Friday, October 23, 2020

Weekend Design Challenge 102320 - Tome

Hey Artisans! Click through to see this weekend's design challenge. Your mission is to design a custom magic card that follows the guidelines. Over the course of the weekend, give feedback to your fellow designers on their designs and incorporate their feedback to iterate on your own. I'll try to offer some feedback of my own starting on Monday.

Once again I went to the random-card button for inspiration, and it delivered: Jayemdae Tome! That's a classic that has seen many riffs in recent (and not-so-recent) years: Urza's Tome, Mazemind Tome, Tome of Legends, and so on. In not-literally-Tome cards we also have stuff like Endless Atlas and the strict upgrade Arcane Encyclopedia.

So here's your challenge for this week: Design a "tome", i.e. a book-like artifact that lets you tap it and pay mana to draw one or more cards. For bonus points, theme it as a specific book or kind of book (like the Atlas and Encyclopedia) and tie it mechanically to that theme somehow.

Remember, you're encouraged to comment on other Artisans' designs and update your own design to address the comments. Good luck and have fun!


  1. I'm new here, so I hope it's okay if I just kind of join in and start posting things.

    Ndame's Book of Quatrains
    Artifact (Common)
    {T}: Add {C}.
    {4}, {T}: Draw a card.
    At the beginning of your upkeep, scry X, where X is the number of cards named Ndame’s Book of Quatrains you control.
    Some cool ABAB rhyme here.
    - Ndame's Book of Quatrains, Vol. III

    If the set could permit such a thing, I'd hope there'd be four different possible arts, each one with a different hand holding a book with a different number of markings visible on the cover or the spine, making it clear that they're volumes I, II, III and IV.

    So, this is basically exactly the same as a Jayemdae Tome (old-fashioned costs and all) but with the added appeal of being able to almost pay for one card draw by themselves if you can collect all four volumes.

    To sweeten the pot, adding the scaling scrying effect should act as a guidepost for what people should be trying to do with these artifacts in a deck.

    Even with the added enticements, is this ability at this cost too weak?

    1. Books of Leng
      Artifact (Rare)
      {1}, {t}: Scry 1.
      {3}, {t}: Draw a card, then discard a card.
      {5}, {t}: Draw two cards, then discard a card. Then, if you have more than seven cards in hand, untap Books of Leng.

      This card specifically kind of synergizes with both Library of Leng and Candles of Leng, giving you more control over how you fill your hand or your graveyard, and with which cards.

      The last ability is supposed to be appealing to Jxnnies looking for a build-around in constructed or something to do with large amounts of mana they produce.

      I doubt that this would fit anywhere other than some kind of Dominaria set, specifically waxing nostalgic about the old days, or maybe a Horizons set. It kind of loses some of its coherence without a reprint of Library of Leng in the same set.

    2. Strixhaven Library Card
      Artifact (Uncommon)
      Return a land you control to its owner's hand: Draw a card.
      At the beginning of your end step, if you haven’t played a land this turn, draw a card.
      This stupid school is all theory and no practice. I don’t even remember the last time I actually planeswalked anywhere!
      - Strixhaven Burnout

      This might be useful for some burn decks or extreme aggro decks that don't really need or want more than four or five lands but are desperate for more fuel for their fires.

      Conversely, it might also be valuable for someone who expects to top out on lands late in the game and then just stop playing them in return for an extra card each turn.

      I don't know what kind of flavor would be appropriate for this. This particular name skews too silver-border for me but I'm not sure what's supposed to be happening with this object in-multiverse.

    3. Keralian Book of Hours {3}{r}
      Legendary Artifact (Rare)
      Whenever an instant or sorcery spell you control deals damage, put a number of page counters on Keralian Book of Hours equal to that damage.

      {T}, Remove two page counters from this permanent: Exile the top card of your library. You may play it this turn.

      {T}, Remove three page counters from this permanent: Discard a card, then draw a card.

      {T}, Remove X page counters from this permanent: Scry X.

      This rewards aggressive burn players for dealing as much damage as fast as possible with spells and can help them stay in the game when they start to run out of resources.

      It's legendary so that they don't set up a bunch of these in parallel drawing tons of cards every turn just for following through on their less interactive game plan. But, hopefully, having one can feel like a really fun, valuable boon.

      It's flavored to be Jaya's own breviary from Keral Keep.

    4. Book as a resource is a cool concept and a breviary makes a lot of sense for that. The design feels very close to a planeswalker and if flavor/theme concerns weren't an issue I'd definitely want to make it one. (As an artifact it's 9+ lines of rules text, so likely one of the abilities would have to go. Probably one of them should go in any case-- there's not much point in having three abilities that all provide forms of card advantage / selection.)

      I would switch the -2 and -3 abilities since exile-draw is usually stronger than loot.

  2. Are we allowed to post multiple ideas each weekend?

    1. Absolutely! It's easiest if you keep them all in one comment thread, and I'll give feedback on the last one.

    2. Also, welcome! It's definitely okay to just jump in and start posting.

    3. I think this is an okay card. I’m not entirely sold on it being common. I think there is too much happening for it to be common. I like the concept of a book of quatrains. I think it could be costed more aggressively if you wanted. Otherwise, great work.

    4. Thank you, L. Paulsen! Thanks for a fun and inspirational challenge this weekend!

      AS14, I agree about the Book of Quatrains being a little overloaded for a common. The only thing that I wonder about pushing it to uncommon would be if that might decrease its rate of appearance in limited card pools to such a degree that you'd virtually never be able to use its "multiple copies" ability.

      To make it more appealingly costed in a situation like this, do you think that the CMC should be {3} and leave the activation alone, or lower the activation to {3} but leave the CMC at {4}, or do you think both could be at {3}? I put both costs at {4} specifically because Arcane Encyclopedia costs {3} for both CMC and activation cost and I didn't want to make a strictly-better Encyclopedia at common (or uncommon for that matter).

  3. This top-down design is inspired by the stories of theoretical physicists proposing ideas to Richard Feynman, only to end up with him pulling out his notebooks and showing that he thought of them earlier.

    Genius' Notebook
    Artifact (Rare)
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, name three cards.

    Whenever an opponent casts a spell with one of those names, sacrifice CARDNAME and counter all spells with that name.
    5, {T}: Scry 2.

    1. This looks like a fun card.

      The only thing I notice is that you might want to think about saying "you may sacrifice CARDNAME," instead of forcing the controller to sacrifice it at the first instance of a named card being cast.

      For tournament level Spikes, they could probably see all the upside in forcing an opponent to cast one of their momentarily unnecessary cards to get this artifact out of the way to make it safe for a more helpful card that they really want to cast later. But I can also see how that could be a feel-bad moment for a less experienced player who would be forced to sacrifice this and counter a spell they don't really care about in a situation where the counter doesn't help them at all.

      Do you think making the sacrifice optional would make this too strong for the cost?

    2. I think the problem isn't quite like that. If spikes want to counter a specific card, they can name Forest and Island. For newbies, they at least get the fun of countering something in a novel way.

      Two other reasons I think optionality doesn't work, are
      a) multiple notebooks with 'may' clauses would allow players to set up nasty prisons for later in the game;
      b) the non-optionality often gives the opponent a way to remove the 'scry 2' effect without artefact removal.

      (The templating isn't quite right on the OP. First line should be 'as ETB' rather than 'when ETB'. And I guess the original challenge was to make a book that lets you draw rather than scry. But it's my first response here!)

    3. The counter is definitely an interesting and powerful effect, and the way it ties in with the theme is neat. I like how the activated ability gives the opponent a reason to cast their spell, and I agree with your proposed change from scry to card draw. There may be balance issues with a "counterspell" you can cast at sorcery speed, but otherwise I like the design a lot!

  4. Big Book of Battles {2}
    {T}: If two creatures controlled by different players died this turn, put a page counter on CARDNAME
    At the beginning of your upkeep, you may pay {2} and remove a page counter from cardname. If you do, draw a card.

    1. This is really cool.

      Using the tap activation cost to help get people into the habit of physically interacting with the card is a neat way to reduce the memory issues of missed activation triggers that might occur if the ability were just a triggered ability from creatures dying.

    2. That's an interesting and novel way of doing a condition. I see why "2, T: If two creatures..." would be a worse design (it forces you to leave mana up for something that you don't have control over). What about "At the end of each turn, if two creatures..." and "2, T, Remove a page counter:" Not exactly the same, but pretty close and maybe more intuitive?

      Very fun choice of condition. It's novel, makes for interesting interactive gameplay, and ties in well to the theme.

  5. Karlov’s Record of Obligations
    When a creature enters the battlefield, put a contract counter it.
    When a creature with a contract counter on it dies, you may draw a card.
    “Payment is always due”

    1. This feels like it would be an outstanding card in any Aristocrats deck.

      I can't help but wish that there were some way to dig the creature deeper into debt, like getting multiple contract counters onto one creature and then them having to pay out even more when they die.

      Purely for flavor purposes, too, it would be awesome if there could be a choice to use a contract counter to either draw a card or turn the dying creature into a 1/1 flying Spirit token or something.

      Otherwise, it already looks like a lot of fun.

    2. Between the colored mana cost and the lack of an activation, this feels more like an enchantment than an artifact. What about turning the first ability into "1, T: Put a contract counter on target creature"?

      I really like the flavor here, though, and as Geoffrey says it's a very desirable effect. Nice work.

  6. Endless Hydra Bestiary {x}{3}
    ~ etb with X page counters.
    T, double the page counters on ~ : mill a card from your library for each counter on ~, then you may return a creature milled this way to your hand. When your library is empty, shuffle your graveyard into your library.

    1. That's a very exciting-looking design! I'm not sure the X is doing enough work here to justify its presence, though I get the flavor reasoning. Might want some tweaks like an activation cost or doubling after milling to keep the power level reasonable.

  7. Book of Prophecies 2
    3: Scry 1
    2, T: Draw a card. Activate this ability only if you scried this turn.

    1. Wait, this should have cost 3. But I can't edit for some reason?