Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Set Design: Athambia Academy 2

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

This is an academy, and as such, there is a heavy emphasis on your creatures learning, and casting spells. New mechanic "Teach" presents you with a choice: you can cast the spell yourself, or Teach it to one of your creatures, who will use it every time they attack. Another common cycle of spells allows you to enlist a creature's aid, as you can tap an untapped creature of the appropriate color rather than pay the spell's mana cost. Learning is also shown with returning mechanic Level Up. Level Up plays differently in Athambia Academy, as most cards include tapping as the level up cost rather than mana. In this way, your creature has to forgo combat and "hit the books" in order to study and become stronger.

Diminuo U
Target creature gets -2/-0 until end of turn.
Teach 2U (2U: exile this from your hand taught to target creature you control. Whenever that creature attacks, you may cast a copy of this from exile without paying its mana cost.)

The flavor here is obviously good.  I like that you found an effect which can be repeated as an attack trigger without being too oppressive.  The act of Teaching should probably take place at Sorcery speed, and I'm not sure the phrase "from exile" is necessary.  The faux Latin is also a nice touch!

Corvus Pathfinder  1U
Creature - Moonfolk Rogue
Athambia’s secret passageways didn’t stay that way for long.

Yup, this is a great natural partner for Teach.

Homesick 1U
Tap target creature. It doesn't untap during its controller’s next untap step. Draw a card.
A wave of sadness came over Iztali when he thought of his forest home on Naya. But the feeling quickly passed, as he watched his professor turn an inkwell into a newt.

Another way to get your Taught creatures through, or just top-down?  Seems fine as both, although I feel compelled to add that the "interplanar school" idea still seems way too much like crossover fanfic for my comfort.

Nimbus Pupil 2U
Creature - Moonfolk Wizard (1/4)
Level up T (T: Put a level counter on this. Level up only as a sorcery.)

This is a natural extension of Level Up.  I'm a little less sure about the gameplay merits of this version, though; having to keep your creature tapped all the time doesn't sound fun.  I suppose it's mostly an Errant Ephemeron with extra options, but I wonder if players will feel too conflicted about not leaving their Horned Turtle as a blocker.

Conjure Guardian 2U
You may tap an untapped blue creature you control rather than pay ~’s mana cost.
Put a 3/3 blue illusion creature token with defender and flying onto the battlefield. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the end step.

Totally dig the flavor.  However, I think a set can support at the very most a cycle of free spells at common, and both Level Up and Teach are taking up a lot of complexity points already.  I'd much rather see this at uncommon.

Corvus Prefect 4U
Creature - Vedalken Advisor
When Corvus Prefect enters the battlefield, untap all creatures you control.

Good synergies and good flavor.


These mechanics are very evocative of a wizardry academy, which is definitely conducive to player excitement.  I'm interested in the alternate Level Up costs, but not quite sold on tapping.  (After all, there's a reason real people don't spend every afternoon hitting the books in hopes of a future A+; they'd rather get out and have fun!)  I also want to find out more about the world, and what goes on at the school aside from learning.  What are the Houses other than Corvus, and what are they up to?


  1. This is a great pitch! I really enjoyed the mechanics. Good work. It has gotten me excited for further development.

  2. While I think it needs story development to continue, I really like this pitch. My favorite card among them is Corvus Prefect. I can just see the guy walking into a room and all the students sitting up in their chairs and paying attention. Nice job!

  3. Antny had some interesting ideas for learning too. While it's neat that different colors/schools learn differently, you don't want nearly as many counters floating around on creatures as his proposal would require. Even so, some of his triggers are quite excellent and could be ported over. If we're going with Level-Up (and why not?), I would certainly consider "Whenever you cast a spell, level up" or "Whenever you draw a card, if you have more cards in hand than ~ has level counters, level up." (but the second is wordy and requires a lot of math.

    Jacob's duelist idea might work if you can deal with the repeated reveals problem, possibly using Chah's tech of "reveal until it leaves your hand."

    Would we want Level-Up and Learn together? I don't think they fight mechanically, but there is thematic overlap. It might be just enough to get across the academic theme, but you can overdo a theme.

    1. There were also some neat level-up variants in some of the Mondombre submissions. The variants I like best are "Whenever this attacks, put a level counter on it at end of combat." and "Whenever you cast a [quality] spell, put a level counter on this". They also look nice written as "Level Up - Attack" or "Level Up - Cast a [quality] spell"

      Varaka Bully 1R
      Creature - Warrior (1/1)
      Level Up - Attack (whenever this attacks, put a level counter on it at end of combat)
      LEVEL 1-2
      First Strike, 2/1
      LEVEL 3+
      Doule Strike, 3/1

      Charms Pupil 2G
      Creature - Wizard (2/2)
      Level Up - Cast an enchantment spell (whenever you cast an enchantment spell, put a level counter on this)
      LEVEL 1-2
      Hexproof, 3/3
      LEVEL 3+
      Hexproof, 4/4

    2. The Teach mechanic could be reduced to a cycle of auras with "when enchanted creature attacks, [effect]". I do like the flexibility of being able to either cast the spell normally or teach it as a pseudo-aura, but its complexity points might be better spent to represent something else, once we flesh out the world concept further.

    3. Yes, agreed. These level-up variants are promising. I particularly like "Whenever you cast an enchantment, level up."

    4. As much as I love the instant/exile template (see below), James is probably right that it makes more sense to just make these auras:

      Fiery Incantation 2R
      Enchant creature
      When ~ ETB, it deals 1 damage to target c/p.
      Whenever enchanted creature attacks, it deals 1 damage to target c/p."

  4. Reading some of the other suggestions I saw Prophylaxis Ekkremes pitch had some ideas that might fit nicely in Athambia. I really liked the look of the knowledge mechanic and what he did with it. His Superior Intellect card looked really exciting as it played like counter spell of old if you could cast it right. I don't know what he would think about it, but reading it I just kept picturing a school setting.

  5. Awesome pitch. Really excited about the mechanical potential of this set. The flavor needs serious work to differentiate it from Harry Potter, though. You're already hitting on several Potter tropes (houses, faux-Latin spell names, prefects, etc.) and I feel like many (all?) of these need to be cut in favor of less derivative ideas. Evil teachers vs. good students? School vs. school? School vs. society? School vs. nature? School vs. the books people are trying to learn from? Who knows, but Hogwarts has *got* to go, and Athambia has to find its own voice.

  6. Diminuo 1U
    Target creature gets -2/-0 until end of turn.
    Teach (You may exile this card under a creature as it resolves. That creature has "T: Copy a spell this creature has been taught. You may cast that copy.)

    1. Not suggesting tapping is better than attacking, just offering another iteration to consider. I feel like there's great potential for this mechanic.

      Fiero R
      ~ deals 1 damage to target c/p.
      Teach (You may exile this card under a creature as it resolves. That creature has "T: Copy a spell this creature has been taught. You may cast that copy.)

  7. Quick Learner 2U
    1/1 Wizard (rare)
    Imprint—T: When target spell resolves, exile it.
    T: Copy a spell exiled by ~. You may cast that copy.

  8. What if we instituted a sort of "wisdom" mechanic? It wouldn't be keyworded, but it could be like "As long as you have more cards in hand than each opponent, X".

    1. I thought that sort of thing went over poorly in Saviors of Kamigawa.

    2. The problem being that holding cards == not playing cards.

      I see potential in "Whenever you cast a [noncreature] spell…"

      Alternately, "Whenever you cast a spell with CMC X…"