Custom Card Game Design
Today’s card is from Caeia (you’ll also hear me refer to Caiea as Soco, as that was its ‘codename’), my first custom set. The set is technically ‘released’ as a beta version, while playtesting and revisions still happen on occasion. This is one of two Planeswalkers from the set.
I spent a lot of time on this card, with the help of a buddy mine, and I feel pretty good about where it ended up. A lot of our playtesting has involved her and she plays very well. The design of the card actually started out with the art. I knew I wanted a black vampire planeswalker, but one that was more aggressive than Sorin (note – this was almost a full year before Sorin, Lord of Innistrad was spoiled), and when I saw the art I knew this was our planeswalker.
I knew I wanted two things right off the bat. First, I wanted the cmc to be less than 5, and second I wanted it to be able to protect itself. The 1/1 tokens with lifelink seemed like the right thing to do, and there are a few other places in the set that use those tokens, so it worked rather well.
I struggled for a long time on the middle ability. It doesn’t have any specific synergy with the creature strategy of the +1 and the ultimate. Ultimately, I felt that the lack of synergy was ok in this case. It was a very flavorful ability for a vampire, and served a purpose in balancing against lifegain strategies. White has a large array of effecient lifegain spells in this set and I wanted something to keep it in check. What I love about this ability is that it functions best against an opponent that has more than 20 health, but becomes less powerful as health totals diminish, which gives it a mechanical distinction from Sorin 1.0. Costing this also proved problematic, as it needed to be costed high enough to limit the ability somewhat. Originally, her starting loyalty was 4 and the cost of the middle ability was -3, but when we lowered her starting loyalty to make her a bit more fragile, it became -2.
One of the best vampires ever printed (hell, one of the best uncommon creatures in recent years, IMO) was the vampire nighthawk, and for awhile it was a reprint in the set. It was cut due to how aggressive it was, as Caeia is intended to be a slow format, but I was a bit sad when we cut it. Originally, Elaara’s ultimate was something silly about saccing tokens to drain life, but when we cut the nighthawks I thought ‘hey, let’s just turn the tokens into nighthawks’, and it worked like a charm.
Overall, Elaara is really fun to play with. She makes creature based aggro pretty tempting in black, and yet in all our playtesting she never felt unbalanced.
Thanks for reading! Feedback, as always, is much appreciated!