Childling Muse, Retainer, 1 pool, Malkavian
Changeling with 1 life. The minion with this retainer gets +1 bleed.

What do I care about?  Being a-muse-d.  What a-muse-s me?  Irony, things that people call irony that aren’t – see http://www.cracked.com/funny-1085-irony/ . 

Bah, while those sorts of things might act as my muse, so does anything I can rant about.  And, so, this time’s muse is that most una-muse-ing muse, the Childling Muse.

Mechanically, this card is junk beyond junk.  Better to come back to mechanics later.

CCGs aren’t just about mechanics.  No game is just about mechanics.  A lot of quite popular games, from family games to CCGs, have terrible mechanics and thrive. 

I could talk about the art on this card, but really, I don’t feel strongly about it.  I, actually, don’t want to talk too much about the card, anyway, since it’s not the card that matters but what the card represents.

What does the card represent?  That bad cards need to exist?  That it’s okay to design bad cards?  That flavor trumps mechanics?  That it serves a purpose?  That it serves no purpose?

Bad cards will always exist because there’s no way to achieve perfect card balance even if that was a goal, which should not be a goal.  On the other hand, my complaint against bad cards is not that they shouldn’t exist but, rather, that every effort should be made into not knowingly making bad cards.  When knowingly making bad cards, rather than having some imbalance, you get gross imbalance.  And, you end up with cards that serve so little purpose that they will virtually never see play, a crime when you consider that it isn’t terribly difficult to make cards that serve some purpose.  Also, bad cards should not always be bad.  One of the goals of any new set should be to shift the metagame so that some good cards aren’t good anymore and some bad cards aren’t bad anymore.  If I had to point to the biggest failing of V:TES beyond lack of comprehendability, it would be how little the metagame shifts at the top from new card influxes.  Malk94, seriously?

V:TES’s attempts to capture flavor often leave me cold, not cold in a good, walking dead kind of way, but in a “have you actually thought about this effect’s place in the game?” way.  See, the thing about top down card design is that you still want mechanics to work.  If you don’t have a good idea of how to do something, you don’t need to do it.  Magic’s lead designer, Mark Rosewater, comments all of the time about how a card design will be cut from a set to be used later, when it fits better.  There are no shortages of ideas for that game.  Are there shortages of ideas for this?

The flavor here is okay.  I thought about what else a Childling Muse would benefit a vampire with.  Hand size increase would make sense, but since I don’t care about hand size, it’s not like that would have been stimulating.  Looking at cards – someone’s hand, someone’s library – would make sense.  I could envision the card saying:  The minion with this retainer looks at a random card from each opponent’s hand.

There is an uptick in changelings in the game.  But, changeling retainers don’t benefit from any of the changeling mechanics.  So, why changeling retainers?  Why not more allies?  Malkavians have been around since 1994.  Without looking, would you know that the clan has only one ally?

Would I find it interesting to have Childling Muse be a 1 pool ally with 1 bleed, 0 strength, 1 life, whenever a minion you control successfully bleeds, you may discard a card at random?  Or, some such?  Maybe, nah, too broken.

Anyway, purpose.  What purpose does the card serve?  Is it a skill tester?  The idea of skill testers is often one I think people don’t use correctly.  Skill testers are really more for limited play.  What do I mean by a skill tester?  A card that you shouldn’t play even if it can provide a useful effect.  Is it cool in its awfulness?  I find it notable only for how awful it is, which is not exactly cool.  “But,” says the designer, “there are people out there who like bad cards, like, um, the person writing this blog post.”  While that’s true, because of the inherent complexity of CCGs and the shifting card pools, there are always plenty of bad cards to choose from.  And, a bad card with no interesting features is an … uninteresting card.

What is the argument for this card serving no purpose?  Well, it gives bleed to the best bleed clan in the history of the game.  In and of itself, that’s not the end of the world.  Costing an action and a pool is the end of this card’s usefulness.  Oh, I can Heidelberg this!  Sure, and I can Heidelberg J.S., Tasha, Robert Carter, Camera Phone, Laptop.  Stackable!  Okay, I can take the best bleed clan in the game and take multiple actions and lose multiple pool so that I can stack these so that I can Heidelberg them around.  Or, I could play other cards.  I can lose pool to play Parity Shifts!  Lose it faster with AK-47s.  I can pretend my deck sucks as I Govern/Conditioning or Kindred Spirits/Eyes of Chaos out my prey!  Consanguineous Condemnation is way better for these sorts of bluffing plays – easier to cycle.  I can build that all changeling, all of the time deck!  Um, yeah, point.

Why do I think the card got made?  Needed a Malk clan card, needed an uncommon, had inspiration from something in the RPG.  Bad cards typically get very little playtesting, so no strong argument was made that the card serves no purpose.  Or, alternatively, the card sucked less and got nerfed at some point, which happens far too often.  Unfortunately, rather than producing something interesting, we get just another card that is quite ignorable.

What would I like to see changed?  I’d like to see at least 10% of the design and development thought that goes into Magic applied to other CCGs.  I’d like to see vastly better playtesting which, in my experience, requires far better guidance and leadership.  I’d like to see more allies in the game for clans that are ally deficient since that tends to be better than more other stuff the clans get that they don’t have use for.  I do like that the effect is straightforward and not a mess of text, but I’d rather see straightforward effects that add variety to the game.  Not going to do it with a card with this title, but a rare retainer that gave an optional press each combat would have been far more interesting (would have to cost no pool to even be considered).

I’d like to make better use of this post’s title by talking about Una, but other than Una ally decks, I’m not all that muse-d by Una.  I should take more looks at Gehenna’s cards, though, especially the crypt cards.


3 Responses to Una-muse-d

  1. Bill Ricardi says:

    They could have added any of the following mechanics, and it would have been funny and random enough to be Malk:

    Childling Muse, Retainer, 1 pool, Malkavian
    Changeling with 1 life. The minion with this retainer gets +1 bleed. The next Out-of-Turn Master that you play prior to your next Master phase is considered a trifle.

    Childling Muse, Retainer, 1 pool, Malkavian
    Changeling with 1 life. The minion with this retainer gets +1 bleed. When diablerizing Red List, Anarch, and Black Hand vampires, the minion controlling Childling Muse is immune to blood hunts.

    Childling Muse, Retainer, 1 pool, Malkavian
    Changeling with 1 life. The minion with this retainer gets +1 bleed, +3 bleed if target of the bleed is contesting a card or title.

    Childling Muse, Retainer, 1 pool, Malkavian
    Changeling with 1 life. The minion with this retainer gets +1 bleed. When your predator or prey is ousted, you may burn this retainer to permanently increase or decrease this vampire’s capacity by 2.

    There are a dozen cool, random effects that they could have given this card! Some effects that you can build around, others that are just randomly good, others that are just plain random. But it would have added an extra ‘something’ to make the card less sucktastic.

  2. Brandon says:

    It’s unfortunate to have a totally wasted card slot like that. The Muse is even more useless than The Oath because it is redundant *and* underpowered. Compare it to a couple other uncommons in the set, like Perfect Paragon and even Repair the Undead Flesh. They do something different and are at least interesting if not always useful.

  3. finbury says:

    I agree. If you are going to make a sub-par card, you should at least make it interesting.

    My version might have said:

    Childling Muse, Retainer, 1 pool, Malkavian
    Action cards played by this Malkavian cost 1 less blood. Once each D action that targets another minion, this Malkavian can burn 1 blood to get +1 stealth.

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