Simpler Times

Hello everybody, happy new year and welcome back to Ominous Designs for our 158th episode! I hope 2017 has started well for you all, over here at Responsible Gaming headquarters we want to treat ourselves with a detox of pure and simple designs for our first article. Let’s start with a couple of creatures.

rethik-commandoRethik Commando

Our very first card of the year is the poster child for the new mechanic. It isn’t a keyword, but it is strongly flavored to feel like what could be a major design direction for a color in a set. To that extent you could imagine giving it an actual Ability Word.

Commando will serve greatly in an aggressive strategy since not only will it trade like a regular creature, but also ensure that some damage goes through no matter what, as long as he attacked.

As you can see the mechanic is simple enough that we could have a ton of different declinations of it with different power, toughness, mana cost and damage dealt.

high-temple-guardHigh-Temple Guard

Very much the counterpart to our red creature, Guard will gain you life and it will do so if you blocked instead of attacked.

I love the organic feeling of being an ok blocker and giving you extra life, which should help the same goal of surviving and padding your life total for your late game comeback.

I was very tempted to make a 2/3 for 3 that gained you 3 life in order to reflect perfectly commando, as if one blocked the other they would bounce off beautifully. I opted not to do so because the actual white card would be pretty underwhelming. In fact I tend to think a vanilla 2/4 for 4 with marginal life gain is mostly filler.

So what do you say? I am very pleased to start the year with the simplest possible designs. You might know that I consider those to be very interesting, hard to design, and of the utmost importance for limited play. I do think we hit something quite good here and I would love to make more of those.

I have wondered if this cycle could extend to other colors but I fear it would take away from its simplicity. The best answer I could find would be to add black cards dealing damage as well and green cards gaining life. I suppose one thing I could do is switch attack and block for those, which would be very fun but also fairly confusing.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s article and I want to wish you again a very happy 2017. See you next week for another episode and until then play responsibly!

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Fusion

Hello everybody! Welcome to Ominous Designs episode 157. Today we are making some fuse cards. I am going to keep the design that inspired me with this theme for the end, so that we can start with an uncommon and then do a rare. Shall we get started?

lockLock // Key

Incidentally, I made my second design based on names that I found on some wikipedia entry. – siamese twins names, a very useful one – It is also my favourite design of the week. It is simple, elegant and probably well balanced as well as powerful!
There isn’t too much to say about it, except I did consider using the detain mechanic because it and fuse are both native to the plane of Ravnica. But since Lock is meant to be a tempo play, I wasn’t too fond of having it last two players’ turns. By tuning its power level a bit that way, I could also make sure that 3 mana would be reasonable for the two effects, making it much closer to Artful Dodge than you might think, though it does have the upside of a possible use defensively. – albeit not to the greatest effect –
Like I said I quite like the card, so I hope you do too!

aliveAlive // Kicking

The concept of putting a creature into play and having the possibility of making it fight was in my vault for quite some time. I didn’t know it would turn into a fuse card but it is quite fitting now. The tricky part was to balance it.
On one hand Alive is just about a reprint of Dramatic Entrance, and on the other Kicking is even closer to Pit Fight. I lean on the fact that both of those original cards are good but I hope not so good that they can’t be put together if I throw in two very slight mana downsides. I am not aware of Dramatic Entrance being used outside of commander and Pit Fight outside of Limited, so my take is that I have made Alive // Kicking slightly better than those two in their respective formats, which might just be fine.
Some time this morning, – I believe it was one of those shower thoughts – I realized that Alive was already the name for an existing fuse card, half of Alive // Well. What can you do… I’m sure there is another name out there for our design.

It’s been fun making fuse cards! Give me your thoughts on those, I think the rare is acceptable and I am rather excited with Lock // Key.

I X U

Hello everybody, I am happy to have you for episode 155 of Ominous Designs. Today we are going to review another couple of designs from my personal vault, both of which happen to cost 1 generic mana, 1 blue, and one of another color of mana – hence the title. Let’s start with red and an izzet instant.

multiply-angles Multiply Angles

This one is similar to something I did a couple of weeks ago, and its main goal is to finally bring us a spell that could copy either a creature or an instant or sorcery. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it has been done before!

I did want to keep the spell cheap, and I also had in mind a particular way I could make both sides of the spell weaker, with a Phantasmal Image downside or the ability for your opponent to counter the spell. It makes for an interesting and flexible package overall, but hard to evaluate without play.

jara-azorius-representativeJara, Azorius Representative
This one started with hearing someone complain about Dovin Baan. I set out to create my own cheap Azorius planeswalker, and it came quickly clear that I wanted an ultimate that would mirror Sphinx’s Revelation and a minus ability that would detain.

3 might actually be a little cheap, especially since the plus ability technically could protect it as well. It might be the case that Jara should come into play with 2 loyalty counters or cost 4, I just wanted to push the sphinx a bit. I also wish I found an illustration for Isperia – Azorius guildmaster – that would work here.

That is all for the day! As usual I hope you enjoy the designs and I invite you to provide feedback on the social outlet of your preference. I will be off now and until next week for episode 156.

See you then, and play responsibly!

Breeding Pool

Hello again everybody, and welcome for episode 154 of Ominous Designs. This week I am putting on my mad scientist hat and proudly bring you a Zompire and a Spidrit! What are those you might ask, an air of incredulity on your face and a vague sense of fear taking over you? Well, why don’t we just have a look?

kelh-val-deathless-overseerKehl Val, Deathless Overseer

This, my friends, is a Zompire. As it turns out none of his kind ever saw print before. What a shame.

In substance, a pretty simple mashup of +1/+1 mechanics, related to both the zombie nation – coming back from graveyards – and the vampire family – getting bigger when hitting a player apparently is a vampire thing.

The power level is quite high, but for a 4 mana 3/3 legendary creature, it should be fine. The abilities exist on commons 2-3 drops after all.

lothna-hauntweaverLothna, Hauntweaver

Now I’m introducting the Spider Spirit! First one as well. Quite a gorgeous creature.

I had a harder time, here. It is in fact not easy to find common ground between two creature types that are mainly defined by having either flying or reach. I decided to give pseudo-flying to my spiders so that everyone has some evasion, and tried my best to reward creatures for connecting with an opponent by awarding them new tokens.
I am just sorry the end result takes 9 lines of text, because I really like most of the ideas in there.

What do you say? Would you ever create a zombie/vampire or spirit/spider commander deck? Seems to me that would open the door to some fun combinations. I reckon this is the kind of casual fun that commander players love to build around. You tell me!

Now is time to say goodbye though. I wish you all a great thanksgiving and hope you can relax and enjoy some family and a ton of food. I’ll do that as well and I shall see you next week. 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!

 

The Haunting

Hey all, welcome to Ominous Designs 146. Our title today, The Haunting, tells us a bit about the process behind a new mechanic. That mechanic is called Imbue, and it’s a combination of Haunt, Bestow and potentially Cipher.

We are going to look at three different rarities of mostly simple implementation of the mechanic, – french vanilla if you will – and next week we will try and do some fancier things with it.

galewingGalewing is our common, and the usual blue flyier, except this time it is not a Wind Drake. It borrows more from Gravity Negator.
As you can see, the idea with imbue is that when your creature dies, it will lend some of its power to another creature until that one dies.

With flying, it is tricky to balance power level since depending on the situation, the imbue ability could be quite powerful.
When in doubt though, I go back to Nimbus Naiad and tell myself that for 5 mana I could have +2/+2 flying as well as a 2/2 flyer, so there is still a chance that our version is reasonable.

gleambearer-elementalGleambearer Elemental.

For the uncommon, we are looking at a smaller creature. I first considered using first strike for this one but didn’t like the potential swinginess of it.

I went for lifelink, giving us something similar to Hopeful Eidolon. As eidolon taught us, giving lifelink to a big creature can be quite the pain in the butt, so even if the power might be fine, I don’t think we would what it to be a common thing.

Still, Gleambearer is a tight little designs and a pretty great 2 drop if you ask me.

blazelasherBlazelasher.
Our rare is red, and angry! A double striker who gives double strike to another creature should be a lot of fun to play.

I danced around for a bit, trying to figure out what the cost of a 2/2 double strike should be, seeing things like 2 mana for Scourge Wolf or 4 for Hounds of Griselbrand. I think we should be good at 3 mana, just looking at Silverblade Paladin and Arashin Foremost which mostly have better upsides.
The one remaining question is should red have access to those stats, and I don’t see why not.

This is it for the week! I am happy with the design. It is not the most creative but definitely solid and tight. I cannot really think of a reason it would be a developmental problem and I can on the other hand imagine it be fun to play with. Hope you will agree! If you don’t just let me know why.

That is all for the week, I will see you next time for episode 147. 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!