Homemade Boros

Hey all. It’s been a long relaxing weekend, and I’m now back on the overly busy saddle. Let’s keep things easy this week and have a look at one of my limited deck designs: red white aggro. Aggro is almost an unneeded qualifier for this color combination, this is what Boros is all about! This deck features a new mechanic I created, play-tested…And will likely need to fix up a bit: Combo. Let’s see what the cards look like!

dolmiraDolmira, Spear of Volaria.

Quick overview of the combo mechanic. Whenever it’s the x’th – second, third, etc. – time a source you control deals damage during a turn, the combo ability on creatures you control trigger. If two of your creatures hit a player, you get combo 2. If you add a direct damage spell, you have combo 3.

Well this legendary angel will give lifelink to a creature you control when you deal damage twice during a turn, and it will untap all your creatures when you deal damage for the third time.
The very tricky aspect of combo, as it showed up during play-testing, is that it is easy to get up to combo 3, 4, or 5 by just attacking with that many creatures. It is also easy to bump the combo meter up by casting a couple direct damage spells, or having direct damage abilities, which don’t even cost you anything. It becomes very fun though, when you can separate combo abilities between the ones mattering all the time, and the ones mattering before combat damage. Lifelink, for example, will matter before combat damage. If you get Lifelink after all your creatures have already done damage, it’s useless. Untapping all of them though, will be used only if you have attacked with some already.

kerathanbarbarianKerathan Barbarian.
This little dude – I’m guessing a barbarian might not like me calling him that – combines the combo mechanic with the heroic one, from Theros.

Heroic dealing 2 damages to a player could actually trigger combo 2. But that’s not relevant, because combo 2 will be easy to activate by simply attacking with two creatures, and it will deal an extra damage. I like that the effect is limited, but it’s still too easy to have for almost free every turn.

I also realized I kept tacking good abilities on solid creatures, which gets too strong in the long run.

preemptive blastPreemptive Blast.
Now for some combo enablers, – even though like we have seen I might have made combo a little too easy to use already – here is a combat trick.

2 direct damage can enable some welcome pre-combat combo triggers, and it also enables heroic, giving one creature first strike. First strike as we’ll discuss later is also good for combo.

All this for same price as a shock! Kerathan Barbarian would love it. It had to be sorcery. Not too sure about the flavor by the way, but it was focused on the pre-combat combo idea.

patientflamePatient-Flame Disciple.

This monk is actually also a combo enabler. It starts as a Gray Ogre,- the legendary name for 2/2 for 3 – but can become a 2/4 vigilance for a turn when you pay a red and a white.

That’s already quite good like this but wait, there’s more: when you activate him, – and you can only once during your turn – Patient-Flame Disciple will deal one damage to a player.
Damages are good, and so are pre-combat combo modifiers.

bazoo
Bazoo, Lightning Blade
.
This one is the first time I make a card representing a friend using a professional illustration.

Bazoo illustrates perfectly the idea that pre-combat combo triggers can be important, and also the fact that first strike will help you get there. With combo 2, he gets double strike.

What this means, is that if you already have combo 1 by the time this soldier strikes, you will get combo 2 and he will strike again!

Combo was too powerful during play-test, which probably came from the fact combo was too easy to trigger. One thing we can do is ask ourselves: how many creatures will likely attack? The Battalion mechanic taught us that we can ask a Boros player to attack with 3 creatures.
Another question is do we really want to let direct damage add to the combo meter? I would have loved to answer this question with the affirmative, but I’m afraid it helps combo get out of control. This is sad, because incrementing the combo meter is a very fun design space for spells and abilities.

Another idea! Be careful about combo abilities that don’t care about when they happen, like dealing damage. If you can just wait until then end of the turn, even let you creatures die, and still have combo 3 or 4 and deal “free” damage that way, it might be too easy.
One last idea could be to get the combo requirement to be higher, but somewhat I feel that inevitability is more the issue here, rather than how easy it is to get combo counters.

quicksilverThis has been a very busy article, but I can’t bring myself to leave you on two paragraphs of deep analysis, so here is Quicksilver Blade.

First strike and a preemptive damage when attacking, that’s combo 2 here for you! This turned out to be very nice in this deck, as you can imagine by now. Great to see an equipment too, those are always very flavorful.

All in all, Boros was my favorite design, albeit quite a bit over-powered. It has some very exciting, aggressive and beautiful cards, I might show you some more in the future!

I hope you enjoyed the lengthy article, I’ll be talking to you again soon. Have a great week!

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Recursion is Blue

Hey all! Let’s change things up this week and go back to our mono-colored series. If you haven’t read the previous ones, check out the green, white and black articles! Today we are doing blue, and blue’s specialty is instant and sorceries.
When looking for blue spells of mine, I found extremely few of them. In fact, all of them were part of limited decks I created. Three out of the only four I created where even from of the same Simic deck! That being said I only created 1 limited deck with blue, and barely started a second – Esper. I don’t find blue spells easy to create, so this should be a challenge; let’s see what I came up with.

Kame Drowning TacticsKame Drowning Tactics introduces “Turtle Spellbinding”.
You heard right, the simic deck was constructed around a turtle tribe. Turtles never had their moment of glory in the past, but they should! Turtle spellbinding means that you can play this instant by paying a bigger cost, tapping an untapped turtle, and if you do you will get to keep the instant after casting it!

So, is 4 manas and “tap a creature” too expensive to have recursion on a bounce spell? It’s actually probably still too cheap. Let’s talk more about balancing recursive spells with the next card.

Turn To WaterTurn to water is going to make things even trickier. You see, recursion – using the same card over and over – has existed several times in the past, through for example Splice and Buyback – let’s not complicate things with semi-recursion like Flashback.

It’s pretty simple: if you want to allow recursion on cards, you have to make it very expensive. That’s even more true with countermagic here. If you compare Kame Drowning Tactics with Capsize and Turn to Water to Forbid, you might realize one is extremely powerful, and the other probably even over-powered.

frost waveFrost Wave is showcasing Wizard Spellbinding.

I wouldn’t judge the power of the card based on the fact it imposes you control a wizard to use the spellbinding though, just evaluate the card’s efficiency when you do.

It is probably too good again, as fully locking two creatures for 5 is way powerful, especially when you lock them for two turns, and can redo it each turn!
I love the downside of blue creatures being immune to ice, though.

Kerathan TideKerathan Tide. At last a card with a different mechanic.
Remember Multikicker? It was introduced in Worldwake as an extension to the Kicker mechanic from Invasion.

The card itself was quite obviously based on Griptide, but giving you the ability to send your own creatures to the top of your library to send more of your opponent’s on his/her own, for one more mana and a downgrade to sorcery speed.
Now griptide already being pretty efficient, I don’t think we want to allow its user to pitch small creatures to send 1, 2, or 3 more away on the other side! Maybe paying two creatures against one?

1400596710682734I was frustrated using only cards from my limited decks, and showcasing only two mechanics, so I made Mind Sacrifice. It is largely similar to Kerathan Tide.

What blue mechanic haven’t we tried yet? Milling! It’s not exactly easy to balance mill either; it’s easy to slip from useless to overpowered, since it’s pretty much what milling at large is! I tried to take into consideration Mind Funeral and Traumatize, but that only helped me so much.
I think it’s not too bad as is now, guarantied 14 cards isn’t nothing. Being able to self-mill 21 will also enable to crazy combo decks!

Well, this wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. I’m still not quite comfortable with blue spells, but maybe it’s because I was sticking to the classic themes. You have to keep in mind that even combat tricks and creature spells are available. I was going to ask about other classic blue effects I might have missed, but as I’m editing this article, I realize I haven’t done drawing! This will have to be fixed.

Right now it’s time to say have a great time and see you next week!

Magic salad

Hey all! I’m still being very busy these days, but I do want to keep writing so I decided I would do more free form articles like I did last time. This time I don’t have 5 cards for 5 colors, so let’s call it a salad to stay in the culinary theme. Diving right in.

Lohk, Scourge of Akroa

Lohk, Scourge of Akroa.
There are so many minotaurs in Theros, but no legendary one. I wanted this one to be good, but not too splashy. As a consequence it has pretty simple mechanics, but is still very powerful!

3/4 for 4 aren’t always very sought after in constructed, but then again minotaurs aren’t either. In a casual deck though, Lohk is going to unleash Hell if he comes after a couple other minotaurs, especially after “lords”!

What do you think?

 

Vicious HellspawnVicious Hellspawn. Another Rakdos card, if we count minotaurs.

A creature that gets smaller as more creatures enters the battlefield is a very interesting mechanic flavor wise. Making it good isn’t as easy though.

With Vicious Hellspawn in your opening hand, if you are starting and your opponent doesn’t play a creature each turn (turn 1 and 2) you can already attack with at least a 3/3. With some removal, speed, luck and its built-in ability, it might even be good! Needs testing though.

Prismatic SextantPrismatic Sextant. Spoiler alert, I’m thinking of making a series of tools and professions – like farmer, warrior, explorer, priest etc.

This one isn’t related to professions per say, but would fit perfectly the exploration theme, which is often what we call fetching for lands. If not this version I really want to see some land fetch equipment!

As is, it will cost you 4 and a “tap” to fetch your first land, and you will likely be able to fetch another 1 or 2 by only paying a few manas and using a creature afterwards. This could be combolicious!

Corrupt With PowerCorrupt With Power. As I keep repeating, cards are hard to balance. Basically any card could work as long as you balance it right, but that doesn’t make it simple!
This one also delivers a power that I want to see out there: stealing planeswalkers.

One thing that I took into consideration is that you don’t want stealing a planeswalker cost more than killing one plus playing one. I didn’t want to create a 6 mana spell either anyways. By hurting both the player and the planeswalker, did I make the card balanced? I’m afraid not just yet but I’m trying!
Someone on MTG Cardsmith mentioned that it is very hard to main deck a card that’s only of any use when your opponent does control a planeswalker, and they might be right about that, so maybe Corrupt with Power isn’t nearly as powerful as I initially thought.

Everfrost Wyvern.

There is no way I would pass on such amazing art. I even tried to look the author up for credits but failed.

The card is somewhat not very daring, but what can I do? Magic has such a strong flavor that it’s hard to move away from the “frost taps creatures and prevents them from untapping” paradigm. This gave me an idea though, maybe I’ll try and break free from all that color pie crazyness, see where I land 🙂
As is, my wyvern is a beautiful flying Frost Titan.

I like this sort of articles. They don’t impose much on my but to write an article about my various inspirations – and I do get those several times a week. I hope you like them because I don’t have time for much more these days. See you next week for more, have a great one!

 

I made a pie!

Hi guys, how is this week treating you so far? I have had random bits of inspiration recently, and they led to some sweet cards I’d like to share with you. Turns out each one of them is in a different color, so hopefully we can please everybody. Let’s not waste time and proceed through them in WUBRG order.

1398816476532764Rika, Three Faced turns out to be one of my favorite designs of the week. She is basically a 2/2 first strike that attacks and blocks with two other ephemeral 2/2 illusion soldiers.
If might remember Geist of Saint Traft, which is very strong, but can be handled as it’s just a 2/2. Well Rika is slightly stronger with first strike, but only comes with 2 vanilla 2/2. That should make her fairly reasonable, she might not even need to be a mythic. Three white mana slows her down a bunch, and is both flavorful and pretty sweet in Theros.
I played around with the idea of giving the tokens first strike, or the illusion ability, but one was too strong and the other too weak.

1398989957990931Fool’s Paradise. This is a top-down design, which is actually the case with most of my designs.
The idea is to get something that seems powerful, but is also very dangerous and temporary. The mechanic to implement that is borrowed from Illusions of Grandeur, and look, that’s the illusion ability again – sacrifice the creature when they get targeted.

+2/+2 in blue is a little weird, but not with the illusion ability – see Illusionary armor. I do like that the life loss becomes more inevitable as your creature become more fragile. Trivia: based on the eponymous track from Symphony X.

1398730121907044

Undead Slaughterer is straight forward and brutal. It comes into play, kill something, gets big – hopefully -, and starts beating down.

How to tune down a kill spell that comes in with a potentially big creature, for less than 6 mana? Well for one thing it can’t kill black creatures – did I say I didn’t like to resort to this mechanic? Sorry… I need to figure out another downside that I like better.

Undead Slaughterer can’t block either. Is that enough? Still pretty good, isn’t it?

 

1398783291852837Atomize is also a flavor-base design.
The idea is that you are striking VERY. HARD. Atomize strikes so hard the target isn’t indestructible anymore, and takes 13 damage. So hard that it destroys a mountain in the process – which reminds me of Dragon Ball! Atomize is so mean, all players take 3 damage in the process.

Losing indestructible I find excellent and fun, destroying a mountain should be downside but could be upside, which is crazy. Finally adding 3 damages to players makes it so nice and complex it needs to be a rare.

1399334647365165Volarian Witch.

Sometimes you see Avenger of Zendikar and you want to make it into a sorcery. And sometimes you find such an amazing art that you have to change you plans.
I would love to see more plant tokens like those, the issue is I’m assuming they are a little too powerful. In all fairness I don’t really know what kind of power we are dealing with here, I guess a lot when you play them early. I would need to play test that.

Meanwhile, Volarian Witch looks awesome.

So what’s your verdict, which color wins it this week? I think my favourite is green, the second is white. Next week, unless I’m having one of those inspirations streaks, I’ll get back to my mono-colored article series. Or maybe I’ll play around the last Gods from Journey into Nyx… Whatever happens though, have a great week!