Sunday, February 12, 2012

Monster Making

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.

Blue zombies!
Frankensteinian monsters made out of dead people!

Innistrad is so cool like that eh?

I've had a fascination with these monsters since I saw the first previews.

I love fatties, and I love how they found a way to give blue fatties at all rarities that are A) playable and B) make sense flavorfully C) make sense  mechanically [blue mills, its the easiest color to get critters in your own yard with].

Given that there's only one more set in Innistrad block, and it seems apparent that the humans are going to be fighting back with all their might, I'm not sure just how many more Skaabs we're going to get. ):

So I tried my  hand at designing a bunch.

I also tried my hand at something new; art descriptions. Some of the ideas I had are fairly high concept, and the flavor might not be readily apparent at a first glance.
Location: The back alleys of a victorian town.
Action: Show a humanoid skaab (frankenstein monster) hiding in a back alley. around the corner you can see a mob or the silhouette of one. The skaab is in the act of unzipping its skin; it has a variety of skin-suits that it can put on and take off. This skaab was built for infiltration.
Focus: The skaab, changing out of a disguise.
Mood: You'll never find me...

Some of you might not like the idea of a one drop 2 power unblockable creature, but you have to consider that this isn't really a one drop. It is impossible for a deck that wants this sort of creature to cast it on turn 1, so its effectively a 2 or 3 drop. Kind of like Serra Avenger.

Location: A village tavern or similar
Action: Show the front door of a large public building being knocked down. In the doorway stands a horrific two-headed skaab. This grotesque creature appears to have been stitched together from two separate men right down the middle. Maybe it has two pairs of arms.
Focus: The zombie busting down the door.
Mood: Inevitability.

I'm rather pleased with this creature. The flavor and mechanics come together so well. This was originally a five drop, but the cost of exiling two creatures from your yard is steep enough that I felt it would be okay as a 4-drop.

Also, this originally could block an additional creature Foriys style, but that ability is almost entirely in white these days, and it took up way more space than I wanted on a limited workhorse.

 Location: A Nephalian dockyard.
Action: Show a Skaab lurking under a dock. This skaab looks fairly unassuming from the waist down, but from the middle of the torso and up, it has the head of a hammerhead shark stitched on. The skabaren that made this creature appears to have attempted to make a monster that can fight in the seas. Perhaps it has other modifications like a fish's tail or webbed hands and fins.
Focus: This zombie has a shark's head.
Mood: No matter where you go, there are skaabs.

This design was less about mechanics, that it was flavor. The previous Skaabs are all cool and all, and they've taken some weird avenues when it comes to some Skaabs ascetics. I just wanted to take those avenues further. Why wouldn't the Skabaren incorporate Innistrad's wildlife into their monstrosities?

 Location: Unimportant
Action: Show a skaab lurching into action. This skaab is fairly normal (as far as skaabs go) save for its right arm, which, from the elbow down has been replaced with the pincer of a fortress crab, a species of crab native to Innistrad as big as a building. This claw is utterly enormous; almost as big as the rest of the creature and drags along the ground. The claw is throwing off the zombie's balance, giving it a hobbling limping walk as it drags it along.
Mood: You wouldn't want to get hit with that.

This actually was not designed as an extension of the wildlife zombies I was talking about above, but as an inverse of Headless Skaab. I was trying to figure out a good draw back for a 3-drop 6 power creature, and having a weird untap cycle seemed like a good fit. Then I thought of what kind of zombie would have a huge power and weird untapping, and I figured something with a unnaturally large unwieldy arm might. Why not the arm of a Fortress Crab? Then it hit me: Perfection. Being a crab-armed zombie would not only give me an excuse to have a big power monster with weird untappingness, but also an excuse to give it the capacity to untap itself. Brilliant!!!

 Location: the woods
Action: show a skaab "werewolf". While a werewolf can never become a zombie (whenever a werewolf dies, it reverts to its natural human form), some deranged skabaran has sure tried to replicate what one might look like. Larch parts of this creature's body are grafted with wolf parts, so it looks all the world like a patchwork werewolf. It is been released into the wild to simulate its likeness.
Mood: Not the real thing, but just as dangerous.

Pretty straight forward. I don't know what else I can say here.

 Location: An opulent manor, currently the abode of a derange skabaren.
Action: Show a group of monster hunters under siege by an enormous skaab. The skaab had the element of surprise on them, because it looks completely unlike any other skaab. While most skaabs are built as machines of war, this appears to have been a work of "art". It has no legs, in place it is attached to a pedestal. From the waist up, it is a derange mismatch of Innistradi wildlife. Maybe it has antlers, or bears paws, or a boar's head. Feathers, and claws, and weird fur patterns. Its up to you! Just make it weird and make it dynamic!
Mood: This does NOT belong in a museum.

I think the art description speaks for itself. For some of the designs of these skaabs, I looked back at another popular blue tribe with painful drawbacks; illusions. In this case, this creature was crafted as the zombie equivalent of Phantasmal Abomination. The losing defender ability came about due to the card's concepting as a zombie strapped to a bust. The idea is that at a later date the skabaren might decide to give it a proper pair of legs.

 Location: unimportant.
Action: Show a skaab lurking, about to pounce on some unsuspecting prey. This skaab looks fairly typical from the waist up, but from the waist down, in place of legs, it has the body of a tremendous snake. This is some poor fool's worst nightmare.
Mood: Why did it have to be snakes?...

Originally this guy had intimidate instead of feral skaab, but I decided I wanted a wolf zombie and a snake zombie. I decided the wolf zombie had the greater need to have intimidate than this guy, but then what should this guy have? He had to have some leg up on Makeshift Mauler. It dawned on me that there is a history of snakes that draw cards when they deal damage. Bada bing, bada doom. Snake zombie.

 Locaton: A skabaren's laboratory
Action: Show a skaab brandishing its weapons at an unwelcomed guest. This monster's maker has attached a cornicopia of dangerous implements to this creatures forearms. They look like a tray of dentists tools from hell.
Mood: Your worst nightmare.

Weird abstract design. I realize that this has terrible anti-synergy with equipment (creatures cannot become attached to other permanents), which is terribly ironic given the flavor. I think it might be worth it for the sheer weirdness of the design.

Mood: Somewhere on fire.
Action: Oh Merry Christmas, some skabaren's been getting frisky. What you see before you is less a zombie, and more a tank. Its legs have cowcatches attached. There is a furnace built into its chest, and smokestacks sticking out of its back. It has numerous glowing lights and flickering meters meaning lord knows what. It has 3 arms on each side of its body attached to rotating pivots. Each arm ending in some different kind of bludgeoning, or stabbing, or grabbing or crushing implement.
Mood: Half-zombie, half freight train!!!

All aboard the dead train! The idea for this card came about during a design session for the devils I talked about last week. I was thinking about Ball Lightning variants, and various designs that would allow the creature to attack for oodles and then have some sort of mechanic to keep it from dying at end of turn. For the devil in question, I was working with sacrificing other creatures. It seemed interesting, but didn't feel very, idunno, right. It didnt play quite how I wanted, so I put it on the backburner to fiddle with.
During the skaab design session, I decided to try exiling creatures from graveyards (something Skaab decks want to do anyway) instead of sacrificing creatures, and this card came about.

I have more on the way, but I felt like getting an article out.
Let me know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Slithering Skaab should read
    "Whenever Slithering Skaab deals damage to a player, you may draw a card"