Monday, June 10, 2013

Suvnica Week 5 Review, Part 2: Life and Taxonomy (Simic)

Here we are. The last of our guild revisions. One of the things that inspired me to start the Suvnica project in the first place was this weekend art challenge. I designed an Izzet artifact and thought it would be cool to fill out a cycle of artifacts for the guilds in DGM, and the concept I came up with initially for Simic was very {G}{U} but not at all consistent with Simic's flavor. That initially got me thinking about guilds with different creative identities, and over 230 cards later, here we are. So let's rethink what it means to be a Simic on Suvnica.

Zefferal's Vision

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).

A lot of people criticized my vision for having Green like artifacts, and I just wanted to defend my position briefly. I think that if we limited the mechanical synergy to artifact creatures in green then it's defendable. Note that I could be wrong. I like to think I know where the color pie is able to bend to flavor, but I've been completely off base about that before.

Anyway, enough about me. Here's what Lobster667 came up with for the vision.

This is where the green caring about artifacts starts bending a little too far. As a mono-{U} card this would be fine, but it feels off that you can cast it in a non-{U} deck.

Nice. Very powerful, but with some very intense limitations. I'm pretty comfortable with this at common.

Also very powerful in a set that has a minor artifact subtheme. Interestingly, if you and your opponent each have a copy, they effectively work as counterspells on each other. I can't think of too many cards that do that (aside from actual counterspells)

Throwing the Timmies some love.

Lobster expanded on the grace cycle with this one. Unfortunately, I don't think that this one is going to work as is. Having the free ability to bounce any artifact you control without limitation is going to lead to some very degenerate gameplay. It's also outlier to the cycle in that the static ability isn't necessarily a generally good thing - being an artifact isn't beneficial unless you have cards to support it. The cycle in general can probably benefit by having the activated ability cost a hybrid mana of the relevant colors, as 0: is such a weird activation cost to parse as is.

Slightly worse phyrexian metamorph, but that doesn't make it a bad design. It definitely feels on-theme for the vision, and seems like a blast to play with.

Jules' Vision

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.

This mirrors in many ways the idea I had for Selesnya - a group that finds heroes and champions and does their best to keep bad things from getting in the way of their respective destinies. It works just as well in Simic, with less of a focus on community and more of a focus on controlling the fate. Jules came up with these designs:

This ability feels more {W}{U} than {G}{U} (White is the color of creature quantity - green gets quality). That said, it definitely captures the feel of the vision, and it's a fine design for a mono-{U} card (which ultimately doesn't have to subscribe to any particular guild ideology). But if Azorius is in one set and Simic another, I'd be more inclined to put it in the former.

That's an interesting mechanic, reminiscent of Centaur Omenreader. Definitely a Johnny card with frequent Spike appeal. My one critique is the name, which I understand a playtest name, but sounds much more like an enchantment than a creature.

Functional preprint of Mending Touch. Can't criticize the design, but it successfully captures the flavor. Incidentally, I hope that my legacy with this project is to have coined the term "functional preprint."

A green Bone Splinters? I feel like that breaks the spirit, if not the letter of the color pie. Although, if this was an Entwine spell, I might not feel the same way, even if the result was the same. Not sure what to make of that.

lpaulsen's Vision

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.

More Weaver than Wyld. That definitely works.

Who doesn't love a manabird?

Magic doesn't tend to do half-breeds (All of the tabletop RPG references!), but when it does (All of the memes!) it generally gets more outlandish than Human Elf. I understand that the current template cuts out most of the Green sentient creatures out there, which I assume was the intent, but you can keep that ability with only one of the creature types. Loses some elegance, but I think that may be worth it in this instance.

I like the card, but I think that this should be an uncommon. Too many of these in a draft environment is going to be very swingy and/or lead to a lot of stalled boards.

That's potent. It can create some weird tension, since it's a decent 2-drop on its own, but a lot of players will want to sit on it for a real -gotcha!- moment.

I don't really see the blue in this card, although I do like the ability. As an alternative gold design, bump it to uncommon, and have it read "When ~ ETB, choose a basic land type. Enchanted land is the basic land type in addition to other types and had "when this is tapped for mana, add one mana that this land could produce to your mana pool."

Cool design. It's only a few lines, but there's about twenty different ways to tweak this design for a wildly different effect. This version definitely lends itself to a more control-oriented Simic, which might be an interesting play style for the guild.

lpaulsen took a stab at the Simic card for the grace cycle. It's a nice take, and hits all the right color pie notes, but it does effectively give all of your creatures hexproof, which is kind of super-broken. If it was limited to sorcery speed, and/or had a non-free activation cost it would be a little less unfair (but not much). 

Jay Treat's Vision

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

Jay also took to the science analyzing/catalogueing/preserving life route. This was a common theme among most of the submissions, with variations on the specific flavor here and there.

Playing in similar territory as lpaulsen's Zookeeper, looking for anti-tribal decks. This might be a very cool sub-theme to develop in the guild, separate from whatever keyword we develop and settle on, like the grind mechanic was for Dimir in Gatecrash.

Of course, that mechanic would be in direct competition with something like this, which looks for much more tribal unity and diversity in abilities. I don't think the two would work in the same set. Still a fun design in a vacuum.

I found yet another enchantment I want to stick in my Muruganda Petroglyphs/Ooze Garden deck. And I still have no Idyllic tutors... There aren't more than a handful of X costed non-aura enchantments in all of magic, and as far as I know they all put X counters on the enchantment to be used as a resource down the line in some way. This is fairly untapped territory, and I really like the design space that this could open.

This one breaks completely away from the tribal/anti-tribal look we were taking earlier, instead wanting quantity of creatures. I could see this at uncommon, and maybe common if this was a frequent ETB trigger.

This is the natural progression from Fertile Ground to Trace of Abundance. It allays the fears that you had when playing Fertile Ground that your enchanted land was not long for this battlefield. I would bump this up to 2 or 3 CMC, and it would still be a major boon to any deck running green in the Suvnica block.

Ben's Vision

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. 

This vision imposes blue boundaries on green goals

Definitely undercosted. Ben discussed the possibility of raising the mana cost, but emphasized that he didn't want this to be a "win-more" card. I love win-more cards. Not every rare needs to be aggressively costed and/or a constructed staple. This card will make plenty of Johnnies and Timmies happy. Knock it up to {5} or {6} and we have a very solid design.

This is a cool design, although it eats up a lot of lines on the card. I'm also leery about mana accelerants that work passively (like post M10 Braid of Fire). You drop this down and ignore it without any further investment and your mana output dramatically increases. That can get degenerate pretty fast (although that doesn't mean it won't be fun).

Alex Spalding's Vision

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.

That sounds super {W} (see Lorwyn Kithkin's Thoughtweft), but not very Blue or Green. I guess the granting of higher sentience to animals speaks to both green and blue, but the idea of creating one large interconnected whole of thought and experience speaks much more to white's emphasis on community and equality.

Alex submitted a few designs with a keyword called infuse (Infuse [cost] (Pay cost and reveal the card from your hand: target creature gains all abilities on the card until EoT, activate once per turn and as a sorcery). It was very reminiscent of Forecast from Azorius in Dissention. Because of my ban on keywords during Stage 1, I dekeyworded it for the sample cards provided and will be reviewing them as printed. When we do start looking at potential guild keywords, I may bring these guys out again to re-review with the intended keyword.

If this ability, unkeyworded, is going to work at common, then this is the card it will do it with. That said, while it is sharing its abilities as per the creative vision, I don't like the temporariness of it. Slivers are obviously the poster-grubs of ability sharing, but there may be a way to do it that's less temporary than this.

This looks much better with the infuse ability instead of the 8 lines of rules text, but if you don't mind squinting, this is a great design.

That's got a lot going on. It's definitely cool, although I wonder how much is actually gained by making you enchant a player instead of just being a global enchant that affects all opponents. You'd gain some breathing room on the card. It could also be feasibly broken up into a vertical or in-guild cycle of enchant opponents, each doing one of the abilities.

This seems to be a common idea in the Simic reimaginings. The only ability I might get rid of would be protection, as it generally doesn't show up in either green or blue. You may consider replacing it with landwalk, which shows up with some frequency in Green and Islandwalk shows up occasionally in blue.

That's awesome. Solid design, feels {G}{U}, if not especially applicable to the particular vision. That's not always going to be an option with instants and sorceries though.


With that, we are done with all ten guilds for the first stage of Suvnican design. If you haven't already, check out the Week 6 design challenge to start figuring out what kind of world we want Suvnica to be.


  1. You could do: "Zookeepers power and toughness are equal to the number of creature types among creatures you control," and just make it a Human or Elf at your choice. I don't think either of these wordings can really cost G though.

  2. My intention for my flavor vision was to be something like the Selesnya Conclave with science instead of religion. Green is also a color about community and interconnectivity, albeit much more loosely organized than the rigidly defined communities of white. The Cimis "network" would be more like each individual member being a neuron in a vast metamind. No moral purpose or dogma, just the pursuit of creating the single greatest superorganism and intellect ever to exist on the plane. I don't see that as being a particularly white goal.