Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Enemy Color Pair Uncommons

The more I build the set mechanically, the more it feels like this is an ally color set without a whole lot of interest in supporting enemy color pairs.

But I nevertheless want to make it possible to play these color pairs, and so I wanted to provide some uncommons that work with what's going to be available in those colors without actually forcing a mechanical playstyle. Here's where they stand in the latest iteration.

Choked Fen Nest hasn't changed. It's an interesting mix of tribal batching with a set mechanic that doesn't actually require a particular play style. Just draft these creatures and they all get a second life. That's it.

This does play well with green and white's emphasis on fecund, so there's a potential three-color deck here that can be drafted.

I simplified this card and am eliminating the R/U concept of rewarding scrying to the bottom. I don't think I can devote the card design space that it needs for this set. Red and blue have very, very little conceptual overlap in this set. So I just went way simple here as a way of helping red and blue players dig into their decks to get to needed spells. If nothing else, this card signals that there is no particular playstyle being pushed for anybody in blue and red.

The text on this one is awkward. Green and blue have access to mutate and fecund, both of which are triggered abilities. I didn't want to actually reference either of those keywords because I didn't want to send a message that G/U is the primary pair for those mechanics. Rather, I simply wanted to let G/U players focus simply on triggered abilities themselves. This also works on enter-the-battlefield triggers and death triggers. Blue will be getting some death triggers to work with the U/B mechanical concepts.

Sort of semi-tribal for white and black. White has the humans. Black has the zombies. If you draft the two colors, you can't actually help but to get these creature types, really. Black also has zombie tokens, so they'll be sacrificeable to protect more important creatures. And that's kind of what I want the flavor of W/B to be -- harsh sacrifices to stay alive in this plagued environment.

Like U/R, there really is not much connecting white and red, so I wanted to keep it in a space where it wasn't forcing some deep choices. White will have at least one spell (and possibly a creature ability) that does damage to attacking and blocking creatures in this set. So I think it works in a draft format. And note that the bonus is each turn, not just your own.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Overgrowth Removal Spells

I've noted Hyperscouring Flame in a few posts as this set's version of Shock, though it only hits creatures. That was one of the first red spells I iterated. So here's some more burn and removal spells I've been working on:

There's not a lot of "to the face" red burn options as yet. There's going to be some interesting tension with burn spells and the existence of the mutate mechanic. Any mutate creature targeted with a damage spell will get the +1/+1 counter before the spell revolves, meaning players will have to keep that in mind. They'll even get the +1/+1 even if the spell targeting it gets countered!

This one's intended for use against token creature-heavy decks (green/white/black). Though the nature of fecund means this isn't necessarily a board clear--many will have toughness higher than one. This may end up being a fairly weak card.

The rare red board clear for the set. There's also a rare red ogre with a reave enter-the-battlefield effect that does X damage to all non-flying creatures.

White is the anti-mutate color, so doing more damage to a creature with counters on it seems appropriate.

The Ashen Pox is the name of the disease (there are many plagues and diseases being unwittingly hosted by the various races) that's zombifying folks. Making a modal kill spell looks a little weird. But given the existence of reave in the set, I wanted it to be an option. I'm wondering if this is too expensive. I may cut it down to 2B.

Note that if you target a creature you control with mutate, it will get an extra counter.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

New Ally Color Uncommon Signposts

More iterating! I'm really starting to get the feel for how I see each of the five allied color pairs playing out so, I've been doing some tweaking. Here's where the signature uncommon card for each of them looks at the moment with an explanation of what type of gameplay I'm trying to foster:

Green and red is the pairing intended to really play up mutate. Initially I had this elemental growing whenever your mutate creatures grow. But I think a better choice here at uncommon is to give it a targeted trigger to make sure you can mutate whenever you attack with this. It is possible to target itself, so if need be, it can attack as a 5/5 trampler. But I did want to make it possible to start turning other mutate creatures into bigger threats each turn.

Despite my intent to try to make green and white the color of collecting and spending +1/+1 counters from creatures for value, it doesn't really seem to be playing out right and gets stranger and stranger the more I try to template it, given that white does not have access to mutate. So with fecund primary in green and white, I had to come to terms that this set is putting them in a familiar go-wide space for green and white. What does make this a little different is that the nature of fecund means that your creature has to die before you get your tokens. So it encourages some early aggression and trades in this color combination.

I've remade the Corpse Kindler into this guy to more clearly emphasize red and black as the reave colors. Because it's not common, it can have repeated triggers and even some scaling. It clearly tells the player you can increase the threat level of this ogre by playing more spells that remove cards from your graveyard.

Blue and black remains the only color pairing where they don't share dominance over a mechanic, but I think that's okay. As I recently wrote about Dimir, the two are thematically connected, not necessarily mechanically. Blue will have graveyard spell recursion. Black will have reave. Both colors will have the ability to trigger this ability. I think I am going to pull mutate from black. It's not fitting properly, but both colors will have some access to fecund.

Initially I was going to have him suppress anything blocking or blocked by it, but that feels more like a member of the corps than a signature card for the suppress mechanic. Since the play concept I envision for them is for them to hold big creatures back while picking away with evasive creatures, rewarding that play pattern seems to be the right choice. (And yes, these are still people riding giant seagulls).

I think I'm not going to overly design for enemy pairings, but will make some useful multicolor uncommons for them if people want to give them a try. I think I do want to keep the vermin theme for green and black because it fits the nature of the set so well. Black and white will still represent zombie survivalism. Maybe I should go with tribal-type rewards for enemy pairings, since the ally colors are all about the set mechanics.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Iterating U/B: Learning from Death?

So I'm still thinking through how to capture the top-down concept of the cephalids in Guthraham, who are all dying of spreading plagues and are desperately using their deftness at magic and science to try to figure out solutions.

I was thinking a bit more about the recursion concepts with spells and the graveyard and how to make it connect with reave without giving blue access to reave. And I just kind of realized that maybe "death triggers can help you win" can be a good way to connect to connect blue and black thematically in this set without having to work out another mechanic.

So some tweaks to my last iteration of U/B cards, which I realized were too strong to return from the graveyard with no cost. Especially if I want them to be at common:

So now they have death triggers and a cost to bring back from the graveyard. And they feed reave, especially any higher rarity cards that count how many cards have left the graveyard in a turn. And it still works very well with the U/B signpost uncommon cephalid.

I do have to worry now about creature recursion spells and infinite loops. I think I do need to put a recursion cost on the Shambling Follower. And no free sacrifice sinks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

White Weenie

On episode 54 of the Beacon of Creation podcast, there was a discussion about designing for white weenie decks and how far you could push a creature that costs only one white mana to play.

It actually got me thinking about my guest post over at Goblin Artisans about designing for R/W and pushing combat-oriented players to look at particular parts of their creatures when building their decks. So I literally just sort of brainstormed this card in Twitch chat when the podcast was being recorded. Then I realized it could actually fit well in Overgrowth:

Mind you, this soldier could probably fit into any white set without difficulty. It actually could be a nice uncommon signpost white creature for a core set to help new players know which types of keywords to expect in white.

Note that it does give itself a bonus if you hit it with a spell or ability that grants any of the keywords. I initially had it written "as long as you control another creature with ..." but that weirdly makes it look like the Arbor Corpsman already has the keyword.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Suppress Iteration 2.0

There are some definite rules questions about the most recent wording of suppress, particularly in the terms of what counts as an "external" modifier. In this set, mutate inherently gives creatures +1/+1 counters, and players are likely to see those as inherent modifiers to the creature, not external. But the point of suppress is deliberately to weaken mutate, so I needed to rethink the wording a bit.

Here's how it looks as I'm working with it:

So what's being specifically left out of this batch are abilities, whether they're activated, triggered, or passive. It's not going to shut down a firebreathing ability or an anthem effect on a creature. It's a deliberate choice both to give suppress itself a weakness, and also to work around what happens when you have a creature with an innate ability that determines its base power and toughness. If you suppress the abilities of Cognivore, for example, then it has an undefined power and toughness, causing all sorts of rules problems.

There is, however, another potential point of confusion I need to work through. The effect of suppress is intended to persist even if new buffs (or penalties! This also shuts down black's -X/-X stuff!) are applied. And that tends to go against how players perceive power and toughness alterations. 

How dangerous are these cards?

Over at Goblin Artisans I've got a series of "Here's what I learned" posts focused on the game design of Guilds of Ravnica (a set I really, really like).

In the entry on Izzet, I delve into how much work goes into creating a "spells matter" thematic identity that is draftable and competitive in limited environments. The lesson here is that it's a LOT of work and it's hard to do in sets that are designed around 10 color pairings being draftable. 

So, working through that is making me think about the challenges of trying to make spells matter in one way in U/B but scrying mattering in R/U and then reave in R/B and whether it's possible to design it all. I'm thinking of dumping the scrying matters concept (I'm actually thinking of dropping attempts to design for enemy color pairings entirely). 

I have thought about bringing flashback in to make U/B work better. But if I do that I'm giving the two colors way too many mechanics compared to the others. I could take mutate away from black. I might do it anyway. The color just doesn't seem to want to play with it and flavorwise, fecund is actually a better tool to show how disease and plague are being spread.

But rather than flashback, I thought about more ways to interact with the reave kicker to make and black and blue identity without bringing reave into blue.

Are these cards too powerful in the limited environment of Overgrowth?

These would be utter trash outside the game environment of Overgrowth. But it feels like they're really powerful within Overgrowth itself. Maybe they need to be uncommon? What I won't really know until playtesting is how frequently a player will be exiling a card from the graveyard.