Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Set Design: Ankh-Theb 2

HV: This pitch is by George Gone.  My comments are in blue.  The pitch from round one is here.  The wiki page for this set is here

Sanguine Sacrificer - 1B
Creature - Human Cleric
Sacrifice a Creature: Creature spells you cast cost 1 less to cast until end of turn.

Common sac outlets make lots of sense given the theme.  This would probably read better (and play almost the same) as "Sacrifice a creature: Add B to your mana pool."

Common Cultist - 2BB
Creature - Human Rogue
Reincarnate - When ~ dies, you may pay 1B, if you do, return ~ to the battlefield from the graveyard transformed.
Attendant of Anubis
Creature - Hound
When ~ etb, destroy target non-black creature.

Reincarnate is an excellent mechanic.  Two things stand out about it on this card: first, I would get rid of the cost, which makes it closer to Undying/Persist and less like Regenerate.  (Regenerating creatures often decrease interactivity, since your opponent simply won't block or attack into them as long as you have the mana up.)  Second, adding an ETB effect makes this card far too complicated for common, especially since one's opponent can't see the back side of the card while it's on the battlefield.  

Prophesier of Plague - B
Creature - Rat Cleric
Whenever a creature dies, each opponent loses one life.

A pleasantly cheap Hissing Iguanar.  Very nice, although it should probably be "another creature" to avoid the question of whether it triggers itself.

Ancient Acolyte - 1B
Creature - Human Cleric
Reincarnate - When ~ dies, you may pay 0, if you do, return ~ to the battlefield from the graveyard transformed.
Satiated Scarab
Creature - Insect Warrior
When ~ etb, sacrifice a creature.

Honorable Scholar 2U
Creature - Human Wizard
When ~ etb, draw a card.
Reincarnate - When ~ dies, you may pay 2U, if you do, return ~ to the battlefield from the graveyard transformed.
Dishonorable Scribe
Creature - Bird Wizard
When ~ etb, draw two cards.

The same comments as above apply to these two cards.  Think about the common DFCs in Innistrad: most of them were straight-up vanilla, or possibly French.  

Prevent Passage - 1W
Creatures cannot enter the battlefield until end of turn.

Yikes!  That's a rules nightmare waiting to happen.  If I cast this in response to an opponent's creature spell, does it just stay on the stack forever?  I see how this is supposed to work with the theme, but there needs to be a simpler way.


The Reincarnate mechanic is cool, and I think it's strong enough to be one of the set's major themes.  In terms of real-world mythology, fitting it into an Egyptian-themed set is quite a stretch.  However, since we're not aiming for accuracy, mixing in some Hindu/Jain/Buddhist themes is totally legitimate.  The next step for this set is finding more mechanical themes that illustrate the world.  Will we keep the idea of multiple factions?  How will the color pie interact with these things?


  1. Prevent Passage is really a weird creature version of Silence.

    Personally I don't like Reincarnatre, but that's because I have an anti-recency bias: I don't like the idea of reusing a mechanic that was just introduced and much hyped.

  2. First of all, let me say I am quite glad Ank-Theb is doing well. That being said, I am a bit sad this mechanic was chosen. The mechanic is interesting in general, and flavorful, but it really really does not say Egypt to me.

    The theme of the set is Top-down Egyptian, so all my comments are made baring that in mind.

    I am not sure that Reincarnate, as implemented above, fits the Egyptian theme. Clearly the Judges do not consider it that much of a stretch. I can understand not wanting to be a slave to a theme (a classic error when designing), yet I think we should approach designing for Ankh-Theb in a similar way with designing for Innistrad. Take the tropes and design to fit them. Reincarnation, and returning from the tomb is not that much of an Egyptian theme to me. Obviously it can mean different things to different people.

    I also do not see the point of using double-faced cards here. Reading through MaRo's lines, in his articles about them, he said they will probably bring them back but for something that needs the element of transformation. I do not see that need in the set.

    I would be interested to see if we could brainstorm (for U) to see if we could modify it in order to make the proposed mechanic feel a bit more Egyptian, even if we completely eschew the whole tablets of law thing mentioned in the initial submission, but that is, once more, my individual opinion.

    I would like to lean a bit more about the evolution of the contest and the aim should be reiterated to better understand what we are doing at the moment.

    Even though I pitched the original theme, I understand this is a collective process, and that it can go very far away from my initial conception of it. As it stands now, if this mechanic is set in stone, I feel less inclined to design for this set, since I think we are moving away from what seemed to be important for me in the set. I will, obviously try to continue to contribute, because designing is not about designing what you had in mind but what people want, I just would be sad if we missed our chance to deliver a top-down Egyptian set and we instead designed some mechanics and simply coated them with Egyptian-looking texture.

    1. Nothing is set in stone. Please absolutely consider the other submissions from the wiki when designing for the next round.

    2. Nothing is set in stone... how about Hieroglyphs?

    3. Fading, I agree that the set should be top-down Egyptian. Some of the submissions were too focused on reveling in death and sacrifice, which felt more like an Aztec set. We shouldn't blend all these culture into one "exotic world" thing, if not for accuracy then for the sake of keeping this and future sets feeling different.

      I think the DFC mechanic can be made to feel more like an Egyptian afterlife rather than a reincarnation. I'll put some on the wiki.

    4. My beef with the Egyptian afterlife thingy is that the afterlife is exactly what it says: AFTER life. You go to a place where you are rewarded if you were a good person, or you get dissolved into nonexistence and sustenance for the Gods if you did not adhere to the rules. Coming back to the same world is not part of Egypt.

      The fear of being transformed into nothingness brings forth the will to either be good, or to cheat death. If we incorporate the ability to change the rules then the set has a twist to that.

      That is why I do not see the point of reincarnate. However we can create a justification, but we will be paying the price in flavor and resonance.

      Also while I liked DFCs, bear in mind of all the constraints in numbers of available slots that can be attributed to them in a given large set. Will they carry enough of the set's themes in all 5 colors?

      A way to introduce the tablets would be to make only about 5-10 DFCs colored and the rest be tablets of the laws that govern the afterlife that can be changed depending on the circumstances. This would be especially interesting in draft since it would make them more commonly available... forcing different draft strategies.

    5. As far as I can see, the two things that we can't not do are Mummies and Pyramids. Obviously we want to hit as many notes as we can and will eventually need a cohesive world structure, but it is as important if not more to hit egyptian tropes as egyptian culture.

    6. Fading, the version of reincarnate I was thinking of would have the creature return to the battlefield with shadow. It's like my Spirit Life idea except that it uses DFC to be clear. Those creatures will interact only with other creatures that entered the afterlife. It's like they're in their own world.

      Sometimes, when a mechanic seems wrong for a particular reason, and you need to think whether that reason applies to a particular execution of that idea or in all possible executions of that idea.

    7. Pasteur - I agree we still have not seen Pyramids and mummies (nor obeliscs, scarabs, hieroglyphs) but what are, according to you, the egyptian tropes you are refering to?

      Chah - The fighting in the afterlife part is more Norse than Egyptian in my book. Also DFC is not necessary for the creatures to get shadow when they die, a counter would fit the bill - remember we only have few DFC cards per set.

      I obviously am biased, so I will take a day or two to mull the thing over before commenting again :)

  3. We could help Prevent passage out by making it a sorcery and rewriting it so it prevents casting of creature spells until your next turn (which from a mechanical point views seems to be on the up based on RtR).

    As for the colour pie I'm a bit confused as to why there are multiple colours here, if this sets multicolour then are still using the original kingdoms set out intially or are we getting new three colour allians ala Shards of Alara. Simply put giving jay's questions in his summary how would we decide upon an answer?

  4. This use of DFCs is pretty neat and definitely has potential. The problem with designing a set online with DFCs is that the only playtesting method available to us (exporting cards from MSE to Octgn) doesn't physically support DFCs, which will make testing them very difficult.

    1. True, but we shouldn't consider it an unsurpassable obstacle; we can playtest locally as well.

    2. Yes, and I'm sure there are some workarounds for testing online, such as using tokens to represent the Night side of the cards.

  5. Pasteur's Ankh-Theb submission was my personal favorite, but there are ideas to be drawn from each of them. While I don't think the exile zone should be used as actively as some of the mechanics proposed, you could do similar things with the graveyard. I'll also call out Jacob's Sanctify; not as exciting as detain, but far from irrelevant and very in theme.

    I was surprised that the no-twist argument wasn't used against Ankh-Theb, which is still just a straight-up Egyptian set, but I think that was overlooked based on how deep the original theme is. I do suggest that anyone submitting for round three consider adding a twist. Maybe the line between life and afterlife is failing, maybe the gods are getting nasty (Kamigawa / Rise), maybe it's Egypt… In Space!

    1. The challenge for this set was:

      Challenge from Round 1:
      Find actual mechanics that support the Egyptian flavor.

      Even though I dislike the stretch of reincarnation (and therefore no afterlife), I spent some time to find a way to make it fit thematically and came up with this:

      If you do not fulfill some criteria you do not get an afterlife. Normally you would get eaten by the Gods bellow. A white villain takes pity on the devoured souls, changes the rules of getting to the afterlife.

      This has an unforeseen side-effect: souls linger on, uneaten, unable to go to the afterlife. That's what I got flavor-wise.

      It would require to change a bit the double-faced cards etc etc, but if we are going to stick with reincarnate, we will need something like that.

      As I pointed about sanctify in the wiki: Shroud exists already, there is no need to complicate things here. Every use of sanctify/sanctified could be replaced with "target creature gains shroud until eot" and instead of sanctified creatures get Z, creatures with shroud get X

      And for the love of Seth, do not set it in Space! If there is to be a twist, I must insist that Top-down Egyptian is more important than adding blueberry banana-hammocks.

    2. I've put up some discussion on the Ankh-Theb mechanics on the wiki, including sanctify. I'm afraid it's not very visible since it's buried under the menus, but it's under the mechanics section.

    3. I had noticed it, I just have not spent time yet moving the comments from "specific mechanics discussion" to it.

    4. One idea for a polt outline could involv slaves rising up against their masters, while the pharoahs try to supress them and kill off the ringleader.

    5. I agree with all of that, Fading, and I'm glad you responded as you did, because that's exactly the kind of conversation I was looking to provoke.

    6. Fading, I wasn't talking about where you should put your comments, I meant that I made a version of sanctify where it makes sense as a mechanic separate from shroud.

  6. Suppose the graveyard is where corpses go and exile is where souls go to rest. We can use Fading's afterlife to let "good" creatures go directly to rest and let the gods eat the rest.

    Pilgrim of Thoh 2U
    1/1 Flying Bird
    When ~ dies, if you cast a sorcery or instant spell this turn, exile ~. If you do, draw two cards.

    Sandsworn fighter 1R
    2/1 Viashino
    When ~ dies, if it attacked or blocked this turn, exile it. If you do, add RR to your mana pool at the beginning of your next main phase.

    Eater of the Dead

    Grave Idea BB
    Exile two creature cards from target player's graveyard. Draw two cards.

    Harvest Pyre

  7. From a mechanical standpoint, I like letting black exploit the opponent's graveyard. It plays up black's zero-sum nature (for me to gain something, you have to lose something), and makes black "destroy" effects feel like an advantage over white's exiling.

    Corpse Eater 3B
    Creature - Zombie
    When ~ enters the battlefield, you may exile a creature card from target opponent's graveyard. If you do, ~ enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it.

    Serve in Death 2B
    Return target creature card from an opponent's graveyard to the battlefield under your control.

    Also, I totally dig the honorable death effect on sandsworn fighter-- it feels like he was given a funeral pyre after falling in battle.