Evil Sparks

Hello everybody, today I welcome you to an episode of Ominous Designs nice and divisible by 5: here comes number 145! Our big 150 is approaching fast. I set out for quite the topic this week and might even have bitten more than I could chew, though looking at the results I am not too ashamed with what we ended up with. What topic, you might ask? Sparker Villains! Starting with the one who inspired me with that theme, and Magic’s biggest archenemy, Nicol Bolas.

bolas-rising-menace

Bolas, Rising Menace // Nicol Bolas, Planar Tyrant

A tall order, isn’t it. Bolas is quite the legendary foe. I almost immediately decided that he needed to flip based on controlling an opponent’s permanent, to refer to the elder dragon’s favourite hobby: manipulating people. This allowed me to pack a little bit more power in the card since the condition is quite narrow and that was a good thing since I didn’t want to have the card cost a million, or be more powerful that the previous incarnation of the planeswalker.
I wanted Bolas to be big, somewhat impactful, but not a 6 drop either since the card was only his origin story. This lead me to create a 4 drop flyer with upside, which seemed reasonable. For the planeswalker abilities I figured that doing something with stolen permanents could be fun and this would demonstrate the black aspect of Bolas, as well as his contempt for the tools – people – he uses to his own means. The abilities need more work but I like the direction I took, if only as a base.
I doubled down on the controlling aspect with an ultimate allowing you to steal something every turn. I think it is realistic, yet obviously quite powerful.

xenagos-satyr-hedonist

Xenagos, Satyr Hedonist // Xenagos, Multiverse Explorer

Xenagos is our second evil sparker! I figured he would keep his “thirst for mana” style. This was achieved my making him a fairly reasonable mana maker, and requiring 6 mana to transform.
His first ability also is that of old school Orcish Lumberjack fame, still in the mindset of abundance without a thought for the consequences. Xenagos 0 ability was not the most inspired, but I figured it would be nice if he could still bring more people – satyrs – to his party. I switched haste for trample to change something from the original incarnation, as well as make the card slightly less powerful.
I am happy with the ultimate, a one sided Heartbeat of Spring which sounds fun, and hopefully had not been made before. I now realize that plays with Xenagos might sequence a little too well, landing on turn 3, making 2 mana on his own AND using his + ability the turn he flips, allowing to -5 on the next one. Then again, the ultimate isn’t all that powerful so maybe we are fine.

Like I said earlier I didn’t get as much time as I wanted to balance those but honestly for planeswalker we are probably talking hours of work and as many of play testing, so I think for a concept piece the two are pretty fine and fun looking Do let me know your ideas about modifying and balancing them.

That will be it for today’s article, looking forward to seeing you all again next week for numero 14. Until then, play responsibly!

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American Gods

…Because 4th of July just happened? I couldn’t even get my cards to be red white and blue today, so nevermind. We are going to look at Gods though, that is exciting. I don’t have too much to say to introduce those, so we might as well just jump into it!

Lokuros the FiercewoodLokuros, the Fiercewood is our green god. As you can see he borrows from the gods in Theros by being an enchantment that turns into a creature, but it also differs in the sense that it isn’t indestructible and isn’t triggered by devotion. Close enough though, Lokuros cares about how many forests you control.

As a self-feeding mechanic, he will allow you to fetch one a turn. In my mind, for 4 manas that isn’t completely out of question, especially when restricted to basic forests. In the best case without other fetches, Lokuros turns into a god two turns after being cast. Might still be a little fast…

Vorok the RagemountVorok, the Ragemount is the red cousin to Lokuros. He functions a very similar way but is extra special. I tried to design him to work with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

Once Valakut is on, so is Vorok and you could be attacking as soon as turn 5 with your 5/5 god. From there on, you can sac a land for 3 damage, and retrieve it next turn for another 2 Valakut damage, rinse and repeat.
At best, when you have 4 moutains and a Valakut, you can drop your 5th land for 3 damage, attack with Vorok and sac your 5 moutains for 10 damage. Is that worth considering mono-red?

I am quite satisfied with the direction those cards are taking, but I do think they need a bunch a adjustments. As such I am particularly excited to see what comments they are going to raise and what feedback I will be getting from the prolific /r/custommagic.

Swing by there and tell me what you think, or see you next week! Have a good one.

Godly Weapons

Hey everybody. I have been taken away from my initial article plan. I meant to tell you about black removal spells, but I couldn’t resist the call of the gods any longer. Here is what happened.
The gods of born of the gods being minor gods, they don’t get all the attention Heliod, Thassa, Erebos, Purphoros and Nylea, who are getting ordeals, weapons, emissaries. I have made ordeals for the minor gods already, but it’s time to show them my devotion once more, this time with weapons.
weapons

You probably already know the weapons from the Theros block. They are mostly great, game breakers in limited and even sometimes pretty good in constructed. Can we make something similar? I say yes, with the difference that I think they should be somehow harder to take advantage from, because of the “specialized” aspect of each two colors combinations. Let’s see that.

epharaAmphora of Ephara has an terrible sounding name. What can I say, that’s what she’s holding, and that’s the way those cards are templated.
I’ll be honest I just read that design again and I think I went too far! Flying to everybody should cost more than 3, even in two colors, especially if there’s another great ability in the mix. This would need to be fixed…
The secondary ability is neat though. It’s meant to be used to move auras around and trigger heroic. though I just realised you probably wouldn’t be able to use bestow with that… Maybe I need to rework the whole thing.

mogisHalberd of Mogis is getting there. I wanted to go for something different than the usual cheap weapon, and I also thought double strike could be fun.

It’s so powerful that it needs to cost at least 6, to be honest I’m not even clear that’s enough.

The second ability is gravy, being able to deal damage straight to players and creatures is nice, but you might want to attack with double strikers instead!

 

karametraThrone of Karametra. I like that those gods have very different tools / weapons.

I think I wasn’t sure if I should have all weapons grant a classic ability to all creatures, then have an activated ability on top, but I decided I would.

Vigilance sounds mostly logical for selesnya, and making wolf tokens even more.

It’s a very simple, somewhat classical weapon in the end, but it’s still fairly good, and aggressively costed, so I like it!

phenaxCloak of Phenax is another one of those not-quite-weapons but it’s cool.
It really needed to have intimidate on it, which is quite powerful to give to all creatures, but also spot-on flavour wise.

From there I decided to make the second ability less powerful, and still on flavour, so milling it is. Note that I let that one the possibility of being activated twice in the same turn, which could be pretty nice.
This weapon is also one of the best to use with the god himself, which I didn’t always have in mind.

xenagosThe last one is our star, Lyre of Xenagos! Xenagos being a major participant in the story of Theros, I wanted to make sure to make a great weapon for him.

Trample is also a must for Gruul colors, seems quite evident to me.
Then it took me a long time to find something that had not been done yet, but I’m actually very happy with what I ended up finding.

Kessig Wolf Run for every body! As long as you can pay for each, of course.
All in all those weapons aren’t my most polished designs, but someone had to do it! As Maro says, humans look for completion in patterns and I know I do more than many. It is pretty fun to make designs for cards that would logically fit the cycles of Theros. Time will tell if I should be making some emissaries! That could be fun too… You can tell me if you really want them 🙂

No matter what, have a great week! Talk to you later.

Enchanting Magic

Hey all! As promised, this week I’m going to talk about non-creatures. I have had one or two great ideas recently though, so it turns out we are not going to look at instants and sorceries, but enchants. And what better color for that than white?
White is notably the biggest color for enchantments, and Theros only makes it more obvious. Not only there is a very strong enchant theme in the whole block, but white has several cards caring about how many enchants you have, when enchants enters the battlefield, and destroying or reanimating enchantments. Have a look at this deck that I recently battled in Magic Online, it had some crazy effects based on white enchantments!

Crazy game!

Heliod's Presence

Heliod’s Presence is the first design on this list, and it’s such a fun little thing! My original idea was to create a card that increases white devotion, and I thought of making copies of an enchantment for that, as Pack Rat hinted at – and in case you didn’t know, it is making a killing in standard black devotion decks these days.

What I didn’t realize though, is that making Heliod’s Presence into two enchantments would help a lot with the echants sub-theme. Doesn’t it make Ethereal Armor fun? How about Sphere of Safety?

And there’s more! I didn’t want the enchantment to be only sitting there and do nothing, so I thought of it being used to give virtual vigilance to creatures. And as one of my friends noticed, it’s actually even better than that because it plays into the Inspired mechanics! All this makes for a card that would be really enjoyable to try around in Theros.

Nonchalent SentinelNonchalent Sentinel is somewhat of an abstract concept. What I wanted was to have an enchantment that would behave like a big old defender creature, except it would really be an enchantment, and never a creature.

Making it happen of course was slightly awkward as far as rule text is concerned, but not quite as bad as I expected. It also foils things like deathtouch and probably others as well, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as they don’t come up too often.
And as a bonus, you get one more enchantment and two more devotion to Heliod!

bird mountLastly, I shoul showcase a card from the limited decks I’ve made. I printed the third one recently! Bird Mount is our guy.

Bird Mount is one of those balanced designs, if not even slightly weak. You need cards like that in a balanced set though. And it’s not that bad either, I’d say it would be playable in limited, especially in Theros with enchantment themes, Heroic and Devotion – if white wasn’t already so great, maybe.

All in all Bird Mount is a solid design, I hope you like it!

I really enjoy making articles about my best designs these days, and it’s extra nice to have them be of the same type and colors! I might try and make yet another similar article next time, maybe black or blue spells… I also have exciting news as I’ve started play-testing my first limited decks! I will definitely play them more and think about how to make them better, then write about them very soon. So be excited!

Until then, have a great week 🙂

The new God of Theros are sending us on a mission

Hey everybody! How was your pre-release? Mine was great, I got a sweet blue-white heroic deck with two favored hoplites, two vaporkins, wavecrash triton, nymbus nayad, gods willing, and Ephara’s Enlightenment plus three cats from Born of the Gods 🙂

This is not why we are meeting today though. I’m writing to you because I got inspired (pun originally unintended but I’ll own it up) by the new gods of Theros. I realised that Ephara, Xenagos, Phenax, Mogis and Karametra had not prepared ordeals for their champions the same way the five main gods did. Well I’m here to fix this, so with no further ado, I present you…

epharaOrdeal of Ephara. Let’s have a look at the main ideas behind those new ordeals.

As you can see, Ordeal of Ephara costs one mana of each of Ephara’s colors. Same converted mana cost as the initial ordeals, but this time your creature will have to attack four times between it gets its reward. That is if you don’t help it, of course.

When you crack ordeal of Ephara, you get to Scry 3 and draw 2 cards (guess I was tired and wrote discard).

How do you like it? Pretty cool isn’t it.

karametra
Ordeal of Karametra.

This one is fun. When you get through the whole ordeal, you will be rewarded with both a 2/2 Wolf, and a 1/1 bird with flying.

Wolves and 1/1 birds aren’t very common in Born of the Gods but that’s nitpicking, I think. There is one card centered around wolves, and a few more cards making 2/2 blue birds though.

And as usual with gifts from the gods, those are enchantment creatures!

 

mogis

Ordeal of Mogis.

This time we are working for the minotaur god!

This one isn’t my favourite, but I figured two mostly evasive gifts could be nice for aggressive decks based around minotaurs. That’s what they like after all.

+1/+0 and first strike is mainly red, and intimidate mostly black. You might have noticed I’m trying to add two effects from two different colors to those new ordeals.phenax

 

 

Ordeal of Phenax.

Let’s see the ordeal for the god of deception.

We are staying in the theme of blue black magic, with this hand disruption effect, and some mil added on top. I think the first effect was powerful enough to have the second one be a little less.

Also, did you notice the picture I (re)used for those? I tried my best to re-create a nice vibe for the 5 bi-color gods by picking from the cards of Theros and Born of the Gods.

xenagos

Ordeal of Xenagos.

Hope you knew that Xenagos ascended to the realm of Gods! Gods of revels. He makes things bigger and creates mana, just like his planeswalker and god cards.

Since we were in two colors, I decided that the effect on those ordeals should be greater, but the ordeal should take longer to finish. Obviously this makes the ordeal create more +1/+1 counter, but having to wait for 4 turns if you don’t have tricks, I think delays this effect long enough.

That’s it! This was pretty fun to do. There is still much more room to be explored with other effects, maybe one single effect that matches both colors’ philosophies, or use even more powerful ones, like destroying creatures or other permanents, or return cards to owner’s hand or libraries. I do think it’s important to make those ordeals harder to activate, and with a bigger upside. They are already in two colors to begin with! This matches the philosophy of Born of the Gods more closely.

Check out the new pantheon now if you haven’t yet, it’s worth a look. And now is time for me to say goodbye and see you next time for more card design adventures. Have a great week!