Aether Revolt spoiler season looms large, but we’re not commenting on unofficial spoilers today at Drawing Live. Kaladesh Limited has run its course and we’re waiting for something new. In the interim, let’s talk about the design of another CCG, one designed by a team containing many Magic pros and which draws inspiration from Magic: Eternal!

Perhaps my favorite mechanic in Eternal is Warcry. It’s easy to understand and has a simple effect, but has a rich design. Its ability is simple: whenever a unit with Warcry attacks, the top unit (or weapon) in your deck gets +1/+1. Warcry is variable—most things have Warcry 1, but Warcry 2 gives the top unit +2/+2, and so on.

Warcry is an effect that only works in a digital game: not only are you permanently changing the text on a card (in Eternal, changes to a card persist across zones, unlike in Magic), but you’re doing so to a card that’s still hidden in your deck. It’s of many mechanics Eternal employs to benefit from being a digital game.


Oni Ronin is a great example of how strong aggro is in Eternal. It’s already wild enough in Magic when red gets a 2/1 for R with upside. In eternal, fire gets that at common.

I’d like to rapid-fire go over the reasons why I think Warcry is an excellent mechanic, as is appropriate for one that is simple and aggressive.

Warcry is simple.

Games need simple mechanics. They serve as signposts to newer players, to players constructing their first decks, and to opponents figuring out what they’re playing against. Warcry has one simple dictate: attack and you will be rewarded.


Warcry encourages aggression and interaction.

Some of Magic’s worst mechanics are Banding and Landwalk. Banding is a complicated, defensive ability which punishes attacking. Landwalk is a swingy mechanic that either does nothing or circumvents an opponent’s defenses. Mechanics like Exalted, Raid, and Eternal’s Warcry all encourage players to attack with their creatures/units and enable their opponents to block. Mechanics should both encourage players to win the game (which almost always happens by attacking) and interaction with the opponent’s resources (which almost always happens by attacking or blocking).


Warcry provides advantage over time. 

Many of us are likely familiar with aggro decks and how they can sputter out. A Goblin Guide or Oni Ronin is incredibly powerful on turn one, but often atrocious on turn four or later. In Magic, aggro decks tend to rely on evasion, flooding the board, or burn to close out the game. Well, in Eternal, Warcry allows your later draws to be more powerful because you successfully attacked in the early and mid-game. That Oni Ronin can go from a one power (Eternal’s version of mana) 2/1 to a one power 4/3, or 10/9. This segues nicely into our next point.


Warcry creates great moments.

Delayed gratification is a hard thing to make work, but Warcry creates heightened anticipation before every draw. Once you’ve got a Warcry going, you know that your next unit or weapon is going to be undercosted. Once you’ve got three or more going, your next such draw is almost guaranteed to swing the board. And if you miss? Well, you get to Warcry again and your next draw is going to be even more insane. And if you hit? You warycry again and keep this chain of anticipation going. This kind of excitement is hard to create, and yet Warcry manages to smoothly do it in a short keyword mechanic that the game does all the work of tracking and displaying.


That’s all for this week. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this segue into a different game in this Magical lull. If you’re interested in Eternal, it’s free and publicly available on Steam—I’ve certainly been playing a lot of it and heartily recommend it. Hopefully spoiler season begins soon and we’ll be able to return to our regularly scheduled focus on Magic design. But until then, and as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He’s played Magic since 1994, he loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He quite enjoys Revolutionary Rebuff, since that card demonstrates just how insanely good Mana Leak and Miscalculate are.

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