Friday, October 5, 2018

Ruin of Seffala – The Moss Wall token

So much to unpack here.

To start with, I'll reiterate that this is a nostalgic set. Nostalgia is different for everybody, but for some reason, one thing that is nostalgic for me in Magic is walls. I remember cards like Wall of Roots and Wall of Brambles. With these walls in mind, in Ruin of Seffala, I gave green a Wall sub-theme, specifically in the form of wall tokens.

Lichen Grower, Moss Song, Twig Witch, Moss Wall Token
Click to see bigger
One of the problems I hear about walls is that they only stop one thing while the rest of the opponent's creatures go around. I decided to address this problem two ways: first, I made them tokens, which means they can be repeatably made, rather just being one card in the deck; and second, I gave them Toughlink, so an opponent wishing to slam a creature into a wall (or even chump check) will have to calculate how much you stand to gain in life by that exchange. With one wall token out, and nothing else, suddenly the opponent needs not just two creatures out, but two creatures with power 4 or greater to do any damage at all.

I also have a Defender-matters payoff in green, as well as life gain payoffs elsewhere. As well, the green/white archetype of Ruin of Seffala is primarily a token strategy, where you'd make green walls on the ground and white flyers to hit from the skies. The green tokens also work great for a green/black tron player who wants to protect their enchanted creature (we'll see black's tron enchantments coming up soon).

With all of these cards, multiple Moss Wall tokens can be made. Lichen Grower is like Sly Charlatan, and Moss Song is like Call the Volantile (both in white, shown in an earlier post). Twig Witch offers a repeatable option for those who want to go really wide on the walls.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Ruin of Seffala – U/R Djinni Tribal

We've seen Shamans as the white/blue tribe, and Witherkin as the black/red/green tribe, and now the final tribal option is blue/red Djinni. There are other kinds of decks that can be made, of course, that don't utilize tribal synergies (white/green tokens, for example, the green half forthcoming), but I figured for Seffala some tribal options would be good for players who want to draft something somewhat simple. I liked how in Ixalan you could basically just try to draft every Vampire, or every Merfolk, and you'd come up with something good, without thinking too hard, because the tribe types were enough to get you started. Advanced players can try for other kinds of decks to draft, but I wanted new players to be able to open up pack one and say "oh, a bomb rare of tribe X, that's easy."

Growing Dimmer, Growing Brighter, Bloodkin Dimmer, Wishborn
Click to enlarge.
Apart from standard tribal payoff that you see in Bloodkin Dimmer and Wishborn here (Wishborn conveniently also a Shaman tribal payoff), one of the bigger themes of the Djinni are choices, or 'granting wishes'. Often on enter-the-battlefield, a Djinn will give you a choice. The Growing Dimmer and Growing Brighter are a pair of opposites (perhaps a mini-cycle of sorts) that give just such a choice.

In Seffala, Djinni classify themselves into two kinds: Brighters and Dimmers. Mechanically, Brighters are usually the ones that give the interesting choices, while Dimmers offer fewer options. This is not a hard and fast rule, but just a rule of thumb that allows for some good puns. In the case of the Growing Brighter and Growing Dimmer, the two both offer two choices, because flavor-wise the Growing Brighter will 'grow' into three, while the Growing Dimmer will 'grow' down to one (like the Bloodkin Dimmer).

Another magical theme of the set is the idea of wishes, but not just of the Djinn-granting variety. Some Shamans have learned to control their powers to grant their own wishes, so they have some of the power that Djinni have, which is here evidenced by Wishborn.

The aesthetic I was going for with Djinni is something close to the classic Aladdin-and-the-lamp look, but darker in tone. These Djinni have no arms, for instance (which incidentally will make expressive art a little harder), but who needs arms when you can wish everything into existence?

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Ruin of Seffala – B/G Mechanic: Toughlink

Toughlink is pretty much what it sounds like: a form of lifelink, but for toughness. Instead of when the creature deals damage, however, the player gains life when the creature is dealt damage. The reminder text changes one word from the Lifelink text: 'by' becomes 'to' (also I removed the word 'also').

Climbing Snapper, Marshhide Elephant, Awestruck Jarren, Sacrificial Preparations
Click to enlarge.
This is also kind of like an anti-Afflict mechanic: with Afflict on the other side of the battlefield, a player doesn't want to attack, or lose life. With Toughlink on the other side of the battlefield, the player may not want to attack, or give their opponent life.

Originally, Toughlink was "When this creature dies in combat, gain life equal to its toughness." The 'in combat' part was so situational as to be absurd, and should a kill spell not affect a creature with Toughlink just the same? That part got struck out partway through the set design.

Then, I realized, Wither would completely break Toughlink if you gained life equal to the creature's toughness upon its death. If a creature dies through direct damage, its toughness remains at its starting toughness, but it has been dealt damage equal to (or greater than) its toughness, so Toughlink would gain the player an amount of life equal to the creature's toughness. But with Wither, -1/-1 counters replace the damage, which now directly affects the toughness of the creature. So if a creature with Toughlink died to damage via Wither, it would have a number of -1/-1 counters equal to or greater than its starting toughness, so its final toughness on death would be zero, and Toughlink would give the player zero life.

So now it's simply when the creature is dealt damage altogether does life gain happen. This allows for life gain when the creature is destroyed via a standard kill spell like Murder, or is dealt direct damage like Lightning Bolt, or is hit by a normal creature or a creature with Wither (because, as reminder text tells us, Wither deals damage in the form of -1/-1 counters). However, a creature that is given -1/-1 counters or loses toughness another way, such as with Dead Weight, would cause a permanent reduction in toughness (but does not deal direct damage), so that reduces or nulls out the Toughlink.

With the change from the initial concept of Toughlink to its final form, it actually makes Wither complimentary, rather than nullifying. A creature with Wither might walk into a wall with Toughlink (those cards to come) just to knock it down a peg, and the defending player would gain life, but just the once. With the counters now a permanent fixture, the defending player risks losing the wall next time, and only get the Toughlink trigger one more time. Meanwhile, a creature without Wither bouncing off a wall infinitely would trigger infinite Toughlink triggers without doing any real damage.

I chose B/G as the Toughlink colors because of the original intent for the Toughlink to trigger on creature death, and of course black and green are the colors of death and renewal/reward for death. It is also for more sacrificial outlets as a bonus, so, although sacrifice isn't a huge theme in this set, in future sets it might combo with Toughlink exponentially.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ruin of Seffala – B/R/G Creatures: Witherkin

Wither is an old mechanic from Shadowmoor that I've always been fond of. Wither is simply a replacement effect that says that a creature with Wither deals damage in the form of -1/-1 counters. This means that damage done by Wither creatures doesn't go away at the end of the turn.

When I was growing up, and not understanding how to properly play Magic, I thought damage was permanent. Much of Ruin of Seffala is nostalgia for me (even the misunderstanding of the game is nostalgic), so I decided to add Wither as a major mechanic for the set and see how other strategies would deal with it.

Witherkin, then, is simply a race of creatures that all have Wither. In the lore of Seffala, they were originally swamp-dwellers, minding their own business, until their land was invaded and they were forced to move out. Some stuck to their swampy homeland, while others traveled to the mountains to survive, and others traveled further, to explore the forests.

Witherkin Whipmates, Martial Balder, Inflammatory Nettler, Slay the Weak
Click to see bigger versions.
These cards are fairly simple, as far as Witherkin go. Martial Balder can be screwy with combat math, where, if it gets through to the player for damage, it only deals one damage, but as soon as it meets one blocker, it deals three damage to that blocker. I like the way it kind of gets angrier the more it gets blocked.

Slay the Weak is a conditional removal card that takes a little bit of work to set up, but if you manage to fill your deck with Witherkin I don't think it'll be too tricky to pull off.

This does suggest many other subthemes of this set, such as -1/-1 counters in general, and a heavy 'toughness matters' motif. I'll be expanding on those as I continue.

For a little bit on lore: in the Witherkin language, "Balder" means rebel, "Nettler" means nomad, and "Jarren" means something like 'scout', so these words will come up often in card names, and their subtypes reflect that. Balders are usually black, Nettlers red, and Jarren green, though there's some wiggle room.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Ruin of Seffala - W/U/R Mechanic: Followthrough

Followthrough is a new mechanic that pays attention to the stack. Followthrough can be found on Instants, spells with Flash, and activated abilities. The template is always "Followthrough—When you [cast ~ / activate this ability] in response to another spell or activated ability,...". So you would want to cast the card or activate the ability in the same way you'd play a counterspell, when another spell or activated ability is currently on the stack, before it resolves.

This mechanic essentially gives a little bonus whenever you trigger it, though the card itself already does something without triggering Followthrough. This can get interesting and tricky, because you may start playing cards at sub-optimal times for the advantage.

Opt Through, Call the Volantile, Seer Savior, Flash of Lightning
Click to see bigger.
For instance, Opt Through is basically Opt, which you often want to do on another player's end step, but it's like Opt and a half if you cast it, say, as your opponent casts a creature during their main phase.

Call the Volantile would ordinarily be a card to play after an opponent declares attackers, but you might give up the surprise for an extra token.

Triggering the Followthrough ability on Seer Savior gets tricky, because you'd most definitely want that surprise First Strike after attackers are declared, and it's not likely that the opponent is going to play an extra spell or activate an ability before blockers are declared. But you aren't stopped from casting your own spell or activating your own ability first, to act as a cantrip, to get that trigger.

Just such a trick can be pulled off even more easily with Flash of Lightning, which is Shock when you don't Followthrough, and Lightning Bolt when you do.

Update: /u/AlfonsoDragonlord suggested wording changes for Followthrough, which will be implemented in later posts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ruin of Seffala: W/U Shamans 2: Token Boogaloo

More cards in the "Shamans matter" theme of W/U. This time I introduce the Shaman Token and a couple of places where it gets made.

Sly Charlatan, Blinkered Push, Drove Caller, Shaman
Click to enlarge
Sly Charlatan is not a Shaman himself, but manages to trick real Shamans into believing he's worthy of being followed. Mechanically he's just two Shaman tokens, one at cast and one whenever you feel like chump blocking (like the way Doomed Traveler works with a bonus on cast).

Drove Caller is the real deal, fighting the good fight and calling Shamans to his aid.

Blinkered Push is more of an anti-blink effect, where, instead of removing a creature from the battlefield and putting it back, this one puts it down and immediately brings it back. This allows you to take advantage of enter the battlefield effects, or, in the case of Sly Charlatan, leave the battlefield effects as well. You could use Blinkered Push on Sly Charlatan, get two tokens, then cast Sly Charlatan and get a third token. You could also trigger enter the battlefield effects on a card in your hand that's too expensive to cast immediately, but still has a relevant effect.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ruin of Seffala: W/U Shamans

Ruin of Seffala is a Magic: the Gathering set I've designed, particularly made for a limited environment (making cards work for a constructed setting like Modern or Standard is beyond me at this point). My hope, of course, is that this is a well-balanced set, but this is more of an exercise to prove to myself that I even can make a full-size set, complete with mechanical and story themes.

One of the earliest themes I wanted to try was white and blue witches. "Witch", however, has never been a defined creature type in Magic. Later you'll see I've invented another creature type, so I thought about what I could replace the word "witch" with, while maintaining the same flavor. I figured "shaman" might do better. Turns out there are only about six white or blue shamans (that don't also share black, red, or green), so I thought it was an under-utilized subtype in those colors. Of course, blue always has wizards, but that gave the wrong feel for me.

As I came up with cards, I pushed forward with a story theme about how the shamans of Seffala were once non-magical humans, but due to a devestating near-apocalyptic scenario, the humans became no more than mere survivors, trying to rebuild. Along came a new religion and a new prophet, and a variety of shamanic magic was discovered.

I will be posting cards in groups of about four, like so:

Drover Priest, Coddlewitch, Vitalizing Ritual, Hypnotic Shaman
Click to read bigger.
The art is atrocious, but I find it a bit creepy, which is cool. I originally was trying my hand at pencil sketches, but my art skills are just so bad I though it might be easier to make art with a mouse. So I found references and traced them out in Inkscape and came up with these abominations. But, in any case, the art can be said to be mine, and I'm sure I'll improve over time, or at least find a medium I'm better at.

In any case, here are three shamans, and three cards that care about shamans.

All of the cards are completely designed apart from flavor text and art, so as I create the art, I'll be making posts. My hope is for once a week.

Errata:

As /u/IsaoEB at /r/custommagic suggested, Drover Priest won't have the "or more" part. It will read "Whenever a Shaman enters the battlefield under your control..."

As /u/RootOfAllThings suggested, Drover Priest will be renamed Drove Elder, to avoid a flavor fail where the Priest is not a Cleric subtype.