Custom Card Game Design

A new look at Paradox

My initial design for the second set of Esparand was called ‘Storm of Chaos.’ The main new mechanic was going to be ‘Paradox.’ In essence, this mechanic was supposed to be the fixed version of the Pact mechanic. What is the problem with the Pacts? The same problem that most abilities have that trigger on upkeep: Players always instinctively reach for their deck to draw a card at the beginning of their turn, thereby forgetting about upkeep triggers. That is why I advocate that more triggers should trigger at the beginning of combat. Most of the time, forgetting a trigger is not very backbreaking, but losing the game certainly is. If you even want to consider printing commons with paradox, this issue has to be fixed. Here is my initial wording:

Paradox (You may cast this card without paying its mana cost. If you do, pay its mana cost before combat during your next turn. If you can’t, you lose the game.)

The mechanic allowed you to pay the mana cost at any time until the beginning of combat. It was even worded so that you could not accidentally lose the game by forgetting the trigger: Instead of being a trigger, the ability was defined so that it does not allow you to go into combat until you had paid. If you are unable to pay, you lose the game.

But even by making the mechanic fail-safe as possible, I was not comfortable with its implementation. What if your opponent destroyed one of your lands? What if you banked on drawing a land in six cards, but failed to find one? All of these concerns made it clear that Paradox was not a good idea, and I scrapped the entire set looking for a new concept.

A new look at Paradox

Since then, I came up with a new concept for the second set. It is now called ‘Beginnings’ and its guiding theme is the search for the origins of the Storm of Time. But as it turns out, time travel does not make sense. I would welcome it if more sci-fi writers would embrace that fact instead of giving us lame explanations as to how time travel works in their universe. Explanations such as “the other you just ceases to exist” or “a new alternate time line is created.” I want to avoid these lame cop-outs, so paradoxes must be a major part of the story. That made me revisit this mechanic. I came up with this fixed version:

Paradox (You may cast this card without paying its mana cost. If you do, during your next upkeep, pay its mana cost or sacrifice it.)

This version is much less problematic, but its use is restricted further to only permanents. For the old version, I designed quite a few combat tricks that now no longer work. Here is an example card:

Yes, these are the kinds of designs I enjoy.

I am undecided whether the cost should be paid in the upkeep or at the beginning of combat. As I have said, I do not like upkeep triggers that much, but here it makes sense, because then you can accurately predict if you will be able to pay for the cost (no gambles!).

Creatures with paradox can be used effectively on offesne, where the mechanic acts as a pseudo haste, as well as on defense: You can put a blocker onto the field without paying for it, and if your opponent decides to attack into it, you can just trade it away and not worry about ever paying for the creature. Does it make sense that you can do that? No. That is so great about it! Strangler of Logic enters the battlefield tapped not to avoid that interaction but to avoid one-turn-kill combos with Burst of Speed and similar cards. For smaller creatures, this will not be necessary.

Most cards with paradox will be creatures. Here is a noncreature example:

You can play this on turn 2 and pay for it on turn 3.


4 responses to “A new look at Paradox

  1. adventmtg January 24, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    This is one of those that I think you really have to play with to judge it, but it looks like a really fun mechanic that looks difficult to design for, just because the balance problems might be rough. Looks pretty awesome all told.

  2. popo January 26, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    I like paradox but I’d suggest exiling rather than sacrificing to fit the flavor better—the paradoxical creature doesn’t die if you don’t pay its cost, it’s ERASED from existence. Plus, it might help make the mechanic more balanced, since right now you can just dump a bunch of paradoxical permanents, let them die, them exploit graveyard stuffs.

  3. Pingback: Announcing Beginnings | Adventares - Custom Card Game Design

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