Saturday, March 16, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #75: Caustic Crawler

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.


I was helping friends move today, and I'm busy once again in a few minutes, but I managed to squeeze out a design within a short timeframe.

I thought it'd be relevant in a land-based set to do this neat thing where this ant-like creature can ruin a place (look at the art and how he is cracking down that tree! Forests be damned) into a Swamp-y area, and then it has Swampwalk. You can't typically stop an ant from entering your home, so it feels right for it to be able to not be stopped by your creatures and get all up in your business via your dirty land.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #74: Vanishment

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.


First of all, since each nonblack color has a miracle card at each rarity in Avacyn Restored (well, except green is missing a mythic rare miracle card), I had to keep this card a miracle. So, it means it must be an instant or sorcery card (at least, all miracle cards in Avacyn Restored is either an instant or sorcery).

I can't just make the card return a creature card to the top of the library, because that is actually just a narrower Vanishment. That would be pretty lame for this exercise. I could look to bouncing a creature back to the owner's hand, but Into the Void already exists at uncommon. Also, Devastation Tide already returns nonland permanents to hands. It'd be uncool to have an uncommon miracle simply be a single targeted version of the same effect as the rare miracle of the same color.

So I had to do something different. I wanted to do a polymorph effect like Rapid Hybridization, but because this is late in development, I can't make tokens that would be 1/1 blue Insect creatures with flying. And while there IS a blue 1/1 Spirit creature token with flying in Avacyn Restored on another card, it wasn't quite right because Innistrad Spirits are geists/ghosts. They're not magical like Kamigawa - which would clearly be the case if the Spirit looked like a bunch of butterflies.

I could have the player replace the creature with another one, but it'd have to be from the hand because making a miracle version of Polymorph is too many lines of text for an uncommon. And the player may or may not have another creature in his or her hand to replace the one you would destroy/exile.

So, I can't do tokens or polymorph.

Metamorphose seemed like an appropriate flavor, but it's actually juts the same thing as Vanishment already was (with the bonus of being able to put any permanent - even land - on top of the library. Magic R&D has been cutting down on the number of bounce effects that can hit land in modern design), except with a drawback and cheaper.

So, I had to get creative with what the art is depicting. Perhaps the butterflies represent something abstract, like fleeting inspiration - drawing cards? Turning a creature into cards? I thought things like this until I stumbled upon the "Aha!" moment when I looked at Switcheroo.

The flavor with the art is now that it's depicting the enemy creature is turning into butterflies that you have, and your butterflies are becoming this monstrosity that is transforming into butterflies. In gameplay terms, you're just swapping the places of the cards - but, flavorwise, a switching of bodies is happening! And it feels right as a miracle card!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #73: Dark Ritual

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.


Black sometimes has card-drawing spells at a cost of life - except targeted so that you can even throw some life loss at a player. There's been Sign in Blood and Harrowing Journey already. So, how do we do something that's card-drawing in Alpha but have it NOT be one of these two cards that exist already? Well, drawing three cards is uncommon, so then drawing two cards - except at instant speed.

Having a card that draws one card and causes 1 life loss for one black mana just isn't enough to warrant it existing as a card that really does anything. Maybe in the right block where either life loss or card drawing is a bigge deal than usual. So, I didn't pursue this.

Blue had Ancestral Recall, but because of the fact that black can cause loss of life means that this card isn't strictly worse than Ancestral Recall. Cursed Lore offers up its own slice-of-its-color-pie version of card drawing.

P.S. I made no attempt to do a different version of temporary mana boosting because: 1) Black already has Sacrifice in Alpha; and 2) Dark Ritual was too powerful, so I have no interest in trying to achieve the same thing again. Well, there's also the color pie shift to red, but it was in black back then, and I can't change that Sacrifice also exists.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #72: Howl of the Night Pack

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.


Too strong? The last effect in the text box only exists on one card: Predatory Rampage. I wanted to make sure to that this card still produces Wolf tokens, so my challenge was to do it in a different way. The art seems to be an assault (attacking), so I went in that direction. Because creatures get summoning sickness, and I wanted the last effect to last only one turn, I had to give the Wolves haste. I know green is tertiary for haste, but is this going over the line?

However, perhaps it would be better to make this an instant and just put Wolves into play equal to the number of creatures the opponent controls. That way, you could be ambushing the opponent's attack. I don't like that feeling as much.

Another effect that I couldn't quite make work elegantly was have the wolves be put into play but make them be block or be blocked by the same creatures being blocked or blocking the opponent's creatures. Like, an extra 2/2 jumps into the fray for each of the opponent's creatures in combat with one of your own creatures.

"Hound" is being used as a verb here, but I find it funny/uncomforting that these are Wolves doing the hounding instead of Hounds, an already-existing creature type that do "houndings" as well. Unimportant, minor detail, though.

Daily Card Redesign #71: Swamp Mosquito

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.


I saw that this was the only poison creature in Alliances. But I also saw that being few in number in previous sets before it was a common trend for poison creatures, and I didn't want to take away another key component of a poison deck. So, I stuck with poison.

Seeing as this is the only Alliances poison card, I had to make sure that a player could win the game with it using just this card by itself. This is just in case a player hadn't bought cards from any other sets. But since it's a common, I couldn't do very much repeatable effects without making it uncommon. And Swamp Mosquito's original design is pretty dead-on in how to pull off a common with the ability to win the game by itself: through attacking repeatably.

I decided that this mosquito could be a subtle one where it's attached to a creature you control and flies over and bites the player whenever the creature it's enchanting makes it through and hits the other player. Boom. Common poison card that can win all on its own.

If this weren't the only poison card in Alliances, I was wanting to explore options as an instant/sorcery and giving the player a single poison counter directly, as that hasn't existed, yet.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Daily Card Redesign #70: Sludge Strider

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.

Fellow Magic: The Gathering design enthusiasts! You Make the Card has returned! The community collectively creates their own Magic card that will then become a real, printed card you will find in booster packs! Check it out and vote!

Today's card:


This card is like Essence Backlash but with a body! The black part causes loss of life and with the toughness part of the creature spell instead of the red damage and the power part, and the white influence is the necessary flash ability to enable possibility of countering.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Solving Dragon's Maze

Image cropped from illustration by Eric Deschamps
Note: This is speculation on an upcoming Magic: The Gathering set.

Last time I wrote about Dragon's Maze, I predicted there will be four-color cards in the set. Here's my next prediction: for as long as it is true that Dragon's Maze will have four-color cards, there will be four-color split cards.

Just in case you don't know, Fire/Ice is an example of a split card.

I've also got some other stuff to talk about regarding Dragon's Maze. We'll get to that in a second. First, split cards!

Splitting Your Sides

So, why would split cards appear in Dragon's Maze? Three reasons: nostalgia, timing, and necessity.

Return to Ravnica block is all about returning to the things we loved about the first Ravnica block. We loved the guilds the first time, so they're back in the way we knew them before despite anything the original block's story might have otherwise said. We also had fun with guildmages, Guild Leaders, Guild Champions, shocklands, and hybrid - so they're back in Return to Ravnica block, too. Another aspect of Ravnica we loved? The split cards in Dissension. They were exciting and memorable - and so are the ones in Dragon's Maze.

Split cards are one of those kinds of cards that only appear periodically over the years of Magic: The Gathering. Whenever split cards make an appearance, it has to be the right time. The environment must be accommodating. Also, doing something new each time you return something like split cards, like with any mechanic you bring back, is pretty much a must. There have been monocolored, two-color, and three-color split cards. Never has there been a four-color split card. Like this:

Aside: I thought Desist's countering permanent spells felt appropriate for costing blue and red because they are the two colors that care about instants and sorceries - the two card types that aren't permanents.

Forgetting about context for a moment, why would there be a four-color split card? It really doesn't make sense to exclude one color. It also doesn't make sense to put colors into pairs. ...Unless split cards appeared in a block where two-color pairings mattered! Aha! And because it's Dragon's Maze, where the block structure and the cards within it make building four-color decks feasible, this is the PERFECT time to do four-color split cards. If it doesn't happen in Dragon's Maze, it's going to be a LONG time before we get to have another opportunity to do something like Cease // Desist.

Four-color split cards couldn't happen before in the last Ravnica block because the environment really only allowed for playing three-color decks easily. The fun part of split cards is being able to play either side of the card. Thus, the three-color split cards, and ZERO four-color split cards.

The same scenario already happened with the two-color Charms cycle in the Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash sets. There have been monocolored and three-color charms in Magic: The Gathering's past. But never have there been two-color charms. Return to Ravnica block was the perfect opportunity to take care of that - for ALL TEN of the two-color combinations. Boom. Done. Magic's design space optimally mined.

The final reason for split cards - they're four-color cards without forcing four-color cards upon the player. I'm only expecting five four-color gold cards that aren't split cards: the legendary creatures that would become the first four-color Commanders. That's because I don't expect four colors as a heavy theme. Instead, these split cards provide something for both the three-color player and the four-color player. The three-color player can insert one of the new split cards into his or her deck with the intention of just playing one of the sides. The four-color player is rewarded when he or she includes the appropriate four-color split card in his or her deck by being able to play EITHER side. Everybody wins!

You notice how I mentioned "three-color player" and didn't include the "two-color player?" I'll bring this up again in a bit.

Skeleton Key

So how do split cards fit into Dragon's Maze design skeleton? Let's talk about the design skeleton for a moment. 

A design skeleton is a living, breathing blueprint of a set. A set is built upon it the same way that architecture is built upon an existing blueprint. If you want to learn more about Magic: The Gathering set design skeletons, Mark Rosewater writes about them here.

From the announcement of Dragon's Maze, we know that the set size will be 156 cards. This is 11 more cards than the standard 145 number for small sets (Now, if you're going to double-check me on this, Magic: The Gathering's two most recent blocks of sets have been kinda wacky. Innistrad block as a whole had different numbers for set sizes so that it, seemingly, could have its total number of cards add up to 666. And Mirrodin Besieged had 150 cards since it needed to have an even split between Mirran cards and Phyrexian cards).

The 11 extra cards had puzzled me until the announcement of the format of the Dragon's Maze prerelease. Within that announcement was some extra information about the Dragon's Maze booster packs: no basic lands but nonbasic ones instead. The Guildgates return and actually get the Dragon's Maze symbol while the returning shocklands retain their respective expansion symbols of Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash. Ten of the extra card slots in the set will be for the Guildgates while the special mythic rare land will fill in the extra eleventh card slot.

One possibility for why the Guildgates get their own expansion symbol when they're just going to be appearing in that special slot alongside the shocklands is that there will be different art that shows what happened to them AFTER the "gatecrashing." The other scenario is changing up the hidden message found within the flavor text among the Guildgate cards. The reason for the new expansion symbol could be for either of the above cases or for both.

The Dragon's Maze prerelease announcement also revealed something else interesting that helps to support my case for four-color cards: two guilds in one prerelease pack.

Now, before you get up from your seat (for some reason) and point out that the Dragon's Maze prerelease announcement states that the prerelease packs will actually just give you two guilds that share a color to make for a THREE-color deck instead of a FOUR-color deck: I know.

I was expecting that, to play with Dragon's Maze effectively, you'll need to build a deck with a minimum of three colors - not four.

I said the following in my last article:

"...your color strategy for the Dragon’s Maze drafting format is: three-color minimum with the option to go four colors."

In case of the prerelease, there was absolutely no way to execute upon the prerelease plan without going into three colors. Usually, in a prerelease of a small, third set of a block, you'll receive three packs of the latest set (Dragon's Maze) and three packs of the large fall set (Return to Ravnica). But Gatecrash was also large. Both Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash are on equal footing. Doing two packs of each Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon's Maze to compensate is lame because that would mean the prerelease would only give you two packs' worth of cards. So, you'd have to do four Dragon's Maze packs. But that left just one pack per large set - not enough to be able to support a deck having enough cards for any one particular guild.

So that's where they cleverly used the prerelease packs from the previous prereleases to influence you toward a combination of two guilds, forcing you to go three colors, giving you access to a larger pool of the cards contained within Dragon's Maze.

Split the Difference

On split cards: how many will there be in Dragon's Maze? Fifteen. Why? Because that's how many possible four-color combinations there are among the two-color pairings. Where are we going to fit them? Five at each rarity. Five cards, ten sides. Each guild will have a common, uncommon, and rare split card! ...Right, I did say common. I'm going out on a limb for this one, since split cards are usually uncommon, and guessing that five of the split cards will appear at common. After all, Dead//Gone did appear at common! So, ONE common split card exists!

Why will it be even more O.K. for five common split cards? First, there being fifteen combinations makes it a perfect fit for three rarities, with a cycle of five cards at each rarity. Secondly, the public has been prepared for common split cards in three ways: A) Split cards have appeared before in Magic: The Gathering, multiple times. B) Fire//Ice exists in the Izzet Vs. Golgari Duel Decks, exposing to even more of the world what the heck a split card is. C) Wizards made the holiday card for 2012 a split card. The last two points are what I consider to be clues to the inclusion of split cards in Dragon's Maze.

Skele-Ten Guilds

Besides those nifty nonbasic lands appearing in the basic land slot in booster packs, Dragon's Maze will have 10 mythic rares, 35 rares, 40 uncommons, and 60 commons. Since all ten guilds will appear in this set, we're going to have HUGE cycles of cards - ten-card cycles! But this is a good thing for solving the puzzle that is Dragon's Maze. Larger (and fewer) puzzle pieces!

Tablet of Guilds by Nic Klein

Mythic Rares (10 Cards)

There's ten mythic rare slots. That's the perfect amount to give each two-color combination a single mythic rare.

Note that the Guild Champions, the two-color legendary creatures representing each of their respective guilds, can't be mythic rare. This is because the new planeswalker of the set, Ral Zarek, exists and will occupy the blue-red mythic rare slot. Because of this, the whole ten-card cycle must be relegated to the rare rarity.

Another reason is, flavorfully, the mythic rare Guild Leaders (like Niv-Mizzet) are much more important than the Guild Champions. A Vorthos reason for the rarity difference!

Rares (35 Cards)

Aurelia, the War Leader by Slawomir Maniak
10 two-color legendary creatures, the Guild Champions

This is a no-brainer.

5 four-color legendary creatures

This is to support my position in prediction four-color cards in Dragon's Maze. If I'm right about how there will be four-color cards in the set, there HAVE to be four-color legendary creatures due to Commander existing (otherwise players will be upset).

Note 1: these four-color legendary creatures don't have to be Nephilim, but they could be (I didn't read the story, but I believe they regain their power by feasting on dragons underground - maybe the legendary creatures ARE four-color dragons? Dragon's Maze? Eh?).

Note 2: The other four-color cards don't have to be anything other than split cards.

Note 3: The fact that there will be fifteen legendary creatures in Dragon's Maze does make it seem like this is not a plausible prediction. I'm with you on this. After all, ten legendary creatures in one set is already redonkulous.

But, by principle, despite possibly looking sheepish, I'm remaining firm with my speculation on new four-color commander cards along with four-color split cards. If I'm right, well, that'll be awesome. If I'm wrong, then... consequences be damned.

5 Split Cards

I stated this above. This will allow for a rare for each guild as well as provide more support for the player going the four-color route. Wowee! All of THAT is taken care of with just five card slots. Five precious card slots out of 35.

5 Artifacts/Lands

I mention this because EVERY Magic: The Gathering set has rare artifacts. Rare lands may or may not appear, but take up these slots when they do.

10 ??? Cards

I don't know what cards go here. Because there's a problem. Hybrid cards. In what capacity will they return to Dragon's Maze? I really don't know. If they appear here, then there will be no monocolored cards at rare. Which is weird. But if there are NO hybrid cards at rare, then there will be ten monocolored cards here.

Note 1: If I'm wrong about four-color legendary creatures, then we know that those five card slots can be devoted to monocolored cards and these remaining ten can be hybrid cards.

Note 2: In an unprecedented move, perhaps there would be five nonlegendary four-color cards (with the full cost) and five monocolored cards.

Note 3: Related to the nonlegendary four-color cards that aren't split cards - I think it's worth noting what Mad Olaf has brought up before and what I've written about in my old Red Site Wins series: four-color hybrid.

Uncommon (40 Cards)

10 Lands, one for each guild

I am saying this because of these pieces of art. (Thanks to scotland_4 with his/her post on MTGSalvation.)

5 Split Cards

10 Gold Cards, Two-Color Creatures

Unless there's a big change with split cards (which I don't anticipate for this set - four colors is already the new thing), the split cards will be instants/sorceries. This means there's a need for gold creature cards. This is why I think there's got to be at least ten slots (one for each guild) for these cards.

15 ??? Cards

Like with rares, I have no idea how hybrid and monocolored cards are going to be handled in Dragon's Maze, so these will remain a mystery for now. I believe part of these should be artifacts, but  with ten lands already and my guess of the following artifacts at common, who knows?

Common (60 Cards)

10 Signets, one for each guild

This is me reaching a little bit out there. I'm iffy on this because the ten new pieces of signets art that you can find in this album on MTGColorPie's Pinterest was made for the Magic: The Gathering Online Cube. But, it seems a little iffy that ten whole new pieces of art would be made for these commons. They ARE good, but are they that good to warrant new art just for a temporary online event?

Besides, I think everyone is going to need a little bit of help to achieve three or four mana easily in this set, and these are just the ticket.

Though, there's a possibility of the signets showing up in the set releasing later this year, Modern Masters, which was intended to be drafted. I'll stick to my guns, though, and guess signets in Dragon's Maze.

5 Split Cards

Again, Dead//Gone has existed before, but I do recognize I'm going out on a bit of a limb for common split cards.

10 Gold Cards, Two-Color Creatures

For the same reason at uncommon, there has to be common gold creatures, and the split cards are noncreature cards.

25 ??? Cards

I just don't know what else to expect for these remaining cards. The slots are so tight that there could be certain decisions made in regards to monocolored, gold, or hybrid.

Also, keep in mind that the Guildgates are already at "common" and appearing in the booster packs in the basic land slot. And the signets are ten artifacts. So, I don't see there being any more lands or artifacts in this rarity. But, hey. If there are, then it'll be five artifacts/lands and twenty cards of monocolored, gold, and/or hybrid.

Let's Split

Before I go, though, I do want to mention four-color hybrid cards. I've written before about this in my Red Site Wins series AND on older posts on this blog, and Mad Olaf has written about it, too - it's these types of cards:

These cards, while cool, are confusing. It has the colors of the following guilds: Azorius, Rakdos, Boros, Dimir, Orzhov, and Izzet. Yet, Azorius and Rakdos cannot cast this card. It can be easy to miss this fact, I believe. Therefore, I DON'T think we'll be seeing these kinds of cards in Dragon's Maze.

To re-iterate: I do NOT support these four-color hybrids as shown above!

And this sums up my predictions on Dragon's Maze. Hooray for four-color split cards! Thanks for reading! Feel free to tweet at me at @bradleyrose or leave a comment below regarding Dragon's Maze! I'd love to hear your response!

Daily Card Redesign #69: Firebolt

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being killed late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color, is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set.

Today is different. Here's why. Redesign:

Yes, I know Firebreathing exists, but that's exactly why I chose to do a reprint. I have a theory on Firebolt. The theory is that this card slot in the Odyssey design file went through the situation that is EXACTLY what my Daily Card Redesign series is all about. Firebolt wasn't always Firebolt. It used to be Firebreathing. Check out the original art to Firebreathing:

Firebolt's art is an homage to this original art for Firebreathing. The same color of skin, the same action, the same eyes, the same spiky spine, and the same beak-like curvature at the end of its snout!

I figured this out because, when I was trying to figure out what to redesign for Firebolt, the dragon was, well, breathing fire. I thought of doing a Firebreathing variant. But then something clicked - Firebolt's art seemed... familiar. I checked out Firebreathing's original art; and, sure enough, that's what it was. It's the same dragon!

For whatever reason, Firebreathing was in Odyssey complete with art that references the original Firebreathing. At the last minute, Firebreathing was scrapped. There was a need to come up with a replacement design with the restrictions of the art, name, rarity, color, etc. "Firebolt" as a name was cleverly used and this shock variant was realized.

And don't worry. Red in Odyssey still has Flame Burst. Among other direct damage spells. Also, red only has one common Aura, so that checks out (green has two while blue has three).