Custom Card Game Design
Exploratory Design – Into Infinity (pt. 2)
February 10, 2015Posted by on
Legend- wait for it…
It turns out, I couldn’t wait to write the follow up to my first Into Infinity exploratory design post. As I mentioned before, it’s an idea I’ve had kicking around for several years, and so the prospect of actually seeing it come to fruition excites me, gets my brain working. Thus, I’m back at it again today.
As mentioned in the previous post, Into Infinity is a standalone set (ala Rise of the Eldrazi) that finished out the Dareth block. The theme is ‘legendary creatures and planeswalkers matter’. Why legendary creatures and Planeswalkers? Well, the real theme is ‘leadership’, or perhaps ‘leaders and followers’. The story of Into Infinity will see the Infinite Consortium, an interplanar organization of planeswalkers, come together and summon an army led by some of the most talented generals in the multiverse, in order to combat an enormous threat. The planeswalkers of the infinite consortium are obviously represented by the planeswalkers in the set; their generals are the legendary creatures.
If your theme is not at common, it isn’t your theme. One of the biggest problems with having a planeswalker-centric block is that even if you can justify a planeswalker at rare, it’s one hell of a stretch to put one at uncommon, and an almost insurmountable task to justify putting a planeswalker at common. Stretching the theme to planeswalkers and legendary creatures helps me bridge that gap to common.
“Legendary creatures matter” has been tried in MtG’s history in the past, in the Kamigawa block. While the block has a bit of a cult following, it was largely considered a failure. Limited could get very klunky and multiple copies of the same legendary creature clogged up your hand.
Grandeur, a mechanic seen thus far only in Future Sight, helps to relieve that issue. By having a common cycle of legendary creatures with grandeur abilities, there is no worry about having them as ‘dead cards’ in your hand. Of course, given that they are common, they’ll need to be carefully balanced. This isn’t development, so I’m not too worried about numbers and balance at this point, and yet these cards need a bit more consideration in that regard to know if they’ll work at common. Raising the cost of this card by 1 could be considered, though having it at 3cmc makes the card seem tailor made for a beginner’s Tiny Leaders deck. (EDIT – Apparently I should read more. Tiny Leaders being a singleton format means that this effect is useless there)
- Does this type of card have enough design space? Probably. There’s some, at least, more than enough for a cycle.
- Is this type of effect interesting? Definitely. It makes legendary creatures plausible as a theme, and grandeur could be potent in limited.
- Does the card work? Is this type of effect playable? I’m not sure. I tend to think yes, it does work, but it needs to be developed a lot in order to get it right. It has to feel special enough to warrant legendary status while not broken as a common. It definitely counts against your complexity budget.
- Verdict: This will make it past exploratory design, but I’m going into this with eyes open, understanding that it might be hell to develop.
The effects of leadership
Obviously, the set can’t be completely legendary creatures or planeswalkers, but if that’s going to be our theme, how do we enforce it?
Leaders need to have followers, subjects to lead. And this takes us into territory that will be less controversial. Embolden is an ability word that you can get a lot of mileage out of, I think. It works best on creatures, but can go on just about anything, permanents and non-permanents alike. And the complexity isn’t high, and we need something lightweight on the complexity scale.
- Does this type of card have enough design space? Almost unlimited.
- Is this type of effect interesting? Not necessarily, but it’s not uninteresting. For instance, the card above can be seen as a pseudo goblin guide, in the right deck.
- Does the card work? Is this type of effect playable? Absolutely. It’s playable, works well within the theme, and doesn’t bring a lot of complexity related baggage to the table.
- Verdict: I can’t imagine that Embolden will not make it into the set.
The trappings of office
The last card I’ll work with today is one of a possible two or three card cycle of uncommon equipment that transform a creature into a legendary creature. Again, the effect itself is what we’re looking at here, not specific numbers.
So… there are a few problems here. First off, it doesn’t quite feel elegant. Not exactly brute force design, but not very smooth either. Second, the legend rule not applying is necessary for this kind of card to work, yet inadvertently has the unintended effect of allowing you to have two of the same legendary creature out. Maybe not game breaking, depending on the cost, but something that will have complexity and balance considerations.
A cycle like this is great for our theme, because it turns all of your creatures into potential embolden enablers, but the complexity it brings to the table is a hefty price to pay.
- Does this type of card have enough design space? Probably.
- Is this type of effect interesting? Certainly. The Johnny in me immediately wants to turn it into a combo piece in some wonky deck, and Spike potentially wants to draft it for his embolden deck.
- Does the card work? Is this type of effect playable? It’s certainly playable, but whether or not it works is something else. It’s a tad unelegant, and it brings a lot of complexity to the table.
- Verdict: I’m torn on this one. It’ll probably be toyed with in design, but I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t make the final cut.
Of course, a set with legendary creatures and planeswalkers as your theme will feature other cards that play with the mechanic. “Counter target planeswalker spell”, “Destroy target legendary creature or planeswalker”, etc. are things I would expect to be considered during design.
I’m trying to contemplate what the as-fan of legendary creatures/planeswalkers would need to be in order to make this theme work – I’d love some feedback, not just on that but on all the designs here and the theme in general.
The above concepts, and the ones from the previous post, all just serve to illustrate some of the ways that this theme can be pulled off, and all said I’m pretty confident about it. In fact, it’s got me excited enough that I’m really tempted to just go with it and work on this set in earnest, and come back and finish sets 1 and 2 at a later time.