Back to Black

Hey all! The Journey into Nyx has finally come and I’m proud – if not happy – to say I only got beat by Phenax and Mogis. Mogis even had a colossus with him! Still 2-2 in the end, so it was a little sad, as I was fairly happy with our decks.

I haven’t had a lot of time to work on game design recently, but I have updated my magic android app MTG20 LifeCounter. Check it out if you haven’t yet! Here’s a screenshot showing the new aspect, with a reminder that you can create your own profile and make it gorgeous.
Screenshot_2014-04-28-07-34-56Now let’s get back on track. I can finally announce that I’m back on my mini-series – or cycle if you prefer – of one card type per color. We have seen green creatures and white enchantments, now is time for black instant and sorceries.

backstabFirst, here is Backstab. This one I have good hopes is a well rounded removal spell. First let’s state the obvious, this is removal for one single mana.
So did I balanced it back to a reasonable power level? Well for one it won’t destroy black creatures, which I dislike as a downside but am afraid is needed – a friend noted that it’s not printed on that version though. I could have gone for a life loss, but under 3 I feel it would have been too easy to cope with. Second, you need one of your black creatures to do the backstabbing. I love the flavor of this second mild downside. All in all well rounded, yes?

greaterplague5dropGreater Aether-Plague was harder to pull off. I knew that I was going for a mass removal spell, but it’s hard to keep those in check.

My idea was that if I was making the user pay more than for a Mutilate, and with possibly smaller numbers (-4 def against -X for Mutilate), I could use this crazy “non-black” clause that would greatly advantage black decks. Thing is, like expected, mass removal is awesome, so adding such an upside is just wild.

What to do then… Does -3/-3 for 4 sound better?

1398732867508834I created Nightmarish Nights for this article. Then I realized I was supposed to make instants and sorceries. Then I told myself “Oh well, it’s interesting”.

So it is actually a curse, one focused on making your opponent discard. For the power level, I believe one discard a turn shouldn’t be too good, especially considering it’s somehow optional, and will stop by itself.

The final 2 life loss is also a nice little touch to a pretty flavorful card!

1381373107BONUS ROUND: Get Over Here!

Well technically it’s black, right?

I love this card. It’s mostly removal, but it’s not as easy as casting Terminate. At worse, you will get 2 damage, which might already be enough. Otherwise, you can force combat on a creature that will be weakened for a round, which sounds like Chemister’s Trick, but only better.

Little trivia, only two cards outside of Unglued and Unhinged had an exclamation mark in their title.

What do you say, do those make you want to black with black magic? I wonder what I will pick for the next article in this series… Blue flyers? Red Burn? Tell me if you have any other ideas.

Until then, have a great week!

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Breaking Bestow

Hey friends! Turns out I’m still not ready to give you that article about black spells that I promised, but it will come in time! I have a couple interesting things to show though, with a slightly different spin than usual. The first one starts with this design that might make you scream “broken!”.

1397572682Nyxborn Elephant Guide. Isn’t it cute? It’s actually a very good looking card, but it’s just too powerful. To begin with, the lower it gets is a 3/3 for 3, with the small disadvantage to be an enchant.

But with bestow for 3, this pachyderm is just busted. Imagine: pay 3, give +3/+3 to a creature for good, that’s already amazing. Then if the creature dies, you get a 3/3 for free? That’s not reasonable.

And with bestow, the biggest risk you take it to get your creature removed in answer, and it will still net you a 3/3. So what made me think of this design?

ImageThis guy! Elephant Guide, as subtly hinted at in my own design’s name, was the inspiration for it. If you are familiar with the Cube format, you might know this card. It is pretty great. You still basically get both +3/+3 and a 3/3 for the low-low cost of 2 and a green.

It is, when you think of it, very close to his Nyxborn cousin. Now what is the difference and how much does it matter? Apart from nitpicking with “the token in Elephant Guide won’t be an enchant”, the only functional difference is the fizzle rule exception for bestow.

In case you didn’t know yet, if you make the target of a bestow ability illegal by the time your bestow card resolves, by killing or bouncing the creature you were bestowing upon for example, the bestow card will still resolve as a creature. You probably know that it’s not true for another regular enchant. Kill the target of an Elephant Guide in response to casting it, it will get countered and nothing happens. Kill the target of Nyxborn Elephant Guide, you will get a 3/3 for 3! Good times.

Now that you know the difference, either you will understand me or you will believe me, it is very important! Of course, you want a guarantied 3/3 over nothing. That’s called inevitability, and I like it. But also if that was the case the card would be way too powerful. Anyways, it was still fun to make it 🙂 Judging by Nylea’s Emissary, I could see Nyxborn Elephant Guide cost 4 to cast and 5 to bestow, and it would still be a bit powerful that way.

mm232_primordials

Remember those guys? Well I’m finishing that cycle too this week! So how may I finish a cycle that is already made of 5 cards? By making a gold card of course!

1397607687Pentacle Primordial. First let it be said, it’s scary. Second it costs 7 and is an Avatar, just like the other primordials.

Then comes the ability. Primordials all have an ability that starts with “for each opponent”. Well our demonic primordial will allow you to control each of your opponents for a turn! Isn’t that exciting?

SPOILER ALERT: The upcoming edition Journey Into Nyx contains a card with the same effect! It’s called Worst Fears, and I think we can agree it’s a well deserved name.

Now I’ll let you know that Sylvan Primordial has been banned in commander. Commander being a casual format mostly, the ban isn’t fully official as far as I know, but one could imagine Pentacle Primordial being hit by the ban hammer for similar reason. What reason again? Well people in commander tend to take a Sylvan Primordial, “blink” it – make it leave the battle field and come back again, with for example Cloudshift – and destroy everybody’s permanents, making the whole table scream in rage.

Now something amusing happened while I was writing about closing the primordial cycle. I realized I could also make an artifact! So without further ado, let me introduce the 7th primordial:

1397610389Steelborn Primordial. This one was a little tricky. Artifact doesn’t have the same kind of strong identity that colors in magic do. Can you tell me of an effect that’s typically colorless? What about an everygreen ability? Defender? It would be a little boring to make a big primordial that cannot attack.

So I figured our artifact primordial would rely entirely on being big. For each opponent, he will give you a 3/3 golem, which happens to be one of the things artifacts like to do. It may sound a bit underwhelming, but you are getting a minimum of 7/9 for 7, so no need to be too demanding!

This was fun. I like digging into the reasons behind creations, keeping in mind a bigger picture than the design of a single card helps to keep it solid. It can even make it easier, as magic as a whole is coherent and flows naturally like for this last primordial. Do you think it misses a little something to make it spicier? Tell me if you find out what!

Either way, have a good one and see you next time!

Godly Weapons

Hey everybody. I have been taken away from my initial article plan. I meant to tell you about black removal spells, but I couldn’t resist the call of the gods any longer. Here is what happened.
The gods of born of the gods being minor gods, they don’t get all the attention Heliod, Thassa, Erebos, Purphoros and Nylea, who are getting ordeals, weapons, emissaries. I have made ordeals for the minor gods already, but it’s time to show them my devotion once more, this time with weapons.
weapons

You probably already know the weapons from the Theros block. They are mostly great, game breakers in limited and even sometimes pretty good in constructed. Can we make something similar? I say yes, with the difference that I think they should be somehow harder to take advantage from, because of the “specialized” aspect of each two colors combinations. Let’s see that.

epharaAmphora of Ephara has an terrible sounding name. What can I say, that’s what she’s holding, and that’s the way those cards are templated.
I’ll be honest I just read that design again and I think I went too far! Flying to everybody should cost more than 3, even in two colors, especially if there’s another great ability in the mix. This would need to be fixed…
The secondary ability is neat though. It’s meant to be used to move auras around and trigger heroic. though I just realised you probably wouldn’t be able to use bestow with that… Maybe I need to rework the whole thing.

mogisHalberd of Mogis is getting there. I wanted to go for something different than the usual cheap weapon, and I also thought double strike could be fun.

It’s so powerful that it needs to cost at least 6, to be honest I’m not even clear that’s enough.

The second ability is gravy, being able to deal damage straight to players and creatures is nice, but you might want to attack with double strikers instead!

 

karametraThrone of Karametra. I like that those gods have very different tools / weapons.

I think I wasn’t sure if I should have all weapons grant a classic ability to all creatures, then have an activated ability on top, but I decided I would.

Vigilance sounds mostly logical for selesnya, and making wolf tokens even more.

It’s a very simple, somewhat classical weapon in the end, but it’s still fairly good, and aggressively costed, so I like it!

phenaxCloak of Phenax is another one of those not-quite-weapons but it’s cool.
It really needed to have intimidate on it, which is quite powerful to give to all creatures, but also spot-on flavour wise.

From there I decided to make the second ability less powerful, and still on flavour, so milling it is. Note that I let that one the possibility of being activated twice in the same turn, which could be pretty nice.
This weapon is also one of the best to use with the god himself, which I didn’t always have in mind.

xenagosThe last one is our star, Lyre of Xenagos! Xenagos being a major participant in the story of Theros, I wanted to make sure to make a great weapon for him.

Trample is also a must for Gruul colors, seems quite evident to me.
Then it took me a long time to find something that had not been done yet, but I’m actually very happy with what I ended up finding.

Kessig Wolf Run for every body! As long as you can pay for each, of course.
All in all those weapons aren’t my most polished designs, but someone had to do it! As Maro says, humans look for completion in patterns and I know I do more than many. It is pretty fun to make designs for cards that would logically fit the cycles of Theros. Time will tell if I should be making some emissaries! That could be fun too… You can tell me if you really want them 🙂

No matter what, have a great week! Talk to you later.

Enchanting Magic

Hey all! As promised, this week I’m going to talk about non-creatures. I have had one or two great ideas recently though, so it turns out we are not going to look at instants and sorceries, but enchants. And what better color for that than white?
White is notably the biggest color for enchantments, and Theros only makes it more obvious. Not only there is a very strong enchant theme in the whole block, but white has several cards caring about how many enchants you have, when enchants enters the battlefield, and destroying or reanimating enchantments. Have a look at this deck that I recently battled in Magic Online, it had some crazy effects based on white enchantments!

Crazy game!

Heliod's Presence

Heliod’s Presence is the first design on this list, and it’s such a fun little thing! My original idea was to create a card that increases white devotion, and I thought of making copies of an enchantment for that, as Pack Rat hinted at – and in case you didn’t know, it is making a killing in standard black devotion decks these days.

What I didn’t realize though, is that making Heliod’s Presence into two enchantments would help a lot with the echants sub-theme. Doesn’t it make Ethereal Armor fun? How about Sphere of Safety?

And there’s more! I didn’t want the enchantment to be only sitting there and do nothing, so I thought of it being used to give virtual vigilance to creatures. And as one of my friends noticed, it’s actually even better than that because it plays into the Inspired mechanics! All this makes for a card that would be really enjoyable to try around in Theros.

Nonchalent SentinelNonchalent Sentinel is somewhat of an abstract concept. What I wanted was to have an enchantment that would behave like a big old defender creature, except it would really be an enchantment, and never a creature.

Making it happen of course was slightly awkward as far as rule text is concerned, but not quite as bad as I expected. It also foils things like deathtouch and probably others as well, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as they don’t come up too often.
And as a bonus, you get one more enchantment and two more devotion to Heliod!

bird mountLastly, I shoul showcase a card from the limited decks I’ve made. I printed the third one recently! Bird Mount is our guy.

Bird Mount is one of those balanced designs, if not even slightly weak. You need cards like that in a balanced set though. And it’s not that bad either, I’d say it would be playable in limited, especially in Theros with enchantment themes, Heroic and Devotion – if white wasn’t already so great, maybe.

All in all Bird Mount is a solid design, I hope you like it!

I really enjoy making articles about my best designs these days, and it’s extra nice to have them be of the same type and colors! I might try and make yet another similar article next time, maybe black or blue spells… I also have exciting news as I’ve started play-testing my first limited decks! I will definitely play them more and think about how to make them better, then write about them very soon. So be excited!

Until then, have a great week 🙂