Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tesla: Welcome to Kaladesh - Great Expectations

This article is WotC safe.
Last week and the week before, we discussed possibly having Tesla set on Kaladesh, a new plane which debuted in Magic Origins. The discussion began with some great debate on both sides, but over the course of the last week, it seems there was an overall shift towards supporting Kaladesh. The setting seems full of rich inspiration for design even with the sparse details Origins gave us, and the conversations and proposals being thrown around in the comments were promising. For these reasons, it's time I've made my executive decision as the project lead of Tesla. So, without further ado, welcome to the plane of Tesla: Kaladesh!

This week, let's continue going through the final stages of exploratory design, onto one of the big topics I've been planning to discuss, and that our arrival at Kaladesh serves as a great segue to: expectations.

Art by Noah Bradley
Tesla, since almost the very beginning, has been greatly guided by its inspirations and genre; much of the work we've done, and the visions we have for Tesla, are directed towards fulfilling the expectations players would have for the 'steampunk' set, an expectation which leads to yet more expectations. With Tesla as the steampunk set, people naturally began to expect Tesla to be about artifacts... but also expect it to not be a rehash of Mirrodin, the previous artifact set. Finally, any set working by the principles of the modern age of Magic design has many expectations just by nature of being your standard Magic set. Does it have a creature mechanic? A noncreature mechanic? What are its themes, and are they present at common? And now that Tesla is set on Kaladesh, even more expectations enter the fold... yeesh! So many expectations!

While managing all these expectations can be frustrating, it's also one of the best sources of inspiration a designer can have. Today, I'd like to talk about some of the big expectations that Tesla will have to rise up to. We'll be discussing the difficulties these expectations may cause, but also the benefits they give us. Now, onto the expectations themselves!

Expectation: Tesla is a contemporary large set.

This first one brings a lot of expectations to the table. If we're making a large set by the principles set by current Magic design, it's going to have 249 cards, an equal number of cards in each color (approx.), a robust Limited format, and so on. Many of these expectations are so prevalent in amateur Magic design that they're barely felt at this point, but they're still actual expectations that we have to surpass.

Expectation: Tesla will have the usual suite of mechanics.

Now, what do I mean when I say the 'usual suite'? Well, all Magic sets nowadays feature new keywords and ability words, alongside one or two returning keywords and ability words - so we're going to have to not only find one or two mechanics to bring back, but also design new mechanics for Tesla. These mechanics will have to represent the story of the set, both flavorfully and experientially. They should appear at all levels of play, and they should synergize with each other in many ways.

Importantly, there's a certain 'suite' of mechanics that shows up frequently. In the last half-dozen or so large Magic sets, you often see most of the following: a creature mechanic (Outlast), a combat mechanic (Prowess), a noncreature mechanic (Rebound), a smoothing mechanic (Morph). Of course, one mechanic can fulfill multiple roles. If we look to Magic Origins, a set with only two new mechanics, we can see it hit every note! Renown is a creature/combat mechanic, Spell Mastery is a noncreature mechanic, and Scry (now evergreen in order to be a perpetual role-filler) is a smoothing mechanic.

'Smoothing' mechanics deserve an especial mention. They have often 'smoothed' your draws (Cycling, Scry), plays (Morph), or mana (Landcycling). However, we've seen some unique forms of 'smoothing' as well. For example, in Theros, Bestow fulfilled a 'smoothing' role (alongside Scry) by fulfilling multiple roles in the decks of the format, allowing games to play more smoothly.

These are some of the biggest expectations that Tesla will have, even if they won't impact our design much, since we've designed with them in mind for so long, that they hardly feel like expectations. So, not much negative here, but there's a lot of positives! We now have a checklist of mechanics that we want to fulfill, with a checklist of goals we want them to achieve. That's a great start!

Expectation: Tesla is a steampunk set.

Okay, so what does 'steampunk' even mean? I talked about the expectations of a steampunk set in The Dish on Kaladesh, but it was pretty brief. Let's go over them again, but this time with far more detail, and with some discussion on how Kaladesh will help us meet these expectations.

"Tesla has to feature a classist conflict of some sort..."

Okay, so I exaggerated when I said earlier that it has to feature a classist conflict of some sort. Many stories that people would call 'steampunk' - including the original stories, surprisingly - don't feature any of the usual "punk" themes that "cyberpunk" was named after. These "punk" elements were all about streetwise and alienated youths who were rebellious to the Establishment. There was The Man, and then there was you. 

Connecting this to the historical basis for steampunk is trivial - the Industrial Revolution has its parallel to The Man in its Robber Barons, who exploited everything they could to amass their wealth, including - especially - the people.

Kaladesh captures this aspect perfectly. Chandra's origin story, Fire Logic, features many characters who rebel against the consul to protect a child from being executed for being a natural mage, and The Worlds of Magic Origins goes out of its way to note that "the free spirits among the artificers, however, sometimes run afoul of the law." The Man is represented well, too: "the consul's forces and works are nearly omnipresent", and "consuls control the flow of Æther". Kaladesh seems deliberately built to capture these expectations, which is unsurprising.

Note that we don't have to address these themes with a steampunk set, since many steampunk stories don't bother to, I think it's important to stay true to the genre's roots, and to its historical inspiration, hence why I consider this a high priority. But if we find that the set's needs don't accommodate this expectation, then it's easily discarded.

"Tesla has to have the highest level of technology in all of Magic's multiverse..."

When people think 'steampunk', they immediately think of antiquated technology pushed to its limits to replicate surprisingly modern - or even futuristic! - technologies. Now, in our universe, steampunk is adorably outdated. However, in the universe of Magic the Gathering, steampunk is light-years beyond almost every plane (except for the dedicated scientists of the Izzet League on Ravnica). If we're to meet this expectation, our set has to emphasize its higher level of technology, and it has to showcase the characteristic 'antiquated look' of steampunk.

Now, one big expectation that I previously didn't discuss was the kind of technology that steampunk uses. The Industrial Revolution - the largest inspiration for steampunk - powered its steam engines with coal, and lead to intense levels of smog and pollution throughout the industrialized world. Though not all steampunk stories are dystopian or dark, almost all of them address the price one must pay for steampower, in one way or another. The technology has a price, and often, the price is paid for with exploitation of people, resources, the law, and so on. But in a Magic steampunk set - or any other 'gaslamp fantasy' setting - there are some more supernatural prices one can pay...

"It has to combine technology and magic in some interesting way."

So, one thing that Magic does with its top-down sets is take one genre and mash it up with Magic's unique fantasy-feel, producing its own spin on the genre. Innistrad was based on Gothic horror, but featured a lot more magic than you'd see in, for example, Bram Stoker's Dracula or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Likewise, Tesla will be expected to put its own spin on the steampunk genre, and will be expected to do so with magic.

This is where the expectation that "the technology has a price" comes into play in a big way. You see, in fantasy, magic often has a nasty price too. Combining the two concepts only makes sense, and it lets us put a unique spin on what exactly the 'pollution' is.

Kaladesh, interestingly enough, avoids some of these themes. "Artifice on Kaladesh exists in harmony with the environment, and the creatures of Kaladesh have adapted to its presence", as the Worlds of Magic Origins says. Also, the "Æther canisters" that power all technology in Kaladesh don't seem to pollute the environment like coal-powered steam engines do (though their workings, production, and effects aren't discussed in much detail, admittedly). Last time, we discussed ways this could be addressed, if we decided to.

Now, if we're talking about technology this much, we're naturally leading our audience to expect that -

Expectation: Tesla is an artifact set.

Yep! Now, this is definitely one of the biggest expectations we're going to have to work to meet, since it comes with a lot of positives, but also some big challenges. The biggest challenge is that Magic has already had an artifact set - Mirrodin - that was, for a long time, the best-selling Magic set, and did a great job of nailing the artifact theme, even introducing something now vitally important to the game (Equipment) in doing so. 

Striving to make an artifact set that doesn't feel like Mirrodin but does feel like an amazing artifact set will be a big challenge... but I'm confident that we can do it! For one, we're in a brand new era of design, with many new tools and a radically different method to creating sets. For two, with Tesla being set in Kaladesh, we're in a brand new setting, one with a very different approach to artifacts, as Chah noted last time. With these two facts behind us, we have a lot of resources on our side.

The challenges that expectations like this one present to us are simultaneously some of our greatest inspirations. By trying to solve this problem, we'll find a lot of valuable design space, and produce some powerful insights. Solving problems like this is where some of the best, most inspired designs come from. So let's look over all these expectations, and identify the richest veins, the ones that will give us the most fruitful and exciting challenges.

And that's a great segue to our next topic: brainstorming some more expectations to design around.

Art by Willian Murai
This week's discussion topic is a fun one: I'd like for us to work together to write down all the expectations we have for the Kaladesh steampunk set.

Mark Rosewater did this same design task with the design teams of Innistrad and Theros. This design exercise is all about the expectations people have of a genre and setting, and it's the biggest source we have for design inspiration with a top-down set like Tesla.

With Innistrad, they filled a whiteboard with stuff like "death", "graveyards", "the cellar door", and so o.. With Theros, they filled it with "Gods, Heroes, and Monsters", and things therein. Both of these whiteboards would became the basis for not only the set's mechanic, but also its game-play experience, and many individual card designs.

To make it easier, let's break down our expectations into three categories:
  • What do you expect from the steampunk set?
  • What do you expect from the artifact set (that isn't Mirrodin)?
  • What do you expect from the Kaladesh set? 
That last one is something I'm especially interested in hearing from you all about, as it's my planned topic for next week; discussing what expectations Kaladesh brings to the table, and how we can use them to our advantage.

Until next time, have a good week!

60 comments:

  1. I think the most obvious place to start is expectations from what we've already seen of Kaladesh.
    * Thopters
    * U/R dominant
    * oppressive government
    * The resistance
    * Chandra
    * Indian influence

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    1. U/R dominant is interesting. Many of our ideas with Tesla have definitely leaned U, but leaning R is a new thing. I wonder if that could be the source of some good inspiration.

      I agree re: Indian influence. If we're setting our story on artificer plane inspired by India, I want to see some cool inventions / machines that were invented in India!

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  2. To me, what seems most striking about Kaladesh is that "normal" magic is rare and special; artifice is the de facto way for mages to interact with mana. This makes perfect sense as the singular quirk for a steampunk plane, and should somehow be reflected in our mechanical vision.

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    1. Totally agreed, and this is a planned topic. There's a lot of possible ways to represent this special nature of Kaladesh. I'd love to hear people's immediate thoughts and intuition as to how we could go about this.

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    2. Aether Canister {0}
      Basic Artifact (basic)
      As an additional cost to cast ~, sacrifice a land.
      {T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
      Exile a land card from your gy, {T}: Add one mana of any color to your mana that land could produce.

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    3. "Basic Artifact"? Woah.

      The problem with non-Basic Land cards that are Basics is the rules of supply. Basic cards need to be available for all players in all formats they're legal in, and it's implied they're a 'baseline' thing to play the game, that all players should have. A 'Basic Card' - like these - thus has to be something available to everyone. I don't think Aether Canister, as-is, is simple enough for everyone to use at a 'basic' level.

      I love how you got across the flavor of a magic battery, though. That's genius.

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    4. Canister
      Token - Artifact
      On Your Turn
      {T}, Sacrifice this: Untap target artifact or land you control.

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    5. It really doesn't need to be basic, but it could be eligible for the basic land slot in packs. That said, I ruled the same way in a recent challenge and was then reminded that snow lands are basic but were not provided during Coldsnap (or Ice Age) tournaments, so apparently that's just closely correlated with basic-ness.

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    6. Huh, TIL.

      Still, Tabak's argument - that basic implies it's something every player should know and have with them - is still pretty solid.

      I definitely like where this idea is going though, of representing canisters with an omnipresent resource. One way is just having lots of stuff make canister tokens... another is having them replace basic lands... etc...

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    7. "normal" magic is rare and special; artifice is the de facto way for mages to interact with mana.

      I definitely agree. One simple way to reflect this is in card names. High-magic sets have cards called "Blinding Beam" or "Repel the Darkness"; lower-magic sets call them "Lead Astray" or "Feeling of Dread". "Ground Rift" and "Seismic Stomp" are high-magic names; "Panic Attack" and "Flash of Defiance" are low-magic names. My steampunk set was going for a similar low-magic feel so the common sorceries/instants had names like "Repurpose", "Tragic Turbulence", "Sabotage", and "Euphoric Confidence".

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    8. Great point, Alex. I think even making our names more science-y might help, a la Izzet cards such as Mizzium Mortars.

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  3. flying ships
    weird guns
    gadgets
    entrepreneurship
    government conspiracy
    arcane rube-goldberg machines
    goggles
    automata
    mad scientists
    voice of reason, ignored
    a secret cult of natural mages
    a secret and terrible cost to aether canisters
    popular acceptance and adoption of artifacts, even in green
    a conflict that requires Chandra to return, and ask for help
    a brilliant mastermind behind it all, probably one we've already met

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    1. Yes, yes, yes to many of these. I'm curious why you expect 'government conspiracy' though - that's an interesting one I wasn't expecting. Unless you mean like, them conspiring to stay in power? In which case that's more understandable.

      "A secret and terrible cost to aether canisters" is another possible answer to the "can we make aether-canisters feel as dangerous as coal?" question that I thought of. I like it. Jenesis mentioned that perhaps they're sucking the plane dry of natural magic, resulting in the decline of natural mages, leaving only the most powerful. That could be interesting.

      I love the idea of a brilliant mastermind behind it all. I wonder who it could be... Bolas is obviously a natural pick, and if we bring Chandra into the fold we could have a compelling reason for her to return to Kaladesh - she might have finally tracked down Ramaz to a plane she never wanted to return to...

      But yeah, anyways... this is a great list.

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    2. I'm thinking the conspiracy is to remain in power, but in a sinister way: Most likely, capturing and destroying the natural mages who threaten their reign in order to fuel the aether canisters, which in turns makes the populace dependent upon them.

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    3. Yeah, that sounds great. And very much along the lines of what Baral was talking about in Fire Logic.

      I was also thinking about the possibility that aether canisters are fueled by the magic of natural mages. It's pretty dark.

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  4. Artifact matters
    "Bottled" Magic
    Gear Mana
    Upper class clean part of plane
    Lower class polluted part of plane
    Thopters
    A touch of mad science
    Some humorously flavored cards


    And look what I found:
    http://www.mtgsalvation.com/forums/creativity/custom-card-creation/custom-set-creation-and/378605-lets-make-a-steampunk-set?page=2

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    1. "Gear mana"? What are you referring to there?

      I like the idea of having the architecture reflect class. This would go a long way towards addressing concerns expressed last time about us losing the Dickensian feel. We can still have grimy muck and slapdash machines, as long as it's not in the upper-class city of Ghirapur.

      Why do you expect humorously flavored cards? Is that something that steampunk brings to mind?

      Ah yes, Archester! That was a fun project, and indeed, it's been a reference in my mind for a while. I think Archester had some flawed execution and poorly chosen mechanics, but we'll see if we can't improve upon it, and perhaps learn from it.

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    2. Obviously "gear mana" is any mana produced by a gear permanent. Duh!

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    3. Just for clarity's sake, "gear mana" is a symbol we talked about awhile (2012?) ago, that, like snow mana, just means "mana produced by an artifact permanent". Default is colorless, but could potentially be colored like phyrexian mana.

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    4. Ah, fascianting. I think I actually remember that now. It's actually from 2014. http://goblinartisans.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-set-in-four-cards-sturmkraft.html

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  5. "the steampunk set":
    -Steam!
    -Inventors
    -Trains and blimps/airships as primary modes of long-distance transport
    -Factories, gears
    -People wearing goggles/monocles, tubes, and canisters
    -Rube Goldberg machines
    -A new, dramatically powerful, and unstable energy source
    -Long coats/wild hairstyles stained with residue from said energy source
    -Machines and weapons visibly powered by sparking electricity (as seen on Ghirapur Aether Grid)

    "the Not-Mirrodin artifact set" (and I'm going to add Not-Esper as well):
    -Only or mostly humans
    -No mechanic that counts artifacts in play
    -No colored artifacts
    -Artifice built atop the landscape, rather than woven into it
    -Recklessness and disunity instead of a united purpose
    -Normal, unaltered cosmology

    "the Kaladesh set":
    -WHAT HAPPENED TO CHANDRA'S MOM
    -Chandra
    -Thopter tokens
    -Names, clothing, architecture, human appearances, and mythological creatures inspired by India during its periods of historical prominence (but NOT religion or other present-day cultural practices)
    -Gold filigree on jewelry/clothing, constructs, and buildings
    -Consuls as antagonist or obstructing force
    -Aether canisters
    -As much mechanization as possible, even at a level used by the non-magic-user population, e.g. wrist-mounted spring-assisted blades and self-loading crossbows instead of swords and longbows
    -A combat mechanic not necessarily related to artifacts; possibly related to the class conflict or progress theme instead
    -A spell mechanic powered by artifacts or other permanents
    -Few to no enchantments, or enchantments largely created by natural forces rather than the actions of mages

    As far as planeswalker visitors go, Chandra is pretty much a given, and I'd also like to see Karn (a sentient golem interacting with humans who regard machines as unthinking automatons would be interesting, and his reactions would be a great way to show the contrast from Mirrodin as well). The problem with pulling in Bolas and Ramaz is that it leaves us with three red planeswalkers out of an anticipated ~6 slots (assuming Ob Nixilis, Kiora, and the four Oath members all get planeswalker cards in BFZ block).

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    1. "-A new, dramatically powerful, and unstable energy source"

      Again, this smells like a mechanic-in-the-making to me. The idea of resources / energy sources is prevalent in these expectations, it seems, so we should probably dedicate a mechanic or theme slot to it.

      "-Only or mostly humans
      -No mechanic that counts artifacts in play
      -No colored artifacts"

      All fantastic points, and I completely agree. I think we could see about including non-humans in the plane, but we should definitely try to avoid making the non-human races too similar to Mirrodin, or Fiora for that matter.

      Indian mythological creatures is a great idea. The tiger things in Fire Logic seemed to be inspired by something.

      "Powered by artifacts" is something I want to discuss in detail. It could be a potential 'energy source' mechanic, or something else. Could it even be Galvanize?

      "Few to no enchantments, or enchantments largely created by natural forces" - This is more iffy, but I think I agree with the sentiment behind it. However, as we see with Thopter Spy Network for example, enchantments can often represent non-magical concepts. We can talk about this for sure.

      I agree that Chandra/Bolas/Ramaz is a problematic line-up. I doubt Bolas would make an appearance himself, and if Ramaz makes an appearance he doesn't particularly have to include all his colors - but yeah, they might not be the best pair of antagonists.

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    2. Great stuff.

      I'd be okay with treading on Esper's toes mechanically (but not thematically) since we've only had 3/5 sets of Esper whereas we've had 5½ sets of Mirrodin.

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    3. We'd definitely have to be careful how we use colored artifact creatures, to avoid stepping on their thematic toes. All non-sentient, maybe even avoiding looking organic (e.g. a Horse Construct) would help for sure.

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    4. BTW, as far as "powered by" goes, I don't mean in a flavor sense, just in the sense that a deck that plays a bunch of artifacts (as opposed to instants and sorceries) can make good use of the mechanic. Prowess, for example, was flavored as martial arts tricks in Jeskai, which was mechanically translated into instant cards/rebound, but could work just as well in a deck that plays a lot of Auras or Equipment.

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    5. Ah, I see Jenesis. Thanks for the clarification! Yeah, I agree that Kaladesh should definitely reward artifacts, even if it doesn't outright call them out.

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  6. From the Fire Logic story:
    “It’s about the future. We need to show the people of this city that we’re prepared to move beyond the barbaric age of the past, to embrace progress. The girl is a remnant of a chaotic time." by Captain Baral in relation to Chandra.

    This hints that its not just that "normal" magic/pyromancy is rare but that it has actively been hunted down from a time it was once dominant. To be honest a lot of the world feels very U/W. The Consuls trying to order the world to what they see as a better society. Using the spy thopters and information to keep its citizens under watch. Getting 1984 vibes....
    Of all the colors green and black are probably the two least defined, something to keep in mind as it allows us to focus any themes that don't fit perfectly in those colors.

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    1. Oooh, great catch. Definitely sounds more oppressive than the Worlds of Magic Origins implies. This might just be Baral's views, but I think it's more interesting if we interpret it as an agenda of the consul.

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    2. In Magic Origins, we see U and R mages in roughly equal proportions. What if the U/W "feel" of the world, or at least the world in "Tesla," occurs as a result of the U mages allying with the W mages against the R mages? (The R mages don't form their own coalition because they're too independent-minded, or short-sighted, or simply lacking information compared to the U mages -- showing how UW's strength can be leveraged against R's weakness.)

      Green and black are indeed barely defined on Kaladesh. In fact I don't believe there's a single black card in Origins that can be clearly identified as "from Kaladesh."

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    3. Correct, Jenesis. And the only green card is anti-artifacts. Not very helpful precedent.

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  7. List of things

    No colored artifacts or artifact creatures to separate from mirrodin and esper.
    Thopters
    Airships
    Factories
    Surveillance Network
    AEther canisters
    Outlaw Artificers
    Stamp down on "unoffical" creative endeavors
    Propaganda

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    1. Lots of people seem agreed that colored artifacts are something to avoid. I agree, but we can talk about this in more detail, and perhaps find a new way to go about them - for example, monohybrid?

      Airships have come up enough that we might need to talk about vehicles, the dreaded mechanic. :P

      Consuls, conspiracy, and surveillance networks go hand-in-hand. Sounds like W/U control with a theme of information-advantage might be a good way to mechanically represent the consul.

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    2. I also went straight from "distinguish from Esper" to "avoid coloured artifacts". But that is somewhat vexing given they were one of the good ways to make mecha work in Limited. I'm up for discussing this more.

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  8. Kaladesh set:
    Killing the goose that laid the aether egg
    "Runners" as a faction in/around Ghirapur, following Chandra's footsteps/an aetherpunk Mirror's Edge sort of vibe
    Other parts of Kaladesh than Ghirapur

    Steampunk set:
    A noir detective story, even if it's just in the flavortext of like three cards
    Urchin gangs in dickensian junkyards
    Urchin gangs in dickensian junkyards building mechas out of scraps
    A sense of "the city" that we didn't get from either Ravnica
    Air pirates

    Artifact set:
    Automatons either gaining sentience, or being sentient and fighting for rights/citizenship/equal protection under the law/access to resources
    Artifacts that creatures can operate, even in the loosest sense
    DFCs in an artifact setting.

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    1. "Runners" - Totally agreed. I think this would be a nice way to obliquely reference some Cyberpunk themes too (since this would be the closest Magic ever gets, probably.)

      "Other parts of Kaladesh" - Totally. We'll probably be brainstorming this sometime soon.

      "A noir detective story" - Really? That's interesting. I can see us making it fit, but I'd always imagined Ravnica as the best fit for a 'noir set'.

      "Urchin gangs in dickensian junkyards" - We'll definitely be trying to make a good place for these somewhere in Kaladesh. This is probably a heading underneath "Other parts of Kaladseh".

      "The city" - Iunno, RTR was really good about capturing city tropes. I liked their efforts a lot. And the 'diversity' of Ravnica is a fun nod towards the theme. But I can see what you're coming from; it definitely doesn't always feel 'modernized'.

      "Automatons [...] gaining sentience or [...] fighting for rights" - This is a big thing we can do to differentiate Kaladesh from other artifact sets. In many worlds, artifacts are often sentient - in this world, it'd be quite an anomaly. I think this is so important that it should be a vital part of the story, and I think to emphasize this theme, the sentient automaton should be unique, or they should play a big part.

      "Artifacts that creatures can operate" - This is a common idea for a mechanic but difficult to capture. We'll definitely be discussing this.

      "DFCs in an artifact setting" - Interesting. Why?

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    2. This really isn't a fit for Kaladesh, but reading one of these in reverse "Creatures that artifacts can operate" makes me want to see robot overlords.

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  9. To take a page out of history, real life India was invaded by a foreign oppressor who suppressed the local culture to gain access to their resources and brought advanced technology with them. Thus, the consul are the analogs of the English and either came or were installed via planeswalking. The natural magic of the plane is dying because the canisters are mana bottled from a lifestream-esque resource.
    To add another expectation to an artifact plane:
    Tezzeret

    I think it would make sense that bottling the mana of a plane as a back up power source is something Bolas would want to do, and would send along his agent most in tune with artifice to see to its progress.

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    1. Would having Tezzeret involved in the story of this plane work against the "different from Mirrodin/Esper" goal?

      OTOH, Chandra v. Tezzeret sounds like a spicy Duel Deck idea.

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    2. Also on that note I would probably steer away from making Chandra the only or primary human protagonist, given that "White person saves brown people from oppression [by other white people]" is also... not the greatest use of the rare opportunity to do a plane full of brown people.

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    3. I agree. TEzzeret is a great villain for this story.

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    4. I considered Tezzeret instead of Ramaz, but I felt it'd be too similar to Mirrodin/Esper. However, I think y'all are right - the expectations for his appearance are just too high, and he is a perfect fit.

      Lee, that's a great point re: Bolas. I'm less sure about having the consuls as planeswalker-installed artificers - it seems troublesome that a plane that is defined by its artifice would have that artifice be the foreign oppressor, not the plane itself, you know? Like, I know it's totally not meant to be this way, but it might seem like it's saying "India plane couldn't do all this technology, another plane must have".

      This is unfortunate, as I think it'd be awesome to be inspired by India's real history and have a story about its kind of protagonists and its victory. (India's efforts for independence is a rich and epic historical story.)

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    5. Well I think like any place, technology exists alongside nature in society. Kaladesh doesn't have to say that its people were incapable of producing technology, just that the new element of their society pushed them into embracing it at the expense of nature. Tezzeret/Bolas/X didn't so much as bring the technology full formed, they just influenced the locals in such a way as to make technology dominant.
      I also think the theme of reckless disregard of nature to be a potent one. Pop culture is full of them, Ferngully, FF7, the news. It'd be like Ravnica, except instead of this thing that's in the background, the bottling of the planes mana is causing instability at a much higher rate. It becomes a conflict that's large enough to cement what the block's story is about.
      Yes, having the consuls be white would be insensitive, but it'd be pretty easy to show them as just power-mad elitists rather than legitimately foreign oppressors while still mimicking the structure of the Indian oppression.

      Incidentally, this hits on two major color conflicts:

      Consuls vs dissidents is the White/Red conflict of totalitarianism.
      Canning mana vs natural mages is the Blue/Green conflict the cost of progress.

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    6. I agree that "reckless disregard for nature" is so central to magitech stories that it's probably a necessity. The fact we've had so much discussion on what the possible negative side effects for aether canisters could be is a good sign of that.

      Ah, I see what you mean now. That does seem a lot more fitting, and its analogous but not too much so to India's history. Seems like a good starting point.

      Good conflicts as well.

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  10. What do you expect from the steampunk set?
    * kids. actual young punks, bucking social convention, and breaking rules.
    * gadgets and personal items that require a charge to work.
    * ambitious personal projects, like talking to ghosts, traveling back in time, expansive railways, creating duplicates, etc.

    What do you expect from the artifact set (that isn't Mirrodin)?
    * mechs
    * vehicles
    * personal augmentations

    What do you expect from the Kaladesh set?
    * a ruling class with a lot of power
    * an underclass skirting the law
    * outsiders living the old ways
    * forbidden magic
    * surveillance
    * factories
    * humans

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    1. What age range do you mean by "kids"? I can agree with something like young adult - many cyberpunk stories are 18s to mid-20s protagonists.

      "Require a charge" - as in like, an aether canister? I sense a nice inspiration for a mechanic here.

      "Ambitious personal projects" - For sure. Wacky antiquated technology that actually works because of magic would be super fun. Like Edison's necrophone.

      Mechs and vehicles we should definitely talk about again. It perfectly relates to our attempts to portray Kaladesh as a plane where artifice is a tool, not a form of life like Mirrodin or Esper.

      "Outsiders living the old ways" - sounds like a fun archetype in Limited. This could be our G/B archetype - G wants tradition and doesn't like progress, B wants independence and self-reliance.

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    2. I'm interested in a creative concept with kids around the age of Jace Vryn's Prodigy, Domri Rade, and Kytheon Hero of Akros. This setting is good for a focus on young mages, because the class conflict parallels the conflict between youth and an older generation in charge. Doubling up on how we express the conflict will make it more impactful and evident. Also, this setting works because the conflict is less physical and more intellectual. I can accept a young genius mechanic on Kaladesh more than I would a young demon hunter on Innstrad, or a young hedron scout on zendikar. Finally, I see a lot of young kids at FNM. I recognize they want more of a face in the game. Those kids love the new Jace and Kytheon. Love them.

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    3. Yeah. That was one reason I was a big fan of the Athambia Academy pitch (and why I still tinker with it to this day).

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    4. That's a really good point, Nich - a younger protagonist with a higher profile than Domri Rade could be a really good thing. A young mechanic in Ghirapur would be neat; or a dickensian setting is clearly open to one. I could see a young G character who feels a deep connection to (whatever the source of the aether on this plane is), or even a young civil/robots-rights activist being awesome as well.

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    5. If we're using a young protagonist - and I agree it makes sense, it's perfect for the Punk genre - then it's best to have them be a part of the "streetwise and alienated youths who were rebellious to the Establishment". This can be either the free-spirited artificers or the natural mages.

      I think portraying the story of Kaladesh through multiple perspectives - on many different levels - may be a good idea. In other words, perhaps we should have multiple young protagonists, each fighting their own fight, their own aspect of the 'establishment'? Immediately, I think of these three 'levels':

      - A fugitive natural mage, who has grown up their entire life in fear of being discovered. They see artifice as a symbol of the consul's oppression, and only they know aether canisters for what they truly are.

      - A free-spirited young artificer who strains against the consul's system and surveillance, and serves in a rebellious underground of riggers, who make machinery that isn't sanctioned by the government. (Perhaps all artificers in Kaladesh must have their inventions reviewed by the government and give up their rights to their work.)

      - A philosophical up-and-comer in the consul's bureaucracy. Not down to earth or truly understanding of the people's plight, but they are also not an oppressor or robber baron - they feel a 'noblesse oblige', act like a 'captain of industry', and dream of what the consul can do for the people. Unfortunately, their efforts cause them to stumble into the conspiracy's line of fire, and they're forced to confront how corrupt the consul is.

      One from each walk of life - wilderness / slum / metropolis - and each forced to confront the consul in some way.

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  11. I think going to Kaladesh is a sensible choice. One point I should perhaps mention, though: the moment we pin ourselves to one of Magic's planes with a distinctive look to it, we make it much harder to find artwork from the internet for our cards. I personally don't care at all whether custom cards have artwork or not, but I know a number of people do. Even then I don't think that's an issue severe enough to be worth holding back for, but I just wanted to point out that there aren't going to be very many pictures of Indian steampunk inventors, or Indians riding thopters, etc, for us to use.

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    1. While this isn't a nonissue, I don't think its a pertinent one. We would be committing to an aesthetic choice at some point, and given that we aren't going to be commissioning art, we are limited to what exists. Sure, if we chose a broader fantasy setting it would be easier, but the problem would still exist.
      Also, while Kaladesh has enough to be recognizable, the relatively few cards gives us plenty of room for art that doesn't match the style. However, it might be worthwhile to go through Origins and list out aesthetic art expectations.

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    2. Yeah, for sure. I'm fine with no art, though - many of the best sets I've seen had no art.

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  12. I think Tezzeret and Karn both make great sense, for the reasons we've seen above - both in different roles than they played on Mirrodin/Phyrexia, but both with an interest in the progress of Kaladesh.

    Funnily enough though, although it's Chandra's home plane, in some ways she fits in the least of the Mono-R planeswalkers in a steampunk setting. Tibalt may only have a niche following, but his fashion sense and amorality both have a place in a steam-based universe. Koth could come on his own, or with Karn, Melira, or both, escaping the furnace layers of Mirrodin to a world with a very different attitude toward artifice and humanity. His metalworking skills would come in handy, and as an earth-appreciating {R} character he could have something to say about corrupt civilizations co-opting natural resources.

    Most fitting, though, I think is Daretti. If Daretti's looking for anywhere, Kaladesh seems a perfect home and staging ground, whether with the constructs and machinations of the consuls in Ghirapur, or in another part of Kaladesh, (a dickensian scrapyard setting, for instance). Imagine, if you will: "Daretti, Scrap Prince".

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    1. The most recent "Where are they now?" article,
      http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/checking-planeswalkers-2015-2015-08-19,
      supports both Tezzeret and Daretti, though I think Karn and Koth are a little out of place since their conflicts are more centralized to the Phyrexians.

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    2. "Now Karn's mind is clear, and he has sworn to find a way to prevent other planes from falling to the same fate as Mirrodin..."

      "The same fate" could refer to the Phyrexians, but you could also read it to include the more general themes of corruption through abuse of an unknown energy source that some of us have discussed above.

      +1 for Daretti. More nonhuman planeswalkers please WotC! (Being a double amputee in a wicked-ass steampunk wheelchair doesn't hurt either!)

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  13. Kaladesh set:
    I really need to research Indian culture to make a suggestion, since the things I imagine about traditional Indian mythology (mysticism, etc.) don't directly fit into Steampunk.

    I feel Kamigawa really nailed the spirit of Japanese mythology (everything having a spirit). As a Japanese person, after seeing Japan misrepresented in media for so many years, it was amazing to see a fantasy Japanese world that not only rings true to the spirit of Japanese folklore, but is also properly different from the real Japan in the same way that a sword-and-sorcery world is not a carbon copy of medieval Europe.

    It would be ideal to capture the right themes for India too. I wonder what would be a concept for India that is what "everything has a spirit" is to Japan. Fate and Karma come to mind, but that seems at odds with a steampunk society like Kaladesh.

    Of course, it's also possible we should just stick to the more contemporary issues rather than hope to understand the soul of India in a web project. Maybe the real Kaladesh isn't about delving into Indian mythology either, and just wanted diversity?

    For contemporary issues, the class divide mentioned above seems like a good theme.

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  14. Steampunk set: Inventions. Inventors. Inventing.

    If these inventions, machines, gadgets, etc. are in the set, should they be represented by a few one-off cards, like the Greek myth top-down cards such as Horse of Akroas in Theros? Or should it be represented by a mechanic, like the Werewolf mechanic in Innistrad? It's a worthy question but to me this seems like a key thing to nail in a steampunk set, I expect a Steampunk-themed set to have some mechanic to represent inventions.

    Should the mechanic be about characters of that world inventing machines and gadgets? Or should it be about you, the player, inventing these things? Innistrad showed people getting scared, but also made you, the player, scared. New Phyrexia showed people being violated, but also made you yourself feel violated. This is another worthy question but as for me I feel a steampunk set should make you feel like you yourself are inventive.

    How could it feel like you invented something? Unless there can be a system where you can design your own cards, I'm not sure how the player can be allowed to invent something other than combining two or more cards in some way. It doesn't have to be the Mecha mechanic, I think Imprint did a great job of allowing people to invent something inside the game. It probably isn't a good idea to do Imprint in a set struggling to distinguish itself from Mirrodin, but it is just an example that there may be several possible ways to allow the player to "make" something, and that at least one of them worked in a real life set.

    The artifact set (that isn't Mirrodin):
    You play less artifacts (your deck isn't half artifacts like in Mirrodin) but maybe there are more ways to search them up.

    The search can represent the act of invention. A creature, or you the player has conceived of a dream artifact, then quested to make it real through research or other means.

    Of course, we don't want a set where every other creature card is a Stoneforge Mystic, but I think it's possible to come up with something that isn't blatantly powerful/variance-killing as straight-up tutoring is.

    For example, riffing off of one of the proposed mechanics, there could be a mechanic that turns cards in the middle of your library face up. You would see them (possibly choosing which cards are turned face up), then work to mill yourself towards them as a kind of research.

    Also, the new Eldrazi seem to have a theme of exiling your opponents cards and powering up from them. So in a similar way there could be cards that exile cards from the top of your library into an "idea pile" or "vision pile," then you get to pull one of those into reality (or rather, into your hand or the battlefield) if you achieve some condition. Those cards can work together, the way the Eldrazi work together. The number of cards exiled from your library could be like the measure of your research progress.

    The specific mechanics are just examples, but to sum it up, what I imagine is that you get an artifact to play, not because you have a deck chock-full of artifacts like in Mirrodin, but because you are working to pull an artifact out of your deck somehow, representing the act of working on an invention.

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    1. Excellent ideas here, really great stuff. I've actually thought about many of these myself.

      Regarding the act of 'invention', I agree that it's vital that we nail it. In my own brainstorming and doodling this past week, I've started identifying some basic themes for Kaladesh that we've seen so far, and one of them is definitely 'Express' - the idea of making a vision real, building something new and sharing it with the world. (I'll be talking about the others tomorrow.)

      I think that this is such a vital part of a world of artifice that it definitely deserves a mechanic. I also think that if we're trying to capture the theme of 'innovation', that our mechanic should be innovative in itself, you know? That's why, whenever I thought about how to express 'invention' through card mechanics, I made sure it was something very exciting and different.

      In Mirrodin, artifacts are creatures and natural things, that show up everywhere, so I wanted to avoid that. In Tesla - and Kaladesh - artifacts would be something created, something that serves a role, something that doesn't naturally appear, but must be brought forth. I figured this would be a good place to use "Assembling Contraptions" to represent that concept. I thus came to the same conclusion; that "Assembling a Contraption" meant searching for it somehow.

      However, here lies our difference. I didn't think of putting them in the deck and searching them out. I immediately thought of pulling them from the sideboard, like Wishes do. Or, even more radically, inventing a new zone in the game, like the command zone or the extra deck in Yu-gi-oh, that Contraptions would inhabit until something brought them into existence.

      Anyway, I plan on discussing this in more detail soon - I was going to dedicate a week (or longer) to discussing the concept of "invention" and what mechanics could represent it. I have quite a few ideas of my own, as this has been a personal project of mine for a long time.

      Thanks again for the insightful comments, Chah. Great stuff.

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