Friday, January 29, 2016

Spotlight Challenge 3—Devin E. Green

This fortnight, Devin is going to take lead on this challenge:

Design six cards that inject a clear flavor-identity into a returning mechanic—either by adding flavor where there is none (ala cycling), or by re-branding a returning mechanic (ala chroma and devotion). Include at least two commons, one uncommon, and one rare or mythic. Include at least two colors.

Devin's first submission is due 2/8. I'll review it 2/9.
Devin's last submission is due 2/15. I'll review that 2/16.

Devin is strongly encouraged to solicit ideas and feedback from the rest of the artisans, and the community is strongly encouraged to help Devin as much as you are able.


  1. My first thought is buyback and Vryn. Or echo.

  2. I tend to find that the abilities on instants and sorceries tend to not have great flavor, but it is hard to conceptualize different properties of a spell. What makes lightning with flashback different from lightning without?
    I also think that prowess doesn't have a lot of flavor.

    1. It's an interesting problem. One question it raises is are there any spell mechanics that do seem flavorful? I think Overload, Replicate, Innistrad Flashback all worked.

  3. I would want to re-concept and fix an unused Future Sight mechanic. They are all flawed for one reason or another. The one's I see most potential in are:

    (Ramosian Revivalist's new Recruiting)
    COST, T: Return target CREATURE TYPE permanent card with converted mana cost "COST - 1" or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.

    (Absorb N)
    If a source would deal damage to this creature, prevent N of that damage.

    Discard another card named CARDNAME: EFFECT.

    (Aura swap)
    COST: Exchange this Aura with an Aura card in your hand.

    (Fateseal N)
    Look at the top N cards of an opponent's library, then put any number of them on the bottom of that player's library and the rest on top in any order.

    (CREATURE TYPEcycling)
    COST, Discard this card: Search your library for a CREATURE TYPE card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

    When you cast this spell, copy it for each permanent put into a graveyard this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.

    COST, Sacrifice this creature: Search your library for a creature card with the same converted mana cost as this creature and put that card onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library. Transfigure only as a sorcery.

    (Frenzy N)
    Whenever this creature attacks and isn't blocked, it gets +N/+0 until end of turn.

    COST: Attach to target land you control. Fortify only as a sorcery. This card enters the battlefield unattached and stays on the battlefield if the land leaves.

    1. It's a good line of thought. I spent about half-an-hour pouring over Time Spiral Block for more ideas. Ended up feeling pretty attached to Transfigure and Grandeur, both of which would be undergoing Chroma treatment and being tweaked for their return.

  4. Some ideas:
    Landfall: in an oceanfaring set flavored as landing on different islands

    Level Up: Instead of paying a cost to level up, either A) "Add a level counter whenever this attacks" (For the 'adventurer' return to Zendikar, or in a combat/war set) or B) "Add a level counter whenever you cast a spell" (For a magical academy set)

    Unearth: appearing on non-creature artifacts flavored as digging up ancient relics

    1. Artifacts are a go, I'm pursing designs. I like both of these other ideas, but I haven't had any inspiration from them. One thing that really helps me think about an idea is to see it executed, so if you wanted to post a design for either Islandfall or Alternate-Level-Up, I'm all ears.

  5. Okay, first things first, I'll be making a Google Spreadsheet to post ideas onto. At first it will have a list of mechanics we might use with bullet-points for the pros and cons of each one. Then it will morph with us as the project progresses. I'll check here, and even repost what I find to the Doc, but if you want to converse over there, you can give me your e-mail and I'll give you editing privileges.

    Doc will be up by today at 10PM.


    I'm just gonna throw out my two ideas. They are both half-baked, but that's what this collaboration thing is about!

    - CYCLING -
    Cycling is my white flavor-whale. It's a beautiful and elegant mechanic which is well-loved,, but it's essentially a flavorless! What are you doing when you cycle? Improvising? Brainstorming? Inventing? Transmuting? Unlocking? Who knows?!

    I don't want to try to retroactively attach flavor to Cycling cards of the past. But what if a new set's cycling was highlighted by having two versions of it? One version before and one after a major historical event?

    - Colorcylcing -
    On Zandrov the aristocracy holds all of the power, and they enforce and consolidate that through brutal, totalitarian oppression. This is mechanically represented by cards that reward you for playing one color.

    Bluespell 1U
    Blue effect.
    Bluecycling UU (UU, Discard this card: Reveal the top three cards of your library. You may put a blue card revealed this way into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.)

    Later, after a violent revolution, the new Zandrovi regime builds a more interconnected society represented mechanically by off-color cycling.

    Red Spell RR
    Red effect
    Cycling W (W, Discard this card: Draw a card)

    - Transfigure/Transmute -
    The problem here is twofold. Transfiguring and Transmuting cards require you to shuffle a bunch, and they reduce variance to a dangerous degree. Cards with transmute tend to read as "Tutors with a second mode" and that's not good design.

    Maybe we cascade into the appropriate card instead of searching, i.e. reveal cards from the top of your library until we find a card with quality X. Quality X has to be something the transmuting card doesn't have so you never accidentally transmute into another copy of the same card. You could Transmute to a sorcery, or a card that costs less etc...

    Wishboard it?! Say that a transmute card can switch out with a card that costs the same from outside the game!? Probably too powerful to exist as a mechanic, but it could be cool to have some Bring to Light style shenanigans with your sideboard in limited. If it's workable, should be limited to a color pair or maybe a Shard so that the whole set isn't full of these cards.

    Those are my thoughts for now. I'll post more after tomorrow's tournament!

  6. Maybe it's the 90's kid who played with pokemons in me, but I've always thought there's something very cool hidden beneath Champion. I'm not quite sure what, and I'm just passing by, but I wanted to mention it. I'll think some more about it.

    1. I love champion cards too! I almost feel like Bestow was a retread of that territory, since Champion always had the issue of being risky if your only creature got zanked.

      If I were to bring back champion, and not step on Bestows toes, what do you think would make it unique again?

    2. I've thought (a lot) about rebranding champion. I envision it as a Simic mechanic of evolution and experimentation. Here's what I've come up with:

      Synthesis (As this enters the battlefield, you may exile another nontoken creature you control until this leaves the battlefield. If you do, it enters the battlefield with {if param1.value == 1 then "an" else english_number(param1)} additional +1/+1 {if param1.value == 1 then "counter" else "counters"} on it.)

      The main difference with original Champion is that it is optional, so it is always a bonus, not a drawback. It reads different than Bestow, especially through flavor, but gameplay should also be very different. With bestow you want to voltron up one giant creature; with Synthesis the bonus is on the new creature, so you can't really create a single huge one as much as multiple threaths.

      Simic Bear {1}{G}
      Creature - Bear Mutant (Common)
      Synthesis 2 (As this enters the battlefield, you may exile another nontoken creature you control until this leaves the battlefield. If you do, it enters the battlefield with two additional +1/+1 counters on it.)

      Zameck Manta {1}{U}{U}
      Creature - Fish Beast (Uncommon)
      Synthesis 1
      {U}, Remove a +1/+1 counter from Zameck Manta: Target creature gains flying until end of turn.

      Synthesized Leviathan {5}{G}{U}
      Creature - Leviathan (Rare)
      Synthesis 6
      Flying, trample
      Spell you opponents control that target Synthesized Leviathan cost {6} more to be cast.

    3. First of all, bestill my Simic heart! I like this more than Evolve by a pretty significant margin.

      I'm a little sad that you're not using the exiled creatures at all. I love that you don't have to synthesize to get your creature into play, especially since that lets you make Grizzly Bears and Wind Drake to fill out the curve. Still, I would want a few of the cards to mutate into the card they synthesized.

      Memetic Jelly 3G
      Creature - Ooze Mutant (Uncommon)
      Synthesis 1
      CARDNAME has all activated abilities of the creature it synthesized.

      Other possibilities include "protection from creatures that share a type with the synthesized creature" or "3UG: Put a creature token onto the battlefield that's a copy of the synthesized creature."

    4. Can I say I love the flavor of this mechanic? Because I do. What's more Simic than a creature literally assimilating another creature into itself (although the way they pop out again when the synthesizer dies, or gets synthesized by something else, is a bit suspect).

      Here's my take on it:

      Primal Jelly U
      Synthesis 3
      If CARDNAME has synthesized a creature, it has defender.
      "The increase in mass has bloated the experiment to the point that it can hardly move. No matter. Set it to watch over the others."

    5. @Devin: Mine were only some examples. I also made this one but forgot to write it here, it has the interaction you wanted :). I love the copying ability that you came up with, that would make an awesome rare!
      Drakodile 2GU
      Creature - Crocodile Drake (U)
      Synthesis 1
      CARDNAME has flying as long as it synthetyzed a blue creature.
      CARDNAME has vigilance as long as it synthetyzed a green creature.

      and bonus:
      Simic Apprentice 1U
      Creature - Merfolk Wizard Mutant (C)
      Synthesis 1
      When Simic Apprentice enters the battlefield, if it synthetized a creature, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card.

      @Jenesis: I came up to the mechanic by starting from Champion, and I left the original creature returning also to differentiate it from Devour and Exploit; but I can see the flavor disconnect with the creature coming back. I had the explanation that the Simic experiments are never finished done, so when an experiment goes wrong (or is Doom Bladed) they simply start again with the original creature. I can see the mechanic going either way, some more tinkering and playtesting should show what captures the flavor better, but especially what has better gameplay.

    6. @Jenesis: My first thought when I saw that the creature comes back is that this is a sort of unstable fusion of two animals. When something would destroy it, the combination breaks apart. From a mechanical perspective, it lets you voltron safely so it is pretty essential to the design.

    7. Added an Imgur album of Synthesis cards. Right now I have two rares and no mythic.

    8. Blue cards are sweet. Ambush Plasm is all kinds of versatile and Cephaloweft will probably just be cast most of the time, but can pull off some nifty ETB loops.

      Zameck Vitagor feels just right at the boundary of how complex a new mechanic can be at uncommon.

      "Mutant Coral" is a beautiful typeline. Is this a misspelling of "zoonotic" or a reference to "Zonot"? (or both?)

      I think I'd like Root Guardian more as a dude-with-blocking-only-keyword if it had a smaller front end.

      There's always gotta be a miss, and for this batch I feel it's Zegana's Powerstone. Both halves of it mimic what the other monoblue cards are already doing, and I can't help but imagine board states where the correct play is simply to bounce your opponent's best creature over and over each turn.

    9. Zonotic as in, it came out of a Zonot. Not intended to have infection imagery.

      Originally had Root Guardian as a 2/4 with Synthesis 2, but I was worried about a common with 6 toughness. Maybe that's fine since you will have to build up to it.

      Yeah, I have to say I was just really excited to find art with such a downright Simic look to it, I'd love it if someone came up with a better design for that picture.

      Adding in a new Mythic.

  7. I have made the Google Doc.

    Tell me if there are any issues.

    Right now I'm focused on four ideas, two of my own, and one each inspired by Nich Grayson and James Bartolotti. An in depth discussion of each is on the doc, but the abridged version for those following along.

    - Colorcycling -
    Not sure how this will work, should ideally let you cycle to another card of the same color. The strength that it always draws you a spell is complimented by how it can't find you a land.

    Transmogrify may work from your hand, or it may be a action for your creatures, but it lets you 'cascade' through your deck to find something, probably a similar thing that costs less.

    -Unearthing Artifacts-
    I love the flavor here and I think it could maybe work. It's fundamentally less robust because artifacts can't attack. This means the only ways that reainimating them can matter are the abilities. No vanilla or french vanilla artifacts with unearth, every single one has to have an ability or an effect, and the most interesting ones might have to have two.

    A riff on Granduer, but appearing on non-legends and keying to something less specific than the card-name, like super-type, or color, or color + supertype.

    1. I added some example designs to the doc, two for each of these mechanics. I'm still open to hearing more suggestions for good mechanics to pursue though.

  8. Personally my vote is for unearthing artifacts, for the following reasons:
    -It has a cool flavor (Indiana Jones!)
    -It takes the mechanic in a different direction
    -It actually makes sense in red and blue
    -Artifacts don't naturally tend to kill themselves (Spellbombs aside). Therefore it will tend to lend itself to a particular kind of deck, making it easier to see the flavor connections between all the cards with the mechanic.

    I'm slightly cautious on this one because:
    -Artifacts don't naturally tend to kill themselves (Spellbombs aside). What kind of environment will make non-Spellbombs' unearth feel like more than trinket text? Maybe we should put it on some artifact creatures as well - robots can just as easily be relics of a past age.
    -It doesn't actually change the name of the mechanic, which seems to be the point of the challenge (maybe rework it slightly and nix the haste?)

    I don't like the other mechanics for the following reasons:
    -Colorcycling and transmogrify both feel the same as cascade, which was a mechanic that had no flavor to begin with
    -"Cascade-like" doesn't entirely solve the shuffling problem because you can build your deck to have only so many cards with certain values
    -CMC itself is not loaded with flavor, and color is more a restriction on flavor than a signpost toward any particular flavor.
    -Grandiose feels like "yet another tribal mechanic" and not at all like Grandeur.

    1. -Unearth-
      I think doing unearth artifact creatures sort of misses the point. Firstly, there have literally been artifact creatures with unearth before, plus, that's just unearth exactly how it was. So that means we'd need to find enough space to make, say, fifteen to twenty non-creature artifacts that care about being brought back. Options:

      Static effects - Cheap unearth costs to rebuy a nice static effect for one turn.

      Tap Effects on Expensive Artifacts - A 6-mana T: Draw a card with unearth 3, a 5-mana T: Tap target creature with Unearth 1 etc...

      Sac-Effects - Who says we can't just have spellbombs? I made a cycle of tri-modal, ally-colored Spellbombs. Their in the doc.

      -Other Thoughts-
      I'm taking your notes seriously, even though I'm about to talk about why I disagree with some of them. I have seen your work on this blog over the years and I know that you know your stuff, so your words carry weight.

      I don't see why CMC or Color need to be flavorful here. None of the moving pieces of a mechanic have the flavor, the flavor comes from how they interact. Look at Odyssey Flashback and then Innistrad Flashback. With a more refined, flavorful environment the "value mechanic" became the "dark magic mechanic."

      Transmogrify and Colorcycling are currently borrowing cascade's reveal tech, but I don't see how they are similar otherwise. Transmogrifies flavor seems straightforward, it's a form of chaotic, elemental shapeshifting. Colorcycling is more like an affinity for one color of magic that mages on this plane have.

      The only way to abuse cascade that I know of is the Future-Sight Living End cycle, which doesn't work here at all. Cheating a less expensive creature into play seems fine, even if it's only one possible hit. Putting an different spell into your hand is possibly good enough, although it would only ever be the fifth copy of a four-of, since otherwise you'd risk finding another copy of your tutor. Imperfect, but totally unabusable I think.

      Those are my thoughts. Thank you for your feedback!

    2. Spellbombs are cool, but I don't think they can sustain a whole keyword on their own. I'll be keeping an eye on the non-spellbomb unearth stuff to see if any of it catches my fancy.

      I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean by "None of the moving pieces of a mechanic have the flavor, the flavor comes from how they interact." The flavor comes from how they interact with the other parts of the card, or how the cards interact with each other?

      Regardless, I disagree that mechanics can't be flavorful in themselves. Take scry for example. The English word scry means to "foretell the future using a crystal ball or other reflective object or surface." To scry in the game of Magic, you discover what you will draw on your next draw step (the future) by means of looking at it (gazing into it). There are cards with scry where the scry part doesn't jibe with what the rest of the card is doing (like Magma Jet), but that just means the flavor of the card is confused, not that scry itself doesn't have a flavor. In general I feel that the more flavorful mechanics are the ones where the name itself evokes some kind of action or fantasy. "Transmogrify" means "to transform, especially in a surprising or magical manner" - great! The top hit for "Cycling" is "traveling on a bicycle" - not that great.

      Did Innistrad really give flashback more flavor? There was a flavorful self-mill deck that used a lot of flashback cards, but there were also cards like Travel Preps and Nightbird's Clutches where the flashback seemed to be purely for gameplay/cycle-filling purposes.

      Transmogrify as shapeshifting elementals is pretty cool. It's like Mercenaries meets Polymorph. Or Reverse Birthing Pod. Instant speed makes me a bit leery, but as long as the activation costs are high enough there should be enough shields-down moments that the opponent can get value off of removal spells. Only one quibble: Does it work in nonblue?

      Colorcycling is still a miss for me. Why would the flavor be "play only one color" when 1) "monocolor" by itself isn't tied to any one flavor (although devotion came close), and 2) you can colorcycle into a multicolored card just as easily as a monocolored one?

      Colorcycling is probably not that abusable if the cycling ability always matches the color of the card, so there's always the chance of hitting another colorcycler (and if all the colorcycling cards are narrow sideboard cards, even less so, though it does raise the question of how strong they'd have to be in order to be maindeckable in the first place).

      The comparison to cascade is specifically: the revealing and shuffling time issue. Yes, sometimes you just slam the Tarmogoyf right off the bat, but sometimes you hit a run of lands and/or expensive cards, and an environment where everyone is incentivized to play cards that flip over part of their deck every so often is going to have that time add up. This actually gets worse with transmogrify than colorcycling, because the farther you go down the chain, the more cards in your deck you'll have to flip past to get to the next hit.

    3. Not sure that I need to respond to anything here, but I'll be keeping these notes in mind.

  9. I like the ideas here. Of the ones you highlighted:

    1. Colorcycling

    Should be "look at the top N, reveal a blue card and put it into your hand"? If you reveal most of your deck, that's going to be slow mechanically, and also a bit too tutor-y.

    Maybe even "nonland cycling"? That's already more interesting than cycling, though more complicated. Don't have a flavour though.

    2. Transmogrify. Not sure if it should be hand or from battlefield. I think battlefield is more interesting and more different to the other mechanics. And has a better flavour, and avoids some of the problems with cascade.

    Scared instant speed will be strong, but that sorcery speed would be useless. Or maybe make it a death trigger, with or without a cost? Or somewhere inbetween, like a "when this becomes a target" trigger?

    3. Unearthing Artifacts.

    I really love the idea! The indiana jones flavour is great. But I'm not sure how it works when artifacts don't naturally die. Making them all sac works, but then it's more like flashback. Maybe artifacts with charge counters? Although then it's more like "+1 charge counter"

    4. Grandiose. Seems promising

  10. Explore -- I like this idea too. I'm not sure how to differentiate it from landfall, maybe by going for diversity, "When you play a land that doesn't share a name with a land you control, do X"?

    Although I don't like how that rewards rare lands. Maybe "can produce a colour no lands you control could produce"?

  11. Regarding both colorcycling and transmogrify, developmentally, I think that as long as you hit the target, you need to discard all other revealed cards to prevent too many degenerate combos for a keyword. Note that filling up graveyards quickly has it's own issues with fostering degenerate combos

  12. Here are six cards meant to demonstrate the new Unearth Mechanic:

    And here are two commons and two uncommons for Transmogrify:

    1. So Glittering Totem is probably the spiciest card in the lot. It's really bad if all you can do is hardcast it, but it's basically Lotus Petal if you have mill, discard, or sac effects to pair with it. The art is sweet too.

      Mystical Basin has a lot of ones on it, but I suspect those are necessary to keep it fair so, like, mono-blue doesn't get out of hand with all the ramping.

      Shrine of Ish-Behah is a fine mythic. Good use of trigger timing.

      Timewarp Spellbomb feels like a natural outcome of this mechanic. I wish that it wasn't a colorless card that does nothing if you play it in a colorless deck, but tacking hybrid-colored-artifact (or a fourth ability) onto everything else going on seems unnecessarily complicated.

      The other two cards I didn't like as much.

      On Darkblood Spellbomb, both abilities are pretty marginal and I don't like Lava Spike in black, despite that one precedent from Innistrad. One spellbomb is probably enough to demonstrate proof of concept anyway.

      Enerorb is a miss for me because the exile clause on unearth creates anti-synergy. If you're playing other unearth cards, you don't want to exile them because it nerfs Enerorb, and if you unearth Enerorb and sac it, it doesn't count itself.

      I would like to see an unearth card with an ability that discards or sacs artifacts as a cost - something that can help me get value off dumping my big mythic into the yard when it's early game and I can't cast it yet.

    2. This is excellent.

      The spellbombs originally had the ability to cantrip, but they looked cramped. However, Timewarp Spellbomb was the only one that didn't, and you're right, I don't need two, so, back to basics.

      Had a weird problem with the imgur, so I made a new album with the updated designs. Also, a rare, which I designed but forgot to include.

  13. An idea for the "auto-attaching Equipment" referred to on the Google doc:

    Sealed Sword 4
    Artifact - Equipment (R)
    Equipped creature gets +4/+2.
    Whenever CARDNAME becomes unattached from a permanent, sacrifice that permanent.
    Equip 2
    Unearth 0
    When you unearth CARDNAME, attach it to target creature you control.

    If you don't include the reminder text for unearth it's surprisingly not that text-dense.

    1. This is a solid build, but I don't know why it has the Grafted Wargear text. Putting a Monstrous Growth rider on a clunky piece of equipment seems marginal, so making the clunky equipment even clunkier to make up for it just makes the design unappealing. All of this is to say, a design like this has a place in a set, but I wouldn't include it in the set of cards meant to show-off a theme.

      However, I riffed on this a bit and found:

      Relic Blade 3
      Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has haste.
      Equip 2
      When you unearth CARDNAME, attach it to target creature.
      Unearth 2 (2: Return this card from your graveyard to the battlefield. Exile it at the beginning of the end step or if it would leave the battlefield. Unearth only as a sorcery.)

      Reminder text is optional, since its uncommon, but I'm always happy when you have room for it there. Haste lets this card be surprising without having to happen at instant speed.

  14. I kinda rambled on a little bit, so if you are just interested on my suggestions for Synthesis & Unearth, go ahead and skip the next four paragraphs. If you want to read about the Spotlight challenges in general, then read on.

    First off, Id'e like to apologize to Devin for not contributing as much as you did during my challenge. I wish I could repay the favor more, but life gets hectic. And I procrastinate( I am only human after all!)

    Now some feedback. Right now, I think Synthesis and Unearth are the most flavorful( and I'm all about flavor!) I kinda find this sad though, because like Jason Carrington said, non-creature/permanent mechanics are hard to convey flavorfully. Or at the very least, like Jenesis said, the mechanic doesn't connect with the card it's on in a flavor full way. I wish there was an easy solution to this, but if there was, no one would have mentioned it.

    Any way, back to the task at hand. Speaking from experience, don't try to have a "complete" or "perfect" set of cards for your first submission to Jay. Try to be as broad as possible in your designs, maybe submitting multiple versions of a mechanic or multiple mechanics. That way you can receive as much feedback as possible to launch your final submission. That's what I did(well, kinda.)

    One thing I think your doing correctly is keeping all ideas open to exploration, and not focusing all of your attention on one idea. As we learned a couple of weeks ago, being narrowed into a corner isn't going to prove fruitful( and to be fair to Ipaulsen, that was only the second ever spotlight challenge, and none of us know the best way to go about it.) Future Spotlight Challengers should keep this in mind.
    Enough of my rambling about the Spotlights and the future! Let me get to something more relevant.

    I love Synthesis. I like the idea of a creature being mutated and absorbed by another creature, only to be popped back out later. I love it. It's just that the wording could be changed slightly. Something like:

    As this enters the battlefield, you may exile another nontoken creature you control until this leaves the battlefield. If you do, put X +1/+1 counters on CARDNAME.

    Or something like that. Before, Synthesis had the "I get counters" right after "return creature after climatic death." This made it read (for me at least) that when the exiled creature would return, it (pretend "it" is in bold) would receive the counters. Hopefully this will alleviate any possible confusion, and just read better.

    Also, if you want it to be more representative of the creature it absorbed, you could scale the counters off of the exiled creatures casting cost. Or power. Or toughness. Although, that's probably developmentally harder.

    1. For Unearth Artifacts, there is so much to explore. Colored artifacts? Artifact creatures? Artifacts that go straight to the graveyard somehow? Or interact more with the graveyard? Artifacts that any player can Unearth? Snapcaster(archaeologist) for artifacts?

      My favorite is colored Unearth activations. You can only dig up this artifact in this region of the world. For instance, 'Unearth RR' would represent an artifact that is buried underneath mountains. You won't find it digging underneath Swamps or Islands. Nope. You have to go to a Mountain to get this sacred treasure.

      Usually, when you find a buried artifact, it has some sort of unimaginable power. But back before it was lost and buried, it was probably an average artifact for that time period. Maybe you can portray this by a bonus for being unearthed, or maybe you have a better idea.

      Card Idea:
      At the beginning of your upkeep, if CARDNAME is in your graveyard, put a century counter on it.
      When you Unearth CARDNAME, if it had ten or more century counters on it, you win the game.
      (you can add numbers and name it and redo it however you like.)

      Does the Unearthed card have to be exiled? I feel like we have a difference between creature unearth (you only imbue the creature with enough life force to last one turn) and artifact unearth (your'e actually digging up a powerful object.) Why would you get rid of that artifact? It doesn't seem to fit with the idea of an archaeologist (Did you ever see Indiana Jones throw away his "prize" voluntarily?) I was just wondering if there was a way we could make it more flavorful.

      I'll see what I can do about posting some more card ideas in the next couple of days.

      P.S. Just found out there is a limit on how many characters you can post in a comment. I guess 815 words & 4686 characters is to much. That's what I get for typing for an hour at 1:00 in the morning.

  15. Two new links, couple new cards, more than six, so now we can actually veto designs and we'll still have enough to submit:



    @Zeno_Rage: I changed the wording slightly. It's important that the creature enter the battlefield with the counters so that when players try to play around a burn spell, there is no techy, pointless window where the can still be punished.

    Now it reads "If you do, this creature enters..." a few characters longer, but clearer I hope?

    Regarding your comments on Unearth, I think the flavor is archaeological research. You aren't digging up the whole artifact, dusting it off and throwing it at someone, you're digging up the ruins or remains of that artifact, studying it and using the knowledge against your opponent.

    1. Your explanation for Unearth makes sense now. Thanks! What kind of setting do you see it on? Would unearth also be on creatures in this set, or would it be exclusive to artifacts? Will the set be slightly artifact heavy set?

      So you don't want people to lightning bolt the creature as the exile is on the stack. That makes sense.

    2. I like almost all of your design for both mechanics.
      Two have something I would change:
      Stalker Bush is a 1 mana 0/1, a card that is below unplayable, so you pretty much do not have choice of synthesizing it or not, you HAVE TO do it. I would make it a {1}{G} 1/2 or 1/3 vigilance to make the choice meaningful.
      Desert Drakerunner is a fine design, and a space I like red is expanding on, but I'm left to feel of the bad moments players will have when they mix up unearthing artifacts and unearthing creatures, where the cost reduction is completely useless, as the unearthed creature won't have the chance to attack. I don't know if there's a wording that can adjust this situation, or if the design has to change in some way. It could obviously see print as is, if the set has only artifact with unearth.

    3. @P_for_Pizza: Yeah, you're totally right, Stalker Bush is just the worst. I was aiming for a Lumberknot style all-in card, but now I remember how crummy it always felt to play Lumberknot.

      Desert Drakerunner originally read "unearth costs on artifact cards in your graveyard cost 1 less..." but I thought it looked clunky. Now I think it was a better design since it made it clear what the card was good at.

      I'm designing for a set with no unearthing creatures. This is partially because of the goal of the challenge, so it's a little artificial. Still, I'm resisting that right now to make sure the line between Grixis and... er... Indiana is clear. Think Golem Foundry over Rusted Relic.

      Desert Drakerunner and the Academy Curator are my attempts to show the role of colored spells and creatures in a set built around artifacts. I'm aiming for something that contrasts well to the two Mirrodin blocks- more artifacts than usual, but with a greater diversity of draft-archetypes. Instead of Metalcraft vs. Infect and Artifact vs. Anti-Artifact, my goal would be to make a diversity of very different artifact-grounded archetypes.

    4. That's reasonable.
      Right now you have a red and white creature helping unearth. Is that red and whites archetype, because traditionally they have had more of an equipment theme. Which is fine if you want to change it, I just wanted to make sure there isn't a better color pair. I might sketch out a rough outline of the ten color pairs and their draft archetypes.

    5. Well Red sacrifices artifacts, and White brings 'em back. So the color pair together seems like a natural place for artifact graveyard attrition archetype even though it's a little bit out of the norm for both colors.

  16. So, Jay, I'm not totally certain about the format here. We have two strong contenders for the final design, and I want to continue pursuing both of them. Also, I have more than six designs right now, because I think it's better to develop extras and leave open the option to cut cards completely.

    If pressed, I will commit to Synthesis, but only because of my loyalty to the Combine. If you have thoughts on the unearth designs we've put together, I'd really love to hear them.

  17. There's nothing that says that you can't submit two ideas for the initial review. I would submit 4-5 designs of each, and go with which ever one has the most positive feedback.

    Is Synthesis for Return to Ravnica 2.0, or for another plane? If not on Ravnica, then I'd like to see Synthesis in other colors. How about an artifact creature that represents a battle suit of some kind.

    1. Agreed, hopefully that works for Jay.

      Right now I'm drawing some of the design sensibility from the Simic, but I'm not necessarily thinking of it as a new Ravnica block. Synthesis is a great mechanic, but it wouldn't exactly play nice in Ravnica because of the density of new keywords that the guilds bring.

      The flavor I was imagining was a Simic Colony on another plane, founded by a 'Walker born on Ravnica and raised in the Combine. It's not really a printable idea, since it would be impossible to make a set for each guild and unfair to highlight just the one, still, I think the flavor is fundamentally biological so I wouldn't make a battle-suit myself. That being said, it's a good idea for a riff, and I am endlessly pleased that you found it in the middle of a challenge about reskinning and updating an old mechanic.

    2. KayKay

      - Synthesis -

      Cephaloweft, Ambush Plasm, Zameck Vitagor, Zonotic Mimic

      - Unearth -

      Runic Mortar, Glittering Totem, Timewarp Spellbomb, Academy Curator

    3. Is this your official submission?

      I'm digging images out from here?



    4. Yeah. It's a bit hard to show off the mechanical diversity with just four cards, but I'm sure you get that. There are two of some cards, but none of the ones I'm submitting.

  18. Regarding the cards I haven't commented on before:

    I think Eternity Engine is in a nice spot. It's the opposite of Glittering Totem in that you don't really want to unearth it on turn 4, so the unearth is more of a 'value' mechanic: if your opponent isn't blowing artifact removal on this thing they're probably going to lose soon anyway. Then it can do a Soul of New Phyrexia impression.

    Spiritblade: Nice clean design. +2 toughness is a bit awkward with the EOT exile clause though.

    Runic Mortar: Does just about everything I wanted it to do.

    Desert Drakerunner: As someone mentioned earlier, this has subtle anti-synergy with the existing Grixis unearth cards. I'd much rather it just said 'artifact' on the card itself.

    Academy Curator: It's the white Snapcaster! Great use of flavor and distinguishes it from Grixis unearth as well.

    Shrine of the Titan: Seems swingy. Other than that doesn't evoke any strong emotions from me.

    Titanic Siphonophore: Really nice art. 8/8 5 mana flier is no joke. I find it amusing how you can blink all your guys in response to removal.

    Stalker Bush: I want to like it as either an early drop to power out a turn 2 synthesis or a 'Goyf later, but that vigilance is really throwing me because it does nothing on the 0/1 version. Maybe reach (replacing Root Guardian)?

    Gliding Krasis: Is that a decapitated flying fish?? Instant-speed flying offers a lot of combat complexity for a common.

    Some ideas for the "Zegana's Powerstone" art:

    Zegana's Totem 3
    Synthesis 2
    UG: CARDNAME becomes a 2/2 Merfolk Mutant creature with "when this creature ltb, draw a card" until end of turn. It's still an artifact.

    Zegana's Hydropon 3
    Synthesis 4
    T: Move a +1/+1 counter from a permanent you control onto another target permanent you control.

    Zegana's Incubator 2
    T: Add G or U to your mana pool. Spend this only to cast creature spells with synthesis.
    Each creature with synthesis you control ETB with an additional +1/+1 counter on it.

  19. Spirit Blade - Doesn't damage unmark at the beginning of the end step? So this works the same as a Giant Growth, right?

    Stalker Bush - It;s meant to be a dedicated Synthesis common, and to be bad so the Synthesis deck could always get a few. Still, I think I think I aimed low. I added two alternate versions to the album. One is an appealing, efficient two-drop, and one is a slightly more appealing dedicated support common. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Gliding Krasis - One of my favorite subtle ways of improving how a mechanic is received is to put it on a card that everyone already likes in draft. Version one is a wind drake with crazy upside, version two is more of a unique design that punches in the same direction, but with a much less appealing low-end. Again, which do you prefer?

    I like all of these artifacts though the Incubator is the most appealing. Still, I'd want to make it cost 1 more and cut the rider about creatures with synthesis.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Damage unmarks in the middle of the cleanup step, after you discard down to max hand size.

      I like Bush #2 (dedicated) and Krasis #2 ('safe').

      As far as which card I prefer to be dedicated, I think the Bush wins because the non-synthesized version is bad on paper, but clearly serves a purpose for the deck (either Bond Beetle or undercosted 4/4), whereas the non-synthesized Krasis is either crazy good or just Coral Merfolk.

      For the 'safe' cards, the Krasis is a respectable evasive dude and curve-filler. You'd play it in a blue, non-synthesis archetype, but you wouldn't aggressively take it over other blue cards (if blue is reasonably deep - I hope). That seems more appealing to me than a vanilla ground dude, which are a dime a dozen in just about any green archetype.

  20. Right, so the unearth effect last until end of turn, so Spirit Blade getting exiled and marked damage getting removed happen simultaneously. That was my intuition, and the Comp Rules seem to support it, although I suppose if it's not immediately obvious it's worth being concerned about for complexities sake.

    I think I agree, but I'm glad to hear that from someone else.

    1. No, that's not what I'm saying.

      The ending phase is divided into two steps, the end step and the cleanup step.

      The end step is when "at end of turn" effects trigger. Unearth goes on the stack at this time. When its trigger resolves, the unearthed thing is exiled. Players can play spells and abilities in response at this time.
      The cleanup step is when you discard down to max hand size, damage wears off, and "until end of turn" effects end. Effects that use the stack can't normally happen at this time.

      This means that suppose I unearth Spiritblade, equip it to a 1/1, then cast Giant Growth on it. It'll be a 6/6. At end of turn, Spiritblade triggers. After it exiles itself, my creature will be a 4/4. Then after I discard down to max hand size, the creature will shrink down to a 1/1 again, then my opponent's turn will start.