Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Designing Suvnica, Week 2: Urban Sprawl

(6/10: This post originally incorporated the design reviews from Week 1 for Gruul (now located here) and Orzhov (now located here). I moved them when making the Suvnica design index for easier navigation and uniformity. Some of the comments below may refer to the design reviews.)

Onto the next two guilds:

Rethinking Dimir: Sometimes Paranoia is Just Having All the Facts...

Dimir Recommended Reading: 

The Dimir on Ravnica look to gain power, and knowledge is their tool: they acquire it, manipulate it, deny it, barter it.... Black goals, Blue means. When we flip it for Suvnica, we're looking at a guild that's end goal is the accumulation of knowledge, and will gain it through any means available and necessary. More than any other guild I've considered so far, this one wants to tell a story: The guild is built around a leader or small cabal who have foreseen some pending apocalyptic event, and are doing everything they can to survive it. Unfortunately, they know little about it and are weary that in attempting to learn more, they may inadvertently cause it. They are very selective in recruiting as a result, and have no desire to save the world as much as save themselves. They have an almost pathological obsession with gathering all information, no matter how esoteric or seemingly irrelevant, all in the hopes of finding out more about what is going to happen and what can be done about it.

Rethinking Boros: Superfriends, Assemble!

Boros Recommended Reading:

So here's the thing about Original Flavor Boros: from a flavor and philosophy perspective, it's basically a monowhite guild. Setting aside the card mechanics, there's nothing that Red adds to Zealous Army that White doesn't already have. It's a White ends (order, protection of society), White means (regimented army) guild. Given the parameters of how I'm rethinking each guild, this lets me insert Red either way. 

In my mind, this is the Vigilante guild. These are the people who reject society's and legal systems methods of dealing with injustice. They see how justice systems are perverted by corruption, and instead they choose to live by a simple philosophy: Do the right thing. Everyone's "right thing" may vary a little, but ultimately most members of Suvnica's Boros agree that innocent people should be protected, especially from people in authority. Some seek to punish those that harmed innocents, while others are more focused on preventing the harm in the first place.

Second Verse, Same as the First

So the challenge this week is the same as last: 
  1. Give a brief description for a proposed new creative vision for Boros or Dimir, distinguishable from Ravnica's (optional)
  2. Make some cards that match the flavor of your, my, or someone else's vision of said guilds (also optional)
    • Limits: Don't start designing guild keywords or filling in cycles (like guild champions)
Since by Thursday I'll have relocated to the West Coast, the new submission cutoff is Thursday at 3pm Eastern. 

Slight change from last week: I will only be providing design feedback in the comments below if I have something non-platitudinous to say, or if you request it. Jay Treat makes it look so easy. (I'll still try to say something about each card in the round-up section of next week's article)

Have fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys have to say about the Doomsday Cult and the JLA. 


  1. Some of those are awesome ideas.

    Thank you for including my description. I'm sorry, I didn't really flesh it out so it's not really a coherent proposal.

    But FWIW, part of the point is that I don't see why the group has to be centralised in the story in order for the cards to work together. The gruul are supposedly uncentralised, and they could have chosen the biggest baddest clan leader to show on the "cheif" cards without suggesting the other clans show him alleigance.

    Also, I stand by my description of Batman. In fact, I think Batman has been portrayed in quite different ways in different comics/films/tv shows.

    Some of them are white. Some of them are red/blue. But I think some of them are black or black/white.

    Ways in which some portrayals of Batman are really black:

    * Works alone
    * Ignores the rules
    * Works in the dark, at night, with creepy flavour
    * Ruthless, willing to do all sorts of unsavory things to acheive his goals.
    * Makes it "all about himself". Lots of people have their parents killed in Gotham. But the darker grimmer interpretation of Batman tends to focus on his own revenge.

    (But I agree that at other times he's white, and at other times he's red, and at other times he's blue :))

    1. As far as centralized groups vs. individuals, the reason I'm skewing towards groups is simply because that makes the most sense when we'll be doing things like guild keywords and counterparts to Ravnican cycles down the line. That said, it's still possible to make decentralized "guilds", like Gruul.

  2. I like your idea of Suvnican Dimir. One of the things I'm thinking about is that, at least in my mind, "true knowledge" often makes people less selfish (less Black). This provokes me when it comes to how we do "Blue with Black means" - perhaps the knowledge they look for/have reveals something which ultimately makes it justified to act like they do? The idea of impending disaster might be good enough but conspiracy paranoia is probably better.

    Rimid Tongueless 1U
    Creature - Homunculus (C)
    When ~ dies, its owner may draw a card.

    Rimid Infiltrator 3U
    Creature - Human Rogue (U)
    When ~ deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.
    3B: ~ gains deathtouch until end of turn.

    Rimid Mastermind 5UB
    Creature - Advisor (R)
    If an opponent with cards in hand would draw a card, that player discards a card instead. If you would discard a card, draw a card instead.
    "We must see everything and none must see us."

    1. Your idea for "Sorob" doesn't really strike me as radically different from (the original) Boros; Sure, they are an orderly legion in principle but they are acting out of an individual sense of justice and has been known to not mete out unjust punishments even if the law would demand it off them.

      I think "Sorob" has to be focused on Red goals by White means. This means a peaceful (or, at least, somewhat caring) way of achieving individual freedom. We need to stay true to our emotions and instincts - the ones that are unselfish, at least.

      This doesn't lend itself to an "army" as much as, perhaps, a community somewhat akin to the Selesnyan Conclave of traditional Ravnica (with a rather different agenda, of course).

      Cards could look something like this:

      Sorob Caretaker 1RW
      Creature - Human Cleric (C)
      Haste, Lifelink

      Groomer of Hopes 4W
      Creature - Human Advisor (U)
      Other creatures you control are indestructible as long as their power is 1 or less.

      Prophet of Peace 4WR
      Creature - Angel Cleric (R)
      Flash, Flying.
      Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to you. For each damage prevented this way, you may have ~ deal 1 damage to a target attacking creature.
      "I had a vision of a world without war or slavery and I have descended to make it manifest."

    2. I like the idea of a vigilante guild for Sorob. White ends with red means. I do share a concern with Lobster that is that it's really not that far off from Boros already.

      If we wanted to explore red ends with white means, we could have a passionately peaceful guild. That would certainly be new and interesting, but likely hard to put on Magic cards. Here's a shot:

      Whenever ~ blocks a creature, REWARD

      If ~ would deal combat damage to a player, you may instead have that player skip his or her next combat phase.

      ~ can't attack or block unless the other player has a bigger creature.

    3. Ravnican Boros definitely still has a strict hierarchy and structure, and while they may be more street cop than Azorius, they're still cops. My Boros has a healthy disdain for authority - more along the lines of The Brotherhood Without Banners in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

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    1. With my RG guild, I intended to express a Green goal (Growth) with a Red means (Fire to clear space). But anything too elmental like Fire or Water seems to attract too much attention to that thing.

      It's cool how in the original Ravnica Guilds, they take something abstract like "impulsiveness" from each of the Guild's colors, rather than something direct like "Fire." Even thought they're based on abstract elements, those abstract elements are clothed in the trappings of human institutions like Armies and Churches, or pursuits like Religion or Science, etc, and these trappings make those abstract things very visible and recognizable. That's something to think about if we go with Guild-style human factions rather than Shard-like landscapes.

  4. Black does get -X/-0 effects. Shrinking power is first in Blue, secondary in Black, I think.

    1. I was going to argue that black hasn't gotten -X/-0 without blue for a very long time, but Public Execution is a pretty stark exception.

    2. Public Execution has it as a rider effect for flavor, but otherwise that isn't how black deals with P/T changes. They either get +X/-X or -X/-X. That said, Maro just revealed that R&D is changing their approach to p/t on black creatures, allowing them to have higher toughness than power at lower rarities more frequently. This may change Black's P/T altering; we'll have to wait and see.

      As far as Target of the Shadow Legion is concerned though, the other part of the effect still doesn't feel right as an aura or at common. If the bonus was granted when your creatures interacted with the "target" it would be more on flavor.

  5. I'm finding that it's easy to design a bunch of individual cards that show a flavor, but it's harder to create that Guild's overall game plan. My RG volcano-worshipping Guild at least is built on a game plan, but with my WB vigilante Guild, even though each of the cards have a vigilante flavor, it's hard to tell how they come together into a strategy. The same can be said for many of the other cards submitted.

    The original Ravnica Guilds each represent a play pattern or game plan for the Guild, and I hope to be thinking along those lines: Which resources (like cards in hand, life, etc) does the Guild value, to what extent? What card type does it like to use? How does the Guild aim to build up its power over the game, or does it start doing something right away? What axis does it attack on?

    1. I like the idea of the game plan, but you're thinking too far ahead on this one. At this stage of the game, we're definitely not building a card skeleton and filling it out; we're not thinking about balanced limited play; we're not thinking about how cards are going to affect the FFL. We're creating new identities for guilds from a flavor standpoint. Every submission should ideally reflect some aspect of the new vision's philosophy in some way.

      That said, I love that your Gruul had a gameplan built into the design. But at this point, I don't want mechanics to overshadow flavor.

      After we get through the first round of rethinking the guilds, we're going to start thinking about mechanical identities more - keywords, guild fast and slow strategies, that kind of thing. Again, I don't think we're ever going to playtest any of this (unless interest among the contributors demands that we do), but we can definitely start thinking more along the lines of guild game plans in a few weeks.

  6. The Rimid value knowledge above all else, and have no qualms killing for it. As knowledge is power, they covet what they learn and will not share it for anything less than even more knowledge. They insist not only on knowing more than anyone else, but on knowing everything anyone else knows and regularly raid, torture and kill Tezzi, Cimis and Suiroza guild members to stay ahead in the information race.

    Mechanically, this guild wants to draw cards, filter/tutor for specific threats/answer, and cause the opponent to discard cards. We can't put pure card advantage on a lot of cards in one guild, so we need to temper that with conditionals and with triggers that reward you for sticking to the plan.

    Secrets Untold {4B}
    Sorcery (rare)
    Search your library for four cards with different names. Put some in a face-up pile and some in a face-down pile. Your opponent chooses a pile, then looks at the face-down pile. Put the chosen pile into your hand and shuffle the other pile into your library.

    Leak {U}
    Enchantment-Aura (unc)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature's controller plays with his or her hand revealed.
    You may cast cards in your hand as copies of sorcery or instant cards with the same CMC in enchanted creature's controller's hand.
    Leak {3}{U}
    Enchantment (unc)
    Opponents play with their hands revealed.
    You may cast cards in your hand as copies of sorcery or instant cards with the same CMC in opponents' hands.

    Cranial Parasitism {U}{U}{B}{B}
    Enchantment (rare)
    Whenever an opponent draws a card, that player loses 1 life and you draw a card.

    Corporate Pollster {3}{UB}
    Creature-Human Rogue (cmn)
    Whenever you draw a card, ~ gets +2/+2 until EOT.

    Private Investigator 2B
    Creature-Human Rogue (unc)
    Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, exile target card from his or her library. You may search your library for a card with the same card type and with CMC <= the exiled card's and put it into your hand. Shuffle.

    Filthcaster {1}{B}
    Creature-Rat Wizard (cmn)
    Whenever you discard a card, you may pay {1}{B}. If you do, target opponent discards a card.

    1. Did you mean GY for private investigator? Or are you looking through the opponent's library for a card each time he hits?

  7. Dimir:

    I agree with the concept of the new Dimir as people who value knowledge (even very specific knowledge) above all else and will go to any lengths to get it. The apocalypse story isn't convincing to me, though (and feels kind of white anyway).
    The new Dimir don't need any outside motivation: they consider knowledge itself (but not necessarily wisdom!) to be the most valuable thing there is, and are particularly obsessed with understanding the forbidden secrets of life, death, and existence. They are so consumed by their desire for knowledge that they are willing to do anything, however foul, to get it. Mechanically this means that the Dimir focus on getting card advantage, especially with Sign in Blood-type effects.

    And some cards to illustrate:

    Information Hoarding (Rare)
    You have no maximum hand size.
    At the beginning of your upkeep, you draw a card and lose 1 life. Then, if you have 20 or more cards in your hand, you win the game.

    Conduit of the Dead (Uncommon)
    Creature- Human Cleric
    2{B}: Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. Activate this ability only if there is a card named ~ in your graveyard.

    Embodied Knowledge
    Creature- Spirit
    When ~ enters the battlefield, exile any number of cards from your hand. ~'s power and toughness are equal to the number of cards exiled this way.
    When ~ leaves the battlefield, return all cards exiled with it to their owners' hands.

    1. That last card should be Rare, probably. It's oddly difficult to make flavorful, well-balanced common cards for this version of Dimir. Any suggestions on how to do so would be appreciated.

    2. I had a long answer to this that the library wifi ate up. The short answer is to let your card name and creative vision tell most of the story, and then make a simple card informed by that.

    3. OK, some ideas for commons:

      Drake Telepath
      Creature- Drake
      Flying. ~ gets +0/+1 for each instant or sorcery card in your graveyard.

      Zombified Alchemist
      Creature- Zombie Wizard
      When ~ enters the battlefield, you draw a card and lose 2 life.

      (Realized after making this that it is essentially Phyrexian Rager, but hey, it fits well.)

  8. Another, particularly dark way to take reverse-Dimir is torture experimentation. Not like the Simic who wish to improve you—however grotesquely—or the Izzet who are careless about life in their pursuit of knowledge, these super-evil people could experiment just to learn the weaknesses of the body and discover new forms of pain. I'm think that's too dark, but it's something to consider.

  9. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to respond last week, but I'll take these guilds for a spin.

    In my mind the ultimate embodiment of black means achieving blue ends is torture. Stealing Jay's naming convention, the Rimid are trying to assemble all knowledge so that they can finally predict how the rest of history will unfold. Unfortunately, organizations like militaries and private companies doing research aren't looking to divulge information. Nor are people having affairs, or lying about gambling debts, or...

    Preprint: Hired Torturer {2}{B}
    Creature-Human Rogue (C)
    {3}{B}, {T}: Target opponent loses 2 life, then reveals a card at random from his or her hand.

    Elicit Information UB
    Sorcery (C)
    Target player discards a card.
    Target player draws a card.

    Thumbscrew 2UB
    Sorcery (C)
    Target player loses 2 life.
    Draw two cards.

    Trivia Buff 1U
    Creature-Human Rogue
    Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, that player reveals a card at random from his or her hand.
    "Hit 'em 'til you get something."


    There are a lot of interesting approaches to this. I like your route, though it's closer to the red part the Boros do have: passion. I wanted to look the other way. The Sorob are devoted to the causes of freedom and self determination, but that doesn't come about naturally. Left to their own devices, the strong will naturally edge out the weak and impinge on their freedoms. The Sorob exist to keep people from trampling each other, but don't make any laws to inhibit what you do without prescribing action for another.

    Pay No Mind {R}
    Enchantment-Aura (C)
    Enchant Creature
    Enchanted creature can't block.

    Clear the Way {1}{r/w}
    Instant (C)
    ~ deals 3 damage to target attacking or blocking creature.

    Free Citizen {R}{W}
    Creature-Human (U)
    Protection from creatures
    ~ attacks each turn if able.

    1. Hey Jules. We'll be revisiting the Gruul and Orzhov sooner or later. When we do, add a description and some cards for them and I'll put them in the file.

    2. Very much liking these guild concepts (mine are fairly similar). Elicit Information is a great intuitive design-- "drain a card"-- that has been printed at {2}{B} but would probably still be reasonable at {U}{B}. I'm not as convinced by Trivia Buff design, though. "Spying" seems more characteristic of the original Dimir, a blue means (sneakily getting information) to a black end (having an advantage over others). I'd propose reanimation / graveyard recursion as an alternative theme, since the new Orzhov seem to have moved away from this.
      As far as Boros goes, the cards so far seem to be saying "Attack!" which is not necessarily where the new Boros wants to be. Pay No Mind is a Crippling Blight without the -1/-1, and Free Citizen is effectively a 2/2 Tormented Soul, both of which suggest an all-out aggressive strategy, which I think is inconsistent with the devotion to freedom you describe.

  10. Boros:

    I'd say the methods of the old Boros are fairly red-- they are much more willing to go in guns blazing than you would expect white to be. For the new Boros guild, I'm hoping for something with red goals and white methods, and I like the suggestion made on the original post of this series: a resistance/guerilla force. With that in mind, here's my proposed Boros concept:
    "The Boros believe that freedom is an absolute and sacred value, and they are willing to stand up for this belief in any circumstance, by force if necessary. Their extreme position has made them many enemies, however, and they are constantly in danger. To survive, they form small, tight-knight communities that are held together by their shared beliefs. Mechanically, the Boros work mostly with small creatures, but they are as likely to block and use abilities as they are to attack."

    Some cards:

    Communal Effort (Uncommon)
    Creatures you control have haste and "T: Put a +1/+1 counter on another target creature."

    Frontline Martyr (Common)
    Creature- Human Warrior
    When ~ dies, you may have it deal 2 damage to target attacking or blocking creature.

    Goblin Rescuer (Rare)
    Creature- Goblin Rogue
    Flash. When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, counter all spells and abilities that target creatures you control. For each spell or ability countered this way, the controller of that spell or ability sacrifices a permanent.

    1. I'd like to hear people's thoughts on the Rescuer. I recognize it's a pretty weird design, but I was trying the capture the top-down flavor of "daring escape that wrecks a whole bunch of things".

    2. Flash isn't red, Avoid Fate isn't red, and the last line feels glue-gunned on (and also not red). I'd rather see random Misdirect or a Flagbearer effect.

    3. As a fix, you can make it RW to keep the flash, and then change the target of a single spell to another target at random.

      If you want to keep it monored, maybe give a combat boost (haste, first strike, and/or PT to another creature and then have it do damage at random or destroy a random non enchant permanent.

    4. Thanks for the suggestions! Looking at it again, I'm thinking a lot of the trouble with the card stems from the fact that it's a creature when it's fundamentally describing an event. So my, modified proposal:

      Escape in Confusion (Uncommon)
      Change the target of each spell or ability that targets a permanent you control to another target at random.

      Still kind of complex, but less wordy and more red.

    5. *single permanent you control

    6. Jay, it hurts my feelings that you would say "Flash isn't Red". Give the Red kids a chance and let them play with the fancy toys once in a while.

    7. Would you prefer "Flash is quinary in Red?"
      Or perhaps, "Flash isn't in red unless you're Time Spiral Block?"