Sunday, December 16, 2012

Golgari Unearth

Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.
 
Picking up where we left off; What if the Golgari had Unearth?
I started a contest to find out, and now I'm writing an article.

Unearth is basically Flashback for creatures as we know, but it offers considerably more versatility because of how many more things you can do with creatures.
Attack, block, sacrifice, equip, trigger, et cetera.

Unearth was pretty groovy the first time around, but I'm convinced that there's a lot more design space for it, especially were it to be bled into a new color.

As far as limited was concerned, Unearth gave you access to varying sizes of Ball Lightning variants; one free beefy swing. Kind of dull design space, but a necessary utility since limited is very much a big deal.

Plus if nothing else, we get an Unearth hydra. Hydras are cool.
 

 Another way to make use of Unearth is to consider that all Unearth creatures have haste by default. To me this would indicate that Unearth creatures with tap abilties would be a neat trick, but we didn't see much of that the first time around, which I consider to be a shame because of all the neat things you can do with that sort of functionality.

We didn't see many tappers the first time around because a lot of the higher level unearthers were built around enter the battlefield or leave the battlefield triggers, and I really can't blame them. The design space is so obvious, and with Magic mechanics, you generally want to go for the obvious designs first, because otherwise you'll have insufferable know-it-alls like me asking the designers "Why didn't you do this totally obvious thing?!"

 

One thing I am surprised never happened was that we never got any cards that gave you a bonus for unearthing them, which is to say that when you Unearthed them you got something you didn't the first time around.

 And finally, we didn't see much of things that were built around Unearth. Oh sure, there were a tad more than usual discard outlets at lower rarities, but nothing that called out Unearth explicitly. I'm surprised we didn't see the token "uncommon red enchantment that deals damage when you do a thing" or just *something* that would incentivize players to build unearth theme decks.
 

Whatever happens, I know that Unearth has enough resonance and design space that they'll definitely bring it back in the future, and I can't wait to see how my predictions pan out then!

What do you think about the possibilities of Unearth or how it would have fared for the Golgari?
Let me know and feel free to join my contest!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I don't have any clever wordplay for this; Absorb designs

Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.
 
Picking up where we left off yesterday; What if Azorius had absorb?
 
I'm not entirely sure, to be honest. I've tried coming up with some designs and it's harder than I would have guessed. I'll give you a hint why; absorb is a lot more powerful than it reads. Every creature with it is effectively X toughness higher than usual 90% of the time, and this leads to costing them higher than the default.
 
Another quality about Absorb that makes it tricky to design for is that there's just not a whole heck of a lot you can do with it design wise.
"Creatures you control can take more damage". Woo, really pushing the boundaries there.
Yes, should they bring back absorb, a lot of it will be as limited workhorses (see how most of the Detain cards were very simple, straight forward effects).
I think there's primarily three tricks to using absorb in unique ways.
1. Absorb triggers (ie; do BLAH for each damage prevented this way)

2. Big damn numbers. This creature is going for a Order of the Stars sort of thing.

3. Giving you, the player, absorb. This can run the gamut from utility effects,

cantrips tacked on to other effects,

Or whatever this thing is.
What do you think can be accomplished with absorb?
Please let me know!
Or better yet, participate in the contest I'm hosting!
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29532921/Return_to_Ravnica,_returning_mechanics,_part_3_-_Absorb

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Splice of Life


Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.

Return to Ravnica has been pretty cool so far, I think there is consensus on that. The familiar sights and sounds and smells (yes, smells.). A set can never recapture the essence of what made Ravnica, Ravnica, but I think they're doing a darn good job trying.
The design sensability this time around isn't "Gold matters", its "Ravnica matters".
Many of the designs play off of familiar city tropes, or build off of the identities of the guilds rather than simply being powerful or interesting 2-color gold cards, and I think that RtR is better off for it, plus it helps to distinguish itself from Ravnica classic.

One way they're accomplishing this is to give each Guild an all new mechanic for each Guild. Last time the mechanics were built around color synergies, this time each one is tailor made to that Guild.

While these new mechanics are, scientifically speaking, totes bitching, I saw an interesting opportunity raised in one of Making Magic's mailbag articles. In it, Mark was asked that if each guild received a returning mechanic instead what would it be.
This is the list we're working with:
Azorius-absorb
Orzhov-morbid
Dimir-Morph
Izzet-Splice onto instant
Rakdos-Wither
Golgari-Unearth
Gruul-Frenzy
Boros-Battle Cry
Selesnya-Affinity for Creatures
Simic-Proliferate

Naturally, I took this as a challenge.

I hosted a contest on the Magic forums this week, and I came up with some more designs on my own.

Splice has a lot of opportunities in that it isn't restricted by things such as particular strategy or focus. All you need is an instant.
This lends itself like combat tricks:
Powerful utility effects
 
Limited workhorses
 
Weird "what will you do with me" effects



And poweerful splashy rares


What sort of things would you like to Splice onto Instant?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mayael's Army

Have you heard about Commander (colloquially; Elder Dragon Highlander)?

It's a pretty cool format.

You pick a legendary creature, and then you build a deck around that creature. Seems simple enough, but the format has a couple of caveats that help distinguish it from most other preconstructed formats.
1. The decks have 100 cards. Not 100 minimum, not 100 maximum. 100
2. The decks are singleton, meaning no two cards other than basic lands can share a name.
3. All of the cards have to share your general's color identity, which is all of the colors in its casting cost or any color symbols in its textbox.
4. Each player starts with 40 life.

All of these details combine to make Commander a slower, haymaker driven format. A lot of players lock to the format because they only need one card as opposed to the usual four-ofs in most other formats, and the format is slow enough to allow players to reliably cast big splashy spells that are too expensive to be reliable in other formats.

ITS FAAAAAAAAAANTASTIC

I heard about the format shortly after I started playing Magic (around the time Shards of Alara came out), but due to my legendary laziness, I didn't get around to building my own deck until this past summer.

As the article title may clue you in, I chose a personal favorite of mine and one of the first legendary creatures I ever saw; Mayael the Anima.

Something that has endeared me to Mayael is that attacking with creatures is generally less practical in the format that going off with some one hit kill combos, so Mayael tends to be less reliant on pricey format staples than other strategies.

Nonetheless, the format isn't nearly as widespread as say, standard, so a fear of mine is that even with the singleton nature of the format, that playing the same strategy over and over will get old.
So I've started using an interesting deckbuilding exercise I first heard about on Commandercast.
It was in regards to a Zur the Enchanter deck, but the strategy translates well to what I'm doing.
Basically, Zur has a well-earned reputation as a "that guy" deck ("that guy" translating to "you dirty rotten motherf-") so to make things more interesting, the pilot would choose his enchantments at random before each game. He had a pile of assorted enchantments he favored, and he would pick a bunch of them at random and shuffled them into his deck before each game.
Some games he would "go off" and just destroy everyone, others he would play cutesy, inoffensive stuff like Pacifism. There was no way to tell!

So, as you can guess, replace "enchantments with converted mana cost 3 or less" with "creatures with power 5 or greater" and that';s basically what I started doing, and its been a blast so far.

Some times I plop in a limited workhorse like Archangel, other games something oppressive like Iona, Shield of Emeria would come out to play.

If you play EDH and you find yourself getting bored with your deck, I recommend you to try this strategy out!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are, a review

Among the articles I read religiously are Mark Rosewater's "Making Magic" on Magic: the Gathering's home page, every Monday. As you may have noticed by now, I'm a design junky, so I eat that stuff up. But it's more than just design articles, it's almost like a journal. I seem to recall in one of his articles he made mention of one of the best ways to keep readers is to make them emotionally invested. Not in the column, but in the author. Let the reader know what you're like behind the pen, or in this case, the keyboard. Share your other interests and the like. So I'm going to do just that.

Within the last year, I've rediscovered the Magic that is the public library. Every week or so, I go there and check out a bunch of stuff, devour it, and go back for more. Admittedly, most of what I've been getting have been comics (in no small part because I've been trying to break into the tangled quagmire that are American comics), but sometimes I'll get something else. A research journal on animals, or a movie or some such.

Recently, I rented "Where the Wild Things Are". A movie adapted from the beloved Maurice Sendak book of the same name. The first thing that occured to me is that it was quite impressive that they adapted such a work into a full-length movie. The book was 10 sentences long. The movie is 104 minutes. Whaaaaaaat.

I can't really make a 1:1 comparisson with the book since it's been a very long time since I last read it, and I can't seem to find my own copy, but if memory serves. Kid makes a mess, gets in trouble and sent to his room, gets mad at mom for being a poopyhead, goes to have adventures with monsters, calms down, goes home to warm dinner, happy ending yay.

It's a book that can, and has, been interpreted in a number of ways. The book was somewhat ambiguous, never making it explicit whether or not the boy was imagining or actually want on an adventure. The movie is somewhat similar but greatly expanded. The movie has a very particular vision. That vision seems to be something to the effect of "Change (in particular, growing up) kind of sucks."

A boy named max is coping with things. His sister has moved on to middle school and spends more time with her friends than him, his mom has begun dating again, and always, he's growing up. He takes this as well as most children, which is to say, not as well. Whenever things become too much to bear, he dresses up like a wolf and runs amok.

After a particularly heinous tantrum where he bites his mother while she had a date over, he runs away from home, eventually ending up in the realm of the Wild Things. They seem big and frightening to him at first, being much larger than him and furry monsters besides, and at first they are scary, threatening to eat him, but he quickly spins some yarns about being a great warrior and the monsters make him their king. In particular he befriends Carol, who like him, is prone to 'wild rumpuses'.

At first things seem fine. The monsters are like him, all they want to do is have fun, but as time goes on it becomes apparent that there are issues under the surface; problems, strained relationships, tempers. It becomes a metaphor; Max trying to be a king to his ornery 'people' in much the same way his mother tried to curb his eccentricities, eventually coming terms with the fact that his mother does what she does because she loves him, not because she hates him and is trying to keep him from having fun.

What really struck me about the film is how not particularly child friendly some of the details were. Don't get me wrong! I liked the movie. It had a very distinctive aesthetic to it, the greys and browns of the foliage giving the movie an old world great outdoors look when things were good, and a somber depressed look during heavier scenes, which worked for what the movie was trying to do. It was wonderful seeing all of the characters I recognized from the book given voices, identities, and even names (when before I knew them as 'goat', 'bird', 'redhead', etc.). It wasn't even the scary scenes in the movie (regarding the aforementioned eating of Max and some other stuff I don't want to spoil), but rather some very heavy emotional content.

Basically, some of the monsters are very unhappy. Some of them have problems with each other or themselves and since they're basically children, they aren't entirely sure how to go about fixing them, usually making them worse and straining their relationships further. I can't help but wonder if my five year old self had seen this, what I would have thought, If I would have asked my parents "Why are the monsters so unhappy." I'm just not sure if this qualifies as a children's movie at times.

In the end, I enjoyed it for what it was (though I am easy to please) and I would recommend it to fans of the book, but I will say openly and fully it was not what I expected, or what it was presented as in the commercials. See it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hairless Thoctar's game journal: Shadowmoor draft

Hey folks, I'm doing something different tonight.

This is going to be a gameplay journal of sorts. Me vomitting all over the page about a recent gameplay experience. I am to make these whenever I do something interesting playing Magic.

In this case, I drafted Shadowmoor with four other guys at my local game shop.

This is cool to me for a number of reasons.
1. I rarely get to play limited formats that are no longer relevant.
2. This was highly nostalgic for me. I got into Magic just after Shards of Alara was released, so most of my friend's casual decks at the time consisted of janky piles of Shadowmoor/Eventide cards.

I'll spoil the ending of this story by telling you straight up, I didn't do well. I think I may have come in last place. We planned to do Round Robin (each participant plays each other participant once, the winner is the player with the best overall score) and have one player sit out each round because we had odd numbers.
We quit after three rounds because, God only knows why, we didn't play with timers as we might at an more official event. Thus the games went far longer than they needed to, and it got late in a hurry.

Like I said I didn't do so hot. I was highly unfamiliar with the format and its ins and outs. I forced my picks too hard and didn't pick up much removal.

My first pick: Wilt-Leaf Liege.
My second pick: Spectral Procession.
My third pick: Wilf-Leaf Cavaliers.

With picks like those, and play skills like mine, I thought it was a sign. "You must play green-white. NO EXCEPTIONS." So I did just that. I almost exclusively picked cards that were green-white when available, to try to make the most of my fantastic first few picks.

Now shadowmoor is an interesting set. The flexibility of hybrid mana spells allows to more easily than in most settings draft a three color deck. However the color-matters or basic land-matters effects of a lot of card incentivize you to play few colors. Its a nice bit of tension that allows for some interesting archetypes (or at least I suspect as much, I wouldn't know, I'm terrible at Magic :P )

I ended up with a very top-heavy green-white deck.
No three drops. A bunch of four drops. A number of 6 or higher drops. Only two Last Breaths to act as my removal.
Can you tell that I had no idea what I was doing?

I will say though, that despite my craptasticity, I managed to pull of the coolest thing I've done in Magic limited I can recall.

I managed to assemble the following boardstate.
Kithkin Rabble with power greater than six (thanks to my procession).
Mossbridge Troll (a personal favorite than mine).
Pale Wayfarer (which I very nearly cut for having too many high cost creatures).

On my turn, I declare Troll and Rabble as attackers.
In response to my attack tap Rabble (who has vigilance, mind you) and Wayfarer to give Troll +20/+20. In response to that, use my open mana to use Wayfarer's untap ability to give Troll protection from my opponent's most relevant color.

Like a boss.

I did have to attack three times to get it to stick because he had a high life total (damned Last Breaths...) and two colors of creatures, but eventually I did secure a very dynamic victory.

Felt good man.

What's the most dramatic victory you've gotten in limited?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Someone else's bad luck

Wowsers, it's been a while since my last post. Sorry about that.
School's gotten back in swing for me, and I've become a lot more active on the Wizards forums. Also, that Planeswalker creation contest I'd been participating in eventually started dying down, so I kind of lost the desire to keep writing about it.

But I've found a new thing to offset all that. The You Make the Card Forum, a place to show off your designs and get critiques for them, and do likewise for others.

A regular feature of that forum are contests; there's usually at least one daily. The host of the contest picks some sort of theme, and everyone tries their best to make an interesting card to that theme.
I've taken a shine to doing these contests.

My latest contest:


Black miracles

As you may recall, Miracles are one of the new mechanics featured in Avacyn Restored. They allow you to cast powerful effects for a fraction of the normal cost when you draw that card the first time in a turn. Lead designer Mark Rosewater has been trying to get this effect in the game since at least Tempest block (October 1997!).

The miracle cards tended to end up of one of two categories, in my eyes. The first were utility effects; stuff that color does all the time, but at significantly lower costs. Hallowed Burial for 1 mana, Evacuation for 2 mana, and so on.

The second are nostalgia cards. Cards that mimic popular, powerful cards of ages old. Time Walk, Decree of Justice, Wheel of Fortune.

 
These cards are the most exciting because they give newer players a very powerful taste of yesteryear, and they let older players relive some seriously good nostalgia. Good times all around.

In Avacyn Restored, for flavor reasons, these cards weren't allowed in black. Understandable, but I really want to see what Black is capable of doing in this design space, and I don't think I'm the only one.

I'd love to hear what you have to say on the subject and feel free to drop by the forums to join in the fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Negiri the Alchemist and Vigdis the Warbringer



Negiri was born dirt poor. Poorer than you can imagine. He had nothing of his own save his name and his magic. He learned early on that he was a skilled alchemist: he could turn things into other things.

He dabbled with this for a time, until he thought of something; he turned a rock into gold. He used the gold to buy some food. For the first time since he could remember, he ate.

He tried this again, and again, and again. It kept working. But he did not thinks things through; he had started to gain a reputation. Rumors were circulating in the ghetto about a kid who had gotten his hands on some gold. Some local gangsters found out who he was and abducted him, demanding to know how he came about so much gold.

Attempting to threaten it out of him he panicked and turned one of their weapons into a bomb. It had a much bigger kick than he anticipated. Though it would have killed anyone else, it ignited his spark, and flung him to (relative) safety.

Afraid and angry and bitter. He's come to the conclusion that money makes the world go round, and he never wants to be on the bottom rung of that later again.

He wanders for a time, doing odd jobs to stay above the poverty line wherever he is. Using his skills to impress people. One day he hears about a job offering a substantial reward. A bounty hunt for a horrible monster that was terrorizing the locals. He decides to try his hand at it.

Vigdis was born into war.

That's all there was on Valla ; war.

Little else mattered on the plane but strength, and the greatest accomplishment you could obtain to her clan was a glorious death atop the mountain of deadmen that killed you.

Vigdis hoped for such a death.

She honed her skills for many years.

She met her foes on the battlefield and slaughtered them all. After a particularly grueling battle, she was caught by surprise and a lowly goblin gave her a fatal blow. She fell to the ground; bleeding out. Her consciousness faded, and her body was lifted away from the battlefield. She looked down and saw the world below, the everlasting war beneath her. She had earned her death.

But alas, things are rarely so simple. She landed unceremoniously in an unfamiliar realm. This was not the afterlife she had been promised. This was something else. This was purgatory. This was surely a punishment by the gods! They had seen her felled by a single lowly goblin and were displeased. She had been denied her place in the afterlife for she had sinned.

She was beside herself with rage. She wandered the planes, finding the most spectacular foes, and killing them. Hoping desperately to one day again earn her spot in the heavens.

One day, she heard of a great and terrible beast that had been terrorizing the countryside for many a year, that had slaughtered the dozens of champions that had been sent to face it.
She would try her hand at this beast.

Negiri came upon the beast, and was horrified. This was far beyond his capabilities. He was skilled and clever, but war was not his expertise. What was he thinking?! As he sat and tried to come up with a plan, he withheld a woman approach the monster. Her hair like braided straw, an axe in one hand, and lightning in the other. She waged war with the beast, and over many minutes, managed to destroy the monster. He was thoroughly impressed. He had never before seen such raw power wielded so well.

Just then he had a most wonderful idea.

Vigdis was disappointed. Though the monster put up a fight, it did not put up a challenge. She had expected more of the creature from the stories told to her by the peasants. Though to be fair, her definition of tough was, well, tougher than theirs. Once again she was denied her glorious deathbattle.

She heard clapping.

She turned and saw a man approach her. He was clean shaven with skin as dark as her leather boots. Adorned with resplendent clothes and gaudy jewelry. She was unimpressed, but wary; what was such a soft squishy man doing monster hunting?

He introduced himself. He said his name was Negiri, and that he was an alchemist.
He picked up a rock and threw it into air and it burst into a firecracker.
Cute trick.
Nothing before her lightning however.
He said that he had a proposition for her.

Negiri proposed to the lightning woman that they team up.
He was well traveled and had heard of many similar tales of high bounties for monsters slain. He could find suitable prey for her and she could destroy it. And they could split the profits even.

The woman told Negiri that her name was Vigdis, and she did not seek battles for the money, but the glory.

"You can have all the money, I have no need for it."

Negiri's eyes bulged. This was too good to be true.

Here before him stood a goddess of war, completely content on the idea of fighting his battles for him, for the sake of something as intangible as 'glory'? He couldn't have dreamed of a more ideal scenario.

He reached out his hand.

"I believe this is the start of a beautiful friendship."

Appearance
Negiri is a man of average build. Short, well-kept facial hair and a hair shaved short with intricate patterns in it. His skin is very dark. His eyes are a dark brownish-goldish color.

He adorns himself with the finest clothes and jewelry money can buy on whatever plane he is traveled upon, whatever they may be.

His body itself is covered in tattoos and runes, as to help augment his alchemy. He has numerous pouches at his waist full of weird fluids and powders and stones that he uses in his alchemy.There is a large sabre to his side. He's not particularly well trained in it, be often alchemically transforms it into menacing shapes in front of would be foes to intimidate them. It usually works.

Vigdis is a woman of slightly greater than average height. Well muscled. Lithe and sinewy. Straw-colored hair in chest length dreads. Grey eyes. She has a number of scars across her body from some of the battles she has fought.

She is accustomed to simple leather and armor like that of her homeworld, but since traveling with Negiri, he insists that she is to look more impressive if she is to keep his company, she insists on wearing things more functional.

They have met a compromise, and now she wears some of the most impressive and artistic leather and armor you might see on the field of battle.

About the only thing that stays the same is her axe, a family heirloom.

Personality
Negiri is a selfish and shallow man, far too concerned with how others perceive him for his own good. To that end, he always tries to wear the most extravagant fashions. Vigdis says he looks like a twit when he does so, so he tones it down sometimes.

He abhors being looked down on, or being told he is not good enough at something or has no talent at a particular task. Even if it's true. He holds a grudge for a very long time, and holds fantasies of revenge against those that have slighted him from decades before.

Vigdis is a Vallan through and through. She loves a good fight, and does not fear death. She is rather unconcerned with what other people think of her (unless they think she's weak) and doesn't particularly care about her appearance (save for looking intimidating).

She doesn't boast about about her strengths and talents, preferring to let her actions and reputation speak for her.

She's rather withdrawn. Her clan's entire social lifestyle revolves around battle, but most planes aren't as warprone as Valla, so she has difficulty adjusting to that and relating to other people, though she doesn't take offense to those who aren't as bloodthirsty as herself. Her travels have taught her that talent for battle can come from unexpected places, so she tries to keep that in mind wherever she goes.

She finds that she gets anxious and uncomfortable the longer it's been since she's gotten into a fight. Since Valla culture revolves so heavily around battle, she's never really garnered any other skills, and she hates it when she notices that. Recently she's trying to be more responsive to other talents, because she's not used to being bad at something and doesn't like the feeling.

Abilities
Negiri is a powerful alchemist. He is skilled at turning one thing into another. The transmute mechanic is right up his alley, as are most forms of looting or digging .

In battle, he will often summon alchemically formed servants to fight at his behest. Weirds and homunculi and the like. He can repel opponents by undoing the bonds that hold their summons in the material world.

His studies in alchemy have made him quite versed in meta-magic. As such, if he knows what sort of foe he is soon to face, he can prepare adequate counter measures to render them useless .

Vigdis wields lightning magic. She can use it to in the traditional bolt-slinging way, or to strengthen her physical attacks .

That's pretty much all there is to it.

Another entry in the character contest:
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29110815/Planeswalker_Creation_Contest_3:_Third_times_the_charm?pg=45

This round was for a pair of walkers that travel together.

It took me forever to find a pair that I liked.

First I tried a Bonnie and Clyde kind of pair, but the characters never really came together in a way I found compelling. Then I tried a cop and criminal handcuffed together shtick, but I couldn't think of a pair of magic specialties that felt right.

Then I tried something I liked, something like a Han Solo and Chewbacca dynamic. A pair of bounty hunters loyal to each other. It kind of worked from there. Vigdis was the first Magic character I came up with, and I'd been dying to find a place to use her. It came together perfectly.

I'd love to hear what you think!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Berg, the Hot-Blooded

The circumstances of Berg's origin and upbringing are fairly unremarkable. He was born into a tribe of leonin, a warrior culture; they were well versed in the art of battle. However they were a well-sated people and did not go to war for glory or land or spoils. They were nomads by philosophy, and did not seek these material attachments that would hold them back. They fought for the sake of fighting, for in battle you were truly alive. Your sense at their peak, your body pushed to its very edge, every synapse in your head firing at full speed. When your very existence is on the line, you appreciate it all the more the believed. To which, they rendered their services to their less cultured neighbors. Those that still clinged desperately to such trivialities.

The day finally came when Berg would be accepted as a man. You see, his tribe's coming of age ritual was for a young warrior to be chosen as a champion by one of their 'clients' and be successful. And Berg was finally chosen. He was elated. He had trained for years, honing his skill with every weapon he could get his hands upon, and even practicing Magic from those that could teach him.

The opponent was worthy, the fight was glorious. Berg pushed his opponents well beyond their limits, and they pushed back. He could feel every cut and blow they threw at him, but still he fought on. He felt light-headed. He was losing a lot of blood. "This is fine," he thought "there can be no dishonor in a fight well fought." As his consciousness faded, he slipped away. Through the veil between worlds. Tumbling, falling, changing. Something was different. Burning, churning, igniting. He felt empowered, his thoughts returning despite the madness he could never hope to fully appreciate surrounding him. He felt amazing! He was something more than a mere fighter now; he was a Planeswalker!

He came to on an unfamiliar mountaintop. A new man. A changed man. Battle would never be the same to him. His previous efforts; finger-paints. Now he was an artist! His strength grew exponentially. His power, his magic, his tenacity. Everything! Anything a foe could throw at him, he could throw back tenfold! His mind drifted from reasonable expectations and rose to those of a god of war. He wandered the planes, taking on any foe that he considered interesting. He fought all kinds, chosen champions and wretched despots, brigands and noblemen, machines and monsters; it did not matter. What they believed in? What they fought for? These did not matter. All there was was battle; to be alive!

Eventually, he came upon a plane. A grey murky plane that seemed blighted somehow; there was a dankness in the air. The spirits were unsettled, and the clouds never seemed to part. He found the plane rife with monsters. Demons and devils and haints and the undead. He destroyed them without a second thought, but more came. And more. And more. And more. His battle drifted. From mountains, to forests, and to the plains. Towns were caught in his wake, but he did not care. They were in the way of his expressions of life. It was their own fault. This continued for a time until one fateful day.

A great and powerful angel appeared before him. She was clad in black which stood in sharp contrast to her stark white form. She carried a spear and her face bore no expression. She informed him that he was a blight upon her flock, that his mere presence wrought destruction, and that it was here eternal duty to stop him.
She could try.

Their fight was the stuff of legend. Lasting for days. Blows were traded. Magics exchanged. Any foothold gained was quickly taken away. The angel had had enough. She lead him towards a citadel. He followed; how could he not, this was the most exhilarating moment of his entire existence. She turned to face him and lunged. Her spear plunged into him and he was flung away. She pressed him against an enormous chunk of silver.

"What cannot be destroyed will be bound."

Something happened. He was losing himself. Like when he walked, but different somehow. This time it felt wrong. He couldn't control it, couldn't feel it, couldn't perceive it. His body was lost, it was everywhere and it was nowhere. He was surrounded on all sides by pitch black mana. It was angry and bitter and vengeful. There were cursed towards a woman's name and vows of revenge. He was trapped in some horrible prison.

And so it was for many years. He maintained some semblance of self by fighting off the blackness. But he did not enjoy it. It was different than before. Before he fought as an expression of self, now he fought to maintain it. Before there were whole worlds to fight, but now it was one giant inky black mess that never ended. Without boundaries it had no meaning. Without pause, there was no room for growth. This continued on longer than Berg could ever imagine.

Crack. A light shone through the darkness. Crack. It grew bigger. Crack. It spider-webbed, spreading all over; permeating the void that he knew. An explosion. There was a sharp tugging at his chest and he was jerked towards the light. He was flung back into the world, landing on his hands and feet. It hurt. It wasn't like before he was trapped, there was a sharpness to the pain that he thought he would never feel again. The darkness around him was reforming. Demons. Hundreds of them. Fleeing every which way. There was a battle before him. Hundreds of soldiers and zombies, knee deep in gore. Angels overhead, hacking flimsily at the escaping demons. A light shone behind him; the witch that had trapped him rose up out of the smoking crater in which he lay.

"Never again" and he fled away into the wilderness to make some sense of all that had happened.

For the third time in his life, everything was different. His power, it felt so far away. His body felt hollow somehow, like it had been voided of something impossibly large. When he stretched, he could feel every ligament and bone ache. The spells he attempted to cast, shadows of their former glory.

For the first time in his entire life, Berg was afraid.




Appearance:
Berg is a smilodon leonin standing almost 12 feet tall. His fur is rust colored and kept short except for tufts located at most of the major joints (shoulders, knees, elbows, etc), where there are tinges of grey. He is covered head to foot in scars of varying sizes and severity, prizes of the battles he has fought. There is a bite sized chunk missing of his right ear. His right fang is about 8 inches long, his left is size, the bottom two inches appear to have been broken off. He's afraid that it affects his speech.

He wears simple bracers on his wrists, shoulders and shins, and wears a simple loincloth. His fur keeps him warm enough on most planes, that he chooses not to wear additional clothes unless it is necessary.

He carries a particularly large war-hammer, the back end of which is sharpened to a point, resembling an over-sized pickaxe. The underside of the point is bladed.

Personality:
Berg was raised in a culture that worshipped the fine art of battle. To his people, you were the most alive when you were so close to death. To that end, he has spent most of his existence seeking out greater and greater challenges; an easy feet considering his planeswalking abilities. When he would come upon foes worthy of his self-expression, he could gauge them based on the power level and hold back accordingly, he's almost never fought at his full capacity as a Planeswalker.

But now that the mending has occurred, and he's been brought back down to normal, he has to cope with a few mighty significant challenges to his worldview. His immortality never really excited him. His people taught him not to fear death, it was merely the high cost of living. To live as a warrior you had to learn to accept death and be ready for it at any time. It is the sudden change in power that worries him.

He only had the one battle before his ascension for a point of reference, so every other battle he has been in was fueled by the power of a pre-mending spark. He was a big fish and every world was a small pond. Now the pond has gotten so much smaller, and he is truly afraid. The idea that he cannot hold is own in battles that he once could terrifies him to his very core.

Also related to the first and only 'normal' battle he had; he had never considered the possibility that not everyone actually enjoys fighting. On his world, it was such an enormous part of the culture, it was expected that one knew how to fight properly or would have someone who could on your behalf. While he was a God, any objections to his presence fell on deaf ears. It is hard to hear people so far below you. Now he is back on their level, and the idea that his battles might not be appreciated by others is starting to dawn on him. Now that he can think as a man again and not a God, he is coming around to the idea that his actions have consequences. And it scares him.


Powers:
Berg is a warrior through and through, so most of his talent lies in the fine art of hitting things. He has learned to channel that into spell craft however, and he has become quite good at the fine art of breaking everything in spell form. Any spell that results in the destruction of things is right up his alley, so things like Stone Rain and Shatter are second nature to him.

He's never really gotten on-board with the idea of "teamwork", so many of his spells are highly indiscriminant. Things like Wildfire , Chain Reaction , Rite of Ruin , Meltdown etc.

His powers are fueled by his passion; the more into a fight he is, the more powerful his magic. To that end, spells that escalate well, or better yet, out of control are also well-suited to him.




This is my entry of the fifth of the Planeswalker Creation contest. Round 5's theme was "oldwalkers". I wanted to find a way to preserve a walker from the mending til now, and getting sealed in the Helvault seemed like the best way to do it.

I've always wanted to do a scaling Wildfire/Destructive Force on a card, and making it as a Planeswalker ultimate seemed like a great way to do it. Though Berg damages players and other walkers as well.

I'd love to hear your opinions and get your vote!

Also, Aria is in a runoff vote for first place in the Round 3 contest!

A vote for Hairless Thoctar is a vote for great justice!
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29110815/Planeswalker_Creation_Contest_3:_Third_times_the_charm?pg=42

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Mire

The Mire

It was a young plane, freshly formed from the swirling madness that is the Blind Eternities. The Mire does not remember much from the beginning. Not how it came to be, or when, or where, or why. It does not remember how long it wandered this congealed ball of grease that was a plane. Aimless, purposeless, alone.

Until one fateful day. Something moved. "What is that?" It thought. It took count of all of its pseudopods. This thing that was moving was not part of itself. This was something else. It's mind was flooded with thoughts the likes of which it had never had before, it had never encountered another living thing of such substance before. It had so many curiosities it wanted to fulfil. But this thing, this other thing began to attack the Mire. It tried to crawl away, but this other thing was relentless. Desperate, the Mire sprawled out as far as it could, looking for a way out. It felt a large rock, and with all its fortitude smashed the other thing. Over and over and over again, continuing to smash long after it had stopped moving.

The Mire studied the thing. Where had it come from? How long had it been there? Why had it attacked me? Where there others?

The curiosity turned to fear.

What if there were no others?
What if that was the only other thing out there?

What if

I'm all alone.

The Mire was terrified!
It spasmed and flitted about, horrified that it may have destroyed the one other thing there was. It screamed out a voiceless scream, and then the world became that much emptier.

Something ignited, and the Mire was pulled beyond the veil into the blind eternities.

What is this horrible place?
How did I get here?
Why?

It began to lose itself in this sea of madness. Then it began to see things amongs the technicolor void. It began to hear things. It saw another place, full of things!
Big things, little things, things with hands and feet and voices and magics!
The Mire crawled towards this place, hoping to get away from this godless void.
Desperate never to be alone ever again, no matter what.



+2: Untap target land. It becomes a 3/3 black Ooze creature that is a swap in addition to its other types and colors.
-3: Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of Swamps you control.
-9: Each player sacrifices another non-Swamp permanent for each Swamp you control.
[4]

Physiology
The Mire is an ooze. A mix of grey and a sickly green color mixing internally like a lava lamp. A number of softly glowing organelles are visible from within.

The Mire's default size is that of particularly large dog, though the size can vary considerably. More mass can be gained by eating, and the Mire can become utterly MASSIVE by consuming matter.

It tends to eat things it doesn't register as "alive"; plant matter and moss and the like, or drinking mana from the landscape; rather than consuming other sapient organisms.

The Mire can split into multiple bodies and later remerge those bodies if it so chooses. Naturally, the spark does not split, and will remain with only one of the bodies.


Personality
The Mire is a being motivated almost entirely by fear. The sudden attack and subsequent loneliness that triggered its ascension has given it a deep-set fear of being alone, whether physically or metaphorically.

Because it lived most of its life alone, it is incredibly unaware of pretty much all social conventions such as privacy, personal space, class, gender boundaries, race and species, etc.

It is incredibly curious and quick to examine most anyone or anything that piques its curiosity, though these interactions tend to end badly. Its first interaction has made it fearful of aggressive retribution from other living things, and the Mire is quick to resort to violence if it fears it is in danger or is being rejected by a would be "friend".

The Mire is genderless and has not aligned itself with either sex being entirely unaware of the concept.






This is my entry to round four of the Planeswalker creation contest on the gleemax forums. This time, the restriction was "non-humanoid walker". I rather like what I came up with.

I'd surely love to et your vote!
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29110815/Planeswalker_Creation_Contest_3:_Third_times_the_charm?pg=37

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why Wouldn't You Design That? Volume 1, Part 3

Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.

Part three, and probably the last one for Innistrad block.
Let me know what you think!

 Seems like a fairly obvious design choice to me. Though honestly, this very well may be way too good at 3 cmc.
 Full on friendship!
It tells a story! Yeah!!!
 This was originally a mirror image of Wretched Banquet, but it seemed way too good at 1 mana.

 Ghoultree is a neat card. While I don't think it's a particularly deep design space, I do think its worth more than two cards.
I love sliths. So much. So naturally, Innistrad block was a fun place for me. Falkenrath Maruaders and Markov Blademaster are nice expansions on the typical Slith formula, but I want to see them take it to its logical conclusion.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Aria, the Blood Witch

Aria had lead a privileged life. The daughter of a well-to-do noble deep in the province of Stensia, there was very little she did not have access to. The best clothes, the best food, any manner of entertainment accessible. She was born into more money than most people on Innistrad could count to. Everything most people could ever hope for was provided for her on a platter.

Her parents were quick to remind her that she was special, that she was destined for greater things than most. And she believed it; how could she not? Her family brought in the best tutors for her, she excelled in every subject. Foreign languages, history, mathematics, magic, and even the alchemy that the prudes in the capital would call heresy. There was nothing that she could not do. She was clearly better than everyone else.

Everything changed on the eve of her sixteenth birthday. She was greeted in the ballroom by half of the village. Nobles and bankers and clerics. Everyone of import from her village. But something was wrong. As she walked into the room, some of them began to shimmer, an illusion was fading. Their skin paled, and their eyes began to softly glow above sharp, crooked smiles. Many of them were vampires.

They informed her that she had her family was part of a project, she had been bred specifically for the purposes of being integrated into a vampire clan. Her entire life up to this point had been planned to the every last detail, to create someone of significance that would lift their clan out of the shadows, or at the very least provide a tasty snack. They assured her that would love it with them.

As the patriarch approached her, her world collapsed around her. Had her whole life been a lie? Had she ever made a single choice for herself? Was she actually as smart and strong and wonderful as she thought herself to be, or were those all pleasant lies to keep her complacent. She was horrified. She was enraged. She began to cry. Nothing made any sense anymore.

He assured her that she would come around. "Welcome to the family", was the last thing she remembered before she passed out from shock of the bite upon her neck.

Aria awoke in a cell. They did not want their investment escaping before she turned, it would seem. She spent the next three days in a a stupor. Her mind wracked with doubts about her life up until now, being whispered with propaganda from her captors, about how they were once one of the twelve great families, and her and others like her would raise them from their squalor, and her body slowly undergoing the transformation.

In three days time, her sire returned, the final stage was prepared. He cut himself, and filled a fine goblet with his blood. She could smell it, everything she had eaten since her bite tastes increasingly like ash in her mouth. That which was in the goblet smelled more wonderful than anything she had ever experienced in her entire lifetime. She gulped it down in a single breath.

Almost instantly, she felt better. The doubts and fears and regrets that had flooded her mind were still there, but now they felt dimmer, more far away. They could not hurt her now. She had clarity and purpose now. She turned towards her sire, and approached.

"What was it you said? 'Welcome to the family?'" She brought her hand up and brushed his cheek, and then plunged her fist up to her elbow through his chest.
"I don't like my family very much."

What little color was in his face faded almost immediately, the contorted look on his face stuck there as he died. Guards rushed into the room to see what was the clamor, and she dispatched them just as quickly with her magic. It was much stronger now.

She stood there , in the bloodstained room. The puddles of blood glistened softly, reflecting the moonlight. She observed her reflection, horrible and distorted. A monster. She felt like a monster. But she was her own monster.

She would be no one's thrall. No one's puppet. No one's convenient lie. She would not live a second longer a cog in someone else's machine. She had been raised to be special, and now she was. She knew in her heart that now she truly was. And with this insight, she was whisked away. Her spark ignited, taking a monster away to planes unknown.



Appearance
Aria was a stunningly attractive specimen before turning, as to be expected of someone chosen to be sired. Her figure is somewhat understated as she had not finished growing into herself before turning, a point that irritates her profoundly that she will not be "mature" for a very long time, given vampire's slow aging. She has long, straight, crimson hair that flows down to her chest. Her nails are long and somewhat unkempt. Her clothes are tattered and matted with blood, but were quite splendid once. She thinks very little of her physical appearance, and it shows.

Aria is spoiled rotten, being raised as the only daughter of a wealthy nobleman. She had spent her entire life not only being told that she was better than most, but actually being taught to be so. She is incredibly well verse in etiquette, language, history, weaponry, science, and magic; though most that meet her would not suspect as much because she doesn't like to talk about her past and she prefers living impulsively in the moment. She is of poor temperament and is quickly prone to violence and aggression.  She deeply hates being lied to, deceived, or being told what to do, and doing any of those things is the fastest way to get on her bad side. She eats who she wants when she wants, and cares not for the consequences; she feels like having the life she knew taken away from her entitles her to get away with most anything.

She has a bittersweet relationship with her vampiric condition. She truly enjoys the power and freedom that it affords her, but she's bitter and resentful about her origins. Sometimes she sinks into a deep depression about how inconsequential most of the choices she made during her human life were, and wonders if anything has really changed. She tends to get even more violent during these periods. She will often seek out and drain someone who is happy to make herself feel better.

She claims that she is not above turning others, but she has yet to ever do so. It is quite likely that she considers draining someone to death as a form of "mercy", that they are better off dead than a monster like herself. One of her very few redeeming qualities.

She does not like to admit it, but she is not a particularly happy woman, but she lacks the forethought to make any drastic changes to improve her life.


Powers
She is well versed in sangromancy. She can take command of blood spilled in battle and shape it as she wishes into weapons and shields and any shape she desires. She has dabbled in other forms of vampire magic such as shape-shifting, glamer, and hypnosis; but none of them have taken particularly well, preferring the brute force approach of her blood magic.

She can draw strength from her foes from wounds she has inflicted upon them or even from her very presence. If she has drawn your blood in battle, woe upon you, for she can easily aggravate the condition with very little effort . She can extend such powers to those in her vacinity, but such alliances are few and far between and only for the sake of convenience rather than a lasting desire for camaraderie.

Flight was the first vampire power she put any effort towards, and she has become quite accomplished at it since she has turned. She is immesnly fond of it, and the times she flies are among the very few times that she is truly happy. Her problems and doubts seems so far away and inconsequential when she is in the air.



This is my entry into the Gleemax forums "Planeswalker Creation Contest 3; round 3, female villains"
http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75842/29110815/?sdb=1&pg=last#520180087
I'd love to hear what you think and to get your vote!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Wouldn't You Design That? Volume 1, Part 2

DESIGN

Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.

PART TWO!


I'm not sure if you've realized, but there are no green curses. This was actually an accident, it just never happened. This is a travesty!
Double the fun!


More loners! They can form a support group. The trick with loners is that they're their own drawback. They're allowed to have bodies that are WAY over the curve, as long as they deeply discourage you from playing other creatures.
Undying is cool, I don't think there's any argument there. But it kind of bums me out there weren't many tools (within the block) for the purposes of building an Undying theme deck. Not on my watch!

They did a flashback Lightning Rift (in the form of Burning Vengeance), and yet they didn't do an Invigorating Boon or better yet, Astral Slide! It was so obvious, the flavor is PERFECT!
Finally, they never finished the captain cycle. I am disappoint, this card designs itself. (No, lifelink was not a reasonable ability, lifelink is crazy good.)

Those are all the most obvious (to me) things I might have done differently. I'd love to hear what you think, or what YOU would do differently!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Wouldn't You Design That? Volume 1, part 1

Welcome all!

Here's the first part in what I hope will be a recurring series, what I am calling "Why Wouldn't You Design That?", wherein I throw out what I think were some unfortunately missed tropes that the current block could have hit on.
DESIGN

Disclaimer: This article contains custom card designs. If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee you have my full permission to use any designs or ideas within this article without my explicit written consent or prior knowledge, or without giving me any sort of credit. I love this game and I want to help it in any way I can.


Let's get started!

The 13 theme. I think this takes it to the most logical extreme. Let's get it!

One of the greatest flaws of Innistrad is that it had a particularly rich catalog of characters that were built up through all of the style guides, and there is only so much room for legendary creatures in each set. Although, creative always builds up a surplus of story material so they have more examples to draw potential designs from, so this could merely be speaking highly of Innistrad's awesome flavor more than a R&D dropping the ball.



More green miracles. Seriously. I love the two that we have, but every other color got INSANE cards, and all green gets is pump spells. I feel betrayed. ):


Not much to say here. Obvious extensions of several recurring themes.

Push the loner theme in constructed. Many of the loner cards are super interesting, but most of them don't seem quite good enough for constructed, and while I doubt it had what it takes to become top tier, I feel like the theme had an appalling lack of constructed viable edge that many other themes from sets past have had. Plus, come on, look at that card, that's an awesome design and you know it!

There's more to come, but let me know what you think!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Silverfawn the Seedsower


Silverfawn was born on a desecated husk of a world. It had been like that for generations. Some horrible cataclysm had broken the plane's mana flow and each passing year more and more life leaked from the plane without new life to restore it. Her plane was dying.

She was born into a tribe of Kor, venerable nomads intrinsicly tied to the land. Even they could not fathom the cause of the drought, much less a solution. Their best shamans and scholars had tried and failed for generations to come up with an answer that might not even exist, though they continued to search.

Her particular tribe had a coming of age ceremony. When a child became pubescent, they were sent into the wild to commune with the spirits of nature. They would encounter a particular spirit, which would bestow upon them the greatest gift of all, their name, and when they returned they were considered an adult by the tribe, and enjoyed all the rights and priveledges that entailed.

Naturally, with the encreasing entrophy of the plane, each passing year these rites of passage yielded fewer and fewer communes with the spirits. Many children returned empty handed, no different than when they left. Some, too filled with shame to return without speaking to a spirit, simply did not, and were never heard from again.

Even in Silverfawn's generation, they kept up the ritual, mostly out of a newly twisted tradition that said that should a child return having communed with a spirit for the first time in generations, that child would becoe a prophet, their to lead their world out of the jaws of death.

Within a month of her thirteenth birthday, Silverfawn was sent into the wild. She was afraid. She had heard all the stories growing up, and was filled with worries that should yet again let her people down. She wandered for days on end until her food and water supplies dwindled, and still she tread on. She became weak and dehydrated and collapsed. Teetering on the verge of death, she slipped into unconciousness, and dreamt.

Then a miracle happened, she heard a voice. She opened her eyes, and there before her stood an enormous deer slowing silver like the stars at night. It told her that it was she that was destined to save her world, because she was the first child of that plane in generations to receive a rare gift, a Planeswalker's spark. The same sort of spark, she was told, that had blighted her world in the first place.

When she awoke, she found herself not of her world. She knew her life's purpose. And so she has wandered the planes, learning any manner of magics she could manage to learn. Trying to discover the solution that would return life to her lifeless world.










Silverfawn began her existence almost a year ago, designed as a mono-green dryad character.

Ultimately, she was kind of boring as a character. It's hard to write for AND design for mono-green walkers. I dropped her and didn't give her a second thought.

Cue a couple of weeks ago, I'm on spring break, and I come to the conclusion that the Mad Doctor story was kind of cool. I decide I should do more of that sort of thing.

Doing a series of them based on Planeswalker characters I could design ultimately seemed like an obvious choice.

An idea came to me of a 'Johnny Appleseed' type character, and I started writing Silverfawn's backstory, then the time came to build a card. I remembered my boring dryad character. It dawned on me that all of her abilities (minus the ramping) worked equally well in white as well as green. Hell, even white is allowed the occasional land searching, so even that didn't seem too much of a stretch.

And thus, Silverfawn.

I recently entered her in a Planeswalker design contest on the Gleemax forums!
The theme is children walkers, come join us!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

behind the scenes of the Mad Doctor

So it's been a while since my last post, and since my last article was more about flavor than design, I thought I should spend some time talking about the designs themselves.

Let's get started!
http://hairlessthoctar.blogspot.com/2012/04/mad-doctor.html

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-8eA3xfpVn9g/T3i47eAMBEI/AAAAAAAAAGs/NDMAdtb8A0o/s1600/Avacynian+Scribe.jpg
Avacynian Scribe was simple enough.
White is the best weenie color and every color has access to cantrips.
As a designer I'm also on something of a crusade to get card draw in all five colors to some degree. It's just such an enormous and ubiquitous part of the game, that I don't really think it's fair to certain colors to have a monopoly on it.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1AWAGpsFqsw/T3i5H5PmQ-I/AAAAAAAAAG0/JMK2DLjSAqs/s1600/Geralf+the+Stitcher.jpg
Geralf the Stitcher was a super easy design.
"All creatures are skaabs"
Bam. Done.
I will admit that 3 is probably way too low a CMC for such a powerful effect.
It should probably be at least 4, or have a heavier color weight.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-d9uJXhozDxI/T3i5KHRTwCI/AAAAAAAAAG8/VXvrvZc8K6U/s1600/Gisa+the+Ghoulcaller.jpg
Since my original article went up, Avacyn Restored has come out.
In the set, Gisa is featured on a number of flavor texts, each time going by the moniker "Gisa the Mad".
That's the least of my problems.
I came up with design having totally forgotten that Coffin Queen is a thing. Which is weird because that card is super cool (and something that is sore need for a reprint).
In light of that, I'm rather disappointed in myself.
Coffin Queen has a pretty unique functionality, and I feel that it is fairly costed, and not necessarily an effect that needs to exist in plurality.
At some point, once I've written enough articles, I plan to do a "What would I do today?" article here I go over old card designs with what I've learned and say how I would do them differently.
By then, I plan to have something more satisfying.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-pcp79Yaxu5c/T3i5TrbeaLI/AAAAAAAAAHE/SOz-q8lyQUs/s1600/Alchemist.jpg
Alchemist.
I'm not sure it's a design that 'needs' to exist, but It was one I was interested in exploring.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-OEVy4VRU7U0/T3i5XaKPhJI/AAAAAAAAAHU/Nt4F20l4AJY/s1600/Treacherous+Alchemy.jpg
Treacherous Alchemy.
In my first article I mentioned how I feel that restriction free tutoring feels more blue than black to me. To that end, I felt I should do a blue equivalent of the current default tutor, Diabolic Tutor. But I didn't want to do a straight reprint of Diabolic, that would be boring.
So, since blue tends to favor working at instant speed, I made it work at instant speed, but have the infrequently used "top of the library" clause so that the power level is comparable to the slower but "into your hand" effect of Diabolic.
I'd love to see how the two would compare in the real.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-wMq-ozB5Gho/T3i546OkjkI/AAAAAAAAAHc/Y77mOzrabg0/s1600/Bewitching+Wall.jpg
Bewitching Wall.
I think Gomazoa is neat.
So I made another.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-RK9YJL1yqjg/T3i5_Y5ejLI/AAAAAAAAAHk/ys8n6xjE1tw/s1600/Geistflame+Lantern.jpg
Geistflame Lantern.
As a proponent of fatties, I enjoy manarocks.
I did this as a a bottom up of a mana rock that cares about creatures dying, since that's a pretty ubiquitous effect in Innistrad.
I'm not sure the last ability needs to remove the counters AND sac though, the card is crazy wordy as is.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-AApKhUr89AM/T3i6pgzDYxI/AAAAAAAAAHs/KfuXa6wdFrc/s1600/Open+Sewer.jpg
Open Sewer
Rats of Rath intrigues me.
So I wanted to see what other effects in the same vein I could explore.
This is what I came up with.
I came up with some designs that I think are more interesting and/or powerful, but this was by far the most straightforward design. Going with the simplest execution of a design is a skill that I think more would be Magic designers need to embrace.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-eri3zcFWqHI/T3i6uE_fEmI/AAAAAAAAAH0/eAMLnBuVeV8/s1600/Nothing+is+Scarier.jpg
Nothing is Scarier.
Black has a sort of neat relationship with enchantments. It (and red) are allowed to have very powerful, very aggressively costed enchantments with bad downsides. Why is this? Because red and black are the only two colors that lack the capacity to interact with non-aura enchantments on the battlefield. Because of this, they can't offset the bad downsides of their enchantments (oh say, Phyrexian Arena) by destroying them later the same way that green or white or blue could.
So here's a "nothing can block" effect.
I just realized that this kind of mimics cards like Razorjaw Oni.
Cool beans.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-nJvFpxXbN8A/T3i6z96xDgI/AAAAAAAAAH8/zCh9HxGGYUY/s1600/Reflection.jpg
Reflection is the top-downsiest card I've ever made. Nuff said.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-s-FqPwPyc8s/T3i7EplGZVI/AAAAAAAAAIE/qQvv0QFEKzk/s1600/Pickled+Brain.jpg
Pickled Brain
We have Mind Stone and we have Dreamstone Hedron. Why no effect in between?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-zasqgipzx8c/T3i7G2Z1ExI/AAAAAAAAAIM/iLCf4aURdoA/s1600/Sewer+Mutant.jpg
Sewer Mutant.
I saw Artful Dodge and decided to top down design a thing like what was in the art.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-dSAXCFpfcBU/T3i7JZtro4I/AAAAAAAAAIU/R-q7mCvTNLY/s1600/Tesla+Coil.jpg
Tesla Coil.
Everything is Chain Lightning.
Let's get it!

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Mitosis.
This is the card that started it all.
I thought of this card, and immediately thought of a mad scientist testing the effect on himself.
So I decided to try and write a story around it.
I'd love to hear what you thought of the story and the designs it brought forth!