You’re a Designer, Harry! #20 – Other Worlds-ly Journey

Welcome to another installment of You’re a Designer, Harry! #20! Yay! …And it just so happens that this is the 200th Red Site Wins post! Woohoo!

If you’re new here, read the following two blocks of text!

This is the column where you follow the process of designing a Magic: The Gathering set from, at least, my perspective. While I’m the “lead designer,” YOU get to help out by leaving your feedback either by commenting here on this column or by tweeting me (I’m @bradleyrose)! Really, we’re all on the same level here, and some of you may clearly be “better” at designing than I am. But, that shouldn’t, and doesn’t, shy me away from doing what I’m doing. So, let’s collaborate!

The set we’re working on is a four-color themed set. This has ramifications! There are five different possible combinations for four colors, and we’ve so far tied that toward a flavor of five different “civilizations” (I’ll call them factions for now.) that each have sworn off that fifth color. Based on this, we’ve come up with mechanical identities (gameplay, like new keywords or a central gameplay component, etc.). Some mechanics are dead now. Some have been focused on more recently, like the adventuring party mechanic. Speaking of which…

The adventuring party mechanic will be for the nonblack faction. Their central two colors are green and white, so the idea of the classic role-playing adventuring party was brought into mechanical implementation because of the fact that they’re all working together as a team. Top it off that they’re doing it to defend the kingdom from which they hail, and we’ve got something that’s quite green/white (if not also a bit of red and blue, which is exactly what we want). This is also quite not black, which is all about the selfish-ness. Flavorwise. SO!

NOTE: I’ve decided that, by now, I’m going to embrace my ability to be the “final decision-maker.” And I need to make decisions despite the great back-and-forth created by feedback from you guys. We’re never going to get anywhere if I’m not going to make some decisions. Also, it would be nice if I actually got down to the playtesting.

The classes that the mechanic will care about and the colors associated with each class are:

Warrior (Red, Green, White)
Cleric (Green, White, Blue)
Wizard (White, Blue, Red)
Rogue (Blue, Red, Green)

Here’s why spreading the classes to three colors was decided upon:

Having one color per class is redundant. Color is already separated into fours, one-by-one. Therefore, this was lame.
Having two colors per class is good, but it made for a more awkward fit for the classes. Also, it made cleric the “central class” for this faction, which felt weird. This is variety in its most basic form.
Having four colors per class is silly. Then, only the best creatures for each class would be used. There would be no forcing the player into different colors to try to encourage multi-color play, let alone four-color play.

Now, here’s the mechanic using Warrior and Wizard, as an example:

And here’s another one for power/toughness boosting:

Oh, yeah, and only the creatures that have this adventuring party mechanic would have the “Ally” creature type. Which is flavorful and makes them awesomely backwards-compatible with the Allies from Zendikar.

Here’s how the classes will have equal implementation: Because each class being assigned to three colors brings the total number of commons that would have this adventuring party mechanic to 12, only two creatures for each color will actually have this mechanic. However, there will be three relevant creatures per color.

For example, red:

Warrior – Vanilla or another ability
Wizard – Adventuring party mechanic – Haste – Rogues
Rogue – Adventuring party mechanic – +1/+1 – Warriors

And so on. Note that the above isn’t set in stone as to how the mechanic will be divied up for red.

And here’s how the bonuses granted by these adventurers will be divied up by color for common AND uncommon:

RED – Haste, +1/+1
GREEN – Trample, +1/+1
WHITE – Vigilance, +1/+1
BLUE – Flying, +1/+1

RED – First strike OR +2/+0
GREEN – Deathtouch OR +0/+2 OR +2/+0 OR +2/+2
WHITE – Lifelink OR +0/+2 OR +2/+0
BLUE – Hexproof OR +0/+2

The uncommons are little bit more of a toss-up. May need to cut back on the number creatures having the adventuring party mechanic. 8 in uncommon is probably too much. For example, in Shards of Alara, the number of creatures that had exalted at uncommon was four. One for each color plus an extra in the central color. For Zendikar, since it wasn’t a keyworded or ability worded mechanic, it seems more was fine. Well, Allies also were something for all five colors. So, they had one uncommon Ally for each color.

We can mirror the Bant shard from Shards of Alara or the Zendikar set up by either going four creatures (one for each color), five creatures (one for each color, plus one for the green/white multicolor card), or six creatures (one for each color, plus one extra for green and white). Seven seems to be too much, just like with eight. We also should keep in mind how the multicolor cards are done between commons and uncommons. There may be a multicolor card in common that has this adventuring party mechanic.

Tangent, kind-of: Let’s talk land! Here’s how they’ll be for each faction, but with different land types referenced:

Why care about the land types as a way to mana-fix? Well, here’s something tricky about doing a four-color set:

With a four-color set theme, you really want to design your set to make sure that players play four colors. But, if you provide enough mana fixers and in a certain fashion, you’ll enable five-color play really easily. And that’s not going to say, “I’m a four-color set!” That’s going to say domain (five colors), which has been done before. And only providing enough mana-fixing to support less than four colors means that the theme would, again, not be supported. It wouldn’t be feasible to go four colors, and, therefore, it would never show up. So, how do we make sure that people go four colors without going too far? The answer lies in the lands they use.

There’s a limited number of deck slots devoted toward land. For Limited, usually 17 lands is played. For this format, people will probably go with 18 lands. To get a reliable amount of mana available in a color, you’d go with six land of that color, provided you don’t have a mana-fixer. Since this is a multi-color set, you’re rarely, if not ever, going to see double white, double blue, etc. in a mana cost. So, let’s say you want to have enough lands in your deck to support four colors. Six mountains, six forests, six plains, and six islands yields 24 lands. That’s a whole six more than you need! So, what if we then provide the Nonblack Manafixer land? Just one of those will cut down four (and add one) cards. 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 1 = 21. O.K., let’s try another one: 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 2 = 18 Ta-da! 18.

But, that’s in a perfect, theoretical world. And there will be another cycle of cards at common that will help with mana-fixing and whatnot.

Anyway, here’s another topic:

I’m going to set the goal down: Create at least two “Intro Decks” for two separate factions. Why? For Worlds in San Francisco that’s coming up in about two weeks. Ideally, we’ll have five separate decks all prettied up and printed and sleeved, but I don’t think I’ll make it that far, considering how busy I’ll probably get with my other obligations. So, let’s go for two to have at least some real-live feedback from people at Worlds.

I don’t expect those reading this that will be going to Worlds to set aside part of their precious Worlds time to deal with any of this set stuff. I totally understand that. But, I’ll have the decks on me. Just in case.

With that said, I’ll quickly wrap up and get to work. For those of you this is relevant for: See ya at Worlds!



About Bradley Rose

I'm a Timmy/Johnny Melthos red/white/blue kind of guy. And, no, that combination doesn't have anything to do with an affinity for the United States. Here's how I got into Magic: Once upon a time (let's say the year 2000), I bought my first Magic: The Gathering product in the form of a starter of ...Starter 2000. And that's when Trained Orgg's eyes and mine met for the first time. It was true love. Until I traded most of my Magic cards away for Pokemon ones. Whoops. O.K, so once upon a time (This time, 2001), I got into Magic: The Gathering with a shiny new One-Two Punch theme deck of the Odyssey set. And, surprisingly enough, I didn't trade away my ol' Trained Orgg, so in the deck it went, and we fell in love all over again. Flash-forward nearly a decade, and I've won the / Wizards of the Coast "Design Your Own Card" contest. That was neat, but then, a few months later, the Great Designer Search 2 happened. I managed to make it to the top 101 of the 1000 applicants. So, after years of reading Mark Rosewater's Making Magic column along with a rising interest in game design, I managed to prove that (while not the best) I'm more of a Magic designer than the average bear. I'll keep working on putting more ranks in my Magic design skill, and the design articles I write here will help me do just that. Hopefully, any of my readers with a serious interest in Magic design would feel inclined to pursue their interest as well, either by participating in my collaborative design articles or working on making Magic on their own. This effort toward improving my Magic design capabilities correlates somewhat with a single goal I would like to accomplish before I die: Have lunch with Mark Rosewater. Also, I still have that Trained Orgg, and we're still madly in love with each other.

Posted on November 10, 2011, in Articles, You're a Designer Harry!. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hey Bradley,

    I like where things are going, and I’ll be back in town for Worlds and Thanksgiving, so even if Worlds itself is too busy, I’d be happy to playtest afterwards. Anyway, as for the mechanics, the adventuring party seems good, but it’ll be confusing to have some give abilities to teammates and themselves and others pump just their friends and not themselves. I think just giving the ability granters their thing as a separate ability is the cleanest execution, though I guess the others could be 1/1 smaller and pump themselves…

    On the four color front, I’m worried that Vow is purely a drawback. Could we try giving a bonus for not controlling a permanent that could produce the off color?

    Disavow (As ~ enters the battlefield, choose a color. When ~ enters the battlefield, draw a card if you don’t control a permanent that could produce the chosen color.)

    Less flavorful, but I think it would make the mechanic much better received. Obviously drawing a card isn’t the only solution, but it’s hard to find something generic enough to go on all permanent types in all colors.

  2. Sorry about my lack of posts, relied too heavily on FB for updates on this.

    I think Vow needs to be reworked as well; something seems very off about it and wouldn’t generate any interest as is.

    I like the basic idea Jules up there has about Disavow, where some effect happens because of the color you don’t control/play. What if maybe Vow Artifact’s tap ability was written something like “Add one mana of any color that has not been Disavowed to your mana pool.”

    Then again, I’m too far away to playtest currently 😛

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