Friday, July 21, 2017

The Fourth Tribe


Note: This is a speculation blog post.

TL:DR, here are my speculative claims:

  • Mardu (Black-Red-White) Vampires
  • Grixis (Blue-Black-Red) Wizards

(We already know Rainbow (All Colors) Dragons & Selesnya (Green-White) Cats from leaks.)

Here's the long version:

Previous to the time of this writing, Wizards & Gavin Verhey (lead designer of Commander 2017) announced that this year's Commander products would be tribal-focused. Also, by this time, leaks confirmed a couple tribes: Cats and Dragons.

Recently, the Commander 2017 product page was updated to contain four banners, one for each tribe.

The cat and dragon decks that were leaked are featured in two of the four banners. For the other two, a Vampire-looking man is depicted in one and a woman surrounded by what look like cultist men depicted in the other.

The Vampire-looking man probably means Vampires tribal. Which makes sense. When you look at EDHRec's most popular tribes, Vampires are 6th, out of 66 tribal decks. However, there isn't much tribal-focused support from among the available Vampire commanders. And, going down the list, starting from the most popular, there's already strong support for Zombies, Goblins, Elves, Dragons, & Slivers.

What about the final tribe? I'm guessing Wizards. Here's why:

  • Dragons are five color (info gained from leaks)
  • Cats are white and green (info gained from leaks)
  • Vampires should be at least black. In Innistrad world, they're black-red. In Zendikar, they're black-white (along with Sorin). Combining all of this means Mardu (black-red-white) Vampires. But, also, color schemes of the art can tell you a card's colors. If you look at the art representing Vampires, you see a lot of black, red, and white. It's devoid of blue and green. Also, the possible narrative/story told of the moment depicted in the art gives a very white-potential feeling. A lord being outfitted and served sustenance in orderly fashion.

Wizards. Going beyond Vampires in the list of popular commanders on EDHRec, we have: Wizards, Humans, Allies, Eldrazi, Angels, Spirits, Elementals, Merfolk, Snakes, Clerics, Soldiers, and beyond.

Wizards only have one real commander: Azami, Lady of Scrolls. Thus, most of the tribal Wizards decks built has this creature as its commander. But it's VERY popular.

Going beyond Wizards, we have Humans. This is probably just by happenstance since there are TONS of Humans, only by coincidence, when Humans used to only be Soldiers, Minions, etc. Allies have great support. Eldrazi means probably no blue colors, which is no bueno. Blue players would be sad that Dragons is the only deck with blue in it. Angels would be white but Cats and Vampires are already white. There's already lots of Spirits-matters commanders. Elementals also have a good lord. 

Sadly, Merfolk also need help but there are four times as many Wizard decks as there are Merfolk decks. And Wizards are predominantly blue, same with Merfolk. And Merfolk's other colors are mostly green and white, colors already strongly represented in Cats and Vampires. Some other time, then, Merfolk.

Lastly, my last piece of support for Wizards: the Pokemon Contest theory.

In Pokemon video games, there is an aspect called Pokemon Contests. Pokemon have moves for battling but could also use moves in these contests. Each move is categorized into one of five:
  • Tough
  • Cute
  • Cool
  • Beautiful
  • Clever/Smart

So, since tribal decks for Commander 2017 were announced to NOT focus on the color wheel so much, then what ARE the primary drivers? I say the above attributes are. If you're looking to buy only ONE deck, and you ignore colors (and MTG finance), you're going to want to choose the tribe that fits your personality most.

Cats are cute (and beautiful).
Dragons are tough (and could also be cool)
Vampires are cool (and could also be beautiful)

That leaves Clever (and Beautiful, but Cats and Vampires and even Dragons can be considered beautiful). Wizards one of the most Clever tribes. Wizards are mostly blue. Blue is Clever.

Wizards are the final Clever deck, then. We have Wizards tribal as the fourth tribe.
Bonus: "Wizards of the Coast" cheekiness, Harry Potter & Gandalf made Wizards all the rage

As for Wizard colors:

  • Blue, obviously
  • Black is the next most popular color for creatures that are Wizards. And there is only black in the three-color Vampires deck. Still enough room to include black in Wizards
  • Red has less Wizards than White, but Red is the only other color besides Blue to CARE about Wizards. And white and green are both already well-represented in other tribal decks.
Lastly, the art for the face of Wizards shows a lot of black along with blues, purples. Purple is a combo of blue and red. The lots of black points me towards Black, along with the cultist hooded dudes vibe. The purple color points me toward representing red in there.

This was my hot take of a blog post. Thanks for reading. The end. :)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Alliteration Commander

Art by Steve Prescott

"Cast Time Stretch off the top of my library. It's copied because of Melek, so I'll get an extra four turns after this one."

This paraphrases a play I made at a Commander house party many years ago with people I haven't met before. Needless to say, this wasn't very fun for my opponents as evidenced by their faces expressing boredom and perhaps masking annoyance. This marked the only time in my Commander career where I made a hypothesis about an aspect of my deck not being fun (but fun for me) and then experimented anyway to see if the results turned out as expected. When Izzet goes bad, I guess!

When building a Commander deck without restrictions in place, you have enough cards at your disposal to push the envelope in terms of power level ...and how much you can violate the social contract of your play group. If you're trying to build a deck that you enjoy but don't want to do something like combo off on turn three or make all of your opponents go from 0 poison counters to 10 poison counters all at once ...then how much should you be pulling your punch? Social contracts vary among play groups, so you'll have a different answer depending on whom you're playing with.

"I will never again cast spells that grant me extra turns," I declared to myself. So then I had to determine what WAS appropriate socially for my Melek deck. I eventually just took apart the deck because I couldn't figure out a deck approach that I was happy with that also wasn't hurting others' fun.

Fast forward to years later, I was able to figure out how I can be happy as a Commander player but still optimize the deck I'm building without worrying whether I've "gone too far." The key to my happiness: build a deck around a theme that has a suffocatingly restrictive card pool.

Building Boundaries

Art by Eric Deschamps

The first deck I built following this rule was a Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh deck. Already locking myself into monored, I didn't stop there. I told myself, "You can only cast spells that a pyromancer can cast." This meant no earth magic or lightning magic. This also meant no non-fiery type of stuff like Sol Ring and Solemn Simulacrum (Magic Man Sam would be proud).

Aside for those wondering: despite Pathfinder & Ogre Battle 64 treating a combination of fire and earth to be "lava," and Legend of Korra treating lavabending as an advancement of earthbending; because Jaya Ballard flavor text appears for Wall of Lava and Lava Burst, I allowed myself to play with lavamancy as well like Volcanic Visions.

Yes, I lost the games I played while piloting the pyromancy deck. But I was happy in those games! I was able to showcase something cool I created but also not have to worry about whether I needed to have dialed it back when building the deck. A Johnny player satisfied.

This brings me to the present and my latest deck, having completed it last night in time for playing with it at Grand Prix Las Vegas. Instead of "only play with fire" as my restriction, I decided on "only play alliteration cards."

Looking over the available legendary creatures, I decided on Rhys the Redeemed. A popular commander, I know, and I'll inherently have a weaker deck than other Rhys decks. Sorry, Dragonlord Dromoka - you came close, though.

Before we go further, let's share the decklist:

Rhys the Redeemed Alliteration Commander

Commander (1)
Rhys the Redeemed

Lands (40)
Grove of the Guardian
Mystifying Maze
Saltcrustred Steppe
Secluded Steppe
Sejiri Steppe
Selesnya Sanctuary
Seraph's Sanctuary
Serra's Sanctum
18 Forests
14 Plains

CMC 1 (4)
Font of Fertility
Soul Snare
Sylvan Safekeeper
Weathered Wayfarer

CMC 2 (10)
Call of the Conclave
Captain's Claws
Devoted Druid
Metallic Mimic
Seeker of Skybreak
Selesnya Signet
Selfless Spirit
Sprout Swarm
Sylvan Scrying
Whisperer of the Wilds

CMC 3 (13)
Adaptive Automaton
Caller of the Claw
Emrakul's Evangel
Flash Foliage
Griffin Guide
Mentor of the Meek
Monastery Mentor
Scion Summoner
Sosuke's Summons
Soul Separator
Stasis Snare
Stonybrook Schoolmaster
Weirding Wood

CMC 4 (12)
Captain's Call
Captured by the Consulate
Carrion Call
Chameleon Colossus
Dawn to Dusk
Dusk // Dawn
Faith's Fetters
Sanctifier of Souls
Saproling Symbiosis
Seed Spark
Solemn Simulacrum
Summon the School

CMC 5 (10)
Cathars' Crusade
Consulate Crackdown
Gutter Grime
Herald of the Host
Kessig Cagebreakers
Privileged Position
Scatter the Seeds
Silklash Spider
Sphere of Safety
Splitting Slime

CMC 6 (1)
Argentum Armor

CMC 7 (2)
Silent Sentinel
Summoning Station

CMC 8 (1)
Silver Seraph

CMC (1)
Worldspine Wurm

CMC X (5)
Alliance of Arms*
Chord of Calling
Gelatinous Genesis
Hooded Hydra
Riptide Replicator

* Alliance of Arms technically doesn't have X in its cost, but it may as well since it's like "Group X" is in its cost

Art by Magali Villeneuve

Alliteration Amendments

For the longest time, I actually had a different commander in mind for my alliteration deck: Atogatog. Not only is that creature a cool one, but I would have access to all five colors, maximizing my alliteration potential. Along the way, though, I figured out two problems with choosing Atagatog:
1) All Atog creatures aren't alliterations ...and I don't like playing a commander that is only utilized for its colors.
2) Atagatog violated my alliteration rules.

The traditional rules for alliteration allow for card names like Sandsower and Coursers' Accord (apologies if either of those two examples are false - I wasn't an English major). Sandsower has the 's' sound twice within its one word. Coursers' Accord are two words that don't share the same sound at the beginning of each word, but the emphasized syllables both have the same sound.

In Sandsower's case, I looked at cards that was only one word. Like Mirari. It doesn't have any other word to form an alliteration with in the card name. But if I allow Sandsower, then these single-word cards would be an exception when other cards with more than one word, like Privileged Position, do not have alliterative syllables but still are alliteration cards themselves.

For Coursers' Accord, I realized I could make mistakes on whether a card fulfills alliteration as I try to sound out card names and determine which are the stressed syllables.

For simplicity's sake, and to avoid disputes on legitimacy of one of my cards while the deck is in action, I set some alliteration restrictions:

Rule #1: No single-worded (or zero-worded) cards
Rule #2: Non-capitalized words like "the" or "of" aren't factored into alliteration
Rule #3: Use the beginning sound of each word for alliteration fulfillment
Rule #4: Single words on split cards are fine as long as both sides of the split card are alliterative
Rule #5: Both the front and back of the card of a double-faced card must be alliterations
Rule #6: How I personally read aloud cards is the basis for checking for alliteration
Rule #7: Alliteration rules don't apply to basic lands (they are also the only cards that are allowed more than one of in commander, already setting a precedent that they're exceptions)

Art by Dan Scott

Fun Facts

  • I didn't have a creature board wipe until Amonkhet released Dusk // Dawn
  • Dusk // Dawn and Dawn to Dusk both exist and are in my deck
  • Sosuke, Son of Seshiro was a serious contender until I figured out there's not enough in the card pool to support this triple-alliterative commander
  • There's three alliterative Ooze token-creating cards
  • I went back-and-forth on whether Alliance of Arms was legal for my deck. Ultimately, I was too hung up on how I say "Ally" (which has a different beginning sound from how I say "Alliance") and determined I was able to say "Alliance of Arms" to where it sounds alliterative
  • Selesnya Signet and Selesnya Sanctuary are so luckily alliteration to contribute toward having a smooth mana base
  • I hope Wizards creates a Bant commander that is alliterative because Seaside Citadel and Simic Signet are waiting for their time in the sun
  • There's a whole heck of a lot of alliteration token-creating cards; is it something about the cuteness of tokens that makes card name writers want to alliterate? Or are there just so many token-creating cards that there's bound to be lots of alliteration cards?
  • Sweet Synergy: Seraph Sanctuary, Herald of the Host, Rhys the Redeemed
  • There were enough green and/or white enchantment cards that mattered that I was able to have an enchantment sub-theme that supports Sphere of Safety and Serra's Sanctum!
  • Alas, Solemn Simulacrum is alliterative ...but this time I feel great including the card!
  • I don't think I can now NOT notice, during spoiler season, when a new alliterative card is released
Art by Noah Bradley

Parting Paragraph

Thanks for reading. I had a blast creating this deck, both in finishing it but also while looking for cards that fit into my alliteration card pool. It's often a delight to discover cards that are perfect for the deck's gameplay but also still is alliterative. And I'll look forward to having a lot more fun as I read aloud the names of the spells I cast at Grand Prix Las Vegas. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three-Color Amonkhet and Dominaria Return

Deep Analysis by Jesper Ejsing

Disclaimer: this is a speculation/prediction blog post on yet-to-be-released Magic: The Gathering products (as of the time of this writing). This was published before the Spring 2017 Announcement Day (March 31st, 2017). I have not obtained access to any sort of leaked information regarding Amonkhet or products releasing after Amonkhet. If something like this doesn't interest you, I wouldn't recommend reading further.

Too Long, Didn't Read

For those who want to get right into the good stuff, here's the list of predictions I'm making:
  • Amonkhet will have three-color arc (shard) Gods
  • Multicolor Traps and Curses will debut in Amonkhet
  • Amonkhet will have Magic's first Naya-colored planeswalker
  • Amonkhet will have a Simic-colored Nissa
  • Garruk will return in Hour of Devastation
  • Amonkhet block's Masterpiece Series will feature gold cards
  • Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Tezzeret will release in the Fall
  • Commander 2017 will be five decks of two-color ally combinations
  • The Fall block will take place somewhere in Dominaria
  • The third Un-set will either release in August 2017 or sometime in 2018 or 2019
    • NOTE: If the third Un-set product will be releasing sometime between Spring 2017 and Spring 2018, then the announcement of the third Un-set may be on either March 31st, 2017 or April 1st, 2017
No predictions attempted for:
  • From the Vault series
  • Masters series (Modern Masters, Eternal Masters, Vintage Masters)
Read further for details on how I arrived at the predictions:

Three-Color Arc (Shard) Gods

Amonkhet marketing material mentions five trials of the five gods. Five means color factions. Gods means return of God creature type. We need something new for Gods. We need three-color Gods.

We just had four-color cards in Commander 2016. And monocolored and two-color Gods have already been done. This leaves three colors. Khans of Tarkir was more recent than Shards of Alara. Best to do Shards of Alara's arc colors.

I also arrived at this conclusion from three other vantage points: studying the art of the Gods, the marketing material regarding the trials of the five gods, and the booster packaging for Amonkhet.

For the packaging, a large set normally has five different types of art on booster packs. Amonkhet is no different. Usually, three of the five booster packs feature planeswalkers that will be in the set (An exception to this was featuring Elspeth and two gods for Theros packs).

But the hard(er) exception to the three-planeswalkers-out-of-five-booster-pack-wrappings is when there are five factions featured for the set. Return to Ravnica and Khans of Tarkir were five-faction sets that contained five different booster wrappings. When it comes to this case, non-planeswalkers are chosen for the booster pack depictions, one for each faction. When we look at Amonkhet's booster pack wrappings, this seems to be the case, supporting the claim for five factions for Amonkhet (in this case, five three-color arc factions).

Then there's the art of the five gods that have been released gives some clues. Studying the art for each of these gods reveals the kind of colors associated with these gods. Usually, art for a card tends to use colors or depictions within the art that tie themselves toward the color(s) of the card itself. Usually.

Let's take a look at them:

The Bird God is the one floating highest in the sky. Flying is attributed toward white and blue most of all. But black has flying at third. The colors of the background show whiteness to the clouds, and blue hues overall. But also some heavy shadows, to indicate some black mana.

As for Birds, most of them are marked for white, blue, then black.

This is an Esper-colored God.

The Cat God has the most troublesome art. There's not much greenery going on in any of the God art. There's a bit for the Snake God. And the art in this shows some black going on. And there's mummies. White-aligned zombies? Anyway, other vantage points clue me in to the decision to mark this as a Naya-colored God. For example, Cats are most prominent in red, green, and white. Another push toward Naya. Lastly, the top three colors for Archers (there's a bow wielded by this Cat God) is white, green, and red (red narrowly defeats blue and black).

Finally, there have been art that uses colors or depictions that you wouldn't think tie themselves toward the color(s) of the card the art is for. An example is Athreos, God of Passage. There isn't much that leads me to believe Athreos is a white god in terms of colors used (the blindfold it has gives the sense of white).  There's so much green color. You might also think it's a mono-black God, if not a Golgari-colored God.

The Crocodile God depicts zombies, yo. Some dark ones. And there's a huge overcast. There's some black mana going on here. There's a red dusk color. Red.

Crocodiles are mostly in green. Combine all these factors together, and you get a Jund-colored God.

The Hound God. Or, the "Jackal", most famous for being a God of Death. Appropriately, this is the darkest-colored piece of art. Lots of shadow intensity. There's also a red dusk color prominent in the art. Yet, some blue is coloring the sky to make some purple look as well. With black being the center for death, this makes sense as the Grixis God.

Interestingly, the creature type association here doesn't hold up for Hounds. There's only one blue Hound, and that was a bend to make it a part of a cycle of Hounds.

Laslty, the Snake God. This one is the brightest-hued of them all, leading me to believe that there is no black color in this. There's a waterfall. Blue. But Snakes are mostly green. Its organized command over the smaller guys has a sense of order and structure that white likes. This God is Bant-colored.

Lastly, there's the marketing material for the Trials of the Five Gods. The five trials are: Solidarity, Knowledge, Ambition, Strength, and Zeal.
Here's the breakdown I have:
  • Snake God of Solidarity: Green, White, Blue
  • Bird God of Knowledge: White, Blue, Black
  • Hound God of Ambition: Blue, Black, Red
  • Crocodile God of Strength: Black, Red, Green
  • Cat God of Zeal: Red, Green, White
For Solidarity, I tied it to the Snake God because the card Solidarity is centered in white. But also that it seems to be standing together with its followers.

Zeal is most found in red and white. You get passionate about doing what's right, whether it's breaking free of the rigidity of law or enforcing order to prevent reckless negative infliction toward society. When you pair red and white, you can get green to meet in the middle. And when you have white, red, and green, you can have Cats. Or Archers. Tied to the Cat God then.

One way to attain strength is to collect in high numbers. That's what the Crocodile God is doing. And black values attaining strength, red using strength to solve problems, and green's natural "survival of the fittest". Strength belongs to Jund. It belongs to the Crocodile God.

The pursuit of knowledge can often be a solitary endeavor, especially as you attain higher and higher amounts of knowledge - you get less peers. The Bird God is far and away from its followers, seemingly in a state of philosophizing. Besides, blue is THE color for knowledge, which is the central color for the Esper-colored Bird God.

Lastly, we get Ambition. Black has ambition. The Hound God is most tied toward black. But, also, incidentally, for Theros - there was a similar marketing campaign, for the monocolored Gods of that world. And the black color's association? Ambition. Seeing as the Grixis Hound God has its central color in black, this one's a shoo-in.

Multi-Color Traps and Curses

Traps! Those debuted in the original Zendikar block.
Curses! Those debuted in the original Innistrad block.

So, why wheren't those brought back in the retun to the worlds of Zendikar and Innistrad? Well, besides only focusing on what was best and most memorable of the original blocks and cutting the rest (which is an important thing to do, especially when you wanna include new stuff and twists), not including Curses and Traps means you can save them for another appropriate time.

Pop culture Egyptian mythology includes traps that guard the tombs of dead kings. But also curses that can befall upon peoples. Amonkhet would be great for those to return to Magic. After all, there are TRIALS that the denizens of this plane train their whole lives for. It could be that the challenges involve traps and curses.

But what fresh twist can we do to make Traps and Curses exciting? Ah. Every Curse and Tap has been monocolored so far. Gold Traps and Curses it is!

The First Naya-Colored Planeswalker

Whenever we move to a plane focused on multicolor, it's an opportunity to have an abundance of multicolor planeswalkers. Shards of Alara block had its first Grixis planeswalker and a then a couple multicolor ones. Return to Ravnica block had Vraska, Domri Rade, and Ral Zarek. Khans of Tarkir is a little weird in that it wasn't designed to be a multicolor block. Even then, we got a Temur-colored Sarkhan Vol. As a surprise, Tamiyo became Bant-colored, which fills in yet more of the missing three-color combos for planeswalkers. And then there's this block.

When doing a three-color-focused set, we have a strong opportunity for this. Hour of Devastation will already have Nicol Bolas. And I feel having one three-color planeswalker per set of Amonkhet block would be best. So, Amonkhet - but why Naya?

I think the colors most far and away from Grixis would be good, to balance out colors across planeswalkers in the block. But also a focus on what HASN'T been done before. We're not doing wedge colors. Tamiyo did Bant. And Esper and Jund are both too close to Bolas' Grixis colors. That leaves Naya.

NOTE: When I say Naya-colored planeswalker, I just mean red, green white. Not from Naya. Though, it definitely is possible to have a planeswalker from Naya (see: Tamiyo)

Simic-Colored Nissa

When viewing the planeswalkers in any one particular block, the colors tend to try to be evenly divided across the colors. Gideon being white and Liliana being black, along with Nicol bolas being black, red, and blue. And when you take into account the Naya planeswalker mentioned above, you get the following for the number of colors represented:

White: 2
Blue: 2
Black: 2
Red: 2
Green: 1

There's some room for green for the remaining two planeswalkers. Now, let's look at something else:

If you look at each two-color combination and associate it with the most recent planeswalker card of that two-color combination,  you get this:

GREEN WHITE: Ajani (Aether Revolt, 1 set ago)
WHITE BLUE: Dovin (Kaladesh, 2 sets ago)
BLUE BLACK: Tezzeret (Aether Revolt, 1 set ago)
BLACK RED: Daretti (Conspiracy 2, 3 sets ago)
RED GREEN: Arlinn (Shadows over Innistrad, 5 sets ago)
GREEN BLUE: Kiora (Battle for Zendikar, 5 sets ago)
WHITE BLACK: Kaya (Conspiracy 2, 3 sets ago)
BLUE RED: Saheeli (Kaladesh, 2 sets ago)
BLACK GREEN: Garruk (Magic 2015, FOREVER AGO)
RED WHITE: Nahiri (Shadows Over Innistrad, 5 sets ago)

Now, you notice that a Golgari-colored planeswalker is the one that most needs a new planeswalker card. As it so happens, I'm predicting Garruk will come back, so more on that in the next section. That leaves Simic-colored planeswalker being due for a new card. And, in this case, Kiora is the only planeswalker to be Simic-colored. At least Vraska keeps Garruk company.

We need another planeswalker character to join the ranks of Simic. Could be a new character or an existing character getting a touch of blue, at least perhaps temporarily (see: Bant Tamiyo).

With Bant colors already done with Tamiyo recently, it's clear that a new Simic-colored walker is the way to go, which would still slot into Bant-colored decks just fine.

So, my guess is that Nissa will return but in Simic colors.

Garruk Returns in Hour of Devastation

Garruk the Slayer by Brad Rigney

Garruk's been away in the story a while. He's not dead. But he hunts planeswalkers. The most powerful ones. And who is more powerful than Nicol Bolas? Also, black-green needs a new planeswalker card. Lastly - who else is on Amonkhet besides the most powerful planeswalker? Liliana.

Recently, there's been a trend of four planeswalkers in the large set and two planeswalkers in the small set. The two in the small set tend to be related toward the main plotline. The large set has the most room for planeswalkers involved in a side plot. Since the new Simic walker I think would likely not be the most involved in the main characters, I'd put it in Amonkhet and Garruk in Hour of Devastation, to separate out the green walkers. And, besides - it could be that Garruk either redeems his monstrous form or harnesses it and the power of all the planeswalkers he's killed to become a very powerful force to face Nicol Bolas.

After all, both he and Bolas share the distinction of being the only two to be made a main villain focus in Core Sets (Magic 2013 for Bolas and Magic 2015 for Garruk).

Amonkhet Masterpiece Series Features Gold Cards

As of Kaladesh, Wizards announced that it would have a Masterpiece series for every block going forward, that has a theme fitting to the setting. Zendikar Expeditions was about land. Kaladesh Inventions was about artifacts. With both those colorless card types out of the way, what's the next most exciting thing that fits this gold-carded block? Oh! How about awesome gold cards?

This one's a more risky guess. It could be that desert oasis type of cards are featured. But... that doesn't seem as exciting as having awesome dual lands or utilizing those powerful artifacts. Gold cards are more exciting. We like gold. It's shiny.

Duel Decks: Ajani vs. Tezzeret

Duel Decks with planeswalkres duking it out feature the block that came before, usually. We had Nissa and Ob Nixilis fight each other in last year's Fall Duel Decks. This year's Fall Duel Decks would strongly be placed in Kaladesh.

Looking at Mind vs. Might, we already have Jhoira popping up. Saheeli would be yet another Izzet walker. And then there's red in both the Mind deck and Might deck. Best to leave out Chandra this time - to avoid yet another red-focused Duel Deck. And Nissa already had her turn recently.

With Mind vs. Might, we don't have white, green, or black represented for the year of 2017 so far. Ajani takes care of white and green while Tezzeret opposing him with blue and black would make for a nice rounding off of the colors so that any player looking at recent products might find something that appeals to them.

Sorry, Chandra. I know it's been a while since you've been in a Duel Deck. But you, Ajani, and Tezzeret have all been in Duel Decks once before. And Chandra is most likely to return yet again in a future block and might have another chance at getting included in a second Duel Deck.

Commander 2017 will Have Two-Color Ally Decks

Meren of Clan Nel Toth by Mark Wenters

This one's a really easy guess. The Commander series of products have featured each three-color combination, two-color enemy pairs, and four-color commanders. It's time to finish the pattern and put the last puzzle piece in and make Commander decks focused on two-color ally legendary creatures.

It's interesting that four-color jumped to last year instead of being the last in the cycle. There could have been multiple reasons. But it could be that it would be better to balance out the year of 2017 with three-color legendary creatures for the Commander players in Amonkhet followed by two-color legendary creatures later in the Fall (along with whatever the Dominaria-located block will have).

Speaking of Dominaria...

The Fall Block will Take Place Somewhere in Dominaria

This claim is being made for several reasons:
  • Mind vs. Might Duel Decks features characters from Dominaria
  • After two back-to-back blocks of new worlds, it might be time to revisit an old one
  • Ravnica, Innisrad, Zendikar, Mirrodin have all been done. What's left for popular planes? Dominaria!
  • Dominaria is long-overdue for a return; besides, where should a new Jace card appear in? (Last one was in Shadows over Innistrad whereas all the other Gatewatch members will have had new cards by the time the Fall set comes out.)

No Predictions for From the Vault or Masters Series

I haven't found a pattern to be able to puzzle out and confidently say what will come next for From the Fault. Some stuff like "Demons" seems obvious to do, but who knows when the correct timing for that will be.

As for the Masters series, the next year seems like a toss-up: will Eternal Masters 2018 happen or not? Did it get received well? Will there just be a focus on Vintage Masters for Magic Online? I'd rather not make a prediction.

However, the bumping up of Modern Masters to Spring is curious, which leads me to...

Third Un-Set in August 2017 OR Sometime 2018 or 2019

I know, a more broad prediction. This one's the wild card. As it should be.

Conspiracy 2 was last year. And we can't have a repeated Conspiracy 3 this year - at least not an equivalent. Will From the Vault try to fill in those shoes in August with something cool? Or will there be something else for the Conspiracy-loving crowd?

The players that love Conspiracy has some overlap with the players who love Unglued and Unhinged. And Modern Masters got pumped up to Spring this year. And Conspiracy was last year. What to do? Release Un-set 3. Also, Annoucnement Day is taking place March 31st, 2017 - in the evening. Which is awfully close to April 1st, 2017. April 1st has been a time when Unhinged was announced. Perhaps the same will be utilized here.

Keep in mind that, since Un-sets are unconventional, so may be the announcements. The announcement may be delayed until April 1st. But also may just happen during March 31st, to prep you for the site's update on April 1st, whatever that will look like (Daily MTG has had a joke makeover before for April Fool's Day). The announcement could also be quite hidden.

What makes me doubt whether the third Un-set will release in August 2017 is the full-art lands in Amonkhet. Un-sets are notorious for the full-art lands. Since Battle for Zendikar block and then Amonkhet block featuring full-art lands: it seems like we should wait at least a year for the third Un-set just because of the full-art land.

And if we wait for 2018, that's when Conspiracy 3 might take place. So then the off-year of 2019 would be great for it.

Lastly, 2018 would be Unglued's 20th year anniversary. It might be a good time to bring a third Un-set into Magic for that year.

But, yeah, if a third Un-set is coming this year, August 2017 is the time to do it.

Appropriately Long, Did Read

Some predictions I have more confidence in than others. But I figured I'd do a little bit of reaching anyway for some of the ones I'm not so confident in. Just in case it'd be a fantastic guess. Thanks for reading the lengthy part of this post. =)

Amonkhet Promotional Art, Artist Unknown

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Drafting Pokemon #02: Move Tutor

Pokemon Origins

Last time, on Drafting Pokemon... I defined the scope of the project of creating a Pokemon drafting card game. After knowing that I'm going to include all of the first 151 pokemon as a part of this game, that has already easily defined the card pool for the most important card type: 151 pokemon cards. This leaves the second-most-important card type to figure out: pokemon moves. Let's TM28 in.

Thinking Many Moves Ahead

I already established that later-generation moves are O.K. to include in this game. Actually, it's necessary, since the first generation move pool sucked for creating balanced gameplay, with the case-in-point being Psychic pokemon's weakness of Bug and Ghost not having to fear any actually-good Bug or Ghost moves being used on them. 

So, because of this allowance of a move like Shadow Ball being included in this game, this opens the door to a whole bunch of moves to select from. But where do we begin? Let's start with some questions that first come to my mind.

  • How many move cards should I include in the card pool?
  • What is the minimum number of pokemon that should be able to learn a move in order for that move to be included in the card pool?
  • How many move cards should a player be able to draft?
  • Physical Attack/Defense and Special Attack/Defense or just Attack (with HP, of course)?
  • What elements of pokemon battle gameplay are not being included?
  • What moves will pretty much never be used?

Two Pidgeys, One Geodude

Some of the answers to these earlier questions as well as other ones can be found or at least honed in on when we bring up something that Josh Jelin, a peer, suggested to me: have pre-defined moves printed on the pokemon card. He used an example of having Pikachu have the stronger move which could be evolved to stack its move with Raichu, which has the weaker move but better stats. This simple solution is fantastic because this solves or at least helps multiple problems:
  • How do we make unevolved pokemon matter?
  • How do we include the signature moves of pokemon like Hitmonlee's Hi Jump Kick?
  • What's the best way to minimize the number of choices to make when drafting moves?
How do we make unevolved pokemon matter?

I was thinking of at least one solution for how to make a Machop matter in a card pool that includes Blastoise and friends, especially when Machamp is one of those friends. But it wasn't an elegant solution which led me to think about whether or not I should even include unevolved pokemon - including Pikachu. Which means a Pokemon card game without Pikachu in it, which feels super weird but something that can be done if it was for the sake of a better game.

However, if Vulpix has Fire Blast printed on it while Ninetales has a lesser move printed on it, then that means Vulpix can still be a force to be reckoned with while Ninetales has to deal with having drafted other move cards to improve its more-impressive-than-Vulpix stats. OR, if you draft both Vulpix and Ninetales, then you're able to utilize Fire Blast on a Ninetales, and things just got amazing.

Also, now we don't have to worry about there being only Gengar to represent Ghosts and Dragonite to represent Dragons. You can also draft Gastlies, Haunters, Dratinis, and Dragonairs.

Pokemon anime

How do we include the signature moves of pokemon like Hitmonlee's Hi Jump Kick?

There are some pokemon moves that are iconic. But some of those moves are only found on a couple pokemon or even just one of them (otherwise known as a signature move). How do we include these famous moves without creating super-narrow cards that are duds most of the time they're drafted? Ah, printing the move on the card itself! With this, Hitmonchan can still enjoy its super-sweet Mach Punch.

Note: This Bulbapedia page of signature moves is pretty sweet and useful.

What's the best way to minimize the number of choices to make when drafting moves?

A Pokemon team is six pokemon. Each pokemon can know four moves. Together, that's twenty-four moves. That's a lot of moves to have drafted. And, like in Magic: The Gathering, some of the moves you draft you won't end up using due to any of several reasons - like being stuck with useless choices at the end of a draft round or choosing to draft some water moves when you find out at the end of the draft that you're not actually using any Water pokemon on your team and are only using one or two of those drafted water moves after all.

Printing moves on pokemon cards means they already come pre-loaded with moves that you don't need to worry about drafting. If each pokemon already knows one move already, then that at least lessens the number of moves needed across your team to 18, at most. If you have evolved pokemon, it's even less.

Eighteen move cards is much more manageable of the number of choices to narrow down on from your total number of drafted cards (though, still a lot, it feels like). This benefit is probably the most important one in terms of creating a game that's fun to play.

Show Me Your Moves

How many moves should I include in the card pool?

When I refer to the "card pool," I mean all of the possible cards that can show up in this drafting card game. For the pokemon card pool, this number is 151. Then, from there, for a single drafting session, maybe about a third will be pulled from this card pool (we'll settle on an actual number after finding out results from playtesting).

For moves, we don't have a set number. It's good that you can't count on every pokemon to show up in any one particular draft session. The same should apply to moves. But how many moves should we draw from?

Well, that depends on the X number of cards being drawn from this card pool of number Y that we are trying to figure out. And the X number of cards being drawn depends on the maximum number of moves your whole team needs, which seems to be 18 moves right now (one move per pokemon on your team, each of which wasn't evolved). And if there are always an N number of moves that are unused after drafting, then that would, together with 18 used moves, be a Z percentage of cards that get used from those X number of cards being drawn from the card pool of Y number of cards.


Whatever all those numbers turn out becoming, I want the X number drawn to not be 100 percent of card pool number Y, since that means you can always count on Ice Beam showing up in SOMEONE'S hands. I also don't want X to be 50 percent of Y, since that means your decision-making comes down to a coin flip when you're thinking, "Is it possible Thunderbolt was in in this draft?" Because I don't know what this magic number between 50 and 100 percent should be, I'll start off with 75%, then have playtesting results show me whether I should go higher or lower.

X = 0.75 * Y
Z = (18 * N * 4) * X, where N is the number of unused cards we need to figure out and '4' being the number of players

Figuring out N number of unused cards is tough. This depends on the next section's question.

We'll come back to this, but let's just throw a number out there for now to see what a calculation looks like: 50% unused cards.

Z = 18 used cards * 0.5
Z = 36 cards per player
36 * 4 players = 144 cards = X
144 = 0.75 * Y
Y = 192 total moves in the card pool

Well, holy shit. That seems like a lot of moves to decide on. Let's hope that 50% unused cards is actually too high for the sake of amount of work. ;) But if I gotta do 192 moves, then I gotta do it. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.


What is the minimum number of pokemon that should be able to learn a move in order for that move to be included in the card pool?

As mentioned previously, a signature move of a pokemon, like Twineedle for Beedrill, will be useless to draft 99% of the time. There obviously has to be more than one pokemon that should be able to learn any one particular move card available in the draft, but what's that minimum number? I'm not sure. If I were more well-versed in mathematics, I might be able to crunch a number. But because I'm not, I'm going to have to find out more along the way, perhaps leaning on playtesting results to find out.

I know that Tackle is one of the most well-known moves. So somewhere between that number as our "100%" and one, which is only Beedrill knowing Twineedle, is the number we want. 

Until I know more, I'm going to lean toward picking moves that are known by as many pokemon as possible. It FEELS like there isn't a danger of having too many moves known by too many pokemon. If anything, it might be the opposite, which will be its own challenge to address.

How many move cards should a player be able to draft?

As addressed earlier, to be determined based on the ideal percentage of cards that go unused after drafting and using up to 18 move cards.

Physical Attack/Defense and Special Attack/Defense or just Attack?

There are some moves that care about the physical or special versions of an attack or defense stat. Because of this, we need to know what kind of stats a pokemon is going to have in order to weed out our move choices.

At this time, I'm still not sure whether we're going physical and special distinctions. I want the depth of gameplay but am scared that, for a card game, there's too much calculation that'd end up happening. Let's write it out for the move Thundershock:

Damage = ((Special Attack Power + ThundershockPower) * Weakness/Resistance/Immunity) - Special Defense


Damage = (Attack Power + Thundershock) * Weakness/Resistance/Immunity

(The reason why there's no defense calculated here is because, since there's no distinctions of types of defense, the defense just gets already summed with the defending pokemon's HP stat.)

Let's try doing "real" numbers now.

Damage = ((5 + 4) * 2) - 7
Damage = 11, against a 20 HP pokemon, leaving 9 HP left


Damage = (5 + 4) * 2
Damage = 18, against a 27 HP pokemon, leaving 9 HP left

Is the former too much to do, especially when you need to look at your pokemon's stat, their pokemon's two stats of the applicable defense and HP?

With the worry of too much calculation going on with the former, I worry that doing a conversion/adaptation of current stats for the latter will come with its own challenges.

A reminder that, while the original pokemon games didn't feature physical and special distinctions for attack and defense, it had a high Special stat to be applied for both offense and defense. I don't like that at all. I don't want a pokemon with the highest Special stat to be strictly better than all other pokemon with lower Special stats when not factoring in type effectiveness (looking at you, Mewtwo).

This direction is still something I don't know which I'll go in. I know that fellow Magic design enthusiast Mad Olaf is warm to the idea of simplifying to Attack, HP, and Speed. I'll continue to keep this in mind.


What elements of pokemon battle gameplay are not being included?

By this, I mean things like Low Kick caring about the weight of a pokemon. Pokemon weight is rarely a factor for pokemon moves. And caring about this means printing the weight on every single pokemon card. It'd be better to cut this.

Another thing is weather conditions. When it's raining, water moves get better. When Sunny Day is used, fire moves are better. In this case, these weather conditions also enhance Thunder and Solar Beam, which I think is pretty cool. And there are pokemon abilities (if we end up doing pokemon abilities) that key off of weather conditions. I like when there's synergy like this. For this reason, I WANT to include weather conditions, but if this means there's too much complication for this to be worth it, then I'll cut weather conditions.

Then there's things like whether a move makes contact for those abilities that care about contact. I think "making contact" is also an unnecessary added element. I don't think there's enough excitement around contact to be worth its inclusion.

There might be other elements I'm not mentioning here as well, but it's something I'll consider the ramifications of for each battle gameplay element I come across when choosing moves.

What moves will pretty much never be used?

I'm looking at you, Leer and Growl. Some stat-raising moves like Dragon Dance are awesome. But some suck. And there are other moves, like Scratch, that may pale in comparison to other moves available. When including a certain power level of moves, I'll be sure to keep in mind whether a move is just so outclassed in every way compared to other moves that it shouldn't be included at all.

You don't include Shock in the same set as Lightning Bolt.

Move Along

So, here's my current next steps:
  1. Figure out which signature moves will go on each pokemon
  2. Figure out which moves most pokemon of each type will want to and be able to learn (Thunderbolt on an Electric type)
  3. Include non-signature moves on pokemon that would not create redundancy (or at least lessen it) with actual drafted moves (having Thunderbolt be a drafted card and also as a move on Magnemite and Voltorb)
  4. Put a move on each of enough pokemon cards (inclusive of every type) to be able to simulate a draft (stats not needed right now)
  5. Finish creation of moves to be at least 144 (enough for the guesstimated 50% of moves drafted are used on your pokemon for a full set of four moves each)
  6. Playtest enough drafts (no battles) to get the data to be able to determine the right number of moves that need to be included in a draft and whether the number of applicable moves turns out to be a big problem
Thanks for making the move to read this post. As always, feedback in the form of comments on this post or on via other communication / social media platforms are welcome. =)


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Drafting Pokemon #01: Silph Scope

Pokemon Origins

This year, I'm participating in National Game Design Month - or, NaGa DeMon, for short - like I've tried to succeed at before but didn't. I'm already a day late, so let's get to it.

Goal: Make a Pokemon drafting card game and playtest it with other people at least one time before November is over.

I'm aware I'm using an existing IP and whatever stigma and/or limitations comes with that. I'm unabashedly doing so because completing this project will achieve a game design goal I've never met: finish making a game. I love drafting in tabletop games, I love Pokemon, and I've had a fierce passion for this marriage of a game to become reality for months now. Let's make it happen before the fire goes out.


There are so many aspects of Pokemon, but keeping the scope of the game small is important for success. I'm focusing on: Pokemon battles. Getting gym badges, evolving pokemon with Fire Stones, and hatching eggs need not apply.

So, the following are a set of rules I've defined for what to include in this game, and I'll be going over the reasons for each:

  • Four-player drafting
  • Original 151 pokemon only
  • Later-generation moves allowed
  • Traditional 1-on-1 pokemon battles only
  • No pokemon or moves with Dark or Steel types
  • No EVs, IVs, or pokemon natures
  • No held items or bag items
  • No tracking PP
  • MAYBE no pokemon that have an evolved form
  • MAYBE no pokemon abilities
  • MAYBE no distinction between Physical and Special
"Yeah, but what will it be like?"
The beginning part of this game will be drafting pokemon and battle moves that those pokemon will use. After the drafting is done, players each choose which pokemon to form a team with and which moves will go on which pokemon. The final phase is battling 1-on-1 with one of the players, simulating the feel of battling on the handheld Pokemon games.

Pokemon Adventures

Four-Player Drafting

While I would normally like to allow for a flexible number of players for drafting like in other card games, I think allowing for that flexibility will increase complexity in design work, thus making the scope of this project larger. To keep things simple, we'll keep the number low.

Two players is too few for that drafting dynamic. Three players creates an awkward situation of having a player, when the drafting and "deck construction" is all done, wait for two other players to finish up battling before being able to play. Four players is just right - you can have two concurrent battles and each player has up to three opponents to play against.

Original 151 Pokemon Only

Pokemon currently has over seven hundred unique monsters to choose from. If each pokemon were a card, this is more than enough choices to choose from to include in the drafting card pool. I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere, and I think choosing to include only the first generation of pokemon is a solid move.

When folks are drafting this game, I want them to know for sure what kind of pokemon to expect. If I decided to include select pokemon from various games, I wouldn't want them unsure of whether or not Scizor was included in the drafting card pool since players might be planning ahead with their draft picks for rounding out their pokemon team. Providing a list of all the pokemon that were hand-selected adds some extra logistics that I don't want. It's easiest to say, "Original 151 pokemon is included."

Also, with the release of Pokemon GO and the type of audience I expect will be playing my game, the first generation is even more of a strong choice since they'd resonate most with the players.

Later-Generation Moves Allowed

Even though we're sticking with the original generation of pokemon as the pool of pokemon to choose from, newer moves from later generations will be included. Not all of them, but I see including some of them as necessary.

In Pokemon, there's a gameplay element of having pokemon types and each of those types have strengths and weaknesses when pitted against other types. The thing is, though, the moves that were present in Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue weren't really fleshed out that well to create a good balance of power.

One of Psychic's weaknesses is Bug, and Pin Missile was the best Bug move to use against Psychic, of which Jolteon, a non-Bug pokemon, was the best choice when attempting to take advantage of a super-effective attack - and it doesn't even do as much damage as Jolteon using an Electric attack instead!

The same goes for available Ghost moves to use against Psychic. As an example, Shadow Ball has been a boon in being able to have a great super-effective option against Psychic pokemon.

So, with the restriction of 151 pokemon only, we'll pick and choose moves that will balance out the gameplay with what pokemon types are available among pokemon.

Pokemon anime

Traditional 1-on-1 Pokemon Battles Only

Trying for any other kind of pokemon battle will just increase the complexity of this project for both creating it and for playing it. That's a bad thing. That is all.

No Pokemon or Moves with Dark or Steel Types

This might be a controversial decision, but because I'm deciding to only use the original generation of pokemon, no exceptions, then that means there are NO Dark pokemon available. Sure, we can have Dark moves, but it's potentially a feel-bad when you're drafting Dark moves and realize that you can never achieve the most damage with those moves using a Dark-type pokemon. Yes, this means one less weakness for the notoriously-powerful Psychic type, but that's where the designing comes into play to work with these restrictions.

With removing Dark and Steel types, this does mean that Magnemite will be a pure Electric type and that the move Bite will be a Normal type, like it used it be, instead of the Dark type it was changed into.

No EVs, IVs, or Pokemon Natures

Each individual pokemon on a battling team has a lot of complexity to it. There are stats, but there are actually these hidden values tied to these stats that affect them. And then there's the pokemon nature that yet tilt these stats more. When doing Pokemon battles, caring about this part is NOT capturing the essence of what makes Pokemon battling so much fun. 

Simplifying here is important. The pokemon's stats will be what it says they are on the card.

No Held Items or Bag Items

When participating in Pokemon tournaments, the rules already disallow for using items from your Bag (i.e. using a Super Potion on a Pokemon). As such, the same will be reflected for this card game.

However, a wonderful extra thing a pokemon can have going for it is having a held item. In the regular game, I think this is a great deepening of the gameplay for expanding the possibilities of types of pokemon teams. But, in this game, held items would be a third type of card to draft as well as add extra complexity (while can be good) that isn't needed. If we stripped away held items, we still have a functioning game. So, away with this.

No Tracking PP

Moves in the handheld Pokemon games have a limited number of uses, otherwise known as Power Points, or PP. Including this aspect wouldn't actually add to the fun of battling, would be a burden track logistically, and almost never is significant when actually battling.

Pokemon anime

MAYBE No Pokemon that Have an Evolved Form

What I mean by this is that Raichu would be in the game but Pikachu wouldn't be. I know - a Pokemon game without Pikachu in it. That's cray, right? So cray.

But, really, including a Grimer when there's Muk also available in the drafting sets a precedent for why it should matter that you have the Grimer. I want each game piece to matter. Which I could make matter if, say, you get an "evolutionary bonus" if you drafted both Grimer and Muk, and you can simply stack them and get a better Muk than if you had just drafted Muk by itself.

A reason to NOT disclude pokemon is so that players who have favorite pokemon can enjoy playing with them. Squirtles are awesome, and not seeing one in the draft ever can be a downer.

So... we'll SEE!

MAYBE No Pokemon Abilities

All right, so what I mean by "ability" is this extra gameplay element that a pokemon can have besides its stats and moves. For example, Gengar can know Levitate, which makes it immune to Ground-type moves used against it.

The concern I have is that some abilities trigger out-of-time with choosing moves. Some abilities have timing that are outside of the moment when you are looking through your choices of whether to switch pokemon or use one of your current pokemon's moves. 

Including them can add that exciting extra piece of information on a pokemon card drafting. Currently, if you drafted a pokemon, you might see information for its stats and its strengths and weaknesses (the moves it can learn is actually handled on each individual move card). It seems boring, so a pokemon ability printed on there, it might be more exciting to consider pokemon cards.

There's even an opportunity to have build-around abilities, like Hitmonchan's Iron Fist, which makes you want to draft all the moves that PUNCH!

Pokemon Emerald

MAYBE No Distinction Between Physical and Special

If I included all the stats a pokemon has now, it'd be:
  • HP
  • Attack
  • Defense
  • Special Attack
  • Special Defense
  • Speed
If I removed the distinction between physical and special, it'd look something like:
  • HP
  • Attack
  • Speed
The second one is great for lessening complexity of the game, but it may be lessening the complexity TOO much. Snorlax, for example, would have high HP and Attack and low Speed. There's not much opportunity to finding a weakness here. You just gotta hit hard with a Fighting-type move.

Another drawback is that there might be a lot of work reconfiguring existing Pokemon's stats to look correct. Alakazam is a glass cannon that hits hard with Special Attack, but it might be too weird to take advantage of its high Attack to do a hard hit like Mega Punch.

The original Pokemon games had:
  • HP
  • Attack
  • Defense
  • Speed
  • Special
In this case, both Special Attack and Special Defense are applied in the Special stat. This doesn't really work for Exeggutor who has a high Special Attack but low Special Defense currently.

In the end, I think I'll go with how the stats are now. I just hope that this doesn't cause board complexity and decision paralysis when drafting and playing in battles. We'll see how it goes.

Pokemon official art

That's a TM35

With the stage set with the above limitations, I can get started on the design. As more of the game is defined and more design choices made, these rules may evolve over time to fit the needs of the game or to debunk anything I had assumed before would be a bad or good thing.

Thanks for following, and if you have any feedback, feel free to leave a comment on the social media platform or comment section of your choice.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Having a Good Knight

Art by Jason Chan
Over on Goblin Artisans, this weekend's art challenge is on knights. Five pieces of art were provided for use, though, other knight-related creative commons art can be used.

Here's the challenge prompt:
Hello to you all! This week we re-examine knights!
White Knight and Black Knight have been re-imagined many times over in mtg. Nowadays we do not have protections to mirror those knights!
Choose one of the illustrations and re-imagine what a knight does when it is tied to a specific color.

Knight Life

The very first Knights in Magic have the abilities of first strike and protection. With protection not being an ability that is only supported rarely lately, this begs the question: what makes a Knight a Knight in Magic?

I reviewed many Knight-related Magic cards and have concluded that one or more of the following may be true for any one particular Knight-related Magic card:
  • If the knight or knights depicted within the art each riding a steed, it sometimes means the card's design has bigger power and toughness stats than if the art depicted a singular creature without a mount. For example, Goblin Roughrider is a Goblin creature, but the 3/2 body for a vanilla Goblin only makes sense because it is riding that crazy mount.

  • Knights have vigilance for one or more of a few reasons: 1) they're riding steeds, so they can gallop forward to do an attack and then gallop back to your side to defend you; 2) Knights swore to protect you and are vigilant to not fail in that regard; 3) Knights are great at combat. Truefire Paladin is an example of a steed-less Knight that still has vigilance - so numbers 2 and 3 may apply toward this guy.

  • Knights are great at combat. This overlaps with the last bullet point. One of the expressions of this may be vigilance, as seen above, but it could be one of many combat-related abilities. The "first" expression of this fact was on White Knight and Black Knight having first strike. Later Knights have had vigilance, double strike, and flanking. Sometimes, a block-related keyword is used instead, like battle cry. For these abilities, they can be expressed for different reasons, whether the Knight just has more training in combat, because they're wielding a lance, or they're riding a horse. For example, a Knight depicted riding a horse is reason enough for flanking. In addition to Truefire Paladin above showing off its ability to have both vigilance and first strike (and without a horse - what a badass!), Femeref Knight is an example of Knight showing off its multiple awesome-at-warfare abilities but not necessarily a larger body for horse reasons.

  • Sometimes, a Knight is a Knight only because it rides a steed. But this is useful because some mounts have flying which in turn enables creature types that wouldn't normally be able to fly to be able to fly. How else are you going to get flying cat people like Leonin Skyhunter, especially when white is the piece of the color pie that is supposed to be great at both creatures and flying? Well, besides making comical, makeshift hang-gliders like Goblin Sky Raider does.

  •  Knights are sworn to protect us from and destroy evil. Now, remember that "evil" does not mean the color black. Evil is whatever attacks your values. So each color's Knight is going to consider different things as evil. White Knight had protection from black. Silver Knight has protection from red. These are pure expressions of how white considers what red and black do as evil and are devoted to that cause. Granted, white is really good at going after evil. See Pentarch Paladin, Tivador of Thorn, Fiendslayer Paladin, and Lightwielder Paladin. Lastly, renown and exalted are other examples of how Knights may care to head into combat to destroy the evil that is your opponent. Phyrexian Crusader is a good example of this devotion to destroy evil. It eschews the fact that black usually hates on green and white in favor of the fact that the mirrans are aligned mostly in white and red, so this Phyrexian has no problem hating on black's ally color, red.

  •  Knights are great at rallying the troops. Literally rallying in the case of Hero of Goma Fada but this is expressed in other ways as well, such as with Kabira Vindicator boosting your armies and doing nothing else. Hero of Bladehold gets bystanders who might not otherwise have decided to fight to jump into the fray as 1/1 Soldiers. Wilt-Leaf Liege and the rest of the Liege cycle are excellent examples of how a Knight can purely be about rousing your armies and not expressing its Knight-ness via other ways such as first strike or vigilance.

 Bonus: some red-aligned troop rallying:

  •  Knights have status. Well, it's probably how they got their horse or their excellent armor or was able to be afforded good training in combat. Or, in Attended Knight's case, you have a Squire.

 Knight in Gale


With the above established, I sought to design a Knight but which color do I choose? I chose to go with the color that hasn't been as fleshed out with Knight execution: green. Green has a whopping 1 creature that is monocolored, Gladehart Cavalary.

Moreover, this card was just released today to the public, in Oath of the Gatewatch! Welcome to the Knight Club, mono-green. Notice that this Knight is expressing its Knight traits by having a large body and by supporting its troops.

Besides, green's knight art for this Weekend Art Challenge has a moose and that's adorable. Check out the art I'm working with:

Art by blayrd
If you've followed my Daily Card Redesign series in the past, you'll know that I often like to match my card designs with what's going on in the art, so I'm going to let that influence me in addition to coming up with a design that also fits what I envision a green knight should currently be or do design/gameplay-wise. A confluence of both those things.

To Knight


Now, expressing all of a Knight's aspects as pointed out above would be nearly impossible, I'd imagine. It's all right to just focus on one or two. This happens with any sort of concept, like the idea of Goblins.

Goblins are portrayed in Magic as being dumb, like with the flavor texts of Goblin Piker and Skirk Fire Marshal. Goblins are expendable, as seen in Goblin Sledder and Goblin Grenade. They also like to tease or play pranks, shown in the cards Jeering Instigator and Goblin Battle Jester. Lastly, they tinker (read: poke, prod, and eventually blow up) with artifacts, like with Goblin Welder and "Goblin Archaeologist."

I'm not sure there's ever been a Goblin depicted as dumb, expendable, pranking, and tinkering all at once. But that sounds like a fun challenge for another time. Anyway, back to Knights - we only need to show Knight-ness in at least one way for this green Knight.

The most important thing to do for this assignment, though, is to create a Knight that might be lumped in with category of Knights that White Knight and Black Knight are - what Knights used to be. Blood Knight was a later addition to this "grouping" of classic Knights. Re-imagine and design like that for nowadays. So, we'll examine what aspects of Knights above that would remind us of the classic Knight design of White Knight and Black Knight.

Knight Vision


White Knight and Black Knight exemplified qualities of "swearing to destroy evil" (protection) as well as its ability to be adept in combat via first strike. This "destroy evil" thing intrigues me, so we'll go with that.

I did some brainstorming off-screen here, and it's a messy (but awesome) process sometimes, and I landed with caring about abilities that represent the enemy colors but are shared with green as well. The same applies for every other color in this cycle. I'm only mocking up green, but here's the text form of what each color would care about:

  • White: lifelink, first strike
  • Blue: hexproof, prowess
  • Black: deathtouch, lifelink
  • Red: first strike, prowess
  • Green: deathtouch, hexproof
So, for each color, the Knight would have those abilities (not bad, for each creature) and then would not able to be blocked by any creatures that have either of those abilities. We're not doing protection anymore, and I wanted to find a simple perhaps-combat-oriented way to show the hate so that it could still prevail against this "evil." I chose "can't be blocked" as the way the Knight prevails and the "evil" to be represented by the abilities its enemies also share.

You might say it's ironic that this creature can't block an opponent's copy of this Knight. Perhaps, as a show of respect to each other's devotion, they don't hurt each other. And what about fellow green creatures that have hexproof and deathtouch - perhaps this Knight's mastery means it knows how to evade such creatures that shares its traits.

Lastly, coming back to the art, you might be wondering why a moose-riding, unassuming Knight can do hexproof and deathtouch. If you look more closely at the art, there's magical, glowing green vines surrounding the Knight. These vines can restrain and choke creatures to death as well as wrap around the Knight and protect him or her from spells. =)

Knight Cap

So, here's my design:

I decided to have "card name during development" fun and did a double pun for its title. "Jaded", like with the color green; and "Vineguard", as in "vanguard", because he or she is a Knight. But has vines surrounding him or her.

Anyway, so, a black Knight in this cycle would have deathtouch and lifelink and it would also say "CARDNAME can't be blocked by creatures with deathtouch or lifelink."

I also made this a Human instead of Elf (seems dressed like a Human, anyway) since Humans can be any of the five colors, and that'd be fitting to mirror the creature types for the cycle as "Human Knight."

O.K., that's it! What do you think?

Concerns I have: I know, it costs 4 mana and that sucks, but I think I had to cost it that high based on how much it should cost to get hexproof, let alone deathtouch, onto the table. Also, I wonder if this Knight would end up being un-fun to play with if you just left this forever on your side as a good threatening blocker (like you do with your Deathtouch Snakes and Rats). Then again, protecting you IS Knight-like. In the end, it should feel fun, but I haven't playtested this card.

Also, not sure if I got the order of abilities of "deathtouch" and "hexproof" correct along with the rest of the templating. I THINK so, but not sure.