Saturday, January 5, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #5: Deathgazer

Today's killed-late-in-development card is... *clicks Random Card button in Gatherer* ...Deathgazer!

Finally, I get to replace a card that is a rarity other than common! Oh, how I'm relishing this opportunity. Its name must be between Dark Ritual and Deepwood Ghoul, alphabetically.

So, this card depicts a lizard-looking thing that kills creatures that even so much as gets into a fight with it. Kinda like a ...Greater Basilisk!

But the intention of Deathgazer was pretty much to be just like a Basilisk. But a baby one. I mean, its name is Deathgazer! Except, a smaller Basilisk. Like a Lesser Basilisk? 

But all Basilisks are green! I don't think it'd be so bad if there were a black Basilisk. 

I'd love to see a Lesser Basilisk, since there isn't already one, yet. But if I do this, it wouldn't actually be designing a new card - just a flavor change! So I won't do this.

Since I want to design a new card that isn't the same "basically deathtouch-ing" creature, and because Basilisks have a tendency to kill people instantly, I can't make this guy a Basilisk, who wouldn't be gazing people to death, as Basilisks do. It's gotta be a Lizard still.

I then looked up what Lizards do - and they have a tendency to grow bigger or regenerate and such. Sometimes they'll be deadly, like a Toxic Iguanar. Very lizard-y things.

I looked up all the black cards in Mercadian Masques and noted each of their effects. Man, there are a heck of a lot of discard effects. I found that there are already four cards that regenerate, and five cards that bring creatures back from the graveyard (to hand/batttlefield/etc). Too many for me to add yet another one of!

I found, though, a couple applicable effects that aren't on so many cards in Mercadian Masques: fear and life drain/loss. There's already an uncommon creature with fear, though.

Since there are so many discard effects, and there's room to do some life loss... how about the Megrim / Liliana's Caress effect but with a creature body? That hasn't been done before!

And thus, Decaymind Gorger (I'm not satisfied with this name, but it'll do.) is born! And in Mercadian Masques format (notice the old wording of "discards a card from his or her hand" rather than the modern wording of "discards a card").

I like how his big lips hint at the fact that this guy likes to chew. Thus, he gorges. And I have no idea why my Magic Set Editor program displays power/toughness in that font for the old frame.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Holey Design: Searing Blaze

Random Card button of Gatherer, go!

O.K.! This card first appeared in Worldwake, so I'll be replacing it within that set. Like I did with Sparring Collar, I'll be replacing a card that's part of a cycle.

The only restrictions beside the usual "it's been killed late in development" restrictions is being an instant/sorcery with landfall.

Well, well. I'm replacing the staple of direct damage with something else. I'll force myself to do something beside direct damage, but it'll be tough working with that image of stuff exploding. Well, there's land destruction. Heh, land destruction with landfall.

But, really, you can't do land destruction like this without either making it broken or unelegant (tacking on an extra effect).

What else can spew red, fire-y stuff? ...Oh! Mana! Got it! Specifically, the "ritual" cards that give a temporary mana boost. Here's a few of 'em:

I've got a wedding to go to today, so I'll keep my "stream of consciousness" style of writing for these blog posts brief. Actually, this is perhaps for the best for future posts period. Bite-sized daily posts, go!

Since landfall is the condition that needs to be met in order for the player to get more mana, I don't want to design one that costs too low - because then the player wouldn't even be struggling to try to hit landfall. They're just playing their lands, anyway. I'm figuring that turns 1 through 3 are all when lands will be played. The fourth land and beyond is where I believe the player will experience that moment where they may or may not hit their land drop to trigger landfall.

Since players want mana no matter what, you need to cost the card higher to control the bonus. Groundswell isn't correct to play on turn 1, most of the time. As such, it has no problem being costed at 1. These ritual cards definitely are fantastic at any time you play them except until you already have enough mana.

Mysteries of the Deep is a perfect example of what I mean - players always want cards, so they're going to be always playing this spell as early as they can. So you gotta push up the cost to make landfall meaningful and/or keep that bonus in check.

So, I'm going to make a turn 4 ritual!

To be "safe," I made sure it was at sorcery speed. Note that these ritual cards tend to produce mana that's less than double the cost of the spell. So, this one costs four, so producing eight would be worrisome. And I was still able to have wiggle room for different amounts of mana output to accommodate landfall and still make this card "worth it" without the landfall.

And the name fits alphabetically to accommodate collector number! All right, peace!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hole in One: Bog-Strider Ash

"Hole in One" - another attempt at coming up with a name for this daily Magic: The Gathering card design series. I like it worse than my previous attempt! ...Well, the show must go on.

Today, the Random Card button of Gatherer has given me Bog-Strider Ash!

Scenario: this card from Lorwyn has been killed late in development, and we need a replacement design that uses the same art, is the same color, and has a name that falls between Battlewand Oak and Briarhorn alphabetically!

The first thing I did was search landwalkers in Lorwyn. As it turns out, this is the only creature with swampwalk. There's a single creature for forestwalk and a single creature for mountainwalk. There's no plainswalk, as there often isn't. Blue has multiple creatures with islandwalk, as it usually does.

So, I'm not going to remove swampwalk. I could do a variation where swampwalk is granted as part of a triggered ability or something. But looking at the other cards in the set, the other landwalk abilities were given in the same fashion as with Bog-Strider Ash. So, I'm going to leave it as such.

The Goblin part, though, shows something that several cards in Lorwyn do. Bog-Strider Ash has a different creature type from itself matter. I looked for other cards where a creature type mentioned in the rules text is different from what is found in the type line, and the numbers for each creature type vary. "Goblin" appears on four such cards while "Faerie" only appears on two.

Because of the fact that Goblins already have so many different creatures caring about them, I won't feel beholden to caring about Goblins when I redesign Bog-Strider Ash. Also, it helps that, in the art for Bog-Strider Ash, you can barely make out a Goblin in the background. So, it doesn't need to be included. Just look at the art of Goldmeadow Stalwart or Kithkin Greatheart.

I checked the mana costs of other cards in the set. For every single converted mana cost for each color from one through five, there is at least one common card that does not require two colored mana in the mana cost. Incidentally, if I change Bog-Strider Ash's mana cost to anything other than 3G, then this fact becomes untrue. The two other four-costed cards both require two green mana! This just won't do. Thus, I will keep the mana cost of this card slot 3G.

Next, I checked out stats of swampwalkers at 3G. Seems like the standard is 3/3. So, it makes sense that this Treefolk is a 2/4 with that bonus not-too-powerful ability to make up for not being able to hit as hard as those other swampwalkers. So, I could change this guy to a 3/3 then call it a day. But it's already been done before - boring.

I then looked at the stats of other Treefolk creatures. Every single Treefolk that has a set power and toughness has a toughness of at least three. So, I can't do what Krosan Constrictor does and give it a neato ability and make it a 2/2. It would be out of flavor for a Treefolk! They're big, tough guys. This means my stats are limited to 3 or more toughness. Additionally, because this guy is a swampwalker, you wouldn't want 0 power.

With the swampwalk in place, it looks like the stats are limited to: 3/3, 2/3, 1/3, 2/4, and 1/4. I could see how there's a possibility of doing 1/5 swampwalk... but it makes me nervous.

Then again, how often are you going to get a chance to warrant a creature design that has a super high toughness with swampwalk? Treefolk is a perfect chance to do that, and it's not often you have a bunch of Treefolk around enabling you to do these treefolk-y designs.

You know what? Oaken Brawler costs the same amount of mana as Bog-Strider Ash, right down to the number of colored mana symbols. And it has the potential, with clash, to be a 3/5. That high toughness at turn four seems to indicate that a 1/5 won't be game-breaking.

However... the mountainwalker and forestwalker both have at least 2 power. I wonder if the Limited environment needs a swampwalker that can hit for at least 2. You know, for when you sideboard against black.

Just in case, I'm going to leave it at at least 2 power! So, this leaves as possibilities: 3/3, 2/3, and 2/4.

I wonder if referring to Goblins is needed for sideboard purposes as well. ...nah. Perhaps this card ids being killed because there is TOO MUCH Goblin hate. So, let's leave out the Goblin.

Now, I'll look at what abilities the common green creatures already have as well as what effects are already on green noncreature spells, so I can see what kind of ability I could potentially give to this card in addition to swampwalk.

The creature keywords that have not been used at common are: deathtouch, regeneration, flash, and hexproof. At the time, hexproof wasn't a thing, and since designers would have kept hexproof in mind and might have designed differently if it were, I won't consider hexproof. Fight wasn't a thing, yet, either. Deathtouch appeared on two noncreature spells in Lorwyn, so let's not do that to prevent oversaturation. I find it a hard sell to have a Treefolk that can surprise you and flash onto the battlefield, so flash is out. There's already a spell that does regeneration, and if you're landwalking, you won't get into fights as much, anyway.

...and I'm running out of time for today, so I'm going to settle on keeping the Goblin part except do an effect that doesn't exist among the commons in Lorwyn: drawing a card. The name of the card should make the flavorful connection between swampwalking and stealing from a goblin: raiding!

Also, thank goodness Goblins in Lorwyn are called boggarts - it made it so that it fit between Battlewand Oak and Briarhorn!

Here's Boggart-Raider Oak!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fill in for the Killin': Sparring Collar

"Fill in for the Killin'" is what I decided to name this card-design-of-the-day series for today. I'm not satisfied with it, really, but I'll keep experimenting with what I call this thing as the days go by until I'm satisfied.

Today's killed card is Sparring Collar!

This card is part of a cycle, so let's examine what parts of the card need to remain. Each card in the cycle has a mana cost of 2, an equip cost of 1, and a double-colored-mana-costed ability that attaches the equipment to a creature you control. In this case, it would have to be two red mana. This means we need to have the abilities that this equipment grants to the equipped creature to be something you would find on red cards, normally.

Attaching an equipment to a creature at instant speed means that whatever abilities that the equipped gets shouldn't be something that is useless or detracts from the point of attaching at instant speed. You wouldn't want negative tension in the choices you give to the player. 

For example, I shouldn't just have this equipment grant haste because you would normally only care about that before you declare attackers. In this case, you might as well just use the normal equip cost. It's gotta be something that you would want to respond to blockers declared, abilities activated, or spells cast.

The first thing I did was take a look at other keyword abilities that red has that isn't first strike. They are: double strike, trample, intimidate, mountainwalk, and haste. Double strike is right out the window since it shouldn't be at common, at least not on a card with the parameters it already has locked in as part of the cycle. Trample has already been given to the "green" equipment of this cycle. Intimidate can't work because once opponents declare blockers, that's when you'd want to switch the equipment - but by then it's too late for intimidate to matter. Mountainwalk has the same problem that intimidate has. Haste can't work by itself since giving a creature haste at instant speed doesn't do anything. It would be O.K. if there were other effects that mattered accompanying it, though - like +1/+0.

There are other abilities/effects that are red that aren't keyworded that we could consider: firebreathing, attack each turn if able + upside, unblockability, pinging, looting, copying spells, land destruction, artifact destruction, gaining control of creatures temporarily, boosting a creature's power (and rarely toughness), and direct damage. I probably missed a few things, though. Anyway:

Firebreathing ("R: This creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.") has synergy with instant speed re-attachment in that you can ensure one of your unblocked creatures will benefit from the power pumping. You can even make sure to put it onto the desirable creature as need be when you are blocking your opponent's creatures.

Attacking each turn if able is just a detriment that would offset some kind of strong, beneficial effect. Also, don't forget that it could aid in defining the flavor. For example, if I use this effect, I can say that this collar on a creature kinda makes the creature into like a Mad Dog that can't be stopped from being aggressive.

Unblockability has the same problem as intimidate and mountainwalk.

Pinging (T: This creature deals 1 damage to target creature or player.) could benefit from the instant-speed movement when you use it during your opponent's end of turn step, but granting repeatable damage is something that should be used at uncommon rather than common for Limited. Because of this and the fact we need to design something "safe," pinging is not in the picture.

Interestingly, in the world of Mirrodin, where this equipment is from, there are a type of goblin - "spikeshot." Spikeshot Goblin appeared in the original Mirrodin block, and Scars of Mirrodin followed up with a Spikeshot Elder. The word "Spikeshot" falls between Solarion and Spinal Parasite, where it needs to be to have the same collector number.

I bring up "Spikeshot" because it's like pinging but deals damage based on the creature's power. Granting the spikeshot power on a card like this would in no way be appropriate at common - it's too powerful! However, what if we flavor it as an equipment that spikeshots would want to use? As in, the card boosts power?

And this is also where we run into a problem - granting +1/+0 at common is fine. Granting +2/+0? Now that's serious business - perhaps offensive. When equipment was first introduced into Magic: The Gathering, Bonesplitter Axe was designed at common. It was found that being able to give a whole two points of power to a creature at common was quite powerful for Limited. It should be uncommon or greater. So, this is something I definitely don't want to do as a "safe" design.

So, should we grant just +1/+0? Unfortunately, that's both too lame and has already been beaten out by the "green" equipment of the cycle granting +1/+1.

O.K., then how about +2/+0 but with the drawback of needing to attack each turn if able - like that "mad dog" concept? ...Also unfortunately, being able to transfer equipment among your creatures takes away from the drawback of forcing a creature attack each turn if able.

All righty, let's move on - perhaps the spikeshots shan't have a Spikeshot's Choker after all. Sad times! It would have been so clever and awesome to have a name that both fits into the card slot alphabetically AND be something that is relative to Mirrodin.

Copying spells, land destruction, and gaining control of creatures temporarily is not something that I would want to do with this card slot as a pat of this cycle at common. Copying spells is not a common ability, repeatable land destruction or weird one-time land destruction on this equipment would be bad design at common, and gaining control of creatures has the same problem as land destruction.

If I pull of artifact destruction, it seems like it would end up being too non-elegant and/or complex on this card, especially when there's already an extra ability on the equipment for attaching it to another creature at instant speed.

Perhaps we can harness direct damage, though. After all, those are some nasty-looking spikes on that collar. Direct damage to both creatures and players is not awesome in this case. It's the same problem that pinging has - it would be bad for the Limited environment. But if we limit it to creatures... Got an idea!

Granting +2/+0 to a creature is too powerful. You saw what happened with Cranial Plating, another card within the same cycle! You can stomp on creatures and deal more damage to players. Granting +1/+0 is too weak to give to a creature. But what if your creature dealing more damage was only to blocking creatures? This would make the two extra damage dealt to creatures not as bad as when you give a creature straight-up +2/+0!

And then you might point out that having an ability like, "Whenever this creature becomes blocked, this creature deals 1 damage to each creature blocking it." or "Whenever this creature becomes blocked, this creature deals 2 damage among creatures blocking it." or whatever wouldn't work with instant-speed movement. Once blockers are declared, it wouldn't matter anymore, rendering the ability useless with the instant-speed movement. And you'd be right! That's why I won't word it like this.

How's this? "Whenever this creature would deal combat damage to creatures blocking it, it deals that much damage plus 2." It's a weaker version of deathtouch, right? It does normal damage to a player but is more threatening to a creature. However, granting deathtouch to a creature - is that common? A search brings up Gorgon Flail as granting both +1/+1 and deathtouch at uncommon. Tall order for putting this at common. And it can move around at instant speed.

But it's also creature evasion in a way that first strike is. You don't want to block a creature with first strike so you let it through and get damaged by the creature as if it were unblockable or had flying anyway. But first strike actually needs the power of the creature to be higher for it to be more effective. You need to work for its awesomeness. A 1/1 threatening first strike isn't quite as scary.

This ability I'm proposing doesn't need any more work in order for its benefits to be more useful. It's just straight-up making a creature more lethal. Perhaps this isn't safe to do so - and the wording is weird, too. Poor common.

Well, then crap. What else we got? Well, there's looting (T: Discard a card, then draw a card.), and it would benefit you in the same way that pinging would, but it's not as exciting. Also, how does it make sense with a spiky collar?

O.K, well, there's the haste option. Give the creature +1/+0 and haste. That would make the movement relevant because of the power boost, and it's better than the sucky single-power boost by itself. Sure, that seems safe!

Hmm. It WOULD benefit a Spikeshot Goblin. Spikeshot Choker, then? But it wouldn't benefit a Spikeshot Elder. Well, dang. 

I guess we'll have to settle for a spiked something of some kind. Or a Spiked Choker. Does that reflect the haste part accurately? Maybe the spikes emanating lightning/electrical-ness in the art would represent the haste part just fine. 

Looking through words that squeeze into the proper placement alphabetically and also accurately represents the abilities is tough! Oh, I know! Let's look up words that are on haste-granting and/or haste cards and perhaps we can do something with that. (One moment.)

(I'm back.)

All right, fine. I'm settling on Speedspike Collar (I'm avoiding using "collar" to be more "creative.") 'cause it's descriptive (maybe unelegantly so ...just look at Battleflight Eagle, though!) and perhaps Spiked Choker or Spiked Collar might be an actual card someday , and I don't want to waste this kind of name on an Equipment that will most unlikely be reprinted within a block again. O.K., I'm done!

Filling in for Sparring Collar is... Speedspike Collar! Hmm. Doesn't quite sound as strapping as Sparring Collar, does it? Ah, well. Battleflight Eagle, remember?

Look at those lightning spikes! So haste-like and 1-damage-y, right? ;)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Magic Resolution

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions is Magic: The Gathering design-relate - Mad Olaf designing a new card every single day has influenced me to do the same. Except, I'm not going to do what Mad Olaf excellently does and designs according to some theme, hot topic, or a theoretical set with snow cards in it. I'm not going to do what Jay Treat does and design cards that go along with a discussion of some kind of aspect of Magic design. No, my card designs will be based on the situation in R&D when a card gets killed late in development, and the card slot is "locked in," and a new card must fill that hole.

The reasons for me doing this is four-fold: 
1) It'll set me apart from what other Magic: The Gathering designers are doing
2) My blog will be updated every single day (let's hope I don't flake)
3) I'll gain experience on this real-world problem
4) It'll force me to have more card designs under my belt

The card selection will be clicking on that "Random Card" button in Gatherer, Wizard's Magic: The Gathering card database. Whatever card that comes up will be the killed card, and I'll have to fill in the hole. I'll skip cards like basic lands, of course. ...I'm hoping to someday get an Un- card!

I'm not sure what to call this thing. Jay calls his "Cool Card Design of the Day," and Mad Olaf's is more succinct "Card of the Day." "Where's the Design Filling?"? "Filling the Killing"? "Holey Design"? etc. 

When I do this exercise of filling in for the killed card, since it's late in development where the card slot is locked in, all of the following must be the same: art, color, rarity, and collector number. The collector number being the same means the name I come up with must fall between the previous card slot and the next card slot alphabetically. The card must also fit within the set it is from. Lastly, since it's late in development, the card design must be something that is safe to be able print without needed to be tested, if at all.

Since I'm using the "Random Card" feature of Gatherer, there's a chance I'll come across a card to be cut that is part of a cycle. I'm deciding that I will not skip such a card and will put the further constraint on myself to have to design a different card that would be a part of the same cycle. I think that would be fun!

Anyway, without further ado, here's my first card I must replace: Barrenton Medic! 

There's a few creatures in Shadowmoor with a tap ability as well as the ability to place -1/-1 counters on themselves to untap themselves, and Barrenton Medic is one of them. There isn't a cycle of these guys, so I'm going to not hold myself to constraint and force myself to do something different.

I went through the monowhite and white hybrid cards at common in Shadowmoor and found that there weren't any creatures granting protection. So, I'll do a common protection effect - like Midvast Protector! This guy is obviously a Kithkin, but with these potions and such in the art, it looks like he could be an alchemist! Alchemists are Wizards, so I'll do a Kithkin Wizard. A Kithkin Wizard who makes potions of protection.

I also saw that this five-drop is the only one of the monowhite cards in Shadowmoor. I don't want to break anything in that regard, so I'll keep it at 4W. Besides, since we're doing an effect like Midvast Protector, we should do it at a different mana cost for different creature stats. Since Midvast Protector is a 2/3 for 4, and I want to make sure to do a "safe" design, I'll just increase one more point of toughness for the extra point in the mana cost. 2/4!

The name that this new card will be has to come between Ballynock Cohort and Boon Reflection to retain the same collector number. Well, giving somebody a potion that grants a magic barrier is something that could be like giving a creature protection from something until end of turn, right? So, how about a Barrier Alchemist?

And, voila - here's the new card!