Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Suvnica Week 6 Review: The World I Have Known

Ravnica had the tagline, "City of Guilds." At this point we're trying to figure out what Suvnica's "[Noun] of [Noun describing a group]" tagline should be. Here's the worlds everyone offered that we can play with:

Zefferal's Vision

Thousands of inhabitants of an unnamed plane are whisked away in their sleep and brought to Suvnica. In the aftermath, guilds were formed based on their reactions and beliefs about the meaning and permanence of this event. Some indigenous Suvnicans have been adopted or conscripted into guilds, while others (most of the mono color humanoids in the set) are fending for themselves. 

Lobster667 ran with my idea, writing a corresponding origin story for the Boros. I'm reposting it here, but you should definitely check it out - it's the first comment in the Week 6 Challenge post. Here's his cards:

Red gets cards like this every once in a while - super-cost efficient but with a significant restriction on their ability to combat. The most recent one (I think) was Blind Spot Giant (recently reprinted in MM). I like the design. I'm not 100% sold on the combat restriction in mono-{R}. Especially since the card is meant to represent Boros, I feel like you could push the power even higher and make it a gold card. The restriction would feel more flavorful in that context, and it wouldn't matter that it didn't feel entirely red.

I like it. Pariah/Martyr abilities have a pretty narrow fan base, but they can be fun when they crop up every once in a while.

That's an interesting design. The ability to block more creatures coupled with first strike damage timing can make this one a little tricky to parse during combat, but I'm ok with that at rare.

Oof. This guy is a powerhouse. I get nervous around cards that can very easily turn the game into a stalemate on their own. I would definitely want to test this guy to see how often he's a bomb and how often he just grinds the game to a halt, keeping your opponent from attacking in and forcing repetitive combat on the offensive.

I talked briefly about PW identities in the Week 6 challenge. A lot of the PWs, especially ones that have appeared more than once, have developed mechanical identities. Elspeth's has been in creating and protecting an army, which is well demonstrated by this card's first and third abilities. However, turning into a creature is Gideon's shtick. If we were building a PW in different colors, I could see becoming a creature to fight in the battle as something someone other than Gideon could do, but when we're already designing in mono-{W}, there's a huge flavor disconnect in giving that ability to Elspeth. Lobster raised the point that, as far as allying with the superhero vision of Boros, it may make more sense to use Elspeth over Gideon. While that may be true, I think we can give her another middle ability less evocative of another PW.

Jay Treat's Vision

Suvnica could be a plane dominated by ten schools, each of which holds and promotes its own world view and teaches its adherents one particular skill they believe to be crucial to prosper in the world. I'm imagining a far-eastern mindset in terms of dedication to a school of thought and to mastery of a skill, but the flavor of the world could be anything.... I can imagine a world where there are ten groups who each provide an important skill to the world. Maybe: WU Teachers, UB Merchants, BR Mercenaries, RG Animal Handlers, GW Farmers, WB Police, BG Leaders, GU Exploreres, UR Philosophers & RW Craftsmen. Regardless, each guild believes it provides the most valuable service to the world and they compete even as they trade and work together.

This makes me think of a much more rural Ravnica, where the guilds still exist and fill certain societal functions (both in teaching new students the tricks and tools of the trade and in participating in a more agriculture-based society) but are not contesting for territory and power as much. The biggest issue is that the hard division of the colors into ten unique pairings invites interguild conflict, and it's harder to see what's driving that with this vision.

Jay offered two planeswalker options on Azusa, Lost but Seeking:

The first is a brave attempt at making another 2-CMC 'walker. (In the interests of full disclosure, the most recent deck I built runs two copies of Tibalt, so I can't hate too badly on the guy). As a 2-drop, her + ability is super useful for a few turns, but until you can refill your hand (see ability #3), after a turn or two just reads: put 2 loyalty counters on ~. Middle ability works for me. The problem is in the last ability. Green gets card draw, but it is almost invariably tied to creatures. Having card draw care about lands is virgin ground/untapped territory/choose-a-less-cheesy-pun, which may be green, but it may also move card draw further away from being primary in Blue which is where it really should be.

Version two, this one as a still-noteworthy 3-drop. Her first two abilities are fantastic. The only thing that sticks out to me there is that it's strange to have one ability put lands OTB tapped, have another that untaps your lands, and not ever have them interact with each other, even though visually they really want to. Her ultimate is weird. First, it's a disconnect from the land theme that she wants to play up. Aside from that, gaining 100 life definitely feels ultimate, but gaining an arbitrarily large amount of life on its own doesn't help you win the game, it just keeps you alive. Other ultimates tend to almost guarantee you the game, or at the very least give you enough momentum that if your opponent comes back from it and wins, you'll at least have a great story out of it.

Hevaen's Vision

Instead of simply having the natives of Suvnica all transplanted onto this new plane, maybe something is going on on the new plane that is sucking in denizens from across the multiverse.... In my vision, the entire set (all 10 guilds) are made up of a conglomeration of creature types. Vampires from Innistrad, Kitsune from Kamigawa, Vedalken from Mirrodin (assuming any survived), Kavu from Dominaria, and Kor from whatever is left of Zendikar are just some of the creature types getting sucked into this new world. I can't decide whether the new world should have native denizens or not but the guilds are definitely comprised of mixes of people from everywhere. This may lead to some strange encounters, such as Merfolk in the Sodkar guild or Goblins in the Aynseles but I think the end result could be really cool.

Hevaen pivoted off of my kidnapee society world a little bit, where instead of the abductees all being from one plane, they came from all sorts of planes. IIRC, that was actually what happened both on Mirrodin in the original Mirrodin block and on Rath in Tempest. All that aside, I'm not sure that being taken from
your home and placed on an alien world is going to change your fundamental nature to the point that we'll start seeing vampires in green or vedalken in red, for instance. Creature types tend to be limited to one or two colors, occasionally entering a third if the setting warrants it (probably requires a tribal component).

I'm not sure if intimidate is secondary or tertiary in Green (it's only shown up on 1.5 mono-{G} cards), but even so, Magic basilisks must have deathtouch or some sort of paralysis/killing effect simply as a matter of flavor. If you switch the card's creature type (and probably knock it up to uncommon) it's a perfectly fine design, but certain creature types carry creative and rules baggage, and this guy just ain't hitting them.

This is a huge flavor disconnect from magic vampires. Of the six that have ever been, each has also been black and four of them are Ravnican, where bleeding of creature types into a second color is frequently necessary. There has never been a Green vampire in Magic, and not without good reason. In the game lore, the magic that fuels vampires is fundamentally Black. From a flavor perspective, Vampires subvert the natural lifecycle (anti-G) and the curse (or whatever vampirism is flavored as on the plane du jour) changes the underlying nature of the creature, also a big green no-no. On Ravnica (and on Suvnica), you can make an argument for any creature type to bleed into any other color as long as it is still in its traditional color as well. Goblins can be white as long as they're also red. Zombie can be Green (despite the above arguments) as long as they are also black. But just shifting creatures into entirely different colors just won't work.

All that said, if you change this guy's creature type to anything with roots in green or blue, I think the mechanic would play just fine and hits the notes I was aiming for in this guild vision.

Another nice example of the kinds of mechanics I would like this guild to push. I might limit it to artifact creatures, since that was the concession I wanted to force in order for the guild to feel slightly more green, but since it must be played with {U} as well I'm willing to let the design stand.

Foxes aren't necessarily not in {U}, so I won't belabor my previous point. The flying is a little strange to me, but I suppose if he's making an army of flyers he can probably cobble together some wings. I like this mechanic, although it might need a mana cost in addition to the sacrifice, depending on some of the other cards that might show up in the set.

It can work outside of Mirrodin if we're dealing with abductees from all over.

Hevaen offered Ob Nixilis as his PW. I'm torn about this design. I like the idea of an all-downside + ability in the abstract, especially on a {B} demon, but it's a lot of turns of both protecting him and building up to an ultimate without short term payoff, which can definitely (frequently) create some real feel-bad moments. I think we can get away with a much more brutal middle ability given the first. Either more -1/-1 counters, or even better, just let him Murder target creature and be done with it. The final ability is a little over the line as far as ultimates - they are supposed to lock in the game for you, but you don't often see them letting you win outright, which I feel that may frequently do.

lpaulsen's Vision

A lot of the guild concepts I've seen so far make me think of ancient/medieval India (and/or Southeast Asia). It's an interesting and diverse setting that Magic hasn't really visited, and one that's known for having a lot of groups with fixed and defined social roles (e.g. the caste system). In this Suvnica, guilds (or maybe they could be called 'clans' or something) are still based on what role they play in society, but they are also at least partially hereditary, so each family has an incentive to support their own guild as the best/most valuable.

lpaulsen makes me wish I knew more (or anything) about ancient/medieval India. It sounds like a really cool plane to develop, and can merge in many ways with other creative visions that we've discussed. I really like the idea of guild allegiance being hereditary, in contrast to the recruitment model used on Ravnica. That can make for some very cool card designs, and some very interesting stories.

This has a lot going on. I'll talk about the individual abilities in a moment, but let me say a few things about PW design - I am relatively confident that when we do finally see a PW with a static ability, it will be on a new version of a PW we've already seen. Likewise, if we ever see another 4-ability PW, it will probably be on a familiar face. The first time we see a new PW, R&D is very rarely going to deviate from the 3-activated ability, +/-/ultimate model.

Misci's flavor is someone who harnesses the power of the tsunami, which is cool. As such, his static ability shows off green's flying-hate using one of its less-common flavor representations of that - high winds. I will say that while the ability shows up as a drawback on {U}'s high flyers, I wouldn't see that ability showing up on a {U} enchant. Possibly on {G} though, so it's not completely off base. I might say to make it more one-sided, affecting only your opponent's flying creatures, but that would need to be playtested to see if it was at all fair.

The +2 ability in conjunction with the static is great. Even on its own, it is very interesting and strategic. The -1 is less exciting in contrast, but it still works. The ultimate falls a little flat for me though. -X abilities at ultimate generally feel less ultimate simply because they can be used immediately, without jumping through the hoops of building up loyalty for your PW. (incidentally, my GDS2 submission had a {G}{U} walker with a -X ultimate). This one in particularly feels a little lackluster. Even if you build Misci up to seven or eight loyalty, doubling your mana from a bunch of lands for one turn just doesn't have enough oomph. 


  1. I like the Indian mythology angle as well.

    The word he was looking for was 'caste', by the way, or as the Hindu system called it, jatis.

  2. Asuza Found has serious development issues. It is basically a two mana Rude Awakening (which is an eight mana finisher that is often run in cubes). Very often this will get cast late game and just win the game on the spot, and that is really not what I want a two mana planeswalker to do. I'd prefer it be something like

    0: Target land is a 3/3 beast until end of turn.

    Perhaps optionally adding "Untap it." so that you could use the ability on turn 2.