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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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?
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 🙂