Friday, September 17, 2010

Day -12: Common Cycle

For those of you just tuning in, I'm preparing for the Great Designer Search 2 (announced here) by going through the challenges that participants went through in the first Great Designer Search. This submission of cards is the common cycle for the three five-card cycles challenge.

The common cycle needed to be simple and easy to understand while not being too swingy in Limited. I chose to design a new keyword mechanic for this cycle as an easy way keep them interesting, and I hadn't done one for the uncommon or rare cycles. Because this new keyword mechanic is supposed to permeate all sorts of cards in the imaginary set they're from and not just these five commons, I needed to have the five cards to apply the keyword in some way, but in one of the most basic ways. Here's what resulted:

It's Friday Night Magic, and you're in a Limited game where you're in topdeck mode. You have a few creatures out, but you really need to draw a bomb. You take your turn and draw a... 2/2 bear. Great. Oh, wait a minute. This one has boost. Most likely, it's going to be at least a 3/3 with trample. Hooray-ish!

Part of the restriction of this challenge is that an effect may be used on no more than one card. I had a blue card in the enchantment cycle that granted flying, so that was ruled out for this guy. First strike and vigilance was used in the red card and white card of that same cycle, respectively. I didn't want to use lifelink because of how this creature's power is variable and this card might become too swingy for Limited. That leaves protection (of the common creature keyword abilities for white). So, why not?

Another spin on the common blue large serpent

I used Nether Horror for reference on power level. Traded a point of power and added a drawback in exchange for having boost.

Even making this guy a 0/1, I'm still nervous whether this is overpowered. I changed its creature type from "Goblin Warrior" to "Human Warrior" just to make sure that Goblins wouldn't abuse this too much because of the nature of the creature type.

So, there's my cycle. Finally, here's the third version of one of the cards from my rare cycle of cards, thanks to the responses of MTG Color Pie and my friend Josh.

Up next, mythic rares. After that, I finally move on to the next challenge. I gotta pick up the pace if I want all this done before September 29th!



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day -14: Sixteen Servings of Pie

At the end of his article last Monday, Mark Rosewater confirmed that the Great Designer Search 2 will have a written test followed by a multiple choice test.

Perhaps you want to practice by answering last year's essay test. Though, I imagine the subject matter of most of the questions this year will wildly different from last year. At least, if you don't know the answer to any of those questions, go ahead and figure out your answer. It'll be good for your understanding of Magic. Either you're reinforcing what you know or exploring something you never thought about before. Get the blood flowing and working for when you do answer GDS2's questions.

As for me, I'm rereading all the color pie philosophy articles by Mark Rosewater. There's one for every color and color pairing. That makes for fifteen articles. Oh, yeah. Then, the embodiment of the absence of color: artifacts. So, that's sixteen. It's important to know the color pie, and I believe these are good resources for learning about each individual part of the pie.

I'm also reading MTG Color Pie's take on the color pie in his MTG Color Pie Identity Project. I'm reading it because I believe it's useful to see others' views on things. As you consider others' two cents, it only solidifies your own, making them that much closer to darksteel cents. Or something.

And then there's these Magic Design Seminar articles I happen to have bookmarked. Supposed to help you design Magic cards better. I think. I need to refresh my memory, see?

Of course, there's a bunch of material everywhere that isn't on this list of stuff that would help you. But, what's listed below is what I'm using to help myself. You can, too, if you like.

Anyway, here's the links:

Great Designer Search Written Exam and Multiple Choice Test

Magic Design Seminars

Color Pie Philosophy

As usual, I have revisions to a couple of cards from my last submission of card designs. The Pulverize Progress card was bah-roken with the land destruction effect in there. And the Memory-Made Mantis card was only changed to feel more flavorful. These were a result of MTG Color Pie's helpful criticism. And, no, that's not why I mentioned his Color Pie Experiment articles earlier.

Technically, it's "mantises", but I'd rather not change the card name.

With the way the mana effect is done, you'll never get more mana than you started out with before you cast this spell. Either X will be too small, or the countered spell's mana cost will be too small. The most bang for your buck that you can get is two mana less than what you paid when you cast this spell. I think that's legit.



Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day -15: Rare Cycle

Here's my rare cycle submission in response to this challenge from the last Great Designer Search. I looked over carefully the requirements of the test to make sure whether or not they specified that the cards had to be monocolored. I didn't see any such rule, thus, I went ahead with my idea for four-color cards, each card in the cycle having a missing color.

But, these aren't like the Nephilim cycle. I used hybrid mana symbols to allow for greater flexibility in what colors to use for the spells. (For example, a (W/U)(B/R) cost can be paid with WB, WR, or UR) Also, I decided to make them X spells. And, they had to be instants because of my simulation of the challenge.

One challenge of having these restraints is to have card effects that, no matter what colors were used, still matched up to what those colors can do according to the color pie. The first decision I made was pairing ally colors in the hybrid mana symbols. Then, for each hybrid mana symbol, I needed to know what both colors had in common so that no matter what color was chosen, it'll still be O.K. For example, white and blue both share the flicker effect (though, in this list, it's all white cards) as seen in the cards Turn to Mist and Mistmeadow Witch. I did use the flicker effect on one of the cards in the cycle, in fact. So, I turned to Gatherer to find all the hybrid cards for each ally-color pairing to find out what each color did to get a list of effects I could do for each color pair.

Another challenge was to have effects that accommodated the scalability of the X-ness of these spells. But let's see the cards already:

Rare Instant Tight Cycle
(Note: I decided that having the same mana cost and the same X component with four-color hybrid shenanigans meant this could count as a tight cycle.)

I believe this is the weakest card of the cycle, but I could be wrong. This is the card I used the flicker effect on.. For the black/red part, in case you didn't get the throwback from the title, I chose the common effect seen in the card Scar. There's synergy here in that you could save your own creatures from the -1/-1 counters being placed on them. 

However, there's two variables here (at least): how many creatures of your own can you save and how many -1/-1 counters can be placed on each creature. I solved this, which happens to also temper the possibility of this being too powerful, by requiring you to flicker your opponents' creatures as a meter for how many counters to place. (Those -1/-1 counters are permanent, after all.)

Both blue and black do milling, and I copied Giantbating's placement of red and green creature tokens (except those were temporary, and I made my token permanent). However, I didn't want a Giant creature token, so among the sea of many red/green hybrid cards that had Goblins and Giants, I found Giant Solifuge, an Insect. Perfect!

Again, there's two variables: The amount of milling and how big the creature could be. I didn't want to be boring and tie the X value to each effect (only two cards in this cycle do this), so, as you can see, the milled cards' mana symbols were incorporated. Besides, I need the two different mechanics to work together to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts (which was one of the criteria that they were judging on for this challenge). In this case, the reason for the milling mechanic is that it's an insect manifested from the memories of a planeswalker.

So, how big does the insect normally get? Well, I only did a rough estimation, so I figured that about two-thirds of the cards revealed will be nonlands. And, of those cards, you'll get around three mana symbols on average. So, on average, if you paid 5 total mana, you'll get a 3/3. But, I could be way off.

Yes, the flavor is you eating the creature. But, it's for nourishment! This one's the most "boring" card as dealing damage and gaining life is quite obvious for their black/red and green/white color pairs. But, they're perfect to go together since the effects mirror each other. 

There are existing cards like Death Grasp, Drain Life, and Heat Ray that are similar to this card. Let's compare with Death Grasp. 

It costs the same amount of mana, but you straight up gain the life. What's with that? Well, that's because it's a sorcery. This one's an instant, so something's gotta give. So, in exchange for being an instant, Loathsome Lunch can only target creatures. And in exchange for being flexible in the colors that could be spent on this spell, it has a condition for whether you can gain that life.

Heat Ray is an easy comparison in that it also does X damage to creatures, it's an instant, and you also pay a red to do it. So, obviously, paying an extra mana means you get the benefit of another effect. Hooray, it's still balanced. And then there's Drain Life, but I think you get it by now.

This card counters the way it does because white and blue both have counterspells that do the "lapse effect". The other ability, destroying lands, stumps the opponent's mana base. 

So, what happens here is a three-way wonderfulness of blocking the opponent from progressing. There's stopping the spell temporarily, there's replacing their next draw with that same card, and then there's the possibility that they won't be able to cast that spell again because of the lost lands. Hooray!

But, destroying lands is serious business. That's why it's half of X, rounded down. So, to destroy two lands, you'll have to pay six mana. That's like Rain of Salt. Except, you know, this spell is better. But, in my defense, Lavaball Trap costs 8 for an instant, but it also does 4 damage to each creature. Last I checked, that's more than the two extra mana spent to get this additional effect. Which narrows down the land destruction being pretty much O.K. I know the fact that you could scale the spell with X means the card should have a bit less power, but it's fine. I'm just "pushing the power level" in this case, if anything.

This one's "interesting decision" comes with when to cast this card. You could cast it during your turn to gain unblockable beefed creatures (possibly), or you could cast it during your opponent's turn as a combat trick and get some card advantage (possibly).

I included the "at random" clause because I didn't want the opponent to choose what benefits you get. They'll always choose the worst one for you. Luckily, revealing cards at random seems to be perfectly O.K., anyway.

So, that's all the cards. On a side note, I think of my card names like fancy playtest names. They're not something like "Insect Mill" or "Counterspell Land Destruction", but neither do they seem to be finalized card names. That's O.K. They're not important, but I still try hard, for some reason. Somebody slap me or something.

Two cycles left: common and mythic.



Day -15: Episode III: Revenge of the Uncommons

Yes, I've recreated the uncommon cycle for the second time because I was bothered enough by the criticism of the version 2.0 cards. Instead of being "too bad", they're too powerful. I knew their power was beefed, but things such as mono-red taking advantage of just the red enchantment hitting for 3 every turn with mountains, it didn't make me feel good. That's too powerful. And the same sense of power goes with the other enchantments. I'd say the black one is the weakest.

So, I lowered the power/toughness boosting, (I even took it away completely from blue.) I added a cost to the upkeep activations, and I increased the regeneration cost for the green enchantment. It didn't take me long to make these adjustments It's easier to change the cards since the design part is now locked in, and it's just the development part of adjusting the values to make them more balanced.

I would tell you that this is the last time I'll change these uncommons, but given how I said that same thing for my second versions, I'm going to not say anything. Just in case.

Don't worry. I'm not pushover when it comes to my own designed cards. I just have listened to criticism and taken it into consideration and determined that it had merit. So, this is my response:

So, for mono-red, now if they pay the the upkeep cost, they'll be spending a 'R' mana, and sending in a Mountain card. That's sort of like a Shock, right? And Shocks aren't like Lightning Bolts when it comes to racing the opponent to deal 20 points of damage before running out of gas or the opponent stabilizing. Opposing creatures with three toughness suddenly give 2/1 Mountains a run for their money. Now, you gotta have an external source (most likely a card) to help solve the problem of that blocker.

Hopefully, I've found the middle ground here, and it's not too powerful nor too bad (It's definitely not something to laugh at anymore. If anything, it might still be too powerful.).

My rare cycle will be posted either today (double post!) or tomorrow.



Monday, September 13, 2010

Day -16: Uncommon Recycle

So, my initial submission of cards for the uncommon cycle was a disaster. While I was aware of the Genju cycle of land auras, I had failed to notice the Zendikon cycle. This was a mistake. As a designer, I should know Magic history. I didn't bother to do my research for my land auras, and it bit me in the butt. Going over the Zendikon cycle, I learned these things:
  • Enchanted lands being destroyed sucks. Thus, a way to counteract this card disadvantage is a plus and encourages players to use land auras. Otherwise, it better be pretty awesome.
  • My land auras are WEAK. A potential 2-for-1 vulnerability, and the biggest a land can become is a 3/3? Even if it's got regeneration, that doesn't mean much more than an annoying blocker. And other things. But, still doesn't quite cut the cheese.
  • Problem 1: Card disadvantage vulnerability. Solution: I changed the auras to become regular enchantments. Now, when a land dies, the enchantment survives. And vice versa. AND, you can still have another land take over as another man land. Also, this solution is unique from both the Zendikons and the Genjus.
  • Problem 2: Weak bonus effects. Solution: Instead of making each respective land become a certain power and toughness creature, I moved the power/toughness granting to the global ability (where it grants to every creature land). So, every single land can not only gain a keyword ability, but also get buffed. The more enchantments you have, the bigger every single creature land is. Also, I costed these cards a bit more aggressively. No enchantment costs more than three.
By the way, this was all because of my friend Grant pointing out how bad they were and asking whether I had seen the Zendikon cycle. Thanks, buddy!

So, here are the new and improved cycle of uncommons. And if these versions don't cut it, then that's O.K., this time. I think. Anyway:

I like how the white enchantment is yet another variation on the white weenie that costs W. That white enchantment reminds me of Plated Sliver. I also made sure that the buffs all ended up being easier to remember when you had all the enchantments out. The white bonus to toughness balances the red bonus to power.

Making this mistake makes me doubt myself as someone with the talent to win this competition. But, I know it's just inner demon stuff. I've gotta be confident that I can win this. And that I don't make the same mistake twice.

The rare cycle is coming up real soon. One rare card left to finish. Then I gotta come up with clever card names because I would feel uncomfortable otherwise.