Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Set Design Pitch: Frontier

HV: This set pitch is by cfnlc.  My comments are in blue.

Set name: Frontier

Set theme: Top down western with hints towards an eldrazi invasion

Card designs:

Trusty steed 1WW
Creature - horse equipment
Equipped creatures get +2/+2
Equip 3 (While ~ is equipped to a creature it can't attack, block or become tapped)

I realize that we're not WotC and therefore there is little danger of a Rules Manager Attack, but yikes.  Creatures attached to creatures definitely breaks the rules as they exist now, as does "can't be tapped".  There must be a safer way to saddle up.

Aeon mist U/c U/c
|c|Tribal sorcery - eldrazi
(note |c| is used to indicate that this card has a colourless colour indicator and this would mean the card has a colourless eldrazi style  clear card frame)
(U/c may be paid with either blue or colourless mana)
Put target creature on top of its owners library, that player then puts a card from his graveyard on top of his library.

Players don't know the difference between colorless and generic mana.  If you want something to cost colorless, you'll need a whole new symbol (like Jon Loucks' @) and not half of a hybrid symbol!  And a card that costs blue mana yet is colorless?  And it's tribal?  This card is a 15-car pileup of bizarreness.  Pick at most one of these strange ideas and make it work, but not all of them at once.

Shadowy recruiter 3B
Creature - vampire mercenary
When ~ enters the battlefield you may search your library for a mercenary card, reveal it, shuffle your library and put the card on top of it.

Not an unreasonable design, but tutor/shuffle effects at common should be used sparingly.

Goblin prospector 1R
Creature - goblin
Mountainfall - Whenever a mountain enters the battlefield under your control you may flip a coin.
If you win the flip you get a gold counter (gold counters may be spent as if they were colourless mana)

Prospecting for gold!  Brilliant.  I don't like the coin flip here; surely one could use the top of the library or something as a random generator instead.  Mountainfall is an interesting twist, though I'm not sure it belongs on this particular card.  I get the flavor, but there's a huge amount of complexity on one card.

Hired hands 2G
Tribal instant - mercenary
~ costs {1} less to cast for each gold counter used to cast it
Target creature gets +3/+3 and either Hexproof, Trample or Reach until end of turn.

I'm going to be blunt: Tribal is a bad idea.  Mark Rosewater has called it a mistake himself.  The idea of gold making mercenaries cheaper is fine, but it's also unclear why this is a pump spell.

Celemorph G/c G/c
|c|Tribal instant - Eldrazi
(G/c may be payed with either green or colourless mana)
Target land becomes a 5/5 green octopus creature with reach and defender until end of turn. It is still a land

The above comments have covered the issues with this card pretty thoroughly.

Desert Cache
T: add {1} to your mana pool
{3}B,T: you get a gold counter (gold counters may be spent as if they were colourless mana).

Seems fiddly to have this be a repeatable thing at common- I'd rather it gained a fixed number as an ETB or sac effect.  And why does it take black mana to use?


The main idea of Cowboys vs. Eldrazi is exciting enough to outweigh some of the suboptimal executions in this submission.  The Western genre is definitely fruitful ground for a set, as demonstrated by the GDS2.  Prospecting for gold counters is a great fit, particularly since gold can buy you Eldrazi.  Land-specific landfall is also a reasonable choice, although it's less obvious how it fits into the Western theme.  But a lot of the other ideas simply aren't practical or resonant.  This set needs to find some straightforward, elegant mechanics that fit together well.  Focus on the parts that say "Wild West", and trim back the stuff that doesn't.  Also, recall that this is meant to be standalone set, not the first set in a block.  Hinting at an Eldrazi invasion isn't going to suffice; the villains will have to be onstage.


  1. A western set idea, and almost nothing here hints at the wild west? What's with that?

    Gold counters is a great idea, but that's all you have that relates to the wild west. What about duels? What about gunslingers? What about high-noon showdowns, or banditos clashing at the bank with the sheriff?

    There's a lot of wonderful design space here, and you didn't touch upon any of it. Let's try to go deeper.

  2. Here we have the weakest of the pitches, and by a good margin. None of these cards are common. Tribal is bad. Creatures can't equip other creatures (the errata for March of the Machines specifically says so.) Most of these designs are hot glue gunned together (particularly Hired Hands.) And there are major flavor misses here (why on earth would an Eldrazi card give you a creature with defender?)

    There aren't any individual card designs I like here.

    What I would like to see from this set: actual mechanics that evoke top-down Wild West flavor. Colorless/hybrid doesn't do it. Landfall doesn't do it. Gold counters are getting closer, but a gold counter is just an Eldrazi spawn with shroud and pacifism. This set needs serious work, and simpler designs.

  3. I don't seem to be the only one who loves gold coins after all!

    I agree it is a very bumpy pitch. I fear that throwing eldrazi into a cowboys theme is a double gimmick, like getting kebab on your sashimi pizza (which is a triple gimmick, to be fair. Your submission did not contain Phyrexians, so it is not a triple gimmick). I would personally rather have a pizza, then wait until I digest to get a sashimi, then repeat the digestion and waiting process to get the kebab. Although I would probably prefer to eat something homecooked in between takeouts. SOrry drifting away here.

    The comments above are also true, the cards do not seem very common.

    However prospecting for gold was fun.

  4. The cards need work. Also, more work in the back story needs to be done to tie the Eldrazi with Cowboys. However, I see the potential for very exciting game play. It makes me giddy to think about playing this set.

    In Rise of the Eldrazi, we played cards that just provided us with Eldrazi Spawn tokens. But Gold counters seem to be something that you need to jump a hoop to get.

    I'm thinking of cards like:

    Bank Robber 3R
    Creature - Viashino Rogue
    When ~ deals damage to a player, you gain a gold counter.

    There would be a race to accumulate gold, and Eldrazi cards can be the reward for it.

  5. Hopefully, it would be ok to borrow Daniel Williams' Duel mechanic and do a modified version of it.

    Tavern Brawler 1B
    Creature - Vampire Rogue
    When ~ enters the battlefield, duel target player. If you win the duel, put a +1/+1 counter on ~.
    (Each player in a duel simultaneously draws a card, then permanently reveals an unrevealed card from hand. The player who revealed a card with higher converted mana cost wins the duel.)

    So, if you reveal a card in hand for a duel, it stays revealed until it leaves your hand. You can't use it for another duel, but you don't need to discard it like in the original version.

    There would be choice-making about when to reveal your high-cost cards. For example, if your opponent casts the Tavern Brawler above and you have a 9-drop Eldrazi from your hand, you can reveal it to have a high chance of winning the duel. But you could instead reveal some 5-drop Wurm instead ad save revealing the Eldrazi for a future turn when you cast something more relevant with Duel, like a creature with "When this ETB, duel. It deals 2 damage to target creature if you win the duel."

    This mechanic would work especially well with Eldrazi in the set. First of all, it will help smooth land draws so that each player can keep dropping 1 land per turn to eventually cast an Eldrazi. Also, it means Eldrazi in hand are more likely to get revealed along the course of the game. Many cards in Rise of the Eldrazi involved revealing cards in hand, because it's exciting when you know in advance your opponent is building up to an Eldrazi and you have to outrace the opponent. That makes the race for Gold more interesting - for example, if the Bank Robber was attacking you and an Eldrazi is sitting revealed in that player's hand, would you chump block?

    1. I strongly recommend anyone considering this plane for their round 2 submission check out this excellent discussion of the showdown/duel mechanic in one of Jules' Gathering Magic articles. That's a pretty good summary, but if you want the full story, start here. Chah's version solves the repeated reveal problem of the last two versions. While you should consider the flaws and merits of each solution in deciding which to use (if any), also bear in mind the nature of the award. R&D was careful to make Clash effects that felt like bonuses rather than things players counted on so that they'd feel good when they happened, but wouldn't feel terrible when they didn't.

  6. The Eldrazi really need to be tied to the Cowboys somehow in the story. As others have said, if both of them were a known factor (such as Mirrans and Phyrexians) then doing a mashup battle set would be possible, like Scars of Mirrodin. But since the Cowboy world is new, the Eldrazi would feel like a distraction unless it is solidly tied into the story and feel necessary.

    Maybe this world is a future Zendikar where the Eldrazi won and the land was devastated - that's why it's a wasteland. Maybe there are some extremely rare minerals lying around that people come prospecting for, but those minerals are what's left over when Eldrazi devours the mana of a world.

    It doesn't need to be Zendikar, but if it is Zendikar, then that Mountainfall mechanic on the Goblin Prospector in the submission could be expanded to be a set mechanic. It would be like evolving landfall, where you need land of a specific type. (But can have bigger effects than just landfall).

    Otherwise, maybe we can have a back story about colonists into an abandoned plane who are hunting for Gold. Maybe the Eldrazi need sleep too, and this plane is their resting place.

  7. I'm always initially critical of gold counters, but I suppose each set does need to break new ground. I suppose my question would be "What do they do here that Eldrazi Spawn wouldn't?"

    1. I'm thinking cards that grant Gold counters can each have a hoop attached, like the Bank Robber I posted above. You don't know if you're going to get it or not - you have to fight for it. Also, Duel with Eldrazi would be a special thing.

    2. It's not necessary, but maybe the only way to get gold counters is via a new keyword, Prospect. For example Prospect N (Look at the top N cards of your library, you may reveal a land card among them. If you do, gain a gold counter. Put these cards back in any order.)

  8. I like a wild west setting and I like the mix with eldrazi, but I think it's surprisingly difficult to do wild west in magic terms. Real magic sets avoid guns, and it's hard to find relevant mechanics without them all turning into some form of ping.

    I designed part of a futuristic wild-west themed world at: (and would be happy to donate mechanics to this set), but I did it partly by deliberately choosing ideas that fit magic mechanically, but wouldn't be printed in a real set

  9. It's entirely likely that the Western genre or the Cowboys Vs Eldrazi theme warrants an entire block (much like Ankh-Theb and others), but that's not a great reason to nix the idea for this single-set project. That said, it's going to be hard to communicate both Western and Alien Invasion in a single set so the safe path is to cut the Eldrazi and focus on the cowboys. If someone does find a way to communicate both well, that will be impressive.

    In addition to checking out Daniel William's failures and successes with Deadsands in the GDS2, you might also consider my own, when I gave another perspective on the Western set.

  10. For those interested, Chah and I both have some work on Frontier up on the wiki.