Crash Test Magic – a Magic: the Gathering Puzzle

May 4th, 2009 by Ed Grabianowski

Last Friday, I posted a Magic card that I created myself based on the Forgotten Realms city of Waterdeep. Over the weekend, we realized the card was horribly abusable. Since talking about game design is one of my favorite things, I thought it would be fun to see what Robot Viking’s readers can do with the card. Can you break it? Or, perhaps even more of a challenge, can you fix it?

waterdeep-card1The Waterdeep card seems fairly innocuous at first. Sure, you might have a nagging feeling that there must be some kind of mega combo you could pull off with it, but the specific answer is probably not immediately apparent. Well, it just goes to show that those game designers (usually) know what they’re doing. Because this card is horribly, horribly broken.

Your task, Robot Viking readers, is to come up with a legal combo using this card that destroys your opponent in as few turns as possible. You can assume a perfect draw (including subsequent draws if it takes you more than one turn), but all other plays must be legal, i.e. only one land per turn, etc. You can use cards from any set, even Alpha, and you can even use banned cards, but restricted cards are still restricted.

Bonus points for doing it without using any Moxes, or without using a Fireball or comparable X burn spell. Those solutions are still valid, but maybe we can come up with some more interesting ones, too. Post your answers in the comments section below. There aren’t any prizes, this is just an exercise in critical thinking.

Now the hard part – how would you balance this card and make it something that might actually be included in a real magic set?

If this is successful, it could become a regular feature here at Robot Viking.

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22 Responses to “Crash Test Magic – a Magic: the Gathering Puzzle”

  1. Comment by ggodo

    Hand: Waterdeep, Island, Mothdust Changeling, Darksteel Forge, Platinum Angel, Darksteel Collossus, Darksteel Collossus.
    Turn 1: Island, Changeling
    Turn 2: Waterdeep, Forge, Angel, Collossus, Collossus, Concession.

    How’s that for creative? Mana burn’s no problem when you can’t lose.

  2. Comment by ggodo

    To fix it maybe have it produce colored mana and cap it at one of each, but that’s still super broken. I dunno, I’ll think on it.

  3. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    Yeah, the Changeling is the key – I forgot about them when I designed the card. Interesting solution, almost seems like overkill by making everything indestructible and not being able to lose. Great way of getting around the mana burn problem. Any solution that requires a combat phase after using Waterdeep will need to deal with that.

    I’m ruling this one a turn 3 win though (concession by intimidation doesn’t count!). Note that this ruling also invalidates solutions that involve folding Waterdeep into a shiv of some kind.

  4. Comment by ggodo

    But the shiv can kill turn 0! Best thing I came up with was to tie it to specific types and make it give a set amount of something for one race, then cycle out for the main tribes of the set.

  5. Comment by ggodo

    and, the indestructible isn’t overkill, it’s so no one shatters your angel and leaves you with -100 life.

  6. Comment by mordicai

    I don’t have the know-how to participate but I DO like this feature; game design is fun!

  7. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    mordicai: I use the Gatherer database ( to look up cards – by knows means is my Magic knowledge encyclopedic.

    I’m just waiting for a turn 1 version of this combo, so I can play a Force of Will ( on the last card in the combo.

  8. Comment by gwax

    If the Mothdust Changeling causes the problems, change the phrasing to “where X is the number of creatures with unique creature types within your control.”

  9. Comment by morose

    Hand: Waterdeep, Shifting Wall, Mothdust Changeling, Rite of Consumption, Black Lotus, and 0 cost artifact that can produce at least 1 Black or 1 Blue mana (Lotus Petal, or Mox Sapphire for instance).

    Turn 1: Play Waterdeep, Black Lotus, and Lotus Petal. Sacrifice Black Lotus for BBB. Sac Lotus Petal for U. Play Mothdust Changeling (using U), activate Waterdeep (using B), play Shifting Wall using all available colorless mana to make a giant X/X creature, then cast the Rite of Consumption (using the last two black mana) and sacrifice it, dealing massive damage and gaining massive life.

    Turn one kill and massive life gain. For an added bonus, that starting hand only has 6 cards, and you don’t need both of the black mana for the Rite… so if you had something like Mind Twist, you could also make your opponent discard their entire hand for extra fun. :)

  10. Comment by ggodo

    2 moxes (moxi?), an island, waterdeep, Mothdust Changeling, demonfire hit for 200ish.

  11. Comment by ggodo

    gwax=smarter than me.

  12. Comment by qhartman

    So, my MTG geekery score has eroded too far to come up with something off the top of my head, though I intend to chew on this today and try to work something out tonight. In the meantime though, a possible fix would be to exempt shapeshifters, or to specifically callout shapeshifter as a single type.

  13. Comment by ggodo

    The problem is the Changeling ability isn’t a type, it’s a keyword.

  14. Comment by qhartman

    Or something like “Each individual creature may only count as one creature type for the purposes of this ability.”

  15. Comment by morose

    I think gwax’s fix is solid. Change it to count number of creatures you control with unique types instead of the types themselves.

  16. Comment by qhartman

    Or “total mana gained from this card may not exceed the number of creatures you control”. That would help.

  17. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    These are great, I love seeing all these ideas I hadn’t even thought of. The Rite of Consumption one is insane! I love the idea of using Demonfire to avoid the counterspell too.

    The Changeling thing really is the problem, because otherwise the card is pretty nicely balanced (if I do say so myself). How many creature types are you going to have early game? Late game, you can crank out a lot of colorless mana, it’s true, but since it’s a legendary land, you’ll never have more than one out to abuse. And you’d sort of have to build a deck around it to get a lot out of it.

    Originally, I had “Remove from game” as an additional part of the cost, but thematically that didn’t work (when you go to Waterdeep to trade, you don’t destroy the city in the process). Then I added the 1 mana cost to slow it down a little. Maybe it needs one more.

    Now, the fix for the card has to be as simple as possible (a card full of explanatory rules text is not elegant game design). But I think we’re on the right track. What if we just add one word to the card? “Add X colorless mana to your mana pool where X is the number of creature types among non-Changeling creatures you control.”

  18. Comment by ggodo

    nonshapeshifter? changeling isn’t a type, it’s an ability, that only shapeshifters have. I see no flaws here.

  19. Comment by Gavin

    “Choose up to 2 creature types. Add X colorless mana to your mana pool, where X is the number of creatures of those types you and your opponent control.”

    This allows changelings to be a bonus, but not a game breaker, since they count no matter what types you pick. It also punishes your opponent for using many of a single creature type.

  20. Comment by ggodo

    Yea, but the flavor he’s going for is a big metropolis that rewards you for having as many cultures as possible. You have a great tribal card that elves will break the shit out of though.

  21. Comment by fintach

    Well, Waterdeep is a city of movers and shakers, so how about “. . .where X is the number of Legendary Creatures you control.”

    If you want to stick closer to the theme you have now, you could go with “. . .where X is the number of creature cards you control.”

    Either of those should slow down the game-breaking possibilities.

  22. Comment by Ed Grabianowski

    Hey guys, next week when I run the next installment of Break This Card, I’ll review all the proposed solutions (and the one I came up with too).

    This was a lot of fun and got a lot of people to comment, so I’m definitely making it a regular thing.