Best of Bloodlines — Red & Green (the Crushing Reign)

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[sblock=Design Notes and Highlights]
Warlord Khan

Storyline
   What is one man to the world? For are not even the of greatest men all but insignificant when juxtaposed against the world itself? Without the world, life is meaningless. There is nothing to live to for, nothing but time and emptiness. The world is the source of all pleasure—of glory; of love, luxury, and matrimony. And although life itself is nothing more than endless crucible for self-indulgence, each person living for themselves, seeking to fulfill their desires; it's the world that fuels our desires—and it's the world that makes our dreams come true. Without it, we are nothing, and there is nothing left to live for—nothing but time and emptiness; a life not worth living. So where does that put us? For each man is truly an island, all alone without the world. Or better yet, where does this put Khan? For his life is a tragedy; born into slavery, he is a man who means nothing to the world.

   What is the world to one man? For even in all its majesty, to exist outside of the world's warm embrace, is to be cut off from all it is worth—and exiled from the treasures that make life worth living. What a lifeless life, to be empty and alone. Although for Khan, it's so much worse. His life is endless suffering. To be scorned and beaten, then forced to labor without rest or nourishment. Without anyone to care for him—for as a slave, you are dead to the world; and all the world turns a blind eye to your suffering. Your life means nothing to the world; so in return, what should the world mean to you? Nothing—for there is nothing to love about world not worth living in.
   
   As fate would have it, Khan's inner chaos was about to reach critical mass, but it was impossible for anyone to foresee it. Negative emotions are a dangerous essence. It bottles up inside a person; hatred, anxiety, and desperation; the bitterness of neglect and betrayal. As the tension builds, the negativity that stirs within grows evermore dangerous. But Khan was a very wise man, able to keep his emotions hidden. Straight-faced, his expression was always serious, yet emotionless. He stood and sat as tall and silent as a mountain. His hidden emotional chaos, like deadly volcanic gasses, and his wrath like the earth's core; able to set the world ablaze if it should erupt. Untouchable on the outside; yet winding down to doomsday on the inside.
   
   How could this be; a man born into slavery amongst a nearly perfect world? It seemed to be the natural effects of society crumbling, in the wake of socially catastrophe. After the succession of the Kakureta, the people were thrown into panic and confusion. It was a serious thing to them, the natural order of the Imperial world had been broken. What did this say about their people; for an entire prefecture to grow so frustrated that they'd abandon the entire Imperial world? Guilt and anxiety overshadowed the people, and conflicts arose over the incident until society finally cracked, and the Orient was driven to madness.
   
   Yet there was more to it than meets the eye, the Imperial people were strong-minded. If they weren't, then the Kakureta would have waged war on the Imperial world, rather than to succeed from them. This breakdown of society was the workings of malign intervention. As the barrier between the two worlds began to weaken, it was still strong enough to hold off minor demons, and lesser evil spirits. It held strong and true, until a powerful evil spirits was inevitably able breakthrough the barrier, and the greater of the two evils escaped out into the material world. Preying on the weakened will of the people, they were eventually able to cause a schism, and the people turned against their own—in blood feud and betrayal. Crime began to devastate the Dynasty; theft, murder, extortion; and as more of the Orient began down the path of evil, even more followed after them.
   
   In the wake of this chaos, Khan was among one of the children abducted and sold into slavery to concentration camps along the Orient's forbidden zones. He would spend a majority of his life tortured by his slave-masters. Khan began absorbing the severity, making him extremely dangerous. By the time he reached adulthood, Khan had killed many of his slave-masters. His risk factor began to outweigh any possible benefits of his service. And yet, greed still got the best the corrupted. Each time Khan killed one of them, rather than simply kill him, his masters would just pawn him off onto someone else at the next bazaar—at a seemingly cheap price for a strong man in his prime.
   
   Khan was traded off many times, until he crossed paths with a devil, possessing the body of a Dynasty noble gone corrupt. The devil was able to see inside of Khan, its eyes pierced his stone gaze. It could see his soul's wrath, and feel the intensity his negative emotions—built up from the neverending severity. The devil thought it would be interesting to unleash Khan out into the world like this so it purchased him from the traders. Knowing what would transpire, the devil lead Khan to a remote area, setting Khan up for freedom. It took him no time at all to seize the day, and slaughter the corrupted noble.
   
   As the devil pierced the veil between the two worlds, to return to the otherside, the metaphysical essence of the spiritual realm seeped out through the cracks, and saturated the surrounding area. In this moment, Khan fell into a trance-like state. Liberation! It was overwhelming, and all his emotional pressure was unleashed at once. The dark chi of his negativity, dense and potent; and the light chi of his happiness; unbound and overflowing. As the dark and light chi collided, the essence of the spiritual realm that saturated the area created an ethereal explosion. A shockwave was sent ripping back to the source—and the force hit Khan like a Godfist, at first bringing him to his knees; then, his spark ignited, and the force grounded him—weak and powerless. He would awaken from it all, as himself the God.
   
   Arise! It was his most solemn command. It meant liberation, and triumph—to seize the day! And in short time, an army of barbarians would arise from nothing. Khan was on a conquest to create his own place in the world; to find meaning in a world that he once meant nothing to, and take his rightful place upon the throne.  As a warlord, Khan was strict, yet lawful. The bitterness of slavery had given him a cruel edge, and he had no mercy for the wicked. For they invoked the memories of his past, and the pain opened his emotional scars. Thus—his wrath against the wicked was sudden and merciless. However, to his own, he was generous and honorable; doing all he could to ensure his barbarians were treated fairly and well taken care of.
   
   On their warpath, the barbarians raged across the Orient, seizing all the land they could for themselves. With this land, they would make for themselves their own place, their own Imperial world. Their intentions not born of greed, but of survival. Virtue shown in their raids, targeting the arrogant and rich, yet passing over the poor and innocent where they could. However, anyone who stood in the way was dealt with as a threat. It's a simple concept, the ally of your enemy is also your enemy; passive or not. Evil must be pulled out from the root, and its branches are included.
   
   As expected, the intrusion was not welcomed, and although their actions would appear to be saint-work, they were identified as unstable element by the Imperial Dynasty.  Any source of danger, is a danger to all. The Dynasty issued the official order swiftly, after reports of the first raid—Warlord Khan; Wanted: dead or alive. Some of the Dynasty's best reserves set out with great ambitions, but in short time, Khan proved to be worthy of an elite class; a champion adversary. It would take their very best, and even then, it would be a bitter fight to the death.



Development Highlights

During the initial development, the Barbarian headliner was intended to act as their great protector. I developed Khan to be a combat reinforcement. He mainly did two simple things, boosted power/toughness and protected through indestructible. At first, I really liked the subtle touch. I channeled the greatest boost through his Loyalty Enabled Ability, so there would be some fair chance for players to disable the advantage by knocking down Khan's loyalty below the required amount. Leaving a window of opportunity is important because it promotes fairness across the board.

The second ability offered even more subtle power. It simply granted a single creature three keyword abilities; trample, haste, and first strike (I think). I was looking to contrast the power of the first and third abilities by keeping the second ability simple and supportive. As for the original ultimate, I originally sought to invoke some nostalgia from the once great spell, Decimate. The first take on the ultimate was exactly that (it was Decimate)—but a quick revision was made at the end to open up the ultimate ability some, preventing it from being too narrow (to a point of uselessness). Planeswalkers are spotlight content, you can't afford to hinder their potential. It was opened up to, "You may destroy up to four permanents with different types."; taking off the strict type dependency, while keeping the potential restricted to a spread shot (you wouldn't be able to use to to destroy a mass of any single permanent type).

In the second distilling process, I only made some slight modifications. I took away indestructibility because I felt it was too powerful, and changed it up to something more concentrated on combat. I wanted to focus the flavor here, so that Khan would feel less generic (working with unspecific, universal effects) and more like a real General (a master of war, working with specific, combat concentrated operations). I changed up the Loyalty Enabled Ability to "prevent all damage that would be dealt to creatures you control during the combat phase"; zooming in on the combat specific effects. Bridging on Dolmen Gate, it represented the General's command, his playbook. Under his guidance, those who heed his commands are untouchable. I wanted to preserve power/toughness boosting because it's such a prominent operation, so I tacked it onto the second ability in place one of the three abilities. This move kind of ruining the subtleness and made it even more generic, biting the heels of so many other planeswalker (Sarkhan Vol, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Garruk Wildspeaker). The ultimate was left untouched, it was a potent flavor accent, representing the General's strike. He hits the enemy in many different places, taking out several specific precious resources all at once, weakening the enemy all over.

During the current distilling process, I had finally had enough. Khan was a simple and good—but as far as I was concerned, he was far too simple. This is dynamic content, there has to be something special about it. It must be something new and original, or at least work around special interactions. I felt it was too generic for a planeswalker, specially given new editions of the first two planeswalker. From here, I totally revamped the planeswalker—starting from scratch. I was determined to build a monster. Given the importance a planeswalker to its native content, if the change was very radical, I'd have to change the entire Barbarian theme to support it. I was prepared for this though. Whatever it takes. What matters most is getting it right.

I ended up rolling with my first unique idea, a raw power/toughness theme. A planeswalker that strips away all special abilities, revolving around on sheer force rather than utility. So unconventional, since aggro has become so strongly related to certain abilities (haste, trample). It might not feel like aggro without them. But in reality, at the core of any aggro theme, it's all about numbers and attacking more than anything else. It would be like stripping aggro down to the bare metal, revealing its true shine. This was something truly unique, and I loved the thought of that— so I began the development from there. The first of the three abilities would be the axis point, the primary operation. To promote fairness, I kept the ability universal—keeping an edge on the heat of combat. You're not going to be able to hold back anymore than your opponent. This is war! And there is no rest for the wicked.

The second ability was changed to reflect the General's mastery of combat. Anyone who takes him on will soon learn just who they're dealing with. The master of war pulls out all the stops, and neutralizes the advancing forcing (possibly crushing them in the process). It ties in beautiful with the Loyalty Enabled Ability and Khan's ultimate ability—really concentrating on combat interactions by cutting down your opponent's strategic options. I barrel rolled the entire concept all the way to the ultimate ability, which I feel is a much better operation to embody the General's command than any of the previous abilities (bringing the concept of Master Warcraft to its apex). To make it unique, I utilized an X function; restricting the abilities' potential with an artisan's touch. And to keep it from being too narrow, I extended the effect to each opponent. Otherwise, it wouldn't cover enough ground in multiplayer formats. Another very important, masterful implementation.

Now for some fun! If you didn't notice, there is an Easter Egg within the way I developed the second ability to work in combination with the ultimate. It creates an everlasting effect, which doesn't stack, but lasts indefinitely until the targeted player attacks. This puts pressure on your opponent to attack with a single creature and wear out the effect, before you can unleash Khan's ultimate and possibly reduce the power of all their creatures to 0. If they can wear out the effect, they can neutralize any serious losses (retaining the power any possibly superior creatures they might control). A wonderful challenge factor, sure to have players on the edge of their seats, either nervous or excited.


Gui Cheng, the Slayer

Storyline

   The world is a boundless realm. For each person against its size is like a bug—treading the roads, the waters, and the skies. But to have the world in the palm of your hand is a much more conceivable concept than one might imagine. Just look around you, and you will see the world in its most crucial form. The ripple effect ensures that all of existence is connected. A cataclysm anywhere can eventually have a serious impact on a place far, far away. Yet the world around you is the world in its essence—everything you see, hear, and feel; it's the now, in real-time. Events erupt in a split-second's notice. They can leave us broken—and unable to realize what's happened until the damage is done. That's the true significance of the world around us.

   And thus, to control the world around you is to have the entire world in the palm of your hand. A dream or a nightmare, it can be either. And beyond this, one man's dream can be another man's nightmare. As fate would have it, Gui Cheng's dream was about to become a reality. Yet at the expense of the Orient, which would be cast into the ominous shadows of a dark nightmare. In the prime of his life, Gui Cheng was freed from the bonds of slavery by the warlord Khan—who had made a personal vendetta of destroying the camps that were once the bane of his existence. Gui Cheng (just like Khan), was among those abducted in the wake of Imperial societies' collapse, and forced into slavery soon after.

   The severity of slavery had much of the same effect on Gui Cheng as it did on Khan, they were very much alike. His heart was full of hatred, and the negativity had clasped onto his soul. Gui Cheng hated the world, and all the careless people in it. He dreamed of one day having the people at his mercy. He dreamed of retribution for the terrible things he suffered along the way. And suddenly, Gui Cheng awoke from his nightmare—living his dream. Due to his raw vitality; being at the prime of his life, and built strong from years of hard labor; Gui Cheng was among the greatest men in Khan's ever growing army. Yet it was the burning passion for revenge that gave him the force to champion the others. Gui Cheng would take the reigns on every campaign, charging fiercely into the warzone—on a warpath, with a god's wrath.

   It was soon after (for the benefit of the other barbarians), that Gui Cheng was promoted directly to Army General. Khan understood that a rivalry over authority could develop among those who fought alongside Gui Cheng. One day, they will turn their blades against each other, and fight an alpha's battle to the death. Such a thing cannot be risked, for it throws the company into chaos and disheartens the other members—leaving them vulnerable mentally and physically.

   Khan made quick preparations to prevent such a thing from unraveling, though even this was not enough—for in Gui Cheng's freedom, he became an unstoppable monster. It was the moment he longed for, the taste of sweet revenge. The raids he led went far beyond the pale of their conquest. Purposely disobeying Warlord Khan's orders to spare those who do not resist, Gui Cheng hunted down every man in the village and left them slain before moving his company onto the next village. In the wake of his wrath unleashed, he left everything burning to the ground. The women and children were homeless—at times, with several of the closest villages all ruined before they could reach them for shelter.

   Gui Cheng was out of control, his madness knew no bounds; the world must pay for their crimes against humanity, both the malicious and the neglectful. After all, he was taken as a child, at the prime of his innocence, and thrown into a merciless environment without any concern for his own well-being; a sentiment that itself struck his heart with a deep sense of strife. Yet there was more, because in his eyes, the world had turned a blind eye to his suffering. There was never a single attempt in all those years to rescue them from their inescapable torment. It was as though he meant nothing to the world—and now, the world meant nothing to him.

   Many of the other men began to look up to the young warrior as a greater leader than Warlord Khan. They began hallowing Gui Cheng's ruthlessness in place of Khan's focused nature of necessary force only. By their judgement, there was no place for virtues in war, they are just silly ideals that only fools cling to. As well as there is no place for mercy in war, it is by brute force that conquests are won. Their strength had failed them all, and they shut their eyes to the only thing that would seperate them from the emotionless evils that threatened to destroy their entire plane.

   It was not long before word would reach Khan of this mutiny. Upon hearing the bad news, he was enraged with them—this was unforgivable. They had begun carrying out savage operations without consulting him, treacherous things that filled his heart with sorrow and anger. In the absence of virtue—of things Khan had commanded them to never set aside, they had become the very thing he hated most—ruthless scum; no better than the slave traders that once beat and starved them, and broke their spirits with the burden of endless hard labors.

   Khan had saved their lives. He had treated them as his very own. The bitterness of their betrayal opened the scars left from his dark past. For them to be ungrateful over their salvation was more than enough, but to top it off, Gui Cheng had sworn to overthrow him and take his place as the leader of the barbarians. Gui Cheng had cast Khan's mercy and respect into the dirt, and spit on it. They began to attack other barbarian hordes, seizing their people and slaying anyone who refused to join them.
   
   The proud barbarian swore conquest over all the Orient, but he was in far over his head. Not only did Gui Cheng underestimate the power of the great Warlord Khan, a planeswalker, and a God compared to him—he would now face the crush of the entire Imperial Dynasty, along with evils and powers from beyond the world itself—all alone with only his small army. Yet time has yet to tell, if he is he truly doomed, or if he should escape from cruel fate and survive the world ablaze.


Development Highlights

In the pursuit of developing a series of legendary creatures that were "so simple, yet so good", I walked a very thin line between uniqueness and nothingness. This one was so average it was walking the lines of common material. Yet back in the old days (based on mechanical utility alone), this would have been a very prominent design. These days, there really isn't anything special about many of those old Legends. When we look back at them, it's only the pure nostalgia that enables us to recognize those designs as Legendary. Compared to some of those, this design was flying high.

I originally sought to combine two simple synergistic abilities for one simple, yet powerful aggro creature—by combining militance and banding together. If you remember, militance was a gold standard for the cycle (each of them had to have it). This was to give each color access to the powerful ability so it was evenly dispersed across the board. With this specific combination, I was looking to create a dynamic combat interaction—again bringing the combat phase to life through the way the ability interacts with it.

Simply put, Gui Cheng bands in an attack with any character, then you can assign all the damage to him (of which he'll just absorb like it's nothing due to militance). It was simple and good, like a bodyguard—enabling players to attack with a weaker creature, then protect it throughout the attack.

Ultimately the ability was not only too simple, but it overlapped other content that offered the exact same effect (utilizing regeneration instead of militance); a common issue I've had with this set, due to the complexity of it. Given how that design was a common, there was no room for improvement. I was locked out—because as a common, it provided very essential support within the mainframe format play (constructed and draft). For more dynamic content (like a legendary creature), there is generally always room to improve; the sky is the limit. Since I took down the roof on this cycle (the original restrictions I had set) all that was left was to build this design up and touch the sky.

Barbarians are all about combat, so one thing I couldn't afford to spare was the concentration on combat interaction. For this reason, I retained banding and decided to try and work a new ability around it. Then, I was looking at banding, and I saw potential to do something special with that as well. I had a great feeling about this because, every small unique accent provides something special (adding individuality appeal, as well as utility).

Banding's biggest drawback is the limitation of only being able to band with a single creature. You need lots of creatures with banding, or else it can be potentially underwhelming. The restriction of a legendary creature was just the right limitation I needed. You can only have one legendary creature out at a time, and that provides a counterweight in measure of the its overall power. Otherwise, it'd be too easy for player's to avoid the natural challenge by having multiple copies out at once. If they lose one, the ability's effect would carry on.

This is not the kind of ability you want to leave unchecked like that, it's got way too much domain over combat—just by potentially enabling all your other creatures to be unblockable (just compare to Deepchanel Mentor). Since the conditions were there, I wrote the ability to remove the banding restriction just for this one design. In this context, Gui Cheng could band with any number of other Barbarian creatures regardless of them having banding or not. This new function reinforced the flavor of combat leadership (being a creature that'll lead a band of attackers).

For the next ability, my intention was something with infinite potential to get better, but wouldn't act as a double-edged sword in a number of common situations (like Cantivore). Being combat is more about power and toughness than anything else, that was the go-to element. I couldn't think of anything at first, but an idea came to mind quickly. I was already working around power in numbers through banding—so taking that, I thought, "Being able to channel and cache all their combined power and toughness into him would be neat.".

Not only that, it now symbolizes his "leader" status related to the storyline—bringing that to life within the ability. A late entry for some strong flavor—and lucky for me, because I needed something to compliment his persona from the storyline itself. Banding was a bit too vague and universal, it didn't possess the strong sense of individuality that brings a legendary design to life.

The combination of the two abilities together creates a lot of interesting potential as combo matera. Most of the greatest core-essential operations between both colors blend perfectly with Gui Cheng (like creature pump and his second ability). For Mahngao Barbarians themselves, most of them have very low power and toughness—where banding comes in well, but the second ability doesn't play a significant role until you add third-party support. But that's where the challenge is, and without that challenge factor, there wouldn't be any build up for fun. It's up to the developer to create the challenge for players, by giving them just enough to work with, and leaving the rest up to other cards and the luck of the draw.



Maoliss, the Cutthroat

Storyline
   What is it that defines our greatness? Is it not just considering ourselves to be great? Is it nothing more than living up to our own expectations? And in doing so, we create a gold standard for perfection—but in reality, perfection is not solid-state of being. Perfection is an endless inception. We must constantly strive for it. It is not a reflection ourselves, it's just an ideal—it is immaterial. True greatness has infinite forms—each based on our own personal opinion of greatness. And as with any opinion, it can be a conflicting; what one considers the zenith, another might consider below-average.
   
   It's all a matter of our perspective (what greatness is to us personally). It is the image that we hallow, because that is form we shall seek to take; for each person models themselves after the greatness of others. With one exception—an elite division who craft their own image—based not on others, but on a godcomplex of virtues or vices. Although these two paths are endless, they are not permanent. One who has created their own axiom, may yet leave it behind to follow in the footsteps of another they find to be even greater than themselves. And vise versa—as one who has blindly followed another may yet be inspired to abandon that image, a create for themselves their own standard for greatness—far surpassing the original.
   
   For Mai Lao, hers was a long journey—into the darkest depths, of one of the darkest paths. As a young girl, she always looked up to the strength of men. Beyond the traditional attraction a young girl has for a man's strength, she admired the majestic attributes. It was to her—ultimate power, like the power of a God. There was no beast of the Orient more fierce; no member of society more revered; no greater authority, or symbol of wisdom. Seeing this greatness, Mai Lao desired to make it her own—to become as strong and revered as the greatest of men.
   
   Yet for her, this kind of desire was forbidden. Only a member of nobility could override the standards of society like that. It was commonly known of high ranking nobles within the Dynasty's military to verse their daughters in the ways of war. However, for the underclasses, this type of authority over tradition was inexecutable.
   
   As if nothing could hold her back, Mai Lao would not let her desire die without a fight, her passion burned far too strongly. She rejected the elegant life of a bride, and raised herself as a jezebel with a commanding nature. She was ruthless, and had a way with words that pierced the heart. She was also very proud, and would never back down or hold her tongue—even in the presence of men and nobility. Because of her hard persona, she suffered at the hands of abuse many times; but instead of humbling her, it only made her worse.
   
   Like a science, the negativity bottled up inside of her—as it always seems to do; and she used her malevolence like a weapon. It made her stronger, faster, and ate away at the fragments of humanity within her heart. Unlike the indomitable assassin Utaka (who simply suppressed her compassionate emotions), Mai Lao was proactive against them—suffocating them, and forcefully extinguishing her desires to love and be loved; of all things sweet and sensitive; programming herself to be a heartless machine. This was perfection to her. And in her eyes, there were none above her. She thought of herself a Goddess, yet her standard was a cruel edge.
   
   The collapse of society was a blessing and a curse for her. It opened the opportunity of freedom in your persona. However, as many men turned their backs on their morals, they became evermore unrelenting. In the twilight of the morning, the Mahngao suddenly blitz attack Mai Lao's village. As she runs for cover, a blacksmith spots her running towards a concealed area. An evil man, inspired to take advantage of this situation. In the wake of this crisis, everyone will be rushing to escape the village; since she's already running into seclusion, they will surely be all alone—and no one will recognize her screams over any of the others.
   
   The strong man closes in on her, and grabs her from behind. He presses forward and pins her on the ground, pausing for a moment to let her resist—checking to ensure she can't escape his grip. He begins to rip her clothes off, tearing the seams of her jumpsuit from her waist down—exposing her bare skin. Mai Lao bites her lip as the feeling of helplessness overwhelms her—crushing her will to struggle. In the next moment, she feels the blacksmith's body lifted off of her and thrust backwards. With the momentum, it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of her.
   
   She quickly turned around to behold the great Warlord Khan towering over her, and the sidelined blacksmith. All is silent for a moment, and then the warlord begins shouting while he assaults the fallen man; ravings about honor and shame, calling the man scum. The man is overwhelmed by the barrage of critical hits. Several to the head; at the bridge of the nose, and where the cheekbone and eye meet; paralyzing his ability to see and respond. Then several to the ribs, crushing his ability to breath and recover.
   
   Mai Lao watches Khan shocked, and in awe. In the method of his attack, he appeared to be punishing the man for some crime of heartless immorality. She had never before seen such a raw passion sparked by virtue. It was an epiphany for her—a sudden enlightenment. It opened her mind, and she was able to see the goodness of morality for just a moment. Khan continued to beat the blacksmith until he lay motionless—fallen unconscious due to the trauma of brutality.
   
   Khan had saved her from a tragic fate. He gazed upon her, then turned to walk away—but she cried out and froze him in his steps. Mai Lao begged him to let her join the his horde of barbarians. He carried her to his horse, fixed her atop of it, and sent it off into the valley where they would meet to rest after their conquest.
   
   In her time as a barbarian, she took on a new name, Maoliss—earned due the harsh attitude she portrayed when dealing with the men. It was symbolic of an ancient alien dialect, malice; which was understood to mean cold and heartless. Mai Lao just hadn't changed much since that fateful day. Being a barbarian was an even greater power-trip than anything she had ever known before. In short time, she earned the title "Cutthroat" from the barbarians, for being especially vindictive against their enemies; purposely stealing their most precious antiques—or breaking them, and desecrating the pieces to render them worthless.
   
   It was only Warlord Khan that kept her from absolute tyranny. She admired his commanding power above all else, yet Khan's restraint would begin to open her eyes to a new conception. For even in restraining himself, Warlord Khan was still sovereign and untouchable. Maoliss saw glory in his image, and Khan's persona slowly began to overshadow her own cold-hearted one. However, this was more dangerous for her than anything else. That cutthroat negativity was the source of her power. Without it, she will not have the power to fight the greater force of evils—presently gathering in the distance.


Development Notes
If you might remember, Maoliss was a character originally to be developed as the sister of Utaka (being counterpart color pairs, and thus rivals). They were developed with abilities that mirrored each other in the same style, yet revolved around different parameters. Utaka was fixed in the higher converted mana cost range (due to her ability revolving around broader creature destruction), but since Maoliss revolved around a less broad parameter (artifacts), she was fixed into the lower converted mana cost tiers to make up for it. Composed in the same style as the original Utaka, her ability was, ":T:, Destroy target artifact. It can't be regenerated. If an artifact is destroyed this way, draw two cards."

Normally, this kind of ability would be second rate in any project where artifacts aren't a main medium of content. In this project though, I've utilized nearly double the slots than would normally be allocated for artifacts. The main reason being that artifacts themselves hold a world of significance in Asian pop-culture, ancient history, and mythology. It provides an expansive amount of flavor to the set, so I took extra precaution to implement an abundance of artifacts (giving them strong domain within the project). Because of this precaution, Maoliss' ability is first rate—and sure to be a very powerful utility against the unconventional permanent type, artifacts—of which can potentially bolster game-breaking power, yet be hard to deal with since only narrow forms of removal deal with them (Abolish, Rack and Ruin, Maelstrom Pulse).

In the current distilling process, Utaka's style was updated to improve the design and accommodate other changes to the project. With this new style, it opened up the ability to make the two counterparts equal. This was something that originally bothered me a lot, because whenever you've got two counterpart pieces with certain elements that aren't exactly equal, one generally has a slight advantage over the other—and even their checks and balances aren't enough to balance them out; since the elements that cause the slight imbalance revolve around more core-essential game components (like casting cost > availability > game clock). And so, it was a relief for me to be able to bring their costs into an equal range.

Along with that, and despite the fact that by this time I had already decided not to develop their characters as sisters, I decided to retain their matching styles—and re-composed Maoliss' ability to the same wording composition as Utaka's updated version. Keeping them as a matching pair would provide some stylish appeal to their characters, giving them a sense of unique sense individualism; an allusive accent that adds an unexplainable type of optical appeal.

Due to the nature of the new operating function (being supportive instead of stand-alone), this new style was going to cut back on the potential of the original. It would now rely on other content, so to balance that, I maxed out the card drawing bonus—making it equal to the converted mana cost of the destroyed artifact instead of a static value of two. This change took the design from simple and elegant, to dynamic and extraordinary.

This powerful boost added a ton of appeal to the design. Just the raw power of drawing X cards whenever you destroy an artifact is exciting. Normally, artifact destruction is a uneventful thing—but a bonus like this really makes it something special. Accents like that are what make the game fun and exciting—taking something boring and normal, and turning into something exciting.

Within all of this, I checked each element for flavor correlation. Flavor of course is the very most important element of any fantasy game. Aggressive power and toughness is a given. Barbarians are working around of the strongest aggro themes—and being legendary, this power-toughness set just lays the foundation for her to be a practical edition in Barbarian decks.

Her second ability is meant to bring her intimidating and vengeful nature to life. Being especially spiteful, and breaking the most precious artifacts is a bit too comprehensive for me to summarize within her ability, because I couldn't afford to focus her ability around a narrow effect. To add some support for this flavor accent, I artfully utilized the flavor-text to explain these personal details (the method to her madness). This is one of the best ways to utilize flavor-text, by explaining the finer aspect (those elements that fuel the fantasy)—taking you into the mind of the character, or into the environment you're creating.





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

Design Notes and Highlights

Bury
It might be the first design on the display, but this spell wasn't the first developed among the hybrids. Across the board, there are a lot of artifacts in this project. There are over twenty in Bloodlines I alone (see here). Many of them are very essential supportive content, sure to find their way into the decks of Bloodlines players. With that kind of power running rampage out and about, there needs to be a few checks and balances out there to match it. Always a concern of mine, but not the initial idea behind this design (just a supportive element). I sought to implement a potent flavor-piece with this one. Something to symbolize a very prominent concept of ancients Orient times. Something that sparks nostalgia, and really puts you into the environment. Just take a look at Full Moon's Rise, Fire and Brimstone, or Shimmer. This is what fantasy is all about—imagination, and potent flavor-pieces are the gems that bring it all to life.

Artifacts have always been a huge deal among Asian culture. Vases, heirlooms, and other relics from ancient times are highly prized and can only be purchased in the rarest events with a staggering price tag. Priceless treasures like this have always existed, alongside the misery of losing one forever. It seems inevitable that many get broken in unfortunate times. A very dramatic event. The disappointment is more than most people can handle. That's what makes this concept such a powerful one. Working around the barbarian's rampage, it's a crushing blow to not only raid a village, but deliberately destroy their priceless relics. Adding insult to injury, they don't just smash them, but pitch them into the dirt; the ultimate disgrace of burial. As a flavor bonus, it nicely accents Maoliss, who revolves around the same thing. Not exactly a signature spell, but it has the same effect.

When we get into the schematics, it's a simple concept. Doing only what it's supposed to represent (destroy relics). I restricted the artifact destruction to noncreature in order to concentrate the flavor, (much like I did with Crude Savage). There is no point for it to destroy artifact creatures since it doesn't match the flavor. As a counterweight in measure of this narrow effect, I would later add "Draw a card." to the effects during this distilling process. I felt it needed a little extra momentum in the absence of potential. It's a very narrow spell, and doesn't so something dynamic enough to benefit as well without that little bonus. At least now, it's much more considerable. Which is what it should be, as a design of such potent flavor, it should be ruined in being underpowered and useless. That would give the entire design a "useless" feel about it. Flavor alone doesn't do it for anyone. Although the most important element, make sure it's useful as well.


Kami of Intemperance
The starting line. Here it was. There is a specific reason I began each dual-color section with the development of the hybrid spirit cycle. For me, it was like summoning the familiar. It set the mood so that I could get into the spirit of the colors, and the specific theme I'd be working with. Invoking the power within myself; to feel the force of red and green magic roiling within. When you put yourself into that power-zone, you're going to really have a feel for the content you're creating. That's where the best content is going to come from, that power-zone. If you can, try to get this feel for the colors you're working with. Really put yourself in the mood. Feel the energies for yourself. But most importantly, truly understand what each color represents so you don't go envisioning the wrong things.

I'd love to go into detail about that, but you'll have to either look back through my older highlights, or learn along the way. It's far too complex a subject. If one thing would help you instantly, it's to seek the occult concepts depicted within Limited Edition: Alpha & Beta. That'll give you the basic occult topics to research and familiarize yourself with so you can understand what Garfield really based each color upon. Chaos magic. Angelic magic. Druidism. Witchcraft. Mysticism. Heretics. & on & on.

Here I would be mixing in the elements of red and green, so the two main occult facets I focused in on were chaos magic and natural order (the way of the food-chain, the cycle of life). From chaos comes paroxysm, a cataclysm of sorts; resulting in phenomenon, tragedy, or mass hysteria. This chaos ties in very well with the natural order of the animal kingdom, of all entities and their hierarchical fight for survival. The nature of the predator is the aggressor. It naturally flows with force of chaos, veering towards a violent force. This spirit plays on that natural flow, it's the embodiment of intolerance (provocation, frustration, wrath). That's the red side. Now, the green side relates to the trickster's persona. The monkey would be a strong green visual for you to get an idea of the trickster persona within green. They're capricious and mischievous. As apart of that hierarchical predator state of mind, it's in their nature to meddle with other creatures, like a child meddles with a bug.

If you remember, each of these kami also represent a human embodiment (either of human nature or psychology). This one's embodiment is the same for humans as it is for animals. That trickster nature, to toy with those we consider inferior, like a predator. And the chaos of intolerance, the overwhelming emotions, the Devouring Rage which pushes a person to Temporary Insanity or Obliteration. To represent this on both channels, I began with a two-sided ability. As a tap-activated utility, the creature could could force an attacker OR force a blocker.

As the set developed, the design became off-set, and more powerful than some of the others. To fix this, I limited the ability to simply do one thing. It's that simple. I just picked the more suitable ability of the two, and that one took over as the champion of the operation. Forcing an attacker was my tactical choice since it gives a better, more diverse utility for any aggro or combat theme. How? Well, it acts as combo materia to draw out non-attacking utility creatures (one's who wouldn't be attacking or blocking otherwise), then smash them in combat. Traditionally an unbalanced weakness of these colors, I've crafted here a check and balance for it. I've opened up a dynamic interaction, and balanced the scales in the place of otherwise being forced to resort to including dissimilar content in your strategies (like burn spells). That's going out of the way, when you need to focus on your creatures instead (and powering them up). Keep a close eye out for this in your projects, because you may tend to develop with a generic style, associating a cliché lot of operations as the basic essentials, but that's not exactly true, and there is a greater potential available.


Mahngao Pillagers
I did a bit of bending here to blend the artwork and the concept I built around it. The guy in the image appears to be more like an Arabian knight, but I figured I could wing it if I just focused the attention on the fine details of the Barbarians as conquerors. They were pillagers, when they dominated a land, they seized the wealth along with it. Although they did this, don't take it as totally heartless. The places they ravaged were confirmed enemy villages. Places where the entire population of people cursed them and swore toward their destruction.

In their eyes, they were the striking thunder of justice, punishing the corrupted. They weren't big on taking from the poor either, their main targets were the arrogant and the wealthy. The types who they considered proud fools. Upholding the severity of the world, yet themselves inexperienced of it. And that judgement would extend over onto all people. It's easy for lots of people to act like a hard-ass, but it's out of place for many of those who do. When it comes down to it, they're just barking. Why is this bad to do? Well, it's not befitting for people to act outside of their experience is it? Exactly. For anyone to taken seriously, they must stay within the limitations of their own collective talents, knowledge, and experience. When people step outside of it, they might learn the hard way.

And here I was at ground-zero, with the first barbarian creature of the series. I began with the cleanest frame I could. I used this one-drop slot and reinforced it with the uncommon rarity so I could sprint on the power or toughness a bit. I had planned to make this design the full-art creature with no abilities, and I needed a little bit of space due to the very low cost. Anything too generic is good for nothing. A simple 1/1 for one wouldn't be doing it for anyone. It would have ended up useless, unacceptable. In any combat theme, power and toughness is your greatest contributing element. A sprint on those elements would be setting a strong pace for them to play out on the battlefield. I focused on power rather than toughness in support of the aggro-nature. Power suits an aggressive concept such as a pillager, or an advancing military force, such as the Mongols often were.

Now, a 2/1 hits pretty hard by itself. If you don't believe me, just ask a veteran to recount any survivor tales against Savannah Lions back in the day (and it was a rare). However, there was a more tactical reason for focusing on power. It boasted the best synergy with many of the red, green, and multicolor creature supportive content (like Fusion of Heart and Soul). Always make sure checkpoints like this exist, where your less dynamic content meets up to get some help. In fact, it's best if your support content works with your less dynamic content, but best of all if it can cover everything equally. Don't go revolving all your supportive content around your more dynamic content only, because that's just going leave you helpless where you need it most, and ruin the ability to preform out on the battlefield.


Crude Savage
For the second barbarian creature of the development process, I was seeking to add a bit of complexity for the barbarian's aggro-theme. Each creature has a sort of ascending complexity in this section. This was due to the pace I set for myself during the development process, by adding a little something extra each step along the way. Mapping out the game-pace, the one-drop was much like a straight jab, a stinger; powerful, yet easily staved. As a follow up, this barbarian was developed to act as a diving punch, a stance-breaker; if you try to hold up your blocking stance, you're going to be disoriented. Your best bet will be to close in and take it head-on, reducing the impact as best you can. Although I had grand plans about it, Magic has already provided a perfect representation of this (I'm talking about Dwarven Berserker). Yet instead of simply "reprinting" it here, I'd pay tribute to that design with a revised version.

The idea of revising it came to me during this distilling process. I saw potential for me to amplify the design's flavor, and really take it beyond its plateau into a star quality. Originally, what we were working with was just a barbarian version of the classic contemporary. Yet, simply "re-printing" things isn't really my style. It can be perfectly executed by following some strong guidelines. First thing is first, you've got to be cautious. If it's lacking a sense of individualism, the design will just appear as a blatant knock-off. You never want this. If it doesn't have a special sense of flavor, a special accent about its belonging, then change it until everything is smoothed out. It generally is a must-do when you're working with a new concept, to add something special from that concept. Everything has unique qualities, put them into the design. Add them onto the original content if you must.

The revision was inspired by the universal concept of social intolerance. The aggravation of others, their senseless trolling of each other, and the rage that it all invokes at the boiling point. Everyone can relate to a universal concept, so no matter where you apply them, it's a sure success; well known, familiar; and for each person, a various degree of real world experience. Now, if you think trolling is bad these days, things only get worse the farther back in time you go. As humanity gets more and more primitive, they also get more and more savage. Conflicts weren't just bad words between two people, it was the provocation to war, bad blood, or the spark of a fight to the death. Serious business. Law prohibits this for most part these days, but back then, the world was a much more lawless place. These details are very important because all the fun comes from this foundation of flavor, this legacy of realism. That's what brings the character to life. That's when the fantasy becomes a reality, and then you're living the dream.

To embody this concept, I added a limitation to the initial ability. Just a simple restriction that limits the ability to only trigger against human creatures. It may lower the overall potential of the design, putting it under its predecessor, but it is this very limit that makes the flavor stand out so well. It makes the design what it is. Without this restriction, it wouldn't have any sense of individualism, it wouldn't be anything special. I've learned to sacrifice overall potential for the sake of flavor, depth, and complexity. The fine details of fantasy are the most important elements of a fantasy game, nothing is greater. If you're worried about every design you make being the best there is, you'll never be able to make a sacrifice in power like this; a choice that makes a world of difference.


Fusion of Heart and Soul
At first I didn't much effort into making this design. The cycle itself came together rather simply. After the initial idea, I began to pair up the abilities for many of them ahead of time. Others just clicked together with ease on-the-fly (like this one). Since the main theme of red-green was aggro-combat, I felt that a combat intuitive ability would be perfect. I was thinking tactical, since at the base of your aggro content, you've got the brute force. That's the offense based content; all power, high power, yet vulnerable and lacking sophistication.

Utility spells are like bracers for power. They can add momentum to your pace, or curve your driving force in a special way so that you can hit that sweet spot. That was the logic behind a utility spell. Even though the entire cycle revolves around creature utilities, based on simple abilities, not all abilities are utility-like. Some are just more pure offensive or defensive force (like Show of Valor or Tortoise Formation). Special interactions are what decide if an ability is tactical or not. When you look at provoke, it's a very interactive ability. It perfectly suited my needs for something interactive. It's not a operation native to the project either, so it doubles a special accent.

At first, and for a long-while, I paired provoke with indestructible. It was based on the concept of an overwhelming, indomitable rush from within. The fusion of your heart's emotional power and lifeforce of your soul. The will to live, the primal instincts to survive and conquer. It was cool, but the design had a few major flaws. First the artwork didn't match it in the least. This is very important. If the artwork doesn't embody the effect, your whole design isn't going to make any sense; that alone will ruin it. Second thing was the operation, through indestructible, was overlapping another design of the cycle. Indestructible is a very individual type of ability. It stands out, so it needs to be isolated for best results. Otherwise, it'll stand out as being spammed, and that's going to detract from its unique appeal.

I had to fix it. So in this distilling process, I assigned a new artwork to the design and changed the ability to suit (replacing indestructible with double strike). The flavor of the design is now concentrated to embody that emotional force from within, that fusion of your heart and soul. Provoke being symbolic of bravery, courage, to engage fearlessly. All prominent actions related to a powerful emotional state of being. And double strike is symbolic of the will to live. The driving force, to strike with all your might, as fast and hard as you can. It's the summons of all your inner strength, and it brings much more life to the flavor of the design.

As a bonus, double strike provides the missing half of the operation, raw power. Double strike can be used as pure offense or defense by itself, all the while complimenting the utility of provoke. Being that this cycle is a hybrid/colorless cycle, it's very important to split the operations between the two colors, making sure each one is represented equally and individually, yet work well together as well. When all things work perfectly together, that's called perfected.


Blitz Decoy
Once I reached this spot, it was like a checkpoint in the theme development. I froze for a moment to utilize this slot as a place-marker. By freeze, I mean to stop the development of aggressive content. I was developing an aggro-theme here, and aggressive creatures, aggressive content is the main medium. And by place marker, I mean something that stands out as being different. A special, stationary utility. It's not specifically intended to be mobile, but serve another technical purpose instead. Utilities like this are very important for combat themes. So if you're developing one, make sure that you don't just fill it will nothing but aggressive content. Develop some complex utilities because they're going to create special interactions, and that's what brings on the fun.

For this design, where I began was a one-shot Wild Ricochet of sorts. Developing around the flavor of a decoy, I implemented an ability that mimics the single more heroic military maneuver, the human shield. It draws all targeted spells and abilities to itself. Then, in unison with that ability, was another ability that would mimic a self-sacrificing "wrench in the gears" operation. Sacrifice the creature and you can change the target of that spell or ability to another legal target. Although the flavor was pretty solid, the operation ruined it for me. Players aren't going to waste their spells on it. They'll save them until they've got one to spare. In this form, it was less a decoy and moreso a blockade. Even though you'll be able to change the target, and take down one of their resources in the process, it was too blatantly powerful for my tastes. It lacked articulation. At least, in this design it did. It might work better with another design, but that's for another time.

In this distilling process, I simplified the ability, taking away the ability to change the target and replacing it with a second utility ability that would enable it to preform more like an actual Decoy. This ability was the classic Taunting Challenge. It alongside the traditional Flagbearer effect made for the perfect combination of flavor and utility. The ability to change the target wasn't really suited for a decoy. As I explained, it was just something really powerful I wanted to do. And although it worked great, I feel like I was being power hungry. This new form was so graceful, I just loved it too much to consider going back. It still acts as a target decoy, ensuring to shield one of your more prominent permanents, but it also has the ability to switch gears and enable you to make a combat breakthrough. Just simply the best blend of power. Not too much, not too little, but just right.


Staunch Brute
I finished off development of the red-green hybrid section with a light common design. Again, developing common rarity content is among the most difficult as far as I'm concerned. If there is one thing that helps, it's to just do one thing. It's that simple. Choose a single thing and revolve around that single point. Some would just call this easy "simple design", but those are the same people who, in their developments, pass right over actually developing common content. Why? Because they use a design "skeleton", and line all their common content with keyword abilities, just littering them everywhere. That's not my style. Every single design is developed specially, one-by-one. This hand-crafted development style will give your project a true sense of quality; beyond the gems, all the way down to the fine details of the common content.

Diversity of abilities is another good reason to craft everything personally. When you're just using keywords, you'll be wearing them down, and eventually wear them out. Things will get cliché and boring. Colors will always play the same, and eventually, the game won't be fun anymore. You've got to mix it up, apply some change. New things, new operations, and special interactions. By working in detail, you can naturally apply this diversity. For this design here, the diversity effect I applied was evasion. It's an outsider ability of aggro, long since forgotten and replaced with a more "Chaaaaarge!!" head-on type of style. As for what kind of evasion, not just flying or trample, but something with more character and depth; something special, the grand Goblin War Drums effect.

This effect suited the flavor of a big brawny guy perfectly. Now, I'm aware there are some exceptions (like how The Lady of the Mountain could easily crush him all by herself), but it's nearly impossible to keep flavor absolute within Magic. We've only got so much text-space to work with. Try to keep that in mind, and don't be cynical! As it stands against humans, the flavor is very potent, and as long as it's there somewhere in full effect, that's what matters most.

Beyond flavor, the ability provides something unique to the red-green aggro theme. This evasion effect is very exotic, it's like a special utility. Because of this, I thought to restrict the design in other areas. Specifically, in terms of power and toughness, limiting it to a 3/3, and falling far under the conventional suggested values for a common creature with a cost of five mana (like Ironroot Treefolk or Greater Basilisk).

I wasn't bothered by this at first, I though it was an artful restriction, a challenge. I was actually worried about increasing it because I didn't want to give them too much power. Well, such a lower power and toughness limited the design far too much. So much, it would never even be considered outside of draft or limited constructed formats. For this reason, I bumped the toughness up to 5, giving the big guy some cushion; so at the least, he's considerable. If I had not done this, it would have been a totally useless design, a total waste; and that's something I strongly dislike.


Mahngao Raider
I started strong and finished strong in this development section, and this design here was the kick-off. Breaking through with the two mana anti-color cycle. The way I worked it, each color pair would be opposed to the color they both shared as a common enemy. For red-green, that means I was aiming to develop something anti-blue. I didn't have any trouble developing this one, I nailed it off the rip. My intention was a throw-back to the greatest anti-blue spell of all time, Red Elemental Blast. Although that card is so powerful, it generally suffers from its greatest attribute (being so specific). Yet here in a multicolor set, its efficiency would be more than tripled, given there are five main sources with blue as a central component.

Now, I wasn't looking to bring it back in full form. That wouldn't have been very graceful, and the design would have ended up being blatantly powerful. That's not my style. Since I'm working with a barbarian creature, I took the side of Red Elemental Blast that relates to the destructive force of the barbarians, permanent destruction. The Mongols weren't wizards, they were warriors. Countering spells isn't their suit, and that's why half of the spell's ability was cut from the loin in the development process. I would go on later to implement that ability as the counterpart creature of this cycle, but we'll get into that another time.

I was only halfway in at this point, each anti-color utility creature needed to have two specific abilities. They didn't have to both be anti-color, but since I didn't need to use the second ability here as a dependency (like I did with flash and Sensory Tactician), I took the opportunity to ground the design with "can't be countered" as the second ability. I saw two main key-points for this. The first was that blue generally gets its way far too much. I didn't want blue to have a way around this permanent destruction (it needs to take it like a man). So this would prevent it from simply countering the Raider when it's cast. The second was the lightness of "can't be countered". It only effects the color it's supposed to. This ability is only supposed to act as a bracer or enabler and nothing more. As you can see, I added defender on Wall of Malice alongside reach to ensure its other ability was properly restricted.

The flavor here is a bit more comprehensive. It would take a pretty educated individual to figure it out. It revolves around a raider's tactic of taking out communications and technologies; these both being ever related to blue. The raider disables these so they can't sent out an alarm. The raider might just disable their power source (a generator or dynamo), that's another possible target in such a tactic. Disabling technologies takes away strong resources and gives the raiders a better chance for success. It's all summed up with uncounterable being related to the ambush or blitz technique; and sealed with the flavor-text that gives insight toward how the barbarians see their conquest. They are doing it for the prosperity of their people. To them it's a just cause, they are like heroes. But what they're doing is genocide (as I've explained in the design notes and highlights for Brutal Conquest). For this reason, they are seen as evil in the eyes of others.


Earthfire Kami
Breaking into the solid red-green section was easy. For me, lower costs are easier to develop. In the lower costs, just being simply useful is about all you need for the design to be great. When you start getting into the higher costs, that's when it becomes much like walking the tightrope, balancing between power and effectiveness. Lower rarities add to this complexity. You've got to make it worth the mana, and also, you've got to make it fair for the cost (not too much for too little).

There are some exceptions to this though. With certain operations it can be a tightrope walk no matter what cost you're working with. Mana amping is one of those operations. It's a top-shelf operation that seriously effects the game pace. Anytime you go messing with the pace of the game, that's where you'll begin to start tipping the scales. Even today, you'll see how the power tilts in favor of those colors with lots of mana amping. White even lacks it totally. For this reason it falls short of putting good use to those dynamic high converted mana cost Angels (like Reya Dawnbringer, Iona, Shield of Emeria, or Silver Seraph).

Red and green are both prominent with mana amping, so the flavor came natural. The only thing I'd have to be cautious of was the amount. As a ki counter spirit creature, the reason I choose mana amping for this ability (aside from color relativity) was its universal nature. When working with the spirit sub-theme, do you notice how I break free from the central themes to do something off the beaten path, something universal? This measure is taken for two main reasons. First it provides a diversity effect. An unconventional effect that adds a special flare to the main theme, something different. Secondly, it's so the spirit content blends in smoothly; making them very everflowing, and opening up their potential to be easily put to good use almost anywhere.

Now, this design itself actually began at . At three mana, I rolled with the same effect, only using three counters. It seemed very on point, and decent compared to stuff like Coal Stoker, Priest of Urabrask, or even Goblin Clearcutter. I knew it would actually be a little better than some, given the adaptability of being able to produce the mana at your leisure; and also, the ability to recharge the counters and use the ability again.

The first one was my only concern, but when I had to bring the creature back a slot in order to match the cycle, the problem fixed itself. I had to adjust the amount of counters in order to match the new cost; and with that, the ability to only produce two mana fell well within a much more comfortable range. Amping for two mana is still really good, and I personally feel it's a much more graceful amount than three, proving power alongside subtlety.

In this distilling process it got an upgraded flavor-text. Something with a little more relativity to the entity itself, its embodiment, and the operation of its ability. It unleashes raw energy, in the form of earth (rock, soil, matter) or in the form of fire (flame, lava, heat). Its actions (wrath or otherwise) are represented by what you cast with its mana (maybe Lava Blister or Creeping Mold). A very active, multidimensional form. Maybe a little too complex for most, but I'd say it's just right.


Dragondance
When developing each two-color section, I developed the solid multicolor content second. The method to this madness was to set a strong foundation for me to build upon. Hybrid is a very open source. I was aiming to utilize the hybrid sections for the essential stuff, the most prominent operations. Multicolor is a very demanding format to play, and it will all go wrong if it's not well developed. By putting as much foundational content into the hybrid sections as I could, it would ensure the smoothest, everflowing application when it's all put together into a deck. You can build your foundation without any strict color dependencies, but as the game progresses, you'll naturally be opened up to the hard-hitting, solid multicolor content. And that's what I intended for the solid multicolor content; to be worthy of the build up it takes, worth the strict color demands needed to utilize it. All the while, creating exciting power clashes during the climax turns of the game.

No wait, it gets better. By utilizing the hybrid sections for the more basic operations, it enabled me to cover what any Magic block can't do without; and from this, use that content as a contrast, eye it up, then implement the more dynamic operations into the more dynamic solid multicolor section. As I've said, diversity is important, and you need to know what you've got to work with. You don't want your content obsoleting itself. It's alright if some of your content meets in the Venn Diagram center, just as long as there are some specific differences between them. This was all the plan behind this design here, I reserved the tutor operation (being very dynamic) for the more demanding solid multicolor spell slot within the red-green section.

As a tutor, I just wanted something sharp and to the point. A double tutor, and very specific. Given the strict color dependency, it would be more than fair (even at only three mana). If anything, it would be just right. But to make sure it was just right, I choose to revolve around sorceries instead of instants. No one likes to run sorceries because of their limitations. They scare people. They're afraid of being helpless. They want the power to act and respond instantly. That's why you'll almost always see a majority of content all in instant forms. Lightning Bolt over Forked Bolt; or Giant Growth over Monstrous Growth. It seems you've got to literally force them to play sorceries (as they've done recently with Pillar of Flame by making it the best available burn for one mana). And so by choosing sorcery, I was kind of forcing their hand here. A double tutor isn't something they're likely not going to pass up, even for the utility of running instants instead. And that's the grandest measure of balance behind the design, because the limitations of sorceries themselves must be factored in.

The concept of the design has remained solid since its conception, the Dragondance. During this distilling process, it recently took on new artwork, along with new flavor-text to match it. The original form was symbolic of actually "dancing with the dragon" sort of speak. It was a woman dancing with a dragon, symbolic of, "To invoke the mighty, and to channel its power through oneself". With this new form, I sought to embody a more universal, realistic, and worldly concept.

The dragondance now is symbolic of an intense training, practice, and meditation. All of them in one. It's like when Lui Kang seeks out Nightwolf in the movie Mortal Kombat Annihilation, to find his inner animal (to master his Animality). In this intense practice, you're finding your inner monster, or perfecting your ability to wield a strong inner power, hidden deep inside of yourself. A concept that's not all that relative to the barbarians, but this diversity of image works out for the best, because it's breaking away from the mundane to provide something new, something unique; something that embodies other project elements in a special way, (like Warriors, who are the monored creature class). Although monored, this multicolor representation shows the depth of their true existence, adding character to their character.


Mahngao Devastators
This design is the lone survivor of the original barbarian theme. What I originally wanted for barbarians was to embody the essence of their role within history, as destroyers. The Mongols ravaged the world and destroyed the land where ever they roamed. Thing was, a land destruction theme is pretty much impossible to balance out within any project. Land destruction is an ultra potent operation. It tips the scales to one side in a single instance. This wasn't a theme I was going to be able to accommodate. Although I lost my original concept in the end, I retained this single design from it; a wonderful gem of flavor and vivid flare. It's like all the wildness I wanted to embody, concentrated into a single design. Just the artwork alone radiates the destructive force of the Mongols, bringing the ferocity of their conquest to life.

As a design, it's fixed as the highest converted mana cost creature in the section. Taking advantage of these elements, I sought to showcase land destruction where I feel it so rightfully belongs. Placing this operation in the higher CMC tiers was also for good measure, and it shines another spotlight on the "so simple, yet good" nature. Destroying a land is simple, but it's so powerful. The high cost here is also symbolic of power. Given the uncommon rarity, I had a fair measure of power available for me to work with. It would seem like a perfect balance for an uncommon, but I even tried to stretch the power out some, because it was my intention for this design to boast serious power. Six or seven turns into any game should be the climax of the battle. Clashing with great powers is what makes sparks fly, and promotes large amounts of excitement in-game. A land destroyed in the late-game can be just a potent as any other time. Just think of the build up over five turns, and they're only one land away from being able to turn the tide around on you, and then, BOOM. So close, yet so far. That's the true power of land destruction. It's a game-winning operation. An artisan knows it's best implemented with strict moderation.

To reinforce the design, I implemented various elements that provide it with a momentum, adding a third dimension to the design. These elements all correlate to each other. Haste and trample are the driving force. The creature breaks out onto the battlefield on a warpath, making a full-on assault, and trampling the weak underfoot. Alongside this, the power and toughness act as the heavy-duty frame. A 5/4 is a wrecking ball (just look at Rapacious One, Iron-Barb Hellion). Five damage will bring a player to their end quickly, or bring down most any creature that stands in the way. With trample, a 5/4 can easily break through chump-blocking to do a little of both (and eventually crumble everything). If the defending player doesn't have a serious defense, this creature is going to do some serious damage. It's these elements that help support a high cost, providing the amount of power needed to be playable. That can be a hard thing to do when it comes down to a high CMC and lower rarity, but it's perfected here.


Wild Pasture

I was in a tight spot when beginning the development of a tribal land based on barbarians. Barbarians really don't have any place to call home, like Vikings. Since the Odyssey team did well to develop their Barbarians, they used some some of the only logical concepts available (like Barbarian Ring). In needing to do something new, this left me with even less to work with. Luckily for me, I'm working around a special type. The Mongols were a very unique type of barbarian, and those differences give me some space to bridge on.

The function of this tribal land started out as an empower-er, like Goblin Burrows. Now, I'm a bit hazy as to exactly what sparked the change of that, but it was likely because the effect overlapped other more prominent content. Diversity is important, you don't want use the same effects too much because that will make your other content useless. The second form it took branched off the concept I utilized in Mythgard III (Rebel Base), a place of sanctuary from battle; named Thieves' Den. However, the Mongols were wanderers. As seen in the Russian movie Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, they would rest right out in the open fields. And so, the flavor was a mismatch. That's where this new form kicks in, being symbolic of those open ranges where they would rest themselves. This change was a must, because image is just as important as diversity. Within every single design, every element must be in perfect harmony. If even one element doesn't match the others, it will ruin the entire design.

If you haven't noticed, the Mahgao have a very articulate combat theme, and the Mongols themselves were very strategic. They've coined their very own retreat tactic, titled "Mongol Feigned Retreat". Within the design, regeneration doubles to be symbolic of that tactic. There is a period of rest in the wake of a retreat. It untaps them, prevents them from being destroyed, and then allows them to block the advancing forces. Regeneration goes on to play a key-role in their combat theme. Creatures are the Mahngao's greatest resource, and those creatures risk losing their own special abilities under the taskmaster hand of Warlord Khan, forcing them to do combat on a leveled ground, where sheer power and toughness is the champion factor. This is where regeneration kicks in to provide some utility in absence of those special abilities; supporting them in the event they're fighting an uphill battle, or giving them the edge against forces of equal power.


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

You know what, I'll say it: aside from your mythics (why does a red-green planeswalker reduce attacking creatures' power? also, banding is terrible), I really like most of these. A lot of your commons are quite well done. I particularly like Earthfire Kami, even if it's power level might be a bit too high.

It should go without saying that Dragondance is broken to high hell.
banding is great
Ok, first let me say that I think most of these cards are pretty awesome. With that said, here are some of my suggestions:

1. Dragondance is bah-roken. Tutoring 2 cards for 3 mana, at uncommon, is way too much. One card for 3 mana would probably be okay though so I suggest it tutors for a creature OR a sorcery. If you want to keep it the way it is, I'd suggest upping the mana cost to 3 or . Even then I'd probably make this a rare.

2. Mahngao Devastator is too good for an uncommon. It's only slightly below curve but it makes up for it with Haste and Trample. Throw the destroy land ability on top and it's way above curve. This needs to either lost Haste, cost more, or move up rarity.

3. Fusion of Heart and Soul - Spellshape is too complex to ever see print at common. Perhaps if the wording were better it wouldn't bug me so much.

4. Gui Cheng, the Slayer - Banding........there's a reason Wizards abandoned this ability. I'd rather see Rampage and Provoke put together. Actually, that might be pretty cool.

5. Warlord Khan - My main gripe is the first ability with the 4 for the cost. I'm not sure what you are trying to do with it. Does it set the loyalty back to four or is that supposed to be a static ability?
Wha? Bankai Mastery is back? But GM Champion is... THEY'RE MULTIPLYING!

I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir, because I'm not myself you see. -Alice

is there a turn limit to the game?
Being of Han Chinese background I do not approve of these foreign invaders. 
Warlord Khan: Surprisingly not broken considering your track record with planeswalkers. Not a big fan of him though, seems kind of boring. You should probably look at Odric, Master Tactician or Warcraft for the wording on the -X.

Gui Cheng: Why do you insist on bringing back banding? Also wasn't it supposed to be a ninja ability in your set? Power level is fine.

Maoliss: Might have been better as a static number instead of cmc for the card drawing but no real complaints.

Bury: Fine utility card.

Kami of Intemperance: To my knowledge mono green doesn't force creatures to attack though I could be wrong on that. Power level seems fine.

Mahngao Pillager: Ok, this one might be a bit strong, there is a reason mono red doesn't get 2 power, 1 cmc creatures with no drawback.

Crude Savage: Honestly you could get rid of the human clause on his effect, absolutely fine.

Fusion of Heart and Soul: This one definitely doesn't work as hybrid.

Blitz Decoy: I really like this one.

Staunch Brute: Like this one too.

Mahngao Raider: Personal bias against uncounterable aside he's fine.

Eartfire Kami: Definitely should be an uncommon.

Dragondance: This card is insanely busted, ESPECIALLY for an uncommon, holy hell.

Mahngao Devastator: Hmm, well, 6 mana for a 5/4 trample with haste is all ready fantastic for limited, the land destrution is too much on top of that.

Thieve's Den: Split land that can enter the battlefield untapped with added utility. Lorwyn had a similar cycle at rare, this one is even stronger. Absolutely needs to be rare.
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c1b8574f03c7cff35d72311f1208599a.jpg?v=90000)
Bankai, are you aware that Khan's LEA removes the abilities on the affected creatures FOREVER? Because if you're not, here's your official warning about it.
but seriously, **** the manchus 
like Riding the Dilu Horse style. nice, bro. 
sorry dude i'm going out to party.

peace deuces  
Khan was developed to remove abilities permanently.




...So you have no problem with the fact that you play Khan, activate his +2, and then they need to either attack with two or more creatures (and they both better have the ability to deal 4 damage) or have to deal at least 3 damage to Khan? All on turn 4? Because if they fail to do so, all ability to attack goes away for ever and ever and ever, to say nothing of utility creatures turning off forever.

I know you have no sense of balance, but by every black god of the Nine Hells, how does that NOT strike you as broken, unfun, and the definition of undynamic?
Yup, Khan is a boss.

His ability is universal as well. And ironically, it can remove defender. Walking, talking, magical attacking walls.



You know, I tried saying this politely earlier, so now I'm going to be blunt:

Your planeswalker is overpowered, uninteresting, poorly worded and off-color.

Is that plain enough?
Technically, Khan only reduces a creature's power to 0 if it attacks him. One could avoid Khan's two abilities by attacking your opponent with all of your creatures.

Still, it puts the opponent in an uncomfortable, unfun position, and it hurts utility creatures badly.
Known as Blitzer on most forums. Despite the username, I am male. Both sex AND gender.
Uh huh. Care to address the criticism being given to your card(s), or is this thread going to be business as usual for you?
Jessica_Morgan, do you hunt Kevin down? It certainly seems so as you're tehre whenever he makes a post like, in under 5 minutes. He probably enjoys it, by the way..

IMAGE(http://i1.minus.com/jbcBXM4z66fMtK.jpg)

192884403 wrote:
surely one can't say complex conditional passive language is bad grammar ?
Asking for a response from Bankai is just asking for trouble.  If he doesn't want to justify his choices to anyone, it's probably for the best.


That said, Blitz Decoy is one of the best cards I think I've seen in Bloodlines so far, combining two rarely seen abilities in a very aesthetic way.  Very good use of Uncommon rarity too.

Staunch Brute is a great Common, and I love the flavor text.
 
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
Hmm? Given the flavor, I was sure that Horsemanship was going to spring up somewhere. Everything is eerily similar to Portal Three Kingdoms afterall.
Why does Thieves' Den care about a creature type other than Thieves?
Why does Thieves' Den care about a creature type other than Thieves?



Was Thief ever a creature type?
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
That legendary ()()() creature bothers me, its power + toughness ~decrease~ when attacking or blocking unless it has banded with five or more other barbarian creatures.. And for some reason, that creature simply falls over dead when it's attacking or blocking and hasn't banded!
That legendary ()()() creature bothers me, its power + toughness ~decrease~ when attacking or blocking unless it has banded with five or more other barbarian creatures.. And for some reason, that creature simply falls over dead when it's attacking or blocking and hasn't banded!



Actually, can't you only band when blocking? So basically it can't attack period?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, banding is just a silly mechanic.
I don't know, GM_Champion doesn't always use the official wording to describe how abilities work..
No, banding works while attacking too.  Although I don't think it's very useful on bigger creatures.  It was originally intended as a way to let multiple small creatures take on big creatures in combat.  Even then, there are much better mechanics, like Exalted or the classic "Tap: target creature gets +X/+X" ability.  Banding just doesn't accomplish the gameplay or the overall feeling that it was intended to do.

Also note that his P/T becomes the total power and toughness of the other combined barbarians, not the number of barbarians.  So he could be kind of awesome in the right circumstances.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
Good point, I have misread too many card lately! But still, very often its power + toughness ~decrease~ for some reason, unless he banded with enough other barbarian creatures..
Good point, I have misread too many card lately! But still, very often its power + toughness ~decrease~ for some reason, unless he banded with enough other barbarian creatures..



Yeah, that is a bit of a feel-bad.  It bugged me that he's a 3/4, but he won't actually be a 3/4 in combat, when it matters most.

GM, if I may offer a suggestion:  Gui-Cheng's ability should last until end of turn, otherwise he will always die to 4 or more damage even if you manage to pump him up to a huge 15/15 during combat (as soon as he's no longer attacking or blocking, he reverts back to his normal power and toughness).  Right now his toughness boost is only good for blocking big trampling guys, not for actually surviving combat.
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
Being of Han Chinese background I do not approve of these foreign invaders. 



LOL @ this. But seriously, you should let GM tell you his theories on Chinese history some time.

On banding, it works on the attack, but you have to have all but one of them have banding. (Or all of them have the same bands with other ability.) Blocking, just one has to have banding, or two with the same bands with other ability. But it's important to remember when attacking that if one creature in the band is blocked, they're all blocked, so you can block them all just by using one that could block any of them. Which essentially makes banding when attacking kinda lame.

Khan's +2 doesn't feel very red/green. It feels green, but not very red. And our dear Temujin's -X feels very white. The 4 ability is just plain bah-roken. Seriously. And again, there's a template for activated and triggered walker abilities.

Gui Cheng looks pretty broken as a 3/5 for 3 mana alone. The bands with other ability is silly (again). And while there's one red creature with banding, I can find plenty of bleeds with more precedent. Green gets all the creature removal in Arabian Nights for some reason. Also, bands with other is more "bands with other creatures with the same bands with other ability". So he's not broken after all. He's simply worthless.

Maoliss: Um, is this really a form of green card draw? Also, intimidate on a gold card?

Bury: This could just be or . No need to make it hybrid. But it also depends on how many artifacts you have.

Kami of Intemperance and Mahngao Pillager are fine, though I'm wondering if red's ready for a vanilla 2/1 for .

Savage. That's racist. And he doesn't look very "wild" to me.

Fusion of Heart and Soul. Aesthetically, I don't like this card's mana cost, preferring my twobrids to be monocolored, but that's about it.

Blitz Decoy's fine, though I don't know if a flagbearer that also works as a Prized Unicorn should cost less than said unicorn.

Staunch Brute: If it were monogreen, I'd say . But since it's hybrid, this is fine.

Mahngao Raider: Okay, green can destroy anything that isn't a creature (and anything that has two card types). Red can destroy anything that isn't an enchantment. But...red doesn't have cards that say "destroy target creature" as much as "~ does X damage to target creature (or player)". Also, I hate Pyroblast and the like.

Earthfire Kami: First, it's "Add or to your mana pool." Secondly, well, I guess it's comparable to Priest of Gix. Just change the wording.

Dragondance: Broken. A double tutor for only three mana? Seriously?

Mahngao Devastator: This is fine. Could be used against utility lands.

Shouldn't Thieves' Den care about rogues?
139359831 wrote:
Clever deduction Watson! Maybe you can explain why Supergirl is trying to kill me.
---- Autocard is your friend. Lightning Bolt = Lightning Bolt
Gui-Cheng is a 3/5.

Not to mention, the effects only last for the duration of the block/banding attack due to the way it's worded.

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

Gui-Cheng is a 3/5.

Not to mention, the effects only last for the duration of the block/banding attack due to the way it's worded.



Which does not actually address the critique given - you know, the one pointing out that if he attacks or blocks without banding, he dies? Yeah.
Nothing you guys have said is credible. It's all just macho banter.

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

Being of Han Chinese background I do not approve of these foreign invaders. 



LOL @ this. But seriously, you should let GM tell you his theories on Chinese history some time.


It's okay, I'm quite learned on the subject. I have a history minor that focused on South East Asian history and communist history. 
Nothing you guys have said is credible. It's all just macho banter.



You're freaking kidding me, right? Several posters have made pretty thorough critiques of your cards; others have brought up specific problem cases (like your Banding legend). We invest time and effort into trying to help you succeed as a designer and it's macho banter to you? Do you have any concept of what critique actually is?

There are problems with some of your cards. Those problems will not magically go away because you don't want to believe in them.
Nothing you guys have said is credible. It's all just macho banter.



You're freaking kidding me, right? Several posters have made pretty thorough critiques of your cards; others have brought up specific problem cases (like your Banding legend). We invest time and effort into trying to help you succeed as a designer and it's macho banter to you? Do you have any concept of what critique actually is?

There are problems with some of your cards. Those problems will not magically go away because you don't want to believe in them.


Jessie, you know he's not gonna listen. all your arguing with him does is keep all his threads on the front page when those slots could be going to threads by people who want to learn, or threads by people whose designs you like. please, just walk away.

 

120.6. Some effects replace card draws.

 

why are you here when NGA exists and is just better

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

I've removed content from this thread. Baiting/trolling are violations of the Code of Conduct.

You can review the Code of Conduct here:  http://company.wizards.com/conduct

Please remember to keep your posts polite and on topic and refrain from personal attacks. 
why are the cards hidden?
the set would scan easier in open text format
this is a lot to absorb
Nothing you guys have said is credible. It's all just macho banter.



Your card threads routinely get some of the best quality, most thorough, well rounded, insightful and helpful critiques on this forum.  In the admittedly small community of fan-made M:tG card creation, this is quite likely the best of the best.  And it's all done as a courtesy to you, to make you a better craftsman, even though you have given these people absolutely zero respect for years.

I think everyone who has responded to you with comments on your cards deserves to feel "macho".
The World of Eldangard - a three act M:tG block by Fallingman Eldangard Stormfront Ragnarok
noted
Nothing you guys have said is credible. It's all just macho banter.



Your card threads routinely get some of the best quality, most thorough, well rounded, insightful and helpful critiques on this forum.  In the admittedly small community of fan-made M:tG card creation, this is quite likely the best of the best.  And it's all done as a courtesy to you, to make you a better craftsman, even though you have given these people absolutely zero respect for years.

I think everyone who has responded to you with comments on your cards deserves to feel "macho".



Preach it, Fallingman. Preach it from the rooftops, scream it into the rain, carve it into the mountains in letters of molten stone so that the uncaring gods will sit up and take notice.