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.

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.

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"
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


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.


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.

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!
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.
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.
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.
I'm not sure it's a design that 'needs' to exist, but It was one I was interested in exploring.
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.
Bewitching Wall.
I think Gomazoa is neat.
So I made another.
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.
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.
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.
Reflection is the top-downsiest card I've ever made. Nuff said.
Pickled Brain
We have Mind Stone and we have Dreamstone Hedron. Why no effect in between?
Sewer Mutant.
I saw Artful Dodge and decided to top down design a thing like what was in the art.
Tesla Coil.
Everything is Chain Lightning.
Let's get it!
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!