Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Iterating U/B Cephalids

So as I'm designing and thinking about rarities and power levels I'm realizing the U/B cephalid identity of playing spells from outside your hand just isn't a coherent concept that can be contained within a set. Essentially much of what those types of decks do and how they win are just too powerful to represent at common. And that essentially makes U/B mostly undraftable within set. It's a constructed deck concept.

I started thinking about reave and how the mechanic interacts with blue. The reave kicker mechanic will not itself appear in blue. However, blue at all rarities is able to interact with the graveyard, particularly where instants and sorceries and sometimes even artifacts are concerned. At common it can return them from the graveyard (expensively). At higher rarities it can exile and play them. So there is some good mechanical overlap between blue and black and reave that's can be combined to encourage a style of deck where you're rewarded when sorceries or instants leave your graveyard. A couple of commons that can help set things up:

I made the trigger here a sacrifice to present the cephalids as a dark and desperate race.

Very simple, obvious reave card for common.

And the new signpost uncommon:

So both of the above cards can trigger Blightcoast Reaver's additional ability. Oh, I just now realized he has "Reaver" in his name but he doesn't actually have reave. I'll have to rename him.

I'm probably going to do some more iterating of Xirn, too. I essentially gave him the same ultimate as Jaya in order to make the old U/B dynamic work. What I need to do is give him a graveyard exile engine as his + power to help this concept.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Overgrowth Booster Examination 1

So I've templated/brainstormed about 95 cards for Overgrowth so far. There are quite a few gaps in some of the planned out archetypes, but it's enough for me to put together a not-quite-random sample of what an Overgrowth booster pack might look like and explore how well (or poorly) the set coheres.

So let's take a look at 1 Rare/Mythic, 3, Uncommons, and 10 Commons:


This was initially rare, but as I was crafting more and more cards, I realized this is actually mythic in practice, especially within the terms of the set. Not only does it mutate, it can steal triggers of whatever an opponent might use to mutate their own creatures. Imagine if your opponent has one of the drumbeat enchantments. If they try to trigger it, you can steal the effect.

It doesn't exactly represent what blue is doing much in this set. It's just a pure limited bomb and goes well with any blue color combo. It's intended to illustrate the blue-green "grow smarter" archetype but it's so strong it doesn't require it at all. I may need to bump up the mana cost.

Uncommon 1

Now that I've nailed down the fecund mechanic, this card seems much less dangerous and I think it's fine at uncommon. It's kind of like the Amonkhet embalm lord in that it doesn't affect itself until it dies and makes a token. I thought that perhaps it should be the B/G signpost card, but fecund is also going to be in blue and white, and I don't want to given players the false impression that fecund is limited to two colors.

Uncommon 2

So this is the B/R reave signpost card. But I'm concerned about the fact that it doesn't have the reave kicker keyword on it. It facilitates reave by making sure you can trigger it across the whole turn and still get a benefit on the Corpse Kindler. So you can ignore the reave cost in a turn and still get the bonus effect. The question here is whether players will recognize when they look at a reave card that they only need to exile one card per turn, unless they've got a card that counts how many cards have been exiled.

Uncommon 3

I'm still not quite sure on the power level on this one, as well as templating the soldier tokens in this set as having first strike. That does tend to make them good against the other token creatures, but then again, they're going to be weak against the mutate creatures. Note that the ability wants you to have evasive creatures. White and blue will have their fliers (and blue will have one or two unblockables).

Common 1

So obviously this card tells you that your counters can be used in this set as more than just P/T bonuses. Potentially useful when your creature gets suppressed! And this is firmly in the G/W archetype for the set where you carefully manage your green mutate beasts by also removing counters to use a resource.

Common 2

Very simple anti-token creature red card. The R/W archetype is supposed to be about using militaristic force to deal with the creatures of the overgrowth. Since red can keep creatures from blocking, this seemed like a good way to express the dynamic. Though I could also maybe give it an ETB effect where it deals damage to a token creature and that would be on-color too.

Common 3

There are, to my surprise, no cephalids in this pack. I'm still trying to figure them out at common rarities given that the U/B focus is on playing with spells from outside of your hand. Since Xirn and the plague killing off the cephalids represents a central conflict in the set, that's a big gap right now to work on. U/B is not really playable yet.

This card itself is a neat way to encourage you to allow it to trade in order to maybe be fed to a reave trigger. Maybe it should be 3/2 to encourage aggression and increase the likelihood of a trade?

Common 4

Obviously this counterspell signals to players that you should feel comfortable exiling your own cards. So I wonder if the signaling that this is a set about exiling cards to be used as a resource is compatible with the signaling that this set is about creatures growing in size and number. To me, as somebody who had top-down designed these mechanics with an interesting story in mind, it makes sense. But I'm a little concerned that the reave mechanic doesn't appear connected to the others when you look at just the cards.

Common 5

Once you see mutate creatures, this card clearly signals that white is intended to keep them in check. So I like it, even though it's not a terribly strong combat trick. Funny thing. If you use this on a mutate creature, it will get a +1/+1 counter, but the counter won't modify its stats this turn.

I'm glad I concepted this mechanic, and it plays well in U/W, but I do worry about rules issues with it.

Common 6

This set's version of Shock. One of the very first reave cards I designed. I am concerned that the story it tells is kind of confusing and that it's not going to really be clear to players that reave represents a desperate effort to destroy plagued undead and overgrown monsters. I think I also need to have a red spell and possibly a black one as well that exiles a creature if it kills it.

Common 7

I decided to put the fecund bird in white rather than blue. I think I might give blue a small fecund crab or turtle at common to give it some strong early defenses.

Common 8

This will be the only "new" common land. Should I have common ETB tapped dual lands? Probably. The set is heavily focused on two-color decks. I do also plan to have rare dual lands for the ally colors. I'm still trying to figure out a good balance on what they do when they ETB.

Common 9

Mutate bear! An obvious gimme for the mechanic. This should hopefully signal that green is a primary color for mutate.

Common 10

This is the "Ah ha!" card for reave players to help them glue their deck together. Normally a card that could keep coming back like this would not be a common. I think it works in this set because it's parasitic. You have to cast another spell or use another ability to bring it back. But I do worry about what happens when one player is able to draft them all. It might have to be bumped to uncommon just because we need to limit the number of them. The combo with Corpse Kindler is pretty strong. We'll have to see.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The State of Overgrowth Mechanics

I think I am pretty close to what special mechanics I want to build the set with. Let's go over where things stand.

1. Mutate. When a creature with mutate is the target of a spell or ability it gets a +1/+1 counter.

Mutate is primary in green and red. It's secondary in black and blue. White does not have access.

I'm happy with the mechanic itself, but rethinking the name of it. While the mechanic does represent magical mutation, the fantasy concept of mutation also tends to involve wild variations as a result. The initial incarnation of mutate did this, but I've simplified it because it was even more parasitic than this. So I think I want to give the mechanic a name that indicates growth. It will be fun trying to find a word that hasn't already been used on green cards.

2. Reave. Reave is a kicker-type ability that allows you to exile a card from your graveyard as an additional casting cost. As with kicker abilities, the caster will be rewarded with a bonus effect if they pay the reave cost.

Reave appears only in red and black and on a couple of artifacts. It is very important to note that the bonus effect is written in such a way that it cares only if a card left your graveyard to trigger. That means it doesn't need to be the reave kicker that triggers it. Recursion spells of any kind will also count for reave cards. This matters in higher rarities, where the power of a reave bonus increases on the basis of the number of cards that have been exiled.

Also, while every card with reave on it will inherently have a bonus effect, there will also be cards with abilities that care about cards leaving your graveyard that don't have reave on them. This allows for permanents with recurring triggers to reward repeat use of reave.

3. Fecund. When a non-token creature with fecund dies, create a token copy of it.

Fecund will appear on all five colors, but primarily in green and white.

It's not the most innovative mechanic, but I feel like it's a very intuitive way of representing quick reproduction. Fecund will appear only on small animal creatures, not sentient races.

4. Suppress. When a creature is the target of suppress, it is unaffected by external power and toughness changes.

Suppress will appear only in blue and white. A creature can be suppressed for just a turn or for longer.

I have a feeling the rules text will need more tweaking after playtesting, but I like how the concept of it serves as a counter to mutate and reave bonuses that buff creatures.

Overgrowth Equipment

A de-emphasis on creature auras so that mutate doesn't get too oppressive creates a need for equipment for decks that aren't going to be having significant access to mutate or growth mechanics.

But Guthreham under Janell's rule has a massive cultural opposition to artifacts, and they tend to end up destroyed when found.

So I came up with a trio of uncommon artifacts that can be used, but then sacrificed for value if the need arises. Granted, the flavor isn't exactly perfect if the player gets to decide whether to destroy the artifact. But it's sort of a compromise and the set really needs these guys, I think.

Altogether this puts the set at about a dozen artifacts, and that seems about right. In common there's a mana helper and a bunch of simple artifact creatures. Then equipment at uncommon. Then some weird stuff at rare and mythic.

Iterating Suppress

Doing some brainstorming about how Suppress might work as it's fleshed out. It is kind of similar to detain or tap spells, but with a different feel that seems appropriate for Overgrowth's emphasis on growing creatures.

So I've reworded the text a bit and also made it so it can be both an end-of-turn effect or also an ongoing aura.

So to make it clearer in the rules, it won't affect any sort of power and toughness alterations that are endemic to the creature itself. That gives the mechanic a little bit of a weakness, but it also makes it more clear and avoids a lot of rules conflicts.

I do realize that using words like "unaffected" and "external" might cause some level of confusion. I want to make it clear that it doesn't destroy auras or equipment or even counters. They just don't "affect" the creature. And I think this wording sets it up that additional combat tricks or buffs in response also don't work. I think. This will obviously need to be playtested quite a bit.

Fecund 4.0!

Yeah, I know. But trying to make limited creature duplication is a challenge. So here, now, I'm essentially making a keyword out of a trigger that already exists in Magic.

There's typically something in a set that gives a bit of a spin on this. Currently we've got Hunted Witness in Guilds of Ravnica. This is an uber-simple version. It simply makes a token version of itself when it dies. Token versions don't create duplicates when they die. So it doesn't essentially create immortal little vermin creatures that keep coming back. But it does create some nice B/G autorecursion of small creatures that feels very on-color.

It also allows this type of card.

The one thing I worry about with this, though, is that these creature types seem already primed for inclusion of fecund within this set. We'll have to see when I really start fleshing out the commons.

Trading Out Detain for "Suppress"

Detain doesn't seem to be fitting well, though I do need a mechanic in U/W that matches the controlling/defensive/reactive playstyle I want for them.

Blue and white both have the ability to alter and set a creature's base power and toughness. What if I gave them a mechanic that essentially temporarily represses power and toughness boosts?

So the big question here is what it means rules-wise that a creature loses all modifiers. What I have in mind is anything from instant effects, enchantments, equipment, and even counters that alter a creature's base power and toughness. But what does that do to */* creatures? Typically when U/W meddles with a creatures abilities or removes their abilities the ability gives the creature a base power and toughness to avoid a situation where a creature has an undefined power or toughness. Does this effect abilities that set a base power and toughness on a creature?