Friday, February 22, 2013

Ankh-Theb: Make your life now - Your next is not your own.

HV: This pitch is by James Bartolotti.  Here are the pitches from rounds onetwo, and three.

Mechanical Themes: Green and Blue have a theme of growth, realized with harvest counters that you gain from your creatures and spend for effects. White and Black interact with death, by avoiding it (the Mummify mechanic), or defiling it (e.g., Fallen Kathari). Red tribes make their life in the desert,  returning to strike at civilization in one large attack.

Kathari Priest 1WW
Creature - Bird Cleric (C)
Mummify (when this dies, return it to the battlefield with a mummification counter. It has no abilities and is a zombie in addition to its other types.)

Marsh Farmer  G
Creature - Crocodile Druid (C)
At the beginning of your upkeep, You gain a harvest counter.
G, pay 2 harvest counters: Put a 1/1 green insect creature token onto the battlefield.

Field Irrigator 2U
Creature - Snake Druid (C)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you gain a harvest counter.
1, Pay 1 harvest counter: Target creature gains islandwalk until end of turn.

Viashino Flintmaster 2R
Creature - Viashino Nomad (C)
When ~ enters the battlefield, add RR to your mana pool.

Surge Summoner 2U
Creature - Crocodile Wizard (C)
When ~ enters the battlefield, return target creature to its owner's hand if you've cast another spell this turn.

Temple of the Harvest God 1
Artifact (C)
T, tap an untapped creature you control: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Sekh's Servant W
Creature - Human Worker (C)
Whenever ~ becomes tapped, target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn

Fallen Kathari 3B
Creature - Zombie Bird (C)
When ~ enters the battlefield, you may exile a creature card from a graveyard. If you do, ~ gets +2/+2 and gains haste until end of turn.

Unhallowed Conscription 2B
Sorcery (C)
Return target creature card from an opponent's graveyard to the battlefield under your control with a mummified counter and no abilities. It's a zombie in addition to its other types.

Jackal Scavenger 1R
Creature - Hound (C)
When ~ deals combat damage to an opponent, you may discard a card. If you do, draw a card.

Harvest Master 4GG
Creature - Crocodile Druid (U)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you gain a harvest counter.
G, Pay 3 harvest counters: Creatures you control get +2/+2 until end of turn.

Desert Mirage 2R
Sorcery (U)
Up to two target creatures can't block this turn.
You may cast target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard. If that card would be put into a graveyard this turn, exile it instead. 

Voice of Sekh 3WW
Creature - Human Cleric (U)
When ~ enters the battlefield, put three 1/1 white human creature tokens onto the battlefield.
Tap three untapped creatures you control: ~ gets +2/+2 and gains lifelink until end of turn.

Tyrant Pharoah 2BBB
Creature - Human (R)
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice a creature other than ~. If you can't, ~ deals 6 damage to you.
Mummify (when this dies, return it to the battlefield with a mummification counter. It has no abilities and is a zombie in addition to its other types)

I talked about some of the potential issues with Mummify after the previous pitch. Giving up +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters for a set is a pretty big loss of design space. But it is a possibility, if we want to bite the bullet and go for it. However, I'm just not sure that coming back with no abilities is sexy enough. It is an excellent portrayal of mummification, but is the gameplay value high enough? Cards like Tyrant Pharoah appeal to a relatively narrow slice of the player base.

Harvest counters preserve the awesomeness of Thallids while reducing bookkeeping by putting all the counters in one place. I like this mechanic a lot, and there's definitely a large amount of design space in it. It's pushing the limits of NWO at common, but could be exactly the right place to spend our complexity points. The one major problem is that it's almost entirely parasitic; aside from Proliferate shenanigans, these cards have little synergy with other sets. Having a second unique counter type in one set makes me leery of the bio-dome.

The white tapping theme is cool and in-flavor, although somewhat fiddly. I can't tell what's going on in red; Desert Mirage supports the "one big turn" theme mentioned above, but Viashino Flintmaster seems to exist for his pal Surge Summoner, and I have no idea what the Jackal's deal is.

All in all, lots of neat designs. Harvest counters are a big winner. I'm not sure that they belong in the same set as Mummify, though.


  1. I don't understand what design purpose harvest counters serve. Yes, I understand what they do mechanically, but I'm not sure why I would be excited to play with them. Game designers love creating new kinds of resources and things you would love to do with them. But is it really elegant, or even necessary, to do so?

    Is Magic a game that has a shortage of resources? In addition to the obvious one (mana), other resources include paying life, tapping permanents, discarding cards, sacrificing permanents, returning things to your hand, exiling things from your graveyard, milling yourself...can you not create interesting enough gameplay using these resources?

    Let us look at Eldrazi Spawn. They serve two purposes in ROE: 1) They make your mana curve more consistent so you can play the big expensive creatures in your deck. 2) They serve as chump blockers and annihilator fodder so you can survive longer against your opponents' big creatures.

    What are harvest counters for? "They're a resource that other cards let you spend" isn't enough. What gameplay do they create? Why is it worth the complexity points you're spending on them? What ideas are you trying to communicate that you can't do with the resources the game already has?

    1. I agree with this. I mean, I love me a thallid as much as the next guy, but their time really seems to have past. They represent a ton of bookkeeping, fiddly bits and on the board complexity.

      I do like what they represent mechanically, though.


      Harvest Master 4GG
      Creature - Crocodile Druid (U)
      At the beginning of your end step, add G to your mana pool.
      2GG: Put a +1/+1 counter on creatures you control.

      Marsh Farmer G
      Creature - Crocodile Druid (C)
      At the beginning of your end step, add G to your mana pool.
      3G: Put a 1/1 green insect creature token onto the battlefield.

    2. On Mummification:

      Mummify (When this dies, return it to the battlefield facedown and tapped as a 2/2 creature.)

      This feels like a compromise between your earlier versions and the present. It massively limits on the board complexity, opens you back up to +1/+1 counters and still captures the flavor of what's going on.

    3. I like this version of harvest a lot more than any of the previously proposed ones. My concerns would be that:
      1. It only works in green without some serious pie stretching.
      2. It reads a bit strangely at first glance.

      One way to tweak it would be to instead make abilities that cost less to activate during your own end step (which any color can do). Unfortunately that solution loses the capability of getting a free activation.

      It could also be a trigger that makes target perm thanent's abilities cost 1 less to activate this turn, but that leads to all sorts of combo-rific shenanigans.

      We could associate a creature type with the mechanic and make their abilities cheaper for each creature of that type you control, but at that point limiting it to a given step feels tacked on while still being necessary for the harvesting feel.

    4. I'm also of the mind that harvest counters aren't doing nearly enough for the set to warrant their inclusion. I don't know that can't be changed by adding splashier effects, but I much prefer Wobbles' and Jules' alternate thoughts. Here's another:

      Blue and green get a bunch of cantrips, as well as permanents that either untap when you cast a spell, turn on an ability, or trigger an effect. Examples:

      Stream Singer G
      1/1 Druid
      Whenever you cast a spell, add G to your mana pool.

      River Warden 2U
      1/3 Wizard
      Whenever you cast a spell, you may draw a card, then discard a card.

      Bankwalker 2U
      2/3 Beast
      Whenever you cast a spell, untap ~.

      Great Fisher 2G
      2/2 Bear
      Whenever you cast a spell, untap ~.
      T: Gain 1 life.

      Water Spurter 1UU
      2/2 Wizard (unc)
      T: Counter target spell unless it caster pays 1. Activate this ability only if you've cast a spell this turn.

      Elixer Mixer 3G
      2/3 Shaman
      T: Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. Activate this ability only if you've cast a spell this turn.

    5. This idea seems like fun, but even if we can circumvent the complexity issues with stacking triggers by making the order irrelevant I'm afraid of this weaker Storm variant developmentally.

      Unlike Storm, I think this CAN be balanced, but any card costing less than five probably needs an effect that won't win the game if triggered fifteen times.

    6. I think that you could reduce the stretch by having the creatures produce colorless mana. Most colors have at least some experience with producing mana through creatures, even if it's a bit of a stretch.

      The other mechanical idea that I had for a "farming" theme would be:

      Marsh Farmer G
      Creature - Crocodile Druid (C)
      Harvest G (You may have this creature enter the battlefield tapped. If you do, you may pay its harvest cost at the beginning of your next upkeep)
      If Marsh Farmers harvested, put a 1/1 green insect creature token onto the battlefield.

      It's kind of a delayed kicker that lets you spread the cost between two turns, if you want. It certainly has a farming feel to me, but maybe someone else has a better template for it.

      I'm not sure I see the connection between casting spells and farming with Jay's suggestion, but the green and blue cards seem ridiculous.

    7. Spells/Mana ~ Fertility is what I was going for.

      Marsh Farmer could be simply:
      ~ ETB tapped. When ~ ETB, put a 1/1 green insect creature token onto the battlefield.
      Echo G
      When you pay ~'s echo cost, put a 1/1 green insect creature token onto the battlefield.

    8. Maybe to differentiate it we could link them together to make subsequently bigger and bigger harvests. i.e.

      Branch Binder 1G
      Creature-Crocodile Shaman
      Whenever ~ or another creature enters the battlefield under your control you may tap that creature and pay G. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.

    9. I really particularly like Wobbles' Harvest Master/Marsh Farmer at the top of this thread. Seems new, fun, and balance-able to me. End step isn't the only way to do it, but the more I run it through in my head, the more I find that simple and appealing.

      Echo kicker would be interesting if we made ALL Echo costs farmingly-flavored, so you could say "When you pay an echo cost, ----". I could imagine some interesting cards that way, and it feels a little bit like building a civilization.

  2. I'm probably biased as I used a lot of similar mechanical ideas in my Ankh-Theb pitch, but I really liked this pitch a lot. There's nothing wrong with having counters as a major theme in a set and people have no trouble using different colored dice to represent different counters. Perhaps cards that loose abilities if +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters are placed on them might help ease people's worries.

    We could look to reuse persist or undying over mummify counters, as they still fit the general graveyard theme we seem to be moving towards with this set.

    It's interesting to note that all 3 pitches seem to have focused on adding complexity to payment either by adding new payment methods (such as harvest counters or gold coins) or by focusing heavily on colour requirements. Until these sets are playtested it's going to be hard to know how they fare.

  3. I like Mummify a bit more than Ari. I find this particular argument specious: "Giving up +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters for a set is a pretty big loss of design space." The only thing limiting design space is a commitment to only ever use +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters. Yes, we won't be able to make many oozes in Ankh-Theb, but getting away from +1/+1 counters actually opens us up to do the sorts of things you only think of when you can't use size-altering counters.

    His argument that Mummify may not be sexy enough stands… particularly after Persist and Undying.

  4. Okay, stop me if this one has been done before, but:

    Mummify (If this kills a creature with no -1/-1 counters on it in combat, return that creature to the battlefield under your control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

    ...potentially with the rider "It gains Mummify."?

    1. I'm worried that like Sengir Vampire, this will never actually trigger. It's far less elegant, but maybe we could do:

      Mummify(When this enters the battlefield put a curse counter on target creature an opponent controls. When that creature dies return it to the battlefield under your control. [Optionally: It has mummify.])

  5. Re: Mummify: I'd rather see a strong Mummy creature theme than a mechanic explaining how things become mummies.

    1. A couple takes on a Cursing mechanic for mummies:

      Vengeful Mummy 2B
      Creature - Mummy
      Curse1 (when this dies, exile it cursing target player)
      At the beginning of cursed player's upkeep, that player loses 1 life.

      Lingering Death 2B
      Creature - Mummy
      Curse2 (when this dies, exile it cursing target creature)
      Creatures cursed by ~ get -1/-1

    2. The number (Curse1/2) has no rules meaning, it's to differentiate two ways to take the mechanic: cursing players or creatures

    3. Hmm, the fact that it's attached to something other than one of your creatures does eliminate the confusion of creatures that return as beneficial auras. Interesting.

  6. I really like the end-step mana Harvesters and the Echo-like Harvest. My one concern with the end-step mana Harvesters is that the design space at common might be somewhat limited, since activated abilites that affect combat in any way are kind of a non-bo with the mana generating ability.

    The echo-Harvest subtly works well with effects that want you to play multiple spells per turn, as it gives you something to do with your mana that doesn't involve spending cards, letting you save up for a turn with a bunch of Surge Summoners. Wizards put both Echo and Storm in Red for Time Spiral, and I don't think that was an accident.

    Jay's "Whenever you cast a spell" triggers didn't look as exciting to me on my first glance, but they do lead to a lot of fun interactions with cantrips, flash spells, gating creatures, and cards like Viashino Sandscout and Burning-Tree Emissary.