Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Set Design Pitch: Ekkremes

HV: This set pitch is by Jean-Sébastien Girard.  My comments are in blue.

What is the name of your set?

What is the core concept of your set?
"A world without mana rediscovers magic."
Basically, the mana of Ekkremes undergoes massive ebbs and flows, with millennia during which magic is barely possible at all and considered a myth by the populace, to times where it magic is as accessible and well-understood as on any normal plane. We are visiting right as the plane is on cusp of such a change.

Common designs:

1. Pendulum Engine {1}
Artifact — Contraption
{T}: Add {2} to your mana pool. Activate this ability only if a creature is attached to Pendulum Engine.
Operate {2}  ({2}: Attach an unattached creature you control to this artifact, or unattach a creature from it. An attached creature can't attack or block. Operate only as a sorcery.)

Operate is a keyword representing solutions elaborated to problems that normally would be solved by magic.

This is an interesting idea.  It says "steampunk" to me much more than "magic being rediscovered".

2. Entropic Siphon {3}{B}
Each opponent loses 2 life. You gain life equal to the life lost this way.
Rebate {B} (You may cast this spell for its Rebate cost. If you do, change its text by reducing all numbers by 1.)

Mana was not entirely absent from Ekkremes but casting spells was so difficult mages have had to settle for much smaller effect.

I understand what you're going for flavor-wise, but the result is an unappealing wording.  The card would be much more attractive like this:

Entropic Siphon
Each opponent loses 1 life. You gain life equal to the life lost this way.
Surge 3B (You may cast this spell for its Surge cost. If you do,
change its text by doubling all numbers.)

3. Arcane Deductions {2}{U}{U}
Counter target spell unless its controller pays three colorless mana.
Latch 6 — {U} (If the last spell you cast this turn had a converted mana cost of 6 or more, you may cast this spell for its latch cost.)

This is an alternative cost-down mechanics since these are design ideas (and Rebate may be too similar to Overload), not all of which can be in the set together. It expresses a different aspect of the mana swell: once a spell has been cast, it becomes significantly easier to draw on the same mana to cast other spells.

As you say, these ideas really don't belong in the same set.  I think this mechanic has some potential, but it certainly doesn't make sense on a counterspell.  I also feel like the flavor isn't terribly clear.

4. Juniper Spirit {3}{W}
Enchantment Creature — Elemental
Creatures you control get +1/+1 as long as you control a green permanent.
Ethereal {1}{W} (You may cast this spell for its ethereal cost. If you do it enters the battlefield as an enchantment with no other types or subtypes.)

Another side effect of the mana swell is the return of these mythical creatures that could simply not survive in the virtual absence of mana during the ebb.

There are memory issues here; without any sort of physical representation, how does one know whether one of these sitting on the battlefield is ethereal or not?  Also, Glorious Anthem effects are certainly not common.  I like the basic idea, but the implementation isn't there yet.

5. Confounding Flautist {1}{R}{R}
Creature — Goblin Shaman
{R}, Sacrifice Demented Flautist: Counter target spell that targets one or more permanents you control.

Unlike Maro, I've always felt that Red, as the color that already messes most with your magic after blue, ought to be the the second color with counterspells. I also find it most appropriate that it is an enemy color to blue. This particular card is a near-colorshifted version of Hydromorph Guardian.

Far be it from me to disagree with a fellow color pie heretic, but whether or not this belongs in red, I don't know why it belongs in this set.

6. Partisan Saboteur {2/G}{2/G}
Creature — Human Mutant
When Partisan Saboteur enters the battlefield, you may destroy target artifact.
If only colorless mana was spent to cast Partisan Saboteur, it enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it.

Without magic, Ekkremes developed a significant amount of both colorless mana use and pollution. This result in a) the presence of monocolor hybrid mutants in the set and b) the relevant of colorless mana (already hinted with Arcane Deductions).

7. City
A deck can have any number of cards named City.
This card is a basic land as long at it isn't on the battlefield.
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.

How will the player have a chance to get enough colorless mana for things like Partisan Saboteur's effect? This is how. Cities function basic lands except that it won't affect things like Domain or Coalition Victory.

This is a dangerous road to go down.  For one thing, you're going to have to deal with the fact that most players don't know the difference between colorless mana and generic mana.  (This is entirely Richard Garfield's fault for using THE EXACT SAME GODDAMN SYMBOL for both of them, but there it is.)  Somehow, your cards have to be resilient to this potential for misunderstanding.  And if you want to go with Barry's Land, it has to be a major part of the set- it's basically a sixth color.


There are a lot of mechanics here, and many of them have lots of potential for design space.  It's not clear how they all fit together.  In fact, it it'll probably be necessary to cut things down significantly before building them up again.  Choose a mechanic, decide what cards fit around it, and then decide what sort of world it makes sense in.  "World where mana is wacky" doesn't have a lot of resonance.


  1. I just wanted to comment that I was the one that submitted this pitch (Havelock, having seen the email address, wouldn't be surprised). I had been working on it over at MTGSalvation, but had decided to start over from scratch. I had begun work on the skeleton when this came up, so I decided to submit it if only to see how far it would go.

  2. Wowee zowee, did you pack a lot of stuff into your set... it looks like you went into your keyword-ideas-diary, and threw it all together. I agree with the comments -- some of these have potential, but we need to focus on one.

    The worst part of this set is easily that it's far too mechanical -- you had neat ideas of how to mess with casting costs and mana-matters, but you haven't crafted a fine flavor and story to explain it, and so they each lack a lot of depth.

    This has some good mechanics in it, but not much else. Going back to the drawing board would be a good idea.

  3. Also: I had seen this at Salvation. I was the dude who helped out your Sorin design, remember?

    1. I definitely remember the Sorin thread! He was one of the few designs I was definitely intending to reuse. You're right the set was going into far too much directions at the time (even worse than transpiring here, with a non-gold multicolor concept that alone could have been a basis), and that was exactly why I was going to scrap everything and restart from fresh bases.

  4. So, Circeus -- do you have any ideas you liked best? Anything you wanted to refine, to focus upon? I think the best ideas you have here are Operate (a great implementation of steampunk, which is what no magic would imply) and Latch (an interesting way to emphasize spellcasting)

    1. Warning: rambly post.

      I really wish I could figure out a good way to focus on the technology/magic divide that would inevitably arise in this context. I said "without mana", but it was an oversimplification. Mana was just so rare as to make magic mythical.

      My approach via colorless mana is not new, the Archester project at MTGS has the same concept with their Steam-powered mechanic (but I believed their designs has far too much bleeding).

      Now that I realize that Rebate/Surge requires both options to be overcosted (my Entropic Siphon actually obsolete Taste of Blood, which I stupidly overlooked), I think Latch (I call it the "rider" mechanic) is a better option to explore.

      While I'm on latch, I want to point out that on Arcane Deductions it means that protecting higher-costed spells is cheaper (it can be read as "U: Target spell with CMC6+ can't be countered."). Latch has to require spells that cost higher than the latched spells because you don't want to latch a spell to another of the same cost (i.e. the same reason as cascade).

  5. Eek, read up on NWO. This set has a lot of cost-manipulating, math-heavy mechanics that don't have a lot of flavor or resonance. I also don't know why you'd want to represent a world without magic in a game called "Magic." This whole world concept feels like a nonstarter to me, and your mechanics aren't showing me what it's about. Operate is very very cool. It's the "piloting a ship" mechanic I've always dreamed of, though you're employing it for different purposes here. I'd chase after that direction, though.

    Pendulum Engine is, of course, your strongest design.

    What I'd like to see from this set: ditch "a world without magic" and all but one of the cost-manipulating things. Find out where your center of resonance is and pursue it.

  6. Cudos on the name, from the greek word for pendulum.
    I believe that the setting is not really fleshed out thematically, and could use a bit more though in what is happening exactly. The 7 commons have, however, already spend half the complexity points I estimate the set should have...

    1. Kudos to YOU for noticing! XD I must say I did not expect anyone to know.

  7. In a world that rediscovers magic, some will embrace it, while some will be highly suspicious of it:
    Mage Hunter 2R
    Creature - Human Warrior
    When ~ enters the battlefield, it deals 2 damage to target player or Wizard.

    The anti-magic group could also rely more on Operate, while the Wizard group could have spell-like activated abilities.