Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Set Design Pitch: Mondombre

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

What is the name of your set?


What is the core concept of your set?

Dungeons & Dragons-inspired dungeon-crawling

Submit seven designs for common cards which represent some of the basic mechanical themes of your set.  All five colors must be represented.  You may repeat colors and/or design colorless cards.

NOTE: One of the mechanics used in this set is Devon Rule's gold counters mechanic. I had previously been granted permission to use the mechanic for this D&D set when it was just me working on it. Using the gold counter mechanic emulates the riches you gain from dungeon exploring (the gold pieces part - an artifact subtheme exists for the special treasures and weapons you find during the adventure). If using the gold counter mechanic is not acceptable, there's always other design solutions.

SECOND NOTE: The "team up" mechanic is supposed to allow you to form parties of up to four creatures per party where each party consists of up to one of each of Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard. The templating can be reworked to make it more clear - I tried being more succint to lessen the number of lines on the card.

Charging Kobold R
Creature - Kobold Berserker
Charging Kobold gets +1/+0 for each other Kobold you control.

Cute!  Possibly too silly, but it immediately tells the player what Kobolds are all about.

Cointerfeit U
Target player loses a gold counter and you gain a gold counter. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

This seems fine and roughly in-pie, although I'm nervous about giving blue mana ramp on turn one.

Dwarven Fighter 1W
Creature - Dwarf Warrior
Level up {2}
LEVEL 1 - 2: 3/3
LEVEL 3+: 4/4

Totally solid.  There are lots of dwarf fans who will be glad to see their return.  Square stats for this at common are good as well.

Eaten by Monsters 1B
Destroy target Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, or Wizard creature.

I'm not sold on this card, nor the surrounding idea.  This particular four-class paradigm isn't even an RPG thing; it's really an old school D&D thing.  Most of Magic's target audience has never cracked a 2nd edition PHB.  

Elvish Troubadour 3G
Creature - Elf Rogue
Team up (Whenever this or another Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, or Wizard creature enters the battlefield, you may team up creatures of those types with none of those types shared among them.)
Elvish Troubadour and creatures teamed up with it have vigilance.

I understand the flavor you're aiming for here, but it's far too specific and wordy.  It reads like an uglier version of Soulbond, and it eliminates all the Barbarians, Druids, Shamans, Soldiers, and Knights who might also want to hang out.

Gnome Illusionist 2U
Creature - Gnome Wizard
When Gnome Illusionist enters the battlefield, put a 1/1 blue Illusion creature token onto the battlefield.

An odd card for blue, but it makes sense as a top-down design.  Still, does anyone who hasn't played D&D really "get" why this card exists?

Holy Symbol 0
Artifact - Equipment
Equipped creature gets +0/+1.
As long as equipped creature is a Cleric, it has "T:Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn."
Equip 1

I'm fine with improving some of the class-based themes from Morningtide, but this sort of effect isn't on NWO commons.


Everyone loves adventurers, and gold counters + level up is an extremely natural and flavorful fit.  But Zendikar is about as close as one can safely get to "D&D in Magic", and we don't want to repeat that.  The big challenge for this set is to find a completely new flavor: attack these themes from an angle that creates a genuinely different feel from "adventure world".  That may mean giving up some of the assumptions about what the set is fundamentally about.  Also, tropes that are unique to a particular tabletop RPG are not going to resonate with many players; find a way to make them more universal.


  1. This set has potential, but we need to go a different direction -- exploration, phat loot, quests, leveling up, and parties of explorers... am I talking about Zendikar, or your pitch?

    There's not a lot you can do to expand upon Zendikar, as it thoroughly explored the adventure-RPG theme. I think this design space has been sucked dry.

    1. Different direction from Zendikar? Most definitely. That block was more of an Indiana Jones adventure world with Dungeons & Dragons elements. I feel like those role-playing game elements can be expanded upon and realized into a single stand-alone set.

      The major mechanical theme of Zendikar was "lands matter." Yes, there was the additional mechanic component of Allies, but that wasn't the focus of the Zendikar block. In THIS world, lands will not be a mechanic focus at all and leveling up will be one of the major focuses of the gameplay.

      The execution of the "band of heroes" theme in my pitch, team up, has a too-similar feel to Allies. Based on other comments, I see that this must be re-worked, especially not in a way that reference creature type like Allies did.

      Also, there's a "monsters side" to oppose these band of heroes. Kobold was my choice in showing that this world does contain Monster cards you can play with (and Kobolds, a popular creature type, returning is awesome news to hear).

  2. I'm probably most excited about the mechanical potential of this set. I feel like 'entering a dungeon' can have a distinct adventure feel that 'exploring new lands' doesn't; I'd love to see more cards that reflect that theme. I like the idea of "mixed tribal" a la Team Up but I think you need stronger mechanics than Team Up - it's going to be a frequent and crappy experience when your draw is nothing but Clerics.

    The strongest design here is Dwarven Fighter. It simply isn't a game of D&D without leveling up. I would find ways to emphasize that theme.

    What I'd like to see in this set: you've shown us some of your adventuring party, but what does the dungeon itself feel like?

    1. Thanks, Evan!

      The class system doesn't need to be so focused where specific classes are needed since team up is just an execution upon the adventuring party aspect of the world.

      You're right! We need to see more of the dungeon! There's a whole bunch of monsters we haven't seen, and we've only seen the return of a popular monster Kobold from my submission.

      Lastly, I believe level up to be the most crucial to have sticking around. I'm glad you agree that it's important to the experience of dungeon-crawling adventures. =)

  3. I used to love Devon's gold counters and mercenaries, so I really like this world. However you should try to flesh out your world a bit, and add an element of strife (different factions or the players to identify with)

    I would suggest not going both tribal and level up, personally.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I definitely agree with you in terms of having strife. There's always gotta be a conflict going on in a set/block! I see that this isn't readily-apparent from my submission. I had intended to have a Heroes vs. Monsters and/or Dungeon flavor. Having a Monsters faction and a faction for all the heroes in a party would also be a throwback to the conflict found in Scars of Mirrodin block. =) The "Dungeon" strife may just be the more-appropriate conflict against the heroes since it IS a dungeon-crawler.

      I believe choosing to do Level Up is much more important than having classes. As a possibility, a different mechanic can be implemented that encourages you to play with a team of heroes without directly referencing their class.

  4. Hey, Bradley! Remember RSW?

    I agree with Havelock that this design space is hard to play around with - the "classes" is very reminiscent of Allies, and so on and so fourth. It seems like you're taking other mechanics and changing them up slightly. Gold counters = spawn, Team up = soulbond, Class system = Allies, all with a thinly veiled tribal theme.

    I would like some underground flavor. A dungeon crawl has so much more to offer than being reminiscent of RPGs.

    1. I will never forget the great time I had with Red Site Wins! =)

      It DOES seem like I'm just changing the mechanics slightly!

      The class system and the execution of "team up" mechanic to act upon this class system can both be thrown out since the main theme is on having a band of heroes adventuring a dungeon, fighting monsters, and leveling up/collecting loot.

      And gold counters - well, it just can't be helped how similar they are, but I believe they are different enough to warrant gold counters' existence. As an example in real-world Magic, Kicker and Entwine are both similar but are different just enough to be O.K. that both exist.

  5. I like this a lot. My first thought was that it would be too zendikar-y, but if it embraces the underground flavour, I think it can be different.

    I wouldn't have thought there was much design space unexplored, but I really liked the flavour on these cards. I didn't like all of the cards individually, but I thought they demonstrated that there was a lot of design space.

    I think the set will expand beyond just DnD to include other underground tropes (eg. kobold societies, etc), but as soon as I look at it I start buzzing with ideas.

    Level-up: awesome fit.
    Gold counters: nice mechanic, reasonable fit.
    Cleric/Rogue/Warrior/Wizard: I don't like the indvidual cards here, but I think there's room for a lot of tribal mechanics based around those classes and some others, that zendikar/worldwake didn't really explore.
    Team up: I don't like the mechanic, but I like the idea.

    I'll come back and see what other mechanic ideas come to mind.

    1. Level up: I so agree. Level up is dripping with flavor when it comes to expressing the dungeon-crawling theme, is a strong mechanic, and has unmined design space.

      Gold counters: Thanks to Devon Rule for making the mechanic something nice. =) I'm just using his product to paint my world.

      Cleric/Rogue/Warrior/Wizard: This is just to support the team up mechanic. These classes don't have to exist as they are not most important. The most important thing is the "band of heroes exploring a dungeon" theme.

      Team up: I agree with you. This execution is clunky and needs to be thrown out.

  6. This theme looks hard to work with. I don't think resembling D&D is a plus in itself. When a set like Innistrad references Horror tropes, those references take Magic to new grounds and help make each set different. But when a high fantasy game references another high fantasy game, you don't get that benefit.

    I think Zendikar worked because it had Indiana Jones flavor as well, not just D&D. It also had a beautiful, intriguing world as a backdrop. It wasn't about emulating D&D - especially not the rules side of D&D.

    We have to find some world flavor to use that's not just D&D or Zendikar, but it's tricky because the reason these mechanics are here in the first place is because they're related to D&D.

    I think we have to be open-minded and not necessarily use all of these mechanics together. For example, we could take the Classes matter route and see where that can lead. We could take one of the mechanics like Level up and see what new ground we can find.

    If we do try to use these mechanics together, we need a world flavor where an adventuring lifestyle matters and people go out in groups to do dungeon crawls - but that world has to feel different from Zendikar. Some kind of Planar survival game world? I don't know.

    1. You make a good point in terms of the world flavor. Horror tropes was a flavor gold mine. Zendikar was a winning solution by the creative team for the mechanical theme of "lands matter."

      The contributors to this set idea might just have to pull a creative team and make a compelling world for a band of heroes to hack-and-slash through to acquire spoils and level up.

      I feel like the level up route is the one that is most important. The class system is only there because of team up, and team up is a clunky execution of the "team of heroes" theme. A different mechanic can be designed to illustrate this without needing to reference classes. Especially since the comparisons to Zendikar are increased due to Allies being a mechanic that also references creature types.

  7. I think a tweak on level up would be interesting.

    Level up [attack] (Whenever this attacks, put a level counter on it.)

    Level up [cast an instant or sorcery] (Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell, put a level counter on it.)

    1. Whoa. This IS neat. It's a tweak on level up that shows how the whole "wizards and warriors" mechanic difference without needed to reference their creature type at all. Sweet direction. =)

  8. To emulate D&D-style party combat where warriors fight in the front and wizards in the back, we can do something like this:

    Vanguard Knight 2W
    Creature - Knight
    Vanguard (All attackers with vanguard must be blocked for other attackers to be blocked. Ignore this for creatures who can’t block any unblocked attacker with vanguard.)
    First strike

    This would also work well with the condition-based level up above.

    1. If we don't do this though, gaining gold after combat and spending them for level up is kind of fun too.

    2. Your mechanic for simulating warriors in the front and wizards in the back makes me smile. However, it looks like a mechanic just for that formation is going in the wrong direction. At least it seems to be less clunky than team up. ;)

      I like the alternative you presented to your proposed mechanic on upgrading yourself with the loot you've acquired after combat as that is more appropriate to the dungeon-crawling theme.

  9. This set makes a lot of direct and indirect callbacks to Zendikar block. You may find a clever path from here, but the only one I see is Return to Zendikar. Prove me wrong, kids!

    1. I feel like you're taking on the role of Aaron Forsythe or Mark Rosewater with this statement!

      I'd say, "Challenge accepted!" but I can't touch my world with new designs. =) I'm excited to see if anybody is able to not need to "Return to Zendikar" with my pitch.

    2. You can still design stuff, if you have more ideas. You just can't submit them as a pitch.

    3. Ah, sweet. I suppose I'll put further designs on the wiki. =) Thanks, Havelock.

  10. This is my favorite of the 8 pitches and I have a few ideas right off the bat. My concept for this set is a new twist on Battle Cruiser Magic, but instead of trying to cast big creatures, you're trying to amass a stack of gold. I like the Team Up idea, but would implement it a completely different way. Ideally, playing with the set would consist of assembling a group of heroes to steal your opponent's gold, while building a dungeon of your own to store your pile and keep it safe from your opponent. It would feel very different from Zendikar, even though on the surface there are similar tropes being explored.

    1. Rat Race 3BB
      At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have 20+ gold counters, you win the game.

    2. I could see how each player is existing within an underground labyrinth dungeon, and spoils must be hoarded and protected by a band of heroes. Though, the focus could also be less on the dungeon and more on the monsters. Or the focus on the dungeon can be done differently.

      In my submission, the weakest part was not showing the monsters/dungeon as much. The only representation was the, "Hey, look, Kobolds are returning!" card. There is much MORE to the dungeons that the band of heroes crawl through. You guys just need to find it.

  11. This is my favourite of the blocks. I absolutely love Levelling up, gaining gold and Teaming Up. I think Teaming Up will be awesome in limited, especially sealed. The only problem is trying different classes into each color. (Not many Warriors are blue and I haven't seen a White or Green Rogue in a while.)

    I agree that if we do level up this time, it should have alternate triggers on a few of the guys. I'll be designing specific cards for this block on my blog this week. If you don't know it, it's at

    1. Back when I was attempting to design a set with "four colors matters" as a theme, I had one of my five factions within that world focus on class types. My solution was that it was O.K. for a color to be missing a class type since you'd most likely be building at least a two-color deck. With this in mind, you can accomplish all four types:

      Green and blue Clerics may be strange, though. And black would have access to all the types since it IS the color that does have a decent amount of cards for each type. Seems non-clean, though, eh?

      And, yes, definitely do a twist with level up. =) That design space is waiting to be mined!

  12. A suggested wording for Team Up. Team Up (When this creature enters the battlefield, you may team up with another creature or team if none of those cards share more than one creature type.)

    This version lets Knights, Barbarians, Wizards and Soldiers play together. It's kind of a reverse tribal theme. Plus, it forces players to play with a lot of different types of creatures. The more than one clause lets two elves or two humans fight together. (Or two clerics, if they're different races.)

    1. Oh, I've got ideas for this that requires way less bookeeping, but for fear that it'll get dismissed prematurely, I'm going to wait and show, rather than tell.

    2. Sweet! And, I like the direction of having the specific creature types removed. I can imagine players having fun assembling their team in casual decks and choosing to include a Shaman and Druid and such.

      However, this creates a tension in the number of copies of the same card in your deck. Or even when you want to include two Soldier cards with team up. Perhaps each creature with team up, when possible, have a unique creature type? As in, there is only one Cleric in the set, one Shaman, one Druid, one Rogue, one Knight, one ...etc. And then perhaps there would be two Warriors, but at least there aren't four Warriors.

      Either way, Nich also has a version! Great. Thanks, guys. =)

    3. I like this approach to Team Up much better, Olaf. I don't think it's necessary to let two clerics join the same team; the mechanic needs some kind of hoop.

    4. Team up seems to non parasitic to boot.
      I was going to suggest using team up as a level up trigger, but that would be way more parasitic.

  13. I think an Equipment sub-theme would be nice. Loading up your adventurers with gear would be a good way to capture the feel of the D&D world.

    Examples of common equipment:
    Longsword 2
    Artifact - Equipment
    Equipped creature gets +2/+0
    Equip 1

    Spear 1
    Artifact - Equipment
    Equipped creature gets +1/+0 and has reach.
    Equip 2

  14. Nice collections and among all i like jhumka designs as they are so trendy to wear in festive occasions.