Monday, December 11, 2017

Daily Card Redesign #189: Staff of the Ages

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being scrapped late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color(s), is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set. This real-life Magic R&D process is known as "hole-filling."




The focus is on the object being held. This feels like the caster of this card isn't really taking action but moreso of reacting, being passive. Thus, hitting attacking creatures. Also, cumulative upkeep, which was a mechanic in Ice Age, is one that promotes being passive, biding your time.

I like that the longer the opponent waits to attack, the worse consequence it will be. Thus, the opponent will keep attacking. And having the opponent just sit and wait out the scepter means you were able to stall out being damaged for a while.

Since the opponent is going to prolly keep attacking you, there's a tension in decision-making you affect a creature now or wait for a better target/chance later?

Lastly, this place depicts somewhere underground. This is why the effect was chosen of putting a creature underneath cards on top of the library, since that gives the feeling of "casting a creature downward into the earth". Eventually, they'll resurface. :)

The alphabetical ordering of this set looked like this:

So, Subterranean was chosen as the word that comes before Sunstone but still refers to the setting depicted in the art (and the type of magic being cast). Scepter was chosen just to shake it up from "Staff."

For similar effects for costing purposes,  I looked to blue and saw that it costs three mana to put a creature on top of its owner's library. Since this is an artifact that costs generic, I needed to turn one of those blue mana symbols into two generic mana cost. Thus, the 4 mana casting cost.

Oddly, both of these similar cards are also similarly-named. Perhaps future cards can just do "_____ Away". Though, sometimes, this means bouncing something to someone's hand instead of library, like Wipe Away.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Daily Card Redesign #188: Glowering Rogon

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being scrapped late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color(s), is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set. This real-life Magic R&D process is known as "hole-filling."




Amplify is a keyword in the Legions set. A search of what keywords are at common, especially for Beasts, reveals that there are only three creatures with amplify. Additionally, for each color/creature type that did receive an amplify card at common, there's only one instance of such a card. Because of this, we are restricted to keeping this with amplify.

So, my next step was to change this design of being a French vanilla creature to one that is the next-most-simple thing: either add another evergreen creature keyword or make it a virtual French vanilla creature.

My first thought was to give this creature trample. However, a search of all the amplify creatures in Legions reveals that there is already a trampling amplify creature. This card:

Dang. And perhaps it was for the best. Feral Throwback, another green beast, has both Amplify and Provoke, both new creature keywords. Provoke is a version of evasion (except, giving evasion to your OTHER creatures rather than the one who has the ability), and trample is already an evasion type of ability.

...perhaps this is why trample was given to a different color. Trample is a great incentive for amplifying. But Beasts are both green and red. So, we can't give amplify to a red creature. And only Soldiers and Zombies have amplify. If we want Feral Throwback to still have provoke, the solution is to look to either a Soldier or a Zombie to give trample to. A black zombie with trample made the most sense (and I now have a greater appreciation for how the design turned out here in the context of the Legions set).

So, a minor enters-the-battlefield effect would be in order. Looking at other cards that had effects that improved with amplify, they usually just referenced the +1/+1 counters themselves instead of something like power or toughness. Some gave some power/toughness boosting while others dealt damage. But none gained life.

Gaining life equal to the +1/+1 counters seemed pretty harmless enough (remember, hole-filling means you need to put in a card safe for printing with minimal testing since development time has grown short by the time this scenario occurs).

However, granting an extra ability to this existing card means something has to give. Either the positive parts need to diminish or there should be extra negative. But with minimal complexity. This meant changing the power, toughness, and/or mana cost. 

I felt like it was important for this Beast to be at least 4 power and 4 toughness at this mana cost, as a Beast tribe (this was a tribal block) representative. And I wasn't looking to make it even better, so mana cost was the place to tweak. Since there was already higher-cost cards at common for green, I thought it important to retain its cost where it is. So, as a balance to the added life effect, I added the extra green mana requirement in the mana cost.

Lastly, I needed to change the name that's appropriate for this card. But that it also still fits alphabetically between these two other cards:

Since you were gaining a small amount of life, and that this was a large beast that you might think would eat veggies all day (I don't know what a Rogon eats, perhaps it's a carnivore), I chose to hint at this with "Grazing". This still comes alphabetically after "Gempalm" and before "Hundroog." Since I didn't want to do the type of Beast this is a disservice, I left the "Rogon" part of the name in.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Daily Card Redesign #187: Air Servant

Daily Card Redesign is a daily Magic: The Gathering design exercise where I randomly choose a card for the scenario of it being scrapped late during its own set's development. I design a replacement card that uses the same art, is the same color(s), is the same rarity, and has a name that, alphabetically, keeps it within the same collector number for the set. This real-life Magic R&D process is known as "hole-filling."




  • This creature is part of a cycle of "Servant" creatures. As such, the new Air Servant needed to stay named "Air Servant."

  • The existing other "Servant" creatures contain a red 4/4 & a red 4/3 while the other blue one is a 3/4. Having this be a 4/3 still feels like it's reinforcing an imbalance. Bumping to 4/4 brings a satisfying aesthetics balance
  • The other servants have CMC 4, 5, & 6. Again, with the balance, this creature was bumped to 7, to make it so that the blue Servants are endcaps to the CMC chain of Servants. Also, the mana cost was changed to mirror the red servants with just one blue mana in the cost.
  • This creature is similar to but not exactly the same as Archetype of Imagination, filling in a simple, yet unique hole that doesn't yet exist for an uncommon blue creature.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

NaGaDeMon #08: Flagged

Art by Daniel Ljunggren

Returning to the mana fixing solution.

Last time, the set had 10 artifacts and 10 lands devoted to fixing.

This has evolved a bit since then.

Before, there was talk of fortifications. And pairing the artifacts with the lands to form four-color fixing goodness. Which is great. One of the flavors was a key artifact that would pair with a Gate land.

Now, I've got a better idea. And this solution involves Magic Man Sam's suggestion of flags for when I asked about objects that are placed into locations (flags are planted at specific places).


Which is just as good as keys going into locked gates. Gates are stationary and get locked up and need keys. Flagpoles need flags.

However, something that flags do that keys don't do as well: get held by people in a meaningful way. Sure, people can just carry a key on them. But flags ...well, Magic even has the creature type Flagbearer.

And that's when the "Aha!" moment struck sometime while I was taking a shower.

A 10-card two-color cycle of creatures that are of creature type Flagbearer. They're able to hold the flag and help fix your mana. BUT ALSO, you can instead use the flag artifact with a land. The flags are flexible enough to be able to be planted on a land or be held by a Flagbearer. This allows for greater consistency for mana fixing card pairings to be available but without pushing things TOO far (where all three of these 10-card cycles could comingle with any other card among these thirty cards).

The Flagbearers can't work with the lands. And the Flagbearers and lands can't work within themselves. The lands and the Flagbearers both need to rely upon flags for four-color awesomeness. And there won't be TOO much of the flags going around (don't worry, the creatures and the lands themselves would still be decently useful on their own).

To top this off, the lands would be of type Tower, an existing land type (see "Urza's Tower"). Towers make so much sense to plant a flag at. Easier to grok why only the artifact fixers can enhance your mana fixing to the next level by only being able to pair with one of the creatures or one of the lands.

(I'm a big fan of re-using existing design technology to expand upon the space of such re-used tech. By this, I mean the creature type Flagbearer and the land type Tower.)

So, solution:

The flag itself should be an artifact that can be picked up by either a Flagbearer or a Tower. Which means either going the route of "pairing" like with soulbond. OR... making the flag an Equipment AND a Fortification. It'd look something like this:
Black-Red Flag
Artifact - Equipment Fortification
Equip 2
Fortify 2

Green-White Flagbearer
As long as CARDNAME is equipped, EFFECT

Green-White Land
Land - Tower
CARDNAME enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add G or W to your mana pool.
As long as CARDNAME is fortified, EFFECT

The exact wording I'm still working on. But you get the gist of how this will fit into the bigger picture. As in, the common design skeleton.

Speaking of, here's the current skeleton numbers for each section of it:
  • 55 monocolor (11 each color)
  • 20 two-color (10 Flagbearers, 10 noncreatures)
  • 5 four-color
  • 10 artifacts (flags)
  • 10 lands (two-color Towers)
  • 1 artifact/land to round out the 101st card that reinforces the set's theme
'kay, that's it for now.

NaGaDeMon #07: Nonwhite Faction Mechanic

This one took a while to release, but I had figured out the main draw (foreshadowing) of the nonwhite faction mechanic for some amount of time shy of a while. It's drawing cards.

White sucks the most at doing the spells that have the effect of "draw a card" or "draw cards."

For the other colors:

  • Blue straight up just draws cards
  • Green also draws lots of cards, but this is usually tied with creatures in some manner; whether it's an Elvish Visionary that enters the battlefield, or you draw cards equal to combat damage, or you draw cards equal to a creature's power
  • Black draws cards but at a cost to itself, like paying life
  • Red draws cards, but it's in the form of looting/rummaging (it also doesn't do the "draw" effect and does the whole thing of exiling the top card of your library and letting you play it for that turn only, but these kind of effects don't count for what we're concerned for right now)
For both flavor and mechanics, there's a couple aspects of white vs. nonwhite to approach for drawing cards, both of which could be acted upon:
  • Firstly, divining for answers is something that white would do the least of since white's faith means it doesn't need to "consult the tea leaves", gain insight, or otherwise seek out answers to its answers. 
  • Secondly, drawing cards is inherently a random thing thing you get (versus tutoring); which ties to "chaos", a thematic word that opposes white's thing that was chosen to represent nonwhite when the designers of Commander 2016 were seeking out themes for each four-color identity.
So, the mechanical execution may be something like:
  • Insight (Whenever you draw a card, if it isn't your turn or the first card you draw during your turn, EFFECT
  • Fateful (Whenever you would draw a card, if it isn't your turn or the first card you would draw during your turn, you may scry 1.)
  • Spontaneity -- Whenever you would draw a card, if it isn't your turn or the first card you would draw during your turn, you may reveal it instead. If you do, EFFECT based on attribute X, then put it into your hand.
  • Wild (Whenever you would draw a card, if it isn't your turn or the first card you would draw during your turn, name a card type. If you do, reveal the card when you draw it. If its card type matches your choice, EFFECT / this creature is now wild.)
  • Fluctuate (Whenever you draw a card, if it isn't your turn or the first card you would draw during your turn, you may reveal it. If you do, if its mana cost doesn't match a card you previously revealed with fluctuate, this creature fluctuates.)
And then this next one has nothing to do with drawing cards and involves purposefully making sure that all cards that cost white mana has all of its numbers and number words amongst its power, toughness, and text never contain both an even number and an odd number.
  • Even the Odds (Whenever you cast a spell, if there is both an even number or number word and an odd number or number word amongst its power, toughness, and text, EFFECT)
And this next one is a riff of the above but made more simple of an effect but involve ensuring that white creatures always have its power and toughness be two odd numbers or two even numbers:
  • Oddity (Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if the total of its power and toughness is odd, EFFECT)
  • Oddity (Whenever you cast a creature spell, if the total of its power and toughness is odd, EFFECT)
  • Oddity -- Creatures you control with odd total power and toughness have/get EFFECT
No example designs this time. Just the raw possible design execution directions that could be taken, to be mulled over.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

NaGaDeMon #06: More Mana, More Problems

Art by Wayne Reynolds

The nonwhite faction's mechanic is still pending. I've been working lately on the mana support required of a four colors matter set.

Let's talk about the Thoctar in the room. Specifically, hitting the correct colors to cast your spells that are more than two colors is difficult to do without putting in a decent amount of effort to fix your colors.

Back in Shards of Alara, a cycle of creatures existed with converted mana cost of exactly three, with one of each of the colors of one of the shards. They were rightfully powerful on-curve. The problem was that it was also unfeasible to consistently cast on-curve as well. This isn't desired.

In Khans of Tarkir, this was remedied by having their uncommon cycle of three-color creatures be of five mana instead of three.

Know what else was fixed moreso than Shards of Alara? Mana fixing. The Obelisks weren't too great, compared to mana rocks like the Signets. As the game goes on, the Obelisks wear out their usefulness as you gain the colors of mana you need in lands alone.

Khans of Tarkir improved this by having their Banners be able to sacrifice themselves to gift you a card, so that when the time comes when a Banner isn't serving its primary purpose, it can still be of use to you. The Cluestones in Dragon's Maze followed suit.

On the topic of mana fixing: Shards of Alara had 5 Obelisks and 5 Panoramas at common with 5 tri-lands at uncommon. Every one of these dealt with all three colors of their respective shard.

In Khans of Tarkir, there were no such lands at common that helped you with three colors at once. Instead, 10 land cards were devoted to providing you just 2 colors. 5 tri-color mana-fixing artifacts were retained in the form of the Banners. And tri-lands at uncommon again. 15 mana-fixing cards at common, and 5 at uncommon.

For the four-color set, this means:

  • Can't have four-color creatures that cost four mana. Prolly should be six mana.
  • Have more than 15 mana fixers but do what Khans did and don't have the mana fixers provide too much power to be able to enter five colors like what Shards of Alara allowed (in fact, Conflux encouraged this behavior with the domain mechanic returned).
20 mana fixing cards is a lot. And with the direction of not providing four colors in a mana fixer to mitigate the encouragement to go into five colors, this means maybe needing two mana-fixing cards in a game. But you know what else is a lot? Devoting two of your spells cast in a game to be mana fixers. Or devoting two of your lands to fix your mana. Splitting between lands and spells to make 1 mana fixing spell and 1 mana fixing land is a better experience. 

But how do we ensure that the diminished fixing of colors still is able to support this increase in the number of colors required to cast our sweet four-color spells? Let's try some stuff:

A unique thing about four-color multicolor versus three-color multicolor is that you don't have an imbalance between ally two-color combos and enemy two-color combos for which apply toward the greater multicolor identity. For Shards, a cycle of ally-colored gold cards is doubly applicable than a cycle of enemy-colored gold cards. Which is why the enemy-colored gold cards were at a higher rarity and fewer in number than ally-colored gold cards. 

For four-color costs, both ally and enemy two-color combos evenly benefit. This means there's no problem including all ten of the two-color combinations. So, ten spells that fix your mana with two colors. And ten lands that fix your mana with two colors. What's also neat is that a mana fixer that fixes two colors of mana and a land that fixes two colors of mana makes for four colors of mana between the two. 

But how many possible pairs of pairs are there in one particular group of four colors? There's three. Let's consider WUBR:
  • WU + BR
  • WB + UR
  • WR + UB
Now let's consider the spells (most likely artifacts) and lands:
  • WU artifact + BR land
  • WU land + BR artifact
  • WB artifact + UR land
  • WB land + UR artifact
  • WR artifact + UB land
  • WR land + UB artifact
Let's hope having one of the six combos above is likely to happen for you in Limited. Not that having two artifacts or two lands from the mana-fixing suite would be taboo to play in a game.

But how would they work? Here are some ideas:
  • The artifacts fortify (the ability from Future Site's Fortification land Darksteel Garrison) the lands and allow each other to produce mana of colors the other can create, and fortifications are supported by the flavor/theme of the set with kingdoms/castles that have Walls and Gates and Towers, etc.
  • Having two mana fixers that don't overlap colors causes a transform effect for better mana fixing
  • Having any two mana fixers utilize the "pair" mechanic found in Avacyn Restored's Soulbond mechanic
  • When mana fixing isn't needed: sac to draw a card? Cycling before even casting it? Do some other kind of benefit?
  • Having one mana fixer tutors out another mana fixer
  • Thematic: artifact mana fixers are conceptualized to be keys while the lands are Gates waiting to be unlocked with the Keys
  • All mana fixers across the artifacts and lands share the same subtype, and a cycle of common cards has cycling for that subtype (like how Wizardcycling was a thing)

*yawn* The doozy might be the "quad-lands" at uncommon (which is outside the common scope of this project). That's all for me for now.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NaGaDeMon #05: Nonred Faction Mechanic

Art by Svetlin Velinov

Red's aggressive. What are the aspects of this aggression?

  • Red attacks with creatures early
  • Red uses up its cards quickly
  • Red trades away resources helpful for the long-term in favor of a short-term advantage
What are the factors that lead into each of these aggressive aspects?
  • Red's creatures are cheap and efficient to cast
  • Red's creatures tend to have higher power than toughness
  • Red's spells don't incentivize you to wait to cast them later
  • Red's benefits involve sacrificing permanent resources
What are the symptoms of these factors?

  • Red's creatures tend to be sideways
  • Red's lands tend to be sideways
  • Red's hands tend to be empty
  • Red's number of permanents can possibly lessen rather than grow as turns pass

Taking the above into consideration, I've come up with some qualities for a nonred faction to focus on:
  • Having untapped creatures
  • Having a bigger hand
  • Having a number of permanents that always increases as turns pass
How do I have untapped creatures?

  • Not attacking (ew)
  • Always getting new creatures (ooh, this means growing permanents)
  • Vigilance
  • Having high toughness creatures but with low power
How do I have a bigger hand?
  • Not casting spells (ew)
  • Cantrips and draw spells (but red does cantrips and card filtering)
How do I always have the number of permanents increase as turns pass?
  • Don't sacrifice (hmm, black does this, though)
  • Always be playing stuff that hits the board and never the graveyard (but blue, though)
  • Don't get your stuff killed, yo (hexproof, not getting into trades in combat)
Lastly, there's a quirky thing I discovered:

The word "counter" appears the least on common red cards in all of Magic.
Obviously, blue has the most number of cards with "counter" in the text. Green plays with +1/+1 counter growth a lot. And white and black are somewhere around "more than red."

Having a mechanic that cares about "counter" in the text encourages players to play with cards that grow their creatures and counters answers to their creatures. However, this also reminds me of the counter theme that is in Commander 2016, but a little spin on it.

For both the fact that caring about a word in text is potentially confusing (overload handles this pretty well by only referring to its own text) for what counts and what doesn't (for example, does "Can't be countered." count?); and that counters as a nonred theme has already been done, I'm leaning toward something that is more novel for nonred.

In Ixalan, there is no red common card that has toughness greater than its power. Yet, every other color has toughness greater than its power. I think that this bodes well for that direction. 

Let's try some mechanics designs:

  • At end of turn, if you control more untapped creatures than tapped creatures, EFFECT
  • As long as CARDNAME is attacking and you control more untapped creatures than tapped creatures, EFFECT
  • Whenever you cast a creature spell with toughness greater than its power, EFFECT
  • Whenever a creature with toughness greater than its power enters the battlefield under your control, EFFECT
  • As long as you control a creature with toughness greater than its power, EFFECT
  • Whenever you attack with a creature with toughness greater than its power, EFFECT
  • Reveal from your hand a creature card with toughness greater than its power: EFFECT
  • Counterplay - Whenever you play a card with "counter" in its text, EFFECT
  • Countercast - Whenever you cast a spell with "counter" in its text, EFFECT
  • Countermove - As long as you've played a card this turn with "counter" in its text, EFFECT
  • Clean counter - Whenever a card with "counter" in its text is put into a graveyard, EFFECT
  • Countermeasure - At end of turn, if you played a card with "counter" in its text, EFFECT
Let's try some card designs:


The above Ally is the only one that has greater toughness than its power that also doesn't have a name that mentions a word that is specific to Zendikar. It also has flying, which the nongreen faction cares about. Alas, this is a black Ally, of which the nonblack faction, caring about Allies, could not use. And, thus, to encourage four-color (instead of five-color) play, this can't be used.



Synergizes with the nongreen faction and doesn't call out a specific place. Shout out to Pillarfield Ox, though. The hero we needed, not the hero we deserved.
...wait, speaking of hero...

Anyway... let's do new designs:

Tough Centaur
Creature - Centaur Warrior
Tough 'n' Rumble (Whenever another creature with toughness greater than its power enters the battlefield under your control, this creature gets a +1/+1 counter)

Tough Soldier
Creature - Human Soldier
Toughen Up - Whenever another creature with toughness greater than its power enters the battlefield under your control, this creature gains vigilance until end of turn.

Card Count
Draw three cards, then discard two cards unless you discard a card with "counter" in its text.

Untapped Potential
You draw two cards, then you lose 2 life unless the number of untapped creatures you control is more than the number of tapped creatures you control.

...lots of exploring of card designs that still needs to be done, but I'm loving the toughness greater than power thing. Gonna need to find the most enticing and grokkable effect. In the meantime, consider this red card that is the antithesis of what this nonred faction might possibly shape up to be.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

NaGaDeMon #04: Nonblack Faction Mechanic

One way to be able to easily tie together cards broadly is via the card type line. When looking for a nonblack mechanic, I first thought of a team of creatures working together. The first iteration of this was a D&D-style party where you needed a Cleric, Warrior, Rogue, & Wizard. That was turning out to be a bit more convoluted and/or pulling the focus away on trying to achieve four colors. If creature type were to be referenced, it should be a single type and something evocative of everything black isn't.

Enter allies. Black is selfish and works for its own best interests. Those who work as a cog as part of a greater machine for the better of the whole; whether it's your family or community, or whether it's the right or logical thing to do; this is what black doesn't do.

...interestingly, in Avacyn Restored, black was isolated to itself while the other colors got access to a mechanic focusing on working together: soulbond.

If I were to pursue the allies route, I would be making zero black ally creature cards to ensure those that want to play with allies only go to four colors. And I'd be introducing a new style of ally mechanic, like how Cohort was introduced to join the Rally type of ally mechanical gameplay.

New ally mechanic tentatively called "Alliance."

For soulbond, I'd have to see what space there is left to explore and how to further evolve soulbond beyond the level it's at now as of Avacyn Restored.

For example, Flowering Lumberknot and Joint Assault are the only two cards that interact with the soulbond mechanic that don't have soulbond themselves (interestingly, Joint Assault doesn't care about whether a paired creature is paired with a soulbond creature while Flowering Lumberknot cares about whether the pairing is with a soulbond creature).

Could there be a soulleech? Mindbond? Bodybond? Tripling instead of pairing? Pairing a pair? Pairing with not just any creature but with another soulbond creature?

Remember: caring is pairing.

I still have my work cut out for me for the nonblack faction, but let's dig into some designs anyway:

Allies mechanics

  • Alliance - For each color among allies you control, EFFECT.
  • Alliance - This creature gets +N/+N as long as it and another Ally is attacking or blocking.
  • Alliance - EFFECT X, where X is the number of allies you control.
  • Alliance - As long as the last creature to enter the battlefield under your control is an Ally, EFFECT
  • Alliance (Your Allies can help cast this spell. Each Ally you tap after you’re done activating mana abilities pays for 1 or one mana of that creature's color)
  • Alliance 2 (As this creature enters the battlefield, you may reveal an Ally card from your hand. If you do, this creature enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters.)
  • Alliance (As this creature enters the battlefield, if the last creature to enter the battlefield under your control is an Ally, you get an alliance counter. Otherwise, you lose all alliance counters. Then, this creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each alliance counter you have.)
White Ally
Creature - Human Warrior Ally

Alliance (As this creature enters the battlefield, if the last creature to enter the battlefield under your control is an Ally, you get an alliance counter. Otherwise, you lose all alliance counters. Then, this creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each alliance counter you have.)

Alliance - Draw a card for each color among allies you control, then discard a card.

Pair of Shocks
CARDNAME deals 2 damage to target creature or player. As long as you control a paired creature, CARDNAME deals 4 damage to that creature or player instead.

Bear Hug

Alliance (Your Allies can help cast this spell. Each Ally you tap after you’re done activating mana abilities pays for 1 or one mana of that creature's color)

Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Lighting the Torch Commander

Art by Volkan Baga

The last Elder Dragon Highlander deck I created had me twist my tongue to form aesthetically-pleasing sounds as I announced the name of each card I played during games. Now the "creatively-constrained Commander" torch is passing on and into the hands of my latest general: Tuktuk the Explorer.

The theme? Every card in the deck depicts a torch in its art (even the basic land).

Here's the decklist in text form then visual form. Below that, read about how this deck came to be.

Note: This deck is VERY weak in terms of power level. Don't play this if you like to win.

Commander (1)
Tuktuk the Explorer

Lands (40)
36 Mountain
Barbarian Ring
Hall of the Bandit Lord
Keldon Necropolis
Thespian's Stage

CMC 1 (7)
Blazing Torch
Goblin Balloon Brigade
Magus of the Scroll
Norin the Wary
Orcish Spy
War-Torch Goblin

CMC 2 (10)
Abbott of Keral Keep
Madcap Skills
Makeshift Munitions
Mogg Cannon
Reckless Reveler
Sanguinary Mage
Scent of Cinder
Subterranean Scout
Torch Fiend
Wall of Torches

CMC 3 (12)
Boggart Arsonists
Captive Flame
Deputized Protester
Enraged Revolutionary
Five-Alarm Fire
Ghitu Fire-Eater
Mark of Mutiny
Mudbutton Torchrunner
Orcish Cannoneers
Staff of the Flame Magus
Torch Song

CMC 4 (15)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Dance with Devils
Fated Conflagration
Goblin Grenadiers
Goblin Razerunners
Hotheaded Giant
Impetuous Devils
Jeska, Warrior Adept
Pillaging Horde
Reign of Chaos
Talon of Pain
Tapestry of the Ages
Tooth and Claw
Vigilante Justice
War Barge

CMC 5 (7)
Blood Rites
Burn at the Stake
Eldrazi Monument
Pyromancer's Goggles
Storm Fleet Arsonist
Vulshok Battlemaster
Witch Hunt

CMC 6 (4)
Devils' Playground
Flayer of the Hatebound
Incite Rebellion
Inescapable Brute

CMC 7 (2)
Ignition Team
Vicious Shadows

CMC X (2)
Blasphemous Act
Kaervek's Torch

Lighting the Way

My previous execution of EDH restrictions with Rhys the Redeemed relied upon names of cards. For my second stab at creating a heavy constraint, I wanted to look elsewhere. Something that was, ideally, the opposite of text. That's when I moved my gaze from the top of the card toward the centerpiece of it: the art.

But what ABOUT the art? What am I supposed to care about? I didn't trust myself to be able to accurately determine consistently amongst cards I looked at whether or not a piece of art followed an art aspect that many might miss until they see a Magic Man Sam video or a Vorthos Mike tweet. I decided to only focus on literal depictions in the illustrations. That way, there'd be no dispute.

The theme I ultimately arrived at was: "a torch in the art." But what IS a torch? (Funny, I had to determine a specific definition for this deck just like I had to determine what made the cut for alliteration cards for my alliteration Commander deck.) Here's what I defined:

A static pole-like object with a flame-like source of light at one end used for means of illumination or destruction.

Here's what that means:
  • The source of light doesn't have to be natural fire but should be fire-like
  • I'm ignoring that flashlights are called "torches" in real life in parts of the real world and that flashlights don't meet the above definition since the light that emanates isn't "flame-like"
  • Depicted torches don't have to be possibly portable. I'm not talking about torches mounted on dungeon-crawler walls. I mean ones that you can't feasibly pick up and carry around. See The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for an example of a stationary torch
  • Torches sometimes are used to light your way but sometimes used to set fire to things. Both uses are embraced for this deck.
  • Candles don't count
  • Cauldrons of fire don't count
  • The focus is on whether the depicted object FEELS like a torch more than other types of fiery and/or illuminating objects
  • Humanoids are not torches
  • "Torch" in the name or flavor text doesn't count
Torchling by rk post

I debated whether to count candles since a candle is a long, cylindrical object. I decided that the concept of a "candlelit dinner" was important enough of a feeling that a "torchlit dinner" couldn't fulfill (instead gives a different feeling) that the same should go for "candelight" versus "torchlight." Candles were out.

Cauldrons of fire. You see this at the Olympic games after the Olympic torch is used to light it. And in other places where a receptacle is HOLDING fire within it. This is no torch.

Let's talk "no humanoids." I'm looking mostly at Chandra, but also at Torchling. I decided that even though Chandra's silhouette, when she stands perfectly straight while enflamed could resemble a torch, using Chandra would kill the spirit of the torch deck. There's a LOT of artwork that uses Chandra. And, for at least the planeswalker cards, her presence in the artwork would be overpowering enough.

Like Mark Rosewater says about Magic design, "If the theme isn't at common, it isn't your theme." The reason that is the case is because folks see commons most often in a booster pack of any given set. Including Chandra means you'd see more of her rather than other kinds of art most commonly. The torch theme would take a hit.

...Sadly, as much as I want this power and despite the name "Torchling", that "alternate reality Morphling" is also out. The focus was more on it being a red Morphling than it being a living embodiment of torches (shout out to Wall of Torches for being that "living" embodiment).

Lastly, "torch" in the name is a no-no. Same goes for flavor text. The focus of this deck is torches in art. Not mentions of "torch" elsewhere. 

Trial by Fire

So, how did I go about building the deck? Oh, goodness. Lemme tell ya.

Before deciding on which torch commander to use, here were my possibilities: Tuktuk, Norin, Thraximundar, and Sedris. 

I decided Sedris' torches were more like burning effigies, which were their own feel, less of a torch. For Thrax compared with Tuktuk and Norin, I felt like there wasn't as strong of a torch connection for Thraximundar, even though I REALLY wanted to include blue due to Ixalan's Marauding Looter.

Marauding Looter by Jason A. Engle
Lastly, Norin was already its own novel gag as a commander and more popular on EDHRec. Tuktuk is the one that felt most like a champion of the torch (and the one that needs most a (torch)light shined upon 'im).

After deciding on this monored commander, the realization sunk in that I was super lucky to only have one color to deal with. Because the next task of finding cards with torches in the art is not an easy one. You can't filter card on Scryfall by "torch." So thus began, months ago, the arduous task of searching every single red identity card that exists in Magic - which includes artifact cards.

Luckily, Scryfall has a "save" feature that lets you save up to 100 cards, which I found was plenty considering just how few choices there are available in the "torch in the art" card pool. A life-saving resource as I spent many commutes on the train to and from work doing the manual work of scrolling through search results on my phone and scrutinizing card art for tiny little depictions of torches. 

As an aside, by happenstance, Cube April happened to mention the topic of filtering Scryfall results by depictions of things in the art while I had this blog post in its draft state (It's what spurred me to expedite finishing this post!).

So, after weeks of searching through every single red and artifact card that existed in Magic, saving cards I found using Scryfall's save feature, what was the next task? Doing it again.

You know that phenomenon that happens when you're reading a novel or otherwise a passage of text, and you catch your mind was elsewhere, resulting you in not actually absorbing the information you were reading and thus requiring you to re-read the text? I figured the same thing might have happened while I was scrolling through art after art. ...and the result of the second pass of red cards and artifact cards? I ended up finding MANY cards I missed during my first pass. Whew.

Throughout my two passes, I came upon some cards that, even with a definition above, I still couldn't determine if was an eligible torch card. Sometimes, I took to Twitter and asked. And in some of those cases, if the artist was accessible on Twitter, I just asked the creator of the art directly!

Like when trying to determine whether some specks of red above an archway in the background was a candle or a torch (remember: candles don't qualify) for the art of Blasphemous Act, and I really hoped to have Blasphemous Act count in my torch card pool for having access to a mass creature board wipe. So, I asked the artist of the card, Daarken:

After the two passes, and scrutinizing and asking questions, I worked on a list from my available card pool. Very little synergy to work with, I did manage to find a few cute little interactions. Even by now, I'm sure maybe there are some cards I cut that I didn't think counted that perhaps should be counted and, conversely, some cards I included that maybe shouldn't have.

Anyway, below are some of the highlights of moments I had during my torch commander journey. Thanks for reading, and you can catch me and this deck in action in games of Commander at Grand Prix Portland. :) See you there.


  • "Chandra, Torch of Defiance", despite my two rules above against humanoids and word mentions, still was eligible. That's because the San Diego Comic-Con 2017 promotional art for Torch of Defiance depicts a person holding up a REAL torch to the wall art of Chandra.
  • The Card Kingdom website listed Orcish Spy's set versions but not its art versions. I only needed the Fallen Empires version with specifically art #61c, and not the #61a that the site only displayed from Fallen Empires. I put in an order and mentioned in the notes of the order to grab that specific art I needed. They were able to fulfill the request. :)
  • Norin and Vigilante Justice is a funny combo
  • Ixalan was fantastic timing for providing torch cards since pirates like to hold torches
  • Angry mobs of townsfolk like in Innistrad like to hold torches
  • Devils REALLY like torches
  • War Barge on opponents' creatures then sacrificing War Barge to Makeshift Munitions = LOL
  • I'm PRETTY sure that orange glow at the end of protrusion of the silhouette of one of the three humanoids depicted in the art for the Basic Mountain I included in my deck means there's a torch depicted in the art. If not, no big deal: basic lands already have exception rulings in Commander.
  • Subterranean Scout + Goblin Grenadiers is the kind of creature removal this deck is about
  • Tunnel is my favorite card I hope I can cast one day in a Commander game