Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mechanical Engineering: The Next Stages of Suvnica

A typical Fall-realease large expansion set has 249 cards. Excluding basic lands, the entirety of the Return to Ravnica block had 654 unique cards. Since we started Suvnica a few months ago, we have created (and in a few cases, pre-printed) 845 cards. Now that we've wrapped up the last of our guild keyword submissions, it's probably a good time to take a look at where we're at and where we'll be going.

Haters Gonna Hiatus

I've been meaning to discuss the brief discussions we had during the hiatus week for some time now, but it had been taking a backburner to the more important Suvnica stuff. Because they were so long ago, I don't want to dedicate too much time to rehashing them, but here goes.

First of all, YMTC happened. Almost everyone here seemed pretty underwhelmed, but Ethan Fleischer and Shawn Main were talking up how fun it was in playtesting on Twitter. Make of that what you will. In the meantime, a few good points were raised in the comments. First of all, Havelock pointed out that, for all our ideas, we're still the amatuers, and the professionals, R&D, selected Waste Not as one of the top 8 mechanics out of the ~7700 submissions. Chah also had a great post on how this type of effect contracts games, inherently reducing a lot of the variety of moments that occur within a typical game of magic.

There's really not much else to say about the card at this point. We just have to wait and see how it plays once we get there. All that said, check out Jay Treat's piece from earlier which has some pretty great ideas we can use to make sure the next YMTC makes for a much better batch of mechanics. 

In the meantime, the discussion about the block structure and guild distribution gave me a lot to think about. Going in to this project, I was pretty settled on the 4/3/3 breakdown of the original Ravnica block. It made sense to me since we were doing Suvnica, not Return to Suvnica, and I felt like the guilds had more individual focus when there were fewer of them in a given set. A lot of people made a lot of good arguments pushing the 5/5/10 structure instead, but what really won me over was Chah's pointing out that, when you look at small sets with modern set sizes, they're incredibly cramped (eg only six common black creatures in Dark Ascension). There simply wouldn't be enough room in the second two sets for three guilds each to shine. 5/5/10 it is. The breakdown will be

  • Suvnica 
    • {W}{U} Suiroza
    • {W}{B} Zhavi
    • {B}{R} Radkar
    • {R}{G} Grohm
    • {G}{U} Kismi
  • Threads of Fate 
    • {U}{B} Rimid
    • {U}{R} Tezzi
    • {B}{G} Gilrog
    • {R}{W} Sorba
    • {G}{W} Sahleen
The last bit of hiatus housekeeping was the minor theme question. While that particular area is not something we're going to spend too much time on for the foreseeable future, since it will probably need to fill a need that the rest of the set isn't, one of the more popular and interesting ideas floating around was using our minor subtheme design space to push focusing on a single guild in limited, discouraging splashing or fully supporting running a second guild. I like the idea, and I'm not sure what steps we can take at this stage to push it, but it's something we'll keep in mind moving forward.

Once More from the Top

I've mentioned this a number of times, but it bears repeating. My original vision for this project was to spend the summer considering how we could think about color pairings differently in a multicolor set, something precluded by Ravnica's historical success and popularity. The project has been far more successful than I imagined it would be at the beginning. We're now at the point where I thought we would wrap up Suvnica, having hit the major goals I wanted to achieve at the beginning. We have a pretty good vision of ten groups, aligned by color pairings, that feel distinct from their Ravnican counterparts but still within the flavor and philosophy of their component colors. We've translated our visions into well over 100 unique mechanics (probably over 150, but I'm not going to count them out right now), figured out a number of Ravnica-analogue (Ravnalogue?) and original cycles that would fill out the guilds, and crafted a world for our guilds to call home.

It was not my original intention to design an entire set (or block, as the case may be), only to test out the viability of the idea and have some fun with color pie philosophy and mechanics. However, a lot of people have expressed a lot of interest in continuing the project, and I'll admit I like the challenge of putting an entire block together (at least through design - I couldn't develop it for all sorts of reasons)

Successful and popular as it has been, Suvnica has taken up a lot more time than I initially thought that it would, and I have had significantly less free time than I anticipated. You may have noticed the lag in posting the mechanic reviews since I ended the hiatus. The fact is, I issued too many design challenges at once for me to keep up. I was trying to track my goal of being done in time for Theros previews. Now that we're pushing the project beyond that, I'll probably lighten up on the pacing a little bit. I'm probably also going to be instituting stricter submission limits, so I don't have to plug in nearly as many cards into the file. Which makes for an excellent segue into our next topic...

What Comes Next

Starting some time this week, depending on when I find the time, I'm going to post a sample card for each mechanic we came up with for Suiroza at the bottom of their guild profile page. I'm going to open up comments on the page, and I want all interested to discuss which keywords we should narrow down our final selection to for playtesting purposes. There are currently 22 or so keywords for Suiroza, and while many are interesting and fun and cool, that's just way too many to playtest properly. I think that if we can narrow it down to the best four per guild, that's a reasonable number of mechanics for us to handle. I'll take the feedback from those discussion and decide which four we'll be working with. At that point we'll have design challenges to create cards for those mechanics, and I'll start throwing together playtest decks. I'll probably put them into LackyCCG if I can figure out how to, and I'll try to make pdfs available for home printing, so you can bring them to FNMs to test out between rounds.

Playtesting is pretty crucial if we want to take Suvnica to the next level, and I think a lot of you do. We'll need to hear how the playtesting goes and figure out what, if anything, needs to or can be changed to make the mechanic better. 

Once I get the mechanics posted to the Suiroza page I'll go over all of this again, but I though I should give you all an idea of where we're headed next. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions pertaining to all of this, feel free to pipe up in the comments.

That's it.


  1. hmm I think before you really start deciding on the mechanics I think you need to solidify what type of counters will be used (+1/+1 counters, or there was discussion of fate counters, probably not both though) because figuring out the type of counters will cross of some of the mechanics (not that they were bad, but if they aren't supported then there is nothing we can do)
    also there was discussion of having a colorless citizen token theme, while I think this is cool, you need to decide if you want to pursue that theme as... again, there are several proposed mechanics that tie into that.

    1. I don't think it's unreasonable to select the top four mechanics, test them, and use the result as input toward which counter the set wants.

    2. There were only a handful of -1/-1 counter mechanics pitched, so I doubt those will make it in. A bunch of fate counter mechanics are contenders.

      As far as other themes we discussed, the colorless citizen idea does work with a number of proposed mechanics, but the subtheme should support the final mechanics, not the other way around. We'll see where we're at once we make the picks.