Monday, December 3, 2012

Ekkremes: Embrace the Age of Mana

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

Set: Ekkremes

Pitch Name: Embrace the age of mana

Mechanical Themes: Sunburst, Monocolor-Hybrid, Colorless matters (with Building subtype for colorless-producing lands)

50 Word Summary:
Sunburst, representing Ekkremes's reemergence of mana, appears in all colors but is focused in Green and Red, with Red getting one-shot mana filtering to support it. Monocolor-Hybrid and colorless-matters (all colors, but mostly Blue/Black/White) represent the technotopia that dominated a mana-poor world. Smoothing mechanic Bulldoze supports both multicolor and colorless.

Flame Weaver 1R
Creature - Goblin Shaman
When ~ enters the battlefield, add one mana of any color to your mana pool

This sort of one-shot mana effect on a creature is fine in red, and a good way to support Sunburst.

Militant Mystic 2R
Creature - Human Wizard
Sunburst - ~ enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it.
First strike

I'd prefer Haste here, since a 3/3 First Striker is such a beastly blocker to get around.

Demolition Crew {2/R}{2/R}
Artifact Creature - Human Mutant
Bulldoze - When ~ enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a land. If you do, search your library for a basic land card or a Building card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.

There was disagreement among the judges as to whether colorless hybrid and Sunburst belong in the same set.  My opinion is that they do not, because they push players in directions that are directly opposite.  

In any case, Bulldoze is a decent fixing mechanic with good flavor.  Colorless lands seem harder to design for at common, but perhaps Buildings can be made to work.

Solar Flare 2R
Sunburst - Creatures you control get +1/+0 until end of turn for each color of mana spent to cast ~.

Two Sunburst cards at common tells me that we are in a multicolor set.  That's fine, but I think the monocolor theme has to go in that case.

Power Plant 2
Operate 1 (1: Attach an unattached creature you control to this artifact, or unattach a creature from it. An attached creature can't attack or block. Operate only as a sorcery.)
T: add 1 to your mana pool. If a creature is operating ~, add one mana of any color to your mana pool instead.

This template for Operate is nicely succinct.  Another Sunburst enabler.

Factory Explosion 2R
Destroy target artifact. If any creatures were operating that artifact, ~ deals 2 damage to each of those creatures.

A fine sideboard card against that jerk who opened the mythic airship or mecha.


At some point, a decision must be made: is Ekkremes a block with a major multicolor theme, a minor multicolor theme, a minor monocolor theme, or a colorless-matters theme?  (I don't believe a major monocolor theme is feasible.)  These options lead to different directions, and I believe they are mutually exclusive.  I like the "Magic vs. Machines" theme that seems to be arising here, and think that's a reasonable way to make an artifact-themed set that feels not at all Mirran or Phyrexian.  


  1. I'm not sure I agree there is a fundamental problem with mixing twobrid and Sunburst. It lets us have things like a {2/g}{2/g} 0/0 (or 0/1) with Sunburst, after all. Plus twobrid cards (at least the smaller ones) are easier to cast if you don't have to worry about the colors (CMC2 twobrid cards would have an odd effect on limited though, since they are usually draftable as CMC2 colorless cards).

    I do agree opposing sunburst/multicolor and colorless (as opposed to a mono/multicolor or colored/colorless opposition) is a problem though.

    1. I think twobrid belongs on cards where you can get excited by imagining casting them for the cheapest amount possible. A 1/1 or 1/2 for GG is terrible, so having the option to pay that cost isn't really getting you much.

      In general, I think the problem with mixing those mechanics on one card is that the mana cost says "Most efficient in monocolor" but the rules text says "Most efficient in multicolor." There's no clear idea of what deck you build for it.

      Having both twobrid and sunburst in the same set, but on different cards as disjoint themes, could be workable, but what's the benefit? Support for the occasional monocolor drafter in a multicolor set?

    2. Since we haven't seen twobrid a lot so far, it *is* probably right to have them be exciting at their cheapest possible; but the ability to cast a card for GG - 1/2, UUG - 2/3, UGB-3/4, and WUBR - 4/5 *is* interesting, for sure.

    3. GG gets you a 2/3 or even a 3/2 trampler at common. While we should expect something less efficient in exchange for the options we've gained, no one won't be angry to get a crappy 1/2 for GG.

      Usually, CC indicates that you should commit to that color to get a particularly efficient card. Counter-intuitively, this card is better with less green. It's almost as if the cost is !G!G (Where !C is any color but C, as considered for Bradley's four-color world).

    4. I think the answer (for this individual card) is to make it a 2/G2/G Sunburst Deathtouch. It's definitely green, and the Deathtouch is much more relevant on a 1/2 two-drop than a 4/5 four-drop.

      There's a LOT of work involved in making a Limited environment work with this sort of thing, though.

  2. I like the looks of those operate cards. I notice the templating on operate allows for multiple creatures being attached to a single artifact, allowing for artifacts that require at least N creatures, or have an effect scaling with the number of operating creatures or whatever. Could be nice to play up token-making a bit in the colorless-associated colors.

    1. An older version of Power Plant added mana equal to the number of creatures operating it, but in general I think the scaling effects or "needs three operating creatures" effects should be at higher rarities. Tokens would be a good way to support the scaling effects, I like it.

  3. I want to call out Purity from George Gone's submission:
    Purity (You may cast this card any time you could cast an instant if only red mana is spent to cast it.)

    We don't have to use that particular effect or the ability at all, but the condition supports monocolor-matters and is both simple and intuitive.

    1. The other good thing about Purity is that it gives a bonus to monocolor, but multicolor decks can use it too-- just at a later stage of the game, once they've fixed their mana.

      Knowledge Aforethought 2U
      Sorcery (C)
      Purity - You may cast this card any time you could cast an instant if only blue mana is spent to cast it.
      Draw two cards.

      Ritualistic Scarring - XB
      Sorcery (R)
      Purity - You may cast this card any time you could cast an instant if only black mana is spent to cast it.
      All creatures get -X/-X until end of turn.

  4. I'm of the opinion that the mono color matters theme is far more interesting than colorless matters.

    We've had artifact sets. Rise had a colorless emphasis. We've never had a set really reward us for being devoted to one color.

    Also, Identifying with a color is just as interesting as identifying with a guild.

    1. Shadowmoor limited decks often rewarded you for being monocolour.

      Torment had a lot of rewards for monoblack decks.

      Both of them had unusual set *distributions* to make monocolour more achievable in Limited, though. If you want to emphasise monocolour, you can't have the usual distribution of 18 commons in each of the five colours plus a small number of artifacts.

  5. Playing Devil's Advocate to Ari's responses:

    I'm personally a little squeamish about red creating mana of any color. I agree it's passable in an unusual environment (which this is) as a crust ability, but it still looks weird to me. One alternative is to allow green to produce any color and red to produce Jund colors.

    I agree that Sunburst and colorless-hybrid shouldn't appear on the same card, with the possible exception of a rare or two. Partly because that sends a mixed message and partly because it turns out to be REALLY hard to design a card that is decent at every possible cost.

    I'm not sure why two sunburst cards at common indicate a multicolor set to Ari. Sunburst debuted in Fifth Dawn on six common cards (+10 more at other rarities) and the set has no gold cards at all.

    He is right that we need to settle on the set's primary mechanical identity. The path I'm most curious about is whether we can mirror Shadowmoor. Instead of promoting single-land-type decks with multiple colors via hybrid, maybe we can promote multi-land-type decks with single colors via sunburst.

    1. Fifth Dawn may have had no gold cards, but it was certainly a multicolor set. It told players, "Play a bunch of colors!"

    2. True. So does monocolor-hybrid. (Because 2/W 2/W 2/W is much easier to cast in a multicolor deck than WWW is.) Maybe Ekkremes is a multicolor set and supports that theme with more colorless cards and costs, exactly like Fifth Dawn did.

    3. I don't really agree. When I see a card that costs 2/W 2/W 2/W, my first thought is to play it in a mono-white deck so I can cast it for cheap.

    4. And that's fine. But Spectral Procession could just as easily have been WWW. If you compare that version with the printed version, it's clear that one pushes you toward white and one absolutely demands monocolor-white.

      Adding monocolor-hybrid doesn't push you more toward monocolor than a set without it, it enables multicolor.

      (I will also add that 2/C 2/C 2/C isn't the only way to use MCH. You could easily do 2 2/C or even 2/C 2/D)

    5. One suggestion that came up earlier in the forums was to provide a small benefit if you paid the full cost of a twobrid spell. Even in monocolor you can get the full effect, but you have the option of casting it cheap.

      Job Fair {2/W}{2/W}
      Put two 1/1 white worker creature tokens onto the battlefield. If you paid 4 to cast this, put three tokens onto the battlefield instead.

    6. {2/C}{2/D} is effectively gold, traditional hybrid, and colorless, all in one cost. That's impressive, maybe a bit too much of a headache though?

      Bird {2/W}{2/U}
      creature - bird

    7. What about something like this?

      Creature - Ooze

      Then you get a 3/2 for GG on turn 2 and a 4/3 or 5/4 for Woolly Thoctar mana. It probably should be uncommon, but I think it's doable.

    8. I love these last two designs (by James and Ben).

  6. Sunburst on a twobrid card seems completely untenable to me- far too many different modes for mana costs and sizes. It would have been fine in Future Sight.