Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ankh-Theb: The Restless Dead

HV: This pitch is by Antny.  Here are the pitches from rounds onetwo, and three.

What are the major mechanical themes in the set according to your vision?

Mummify (all), Monuments (W/B ), River Flooding (U/G ), Proliferate
(all ), Vandalise(R )


Stone Dragger
Creature - Human citizen
~ gets +1/+1 whenever it attacks or blocks.
Mummify (when this dies, if it didn’t have a mummified counter return
it to the battlefield with a mummified counter and no abilities. It is
a zombie in addition to its other types.)
“Live life to the fullest, for an afterlife labour will follow.”

Stonecrusher Vines
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a growth counter on ~.
Remove three growth counters from ~: remove 3 stone counters from
target artifact.
“The Pharoah was promised that the statue would last a thousand years.
Alas, the sculpture had failed to take into account the might hidden
in the smallest of vines.”

Creature – Snake
Flash, Deathtouch
Mummify (when this dies, if it didn’t have a mummified counter return
it to the battlefield with a mummified counter and no abilities. It is
a zombie in addition to its other types.)
“Death lies hidden in a hissing Sand dune.” – Torah, Thallid scribe.

River Rising
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a growth counter target permanent
you control.

Guide to the Afterlife
Exile target creature in a graveyard or target creature with a
mummified counter.

Flametouched Priest
Creature – Viashino Priest
Protection from Zombies
“Our dead still fear the nomad’s fire, it’s if they forget that they
can no longer feel pain.” – Surika, Kunai priestess

Artifact -  Equipment
~ can’t equip zombies.
Equipped creature has first strike and lifelink.
Equip 1

Flourishing Riverbank
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a growth counter on ~.
Remove two growth counters from ~: look at the top 3 cards of your
library, you may reveal a land card from among them and place it onto
the battlefield. Then place all remaining cards into your graveyard.

Jackal Saboteur
Creature – Jackal
When ~ attacks vandalise an artifact or enchantment that player
controls (to vandalise remove half the counters rounded down from
target permanent).

False Devotion
Tap all creatures target player controls, then proliferate.
“The Thallid gods can persuade even non-believers to do the dirtywork.”


Kunai Mamaluke
Creature – Skeleton Soldier
~ can’t block.
Mummify (when this dies, if it didn’t have a mummified counter return
it to the battlefield with a mummified counter and no abilities. It is
a zombie in addition to its other types.)

Fires from Beyond
~ deals with 3 damage to target creature or player. You may cast
another target red spell from your graveyard this turn.

Thallid Preserver
Creature – Crocodile Cleric
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a growth counter on ~, then put a
growth counter on another creature you control.
Remove three growth counters from ~: return target green or blue card
from your graveyard to your hand.


Pyramid of Sorasa
Monument 5 (~ enters the battlefield with 5 stone counters. ~ is
indestructible as long as it has a stone counter on it. Whenever you
are dealt damage, remove that many stone counters from this artifact
as well. When ~ has no stone counter sacrifice it)
Tap an untapped creature: Add a stone counter to ~. (You may only
activate this ability as a sorcery)
During your upkeep if ~ has 8 or more stone counters, you may return
target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.

This set has a very clear unifying theme: counters, counters, and more counters! From a practical perspective, this brings three potential problems. First, it's a lot of clutter and bookkeeping, which can slow down the game and make it harder to evaluate board states at a glance. Second, it requires players to have a handful of dice to play; the change in their pockets might not be enough for the sheer numbers of counters required. Lastly, there's the risk of forgetting which counters are of which type. Antny has mostly dodged this issue by correctly keeping the permanents that accrue different types of counters separate, but Thallid Preserver might require you to put growth counters on a mummy.

More broadly, the judges agreed that these themes were individually appealing, but that an entire set built around manipulating counters was simply too much of the same thing. We liked the flavor of Vandalize vs. Proliferate representing the struggle of civilization against decay. Personally, however, I think Vandalize is a misstep- it's basically a whole keyword devoted to hating out other keywords, which is never a good thing. (And I definitely don't want to force players to think about rounding.)

This version of Mummify has already been discussed extensively. We thought these particular implementations were strong choices of meaningful abilities to pair with it. Growth counters could probably be Spore counters for backwards compatibility with Thallids. Monument is cool, but takes too many words; could you get a similar gameplay benefit without so much text?


  1. A major counter theme is an intriguing way to represent greed and amassing an empire for the set. I think it could be really interesting if there were more than 3 types of counters, and that they were super easy to identify. Maybe counter types are limited to a single color. So the growth (or spore) counters were only in green. Stone was only on colorless, and River Rise gave you something blue, like a tide counter. What if each color had its own counters? Then you can say by looking at the color of the permanent what type of counters it cares about. Of course this means no +1/+1 counters or mumified counters. I don't know how feasible this concept is for a full design, but it would be novel to see a set that eschews tokens and +1/+1 counters for counters of a wide variety.

    1. Having discussed mummifying at length since producing this pitch, I have come round to the idea of mummies being kept at high rarities without any counters but mummy like effects (either cast from graveyard or bonuses if in graveyard).

      Three counters fitting the tribes when I pitched but I think the current Ankh had five tribes so there would probably be more counter types. But your ideas with coloured dice is what I was thinking (even if my ideas below are a little tongue in cheek).

  2. Cheers for getting this up, the feedback is much appreciated.

    In terms of counters, obviously I would push magic R&D to release each pack with a different coloured dice to track effects. The trick is to just give them a net in the token slot and help push glue selling up in game stores. What could be more fun at a prerelease than assembling badly cut, small cardboard dice? ;)

    Replacing growth with spore counters is a good call. I agree that Thallid Preserver should be further limited with who it could target with growth counters. I will give it some thought.

    I would keep monument as is though. I only envisioned monuments being rare or mythic and I worked through a number of solutions but this captured the gameplay I wanted. If something had to be cut it would work with:

    ~ enters the battlefield with 5 stone counters. ~ is
    indestructible. Whenever you
    are dealt damage, remove that many stone counters from this artifact
    as well. When ~ has no stone counter sacrifice it.

    Vandalise was more a flavour based keyword than a gameplay one. Red hates the egyptians and all they stand for. Technically speaking it might be a bit taboo to go as far as to keyword this, but I would keep the effect. I don't understand the issue with rounding down, it's not difficult and fairly standard in magic.

    Having been dedicated enough (or possible simply arrogant enough) to produce three pitches I felt this one was the best and it definitely felt like the sort of set I would want to play.

    I get the excited feeling these going up is a sign we're close to a decision on what set will be chosen. I can't wait!

    1. Rounding is a surprisingly difficult mathematical task. It requires significantly more attention than addition or subtraction. It doesn't appear on commons or uncommons nowadays, with the sole exception of Fireball. (Fireball is grandfathered in for nostalgia and the awesome name.)

    2. Yeah, but I think WoTC are underestimating people here. Rounding down is still Level 4 material in the UK and that means pupils are expected to be able to by the end of year 6 (adding and subtracting natural numbers is level 3 and around ages 7-8 far younger than the average magic player). As a one time operation I would say a child with sufficient mathematical skills to play magic should be able to both halve numbers and round down (this is not the same as halving odd numbers and getting 2 and a half which does challenge bottom set but they tend to be mostly level 3 and 4). In facts pupils often get there by accident anyway.

    3. It's not a question of whether players have the ability to halve and round correctly; I agree that most of them do. The problem is that it takes concentration to complete that calculation, which is a disruption to the flow of the game. Adding and subtracting are more automatic, since people use those skills much more regularly.

    4. I get the feeling that this is one of those places we'll end up agreeing to disagree. Players adapt the circumstances they're in and I've noticed that when playing cube or other older formats, rules and cards take longer to analyse and deal with rules that were second nature when they were in standard or were being played frequently. Once players got back into the habit of halving they would start using as second nature. Barring a Primordial Hydra style card more often than not the most complicated move would be 9 into 4 or 7 into 3 and these would likely still be rare occurrences. It takes a moment to work it out first time but once you're into the game becomes second nature. Arguable most elements of magic and it's mechanics fall into this category.

      For what it's worth I concede that in the NWO this isn't on lower rarities and perhaps WotC use the same reasoning as you do. Without a large way to test I can't easily prove/justify anything I'm saying but it feels right. I mainly envisioned vandalise in set, tearing down monuments and knocking out growth counters than removing large numbers of +1/+1 counters and having a major impact on combat maths.

  3. This version of the set seems like one I myself would love to play, but I'm not sure that everyone would. I agree that ticking up counters on your permanents plays into the greed/accumulation of power note that we keep coming back to. It's worth trying to standardize all of the different types of counters into a single type-- growth? gold?

    Regarding vandalise, removing half (or all?) the counters seems better saved for an effect on a single splashy rare card, and 4-5 other creatures have a nonkeyworded ability that removes a single counter.

  4. I'd say having a plethora of counters to track and update each turn feels more like accounting than ambition.