View Full Version : Mana Cost of Sockets

10-13-2013, 03:43 PM
If/when Cryptozoic adds new gems to Hex, I expect they'll expand gem sockets to include action cards, rather than continue to be limited to troops. I want to speculate on what kinds of effects they could put on the gems. To do so, I had to answer a question: How powerful are sockets? How much do I need to increase the mana cost of a spell to add a socket and retain balance? There are two approaches I took to answer this question.
1) Find the difference between the mana cost of a socketed creature and a version without that socket, or
2) Estimate the cost of each gem's ability. Each has its own problems, but I figured I would post my thoughts on them to see if consensus could increase accuracy.

The first method: For each socketed creature, I tried to find an analogue creature in Hex (or, failing that, MtG) and find the difference in cost. There weren't any absolute comparisons, though, so I had to use guesswork and estimation to try and compensate for the comparison differences. For example, my first comparison was a 2/4 with socket for 4 mana and a 1/4 for 3 mana. I estimated that the difference of one power was just a fraction of a mana, so the rest of the cost difference had to be due to the socket. There are some other faults with this method: it can't account for differences between MtG and Hex, and doesn't account for rarity differences. Due to limited, rares are occasionally directly more powerful than commons, but this method assumes they are all 'balanced' with each other. Finally, the appropriate power increase per mana increase changes with the cost of the card. For example, a 2-mana card should be slightly more powerful than a 1-mana card, but a 7-mana card should be much more powerful than a 6-mana card. This method does not account for that. The estimates, such as they are, are listed below, with explanations for what comparisons I used.

Mystic of the Tranquil Dream: .75 mana
Hellhound: 1.5 mana
Gem-Crazed Berserker: .5 mana
Grim Skull Sorcerer: 1 mana
Protectorate Sorcerer: 1 mana
Shamed Gladiator: 1 mana
Mazat Ranger: 1 mana
Nelebrin Scout: 0 mana?
Boulder Brute: 1.25 mana
Effigy of Nulzann: .5 mana
Average: .85 mana to add a socket

Mystic of the Tranquil Dream- a vanilla 2/4 body compares pretty well with Cavern Commando, a 1/4 for 3. Mystic costs a whole mana more, which is only partly compensated by a 1-power increase. The Mystic's minor socket seems to cost just under a mana to add.

Hellhound- This troop doesn't have a very clear analogue in Hex. In Magic, there's a Chartooth Cougar, which costs 6, is a 4/4, and has the same activated ability. It also has the mountaincycling ability. Without that ability, I would guess it would have been costed at 5 mana. However, it's a pretty outdated card. Recently, Foundry Champion was printed at 6 mana (multicolored, though) with the firebreathing ability. It also had the reverse ability to boost its toughness, and an enters-play ability to deal damage. It's a rough guess here, but I would estimate the cost of a 4/4 with firebreathing to be between 4 and 5 mana in Magic, meaning Hellhound paid between one and two mana for its minor socket. This is a pretty rough estimate, though, even before accounting for the differences between Magic and Hex.

Gem-Crazed Berserker- At the 3-mana mark, we have Veteran Gladiator as a 3/2 with extra abilities/drawbacks, and at 2 mana, we have Arena Brawler as a 3/1. It's also worth noting that MtG has Goblin Roughrider as a vanilla 3/2 for 3 mana. If that comparison were accurate, this Berserker's minor socket cost nothing. However, going by the Arena Brawler and the extra ability the Veteran Gladiator got, I'd estimate that Gem-Crazed Berserker paid about half a mana for his extra point of toughness over the Brawler, and half a mana for his socket.

Grim Skull Sorcerer- White's got some pretty strong creatures to compare with. A 2/1 for 2 compares pretty poorly with Rigid Buffalo, a 2/3 creature. Out-of-color, it compares to Savage Raiders directly, as they're both 2/1s. Savage Raider has a drawback, so I would guess that a regular 2/1 would cost just above a mana, meaning the Sorcerer paid almost a full mana for its socket. This difference only increases if we assume that white's creatures are supposed to be more efficient, a feature of MtG that I'm not sure carries over to Hex.

Protectorate Sorcerer- This is a 3/2 swiftstrike for 5, which compares to Quick Strider, a 2/2 swiftstrike for 3. One more point of power on a swifstrike troop could easily cost a whole mana, so I estimate a 3/2 swiftstrike should be roughly 4 mana. Protectorate Sorcerer's minor socket, therefore, cost a full mana.

Shamed Gladiator- This one was hard to compare. A 1/2 by itself isn't great, but with rage 1, it's better. Most troops with rage seemed to be cost as if they automatically had the first buff of rage (Thunderbird) or a little under (Wrathseeker, Goreseeker), so we're looking at how much a 2/2 costs. For blood, apparently you get a 1/2 for 2, so if we're going by 'just under', I would say a 1/2 Rage 1 by itself should cost just about 2 mana. This puts the Gladiator's socket at a full mana.

Mazat Ranger- The Ranger also doesn't have a good comparison in Hex yet. In MtG, we have Regathan Firecat in red, which suggests 3 mana. Black had a 4/1 with a possibility of evasion at 4 mana some years ago. Without a good comparison in Hex, I'm tempted to go with 3 mana as the base cost for a 4/1 troop, but this might be a little low, since blood seems to get some pretty weak creatures. (In my defense, blood also gets some far-above-the-curve creatures, like Vampire King.) That puts the Ranger's socket at a full mana as well.

Nelebrin Scout- The Nelebrin Scout has a direct analogue in MtG, Yeva's Forcemage. There doesn't seem to be a good comparison in Hex at the moment. If 3 is a reasonable cost for a 2/2 that temporarily buffs 2/2 though, that means Nelebrin Scout paid nothing for its socket.

Boulder Brute- There are some decent indirect comparisons in Hex for a vanilla 4/4 creature. Honeycap is a 4/4 for 4 in a mono-green deck, with potential upside for a larger creature later in the game (balanced by being much weaker in a multicolor deck). Genesis Hydra shows a 4/4 for 4 with a reasonable bonus ability and no drawback, suggesting a vanilla 4/4 should cost less than 4. MtG examples also agree with this. Most creatures costing 2GG (4 mana) and few abilities are 5/5s (Deadbridge Goliath and Obstinate Baloth). I'm pretty comfortable putting a vanilla 4/4 at 4 mana for Hex, probably a little under. Boulder Brute's socket increased its cost by just over a mana, if that's correct.

Effigy of Nulzann- A vanilla 2/2 artifact generally lies between 2 and 3 mana. Blood obviously didn't get a 2/2 for 2, while Wild did, so a colorless 2/2 should fall somewhere in-between, meaning the Effigy paid about half a mana for its socket.

Major sockets are much hard to find comparisons for. My estimations without sockets, based purely on my personal design skills are as follows, but they're completely subjective:

Eldritch Dreams: 4 mana (socket costs 0 - Dream is overpowered, imo)
Battle Beetle: 5 mana (socket costs 1)
Xentoth's Inquisitor: 3.5 (socket costs .5)
Master Theorycrafter: 5.5 (socket costs 1.5)
Lady Cassandra: 4 (socket costs 0)
Average cost: .6 (cheaper than minor socket, so obviously my design skills suck)

Currently the power level of the major sockets seem to be all over the place. I feel like Theorycrafter has it about right, between 1 and 2 mana, but I think we need to see more major sockets before Cryptozoic's method really becomes solidified.

Creature-comparison conclusion: minor sockets cost just under a whole mana.

10-13-2013, 03:46 PM
Method 2: This approach is to just estimate the cost of each gem's ability. This method gives fewer points of comparison, so can also fall prey to inaccuracy. As a note, the socket should cost just a little more than the average ability cost, to account for flexibility.

Minor sockets:
Wild gem 1: +1/+1. This cost scales depending on the cost of the troop. 1-4 mana should ach cost about, but 5+ mana creatures generally get p/t bonuses for less than a mana. .75 mana.
Wild gem 2: -1 cost. Any troop that uses a socket for this remains equally balanced by being one mana more expensive. 1 mana.
Blood gem 1: +2/0, can't block. This varies widely depending on the troop it's on. Generally, I'd say about a mana for this ability. More if its on a troop with evasion, less if it's on a troop with a large defense, like the Mystic.
Blood gem 2: Discard on hit. Like the other blood gem, usefulness varies widely. I'd say just more than a mana for this ability. 1.25 mana.
Ruby gem 1: Speed. Comparing Bloodcrazed Zealot to Veteran Gladiator, this costs a little over a mana. However, Zealot's pretty bad on its own, so I'm going to say exactly 1 mana.
Ruby gem 2: Firebreathing. Also a mana, in my opinion. Not much firebreathing in Hex to compare with, though.
Diamond gem 1: Steadfast. One of the less useful keywords, in my opinion. .5 mana.
Diamond gem 2: Cost +1, +1/+2. Honestly, I don't think this one is worth any mana. It doesn't make the creature stronger, just changes where it falls on the curve. 0 mana.
Sapphire gem 1: Flash. 1 Mana seems about right here.
Sapphire gem 2: Flight. Also 1 mana. I'd compare Phoenix Guard Scout to a Bear, but Hex is really short on vanilla creatures, especially on the lower end of the curve.

Average: .85. I swear I didn't do the math on this beforehand.

Based on this, I would say that to account for flexibility, minor-socket troops should cost just about 1 mana more to cast.

Major sockets:
Wild gem 1: +1/+1 when exhausts. This is basically a better version of the minor gem. I would give it about a 1.5. Paying a full 2 mana more on an ability like this means that you're going to get fewer turns' use out of it, so it becomes less useful the more expensive it gets.
Wild gem 2: Battles on etb. Pretty strong ability, but not useful on cheaper and weaker creatures. I would also give this 1.5, but want to playtest it some.
Blood gem 1: Damage = attack on etb. Also strong, but not removal. I'd say just over a mana here. 1.25
Blood gem 2: Rage 2. Using our previous method of costing rage (just over one free buff) this should amount to about +3/+0 to the creature, which costs different amounts depending on evasion. In general, I'd guess about 1.25 here.
Ruby gem 1: Destroy resource on hit. Obviously very dangerous. MtG's way of handling this kind of danger was to make it cost too much to ever see play. I'll give it a 2 cost.
Ruby gem 2: +1/+0 and swiftstrike. Turns any creature into the best creature, so I'd put it at 1.75. Maybe 1.5.
Diamond gem 1: Lifegain, and inefficient lifegain at that. As a bonus effect though, not awful. I'd say between .75 and 1.
Diamond gem 2: Defense bonus to a troop. Surprisingly good, especially in limited, since it could buff itself. 1.25, I think.
Sapphire gem 1: Cantrip. The cost for this varies with effect. I think it should be about 1 in general?
Sapphire gem 2: Attack debuff. Pseudo-removal. I would put this on par with Wild's battle gem, so 1.5.

The major sockets were far more speculative, so this average is probably not very useful: 1.375. Compensating for flexibility, we can round this to a major socket costing about 1.5 mana extra.

In summary:
Minor sockets cost about .8-1 mana to add to a troop. Major sockets are a bit inconclusive. The effects seem worth about a mana and a half to me, but seem to be valued about equal to minor sockets to Cryptozoic.

Do you guys have opinions on how sockets seem to be cost? Do my numbers seem accurate or off to you? Think I'm massively undervaluing some cards? :D
Feel free to discuss how you go about analyzing sockets!