Monday, December 3, 2012

Ankh-Theb: The Mummy Returns

HV: This pitch is by James Bartolotti.  My comments are in blue.  Here are the pitches from rounds one and two.

Set: Ankh-Theb

Pitch Name: The Mummy Returns

Mechanical Themes: WBR desert society, with Mummify and Exiling creatures from graveyards as a cost. GU river society, with Cyclic growth ("Thallid" mechanic).

50 Word summary:
The path to the afterlife is getting harder to achieve. Instead of finding peace, the recently deceased are returning as undead husks of their former selves. Some blame the secularization of the river society, who forgo the gods for bountiful life on earth. Others blame the cultists who desecrate the dead.

Pharaoh's Cat 1W
Creature - Cat
Mummify (When this dies, return it to the battlefield with a mummified counter and no abilities. It's a zombie in addition to its other types.)

Mummify is a flavorful variation on Persist/Undying with a reasonable amount of design space.  Like both of those, I think it would play well.  One major potential problem is that mummify counters don't mix well with either +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters, which cuts out a significant amount of design space for the rest of the set.  Another is that it's not entirely obvious, on first reading, that this doesn't allow the creature to return multiple times.  The fact that the ability gets rid of itself is very endearing to the Melvins among us, but potentially confusing for players.

Pyramid Laborer 2W
Creature - Human Artificer
Whenever ~ becomes tapped, you may gain 1 life.

This plays nicely with the various cards representing the labor of building pyramids and statues.

Temple Guardian 3W
Creature - Human Warrior
Mummify (When this dies, return it to the battlefield with a mummified counter and no abilities. It's a zombie in addition to its other types.)

One nice thing about the Mummify keyword is that vanillafication can strengthen creatures as well as weaken them.  You could do similar things with a Crazed Neonate or Welkin Tern

Soul Sanctifiers 4W
Creature - Hound Cleric
Whenever a Zombie dies, you may exile it and gain 2 life.

Good flavor here as well.  I'm not convinced that the exiling is necessary- players may not know whether to gain 2 or 4 life when they control two of these.

Spirit Voyage W
Exile target creature you control. At the beginning of the next end step, return that card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

I'm not sure how this supports the theme, unless we want to play around in the exile zone.  (I certainly don't!)

Temple of Eternal Rest 2
T, tap an untapped creature you control: Exile target card from a graveyard.

Plays well with Pyramid Laborer and hoses mummies.  Very nice.


This submission is mechanically solid, and the flavor is definitely present as well.  Aside from the issues noted above, I am moderately concerned that Mummify is not quite exciting enough to be a flagship mechanic for a large set.  It's certainly more authentically Egyptian than Reincarnate from the round two pitch, but I find it hard to imagine people wanting to build decks around it.  The other obvious question is, how does the GU Thallid mechanic work?  Do we really want fungus counters and mummify counters together?  There are definitely some good ideas in here, but I think some of them are going to have to change for this set to get there.


  1. "The other obvious question is, how does the GU Thallid mechanic work?"

    I think it's probably a kind of "growing" charge counter (as found on Aether Vial or Golden Urn), but for nonartifact permanent. I'd call it a harvest counter.

    1. I was looking for something to represent the cyclic nature of the Nile, and settled on Thallid-like "every three turns" cards.

      Pest-Ridden Crop G
      Creature - Plant
      At the beginning of your upkeep, put a harvest counter on ~.
      Remove three harvest counters from ~: put a 1/1 green insect creature token onto the battlefield.

      Sobek Farmer 1G
      Creature - Crocodile Druid
      At the beginning of your upkeep, put a harvest counter on ~.
      Remove three harvest counters from ~: Add GGG to your mana pool.

      Green Harvest cards could grow themselves, while Blue Harvest cards could direct growth:

      Field Irrigator 1U
      Creature - Human
      At the beginning of your upkeep, put a harvest counter on target permanent you control.
      Remove a harvest counter from ~: Target creature gains islandwalk until end of turn.

  2. Maybe the mummify counters and the harvest/thallid counters could be the same thing. You could call it a harvest counter, because harvest (at least in English) sort of has a "harvested soul" connotation, which is nice. From a flavor perspective, the mummies lose the ability because they're dumb undead zombies. The river thallid people lose their abilities because they're too busy working on the harvest to do anything else (but strangely they'd still be able to attack and block?).

    Permanents with harvest counters on them would lose all abilities. In return, some of the G/U cards allow you to remove a number of counters (from a single permanent or multiple permanents) in order to gain an effect.

    This is potentially a rules nightmare (Humility has always been one of the top rules offenders) but I think the idea should be given some thought. I don't know what James has in mind for the Thallid people, though.

    1. I don't think it's worth trying to shoehorn both types of counters into the same type yet. In recent history, there have been sets with multiple counters (Scars of Mirrodin -1/-1 and charge counters, Zendikar +1/+1 and quest counters), although the different counters seem to always appear on different card types to reduce confusability.

  3. Is it possible to build in some more support for the mummies? The first thing that comes to mind is Muraganda Petroglyphs. Is there room for a "creatures with no abilities" subtheme?

    Such a theme could work well with token producers. Another way to support it would be a mechanic like morph (or maybe a set of lands/sorceries that could also be played as vanilla creatures). We don't want to take up too much space in the set with vanilla creatures!

    It could also be themed as such: unskilled workers (zombies?) working to build the pyramid.

    Pyramid Slave Driver 2W
    Creature - Human Advisor
    tap an untapped creature with no abilities you control: add 1 to your mana pool.

    Pyramid slave rebellion leader guy 2R
    Creature - Human Rebel
    whenever a creature you control with no abilities attacks, it gets +1/+0 until end of turn

    1. I think "creatures with no abilities" is not exciting enough for even a subtheme.

    2. I've noted elsewhere the issue is really that it's not possible to do this kind of thing with no actual hook to refer to these cards. This is one thing that Yu-Gi-Oh did right IMO: by making sure it had a classification into normal/effect (and a few others), it allowed them to leverage their vanillas to create a bunch of effect variants by restricting existing cards.

  4. I don't mind that subtheme, except for the fact that it's not common. If we do use it, I think we could have a cycle at uncommon, and more of these at rare.

    1. I imagine Mummify being about as integral to the set as Morbid was to Innistrad. It's present enough to stand out and support the theme, but we're not selling the set around it.

  5. Borrowing Learn/Teach from Athambia:

    Tha's Glyph 2R
    ~ deals 1 damage to target c/p for each mana spent casting it.
    Hieroglyph R (Rather than cast ~ from your hand, you may exile it. Scholars you control have "T: Copy ~ and cast the copy for its Hieroglyph cost.)

    1. This is a neat version for the setting, and I like how limiting it to a creature subtype should make it easier for your opponent to deal with.

    2. Agreed. Maybe Advisors, not Scholars? I also think this exact template is too confusing and needs some sort of wording change.

  6. I'll admit I was tickled that Mummify's wording naturally stops it from working more than once, but it could be made more clear in the reminder text

    Mummify (When this dies, if it had no mummified counters, return it to the battlefield with a mummified counter and no abilities. It's a zombie in addition to its other types.)

    1. Yes. As originally written, the counter doe not actually have any rule significance because nothing has been tied to the counter's presence!

  7. I agree with the judge's comments, but I like the flavour a lot, I think we can improve them, and I'd definitely like to play this set.