Monday, May 28, 2012

Design Challenge #3: Results

Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics of that song?  They're appalling.

Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on

I have no words to describe the inadequacies of this poetry.

What's that?  A design challenge?  Oh, right.

Your challenge is to replace the Titans with a new cycle of mythic rare creatures.  This cycle should fill a similar role in marketing the set.  Judging will be based on the following criteria:
  • Do the cards feel mythic rare?
  • Do they feel like a cycle?
  • Are they readily appealing to players?
  • Is their power level high enough to be exciting, but not so high as to be format-warping?  (Primeval Titan, I'm looking at you.)
Without further ado, here are the top three!

Third Place
Winner: Nich Grayson

Scion of Homelands
Creature - Cat Soldier
Double strike
When Scion of Homelands enters the battlefield, if an opponent has 5 or more life than you, you gain 10 life.
Scion of Compulsions
Creature - Illusion
When Scion of Compulsions enters the battlefield, if you have five or more cards in your hand, you may put any number of them on the bottom of your library, then draw that many cards.
2U: Return Scion of Compulsions to its owner’s hand.
Scion of Ghouls
Creature - Spirit
When Scion of Ghouls enters the battlefield, if you have five or more creature cards in your graveyard, return them to the battlefield under your control. They gain haste and "Exile this creature at end of turn."
Scion of Warlords
Creature - Minotaur Warrior
When Scion of Warlords enters the battlefield, if an opponent was dealt 5 or more damage this turn, untap all creatures that attacked this turn. After this phase, there is an additional combat phase.
Scion of Awakenings
Creature – Treefolk
When Scion of Awakenings enters the battlefield, if you control five or more Forests, untap all Forests you control. Until end of turn, Forests you control become 2/2 Treefolk creatures with vigilance that are still lands.
This was an exciting, ambitious cycle, and it did lots of things right.  What I like most about it is that these five cards play completely different; they're not just generic big monsters to slam down and win.  The rewards for fulfilling the "got any fives?" condition are generous and color-pie-appropriate. The match between keywords, rewards, and creatures types shows careful attention to flavor, which I always appreciate.

The biggest weakness of this cycle is that the conditions are an extra hoop to jump through for awesomeness.  This is problematic partly because we want these cards to seem appealing to all players, and it's much easier to accomplish that with bonuses that are basically automatic, like the Titans' attack triggers.  I can't imagine it feels good to cast one of these and not get the trigger; you've spent seven mana for a French vanilla 5/5, which doesn't cut the mustard by the standards of today's mythic fatties.  (Double strike excepted, of course.) The other issue is in calibrating the hoops.  The green one seems too easy, the blue one too hard, and the white one is mostly out of the player's control.  This cycle could probably have been improved with some tweaking, but I do appreciate that this degree of uniqueness within a tight cycle is a hard balance to find.

Second Place
Winner: Jacob Munford

Avatar of Shelter
Creature - Avatar
Flash, first strike
When Avatar of Shelter enters the battlefield, choose a color.
Creatures you control have protection from the chosen color.
Avatar of Depletion
Creature - Avatar
Flash, flying
When Avatar of Depletion enters the battlefield, counter target spell.
Avatar of Excavation
Creature - Avatar
Flash, lifelink
When Avatar of Excavation enters the battlefield, put target creature card in a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control.
Avatar of Acrimony
Creature - Avatar
Flash, haste
When Avatar of Acrimony enters the battlefield, it deals 3 damage to each creature and player.
Avatar of Evolution
Creature - Avatar
Flash, trample
When Avatar of Evolution enters the battlefield, put 2 +1/+1 counters on each creature you control.
Flash and ETB abilities go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Given that ETB abilities are such a natural choice for Titan-esque monsters, why not put flash on them?  These particular ETB abilities are well chosen for instant speed.  Each of them is something that you'd want during your opponent's turn, and they could easily power some devastating blowouts.  The keywords are fine, except that poor red ended up with the awkward combination of flash and haste, which could have been avoided by giving it first strike and white vigilance.  My one worry is that too many awesome guys with flash means that the late game will be played at the end of the opponent's turn.  I think it's best to have flash used sparingly, and I don't know if it belongs on five huge mythics.

First Place
Winner: Trevor Murdock

Enforcer Angel
Creature - Angel
Flying, vigilance
When Enforcer Angel enters the battlefield or dies, you may put a +1/+1 counter on each other creature you control.
Djinn of the Æther
Creature - Djinn
Flying, flash
When Djinn of the Æther enters the battlefield or dies, you may put target permanent on top of its owner’s library.
Slaughter Demon
Creature - Demon
Flying, lifelink
When Slaughter Demon enters the battlefield or dies, you may destroy target creature. If you do, lose 5 life.
Discharge Dragon
Creature - Dragon
Flying, haste
When Discharge Dragon enters the battlefield or dies, you may have it deal five damage to target creature.
Beckoning Spider
Creature - Spider
Reach, deathtouch
When Beckoning Spider enters the battlefield or dies, you may search your library for a creature card. If you do, reveal it and put it into your hand.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are best.  What goes naturally with an ETB trigger for value?  A death trigger.  By giving these relatively tame effects, Trevor was able to cost them aggressively, which makes them read well.  The 4 flying + 1 reach is cute.  The creature types are iconic and match both the keywords and effects well.  (Okay, I'm not so sure about Beckoning Spider's ability to entice creatures out of your library into your hand.)  I especially like that Slaughter Demon has a harsher cost on his ETB ability, but returns you that much life in exchange when he attacks.  I'm not entirely convinced that 2CCC is preferable to 3CC; one good thing about the Titans was that two-color decks could run whichever one fit their game plan better.

Thanks very much to everyone who submitted cards!


  1. Thanks HV!

    I had the casting costs at 3CC originally but it seemed like they were pushing it a little much. I tried dropping flying and/or taking the P/T down but the symmetry with fives was too compelling. At 4CC it was too hard not to compare them with the titans and cry over the 1 less P/T and lack of attack triggers. I thought in the end that 2CCC seems more exciting than 4CC even though it's actually probably worse in most decks, which would help with the seeming epic but not being the only 5 drops worth playing. I thought it better to be careful there because being too good at 3CC means possibly bumping slots for planeswalkers as well as a slew of otherwise good creatures. That, and the fact that Angel of Jubilation and Vorapede exist and are playable (but not insane) in 2-colour decks makes me think 2CCC is actually better. Or at least it's how I'd submit it to development if I were on a design team.

  2. I thought later of cheeky names that would fit well with cycle of Scions, based on Scion of Homelands (white).

    * Scion of Prophecy (Blue)
    * Scion of Fallen Empires (Black)
    * Scion of Legions (Red)
    * Scion of Worldwake (Green)

    It's a real missed opportunity.

  3. Impressive stuff. Well done, guys.

    I'm curious, Havelock, did anyone submit a cycle without ETB effects?

    1. Yes, several did. Most people did submit creatures with bonus effects, but the triggers varied. Some of them were more natural fits than others for an iconic cycle of mythics. In the end, though, it was mostly coincidence that athe top three all had ETB triggers.