Custom Card Game Design
I’ve finally got around to finish my ‘Esparand’ set. You can find it under ‘Our Projects’ or you can check out an example booster here.
During the last stages of the design process, I actually revamped a good part of the set. Here are some of the last design decisions I made and the thought process behind them.
Some mechanics, those that rely on synergy, have the tendency to snowball. Evolve is almost always a powerful ability for a creature to have, but it becomes even better if you can curve perfectly. Battallion does nothing unless you have a creature heavy draw. These mechanics make Magic interesting, because they allow you to build your deck around them, but they also tend to make the game more swingy. In order to compensate, each set needs a variance-smoothing mechanic. The development team of ‘Theros’ realized that and added Scry to the set. I think it would be a good idea if Scry was made an evergreen mechanic and put into every core set (in addition to the returning mechanic).
But Scry was added to ‘Theros’ because a heroic deck needs to find a good mix of targets and enablers, which is not consistently possible without card selection. ‘Esparand’ does not demand that from your deck. Therefore, I was more interested in helping each player develop their game plan without getting flooded. I implemented a mechanic that is similar to Scry, but specialized at digging for lands or spells.
Steer Fate (Choose land or nonland, then reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a card of the chosen kind. Put it on top and the rest on the bottom in any order.)
I decided that, while there should be some expensive cards with Steer Fate, most cards should cost 2-3. Both cheap and expensive cards are able to dig for spells in the late game, but only cheap cards are able to dig for lands in the early turns, and I’m more worried about the second scenario. One of the most frustrating things in Limited are the two-land opening hands with a three drop as the first play. You never mulligan these hands if they are reasonable and you’re right not to, but in about 10%-15% of the games in which you keep such a hand you just die without ever doing anything. That is just not fun.
While balancing the cards, I treated Steer Fate as a “Scry 1.5”. This is the reason why Channel the Storm is a common, as opposed to Magma Jet. It has to be tested how Steer Fate interacts with the milling theme of the set: Whenever your opponent can mill you at instant speed, all your Steer Fate is useless. This might be a frustrating interaction and I’ll keep an eye on it.
Some cards had to be cut to make room for the Steer Fate mechanic. For that reason, I decided to cut all the common and uncommon colorshifted cards. Many did not recognize that I made, for example, the white version of Favorable Winds, because they did not remember the original card and were confused why it was printed in a colorshifted frame. The theme was never very consistent to begin with, because whenever I thought of a colorshifted card to implement, I scrapped it only days later as it didn’t fit the set mechanically.
Now, the craziness is limited to the rare cards. Hybrid cards, colored artifacts, futureshifted cards, colorless cards, and manlands all make an appearance. Players should be able to recognize the more iconic cards that are being colorshifted, as opposed to stupid Midnight Haunting. Limiting this theme to rare cards offers something for players who can appreciate these designs without confusing too much those than can’t.
Variance in the power level of the booster packs makes drafting much more exciting. I was missing that a bit during our first Esparand draft. During the design of the set, the natural tendency is to make every card “good,” but sometimes it’s correct to make one card “too good” and one card “not good enough.” As long as no card becomes a dominating as Opportunity in M14, you should be fine. Therefore, I decided to fill the last uncommon slots with some really juiced-up creatures.
More graveyard interactions
Esparand is supposed to be a graveyard-based set. While blue and black already supported graveyard-based strategies very well, green was a bit lacking. I implemented more cards that care about creatures in the graveyard.
I also added some more fatties as potent reanimation targets. It was critiqued that it’s too hard to pick up enough targets for a dedicated reanimator deck.
Storm of Chaos Preview
To finish things off, here’s a new card for the second set, ‘Storm of Chaos.’ Yes, I’m aware that everyone except for me thinks that the idea of split creatures is terrible :(.
The legendary split creatures represent two versions of the same character, brought together by time paradoxes, which are the main theme of the set. These are the rules associated with them: