The Cube, According to Gatherer, Part 12 – The One In Which We Get Back to Work
Ohai Karma! When explaining the type of card I would veto in log one, you were my prime example. So it would be silly to reneg on that choice now, yes? Karma is binned. Let’s pull from Gatherer again.
Considering one of this cube’s themes is “cards that trigger when 3 or more life is gained,” I find it unfortunate that Undermine‘s opposite, Absorb, didn’t pop up. But I can’t complain. Undermine is a great card. It’s both simple and flexible enough for any deck that can support its challenging mana requirement.
I wracked my brain for some time on how I could make a card that spins off Undermine, but eventually decided not to bother. Cards like Undermine don’t need help (except with mana fixing. But I’m good on mana fixing for now.) Instead, I’m taking this opportunity as a free pass to fill in design space that isn’t complete. Specifically, there’s an off-color activation cycle I’m fleshing out, and there aren’t enough cards that interact with auras-matter.
I’m aware that more players would prefer a creature that moves auras freely among creatures. But not every aura-mover should be a clone of Simic Guildmage. Besides, the filly fills a niche, while providing efficient hoofsmackdown. It provides a second life to endangered auras, without turning creature combat into a number crunching nightmare.
Going back to Gatherer for another card, I get…
Just when I think I’m making progress on the cube’s power level, a giant ogre king bars my passage. At least Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs isn’t an undercosted surprise beater like, let’s say, Thundermaw Hellkite. Kazuul stops combat until an answer is found. It’s probably too good, but I can live with it.
I feel bad for pairing Undermine with an unrelated creature. So let’s swing the pendulum in the opposite direction, while increasing the number of ‘sacrifice is good’ cards.
This presents a problem. Not because Flowstone Blade is a bad card. It’s fine. It doubles as both pump and removal. It even dodges Devout Harpist in that it kills before the Harpist can effectively respond. At the very least, with only two mountains, you could always kill the Harpist…
The problem with Flowstone Blade is that I previously designed Innerferno in log five, a card that gives firebreathing and sacs for trample. Does that mean I should veto Flowstone Blade?
No. While I normally wouldn’t put two firebreathing enchantments in a cube, it’s not an unreasonable choice. Besides, Innerferno is a better pumper but isn’t a kill spell, and Flowstone Blade is a poor pumper. The two auras are best used on different creatures.
But more importantly, I shouldn’t do it because I can always cut Innerferno. I didn’t think this through before, but I’m sure late in the process I’ll find that cards I previously designed no longer fit. It’s best to cut them completely and make new cards to replace them. Or ‘fix’ them in a radical, but meaningful way. Change the firebreathing on Innerferno to the Rootwalla ability, and move the card into Green, for example. I don’t need to do that right now, though. Changing Innerferno’s activation from “: enchanted creature gets +1/+0″ to : enchanted creature gets +2/+0” should do.
The point is to work with the cards that Gatherer gives me and find a way to best use them. If my previous designs are getting in the way, I should change those designs.
Flowstone Blade, however, is yet another aura. Guess we need more cards that increase the value of auras.
At first, I planned to design an artifact creature which got bigger for each aura attached to it. But there’s already six creatures with the Rabid Wombat ability in print. Besides, putting all your auras on one creature is asking for trouble. What if, instead, we designed a card that encouraged us to play safe and spread the auras out?
Originally, this was an artifact creature. It still could be. But I felt if we’re encouraging players to play safe, it didn’t hurt to play extra safe and not let the artifact be the target of creature removal. The resulting card is narrow, so I added the ‘gain 3 life’ theme to it. I need to design a few more mechanical crossover cards. They not only increase the number of cards that can feature a mechanic in the set, but they also tear players down two different paths when drafting. Bonus.
Warden of Evos Ilse. Excellent. With the Red anti-flying kicking around, I wanted there to be rewards for going flying. It’s always nice to imagine Gatherer is paying attention to my needs.
For this card is to make sense, though, we need at least one beefy blue flying creature. This time I’m supporting the mill theme, while doubling down on rewards for playing with auras.
I’m breaking a cardinal rule about how if a creature has flying, it should fly in the artwork. Sometimes you got to work with the art you find. I’m hoping that obvious Djinn is obvious. Let’s move forward.
Gatherer tossed me Willow Satyr, Bane of Commanders. Instead of the goofy Legends artwork, I swapped out for this piece by Lucas Durham called ‘Willow Satyr 2.0’. I always take good looking alternate art when I find it.
The cube currently includes five legendary creatures, and they are powerhouses. So even if we don’t add more legends, Willow Satyr runs a fair chance snagging something great. But it doesn’t hurt to give Satyr more targets. There aren’t any green legendary creatures in the cube, yet. And we could use a creature that manipulates counters. Sounds like a fine time to hail a Hydra.
Looking good. What else ya got, Gatherer?
Knight of Dusk. Back in Tempest, this was strong. Today, it’s probably below curve. It seems fine when you think of the Knight as being nigh-unblockable. But… she can be blocked. Knight of Dusk kills maybe 98% of the creatures she blocks before damage. But Phantom Warrior doesn’t give your opponent the option to chump block. The Illusion is unblockable. It gets even stranger when you realize both cards were printed one set away from each other, and were both reprinted on the 10th edition uncommon sheet.
Admittedly, with a nudge, Knight of Dusk could be much better. With a Lure and enough mana, the Knight can murder an untapped army. I already added a Lure-like card to the cube, so I wracked my head for another option. What if your opponent didn’t know they were blocking a Knight of Dusk?
I tampered a lot with this card. I started with an enchantment with three counters that let you manifest three cards in your hand so you could play morphing shell games with a potential Knight of Dusk. But in the end, I figured the simplest execution was probably the best one. Especially considering Wizards hasn’t quite printed this card, yet. The closest I can point to is Cytoshape, which is an excellent card to be sure. But Cytoshape encourages certain play styles, while Velomorph encourages others.
An aside: Some art is more difficult to find than others. No, I don’t mean that I went searching for a goat warrior and it took me a long time to find this particular piece. I mean… look… don’t go searching for ‘transformation fantasy art’ unless you have a peculiar interest for that kind of kink. Now I need to bleach my computer. After combing fruitlessly over pages that would make a Sonic the Hedgehog slash Shrek fan fiction writer blush, I remembered the classic card Ovinomancer, searched for ‘Ovinomancy’, and stumbled my way onto this piece. I got to admit, I like the idea of role-playing an axe-wielding Sheeple barbarian, ramming my way through a dungeon. Keeping this idea jangling in the back of my brain for the next time I find myself in a three hour adventure.
Gatherer ships me Viseling, a fair version of the forever broken Black Vise. Black Vise’s opposite, of course, is the overeager card The Rack. Which… okay, The Rack is still stronger than Rackling. But considering that you probably can’t take advantage of The Rack for the first few turns of the game, Nemesis’ Rackling seems like a reasonable choice.
But Black Vise had another kind of opposite in Antiquities’ Ivory Tower. And our set includes a ‘When you gain 3 life theme’. How do I not design this card?
Gaining a potential three (or maybe more?) life per turn is strong. In 1996, I would have called it broken. But that was during a time when White/Blue control ruled the earth, and Serra Angel was considered ‘too powerful’ for the core set. Our opinion of creature power and life gain changed since the days of Wonderwall and Gangsta’s Paradise. I thought about increasing Towerling’s cost to , but I don’t want to undo the symmetry of this and Viseling. Better to try it at four, and change it later if necessary.
Plains? Oh right! As per our rules, we get to color-shift the next card to White. The next random card is…
Outside of Phyrexia, White doesn’t do -1/-1. And Fear/Intimidate only appear in white once a decade. But I’m pretty sure we can do this…
I did think about keeping Intimidate, but the final straw was that granting the keyword Intimidate meant that enchanting a Valley Rannet would make it only blockable by red and green creatures. That doesn’t match the original flavor of the card, and the set already has a ‘Spirits are good’ theme, so we might as well use that.
This is a neat little card. But I’m concerned about the saturation of auras in our Cube. In any set with an abundance of auras, the auras themselves feature a mechanic that helps mitigate the blow-out effect which occurs when a player uses one spell to destroy a creature with an aura on it. Ravnica featured auras with enter the battlefield abilities. Theros featured auras that sprouted legs and ran around the battlefield when their ‘mount’ died.
I’m designing auras with a similar thought process in mind. But Gatherer is raining auras, not understanding that I’m already wading through a swamp. And it doesn’t matter if my auras evade card disadvantage; Gatherers’ auras remain vulnerable. So my design needs to confront that problem.
Essence of Air not only reduces card disadvantage when casting auras, but also provides extra creatures for you to enchant. Also, Spirits, because why not.
Heartless Hidetsugu. Huh. The more I think of it, the more this makes sense with our suicide theme. It deals damage to us, which can trigger spells most efficient at a lower life total. And the lower our life total, the less this hurts. It also moves Suicide away from mono-black, opening some Black/Red options. Let’s make another red card that takes advantage of suicide, shall we?
Looking good. How about Gatherer gives us one more card?
I could build off this card, sure. Anything that puts land on the battlefield makes Seer’s Sundial better. I could tinker with Journeyer’s Kite, for example. But Seer’s Sundial doesn’t need other cards to be useful. It turns wasted late land drops into second chances, and that’s good enough for me. Meanwhile, there’s a fifth card in a five card cycle I’ve been holding in reserve. I might as well drop it now, since I doubt a perfect opportunity will present itself.
Protection from enchanted creatures may seem like a strange ability for an enchant creature to grant. But it’s no weirder than protection from white on a white creature, and Voice of Truth doesn’t raise too many eyebrows. Unicorn’s horn doesn’t even suffer from White Ward problems. The horn doesn’t destroy itself, since the protection isn’t from the aura, but from creatures that the aura enchants. The only hiccup is that the purity of the Unicorn’s Horn means the creature it’s bestowed upon can’t go around touching itself anymore.
And finally, today’s token is Elemental Spirit, made for my card Vulcanic Genesis in log six. Since I stole from Grace Lieu to make Vulcanic Genesis, I went back to her Deviant Art page to see if I could find an appropriate companion. Technically, this piece is supposed to represent a vampire. But the only thing making that obvious (to me at least) are the bats which are cropped out of the bottom of this painting.