Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Set Design Pitch: Seas of Higaro

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

Set name: Seas of Higaro

Core concept: Top-down 'Brave New World' with Pirates, Conquistadors and Natives fighting over the resources of a recently discovered continent filled with dangerous monsters and treasure.

Seven Commons:

Wayward Conquistador
Creature - Human Knight
"He may have been a proper knight once, but the Ahul wilds can turn the most disciplined soldier into a stalker." - Edela Reyes

This is quite a limited monster on turn 5.  While I approve of Provoke as a mechanic in general, it's not a mechanic that screams "Conquistador" to me.

Cloudline Lookout
Creature - Human Pirate
Ambush - Whenever you cast a spell on an opponent's turn, Cloudline Lookout gains flying until end of turn.
The best lookouts are those eager to leap from the crow’s nest at first sight of a fight.

For the last several years, R&D has been pushing people towards playing spells on their own turns.  While this does a good top-down job of representing an ambush, I'd be wary of this mechanic as a major set theme; notice that there were only two common traps in Zendikar block.

Zealous Revenant
Creature - Zombie Pirate
Plunder a card in your hand (When this enters the battlefield, exile a card in your hand. When this leaves the battlefield, return each card exiled with this card to where it was exiled from.)
Bloodshed, at a price.

Now this has quite a lot of design space.  I'll be interested to see where it goes.  Some of the potential directions are dangerous waters, as it were.

Stormcrafting deals 2 damage to target creature. If you cast Stormcrafting on your turn, it deals 4 damage to that creature instead.

Why would you put this in the same set with Ambush?  Hate cards are fine, but outright anti-synergy is just unkind.

Ahul Trailblazer
Creature - Viashino Warrior
When Ahul Pathfinder enters the battlefield, explore 2. (To explore 2, reveal the top 2 cards of your library. Place any cards that share a card type with this card in your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.)
The Ahul landscape is so expansive that even the natives are still mapping it.

This is also a mechanic with lots of design space, but it seems quite high-variance; the difference between hitting zero, one, or two creatures with this is massive.  Something probably needs to be changed here.

Bleachbone Compass
T: Look at the top card of your library.
An industrious pirate uses every part of the kidnapping victim.

A fine top-down design, and I like the synergy with explore.

Treasure Chest
T, Sacrifice Treasure Chest: Draw a card.
“It might as well be full of lies, secrets, jealousy and triumph.” - Luisa the Bloodeyed

I suppose this boosts explore in conjunction with Bleachbone Compass and similar effects.  Unfortunately, it seems pretty silly by itself, especially without any sort of supporting artifact theme.


High seas adventure (Baloths of the Caribbean?) is a rich vein for design.  (There was a similar submission called Seas of Naviad which we also liked quite a lot; it didn't make top eight because these were too similar in concept.)  Lots of the mechanics here make sense, but it could use more precise resonance.  To me, the biggest question is, what makes this a naval set?  "Exploration World" was Zendikar, and I feel like this really requires something specific to make it about seafaring.  Furthermore, it needs to happen without setting apart blue as a color in a way that will alienate players.


  1. Some big potential here, but nothing really sticks out. I agree that seafaring has to be more important -- we could bring ships back to Magic, with a new implementation never seen before, for instance.

    I agree that Ambush doesn't work very well, and nor does explore.

    Plunder is definitely the best design here. I've seen it in a few iterations -- one of them just returned at the beginning of your next turn -- and it's been intriguing each time. Your iteration fits the flavor of 'pludering' very well, but as mentioned, is very strong -- Tidehollow Sculler probably shouldn't appear too often.

    Overall, this has some of the biggest potential of all the sets pitched so far.

    1. To me, the problem with plunder is that it really wants to be an action word in the vein of detain. Written as it is, it just doesn't work well as a keyword at all (specifically, a verbal keyword that hides an ETB trigger? bad form to me!).

    2. It wasn't an action keyword? I just assumed the dude was too lazy to write out "When this enters the battlefield".

      Definitely make it an action keyword.

    3. Plunder, as written, is a downside mechanic. You lose access to a card in your hand until your creature dies. You all were right to see other potential uses of plunder as a Tidehollow Sculler -type mechanic when targeting other players. That said, it feels more like Buried Treasure to me than plundering. And for that, I'd rather see something like this:

      When Salty Dog ETB, bury one treasure. (Exile the top card of your library face-down under ~. When it dies, put the exiled card into your hand.)

    4. The reason why Plunder is worded so vaguely is so that the folks who decide to work on this set have the most flexibility in design. I'm not crazy about the wording I have as worded, but I lifted it directly from the Champion mechanic (a mechanic I really like outside of the sacrifice trigger if there's nothing to champion).

      Plunder target artifact - upside

      Plunder target non-black creature - big upside

      Plunder another creature you control - downside

      Plunder each land you control - big downside

      I'm curious to see what other folks can do with the mechanic. I've designed a bunch of cards since my submission as both a downside mechanic and an upside mechanic and I think it fits both.

    5. Sounds like all of those were explored with the Nightmares in Torment and Judgment, though...

    6. The problem I have with plunder is that nowadays it's a white mechanic: remove stuff, but only temporarily. Giving red a "plunder target artifact" or black a "plunder target creature" is actually just worse than destroying them.

  2. I want to see (sea?) a set that wants Treasure Chest.

    Plunder seems like both a cool name for a mechanic and cool mechanic itself, but I might separate the two from each other. It almost feels like you're burying treasure that you come back to dig up later?

    Adding Conquistadors to Pirates seems like a fine choice. I think the flavor here has to be pretty promising, overall.

    I want to see the "wooing the governor's daughter" Magic card. Maybe a Mark of Mutiny variant?

  3. Nice submission. I see a lot of pirate flavor. Plunder is probably the coolest mechanic you have on display, but I would be wary of plundering cards from more than one zone due to memory issues. Treasure Chest is a very odd design at common (do you really want to pass that thing 7 or 8 times at the draft table?)

    As with all designers, I would avoid submitting flavor text - it distracts from your design and isn't really part of design.

    What I want to see from this set is a strong sea mechanic. Your set has "Seas" in the name, for crying out loud - where are my boats and ocean lands?

    1. In case anyone's reading some and not all of these, I will reiterate that I disagree with Evan about flavor text. To add something new, card's concept is part of the design. Sometimes that concept is made clear by the name, but often it needs help. Since it's not standard to write up artist directions, flavor text goes a long way toward demonstrating the essence of a card.

  4. I like the concept. Flesh out the initial world poor in resources but powerful, flesh out the new world rich but primal and dangerous, and flesh out the travels between a bit more. Try to break down which colors get what. I like plunder, but I would not like it to read from your hand. It should be a keyword, so it should fix who does it. An example would be:
    plunder X: target opponent chooses and exiles X cards from his hand with ~. When ~ dies return these cards to their owner's hand.

    And change the design you gave to, When ~ enters the game, an opponent plunders you.

  5. I like pirates, treasure and new world flavour, but I'm not really sold on any of the mechanics. I'd like a set with this flavour if we think of cards or mechanics that really fit it, but I'm not sure if we will.

  6. I feel that if this set succeeds in just portraying the sea, it will not be intriguing enough. It needs some other element in it that plays with the sea.

    1. For example a lost continent under the sea? I don't know what.

    2. Maybe a lost continent under the sea with merfolk, sea monsters, elder gods, etc. beginning to come on shore?

  7. This is another submission we received. We should take both ideas and put them together.

    Seas of Nayiad

    The premise of the set is a top down pirates and seafaring set. Leviathans, ghost ships, voodoo, merfolk luring sailors, mutiny, and above all, naval combat!

    'Now Sausagecookie, how are we going to represent naval combat?' You might ask. The answer is simple- somebody with a ship and a hook for a hand goes to a dock and bewitches a crew together with salty sea stories and promises of treasure. The way you represent that in Magic is easy- all the Eager Cadets and Glory Seekers just go with the Captain. or the Admiral.

    Grey Fleet Captain 3ww

    L. Creature- Human Sailor

    Voyage 4- when Grey Fleet Captain attacks, you may tap 4 creatures you control. If you do, Grey Fleet Captain gains +5/+5 and lifelink until end of turn.


    Of course, not everyone is the captain of a huge vessel.

    Whisperboat Ensign u

    Creature- Spirit Sailor

    Whisperboat Ensign is unblockable.

    Voyage 1- when Whisperboat Ensign attacks, you may tap a creature you control. If you do, Whisperboat Ensign gains +2/+0 until end of turn.


    Shadowsail Moaner 3b

    Creature- Spirit Shade Sailor

    Voyage X- when Shadowsail Moaner attacks, you may tap any amount of creatures. Shadowsail Moaner gains +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the amount of creatures tapped for this ability.


    And even though a good captain can train anyone to ride the waves, some sailors are just a cut above.

    River Coxswain 1g

    Creature- Elf Sailor

    When River Coxswain is tapped for a voyage ability, the voyaging creature gains islandwalk and +1/+1 until end of turn.


    But of course, not everything around will be a sailor. A good yarn needs a good monster.

    Mouth of the Deep 4uu

    Creature- Leviathan



    Or an enabler-

    Seasteam Merfolk 3uu

    Creature- Merfolk

    Swell- at the beginning of your upkeep, you may sacrifice Seasteam Pheonix. If you do, cast a spell with converted mana cost 6 from your hand without paying its cost.


    The ability is intended to make for a more shifting experience that allows for a lone sea monster to get stronger and more dangerous if you leave it alone. But of course, there are more than just the creatures. There's also the shifting of the tide.

    Shaman's Slur 1r


    Tide- at the end of your turn if your life total is odd, deal 1 damage to target player. If your life total is even, deal 1 damage to target creature instead.

    The general distribution-

    Tide is going into black and green, with a splash into white and red. It will be on enchantments, instants, and sorceries.

    Leviathans are going to be blue, but swell is going to be in red and blue, with a little green, and only on creatures.

    Voyage is going to see every color, with a slight preference for white. It is only for creatures.

  8. I think the Voyage mechanic has potential as a cleaner version of banding that also encourages attacking. I like how Sea Captains can be characterized by what they get from their crew. There can be Parrots and First Mate style guys that grant bonuses to someone whenever they becomes tapped.

    Tide could be fun if done in small numbers (like Fateful Hour or Cascade) and would show the fickle nature of sea travel. For example, there could be Islands or Ghost Ships that only appear some of the time, a Ship or Serpent that can only attack during high tides, etc.

    1. I also quite like Voyage and hope people designing for our nautical set consider it (or a variation thereof) as an option.

    2. Although I agree it has potential, as is it's an utterly unstreamlined mess that tries to combine keyword, ability word and action word characteristics. On the flavor side, I can't figure out what tapping creatures have to do with a clearly combatcentric mechanic (I think exalted is possibly the closest comparison).

    3. The comparison to Exalted is definitely the biggest hurdle for Voyage in my mind. It needs a bit of templating, but that's not a big deal. The flavor works perfectly for me: This band of creatures are hopping on the same boat and working as a single crew.

    4. The simplest implementation is just Board/Assault N (When this creature attack, tap any number of untapped creature your control. It gets +1/+0 for each creature tapped this way.) Anything more elaborate probably needs to be an ability word.

  9. Ambush could just be something like,

    Leaping Swashbuckler 2W
    Creature - Human Soldier
    Opportunity - Whenever you cast a spell, ~ gains flying until end of turn.

    It would help proactive attacking. Players can still activate them with instants on the opponent's turn for a surprise block and feel clever.

    1. I should add that this sounds perfect. I chose ambush as a mechanic for the Johnnys, not as some type of weird downside mechanic.

  10. This is the set that interests me the most I think. Some things I want to see out of pirate world:

    A parrot

    Cards that plunder things from the opponent - they're pirates!

    Explore changed: Choose 1 card that shares a type, put it in your hand? Or what I think is a better implementation: Explore N (Look at the top N cards of your library. You may reveal a land from among them, put it in your hand, and put the rest on bottom).

    A ship. How would we go about representing this?

  11. A side note about Treasure Chest:

    In my dungeon-crawler world, the card Treasure Chest is an absolute must to include. I also anticipated that Treasure Chest would be reprinted in a pirates-themed set, such as this one. I could also see it being printed in a Core Set.

    As such, I'd want it to be a more impactful design than the one you have there. But I get that you get it - the treasure chest has spoils in it that you don't know until you open it up. And the spoils vary. This is why you're drawing cards - because you get surprised by the results, which are random.

  12. Does "Bury" currently have rules text? Is it possible to use it once more? Would we be better served with "Hoard"?