2-for-1 post: Aika and Enrique

We’re cruising! Let’s see if we can go through card designs a little faster this time.

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Here is Aika. She packs some nice punch, doesn’t she? A little too much, I believe. This mini Inferno Titan (not that the card existed at the time) is basically a 3/1, which admittedly isn’t so good for 3, and Flames Of The Firebrand stapled together, for only a slightly less practical mana cost. Such a nice burn spell coming with a 3 power creature is pushing it, for that price. Let’s see how we can fix her.

We are going to try and take Aika down all the way to uncommon if that’s possible (uncommon legendary creatures only exist in Legendary oriented editions though).

1375316503Pretty simple, right? So is it acceptable now? It’s hard to say. Two damages divided as you want is still better than shock, or it would be if the card wasn’t sorcery speed now. We did mention that the body wasn’t all that fantastic, and at this stage two red manas does get a little annoying. Still, we get 3 power, and two damages that can be either a removal, or sometimes a removal and 1 damage to opponent, and even 2 removals when you’re lucky. Easy 2-for-1 and potential 3-for-1 has to make it a great card.

Quick mention of a rule point now.

Oracle rules (the reference for card rules) always specify “divided between one, two, or three target[s]…” until damages are over 4, but the principle remains the same. The fact is, even when the card says “any number of target[s]” you can’t assign less than 1 damage to every target; it’s not legal. That isn’t the case of Fireball though; since the damages are divided automatically, you can pick any number of targets, and let the division happen. As long as you don’t pick 0; we don’t divide by 0 around here. Now you know how to deal with a board full of Phantasmal Images!

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Ok let’s try and fix a second design then!

Skies of Arcadia had a yellow color that was linked to lightning magic. Yellow not existing in Magic I got behind the most obvious thing about yellow folks of the country of Valua: they are the bad guys. Black it is, then! Enrique is different though, he’s a Valuan prince, and he rebels against his people.

This makes a great case for this variation of the infamous black knight.

So is Enrique well designed? This is pretty delicate call, mostly based on his cost. It is obvious enough Magic designers don’t want to be giving first strike to a 2/2 without making it cost two colored mana (and have an extra ability, which Enrique does). It is hard to say whether it is by tradition or by design though. There are tons of crazy 2/2 for one colorless and one colored mana. On the top of my head, Scavenging Ooze, Skylasher. I would venture it is in regards to limited, in which first strike just can skew close-combat games pretty efficiently and frequently on turn two, and also possibly later on, whereas other awesome creatures might have abilities that are more constructed oriented. Still, it’s a stretch to think a 2/2 first strike is as crazy as the previous bomb I mentioned. Other fact that might make my design not that over-powered: I have a feeling, though unexplained, that protection from black when you are black is less powerful. That might very well just be psychological, though.

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The fixed, conservative version of Enrique isn’t quite as good, obviously. This should be acceptable though. I believe Wizards of the Coast really want limited to not have 2 drops that dominate the board easily, so I could imagine that version is still considered too powerful, but it is a rare after all! In recent memory, one-colored-mana two drops with first strike have a downside. By the way, I really was attached to the flavor of having Enrique not being entirely black. Otherwise going for a complete black knight, for two black mana, but protected against black, would have been an easy solution.

Another side note about flavor. There is no “Noble” creature type! For some reason I thought there was, and I’m a little surprised to be honest. I’m not sure why that is exactly. It might mean that unless they want to establish a strong kingdom themed edition, this is too much honor to give a card that’s just passing by in the history of planes, to be a prince of a king. But at least a noble! I think they also like to limit the number of different creature types, because dilution prevents all sorts of cool effects, if not full tribal strategies. I’m going to use it though, because I feel it’s a nice and flavorful creature type. Who knows, Wizards designers might be keeping this creature type for a future awesome use! 🙂

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Let’s restore this 10 year old edition

So I went back home a month ago and I found this old notebook of mines, on which I used to draw manga illustrations. At the end of the book, I found magic card designs I made around 10 years ago. Those were based on a game I loved very much at the times, Skies of Arcadia. Skies is a great japanese RPG by Sega’s Sonic Team on the Dreamcast. The universe is all about pirates on flying ships. Sound cool, doesn’t it? Do check it out.

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The game was strongly based on 6 elements: fire, nature, air, electricity, ice, and a 6th special one, you could call holy, life/death, or just “magic”. I will explain here and there how I adapted flavor so that electricity is black and ice is white, but don’t get too concerned with that right now. Let’s just dive into things instead; I’ll introduce characters and places as I go.

I remembered one thing about those designs: I had created sunburst. If you are not familiar with sunburst, it’s an ability that will count how many colors you used to cast a colorless spell, and have an effect based on that number. For creatures it will generally give them that many +1/+1 counters. Let’s look at the way I designed my take on sunburst with Fina. You’ll see the idea of how many colors is there, but the effect is quite different.

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Isn’t Fina cute? She seems like she could be deadly too. I don’t think she’s that well balanced though. An effect similar to Tefeiri’s Moat, for only 1 mana, coming along with a creature with protection?

That’s a lot, even if you only get protection against a color you are playing (or likely do, since you had to pay the colored mana for it). Even worse: In this edition, I created manas that are of several colors! That could potentially make this card busted. Things protected against more than two colors have a tendency to cost 10 or 15 mana!

So what could we do to fix Fina? I am fond of making her a 1/1 for 1, because you will be able to only stop one color, and it will force you to make choices. Protection against a color that already can’t attack isn’t that relevant though; maybe I should drop it?

I thought of restricting the ability to creatures without flying, but then I thought: blue. You see, the fact that fina prevents your own creatures from attacking make her less unreasonable. But if you can still attack with your army of flyers, which blue is well known for doing frequently, red players are going to be furious! (which they are well known for being frequently as well)

I do want to see two abilities related to sunburst though. I thought of making Fina be the colors of mana spent to cast her, but it doesn’t follow the flavor since she is silver, the 6th color of this set. Intimidate would have been fun to add on that, except it would make her worse to be of several colors. Plus a 1/1 intimidate is hardly impressive, and she her ability would prevent her from attacking anyway!

1374807270 (1)So here the new version. The issue with this concept is Fina could pack just about any kind of combination of ability related in any way to colours, and it’s hard to pick a combination of them that bring at the same time power, balance, and fun. After switching a hundred times, I ended up thinking that if I tuned down the “pacifism” ability enough, I could get back protection.

As she is now, the princess will deactivate small creatures of one color and block a big one, thanks to the protection. One important fact remains that you need to be able to cast a mana of the color you are trying to neutralize.

You could want to sandbag Fina in order to see what color your opponent has in common with you, which might tame the effect of locking their early turns. Plus she doesn’t prevent them from blocking, so you will still need to dominate the board to win. She’s still pretty powerful as is though, not sure if she is too much. I wouldn’t say so, I even figure she could be of several colours and still not be broken. In fact she reminds me of Lavinia.

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One fun idea I toyed with was to lock down some type of creatures, corresponding to the colors.

  • White: creatures with vigilance, or creatures with toughness 4 or more.
  • Blue: creatures with flying (in my other split I flying as well, because I wanted to split power and toughness into 4 colors).
  • Black: creatures with lifelink (intimidate?), or creatures with toughness 3 or less.
  • Red: creatures with haste, or creatures with power 3 or less.
  • Green: creatures with trample, or creatures with power 4 or more.

The choice of lifelink and intimidate was interesting. It might be preferable to stop intimidate guys, since their ability is an evasion one, but lifelink would impact some black AND white creatures, and white had only vigilance disabled which was not very impressive. Maybe lifelink for white and intimidate for black could work… For the power/toughness split, the flavor was good for green fatties (power > 3) and white defenders (toughness > 3). On the other side, small red creatures (power < 4), and low toughness (<4) black creatures made only some sort of sense but wasn’t very obvious in flavor.
Image (10)One last thing I’d like to mention is wording. I was going for an effect that does something for each mana color spend, so I wasn’t sure it would fit nicely in the text box if I made 5 sentences like “If you spent white mana to cast Fina, creatures with vigilance can’t attack.” So I looked at the following wording:

After stating “If you spend white mana…”, I would add “The same is true with blue mana for flying, red mana for haste…”. I knew that this is a wording that exists in magic but I was under the impression that it was a little goofy. I checked how many cards have it, and there’s a few! Here’s the list, it’s interesting to see. Apparently the concept dates all the way back to Tempest in 1997 and has been used as recently as Eventide in 2008, but it’s only been printed on 5 cards. About one every two years, which probably shows designers are not very fond of the wording, even though it’s a nice shortcut for fun effects. Seems they mostly used it to grant one creatures the same evergreen ability as another one though.

Voila! So let’s take a final look at my creation before we wrap up; what do you think, does it seem like a fun card to play with? Excited to see more silverfolks like Fina? I think the card is ok, but I could have tried longer to find the proper balance of power and fun. I tried for a while though! I promise I’ll do even better next time 🙂