Little Man, Big Tricks

Posted in Latest Developments on May 16, 2003

By Randy Buehler

When Scourge lead designer Brian Tinsman first showed me the size-matters mechanic, I wasn’t a big fan. I did like the motivation behind the mechanic – the design team had decided they wanted to have a set that rewarded people for playing with big creatures – however, I wasn’t sure about the way they were accomplishing this goal. In particular, I think the words “converted mana cost” are pretty clunky and I was worried that new players wouldn’t even know what they mean. Thus I was pretty hesitant to have a set where a bunch of the commons refer to “converted mana cost 6 or more” or “the converted mana cost of a permanent you control.”

Then I played with the set, and that changed everything.

They had pulled it off – Scourge was fun to play and it also really did reward you for playing with big creatures. Every color has a common fatty with land cycling and that made it really easy to justify running some extra big creatures in your deck. Meanwhile, the size matters cards made you really want to play with big men. Torrent of Fire is a good example of this:

Everyone is always happy to have a way to deal direct damage, but it’s usually pretty hard to come by 4 or more damage. Torrent of Fire, however, will usually always be able to deal 3 or 4 and it’s not that hard to get 5 or 6 damage out of it, especially when playing with Scourge. The fact that you can point Torrent of Fire at your opponent’s head and not just at his or her creatures also adds a lot of value. That came up so often that we wound up moving this from four mana up to five. It actually started out at 4R, but we were tired of everyone always splashing red for burn spells in Limited, so we decided we would make players run a significant number of mountains in their deck if they wanted to take advantage of this card. We then tried it at 2RR, but red is so good in Limited in this block that we decided this should cost one more than that. Even at 3RR it’s still a fine card.

The team decided pretty early in development that the size matters mechanic was working out just fine. We still don’t think “converted mana cost” is a friendly phrase, but the set was playing really well and the size matters cards were a big part of that so we decided they were worth that cost. Around this time Bill Rose suggested a cute addition to the set. Bill’s suggestion was a 6U 1/1 creature with morph 1U. That suggestion turned into Scornful Egotist:

I went back and looked at the notes in our database and they actually tell the story behind Scornful Egotist pretty well:

Bill: This creates a trick with the CMC spells.
RB 5/17: Team likes the gimmick, raising the CMC by 1 and sliding it into the hole created when Low Flier became Treetop Elf
RB 5/17: Should this be morph 0? On the one hand we’ve been looking for a place to do that and it will play quite well with the CMC cards when you can flip it as a 0-mana surprise. But maybe only blue is tricky enough to have access to this.
Bill 5/17: The morph 0 guy should be an artifact.
WW 5/22: This made me giggle ...lol...I like this a lot.
Bill 6/11: Is 8 too much?
RB 6/17: we’ll keep an eye on it, but team thinks 8 is fine ...
BT 6/19: Cool card.
RB 7/10: lowering reveal cost by one cuz blue needs help in limited

I’m never happy when a card leaks before we plan to reveal it, but it was actually kind of fun reading various message boards when people first learned about Scornful Egotist. The conversation went pretty much exactly the way we expected it to. First came “An 8-mana 1/1? Why on earth would they print that?!” Then came “That must not be real,” followed shortly by “Hmm, I wonder if there’s some way you could use that.” Then lots of people got their “inner Johnnies” busy figuring out some way to set up some situation that could take advantage of having an 8-mana permanent that only actually cost 4 mana to get into play. And they found lots.

The first card I previewed in this article is only one of many combos with the Egotist that are built into Scourge. There are so many cool ways to use the Egotist that we built an entire pre-constructed deck around him. Check out the Pulverize theme deck if you enjoy such things. Meanwhile, all of you who go to the pre-release tomorrow will probably run into him at some point. Be careful whenever your opponent has a face-down creature plus an untapped blue mana and then plays a spell like Torrent of Fire.

All in all I’m really happy with the way Scourge turned out. I think it’s a good set and I think you’re all going to have a good time playing with it. Scourge’s design team set out to create an environment where everyone could give in to their inner Timmy and feel fully justified in playing with a whole bunch of large monsters. Historically, good players have tended to play with just the smaller side of Magic’s mana curve, but I think Scourge will go a long way toward correcting that imbalance. Only time will tell whether size actually matters as much as the designers want it too, but in the meantime I hope you have fun bashing your opponents with giant creatures.

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