Thursday, May 20, 2010

Building your own Magic Card

Today I'm going to design my own magic card. Y'see, my brother is participating in a Elder Dragon Highlander tournament at his local store. First prize lets you design a magic card that'll be legal in EDH games at that store. Neat, huh? Actually, the tournament went down on Saturday, but I haven't yet heard the results.

First thing I said was "I suggest Stingscourger". To which he assigned new flavor text: Already Perfect. Mostly I suggested that because I really like Stingscourger, but really that's not the best suggestion. I mean, if you want more stingscourger effects there are several out there (Man of War, Sedraxis Alchemist). An opportunity like that isn't something you should squander doing something that you can already do.

So, assuming my brother takes my suggestion (and wins. I also suggest that.), what exactly will I be suggesting?

Let's take a look at previous invitational cards. The Magic Invitational was a tournament associated with the Magic World Championships where the main prize was getting to design your own magic card. Let's take a look at winners of ages past:

Meddling Mage
Dark Confidant
Ranger of Eos

Those are all significant tournament cards. And they've all got interesting, unique powerful abilities. I mean, there are plenty of things that let you tutor up creatures, but two to your hand? But what can you do with one mana creatures? Quite a lot, apparently.

Anyway, I'm going to be designing the card for Elder Dragon Highlander. That means I should be taking into account the various ways the format warps the game. The card should be designed fully cognizant of the fact that players start out with 40 life, and all that implies.

Take a look at Dark Confidant. You get a card every turn, but you pay it's mana cost in life. Great if you've got a land on the top (converted mana cost zero), but terrible if you turn up, say, Time Stretch. The thing is, the card was designed with a 20 point life total in mind, not 40. So the ability is roughly twice as good in EDH.

On the other hand, since I'm designing the card for a small group, not to be printed generally I can ignore some of the usual constraints on Magic design. Purple mana here I come! More seriously, I said "some" not "all" of the constraints. Specifically, I don't have to worry at all that this card is playable in limited, and I can use mechanics and flavor that would make it in another Unglued set, but not into the black bordered world we're used to.

So let's design some cards, alright?

Blatant rip off Mage [1WUB]
Creature--Human Wizard
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, name a card. The named card can't be played.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may reveal the top card of your library. If you do, lose life equal to it's converted mana cost and put it into your hand.
Siamese Mages, their powers combined... Bob Maher was willing to pay the cost, Christ Pikula wasn't so sure.

I bet you can guess where I got that inspiration from. I mean, Meddling Mage (Chris Pikula's invitational card) and Dark Confidant (Bob Maher's) are good, so why wouldn't they be better together? Well, the card is pretty obviously powerful. I mean, it's a 4/3 for 4 with two good abilities. And yet... putting it in three colors makes the card pretty restrictive as to the sorts of decks that can play it. Since EDH decks can't splash past their general's colors, this guy would only go in WUB or 5-color decks. Seems a shame to make a card that'll see that little play. Also, the simple rip-off idea doesn't appeal to me much. Moving along...

You know what else is an advantage of making a card for one single store? You get to make fun of people: Behold!

Margret's Call [BBBBB]
Remove Target Player from the Game
Sorry guys, I gotta go

See that? That's a dig at my brother who is happily married. To a wonderful woman, I hasten to add. Thing is though, if he's at the magic store and he gets the call, well, he wouldn't win that game. Might as well spread the effect to his friends. Of course, the problem with this card is that it's, well, unbalanced at any mana cost. Turn one Gilt-leaf palace. Turn two Overgrown Tomb. Turn three Bayou, Dark Ritual, you lose. Turn four Eternal witness sets you up for a turn 5 replay. At a small multiplayer table you could clear the table this way. Also, things don't get removed from the game anymore, they get "exiled". Hmmm....

M10? What M10? [3]
Damage goes on the frikken stack again.
Come back, Mogg Fanatic! We still love you!

Man, wouldn't that feel great to print? When wizards introduces changes I'm usually cautiously optimistic, but this one still rankles. I get it that it was a complication of the rules. I get it that the "tricks" aren't so clever. You're still reducing the power of a lot of my favorite cards, and I don't feel obligated to be happy over that. Ok, ok, less ranting. Anyway, I could see printing this card, but it's hard to tell how much play it'd see. I mean, even if you're building a deck with a lot of potential damage-on tricks, is it worth having a card to access them? How often would this actually make the final cut? Also, no idea if [3] is the right cost at all for this sort of effect.

What about cards that address the EDH metagame? I mean, there've got to be some good things to print there. Now, I don't play the format nearly as much as my brother, so I don't have the greatest idea of what the metagame is, or needs. But I have heard him ranting.

Elephant of the Now [1GG]
Players can't take extra turns
Hitler keeps one of these around to foil temporal assassins

So why an elephant? Well, it's a hate card, and you want to be able to let people deal with hate cards. Putting it on a creature means that everybody's got some option to deal with it. So once it's on a creature, why an elephant? Did you honestly think I was going to put it on yet another freaking elf? I did want to give it to green because 1) enemy color of blue and 2) green could use some more good cards. Hmm...

Futility [2GG]
Creatures you control become indestructible until end of turn.
The blastwave subsided. The fires burned low. The pyromancer stared at the devastation he had utterly failed to cause.

In a duel this wouldn't be that great. If they wrath the board, odds are they only have one or zero creatures out, so you don't get the benefit of clearing their board, only saving your own. Still it might make it on being an answer to their sweepers alone. (Extended zoo: turn one Wild Nacatl. Turn two Tarmogoyf. Turn three Knight of the reliquary. Turn four sit back on four mana and wait.) But that's beside the point. In a multiplayer game this is great. You can save your guys when they're just wiping the board to deal with the sliver kid two chairs over. Still, it's four mana, and you don't even get a creature out of it. Again with the "Hmm...".

Surprise Moose! [2GG]
When Surprise Moose! comes into play, creatures you control become indestructible until end of turn.
The elves he was expecting. The bear he could handle. The moose was a different story.

Why a Moose? Why do you ask me stupid questions? Anyway, in addition to all that from the last card, this also functions as a combat trick; surprise blocker or a one sided fog, allows you to get some natural two for ones, which is always a good time. Moving along.

You know what I really hate about EDH? Fixing my mana. Don't get me wrong, I'm as much a fan of acceleration as anybody, but it gets really annoying trying to make sure you tapped your mana right every single turn. Naturally I aggravate the problem with the sorts of decks I play. I'm flipping through my Reaper King deck, and the mana costs aren't exactly friendly. Two different Ultimatums, the full on five part Nephilimbo, Dominus of Fealty, Memory Plunder, Godsire, to say nothing of the stuff that's merely WUBRG to play. Anyway, despite the fact that I'm playing all sorts of great color fixing, I still have to pay attention to what lands I'm tapping for what every single turn of the game. Let's change that.

Scepter of Get on with it already [3]
T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool
Lands you control are every basic land type in addition to their other types
Look, what if I just trust that you have all the right colors?

See that? I don't worry about tapping my dual land for the wrong color because they all make every color. Ok, I'm jamming Prismatic Omen onto Darksteel Ingot, without even upping the mana cost. In the end though, neither effect is that powerful. I mean, when's the last time you were seriously menaced by a domain deck? While I'm at it, let me throw this one out:

Barry's Land
Basic Land--Space
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.

Why space? Because I can think of at least two jokes based off of that. (It's the final frontier.) Why Barry's Land? Cause that's what they call it in Wizard's R&D. They tried to print this the last two times Domain was a mechanic, but the rules never worked. I suppose I could put on here "All previous domain cards except Last Stand are errataed to work with this card" and "The rules work damnit" but really, why bother? Anyway. If you don't get the purpose of this card, it's because of the domain mechanic, which works better the more different basic land types in play. Normally the maximum you can get up to is five, but if you could print this card you could make it six, which would be a real power boost to the domain cards. But really I'm digressing at this point.

Ok, what else do we know about EDH? Shuffling too much sucks. You see all those cards? Not a one of them searches your library. Too much of that already. Hmm...

Megalomania [UBB]
Indestructible, Shroud
No player may search their library.
When someone buys you a soda, sacrifice this enchantment.
Some lines are meant to be crossed, some madness is meant to be embraced.

That card would be real popular with the proprietor of the joint if it actually drove up soda sales. It'd be unpopular with everybody else, so I'm going to move on to something else. I haven't designed a general yet, let's see what I can do with that.

Krakthus, Power of War [B{W/U}{G/R}]
Creature--Demon Incarnation
Haste, Flying
All creatures attack each turn if able.
"Does it notice the lives it takes? Does a thunderstorm ask the water droplets if they would like to fall?" -Agra-zid, War Prophet

Do you follow that mana cost? It's B with two hybrid symbols, so you get a five color creature for converted mana cost three. A four four, evasive, hasting creature for three. In the 20 point world that'd be over the curve, but I've got different power level concerns with this guy. The "all creatures attack" line is to speed up multiplayer games, which in my experience tend to involve a lot of circling and probing for weakness before anyone actually does anything. I'm not saying I dislike multiplayer, or even jockeying for position like that, but it can get boring after a while. Not sure if I should also add the line "Whenever a creature uses an activated ability, it's controller sacrifices that creature."

It seems to me that generals usually come in three flavors: Guys who let me play the colors I want to play (basically anything from legends), guys who work as combo pieces (Zur the Enchanter, Arcum Dagsson, etc), and guys that you wouldn't mind hitting someone with. Trouble is, most of the cards that end up in the third category aren't really that great of cards. Sure, they're big, but they tend be hard to cast and die quickly, which makes them not the greatest aggro creatures. Let me try another general:

We who are Many [{W/G}{W/G}{G/R}{G/R}]
Legendary Creature--Human Insect
Shroud, Nonbasic Landwalk
When CARDNAME attacks, it attacks each opponent and planeswalker as if it were attacking that player or planeswalker alone.
"It's the old mirror image illusion. Only one can actually hurt you." -Hamsa the warrior, last words

I think I'm gonna have to clarify a bit here. When this guy attacks, it acts as if it's attacking everybody. Each person would take the four damage, it wouldn't be split. If someone blocked it, only that particular instance would be blocked, nobody else would be protected. Also, I have no idea what "Human Insect" implies, but it sounds awesome. Again, gives you the option of playing three colors while still being relatively easy to cast. Shroud is there to deflect the occasional swords to plowshares, and Nonbasic Landwalk is to make it really hard to block. Also to punish those jerks with a more expensive manabase. Hm...

Ok, ok, last card.

Forty Acres 1GB
Destroy target permanent that costs more than $10. Search your library for a basic land and put it into play, then shuffle your library.
You'll have to get your own mule.

Hating on the expensive? Yeah, I'd play it. Hating on the expensive while playing it in an enemy color deck that'll require you to run expensive enemy dual lands so you can actually play it on turn three? Well actually there's a lot of good mana fixing available for not too... A search and shuffle effect after complaining about it just above? Fine. the card's new name is Hypocrisy. Are you happy? Good. Cause I'm done here.

Write your own new flavor text.

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