Custom Card Game Design

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Basic Duals

My Shandalar set requires a lot of mana fixing, as it’s supposed to support monocolor as well as five-color archetypes. Of course, a monocolor deck doesn’t need mana fixing, but maybe you want to splash a second color. For both of those deck types, common dual lands are a welcome sight.

So, I designed ten ETB-tapped duals. Here they are:

Alright, basic duals . . . why?

Because they are possible now that Wastes are a thing and I believe they would do a lot of good for the game.

  • Basic duals give a clear signal to newer players that you can and should build multicolored decks. You associate mono-red with Mountains, mono-green with Forests, but there’s nothing that represents the two color combinations, which have become more and more important since basic lands were invented.
  • Basic duals can be reprinted to be kept in Standard instead of having to invent new duals, such as Cinder Barrens, every set. The reprints can have a new art each time, just like normal basics, and players can collect and play with the ones they like the most.
  • Basic duals allow you to build budget multicolor decks. The price tag is especially a problem in Commander, a casual format, where people often don’t want to spend as much money on their decks, but where the mana base alone can cost more than 100$. That is, unless you want to fill up the deck with an unreasonable amount of basics and be color-screwed every game.

Basic duals communicate very elegantly that you can build multicolored decks, and you should play the appropriate basic duals to make your mana better, but playing multiple colors comes at a price. The duals aren’t very good. Unconditional ETB tapped is a huge downside.

Now that I’ve argued the positives, what are the potential problems with basic duals existing? Let’s look at their impact on each format:

  • Standard: You can balance basic-fetchers in Standard around the existence of these duals. No damage is done.
  • Modern: Basic duals would have a significant impact on Modern. You can make yourself immune to Blood Moon if you want to, which I think is a very good thing (**** Blood Moon!). They can be fetched with Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder and therefore be played in Scapeshift decks. But that’s a minor upgrade the deck would get, and wouldn’t throw things out of balance.
  • Legacy/Vintage: No chance. They’re too bad.
  • Commander: Here, the basic duals would have the most impact. Now you can build budget multicolor mana bases, and you can even improve the mana bases of non-budget decks significantly, by cutting traditional basics for these new duals. Remember, in Commander you have to play a lot of basic lands, so that your land fetchers are never dead. I play about twenty basics in my Mayael Commander deck and I get color screwed frequently. Basic duals mean less mana screw, and more fun.

Alright, I’ve made my case. Let’s talk about the actual implementation. Like Wastes, basic duals don’t have basic land types and have their mana ability written in the oracle text. And just like on Wastes, that mana ability is omitted on the card. The only visual clue of its mana ability is the semi-transparent mana symbol. I hope that this representation is clear enough. Of course, the ETB tapped part can’t be omitted on the card.

Then the names . . .

River: River combines water and plains. A perfect fit in my book.
Cavern: I don’t know an elegant word for “underwater cave.” Cavern was the closest option.
Chasm: Chasm is mountain-y and sounds evil.
Highland: A wooded mountain region.
Meadow: The options were Meadow or Glade. Meadow is closer to Plains than Forest, while for Glade it’s the other way around.
Desert: Nothing really that fits perfectly. Desert works, and if any of the duals is a desert, it should be the white-black one.
Falls: A waterfall is water on a cliff. Fits perfectly. Shorten it to Falls, because Waterfalls sounds awkward.
Jungle: Swamp is already a forest-y terrain, so finding something in between Swamp and Forest is hard. I think Jungle works.
Mesa: Obv . . .
Pond: The options are Pool, Pond, or Rainforest. I’m not sold on Pond yet.

Got alternate ideas for the names? Tell me in the comments!


Riffing on Ravnica – Part 2 (Selesnya)

The Selesnya Conclave is the Green & White guild from Ravnica, which means that they are most likely going to be the guild I choose come pre-release.  Green and White are my favorite colors , my favorite constructed deck having been a GW Eldrazi Ramp deck.  So, when looking into making a custom card for the Selesnya guild leader, I’m pretty excited about the possibilities.

The Selesnya are not just a guild on Ravnica, they are a religious sect who believe in unity above all else.  They not only believe that it’s their purpose to bring all other beings into their fold, they believe that, deep down, all beings desire to be a part of the Conclave.  Their leader in the original Ravnica block was the Chorus of the Conclave, and their leader in the upcoming Return to Ravnica block is called Trostani.  Like the chorus, Trostani is the collective consciousness of three separate beings – three dryads, to be exact – who have merged into one being.

As mentioned previously, Wizards has said that the guilds will each have a brand new mechanic in Return to Ravnica, but one of their design constraints is that the new mechanic has to play well with the old – if you shuffle the two together, they should play well together and feel thematically linked.  Keeping myself focused on the same guidelines brought me to this:

Commune.  A verb meaning ‘to be in intimate communication or rapport’.  The Selesnya believe in unity among all else, and so they share what they have amongst their number.  Now, I’m not here to claim that this mechanic is balanced – it’s quite possibly busted in half – but this post isn’t so much about development as it is design and think, from a design standpoint, this captures the flavor and feel of the Selesnya Conclave quite well (Any rules or balance issues would of course be worked out as the card would go through development.)

Giving all your creature spells ‘affinity for creatures’ is something that just puts this over the top, but I think is more than just ‘text’, as it does a few things.  First, it obviously fits the flavor of the character and, indeed, the entire guild, quite well.  Second, it plays extremely well with Convoke, the original Selesnya mechanic.  Finally, it interacts very well with commune – you’ve got the potent ability to be able to copy one spell three different times – now you need more creatures on the field to utilize the ability to its fullest!

Is it perfect?  No.  But I think it fits the flavor well, and works well mechanically.  What do you guys think?

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