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!

 

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!

 

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!

When the Times Get Tough

Hey everybody and welcome again, this time to a 142th installment of Ominous Designs. This week a per – quite – usual, I have come to our episode with a design ready, and made a friend for it. The design in question is a three punches draw spell, why don’t we look at it right now?

Final InspirationFinal Inspiration.
As you can see the concept behind this draw spell is that the worst the situation is, the more cards you are going to draw.
You will always get one, then another if you don’t control any creature, and a bonus one if you are low on life, say 5 or less.
I feel like the low upside probability of getting card 3 is made up by the average probability of missing out on card 2, which allows us to make it an instant speed Divination in two colors.
If you plan on playing control though, it is looking like a very solid card, so you might be excited to see what our second design is…

Final OutburstFinal Outburst.

This one was quite pushed, as you might be able to tell!
Destroying one creature at sorcery speed for four mana of two colors isn’t really something to be excited about, but it can always get you out of a bad situation. Being able to destroy two is already quite a bit better, but is only getting closer to a wrath effect, when you don’t control a creature yourself.
I tend to consider the third effect like a fringe one, but I do believe it still makes Outburst a very powerful card. Any thoughts?

So here we are for the “Final” mechanic. As I mentioned, putting those in similar colors was a deliberate desire to hint at a very powerful draw-go control deck. I do think that if such a deck was a thing the two cards would make it a lot better. I am not convinced they are over the top in terms of efficiency yet though, but only time and test would tell us that. Either way I would be happy to tweak some knobs and make the cards viable, as I’m quite fond of their underlying concept.

I hope you enjoyed those as well, that is going to be it for our weekly gathering. Now is time to say goodbye, see you next week and play responsibly!

Elf, Alf and Alfie

Welcome everyone to episode 141 of Ominous Designs. Today I’m going to show you three very similar mana dorks from the Gruul clan – Elf, Alf and Alfie – and I’m going to ask you which one you prefer. Ready?

ElfElf is the simplest and most efficient of the three.

It is quite obviously based on Avacyn’s Pilgrim and I am leaning towards it being slightly better, just because the red-green pairing tends to benefit more from ramp cards.
Then again white mana might just be more rare and the corresponding color combinations might be more powerful – Bant or Abzan? – so I am not sure it is even stronger.

There is a fair chance that if I didn’t set myself up to makes three elves I would also have made this one a human, similarly to Pilgrim.

AlfAlf is also pretty straightforward.

The idea is still mana fixing for red, but this time we add the green back and make the creature a little beefier, as it is now a two color 2-drop.

For some reason it feels a bit more like an uncommon to me, maybe because it is so similar to Kiora’s Follower, albeit slightly weaker.
It is somewhat a stretch to make it a common but I wanted three very similar elves for us to pick our favourite from. It should be easier to control the power level of this one, knowing that it is a gold card, so I am not too worried.

AlfieAlfie is the subtle and complex one of the bunch.

The idea here is that he can help make sure your hand is a little better, by replacing one of your cards with a forest or a mountain.

Make no mistake, this filtering and Mulligan-protecting ability is deceptively powerful and also could very well make Alfie and uncommon, but again I pushed the envelope on this one.
On top of that he can get you dual lands and enable graveyard shenanigans, but I doubt that makes him good enough for constructed other than standard or perhaps low-power cube.

And those, my friends, make our trio of designs for the week. Let me know which one you prefer. I have a soft spot for Alfie but I also like Elf. Don’t tell the other one.

That’s it for today though; now is time for me to say see you next week and play responsibly!

Ur League

Hello everybody, welcome to episode 140 of Ominous Designs. Today we will be looking at two cards for the blue-red Izzet League. Surprisingly for such guild, the designs are mostly clean, simple and straightforward. So Let’s just get a look at them then, shall we?

HypnotizeHypnotize.
I am having a hard time believing this name has not been on a card yet! The effect is also quite intuitive, a Threaten for two turns.
Planeswalkers in recent past have introduced the concept of effects that last for your whole turn and your opponent’s as well. I think this opens a great design space that could show up on regular cards, and makes a card such as Threaten much better in defense.

Now you can steal your opponent’s biggest creature and either attack or block the rest of their creatures with it next turn!

Manacoil WeirdManacoil weird.

There are strangely few effects out there that just add one damage or one extra card to other spells and abilities. Those usually double numbers instead, and as a consequence are usually printed on mythic rares. Our weird friend here will do just that, at a lower rarity.

One extra damage everywhere is obviously very good, but it’s not Gisela good. An extra card when you draw a card is alright as well but requires some extra work from you, and this one will not compound with Howling Mine effects.

And those are your two new members of the Ravnica Engineers Association, a.k.a the Izzet League. Hope you enjoyed, I find that those two are clean and mostly well-balanced but I could be convinced to tweak the creature. Do let me know if you have feedback either way.

Now is time to say goodbye though, so see you next week and until then play responsibly!

The Elite

Hello everybody and welcome to this new episode of Ominous Designs. Today we have a new mechanic! A little while ago I tried to solve the lack of decimals in power and toughness by introducing the concept of a 2+/2+, for example. Let’s see what this means and how I tried to address the issue this time.

Dolnian WatchdogDolnian Watchdog.
A 2+/3+ would have been a creature that twins fights against other 2/3 but still loses to 3/3. This is exactly what Brawler is supposed to achieve. Watchdog is a simple vanilla creature, for all intents and purposes a regular 2/3 but it’ll still win a fight against another 2/3.

Simple, right? This is similar in practice to first strike but much less explosive with combat tricks. Brawler is really only trying to to create to finer scale of power and toughness. Watchdog doesn’t have more than 3 toughness stand still dies to 3/3 and 3/2 which is a little weird but acceptable.

Viashino TollkeeperViashino Tollkeeper pushes that Brawler mechanic one notch further.

Starting at a reasonable size of 3/3, the viashino wins fights against other 3/3 but also against 4/4 thanks to his Rootwalla ability. This makes him quite hard to block. Trample is a nice add for a beefy Brawler such as this one.

Your options against tollkeeper would be a 4/3 or maybe a creature with 5 toughness. To be completely safe you would need a 4/5 which is pretty great for a 4 drop that originally was only a lowly 3/3, wouldn’t you say?

How do you feel about the Brawler mechanic? I like the idea as more subtle combat with low power and toughness creatures. I could imagine a set where most creatures center around a few major sizes like 2/2, 2/3, 3/3, 4/4, etc. I was also thinking there could be a 2/3 reach creature and it’s nemesis, the 2/3 flying brawler. Possibilities are endless. Let me know if you come up with more!

This is all for this week, I shall see you again next for episode 139. Until then have a great one and play responsibly!

 

Shiny Things

Hello everybody, welcome to episode number 135 of Ominous Designs. Today I have two very different cards that have one thing in common: they are gold.

Keeper of ThornsFirst Keeper of Thorns.

I danced around this one for a while. The idea was to enable a Mana dork to produce up to two mana every turn, of different colors and for one life each.
I toyed with the untap symbol but it was too hard to make not broken, as untapping for mana isn’t a good idea.
I also tried to separate abilities with a “only once a turn as a sorcery” writer but that was too messy.

I’ve been very split on the power level of this card but I think Joraga Treespeaker tells us it is ok, possibly even at uncommon.

Xeral Betrayal IncarnateAnd now a huge three-colored Demon Wizard: I present to you Xeral, Betrayal Incarnate.

The main idea was to punish players for stealing permanents but I figured such a narrow ability should come with the second one.

I came up with the idea of exchanging creatures. Xeral now has a lot of potential, especially in multiplayer and it also comes with the danger of hurting yourself, has all demons should. I usually try to stay away from huge Timmy designs but I find myself wishing I could try that one out in a game of Commander. It looks like a ton of fun.

And that’s it for the day! This time I was hoping to have an easier time implementing my creative concepts than is ultimately turned out. It wasn’t so bad though and I’m ok with the results. I hope you enjoyed and that I will get good feedback on tweaking and balancing them.

Now it’s time to say see you next week and have a great 4th of July weekend!

More or Less Lands

Hello everybody and welcome to Ominous Designs again, here on the Responsible Gaming Megacorp. This week our cards are centered around lands, and playing more or less of them. We are going to start with playing more.

Kerathan LandkeeperKerathan Landkeeper features my new strategy of pushing concepts by putting them on powerful cards.
Only two Mana to start doubling fetch lands is a little over the top, but at least the only go in hand and they have to be basic. It still makes Landkeeper an extremely powerful card as is. I could see it played in random combo decks including things like Scapeshift, Valakut, Life from the Loam, or even Seismic Assault.

I played around with the idea of making it a huge commander card, but I prefer the flashy over the top constructed version.

Zameck BotanistZameck Botanist is somewhat the opposite design to landkeeper.

This scientist – I wish that was a creature type – will reward you for not playing a land during your turn. Interestingly enough it actually combos with the landkeeper.

For this one I went with a much more reasonable cost, inspired by Prophet of Kruphix and I think it was the right decision. You don’t want a cheap creature that saves your mana screw hands – or rather you probably do, but it has to cost at the very least four to no be ridiculous.

And that’s an episode. So what do you want to do now, play less lands or more lands? It’s up to you! Feel free to tell me what you think about the balance on this week’s cards, I’m happy with the concepts behind them which is the most important to me.

Hope you enjoyed our episode number 131, now is time for me to say see you next week and have a great one!