Custom Card Game Design

Back in the Saddle

I’m back!   At least…  for a little while.   I’ve unfortunately fallen quite a bit behind the schedule that I had set for myself on the design phase of the Caeia block – by this point, my plan had been to be finished with the design of Annihilation and working on developing the entire block as a whole, before releasing the whole thing for playtesting.  However, one has to pay the bills, so I’ve been traveling a lot on business.
Now that I’m back, I’m going to try and get back into the design of Annihilation.  It’s becoming a slow process, in part because it’s hard to move ahead when, looking behind, you see the issues that need to be resolved.  Taking into account playtesting from Caeia and Eldrazi Unleashed, there are some definite weak points that need to be addressed:

  • Fortifications, one of the intended strong points to the block, just aren’t working.  The mythic cycle in Caeia are extremely powerful, but outside of that there are few fortifications in either set that are worth playing, and they always are the last picked in every format.
  • The ‘Battlecruiser Magic’ feel of the set is muddled. Limited is still a very slow format, but there aren’t enough high end mana sinks that break the early game stall.  Eldrazi, Variable cost spells, and Multickicker were all intended to fill this role, but the only success there has been variable cost spells.  Multikicker is so absent that it’s regarded as out of place when it pops up, and the Eldrazi have yet to make a big impact.
  • Speaking of Eldrazi, the sets don’t feel like an Eldrazi set at all. ‘Eldrazi Unleashed’ is supposed to highlight the appearance of the Eldrazi, and while there certainly are many Eldrazi cards, there aren’t many that make an impact.

This isn’t to say that it’s all bad…  there are a lot of things that feel incredibly right at this point.

  • Purity.  Regardless of the naysayers when the set was first announced, Purity works, and works well.  It’s had a interesting effect on limited…  you can go in any of the 5 colors for purity, in which case you tend to pick on-color cards, usually with purity, and pick up colorless cards of cards with prismatic if needed.  If you don’t go in purity, you usually go in a typical two color combo and usually you aren’t having to fight for the cards you need, because two color strategies tend to be quite different than the mono-color strategies, making for a rather diverse limited format.
  • Constructed is a fun format, and fairly varied.  The only dominant deck that has cropped up in testing so far is a RW equipment deck that still isn’t so unbalanced that it’s impossible to win against.
  • Multicolor.  This one has thrown me for a loop, but this block has somehow managed to encourage monocolor while still providing ample support for multicolor.  I’ve been very pleased with Prismatic.

Today, I resume the design process on Annihilation, trying to keep these things in mind as I move forward.  Once I’ve completed the initial design phase, I’ll be going back and looking at the block as a whole, hopefully fixing the problems listed above, plus many others, while strengthening what’s already working.  In the meantime, I leave with one quick look at the redesign and development process.

This is Avienne, or at least this was Avienne.  Avienne was one of the first cards designed for Caeia, and is still arguably my favorite (being a Green Ramp player at heart).  If you’ve read up on planeswalker design at all (and if you haven’t, I highly recommend checking out Antares’ article here.) you’ll notice the problem.  While her +1 and -2 abilities work very well together, allowing you to fish up the creature you need one turn, then generate the mana to pay for it the next, her ultimate makes her +1 completely obsolete.

After going back and looking at the set, I’ve finally revisited Avienne and changed her ultimate.   While it is, mechanically, a nerf to the card, it makes the card more flavorful and synergetic.  I think I can safely say that, barring anything unforeseen, this is the final version of Avienne:

time to get to work on Annihilation!  Until next time, take care!


2 responses to “Back in the Saddle

  1. antaresmtg August 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    The best way to fix these problems with the set is to get some distance, then go and try again another time. You get another view and aren’t so protective about your designs. I’ve been there many times. I’m sure you will be able to improve the set a great deal if you look at everything again completely neutral.

    On Avienne, I thought that she was one of the better planeswalkers. I don’t get why you changed the ultimate – sure, it wasn’t 100% synergistic with the +ability, but the new version isn’t either. And the new one is really meh – the new Liliana’s ultimate is already viewed as meh, and it’s twice as powerful.

    How about “You get an emblem with “You may cast creature cards from your library. If you do, shuffle your library.”” (check with someone who knows how the rules would work on that)
    Or “Draw cards equal to the amount of mana in your mana pool?” and move it to -5?

  2. Prophylaxis August 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Yeah, once I saw the “new” ultimate, it didn’t feel right to me. It’s essentially the same as Liliana’s but weaker. IMO, I feel like the ultimate should be a bit different, as the first and second abilities work well together.

    I like Apoquallyp’s “Draw cards equal to the amount of mana in your mana pool” as it tackles a problem with ramp decks. Maybe “you have no maximum hand size until your next turn”? Dunno. Feels blue to me. What about “-6: Search your library for up to six creature cards totalling converted mana cost 6 or less and put them onto the battlefield” like Protean Hulk?

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