new keyword to the game.

I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with for You Make The Card 2!

Last Week's Poll:

What do you think of Weaver of Lies?
Great card 3471 33.91%
Good card 3506 34.25%
Decent card 1817 17.75%
Mediocre card 785 7.67%
Bad card 293 2.86%
Awful card 365 3.57%
Totals 10237 100.00%

Also, the results of the Shadow poll were never published, so here they are.

What do you think of shadow as a mechanic?
Awful 1136 13.88%
Bad 827 10.10%
Mediocre 772 9.43%
Neutral 883 10.79%
Decent 1226 14.97%
Good 1288 15.73%
Great 2055 25.10%
Totals 8187 100.00%

Well, I can't expect you to agree with me on everything.


Randy may be reached at latestdevelopments@wizards.com.

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