11/10/2010 StF: "How to Design a Specter and More!"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Savor the Flavor, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
I think Doug did a really good job on today's "Savor the Flavor: How to Design a Specter and More!" article.  It made me laugh and I always like to hear about design and flavor.  Kudos!~
Sort of tangental to the thread, but I always find it amusing that R&D latched onto the "specter" part of Hypnotic Specter as being the source of the discard ability, when its quite clear that the "Hypnotic" part is actually what the original card creator was almost certainly using to justify the dicarding.
Ugh.  Worst STF of all time I think.  And it's really depressing that their definition parameters are this friggin' narrow.  Even the letter of the week is lame, pointing out that Prototype Portal could have looked much cooler than it does.  Very unhappy now.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I thought it was fun, light-hearted and delivered some smiles and a bit of info.

Then again, I came for flavor info and this was actually most useful as a tiny, tiiiny primer to card design rather than a flavor bit.

A little more content and a little less fluff please.
I liked it as an interesting look into matching up Design & Creative. However, I think I'd have liked it better focusing on some less immediately apparent designs. The mechanical links of Specters and Trolls, for example, are pretty obvious. But what about the subtler choices, where you have a bunch of possible options when concepting the card and have to choose which one fits best, but there's no immediately obvious answer?

Hellions, for example. What kinds of cards does Creative make into Hellions? What common themes are there--what makes a card 'feel' like a Hellion as opposed to, say, an Ogre? There's no one mechanical link...but there seems to be a bunch of smaller ones. What makes a Berserker as opposed to a Warrior? A Shaman versus a Druid? And so on.

This article was enjoyable, but it felt like it was picking the low-hanging fruit.

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

I have to correct Doug here: The trolls in Magic aren't really that similar to the trolls of scandinavian folklore; but relatives of the trolls in Poul Anderson's "Three Hearts and Three Lions". Poul Anderson's novels were a huge influence of D&D; and instilled not only the idea of regenerating trolls, but also the whole Law/Chaos dichotomy, as well as dark elves and many other things.

Trolls in Scandinavian folklore are not mindless brutes, and they certainly do not regenerate. Mostly, they're actually cunning, magical, beautiful and very rich creatures that live in the woods. They're difficult to tell apart from regular humans (well, if you don't consider a tail a clear giveaway). They can't have children of their own, but are able to produce some sort of stupid and cruel offspring that looks just like a human baby, and then they swap this aberration with a human child, and raise that kid as one of their own, until that kid grows up to be a troll.

That wouldn't make for very good Magic cards, however. 
As noted, it did go for the low-hanging fruit, but was enjoyable. I loved the khaki-clad person handling the drake. Reminds me of when The Tonight Show actually had a decent host in Johnny Carson and he would have folks from the San Diego zoo on all the time with all manner of creatures. 
Proud member of C.A.R.D. - Campaign Against Rare Duals "...but the time has come when lands just need to be better. Creatures have gotten stronger, spells have always been insane, and lands just sat in this awkward place of necessity." Jacob Van Lunen on the refuge duals, 16 Sep 2009. "While it made thematic sense to separate enemy and allied color fixing in the past, we have come around to the definite conclusion that it is just plain incorrect from a game-play perspective. This is one of these situations where game play should just trump flavor." - Sam Stoddard on ending the separation of allied/enemy dual lands. 05 July 2013
The way I read the Prototype Portal art, the guy in back is a messenger from the Synod council or something, saying 'Alright buddy, your funding's been cut, we're shutting the experiment down', and the guy in blue is going 'No, you fool! Can't you see? I'm so close! Just one more week!'
Hahaha, this was so cool. I loved the Baby Drake and everything that involves it. It's just so much fun imagining the awful animation. "It's only a months old and is already a 1/2"... Genius.
As told to me directly from Drew Baker at GP Toronto: The man doing the grabbing (not in blue) in the Prototype Portal artwork is Garruk Wildspeaker, although this is unrelated to any piece of backstory from the set.
I enjoyed this article. Not a lot of flavour for regular readers in the main body, but I can take the odd week where basic card design/flavour information is explored for newer players/readers of the column. I liked the execution of the 'cheesy-creppy TV show' idea; the article was fun to read so I didn't mind the re-tread.

I liked the Prototype Portal art explanation - a good chunk of new information to balance the main article.

Doug, have you personally researched Scandinavian trolls or did you write that passage off the top of your head? I have always regarded Magic's trolls as owing more to the traditions of D&D and modern fantasy writing/art, although the inspiration for these ideas were the trolls of Scandinavian folklore. I would be interested in seeing a plane with trolls that are closer to their Scandinavian origins (cf. NixorX's post #6), but Lorwyn was the best opportunity for this alternative flavour and I doubt that plane will be revisited.
I interpreted Prototype Portal a little more sinisterly.  The portal was originally cranking out Staffs of Dominiation, but now has been turned to a darker purpose (the vertical dark smudge that seems to be holding the staff).  It's now making whatever the tall central object is, which is gradually growing and solidifying).  The Neurok is trying to stop this process, but is being restrained by the dark figure behind him.

To me, the piece is talking about how Blue's technology is getting perverted to Phyrexian purposes.

I guess it would be hard to illustrate a Prototype Portal making another Prototype Portal, but that's of course the first thing anyone would do with it....
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