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.

Making Magi

Hello everybody, and welcome to episode 168 of Ominous Designs. This week we are going to add a couple more cards to the cycle of Magi, which I’m pretty sure should be the plural of Magus – not that it makes it sound any better. In case you are not familiar with those, a Magus is a creature that reproduces abilities from a cult artifact or enchantment such as Yawgmoth’s Will or Nevinyrral’s Disk. Today we start with a black creature…

Magus of the Nightmare

Can you recognize this one? Recurring Nightmare is an enchantment from Exodus with the same ability as our Magus, costs two and a black, and is a powerhouse in cube.

My hope here is that making this Magus cost four including two mana that have to be black will curve out the main abuse of Recurring Nightmare which is chaining several uses during the same turn – for 4BB or 6BBB. With this one you will need at least 4BBBB for two uses, making the third one nearly impossible to pull off with only conventional mana sources.

Magus of the Attack

How about this one? Sneak Attack is the original model for this Magus and is still occasionally wrecking opponents as high as the Legacy format.

I do think bumping the mana cost of Sneak Attack to 6 should limit early-game throwing of huge creatures to a reasonable amount, plus the usual vulnerability of a 6 drop creature to removal.
I still can’t help but feel very excited at the idea of an easier to get and reprint duplicate of Sneak Attack for commander decks. Maybe I shouldn’t be…

Two Magi, one article. That is all for the day so I hope you enjoyed the cards. Magi are fun to create and have a very strong nostalgia value. Usually they just aren’t very playable in non-casual constructed formats because they rely on extremely strong effects for which designers can’t easily find a middle ground between busted and neutered.

As usual, tell me what you think and hit me up with feedback or if those inspired you with more designs. I will see you next week myself, I hope you have a great time until then and remember to play responsibly!

 

Quick! Enchant!

Hello everybody! Welcome to episode 165 of Ominous Designs, and to our still uninterrupted streak of limited mechanics. Today we are looking at what could easily be a cycle of auras, brought to you by an unusually reasonable number of two designs only this time. Here we go.

predictable-disasterPredictable Disaster

There you have it, auras that looks like instants. This reads like a 2 mana red removal but there are many subtleties that are worth digging into, especially if they interact with other mechanics you might play these auras alongside with.

For one, you need a creature to play the card, one that is about to die or that you count on dying some time in the near future. In that respect the spell needs morbid to be in effect as an instant. You can also play the card as a regular aura to provide a threat if the enchanted creature dies.

predictable-demisePredictable Demise

One thing that is different from regular auras is that you don’t care that the creature dies. In fact that’s even what you want in most cases!

The other common downside is that the creature could be destroyed in response, but in this case it will not be a 2-for-1 this time since your opponent will be destroying a creature that was about to die! That’s if you play it with flash, for the most part.
All in all the downsides are pretty limited, so I had to strive for effects that would be almost ok at 2 mana on an instant, draw 2 being potentially still too strong.

That will do it for the day, I hope you enjoyed the cards. I might have created a monster with the draw spell but I am not certain about it. You tell me! Give me your feedback and I will consider it for our next episode.

Let’s say bye for now, have a great week, see you next time, and play responsibly!

 

If This Then That

Another computer science pun! The video for this article is called “Switches” (link here) and it also hints at today’s designs are checking for some information in order to have different effects, somewhat like programming languages work. Fascinating, isn’t it?

volarian-wildernessVolarian Wilderness

Volarian Wilderness will ask that you reveal the top card of your library at every upkeep, reward you with a token based on the card you revealed.

About a third of your deck – lands – will get you a 1/1 insect, while the rest will either give you a 3/3 beast or a 6/6 wurm, based on how many high mana cost cards you have put in your sixty – or fourty, or one-hundred? – cards.

I feel the card is somewhat similar to Primeval Bounty and it’s hard to tell if it is better or worse.

aethercasterAethercaster
This one is quite a bit weirder. Activate the golem and what you will get is a copy of either a spell or a creature.

The price is quite high – 5 mana in two colors – but it has potential to have some devastating effect! The way I see it, even getting a “free” spell should be kept in check by having to pay 3 for a creature and 5 for an activation. I could be horribly wrong though, so do let me know if that’s the case!

To me, the ability reads like a “draw a card” that has you cast the card for a nominative fee.

What do you think about the cards of the day? I find them interesting. The enchantment might be tweaked but it’s the gold that has the biggest potential for ridiculousness. So hopefully I didn’t go too wrong with it. You tell me!

Now’s time to say goodbye and see you next week though. 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!

 

Fast Auras

Hi everybody, welcome again to Ominous Designs. This time we are doing our 143rd episode and I am going to solve try solving the issue with Aura cards which is : what if it doesn’t even hit the battlefield because the target is removed in response? Our live episode was a bumpy one as it started with the assumption that Split Second would solve all of our problems, only to realize mid-stream that it only insures the enchantments does come into play but doesn’t help with the fact you are committing two cards on one creature. Regardless, I proceeded on creating two auras with a guaranteed trigger.

Migth of the PackMight of the Pack.

I first toyed around with an aura split between a static and a temporary effect, only to discover that you could still destroy the targeted creature and get rid of both. My next move would be to allow targeting any creature.
Split Second will ensure the card will enter the battlefield, and your opponent will have two bigger creatures to deal with, unless of course you decided to target only one, in which case you are still under the threat of a single card taking care of the two of yours and of your temporary +4/+4 trample creature.

Revenge CommitteeVengeance Committee.
I went through all the recent auras and I found a couple that would benefit from being guaranteed.
One of them is Murder Investigation. Getting a lot of 1/1 is a desirable effect and with Split Second we find ourselves with something pretty close to a Sorcery that says create X 1/1 where X is the power of target creature. Pretty good for 3, isn’t it?
I started by attempting to create a card one could consider play in Bogles, but gave up. Now I think you might consider siding one of those if you think one of your huge hexproof creatures is still likely to die.

Split second is a 7 on the storm scale, which means it isn’t very likely to come back but if you ask me, everything that is even remotely possible will end up happening again considering how many sets we’re going through nowadays. It is also slightly surprising that the only Split Second aura ever created was a control magic effect but since there was only one altogether I suppose it had to be arbitrary.

That will be it for today! Like I said before I didn’t end up achieving exactly what I had in mind originally but at the very least this was good food for thoughts. I hope you liked the cards and/or got some inspiration from them. I will see you next week for another episode and another theme and until then, play responsibly!

New Legends

Hello everybody, and welcome to episode 137 of Ominous Designs. The topic for today came to me while browsing /r/custommagic. What we are going to do is create legendary creatures for subtypes that never had one. Spoiler alert: it’s going to be a pegasus and a wurm.

Pelianos Mount of the GodsPelianos, Mount of the Gods. Didn’t think how close the name was from Paliano – main city in Conspiracy – at the time…
It seemed pretty obvious that the pegasus should serve as a mount to other legendary creatures.
I toyed with the idea of implementing this myself but in the end nothing serves this purpose as well as bestow does.
I based the design on the better version of limited all star Nimbus Naiad. I needed to make the legendary creature better so costed it more aggressively, seeing that its extra ability was a fringe one: the faithful companion is ready sacrifice himself to save his legendary friends.

Talath Volarian SovereinTalath, Volarian Soverein.
This one was harder to come up with. Wurms are not your typical sentient and charismatic legendary creatures! I also hoped to make it a Naya creature so it could serve as a commander for a deck containing most existing wurms. After playing around with the idea of a big creature with activated abilities granting keywords from various colors, I discovered I could afford up to 6 of them as long as I picked them well.

So this guy does have a ton but I don’t even think he is more threatening then Soul of Theros or Akroma. In the end he looks like a Naya Cromat.

Those are your – legendary – creatures for the day. Let me know if you think of some other types that need a hero to represent them.
I hope you all have a great time, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

Benefit from Experience

 

Hey everybody, welcome to episode 136 of Ominous Designs. I was inspired this week and I came up with the idea of doing experience counter a different way. Let’s see what it looks like, shall we?

Davkas SermonFirst we have Davka’s Sermon.

The original experience cards from Commander 2015 only care but how many counters exactly you have, and give you a linear reward.
This time, the card wants to know if you have more than your opponent. If you do, you are going to get nice exile effect. I could obviously not just turning the card on and off based on experience, so if you don’t have enough you still get small tap effect.

Overall the design is largely based on New Phyrexia’s Dispatch.

Huntsmans GearHuntsman’s Gear.

This experience counter theme opens up a huge design space so what I want to do now is use it for yet another card type. It will be an Aura.

Gear is very straightforward. It will make your creature bigger the more experience counters you have. What’s a actually new here is the introduction of thresholds.
If you have more than 3 experience counters, you get trample, and if you have more the 5 you can regenerate. If you think about it it’s pretty close to the level up mechanic.

And those are you cards for the week. Like I said the design spaces is great and easy to explore, so the cards came naturally and are reasonably clean and elegant. As tradition demands I will note that they might very well need to be balanced a notch, but that’s a task for play testing and the upcoming peer review, when I broadcast this article on my favourite social outlets, rather than during our free flow design session.

Now that’s really it for this article. I hope you enjoyed, I’ll be seeing you next week for 137. Have a good one!