Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Designing Suvnica, Week 4: Lessons Learned

You guys are seriously prolific designers. Week 3 doubled the size of the Suvnica card file, moving from 70 to 144 cards. 74 cards is a lot to process and review. I'm in the middle of writing up the card reviews, but it may be a little while longer before they're ready. In the meantime, I wanted to get this week's challenge posted so we can try to double the size of the card file again. Exponential growth FTW!

Rethinking Izzet: The Greatest Trick the Devil Ever Pulled...

Izzet Recommended Reading

So Izzet, eh? This color pairing has a high appeal for most would-be designers (and not just because Maro talks them up every chance he gets). You all know the drill. On Ravnica, Izzet is clearly a philosophically Blue guild with Red methods.

On Ravnica, we're looking for a guild that craves freedom and wants to achieve it through Blue means. I was tempted to turn this into an intellectual anarchist movement, but I've already done one school-based guild, and I think that's where I'm leaning with Selesnya too. Enough academics. Sure, Blue's default tool is superior knowledge, but that's not the only toy it gets to play with. Trickery is a big part of Blue's means (illusions, redirecting spells, etc.) What if this was the guild of the archetypal trickster, a la Coyote in Native American mythology, or Anansi from West African mythology.

Tricksters often use their wit to make a person averse to change see the futility of their stubbornness. They open people's eyes to alternative viewpoints not through direct statements of their opinions and beliefs, but by subtly nudging their target in a direction to reach the same conclusion on their own. Tezzi adherents want to show the world the futility of bureaucratic systems, of allowing individuals to be controlled and suppressed, but they do it not through the outright aggression of Red, but through the teachable moments of Blue.

Rethinking Selesnya: Hero's Journey

Selesnya Recommended Reading
Ravnican Selesnya is a philosophically very White guild, that occasionally dips its toes into Green's mechanics and tools. Their party line is all about unity and belonging to the group. It's essentially a cultish religion with druidic elements to it. The green elements to the guild don't really fall into the means/end archetype I've been trying to shoehorn each guild into (as with Boros, and we'll see again next week with Simic). Instead, Green informs the flavor and the actual mechanics, as opposed to the creative means and tools I generally look for.

In any case, for Suvnica, I'll be trying to craft a philosophically Green guild that uses White tools to achieve its goals. Having Green as the color driving the philosophy of a guild can be tricky, since Green isn't seeking to change the world in any way, instead desiring that everything be allowed to develop naturally and fulfill its own destiny. Using White's tools (community, structure, law) to achieve these ends, I think that we end up with a guild that, similar to my reimagining of Azorius, is fundamentally an Academy. Instead of seeking knowledge, this school/temple/monastery seeks to help its students and adherents ultimately understand their own destinies and assist them in realizing it. Mechanically, this is going to take the opposite approach from Ravnican Selesnya. Instead of amassing an army of anonymous creatures, this guild wants a few champions (selected by destiny) who receive support from the other creatures.

Making Rules and Breaking Rules

Normal rules for early-stage Suvnica apply: 
  • Pick or create a new vision for the {G}{W} and {U}{R} color pairings
  • Design some cards that illustrate the new vision
  • No keywords 
  • No cycles
  • Well, almost no cycles. Last week we did legends. This week's bonus challenge is a little more involved.
Instead of riffing off of one of the classic (or Return to) Ravnica cycles, the challenge this week is to make one of your own. 
  • Design two cards that are part of a ten card cycle appearing across the Suvnica block
  • The cycle shouldn't too-closely resemble one we've already seen on Ravnica
  • One should be from one of this week's pairings (Izzet or Selesnya)
  • One should be from one of the previous week's challenges (Azorius, Boros, Dimir, Golgari, Gruul, Orzhov)
    • This one should be from a vision of the chosen guild that haven't already designed for
      • Make sure you tell me whose vision you're designing for
    • I haven't posted the Azorius or Golgari reviews yet, so you can read up on the various visions in the comments here
  • The cards should, as always, illustrate the creative vision that you chose to design for
  • Tight cycles are better, but by no means mandatory
Here's my second card:

It, along with Rite of Absorption above are part of a cycle similar to the Burst cycle in Odyssey. I designed this one for Jules' torture-happy Dimir. 

That's it for me. Let's see what you guys got.


  1. I think the rite cards would be interesting if try had a subtype - Rite. And they just counted the number of rites in your graveyard.

    1. I've always disliked limited application subtypes. It is a nice way to advance the kindle mechanic in a different way than the Pardic Firecat method, but I don't think that a 10-card cycle in a gold set is the way to do it.

  2. Izzet:

    I generally like the proposed guild identity, but I'd go a little bit beyond the "trickster magician" role. Tezzi really isn't that interested in teaching people, just in using superior knowledge to get ahead at their expense. Their Blue element isn't intellectual knowledge alone: it also includes cleverness and street smarts. This is the classic thieves' guild, plus a bunch of other assorted characters: pranksters, street magicians, entertainers, and con artists. Crucially, they aren't in it for the money or the power (that would be Dimir): they're doing what they do because it's *fun*. Mechanically, this means that we lose the instant/sorcery theme and go for the weenie approach (which is something Blue needs more of anyway). Members of the Tezzi are small, fast, hard to block, and cause trouble when they hit you.


    Act of Adventure (Common)
    Gain control of target creature and untap it. It gains haste until end of turn. Return it to its owner's hand at end of turn.

    Saw in Half (Common)
    CARDNAME deals 4 damage to target creature. If that creature would die this turn, return it to its owner's hand instead.

    Fireworks Courier (Uncommon)
    Creature- Goblin Rogue
    Haste. When CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, it deals 1 damage to each creature.

    Sniggering Faerie (Uncommon)
    Creature- Faerie Rogue
    Flying. Whenever a creature dealt damage by CARDNAME this turn would die, put it on top of its owner's library instead.

    Invisible Prankster (Rare)
    Creature- Human Rogue
    Hexproof. Whenever CARDNAME attacks, target creature can't block this turn.
    "You want to find him? Just follow the chaos."

    1. One more idea, kind of silly:

      Pick a Card, Any Card
      Put a random card from your library into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

    2. *Act of Adventure should be a sorcery.

    3. I love Pick a Card, and hope that it never ever gets printed.

    4. Damn, I love the crap out of this interpretation of U/R. Saw in Half is such a cool card, although I think it might too a little farfetched as mono-blue. Unfortunately, a single hybrid {U/R} doesn't work either, so maybe something like this:

      Saw in Thirds -- UR
      Instant -- Common
      ~ deals 4 damage to target creature or player. If a creature dealt damage this way would die this turn, return it to its owner's hand instead.

  3. Selesnya:

    From reading the Rosewater article, it seems fairly clear to me that the old Selesnya are the guild of white means to green ends. Making lots of creatures is white rather than green, and convoke uses those creatures to cast green's big, expensive spells. It also seems like the Selesnya see harmony with one another as a means toward harmony with nature, their ultimate goal. Therefore, I think the new Selesnya (Aynseles??) should be using green methods to achieve white goals. Here's my concept:

    The new Selesnya are a religious order devoted to achieving peace, order, and unity among all. However, they believe that the self-- personal consciousness, memory, and desire-- stands in the way of this goal and must be eliminated. Therefore, they cultivate harmony with nature above all else, trying to eliminate conscious thought in favor of instinct and innate knowledge. Few people of Suvnica have the dedication to follow this path for long, but those who do become powerful sages, healers, monks, and beast-tamers. Mechanically, this means that the new Selesnya are more about big or otherwise powerful creatures than about lots of creatures.


    Path of Harmony (Uncommon)
    Enchantment- Aura
    Enchanted creature has defender and is indestructible.

    Serene Initiate (Uncommon)
    Creature- Human

    Meditating Bear (Common)
    Creature- Bear
    1G, T: Put two +1/+1 counters on CARDNAME. Activate this ability only as a sorcery.

    Benevolent Monk (Rare)
    Creature- Human Monk
    Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a creature, put a +1/+1 counter on that creature. (The damage is dealt before the counter is put on.)

  4. And the cycle:

    "Chants" (I was going to call it "Anthems" but that already has game associations). Basically, making 2-color X spells can be hard because they need a big effect to be worth it. So you add in a synergistic effect that doesn't depend on X. Examples:

    Luurg Chant (zefferal's Gruul)
    Target creature you control gets +X/+X until end of turn. You may have it fight another target creature.

    Tezzi Chant (my Izzet)
    Switch target creature's power and toughness until end of turn. CARDNAME deals X damage to that creature.

    1. More examples:

      Sorob Chant
      Put X 1/1 white Human creature tokens onto the battlefield. Creatures you control gain haste until end of turn.

      Irgalog Chant
      Put up to X target cards from your graveyard on top of your library. Draw a card. Exile CARDNAME.

      Rimid Chant
      Put the top 10 cards of your library into your graveyard. You may return a creature card with converted mana cost X or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.

    2. Are these for anybody's visions in particular?

    3. These weren't meant for any visions in particular. They're partly inspired by the current Ravnica guilds and partly based on my own suggestions for Suvnica.

  5. The Tezzi know that the biggest limitation to freedom isn't somebody else imposing their will upon you: it's not knowing what your choices mean. Without knowledge and understanding of the consequences "free choice" is nothing more than randomness. So the Tezzi seek to give everyone an understanding of how any action they take will affect the future.


    Self Determination U
    Sorcery (C)
    Look at the top four cards of your library, then put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.

    Consequencomancer 3UR
    Creature-Minotaur Wizard (R)
    Play with the top card of your library revealed.
    T: Put the top card of your library into your graveyard. ~ deals damage equal to that card's converted mana cost to target creature.

    Informed Consent XUR
    Instant (R)
    ~ deals X damage to target player. That player draws X cards.

    Selesnya and cycles to come later.

    1. I like the designs a lot, but not the guild concept. Choices and consequences are definitely white and black concepts, maybe blue, but never red.

    2. Yeah, I'm less enamored by it now than while I was writing it. I liked the "you can't have free choice unless you know what you're choosing" thing too much and overlooked that the resulting guild really isn't very red.

  6. I like the ideas you have for the guilds, here. And I would love our set to have a guild of tricksters and a Bant-ish guild reliant on heroes (because that makes for damn good stories).

    So without further ado...

    Shrewd Goblin UR
    Creature - Goblin (C)
    (U/R): target creature cannot block ~ until end of turn.

    Probably pushing it here, but I really like how this card stays relevant the whole game without ever being ridiculous.

    Trickster's Grace 3UR
    Enchantment - Aura (U)
    Enchant Creature
    Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "0: change the target of target spell or ability that has this creature as its only target to another target creature."

    Stealer of Motives 2UURR
    Creature - Devil Spirit (MR)
    Your opponents play with the top card of their library revealed. You may play cards from the top of their libraries as though they were in your hand.

    Tricksy Future Sight!

    Let's move on to Aynseles...

    Aspirant (G/W)
    Creature - Warrior (C)
    CARDNAME gets +4/+4 as long as you control five or more creatures.

    Chorus of Might 3G
    Instant (C)
    Until end of turn, target creature gets +1/+1 for each creature you control and has trample.

    Hero's Grace 1GW
    Enchantment - Aura (U)
    Enchant Creature
    Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has vigilance and "0: until end of turn, all damage that would be dealt to target creature is dealt to this creature instead".
    (part of the "Grace" auras cycle. I took the liberty of thinking up two cycles).

    Wane of the Roaring Crowd 1GW
    Creature - Avatar (R)
    CARDNAME's power and toughness are equal to the number of creatures you control.
    (Not legendary - Wanes are a special kind of avatars. The name is subject to change.)

    Finally, an elaboration of the cycles I did:
    "Grace"s, uncommon auras that cost XCD, give +2/+2 and has another perk (preferably an on-guild 0-cost ability, but that might not have enough space for 10 effects).
    "Wane"s, rare Avatar creatures that embody an aspect of the guild they represent. Need poetic names.

    Such as...
    Silencer's Grace 3WB
    Enchantment - Aura (U)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has flying and "0: this creature fights target attacking creature without flying".

    Wane of the Unbeaten Path 4RG
    Creature - Avatar (R)
    When CARDNAME attacks, choose any number of target creatures the defending player controls. Those creatures must block CARDNAME this combat if able, and no other creatures can block CARDNAME this combat.

    1. I like the Tezzi stuff and the Graces a lot. Making a cycle of creature Auras is a bold move and I really hope that they would be good.

      A couple of specific comments:
      -The {0} ability on Trickster's Grace reads well until you realize that in practice it just reads "hexproof". Paying 5 mana to redirect a removal spell is a cool possibility but unlikely to actually happen. Maybe reverse this so that it grants the Spellskite ability?
      -"Fight" is not an ability that has ever been in W or B as far as I know. I like Silencer's Grace more as a Boros card.
      -I'm not getting the "Wane" concept. It's just a good non-legendary rare creature? Most guilds have plenty of those already. This cycle probably needs more to tie it together mechanically.

    2. I have to agree with lpaulsen on the Trickster's Grace. It's psuedo-hexproof, since the opponent will almost never target that creature with an offensive spell if there's another creature on the board.

    3. For your Orzhov and Gruul cards, did you have a specific creative vision in mind to house them?

  7. Mechanically speaking, the biggest thing white and green share besides tokens is enchantments. What if Aynseles was the Mesa/Verduran Enchantress guild? I still like Zefferal's suggestion of a Buddhist monastery, but what if they express their spirituality through enchantments?

    Whispering Monk 1W
    2/2 Monk (cmn)
    Whenever an enchantment ETB under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME.

    Monk of Great Spirit G
    1/1 Monk (cmn)
    CARDNAME gets +2/+2 for each aura attached to it.

    Transcending Healing Monk 1WW
    2/2 Monk (unc)
    1W: Target creature you control gains lifelink until EOT. You may activate this ability from the graveyard.

    Transcending Warrior Monk 1GG
    2/2 Monk (unc)
    As long as ~ is in your graveyard, creatures you control get +1/+1.

    Ethereal Armor W

    Unflinching Courage 1GW

    1. better:

      Transcending Warrior Monk 1GG
      2/2 Monk (unc)
      When CARDNAME dies, if it dealt combat damage this turn, exile it. As long as it remains exiled this way, creatures you control get +1/+1.

    2. Emblem-esque! This should probably be a white card: Wizards has been trying to differentiate white and green pump by making green bigger (+3/+3 and up) and white smaller (up to +2/+X).

  8. I'll stay the line you created with the interpretation of Aynseles. After reading the description the OP described, I was reminded of the Norn race from the Guild Wars games; they are all highly individualistic "heroes" that value greatness above all else, especially when obtained in battle. They have a religion based on spirits of the wild that they deeply subscribe too as well. Anyway, here are some card designs.

    Attuned Warrior - GW
    Creature - Human Warrior (common)
    ~ gets +1/+1 for each non-Human creature you control.
    "His connection to the denizens of nature will guide him to greatness."

    Audacious Adventurer - 3GG
    Creature - Centaur Shaman (common)
    ~ has hexproof and trample as long as it it has the greatest power among creatures you control.

    Martyrly Ascetic - 1W
    Creature - Human Monk (uncommon)
    If you sacrifice or exile ~ to pay a cost of a spell or ability, you may put two +1/+1 counters on target creature . If you do, return ~ to your hand.
    "While I may not achieve greatness in this life, my efforts will strengthen the most deserving champion."

    Extraordinary Shelter - W
    Instant (uncommon)
    Each creature with the greatest power or tied for the greatest power is indestructible until end of turn.

    Destined One -- GW
    Creature - Human Avatar (mythic rare)
    When ~ enters the battlefield, exile any number of creatures you control. Put two +1/+1 counters on ~ for each creature exiled this way.
    ~ has all static abilities of creature cards exiled with it.
    When ~ leaves the battlefield, return the exiled cards to the battlefield.

    Potential Reprints:

    Dueling Grounds - 1GW (perfectly captures the flavor of the guild: a structure provided for fighting mano-y-mano to determine one's greatness)
    Heroes' Reunion - GW (simply for the name :P)
    Triumph of Ferocity - 2G (works well with the "greatest power" theme)

    Cycle Challenge:
    I'll show off a potential uncommon land cycle. It would be similar to the uncommon cycle in the original Ravnica block, and honestly would make a lot of sense in our Suvnica block to repeat for our new guilds.

    Aynseles Place
    Land (uncommon)
    T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
    2GW, T: Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature with the greatest power or tied for the greatest power among creatures you control.

    My second one will be for IPaulsen's Tezzi idea.

    Tezzi Place
    Land (uncommon)
    T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
    3UR, T: Reselect the target of target instant or sorcery spell with a single target at random.

  9. Looking for unused overlaps between white and green I came to a pretty strange one: white's love of hierarchy combined with green's food chain (in this case metaphorical).

    The Aynseles each know the role they are destined to fulfill, and no matter how menial, they don't begrudge it. After all, would not the wolf die of cold were its hairs to abandon it? Each member serves to empower those who outrank them so that the guild as a whole is able to carve out more room for growth.

    Interestingly, this ended up in a similar mechanical space to Ben's cards.


    Nexus of Might 3GW
    Creature-Incarnation (U)
    Whenever ~ attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each other attacking creature.

    Source of Ferocity G
    Creature-Elf Shaman (C)
    Each creature with the greatest power among creatures you control has trample.

    Source of Resolve 1W
    Creature-Human Cleric (C)
    Each creature with the greatest power among creatures you control has vigilance.

    [Preprint] Phytoburst 1G
    Sorcery (C)
    Target creature gets +5/+5 until end of turn.

    And now for a cycle concept:

    Favor of the Aynseles GW
    Enchantment-Aura (U)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature has trample and lifelink.
    Whenever a green or white creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may attach ~ to it.

    Both abilities are much better on your one huge creature that's getting bonuses.

    And for R Stech's Orzhov:

    Favor of the Vohzro WB
    Enchantment-Aura (U)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature has vigilance and deathtouch.
    Whenever a white or black creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may attach ~ to it.

    This aura makes the enchanted creature into one of the combination judge/jury/executioners mentioned in the blurb. They're always there, watching, and if you cross them, they WILL kill you.

    It's also worth noting that this cycle would do well to avoid any toughness bonuses because they lead to bad gameplay when players forget and move the aura after combat, killing their creature that was damaged before. All keywords would be ideal, but can't be done without repeating them, but we also don't really want four different playable lifelink granting auras in the block.