Thorns, Lots Of

Hello everybody! I am pleasantly surprised by how many of my recent articles are containing a new mechanic. Today is part of that trend and the mechanic of the week is called Thorns. You might be familiar with Thorn Elemental, who I explain in my weekly video was the inspiration for the following three cards. Time to look at them, shall we?

Thornspine MongrelThornspine Mongrel is our classic bear declination of the mechanic, to ease us into it.

As you can see Thorns functions the following way: whenever the creature becomes blocked, it deals damage to defending player equal to its thorn number for each creature blocking it. If you block this charming puppy with one creature, you still take 1 damage, and if you block it with two you will take 2, etc. Such is the power of Thorns 1.

It seems completely to me fine for a common, since most times you will only need to block this guy with one creature to get rid of him.

Shardwind HellkiteShardwind Hellkite. Now we’re talking!
This one is emulating the somewhat recent tradition of extremely powerful flyers with haste for 5 mana or less.

As a 4/4 flying dragon with haste for 5, Hellkite rivals with Stormbreath Dragon and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. Those have another upside as well though. Hellkite’s upside is that if you ever find yourself blocking it, you will take at least 3 damage. Since blocking huge dragons isn’t something you want to do too often, I think it should be reasonable, and probably not as good as either Stormbreath or Sarkhan.

Karathan TarasqueKarathan Tarasque is actually the first idea I had when toying around with the concept of Thorns.

This lizard beast is a big dummy, one that will already deal you 2 damage if you chump it and 4 if you double block it. The twist though, is that when you get to 7 mana, it can force all creatures to block it, dealing them and the defending player a whole bunch of damage in the process.

I had some trouble tweaking the power, cmc, thorns and ability cost perfectly so I went for a conservative mix. Tell me how good you think we can make it!

That does it for the day. I do believe the Thorns mechanic provides an interesting design space. Like I said in the making off video, I could see people claim that it is too trivial an effect to make a mechanic out of it, but I disagree. I think you need simple mechanics, keywords to create design spaces without using as many words all the while adding cohesion and a theme. In a set featuring Thorns you could have other cards that care about blocking, forcing to block or not block, preventing damage without blocking etc.

Either way I hope you enjoyed the cards. Let me know what you think and regardless I’ll be talking to you again next ween. Have a good one!

Fallow Me

Hi everybody! I have a lot of news for this last post of the year so let’s get to it.

First, I just received my 2015 blog recap which you can find here. I was delighted to see that I had over 4 thousand views this year, most coming from the US but also a lot from Canada, Brazil, France and Germany. I was also pleased to see that my biggest daily post got over 175 views in a day, and it was not due to some referral anomaly but one of my solid designs of the year, Gruesome Sentence. Similar comment applies to my most viewed article of the year, which features two simple designs inspired by Magic Origins. Last trivia fact, I only missed my deadline and posted on a Thursday instead of a Wednesday 3 times for the whole year!

I am now going to keep the last piece of news for the end of this article, and proceed to introduce this week’s theme: the brand new mechanic Fallow – see terrible pun in the article title. The idea with Fallow is that you can discard a land as you cast the card, to get some extra effect. Simple! Now the cards themselves.

Plan for the FuturePlan for the Future is the first. Green uncommon.

Adding an extra effect to a fetch land when you discard a land is a trick that came very naturally to me. Plan for the Future starts as a Sorcery speed Rampant Growth, but there’s a twist…

If you discard a land as an additional cost, you get yourself a second land, this one in your hand. This is Cultivate for 2 and a land discarded.

Allegedly discarding lands isn’t what you want to do when fetching lands but if you look at it like a bonus, it’s an added fixing effect for your ramp.

Storming the Burning FieldsStorming the Burning Fields. Red rare.

The idea of a damage spell as well as the name was given to me by follower Magstarcraft.
I actually quite like the idea of a spell that can switch between dealing 3 to one creature and to the whole board. I think even at sorcery speed and sometimes costing you a land, it is still a fairly powerful and very flexible spell.

The reason to discard a land isn’t the most obvious but I figured that it could be an affordable cost. Ideally such things would be supported in a block containing the fallow mechanic.

Harsh SovereignHarsh Sovereign is our common of the day.

One of the tricky part about this new mechanic is there won’t be unlimited access lands for you to spend into fallow in a regular game of Magic.
Plan for the Future doesn’t actually cost you a land, and Storming the Burning Fields is situational. Harsh Sovereign himself is a reasonable creature, with a nice upside if you do have a land ready to be fallowed.

Drain for 2 is a 4 points of life swing, not too shabby for a common. 3 Would get us into Siege Rhino territory!

And those were the cards for this 112th article. Now for the big news… You have known for a couple of months that Bullzzai will be rebranded to Ominous Designs. Well there is something even bigger on the way, and it’s coming fast. Responsible Gaming is a new Channel that I am now starting, and it will include Ominous Designs as well as hopefully a bunch of other Magic and other gaming content.

As an opening act I have started live streaming on twitch – see link here – the making of my weekly articles. I also made this episode accessible offline on my Youtube Channel, here. You can finally see my weekly process and hear some of the reasons motivating my choices! Lucky you. I still have a bunch of things to put in order, such as logos, templates, and finishing the rebranding of Bullzzai, but you can already start following my channel and find Responsible Gaming on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope you like all of this new content! I had a great time setting all of that up, and I have yet more to do. Let me know if you have any advice or feedback, I’ll be sure to factor that in for my future work. I’m quite excited with it all.
I’ll be seeing you next week now, you all have a great new year!

The Gift of Eldrazi

Hi everybody! One day I will fail posting my weekly article, but today is not that day. I have prepared a couple of designs before I left for my christmas vacations and now is time for me to present them to you.

Our not-so christmas-y theme is… White Eldrazi! You have probably noticed that the choice was made to create Eldrazi creatures in all colors but white in Battle for Zendikar. Even though I don’t think it was a mistake, I would like us to try and think about what those might have looked like. As such I have two candidates for you today.

Voiceless ShepherdVoiceless Shepherd.

This little guy has a very odd body. We usually like to describe such a card as virtually a 2/3 for 2, which is great. It also has the upside of being spread on two bodies, one of which being a sometimes useful scion token. As Bow on that package, shepherd gives vigilance to all Eldrazi Drones as long as you still control Scions.

Power level on this card is very intricate and rather hard to figure out, but I think it’s fairly high. A 1/2 body could still be very underwhelming, so I think we’re not risking being too good either.

Void ContemplatorVoid Contemplator is our Processor of the day.
A very straight forward one. I can’t imagine there is anything wrong about it except perhaps being a little weak, which is fine.
I based myself on Oracle of Dust, though being a bit put off by how easy it is nowadays for blue to get a 3/5 for 5, I downgraded this one. In the end it was an arbitrary decision that hurt the card and might have been less justified in white, but I think the design is still acceptable if not powerful. We can always tweak the numbers back up.
Void Contemplator’s ability is very white and I think deceptively powerful.

That’s it for our snow-colored giants today! I hope you liked them. I created a contest in my designer group and had several people come up with more of them, which was quite fun.

Now is time for me to get back the my christmas celebrations, I hope you are all having a great time during the holidays and I’ll be seeing you next week!

Fix What’s Broken

Hello everybody! Today I will finally feature what I have been teasing for a while now: my own custom made set of about 250 cards!

IMG_20151113_153829My girlfriend had this made as an amazing birthday present a couple weeks ago, and I have been sleeving them, making them into decks and play testing them with her since then. Now I can finally show the world.
She had the help from San Francisco printing company in called HH Imaging, and the result looks pretty great! Click the images to see for yourself.

IMG_20151113_102653As you can see they have a beautiful back that sports the name Ominous, which is part of a rebranding that I am working on.
Bullzzai is my brand for Magicky things that I named after a life long nickname Banzzai. In the past few years I have taken on blogging, app making and streaming and I want to create a better brand under this more catchy name.

IMG_20151118_124320 (1)From having sleeved and played those cards I can tell you that they are at the same time amazing in quality and impossible to mistake for actual magic cards. They are slightly thicker, definitely glossier, and from a minor mistake slightly too big to fit in non clear sleeves.
At the same time, both the Ominous background and the Magic Set Editor template are well different from actual cards, which I think is great as I am not trying to make fake cards. Those still look and play fantastic though.
One minor issue was I ended up having to use clear sleeves and put Ominous cards in my basic land sleeves as well, to show the same back.

IMG_20151113_181810Now the play testing is definitely the best part.

It is a blast being able to actually play my favorite designs from the past two years against each other! It wasn’t the easiest making decks out of cards that were not created to function with each other, but with the help of mana fixing I could create two 3 color decks that are really fun.

Here you can see my girlfriend wrecking me by casting a rare Angelic War Leader, followed by Eternal War, that destroys all non-demon and non-angel creatures!

I was feeling a bit salty but couldn’t resist immortalizing the bad beat. Playing them made me wish my designs were perfect, and now I want them to better them even more.

As such, today I decided to feature two designs that I have been playing with recently and I think should be fixed. Let’s have a look at them.

Command the Winds(2)Command the Winds original version costed 4 manas.
I figured at the time that since I added the “only if you have a flying creature” clause it would be ok, but it turned out being all too easy to make happen for a killer effect.

I toyed around with the idea of making it draw only one card if you don’t, for the same cost, but that would then make for an either useless or amazing card.
With a cost of 5, Command the Winds becomes a less powerful version of Jace’s Ingenuity, which feels better to me. More playtesting to come!

Orzhov Hypocrite(2)Orzhov Hypocrite used to have first strike and lifelink and drain you for 2 when coming into play.

First strike on a 2 drop seemed way too powerful for my format, given that I was playing it in a Mardu deck facing much less aggressive green and blue designs, which didn’t help at all.

Even then, I feel like vigilance and lifelink makes for a more balanced design. I now wonder if I could have kept the initial drain to 2 instead of raising it to 3 as I did for this version. What I needed to do though is raise its toughness from 1 to 2, which makes total sense here.

What do you think? I am happier with the new versions of my cards; it’s definitely a minor bummer to realize your designs are broken but it feels great knowing that you can make it all better and keep iterating until they are truly fun to play.

I want to reiterate huge thanks to my life partner for this amazing gift. I was the happiest unwrapping it and I will love playing over and again and bettering myself as a designer in the process. I hope you enjoyed the story, I will probably revisit other ones in the near future, as I play more with them!

Look forward to it and until then, have a great week!

     

Magical Poultry

Hi all! This year I have been encouraged to make a thanksgiving special episode. Since it isn’t easy to create straight forward magic designs about holidays and eating a lot, we are getting an Un-article today!
As you might know Unglued and Unhinged are the two silver-bordered, humor-driven sets brought to us mainly by Maro. The designs you are about to see are made in a similar fashion. We have 4 cards today! Might as well get started right now.

Young FeatheredYoung Feathered. Our first turkey card!

Let’s first acknowledge quickly that it is a terribly cute creature.

This one sports a powerful version of the Rootwalla ability that also comes with the Thanksgiving twist of having you express your thankfulness.

At the risk of overloading the design, I opted to add a “vegetable” clause as well, to help with this theme I am trying to push for and you will see more of in the next cards.
How do you like the little turkey-bear?

Feathered CannibalFeathered Cannibal. Not so cute anymore…

When I saw this illustration I knew it had to become a card for this article, and it was pretty clear as well it was going to be black.

Sacrificing turkeys seems obvious as well, though I will admit that the card ends up looking too much like a regular magic one.

This un-article was somewhat of an improvised thing, so I actually didn’t have a genius funny mechanic ready. Have players come up with things to say is an amusing thing to do though.

To-FeatheredTo-Feathered. Get it? Like Tofurkey…
There had to be a card for vegetarians as well; we don’t discriminate here.

I am pretty happy with both vegetarian themed abilities but I have to admit the “illusion” part definitely overloads the design. It is coming from the joke of it being an illusion of a Turkey, since it’s not actually a bird… I hope you find To-Feathered at least a bit funny because it was the whole point!

Compared to Gossamer Phantasm and Phantasmal Dragon I suppose it is under-costed.

Memory Leek

Memory Leek.

As a final entry for this article, I want to re-post this design I made a few months ago since it inspired the “vegetable” theme you can see in the turkey cards.

Memory Leek is some sort of Shadowmage Infiltrator focused on milling your opponent, and it desperately needed more vegetable cards to be played in its limited environment.

While I actually only made one today, you can see how I pushed for that design space on other cards.

That will do it for this foodie episode of Bullzzai designs. Now I want to mention something about the teaser I published last week. I still need to take more pictures and make time to do a full post about it, so instead of publishing the whole story today I will give you another picture and confirm that yes, my girlfriend managed to download over 200 designs from this blog and have them printed! We have play-tested them twice so far and it’s a blast.

IMG_20151118_124320

Look forward to knowing more about those! Until then, hope you have a great thanksgiving and I’ll see you next time.

Nothing is Lost, Everything Propagates

Hi everyone! I am quite pleased to announced that today we are going to look at a brand new mechanic I created for the Simic combine. Introducing Propagate, with three new cards! No need to waste any more time, better check those beauties out.

Apex BeetleApex Beetle is our Propagate variation on bears.

As you can see the mechanic is somewhere between Graft and Scavenge, giving you the opportunity to turn your creature into counters provided that you have the mana to do it right when it dies.

For the power level, I mostly based the design on Drudge Beetle. Provided that Propagate is quite a bit harder to pull off than Scavenge, especially on a low cost creature with a high cost ability, I gave a little boost to the effect. At the end of the day it’s a 2/2 for 2 with a nice upside, which is always nice.

Adaptive DrakeAdaptive Drake is the flying creature bringing Propagate to blue.

Along with Grizzly BearsWind Drake is one of the most commonly adapted design when coming to a new mechanic in a new set.

Being more powerful than bears to begin with, and since blue should probably not get too much beefy abilities, I kept Propagate to the lowest possible.
It allowed me to use a very affordable cost – one that would be much easier to have saved up when it dies – which makes drake for a very powerful card in limited, possibly an uncommon.

Apex WurmApex Wurm is our two color rare and last card.
You always need a rare when trying to showcase a new mechanic. A 6/6 for 6 with trample is a very nice start but if it dies on your next turn when you have the mana available to pay again, you can get 4 counters back onto another creature!
I added the cute ability that lets Apex Wurm propagates its trample as well when it dies, making sure you still have a powerful threat left on board.

I am now realizing that if the wurm gets killed right away, you most likely won’t have the mana to use its ability. With such a downside, I guess I could have bumped the ability to 6 counters.

And that’s it! What do you think? Baring some power balance I think we are on a good track. The issues with Propagate would be that you need to have mana available to use it when the creatures are dying, but that doesn’t seem too hard to make happen for the Simic, sporting the colors of flash, especially if you bend the format somewhat towards making it easier. People love mana sinks and instant speed effects anyways.

The other issues would be that the flavor of the mechanic isn’t quite ready to print yet, but that’s also something that can be improved on. I wanted to evoke the idea of some sort of symbiote that transmits some of itself away when the host dies, but without using a word that would sound too black like Parasyte for example. For the flavor of the cards themselves I had to try and bend to the illustrations I had handy. I’m still quite happy with the results! You’ll tell me what you think.

That’s it for this week. I have some exciting news coming up but I haven’t fully finalized my preparations to publish them so for now I will leave you with a spoiler image.
Have a great week and see you later!

 

IMG_20151118_125309

Temporal Mastery

 

Hi friends. For this 96th article we are going to be looking at tempo strategies, as the title so subtly hinted at. To that effect I have created two creatures, you can see right here bellow.

Rethik PhasebladeRethik Phaseblade is our first agent of Tempo.

When looking for such effects, I figured shutting down combat tricks for a turn should be interesting, especially on a creature with haste. Looking further into it, since the ability will only affect the turn she comes into play, I preferred the simpler solution of shutting down all spells. If you cast her with flash, good on you for the granted Time Walk effect.

I had to look up Izzet creatures with haste and it seems just about none have high power. I guess blue can’t really have access to that.

Imposing SeakiteImposing Seakite.

Another creative way to look at tempo could be reducing enemy creatures’ power, thus enabling an attack. I did want to make a common creature so a repeatable effect seemed like a bad idea. In the end I went for another etb effect.

quick study of common 4/4 flyiers for 4 led me to believe I could pull off similar stats, which to me is more enticing than the 3/3 for 3UU I had to begin with.
I’m pretty happy with were I landed on that one. It seems limited playable and reasonable, but good.

Simple stuff, good stuff. It has been a while I want to refocus as often as possible on common cards and the limited format. The tough part is that when inspiration comes, it rarely brings low power or low impact effects, but rather splashy sophisticated ones. On the other hand common cards need to be deliberate designs, and they demand more work to come up with.

Seems like it’s still possible to pull those off though! I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.
I’ll see you next week for more. Have a good one!

Alternative Rock

Hi everyone! In recent tradition, I have been dealing with this article at the last minute.
It turned out for the best though and you are about to witness an article similar to the one from a couple weeks ago about different states of water. Turns out this time we are going to look at phases… Of stone! Or rock, if you prefer.

We aren’t teaching physics here so don’t look too much into it, but we are going to see designs dealing with liquid and solid rock. Sounds good? Let’s see them.

Lava ClawsLava Claws. Liquid rock, get it?
In case you haven’t noticed, it is based on Lava Axe. Lava axe does 5 damage to an opponent for 5 mana, at sorcery speed.
Admittedly not the best effect in the history of Magic, and that’s ok. In fact I am possibly making it even slightly worse.

The idea behind Lava Claws is that it is a Lava Axe that needs a creature to get through, so we can easily shave off one mana from the cost. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if we could even take it down two mana. High power mechanics could make the card better though.

Koth LithomasterKoth, Lithomaster. He’s back, and he is angry.

I had this concept of a Planeswalker losing loyalty for a while, and another couple of ideas took me to this version of Koth.

First, a +1 that creates mana so that you can still use burn spells or gobelins without Koth ticking down too much. Second, a classic “lands are now creatures” ability which matches well with the idea that lands aren’t there for mana any more.

Lastly an ultimate to wreck havoc with your army of land elementals. I dunno about balance, but he look like a ton of fun to me!

Would you play Koth? I am not asking about Lava Claws because I think it would be a fairly bad card, even in limited. There is a chance one could build interesting combos with it though, and either way it is ok to make weak cards as long as they aren’t dumb designs.

Hope you enjoyed today’s Red Rock article, I will be seeing you in 7 days for another one! Have a great week.

 

Alternate Origins

Hello, hello. Welcome to our alternate reality, where we are going to have a look at what other mechanics might have existed in Magic Origins. In all fairness those are inspired by the existing ones, and the first even relies on one of them. Let’s dive in and look at the detail.

Highfalls SentinelHighfalls Sentinel is a pretty basic creature, albeit a bit pushed at common.
Our first mechanic, Ambitextrous, means that she can either block two creatures – rather one more than she already could – or block a creature with Menace, which would normally require two creatures to do so.
Sentinel uses both her arms and blades, so that’s a cute and flavourful mechanic.

The way I templated Ambidextrous, she can only block one creature with Menace, even she already could block 2 or 3 creatures, but it is simpler that way.

ShadowboltShadowbolt shows off a variation on Spell Mastery that is Spellcraft. It isn’t a very complex one, but it seems viable.

If you don’t have any instant or sorcery in your graveyard, Shadowbolt won’t only do -1/-1 do a creature. It will kill it.

Bolt is bellow Murderous Cut in terms of power, but synergizes quite well with it and other Delve cards, or even Snapcaster Mage.

It might be constructed around, but overall I wouldn’t imagine it is as good as Tragic Slip.

Hope you liked this wee’s cards!
I would say the mechanics are solid and it would be fun to try and make more cards using them. Spellcraft might need some support though. If you leave it as “first card with spellcraft is great, following ones aren’t” it is going to be a bit boring to play and feel bad. Fortunately we can easily remove cards from graveyard if needed, by making more cards exiling or retrieving spells from there.

In other news, we are approaching article number 100 quite quickly. I haven’t planned anything for that event but I might… I will keep you posted!

Until then have a great one and see you next week.

A Persecuted Artist

Hi everyone. We have ourselves an original theme this week, as I have been making cards in honor or one of my favourite artists: Rebecca Guay.  As you will see she creates gorgeous illustrations and has a great following, as represented in the card Persecute Artist which alludes to the backlash happening after Wizards announced they would be on a break from using her art – due to its softer qualities.
I have been reminded of Rebecca because she drew a magnificent Serra Angel for the upcoming From the Vault: Angels.

My personal story of enjoying her art goes way back. Over 15 years ago when I started playing Magic, one of my favourite cards was Priest of Titania. The art was no small part of my interest. 10 years ago I decided to send her a dozen cards to sign. Those didn’t show up for over a year, and I had completely forgotten about them until I received my signed Kaysa and Defense of the Heart in the mail, one glorious day. My love for her art also made me discover the work of Alphonse Mucha. Talk about Magic broadening my horizons!

That’s all for the stories, we should now start looking at the beautiful art of Rebecca Guay, because I have 4 cards for you today!

Eternal WarEternal War. My favourite. Mechanically it’s a five mana, two color wrath, which shouldn’t cause too much controversy. On the flavour side though it is amazing.

Angel and Demons are fighting an Eternal War, and everybody else is collateral damage. The Art is amazing and the rule text illustrates perfectly the idea. I don’t love the “non-Angel non-Demon” wording, but it is acceptable.

Eternal war is the kind of card I think should be printed if not completely broken, if only because of the flavour hit. See Merciless Eviction.

Celestial Half-breedCelestial Half-breed pleases me because it is a fair, common creature. I do believe those are among the hardest to design and I’m happy with the result here. Obviously it has been inspired by this awesome not-quite-angel art.

In limited I think this is a very good card, albeit not as good as some other 2/2 for 2 with upside we have seen in the recent past.
Green most often has the transformative ones though, and as such it makes our half-human half-angel even more interesting.

I would love to play test it in a limited environment.

Gift from the SeaGift from the Sea. It sure is fun to take great art and make cards from it. What would you think this illustration would be for? To me it looks like an trinket from the lords of Atlantis, and as such I tried to make it a low costed draw spell.

Now those are getting harder and harder to design, as lots has been done in this space already. Good ones too, like Brainstorm, Ponder, Sleight of Hand, Serum Visions, etc.

This version comes with Scry 1, and scry 1 again if you are trying to get rid of an island. Powerful but maybe ok. You will tell me what you think.

Sleep WalkSleep Walk is our last card. I love love love the art. It isn’t obvious what it should symbolize as a card, but I like where I went with it.

The idea with Sleep Walk was to refer to the tapped state of a card as sleeping. You can untap that creature and let it block, but it will be affected by that event next turn – or next morning – and then become tapped again.

As it stands you can use Sleep Walk to sneak-untap one of your creatures and block, with downside of mostly not using it next turn, or just use it to tap an opponent’s creature. Fun?

I am looking at those four cards again, aren’t they just beautiful? It goes such a long way to have pretty art. I hope you enjoyed those, they made me want to work based on illustrations again. It is a great source of inspiration!

I shall see you next week, until then I hope you all have a good one.