Monday, May 27, 2013

Suvnica Week 4 Review, Part 3: Here It Goes Again (Cycles)

A tremendous amount of what made Ravnica so interesting was its implementation of cycles and how it developed them over the course of three sets. The cycles on RtR were a little less noteworthy, since they were spread out across two sets (less room to change them) and the sets they were in were much smaller (set sizes were reduced around the time of Shards). A major part of the Suvnica project is going to be looking into old cycles and redesigning them to match our new visions of the guilds, as well as creating other cycles from scratch. This was our first stab at the latter category - here's what we came up with.

lpaulsen's Chants

lpaulsen designed five cards in a cycle of XCD spells with two effects. The first is static, but its synergy with the second scales the more mana you pump into X. For instance:

A very powerful combat trick and kill spell. Even at {X} = {0} it can be a slightly more expensive Pit Fight.

(Incidentally, unless the cycle speaks to a particular vision in a subtle way, I'm probably not going to specify which vision it was designed for).

I wish that the Inside Out effect here was optional, since you don't want the card to backfire. Otherwise another cool combat trick/kill spell.

Fun stuff, and very Boros.

This one's the weirdest, in a good way. It's interesting in that it can't target (otherwise you would have to declare it before you self-milled.) I wonder if this would end up with too many feel-bad moments, where you sink a ton of mana and kill 17% of your deck and don't hit anything to resurect. It would probably have to be playtested to hit the right numbers, and may require an alternative design.

Lobster667's Graces

Lobster offered two cycles for submission. The first is a cycle of creature enchantments that give +2/+2 and a no-cost activated ability.

Designing Izzet cards for cycles is trickier than it looks. The activated ability that this Grace grants really is a one time trick. After that, it pretty much just reads hexproof. Also, its for cards like this that I wish the game used different terminology for the verb target or the noun target.

A much nicer design. Vigilance and the damage redirection don't really do much for each other, but they definitely capture the feel of the card.

This one is kind of a mystery to me. Flying hate is generally a green thing, and granting flying is usually blue. Fight shows up in green and occasionally in red. It's not a bad design for a Simic or Gruul card, but its completely alien to Orzhov.

Lobster667's Wanes

Lobster also designed a couple of Wanes with really cool names. They are avatar creatures meant to embody aspects of their respective guilds. 

This one was designed for my Selesnya (temple/monastery where the community protects and trains heroes). This very nicely captures the essence. It's also pretty firmly a {G/W} template at this point. The trample distinguishes it nicely from Wayfaring Temple and other similar cards.

It probably needs an "if you do" clause in there to keep it from just being straight-out unblockable. I'm not sure which vision Lobster was calling out here (maybe my RG bully vision), so I'm not sure to what degree the Wane succeeds in capturing the essence of the guild, but either way, he still feels powerful and very {R/G}.

Ben's Places

Ben took another stab at the Guildhome cycle (Ant took a first crack at it last week).

Built for my Selesnya vision, it definitely hits the flavor. I would like to playtest it, to see how often it feels like your building a champion and how often it feels like your just wasting counters on a creature that doesn't need them. It's a very limited variation of the kind of effect you just generally expect much more flexibility from.

This definitely works better as a target switcher than the Trickster's Grace idea. The cost is high enough that it doesn't deter your opponent from playing spells too often, which is good. Like I said above though, too many instances of the word target in an effect is just frustrating (although unavoidable in cards like this).

Jules' Favors

Finally, Jules offered another Creature Aura cycle. This one grants a couple of keyword abilities and lets you move it to a new creature entering the battlefield.

I think these would be a solid pick in limited. They're cost efficient and potent, even if you run the risk of the normal aura card disadvantage.

Jules pointed out that he would probably have to repeat some of the keywords if the cycle was expanded to 10 cards. That is an option, although loosening the cycle a little bit to allow frequent non-keyword abilities would work as well (like firebreathing, milling, saboteur-drawing). Alternatively, the cycle could be developed across the block, with variations on the bonus granted evolving in the second and third sets. It's something I think that we should revisit down the line.

That's it for the cycles. The last of the Stage 1 design challenges will go up later this afternoon.


  1. I'm not a huge fan of the Chants because the fact that one color gets the cool scaling effect and the other an invariant one leaves one color feeling shafted. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be printed, after all I have the same problem with Flinthoof Board and friends, just thought I should put it out there.

    I'm somewhat confused by the Wanes as they don't seem to have any mechanical connection beyond being multicolored creatures. The flavor is cool, but I'd love a shared distinguishing feature.

    I think the Graces are going to be really problematic: requiring free activation as part of the design cuts off a lot of wiggle room for development. There are only 40 {0}: activations in the game, I'm not confident there are 10 more that grant +2/+2, are printable at uncommon, and have fun gameplay.

  2. Granting flying is 100% fine for Silencer's grace as a 100% white effect (and also Gift of Orzhvoa, duh). I entirely agree about the weird fight and flying hate thing though.