Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Suvnica Week 3 Review, Part 1: We Don't Need No Education (Azorius)

Doing this week slightly out of order. The design challenge for week 4 has already been posted. In the meantime, let's see what you guys had to say about bureaucracy, scholarship, and inevitably boring games of magic.

Zefferal's Azorius

"The Azorius are all about gaining knowledge. They do this communally, recognizing that group discussion and study increase their net gain of knowledge exponentially. This is the guild of the Academy, where any who seek to better their minds are welcome. Mechanically, this is a guild that's going to care about accumulation of creatures (large groups of researchers and students delving into all manners of knowledge) and/or artifacts (relics for the study of magic, anthropology, art, history, etc...)."
This proved a popular model. A lot of people offered designs.

lpaulsen liked the proposed philosophy but disliked the preference towards accumulating creatures in a control-oriented color pairing. He offered a bunch of cards to demonstrate an alternative mechanical focus.

This guy is a powerhouse. He definitely needs to cost more, and even so, soft counter on a stick is overpowered for common. He also has complexity issues at common. Although ETB effects are encouraged at common in NWO, this kind of thing effectively references the stack by proxy and probably wouldn't work.

Once you bump it up to uncommon and add an integer or two to the mana cost, I love the card. I'm a little surprised that the simple soft counter hasn't already been done.

I get very nervous around effects like this, and it's always difficult for me to figure out whether it's because I think that the card is unfun or if it's because I think that the card is unfun. I hate control decks, both playing against them and shuffling one up and playing it myself. But there are a lot of people out there who love playing that kind of magic, and more power to them. As far as this particular card is concerned, it's a fine design on its own, but if Azorius has a lot of effects similar it's going to lead to a lot of objectively unfun gameplay. 

This can probably be templated a little more clearly, but I'm not really sure how. If it can't, an alternative could be some sort of hybrid between Flickering Spirit and a clonish ability that causes it to reenter as a copy of target creature would capture some of the intent. Devin E. Green suggested 
Choose a creature on the battlefield. Exile all creatures you control. Return those cards to the battlefield, they are copies of the chosen creature until end of turn.
Not a bad solution.

I love the mechanic of the card, but I'm not really sure how it fits into the vision from a flavor perspective (other than having teacher in its name). Maybe a teacher conjures his double so he can get back to his scholarship without having to deal with idiot students.

A nice alternative to a straight-out gating mechanic, which might be too powerful with all the ETB abilities floating around.

Jonas Sckazinski's Cards:

Jonas was trying something similar to a lot of the Citizen submissions in last week's Weekend Art Challenge. I like the idea of Scholars, but I have two concerns. First, it's a very parasitic mechanic. That's not the end of the world by itself. In a vacuum, the above card would probably be fine, if a little wonky. But when you start building decks around scholars, as most will want to, the above card gets super broken super quick. Development wouldn't let it stand at 2 mana and probably not at common either.

The other problem is figuring out what the creature tokens are accomplishing that counters can't. Alternatively, while from a flavor standpoint scholars wouldn't want to engage in combat, is it really necessary to add the restriction? If you leave them an 0/1 you have less rules baggage on presumably frequently occurring tokens and added utility, that doesn't clash with the flavor in a huge way.

Development would also bump this up to uncommon and add some mana. Design-wise, I'm wondering why this is a hybrid. While in theory white can get limited countering, in reality it almost never happens. If the token making only feels natural in white over blue, then it should be straight-up multicolored.

This guy is exploring the scholar's mechanical space a little more. I'm not sure that he needs both abilities. I think that he would definitely be cleaner without losing a lot of appeal if he just blocked one additional instead of variable.

Lobster667's Cards:

Lobster667 shifted his mechanical focus for the vision to twiddle effects. Let me be upfront here - I love doing kooky things with twiddle effects. I'm unabashedly Johnny through and through. My design submission for GDS2 was essentially the twiddle block. I'm super disappointed that Shadowmoor's untap mechanic is probably never coming back.

But! Excessive Twiddling ends up being a game of solitaire, and your opponent sits across from you wondering if you really enjoy spinning your cards around and around during your game.

tl;dr - twiddling is fun, but it shouldn't be a primary mechanical focus for a guild (or a set)

I'm not sure that either of these abilities gains much by being targeted. This also seems like it would be fair at common to me.

I'm not sure how yet, but I don't doubt that this card would break standard and modern in half in thirty seconds or less. The discard activation cost for the second ability doesn't feel especially at home in this vision of the guild either.

Devin E. Green's Vision

"Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. To protect the world, we must protect knowledge. The Rezorius Academy seeks to know everything and exists to prevent the citizenry from learning and inevitably misusing the power contained in its vast libraries.
... Rezorius founded her academy, teaching her disciples to bind the magic of the wicked, to drain the mystics scars of the land and nurse them back to health. Her disciples learned to erase knowledge from the unworthy and by the end of her long life her academy had built the first great wing of the library and locked away the most dangerous spells in there forever."
I like this vision a lot. It's philosophically both very White and Blue, even if the proposed mechanical focus leans more Blue. It's a stark departure from Ravnica's Azorius, and definitely has a unique feel to it.

Devin E. Green's Cards:

If you lose the last line, I love it either on its own or as a hybrid. I see that stab at white retribution type effects there, but it is a slight disconnect and I think the card works well without it.

Unlike mind chains, this card needs to be regular multicolored. The first strike doesn't make sense in a mono-blue deck, and the punishing extra card draw doesn't feel particularly white. Once it's {1}{W}{U}, I think it's a nice design.

Moohoohahah. I love it.

Jay Treat liked the control and censorship of information vision for the guild, just not in that color pairing. He posited that it could work as a guild philosophy for Gruul or Golgari.


This is a mechanical space that we don't see too often - hand disruption without card advantage. I think it makes sense in red, and would be surprised if it doesn't end up there.

Makes sense philosophy wise, but definitely feels more Rakdos than Gruul.

This feels amazingly Gruul, and right on philosophy. Also seems to mirror Dark Confidant in some ways, which is great.

Jay also proposed it for Golgari visions:

Okee dokee.

This could make an interesting cycle, although maybe not all in one set or block.

I love the mutual discard shenanigans this enables. Also, spellshapers.

Jules' Vision

"The Suiroza seek to give everyone an equal footing. Sure, they acknowledge that some people will always end up better off than others, but they see no reason that chance should play a role in that process. Suiroza guardians pluck children away from their parents so that all can be raised with equal means and attention, and recently have begun a cloning project to eliminate unfairness in genetics."
This vision definitely needed a little more fleshing out. This sounds like a hyperpaternalistic society, Orwellian government control over people's lives. That's the White ends, while drawing on someone else's tabula rasa is kind of Blue. I think I like it.

Jules' Cards

Nice simple design. There was some talk in the comments about a weird rule that allows you to flicker a creature for the ETB effect after damage has occurred? Maybe someone could explain that one to me.

Probably undercosted, but definitely a lot of fun. My biggest complaint is that it feels to combat tricky for blue. I think it might fare better as a sorcery that grants a creature a triggered cloning ability whenever it gets blocked until EoT.

Don't let the expansion symbol fool you. This guy is rare. While probably a decent draft pick in a normal set, in a set with a lot of ETB effects, as Suiroza seems to want to have, this guy may end up hurting you more often than you'd like.

Jay Treat's Vision:

"If we consider a Suiroza with white goals (greater good) and blue means (study), they could be Wikipedia. Concerned with gaining and sharing knowledge, and educating the world. These are the climate scientists and philosophers; teachers and bloggers. The only sin greater than ignorance is misinformation."
I think this description perfectly demonstrates the entire point of Suvnica project. Jay and I used identical approaches to determining our respective reimagining of Azorius, thinking what a guild with a White goal and Blue means would look like. We each emphasizing the same White philosophy and the same Blue tools. But with a slight variation in thining about the type of community that White would care about (I went small insular community, Jay went global) we come up with very different visions that have different mechanical ramifications.

Jay Treat's Cards:

Revenge of the scholar!

Great subtle red-hate in the anti-red guild.

Also a solid card, but I think that we're seeing too much mutual benefits. I wish Jay had provided a card or two that let you exploit all the benefit that you're giving to your opponent. This Azorius seem like the first genuinely nice guild I've seen on either Ravnica or Suvnica, but nice ain't going to win you any games of Magic.

I might redesign cure for the cough to keep the mutual draw, but have the lifegain benefit only the caster, and instead count all cards in all hands.

I would probably just call an Enchantment an Enchantment and be done with it. The can't be discarded ability also would cause untold havoc. It should probably be "spells can't cause players to discard cards" or something similar to prevent absurd abuse.

Templating-wise, we probably ought to clarify how the color is chosen (random, opponent choice, controller choice, or Floral Spuzzem choice). Also, I'm not sure where this fits into the proposed philosophy.

That's it for Azorius. Next up, Golgari!


  1. A couple of rules-related notes:

    On Fresh Start:
    Players gain priority during the combat damage step after damage is dealt. Since it's still during combat, creatures are still attacking and blocking creatures, so you could hit somebody with a creature before blinking it.

    On Ironclad Librarian:
    This isn't busted in half with Wild Mongrel, it turns off Wild Mongrel. If cards can't be discarded, then "Discard a card:" is an unpayable cost. See Platinum Emperion's reminder text for similarity.

    Anyway, as for the actual designs: I think most of these concepts have legs, but we need some more mechanical expansion. We can't have a guild that's all blink effects or all token makers. I think the lesson we need to take from Ravnica proper is that cards can support a guild concept without their effects directly playing in that space. The concepts just have to feel like things you'd expect to find in a guild based on the given framework.

    1. Ironclad Librarian is busted in half with Faithless Looting (aka "Red Ancestral Recall").

  2. Didn't they get rid of that with the 2010 rules update? I thought the entire point was to get rid of damage on the stack? Or are you saying the trick only works if the creature survives the combat - it's still considered attacking after creatures dealt lethal damage have died but before postcombat main phase?

    1. Right, the creature has to survive the combat in order to be blinked during that Combat Cleanup step, so I'm not really why anyone has brought it up at all.

      The most well-known use for that step that I'm aware of is to give creatures pseudo-vigilance with Maze of Ith, which is something you'll see in Legacy with the Maverick deck (Knight of the Reliquary and friends).

  3. As far as the expansion of mechanical identities, that's something I'm going to be discussing once we're done with all ten guilds. Right now the purpose is to explore the creative and see different ways color pairings can be represented. Stage 2 of the Suvnica project is going to expand on that greatly.

  4. For the very first card, Wizards is okay with doing it at common - in fact it already exists. See Spellstutter Sprite, which is significantly more powerful than the first card.

    Overall the actual visions of the guilds were all pretty good. Aside from mutual card draw, I'm having a bit of a hard time fleshing out Jay's guild. The general idea "Educate everyone" could go very well into either zefferal's or Jules's visions - either with cards that emphasize group learning like -
    Shared Discovery U As an additonal cast to cost, tap three creatures you control. Draw three cards.
    Or as the happy front end for Jules's rather dark vision.

    1. While I don't think Force Spike on a 1/1 is going to cause too much grief in the world, Lorwyn block is pre-NWO, so it's generally inappropriate to reference its commons as a defense for developmental evaluations.

  5. Strict Instructor is one of those cards that's totally fine when it's played normally, but terrible once someone figures out how to blink it at the beginning of your upkeeps.

  6. The only thing I have against the Scholar tokens is that they take away two of the three fundamental things that make creatures creatures: they can't attack or block (the third would be power/toughness, which is somewhat unnecessary because they can't use it for any true purpose). The Scholar tokens feel like they would be better/make more sense as counters (the rest of Suvnica doesn't interact with tokens on a grand scale, while other counter-related cards have come up).