Magic: the Gathering

MTG in Great Forks: The Godblood Mechanic

Each new Magic: The Gathering set has one or more new mechanics; these bridge the set’s setting and narrative with gameplay, and help define the set in the minds of the players

Great Forks, the setting of our new Magic block, is a city where spirits and mortals coexist. It is ruled by a trinity of gods; lesser divinities and elementals walk the streets; temples rise on every street corner, while festivals and processions pack its plazas and avenues. (It’s also a city supported by the drug trade, but one thing at a time.)

With spirits and mortals living in such close proximity, it’s no surprise that they occasionally do such things as result in half-mortal, half-divine children. Though mostly mortal, these god-blooded offspring often possess magical talents passed down to them from their spirit bloodline.

Flavorwise, a god-blooded mechanic should express the connection between the mortals and spirits of Great Forks. But the last time we saw a major mechanic related to the Spirit creature subtype, it was in Kamigawa block—a watchword nowadays for underpowered, parasitic mechanics. This is something we want to avoid!

(A “parasitic” mechanic in Magic is one that requires other cards of the same type to do its thing. This means that building a deck around the parasitic mechanic provides a very narrow range of deck design options. The poster child for parasitic mechanics, Splice onto Arcane, also appeared in Kamigawa, and is part of why that block is so maligned today.)

How do we express a creature’s god-blooded nature? Auras are a good mechanism to represent individual magical knacks. If the god-blood has an Aura attached to it as it enters the battlefield, it gives us the feel of a person born with some magical boon.

Let’s look at two existing cards that have provide a similar effect:


Auratouched Mage has a genuinely flavorful and potent ability, allowing us to tutor up an appropriate Aura from our library. However, the mechanic is complex and requires a lot of text on the card. Since we’ll want to add even more text to tie the effect to a Spirit “parent,” the result will be much longer and more complicated than we’d want in a keyword. (Compare this to other keywords. They tend to be 100 characters or less, and modern keywords rarely go over 150. As a keyword, Auratouched Mage’s ability would be well over 200.)


Academy Researchers has a much more limited power. It doesn’t provide card advantage, and it’s only as useful as the selection of Auras you have in your hand right now; you might not have a useful Aura in hand, or indeed any at all. It’s also a bit harder to balance than Auratouched Mage’s tutoring ability, which is costed to account for the fact that you’ll always have a really powerful and expensive Aura in your deck to attach to it.

Despite these issues, the Academy Researchers’ power looks like a good template to start from:

Godblood (When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may put an Aura card from your hand onto the battlefield attached to CARDNAME.)

Now, let’s tweak it to match the flavor of Exalted’s god-bloods:

Godblood (When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control a Spirit creature that shares a color with it, you may put an Aura card of that color from your hand onto the battlefield attached to CARDNAME.)

That’s a little long for a keyword, but not dramatically so. The Spirit restriction provides some linear guidance to deck design without being parasitic; you need a good mix of Spirits, creatures with Godblood, and Auras to make best use of the keyword ability.

The color limitation provides flavor, but it also discourages its use in multicolor decks. There are a few ways around this if it turns out to be a problem for the block metagame; we can explore these later.

And now, let’s see what the mechanic might look like on an actual card:

Wind Dancer

Given the nature of the Magic design process, there’s no guarantee that this mechanic would survive the design process unchanged—or at all; many new mechanics are simply abandoned during design or development. As I lack a design team, a development team, and playtesters, this is kind of moot, but I’m going to stick to the principles as best I can for the purpose of the exercise.

Next time, more new mechanics. Stay tuned!


Homebrew Mashup: Exalted and Magic The Gathering

I’ve been asked to write up some Exalted-themed cards for Magic: The Gathering. This could be fun! But I’m not just going to write up some random cards for random Exalts and call it a day. I’m working to develop my game design skills, and building cards piecemeal does little to hone my abilities.

So! I’m going to build a whole card set, with the intent of making it playable in Limited format if someone felt like printing up the cards and playing with them. This is a useful experiment that should hopefully give some insight into the game design and development process. (It also means there won’t be any actual cards in this post. Design needs time! And I’m heading off to run D&D after dinner, so, priorities.)

To start with, I’m going to set some parameters:

  • Few Exalts. It’s difficult to effectively translate the mechanics of the Celestial Exaltation into M:TG, and the Dragon-Blooded elemental synergies don’t fit neatly into the color pie (40% blue, 40% red, and 20% green), making it difficult to incorporate them into a set. I’ll throw in a couple here or there, but they won’t form the backbone of the set.
  • Focus on a small part of Creation. It’s a huge world full of countless unique societies, and throwing them together like gumbo only serves to muddy all that interesting detail.
  • Set it in an existing 1e/2e location. Picking a location that’s being added in 3e would require breaking my non-disclosure agreement to provide any kind of meaningful detail, while inventing a brand-new locale would miss the point of working with an existing setting.

Given these parameters, I’m going to design the set around Great Forks. Its plethora of gods and other supernatural creatures will provide a range of cool creature cards, its independence from the Realm justifies the absence of large number of Dragon-Blooded, and if I feel like it I can design a few Exigents. (Since I don’t know much more about Exigent design than you do, I can do this without worrying about spoilers.)

Now, there are lots of other parameters that go into an actual M:TG set. I’ll treat this as though I were actually working for Wizards of the Coast and design it as such. (Of course, I’m limited by lack of personnel and funds—I don’t have a playtesting team, for example—but I’ll do what’s within my capabilities as a guy who’s designing stuff in his spare time for no pay.)

These parameters include:

  • Build the set as part of a cohesive block of three sets for drafting purposes, bookended by other blocks and basic sets for purposes of Standard format design. Obviously I’m not going to design all of those too, so I’ll just swap it in for a previous block.
  • Build around a narrative. A real block would come with tie-in novels; I’m not planning on writing any, but a homebrewed block should have a narrative that a fiction writer could work with for this purpose.
  • Planeswalker characters, some old and some new. Yeah, this means we have to have Liliana or Jace or whoever else show up in Creation. Cope.
  • Multiple new mechanics and one recurring mechanic in the first set of the block. Later sets will have a new mechanic or two apiece; we can plan ahead for this if something really exciting pops up, but we can just as easily leave it for later—assuming this homebrew project gets that far.

(I wanted to put in some links to Mark Rosewater’s Magic: The Gathering design articles, but the Wizards of the Coast website is down. I’ll edit the links in later.)

That’s all for now, as I have to finish dinner and head out to D&D. Later I’ll start work on the mechanics and design skeleton for the Great Forks set. Till then!

Magic: The Gathering Conspiracy Full Spoiler Released

Wizards of the Coast has posted a full spoiler of Conspiracy, a new multiplayer set designed specifically for drafting purposes. Conspiracy is set in Paliano, the High City, an intrigue-wracked metropolis on the newly revealed plane of Fiora. (For those who follow the current Magic: The Gathering comic books, this is the home plane of planeswalker and series protagonist Dack Fayden.)

MTG multiplayer draft set

Here’s a summary of the set’s new mechanics, which are covered in more detail in a May 19 post on the Wizards website:

conspiracy hidden agenda spend mana as any color

  • The set contains one new card type. Cards of this type—conspiracies—don’t go into your deck. Instead, you put all of them right into play at the start of the game. They aren’t usually all that strong, but any kind of free resource is valuable, so they should be worth drafting.
  • Some conspiracies have the hidden agenda subtype. You play a hidden agenda face down and write down the name of a card. At any time, you can turn the hidden agenda face up, at which point it takes effect.
  • Dethrone is a new keyword. A creature with dethrone gets a +1/+1 counter whenever it attacks the player with the highest life total or a player tied for the highest life total. This is clearly aimed at making multiplayer more fun by encouraging players to focus their efforts at whoever’s ahead instead of knocking a trailing player out of the game.
  • Will of the council is an ability phrase that calls for all players to vote on an effect. This is aimed at generating interesting political situations in multiplayer, but because the controller always breaks ties, it should often be strong in two-player games as well.
  • The last new ability word, parley, has each player reveal the top card in his or her library and draw it, and generates an effect based on what cards were revealed. Parley’s multiplayer utility is less obvious, but letting everyone see cards as they’re drawn should give sharp-eyed players an advantage.

Click here to read the full post at Fanboys Anonymous.

Magic: The Gathering – Khans of Tarkir Announced

Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater announced this fall’s expert-level expansion, Khans of Tarkir, in a video filmed at the end of the Journey Into Nyx Pro Tour. According to the video, the new block is a “war-torn world ruled by warlords,” and the illustrations suggest that it takes its inspiration from Mongol horse-nomads. It’s also the home of planeswalker Sarkhan Vol, whose card previously appeared in the Shards of Alara and Rise of the Eldrazi sets.

Magic: the Gathering giant undead dragon breathing fire


Sarkhan left his home plane in search of dragons, for while the creatures fascinated him, all of Tarkir’s dragons are long dead. But as Wizards of the Coast tries to include dragon cards in every set, we can expect a dramatic draconic deluge later in the block.

Click here to read the full post at Fanboys Anonymous.

Magic: The Gathering – Journey into Nyx Full Spoiler Released

On April 18, Wizards of the Coast released a full spoiler of the new Magic: the Gathering expansion, Journey Into Nyx.

MtG expansion Theros block card spoilers

There have been grumblings in the player base about how Theros block has failed to fulfill its promise of being an “enchantment matters” block. Journey into Nyx fulfills that promise. The set is rife with actual enchantments—not just enchantment creatures or Auras—and many of its cards specifically care about all enchantments.

Now let’s look at the set’s mechanics and cards!


Almost every mechanic from earlier in Theros block appears in Journey Into Nyx. The only one missing is Tribute, from Born of the Gods. As that was my least favorite mechanic in the block—letting your opponent choose the effect is a downer—I’m not disappointed to see it go.

The Bestow mechanic stretches its design space a bit with a cycle that comes with drawbacks, giving you the option of enchanting an opposing creature to give it that drawback. The affected creature will still gain power and toughness, though, so see these Bestow cards are most likely to be used this way as a panic button in Limited.


Constellation: Creatures with Constellation—representing the starry appearance of spirits from the divine realm of Nyx—are at the core of the set’s “enchantment matters” theme. This ability word provides a benefit whenever an enchantment enters the battlefield under your control. It’s a cinch that some of these cards will see casual play in Bestow and Enchantress decks.

Strive: A stripped-down Multikicker/Overload variant, Strive allows you to extend a single-target spell to one or more additional targets for an increased mana cost. This is likely to be a Limited-only mechanic, but I expect it’ll come in handy in Limited as a Heroic enabler.

Click here to read the full post at Fanboys Anonymous.

World of Darkness MMO Development Shut Down

Bad news for fans of Vampire: The Masquerade and the rest of White Wolf Publishing’s stable of tabletop horror RPGs! On April 14, CCP Games, the studio responsible for sci-fi MMO EVE Online, officially cancelled the upcoming World of Darkness MMORPG.

massively multiplayer online game about being a vampire

Iceland-based CCP merged with the Atlanta, GA-based White Wolf in 2006 to develop an MMO based on the “World of Darkness,” a modern horror setting haunted by supernatural beings—vampires, werewolves, magicians, ghosts, and the like—and perhaps best known in popular culture for the short-lived Aaron Spelling vamp-o-drama Kindred: the Embraced.

Click here to read the full post at Fanboys Anonymous.

From the Vault: Annihilation Announced for Magic: the Gathering

From the Vault is an annual series of limited print run card sets, released in late August of each year, that reprint powerful cards from across the 20-year run of Magic: The Gathering trading card expansions. Wizards of the Coast has put out a press release describing this year’s From the Vault set. It’s called Annihilation, and the theme matches the name:

Harness the savage power of fifteen of the most brutal Magic cards ever unleashed. These limited-edition, black-bordered superweapons are legal in many tournament formats. Sweep the battlefield clean with this powerful arsenal and blast the opposition into oblivion.

Magic: the Gathering -- From the Vault: Annihilation

Many of these cards are very expensive on the secondary market. While each From the Vault set has had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $39.95, the combination of extremely small print runs and high demand—generated by the reprinting of glossy foil versions of hard-to-find cards with new art—means that these sets sell out really quickly, even when retailers jack up the price. If you want a copy, your best bet is to arrange a preorder with a reliable retailer.

Annihilation preview artAs to which cards will be in the set, that info has yet to be spoiled. All we have is the brief description above and a dramatic illustration of some sort of magical cyclone. Naturally, the Magic community is theorizing madly as to what cards you’ll find in the set. Discussion tends to center around the idea that every card in the set will be a board-sweeper. Others theorize that specific word choices in the set description hint at card names, such as inferring that the phrase “blast the opposition into oblivion” refers to the powerful spells Opposition and Oblivion Stone.

Click here to read the full post at Fanboys Anonymous.

Magic: The Gathering – Born of the Gods Full Spoiler Released

As a longtime fan of Magic: The Gathering—I’ve been playing on and off since 1994—I’m excited to post about the game here on Fanboys Anonymous. I’m largely a kitchen-table player who occasionally plays Draft or Sealed, so my posts will be aimed more toward the casual audience than die-hard Constructed players. That said, let’s dig right into the new set!


Wizards of the Coast has published a full spoiler and release notes for Born of the Gods, the second set in the Theros block. It retains the previous set’s flavor focus on Greek mythology and mechanical focus on enchantments. In addition to three returning mechanics from Theros, it has two new mechanics: Inspired and Tribute.

Click here to read the full post at Fanboys Anonymous.