Saturday, April 27, 2019

Overgrowth Booster Examination 2

I'm up to about 200 cards and am fleshing the set out--both the feel and the mechanics--as I start churning out some more cards across all rarities. So I figure it's a good time to see how an individual pack might look again.


As I'm building green, it's too easy to fall into having everything relate directly to mutate or fecund. I realized in the rare slot I could actually craft a creature that works with the B/G vermin theme. I didn't want to do a typical "vermin lord," so I came up with this. It can work with just green, but it's better if you play it with black.


I really like the relatively new W/R concept of caring about a creature's combat skills. There are enough creatures in this set for this to work. It also works with green, which has a few vigilance creatures in this set.


Initially I had this scribe have you draw a card for each bird you controlled, but the ceiling for the number of cards you might draw seemed high for uncommon, and I thought maybe he was too niche for rare. So I put a limit of two to make it fit the slot.


So I decided to bump up the power, cost, and rarity of this one. Zombie tokens in this set all have base 2/2. Interesting detail on its use in the set besides just trying to sweep tokens: Since it only targets one creature, it can deal damage to mutate creatures without giving them counters. There are creatures, like elementals and lizards, where some have mutate and some don't.


An interesting design challenge with the Choked Fen Nest, B/G signpost card: There's a natural inclination to want to give all the small critters in black and green fecund already, given that it's the set mechanic. But if all the selected creatures already have fecund, it makes the enchantment meaningless. It doesn't stack. So I did my best to make sure that most of the fecund creatures, especially at common, did not share the targeted creature types. Scorpions are not on the list.


There are two common lands that sac to give you some fixing and five uncommon lands that sac for effects. I think that's enough to get lands in the graveyard to assist with R/B reave cards.


Since white and blue are so heavily dependent on flying and defensive tactics, I wanted to give red tools to be aggressive with them. Red also has a reach creature (a wizard) with reave that does damage to a flying creature if you pay the reave kicker.


There is not quite enough of the suppress mechanic in this set, particularly given that the U/W uncommon signpost card rewards you for suppressing. There are only eight cards that suppress, four in blue and four in white. I will probably want at least one more in each color.


I've weakened the main spell here so that it's no longer -2/-2 creature removal. That seemed a little strong, and I'm using reave in the set for other -X/-X effects in black.


This guy hasn't really changed much at all, other than me fixing the wording so that it enters the battlefield with the counters.


Yes, I'm going to go with the familiar set pattern of putting in a vanilla in each color to help fill out curves in a limited format. I made the green vanilla a snake and the black vanilla an insect, so you can give them fecund with Choked Fen Nest.


So when I designed this, it became clear how much fecund is just free embalming (compare to Sacred Cat). The difference is that you cannot control when the token is created the way you can with embalm, which could potentially be a weakness. I'm still not sure if that means I'm undercosting these creatures up front.


With the absence of a devoted mana-smoothing or card-sorting mechanic in this set, I'm spreading scry around a bit.


Note the death trigger here rather than the enter-the-battlefield trigger. That's going to be typical for the cephalids.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Meaningful Choices in a Couple of Rares

A different take on white's typical board clears:


White creature-focused board clears are supposed to be "fair," equal across all players, but it's also intended for white to build their deck in such a way that they can take advantage of the "fairness" of it all. In this case, you can take the board state into consideration and decide what "all" includes. Because white has a lot of access to token creatures, it may be that you want to save them from your wrath.

In blue, I decided that Compelling Memory is weird without actually being as interesting as I thought at first. So I've scratched it and replaced it with a different type of modal steal spell:


Note that with that first choice, if you target a creature with mutate, it will come over to you with an additional +1/+1 counter.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Races of Guthreham: Ogres


The ogres (appearing in red and black) are hardy, shamanistic, tribal creatures that appear to be immune or at least highly resistant to both the plagues and the mutations the Overgrowth is bringing forth, but they're not taking any chances.


They tend to keep to themselves now and are known for killing any other sentient races that they encounter. The mage hermits of Nightscrape Mountain are adept enough to keep themselves safe, and so they've been trying as much as possible--turning to magics other than just pyromancy--to see how the ogres are managing to survive in the wild.


The ogres don't just kill whatever they come across, they cremate the corpses, saving only edible meat that they make sure is clean through shamanistic magic. This even includes their own. They engage in cannibalism, but it's more out of survival than cruelty. Though ... honestly ... they don't hate it.

All that's left of any dead ogre (or any creature they kill, either for food or to protect themselves) is ash. It's been this way for decades now. The ogres don't have graveyards. They have cairns piled around throughout the Nightscrape Mountains to memorialize the dead. There are no bodies to dig up there, but ashes of ogres who have died are scattered around the earth.


The ogres are part of an aggressive midrange strategy. Black and red spells are used early to clear out initial threats. Then the ogres come out in force and reave can be used in various ways to make the ogres stronger or to clear a path for attack.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Cycle of Ruins

I wanted to stick in a cycle of sacrifice-for-value uncommon monocolor lands. As with Evolving Wilds, it's a way to get cards into the graveyard for reave kickers that doesn't make you feel like you have to waste or throw away cards. In addition, since this is such a creature-focused set, it's a way to put in some spell-like effects that will be put in the land slot rather than making somebody play fewer creatures in a limited format.

That led me toward the memorial cycle from Dominaria as inspiration, but with my own variations to represent Guthreham:






These were once major communities of Guthreham that Janell convinced the citizenry must be abandoned in order to keep dark forces of artifice, necromancy, and demonology from returning to the plane. Over decades , they've decayed and the overgrowth has taken them over. But there's still things to pick over there for scavengers who are willing to brave the wilds.

I've decided on a rare cycle of allied-color dual lands, but am not sure of the format for them as yet. This set lacks specialized mana-ramping or card-sorting mechanics, so it feels like they need to have conditions to come in untapped.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Reprints for Overgrowth

Thinking of a few bread-and-butter common spells that would fit in Overgrowth and don't really require me to attempt to reinvent or adapt for the set.


With green primary for the mutate mechanic, I want a fight spell to be as simple, given the potential of triggered reactions on both ends. And it might get messy if we try to use fight as an instant. So sorcery speed and no frills seems like the way to go here. If you target a creature you control with mutate, it will get the +1/+1 counter before it fights, just like Hunt the Weak. Looking at the casting cost of Hunt the Weak, that gives Prey Upon some major value if you've got a mutate creature to use it on.


Final reward fits well mechanically and flavorfully in Overgrowth to capture the idea in black of thoroughly obliterating a creature to keep it from becoming zombified by the various plagues going around. Mechanically it takes out a potential graveyard target for various reave kickers.


Given how heavily this set emphasizes creatures with three of its four mechanics, a cheap creature counter is pretty much a no-brainer.

EDITING TO ADD:


I totally forgot about Evolving Wilds, which, was actually the first card I realized I wanted to reprint in the set. Getting a land in your graveyard early is very useful for reave kickers, and this was why I ultimately decided that I should take the "non-land" distinction off the cards reave could exile out of your graveyard. In a limited format--especially in this creature-focused set--it may be a few turns before you end up with cards in your graveyard. Evolving Wilds helps speed up red-black decks.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

You Know What Magic Doesn't Have?

A: Skunks!

Seriously, I looked through Scryfall and was surprised to discover not a single skunk. Not even in the unsets. Well, that needs to be fixed!


I thought of several different green ideas for the skunk. First it was 2/2 first and was blockable by only one creature (who is brave enough to stop it?), but that is completely pointless on such a small creature. Then I thought about it destroying an enchantment or artifact when entering the battlefield, but I wanted to put fecund on it, and that seemed too strong, even at uncommon. But flavoring it as a creature that punishes you for blocking it by getting even nastier is a green thing and it definitely fits a skunk.

I seem to be defaulting into putting fecund on every small animal creature I'm making. I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do. If this were a "real" set, there'd be a problem where with the sheer number of token creatures this set is creating. I might take fecund off a few of them, especially if it makes G/W too fast compared to other color combos. Having fecund encourages aggression since you'll get another copy of the creature when it dies.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Races of Overgrowth: Cephalids

The cephalids of Guthreham are not quite like the ones of Dominaria. They are deep-sea, octopus-like humanoids, but they lack the xenophobia-driven conspiracies and predatory mindset of the Dominarian counterparts.

For Overgrowth I actually took inspiration for cephalids from octopuses themselves. Octopuses are known for being incredibly smart, but unlike pretty much every other intelligent race, they typically are not a communal or collective species. In the animal kingdom, pretty much every race that ranks high in intelligence--whether, humans, monkeys, parrots, dolphins, elephants, etc.--also favors communal living and child-rearing. Octopuses are very rare in that they do not.

So in Guthreham, cephalids are brilliantly smart creatures from birth with a natural adeptness with magic. And they're not raised or schooled in any conventional sense. Each cephalid, even as a young child, is expected to fend for him or herself and make their own way in the seas.

This would sound cruel for any other race, but their high early intelligence means that this is not some absurd death sentence. The young cephalids adapt and grow very quickly.


Culturally, this led to a very self-directed society that doesn't really have any sense of a "community." And while cephalids are not emotionless automatons, they are also not terribly empathetic creatures and don't easily grasp concepts that involve caring about what other people do. Their emotions are deeply personal, both in good and bad ways. They can feel fear when they're in danger and happiness when they succeed. But they don't feel grief over another cephalid's death or outrage over injustices (on the flip side they also don't envy over somebody else's accomplishments or feel greed for their belongings).

All of this very self-directed, inward-focused society matters because they remained out of the war between the humans and elves and the undead and demons entirely decades and decades ago, and they were generally oblivious to the developing overgrowth. Not completely unaware--they are intensely curious consumers of knowledge and history. But they didn't see a threat. And they were completely unprepared when the growth led to the spread of diseases, and the diseases pushed the afflicted to coastal regions, and then the afflictions got passed into the ecology of the sea.

Because cephalids are so self-directed, they have no concept of public health. They are not religious. They have no priests or healers. Since they have no emotional attachment to each other, they typically just accepted that cephalids get sick and die eventually. Even when it's them.

But the the overgrowth brought an alarming escalation of disease into the cephalids' ecology and they are dying now at a much more rapid rate. The diseases are affecting their brilliant minds, causing them to go crazy, which in turn makes them extremely dangerous to themselves and others, particularly the desperate and also sick communities of humans who have taken up refuge on the Blightcoast.


Cephalids are now increasingly realizing that they have to start thinking of themselves as a race and a community or they are going to die off entirely. They still might be too late.