Thursday, August 18, 2011

CCDD 081811—Lake Hellion

Cool Card Design of the Day
8/18/2011 - Lake Hellion came directly from the art. That's clearly a Hellion, with its tell-tale mouthy tendrils. But it's also in water, which isn't the standard hellion lair (see Crater Hellion and Volcano Hellion). In theory, everything fire needn't always be red and everything water needn't always be blue. In practice, however, there are almost no exceptions. So... a blue hellion. Sure. What would that look like?

For one thing, a hellion in water isn't that different from a Sea Serpent, so we're going to draw direct inspiration from blue long lineage of those guys. Yet it still needs to be distinctly a hellion. Most hellions have haste (historically, habitually, what have you). So that's how I got to "haste versus islands." Not as island-punishing as Islandwalk, but still fairly relevant.

Flameborn Hellion has a must-attack clause that we can also make care about Islands. Maybe "~ must attack a player who controls an Island each turn if able" is better because its simpler, but we're also above the curve on common blue fatties right now. Serpents usually have a defender-unless clause so we need to get that in here too. Basically you can attack players with Islands freely (ala Islandhome) or you can attack other players but it'll take your hellion an extra turn to crawl back into its lake.

The end result is just too wordy and too different for a common card. It's also too red to be mono-blue, I think. Maybe it becomes RU, but then we can adjust the cost to reflect the card's new goldness. Ultimately, the creature itself seems unprintable, but some of the tech that went into conditional haste could be useful elsewhere. (The conditional untap being predated by Spectral Force).


  1. The first ability would be far cleaner as "Lake Hellion has haste as long as an opponent controls an Island." Not exactly the same mechanically but reads much more cleanly. I agree that it's still a stretch for a mono-blue card.

    I always love seeing Guild Wars concept art, and this is a good piece. Not literally a hellion of course but if put into a Magic context that is the obvious direction to go in. Maybe a Hellion Serpent, in the same way that Ulasht is a Hellion Hydra?

    1. I like these tweaks a lot, I read an article talking about how to design hellions and other cards. They basically said that there are three important things to make a hellion, Red, Chaos, and Volcanoes. This has none of that. The article literally said that if you play the hellion and your opponent didn't sit up and take notice, you did something wrong.

  2. @Alex: I love the GW2 concept art too. It is usually my first stop for finding art to use for renders.
    I also like the "it has haste if an opponent has an Island", although blue is definitely last for haste. I like the justification though, and if we had another Planar Chaos block, I'd make blue haste creatures as green has been firmly cemented as a secondary color for haste since PLC.

  3. I could see blue haste in an alternate-reality world. Fun fact, the defunct WotC card game Hecatomb placed its haste equivalent in the faction called "Deceit," which was the game's closest analog to the color blue. It also included giant growth effects (transformation and trickery).

    Haste on small blue creatures with tap abilities would be a unique niche that isn't really covered by red, black, or green, which mostly use haste for attacking. Hasty pingers like Cunning Sparkmage are the main exception.

  4. Speaking of exceptions, Bonded Fetch is a pretty important card that falls into the category of "haste for utility". I almost forgot about him.

  5. Blue doesn't get haste because it has flash:

    Lurking Serpent 4UU
    Creature-Serpent C
    You may cast Lurking Serpent as though it had flash as long as an opponent controls an Island.
    If you cast Lurking Serpent during your turn, it enters the battlefield tapped.

  6. Why not haste AND flash?

    Surprising Wizard 2U
    Creature - Human Wizard
    T: Counter target spell unless its controller pays {1}.

  7. Maybe "enters the battlefield tapped and attacking?"

  8. The second ability could be on Serpents and other aquatic creatures. You can just imagine the creature leaping forth from the waters in a massive attack, then wriggling on the ground to crawl back to the water so it can gain momentum for another attack. Great ability.