You’re a Designer, Harry! #11 – The Kingdom and the Jet Packs
Welcome to another installment of You’re a Designer, Harry! This week, I’ll be going over the mechanics of the five factions. More specifically, the nongreen and nonblack factions. As for the puzzles to solve that are the “hybrid and/or traditional multicolor decision” and figuring out the four-color mechanic: I haven’t yet come up with a solution, so just sit tight on that part!
Lights, Camera, Faction!
For those of you just coming in to this series or as a refresher: We’re designing a set where playing with exactly four colors is the focus. We’ll call this theme “four colors matter.”
Flavorwise, this is represented by a single plane with five, separated civilizations that do not interact with each other. Each civilization is blocked off from the others by one of five barriers, representing one of the five colors of mana. Because of this barrier representing one color of mana, each faction has sworn off using that color of mana and only uses four colors instead. Eventually, though, each faction breaks through the barriers and finds out about each other (seems familiar… *cough* Shards of Alara *cough*)
Mechanically, this will be represented by attributing a mechanic and/or style of play that is specific to each faction. Whatever the mechanics may be, the color that isn’t included should be discouraging to include. Also, the set would be designed to make it very hard to go five colors and/or benefit very much from having four colors. Each faction will have a central two colors with stretching toward the two adjacent colors. Going four colors should be tough, but attainable. A four-color specific mechanic may also be designed to further encourage “exactly four colors” play.
This set is planned to be part of a whole block. Also, the first set may only feature three factions to make room for all the mechanics. Large sets usually have four mechanics in it. One of them might be a four-color focused mechanic. Or it may be one to help smoothing mana curves (like kicker did for Zendikar and cycling did for Shards of Alara). This would leave room for just three keyword mechanics. Also, small sets tend to introduce two new keywords. This would be perfect to give each faction its own proper keyword mechanic (or ability word). This is to avoid doing workarounds like Shards of Alara‘s Esper’s everything-about-artifacts (and colored ones at that) and Naya’s “power 5 or greater is sweet!” themes.
With that said, let’s discuss each faction!
The nonwhite faction is separated by a wall of blinding light. The denizens of this faction first start out by retreating underground to avoid the light and live in darkness. They later, through a process of evolution, lose their sense of sight. Through this process of evolution, they re-emerge to the surface where the blinding light does not bother them, and they are able to simply walk through it.
The traits of the nonwhite faction is that they don’t actually function like a civilization. This faction has the least amount in terms of population with the rest of the factions. They have no organization, they’re selfish, they use means of violence to get what they want, and they don’t share their secrets with each other. The best they do in terms of a group of people is forming gangs/clans or having loved ones (though, it’s only for a mutual selfish interest).
Mechanically, I haven’t really spent too much time on coming up with the mechanic for this faction. I’ve designed different attempts at representing the faction’s blindness by making it a blind experience for you (without it feeling too much of a drawback). In the end, it seems like embracing this faction’s underground darkness is best.
With this, I’ve proposed the return of the morph mechanic. With morph, it represents how each card can be independent flavorfully representing how this faction’s people don’t work well with each other, yet; the gameplay of morph encourages playing with more morph cards. To discourage white, there wouldn’t be any white morph cards.
This darkness represented through morph is similar to Jon Loucks’ GDS2 efforts for portraying his underground world.
In fact, there’s even more eerie similarities with Jon Loucks’ GDS2 designs. Another reason for including morph is that it has synergy with a planned sixth faction. This faction would be a colorless faction. Now, whether or not a colorless faction is possible, that still hasn’t been answered, yet. This faction would be introduced in the third set of the block (The second introduces the last two factions, with the third set colorlessness faction being one of the “twists” that third sets typically tend to do like Rise of the Eldrazi and New Phyrexia did.
The faction also goes underground. I swear, this wasn’t intended. It was just a series of answers to questions that somehow led to a piecing together that was his underground world. Let’s adopt it, then (I kid)!
Also, another great mechanic attempt based off of some design-brainstorming on the nonblack faction is Chah’s lurk mechanic. Like morph, it also has face-down cards. It’s like a hybrid of morph and haunt, I guess. Here’s two executions of his lurk mechanic below. You can see more by clicking here.
Whatever the direction for the colorless faction and this one, there still needs to be more time for the nonwhite faction to develop. So, let’s move on to the next one.
The nonblue faction is separated by a humongous coastal whirlpool where the inhabitants live on a giant land mass in the shape of a ball. It constantly spins around the whirlpool, always shifting around. The inhabitants have grown accustomed to a constantly shifting land, and all of their buildings have been reinforced to withstand the forces of water and gravity as their buildings even sometimes are submerged underwater! One day, this sphere land spins out of the whirlpool vortex and makes it to land. The inhabitants wander off to explore.
This faction are masters at adaptation. They’re all about living in the now because they have to. Life is constantly moving, so they’re constantly moving, too. They have to do this to survive. They work together to ensure the survival of the whole faction with some having duties such as standing watch over the land’s movement or reinforcing their buildings, etc. Long-term planning is useless because of an ever-changing situation. It’s impossible to take the time to study anything, too. As such, these people simply have acute survival instincts.
I have yet to come up with a mechanic that represents this faction. I imagine an ever-changing board state, but I haven’t sat down and spent much time with this faction, yet. Perhaps any of you have ideas for mechanics that represent the ever-changing adapt-to-survive life of the nonblue faction?
The nonblack faction is separated by… Actually, I haven’t yet settled on what the nonblack faction should be separated by. It’s lame to say that there would be a barrier of a super-moat of swamps and bogs. And, after all, creatures with flying can simply fly over. One suggestion for what the barrier is: The king.
Oh, right, what I need to tell you is that this is supposed to be a hierarchical kingdom. Everyone has their place, and everyone works together. They play their part and are happy about it. There are the bakers, the farmers, the knight military, etc. No one has any intention of trying to do things for themselves. It’s a structured society that acts as one entity. This kingdom does make progress, though. …But, they’re directed by the king.
The king is actually a malicious force that has lasted for centuries (a lich king! …Ah, World of Warcraft reference. Fun fact: I’ve never played WoW). It is the best clue of all the barriers as to why these factions are separated. Anyway, the king directs how the kingdom should operate; and, mysteriously, the kingdom doesn’t really progress as much as it should, despite how long they have been at it. Their population doesn’t seem to increase much, either. Sometimes, bad things happen, but no one knows why. But, no one really questions it, either! Until, one day…
Anyway, mechanic! I’ve got a proposed one with some cards to show you:
Let me explain some things:
First of all, you may be wondering why this is. I dipped into the flavor that this is an organized and structured civilization working together. The people here have jobs. Thus, they have classes, as in the race/class model of modern-day Magic: The Gathering humanoid creatures. Also, because they work together (the two central colors are green/white, after all, like the Selesnya Conclave guild from Ravnica block). So, it’s mechanically represented by every one of your two-creature-typed creatures working together to ensure success.
Secondly, some of you may be wondering why the nonblack faction instead of the nongreen faction cares about there being two or more creature types among creatures you control. Green is the color of nature, right? The one that likes all the bears, wurms, snakes, and elks! Well, it turns out that many of the sets I searched had black as the one with the most creatures with the least amount of creature types. This might be due to the fact that green has more creatures and can fit more creatures with a race and a class.
Anyway, so to discourage players from dipping into black, we’ll take advantage of black’s many creature types that are just a single type. Here are some: zombie, skeleton, vampire (Zendikar block, since it had a whole tribe of them, added a class type to these guys, but there are definitely many with just one type), bat, rat, shade, horror, imp, bird. It seems like we’ll have plenty to still support other factions without black’s creatures being too weird.
The goal is to have little to no black creatures with more than one creature type! Especially at common. I also like how the nonwhite faction, if it uses morph, has a mechanic that makes use of creatures with no types – definitely not two creature types!
The nonred faction is separated by an encircling mountain range – scratch that – a volcanic mountain range. The only way out of this valley they’re in is to pass through these volcanoes which have unpredictable fiery activity. It spews lava with no regular schedule and frequently enough to make it so that those who attempt to traverse past this volcanic mountain range will surely be incinerated.
The people of this land hate the randomness. They swear off all unpredictability. With the variable that is the volcanic activity, they could use less variance in their lives. As such, the whole faction operates under one master plan. Their goal: To escape this imprisonment.
To further ensure their success and cut out unforeseen circumstances, they have planned their entire faction’s development. The faction needs scientists to research and develop new technologies for their society. This is a continual process that may last several lifetimes. As such, they’ve planned positions for everyone. They’ve planned births and the occupations for those births so their society can keep moving along with its master plan. Eventually, they figure out the solution to escape past the volcano range.
This one feels like I still need more time on this. I’m trying to take advantage of the long-term planning by leveraging the ability to reveal cards from the top cards of libraries. Ideas?
The nongreen faction is separated by a giant beanstalk. More specifically, a gargantuan deadly vegetation protruding from the earth and upwards toward the sky. It is so massive that it pretty much forms a second flooring of nature’s deadliest natural defenses up among the clouds. These defenses include toxins and deadly plant creatures.
Because of this, the people of the nongreen faction live among the clouds. They seek to break through this ugly side of nature and explore beyond the clouds. They are blocked off by natural resources, but they have developed technology to be able to make use of the clouds they live among: extracting water. With this foundation in technology, they’ve developed artificial foods and steam power (Yes, this is a steampunk society). Many beings have wings, but some are dependent on technology developed for granting flight including air ships and even jet-pack-esque (powered by steam, of course) contraptions.
Eventually, their technology allows them to travel further and further from their original location in the clouds. So much so that they make it past to an area in the sky where they could actually see the earth below (and have access to it).
I haven’t decided on a mechanic, but I do know that this will be the flying faction. They use technology to help them fly when they can’t as well, which makes me think of artifacts, both Equipment and non-Equipment. The whole steam-powered jet-pack thing makes me excited.
One cluster of cards I’m thinking about doing are ones that fetch Equipment from your deck when they enter the battlefield that make them fly. There are two ways I can do this to narrow down only Equipment that help you fly as Equipment that these guys search for. One is to specialize the Equip, as in Jon Loucks’ Dwarven Flame-Axe design. (I happened to see it from the same link I provided earlier, by chance!)
Funny thing I noticed: This list of cards that contain all the cards that grant flying. Four of them have 2 mana as an equip cost. This has past interaction, if we go with a wording similar to Gadget Vampire’s. (We don’t have to search libraries, or put them into hands either.)
This may or may not accompany a keyword mechanic for the nongreen faction. One thing I’m considering is that I’ll include all five factions in the first set. And this flying faction could do without a keyword to free up space for another faction.
And if there’s no keyword mechanic, then there will just be a bunch of flying-supportive guys. And flying-granting. Etc. I’ll get more into this faction later when I have more time.
That’s All, Folks
We’ve got a lot of things to consider for the mechanics of this set that would form the puzzle pieces, shaped according to our whims, that would hopefully fit together perfectly. This includes each faction’s mechanic in addition to all the factors of hybrid, traditional multicolor, and the colorless sixth faction (Actually, if the nongreen faction has artifacts that equip nongreen creatures, then hybrid would be less of an appealing option).
Anyway, I’ll wrap up for now. I’d like to hear what any of you have to say about the proposed mechanics / card designs above! Thanks for reading.