I sometimes flush my own designs on account of wordiness / ugliness. Usually I just sit on them for a while and I'll think of a way to do it that's a little easier on the eyes.
In the case of Ice Cauldron, it's one of those designs that time forgot. As neat as it is once you understand it, I don't think I could get behind it if it were released now. That text box is a hot mess. In my opinion, comprehensibility counts for something.
Yeah, I've tried redesigning Ice Cauldron at least once myself. Part of the problem is the whole "...and you only get to use it for that card, but you can go ahead and cast that card without using that mana" edge case, which I'm pretty sure a redesigned version wouldn't bother including.
At that point it could be as simple as "X, T: Note the type and amount of mana used to pay this activation cost." + "T: Add the last noted type and amount of mana to your mana pool." (well, not exactly, as you don't want to be able to activate the second ability without having activated the first ability once), which is a surprisingly short card... but generally that garners complaints about "memory issues" from some people.
(You could even improve the card by basically having the noted mana operate as a stack - the last ability proceeds to also "erase" your last note in addition - but at that point the card might actually be a little too good to be printable.)
Eh, the reason it's manifested is because there's no guarantee the original top card of your library is a permanent card, and at present manifest is the only way to get a face-down instant or sorcery onto the battlefield.
Incidentally, that's where the second ability comes in. Practically speaking, it amounts to "unmorph anything, if you choose to pay its mana cost". The problem is that when it's an instant or a sorcery (or, really, an Aura as well), you can't just say "okay, turn it face up"; you have to go through the normal spell-casting process. So the process ends up being similar to casting things from your graveyard, except this time it's from the battlefield. (Yes, that means that "whenever a creature leaves the battlefield" triggers will get triggered.) The side effect is that it means that for things that can unmorph without problems, they have to go through a slightly more complicated process than just turning it face-up; but it's an existing process, at least.
That said, I don't normally like "cast this from the battlefield" cards because there's rarely a good reason to do it that way instead of just flickering them. This happens to be one of the exceptions where you can't just do that.
As a real quick example, take MDenham's Errekwor Stone on February 18th. I think I get what it does... it seems cool and creative... but it takes a lot of shortcuts with standard Magic terminology, and I'm left questioning whether I'm reading it as-intended.
It takes exactly one shortcut! The problem is that exchanging things isn't used very often (it's defined in the rules, though; but it's just not used very often because some of the requirements that it imposes internally aren't obvious at first glance).
For what it's worth, these would be the rulings on that card:
If you somehow lose ownership of the targeted permanent, the exchange fails;
When the exchange occurs, the targeted permanent goes on top of your library at the same time as the original top card of your library gets manifested. It may enter the battlefield under another player's control if the targeted permanent was controlled by another player;
Everything that was attached to the targeted permanent remains attached to the manifested card;
With the second ability, you are not casting that card from a player's hand, but from the battlefield. It will go to the stack, and if you somehow have a face-down token, it will cease to exist at that point.
That said... the wording was chosen for a specific purpose, and is almost entirely standard wording. The "one shortcut" I mentioned - making manifesting the top card of your library part of the exchange itself - is the exception, and it exists because the standard wording of "Manifest the top card of your library, then exchange it with target permanent. If they were exchanged this way, put the targeted permanent on top of your library." (which is the functionally equivalent version - leaving out that "If they were exchanged this way" clause makes the ability do things differently when you have an empty library) just doesn't flow as well when you read it. As a result, I'm reasonably certain that Wizards would choose to use the same wording I did. While there's something to be said for precision, sometimes you can be precise to the point of getting in the way of clarity.
Correct. Also, this used to be a lot easier when it was just a poll at the top and I could see who voted; there wasn't necessarily a "dead" post consisting of only votes for people who wanted to vote but not submit a card. (The reason it switched to the current setup was because when MTGS moved to this forum software from vBulletin, we lost the ability to see who voted for what in a poll. Needless to say, that makes determining whether or not people voted correctly impossible through the poll system.)
Nah. At four mana you'd need 8 lands in play for a big swing, in addition to being restricted to basics.
You'd only need six lands (two of which are Karoo-type lands) to swing for 12 at four mana; granted this means you're probably running a RG deck of some sort with decent land acceleration.
At three mana you only need one Karoo-type land (plus Pyretic Ritual) to play it, meaning you can swing for 6 with a total of three lands (on top of whatever you already have). That said, that's Modern instead of Standard that you'd be worrying about there.
Exchange your life total with the number of cards in your hand. (For example, if your life total is 10 and you have five cards in your hand, you draw five cards and lose 5 life.)
Still have to hope you can do anything useful at that point, especially considering that you're now down to 2 life and tapped out. (Otherwise it's a quick way to dump thirteen cards into your graveyard.)