Friday, August 27, 2021

Weekend Design Challenge 08272021 - Built for Commander and also Power Level Analysis

Happy Friday Artisans! Click through to see this weekend's design challenge. Once you've gone and made your own card for submission, go ahead and offer some feedback on your fellow Artisans' cards. Throughout next week I'll try to offer some feedback of my own (no promises).

This week I'm giving you some actual homework. 

1) Pick your favorite commander deck.
2)  Design a card that would be amazing to slip in if it actually existed.

Easy enough, right? Here's the hard part:

3) Tweak that card to meet the following two criteria:
a) Make sure that it would be a good fit for at least one other commander deck with a substantively different theme than the one you initially designed it for.

b) Adjust the power level of the card so that it's not necessarily an auto-include in the deck if someone else were designing the deck with the same commander and theme.

Power level is a skill that we amateur designers frequently cop out on, as evaluating and adjusting is something more suited to the pro-level players in Play Design (fka Development), but it's a very useful skill to have.


4) Go ahead and write a little bit about your process in the comments. How did you approach the design? How did you adjust it for the second two requirements? 

Good luck, have fun, and we'll see what you came up with come Monday.


  1. This is awesome. Starting a thread so I don't have to bite it off all at once.

    1) My favorite commander deck is my Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck. It's a budget-friendly Goblins/Aristocrats/Low-Power-Matters mash-up. There are some combos in there (Workhorse and Epitaph Golem; Ashnod's Altar and literally anything else) but mostly it just wants to play Grenzo with 1 counter and activate him a bunch (almost half the deck is creatures with <4 power). I recently took Doomsday out because it didn't fit the deck's vibe. Brash Taunter is one card I'm extremely eager to add post-pandemic. The most distinctive and typical cards in there are removal-on-a-stick designs like Goblin Cratermaker, Murderous Redcap, and Dark Hatchling.

    1. 2) Thinking through my criteria for auto-include:
      - <4 power, >3 mana value
      - Goblin tribal synergy
      - ETB, death, and/or sac triggers
      - Effects the deck has trouble finding (e.g. ramp, board wipes)

      So how about this:
      Breeches, Inveterate Gambler 2BR
      Legendary Creature- Goblin Pirate
      1: Flip a coin. If you win the flip, create two Treasures. If you lose the flip, sacrifice a permanent.
      Whenever you sacrifice a Treasure, you gain 1 life for each other Goblin or Pirate creature you control.

      Top-down-ish wild, "life of the party" character that just happens to check all the boxes.

    2. 3) First, some problems with the original design:
      - Goes infinite real easily with Krark's Thumb
      - First ability is technically enchantment sacrifice in RB, a color pie break
      - Second ability gains way too much life in the right deck
      - Tavern Scoundrel already basically did this (how did I forget about it so quickly?)
      - This Breeches is oddly beefy and (with the ability to sacrifice creatures) bloodthirsty for a comic character who's basically just a loud goblin.
      - Coin-flipping-downside Ashnod's Altar sounds like it would either be broken or super-feel-bad
      So at the very least I want to fix those and reduce the Aristocrat power level.

      A Rakdos Commander deck with a substantively different theme is most likely something discard or reanimator related. Discard is appealing because i) I can easily work it into the top-down gambling theme and ii) the Grenzo deck is fine with discarding-- hardcasting creatures from hand isn't usually where it wants to be.

      So now I'm thinking along the lines of Glint-Horn Buccaneer, but with coin-flipping in the mix. I can also add a dash of Syr Konrad to justify the black and synergize with the Grenzo ability. Here's a stab at it:

      Breeches, Inveterate Gambler 1BR
      Legendary Creature- Goblin Pirate
      1, Discard a card: Flip a coin. If you win the flip, draw two cards.
      Whenever a card is put into your graveyard from anywhere other than the battlefield, you gain 1 life.

      Makes a reasonably interesting and balanced inclusion (or commander in his own right!) for a discard/wheel deck, but with no direct Aristocrats synergies he's not an auto-include in Grenzo anymore. I'd probably still try him out in my version, though, since it's focused on having Grenzo poop out random high-cost creatures.

    3. What a cool, wierd card you ended up with. Gambling a card for double or nothing feels red/blue, but I can see it in BR as well. The graveyard/lifegain ability definitely opens this up to other decks, but the BR color ID is very limiting. Three mana/free feels about right for the cost. This isn't a strategy I often dive down, so I'm not sure if it would ever make it past a few rounds of cuts while I'm building a deck, but I'd be intrigued to see it played across the table from me.

  2. 1.) My go-to commander deck is Darien, King of Kjeldor because it hits from a different angle. Damage dealt to me creates Soldier tokens. When the tokens enter the battlefield, Soul Warden-type cards gain me that life back (plus some). Suddenly it’s very hard to kill me via combat. There are a lot of combos in the deck, like Urborg + Karma, Scroll Rack + Land Tax, and Darien + Anointed Procession/Divine Visitation.

    2.) The deck’s biggest hitch is that there aren’t a whole lot of ways for mono-W to deal damage to me. Even worse, if I don’t have a Soul Warden on the battlefield, those direct damage effects can be a liability. When the machine is assembled I need to win before my opponents figure out how to disassemble the engine. A card that can make the tokens big enough to end the game and can also deal damage to me (or mitigate damage to me) would be great.

    Glarecaster Training 5WW
    Affinity for Soldiers
    Creatures you control get +2/+2.
    5W: The next time damage would be dealt to you and/or creatures you control this turn, that damage is dealt to any target instead.

    If you aren’t familiar with the Onslaught bulk rare Glarecaster, this is that creature’s ability stapled onto a double anthem. And the tokens Darien makes can help you cast it at a discount. That ability lets you redirect all the combat damage dealt to your newly buff tokens back to yourself, triggering Darien’s ability and making more Soldiers. In instances where you don’t have a Soul Warden to gain life from the tokens, as a safety valve, you can activate to redirect your Ancient Tomb or Mana Vault damage to an opponent or their stuff.

    3A.) Glarecaster Training would also be good in a tribal Soldier deck, but often times Darien decks have that theme. I want to adjust the design to also fit in my Saskia the Unyielding infect deck which loves the double anthem, but can’t take advantage of the Soldier tribal bonus, or really the damage redirection.

    3B.) Which way do I go to make it less of an auto-include? Maybe instead of an anthem, it boosts a single creature. I’ll make it an equipment you can move from token to token. The damage redirection can be tweaked to have the equipped creature deal the damage to the new target. So in the Darien deck, you can still redirect to yourself to trigger tokens, and in the other deck, the creature can deal infect damage to an opponent, triggering Saskia’s additional damage dealing. Acolyte's Reward from Born of the Gods is an example of the type of damage redirection I am thinking of.

    Bo Staff 1W
    Artifact – Equipment
    Equipped creature gets +2/+2.
    X: Prevent the next X damage that would be dealt to equipped creature and/or its controller this turn. If damage is prevented this way, equipped creature deals that much damage to any target.
    Equip 1W

    4) I could have also made a Soul Warden type card that gains you life, and in some other way can deal you damage. But that felt really artificial. In practice my Darien deck doesn’t need that. It needs a decisive win condition once you have your army. I really enjoyed how I was able to use knowledge I gained playing my favorite commander deck to design a card. And I liked picking it apart to make a more flexible design that fits in other decks too.

    1. This is such a great political lenticular design. Will people attack you to redirect the damage at the biggest threat on the board?

      Combat math become combat calculus with this on the board, and every component to it is very cheap considering the impact it will have on the board. I would increase all the costs (mana, equip, and activation) to some degree, maybe even ditch the X activation entirely for a flat cost to a single damage source redirection. It would be difficult to say without playtesting it a little bit first.

      Very cool.

  3. Step 5) actually put the finished card into your edh deck and rule 0 it with your playgroup. Show it to them before you start the game, make sure everyone's cool with it, and see if you hit the mark in terms of fun and power level.

  4. Ugh, I’ve made a card, but I gotta do all the other homework toooooooo

    Tl;dr: I build my commander decks weirdly, and only one of my top 5-6 commander decks even fit the challenge.

    1. Share the card! No one's grading you! I'd rather see a cool card with less context than not see one at all.

    2. well, here is the card i came up with:

      Georgios, Reveler of Skophos || {3}{R}{R}
      Legendary Creature -- Satyr
      Whenever a permanent changes controllers, CARDNAME deals 2 damage to each player other than its owner.

      this was made for my Blim deck (also fits zedruu). it's one pip higher on the curve than blim, and has haste to attack with him. but Georgios is also meant to fit into the theme of creature stealing, in addition to being a potentially fun commander on its own (it was originally 3 damage, bu it made threaten effects double as 6 damage burn spells. since you gain control, then lose control at the end of turn)

      i had also tried a black variant that also cared about permanents entering under *not their owners control*, which drained as well. since it would work better in more traditional steal decks, but i preferred the simplicity this red version offered.