Brainiac

I have to postpone our anniversary. Too much work this week, and it happens that last Thursday my laptop died, taking with it a lot of my blog’s work and some of my Magic app as well. More than anything I’m swamped and demoralized so I didn’t feel up to make the celebrations happen this week. Hopefully I will have caught up with most of what’s on my mind – and plate – by the real anniversary, which is on the 30th!

Instead, we are going to delve into the power of the mind this week. I wanted to create very powerful spells, and see how expensive they would have to be. One of my angles was that they needed to be instants, and that would be a great part of what makes them powerful.

MindNovaMind Nova.

How much more powerful is discard at instant speed? As it turns out, it’s not completely rare. Since I really wanted today’s spells to be very powerful and high cost, I decided to combine the discard with some draw effect.

5 manas of two colors for an almost literal 4-for-1 – I’m not certain discard counts for a full 1 – effect? Sounds like a spell that is worth casting, doesn’t it. It’s hard to tell, since tempo is important with that kind, and 5 is steep… Could it be 4? At least it enables graveyard synergies, if you target yourself.

MindSeizeMind Seize.

This card’s sole purpose is to make control magic more powerful and hence expensive.

The upsides of making it Instant are obviously the surprise. It can be a blowout if your opponent attacks you with two creatures and you steal one to block the other, or if you steal something at the end of your turn and attack your opponent with it right away!
When trying to figure out a proper cost for such an upgrade to the effect, I thought it might be better at 6 or 7! Even with 3 blue mana, 5 is pretty pushed.

So… I’m trying to keep afloat and take care of my work duties and all the fun stuff that I want to do on the side, catch up on my app and blog, etc. I do hope I’ll rise on top of all that for next week’s post and finally the anniversary celebrations! Send me good waves, and have a great week!

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Le Flash

Title shmitle. Guess what, we are less than 10 days away from this blog’s first anniversary! I came up with a few things to celebrate, so it should be fun.
Today though, we are going to consider the current trend of creatures becoming spell-like. As you might know, a long time ago creatures in Magic used to be way underpowered compared to spells, and some argue that it wasn’t enough fun. I think I would agree to that. I want summon spells to be happily bashing into each other’s faces, making every attack or block matter in a strategic and fun way. Creatures are a very fundamental aspect of Magic, aren’t they?

So what’s this “creatures becoming like spells” about? Well, if you want creatures to be good and maybe even better than spells, you can simply give them some spell-like effect when they enter the battlefield. The best that come to mind are Man-o’-war and Flametongue Kavu, and more recently Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel. This week, I will add to the list and hopefully create some great ones!

KerathanKerathan Scout.
This one is an obvious mix between a spell and a creature. So much that it actually looks like a spell with a body attached to it. The fact that it has flash obviously helps with that feeling.

“Fetch land” is a classic type of spell, and here it’s still the most important part of the card. But like with Search for Heaven from 3 weeks ago, the creature half will help make it somewhat relevant in the long run. I balanced the 1 extra mana – based on similar spells – with giving it reach and the fact that the lands comes into play untapped. The last bonus might actually be too much and need to be removed though.

1405966149952471Paragon of Restoration.
This one is pretty obvious. It was designed as a smaller version of the aforementioned Restoration Angel. I knew this would be a fun exercise – mostly because I like this effect very much, and also because I love powerful white 2 drops – and I’m pretty happy with the result.

It’s cheaper than the angel, which makes it Snapcaster’s best friend, and it is small enough that it is balanced for that price. Also think of Flickerwisp for comparison.
I’m seriously considering play-testing it in my cube, because of all the fun interactions it would enable.

How do you like those creature/spells? This seems to be a very deep design space, and I will definitely revisit it several times in the future. I especially like the idea of making cheap creatures with good effects on them. It’s obviously hard to make sure they are not too powerful, but not quite impossible.

I’m really looking forward to next week’s celebrations and so should you! Thanks for reading, and have an awesome week.

Unpiely

Believe me, it is a great challenge to come up with titles every week! Since I somewhat spoiled it already, without further ado I will reveal the subject of this week, hinted at in my previous post: breaking away from the boundaries of the color pie.
In case you don’t already know, the idea behind of the color pie is that each color has access to a particular set of effects, specialties and even maybe monopolies, and then there are thing that some colors just don’t do. Straight up killing – non flying – creatures is not a green thing, drawing is very rare in red, and destroying a land hardly ever happens in blue.

flamedancerKorr Flamedancer.
So what’s something else red hardly ever does? Gain life. I could only find one card only red doing so, and its purpose isn’t quite to gain life.
Our friend shaman here does just that though, so how is that in flavor? The life gain comes in when you have done direct damage to a player through spells, not creatures, like red mages like to do.
It is restricted enough so that it doesn’t get crazy, because most of the time you don’t want to focus all your fire to your opponent’s face.
I think this card demonstrate that some abilities just can’t be linked to some colors though, as the design still feels like it should be half white.

melancholyAutumn’s Melancholy.
Now we’re going to make opponents discard using a green enchantment. Again it is done through adding a spin on the ability, to make it feel greener.

Green is master of lands, isn’t it? With Autumn’s Melancholy, every time you play a land, you can discard another land to pick one off your opponent’s hand.
So if you have 4 manas and two lands, you can start preventing your opponent from dropping his. Hardly overpowered but you can make it work with green ramp! Does that feel like autumns to you?
This is a fun exercise. Try and come up with other combinations! Like reanimate in blue, fetching lands in black, haste in white… Tell me if you find great ones, I’ll gladly work on them. Have a great week!

Limited but not restricted

Hi all! Our friend Maro – Mark Rosewater – loves and almost-maybe-coined the following sentence: “Restrictions breed creativity”. The idea is that imposing some parameters on your design will inspire you to come up with original designs.
Restrictions could mean different things: designing commons, – simple and not too powerful – designing within a block, – need to follow the block’s theme and mechanics – or even designing while keeping the color pie in mind.

For us, the restriction will be to design cards focused on limited play. I guess that makes us both restricted and limited, but all the more creative!
What makes a card a limited minded one? It’s actually not so obvious to say until you get a feel for it, by playing draft or sealed. Limited magic is less powerful, less synergistic than constructed in general, due to the fact that you make with what you have – and what you have is about 70% commons, statistically speaking 10 out of 14 cards in a pack. It is more focused on basics, playing creatures and bashing your opponent with them.
Let’s see what kind of cards I came up with. As you’ll notice, couldn’t quite do only commons. Commons are not impossible nor boring to design, but still most of the time when you do top down designs – which is what I do most of the time – the card ends up being too powerful or complex for this rarity slot and needs to be at least uncommon.

anarchistKorr Anarchist.

As a good anarchist, our guy fights the man.

Namely, he will make any card in your hand into a Shock against the strongest player or creature around.

Being a 3/3 for 5 is what makes the card good for limited, but way behind  the curve for constructed play. Repetitive damage or soft removal is also amazing in limited.

 

necrophagistVampire Necrophagist.

Always on flavor, this 2/2 for 3 vampires can eat another creature from your graveyard to come back as a 3/3.

This card could have been a common if it came back only once, but the fact that you can do it multiple times makes it almost too powerful as it is, even for 5 manas.

In limited, repeatability is extremely precious as it means card advantage. This makes both today’s cards pretty powerful, even for uncommons.

Making simple yet well designed cards is very rewarding. It feels like I could be making a whole expansion – not that I haven’t tried before.
I do hope you liked them and guess what, I found myself a theme to work on next week. It was inspired by something I wrote in this article. If you can find it, you’ll win a prize 😉
See ya!

The Choice is Yours

Hi all! I’m still experimenting with the blog format, and for now I think I’ll be doing two cards a week. It won’t be too hard making two, and on the other hand I think it might be frustrating to stick to only one! I came up with bunch this week already.
Now the theme for this week is… Choice! If you go all the way back to my very first post, you will be reminded that I believe choice is the most valuable thing to look for in a card, after raw power – though power is mostly an all-encompassing arbitrary attribute. Turns out the goal of the two cards I’ll present today is to add a little bit of versatility – choice – into classic effects.

bloodsacramentBlood Sacrament.
This instant combines Doom Blade and Diabolic Edict.
This will cost 3 black mana though. It may seem a little intense but please consider that the card can be either targeted – which is practical when there is one very important target in the middle of a few creatures – or non targeted removal – which is great when you are trying to deal with an hexproof or pro-black creature.
This spell takes care of both Blood Baron of Viskopa and Master of Waves, which is no small feat. I wonder it should have been able to target black creatures as well…

searchforparadiseSearch For Paradise.
The biggest downside to Rampant Growth is that it is not very useful late in the game. You usually don’t want to spend a card to fetch an extra land when you already have 7 or 8 of them in play.

By just bumping the price of the spell by 1, – making it two and a green – I gave it the ability to make a bird token. There isn’t really a good card with this ability, but we can mention Beckon Apparition.
I also offered it instant speed, which is – very – big deal, and I don’t know if it’s ok to leave it there. I think so, but that makes for a pretty good card.

I really like making spells more flexible. It’s always very exciting to add dimensions to something you already know well, and to try and make it useful is even more scenarios. Those very often make for great cards. What do you think about them? Are they worth spending an extra mana?
I hope you liked them and can’t wait for more; now is the time to say bye and see you next week!