Best of Bloodlines — Blue & Black (the Unseen Evil)

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Design Notes and Highlights


Xeasao, the Moon Blackened
Storyline

   To see life through the eyes of the immortal isn't naturally something mortals are capable of. To walk in their shoes; to walk the path of the divine is even moreso unfathomable. Yet as above is so below, or so we're told. So let us walk alongside our own shadows, if only through experience can we understand the beyond. Only then might we be able to understand what it's like for Xeasao. It's the epitome of life on earth for where you come from to be a mystery, or who exactly created you. Yet mortals have the curse of time on their side, which acts as grim luxury, relieving them of the burden inevitably. Only the lucky few left to wonder why, give way to mystery and create their own meaning before it's too late.

   For the immortal, you've got nothing but time. Time to wander alone. Time to find the answers you are missing. As well as there is time to give up hope, and wander aimlessly without reason. Hoping to find a purpose along the way, seeking to put your existence to some use. This was the stage Xeasao had reached. Long given up on any hopes of epiphany. Settled on the meaning of life, which lies in the existence of others, and the intervention of his mystic power among them (a power he only understood the dynamics of). The ability to manipulate space and matter. The ability to bring his thoughts into reality. His power, which came natural to him, was the fantasy that so many can only dream of.

   Xeasao began life already matured. Armed with a sharp sense of understanding, and a method of judgement that was understood only by himself. To see life though the eyes of the immortal isn't naturally something mortals are capable of, so just imagine instant enlightenment. You see and then you know. You never see the event of things, you always see the source of things. And although your understanding is absolute, you're still subject to the unknown. Just as you can't learn from mistakes you haven't made yet, you can't know of things beyond your experience. All things beyond your presence are beyond your perception. For even the immortal are bound by space, only as adept as the sum of their experience and perception; with no way to wander beyond the cage that is the material world.

   The nature of the unknown is the root of all mistakes. When faced with the unknown, you've got no choice but to learn things the hard way; from failure, from trial and error. And mistakes are like scars upon the hearts of those who make them. Failure is a bitter elixir. Although the mother of success, it's the father of the condemned. When our mistakes are more than we can handle, we condemn ourselves for the tragedy that's become of them. This was the source of Xeasao's blackness. By his own judgement, he condemned himself. Given way to gravity, and fallen into the abyss that is the dark side of all things to be. When nothing else matters, we naturally break free from self-control. No reason left to do what's right. No reason to help another. Instead, it comes natural to serve oneself. To do as you will, without judgement against your actions. When you serve yourself, you can only fail yourself. The burden of the world is lifted from your shoulders, and the rest of existence falls from your grace into the darkness of damnation.

   Now, even a blackened heart still beats in time. No matter how cold, a broken heart still bleeds, even if it's empty. And what's done can never be taken back, it's locked in time forever. As is the pain inside one's heart. It never goes away. It never dulls. This is the liability for all those subject to emotion. An inescapable reality. And emotion would be the very thing that binds Xeasao to the Orient.

   It all begins with the schism of a royal family within the highest tier of the Grand Dynasty. They could not find peace amongst their own people. They grew tired of the struggle between compromise and satisfaction. For every decision amongst the royal families was an epic struggle. No one ever seeming to get their own way— always having to settle for less at the displeasure of another. Out of desperation for freedom, the royal family lifted an entire province from out of the Grand Dynasty, and settled themselves down in the far reaches of the Orient's territory.
  
   Although it was known in what direction they set off in, the entire province of people who defected from the Grand Dynasty seemingly disappeared into the haze of the ocean's edge without a trace. Out into the reaches of the ocean, they found a new land where they heavily concealed themselves and their people, forming a secret nation known only to themselves as the Kakureta, whose name literally means to them "Hidden". It was truly a dynasty of its own. Without the burden of negotiations, their society evolved at blinding pace. Their technology jumped several stages over the course of just a few years time. The leaders of this neo dynasty were the members with the most proficiency among the arts. And among them as a nation, there was nothing they had not mastered. They were masters of the martial arts as well as the mental arts; artifice, botany, construction, combat; strategy, economics, and sciences, all at their high command.

   Life was yet far from perfect, despite development. They still faced many dangers with only each other to defend themselves, and the most dangerous of these perils, in time, became themselves. It was the nature of their uprising, the schism. It became a root to their persona. It became the ultimate glory to see only oneself as the only true master. Many people began taking up supremecy in the place of brotherhood. It became hard to trust anyone. It was the nature of this supremecy that became their blackness. Without dicipline and unity, death roams in the hearts of men without control. To kill at your whim becomes second nature. After all, you've only got yourself and no one else. Even though they were a nation, they had become strangers to themselves; cold-hearted killers. Without any of other royal families to check them, there was nothing to keep their behavior in order. There was no one there to be guardian over their hearts and souls.

   Xeasao gazed upon them spellbound. It was like looking to a mirror, his reflection coldly staring back at him. It was the eyes of death. And his emotions, they seized the fallen angel. The lost one, who roams aimlessly now doing only as he wishes. Whose heart has been blackened by the severity of time, and the merciless grip of the unknown. Sorrow, pity, and the common ground between them and himself. There was nothing to be seen, nothing else to feel. To behold an evolved society that fights against itself, yet surrounded by other dangers, it was just like Xeasao; fighting against himself, torn between being the angel of salvation, or the angel of damnation. They had given up on themselves, just as he had done. And he looked down upon them, and he judged their abanddon as weakness. Then turned to himself and saw the same weakness within. Yet there was nothing that could save him. No one to turn to, or so he thought. Xeasao decided that if his mystic power could not be used to save himself, he would at least use it to save these people; who were in his eyes, his own reflection, and now in more danger than they could ever imagine.


Development Highlights
Character development for Xeasao was a very cautious process. Ninjas were already decided as the central creature type in the blue-black section, but when it came down to the planeswalker, a "ninja planeswalker" came off as the most cliché, cheesy concept ever. I wasn't even going to bother with entertaining the thought of it. I had to come up with something more dynamic. At this point, I just began derping around with the artwork, looking for a cool concept for a blue-black planeswalker. It was soon after that the concept clicked, and a "fallen angel, or dark angel" was stood out to me as a perfect concept to work around the nature of blue-black.

Blue is a neutral color. In this design, it represents a "one foot in the grave" persona. Not totally evil, but far from innocent at this point. Yet moreso, I wanted to truly define what a fallen angel was. I wanted to fill in those missing blanks like, "What ties bind them to the angelic?" "How can one be both holy and unholy?" "What lies on the path to redemption? And what events cause a fallen angel to take up that path?" Certainly a true dark angel isn't going to protect anyone else. It's not going to be anyone's guardian. This is one of the key-points to the blue-black base here. I've utilized it veering in the other direction of the color wheel. Where most people use it to represent pure evil, corrupted manipulators, this concept is going counter-clockwise, moving from black into blue, and toward white. A being that fell into darkness and will escape from it.

For Xeasao's abilities, the source of his power is the divine. Xeasao isn't a deity, but even for a planeswalker he is a very evolved being. Instead of relying on mancy, his power is the force within. Xeasao is hyper-intelligent and understands many things absolutely. He has the ability to manipulate reality, as well as the ability to manipulate the perception of reality. Doing so by controlling the movement of matter, energy, or the flow of electricity in the brain. However, this power is only absolute against lesser beings. Higher entities are either immune or highly resistant to perception manipulation. Xeasao has to battle enemies like this on equal ground.

When I originally developed the Loyalty Enabled Ability for Lilith, I predecided that I would cover all the aspects within the block. Lilith focused on permanents, and so Xeasao would go the other way (focusing on instants and sorceries). The flavor of this would be Xeasao's telekinetic, telepathic mastery. It's powerful, yet balanced in the sense of you'll still have to pay those costs, you're not getting anything for free. Their spells might not even benefit you depending on their theme, but generally, this isn't going to be a common issue. I'd have liked to exile the spells or shuffle them after they are cast, but it turns out I wouldn't be able to do that since I don't have the text space. And it hardly matters since there isn't a situation where a player can't sideboard something simple (like Elixir of Immortality) to get around Xeasao's LEA now and again.

When working with the second ability, I was looking for combo matera and a pace setter. That's why I went with a wheel effect. It's going to put stuff in their graveyard, but you'll lose anything nice you wanted to save in your hand. It's also going to reload your opponent's hands, increasing the chance they'll draw into their removal (which obviously is going to be the end of story for you). It's a cleverly disguised double-edged sword. You'll have to play your cards wisely, and that'll sometimes include not tripping off this ability, lest you lose that hard counter and don't get it back when the wheel comes around.

And now, the grand finale! It began as the most dry, un-interactive ability possible (hard-removal/hard-counter). This was originally intended to give you a lifeline in the event you wheel out of your only counter/removal. I was really just out of creative juices moreso. In this distilling process, I was finally able to perfect it. A sleight of card replaced it. The unique ability to change all cards of one name into another. It's the epitome of mental/physical manipulation. It's also never been done before, and wording it right was a bit of a challenge, even for me. Even the final composure takes some getting used to, but that's how it is for all new operating functions. As far as function goes, its potential is so vast it's nearly limitless. It was definitely what the design was missing, something potent and original. Adding marvel to the mystery of one fallen lost angel.


Kang Sun, the Nukenin
Storyline

   What is one person against the world? For without the world, what is there to live for? The answer is simple. It is yourself. When there is nothing else, to live for yourself is the only reason one needs to carry on. Yet even when we live for ourselves, there must be a purpose to carry on. Even if only to indulge yourself—for all life revolves around self-indulgence anyways. Think about it. Everything we do is working up towards our own fulfillment. Even when we live for others, it's our own joy of living for them that moves us to do so. Yet for Kang Sun, there was no one else. There was only him, and a world that he only once belonged in. For Kang Sun, living for himself was all he had left, and his purpose to live—was revenge. He was a runaway amongst runaways, who hated his own people for what they had become. They left a nearly perfect Dynasty out of frustration, wandering out into the unknown to make their own Dynasty for themselves, only to end up their own worst enemy. To become masters of betrayal, rather than virtue.

   He saw things the same as Xeasao. He felt it was their weakness that has lead to their doom, and he cursed the Kakureta for it. Although an evolved society, the increased technology and development of deadly art forms made them a greater danger to themselves. And now that their numbers were greatly diminished, their wasn't enough people to watch over them in the night. When darkness falls, the villages become a very dangerous place. Dishonest ninja stalk the night like predators, taking whatever they want and doing whatever they wish. For they are just men, and the temptation of absolute power is that for only the Gods to resist. Without the pressure from other royal families, what was a man to do except make a fool of himself? For without fear, there is only bravery. And from the hearts of the undisciplined, came forth bravery in its darkest form; the path of genocide.

   From out of the darkness in their hearts, came forth a nightmare; the wrath of Kang Sun. He begins to prey upon the night like many others, killing anyone who gets in his way while he hunts down other nightstalkers. Once he executes them, Kang Sun leaves their bloody and broken bodies where he has slain them. It's a warning for all to see when daylight breaks. It literally means, "This is the price you will pay to dance with maiden that is the night." At first, the killings didn't stand out from the conflicts that had already made a devil's playground out of their night time. But it was in short time that the elders were able to recognize a pattern among those victimized, and they concluded there was something going on beyond the pale. Yet it wasn't until other elite Ninja were found one after another, championed in the night, that they realized this could only be the work of one person.

   It all began after they identified the extended absence of an elitist ninja of royal blood. Missions out into the mountains are among the most rough and lengthy of them all. Only the most adept are sent out due to the dangers and harsh environment of the mountain passes. Yet Kang Sun was so adept, he not only qualified for these top-rank missions, he was able to complete such missions in half the time it took other elite ninja. During one of these missions, it naturally dawned on the elders that something was about to go seriously wrong. On the night of the halfway mark, three of the grand Kakureta elders alongside Utaka, their top assassin, waited in the candle-light for Kang Sun to report back at the top of Kakureta castle within a secret chamber known only to royalty.

   Traditionally, Kang Sun returns early and stylishly knocks the hourglass onto its side before the last grains fall; the symbol of checkmate. When the very last of the sand fell, emptying the northern globe, an ominous feeling struck like lightning within the hearts of the three elders. It was like the grim reaper was towering behind them, its commanding presence freezing them in place. An overwhelming pressure, and fear; as though to move is to be struck down. The spellbinding hold over them was broken in the next moment, as the scythe of Utaka ripped through the air, and smashed the hourglass in its place. Her force extinguished the three candles that stood between her and the elders, and they were eclipsed in darkness. But it wasn't the darkness of the night that the elders feared, it was the darkness within Utaka's heart. Before they could get in a word of warning, she took flight out onto the rooftops, like the raven she was. Utaka anticipated they would try to reason with her, and she would have no part of it. Treason is a crime punishable by death, and if Kang Sun returns to the Dynasty, their hidden prefecture will be unveiled, and they will have to fight for their lives forever after.

   After the elders had concluded that Kang Sun was behind the serial killings, they gave Utaka the official command to execute the rogue ninja if she should have the chance. This command was of no avail to her though, the assassin had already set her trap into motion. And later that night, she would have her first encounter with the elite ninja, face to face—as enemies. It's more than a struggle for the elitist, but Kang Sun manages to escape from her with his life. He's badly poisoned and left with a gash that would later heal into a bad scar; a dark souvenir of their romantic moment. Although deathly wounded, he would make a full recovery, residing in an underground cave near a hot-spring within the heart of the mountain.

   Kang Sun had suffered due to his negligence. He wouldn't have been so badly wounded, he may have even defeated Utaka, the elite assassin; but Kang Sun held back during their fateful encounter. He couldn't bring himself to strike Utaka down. Instead, he reverted to defensive maneuvers. Countering her movements, and trying to disable her momentarily so that he can quickly escape. Kang Sun couldn't kill her, because Kang Sun was in love with her. Utaka knew that he had held back during their fight, but she payed it no respect. Love is something the assassin has never known. For to survive is to stand alone, and reign over all victorious—superior.

   Kang Sun was condemned by her, just as he had condemned the rest of them. An unforgiving damnation, an undying hatred; with only one exception on his end—her, and no mercy for him from the only woman he's ever loved.  Ultimately, their destiny would decide, if it is love or hate that stands alone as champion in the test of time. Will his love for her win her over, or will her hate for him bring him forsake her, and battle to the death once and for all?


Development Highlights
Since Ninjas were the second section to get developed, I already had a lot of great sketches of the foundation to work with. For example, the specifics for this design were already set to go. It began within the same cycle as Shihong, a simple legendary creature with two simple abilities, yet strong enough to carry the legendary title. I was looking to bring back the fire of Legends, where characters with little or no abilities are still prominent characters. Where you appreciate the simple things, seeing the beauty in abilities that many these days are spoiled rotten over.

For a black-blue legendary ninja, the concept I wanted to roll with was pure combat. It's the ninja's greatest specialty. So I was looking to make a legendary creature that could wield pure power or pure defense. I combined the two most efficient abilities I could think up. Militance for pure defense was a given for the entire cycle, there was no compromise here (and it fit right into my plans perfectly). Next was unblockable. The ultimate offense is to pierce through all defenses. It was just want I wanted, with the perfect balance between them. You could only utilize one or the other at a time (and that's where the challenge comes from).

Here is where the cycle was changed. I've run into a problem during this distilling process and I've got to give up the cycle because some of them are so simple, they're too simple, and there is no sense of uniqueness. They appeared as lackluster legendary creatures, there is nothing that could be done. So the cycle has been changed and more dynamic abilities will take their place where needed. Kang Sun got a very dynamic ability that ties into the flavor of a ninja extremely well. Manipulation. Ninjas steal from others and they're also adept at setting things into motion in stealth. Yet, the core of his unstoppable stealth force is represented in being uncounterable.

Ninja overall can be very all purpose, do it all types. It was their nature to be a master of as many things as possible, because that's the path to perfection. In their POV, the most perfect are the most powerful, and more powerful you are the greater your change to survive. This is where his super ninja sleight of the cards comes in. He can shaft your opponent, and bring out your success. He is a super elitist after all, isn't he? So he doubles as a miracle worker, extremely skilled in what he does, and what he does is read comic books. Except they're comics all about him, and all the things he's done, because he's a legendary ninja. KEEEE-YAH! I LOOK FORWARD TO READING MY COMIC BOOKS SOON!

In the end, I didn't want this guy to get carried away. It's already very unique, and the potential is prime. As the saying goes, all good things in moderation. So I limited the ability to only being able to put two cards into your own zones. This is also the most realistic thing to do. If you're overwhelmed by many enemies, you're not going to be able to best them all like this. You've got to cover yourself and evade danger. Of course, there might some exceptions, but here I was seeking some balance. Although powerful, he's not a planeswalker or a demigod, he's just a man and a very powerful ninja. It would have been careless of me to not apply an artistic limitation here, because that limitation is itself a pace-setter and challenge (and that's where all the fun comes from).


Utaka the Karasu
Storyline
   Within reality exists many dimensions. Within each dimension exists many spectrums. To see life though the eyes of another, to glimpse their reality, you can't just see what they do, you must understand why they see it. Now test yourself, and see the world through the eyes of Utaka. To  gaze down upon the world from a throne of ice, over a kingdom crushed by her own hand. Her gaze everlasting, ever-piercing. Her wrath bottled up, cold and heartless; ready to strike down the defiant in an instant. Normally, this is a veil too strong to ever see past. Well, for mortals eyes anyways. But gaze here, through my eyes (the eyes of a deity), and you will see within her for yourself.

   Utaka is a woman who has always been torn between two worlds. The world around her, a kingdom of material possessions and social hierarchy. And the world inside her, a boundless realm of overwhelming emotions, of primal instincts that roar from within. A world that she endlessly wages war against because it clashes with the world around her, and all she has built herself up to be; a royal predator. Solemn, deadly, solitary; a killer of utmost elite status. Yet there is one thing she has never been able to kill, only subside; the emotional force that stirs within her.

   It's hard to say what caused a girl who was born into royalty to take on such a hard lifestyle. One far from the luxuries and delicacies that come naturally to other girls of royalty. It even opposes tradition for a girl to be raised up in such a way. Where women are traditionally raised to be delicate and tender, like trophy flowers, sought after for their beauty and prized for their potency.  Yet here she was, trained in secrecy to be a brutal champion, and mentored by her own parents to be an unstoppable, untouchable aristocrat. Utaka was raised to be indomitable with a cruel edge, like a trophy pet, sought after for its exoticness and prized for its deadliness.

   It all began with the vision of her parents, who saw the collective of young girls in nobility to be more like subservient pawns than anything else. The girls are pampered beyond words can tell. Only trained in the fine arts, home-making, and etiquette. Once she is mature, she is simply plucked from her family like fruit and married to a man who has chosen her for the shallowest of reasons. All the while never knowing what it means to be respected, only to be honored as nobility. As members of society, although nobility, their words hold no weight, their desires no significance. No one reveres them. They are like dolls, only to be admired and inevitably provide another with pleasure.

   Her parents naturally feared this is what would become of their daughter. For what is a life without respect and reverence, without honor? For these are the binding elements of social harmony. The foundation of dignity among the noble. To them, a life without dignity is no life at all. But their vision wouldn't have been enough by itself. It was Utaka who took a special interest in this hardcore persona that made it into a reality, and it became her greatest attribute.
 
   Authority is by nature an empowering element, but it became an obsession for Utaka. In her eyes, only those with authority are of any importance in the world. If you're in the hands of another, at the mercy of their authority, then you're in danger. There is no greater seat of sanctuary in the world except in being a supreme authority. With her own self-worth as the ultimate driving force, she looks up to no other person as being greater than herself. She demands of people the utmost measure of respect in her presence. Those who offend her are scarred as a reminder, and warning to all others that there will be zero-tolerance of it.

   Among society, she exists as prefect of the highest ranking. She has the authority to judge and take whatever action she deems suitable. However, society is only graced with her presence rarely. At the core of her being, Utaka is liberal and proud. She prefers to keep to herself and tend to her own matters, rather than to mingle and deal with trivialities of others. Keeping to herself like this further empowers her ego. Her persona untainted by the idle chatter of common gossip. Her body untouched by the hands of unworthy men. And that's the most empowering psychological factor of all. It's the ultimate essence of purity for a woman; to be flawless and untouched. And because of it, she is exactly what she sees herself as; the apex; the greatest of them all; flawless and untouchable.

   Although she has built herself up to be a goddess, she is still a woman. Not even she can escape the primal urges that roar from within. The desire to love, and be loved. To be touched and feel the warmth of embrace. To be wanted. To be the sun, the center of someone's universe; more important to that person than anything else in the world. These desires burn deeply within her, but the urges don't last long. When they arise, she quickly crushes them herself. They linger only long enough for her to feel the burning in her gut. Only long enough for her to know they're not just a figment of her imagination, they're real.

   For many reasons, Utaka cannot afford to cater to such whimsical notions; for there are none worthy. The only things she respects are the very things she has mastered. Even the slightest flaw is imperfection, forever to be looked down upon as inferior. And beyond this, Utaka has made herself to be untouchable. To set yourself beside another person in this way is to step down from this absolute power. It's out of the question. Or at least, that's what she keeps telling herself. As time passes on, the emotional storm within her grows ever stronger. And one man is aiming to breakthrough her ice cold barrier, to seize her soul for himself. Another member of royalty. A ninja that she secretly considers her only equal among the Kakureta; the elitist turned renegade, Kang-Sun.

   Tragically, she has condemned him in her mind. Guilty of treason, he is now an enemy of the Kakureta. Kang-Sun will be lucky to survive her wrath, and escape with his life. Or at least, that would be case, but the wheel of fate is ever-turning, and it is about to change the path she walks forever. Thrusting them both into an event of perilous danger. The Kakureta are suddenly surrounded by danger at all sides. A deadly force casting a ominous shadow from every cardinal direction. If they do not stand together, they will die at each other's side by the hands of their enemies.


Development Highlights
At the core of development in each multicolor section are the gem pieces. Those mythic and golden rares which hold the greatest measures of importance among the collective of content. They're the stuff that people are looking to build their decks around, form fitting their strategies to support the most powerful content of the set. I had originally assigned this design within the higher CMC tiers. It originally boasted a mana cost of , and was originally being developed as an assassin creature. What I was doing was, looking to focus the eminence of that classic creature-type operation into the spotlight I feel it only rightly belongs, the legendary spotlight.

Just look at the history of this operation: Royal Assassin, Notorious Assassin, Zombie Assassin. Repeatable creature destruction is serious business. It's an operation of immense power. And only two of the entire lot are legendary creatures, Kiku, Night's Flower and Ramses Overdark.  I personally feel it's been thrown around too much. This is something best reserved for the legendary, because it's in essence, of legendary power. If there would be one exception, Avatar of Woe would be it, but leads to question the lack-of therein when it comes to the legendary status. Why aren't those avatars legendary?

Even so, it's done and it's nothing to get stressed out over. Avatar of Woe is just as great as design as her sister, Visara the Dreadful (legendary or not). Given how popular both designs are, it serves to prove my point that the operation is of legendary power. Now remember my premeditated intention for this set was to shine a spotlight upon the simple things. To take elements so many these days take for granted, and put them in the place they so rightfully belong (showcasing their true majesty and power). That was the entire basis behind pairing the ", Destroy target creature." with a legendary creature.

I didn't want to do something cliché. Uniqueness is important for dynamic content. I originally tangled with a few variants trying to craft something unique — Destroy tapped creature; destroy creature with power less than the number of cards in your hand; draw a card; draw two cards. There were a lot of different options I weighed out. In the end, I had settled on something simple and to the point, destroy creature and draw two cards. It was meh, but it was good enough. Then something really interesting happened with the revision of another card that has relativity to this one; the solid-multicolor legendary creature for the red-green section, Maoliss the Cutthroat. They were developed as a counter-pair to each other, suited with many matching attributes, and all centered around them being sisters, yet deadly rivals. So when Maoliss got a hotfix update, I suited Utaka's to match it.

That leads us to the current design. Instead of her operation working outright, she works as a compliment to other death effects (like Hex). In the process, I switched up the bonus ability to something much more flavorful, a double Extract. It mimics the concept shadowed within Utaka's flavor-text. Plucking two cards from their deck is symbolic of gouging out the eyes of your opponent. That of itself has legendary precedence to nature of the raven, whose synonymous with plucking out the eyes of humans. Also matching the persona of a strict, commanding woman who demands respect. All of these are amazing flavor factors, and I'm happy to have perfected them. At the same time, I decided to remove the Assassin type from the design. It bunched up the text-line too much, making it hard on the eyes and I felt it was tacky. Ninja themselves were pretty much assassins by default. That type covers it without having to go into unnecessary details.

That was one of the polishing factors in finishing the design. Next was recomposing the flavor-text to flow better, and it all ended with a name change as the finishing touch. Originally Michiko, I changed her name to Utaka so that it wouldn't be stepping on the toes of a previous legendary creature from the Kamigawa block, Michiko Konda. Her new name, which literally means "honorable, great dignity", mimics the name of the actual person from Asian pop-culture whom Utaka is the anima of, the superstar Utada Hikaru. I've filled the set with lots of animas like this, acting as huge appeal factors for Asian people by working around elements that already command great amounts of admiration, respect, and appeal for them. All the while, doing my best to read the true persona's of each person based my personal discernment of their personality.


IMAGE(http://cdn.bulbagarden.net/upload/1/1c/Spr_4p_389.png)

Design Notes and Highlights

Kami of Morbidness
This is where it all began. The first creature of this section to be developed. I was working to make each one of these spirits as unique as I could. I did my best to focus the flavor of each Spirit creature within this cycle, seeking to play on specifics; each one being very different from the next, even the ones who share colors. This sense of identity is what sets them apart. The stronger the concept, the better reinforced the flavor (which is the primary factor of simple designs). They're pretty much all flavor and little else. However, the difficulty has a lot to do with the specific creature type you're working with. Something simple like an animal (see Mountain Goat) is a breeze to develop. What I'm working with here is very vague, and it takes lots of fine detailing in order to make it visible, and also understandable. These aren't just simple spirits either, they're the essence of, and embodiments of their founding concepts. Super-dependent on detail, making or breaking it. 

This one here, being blue and black, was focused as the embodiment of fear itself. It's a broad concept, and not to be confused with "Fear itself". This creature intended to go far deeper into the depths of fear, and bridge onto the concepts which cosign to fear. For example, insecurity and mortality; both of which are like exploits within the human mind, leading to things people naturally fear. I choose to base this Kami in the form of "morbidness" for two main reason. First is how well it matches the art. The second reason is because, the greater the gruesomeness of anything, the greater we fear it. It begins to relate to horror and macabre, which are both synonymous with fear (the founding fathers even). And so, as a creature it represents both a terrifying, morbid creature; and as an embodiment, it represents one's own insecurity, weakness, paranoia, or fear. These things which in the human mind sustain themselves and the grow more powerful the more we feed into them. They build momentum, evolving into disorders, phobias, or even leading us to kill ourselves to escape from these binding emotions, the fear; be it of insecurity, mortality, or the dark.

Beyond flavor, I choose intimidate as the ability because I felt it was a great match for this color combination better than any of the others. It's already very heavily involved with black, who was the first to coin the concept (see Razortooth Rats). Yet what I really love, is that I'm able to show another side to blue with this. Because to me, blue has always been a color of very scary creatures (like Tidal Kraken). To me, in reality, blue would be related to some of the scariest creatures of all. For example, Cosmic Horror might be a black creature because it was obviously based on the Lovecraftian Horror stories and "Outsiders", but it will always be a very true blue creature to me. It's from space, it's alien, it's cosmic and otherworldly; all very blue concepts as far as I'd say. And many ethereal creatures are just as scary (like Chained Throatseeker or Ghastlord of Fugue). All the while, it's not crossing into the borderlines of the illogical, since blue is rightfully solid with evasion, and it's opening up the color's character complexity (which is a benefit).


Manifest
At one hybrid mana, this was the entry level spell for the blue-black section. I usually take one of two paths for this content. The first is a very limited design, used as essential filler content. The other is the path, is the one I've taken for this design. It's an extraordinary design, of which I put something dynamic here and opt to place a filler design into a higher cmc slot instead. Since power is the primary element, this is the kind of content that transcends block play to become that new special something in say Legacy. Sometimes I specifically develop content whose greatest potential is realized in the over-world formats. Try to remember, some people only play over-world formats. It's proper development etiquette to develop a little content for everyone. Make everyone happy, because everyone is equally important. You shouldn't cast aside or brush off even the narrowest band of players, they all need to be equal in your eyes.

In Project Bloodlines, we're looking at ten multicolor themes, five monocolor themes, and nearly endless combinations within those core themes. And so, I aimed to develop a card recovery spell because that operation has great potential and it's always useful, making this a spell that'd stretch far into the depths of content. Technique was the deciding factor here. Manifest is only a single mana spell with a two or three mana operation. I knew I'd better make it artistic. Aside from the bore factor of something simple and outright, I was looking to apply a limitation that would add some grace to the design. The appeal comes from the design being limited, yet still really useful.

Within no time, I got it right on the first try. Not sure if it was luck, or if three is just the magic number. Yet it was plain to see that three was a great range for the ability. It had just the right measure of usefulness, without flying over the boundaries set by powerful contemporaries (like Regrowth or Relearn). By cutting out ANY content, there is a ton of content it's shut out from, ensuring a fair measure of balance. And from what's left, there is still a legion of amazing spells (like Ancestral Recall or Vampiric Tutor) that this spell sync's up with. Nuff said. Even so, if you really want to get creative, try using it with Spectral Procession.

Since I reverse-engineered this design (developing the ability first), I had to develop the flavor second. Not my favorite thing in the world, since it can be really hard to get right. All it took was a little bit of focus and some patience, and I nailed it. Manifest (as the name suggests), is based on the veil between the material and spiritual realms. The blue in the design represents that veil and the actual event of materialization, whereas the black represents the afterlife and what exists beyond. A concept that connects the world setting and focuses it into a design, bringing the story to life in the cards. These are always my favorite designs among any project, their sense of style, and what they add to the game is unrivaled.

Going strong, I finalized the design with some commanding flavor-text. It's based in a serious tone, to add some depth and emotional tension. I composed the flavor-text to compliment the artwork, warning those that what's forgotten isn't always gone. As you can see, the dragon appears to be breaching the veil, crossing from one realm to another. A dangerous monster, and it would surely send anyone it collides with along the way, over and into the afterlife. So watch out.


Ninja Adept
At the start of the project, before I focused the ninja theme, I was experimenting with different concepts. One of the them (previously unmentioned until now), was a mill theme. I felt that it may be a cool way to encompass the spirit of the ninja in a diverse method. Ninja take things, they weren't always assassins. Some ninja, specialized in being master thieves. They were the original Louvre cat burglars of the orient. Well, that idea fell through the glass and was busted in time, but at first, this design's first form was centered around that.

Even after I scrapped that idea, I kept this design intact as a utility, and it retained that form all the way up to this distilling process. The ability was pretty simple, it was half a Raven Guild Master, and that's all. Working well with ninja-esque combo materia like evasion and what not, with the primary effect of mill acting something like Memory Erosion. If you've never played against that, and don't understand, it will usually mill you for cards you really needed, and even may end up mana screwing you for several turns. I liked the diversity of it most, and that's what kept it around for so long.

In this distilling process, with the upgrade on Kang-Sun, I felt that utility of this kind was too far off from the central theme. It kind-of  detracted from the big picture, and made the the section theme appear scribbled. What I did was, I transferred Kang Sun's original abilities over to this design. This move would reinforce the "Ninjitsu-combat" theme by placing a very strong combat utility creature within the early-game environment. Just as Kang Sun's original did, it serves a single purpose (and serves it well). It can either be pure offensive (unblockable), or pure defensive (militance). However, by itself, it can only be one or the other. As it stands, I'd say it's much more fair than Invisible Stalker (given how militance is open to a majority of removal); so it's not breaking any ground beyond that. I personally would say it does well to a set a better example of a well balanced concept such as this for that reason alone.

I've come to favor this form over the first. The obvious reason is how it's a perfect example of something "simple, yet good". It embodies the spirit of the ninja into a "Chibi-form", being a sweet 1/1 unblockable for two mana; a fighting stealth machine (which is one of the primary elements of the ninja). The other reason how it also embodies the other-side of the ninja, (being tough, very tough). Because militance ties in with ninjutsu martial arts. Ninja trained their bodies to be as indestructible as possible. As a part of their training, the ninja break their bodies down with heavy wood gear and stone, beating themselves over and over until they've built up a near immunity to physical damage in that area. That's the science behind the nearly indestructible ninja you see doing combat in movies.

A well-rounded concept is appealing because it's seen as being proper. It covers both sides and is very realistic. That sense of realism, and familiarity is appealing to those who know it best and love it most. Yet one of the greatest elements of appeal, is the ninja's poem laid out as flavor-text. Poetry, like in many other places in the world, is serious business among the orient. It's something that invokes a deep sense of thought. People freeze for a moment, to think and feel out the words.   The poem itself is very deep and emotional. I feel it does well to give the reader a strong insight, enabling them to see through the eyes of behind the mask for themselves. It was an artisan's touch, and by far one of my favorite flavor-text I've ever composed.


Toil of Body and Mind
This cycle has a bit of elevated importance being how it hosts one of the primary dynamic keywords of the project. Keyword spells stand out a lot. When you first glimpse any set, you'll always notice how the block keyword spells stand out most. Some people even look for them specifically since they usually boast an improved measure of utility over conventional spells.

These days, I've noticed how a lot of spells with keywords are beginning to take on more and more simplistic abilities. They're focusing their form into more simple, traditional effects (like Staggershock or Thunderous Wrath or Electrickery). This is a total waste of potential, yet it can be somewhat inevitable based on the operation you're working with (not much new to be done with damage). This cycle here is already working with a very open source (focused as creature utility content). But what makes them interesting is that they're taking something simple and making something special of it. These effects that people take for granted can be shown for their true power; that's dynamic all by itself. 

A majority of content from this cycle focuses on granting two abilities. One that compliments the other, and each synonymous to one of the two colors. I had began mapping out color/ability matches from the very start, and this color combination (blue-black) quickly became an odd-end among the lot of them. I had to stretch the form out a little bit to prevent a clumsy overlapping of effects. What I did was expanded the ability out into power/toughness manipulation. This bothered me a little at first (I'd prefer it all to match), but I've warmed up to it a bit since then. A little diversity appears to be for the best here after all.

Since I used intimidate for as the black representative, why +2/-2 instead of say, +2/+0? Well, that's actually what I started out with, but it's not very blue. Also, I didn't want to get carried away here, I wanted an even cycle. The potential should only be so many leagues and until you can touch the bottom (somewhat shallow). What happened was, when it was all said and done, the ninjas had NO removal. Nothing multicolor. That's when I decided to add the -2 on the flip-side of the ratio.

What this would also do for the design was create an interesting balance in combination with the strong evasion. I feel that's important because this has spellshape, and a such strong repeatable evasion (with a power boost) does best to have some restriction. It also enables the spell to act as a limited removal against creatures with 2 toughness or less. This effect matches up really well with the flavor. You can over-exert yourself in order to make a breakthrough, but that overdrive is going to take its toll on the body and the mind. In serious cases, one can literally over-exert themselves to the point of breakdown (or even death).


Order of the Kage
One of the only things I don't like about this design is how it would obsolete Horned Turtle. Other than that, it came a bit of a ways from the beginning. Originally, I was focused on making an aggressor design out of this full-art creature with no abilities. For good measure, I always implement a cycle of creatures with no abilities at all. It's a strong tradition rooted back to the beginning of Magic itself. It will level out your project with some even-ground, connecting the dynamic and the simple.

Blue doesn't usually get anything aggressive, that's usually red's specialty. Yet, in combination with black, this was a fair chance to do that and do it well. And so, it began as a 5/1. This concept was relating the design to "expendable" ninjas. Usually, there were many under-trained bodies existing within a ninja clan. One of their main mediums was to be sent on dangerous missions where they could get the job done, but it's of little or no consequence if they never return. Ninjas chosen like this were usually of a very sour attitude, of which Asian elders are well-known to despise younger men with such bad attitudes. That's why they would be sent out like that, and why it wouldn't matter to the elders or their sensei if they died.

As the rest of the content made its way into the development, I ended up having no place for such an aggressive design. Not only this, but it was overlapping content in the monoblack sections (a Zombie ninja of the same cost and p/t). To begin this distilling process, I switched the primary intention of the design from aggressive to defensive (exchanging its raw power for raw defense). This would give the theme something it greatly needed, being it turned out a bit weak on the defensive side; thus making the ninja section more well-rounded over all. The new version started out as a 2/5 for three solid. This was still too good I ultimately decided, and so I eased up a bit and brought it down to a 1/5 (concentrating its defensive form).

In this form, the defensive nature would be representing the power of stealth. Being stealthy is a very powerful defense. It's one of the main reasons why ninja were so effective, and it will always be one of the foundations of their essence based on sheer success alone. One never changes a winning battle-plan as long as it's not obsolete, and even today stealth is a primary tactic of war. The benefits of stealth include the element of surprise, and an increased probability of survival. Both of which are represented here in this design by a high defense.


Kunoichi Seductress
As I reached the top of the hybrid design section, the development momentum had reached its idle. All the most dynamic content already had its place within this section, I had to reserve the design space left to be implemented into the solid multicolor section. This was going to be another essential draft content. It wouldn't likely be good enough to see its potential realized anywhere else. With that in mind, a utility creature was the next idea I had. Draft is a very open format, a lot of things (and all over the place); like many different tools altogether.

When thinking up the flavor, I had this idea of a seductress ninja, inspired by Asian folklore and Kung-Fu movies. She traps men by preying on their emotional weakness. She traditionally plays on a man's lust or desire for women. She will bring their guard down, and then sedate them with poison, and then rob them (or even kill them). This has a lot of weight in Asian pop-culture, being that it's so familiar, it's a strong concept to appeal on. Working the concept into an ability wasn't hard at all. I wanted to take this idea and make it into a power reducer as the main medium of utility. Destruction would have been far too powerful for this cost and rarity, only something that is supplementary to it would be fair enough (something like a power reduction).

Some of the major contemporaries for this type of effect are Pradesh Gypsies, Ana Disciple, or Merrow Grimeblotter (which I only just now recall after looking it up). The last one being the closest contemporary based on color and cost. Being that this is a common design, it doesn't need to break any ground, just so long as it's useful (of which the nature of the effect assures). Taking away two power is not to be underestimated. A simple, yet powerful effect like this can alone turn the entire tide of the battlefield, forcing an opponent to a halt. I configured the mana cost and activation cost a little higher than what most might consider traditional, and because of that, I gave the ability a little something sweet extra; the untap clause.

I later decided that these extra costs weren't as essential as I first thought, so I snipped the activation cost. The mid-range mana cost of four is more than enough given the ability is a tapping one and not an untapping one. Conventionally, you don't see many four mana cost creatures in decks. It pushes the mana curve too high and conflicts with both the higher and lower converted mana cost content. If you do see one, it's because it's waaay more powerful than it probably should be (like Restoration Angel). At this point, it just goes along the same lines as any other very powerful design; they'll always be worth it because they better replace the other content it would otherwise clash against. So at four mana, it already will have a hard time competing for a place in most decks. As well, its effect will see their place in the mid-range of the game, which is a very acceptable place given even a natural game pace.

This untap ability won't see much potential outside of multiplayer formats. This isn't really a good enough design to find a place there either. So it's either going to open up a new block/multiplayer format (suggested), or simply become an ability to be concentrated and placed elsewhere for another time. Either way, it doesn't really matter because such a useful effect, along with something extra sweet like an untap clause is twice the utility. So in a limited format like draft (where a little utility goes a long way), it's sure to shine brightly as a great design.


Mindstormer
This was the starting line of development for the blue-black solid multicolor section; the ki counter spirit. I had nothing in mind off the bat, but I quickly decided it would be my best bet to design something transparent in terms of operation. Since the ninja theme revolves around combat, their natural challenge is going to be the game pace. They're working a slow clock, with only a solid foundation to stand their ground in the meantime. As a splashing accent, I'd want to give the ninja a slight boost for the cost of splashing a foreign creature type. That was something to keep in mind.

Now, in-line with the spirit theme, it just needed to do something useful. The overworld spirit theme for Bloodlines of the Orient revolves around raw utility and little else. Creatures that breakthrough just by being efficient and effective. I already had a lot of ideas for the blue-black spell content cached in my mind ahead of time, and from it, what I didn't have planned was a game pace spell. Draw or discard were both missing from the blue-black multicolor selection. Discard is too powerful an operation. If you implement it, it's got to be seriously reserved. Discard was already fully called for by the monoblack section, there was no more room anyways. Draw on the other hand isn't as disabling, and was open season. So taking that room to work with, looting came to mind as a sweet, simple effect that would fill-in those empty spaces without any trouble.

Pure draw, and one-sided, is too strong a pace-maker. So I was giving myself more room to breath when I opted for a universal looting effect. We're looking at a limited version of Lore Broker here. Not at all bad since this design is a common. It's good development to limit even a mediocre ability such as this. Doing so can work out for the best, because when resources are limited, that's when we appreciate them the most. Just think about when the power goes out, or the water gets shut off. Just the perfect thing to bring that appreciation for the simple things into bloom once again.

The flavor originally revolved around a lovely dark bird, surrounded by lightning, with very deep colors. I had named it Mercurial Mindstormer at first, but later shortened it for style. The original name was meant to compliment the ability's random discard (which can cause some unexpected, sudden changes). I really loved the original concept, but a few elements through it off, and there was no room for compromise. First off, I didn't want to tack-on the bird creature type, and the artwork was undeniably a bird. Secondly, being a raven or crow bird, it's expected to have flying, which was out of the question here due to the already borderline ability. I'm not trying to make the next Storm Crow and plunge every other theme of the project into darkness.

I've opted for this new artwork, which shows an electrical-like spirit. It's electrical charges can spark the mind to a sudden thought or action, by stimulating the nervous system (which is the primary system of thought and action). The thing is, our ideas aren't always good ones. It may spark inspiration that leads someone to do something malign, and that's where the black ties into the design. It represents the dark side of inspiration, and of each creatures' ability to conceive malign thoughts. Obviously, the blue is symbolic of thoughts, the astral realm of thoughts, and the essence of Inspiration. And that about covers the design from start to finish.


Sensory Tactician
It was my desire to do something extraordinary that led to this ingenious design. As the blueprints go, this is where the uncommon color-hate creature would make its entrance for the blue-black section. Green was the chosen anti-color here because that's the color both blue and black share as a common enemy-color. When mapping out the available content to work around the interaction, green is such a simple color, all I could see available was permanents.

Working this function around lands wasn't even an option to me, because the effect it too broad and can't be focused well enough to count as anti-green. When it came to creatures, control was the first thing that came to mind, but that's too far above the curve to pitch. I didn't care to just limit the control to lower range power, toughness, or cmc creatures because that would have set the cycle off balance since none of the other color-hate tactical creatures are limited that much. If it would have a limit, the limit is going to need to be focused on super-type alone.

Quick thinking bounced me from permanents right over to spells, and when it comes to green spells, self-supportive land fetches and creature augmenters are the green prime. Spells like Explosive Vegetation and Monstrous Growth rule the green realm. They're such core-essential content, there is almost no chance of a player not running them. This was something limited enough to fit well within the parameters of this cycle's set limits, since a limited color counter has always been hard to put to good use; even a very powerful one at a cheap cost (Lifeforce is an example of that). But this is a multicolor block, so the probability of seeing any given color is amplified by four (you get the monocolor, and then all four color pairs with it). It would have the perfect measure of usefulness.

What to do with them though? I couldn't use counter because I already had that function appropriated as the white-blue anti-color operation. Exile would have just been a cliché knock-off counter, so that was out of the question too. I wanted to do something really special, something with a commanding sense of appeal (like spell control). Nothing complicated, just a limited Commandeer. Simple, yet so sweet given the raw potential of green spells. Green thrives on its fetches and boosts for the upper-hand, this was an awesome operation to roll with. There was only one adjustment I needed to make, and that was to ensure no permanents get mixed up in this. It's only intended to work around buffs and the variety of assorted green goodies, not to steal their creatures or enchantments. That would be breaking the limits I set for challenge and articulation so it was out of the question.

I focused the character development within the shell of a special type of ninja. One versed well with blue magic, who can tap into their target's mind and absorb their sensory information. For example, if your brain would tell your body to boost your adrenaline, this ninja can rip it right out from under you, causing its own body to rush with adrenaline instead. This sensory ability extends to plants as well, allowing the ninja to siphon the sensory information from a single plant or an entire area, then appropriate it to another plant or area. The ninja can't reap the benefits of sensory information its body is incapable of emulating, that's not logical, but it can place that sensory information elsewhere to any other entity that can emulate it to the same effects.

For example, if a plant would enter a state of hyper-active photosynthesis, this ninja can cause another plant to do so instead through a manipulation of chemical or organic signals the plant uses to command its productivity. Sometimes this is only made possible by the ninja's transmission of its own energy, which it has to compensate for if the conditions are not present. For example, if it would take the sensory information from the grass in a sunny field, and place it among grass in a sunless waste; since the energy of the sun isn't there, the ninja has to compensate for it or else the plants will be unable to put that sensory information to use. I know it's a lot of extra information, but flavor and realism are very important. Never expect people to just accept that your content would work as you say it does, always make sure your development is solid and logical. Things don't just simply do anything, you need realism and detail. That's a foundation of fantasy gaming. Without it, you've got nothing more than a half-assed design.


Graveyard Sprites
Breaching the mid-range content, the order was for something mild. Common content, filler content whose main application is going to be draft format. Vanilla bean, plain creature with a single ability. Spirit creature type, further filling out the shadow world of the set (which is the spirits). If I remember right, this one was unblockable as well. At the time, it was only the second design in the set with the unblockable ability (the other was Kang Sun 1.0). This was me providing a fair measure to the spirit side, giving them some equal parts so their play options wouldn't be missing anything. Things need to be even or else you'll end up with one major theme that trumps all the rest. That's not what you want, you want every color and every theme to have a fighting chance. To do this, you've got to give them equal portions.

During this first distilling process, I decided to scrap the unblockable ability for this design. Since then, I had come up with something new that would add a hint of flavor and improve the style of this design. I took out unblockable and replaced it with that new ability, Graveyardwalk. The ability was developed to be an original accent for the legendary black-green creature, Fu-Ming (from Bloodlines II). Given the concept of this design (being graveyard sprites), it was a perfect compliment to the design. Adding that little special something which was previously missing under the effects of the transparent unblockable form.

Calibrating the power was a simple process. I started out how I like to design, kicking into top gear, then jamming down until I reach the limit. At three mana, in multicolor, a 2/3 put it slightly above Phantom Warrior. Where is should be right? It cost the same and is multicolor after all. However, during this distilling process, I began sharpening the lines, and that's where the power was reduced from 2 to 1. The evasiveness is the main attribute, a lower power is leaving a challenge for the player to come up with the power for themselves.

If you didn't notice, there is an Easter egg in the flavor-text, which references Cemetery Gate keeping the evil spirits in or out, (because it has protection from black). As a double egg, the creature itself can be related to teenagers, who commonly have a fixation over the graveyards and the occult concepts related to them. Graveyard Spites can be the souls of teenagers who lose their lives meddling with the darkness.


Annex Fortune
For the black-blue section, I used the higher tier converted mana cost strategically by placing a few high power options to provide some diversity with the play options. It really helped me in having the plan to spread the content out, because otherwise, I'd have had nothing left of interest to implement into the higher tiers of content. Basically, you'll see two types of content amongst higher mana costs content: powerful content and bland content. Bland content is usually the filler stuff, like plain jane creatures and under-curve spells, meant to just fill out the block with the essential abilities. Powerful content is generally the rares and super effective stuff, you won't see much of interest that doesn't do something far out there (like Wake of Destruction and Upheaval).

Five isn't exactly a high cost, but for spell, it can be a pretty heavy cost. I remember when Counterbore came out, and I was all like, "How is anyone supposed to use this?!" Even something like Spelljack is a bit too heavy for most to use (and its potential far exceeds the aforementioned). This is because those high costs require a serious build up and there is too much content that enables you to do the same thing for less (for example, Commandeer or Sower of Temptation). For this reason, designing a useful spell in the higher cmc's means utilizing a useful effect. And one of the most useful effects you can get is a free spell. The problem is, a free spell can a tricky thing balance and ensure it's also fun.

Something blatant is boring, so you want some fun-factors alongside it. Scry is the fun-factor I went along with here. It's something that plays well alongside the unknown (and a very strong balancing element). It's like a shot in the dark, and there is always potential to unveil that darkness (like with Cruel Fate, Visions, or even more tactical, Memory Lapse). Since the potential here is so high, as an interesting measure of balance, that opponent will get every other card you don't use. Which is only fair because getting their best spell of the litter is pretty hard to match on almost any terms. The realism of this spell's effect is that you're bestowing on them a mystic fortune (like a fortune teller's blessing), and the price they pay is to lose the most valuable piece of the treasure (which you take for yourself). Kind of a Djinn-like effect, yet also very popular amongst many Asian-folklore and ominous parables, which are meant to warn people of esoteric dangers.

If you didn't notice, the flavor of this design doesn't match up with Ninjas or anything related. It's because I used this design to provide a sense of diversity, acting on more general terms of blue and black's principals. The style is that of psychic manipulation and extortion. Taking one element from each, representing a dark turn of events, or the tragic twist of fate. This is the dark-side of the esoteric and Moirai, and it makes for a potent spell concept simply because it's universal. Those universal concepts have infinite potential simply in being something everyone understands, and something that can fit into any situation.


Jiguii Elite
As I finally worked my way up to the top tier ninja creature, I had decided that this would be where I'd put something powerful and tactical. High converted mana cost creatures can be hard to put to use (specially if they're in the lower tiers of rarity). Most people would rather stick to lower mana cost creatures to keep their mana curves down. Whenever you do see one put to use, it's usually just a vanilla bean (something like Duskdale Wurm). You'll find that a lot of plain creatures are up in these nosebleed sections, and instead of articulate abilities, they come with simple abilities and high power/toughness as a compliment to their elevated rarity.

It's not really my style to do this if there is potential to do otherwise. In a solid development, you've got to spread your content out evenly. That's what I was going to do here. Using the uncommon rarity as a bracer for the coming ability, I was looking for less of a silver appeal, and more-so a platinum appeal. Not a simple plain creature, but one of a commanding character. One with a sense of power through persona, instead of a sense of power through being simply powerful.

Since I was working with a high cost, there was no reason not to implement something high powered. A converted mana cost of six is working towards the late stages of the game, and that's where the hard hitters come out to play. And so I began this design developing the flavor potency. The artwork depicts a veteran ninja, obviously somewhat of an elder, and thus very experienced. From this, I sketched out the best veteran ninja I could.

Combat is all about experience. The more combat experience you've got, the more versed a fighter you'll be. From this, a high power and toughness of 4/5 is symbolic of that. The next element was the primary of leadership. Veterans then and now are the primary leaders, and that's where banding kicks in. It's symbolic of leadership, the sensei-status sorta speak. Then we have the ultimate symbolism of an experienced ninja, unblockable. Being that this creature represents a veteran leader, it's not just unblockable itself, but those who follow its command are just as unstoppable. These are all strong qualities, but I think it's the name that brings the power of persona effect to life moreso than any of the others. The name literally translates out to "Dawnrider Elite", which compliments the artwork perfectly. The scene of a veteran ninja, set atop a cliff at the break of dawn's twilight. And sealed with a flavor-text written in the style of "solemn and commanding", doing my best to establish a serious-tone to match the seriousness that is legendary of elder ninja.


Kakureta Castle
At first, I really wanted to use Ninjutsu for the ninjas in this set. As you may have heard me say though, I ended up opting for something more original instead. I really didn't want to cater to such an extensive-needs keyword, but while that idea was still on the block, this land hosted to main combo matera ability of returning a ninja to your hand (to combo with ninjutsu and double as a save tactic).

 After I scrapped the idea, I refocused the ability according to the new ninja theme, combat. I was looking for something very ninja-esque. Something flavorful and stealthy, so naturally the two abilities I ended up with were unblockable and shroud. This set of abilities were related to the castle being the center of discipline and all teaching. If you've ever seen enough Martial Arts movies, you'll notice that the mansion doubles as a school, where the martial arts students are versed in the ways of combat and tactics. It was from this that I drew inspiration for unblockable and shroud. The castle is place they learn to be stealthy and deadly, so by its effects, a man or woman becomes a master of these ninja arts.

During this distilling process, I was rethinking my development plan. The ability is really powerful, and limited to a single source at a diverse cost, but the ability is a bad technique because it detracts from other ninja content whose purpose is to provide these effects (like Jiguii Elite). Knowing what's best, I scrapped the ability and started over from scratch. What's odd about this is that I actually rolled back to something very similar to what I started out with, and with no inclination to do so other than a lapse of all other abilities.

Focusing on flavor first, the castle has many purposes other than a place of discipline. It can also be a place of shelter and recovery. Royal castles were the all purpose estates of that age. It was a school, embassy, hospital, and everything else all in one. This is the relation to the new ability and its flavor, the grand command center will pull the strings you need, like the grand puppet master, and return any revealed ninja card back, but due to the corruption of Kakureta's prefecture, it's going to cost you a card at random (which cleverly doubles as a balance measure due to the raw potential of such an ability). This way, you won't be able to get something back for nothing, and even when you do, you'll always run the risk of losing what you take back. A powerful ability, yet a dangerous gamble to go along with it.

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Xeasao: Wow, four breasts? You fail anatomy again. Okay, that static ability is just wrong. Notice how Yawgmoth's Will exiles them? Yeah, this is more broken than that.

Kang Sun: Okay, putting my opponent's cards in my hand. LOL And isn't "cannot be countered" usually a red/green ability? It is blue hate.

Michiko: This is all wrong. "Sources" refer to sources of damage, and damage doesn't destroy creatures. The state-based effect of being dealt one damage by a source with deathtouch or being dealt damage greater than toughness (or in infect/wither cases, having zero toughness) destroys creatures.

Kami of Morbidness: Morbidity. And yay, blue intimidate just where I thought it would be. I actually like this card.

Manifest: Does blue usually get this? I mean, there's Tamiyo, but she's mythic. And it's an ultimate for her. And she's in a graveyard set.

Ninja Adept: Great, you just made Invisible Stalker even moar OP.

Toll of Body and Mind gives green something it shouldn't have, albeit at , so I'll accept it.

Order of the Kage is just a bit big. Maybe a 2/4?

Entrapping Seductress is a bit underpowered.

Mindstormer looks like it's flying, and it's blue, so why isn't it? I hate Whippoorwill. Why is it black, though?

Oh, a green hoser. She is a bit undercosted, and you forgot to add "You may decide new targets for the spell." Also, why is she black? Add that, then put her maybe at .

Graveyardwalk doesn't need to be keyworded.

Annex Fortune might want to be instead, because giving your opponent four cards is risky.

Jiguii Elite: MY first thought was banding? My second thought was no, just no.

Kakureta Castle doesn't work. : Add or to your mana pool is what you mean.
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
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Xeasao: Isn't that basically the same static ability your R/B planeswalker has? His + ability is definitely too strong for a +.

Kang Sun: Blue and black don't typically get uncounterable on creatures, or really much at all. He isn't exactly broken, but I hate seeing the word zone actually printed on a card and think it would be better if the ability was more narrow.

Michiko: Not sure if the wording works entirely as intended but I'm not a guru when it comes to wording. As far as power level goes it seems fine.

Kami of Morbidness: Not a ton I can say about it, the card is fine.

Manifest: Ok, this one doesn't work as hybrid. Blue can only bring back instants and sorcies from the graveyard, black typically only gets creatures.

Ninja Adept: Well, definitely not as bad as Invisible Stalker though I still am not huge on mililtance.

Toil of Body and Mind: Mixing those mana costs always looks ugly to me, but that bias aside the card is fine, always a sucker for cards with options.

Order of the Kage: Defense oriented ninjas? Really, really not feeling this one. Ninjas without ninjitsu was one thing but this is just silly.

Entrapping Seductress: I like it.

Mindstormer: REALLY looks like this thing should have flying and be U/R. Other than that I really like it.

Sensory Tactician: Seems way to narrow to actually be playable in most situations.

Graveyard Sprites: Not a lot to say, basically just a Phantom Warrior with somewhat conditional unblockable.

Annex Fortune: Really wants to be a rare, this kind of effect can't happen at uncommon.

Jiguii Elite: Banding on ninjas continues to make me increidbly sad.

Kakureta Castle: This is a rare, also why can't you just use the wording on every split land ever?
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Annex Fortune targeting yourself is pretty absurd.

Yxoque wrote:
This forum can't even ****ing self-destruct properly.

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Annex Fortune targeting yourself is absolutely broken beyond recognition.



Maybe I should start triple checking and/or applying patches before I present them. I could save everyone a lot of wasted time, and keep them from looking silly with their epic conclusions and diluted comments.


In any case, I've updated to syntax that was incorrect. The cycle of lands originally utilized the hybrid mana symbol (which works perfectly fine) but since I don't need to save space, I've returned to the traditional style (as seen on previously on Killing Fields). While I was in there, I updated some names and changed the art on Mindstormer. I agree that it looks like it should have flying. It was an adaptation I was trying to force, since not all spirits have flying (although they likely should). This new art should calm the nerves.

IMAGE(http://cdn.bulbagarden.net/upload/1/1c/Spr_4p_389.png)

The wording on the first three cards fails to function whatsoever. You really need to snag some wording/grammar/English lessons, Champion.
Some of these cards make no sense whatsoever from a mechanical standpoint. Here's a rapdifire off the top of my tired head rundown of my thoughts.

Xeasao's wording is nonsensical. A static ability on a planeswalker does not work like that. That is hardly the least of that card's problems. I fail to see how this can be reworded into something sensical without a ground up re-work.

Kang Sun outright makes no sense. Once again, ground up rework. It has so many issues it's not even worth getting into. Why is it not a "you may cast that cast it without paying its manacost" or "exile that card"?

Michiko's wording is a step in the right direction. It could use some tweaking though. "an opponent's creature" might be a more elegant way to word it.

Kami of Morbidness, Order of the Kage, Mindstormer and Manifest are fine. Manifest could end up being slightly overpowered in some niche cases though. Overall fine.

Militance and Spellshape are keywords that should never exist. Spellshape is a keyword that requires every card that has it to be extremely weak, overcosted or too strong. Every card you have is a virtual copy of that card if you have it in your hand. Way too good.

Sensory Tactician is nonsensical. It affects very few cards in any way. (Modes decided on resolution largely.) 

Graveyardwalk has no real reason to exist and banding should never be brought back.
Does this incredible design ever stop? lol

I don't need a group to re-work it. I don't need to do something different either (like cast without paying costs). I design on an advanced level and that's why.

Kang Sun has a unique effect, I know. So let me explain how this would work for those of you who are in the dark. Based on the current rules for things, it all works just fine, except the rules of instants and sorceries being on the battlefield would need a clause added to define a currently missing operation. It would be something like, "Whenever an instant or sorcey is put onto the battlefield, it's put into its owner's graveyard as a state-based effect unless otherwise stated." This would allow the operation to take place, (hich unrealistically can't be prevented with no current aforementioned operation which would suggest an acceptable back-tracking. You can't tell what the top card is most of the time, so the rules should cover when you can and can't tell what the card is in a single operation.

To start the operation, you make a gamble and choose a zone.

If you choose the graveyard or exile, you choose which player's it goes to and it simply goes there unless otherwise stated. Same is true for a player's hand. There are zones which are locked off (like the commander zone) so there is no need to worry about those zones being chosen because they're preoccupied. Even if is the need to define this, and the rules don't define this now, it's a simple fix, and a single rule would likely clear up any confusion.

If you choose the stack, and it's a land, the card will fall off into its owner's graveyard since lands don't use the stack. If you choose the battlefield, the same will happen if it's a spell. You can't choose to put it face-down (like if it has Cantrip) because the function has to specifically state a face-down placement to do so, so it will fall off into its owner's graveyard.

If you choose the stack, and it's an instant or sorcery, you will get to choose who's control that card goes on the stack as. That player will be able to choose all targets and modes for it and pay any additional costs or optional costs if able.

If you choose the battlefield and it's a permanent, much the same; you get to choose whose control it falls under, then that player will be then be able to define all parameters for it that aren't restricted to taking place during the casting process. To do this, you'll need to place it on the stack, because those events take place there.


As you can see, it's a very interesting design with lots of mystery and risk. Even if a hard to understand at first, most things are. Once you get the hang of it, that's when you'll see how much fun it is.

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And this is made clear by the wording how? That makes no sense on any conceivable level. While this may infact be my inability to gaze upon the majesty of your infinite wisdom. That is one of the biggest messes of an ability I have ever seen.

An ability that requires multiple paragraphs to even explain its basic functionality, not taking into accounts the ludicrous amounts of wording required to bend the comprehensive rules, should never exist. I fail to see how that can be salvaged short of a ground up re-design.
That's already what Magic is as a game. What are you trying to say?

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Magic is a game where everything is based on a rigid framework of rules. The rules determine and rule how everything works. Something that requires reworking these rules is bad.
That's what development is all about, expansion. Are you still trying to say the same thing?

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I'm saying that your idea is bad and you should feel bad. They have expanded on mechanics and added new ones. With the exception of flip cards (which I consider a bad idea), how many have required rewriting rules?

A more constructive way to build upon a system is to work within it. If something quacks, is waterborn and quite possibly a bird. There's a fair chance it's a duck.
That's already what Magic is as a game. What are you trying to say?



Magic is a complex game, but that doesn't mean you can keep piling complexity on top of it without any restraint at all.  Take it too far, and you lose basic playability, and spend more time interpreting rules than making real strategic moves.  Your ability has too many unintuitive interactions and corner cases, and even experienced players will disagree on how it works (I doubt you could even fit the rulings on one of those old "tips and tricks" cards, much less a playing card.)

 For instance, if I played this spell in a game I would assume that I can choose the zone to send a card to after I've looked at the card, I would assume that the Commander zone is a perfectly legal choice, and I would assume that cards I put onto the battlefield or stack are always controlled by me.  Also I would assume that your statement that you get to choose modes and targets of a spell put on the stack is incorrect.  And I would expect a lot of confusion from some players over whether or not I could put an opponent's card into my own hand.

Now some of those assumptions may be wrong, but if your card design produces flawed assumptions then that's the design's fault.  You need to refine the design to eliminate as many wrong assumptions as possible.

Also, in terms of basic card design, this one is falling into the same pitfall as your Lucifer card (the one with Godcomplex).  A spell that just does a whole bunch of crazy unrelated stuff might sound appealing, but it lacks a clear purpose.  It's nothing but giving the players more power, with no regard to style or balance.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
that sig is so obnoxious gm, please sblock that vid.
Woot! Go RED! I love red! Red is awesome! Did I mention I love red?
those personality things
Suprisingly enough, in that test, I'm not red I am White/Black
I am White/Black
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quotes
56778328 wrote:
Why did you post it here? "Hey, all you guys who play this game! I'm not gonna play it!" "Umm... Ok, dude."
Who should feel bad here? "

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Who should feel bad here? "



"The players" would be my guess.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you cast an instant or sorcery spell (even if it's not yours), it goes into your graveyard upon resolution. If so, you won't be able to cast an instant or sorcery from your opponent's graveyard more than once (unless there are multiple copies). That's how I intended it to work.

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Cards always go to their owner's graveyard. If you cast a card from an opponent's graveyard, it will return there after it resolves or is countered.
Rules Advisor
Correct me if I'm wrong.



When has that ever worked?

But seriously:
A card that you do not own can never be put into your hand, your graveyard or your library.  If an effect would ever attempt to do this (which I don't think is possible, but WotC has their bases covered), then that card goes to the corresponding zone of its owner instead.  So if a card ever said "Return target creature to your hand" and you tried to use it on an opponent's creature, the card would go to that opponent's hand instead.  The graveyard and library work the same way.  The ONLY places where you can "steal" something are the battlefield and the stack, other zones belong strictly to their owners and can never mix.

To get the intended effect, the next best thing would be to exile the spell as it resolves. 
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
That's an inconsistency within the traditional operation of casting/resolution. There are a lot of implications it effects to put them into their owner's zones rather than the play who controlled them. I guess I understand it for the most part, but if the game were configured right, spells you cast that aren't your own would go to your graveyard because you controlled it and that's what traditionally defines what graveyard a card goes to unless otherwise states. It's a pitty we as humans can't be trusted by one another that something like this becomes controversial, but that's primitive humanity for you; so dangerous, so pitiful.

IMAGE(http://cdn.bulbagarden.net/upload/1/1c/Spr_4p_389.png)

To be fair, a lot of the card designs are really cool when you think about them. There's just execution kinks to work out. I'll try to point out things that haven't already been dissected to death:

Michiko the Karasu should probably have her name changed, as she might be confused with Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker.

Manifest is absurdly good thanks to its ability to return instants and sorceries; it's like a one-mana Snapcaster Mage that can incidentally return creatures, artifacts and Jace Beleren from your graveyard to your hand.

I can't take Sensory Tactician seriously, because the illustration is obviously fan art of BlackRock Shooter.

Graveyardwalk is an awesome mechanic, don't listen to these guys.

Embrace imagination.

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That's an inconsistency within the traditional operation of casting/resolution. There are a lot of implications it effects to put them into their owner's zones rather than the play who controlled them. I guess I understand it for the most part, but if the game were configured right, spells you cast that aren't your own would go to your graveyard because you controlled it and that's what traditionally defines what graveyard a card goes to unless otherwise states. It's a pitty we as humans can't be trusted by one another that something like this becomes controversial, but that's primitive humanity for you; so dangerous, so pitiful.



A) Why is it that whenever it turns out you're totally wrong about something, it's "the system" that gets blamed?

B) How long have you been designing deep in the guts of the game and never encountered this rule before?
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
That's an inconsistency within the traditional operation of casting/resolution. There are a lot of implications it effects to put them into their owner's zones rather than the play who controlled them. I guess I understand it for the most part, but if the game were configured right, spells you cast that aren't your own would go to your graveyard because you controlled it and that's what traditionally defines what graveyard a card goes to unless otherwise states. It's a pitty we as humans can't be trusted by one another that something like this becomes controversial, but that's primitive humanity for you; so dangerous, so pitiful.



The issue is that if something you control and do not own is sent to your graveyard, you can then shuffle it into your deck with a card effect and end up forgetting about it after the game ends. The only alternative would be to not have any interaction between the graveyard and the hand/library. The way it's made opens up far more design space.

Flavorfully, it's because you don't know the spell you cast. You can't use call to mind on an instant or sorcery that you copied from somebody else because you never actually learned that spell. The only magic you know how to use is what's contained within your library.
That's an inconsistency within the traditional operation of casting/resolution. There are a lot of implications it effects to put them into their owner's zones rather than the play who controlled them. I guess I understand it for the most part, but if the game were configured right, spells you cast that aren't your own would go to your graveyard because you controlled it and that's what traditionally defines what graveyard a card goes to unless otherwise states.


No, no it's not.

As has just been explained to you: A card traditionally goes to its owners graveyard. That's how magic works. Every card goes to its owners graveyard.
Spells are not an exception, they obey the same rules as permanents.

I guess you just don't know the rules of Magic eh?

Oh, wait, I forgot, you know the rules better than the comprehensive rules know the rules. 
I can't think of too many green non-permanent spells where gaining control of them without being able to change its targets makes enough sense.. Some interesting cards here, but discussing too many different cards at the same time while talking about GM_Champion's general design skills ~and~ how to treat a women ~and~ how Mark Rosewater ruined Magic always becomes chaotic!
When you gain control of something, you should have the liberty to reselect its targets or modes by default. The nature of that selection is based on who controls it. And if someone new gains control of it, then naturally that option should be avilable.


I don't think Rosewater ruined Magic. He's kept it together pretty good. He's done some masterful work. There are just certain applications and points of view that are a violation based on the foundation of the game. This and it seems that time has not been kind to him and he no longer sees the game with such optimistic eyes anymore. This in turn will effect the content you produce. The switch I've obvserved is from the "cares about fantasy and the love of the game" to "cares about money and the worth of the cards on the third party market". Not to mention those articles are filled with information that's just not true. Not being totally honest to your fans is nearly unforgivable. These are people who sincerly look up to you. They really think the world of you. They care about you. How could you not be honest for their sake? 

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When you gain control of something, you should have the liberty to reselect its targets or modes by default. The nature of that selection is based on who controls it. And if someone new gains control of it, then naturally that option should be avilable.



"Should" doesn't hold weight.  Magic cards do what they say they do, nothing else.  A card that implies it does something, or seems like it should do something isn't good enough.  You could just as well argue that copying a Cryptic Command allows you to choose new modes, but that's also a false assumption.  Twincast specifically allows you to choose new targets for the copy, but otherwise leaves the spell unchanged.  Likewise for Commandeer.  If the spell doesn't say that it does something, it doesn't do it. 
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
It hold weight as long as rules say they do. I'm saying a change is in order here.


Copying a spell has different implications than gaining control of one. You copy it in a solid state with targets/modes locked into place. These elements are chosen by the caster. When you copy something, you're not casting it, you're not gaining control of it as it's being casted. The conditions to choose aren't present. That's why it's proper for copy functions to state grant permission to change targets or reselect modes. When you gain control of something, that oppertunity is present because it takes place within the casting process.

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It hold weight as long as rules say they do. I'm saying a change is in order here.



And I'm saying you should learn how the rules actually work instead of making addendums to the game every time you want to cover up a mistake.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
GM_Champion, what should happen if your opponent activates his or her Prodigal Pyromancer and you quickly respond with Blind With Anger? Should you be able to change its target?
It's not even a matter of rules. It's a matter of logic.


Copying a spell has different implications than gaining control of one. You copy it in a solid state with targets/modes locked into place. These elements are chosen by the caster. When you copy something, you're not casting it, you're not gaining control of it as it's being casted. The conditions to choose aren't present. That's why it's proper for copy functions to state grant permission to change targets or reselect modes. When you gain control of something, that oppertunity is present because it takes place within the casting process.

IMAGE(http://cdn.bulbagarden.net/upload/1/1c/Spr_4p_389.png)

GM_Champion, what should happen if your opponent activates his or her Prodigal Pyromancer and you quickly respond with Blind With Anger? Should you be able to change its target?

 

If you gain control of it until after the 1 damage resolves, no. Otherwise, yes you should be able to.

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I think I would agree with you when it comes to gaining control of spells, but such effects aren't common enough to come up with extra rules and effects that are only ~implied~ by the card's text.. If gaining control of spells was common enough, I would support your rules change, although I'm afraid that we haven't discussed all problems that might or might not occur!
It's not even a matter of rules. It's a matter of logic.


Copying a spell has different implications than gaining control of one. You copy it in a solid state with targets/modes locked into place. These elements are chosen by the caster. When you copy something, you're not casting it, you're not gaining control of it as it's being casted. The conditions to choose aren't present. That's why it's proper for copy functions to state grant permission to change targets or reselect modes. When you gain control of something, that oppertunity is present because it takes place within the casting process.



Wait, what?  How do you propose to use this ability so it "takes place within the casting process"?  Do you know how the stack works?  Also how can it be "logical" that gaining control of an already existing object allows you to change its properties retroactively, while creating an entirely new object forces you into the same decisions as the original?  That's like saying that Mind Controlling a Meddling Mage should allow you to name a new card for it, but a Clone of that same mage should be forced to use the same card.  It's the opposite of what makes sense.

Of course I understand that you're just inventing stuff to avoid admitting that you're wrong at this point, so whatever.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
Unless you actually cast the copy (like Isochron Scepter) the copy is created on the stack based on the options its controller made. When a copy is cast, those options are blank, they need to be filled in. If you're copying something without casting it, the word copy literally tells us that were are making a replica that's exactly the same as the original. By making a copy, we known and accept it will be the same, because that's what we are doing, we are making a copy whose choices are already filled in. That's why it's only proper that any options to change targets, or reselect modes, etc is needs to be granted by permission.

When you gain control of an object, control is what defines being able to fill in those blanks. So if you gain control of a spell, you chould be able to change those options by default. We aren't copying something, we are taking control of it absolutely. And with that control, comes the rights and responsiblities of choosing targets, paying costs, selecting modes, naming names, etc. Costs are already paid, that's not something we can go back on. The costs are paid to put it into the stack, that mana is gone, the lands are tapped, it's over. But targets and modes isn't making a grand backtrack like this, it's a simple and rightful change.

Some spells don't give us these options, so there is no responsiblity to fulfill (like Final Judgement). If there will be any optional things we can do with it, it needs to be granted as a permission by the ability (like Satan the Evil One, which grants permission to counter it).

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That's not logical though, that's just your own personal intuition based on how awesome you think the words "gain control" are.  Gaining control of an object in Magic never changes the object in any way unless the effect specifically says so.  Which comes back to the original statement: Cards only do what they SAY they do, nothing more.  And the rules should be minimalistic, doing only as much as required to make the cards do what they say they do.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
For the sake of peace, I added a "you may choose new" clause. If you don't see things my way by now, you'll never see them. I don't want to argue with you on this anymore and adding the clause doesn't degenerate the design in any fashion so I don't have a problem with making the change.

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"Annex Fortune" is exciting but confuses me, does it allow you to cast a land card?