Gavin Verhey used today’s episode of Good Morning Magic to detail the origin of the kicker mechanic and how it found its way into Zendikar Rising.
Kicker debuted in Invasion in 2000 and evolved throughout the block, showing up on many types of cards from mono-colored cards with on-color kicker costs or colorless kicker costs, to cards with kicker costs from a different color.
While kicker showed up in Time Spiral block along with many other mechanics, it made a big return in the original Zendikar block. In Worldwake the mechanic upgraded to multikicker, allowing the spell to ramp up even more depending on how much mana was used to play it. Worldwake also contained Rumbling Aftershocks, a card that would influence how kicker and surrounding cards would be made in later sets.
Dominaria also featured kicker and started to include “kicker matters” cards with the limited archetype for green and red revolving around the mechanic. This would be pushed further in Zendikar Rising with blue and green getting most of the kicker matters payoffs.
Before Verhey dived into the mechanic in the latest set, he talked about how he dislikes kicker for its similar functionality to many of Magic’s mechanics. A short list of kicker-esque mechanics include:
So many different takes on kicker leads the design to team to ask if they need original kicker or if they want to create a new mechanic similar to it with a twist. In Zendikar Rising, the team tried out something called “titan” which worked like kicker but only used colorless mana. The mechanic referenced the lingering influence of the Eldrazi on the plane, so a card would have its normal casting cost then have a titan cost of X colorless mana so that any deck could play the spell kicked, but the normal spell would need the card’s colored mana.
Eventually the team scrapped the idea and went with classic kicker, much like original Zendikar. As a design lesson, it showed how simpler can be better as players already love kicker and how it plays. In the end, Verhey and the design team were pleased with kicker and know its only a matter of time before kicker or a new variant of it comes backs.