by doomfistmonk, Dec 5,2011
I came up with this idea during the GDS2, but didn't submit it. Graveborn takes place on a plane where the chasm between the living world and the underworld is virtually non-existent. The graveyard is basically an extension of the battlefield as far as gameplay goes. WOTC has developed mechanics that represent similar themes in the past -- Flashback, Unearth, etc. -- but I'm proposing some pretty radical rules changes to the game, ones that would be better suited for a custom set like ours than a legitimate Magic set, I think.
1. Gravetap (GT): Cards with this ability can tap while in the graveyard for some sort of effect. Tapped cards in graveyards do not untap during the untap step, but some spells and abilities would allow players to untap tapped cards in the graveyard. It would be especially awesome if we could create an icon to represent this ability, kinda like the Untap symbol on creatures from Shadowmoor.
Example card:
Spiritfire Mage
Creature - Human Mage
T: Spiritfire Mage deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
GT: Spiritfire Mage deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
2. Netherform: A creature keyword that allows the creature to attack from the graveyard. They tap as normal and can be blocked, but tapped cards in graveyards don't untap during the untap step.
Example card:
Rotting Mummy
Creature - Mummy
Netherform (This creature may attack from the graveyard. Cards in graveyards do not untap during the untap step)
3. Dissolve: This mechanic was designed by someone else (apologies for not being able to give proper credit) and originally called "Mergeback". I found it on the wiki during the GDS2 and thought it would fit well with this set. Spells with Dissolve have a cost that can be payed from the graveyard for some effect, but as a Dissolve effect resolves, the spell goes onto the bottom of its owner's library.
Example card:
As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a land.
Search your library for up to two basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield tapped. Shuffle your library.
Dissolve 2GG: Return up to two lands from your graveyard to your hand.
4. Cycling/Evoke: Extra ways to get cards into the graveyard. I especially like the potential of Evoke creatures with Netherform and Gravetap abilities.
5. Delve: Cost reduction by exiling cards from your graveyard. Tombstalker finally has a home!
6. "Kindle"-type spells. Cards that get better for each copy in the graveyard.
7. Possess: When a creature with Possess is in the graveyard, you can pay a cost to have it "possess" another creature as an Aura. This mechanic was also found during my GDS2 wiki research.
8. Grave-loot: "During your upkeep, you may discard a card (and pay some cost?) to return this card from your graveyard to your hand." An ability similar to Retrace for simple instants and sorceries. This mechanic was also found during my GDS2 wiki research, originally called "Strength of Will".
9. Rebirth X: A creature keyword where the controller pays X and exiles the creature from the graveyard to put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of the exiled creature. Basically giving a keyword to the ability that Back From The Brink (rare blue Innistrad enchantment) grants all your creatures in the graveyard. This mechanic was also found during my GDS2 wiki research.
10. Putresce: Cards with this ability count other cards in the graveyard with Putresce for some effect while they are in the graveyard. E.g., "During your upkeep, you may gain X life, where X is the number of cards in your graveyard (all graveyards?) with Putresce." This mechanic was also found during my GDS2 wiki research.
11. Leech X: Put X cards from your library into your graveyard for some effect. This mechanic was also found during my GDS2 wiki research.
(This definitely feels like too many mechanics and I think numbers 1-7 are the strongest, but let me know what you think about all of them or if you have any mechanic ideas of your own. --Greg)
General Rules Discussion for Graveyards:
1. Should Gravetap be Instant- or Sorcery-speed?
2. Should discarded cards go to the graveyard tapped? We could print "hate" cards that provide this type of effect.
3. Should Netherform creatures be able to block? Should they tap to block?
4. Should Netherform creatures in the graveyard dealt lethal damage in combat be exiled?
5. How easily should we allow players to stock their graveyards? Should we focus on discarding mechanics or milling mechanics?
Flavor Discussion:
I like the idea of using an Egyptian theme here to illustrate the world's interaction between the living world and the afterlife. Mummies make a lot of sense for Netherform/Gravetap and while they've traditionally been black creatures, we can shift them into other colors as well if it makes sense flavor-wise. I also really like the idea of Egyptian God-based planeswalkers. Egyptology just seems like a goldmine of flavor waiting to be tapped into: pyramids, scarabs, mummies, cats with mystical powers, etc.

This is a super-flavorful idea. It may be a bit complex for newer players, but I think there is a lot of open design space in the graveyard. The ancient Egypt theme is perfect. Part of me wants a mechanic where things in the graveyard can "attack" things in other graveyards. I would like to see more of this "the dead affect the dead and the living affect the living" kind of separation, with crossovers between the graveyard and the battlefield being reserved for more uncommon/rare effects. This would preserve a little bit of simplicity and make the board state less inscrutable. (Imagine a whole set like Vengeful Pharaoh! Yikes.)
Attacks between graveyards would probably focus on exiling.
Corpseworm :1m::G::G:
Creature - Insect, 1/1
When Corpseworm is in the Graveyard it gains the effect: :G::G: Exile Corpseworm and target creature in a player's Graveyard.
Corpseworms :2m::G::G:
Place two 1/1 green insect tokens on the Battlefield. When Corpseworms is in the Graveyard it gains the effect: :G::G: Exile Corpseworms. and target creature in a player's Graveyard.

I definitely like the egyptian flavor idea. I think there is soooooo much more you can do with it than just graveyard interaction too. Ancient egypt was a very religious society so bringing religion to the forefront would be awesome. In fact they fit quite well into the color structure of magic:
  • White - Ra, the sun god and Ma'at, the god of justice
  • Blue - Nut, the sky god and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture and rain
  • Black - Osiris, the god of the dead and Anubis, the god of embalming
  • Red - Sekhmet, the god of destruction and Geb, the earth god
  • Green - Amun, the god of creation and Isis, the goddess of nature
That was all done with knowledge gained from the internet so it might be wrong.
Other Egyptian things to work with are scarabs, cats, deserts, pyramids/temples, curses, the nile, sphinx, slaves, scribes, and i'm sure i'm missing about 10,000 other things.

asps, ka statues, plagues/famine, crocodiles, hippopotami, beer (they invented it you know), heiroglyphs, falcons, chariots, the eye of horus, ankhs, necropolis, scorpions, and the pharaoh's hook, flail, and crown (they could be a trilogy like the crown, scepter, and throne in M12)
I'm sold.

So what other mechanic ideas can we come up with for an Egyptian-themed set? I don't want to pigeon-hole us into a "graveyard set" design space. If we're more stoked on Egyptian lore than we are on the mechanics I describe above, it could make more sense to develop different mechanics.
Here are a couple ideas:
1. An embalming/reanimating planeswalker or legendary creature based on Osiris or Anubis could be pretty sweet, turning dead creatures into mummies.
2. "Temples": Legendary lands or enchantments that work kinda like the Shrines from Kamigawa. They could give marginal benefits and get stronger as you control more of them or power up certain permanents.
Temple of Ra
Legendary Enchantment - Temple
Creatures you control have vigilance.
Temple of Ma'at
Legendary Enchantment - Temple
At the beginning of your upkeep, tap target creature.
Temple Lancer
Creature - Human Cleric
As long as you control a Temple, Temple Lancer has first strike.

I wish I knew more about Egyptology!
Didn't the Romans interact with the Egyptians - you know, Antony and Cleopatra? Maybe that could steer the :W: and :U: flavors of the color pie?
Or, what about a triumverate of clashing civilizations?
  • Romans = :W::U:
  • Egyptians = :U::B::R:
  • Celts = :R::G:
All three of those groups could have graveyard-based mechanics, but in subtly different ways. And, this being a fantasy world, you wouldn't even have to differentiate them as much as they were in real life, just have some variance in the cultural details:
  • togas vs robes vs kilts
  • short swords vs spears vs axes
  • clerics vs priests vs shaman

What do you think of making temples = "Enchantment - Aura" with "Enchant target land" and create their effect only when the land is tapped (as a by-product of tapping). I think this would have an interesting effect on game-time choices. (E.g. I want to cast this creature 2nd main phase, but if I don't tap my temple land now, my attackers won't have vigilance.)

I think an Aura enchanting lands makes a lot more sense for temples flavor wise. You could just bypass that and make them lands themselves. I don't know about anyone else, but drafting lands is probably my favorite thing to draft ever since it feels like drafting free cards (they don't take up your 23). Here are some mock-ups for the two different types.
Temple of Osiris :2m::B:
Legendary Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Swamp
At the beginning of your upkeep, if enchanted land is tapped, target creature card in your graveyard gains Netherform until end of turn.

Temple of Osiris
Legendary Land
t:: Add :1m: to your mana pool.
2m::B:, :t:: Target creature card in your graveyard gains Netherform until end of turn.


Speaking of lands what about a Pyramid land?
t:: Add :1m: to your mana pool.
Sacrifice Pyramid, :t:: Add :1m: to your mana pool for each creature card in your graveyard.

When Pyramid enters the battlefield, sacrifice a creature you control or sacrifice Pyramid.
t:: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.


How about a cycle of creatures that are scribes? I think that a good flavor for these guys would be that they tutor when they enter the battlefield. And who doesn't love a good tutor?
Scribe of Nut :2m::U:
Creature - Scribe
When Scribe of Nut enters the battlefield, search your library for an instant card and reveal that card. Shuffle your library, then put that card on top of it.

For the rest of the cycle just replace instant with the corresponding type for the color: white - artifact or enchantment, green - creature, red - sorcery, black - any card (also some lifeloss, maybe costs more?).
Instead of tutors, you could make scribes cheat on mana costs, similar to elvish piper.

I'll admit that just making them lands was my first thought too and might be the most elegant solution.
I love (!) the scribes. They would make a perfect cycle.
Oh, and a flavor thing to add to the list - boats. They had those boats with the high ends that carried the dead to the necropolis (and metaphorically carried the soul in the afterlife).

Since no one has mentioned this yet I just wanted to pose the question. Do you guys see developing a graveyard set during Innistrad as a plus or a minus. I personally feel like it will be easy to fall into the pitfall of being heavily influenced by the things we like about it since Innistrad is such a good limited set.

I think it will mostly just make it difficult for the graveyard mechanics we create to feel very different from innistrad. But I do believe we are going to try to move this idea into more of an egyptian theme than a graveyard theme. It so happens that a sub theme will be the graveyard but the main theme will be ancient egypt.

I don't see any problems. Innistrad is mostly graveyard focused in the areas of Flashback and exiling creatures to "stitch" together zombies. It has a particular flavor and is really a horror themed set with a graveyard sub-theme.
As Jeff said above this world idea has really moved beyond a "Graveborn" set and become an Egyptian-themed set with graveyard manipulation subtheme.
That begs the question, though, what would be the flavor of this set's graveyard subtheme, and how is it different from ISD's? Looking at the options above, I kind of like Dissolve better than Netherform, because I don't like the idea of manipulating tapping within the graveyard stack. Seems awkward. Dissolve would really be great if the Ancient Egyptians believed in reincarnation, but there is no real evidence of that. I like the Rebirth mechanic, but I think the creature should come back as an Illusion, with the Illusion weaknesses (if targeted by a spell or ability...). I also like the idea of having things in graveyards able to affect the board, either to attack or to confer bonuses. E.g.
Favored Ratter :2m::B:
Creature - Cat
When Favored Ratter Dies, target creature gains Shadow. When Favored Ratcatcher leaves the graveyard, target creature loses Shadow.
(Note, the targets can be different, if there is more than one Shadow creature on the battlefield.)
Favored Ratter :2m::B:
Creature - Cat
As long as Favored Ratter is in the graveyard, other cats have shadow.

To clarify my earlier comment. I like the IDEA of Netherform, just not the physical mechanic of tapping in the grave. Maybe you could have one-off abilities that, when you use them, move the card to another zone (exile, battlefield, or into the deck). E.g. "... Fight target creature, then exile this card."
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