Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Suvnica Week 3 Review, Part 2: Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (Golgari)

The Azorius review is up, so let's dive into Golgari. There was a broad range of submissions here, and it led to some interesting designs.

Zefferal's Vision

"This guild recognizes and values the long-term power of nature and uses magic to accelerate so it's not so long-term. The guild harnesses the wilds, taking its resources (lumber, game, minerals, etc.) and undermines any competition to their exploitation by causing the organizational structures backing that competition (governments, corporations, alliances) to accelerate into their natural entropic/self-destruct stages much earlier than would normally occur (various means of ecoterrorism and corporate sabotage). I'm imagining the fantasy equivalent of a ruthless corporation that has an eco-friendly front."

Lobster667's offered these cards for my vision

This makes so much more sense than Vesper Ghoul, and is a nice alternative to Elves of Deep Shadow. I just wish it resonated more with the vision I described, even if only through flavor text explaining what this card contributes to the guild.

I like the mirror to Dawnglow Infusion and the callback to Drain Life and its progeny. I'm still looking for the creative connect though.

Sorry, but even being Green doesn't justify Mr. Ritual. Ritual effects are red through and through now. The closest black comes is increased black mana production off of swamps. That might make for a nice alternative effect. "Whenever you tap a forest or swamp for mana, add {B}{G} to your mana pool. <i>(The tapped land still adds mana to your mana pool as normal.)</i>"

lpaulsen's Vision:

"The Golgari, a shadowy organization of elves and the sentient plant life they cultivate, are convinced that they represent the highest form of life and behave accordingly. They treat other species with contempt and aim to spread over the entire world. On the surface, they appear to be an agricultural guild that provides food, medicine, building materials, and various services. However, this is merely a front for them to spread their influence through all of Suvnica. Mechanically, the Golgari work for incremental advantage by using -1/-1 counters and life-draining effects to gradually wear down opponents. Their creatures tend to be small but are difficult to destroy. It's also possible that they may want to care about creature types."
Jay Treat rightly pointed to some similarities between this and Lorwyn elves. The description is solid, but I'm not sure about the use of -1/-1 counters in the mechanical aspects. Using them in this guild prevents others from using +1/+1 counters, which are generally more robust and lend themselves more to the mechanical realization of guild philosophies and ends. That is something that we're going to be discussing in a couple of weeks, so for now I'm not going to come down hard on cards that feature them.

lpaulsen's Cards:

I like it. I think it avoids some of the complexity issues that keep regeneration from showing up too frequently at common under NWO, and Johnnys like myself would have a field day with it.

If we are sticking with -1/-1 counters, this guy works just fine.

Hmmm. Maybe I had recently looked at this when I proposed an alternate design to Keeper of the Autumn Grove above. I think that you could lose the symmetrical effect and just leave it one-sided in your favor and the card would still be fair.

Ant Tessitore's Vision

"Black's goal: Omnipotence. Green way to get that: Infinite Mana (well maybe not infinite, but a lot of it!). Black-Green way to do that? Recycle the dead!"
First things first. I know I only linked to the submission guidelines in the Week 3 article and didn't list them explicitly, but in short, at least during the first few weeks of the Suvnica design project, we're looking primarily for creative reimaginings of the color pairings as group philosophies. A lot of people (including myself, on occasion) have discussed briefly what types of mechanics would play up the creative description, but that's mostly to allow for some more connective tissue between the vision and the card designs meant to illustrate it.

This description has the beginnings of an alternative vision, using the same (ends color/means color) framework I try to use when providing my own ideas for creative designs, but it doesn't follow through. Recycling the dead doesn't tell me anything about the guild, other than the types of mechanics that it's going to use.

Also, one of the major restrictions I've been imposing on designs so far is that we're not yet looking to give the guilds their respective keywords. We are going to do that at some point this summer, but I didn't want that to distract from the first stage of this project, which is thinking of the creative identities. Again, I didn't explicitly state this rule in the Week 3 article, so mea culpa. I stripped the recycle keyword from each of Ant's designs, and I'll be looking at the cards on their own merits.

When we do get to the point that we're looking at keywords, maybe we'll revisit some of these designs.

This is a nice common, but the mana ability in a vacuum just doesn't make much sense on a Black card.

This guy is much better. Aggressively costed, feels more natural on a gold card, and matches the creative identity of the guild. Solid.

This one is much more problematic. First of all, I'm pretty sure that Hybrid mana is a cost, and not something that you can add to your mana pool (although something I read on GA recently indicated I might be wrong). This makes parsing the mana ability much more cumbersome. Second of all, you could lose the plant tokens and the card will already start to look a lot cleaner.

Ant has the distinction of designing Suvnica's first land. I think that, in a vacuum, this is a really cool idea. Development is going to have to playtest the hell out of it to make sure it doesn't do anything too degenerate. However, the problem comes up when you put a mana color pair on a non-gold card. Ravnica (and Suvnica) design rules are going to need this to be part of a ten card cycle, and unless it's a really loose cycle, that's going to be a lot of land that's producing more than one mana, which does not a happy format make.

This is a nice, solid design. I think it would work even better as a hybrid, since you could really fix for the mana you need in a Golgari deck.

Slightly weaker ostracize, which is good. You'd definitely need the opponent to reveal, if only to show that he doesn't have any creatures to discard, but otherwise, another solid design.

I would play him.

I'd be less likely to play this guy. Fertile Elf and Elvish Fertomancer would probably not be found in the same set, since they tread on each others design space toes a little too much, but each in a vacuum is a perfectly good design.

Why not?

Jules' Vision

"The Iraglog pursue superiority in its purest form. The strong prey upon the weak, and each successive group is stronger than the last. They have no qualms about killing "innocents" since everyone is a competitor. They will do anything to improve themselves and view anyone unable to do the same as yet another evolutionary dead end."
Sounds good to me. A very very green philosophy with elements of Black in the execution. Let's see the cards:

I like it, although I think this card wants to be {B}{G} because the second ability feels very vampiric in nature. It may also be possible to simplify the ability somehow to make the card a little more elegant.

The price on this is a little steep. I think I would like it a lot more if the cost was 2 life, or if it was a non-aura that let you pay three life to throw around the counters on whatever creature you want.

Great common design.

This card is fine, but I feel like it could be so much more exciting. We already saw a bunch of commons demonstrating this vision. Make this guy bigger, spashier. He already has three creature types. He's called a monstrosity, let's not let him default back to 2/2 at the end of each turn.

R Stech's Vision

"An interesting direction to take the reverse-Golgari would be to push that "big creatures at any cost" mentality by having really inexpensive creatures with erratic behavior/weird drawbacks, as well as some "successful experiments" that just make creatures really big. You could play up the horrific experimentation nature of them like the Simic but unconcerned about anything but raw power output. I know it's not quite in line with NWO, but I think there's a particularly interesting tension with the Skulking cards that could be expanded upon in interesting ways."
Here's another largely mechanical description. We can infer that the vision of the guild is accumulation of power through giant creatures, but it could definitely use a little more creative infusion.

This is much more of a {W}{B} card than a {B}{G} one. If it was monoblack I think it would arguably work a little better as a representation of the guild.

This is super. Huge upside, huger drawback, but the colors are most adept at curing the drawback. I also like that the mechanical focus can lend itself to a wide range of drawbacks, although development concerns may limit that style of card to only a handful.

I think if you lose the first line and just stick with the second ability, you still have a weird Timmy/Johnny card with high appeal that is much more elegant. Let the players figure out the best way to get the counters on their creatures. If you want to get even weirder, don't specify the counter type and just say +1/+1 for each counter on it. That would inspire all sorts of oddball decks.

That's it for the Golgari. Next up, Legends!


  1. I love the flavor of Nervous Wurm, The problem is finding a color combination to put it in. Putting it in Green, which is THE color that's good at killing fliers? It really, really hits a bad nerve for me. Even Magefire Wings, which plays in a not entirely dissimilar area of flavor, doesn't do it as a downside...

  2. It's really difficult to evaluate cards without playtesting, but not everything that's clean is a good design. Elvish Fertomancer and Fertile Elf look like they can be lumped together, but actually untapping lands makes for a good design while adding mana does not. Most players don't know the exact rules for how long mana sticks around and will be confused and frustrated when they can't actually use this mana for anything after their creatures die in combat.

    As for some others: I'm not convinced "the drawback guild" is a viable option. Wizards has been cutting back on the number of cards with pure drawbacks significantly because most players are turned away by them. I'd rather try to capture this flavor with something like Unleash: you get a big upside, but it might just backfire horrifically.

    Finally, I'm really divided on Reconstituting Slime. New players will have a much easier time figuring out what it does than regeneration, but I'm not so sure they'll understand WHY they would want to use the effect. If we're fixing regeneration I think the cleanest version looks something like this:

    Reconstitution [COST] (When ~ dies, you may pay cost. If you do, return it from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped.)

    Of course, making it work with sacrifice outlets would probably require those to be nerfed significantly to avoid brokenness.