Back to Basics

What’s up everybody? Welcome to Ominous Designs 176. There is a non-zero chance I bit slightly more than I should chew today, but chew I will. I started with an idea that turned into a card, a card which turned into a cycle. We are going to have some time to talk today so without further ado, here I come with your five designs of the week.

Ashes // Ashes

The original idea. Some cards have “to” in their name, so why don’t we try and pretend their are Aftermath cards just for the fun of it?

Ashes to Ashes was one of the staples of my young magic life. What would happen if I tried to split it in two? One of the reason I was particularly tempted is that it would create two Ashes halves, and I wanted to be cheeky about it. The other reason is I could be relatively faithfully do it. Ashes to Ashes killed two creatures and made you lose 5 life, this version splits those into two payments of 3 life.

Dust // Dust

As I set myself on track for remaking a few cards, it was only normal I would look into adapting Dust to Dust next. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

This one was also a simple double effect card that could be easily split into two smaller effects.
Now I should mention, my point isn’t to split those exactly in the middle. Mind you, my point isn’t either to make a completely viable version with aftermath. I aim somewhere in the middle of those, I want the reference to be a fun and somewhat plausible, albeit imperfect design.

Bash // Bits

We are now cruising in our cycle, going through names of cards containing the word “to”. While looking for a red card, I found Bash to Bits.

The amazing factoid about the card from Odysseys is that it was featuring the flashback mechanic. In that respect, our version can be almost exactly the same as the original!

Basically the only difference is that ours doesn’t reference the actual flashback mechanic so Catalyst Stone wouldn’t work.

Gnaw // The Bone

And now for the green card. Gnaw to the Bone is a famous limited role player from Innistrad and also a pretty easy one to make into an aftermath card.
Gnaw to the Bone was another flashback card, and it was also doing the same thing twice! No big deal in terms of mechanics, not too brain intensive in matter of balancing either, we just split the card in the middle!

Originally both sides even costed the same in terms of mana so the funny part here is we created two almost identical sub-cards, one with aftermath.

Reduce // Dreams

Our final, blue card is a rare! Reduce to Dreams was also an interesting one to split. Since the original was returning both all artifacts and enchantment to their owners’ hands, I am separating the two for our last design of the day.

This makes for a lot more flexible and efficient card. I took to heart to keep the mana cost overall the same here, which might have lead to a slightly undercosted combination. I also made sure to keep most of the cost for the artifact half, so as to not make it a sorcery speed Hurkyl’s Recall.

I am not going to lie, I am rather glad we are done with those! I was a fun exercise and I invite you to make more of them but they are not as interesting to debate over. I hope you enjoyed the thought process and the cards, though.

My work is done here, I will now say good day or night to you, see you next week, and play responsibly.

 

Copycats

Hey everybody, welcome to episode 169 of Ominous Designs. Today we are looking at cards that create copies, hence the title.
Both designs are connected to a shard of mana and I think I can contain with special about them in their description so let’s just get started, shall we?

Aurashaper

Today’s theme comes from the intent of creating a clone in Bant colors. Without looking very hard for it I came up with the idea that a green and white clone should be able to clone enchants and lands. This might seem simplistic but I think it is quite esthetically pleasing.

Why is it so hard to clone lands though? I get the feeling that there is a specific reason but I can’t put my finger on it. Do tell me if you know. As for enchantments, there is probably a way to recur this with a reanimating aura, but I haven’t found it just yet.

Graveshaper

This handsome lady – actually a shapeshifter – shows what Grixis might do with clone technology. First it copies creatures from graveyard because black, then it can also copies artifacts because red. I know they both sound very powerful but I am yet to know why either would require more than 4 mana in 3 colors.

As for the blue part, I opted for copying an instant or sorcery from the graveyard as well. This comes in the form of a Goblin Dark-Dwellers ability.
All in all this one is a really powerful package.

And that will do it for now. As usual there are checks and balances to be made here but what we care about is the creative process of making magic cards, not nearly as much the play testing and balancing aspect of it, which we know takes a whole lot more time. Getting the inspiration going is what we are all about.

I hope this fulfilled our mission, I will meet you again next week for episode 170! Until then have a great time and play responsibly.

To The Moon

What’s up everybody! Welcome to Ominous Designs number 164, where we try to go to the Moon, a.k.a do what we we keep being told is impossible.This will manifest – an apt choice of words – in the form of instants and sorceries on the battlefield. Let’s get started because we have a big day in front of us.

dense-fog-bank Dense Fog Bank

As we can all see now, our new mechanic is called Personify. Impersonate is basically morph for instant and sorceries. Once on the board they will have to behave like manifest creatures, except you can cast them for their personify cost.
It can seem counter-intuitive at first, but just like with manifest you can indeed have face down instants and sorceries on the battlefield!

I will leave most of the power level examination for the next cards, but do notice that fob bank can turn into a bounce spell for two creatures when needed.

dense-sand-stormDense Sand Storm

The second design I had in mind for this brand new mechanic is including the classic Threaten effect.

One thing that we need to mention now is that I decided to let Personify be an instant speed mechanic. This makes choosing between the sorcery version and playing personify first a very interesting tactical dilemma. It has all the more impact here as we know instant speed threaten effects are prised, precious and powerful.
It also makes sand storm look very alike a recent card called Malevolent Whispers.

dense-bog-fumesDense Bog Fumes

We are on a roll! It is hard to not come with a million designs that could use our new mechanic.
This one is about the most straight forward you could create as its poster child for black magic.

5 mana for a sorcery speed removal is an acceptable rate in nowadays limited format, though in recent history they did get slightly cheaper. 4 mana for an instant speed version though, that is great and worth investing in personify. Nothing unheard of though, as examplified by the recent printing of Oblivion Strike, an excellent removal.


dense-jungle-thicketDense Jungle Thicket

One more? Sure, why not. I am attracted to the idea of having a narrow enchantment and artifact removal useful as a creature when it doesn’t have any target, and at the same time its cheapest possible version and still instant speed.

I think even vintage might consider paying two for its disenchant effect if it comes with the possibility of using it before its time as a creature, then have it actually be cheaper and faster. I am not sure of that though, as a 2/2 for three scarcely finds its way into a vintage curve.

Fun? I do think so. I will leave you with an example of what our reminder token for personify could look like. It makes me quite excited at the idea of trying out the cards.

personificationThat will be the end of this extra long article. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Let me know what you think of the mechanic and other designs that might use it.

I shall see you next week, until then have a great time and play responsibly!

The Melding

Hi everybody! Welcome to this episode 161 of Ominous Designs, prepared by yours truly a whooping 4 days in advance, as I’m traveling this week. This shouldn’t have much impact on the article though as long as the cards are here!

For this one I decided to try and meld creatures together, Innistrad style, except we won’t be using the actual meld mechanic but rather straight up add everything about the two creatures into a single one. We even have a bonus design this week, so how about we just get started.

eathercrafter-mageEathercrafter Mage can’t spell aether properly.

Do not hold it against her, instead take a second to see that she is the daughter of Snapcaster Mage and Trinket Mage – yay same sex marriage – so it’s only fair she would be a mage as well.

The main reasons I merged the two is that I could, and by that I mean I think the power level is fine. On the other hand there isn’t a particular synergy to it, and in fact there is even tension in having to pay for a spell after you cast a 5 mana creature. In a control deck it’s possible though, and either way you received an artifact for your trouble!

pyromancer-devilPyromancer Devil

What about this one? A cross breed of Hellrider and Young Pyromancer. Let’s say it was an experiment gone wrong.

One might think that the Hellrider ability is too good when combined with the token making skills of Pyromancer and coming with a bigger body. I would say it isn’t quite the case as both of those abilities work much better early in games. In that sense, slowing down the card is what saves it from its power level, even though it is still an interesting engine albeit for more casual environments.

seasoned-thundermancerSeasoned Thundermancer

After making what I knew were durdly cards, I wanted to illustrate that if I simply staple together two efficient creatures, a scary monster would arise.

So I did, with the previous mentioned Snapcaster Mage and Young Pyromancer. While the result does impress, I am actually not sure it would be outlandishly good, for the same reasons I presented earlier: both original creatures strive on being cheap and coming in early. That being said 4 mana isn’t all that expensive either so I do think Thundermancer would be very powerful.

That will be it for the week! It is more fun than I expected to merely squeeze cards together. I am very likely to revisit that idea some time. Let me know if you enjoyed them too, what you think about their strengths and weaknesses and maybe which creatures you would like to see assembled!

I shall see you next week for episode 162, until then have a great week and play responsibly!

Freestyle

What’s up everybody, welcome to episode 160 of Ominous Designs. This week I brought you two cards I created within two days of recording the episode, with no particular theme to them. Good designs though, I hope.

assert-dominanceAssert Dominance

I believe this one was influenced by my great experience with Rishkar’s Expertise a the Aether Revolt pre-release, though I am pretty sure my main intent was to reproduce or fix an old design of mine you can find here.

It is a rather hard design to balance, with wild variation in power level. It can easily be a Careful Study or a Divination, but in the late game it will likely dig fairly deep into your deck.
Combine with bounce effects or pump spells for maximum effect!

sublime-battle-armorSublime Battle Armor

What can I say. If you don’t see where this is coming from you probably have never heard of Sublime Archangel.

I actually first thought that it would be a good way to somehow still get a use out of the creatures you have tap to crew a vehicle, which lead me to investigate the Exalted route.

Battle Armor looks great but it is mostly a give and take twist on the original design, which was a good card. I kept it white to fully mirror Archangel’s design.

That is all for today! As per usual do give me all your feedback on your favourite outlet, I shall see you again next week for episode 161. Play responsibly!

Mana from the Vault

Hello everybody, welcome back to normal life and our cycle of weekly episode of Ominous Designs. This one is mighty number 151. Yesterday, while recording our live episode I searched my design vault for mana producers I added in there recently. Here are two of them, an artifact and a land.

altar-to-the-forgotten-godsAltar to the Forgotten Gods

I don’t remember the exact time I thought of filtering colorless mana but I know it didn’t take me long to come up with a mana stone that could do exactly that and also create a mana of its own.

There are many three-drop-all-colors mana stones out there, much like Darksteel Ingot for example, but really Altar is Chromatic Lantern‘s cousin in spirit.
I can see this one be quite powerful in Cube, especially combined with cards like Sol Ring, Basalt Monolith or Worn Powerstone.

overlooking-lakeOverlooking Lake

Our second card was inspired by the recently spoiled commander card Ash Barrens.

Adding land cycling to a land is difficult to do properly, as you want to know where exactly it will fit on a mana curve and balance that with the types of mana it grants you access to. I started with a two color version and it was quite hard to make it better than a mere gate.
This version though, while unassuming, provides great flexibility, especially if you factor in the powerful ability of cycling at instant speed.

And here we are: first article of a new batch of 150. Let’s see if we can get there!
Either way I do hope you liked the cards, do let me know what you think and I’ll see you next week. Play responsibly!

One Hundred and a Half

Hey everybody! The time, has finally come: welcome to the big 150th episode. I have celebrated several milestones and events in the past, anniversaries, contests, various celebrations, but 150 is a number that looks pretty great to me; wouldn’t you agree?

For the occasion, I had a cohost join me during this very special episode: – click on this link to see the full video – Reuben Covington, cohost of Remaking Magic!
We had a couple of activities planned, the first being to create a top-down design from a recently published gorgeous illustration for the new Dungeon and Dragons bestiary book. Let’s see what we came up with.

volos-willVolo’s Will

Top-down design with several people leads to free form brainstorming all over the place, sharing random thoughts and inspirations. We agreed pretty quickly that the setting of the illustration reminded us of a tutor effect, possibly a blue one because of the frost giant.

After some time riffing on blue and black tutor designs and being inspired by the huge helmet in the corner, we opted for an artifact card combining tutor and reanimate effects. Quite a powerful card we ended up with! Nothing too crazy though.

screen-shot-2016-10-26-at-12-37-38-pm

Next up: we review 13 designs I kept aside from the best of /r/custommagic from the past couple of years. You should really check out the full video as I can’t really describe its content, but all I can say is this was a ton of fun and a great learning experience. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Those were the festivities for episode 150. By now you must realize that this time it is much more about the live video version than the article, and this might become a trend in the future. Nowadays people are more interested in live streaming and youtube videos than they are in my short descriptions of the designs after the fact on the blog post or imgur descriptions.

As per usual it’s been a pleasure and I hope you will tell me what you think, as well as follow me and tune in for the next episodes, starting next week!
Until then, have a great time and play responsibly!

 

Remaking Magic

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 149 or Ominous Designs. Today we are going to set on a mission to fix some of the most powerful and what some might say broken designs of older days of Magic the Gathering. Our two patients – victims? – are Shahrazad and Umezawa’s Jitte.

story-timeStory Time
What makes it so that Shahrazad is banned in all formats? In great part it is that it takes forever to play games within games. To make it faster, Story Time’s subgame ends as soon as one life or one creatures is lost, each player can keep a creature to start, and life totals are not changed. This should allow us to use a simpler reward for the winner, like an extra turn and some life.
I now realize do that first part being triggered ability breaks the design – a player can still remove a creature in response to the trigger and win the subgame – which needs to be addressed. Maybe making it a cast trigger would work?

kondas-tachiKonda’s Tachi

This one is pretty straightforward. Of course keeping counters on the equipment itself is great, but what makes Umezawa’s Jitte truly ridiculous is the fact that it depends on combat damage to anything, creature or player, and that it creates two counters each time. In fact, only getting one counter each turn when hitting a player, probably makes Konda’s Tachi slightly under powered.

If it is, we can easily fix that by adding some evasion to the equipment itself – skulk, trample? – and/or perhaps tweaking the modes.

I am happy with the equipment but I wish I had noticed the issue with our new Shahrazad earlier. There is a chance using a cast trigger fixes most of the issues and at the end of the day, an abusable 5 mana card that gives you an extra turn isn’t the end of the world unless it’s recursive. The biggest downside remains that the design is still very wordy and sometimes might still make the game last a fair bit longer.

That’s it for the week, I will see you next time for the big 150! I hope you are as excited as I am. I have more than one surprise in store for you, so you should tune in to the Responsible Gaming channel to see the live episode next Tuesday night, around 7PM PST.

See you in seven days and until then, play responsibly!

 

From Above Part. 2

Hello everybody and welcome to episode 144 of Ominous Designs, inaugurating a series for which I have been publishing entries for a while now, and is titled From Above. As you might have guessed this is top-down designs we are talking about. Top-down design is when I think of a character or object, mostly independently Magic, and then make the concept fit the game.

Every now and then I don’t have a particular idea for a theme and I will browse through my vault of ar, pick a couple nice ones and make cards out of them. To illustrate this, let’s now have a look at a big creature, a big enchantment and a big artifact, all of those in only 3 cards! Isn’t that exciting.

Sea TyrantSea Tyrant.
Doesn’t he look amazing? I couldn’t resist making a card for what seemed to be an obvious Titan. This second ever blue giant is also an elemental though, and his power is mostly inferior to that of Frost Titan. Pretty high bar that was, though; I’m quite certain Tyrant still do quite the job at finishing games, with his large body and good ability.

Tapping three creatures when attacking is no small feat, even though you aren’t likely to do that more than once. His interaction with Master of Waves is pretty amazing but I would venture still acceptable. Tell me if you think so as well.

Gateway to NyxGateway to Nyx.
Talk about a top-down design, right here! What I saw in this illustration was the combination of the starfield of Nyx and some more earthly human construct which inspired me with a design turning artifacts into enchantments.

The end result is pretty wordy but in a nutshell, at the beginning of your upkeep you can recycle an artifact into an enchantment and at the end you can do the opposite. You can even trade Gateway for say a Duplicant in the same turn you played it! I tried to keep the power level in check but this is still some potent piece of Magic technology.

You know what I am the most glad about? Not having to pick a different title for every top-down article! It’s the little things that count… A series is a good thing to have, so everybody should be happy now. I do like the cards as well, so I hope you will have good things to say about them.

I will leave it as that for now, see you next week and until then: play responsibly!

 

More Darkness

Hello everybody, welcome to Ominous Designs Episode 123. This week we are adding two more designs to the gothic horror themes of Innistrad. You will see that those are all about flavor and I’m quite content with where we landed for that.

Summon the BeastThe first one is Summon the Beast.

What is there to say about this one? First, I hope you got the reference. You are meant to form the Number of the Beast by a combination of permanents, life total and cards and your graveyard. I think it is doable, but only the most dedicated Johnnys will try. As such, the card is most definitely not a overpowered but another one of those fun alternate win conditions.

I could envision someone trying to get to 6 life by just casting milling spells and playing lands until they can play Summon of the Beast.

Key to the MysteryNext up is Key to the Mystery.

It has been a couple of weeks I wanted to create a a card of the new artifact subtype Clue. Here it is, and it is a legendary one! I want to keep this clue in the realm of drawing cards or card selection and as it turns out there aren’t that many things left out because of Tamiyo’s Journal.

I opted for a recurring scry effect and the same draw ability as other clues, but on steroids. You can also see Key to the Mystery a divination for 4 colorless mana in two installments, which sounds amazing for a base.

That’s it for the week! I think the designs today were pretty straightforward and very flavorful. Not the most challenging for balancing either, the Key to the Mystery might still be on the powerful side though.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I also created a cute little new edition symbol to match with the Ominous brand. I’m pretty happy with it.

I’m looking forward to next week, when we’ll figure out if I still have more Innistrad designs in me. Until then, I hope you all have a great week see you next time!