Custom Card Game Design
Tag Archives: Shandalar
February 14, 2016Posted by on
When I first came up with the idea for Shandalar set, I envisioned a set based on a plane abundant with mana. Like Zendikar was the “land-set”, this would be the “mana-set.” Only later, I realized that Shandalar was the perfect plane for this set as it is described as exactly a plane abundant with mana. My initial concept had a strong multicolor emphasis, with exotic mana costs that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. Mana costs such as multicolor twobrid, tribrid, and mixed hybrids of all five colors. For a set based on mana mechanics, it would make sense that these exotic combinations are explored. But while this is a perfectly viable concept, it doesn’t work for Shandalar. In the recent core sets, Shandalar has been defined by five lands heavily aligned with a single color of mana: Thune, Evos Isle, Xathrid, Valkas, and Kalonia. It would feel wrong to depict these lands as anything else.
The focus of the set slowly shifted to monocolor, still with a heavy emphasis on mana mechanics, but with far less exotic mana costs. Although I want to push monocolor, multicolor should also be a viable archetype. Basically, you should be able to draft as few or as many colors as you like. Not an easy task to make this work, but I think it’s very much doable.
Each of the five colors should get cards that reward you heavily for sticking to only that color, as well as unique synergies and themes to prevent a “core-set feeling.” As of now, I have a concept that I’m happy with for Thune and Kalonia, and some rough ideas for the other lands. Here, I want to show off my concept for Thune.
Just like Bant, Thune encompasses basically all classic fantasy tropes associated with white: Wizards, knights, angels, and so on. So, that’s what you’ll get. The mechanical themes of Thune are a spin on the themes of the overall set. The first one is Inherit.
Inherit is a mechanic that appears in all colors. It allows you to “flashback” an instant or sorcery spell, but the twist is that you need a creature to cast it. The creature taps to allow you to cast the spell from exile once. You have to pay the mana cost, and then it’s put into your graveyard. Inherit is a spin on my Consign mechanic, and probably what Consign should have been in the first place, as the design space isn’t as constrained by the threat of repeatable game states.
I included Inherit in the set to capture that in Shandalar “the magical energy is so prevalent, that it all is sentient, and the common people use minor spells as an everyday convenience” and to synergize with the next mechanic, Wizardry.
Wizardry rewards you for having creatures that fling spells left and right. Because you can potentially trigger Wizardry multiple times per turn (just imagine a few Elvish Mystics in play), I have to be very careful with the effects I put on it. Plus one life doesn’t seem much, but it can add up. Paladin Aspirant also shows the spin white has on the set’s theme. While most of the cards in the other colors with Inherit are sorceries, for example Divination with Inherit, white gets mainly instant combat tricks. But having to tap a creature to recast the spell prevents you from attacking – unless the creature has vigilance. Therefore, many cards in white have or grant vigilance.
Lastly, some creatures have activated abilities themselves.
These creatures reward you for going into monocolor. A triple white cost at common probably isn’t a good idea, so the Crusader of Thune cycle is at uncommon. Sky Captain of Thune can be played in multicolor decks, but if you stick to mono white, you get the activated ability as a bonus.
Next time, we’ll travel to the forests of Kalonia.
February 1, 2016Posted by on
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!