NaCYOCMo – Day 1 – Thoughts

AT-AT Imperial WalkerDay 1 (This didn’t get posted late last night thanks to a funky error)

If you read the links in the previous post, you would see they’re all about Development and not about Design. If there’s one thing I know I’m weak at it’s judging power level. I can gauge things alright but it’s all contingent on what the environment allows. Spiritmonger is a fantastic card in a vacuum: a 6/6 regenerator for 3BG that grows when it kills things. If you showed that card to someone just learning about Magic, they can see how powerful it is.

And it was powerful in the environment that it debuted in. Spiritmonger passed the “Flametongue Kavu Test” (doesn’t die to four damage) and it was helped that Pernicious Deed was in the same colors and worked rather well together. Back then, the spells were more powerful and the creatures weaker compared to today so Spiritmonger could reign supreme back then. When the creature was reprinted in Conspiracy, I asked some friends if it would even make a dent if it was legal in Modern.

No one said yes.

But with Cube, and any closed limited environment, we can create a situation where any card is powerful. Want to make Spiritmonger the most powerful card that can be drafted? Done. That’s part of the appeal for people who build Cubes: they can become an all-powerful being if they want.

With great power comes, well, you know…

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NaCYOCMo – Introduction

Royal Assassin

She is a royal, who is an assassin. Is the name wrong here?

Honest moment: With everything going on in my life, there hasn’t been enough time for Magic. I’ve played less recently for such a long time, though I still keep buying cards (and I’m really excited for the new Commander product on November 7th). I obviously haven’t written much lately either; I’m working on a project for something that I’ll share when the time comes.

But I’m changing this Magic drought.

Sometimes to get out of a drought you need to bury yourself it in. That’s what I intend to do. November is many things: “No Shave November” (which makes Thanksgiving a little awkward – ask my brother), and a month dedicated to creating things: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaGaDeMo (National Game Design Month). I’ve always wanted to participate in one of these things so I decided to start one of my own: NaCYOCMo.

National Create Your Own Cube Month

This is not just building a Cube, this is creating new cards for a brand new Cube. Magic Design. You know, what I used to talk about on this blog? I’m going to build a Cube from scratch in 30 days. I encourage you to do the same thing.

Now, there are plenty of stipulations about what I’m doing for myself so let me lay down the ground rules for me (you don’t have to follow them if you don’t want to):

  • IG-88 CardMost of the cards in the Cube have to be new. There can be reprints if you want, but the goal of this is to make something new.
  • If you take the smallest Cube size 360 (15 cards a pack, 3 packs = 45 cards per player, 8 person pod = 360 cards), that equates to creating 12 cards a day. Not an outlandish goal by any means. But we’re not going to stop at 360 cards because we need to design more than that in case some cards don’t work out. Just think of 12 cards a day as a minimum goal.
  • If we were really going by the design process, we wouldn’t worry about templating, art, card names, power level, etc. I would agree with you if we were looking for this to be 100% like what you should do. Time restrictions for me don’t give me that luxury. I’m looking to do actual full cards (more of that in a minute).
  • The other issue is playtesting. That’s going to be the part where this is going to be tricky for me. You really need to playtest your cards to see what works and what doesn’t. You can’t always judge cards in a vacuum. I want to set up for some online testing, but we’ll get to that in a little bit into the month.

Since we’re designing Magic cards (a known quantity), we really aren’t breaking ground in too many “we need to test this to see if the game works” type of stuff here. I’m going to encourage you to try new things (take chances, make mistakes, get messy) because that’s what I’m going to do.

I also want to make the Cube playable, and here’s why: One of my good friends and I met in college as we were playing sports. It wasn’t until Attack of the Clones came out that we really confided to each other that we were geeks. We found that WotC had released a new game, the now defunct Star Wars TCG and we started playing, which got us both admitted into playing Magic and our friendship grew stronger.

Anyway, he wanted help building a Star Wars TCG cube last year (one Light Side and one Dark Side that we draft separately then play together), and we had a fun time building it and playing it. He’s in the processes of getting the final cards he needs and starting to foil out the Cube (contact me if you have any of these cards). His wife gave birth to a daughter earlier this year and I wanted to build a Star Wars related Magic cube for him. It was pushed to the back of other things going on until I realized that I could do that this month. And by “do”, I mean add another thing to my list but work on this as well.

I’m going to document the process. It’ll get me writing, and creating cards once again. I think this is a good opportunity to do this. The goal is to post something everyday, either a couple thoughts about Magic philosophy that I come across or even those day’s cards. I might not post everyday (shocker), but that’s my goal that I want to hit. At the end of the month, I want to print them out in black and white, and do a full playtest draft with my friend to see what he likes. Then, it will go back to the drawing board about what works and what doesn’t. I do not expect a perfect Cube at the end of this month, and neither should anyone who wants to participate.

If you want to partake in this project by helping me, I highly encourage it. If you want to build your own Cube, that’s perfectly fantastic. I’ll talk more about this at the beginning of the month. If you want more space to post things, I started a subreddit: r/NaCYOCMo, so you can follow along and post your own creations there. It’s a spot where you can work on your own Cube and post some thoughts there. I didn’t want to fill up a place like r/CustomMagic and this way it can survive as its own entity. You might find me posting more stuff over there than on the blog here, but I don’t know yet. There will be spreadsheets and other documents that I’ll throw up from time to time.

This is a creative endeavor that I’m excited about. The idea here is that this does not simulate what WoC does to create new cards, but I will still enforce power/color pie issues because that’s important to me. Is this a bit like having my cake and eating it too? Sure, I’ll admit that. But this is a personal creation just to see what would happen if I tried something like this. If you want to read up to help you get started about what I think we’re going to need to focus on (rather than just creating cards), I suggest you read the following articles:

Why are these Development articles and not Design ones? We’ll get to that.

See you next week.

A Blogger’s Response to the State of Design 2014

King Macar, the Gold-CursedThis has been a year where Magic has taken more of a backseat for me. From the early birth of my daughter in my personal life to getting more responsibility in my professional one (Which really kicked in right when I thought I was going to have time to write for this and 99CMDRProblems again). My usual interest in everything Magic has moved me from a superfan to only a fan.

While my lack of playing the game has diminished my knowledge of format metagames and draft archetypes, I have kept a huge interest in Magic on how it relates to my main sub-interest: design. This is how I feel about the Theros Block in one sentence:

It was one of the most over-produced blocks of all time.

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Return of the Blog and Tapping the Cards

Catherine the EarlyI am back.

Catherine, our daughter, is doing pretty well all things considered. There are still some hurdles that we have to get through, but we’re doing it together as a family. I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and support. To the right you see this card that I designed about her (mostly so I could talk about her in this blog). Yes, she was in the NICU for 130 days (the suspend cost), and the P/T was her birth weight and departure of hospital weight (1 pound 5 oz and 9 pounds 6 oz respectively). She is 6 months old and just over 11 pounds now and is acting like a baby of her estimated due date adjusted age should be (around 2 1/2 months). It’s all getting better. And because of this I’m restarting this blog and 99 CMDR Problems (where I talk about updating my decks and I want you to decide which one I’m writing about first).

But we’re here to talk about the design of Magic.

Website IGN put up a walkthrough video of the new Duels of the Planeswalkers game and “leaked” some of the new cards. Since M11, each of the Core Sets have had a returning mechanic (M11 – Scry, M12 – Bloodthirst, M13 – Exalted, M14 – Slivers). In M15 the mechanic looks like it shall be Convoke. And this makes me happy.

Convoke was my returning mechanic for my Great Designer Search 2 world. Looking back at it, there was plenty I could have improved upon with the world creation part but I’m still pretty happy how the design part turned out. The two Convoke cards I submitted were:

Enhartened Spirit   Macnovo, Fire Deity

Of these two, I think only Enhartened Spirit has a remote chance of being printed because the Legendary creature looks too much like a Theros God. However, I can tell you a ton about Convoke and how that fits into the Theros block pretty well. Continue reading

The Complete Commander – Designing Commander

Complete Commander - CoverAuthor’s Note: Just as a quick update, my daughter that was born 15 weeks early is doing fantastic. She’s still in the NICU and will be until sometime in March; she’s only 8 weeks old. Catherine is now over 3 pounds, which is up dramatically from her birth weight of 1 pound 5 oz. All she needs is more time and to gain more weight, but we’re on the right track.

The exciting news coming out today is the release of Bennie Smith’s new Commander eBook: The Complete Commander. I was able to get an early copy of it, and it’s fantastic. If love Commander or want to get started, get this book. Bennie and MJ Scott did a wonderful job putting the book together and with all of the artwork from James Arnold (that awesome artwork you see on it just blows you away.

Do I want a hardcover of this book? Yes please.

What Bennie and MJ have done is gathered a ton of Commander related content and jammed it into this book. You want sample decklists? Done. How about strategy? In here too. Commander Deckbuilding 101? Got you covered. Maybe a little short story fiction? Right there with you. A glossary and a list of Commander staples? Yes, this book has everything.

And it’s $10. $10? That’s less than a booster draft. It’s criminal of you not to own it at that price.

But it’s not just Bennie’s words in this ebook. Just as Commander is a community format, this is a community book. There are a ton of players who have written in with their favorite Commander moments. Other members of the Commander community have written short stories, just like Star City Game’s Vorthos expert John Dale Beety. Gathering Magic’s Content Editor and Daily MTG’s Command Tower author Adam Styborski wrote the introduction. Level Five judge and “Godfather” of Commander Sheldon Menery wrote the foreward.

Oh, I wrote something as well. Continue reading