Crash Test Magic — Stillness of Mind

I haven’t been specifically trying to design Magic cards lately, but now and zen an idea pops into my head. This card started out as a solution to an annoying Commander problem, then got a little more interesting.

I’ve been playing a bit of Commander on Magic Online lately. My [card]Riku of Two Reflections[/card] deck is pretty terrible, but I can make some fun plays that keep the games interesting. One thing that’s really irritating in Commander (and every format, really) is when someone sets off some ridiculous combo that has them drawing half their deck, searching through their library for combo pieces, and generally taking half an hour to finish the turn. So I thought, “What if you could just take their library away?”

That was the original idea here: just make their library go away until the end of the turn. You play it in response to whatever ridiculous card draw combo stuff they just put on the stack. Stillness of Mind resolves first, and then they try to draw cards and there’s no library there. Oops.

Of course, there’s the problem of players losing the game if they can’t draw a card during their draw step. This card is obviously not intended to be a three mana kill spell you cast during your opponent’s upkeep. I started writing this goofy clause where they wouldn’t die due to drawing a card, but to simplify I figured why not just give the target player the [card]Platinum Angel[/card] ability for one turn? That opens up the versatility of the card. Now you can use it to screw up an opponent’s big play at the cost on not being able to kill him that turn, or save yourself from death at the cost of losing your library for a turn.

In both cases, the drawback is negligible. You were probably not planning to kill your opponent the same turn she drew 16 cards anyway. And if you play this on yourself when your opponent tries to kill you during his turn, well, you probably weren’t going to draw many cards on your opponent’s turn anyway.

I have considered that this card might need to exile itself when played to avoid deeply annoying stall control decks that use it like a [card]Moat[/card]. With [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] alone it could get pretty annoying.

The other thing I think is interesting about this card is the zen theme. The idea of emptying your mind and finding stillness and peace there comes from Buddhism, and I think that’s an area that white could explore more in Magic. White does a lot with the themes of law and protection, but some of the seemingly contradictory ideas of zen meditation and Buddhist philosophy could lead to powerful designs for white cards. More cards where you seem to lose something, but gain something much more powerful, or cards where you gain tremendous advantage by having an empty hand, or maybe even no lands on the battlefield. Do you guys have any ideas?

12 Responses to Crash Test Magic — Stillness of Mind

  1. Comments!

    Your templating is awkward, but I know what you mean.

    I’m going to assume the text actually says:
    Exile target player’s library. That player can’t lose the game this turn.
    At the beginning of the next cleanup step, shuffle all cards exiled by Stillness of Mind into their owner’s library.

    If you don’t know why it would have to template like that, I would be glad to explain. :)

    There are some interesting things that happen as a result of this, and I originally was going to suggest that you just say “Target player can’t draw cards or search their library this turn” – except that is not what this does at all, really. This does a wide variety of strange things that aren’t really replicated anywhere. It beats scry, stops people from casting [card]Bribery[/card] on you, acts as a faux [card]Doomsday[/card] if you can flip one card back into your now empty library, undoes tutors that got cast on a prior turn, and stops cascade. And it works if you push the trigger to the cleanup step. If you said “at the beginning of the next end step” you could play it on their end step, and kill them on your turn.

    As for other zen concepts, there is a ton of space for things like that, I think.
    You could even keyword it as a terrible drawback mechanic:
    Zen (This creature can’t gain abilities.)
    Or how about:
    Meditation – You may skip untapping this during your untap step. If you do, do something. (The something could be anything, from putting a +1/+1 counter on the creature, to drawing a card, to gaining some life.)

  2. Robbit – True, I shortcutted all the “beginning of end step” stuff, and putting “from the game” was just being sloppy. Or nostalgic for Beta card wordings? :-) I think the current end step/cleanup rules are a mess and need to be fixed so that they’re more intuitive and don’t require the hideous word-splooge that is “at the beginning of the end step.”

    But anyway! @wizardsfamiliar on Twitter also suggested just making it a “you can’t search or draw” card, but as you point out, it’s more versatile than that. Hell, I hadn’t thought of half the stuff you mentioned. Anti-Bribery would be huge in Commander.

    Zen is interesting, but Wizards has pretty much abandoned drawback keyword mechanics these days. On the other hand, Meditation is awesome. I love that idea.

  3. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to deal with the unintuitiveness of end step triggers for a while now. The biggest problem is that you have several conflicting desires:
    All triggers should work the same, and you want to be able to respond to them.
    All things that trigger from phases and steps starting should work the same, and trigger at the start of that step.
    Stuff wants to trigger during the end step a ton.
    You only want one end step in a turn.
    You absolutely need a time after the main phase is done that players can cast spells in if you want a huge amount of the game to play the same as it has for years.

    There is a step that solves some of these, the cleanup step. If something happens during cleanup, you just have another one, over and over, until nothing triggers. You can’t hang things through turns if they trigger during cleanup. This is how all the “instantments” like Armor of Thorns got fixed and had substance removed from them.

    No card has ever been printed new with “at the beginning of the cleanup step” and it is not actually that likely to happen, but the same reasoning keeping it off cards applies to mentioning the stack, and that happens in rare cases.

    If you have fix suggestions, I am interested, because I think it is an interesting puzzle. There are plenty of easy things to remove, like the end of combat step if you want to just remove things, but the hard things are more interesting, I think.

  4. I know there’s not a simple solution or it would have been figured out already. I have a working idea, but I haven’t considered all the individual cards that would probably be screwed up by it. It’s this:

    End Step – this step is pretty much just the active player declaring the end of his or her second main phase. This is when the other player plays a [card]Brainstorm[/card] or whatever other “EoT” stuff he has planned. Nothing triggers at this point (I mean, other than whatever is triggered because of cards the players play).

    Cleanup – this is when all “until the end of the turn” effects end. Obviously some things will trigger when that happens, like stuff coming back into play. It all happens at the same time, using the usual rules for order (active player puts triggered effects on the stack first in any order, then inactive player). It’s also when hand size is checked and discards done. No one gets to play anything or put anything on the stack during this phase.

    I haven’t studied the comprehensive rules to even know how different this is from how it works now, and I know there are probably reasons why it won’t work. But that’s my initial idea.

  5. I realize I’m very much in the minority, but I liked the old “at the end of the turn” and “until end of turn.” It was shorter and, once the distinction was made, easy to keep track of. Things happen AT at the End Step, and things last UNTIL the turn ends. It’s less immediately obvious, but is functional with less letters. I’d also settle for “At the End Step.” Beginning is just an awkward, non-flowing word. Anyway, I still like the card, though I am wondering why robbit specifically called out the cleanup step. Doesn’t the until end of turn handle that?

  6. So, to answer both of you, I’ll just review the whole End Phase.

    The End Phase has two components, the End Step, and the Cleanup Step.

    In the End Step, all things that say “at the beginning of the end step” trigger, then once any/all of those have happened and left the stack, players get priority on an empty stack.

    In the Cleanup Step, first you discard down to 7 cards. This does not use the stack.
    Then anything that says “until end of turn” or “this turn” ends. This does not use the stack.
    Then if anything triggers (either from you discarding, or from Necromancy et al, or from one of the few other things that can happen) it goes on the stack, players respond as usual, etc.
    Then if anything triggered, both players get priority as normal to leave the step. If this happened, have another cleanup step.
    If nothing triggered during the cleanup step, nobody will get priority, and the turn will end after it.

    Why did I call out the cleanup step? Because you need the durations on the “can’t lose the game” and “your library is gone” components of the card to sync up. Durations don’t work well for zone changes, they should always be encapsulated in a trigger. (The rules really don’t like things moving zones as part of the ending of an effect.)
    If you say “at the beginning of the next end step shuffle all cards exiled by this into their owner’s library” you could cast it on their end step, then make them draw on your turn, because the “can’t lose the game this turn” clause ended at the end of their turn.

    A LOT of this is fairly arcane rules geekery. Most people won’t care. I just clean up Ed’s templates on stuff because I like to, not because it really matters for design.

    As far as changing things so end step triggers move to cleanup, that would “work” – but it would be functional errata on many triggers. Your proposal also suggests nobody gets priority at all during cleanup, even if something triggers, which actually makes some classes of spells and abilities uncounterable, notably madness cards that trigger from discarding down to 7. It has the germ of something great, but the devil is in the details, as they say. :P

    I’ll probably say more later, but I have to run.

  7. Ah, see, and I had forgotten Madness entirely. I couldn’t think of a single thing to have trigger during the Cleanup step. Could we template the card like this: “Exile target player’s library until end of turn. That player cannot lose the game this turn.” It feels wrong, but I can’t put my finger on why. Usually I’m pretty good at this, but I haven’t been thinking in Magic for a while.

    Also, could you cast this and win through one of the alternate win conditions? I notice that it doesn’t have the ” You cannot win” clause that [card]Platinum Angel[/card] has. I can’t think of an alternate win card that would work on your opponent’s turn, but if so, this would be hilarious.

  8. Felidar Sovereign or Quicken + Coalition Victory could do it. You could also draw the game with Divine Intervention. But yes, you can still win if you opponent can’t lose.

    There are a number of things that could trigger during cleanup, actually. Madness is just the most visible and easy to remember. If I Giant Growth a 1/1, and you put a -1/-1 counter on it, and I have Blood Artist out, it will get to trigger during cleanup. Same with all the “instantments” (auras you can cast at instant speed) from Mirage and Visions, and Thawing Glaciers. They all have “at the beginning of the next cleanup step” text in Oracle. (There are lots of others, those are just the most common things.)

    The more I think about it, the less I am convinced that the library coming back could be anything but a trigger. You really have to shuffle it, because exile is a non-ordered zone, and zone changes and shuffling don’t do well as part of a duration that is ending. Oh, and I just realized, you want to exile the cards in the library face down, or this becomes “reveal target player’s library” as well.

  9. hmmm. . . No way around the cleanup step mention, eh? Well, This’ll never see print.

  10. The face down thing makes sense. All the other end step stuff has gone beyond my ability to grok at the moment. I’m just really glad we have robbit around to be our resident Matt Tabak!

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