You’re a Designer, Harry! #9 – The Sixth Faction
Two weeks ago, we discussed whether our four-color set should go gold or hybrid. I reasoned that the as-of-yet-to-be-determined four-color mechanic may help in making the call. As such, I came up with just a couple of ideas for the mechanic. Since then, I’ve received some great feedback regarding the matter of “gold or hybrid.” However, I’m not going to talk about that this week.
NOTE: I’m going to be using the word “faction” to reference the four-color groupings that appear in this block. This is the third article in a row where I’ve noted that I’m using this label. From now on, let’s just assume that I’m going to stick with “faction” until I’m convinced to use a different word.
ANOTHER NOTE: I apologize for skipping last week’s installment of You’re a Designer, Harry!. Sometimes, other obligations can steal away my attention from You’re a Designer, Harry! like a dementor’s kiss does to souls. Or something like that. And I believe I just made my first Harry Potter reference in this article series with a Harry Potter reference for a name. Speaking of which, Harry Potter 7 Part 2 comes out soon. Go figure. Anyway… as I was saying, Life got in the way, and I’m sure most, if not all of you, would be understanding. Now, with that out of the way…
I’ll stop for a moment with working on the mechanical part of the set and focus on the creative part. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons: One, we haven’t been discussing the flavor part of the set for a while, and I felt like our readers who specialize primarily on flavor could use some love once again. The second reason is that something that Chah of Goblin Artisans mentioned in his feedback to me two weeks ago spurred me to talk about the creative side in this article.
Here’s three variations of a mechanic that, in his feedback, Chah proposed as an idea for the non-faction-aligned global mechanic in the set that would support the four colors theme:
Vow against color (When you cast this, choose a color. You can’t cast cards of that color for the rest of the game.)
Vow against color (When you cast this, choose a color. As long as this is on the battlefield, you can’t cast cards of that color.)
Vow against color (When you cast this, choose a color. When you cast a spell of that color, sacrifice this.)
He noted that the proposition of colored-counter use (with the memory aid of placing the counter on one of five helpfully-divided-by-colors sections of the art) would be used with this mechanic. Another idea he had was to have the booster packs of this set contain, in place of the token/counter slot of booster packs, colored cards that would be placed next to these vow cards.
This feedback led me to think of having colored counters placed on players. What about vowing off multiple colors? Now, I don’t think that this is necessarily the right way to go with vow (being able to vow against multiple colors instead of vow forcing just one color vowed against …which would require the proper templating) or if we should have vow be in the set at all (and remember: we’re not discussing the mechanical aspect in this article); but it does remind me of something I’ve been pondering for the third set that I haven’t shared yet – until now.
In our set’s plane, there is a world where five different factions are all separated from one another by different geographical barriers that each embody a single type of mana. To the north, the nonwhite faction are blocked off by a wall of light. Off the east coast, the nonblue faction is inconveniently trapped on a spherical island forever-swirling-around in a giant whirlpool. South, the nonblack faction are held back by a yet-to-be-determined force embodying black. Westward, within the confines of the volcanic mountain range are the nonred faction. And, finally, the nongreen faction are kept from the earth by green’s colossal, deadly vegetation beanstalk, and thus, they live among the clouds.
So, if there are barriers blocking off these factions from different directions, what’s in the center of all of these barriers? What scheming, malevolent force is hiding in the middle of all of these separated factions? But, wait… What if what’s going on in the center isn’t necessarily the “big evil” of the block (like the Phyrexians, Nicol Bolas, or the eldrazi)? How about a sixth faction that has five barriers to deal with, it being the faction in the center and all? So, does this mean swearing off all colors? Yep, that’s right: The colorless faction.
Ah! Colorless? How can there be a whole group without any color? What would they be all about? After all, each color has a philosophy. So, these guys would be without a philosophy. No way of life. The Eldrazi could get away with it because they were big, huge evil monsters we didn’t really understand. A faction, though, is a group of peeps. Like the other factions. How can colorless denizens be different from artifact creature “robots?”
Well, I… don’t really know. Yet. However, one idea I have is that since this faction is shunning the colors, they’re already doing something. A faction without a philosophy is deciding to shun? But, they’re supposed to have no values! Ah, so how about balance is brought back to the force by embracing the antithesis of what they are shunning?
For example, the tension between red and blue is one of emotion vs. logic/knowledge. However, the colorless faction, since it’s shunning both, it would be doing away with logic AND emotion. They are emotionless and go against the pursuit of knowledge. White and black is putting the needs of the group over the individual vs. the individual over the group. How about not putting the needs of anybody over anything?
And you could start thinking of what it means to shun these things in a mechanical way, but we’d be doing design-related stuff. O.K., O.K., just one – vowing against logic can mean the colorless faction likes to discard the cards in their own hand. Having zero cards in hand may be in line with a zero theme: zero colors, zero cards in hand, zero lots of things. O.K., enough design!
Now, the colorless faction won’t appear in the first set at least. Perhaps second, but I’m leaning more toward a third set twist. With that said, as for choosing hybrid or gold, one possibility of doing hybrid is because of MTG Color Pie‘s GDS2 world. I slipped up and haven’t actually spoke with him, yet; but if he were to bring his vision back to life in the form of a sixth colorless faction for this block; well, that would be just dandy. Here’s his posterchild of a card:
(And ideas from Jonathon Loucks’ GDS2 set.)
What do you all think of a sixth faction in the third set, and the introduction of colorlessness as a twist? If this is something that you could see happening, how does this affect the hybrid vs. gold decision? And, yes, I do realize that part of making this decision is dependent on my vision for the block. Do you have your own input for the set’s creative direction?
Thanks for the feedback, guys. Catch you next week when I get back into gear with the design part of the set.