Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Designing Suvnica, Week 5: Blood on the Streets, Oil in the Heart

Happy Memorial Day to all those who celebrate it! Throw a burger on the grill and grab a soda from the fridge, cause we're wrapping up the first wave of Suvnica design this week. Let's take a look at Rakdos and Simic.

Rethinking Rakdos: Speaking of Barbecues and Freedom...

Rakdos Recommended Reading:

Rakdos is fundamentally a philosophically Red guild. They're motivated not by accumulation of power, but by entertainment and living in the moment. Their methods are particularly Black, which sometimes overshadows the fact that Red is brutal and bloodthirsty too.

Flipping it gives us a guild looking to gain power and advantage through seeding chaos. That description reeks of terrorism. This is the guild that takes advantage of the loss of faith in the powers that be by orchestrating disasters that question the ability of governments and societies to protect their constituents. Plus, all the dead bodies make for ample opportunities to bolster their standing zombie army...

Rethinking Simic: Artifice Imitating Life

Simic Recommended Reading

The Simic are a problem child for the Suvnica project. Straight from the source:

Most of the other enemy pairings find a clean way to bring the opposites together. They tend to make one color the goal and the other color the means to achieve it. For example, the Boros want peace but they use their strong impulses to guide them. The Orzhov want power and their tool to achieve it is order. The Simic don't line up as easily. They're not after either growth or knowledge, exactly. The way I like to explain it is they want to "improve upon nature." They're trying to make a better world. Neither color leads but they blend together. Mechanically, it's similar. The feel of green/blue isn't blue and isn't green. It has a feel that you have to sense as you're working and that's a hard thing to do.

That's all fine and good, but it doesn't lend itself well the the methodology I've developed for reconcepting guilds. Even if you ignore MaRo, and see the Simic (as I do) leaning philosophically Blue and Mechanically Green, it's very difficult to concept a guild that whose philosophy is green (growth and destiny) that uses Blue means (knowledge and manipulation of reality). That said, I'm not as sure of this description as my others, but I figure I'll try it out.

Instead of artificially manipulating life, what if this guild was more focused on leaving life alone and using unnatural means to imitate and preserve it. Mechanically, I feel like this guild is going to want to focus on artifact creatures (really a natural mechanical overlap for the two colors).

Design Challenge

Nothing fancy this week, just the standard design challenge.
  • Pick or create a new vision for the {B}{R} and {G}{U} color pairings
  • Design some cards that illustrate the new vision
  • No guild keywords
Guild champions and parts of newly designed cycles are fair game. Enjoy figuring these two guilds out.

Next week we'll take a step away from individual guilds and start looking at some more big picture issues.


  1. The Sodkar yearn for power above all else. Power over people, the ability to make people act the way you want them to. But controlling people isn't about making them agree with you, people rarely act rationally anyway. You need to control how they feel. To that end the Sodkar practice magic that ellicits emotion. Sometimes so subtle that you don't notice you're being manipulated. Sometimes so forceful that you are powerless to resist the urge. Either way, you're choices are not your own.

    [Reprint] Maniacal Rage 1R
    Enchantment-Aura (C)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and can't block.

    Traumamancer RB
    Creature-Human Wizard (C)
    Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, put a +1/+1 counter on it.

    Revolt 3BB
    Sorcery (U)
    Target player discards a card for each creature he or she controls.

    Backstab 2RR
    Sorcery (R)
    Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste and double strike until end of turn.

    Terrify 3BB
    Instant (U)
    Blocking creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn.

    Now for Simic:

    The Cimis don't just know that you have a destiny: they've divined it. But there's a catch. Things have to change when conflicting destinies become intertwined. To take advantage of this the Cimis recruit only those destined for greatness, and gather those destined for good outcomes to avoid bad situations. If a member of this guild has ever reacted to your presence with anything other than a horrified look and fleeing the other direction, you might just have something good in store for you.


    Collective Destiny 2U
    Instant (C)
    Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each creature you control.

    Retirement Plan 2G
    Creature-Elf Druid(R)
    Other creatures you control are indestructible as long as ~ is tapped.

    Not Your Time G
    Instant (C)
    Regenerate target creature.

    Inevitable Confrontation G
    Sorcery (C)
    Target creature you control and another target creature gain deathtouch until end of turn. Those creatures fight.

    1. I was going to suggest that Sodkar could be a guild of grifters, but it felt less compelling than terrorists, yet Jules' post makes me think grifters could work.

      Browbeat seems perfect here.

      What's Yours is Mine BB
      Enchantment (rare)
      When ~ ETB, search your library for a card and exile it face-down.
      Whenever an opponent plays a card, you may reveal the exiled card. If it has the same name as the exiled card, put the played card into its owner's graveyard and play the exiled card without paying its mana cost.

      Roshambo 1BR
      Sorcery (unc)
      Each player discards a card at random. ~ deals damage to each player equal to the CMC of the card that player discarded this way.

  2. I like your ideas for both of those guilds, even if I'm not sure exactly how much Green is allowed to play "buddies" with artifacts instead of hating on them. Perhaps there's some interesting middle ground there. Let's try out some designs. Mechanically, B/R is going to destroy a lot of things, and it's creatures are probably going to be glass cannons or other kinds of creatures that you're really nerveous about engaging in combat. U/G is probably about getting ahead a lot and should have some tricky/utility creatures along side some "leviathan/wurm" fatties.

    Typhoid Rats B
    Creature - Rat (C)

    Gore Piker 1R
    Creature - Goblin (C)
    CARDNAME can't block.
    3B: CARDNAME gets deathtouch until end of turn.
    "Even a little scratch from a dirty Sokdar pike often spells death. Of course, no Sokdar settles for small scratches."

    I added the no-blocking clause because I figured the deathtouch would make it too relevant defensively late-game and too much better than an ordinary Piker.

    Barricade Breaker 1BR
    Creature - Goblin Berserker (U)
    Blocking creatures get -1/-1.

    Havoc 4BR
    Sorcery (R)
    Choose one or more - Destroy target creature, or destroy target artifact, or destroy target land.

    Moving on to Cimis...

    Alloysmith G/U
    Creature - Elf Artificer (C)
    T: Add 1 to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast artifact spells.

    Metalshape UG
    Enchantment - Aura (C)
    Enchant artifact creature.
    Enchanted creature gets +3/+3.

    Metalshift 1G
    Instant (C)
    Choose one - destroy target artifact, or target artifact gains indestructible until end of turn.

    Woo new wording...

    Hullplate Leviathan 7U
    Artifact Creature - Leviathan (U)
    Trample, Islandwalk.

    Simulacrum's Grace 3UG
    Enchantment - Aura (U)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature gets +2/+2, is an artifact in addition to its other types, and has "0: Return target artifact you control to its owner's hand".

    Perfect Imitation 3U
    Artifact creature - Shapeshifter (R)
    You may have CARDNAME enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield, except it is still an artifact in addition to its other types.

    1. Hey. I agree on the whole green being buddies with artifacts -- but here's the thing - the green elements of the guild are never going to focus on artifacts, only on artifact creatures. The blue elements will be a little more expansive, but the mechanical focus of the guild plays up green's love for creatures and blue's for artifacts.

      It's definitely a little color pie bleed, and it may be too much, but I thought it was worth a shot.

      And I really like the way that hybrid/artifact frames look.

  3. Rakdos:

    The old Rakdos, however violent, were essentially anarchic. The new Rakdos are actively despotic. They aim to control people, and they are very good at using fear, emotion, and sheer brutality to do so. They're an organization that's part mob, part paramilitary, and part dictatorship, and they run most of the poorer areas of Suvnica. Mechanically, they are bigger and less all-out aggressive than the old Rakdos, and they play up the "griefer" and control roles.


    (since "preprints" seem to be a thing now:) Slate Street Ruffian

    Cyclops Retaliator (Common)
    Creature- Cyclops Rogue
    Whenever a creature deals damage to CARDNAME, CARDNAME deals 1 damage to that creature.
    "An eye for an eye."

    Maul the Weak (Common)
    Target player sacrifices a creature with power 2 or less.

    Relentless Assassin (Rare)
    Creature- Human Assassin
    T: CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

    Slumlord's Ultimatum (Uncommon)
    Destroy target land unless its owner discards three cards.

    Rakdos Chant (Rare, cycle)
    CARDNAME deals X damage to each creature without flying. Then each player sacrifices a creature.

  4. Simic:

    I think it is possible to draw out a "goals/methods" color identity for the old Simic. Their goal is to "improve upon nature," which means that they focus on actual creatures as the result of their research and use knowledge mostly as a tool to make those creatures. What about the opposite-- a guild that just wanted to understand how nature worked, and studied creatures as a way to get that understanding? This sounds much less like "mad scientist" and much more like "real scientist". (I think this idea was brought up on the first post introducing Suvnica.) As for the artifact idea, caring about artifacts isn't even that firmly in blue (it doesn't show up in every block and is often in white) and is absolutely antithetical to green, so I don't think that works well mechanically. Here's my idea:

    The Simic oversee most of Suvnica's parks and agricultural areas. They are extremely interested in how nature works and believe that it must be domesticated in order to be studied. The information that they gain has led to improvements in sanitation and nutrition that benefit all of Suvnica. However, there is some concern that they are over-protective and do not allow nature to run its course.


    (Preprint) Birds of Paradise

    Creature- Human Elf
    CARDNAME gets +1/+1 for each non-Human, non-Elf creature you control.

    Gentle Giant (Common)
    Creature- Whale
    Prevent all damage that CARDNAME would deal to creatures.

    Cawing Bird (Uncommon)
    Creature- Bird
    Flash, flying.
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may cast creature cards this turn as though they had flash.
    "Something has disturbed it."

    Irrigation Canals (Common)
    Enchant land
    Enchanted land has "T: Add two mana in any combination of colors to your mana pool."

    Catch for Study (Rare)
    Return target creature you control to its owner's hand. Draw cards equal to its power.

    Specimen's Grace (Uncommon, cycle)
    Enchantment- Aura
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has hexproof. {0}: Attach CARDNAME to target creature you control.

    1. Good stuff here.

      (Though Irrigation might be too good and Specimen's Grace definitely needs an activation cost)

  5. The Cimis believe in learning about, cataloging and preserving all life. They are the field scientists, explorers, botanists and animal behaviorists of Suvnica.

    Traveler's Log 5U
    Sorcery (unc)
    Draw a card for each creature type among permanents target player controls.

    Jane Goodall 4U
    Creature-Shapeshifter Scout (unc)
    When ~ ETB, choose a creature type. ~ has that creature type. As long as another creature you control with that type has trample, ~ has trample. Same for flying, reach, vigilance, or hexproof.

    Ant Colony XG
    Enchantment (unc)
    When ~ ETB, put X 1/1 green Insect creature tokens OTB.
    At the beginning of your upkeep step, if you control two or more Insects, put a 1/1 green Insect creature token OTB.

    Zoologist 1G
    Creature-Human Scout (cmn)
    ~ ETB with a +1/+1 counter on it for each other creature you control.

    Protected Land G
    Enchantment-Aura (cmn)
    Enchanted land has hexproof and "T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast creature spells."

    1. Travelers log probably can't be made to work because of changeling. (I dunno about you, but "nonshapeshifter" permanent is FAR too clunky for me).

      Protected land doesn't need the restricting clause. Hexproof is worth a LOT less than cantrip. I'd be a lot more on board if it were a Fertile Ground variant.

    2. Good points

      Traveler's Log 5U
      Sorcery (unc)
      Draw a card for each creature you control with a creature type shared by none of your other creatures.

      Protected Land 1G
      Enchantment-Aura (cmn)
      Enchanted land has hexproof.
      Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, its controller adds one mana of any color to his or her mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast creature spells.

  6. So we have the old Simic guild: a guild of scientist/wizards bent on fusing life essences with both science and magic to promote their evolution. After the events of the Decamillenial, the guild was all but destroyed, only to be recovered by the merfolk below the city to give the guild a new purpose and guidance. Careful not to make the same mistakes as Mormir Vig, the new guild uses only magic to fuse life essences...but what if the Cimis went the other direction? If science trumps magic in Suvnica for the Cimis, the guild makes controlled growth (serious emphasis on controlled) via logic and careful reasoning. The difficulty in this idea is separating the ideas of magic and science in the cards. Some designs to muse:

    Greenhouse - 3
    Artifact (probably rare)
    At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control.

    Fertilized Irrigation - 2G
    Enchantment - Aura (uncommon)
    Enchant land
    At the beginning of your upkeep, put a mana counter on enchanted land.
    Enchanted land has "T, Remove all mana counters from this land: Add X mana in any combination of colors to your mana pool, where X is the number of mana counters removed from this land."

    Lorescale Coatl (either a reprint or probably a functional reprint to better match the flavor)

    1. Greenhouse seems overpowered to me. Maybe make it check some kind of condition? I'm thinking "on each Plant, Fungus, and Treefolk creature you control" but maybe that's a bit too narrow.

      I really like Fertilized Irrigation! It reads pretty naturally, but has interesting play-- it's like a Rampant Growth in disguise, except that then "land" you get can produce any color of mana and store it for free (like Dreadship Reef). You can also use it early on for mana fixing, but then you have to give up an extra mana that the land would have produced. The one thing I would suggest is not to use "mana counters"-- typically cards like this give their counters a specific, flavorful name.

    2. Would a cost increase on Greenhouse be fine? I knew I was kinda pushing it, but it probably deserves a cmc of closer to 5. Too high end the risk of being on only good as a win-more card.

    3. This may overcomplicate the greenhouse effect (ha!), but what if it put the counters "on each creature you control that has the fewest or is tied for having the fewest number of +1/+1 counters among creatures you control." That way, over time, it makes sure they all have the same amount.

      The problem being, of course, that you are deterred from playing creatures unless you're bringing them out in bulk.

  7. I see the Simic we know as having blue desires (research and improvement) and green methods (using life itself as their subject and medium). Flipping those, we have green desires and blue methods. What does that mean?

    Desire: Bring together the living beings of Ravnica, weaving a grand ecosystem into a single, unified superorganism.

    Methods: Research and manipulation of behavior and social patterns, mind magic/psionics that allow greater connections and understanding between individuals.

    I see the Cimis as possessing something similar to both the Firemind and the Worldsoul of the Izzet and Selesnya, respectively; a vast psychic network that connects all Cimis, allowing individual members to tap into a collective unconsciousness, intuitively making use of each others' knowledge, experiences, and senses. This psychic link extends to both the the humanoid members of the guild as well as animals (the former gaining new forms of perception and intuition, the latter gaining increased intelligence). The ultimate goal of the Cimis is to draw all of Ravnica into their web, creating a single super-organism living in complete and perfect synchronicity and harmony.

    Mechanically, I would want to focus more on the "ability sharing" part of the original Graft mechanic, as opposed to the "growth" part that was more explored with Evolve. Themes of interconnectedness and unity are good flavor notes to hit as well. Overall this should be a somewhat more cerebral take on GU than the "weird monsters" approach.

    Zameck Percher 1U
    Creature - Bird Mutant (common)
    Infuse 1U (1U, Reveal this card from your hand: Target creature gains this card’s other abilities until end of turn. Activate this ability only once each turn and only as a sorcery.)

    Slithersage 2GU
    Creature - Snake Elf Wizard (rare)
    Whenever Slithersage deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card.
    Infuse 1GU (1GU, Reveal this card from your hand: Target creature gains this card’s other abilities until end of turn. Activate this ability only once each turn and only as a sorcery.)

    Entwined Fates 4GU
    Enchantment - Aura (rare)
    Enchant opponent
    Whenever enchanted player draws a card, you may draw a card.
    Whenever enchanted player casts a spell, you may put a 2/2 green Lizard creature token onto the battlefield.
    Whenever enchanted player plays a land, you may put a land card from your hand onto the battlefield.

    Evolutionary Nexus 1{G/U}
    Enchantment - Aura (uncommon)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature has flying as long as another creature has flying. The same is true for deathtouch, hexproof, trample, vigilance, protection, and reach.

    Intuitive Leap 2GU
    Sorcery (uncommon)
    Reveal the top card of your library. If it's a nonland card, put it into your hand. If it's a land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped and repeat this process.

    1. We aren't officially designing mechanics yet, but Infuse is a cool one-- somewhere between Forecast, Graft, and Channel. The mechanic is flavorful, intuitive, and useful, and the templating for it is very smart. If all the effect does is grant abilities to creatures, I imagine there isn't too much of a danger of repetitive gameplay.

      Entwined Fates: I like the concept, but not the placement in your version of Simic (or any version, for that matter). I get the blue aspect of it, but it seems more white or black than green. I'm thinking any of Dimir, Azorius, or Orzhov could be a good fit for it, depending on the guild concept.

      Evolutionary Nexus: I like it. Protection seems like the odd man out here (and I'm not sure it can be written this way). I'd suggest that you go ahead and add in the rest of the evergreen keywords (first strike, double strike, lifelink, intimidate, and haste are all I can think of at the moment).

      Intuitive Leap: Seems reasonable and interesting. Strikes me at first as underpowered, but you always get something good and it's very strong if you hit 2+ lands. Also, fun combo potential (see: Scouting Trek).

    2. Hey Alex. I de-keyworded infuse when processing the cards, since I have an active ban on keyword design at this point. We'll be getting to the keywords very soon, and when we do I want everyone to have a crack at showing off their ideas. When we do the Simic keyword design week, bring it up again. It looks like it has a lot of potential.