Custom Card Game Design
Eldrazi in the Streets
March 5, 2015Posted by on
Getting the Eldrazi right was the most difficult task when I started designing Siege of Ravnica. I believe many designers who, before me, brought the Eldrazi back can attest that finding a fitting mechanic is not a trivial task. Do you reuse Annihilator? That’s certainly not optimal, but if you don’t, where do you go from there? The mechanic must satisfy the following main criteria:
- It must be scalable, so that it can be used on common Eldrazi as well as rare Eldrazi, or even the Titans. For example, Doombringer suggested his Eradicate mechanic “Eradicate X (Whenever this creature becomes blocked, defending player sacrifices X nonblocking permanents.)” I believe that this mechanic disqualifies, because it does not scale very well. That is, unless you intend to use it only for lesser Eldrazi, and have bigger plans for the titans. In that case, it’s perfectly reasonable.
- It must feel colorless.
- The flavor as well as the gameplay must fit for the Eldrazi. Basically, it must involve destroying or consuming stuff. I considered a mechanic that gave the Eldrazi +1/+1 counters when the opponent spent mana, representing the Eldrazi’s nature to devour the mana of the plane. Although this fits the Eldrazi flavorfully, it doesn’t fit them mechanically: Eldrazi don’t sit back and wait until they’re strong enough to attack.
The second Eldrazi mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi were the Spawn tokens, and here I think it’s reasonable to bring them back. But I changed them a bit, so that they better fit into the environment.
Spawn tokens now produce mana of any color. Although this is a bit out of flavor for the mostly colorless Eldrazi, it’s a necessary change to make them fit into the multicolored environment. Maybe the brood lineages mutated after the titans devoured the incredibly rich mana of Zendikar. This upgrade entails that you will see less Eldrazi spawn tokens created per card, and Kozilek’s Chrysalis is as far as they will be pushed — no strictly better Emrakul’s Hatcher!
For the greater Eldrazi, I eventually came up with the ability word Consume. An extremely loosely defined mechanic, Consume signals an ability that inflicts something harmful onto an opponent and grants the inverse beneficial effect for you. The Eldrazi trigger this effect when you cast them, as well as whenever they attack, combining the when-you-cast triggers from the original titans with the whenever-it-attacks trigger from Annihilator.
Consume fits all the criteria mentioned above: It is scalable, it feels colorless, although most of the effects you can put on it will be associated with a specific color, and it feels Eldrazi-esque in both flavor and gameplay. It has very limited design space, but barely enough so that you can fill in the handful of slots for the Eldrazi in the set, and it reads very weird if you’re unfamiliar with the original Eldrazi. It’s not perfect, but I think the perfect mechanic is a very tiny spot in the room of all possible mechanics, and that spot would be incredibly hard to find. Verdict: Good enough!
Here is the new Emrakul featuring the Consume mechanic. As I mentioned when discussing the Emrakuls of other designers, I believe that there is no design space for a new Emrakul at 15 mana. The original Emrakul reads “I cast this card and you die.” Any other Emrakul that doesn’t just outright kill the opponent will just feel woefully inferior and obsolete, while an Emrakul that does can’t feel different enough to warrant a new card. So, the Emrakul you see here is cheaper and less powerful, so that it can fill a new role.
Thanks for reading!