Custom Card Game Design

More on Iamur


in my last post I talked about creating an underwater set. I continued working on it when I found time. It is now called ‘Iamur’ (recycling ftw!) and you can see the current card list here. I kept all the mechanics I proposed and added some new ones. So, here is what I came up with since my last post:


Last time, I was looking for a ‘mana burst’ mechanic other than Swallow for green and white. Swallow allows you to sacrifice creatures to reduce the cost of spells you cast. That ability is mostly black, but can be justified in each color but white. The mechanic I was looking for should be flavorful for Mermaids, which appear in green and white. The mechanic ended up being ‘Melody’ and I’m happy how it turned out:

Melody {mana} (You may tap this to reduce the cost of a creature card you cast by {mana}. This doesn’t untap during your untap steps for as long as you control that creature.)

Fish CharmerSinging Cliffs

At uncommon, there will also be much more powerful creatures with melody that provide additional value; for example creating a token upon entering the battlefield and thus not locking down the body when tapping it for melody. Some creatures also have synergies with melody: For example one has a sacrifice ability to put a token into play, thus freeing up the melody creature again.

A minor irk is that you can sacrifice a creature with melody to cast a spell and still use the mana reduction of tapping it. This feels like you’re cheating the downside and can lead to pretty insane mana bursts. It would be reasonable to disallow that somehow. It could be just defined into the ability but not appear in the reminder text. But either way, some people will wrongly assume that you can respectively can’t make that play if it isn’t explicitly stated.

Power 8 or greater matters

Sometimes you just have to go over the top. Naya is an old hat! Here it’s all about the number eight. “Power 8 or greater matters” will be the theme for the Naga race in blue and black. It further encourages playing with the fatties in the set – what is the use of having a bunch of super-expensive cards in your boosters if they are unplayable?

Abyssal MistressBoxing Squid

Of course you can just play non-terrible fatties instead of Boxing Squid and get the same benefit. But bad cards that are maybe worth looking at in the right deck are something I find very interesting.

Level up

I spent a lot of thought on this one. I was looking for a mana sink mechanic, but couldn’t come up with something I liked. I didn’t want to create a mediocre mechanic just for the sake of doing something different. I wanted the set to be designed in the spirit of Rise of the Eldrazi, so it wasn’t out of question to just go ahead and return levelers. A graveyard-based mechanic would fit better though, and I also thought about using Scavenge or a mechanic derived from it. However, from playing Return to Ravnica, I feel that Scavenge isn’t a very effective mana sink and plays much more aggressively than I am comfortable with.

So, level up it was. After all, it was one of the most awesome mechanics of all time.

Ctali ScoutDeepkin Trickster

Having levelers in the set meant that all cards that put +1/+1 counters on creatures had to be changed so that they can’t put them on levelers. You don’t want to scare off people by having two different kinds of counters appear on common creatures. However, creatures that grant +1/+1 counters only to themselves aren’t a problem, so bloodlust can stay.

It’s possible to expand on the level up mechanic. Rise of the Eldrazi didn’t have any artifact, hybrid or multicolor levelers or creatures with off-color level up costs. I personally find off-color level up costs very interesting – with the first level up, the creature could gain an ability of its own color, while in the ultimate form it gains an ability of the off-color.

The Mythics of Iamur

I still haven’t figured out the story of Iamur in great detail, but it obviously contains some monstrous kraken. So I went ahead and designed two of them:


I tried to make a cycle out of these, but I didn’t like my ideas for the other colors, so I’ll only implement these two. If the set turns out the way I intend, you will open these guys in pack one and just slam them happily! I especially like Ctaleth’s ability to permanently weaken the opponent’s board with each attack (in addition to bashing their face for a million!). Sometimes, one attack of Kozilek isn’t enough to kill your opponent, since he can sacrifice a bunch of lands and go to 5, then kill you on the backswing. Ctaleth has the same interaction: The largest creatures survive and might still kill you, but it becomes more and more impossible with each attack.

Iamur is supposed to be completely underwater, but you can see that Nolgul breaks that rule: The ocean of Iamur is covered by a magical barrier that pulls everyone down trying to reach the surface. Only the most powerful beings can walk above the surface, in the “overworld” – planeswalkers and the kraken avatars.

However, Nolgul is not supposed to wander in the overworld. In fact, the barrier was created to protect its inhabitants from exactly his kind. Should I decide to design a follow-up set to Iamur, it would take place above the surface, while still keeping the heavy marine focus (fishing ships being eaten by giant squids for example). Invasion of the kraken!

Of course, planeswalkers will also be part of the story. Kayisha, a mermaid, is one of the two planeswalkers in the set:

Kayisha, the Land-dweller

Now I should probably write the second part of my “Glory of the Colonies” post. It’s long overdue. Until then!


One response to “More on Iamur

  1. Pingback: Random Cards from Grim Tidings « Adventares – Custom Card Game Design

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