The Cube According to Gatherer, Part 16 – A Wild Beastmaster Appears!
In our last log in According to Gatherer, we looked at our cube’s set statistics and found it deficient in White, Blue and, Green cards, in that order. So I dedicated that log to designing White cards. Now our set statistics look like this:
We need to design a run of blue cards before playtesting. That’s what we’re doing today. For every random card Gatherer gives me, I gotta make like the University of Michigan, and Go Blue.
[For theose of you who double-check everything: Yes, this chart doesn’t align with last log’s chart. After writing that article, I realized some rogue undeveloped cards roamed the file. Mostly stuff I was planned to get to, like the green and black charms. This new chart represents cards in the file after I kicked the stragglers out. I also noticed that there are officially 185 cards in the file at this point, instead of the 179 I said there was at the bottom of the last log. I’m not sure where I went wrong, but I shouldn’t be surprised that after carrying over card totals from 16 articles, I would eventually be off.]
Enough with the flibber flabber. Gatherer randomly starts us off with the King of the Golems:
Bosh, Iron Golem. Not a bad choice. There aren’t too many artifacts to throw in the cube, but Bosh doesn’t care. He can pick himself by up the shirttails and lob. I also appreciate how Bosh is an acceptable hate draft while playing keep-away from Big Red. A 6/7 trample for may be expensive, but it’s still a reasonable endgame for a deck with no other options.
How do we design around this? Like I said, there aren’t many artifacts in set. There could be more. We’re only supposed to design Blue cards in this log, but Bosh provides both the problem and the solution: make an artifact with a blue activation. Also, Tunnel wants more walls, so I made this:
[Why not ‘Wall of Mirrors’ instead of ‘Hall of Mirrors’? Because Mirror Wall is already a card, and I figured the names were too similar. That would be like ignoring the existence of Skullclamp and designing an artifact called ‘Skull of Clamps’ (Note to self: Design ‘Skull of Clamps’.)]
This card fills our ‘Design all Blue cards’ goal. But I got a second goal to work on today, and that’s to make sure the ‘blue creature dominance’ mechanic works. For those just tuning in, back in log seven I figured if Gatherer was going to feed me mediocre blue creatures and Unified Will, then one of Blue’s themes would be having a superior number of creatures. But to make sure this fit philosophically within Blue’s slice of the color pie, I decided Blue was invested in exhibiting precisely one more creature than its opponents. Any less would be a failure; any more would be a waste.
Normally, Blue is the preeminent spell color. Blue likes its creatures in the same way that I like my coffee. I don’t. I hate coffee. Seriously, is nobody else weirded out by the watered-down dirt-brown ground husks of an oversized seed, resulting in a thick brown ichor which people love so much that they drown it in milk and sugar? Now excuse me while I sip my Hypocrite brand hot chocolate. Hypocrite: when only the very best will do, presuming other people aren’t doing it.
So to make this work, I need to press Blue until it pops out creatures. The focus so far has been to increase creature count, and sprinkle an occasional Rescue-like effect when the creature count runs high. Recently I realized that if I want players to be able to get more creatures, but only when they have less creatures, that I can spell it out. Hence the ability on Hall of Mirrors. I’m also using 0/1 Illusion tokens which first appeared on Full of Notions in log thirteen because 1.) the small power/toughness lets me make more tokens for cheaper in a color with few cost-efficient creatures, and 2.) Powerlessness fits Blue’s philosophy that it isn’t interested in killing its opponents with creatures. The Illusions’ fragile toughness reinforces that these creatures are disposable. Besides, Blue is more interested in setting the rules for the game (the person with more creatures wins) and then claiming success in a game the other colors weren’t even playing.
Cool? Cool. Enough pontificating. I need another card from Gatherer.
Oh. Sea Serpent. That card is… bad. It’s not irredeemable. I’d be lying if I said I never won a draft while riding on the back of a Sea Serpent (oddly, it happened in a draft just last month.) Thankfully, I centered Blue’s philosophy around controlling more creatures, not better creatures. If that means a players might need to birth a 5/5 sometimes defender for , so be it.
That said, the serpent mechanic plays into the theme I’m reinforcing. Time to blend some Serpent-aide.
Enough creatures? Drop and swing. Not enough creatures? Cycle and create. Seems straight-forward to me. Let’s ask Gatherer for another card:
Farrel’s Zealot. Okay, cool. Not quite how I’d design the card today, but not a bad card by any stretch. Working with Human tribal also continues to pay accidental dividends.
The obvious flaw with the Zealot is that it won’t do anything unless it connects. Good thing Blue picks up connections like an airplane pilot in a gay bar named ‘Connections’ (in this scenario the pilot is also gay.) Set that aside. Let’s work with this:
Lunar Meddling’s goal is to encourage its controller to sacrifice the Illusions it creates, since it stops working if you have too many creatures anyway. Also, the Red/Green sacrifice mechanic in the cube is always happy to see another cheap outlet.
Moving on through the Gatherer overworld, we get this for a random encounter:
A Wild Beastmaster appears!
[Okay, seriously? I just checked with Google and I’m the first person on the Internet who made a Pokémon reference in relation to this card? Was nobody trying in 2012?]
Without help, Wild Beastmaster is mediocre at best. It’s kind of a like a Glorious Charge that costs more, and comes down at sorcery speed with summoning sickness. Mix in a Blossoming Defense, however, and the master of beasts spurs its herd into an Overrun (sans trample) for a turn. Enchant Beastmaster with Epic Proportions and people will ask “Who’s that Pokémon?”
But the set doesn’t need more boost. The cube’s aura theme by itself means Beastmaster has plenty of chances to ruin a game (Just a simple Firebreathing plus Beastmaster can spell game over.) Meanwhile, I’m looking at my set and realizing there’s no Dehydration/Sensory Deprivation-style enchantments. The set includes an aura theme and no ‘blue pacifisms’? We’re changing that now.
That’s some convoluted language, I know. The original version returned to your hand at any time your opponent controlled more creatures than you do. But that card would have been broken with this card I designed in log 3:
In this combination we want less creatures than the opponent. Xenophobia keep on bouncing, and you keep on drawing cards. To be fair, I knew Stirring Refrain was undercosted when I made it. I figured that’s fine as long as I was careful with the auras I put in the cube. By restricting Xenophobia to return only when a creature enters your opponent’s side of the battlefield, this particular combination remains reasonable (You can’t cheese the combo by enchanting both auras on one of your own creatures, either. Xenophobia would never return to your hand, since you never control more creatures than you control.)
I don’t like that Xenophobia is wordier this way, but I like that you can use this version of Xenophobia profitably, even if your opponent controls more creatures than you. If they can’t provide constant emotional support for the Xenophobic creature, the creeping fear of potential outsiders remains. Likewise, your opponent will rarely have a chance to respond to their Xenophobic fears when they arise on your turn before the horde moves in.
Voyaging Satyr is an interesting ‘choice’. Continuing with its unintentional theme, Gatherer sent me another card that untaps things. The Satyr, however, untaps land, which doesn’t play into our creature untapping theme (Well, not counting the fact that you can untap the Satyr to untap another land. You get the idea.) But if there was a creature that was also a land in the set…
Sure, Spectral Borealis doesn’t do anything on its own. But with Voyaging Satyr, or the other five or so cards that untap a creature in this set, it can light ’em up. And even if you can’t swing with it, the Borealis might be the reason Xenophobia didn’t return to your hand.
One last card! What do we got?
Treasure Cruise! Excellent. Not only is this a great card for many cubes, but it helps pay off the Blue/Black mill theme. Which… now that I think of it, I probably should have been bolstering that theme this week. Oh, right. And last week I was talking about using Aven Envoy to look at the top card of the opponent’s deck? Well, no time like the present.
Here the Envoy collects battlefield messages, then sends them along to the Attaché who processes information for the court. If a potential crisis is brewing, the Attaché can sacrifice herself to put an end to the situation before it begins. Hexproof represents her Diplomatic Immunity. Draw a card, then discard a card was added because I wanted to keep smallish stats on this ambassador. Plus every little bit counts when you’re saving up for a Treasure Cruise vacation.
Bonus token time!
We used a lot of Illusion tokens in today’s article. Seems only fitting that we create a token to represent it.
It was surprising how tricky it was to find a proper image for this token. Sometimes it’s the simple executions that can be the most challenging to find. I wish I could credit the artist, but I don’t know who it is. All I know is that this was used as concept art for the Whispmothers in Skyrim, and is therefore property of Bethesda. Why companies like Bethesda would release the concept art and not the concept artist, however, is a mystery to me.
Likewise, good unicorn artwork is hard to find. Oh, there sure are a lot of unicorn artwork to choose from, if you like magical beasts surrounded by stars and rainbows, rearing on precarious cliffs. Something about unicorns turns normal fantasy artists into designers for the latest in trapper keeper fashions. Good artists know that their customers want extremes. Unicorns are powerful and majestic creatures, so they need to be kicking up spray on a beach, or launching an assault on a dragon. Really good artists, however, know how to capture that power and majesty in a single elegant, yet natural stance. So, kudos to Ms. Stokes for finding a way to achieve that balance.
That’s it for this log. I’m going to make a quick devign pass where I balance the designs I have in a way that makes the most sense for maximum playability, then playtest, playtest, playtest. When I’m done devign, I’ll link to the changes here. In the meantime, feel free to check out the According to Gatherer archives here.