Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day -6: Picture This

These cards are in response to the challenge "Picture This" from the first Great Designer Search. To summarize, the challenge was simulating the situation of designing cards to fill in holes so late in development that all the art is already in. So, in addition to designing ten cards that each need to meet specific requirements, it had to match one of ten pieces of art provided.

So, here are the ten cards:

White (uncommon)
We need an answer to all the token making in the environment. Be subtle.

Clerics from Onslaught block are surrounding a fighting-type guy. This guy looks uncomfortable among his peers. I thought of him feeling ashamed, then tied the "flicker" effect to feel like he took a temporary leave of absence. And, of course, tokens cease to exist when they leave the battlefield.

My one concern is whether the fact that all tokens have the same name is too obscure for enough players to use this as a token-hoser.

White (rare)
We're looking for a weird Johnny-style enchantment

In addition to a guy in very white civilized clothes, there's a zombie in the background. This implies that there's some tango-ing with non-white creatures. One way to explain this is that these are the enemy creatures.

The challenge for the player is being able to keep up life-gain and managing the number of creatures you control to maximize your chances of triggering this ability. You'd pretty much have to build your deck around this card to accomplish this. Go, Johnny, go!

To make it feel more like random creatures from your opponent's army are swayed by your diplomacy skills, I had the opponent choose the creature. And it's more interesting that way. Bringing over the best creature from one side to the other can turn the tables quite a bit and the focus on this enchantment then fades away.

Blue (common)
We need a sorcery. No card filtering or drawing. No bounce (aka returning cards to hand).

This card shows the mage discharging two streams of magic. And there's blue hues. Thus, the two targets in this blue card. The mechanic here is like Sleep, but I wanted to tap into other card types to further explore the "sleep" effect. Of course, since it can affect noncreatures, the flavor was changed to simple holding magic. It's "nonland" to prevent players from keeping an opponent's mana base tied down.

Blue (rare)
We need a creature. Something splashy for Timmy.

Go, go, Shapeshifter lord! In the art, instead of showing the "real guy" and the "fake guy", it's actually the Doppelganger of the Urn (so, he's fake) passing on his copy to another Shapeshifter (great, another fake!).

Black (uncommon)
Make an aura you want to put on your own creatures.

I'm a little wary of whether the restrictions on this card aren't severe enough. First of all, your most expensive card will have to decide between being used for whatever it was summoned for (attacking, for example) and tutoring. Also, I wanted to make sure that whatever creature was enchanted really did feel like the superior one, as depicted in the art. Secondly, it's vulnerable being on a creature.

Black (rare)

The idea here is that you're given the gift of storytelling, entertainment, and humor (a jester's gift), but the "Fool's" part shows that it comes with just the opposite (Fool's Curse). The gift is also a curse. The curse slowly is killing the enchanted creature, which means that the zombie-looking guy used to not be such a zombie-looking guy.

Also, the enchanted creature is "entertaining" creatures from participating in combat (the crowd in the background), thus the exiling. It's not until the entertainer passes away that the creatures remember that they've got a duty to attend to. I would have put "can't attack or block" instead of exiling using joke counters, but that's more white. So, I took a page from the "faceless" book, and temporarily exiled them.

Red (common)
Instant or sorcery. No direct damage or destruction (artifact or land).

The red background and the emotions depicted on these faces tilted toward a red card for me. This card design is a little unorthodox is very much designed "top down". The moment here is being filled with rage after being informed that a fellow comrade has died.

Red (uncommon)
Creature. Want a build around me for draft (aka something that will encourage players to go down a path or paths he or she wouldn't normally had they not drafted this card early; examples of this type of card are Lightning RiftMark of Eviction andMomentary Blink).

The art depicts an Orgg. I love Orggs. Also, there are only four Orggs in Magic, and the most recent one printed was actually a reprint of the original Orgg in Time Spiral block. Wizards of the Coast, print another Orgg, please! But, anyway, yeah.

All Orggs previously have been rare and big. This has to be an uncommon. And uncommon red creatures are not typically 6/6. What to do? Bam, a baby Orgg, But, it has metal on its skin. Like a karate chop solution, the title explains that the metal is soldered on from melting down artifacts. We've got our build-around: artifacts!

And, finally, it's be sad to have your ever-growing Orgg be chump blocked for a while, or even killed by enough creatures. Thus, Intimidate is there! Besides, who WOULDN'T run from a monster with four metal arms?

Green (common)
Creature. Something that costs four or more mana.

This one was a toughie. The images here don't scream "green". For this art, the green cape hues, the hand-crafted weapons he's wielding, and the morph creature husk (I made it seem like it's just an artifact. It's hard to tell, so I could get away with it to the untrained eye.) were justifications for this being in green.

So, destroying an artifact, check. But, it needed something more. We already have Viridian Shaman for ETB artifact destruction (I'm hoping that this guy is fine at common depending on which environment he comes from), so I looked to the art for clues. He looked like he was surfing that explosion, so I thought of how he was riding along with a spell being cast to help him to his destination (landing on an artifact at instant speed!).

Green (rare)
Non-creature spell. Green's lacking in "wow" factor (aka something that will impress the player by how different it is).

The trick here was that instead of making it seem like that metallic object is breaking itself open to shoot out a beam of colorful destruction on a dude, you make it seem like that you broke the artifact yourself and caused it to rupture a beam of colorful hate from within itself. You just turned a metallic object on the enemy's side into your own weapon.

Since it has all the colored rings, I chose green for this since green's the color that is most in tune with dealing with all five colors, being the land color and mana-fixing color. And because it's a green spell, I needed you to depend on land types and having the different land types allow you access to those color's effects. 

I like how it's flexible for whatever green/X-color deck you want to make.

So, that's that. Now, to move on to the next challenge, which should be my most challenging, yet: Un-cards.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day -8: Mythic Cycle

As you regular readers know, here's the final, optional cycle I've decided to do for the Great Designer Search 1's "Gimme Five" challenge.

For this cycle, I knew I wanted to do "big" spells. When I say "big", I mean spells like the the Decrees, Myojins, and the epic spells. That's why these cards cost so much. I don't want to give the impression that I think that "bigger is better" whenever I attempt to design something mythic.

Anyway, since I did two loose cycles and one tight cycle for the other rarities, I decided it would be fair to put the constraint on myself of a tight cycle. The types have to be sorcery, too, as another restraint (I haven't done the sorcery type, yet.) All the mana costs have to be the same, and there must be at least one thing they all do similar yet differently. And that was... choosing to do emblems. Here's a refresher on the rules for emblems.

Whoa. That's serious business. An emblem can't be touched by the opponent! And only planeswalkers give that! The ramifications, Brad! RAMIFICATIONS! It's O.K. I created these rules for myself when designing these emblem-giving sorceries:

  • The emblem can't directly negatively affect the opponent. (Such as: "Your opponents skip their main phases.") The spell's effect can be negative for them, but not the permanent emblem effect. This is so that the game is still fun and doesn't feel "unfair." There are no answers to emblems unlike enchantments with cards like Naturalize.
  • The emblem can't be used as a drawback for a "big" spell upside effect. (For example: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 5 life.") This is because the cycle is supposed to sell sets. And having a drawback on what is supposed to be a really cool spell doesn't have as much appeal as a spell that's all upside (in terms of effects, not counting the mana cost and other costs). Sure, a spell with a drawback does more for less of a cost is great, but the audience that would love the spell (or go buy cards from that set) becomes more narrow. So, it has to all be big and positive, even if the cost goes higher.
  • Lastly, the player has to work for it. The planeswalkers that give you emblems, like Elspeth, have to endure surviving all the way to their "ultimate" ability before giving out an emblem. It takes three to four turns to achieve this as long as they're unhindered among Elspeth, Koth, and Venser (those last two are from Scars of Mirrodin)
So, here's what I came up with:

Tight Sorcery Mythic Rare Cycle

This card is Final Judgment at eight mana (as a trade-off for the extra ability). This spell's one of the more straight-forward ones. 

As you'll see with the rest of the cycle, I ended up making the emblems do something once a turn for the rest of the game for you. However, I didn't want to do the upkeep because, by that time, after casting three spells, you won't be able to immediately reap the benefits of your hard work. Also, a few cards work better with "beginning of the end step" instead of "upkeep" triggers for their effects. 

Finally, the "Judgment" part of the name is both a nod toward Final Judgment (and Day of Judgment, inadvertently) and an aspect of a person. "Judgment" feels like it deals with the white slice of the color pie.

And here's the other straight-forward card. There's Decree of Annihilation's cycling, Bust of Boom/Bust, and removing a divinity counter from Myojin of Infinite Rage that all do the same effect. For the emblem effect, it was a little tricky to not make it feel green to get lands back from the graveyard (or to fetch for 'em), since I wanted the player to be able to recover if he or she worked for the emblem, but then I remembered Fossil Find. Hooray! Color pie intact.

The spell effect compares with Distorting Wake. Of course, if there weren't an emblem clause, this card would be strictly worse, but because it's there, I felt that I had to make the card so that, even though Distorting Wake has an advantage of being variable, it has one less target than Distorting Wake when 5UUU is paid. Four's still a lot, though.

While this effect is mostly on white cards, it doesn't mean green can't have it as evident with Fracturing Gust. O.K., so this one might be underpowered compared to its brethren when casted without getting the emblem. However, once that emblem is obtained, the potential is great. Depending on the deck(s), this could either suck or be totally "bah-roken". I feel like it'll tilt more toward the former, but it depends on the environment. Your friends' artifact deck won't like this. Decks built around cards from the Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin blocks (maybe not poison) would probably not like this either. As for everything else, I'm just not sure. Poor Green. It's still not easy being you.

This is the one I'm most excited and nervous about. This just might be purely broken. I know, I know, I should do playtesting of these cards. But, my whole Magic collection is in storage! So, what am I gonna do? Make a 60-card deck of index cards? Or... use certain programs that let you play Magic online without it being Magic Online? Craziness! (*cough*)

Anyway, with the cards in this cycle, white got rid of creatures. Red destroyed lands. And green dealt with artifacts and enchantments. That leaves one permanent type not affected: planeswalkers. I didn't want to create a card that specifically said it destroyed planeswalkers since it didn't feel right. Planeswalkers are powerful wizards, man! However, black has a couple cards in the form of Aether Snap and Vampire Hexmage that indirectly deal with planeswalkers. So, sweet. The fifth permanent type is not safe. 

I have no qualms with killing planeswalkers as I hate seeing how most of these cards are all upside, even in terms of their mana cost. This leads to prices soaring and many decks just needing to include them because they're so good, and they're mythic rare, to boot. Ugh. Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that there are planeswalker cards. Just how it all turned out has gone amiss in some way. ...I'm going on a tangent. Let's get back to the card.

So, dealing only with planeswalkers, what we have happening here is sapping every planeswalker opposing you and yours being fueled, if you have at least one, and if you got the emblem. Parasitism is black, indeed. For those of you that think the emblem might only be useful for that one single turn, don't forget that using any "minus" abilities on your planeswalker during your turn means you get to put them back on your planeswalker at end of turn. You could even put them on another planeswalker!

Yes, I am aware that if you end up doing the work to achieve this emblem and getting Sorin to 8 (He's gotta stay alive.), you pretty much win the game. But, that's a bunch of work needed to accomplish this. And you should win, then. Just like with any infinite combos involving Mindslaver.

And, yes, other ultimates will end up going off easily, too. If you get the emblem. And if you control a planeswalker with your opponent controlling one, too, with a decent amount of loyalty counters. Or if you control two planeswalkers. Good luck with that, sir or ma'am.

...Let's not forget those +1/+1, -1/-1, charge, and other types of counters you could redistribute! Wee.

Whew. Second challenge done. Eight days or so left until the Great Designer Search 2 begins. I've got my work cut out for me if I want to accomplish doing all the challenges of the Great Designer Search 1 before the sequel begins. So... HERE I GO!