So I went back home a month ago and I found this old notebook of mines, on which I used to draw manga illustrations. At the end of the book, I found magic card designs I made around 10 years ago. Those were based on a game I loved very much at the times, Skies of Arcadia. Skies is a great japanese RPG by Sega’s Sonic Team on the Dreamcast. The universe is all about pirates on flying ships. Sound cool, doesn’t it? Do check it out.
The game was strongly based on 6 elements: fire, nature, air, electricity, ice, and a 6th special one, you could call holy, life/death, or just “magic”. I will explain here and there how I adapted flavor so that electricity is black and ice is white, but don’t get too concerned with that right now. Let’s just dive into things instead; I’ll introduce characters and places as I go.
I remembered one thing about those designs: I had created sunburst. If you are not familiar with sunburst, it’s an ability that will count how many colors you used to cast a colorless spell, and have an effect based on that number. For creatures it will generally give them that many +1/+1 counters. Let’s look at the way I designed my take on sunburst with Fina. You’ll see the idea of how many colors is there, but the effect is quite different.
Isn’t Fina cute? She seems like she could be deadly too. I don’t think she’s that well balanced though. An effect similar to Tefeiri’s Moat, for only 1 mana, coming along with a creature with protection?
That’s a lot, even if you only get protection against a color you are playing (or likely do, since you had to pay the colored mana for it). Even worse: In this edition, I created manas that are of several colors! That could potentially make this card busted. Things protected against more than two colors have a tendency to cost 10 or 15 mana!
So what could we do to fix Fina? I am fond of making her a 1/1 for 1, because you will be able to only stop one color, and it will force you to make choices. Protection against a color that already can’t attack isn’t that relevant though; maybe I should drop it?
I thought of restricting the ability to creatures without flying, but then I thought: blue. You see, the fact that fina prevents your own creatures from attacking make her less unreasonable. But if you can still attack with your army of flyers, which blue is well known for doing frequently, red players are going to be furious! (which they are well known for being frequently as well)
I do want to see two abilities related to sunburst though. I thought of making Fina be the colors of mana spent to cast her, but it doesn’t follow the flavor since she is silver, the 6th color of this set. Intimidate would have been fun to add on that, except it would make her worse to be of several colors. Plus a 1/1 intimidate is hardly impressive, and she her ability would prevent her from attacking anyway!
So here the new version. The issue with this concept is Fina could pack just about any kind of combination of ability related in any way to colours, and it’s hard to pick a combination of them that bring at the same time power, balance, and fun. After switching a hundred times, I ended up thinking that if I tuned down the “pacifism” ability enough, I could get back protection.
As she is now, the princess will deactivate small creatures of one color and block a big one, thanks to the protection. One important fact remains that you need to be able to cast a mana of the color you are trying to neutralize.
You could want to sandbag Fina in order to see what color your opponent has in common with you, which might tame the effect of locking their early turns. Plus she doesn’t prevent them from blocking, so you will still need to dominate the board to win. She’s still pretty powerful as is though, not sure if she is too much. I wouldn’t say so, I even figure she could be of several colours and still not be broken. In fact she reminds me of Lavinia.
One fun idea I toyed with was to lock down some type of creatures, corresponding to the colors.
- White: creatures with vigilance, or creatures with toughness 4 or more.
- Blue: creatures with flying (in my other split I flying as well, because I wanted to split power and toughness into 4 colors).
- Black: creatures with lifelink (intimidate?), or creatures with toughness 3 or less.
- Red: creatures with haste, or creatures with power 3 or less.
- Green: creatures with trample, or creatures with power 4 or more.
The choice of lifelink and intimidate was interesting. It might be preferable to stop intimidate guys, since their ability is an evasion one, but lifelink would impact some black AND white creatures, and white had only vigilance disabled which was not very impressive. Maybe lifelink for white and intimidate for black could work… For the power/toughness split, the flavor was good for green fatties (power > 3) and white defenders (toughness > 3). On the other side, small red creatures (power < 4), and low toughness (<4) black creatures made only some sort of sense but wasn’t very obvious in flavor.
One last thing I’d like to mention is wording. I was going for an effect that does something for each mana color spend, so I wasn’t sure it would fit nicely in the text box if I made 5 sentences like “If you spent white mana to cast Fina, creatures with vigilance can’t attack.” So I looked at the following wording:
After stating “If you spend white mana…”, I would add “The same is true with blue mana for flying, red mana for haste…”. I knew that this is a wording that exists in magic but I was under the impression that it was a little goofy. I checked how many cards have it, and there’s a few! Here’s the list, it’s interesting to see. Apparently the concept dates all the way back to Tempest in 1997 and has been used as recently as Eventide in 2008, but it’s only been printed on 5 cards. About one every two years, which probably shows designers are not very fond of the wording, even though it’s a nice shortcut for fun effects. Seems they mostly used it to grant one creatures the same evergreen ability as another one though.
Voila! So let’s take a final look at my creation before we wrap up; what do you think, does it seem like a fun card to play with? Excited to see more silverfolks like Fina? I think the card is ok, but I could have tried longer to find the proper balance of power and fun. I tried for a while though! I promise I’ll do even better next time 🙂