Archive for April 2012

Redesign Alpha #3: Total Recall   1 comment

 

So, here we are. Only two cards in and I find myself looking at our first member of the Power Nine- and making the same face as the man in the art. It’s probably one of the harder of the Power Nine to tackle, but I’ll give it a fair shot anyway. How do we make “Draw Three Cards” powerful enough to print without neutering it too much? I still want the card to have that va va voom, but just without the soulcrushing power it entails. So, the challenge here is steep- I have a feeling we might be revisiting this one later on. But for now, let’s explore what we can do.

The first step I’m taking is to remove the “Force opponent to draw three” part of the card. I agree with Zac Hill when he said that most of the time, card draw should not be targeted. (This was part of an excellent debate between him and MaRo- Zac’s side being found here.) I don’t like the clause as it is very often irrelvant and for the newer player, it just seems confusing- or could even be missed altogether and I agree with the assesment that a lot of the time it gives ‘false choice’ when the majority of Magic is player one-on-one. Secondly, from an aestehtic point of view, less text is always pleasing and makes the card read cleaner.

Setting out with this card- I want to find a way to keep the “U, Draw Three” with no drawback template. Yeah, I’ve set the bar pretty high. Two of the cards that do this currently have seen bannings in one or more formats- Ancestral Recall in everything bar Vintage (Where it’s still restricted) and Ancestral Vision, which is banned in Modern, and still good in Legacy. The most recent attempt as it stands is Visions of Beyond- which came with the rather steep cost of having 20 cards in somebodies graveyard, which is quite hard to achieve- no deck coming out of Innistrad block has yet made that dream work. I’m hoping that my version of Ancestral Recall can still be good enough to see play, but without dominating the format it is in.

My first step was to look at what draw three’s have worked in the past, what impact they had and what we can learn from them. We’re just looking at ones that allow the drawing of three cards, with [u]no[/u] discarding them afterwards. My reasoning behind this is the Draw X, Discard X has been done to death and I’m looking for our Ancestral to be fairly unique. Our first stop is Shared Discovery:

Shared Discovery

I started playing Magic during Zendikar block and this didn’t even register with me while I’ve been thinking about this until I went searching on gatherer. Oddly enough, I think this card has the potential to be extremely powerful- I’m not the biggest expert, but if this were legal now I’d be sliding a couple into Delver decks just because of the potential with Lingering Souls. However, this card made minimal impact, because generally blue doesn’t have four creatures walking around- and due to the sorcery speed, you would often find yourself opening the door to your opponent getting in a lot of damage. Prehaps we could drop the amount of creatures needed for this one and see if it has potential.

One thing I do like about this clause is that tapping creatures to draw cards feels good flavourwise for “Ancestral Recall”, as it feels as if you’re tapping into the knowledge of the creatures you control. In terms of gameplay though, it feels like it could get a bit messy, as this essentially halves the cost from Shared Discovery and because there are blue decks in which you can get two creatures out quite quickly, this could be a very early play, without needing to worry about the downside of taking lethal when you have no blockers. Even if this were printed now, it would probably be an issue. Turn One Delver, Turn Two Delver, draw three. Maybe the downside could be bigger? One thing I might toy with is tapping the creatures and then having them not untap during the next untap step to extend the drawback and see if that feels like it could balance things out. I’ll add that one to the maybe pile- for now, this probably won’t be what we choose going forward though.

So, what else is an acceptable drawback for drawing three cards?

How about losing a turn?

I’m honestly not sure how to evaluate this as a card. Would it be too good? Not good enough? Depending on when you play it, the impact of the effect varies- the earlier it is, the less you might get punished for it- but later on, can you afford to give your opponent a turn’s worth of time? Essentially you would draw 3- but you also give them an extra card drawn, an extra turn to attack…I certainly think it would be playing around in some quirky design space. It’s an interesting trade-off and what I like to see in a card- something that evolves as the game continues.

This one also intrigues me- you get more cards, but they get to develop their mana quicker and will be casting better spells sooner. Is the swing too much to risk it? What if it was 1 land they got to put in, would it then be an acceptable trade-off? I think two works. The nuance in this is that the card might be a huge risk in the early game- to put your opponent that far ahead on mana…but in the late game, where each player might have more mana then they need already, you draw three and the only benefit for them is to thin their deck a little. I think it could be a rather clever card in the right environment.

At the moment, my two picks for the file are the “Draw 3, Opponent Gets 2 Land” and the” Time Walking yourself” options. Now, I can always come back and change this, but for now I’m going for the Time Warp version. I’ll be sharing this with any readers out there, those who follow me on Twitter and the MTG Reddit. I’ll see what they say and go on from there!

This has been quite lengthy- I don’t intend on giving each card it’s own article. Next week I’ll be getting very animated tackling a trio of cards that do the same thing, but they’re all very different- Animate Artifact, Animate Dead and Animate Wall.

Random Card Design #12: Hangover   Leave a comment

A bit of fun, here. Don’t drink and draft, folks.

Random Card Design #11: Wings of Eternity   2 comments

Don’t think this has been done before- would it be too powerful? Too vulnerable and weak? Not fast enough? Thoughts please!

Edit: It has since been pointed out to me that this should really be “Sacrifice Wings of Eternity”, rather than “Destroy Wings of Eternity.”

Posted April 15, 2012 by drafterildal in Card Designs

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Random Card Design #10: Weeping Song   Leave a comment

Been listening to a bit of Nick Cave, hence this!

Posted April 13, 2012 by drafterildal in Card Designs

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5 Ravnica Thoughts…   Leave a comment

So! Return to Ravnica will be the Autumn set, as announced as PAX this past weekend. To get you in the mood, here’s 5 tidbits of information to get the juices flowing..

1. Gideon Jura was last seen heading to Ravnica

Not brought up too much, but Gideon was last known to be heading there to speak to the Infinite Consortium, seeking help to deal with the Eldrazi ravaging the plane of Zendikar.

2. Several other Planeswalkers are attached to Ravnica

Not even counting Gideon- we have Jace, Lilliana, Chandra, Nicol Bolas and Tezzeret also tied in to the plane via the aforementioned Infinite Consortium. Consider that Nicol Bolas is all but confirmed in M13…and we could be heading for a great showdown. Maybe we should expect many multi-coloured planeswalkers? Also, the Infinite Consortium had a cell on Kamigawa- and a Kamigawan has just randomly shown up on Innistrad- worth remembering…

3. Modern Reprints

R&D has said that they want to reprint the key staples of Modern in order to help the format grow- with many people assuming it’s accepted fact that the shocklands will see a return. With it clearly being geared toward muti-colour again, what other Modern staples might return- or be brought back because of Innistrad? There’s not too many reprints they did in Scars Block- although a lot of riffs of them- but ones too look out for may be Lightning Helix (R/W Aggro is a big player in Innistrad Block which also may prompt this), Chord of Calling, Cremate, Dark Confidant, Empty the Catacombs, Mortify, Protean Hulk, Putrefy and Wrecking Ball are just some off the top of my head…

4. Will Guild Mechanics change?

This is a really interesting one- presumably, the same guilds will return from before- but will they keep their mechanics? While some are clearly well liked by R&D and have been brought back already (Bloodthirst), some have been said on record by R&D members (I’m 99.99% sure it’s been said, but cannot find the links) that they do not like Haunt and they particularly dislike Dredge- so I can’t see them returning. Especially Dredge, considering the possiblities they’d most likely end up making that deck absurd(er) in Legacy. Will new mechanics be made? Will old mechanics not from Ravnica be used? Maybe they won’t need that many mechanics- maybe guilds will merge…

5. Possible Standard Implications

Now any set changes the face of Standard. Ravnica could do this in huge ways- we may see a lot more “crazy” decks, as presumably the set will provide crazy good manabases and a lot of good gold cards- so maybe 5 colour control is primed and ready? With Nicol Bolas around, will we see the return of Cruel Ultimatum? Time will tell…

Redesign Alpha #2: Air we go…   Leave a comment

So, after a long look at Alpha on Gatherer, that ran through at least one box of tissues as I wept at the task ahead, what became apparent is that there are quite a few problems facing me in this task. I’ll lay out a couple in this week’s entry, but others will flare up at times. Still, c’est la vie, restriction breeds creativity…

Can you count to (Power) 9?

Not just the Power Nine, but a whole host of other extremely powerful cards- Armaggedon, Balance, Control Magic, Counterspell, Dark Ritual, Demonic Tutor, Mana Vault, Mind Twist, Sinkhole, Sol Ring, Swords to Plowshares, Time Vault and Wheel of Fortune are all going to be running around, some of which wouldn’t see print today for their strength, but even discounting that- some could have an extremely adverse effect on our proposed draft format. However, I still want the cards to have that special feeling- I’m aiming for Black Lotus to still be a popular, sought after card- just without it being as powerful as it is.

Thankfully, unlike Richard Garfield, I will have the added benefit of several years of Magic Development to give me some insight into how to tweak these cards to make them fair and fun, although I’ll be eagerly trying a lot of different things. Keeping cards within their great heritage and the bounds of fairness will be key to a successful redesign, so the power 9 and friends will most likely be receiving most of my attention.

Another obstacle during the redesign is that some cards, while not totally overpowered- are too powerful for their commonality. Disintergrate, Fireball, Pestilence and Sinkhole are main offenders for being really out of place, but there are others, which we will have to revise and rejiggle around to not only make the cards fair, but balance out removal at certain rarities for our draft format. Most of the uncommons are seemingly just shoved in there for something that may have seemed correct before, but in the modern era, doesn’t fit at all. Rares vary from correct (Birds of Paradise) to bizzare (Elvish Archers- a 1/2 First Striker for 1G).  It will be interesting to tweak this- remember, one rule is to keep the same amount of commons, uncommons and rares.

So Much Hate

Now, I appreciate the necessity of hate cards, as they’re part of the fabric of Magic. That said, they got off to a very rough start in Alpha, generally being too frequent, too punishing and plain miserable. Obviously, that can be corrected- but the issue for us will be to have these hate cards not only be unoppressive, but to retain the flavour of their original card names.

The main problem is that the colour-hate cycle is a bit too overboard on cards of the mass land destruction variety, which never makes for a fun playing environment, so there will be heavy changes to those. There’s also a few more “troll” cards running around that will need changing- Gloom, which makes White spells cost 3 more. Not fun, and not conducive for the draft environment we want to foster. Even worse is Lifeforce, a GG enchantment that for GG, counters any black spell, which is not only a horrible card for play but just all over the place colour pie wise. This will be something that we need to tackle.

The Power Nine…walls

There are nine walls in Alpha. This is going to be a problem, because there’s not much I can do with a card name that has “Wall” in it. The problem I have with Walls is that the more there are in a set, the more boring gameplay will be. Sitting behind walls has it’s purposes, but it’s not particularly fun for the players on eitherside. Making these walls flavourful, playable and something that doesn’t drive you into boredom will be a fun little challenge. By no means the biggest, but I feel it’s worth it’s own mention.

So, let’s look at our first card in the set. It’s Air Elemental!

Air Elemental

So, we’re getting off to a solid start on this project by having one of the better designed cards in the set that still holds up today- while not being a particularly interesting card. It’s been reprinted 17 times, with the most recent being M10- and it’s not hard to see why. It’s simple, carries the flavour of blue and can be a strong uncommon in Draft formats that is fair and balanced.

Air Elemental, alongside pretty much every other blue creature in Alpha is something that is not particularly tangible- creature types include Clones, Djinns and Phantasms. It sets a tone that has kept with blue for all of Magic’s history- dealing mostly in conjured creatures, rather than natural ones. The only exceptions to this in Alpha are Prodical Sorcerer, a Wizard- also a natural fit for blue, two Merfolk cards and a ship – which are fine- because considering you’re setting the colour out with “Islands” as it’s source of mana, having creatures that live in or on water seems more than acceptable.

We also get our first taste of blue’s role in gameplay – having a route of attack consisting of smaller, lesser numbers- but with evasive abilities.  Air Elemental is a card that needs an answer fairly quickly, particularly with a lack of fliers and creatures with reach in the set- but doesn’t get it done in a couple turns, allowing opponents time to find an answer, or a way to win before the elemental gets them to zero.

For now, the verdict is that Air Elemental goes into our Redesigned Alpha file unchanged.

ReDesign #1: Alpha   Leave a comment

Hello! In an attempt to get myself writing regularly again, I’ve decided to undertake a project. A redesign, if you will. Thinking about this, I wanted to do something a bit different- not designing sole cards, or creating a new set- there are many others out there doing that. So what about Redesigning a set?

Imagine the scenario, if you will. R&D have decided that they’re going to not do M13 this year. Instead, they’re going to re-run Alpha. The task has fallen to you to update the set- so that the templating works, it’s fun and still a great introduction to the game. You have almost free reign to change what cards do, but there are some rules…

1) All the card names must stay the same.

2) Cards must try and stay faithful to what the original card did, even if it is not the same execution. (Ante cards, I’m looking at you.)

3) The set is to be designed to be as beginner-friendly as possible.

4) Cards cannot be added or removed from the set.

5) A cards colour can be changed- but when the set is complete, there must be the same amount of cards in each colours as there was in Alpha.

There’s probably other ones that will come up, but those are bridges we’ll cross when we come to them. I want the set to be a great intro for beginners, as the original Alpha must have been to launch Magic so well. I also want it to be a viable draft format- that might prove a trickier prospect, as draft didn’t exist when Alpha was first made. I want everything to be as close to Alpha as possible- just without the outdated templating and bizzarely complicated cards. I’ll be launching things off on by going through the set card-by-card, examining in great depth the changes to make- or not make and other avenues of change. It should be fun, so hopefully you’ll join me on next week when we start by taking a look at the basic composition of the set and the first card: Air Elemental (Here’s a hint- it’s probably one of the better designed cards in the set already.)

It’s not an April Fools!

Jamie

@drafter_il_dal