Custom Card Game Design

Tag Archives: Ravnica

An Update long overdue: Siege of Ravnica

First, I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Then I didn’t have the time. And then I didn’t care.

But, new year’s resolve: More content again! (mainly because Doombringer constantly bugs me 😛 )

Let’s start with some updates long overdue. This time, Siege of Ravnica.

The Eldrazi

Siege of Ravnica underwent a lot of conceptual changes since my initial design, and it should be ready now for the next design wave. But, since I started with the set, Battle for Zendikar block happened. The question now becomes, how much should I let Siege of Ravnica be influenced by it? Like many people, I didn’t like Battle for Zendikar very much, and I think the Eldrazi were executed very poorly in the block. So, I’d rather cherry-pick the few good things from that block and ignore all the rest. Where are we at?

  • Devoid is terrible. No devoid in Siege of Ravnica. Never! Devoid didn’t happen! I can’t hear you! Lalalalala!
  • True colorless mana on the other hand is a very cool mechanic, and something that I’m considering using. However, my Eldrazi Spawns (Broods they are called now) actually make mana of any color, to help with the multicolor theme of the set (although it’s against the flavor of the Eldrazi). Introducing colorless mana would have to entail significant restructuring of the set.
  • I planned for all three titans to show up in Ravnica. But in Battle for Zendikar, Ulamog and Kozilek are killed off. Only Emrakul’s whereabouts remain unknown. This could be an opportunity to tie in Siege of Ravnica’s story with the current storyline: Emrakul escapes from Zendikar and goes straight for the main course of a city plane abundant with life. But at some point, we will deal with Emrakul in the official story, and Siege of Ravnica will again be a “parallel universe.” So, I’m only buying maybe two years.
  • While in Rise of the Eldrazi, the three titans just destroyed without reason, in Battle for Zendikar, the three Eldrazi titans were all given a unique identity. Ulamog was born from an insatiable hunger and has to consume endlessly. Kozilek is the master of time and space and reshapes the planes into his twisted vision of what the multiverse should look like. And Emrakul? It is the Titan of Corruption, twisting, corrupting, and consuming only living matter. This concept could be incorporated into Emrakul and his brood, or it could just destroy everything like it did in Rise of the Eldrazi. I actually liked that.

The current version of Emrakul.


The next big topic are the planeswalkers. I planned for planeswalkers to be at common, but due to a lot of negative feedback, and space-issues in the set skeleton, I plan to remove them, or at least change the approach drastically. Currently, I’m toying with the idea of making a set like Zendikar Expeditions called Across the Multiverse that will feature many planeswalkers, old and new, and spells from the home planes of these walkers. One Across the Multiverse card will be inserted into every or every second (or so) Siege of Ravnica booster, replacing the basic land. I want planeswalkers to be a major part of the draft format. I think it’s doable, but it has to be done right.

Two cards that could appear in Across the Multiverse.

New mechanic: Escort

Escort (An escort may protect another creature as both attack unpaired. The pair is blocked as a group and the protector is assigned combat damage first.)

Escort is a mechanic that I’ve been toying around for a while now, and one that I wanted to put into many sets in one form or another. As Duet, it allowed creatures to attack in a pair. In addition, upon attacking, you declare which creature is assigned combat damage first, and which second. With Escort, I simplified the mechanic even further, and made it mandatory that the escort is assigned combat damage first.

Two creatures with escort.

I really like Escort because it takes the good ideas of banding (bear with me) and removes everything that’s so confusing about it, both on a comprehension level and on a board complexity level. It forces the attacking player to declare the combat damage order immediately. This way, it is very easy for the defending player to discern how combat will turn out. It doesn’t do anything on defense, so there’s no risk that the attacking player runs into a chump-attack.

Only the wording is a bit tricky. In four lines or less, the reminder text has to convey that…

  • …you can’t have a creature be escorted by two escorts. This is what the “unpaired” phrase is for.
  • …the characteristic of having to be assigned combat damage first is separate from being an escort. If two escorts attack paired, you choose which one escorts the other. This is what the “protector” phrase is for.
  • …if two escorts attack paired, the protector has to be chosen upon attacking.

Did you think these corner cases were supposed to be handled this way based on the wording?

New mechanic: Deadlock

Deadlock — At the beginning of your upkeep, if no creatures attacked during each player’s last turn, {effect}.

Deadlock replaces Breach, which was an ability word that gave you a bigger pump spell if you cast it during your main phase. Both play into the siege theme of the set, but I think Deadlock is more interesting mechanically.

A “deadlock breaker” and a “true deadlock” card.

Deadlock creatures can break open stalled board states (Siegebreaker Wurm) or entice the opponent to break it open (Vizkopa Aristocrats). Although these cards use the same mechanic, they should play out very differently. While the Orzhov and Azorius guilds are good fits for the “true deadlock” mechanic, Gruul and co. really like attacking, so they should get more of the “deadlock breaker” cards.

On the surface, Deadlock seems like a mechanic that entices board stalls, but that’s only true on a deck-building level. If you play Vizkopa Aristocrats, you’ll want to make sure you can prevent your opponent from attacking favorably. But once the board stalls, the Aristocrats ensure that the game is coming to a conclusion. The opponent has to act.


How would you represent the brood of Emrakul, the titan of corruption? Should Emrakul stay true to its Rise of the Eldrazi depiction or should it get a unique shtick like the two smaller titans?

Next time, an update on Shandalar!


Riffing on Ravnica – Part 1 (Golgari)

Hello, and thanks for reading!  First off, if you haven’t gotten a chance, head over to this link and watch the MtG panel from Comic Con.  There’s some great stuff there, including information on commander (new commander products every year), and the upcoming Autumn set – Return to Ravnica!

As someone who missed out on the original Ravnica, I’ve been looking forward to visiting Ravnica for a long time.  In fact, prior to RtR  being announced, I had planned to have a follow-up to my custom block that took place on Ravnica.   Alas, this project has been completely scrapped, as I’m sure WotC will do it better than I do.  But…  if RtR’s story involves planeswalkers from across the multiverse coordinating against recent threats (read: Eldrazi, Phyrexia), only to realize that Nicol Bolas intntionally drew them altogether in an effort to drain their sparks and regain his lost godhood, then I’m calling shenaigans!

Anyway, along with the Comic Con panel comes a ton of new RtR art, including art for all 10 guild leaders.  Being, at this point, quite enthusiastic about custom card creation, I just had to make some cards around these arts.

Today’s subject is the guild leader of the Golgari Swarm:  Jarad.

What we know so far…

So far, Jarad’s casting cost and name have been revealed, but nothing else.  Since I’m new to the Ravnica scene, I’ve had to do my research, and I’ve learned quite a bit.  I’ve learned that this guy is the brother to the former ruler of the Golgari, who herself had usurped the previous ruler.  I know that Jarad is an accomplished warrior and a talented Lich.

Of the Golgari, I’ve learned a bit more.  Their guild philosophy is that, to truly live, you must first die.  Death isn’t just a natural part of the cycle of life, to them – it’s a means to grow in power.  The Golgari truly believe that death can’t stop you.

The original mechanic for the Golgari was Dredge, and I’m given to understand that it was extremely competitive and still remains a viable strategy in Eternal formats.  Dredge is representative of the Golgari’s belief that Death is just the first step on the path to power – in this case, getting the card into your graveyard is just the first step in setting up several possible combos to utilize the mechanic effectively.

For my take on the Golgari, I’m looking at something a bit different.  My understanding of Jarad, the current guildmaster, is that he is not only an accomplished necromancer, he also has a great deal of martial prowess.  Jarad strikes me as a character of action, and so I’ve taken a creature-based approach to the Golgari mechanic.

Here’s my take on Jarad:

Jarad, Golgari Lichlord. Or, my version at least.

Resurge is a mechanic that would allow the Golgari dead to return to the world of the living, stronger than before.  One of the things mentioned at the Comic Con panel was that none of the guilds would see a return of their old mechanics, but the new mechanics would play very well with the old.  I think this hold true here, as many of the same strategies you would use for Dredge (self mill, creature sacrifice) would also allow you to set up Resurge combos.

I see lots of hits on this blog daily, so I know folks are visiting.  So, for you lurkers out there, what do you think.  Any ideas on how you would design Jarad?

%d bloggers like this: