Limit break spells!

Hey friends! Boy it’s hard to keep up with all of the things. On top of working a lot I have a board game side project that I’m having the hardest time making progress on, and I’m also trying to spruce up a life counter app that I made, so that I can proudly present it to the world, after having left it in the same state for a couple of months… Anyways, I’ll keep trying to bring you my updated designs in a timely fashion, and this week we’re going to see a couple more instant and sorceries! If you know final fantasy VII, you’ll understand why I called them limit break.


The first of the two is Omega Psyclone. As you can see, the spell is connected to Aika. If you haven’t seen her yet, take a look at one of my first articles here to see what she looks like! Omega Psyclone is one of her attacks in the game (a limit break in FFVII). So the idea is that it will be more efficient when she is on the battlefield, rather than only playable then. That being said, Omega Psyclone is a little overpowered. Turns out there is very few spells that deal damage to all creatures, and most are not very recent. At best they have big requirements before they can take full effect, like with the best in recent memory, Bonfire of the Damned.

1379394949What’s the fix? Well for one thing this kind of effect is most of the time given only as a sorcery. Quite often it doesn’t kill flyers but we might not have to go that far. Did you figure out the point of making the caster of the spell pay life in the initial design?Since it’s related to the cost of the spell, when Aika is in play you would have to pay less! Pay 3 life, have all opponents and creatures take 5. This is neat, but life loss is just never printed in red, so let’s give that up. What I figured is, since I’m tuning the card down a lot, I could make its cost even higher, and get to the Flame Wave territory. It might still be a little powerful as a versatile flame wave, but it’s more expensive, so we should be ok. There we go, done!

1379394202Now Lunar Cleansing. One of the weakest spells I designed back then. Regenerate all your creatures isn’t something unheard of, as in most recent memory with Golgari Charm. 1 life on top is hardly anything at all though, compared to the versatility of the charm. We all know that there were never any colorless instants and sorceries outside of Rise of the Eldrazi. This is very conscious for us though, as “silver” is a color in our Skies of Arcadia Magic edition, as you can see with the design of Fina, Silver Princess, my first design on this blog, which Lunar Cleansing is related to. The last weirdness is trying to keep track of the creatures you did regenerate, as win only as much life. Let’s get rid of that.

1379395156 (1)So how did we fix Lunar Cleansing? I’m ok keeping those spells that are related to character as rares, even though it made me design way too many rares so far… What I’m happy with, is to make it a bad rare for a change. I toyed with the idea of making the creatures indestructible, but that didn’t fit the flavor of the cleansing. As of now, if you don’t control Fina, Lunar Cleansing is still a spell that regenerates all your creatures for 3. Which is meh, a little better since it’s colorless. And when you do own a Fina, you can gain 3 life per creature you control, which is still good but not crazy, and totally conditional. All in all I won’t particularly advise you play that card in limited, but we need those kind of cards!

That’s it for this week! In the future I’ll consider making only one card a week, and I will also think about talking about other subjects, more designs that are not from Skies of Arcadia, as I’ve done before, and others about rulings, and other various news maybe. Plus I might give you a peak at my Android app, so stay tuned!

I designed my girlfriend

Hey all, it’s been a while. I have missed a post and a half so far, I think; I’ve been away to a wedding in Canadia last weekend, and I’ve been working a lot this month and even more in the past two weeks, but sorry for the delay either way.

Picking new cards from 10 years ago and re-making them would take me too long this week as well, so I decided to have an interlude, and present to you a design I made around 7 months ago, as a goofy treat for my girlfriend, who plays magic as well. It’s a fun one, but it’s a little broken so we’ll need to fix it. As you read, try and figure out what actual card from Gatecrash is very similar to this one. The funny story is that even though I did know Gatecrash, I completely missed that card. So in all fairness, I came up with a design that’s reminiscent (yet not as good) that what the folks at wizards came up with, and that makes me happy. Let’s see it.

createcard (8)Tanisha, relentless (we all like a bit of teasing) is a neat idea. Bloodrush (by the way I have a real hard time figuring out the flavor of this ability) goes along with deathtouch very nicely, and what better in green than a serpent for this ability. By now if you do know it you have figure that this design is very similar to Wasteland Viper, a very tasty one drop, which proves I didn’t copy it, cause I can assure you I wouldn’t settle for such little creativity. It’s so similar to my design!

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On one side I think regenerate on top of deathtouch is ok for bloodrush. Since the ability is instant speed, you usually have a good shot at making sure your creature survives, same as with Wasteland Viper. But deathtouch on top of regenerate for a creature is not ok. Way to powerful! I’ve tasted Maze Abomination in combination with Trestle Troll or Mortus Strider and I can tell you it is very very good. In fact there is no creature with both abilities, the same way very few creatures have first strike and death touch. What should we do to fix our design then? If we remove regenerate completely it’ll be too close from the viper, and our design is Gruul so it should have a little extra power to it. One the other hand I don’t want to break the symmetry of the creature’s abilities and the ones its bloodrush grants.

I realized another weakness of this design in the fact that both deathtouch and regenerate are keywords associated to green creatures. I thought for a long while about what I could grant a red creature that wouldn’t be broken with deathtouch, as first strike, double strike and trample are, and would be useful with bloodrush, as haste isn’t. Then I came up with an ability that is becoming more and more important in magic, so much that I could imagine it becoming a keyword some day: can’t be blocked by less than two creatures! It comes with all sorts of number of creatures though, which doesn’t help making it a keyword I guess.

createcard (9)What about the cost then? Let’s keep one thing in mind: forcing the defending player to block a deathtouch creature with several of theirs is still very powerful. This is why I’ll keep Tanisha a 1/1. On her own she’ll still be a 1/1 deathtouch, that the opponent needs to pitch two creatures against. Best part is you’ll get to pick which one dies. Its’ bloodrush will only be better than the Wasteland Viper’s in the case where you want to give one of your creatures some kind of evasion. I don’t think it’s all that different form giving a creature +3/+2 for example though, it’s likely to kill two blockers. This time it’ll work giving +1/+1 to a 1/1 though!


I’m pretty fond of this version. It’s a little complicated but it should be fun to play! I’ll try and be back to the main Skies of Arcadia theme last week though. Stay tuned!

(Re)creating suspend

Today we’re getting our first sorceries, that should be refreshing. Those are more straight forward in the sense that they don’t come with power and toughness, and usually only have a one shot ability that relates to a creature’s activated ability. Obviously that enables them to have more impressive effects as well, since they are not repeatable.

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Brace yourself!

Today we also discover that I had designed a mechanics Magic The Gathering would later add to their arsenal: suspend. For those who haven’t seen it before, suspend makes you exile a spell after you cast it, with a number of counters on it. You remove a counter at each upkeep, and when there is no counter anymore, cast the spell for free. In lame terms, cast a spell, have it resolve X turns. This a very powerful mechanic. It has been a favorite when first printed in Time Spiral (2006) and again when reprinted in Modern Masters more recently (2013). I could see no trace of me explicitly defining the rules of what I called “rebours” in French, which translates to countdown. Oh, have I mentioned before that I’m not from around here? Well now you know! 🙂 What I’ll do is I’ll use suspend, since I’m borrowing the development of the mechanics from wizards as it is in substance the same thing. And now we fix card designs.

First, Valuan Sentence. Yeah… No. This is one pretty obviously broken design right there. Comparing it to actual black suspended spells though, I see that Curse of the Cabal has a very potent effect as well. You can suspend it for 2 black, 2 colorless, and 2 suspend counters, and the target player will have to sacrifice a permanent each time they want to add two more turns to the countdowns until the spell resolves. Then when it does, they have to sacrifice half their permanents!


The difference with Valuan Sentence though, is that they only lose a permanent (which could be a land, enchant, artifact, etc.) a turn, and only if they thinks it’s better to postpone the effect two more turns. It’s true that when the spell hits they lose half their permanents, but it still this gives them choice, pretty much of what dies and when. And if you have read my very first article you’ll know that choice matters a lot! Valuan Sentence would take this choice away and just kill two guys in one turn for 3 manas, and that’s crazy. Not to mention the card was instant, which is just stupid: you could cast it on the opponent’s turn and have the suspend counter be removed right after! No suspend spell is instant.

Something else that is worth mentioning is that my suspend mechanic was the only way to cast those spells. In the Magic version, most of the time (save for a few exceptions worth mentioning) there is a normal (yet higher) casting cost to have the spell resolve right away, and a suspend cost to get it in a few turns. Let’s fix the card, now.

So what should “destroy two creatures” cost? It’s hard to say. What we would need is a very important tool of card development: play testing. I won’t lie, writing this blog on top of my other occupations is already costing me quite some time, and making cards and playing them inside other formats to test their power would be a full time job (guess what, it is). What I can do is look at what it usually costs to destroy more than one creature. Turns out you have the choice to either pay 5 life, let an opponent draw 3 cards, or have to wait to either have no cards in hand or find two targets of the exact same color(s). The nice part is that the mana costs usually aren’t that high. So I went with my gut feeling, and decided to make this a 5 mana spell with 3 suspend counters on it. I toyed with the idea to make it destroy only non-black creatures, but opted to not, thinking the power level was downgraded enough as is. 5 mana means that if you are on the draw, and drop a land every turn (which isn’t usually the case, but we’ll use best case scenario to make sure the spell isn’t too strong), your opponent will play his turn 7 before two of his creatures get destroyed. createcard (1)Comparing it to Desecration Demon that will usually leave them with two less creatures in three turns (they shouldn’t pay right after) then attack them with a 8/8 flyer or keep eating their creatures away, that’s not so bad. The spell will also have the downside to be fairly bad late, in a long game. To wrap this up, I also left the downside of the two targets not being optional, which means you will have to kill one of your creatures if it is the only target. Quick mention to the hard cast cost; I was looking at making it 9 but I dislike the trick of making it so high that it’s equivalent to impossible to cast. I think leaving it for 8 mana and 3 black is fair if you want to destroy those two creatures. Now on to the next card.

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Dark Rift Instability is a crazy fun! If you like chaos, that is. As such it’s a very red card. One issue though: the only way you can win with it is if your opponent doesn’t have a land or a spell they can cast, and no way of getting rid of a permanent you or they own. Possibly worse: on the flip side, if you have a way of easily getting rid of a permanent (with a creature that allows you to sacrifice others for example) you can use the effect way too easily. How do we make Dark Rift something a little more unpredictable?

I thought for a while and came up with the new design. One thing I realized was that permanents are too changing to base the card on them. And not changing in a good way. For example you could be sitting on a removal spell and waiting for the last minute to change the count of permanents and win the raffle. Of course your opponent could be doing the same, but for one if they don’t have access much or at all to removal it’s pretty unfair, and two if they do it still doesn’t seem fun to me. You try and modify the count at the last second to win the bet, they cast another removal and win over you. Something I find less unfair is to base on the number of lands.

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Granted that it’s less random, it’s still hard to predict and red has access to some land hate that makes it flavorful without being very likely to happen. I’d like to make this spell cost 1 and deal 4 damage to a player. This reminds me of Lightning Bolt, Shock, Goblin Grenade and Galvanic Blast, and a long list of red instants doing a bunch of damage for 1 mana. I didn’t seem to realize life loss is black and not red, so here’s fixed in that version. Since I want it to be straight forward, I’ll give it suspend 1.

What it ends up meaning is, the player picks even or odds, then basically says “your turn; if you don’t play a land you take 4 damages”. You can gain advantage from our opponent not playing a land, you can decide to give them incentive not to, and if you’re sitting on an instant land removal, it’s all good for you! Granted that instant land destruction is way less frequent than sorcery, but you could play tricks with both. Finally, the fact that at the end of the day you might be paying 1 red and a card to just take 4 to the face, so it’ll make a wacky uncommon in our set, which could be made better if there was more land destruction, or maybe land sacrifice (that seems to be a better idea). And before we move on to the last suspend spell, thanks to Ashling’s Prerogative for giving me hints on how to word the card’s rules.

createcard (7)Glacier’s Judgment (I can’t remember what motivated me to pick the name anymore) is also fun and wacky, so let’s leave it that way. This makes a good case for a mythic rare card as well, as they are supposed to have a very spectacular and yet very niche effect. What’s best than “you win the game” to fill those expectations? Point is though, that you really don’t want this to be easy to achieve. In fact, you mostly want to be not playable or bad. Simply because it would be so lame if a competitive way of wining the game was to cast a simple spell that says “you win” on it! How bad can we make Glacier’s Judgement then?

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The sky is the limit! Or the bottom I guess, especially in Skies of Arcadia (flying boats and all, there’s only sky in Arcadia, get it?). I’m leaning towards making its suspend cost 9, to make sure it can’t be casted early. I also don’t want people to be casting it for free, so I’ll add a clause to the spell which will even make it a (huge) liability if you were to cast it by mistake! You will lose the game. Finally, Glacier’s Judgement will kick in a few turns after you suspend it. I think 10 is a good number, two digits give you a good hint you will have to hold your ground if you want to see the spell resolve. At the end of the day, you could play this card for fun, or if you are beginner, you can try and break it if you are a combo player, but if you are a competitive player you should stay away from it! (those three types of player are known as Timmy, Johnny and Spike, according to Mark Rosewater in a great article). This card also made me wish I could rewrite suspend so that it could only be cast if you remove the last counter with the suspend ability, but since we made the suspend cost so high, I guess we can give in to the combo with Fury Charm

Making sorceries wasn’t so bad after all! I think I was helped by the fact that I was merely playing around with the suspend mechanic. The challenge remains for innovative and varied instant spells. We’ll see next week if I decide to tackle more or those, instants, enchants and artifacts, or other cycles of creatures 🙂

Side note about the illustrations now: it’s actually pretty hard to come up with images from Skies of Arcadia, and specially action shots for instants and sorceries, that wouldn’t be pictures revolving around the main characters. The game is old, and screenshots are sparse over the Internet. I’ll keep on doing my best and sometimes doing some extra work to figure out different pictures from the new and old designs of the card as I’ve been doing so far, but eventually I might run out of original and fitting content for my new cards, so apologies in advance about the illustrations if I do! This time though, I found some pretty cool fan art on Snoo2Dee‘s deviant art page for Glacier’s Judgment, so kudos to her 🙂