Breaking Bestow

Hey friends! Turns out I’m still not ready to give you that article about black spells that I promised, but it will come in time! I have a couple interesting things to show though, with a slightly different spin than usual. The first one starts with this design that might make you scream “broken!”.

1397572682Nyxborn Elephant Guide. Isn’t it cute? It’s actually a very good looking card, but it’s just too powerful. To begin with, the lower it gets is a 3/3 for 3, with the small disadvantage to be an enchant.

But with bestow for 3, this pachyderm is just busted. Imagine: pay 3, give +3/+3 to a creature for good, that’s already amazing. Then if the creature dies, you get a 3/3 for free? That’s not reasonable.

And with bestow, the biggest risk you take it to get your creature removed in answer, and it will still net you a 3/3. So what made me think of this design?

ImageThis guy! Elephant Guide, as subtly hinted at in my own design’s name, was the inspiration for it. If you are familiar with the Cube format, you might know this card. It is pretty great. You still basically get both +3/+3 and a 3/3 for the low-low cost of 2 and a green.

It is, when you think of it, very close to his Nyxborn cousin. Now what is the difference and how much does it matter? Apart from nitpicking with “the token in Elephant Guide won’t be an enchant”, the only functional difference is the fizzle rule exception for bestow.

In case you didn’t know yet, if you make the target of a bestow ability illegal by the time your bestow card resolves, by killing or bouncing the creature you were bestowing upon for example, the bestow card will still resolve as a creature. You probably know that it’s not true for another regular enchant. Kill the target of an Elephant Guide in response to casting it, it will get countered and nothing happens. Kill the target of Nyxborn Elephant Guide, you will get a 3/3 for 3! Good times.

Now that you know the difference, either you will understand me or you will believe me, it is very important! Of course, you want a guarantied 3/3 over nothing. That’s called inevitability, and I like it. But also if that was the case the card would be way too powerful. Anyways, it was still fun to make it 🙂 Judging by Nylea’s Emissary, I could see Nyxborn Elephant Guide cost 4 to cast and 5 to bestow, and it would still be a bit powerful that way.

mm232_primordials

Remember those guys? Well I’m finishing that cycle too this week! So how may I finish a cycle that is already made of 5 cards? By making a gold card of course!

1397607687Pentacle Primordial. First let it be said, it’s scary. Second it costs 7 and is an Avatar, just like the other primordials.

Then comes the ability. Primordials all have an ability that starts with “for each opponent”. Well our demonic primordial will allow you to control each of your opponents for a turn! Isn’t that exciting?

SPOILER ALERT: The upcoming edition Journey Into Nyx contains a card with the same effect! It’s called Worst Fears, and I think we can agree it’s a well deserved name.

Now I’ll let you know that Sylvan Primordial has been banned in commander. Commander being a casual format mostly, the ban isn’t fully official as far as I know, but one could imagine Pentacle Primordial being hit by the ban hammer for similar reason. What reason again? Well people in commander tend to take a Sylvan Primordial, “blink” it – make it leave the battle field and come back again, with for example Cloudshift – and destroy everybody’s permanents, making the whole table scream in rage.

Now something amusing happened while I was writing about closing the primordial cycle. I realized I could also make an artifact! So without further ado, let me introduce the 7th primordial:

1397610389Steelborn Primordial. This one was a little tricky. Artifact doesn’t have the same kind of strong identity that colors in magic do. Can you tell me of an effect that’s typically colorless? What about an everygreen ability? Defender? It would be a little boring to make a big primordial that cannot attack.

So I figured our artifact primordial would rely entirely on being big. For each opponent, he will give you a 3/3 golem, which happens to be one of the things artifacts like to do. It may sound a bit underwhelming, but you are getting a minimum of 7/9 for 7, so no need to be too demanding!

This was fun. I like digging into the reasons behind creations, keeping in mind a bigger picture than the design of a single card helps to keep it solid. It can even make it easier, as magic as a whole is coherent and flows naturally like for this last primordial. Do you think it misses a little something to make it spicier? Tell me if you find out what!

Either way, have a good one and see you next time!

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 🙂

Born of Theros

Hey all,

I’ve just finished designing two limited decks and printing one of the them and I figured I would give you another taste of those.Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 5.21.06 PMEvery one of those is centered around members of my playgroup, and obviously enough I started with my girlfriend’s and mine, respectively Selesnya and Golgari. I’m really looking forward to play-testing them, but this will have to wait until after this weekend, as I’m going to Austin for South by Southwest. Let’s look into the detail of some of those designs now though, as I’ve created about 50 already!

possessedskeleton2This one is actually not part of one of my decks yet, but I do like it because it would fit right into the Theros block. I’m actually suspecting they might make a similar card for the third block!

Most limited players these days don’t seem to value regenerating as much as deathtouch, though it is true that in recent history regenerators have had a high cost of activation. But the deathtouch bestow guy does exist! It’s Baleful Eidolon.

I think you can’t get away from regenerate costing more than 1, and I’m on the fence for bestow being 3 or 4. This makes Possessed Remains similar to Everflame Eidolon.

towneater2

Town Eater Hydra is my take on monstruous, and it did make the cut in my Golgari deck.

I find it to be a creature that’s both interesting, playable, and good without being over powered.

I love the alternative cost for monstruous, I think it’s fun and flavorful. I would have liked to see more alternate costs for those kind of creatures.

I had another version of this guys who regenerated and got a +1/+1 counter by sacrificing lands, and another that destroyed lands when it hit.

firemace

Firemace Mage is obviously not part of either the Selesnya or Golgari deck. But it’s a great, simple design mostly created by one of my friends and I think I’ll make a case to make his limited deck to be the Boros one, and include this card in it.

Firemace Mage was inspire by Leonin Snarecaster, and becomes somewhat of a Skyknight Legionnaire. It’s not a crazy powerful card, pretty much ok compared to the other two drops from Gatecrash and Theros, but it’s a fun and elegant design, and it fits Boros perfectly.

So it has been a great week for my designs. I’m yet to get better at block coherence, but single designs are making me happy these days. The community at MTG Cardsmith is actually pretty helpful and inspirational, and if you want to see more of those designs I’ve created, you can see a whole lot of them on my profile there:

http://mtgcardsmith.com/author/Bullzzai

This will be it for now, but as you could tell I’m sure I’m getting excited and having tons of fun and I will be making more stuff and keeping you posted about them. Until then, have a great week!

Bird, Spider, and… Remorse?

Hey all!

I got inspired (get it) while creating the ordeals last time and I really wanted to create more weapons for the new gods of Theros, but this will have to wait. I have started working on yet another project, similar to the previous one but of smaller scope: create limited decks for me and my friends.

So for those who don’t know about limited, this is what happen when players make their deck on the fly with freshly opened boosters. Those commonly contain around 23 cards, so it’s definitely easier to create than a full 100-200 card edition. In fact, I’m already half way through creating my second deck! I want to keep working on it for a little bit, so I figured I could share some of it!

dawnjayDawn Jay.

Isn’t this guy cute? I had a random thought about Birds of Paradise and wanted to make one of my own. I didn’t shoot for something that would be as crazy as Noble Hierarch, or even Deathrite Shaman, but I thought I wanted my bird to be 1/1, with flying obviously, so it meant I had to tune its power down.

Dawn Jay would have been close to as powerful as Noble Hierarch if it had made green mana, and I didn’t need that either. I also didn’t want green to get to much ramp. So here it is. I think it’s good!

recluse

Evernight Recluse.

I don’t know for sure this one design is well balanced, but it just looks so good! I liked Dawn Jay too, but this is something else.

Reach isn’t canon at all for black, but I don’t see that being a breaking infraction. To make sure to have a great bear card, I definitely had to cut something though, and not being able to block is perfect for black.

Well this one spider will only block flyiers. I really like it; I hope you do too.

guilt

Guilt.

I’m good at flavor! Right?

It was important that I could create some removal that aren’t crazy premium removal like Hero Downfall, since you don’t always have that kind of luck while playing limited.

An example of a no-so-great one is Avenging Arrow. I had this great idea to mitigate the downside of getting hit first by the creature you want to destroy: gain some life back! Makes it quite fun, and guilt is definitely good flavor for that.
I made cool cards for this project, but I will flatter myself and say it would be just awesome if they were all neat little designs like the ones above. Now I still have a lot of work to do on interactions, and the coherent design of a whole set of cards, but it’s nice to feel improvements. It also goes to show that a nice design is made great by the illustration and overall flavor of the title, mechanics and sub text.

Good stuff. I hope this got you looking forward to some more design soon, because I’ll be working on it right now!

Have a good 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!

Multi-faceted Gods

Hey everybody! There has been a few more Born of the Gods spoilers, but as I said last week I don’t intend to reveal and comment everything. What I do feel like doing though, is talk some more about the new Gods of Theros. In my previous article I have introduced Ephara, God of the Polis. There is something I missed in my review though, her ability triggers at the beggining of each upkeep! This changes a lot, because you don’t need to be casting creatures with flash for her to take effect. Every time you will cast a creature on your turn with Ephara on the board, you will get a free card at your opponent’s upkeep!

This is great, but not the main topic. Let’s introduce a new god for the sake of today’s presentation. I just decided that I don’t even need to show you all the ones that I’ve been revealed so far; instead I will showcase one god with a sweet, sweet illustration from the up and coming Peter Mohrbacher: Mogis, God of Slaughter.

Mogis-God-of-Slaughter-Born-of-the-Gods-SpoilerYeah, pretty badass. Now here’s about how to activate them. For each mana symbol among the permanents you control, check if the the symbol is of the right color (here red or black). The way it does NOT work is “add red and black devotion”. Let’s see what the difference is with two distinct board states.

Image (1) ImageDevotion to Red: 5

Devotion to Black: 2

Devotion to Mogis: 5

Not 7! Because there is 5 colored symbols on the board, and they are indeed black or red. Mogis isn’t a creature.

Image (4) Image (3) Image (2)Devotion to black: 3
Devotion to red: 5
Devotion to Mogis: 7!!!

Go ahead, crazy you, attack with that magnificent Minotaur God. Nice board, by the way. Somehow I thought this was more unintuitive, but looking at it now it doesn’t seem so bad. Just remember to count each symbol only once. What it means though, is that you don’t get freebies for hybrid mana, apart from the fact that those often have only colored mana in their casting cost. It will enable bi-colored decks to try and play the god game, but I can’t help wondering how efficient you can make it, and this for a simple reason.

Who is playing gods in standard? Mono-color decks, for the great majority. If they have 5 colored mana symbols on the board, they will be of the colors of their god. Now what about a red-black devotion deck? It will need 7 colored mana on the table, 7 distinct ones. At this point a mono-colored deck would have a devotion of 7 too, so the commitment to the board would be the same, but in practice we have seen that it can get tricky reaching a devotion of 5, let alone 7.

SPOILER ALERT: Now what might be the exception to the fact that mono-colored decks are the ones running gods? Gruul (red/green). Because of the color combination being a classic one for mana ramp, with green’s great ability to make green and multi-colored mana, and a couple cards like Burning-Tree Emissary and Xenagos the Reveler. So maybe the Gruul god has a good chance to be played then? Is it good? Well here is our spoiler. I present to you Xenagos, God of Revels!

XenagosGodOfRevels

Excited for the pre-release yet? I sure am! I would love me some Xenagos in limited, that’s hell of an ability for a gruul deck. Maybe I will pick some more cards to show you until then… Either way, have a great week!