You’re a Designer, Harry! #17 – Basic Adventuring Party
Hello again, readers, to You’re a Designer, Harry!, a column where my readers’ feedback impacts the public process of designing a Magic: The Gathering set. I started writing with the idea to do a column like this because it was pretty fresh idea compared to what I’m used to seeing (non-design, non-collaborative Magic articles). And this column started strong, were hopes were high and comments were abundant. …And where are we now? Sputtering ever behind! This must be fixed!
Ever since the Great Designer Search 2, thanks to the collaborative nature of the competition and the use of Wizards Community wiki, a Magic design community had grown as strong as ever. It’s still ever-thriving as websites devoted to Magic design had sprung up: Goblin Artisans, Designer Fun on Channel Fireball, and many from the #mtg Twitter community (I’m trying to get #mtgdesign to be the official hashtag for Magic design, but it seems that tag is too many characters, especially considering the nature of tweeting about Magic design. #GDS2 is long over, too). This column had been a result of the GDS2, with me being a former Top 101 candidate.
In particular, I’d like to compare this collaborative set with another that has since the start of this column sprung into existence: Magic 2013. Spearheaded by Jay Treat, finalist of the GDS2, of Goblin Artisans, they’re attempting to design the next Core Set. This gives them a real deadline as well as the ability to measure their success by comparing their set with the real thing. And, finally, they start by designing a Core Set, which is important for budding Magic designers. It’s quite an impressive project started.
When I first started this column, I was more focused on the novelty of doing a collaborative design with other Magic design enthusiasts, both of the veteran and novice varieties. However, I had an oversight in that I should have started with doing a Core Set. I had never designed a whole set before! I did not realize this until the column, and the set, had progressed far enough that I decided there was too much invested for us to scrap the four-color project and start anew.
So, flash forward to now: Jay Treat has made a wise decision that I was too late to recognize when I started this back in April. And now that the project on Goblin Artisans has started, it’s even more important that “You’re a Designer, Harry!” sticks with doing what it’s doing now. Otherwise, if we wanted to design a Core Set, we might as well help contribute Jay Treat.
Now, where are we on our set? Well, there isn’t that much of an update from the last time we left off this set. I hadn’t playtested, and I apologize for this. I’ve been mulling over deciding what to do with the nonblack faction. After my discussion with Chah on Twitter regarding the referring to the token-ness of token cards used for themes/strategies in Magic , I started to think more and more about how referring to token-ness isn’t really that great.
I was initially going for referring to token-ness (by this, I mean “Target creature token gets +3/+3 until end of turn.” and the like) because of the fact that this was a set made up of five separate identities a la Shards of Alara. Because of this, and because it’s a set that goes for four colors, the maximum you can go with color to have an identity that’s separate from four others, I wanted to make sure to explore themes that would otherwise not be able to show up as a major component of a different set. It’s important for preserving design space to ensure that when there is an opportunity to do something that can never really otherwise happen in other Magic sets, such as the case with Urgent Exorcism, that you make sure it gets done then. I see this set as a place with five of such opportunities.
For example, I’m not sure a set can be made where one of the major mechanical themes of the set is “vanilla creatures.” There’s not that much you can do with that. …However, in a four-color set, where the theme only has to account for 20% or less of the set: Now, we’re talkin’. Perhaps this is the time to do vanilla creatures moreso than any other time that would be. That’s where I thought that referring to the fact that a token is a token, like “Creature tokens you control gain first strike until end of turn,” would something that needs to take place in this set.
Anyway, I thought that perhaps this wasn’t the right place to do a faction that cared about whether the creatures you control were tokens. I wanted to explore other options. The two I’m wrestling with currently are the basic type and the “four-person adventuring party” theme. I’ll go over both, and you can tell me which one sounds like the way to go. Of course, playtesting is an absolute must and is inevitable, anyway. Best to do so early on rather than later when you see all your guesstimations end up making your hard work based off of ’em go up in flames of disaster.
First, the basic type. This faction would contain cards that either had the basic supertype or a mechanic that cared about basic permanents. Or both, in at least a couple cases. Having a mechanic that cared about basic permanents would already have backwards compatibility with basic lands and all the cards that have something to do with putting basic lands onto the battlefield. This mechanic would bring meaning to the basic permanent cards, whenever one entering the battlefield (most likely) bringing about a bonus to these basic-caring cards. Going this route would have great synergy with the set since the set is caring about basic lands for mana-fixing already.
Second, that “four-person adventuring party” thing I mentioned earlier. What I mean is the classic medieval fantasy group that travels around and works together slaying evil and such. This is reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons and Final Fantasy. I settled on this because I thought about how interdependence is a big thing with green/white philsophy, which antagonizes the independence spirit of black, the color that the faction is hating against. Green/white is all about the teamwork, and what would be better than a team of people working together doing what they do best at their occupation to strengthen the group overall.
How I executed this was to have a very, actually, interdependent design based on a mechanical structure of abilities. The main ability for each creature (the one that would care about another creature you control being of a particular class creature type) would be “As long as you control a BLANK, CARDNAME has flying.” or something of the sort. In this case, it would be one of four different creature types: warrior, soldier, cleric, and wizard. It’s a good balance of two melee types and two ranged/spellcaster types. Cards with the Warrior subclass would only be in red and green. The white and blue parts of this faction would be about soldiers. Green/white would be clerics, and red/blue would be wizards. Hooray. Then there would be abilities like this:
Creature – Human Warrior
CARDNAME has flying as long as you control a Wizard.
Creature – Human Cleric
CARDNAME gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Warrior.
Does this feel too much like Allies? Well, there’s no enters-the-battlefield triggers. It’s all about maintaining the group’s benefits by keeping each person alive as long as possible. …Long as possible? LONG?! What a minute, perhaps the white-blue-centric faction can gain synergy with this by having a mechanic that cares about the opposite of their nonred-ness: non-impulsive-ness. Long and patient type of stuff. Perhaps regarding keeping things around for as long as possible; and, in this case, your team.
Well, I’ve just about run out of time for now. What do you guys think of using one of these two suggestions for the green-white-centric nonblack faction? Are there any other suggestions you have? Thanks for reading, and catch me on Twitter!