Monday, April 8, 2013

CCDD 040813—Colorless Frontier

Cool Card Design of the Day
4/8/2013 - What if we use the colorless-matters idea from Ekkremes for Frontier? Most Westerns are set in desert areas where life is hard not just for the people, but for everything. What if that were because there's not as much rich mana around? Explore with me.

This is the tamest idea. It's a green card with a green cost and you can cast it with basic lands. It rewards you for playing colorless lands, which would be abundant. While the flavor of husk doesn't make a lot of sense, what it makes you do to your deck is where the flavor of the set comes in: You have more desolate, barren lands and fewer fertile lands.

This Ghostfire descendant is the next more normal idea. It doesn't care about land or how you cast it, it's just that Thirsty Cactoid isn't as green as you'd expect. There would be other cards in the set that care about color. If they benefit it, we could make colorless cards like this better, and if they punish it, being colorless will be an advantage.

Another option is to make straight-up colorless cards like the Eldrazi. I added "purity" to this one to give it some color identity, but I don't know if that's good or bad. If you have an inclination, please share.

You could also combine both versions of Thirsty Cactoid and that's kind of neat, but I suspect too much weird and too much text for too little awesome.

Pretend that the {B} and {S} mana symbols above are both the colorless-only mana symbol. Sanguaro can be cast with {G} and a colorless mana or {G} and any two mana. As discussed here, I suspect that's the only way to use the colorless-only mana symbol in a card's mana cost before the first set of a block. That said, I'm not sure it's appropriate for a first set either.

Finally, we have the boldest idea:

What if you can't play basic lands in Frontier at all? Obviously, the set would have to be chock-full of nonbasic lands, including at least one in the basic land slot of each booster. Most would either produce colorless mana and/or be able to filter colorless mana into colored mana (like this). While this has huge implications for Constructed play, the first hurdle is ensuring that Limited play still works. And I imagine that having 18 new lands for each player at Sealed and Draft events will be a deal-breaker.

It's fascinating to me how many of the mechanical ideas we've considered for each of these three sets have potential applications outside the set they were proposed for. That's not to say I think any of the implementations of colorless-matters are good enough for Frontier, but it's certainly worth thinking about and may well lead to something distinctive and appropriate.

EDIT: It was fun to stumble on this old post a month after Oath of the Gatewatch released. I couldn't help but re-render two of the cards with the new colorless mana symbol.


  1. This is an interesting idea to brainstorm.

    Another idea:

    Dried Cactus (common)
    Creature - Treefolk
    {G}{G}{G}: Transform CARDNAME.
    Watered Cactus
    Creature - Treefolk
    (color indicator: green)

  2. Husk is the idea I like most in this batch. You're right that it's tame, but it plays up the "desert" flavor, and adds some payoff to running the set's colorless subtheme without overpowering Limited or warping the entire set around it. I could see myself drafting Aurochs Husk in a mostly-Aurochs deck or as a curve-filler in a generic midrange build, but splashing some "colorless mana maker" lands from later packs for random upside. It's not likely that I'll be able to play it as a 4/4 trampler on-curve, but even if I draw it in the later game, if I've managed to get my colorless enablers online, it retains its value.

    Colorless ala Ghostfire is not terribly interesting in itself. "Purity" creates a lot of feel-bads in Limited and will never be cast outside of a monocolor deck in Constructed. Sanguaro could work in limited quantities in the right set, but iirc Jon Loucks tried this in GDS2 and it was not received well. The new mana symbol might be confusing to players who don't know the difference between generic and colorless. Also, unlike Aurochs Husk, the colorless symbol provides no real benefit past the point at which a difference of 1cmc becomes irrelevant. Obviously you can scale up the cmcs of "hybrid colorless" cards, but doing so makes the non-colorless mode feel more and more unattractive.

    Lastly, I loathe bleached with a fiery passion. "You know those casual players who complain about Mr. Moneybags Spikes with their $250 manabases? Let's make a keyword mechanic that they'll hate EVEN MORE!" Yeah, that's gonna be a great way to sell packs.

  3. hmmm, some interesting ideas. Valuing colorless mana alone is a big step and when I got to Saguaro I honestly thought this was too far too fast. Thirsty Caphoid looks more Johnny than anything else, as 4/4 deathtouch for GGGG (if I'm interpreting casting right) still feels acceptable rather than terrifyingly good. part of me wonders whether you were intending Painter's Servant and chums when you designed it.

    Finally Bleached Wurm would be nice as a one off design in a rare slot. Limited will simply gain a dud rare (there are always get a few), but everyone else gets an interesting card. Personally I would push the build around me elements more; either with:

    Bleached Wurm (R)
    Creature - Wurm
    You not have more than one copy of any land in your deck if you have a copy of Bleached Wurm in your deck.

    Or the slightly more peculiar:

    Bleached Wurm(R)
    Legendary Creature- Wurm
    Lands you control are legendary

    I upped the stats to increase the build around me factor. I prefer the first despite the awkward phrasing as the second has issues with donate effects or being solved too easily by mirror gallery (although come to think of it that seems too fiddly for an average game).

  4. I'm with Jenesis. I don't like cards that say, "Please don't put me in your deck!"

  5. To clarify, I'm not suggesting all of these. In fact, I'm not suggesting any of them. I'm just pointing out that we could use colorless mana in Frontier quite flavorfully.

    It's also worth noting that if we use gold and it produces colorless mana, there's a lot of synergy there.