by arthur_dayne, Dec 15,2011

Set Mechanics

I will start the discussion for the major and minor mechanics for our set here. Once we come up with some concrete plans for which mechanics we are going to use and which we are not I will move this discussion to a different page and replace this with the completed mechanics.

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.

Greg's list above was originally intended for a graveyard themed set, which we are trying to steer away from. I'm happy using one or two graveyard themed mechanics but anything beyond that I think we want to avoid. Of his mechanics at the top the most interesting, but also the most difficult to deal with is Gravetap and Netherform. I personally don't like the idea of tapping and untapping in the graveyard because it restricts how players are allowed to arrange their graveyard (as in you would have to keep it vertical at all times) as well as make it not playable via an online program (Magic Workstation) which I plan to use for testing during set development. If there is a workaround I would love to use these two mechanics as our only graveyard theme, but if there isn't I'm not sure I like them.

We talked about possibly replacing the standard evasive keyword flying with something possibly different in this set such as shadow. I like this idea, but I would be a little worried about completely getting rid of flying in the set altogether. If we can't have any flying, what happens when we design cards like dragons, birds, sphinx, etc.

A pseudo-graveyard mechanic:
Embalm (When this card enters the battlefield, exile each creature put into your graveyard from the battlefield this turn. Put a 2/2 colorless mummy token into play for each creature exiled this way.)
The problem I see here is the similarity to morbid which is probably a deal breaker, but hopefully someone can alter it to feel different enough to use.

Another token mechanic:
Slaves and Slavemasters - Creatures that put tokens into play, but lose control of those tokens when they die.
Vicious Overseer :2m::R::R:
Creature - Human (U)
First Strike
When Vicious Overseer enters the battlefield, put 2 1/1 colorless slave tokens onto the battlefield. When Vicious Overseer leaves the battlefield, sacrifice all tokens put onto the battlefield by Vicious Overseer.


One thing I love about Innistrad grave mechanics is that they work against each other. You can't go all-in on stitched zombies that exile creature cards from the graveyard AND at the same time play the UG mill-yourself spider spawning strategy. I think having the mechanics work in a contradictory fashion is a great idea.
I like Delve, Possess, and Grave-loot above. They all seem good, though you wouldn't want all of them obviously. I also like Netherform and Gravetap but I don't like the physical manipulation of tapping cards in the graveyard.
- Troy

I wanted to re-post some mechanic ideas from the Flavor section:
1. Pharaohs becoming Gods = Creatures becoming Planeswalkers: "Ascend"
Example card:
Ausar, Lord of Crypts
Legendary Creature - Human Cleric
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with X loyalty counters, where X is the number of creature cards in your graveyard.
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from anywhere, put a loyalty counter on CARDNAME
1B,T: Each player discards a card.
2BB,T: Destroy target creature.
Ascend 6 (When CARDNAME has 6 or more loyalty counters, transform it)
Ausar, Lord of Silence
Planeswalker - Ausar
<+1>: Put the top 3 cards of your library into your graveyard.
<-3>: Each player sacrifices a creature.
<-5>: Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.
2. Dust Counters:
This was a flavor idea that could also explain some of the conflict in the set. Basically, the idea is that the desert is starting to overtake the civilized areas and artifacts of the world. Lands and Artifacts would accumulate dust counters, making them more difficult to utilize.
Example Cards:
Shrinking Oasis
Dust (Whenever this becomes tapped, put a dust counter on it. All instances of "X" on this card are equal to the number of dust counters on it)
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
X,T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
(This card starts as a Tendo Ice Bridge, then becomes a Shimmering Grotto, then becomes a poor-man's Shimmering Grotto, then becomes a homeless-man's Shimmering Grotto, and so on...)
Sphinx of the Mind's Eye
Dust (Whenever this becomes tapped, put a dust counter on it. All instances of "X" on this card are equal to the number of dust counters on it)
T: Look at target opponent's hand.
1,X: Sphinx of the Mind's Eye becomes a 4/4 Construct artifact creature with flying until end of turn.
2,X,T: Draw a card.
Sand Temple Golem
Artifact Creature - Golem
Dust (Whenever this becomes tapped, put a dust counter on it. All instances of "X" on this card are equal to the number of dust counters on it)
Sand Temple Golem gets -X/-X.
Also, for what it's worth, I think we should keep Flying in the set.

Re: Slaves
I think it's cleaner if the controller doesn't have to remember which cards created which slave tokens, so I would propose this change:
Vicious Overseer :2m::R::R:
Creature - Human (U)
First Strike
When Vicious Overseer enters the battlefield, put two 1/1 colorless slave tokens onto the battlefield. When Vicious Overseer leaves the battlefield, sacrifice two slave tokens.


I'm a fan of the dust mechanic. What about calling it something a little more flashy sounding? There has got to be a word for the act of desert spreading, although a quick google search has shown me nothing. My best new name for it would be "Bury" but unfortunately that is an old magic keyword that would cause confusion. I also don't like the wording so much. I would prefer that instead of "All instances of "X" on this card are equal to the number of dust counters on it" it would just have this explained in the abilities of the card. I realize if it has more than one ability it is going to create a wall of text, but the original wording Greg posed doesn't seem like it uses MTG vocabulary or syntax.

I like the Overseer version Christian posted in the attached Discussion page. (Didn't want you to miss it.)
Vicious Overseer 2:R::R:
Creature - Human Slaver (U)
First Strike
When Vicious Overseer enters the battlefield put two 1/1 colorless slave tokens onto the battlefield with "Sacrifice this creature if you do not control any slavers."
- Troy

I was thinking it would be nice to have a graveyard mechanic for spells as well as creatures. The graveyard spell mechanic could just be a reprinted one like Delve, but I think it would be more fun to come up with one ourselves. What about a similar mechanic to "Splice onto Arcane" from kamigawa? This is what I'm thinking:
Linger X - If this spell is in your graveyard, whenever you cast a spell that shares a color with it, you may pay the linger cost to cast a copy of this spell.
Drifting Cognition :2m::U:
Instant (C)
Draw three cards, then discard two cards.
Linger :2m::U: (If Drifting Cognition is in your graveyard, whenever you cast a blue spell you may pay the linger cost to cast a copy of Drifting Cognition.)
We could just make the linger cost be its casting cost, but I assume giving the ability more flexibility will let us design a lot more cards with it. It so happens that I chose the casting cost of this spell but thats because I feel that is fair in this case.

I think everyone is pretty into the idea of the pseudo shards that Greg proposed in the flavor discussion. So I wanted to see if we plan to frame that idea by having specific mechanics in each shard. We have mentioned that slaves should be in BWR which just so happens is one of Greg's shards. If so, I think we should spend some time thinking about the different mechanics that could go into the shards.
Here is my (very) rough outline:
  • WBU = graveyard mechanic
  • UWG = Card draw/manipulation mechanic?
  • BWR = Slaves and slavers
  • RBG = Sand or Desert mechanic(dust)?
  • GUR = Beasts


Thinking of a different graveyard spell mechanic that might have a little more flavor within our world. The idea here is to portray a type of sorcery that lasts centuries (i.e. entering an ancient temple and the magical traps are still in place). My idea is to have spells that do a one time effect when cast, but also have a persistent effect as long as they are in the yard.
Unending Pain :2m::B:
Instant (U)
Target non-black creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn.
As long as unending pain is in your graveyard, non-black creatures enter the battlefield tapped.
It is going to be tough to design these cards since it will be very easy to make them too overpowered, but I think if we have enough things in the set that exile cards in graveyards they can work well.

Wow, Jeff! That's a cool idea. I agree that those cards would probably end up being pretty strong, so how about just one cycle of them at uncommon? A cycle of strong uncommons is something every set needs, don't ya think?
Also, this plus other things you've written, makes it seem like you're maybe interested in pushing mono-color archetypes? I think it could be a very cool idea to have some mono-color enablers in the set, to contrast against the pseudo-shards archetypes also being developed...

I like Rik's idea of making an uncommon cycle of "unending" spells.
Also, I wanted to copy over my idea for Tribute from the lands page with a couple extra card ideas:
Tribute is a keyword we can put on all sorts of permanents which will get better if their controller sacrifices a creature to them when they ETB. This mechanic would be based in White and Black, the colors of the ruling cleric society, but would show up occasionally in some other colors. This mechanic would be very synergistic with Slave tokens. I am toying with the idea of allowing the caster of these spells to sacrifice more than one creature for multiple Tribute tokens.
Great Pyramid Land (R)
Tribute (When this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a creature. If you do, Great Pyramid enters the battlefield with a tribute counter on it.)
:t:: Add 1 to your mana pool or one mana of any color to your mana pool if there is a tribute counter on Great Pyramid
Chained Pyrobelcher v.1
Creature - Beast
Tribute (When this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a creature. If you do, Chained Pyrobelcher enters the battlefield with a tribute counter on it.)
When Chained Pyrobelcher enters the battlefield, you may have it deal 4 damage to target creature if it has a tribute counter on it.
Chained Pyrobelcher v.2 (Multiple tribute counters)
Creature - Beast
Tribute (When this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. Chained Pyrobelcher enters the battlefield with a tribute counter on it for each creature sacrificed in this way.)
Remove a tribute counter from Chained Pyrobelcher: Chained Pyrobelcher deals 4 damage to target creature.
Fleshfeeder v.1
Creature - Zombie
Tribute (When this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice a creature. If you do, it enters the battlefield with a tribute counter on it.)
Fleshfeeder gets +2/+2 as long as it has a tribute counter on it.
Fleshfeeder v.2 (Multiple tribute counters)
Creature - Zombie
Tribute (When this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This enters the battlefield with a tribute counter on it for each creature sacrificed in this way.)
Fleshfeeder gets +1/+1 for each tribute counter on it.

I like the tribute mechanic quite a bit. I think we should stick with just sacking one creature for one token with cards that are either turned on or off. With sacking multiple creatures for multiple counters it starts to feel like Devour from shards of alara. It would be nice to see a few cards at uncommon or rare with tribute and flash for some instant speed shenanigans.

Greg mentioned that he wanted to see the RUG shard to have a beast theme which I agree with. I like the idea of there being minor tribal themes you can draft and so far with slaves as being a pseudo tribe, what better way to contrast than have the other tribe be giant monsters. I like the idea of beasts mostly showing up in RG with U being mostly non-beasts that have synergy with beasts. Kind of like a race of peoples that work with the beasts or learn from them. Something that would definitely need to show up with this theme is the keyword "fight" since beasts are large and instinctual. Also a "beast rider" in blue would be cool, similar to griffin rider from m12. Maybe instead of it gaining +X/+X when you control a beast, it gains a thieving magpie ability, or something else more in tune with blue? Also any "lords" for beasts shouldn't boost their power and toughness and instead give them abilities or trigger when beasts ETB. This would also make the obligatory blue "creatures gain flying" card playable in certain archetypes.

A suggestion for an alternative word for the Dust mechanic... Subsume.
Also, somewhere earlier, somebody suggested the word 'sand' - if you call the mechanic Subsume, it fits to call the counters 'sand counters'.

Hey everyone,
You guys have done an amazing job on this. I have kept meaning to get involved and time has slipped by. So here I am going to throw out some ideas and comments on current ideas, please feel free to expand on any idea you like to make it a more fun or playable magic style element.
I like Enbalm, but as an uncommon card: For each creature destroyed this turn, put a 2/2 mummy token under that players (or yours, I am not sure which is more interesting) control.
I think the dust mechanic makes the most sense flavor wise if it is attached to artifacts and lands (machines that dust can break, or dust covering the land), not to a shard, unless it is an aggressive tactic: place a dust/sand counter on a land an opponent controls type of thing. Dust/sand could be something that prevents things from untapping as well.
I like the slaver idea. How about if cards can add creature types, why not be able to take them away. So what if you could take control of three slave tokens and their creature type changes to freed or something. Or even that you can free your own slaves so an Overseer doesn't kill them by dying. By the same token, there should definitely be a slaver creature (or ascended plansewalker) that enslaves other creatures.
In addition to tributes, you could follow some religion theme and some sort of bonus for gaining “followers”. Or perhaps you call them cultists as part of their creature type. And give bonuses to having more than one, or bonuses for particular creatures for having fanatics around them.
I think grave-loot abilities fit well flavor-wise. What about an ability that let’s a creature steal an ability from another dead card when it enters the battlefield. Maybe call it: Channel (this makes sense for the ability, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the flavor, so a name that captures grave robbing would be great). When X enters the battlefield, you may have it gain a keyword ability from any creature in any graveyard. Or maybe it gains all keyword abilities in a single graveyard, or your graveyard.
And lastly, how about a merging ability, sac this beasty and a human and you get a beast headed human token that has added abilities. I like this because I am really stoked on the Egyptian deities and their representations. So anyway, my favorite mechanic-like stuff: Tribute, Dust/sand (for lands and artifacts), the “if this is in your graveyard” trap-like ability, slave tribe, and ascend.
Keep it up, I’ll try to throw in some ideas as they come to me.

So, I spent a good chunk of time yesterday thinking about some of the mechanics...
For the graveyard-centric mechanic, I think NETHERFORM is very interesting, but the logistics of tapping a card in the graveyard probably need some serious pondering. As already pointed out, it may not be worth a new mechanic to force players to keep their graveyards ordered enough to differentiate between tapped/untapped states. In place of this, how about a graveyard mechanic that riffs off of Dearly Departed from Innistrad? This seems to fit very well, flavorfully, into this world with it's obsession with life after death. I’ve concocted two different versions; one for creatures (SANCTIFY) and one for spells (HALLOWED), though I doubt if you’d want to include both in one set.

SANCTIFY – As long as cardname is in your graveyard, creatures you control gain ability.
The flavor of this mechanic is of a revered member of society blessing those he’s left behind as he goes into the afterlife. Something like this:

Wise Man on the Mountain
Creature – Human Cleric (R)
Protection from red.
T:: Draw a card, then discard a card.
Sanctify - As long as CARDNAME is in your graveyard, creatures you control gain protection from red.

HALLOWED – As long as cardname is in your graveyard, X happens.
This is basically the ‘Unending’ mechanic that Jeff posted above. The flavor being of a curse or blessing that lasts a great amount of time:

(Jeff’s design)
Unending Pain
Instant (U)
Target nonblack creature gets -3/-3 until end of turn.
Hallowed – As long as CARDNAME is in your graveyard, nonblack creatures enter the battlefield tapped.


Gift of the Magi
Instant (U)
Search your library for a sorcery card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Hallowed – As long as CARDNAME is in your graveyard, any player may play sorcery cards as though they were instants.


And, a thought about the TRIBUTE mechanic...
With Slave token-making effects running around the set, activating Tribute is going to be exceedingly easy. Maybe I'm off the rails, but to me it seems like any mechanic of this type should be doable, but not really easy. With this in mind, I started toying around with the idea of having a modifier like Tribute 3 - Sacrifice 3 creatures for such and such an effect, which would make murdering Slave tokens hurt a little more. But, in accordance with Jeff's comment above, I came to the conclusion that it works better to just have a cleaner mechanic where the effect is either on or off. A possible solution, which also falls into line with earlier comments above, is to limit the slave-making to just one or two colors, which would have to be in non-Tribute colors.
Flavorfully, it fits for Slave-making to be in black, while Tribute obviously fits very well in white. The allied color identities that Greg established include Wub and Brw. Having very strict limitations of Tribute ONLY in white (with a tiny bit of bleed into blue), and Slaves ONLY in black (with a tiny bit of bleed into red) should keep both of the mechanics viable, without skewing the entire draft environment toward a dominance of Tribute/Slave decks.
In other words, when you're drafting a white Tribute deck, there will be a couple of black Slave-making cards you'll want, but nothing TOO degenerate. If Slaves are all over the place, then drafting any :W:/x deck could be way too strong, and if Tribute is everywhere then drafting any :B:/x deck could be way too strong. To avoid this, keep all the Tribute in white, and all the Slave-makers in black, so the only true Tribute/Slave deck is the :W::B: one.
With the other really great mechanics (hello, Dust/Sand/Subsume, I'm looking at you...), we should be careful to not give one particular mechanical interaction all the power.
Does that make sense? Am I jumping ahead too far?

Thinking about the Dust/Sand/Subsume mechanic...

Other than Jason in his commentary above, all references any of us have made to this mechanic have been thinking of it as a drawback. As a way to get a card cheaper than you should because it’s gonna become worse and worse as you use it. Such as:

(I think this is current templating of reminder text)
Tefnut’s Fountain
Artifact (C)
Xm:, :T:: Gain 1 life for each creature you control.
When CARDNAME becomes tapped, put a dust counter on it.
(All instances of X on CARDNAME are equal to the number of dust counters on it.)

This flavor works because as the desert encroaches on the rest of the world it takes over and kills the stuff in its path. But, another way to look at this flavor is as an aggressive power. Assuming this mechanic is centered primarily in red, the red mage should have the ability to use it against his/her opponent.

It would require different reminder text wording, so that things obtaining dust counters against their will would know what the counters meant...

Stinging Sand
Instant (C)
CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature. Then, put a dust counter on target land. (Add :1m: to a permanent's activated costs for each dust counter on that permanent.)

Is :3m::R: too cheap to ping something and then (almost) Stone Rain a land?

or a slight retweak to the colossus found over on the artifact card design page:

Mother of Exiles
Creature - Construct (R)
CARDNAME enters the battlefield tapped, with three dust counters on it, and does not untap during your untap step.
(Add :1m: to any activated costs for each dust counter on CARDNAME.)
1m:: Untap CARDNAME.
W:, :T:: Exile target creature, then add a dust counter to CARDNAME.

Do you think that's too weird? It looks like it costs :1m: to untap, but really it costs :4m:.
And, :3m::W::T: to exile a guy the first time is reasonable, right?
There probably HAS to be something in the set that removes dust counters, yes?
I feel like this captures the flavor of the desert inevitably burying everything under it, but also letting red mages use that as a weapon.
I realize utilizing it this way could make for an extremely strong mechanic, but as long as it was carefully developed I think it works. Any thoughts?

I like the idea of the Dust counter. I think you have it right where it slows everything down to the point of it being a bigger and bigger burden. I don't feel like there should be ways to get rid of Dust counters because nothing holds back the desert. There are evn lands that are NO MORE because the desert has encroached to the point that they are buried, nearly forever.
BUT.... I do feel that we should keep the dust counters off of creatures, because they move and can clean themselves. and DO keep them mainly on Artifacts, Equipment and Lands. These are the things that get buried in sand, not people and animals. I like your Mother of Exiles because it is an artifact that gains Dust counters. Maybe we need something like an enchantment that destroys lands after they have 3 or 4 dust counters on them. Something like....
Whenever any land has 1 or 2 dust counters on it, it does not untap during the next upkeep.
Whenever a land has 3 dust counters on it, exile it from the game.
Todd (#3)

Great thoughts, Todd(#3), but I think it's important for the dust/sand counters to affect creatures. Being a magical world, we could say the desert is semi-sentient and reaches out to consciously smother unwary creatures?
Also, the way I'm proposing dust/sand counters to work, adding multiples to some permanents would work great. But adding just one to a land would effectively kill it. With just one dust/sand counter your island would read as: :1m:,:T:: Add :U: to your mana pool. That's unplayable and means your island would sit there doing nothing the rest of the game.
(side note: Maybe include a small subtheme in the set of sacrificing lands for some sort of benefit? A way for the :U: mage to get one last use out of sand-choked islands?)
Lastly, I do really think removing dust/sand counters should be in here. Maybe only in a very rare, hard to use way... a legendary enchantment?

Laughter of Shu
Legendary Enchantment (M)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, remove all dust/sand counters from all permanents.
Permanents cannot gain dust/sand counters.
All creatures lose flying.
(Shu was the ancient Egyptian god of sky/wind/atmosphere.)


I see your point of the Dust counters being put on creatures, to escentially slow them down. I thought about it more and I also see your point about being able to remove them. But if SHU was the wind god, how about just "blowing" all the sand counters from permanents you own to permanents that your opponent(s) control. Such as.....
Laughter of Shu
Legendary Enchantment (M)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, remove all dust/sand counters from all permanents you control and place them on permanents that you do not control.
Permanents you control cannot gain dust/sand counters.
All creatures lose flying.
The Legendary part of that would also make it nearly impossible for your opponent to have the same enchantment out without destroying your enchantment first.
Explain why you threw in the last part regarding flying? That seemed out of place. The spell is powerful without that on it. With it, it just seems too powerful. Not over-powerful, just out of place. Maybe you can make an enchantment named....
Dust Storm
All creatures lose flying.


I was thinking that the actual 'Laughter of Shu' would be a colloquial name for a huge windstorm... something that cleanses away the sand, but is strong enough to make it impossible for critters to fly around. In a game mechanics sense, I was trying to make somewhat of a drawback aimed at :U: mages, as they would be the ones running this enchantment, and would be the most likely ones to have flying guys - Aven, Sphinxes, etc.
I do really like the idea of moving the counters from my stuff to your stuff... I think I see that as a more easily found Dust/Sand-fighting tool. Something like:

Sand-Moving Work Detail
Sorcery (U)
Remove up to three dust/sand counters from any number of target permanents you control. Redistribute those counters onto any number of target permanents your opponent controls.
(Add :1m: to all activated costs on a permanent for each dust/sand counter on that permanent.)

(note: Made this sorcery :W: instead of :U: as a way to subtly show their two different approaches to fighting the desert. :W: just tries to push it out of the way, not caring really where it goes, so as to continue its empire-building. :U: wants to eradicate the desert altogether.)

And lastly, a couple ideas for land-sacrificing cards like I mentioned above...

Instant (C)
As an additional cost to cast CARDNAME, sacrifice an island.
Counter target spell.

Enchantment - Aura (C)
As an additional cost to cast CARDNAME, sacrifice a land.
Enchant creature.
Enchanted creature can't attack or block, and its activated abilities can't be activated.


Wow, lots to read guys, I'm very pleased to see so much work being put into this even over the holiday week. Now to respond to some of this stuff:
@Hallowed and Sanctify
First I don't see why both of these can't exist in our set. We really don't need to keyword this stuff and instead just put "When THIS CARD is in the graveyard, then X". Cards have existed before that do a similar thing such as Anger and Wonder from Judgement and I think creating more cards that do this would be pretty cool. To make cards like this at common is much more difficult since it is inherently a very powerful effect, but I don't think this should deter us from trying.
@Rik's Tribute thoughts
You bring up a good point about slaves making tribute too easy to trigger. I think instead of looking to moving tribute and slaves into single colors, we should look to limit slave production more than anything else. Maybe slavers should all be uncommon or rare, or else if they are common they could only make one slave. This would make a tribute/slave deck still quite powerful, but also much rarer. This is analogous to the UG self mill deck in innistrad where all your key cards (spider spawning, boneyard wurm) are in uncommon and so the deck doesn't come together every time.
You mention having "Tribute X" where you have to sacrifice a number of creatures which I think solves some problems with tribute. Instead of Greg's original templating of having tribute counters for each creature sacrificed, make it still only have one counter (off or on) but make the tribute larger for more powerful effects (or for more common effects). Here is an example card.
Blood-Soaked Goblin
Creature - Goblin (C)
Tribute 2 (When you cast Blood-Soaked Goblin, you may sacrifice two creatures. If you do, it enters the battlefield with a tribute counter on it.)
Blood-Soaked Goblin has intimidate as long as it has a tribute counter on it.

This card is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for in a common creature with tribute. First of all, it is playable without paying the tribute so you don't have to have tokens makers to want it. Second, it has good synergy with slaves and so the player trying to draft the token strategy has slightly more incentive to pick this up than the other red drafters. Lastly, I could even see using this tribute in a non-slave deck when you really just need to push in the last damage during a board stall.
@new dust templating
I don't like the idea of adding :1m: to each ability cost for each dust counter because it makes lands with the ability pretty much terrible. I get that you changed it this way specifically so you could hose lands, but I think we want to stay away from too much land hosing. We could maybe keep this templating if the reminder text said something like this: Dust (Whenever THIS CARD is tapped, put a dust counter on it. Activated abilities of THIS CARD cost :1m: more to activate unless they are mana abilities.) This actually might be a better solution to the templating that says X in it, but maybe it is just as bad.
As for what Rik says about letting Red mages use dust for their gain; I loooove this idea and have already kind of put it in practice with my build around enchantment "Savage with Sand". There should definitely be a red deck that wants to spread the desert, thus gets benefits when there are more dust counters on the battlefield.

Yay, Jeff's back!
@Tribute X:
Excellent solution! To get better Tribute effects, you must spill more blood... works great for me, and puts another knob on the Tribute cards to be tweaked during development.
One flavor-centric thing I wish we could figure out would be the difference between sacrificing a 'good' creature vs a 'bad' creature. It stands to reason that sacrificing the virgin princess gets you something better than sac'ing a common slave - or even 2 or 3 common slaves... But maybe that's trying to make the mechanic do too much? Maybe it's best to think that in this initial set (showcasing the debut of Tribute) we stick to sac'ing one, two or three dudes for varying effects, and in the set 5 years down the road (featuring the much-anticipated return of the Tribute mechanic), we figure out the good dude vs bad dude thing?

@new Dust/Sand templating:
(First, can we all agree to drop the word DUST? Being set in Magical Egypt Land just makes SAND much more sensible, doesn't it? :) )
To clarify my new templating, I was proposing that each individual sand counter on THIS PERMANENT would add :1m: to any activated cost on THIS PERMANENT. Not that the total sand counters on the battlefield would be added up. And yes, it would hose lands. Even having one sand counter would hose a land. That's why there would need to be a good balance between things that spread the sand, and things that remove it. Also, a small subtheme of sac'ing lands for effects could go a long way toward balancing it out.

For example, imagine the red mage has been using devilish desert tricks, like...

Instant (C)
CARDNAME deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Then, place a sand counter on target permanent your opponent controls.
(Add :1m: to all activated costs on a permanent for each sand counter on that permanent.)


Sorcery (U)
CARDNAME deals 2 damage to all creatures without flying.
Then, place a sand counter on target land.
(Add :1m: to all activated costs on a permanent for each sand counter on that permanent.)

Then imagine the red mage's opponent is playing a white-blue deck and has these tools to fight against that vicious desert slinger...

Enchantment - Aura (C)
As an additional cost to cast CARDNAME, remove a sand counter from target creature you control.
Enchant creature from which you removed the sand counter.
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2, flying, and vigilance.
(yeah, I know, that second line of text would need some serious retemplating...)

Instant (C)
As an additional cost to cast CARDNAME, sacrifice an island.
Return target creature to its owner's hand.
Draw two cards.


And, because it occurred to me, here's an attack team as an example of the synergy in how dust counters could work for a red mage:

Drop this guy on turn 3...
Viashino Sand-Spitter
Creature - Viashino Shaman (U)
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a sand counter.
(Add :1m: to all activated costs on a permanent for each sand counter on that permanent.)
T:: CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature or player for each sand counter on it. Then, remove all sand counters from CARDNAME.
Then, drop this guy on turn 4 and still have two mana to activate the Spitter from turn 3...
Viashino Assailant
Creature - Viashino Assassin (C)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, put a sand counter on target creature.
(Add :1m: to all activated costs on a permanent for each sand counter on that permanent.)

note: To use the Spitter's ability, it actually costs :T: plus :1m: for each sand counter he's wearing. This makes it tricky to have removing the counter as part of the cost. My solution was to make the removal of the counters as a part of the effect.


@Rik, I think your new take on the Dust mechanic is more complicated than mine. I think it has the potential to confuse a lot of players. For example, if a land has a dust counter on it from some one of your example cards, then the example card gets exiled or shuffled back in to the library, there is nothing to remind the player what the dust counter does to the land it is on.
I think my original design works because the dust counters only exist on cards WITH the Dust mechanic. I'm not saying that my "All instances of X on this card..." templating is necessarily the best way to show off sand/dust stifling permanents, but at least the cards with counters specifically tell players what the counters do. I think it's important not to burden players with mechanics that require memorization.
@Jeff, Tribute X is fine, but there aren't many limited games where you're going to want to sacrifice more than one creature, regardless of the benefit.

So I definitely didn't understand how you wanted to change the dust mechanic before, but that clears it up for me.
First I do want to say I don't like the name "Dust" for the mechanic and would prefer some word that means "spreading of the desert" or some such, but after some searching I can't seem to find any word that fits.
So your change to the mechanic is a pretty radical one (which is fine) but I'm not sure that I like it. I have two major problems with it:
1) The templating for your sand counter idea is a lot more complicated than it looks. The only other card I can think of that does a similar thing as this is Obsidian Fireheart. Take a look at how that card is templated. It is quite a nightmare since it requires the explanation of what the counter is doing, as well as the explanation that the effect doesn't end when the fireheart leaves the battlefield, but that it lasts until the counter is removed. Basically to explain sand counters it would require quite a bit of actual text and reminder text for every card that places them.
2) The biggest reason we moved away from the "limited resources" plane idea from the beginning of this project was because people don't like playing against land destruction. I was reminded of this over the break when I cubed many many times and every time somebody played armageddon or wildfire the game became unfun for every player but one. So the idea of many cards in the set that can put sand counters on opponents lands seems like a problem to me. I think we want to stay away from this type of resource denial for our set and just have a few somewhat expensive land destruction spells to deal with problem lands in the set (such as lands enchanted with temples).
The other thing that I briefly spoke with Greg about that we need to think of is that we can't have too many different types of counters in our set. We would most likely need to have either Tribute or Sand in our set, but not both. +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters need to also be used sparingly if we have counters that will be placed on creatures.
I'm really not sure whether tribute counters or sand counters is better for the set. I lean towards sand because of how it will be hard to balance tribute and token producing like you pointed out earlier. This designing stuff is tough business, but I definitely think we are getting somewhere in creating better mechanics.
Yeah, I can understand that tribute X with X > 1 would rarely get used, my idea was that it would give the token decks something to synergize with while at the same time be able to have a card that is playable without the tribute bonus. I think maybe it will just be too much of a balancing act for tribute to work well with slaves.

One - I am 100% on board with only one kind of power/toughness modifying counter in the set... The critters I made with all different kinds were just things thrown against the wall, all easy to conform to just +1/+1 or -1/-1 or whatever the set ends up being.
Two - Yes, you are right about inherent difficulties with sand counters being placed onto cards that do not contain the reminder text... drat. I was really working for a way to capture the sense of the desert expanding out and swallowing things. Also, I agree that land destruction is no fun, but it seemed like a somewhat necessary evil to (again) capture that encroaching desert vibe.
Three - I thought about the set containing two kinds of counters (+1/+1 and sand) while foolishly forgetting that there would ALSO be tribute counters. Phooey. Back to the drawing board...
...maybe the sand mechanic exiles things... hmmm...
Fourthly - The best word I found for the sand/dust/desert thing was Subsume, as I posted a while back. It means to incorporate, to swallow up. The second best word was Introsume, but that doesn't sound as good.

Our set still very badly wants a graveyard mechanic. I think Netherform is probably out just for logistical purposes. Here are some more ideas:
Excavate (At the beginning of your upkeep, if THIS CARD is in your graveyard you may discard a card. If you do, put THIS CARD into your hand.)
This is kind of a riff on retrace which is a mechanic I love since it lets you use lands late in the game for something more useful.
Gravetrap (When this card is put into a graveyard, you may exile it to have it deal 1 damage to target creature or player.)
Yeah, the name needs work. I like the idea of putting this on creatures AND spells since you can have instants and sorceries that deal a damage as a bonus to their regular effect, although this might be encroaching on reds color pie. Also putting it on a spell makes it not feel so much a yard mechanic and more of just a bonus kind of like a cantrip. Speaking of which, how come cantrip hasn't been keyworded yet?
Reverse Delve - Exile THIS CARD: Add :1m: to your mana pool. Activate this ability only if THIS CARD is in your graveyard.
This does not need a keyword, thus the terrible name. I think it would be neato to have this on creatures as well as spells again. I mean, who doesn't like to ramp?
Memorial (When this creature dies, return it to the battlefield as a non-creature artifact. It has no power and toughness but retains all abilities.)
There has got to be a better way to template this. This was the only ability here that I tried to design top down and I think it has the right flavor, although it might be horribly confusing. Maybe we could reuse tribute counters for templating:
Memorial (When this card dies, if it was a creature, return it to the battlefield with a tribute counter on it.)
THIS CARD is a non-creature artifact as long as it has a tribute counter on it.
I dunno, this is getting more and more confusing I think.
I'm gonna keep thinking these up until something pops out and people start running with it. It would be insane to have an egyptian inspired set with no graveyard mechanic. If we keep tribute that is another reason to want some graveyard shenanigans. Anyone else have any ideas?

re: Memorial
As my 5th-grader would say, "O!M!G! That's AWESOME!!"
Seriously... what great flavor, and a potentially strong and interesting mechanic!
I think it could work as a major mechanic, but the set should have some reason to want a bunch of artifacts (i.e. Metalcraft). It was briefly discussed elsewhere that an Egyptian-based world WOULD feature a good number of artifacts, but I'm sure nobody wants another return to Mirrodin right now, do they?
Maybe 'Memorial' might shake out better as a one of..?

Afu, Pharaoh's Master Builder
Legendary Creature - Human Advisor (R)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, put four 1/1 colorless Slave creature tokens onto the battlefield.
T:, Tap four Slaves you control: Put target creature card from your graveyard onto the battlefield. This card loses all existing types, and becomes a noncreature artifact with no power or toughness. If that card would leave the battlefield, exile it instead.
Yes, that ability would probably freak out the rules. There are too many creatures with abilities that would cause a rip in the rules space-time continuum if they were suddenly not a creature anymore...

re: Excavate
I like it, though it is pretty similar to Retrace, which is similar to Flashback which we're enjoying right now with ISD...
re: Gravetrap
I agree, it's too red... though it's giving me ideas about new graveyard-centric ways to salvage the Sand mechanic... need to think some more...
re: Reverse Delve
Good mechanic, but seems a little one dimensional...


So, a new approach to the desert's role in this world...
I think the most important thing to capture, is the way the desert is (almost) unstoppably spreading and swallowing everything in its path. That line of thinking leads down a slippery slope to land destruction. As has been well documented, everybody hates land destruction on any kind of large scale.
So how about red, desert-themed spells and creatures that do stuff like...

Viashino Sand-Spreader
Creature - Viashino Scout (C)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target land becomes a Mountain until end of turn.
Haste. Mountainwalk.


Creature - Giant (U)
R::R:: All lands become Mountains until end of turn.


Stinging Sand
Instant (C)
Target land becomes a Mountain until end of turn. Then, CARDNAME deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of Mountains that player controls.


(a reworking of Jeff's build-around-me red enchantment)
Savage with Sand
Enchantment (U)
R:: Target land becomes a Mountain until end of turn.
R::R::R:: CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target player for each Mountain that player controls. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.

I don't know... any thoughts? Would everybody get sick of Mountains??

I'm pretty in love with Viashino Sand-Spreader (although it may need to be powered down) but I don't think turning lands into mountains really captures the feel of the spreading desert. I mean, red feels like the correct color to represent the spreading desert, but mountains aren't deserts. What if instead of land destruction, it just destroyed the lands color identity. Something along the lines of:
Desert Elemental
Creature - Elemental (C)
When Desert Elemental enters the battlefield, put a sand counter on target land you control and target land opponent controls.
Whenever a land with a sand counter on it is tapped for mana, it produces :1m: instead.
So the lands color is hosed, but it isn't permanent since when this creature dies the sand counters basically do nothing. So you could attempt to draft a deck that color screws the opponent (still obnoxious, but not as oppressive as land destruction), but it could be defeated by just killing the opponents creatures with this sand mechanic.
I think this is still skirting the line of unfun, but it is definitely not nearly as bad. It is also yet another thing that promotes playing mono color.

Hmmm... that is a very interesting way to look at it...
Another thing that would work is the synergy now created with all the (presumed) artifacts the set is planned to have... drafting a base :R: 'sand' deck with a bunch of artifacts sounds like an archetype to me!
Also, flavor-wise, we've continually accepted that the desert is red, but really it doesn't fit squarely into any piece of the color pie - it's obviously not :U: or :G:, but you could make an argument for :W: or for :B: just as much as for :R:.
So, bleaching the lands of their color-producing capabilities (which sure sounds desert-like), could fit really well... dare I say it almost acts as the 'sixth' color??
I'm intrigued...

Viashino Witch
Creature - Viashino Shaman (C)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, put a sand counter on target land you control and target land opponent controls. (Whenever a land with a sand counter on it is tapped for mana, it produces :1m: instead of its usual colors.)
1m:, :T:: Draw a card, then discard a card.


I did want to say that the way sand counters work in my above posting is not that they bleach lands, but that the creature bleaches the lands that have counters on them. The reason I bring this up is because 1) it makes it so killing the creature makes the lands produce colored mana again and 2) it opens up applications for other cards doing different things with sand counters such as
Sand-Storm Mage
Creature - Wizard (U)
When Sand-Storm Mage enters the battlefield, put a sand counter on target land an opponent controls and target land you control.
Lands with sand counters on them have ":t:: This card deals 1 damage to target creature or player."
Bound by Sand
Enchantment (C)
When Bound by Sand enters the battlefield, put a sand counter on target creature an opponent controls and target creature you control.
Creatures with sand counters on them can't attack or block.
This creates an interesting dichotomy where some cards would make you want to spread the sand counters on many different permanents, and others would make you want to pile them all on one.
p.s. It is hard to design these cards without putting sand in the title.

This mechanic keeps sparking more and more things in my head... as it is right now, it's gonna be strong!
Imagine playing against the sand deck. You manage to stave off the initial assault, ending up with several lands and a couple of guys wearing sand counters. You think you've stabilized by killing their sand guys. You're establishing board position, and getting ready to start laying the smack down. Your opponent draws into another sand guy or two, and suddenly all the sand counters are active again! Argh! I NEEDED that :U: mana!
Lots of potential!

The good news is you get to float that colored mana as their sand spell is on the stack for your instant speed removal. I'm drafting this set that hasn't been designed yet in my head already.

Oh, and before I forget again, and hopefully this doesn't sound like I'm kissing yr derriers, but Jeff and Greg, you guys were 100% correct about the Egyptian-themed world's possibilities! I keep being surprised at how many tropes and themes and just 'stuff' that keeps being uncovered in this world... whee!
That said, I still think we could've made the Land of Orwellian Nightmares work, too! :)

Hi guys, just some thoughts on the mechanics that have been explained here and on the podcast.
Dust/Sand Counters
Sand as a name is more evocative, but I think the fact there are already sand creature tokens in magic might be confusing?
I'm not sure exactly the effect you have settled on. The first thing that strikes me is that there are a multitude of effects triggering from these. First is a static effect - that is having a dust counter affects the permanent by adding 1 to its activated costs. This is fine but can cause memory issues if there is nothing on the board with reminder text telling players what is happening - especially if this ability is used at common.
Secondly you have things that are affected when they have sand counters on them. This opens up a lot of design space as you can have a gazillion effects from this. The issue here is that having dust counters with a static effect combined with 4 or 5 cards that have seperate effects from having sand counters on can cause a very confusing game state.
Also I can see global effects being utilised (such as all creatures with a sand counter on get +1/+1) which adds another layer of complexity.
One thing magic has done recently is used existing counters (-1/-1, +1/+1 and charge counters) to represent a huge variety of effects depending on the card using it
One of the main reasons for this is that it can be parasitic to use lots of seperate counters. That means in a game outside of 'block' then sand counters aren't really interacting with other cards. I can take my graft creatures from Dissension and put them in a deck with my persist creatures and make a combo. Players love doing this.
I would be incredibly tempted to change sand counters to -1/-1 counters on creatures and treat that as your sand 'theme' as if the card obviously represents a crumbling sand golem people will understand what the -1/-1 counter represents and their imagination will fill in the flavour.

Deserts/Sand on Land
I like deserts. Ever since Arabian nights deserts have been awesome (especially the reprint in time spiral!) That card should obviously be reprinted in this set.
Turning lands into deserts is an interesting idea. It is very Ghost Quarter-esque to destroy lands but to still give the player mana, as pseudo land destruction - and judging by Standard tournaments is still a useful ability for dealing with non basic lands.
The issue (as raised on the podcast) is early mana denial is something that many new and/or casual players dislike. Wizards has made an effort not to print cheap mana denial spells.
Im not sure you should use sand counters on creatures (as stated above) as well as lands - as you have to make the effect kind of universal so its not better to have it on certain types of permanents - not all creatures have activated abilities for example.
My initial reaction is to have sand counters turn lands into deserts ala Aquitects Will. This means that any land with a sand token on produces colourless mana.
Now this is a harsh ability, so when a card changes a land into a desert you can often make the effect chosen by the player who owns a land. For example a creature could have the ability:
"When ~ enters the battlefield target player chooses a nondesert land they control and puts a desert token on it. (If a land with a desert token is tapped for mana, it produces :1: instead of any other type.)"
Then you have a bunch of options, like searching your deck for lands and putting them into play with desert counters. a creature getting +1/+1 for each desert token in play etc. A raiding party that puts desert tokens on a land when it attacks (you can make this ability chosen by the attacking player to seem more powerful) You can make a blood moon variant that turns lands into deserts etc. Having a 2/1 for :R: that turns one of your lands into a desert as a drawback might be an option.
This can be helped by having artifact mana in the set - maybe akin to the shard artifacts that returned lands to your hand (this would get rid of desert tokens too). Also if you are still wanting to have an artifact subtheme then they would not be hindered by having deserts.

Again Ned, thanks for the feedback. Check out the planeswalker page where I discussed why I don't like -1/-1 counters.
Your thoughts on desert counters are pretty cool. The thing we are trying to do with sand counters is to make them very versatile though. I think you are getting caught up in the "desert" making ability of our sand counters. That is only one aspect of them. The creature that puts the sand counter on permanents has a static ability saying what sand counters do. So there will be ones that turn lands with sand counters into deserts, but there will also be ones that give bonuses to permanents with sand counters, or give -1/-1 to creatures with sand counters on them, etc. The possibilities are nearly endless which I like about this ability. We don't want too much of the land bleaching since as you say, people don't like to play against it.
p.s. your :R: 2/1 is awesome and I'm going to go put that up in the creature page right now.

Innistrad spoilers are out today and they gave me an awesome idea. First I have to say that when I was trying to come up with some graveyard mechanics one I thought could be used was a reverse persist that adds +1/+1 counters to creatures. I thought that was probably too close to persist, plus we already had counters in our set. Pretty funny to see that Dark Ascension has this exact mechanic in it.
The thing that actually got me excited were the flip cards that when they die, they flip and come back. If you go back up the page and read my memorial mechanic, I had a hard time trying to figure out how to make it work, but this really fixes everything. Here is the updated memorial:
Memorial - When this creature dies, return it to the battlefield transformed under your control.
The cards would look like this:
Militia Medic
Creature - Human Soldier (C)
W:,:t:: Prevent the next 1 damage to target creature or player.
When this creature dies, return it to the battlefield transformed under your control.
Medic's Memorial
W:,:t:: Prevent the next 1 damage to target creature or player.


Argh! You beat me, Jeff! :) I saw the DKA Soldier/Zombie transform guy and thought the exact same thing about the 'Memorial' mechanic!!
Now, I'm going to go and listen through the podcast for a second time while I think... and ponder... and digest...
(And, yes, I am terrible at adjusting the power level of the cards I design... I just try to think of a thing/dude/effect that works in the world and make a card to fit that thing/dude/effect! PLEASE continue to point out power level adjustments I need to make!)

Thanks for the reply Jeff :)
(I posted about sand and -1/-1 counters in the planeswalker thread)
Ah I misread what sand does, I thought that having a sand counter was a static (taps for colorless) effect and other cards affected what happenend to themselves when they had sand counters on.
Instead, I put a sand counter on a land or creature and my other cards explain what effects the sand counters have (they have no innate effect) right?
This does make it hard to judge from a card whether it is good or not. In a vacuum, this card posted in the instant/sorceries area:
Stones become Bread
Instant (C)
Destroy target artifact with a sand counter on it.
You gain life equal to the number of sand counters on the battlefield.
On the surface that card looks like it is incredibly hard to use (it doesnt do anything on its own, or with 99.9% of magic cards previously printed) it isnt very powerful (it doesnt destroy enchantments like naturalize, is hard to use and the amount of life you will gain isnt obvious when you look at the card) and seems to work against itself – it takes a sand token off the battlefield when it kills the artifact and THEN gives you life (you can reverse the order of these effects to make that not an issue though).
Maro and others have said that opening your first pack of a set is important, and the commons give you a feeling for the set. If that was the first common of the set that you saw, I think it gives the wrong impression.
Putting sand counters on cards may be incredibly easy, and there may be loads of sand counters in the set but that isnt apparent from looking at this card. This is a problem the Kamigawa block had with parasitic mechanics that didnt play well with others.
I'm glad you liked the 2/1 for :R:, however I created that to only hurt yourself. As a global effect it is way too powerful. If the red player goes first, on Turn 1 they cast him, and on turn 2 put a dust counter on your opponents land and do that for the rest of the game which locks the other player out. It will probably make multicolor decks impossible to use if this mechanic is at all playable.
Having 5, 10 or even 20 effects that trigger from sand counters means you have to balance each effect against those 20 cards which is incredibly difficult. That is why R&D go back to charge counters and +1/+1 counters because they have been proven to work with a multitude of effects.
I think if you are going to have sand counters on all permanents you are going to have to be very careful what effects you give them or they will be deceptively over-powered (like the 2/1 :R: guy.)
The memorial card is great by the way. Is it going to be a common cycle in each color, or restricted to certain colours and be spread across all rarities? A land that becomes a memorial might be kind of fun. Or an enchantment like this:
Isahtep, Notion of Peace
Blocking reatures you control gain +0/+2.
When this enchantment is put into your graveyard from play, return it to the battlefield transformed under your control.
Isahtep, Shrine of War
Attacking creatures you control gain +2/+0.


Okay, I’ve got some thoughts about all the current mechanics, but work is pressing down on me lately so I may not get to post everything for a day or two...

My thoughts about Sand/Desert do run somewhat in a similar vein to Red Ned's, that this is the only set they will matter in. But, honestly, maybe that's okay? Is this a custom set being designed to be drafted as a standalone? Or are you guys thinking it needs to fit into the entirety of 'real' Magic? If it's a standalone product, maybe it should feel free enough to use some parasitic things, since it won't ever be assimilated into 'real' Magic? I have lots more on Sand, but it will have to wait...

MEMORIAL (graveyard mechanic)
The brand-new-as-of-today version (see above) is beautiful. It does exactly what Jeff wanted it to do, it makes use of the latest Magic technology, and it could be super fun. Also, it lends itself well to designing cards at varying rarities.

Well-Liked Librarian
Creature – Human Advisor (C)
T:: Draw a card, then discard a card.
When this creature dies, return it to the battlefield transformed.
Bookshelf Plaque
U:, :T:: Draw a card, then discard a card.

I proposed a new creature type for green which was a sort of aquatic-reptile-people related to the Viashino (desert-reptile-people in red). The (silly) placeholder name I used was Crocodino. The idea I had proposed was that the Crocodino/Viashino relationship, on the evolutionary ladder, is comparable to Apes/Humans. This would allow the Crocs to retain the Beast creature type, so they would be relevant in that theme. After reading up on big lizards, I came up with a better (I think) name... Gharian.

Gharian Hunter
Creature – Beast (C)

In reading about Northern African animals & mythology, I came across some cool stuff about hyenas. In some parts of Africa, there are stories of cannibalistic, half-human/half-hyena people called Kaftar. Sounds like another kind of Beast we should have lurking around these parts, don’t you think?

Kaftar Mauler
Creature – Beast (C)
When CARDNAME attacks, it fights target creature.

[edit: I just realized Magic has a Hyena creature type. Boo! Thoughts about making him a Beast Hyena?]

Lastly, for now, there was discussion in the midst of the podcast about the Aven-people having a different name, and the inclusion of Cat-people in green in this set.
For the blue Birds, I came up with Falcus by combining the scientific name of falcons (Falco) with the falcon-headed god Horus.
As far as the green Cats, I think it would be cool to just use Leonin, since lions are the natural big cat in Africa, and Nacatl sounds too South American for this set. But, since I could also go along with keeping Leonin in white, I made Hainin from Leonin and the Arabic word for lion - haidur.
And, now that I've typed it all up I realize all this name stuff should be on the Flavor & Story page... urk. Like I said, I'm at work and am supposed to be, you know, working!

In the last month, I have spent more time thinking about this mechanic than about almost any other one thing! At least it was a good way to survive the typically nightmarish holiday season...
I think I like it so much because it feels like it has the potential to give Red an interesting identity beyond just being the wingman for all the other colors. It is very correct, according to the color-pie, for Red to not be taken very seriously; lots of hot air, bursts of excitement but quickly running out of steam, lots of jumping up and down and yelling. So, this feels somewhat unexplored and new...
The idea of a semi-sentient Desert swallowing the world seems to lend Red a bit of poise and deadly seriousness - the inexorable push of the sand into the river, the slow strangulation of life, the futility of opposition... a strong sense of Control.
So, the question returns to, how exactly is this mechanic going to play out? Greg has constantly pointed out that mana-denial strategies are terribly unfun, and I think we’d all agree with that. However, in this case, I think allowing the sand counters to bleach lands is SO INCREDIBLY FLAVORFUL, it is worth an attempt.
I thought a lot about Jeff’s example; pretend Darkthicket Wolf, Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Elder Cathar have the color-stripping power. Now draft an ISD deck. How many of those three cards do you have in your deck? How often do you see them throughout your games? How often would you reliably be able to color-strip your opponent’s land on any of the first few turns? Yes, you will play a game or two where your opponent color-strips you on his turn one. Yes that will feel frustrating. Well I, personally, don’t think it would be so heinous that it would make the entire set unfun. If you restrict the land-affecting sand cards to a couple/few at common, a couple/few at uncommon, and maybe one rare, I think it could end up being part of a strategy, but not one unto itself. I think it would be pretty rare for you to be able to get the nuts color-denial deck.
Which brings up the point, what good is it, then? If all you are going to be able to do is color-hose a couple lands by turn seven, is it even worth making cards for?
I think so. Jeff mentioned that everybody needs to design some 'bad' cards. Maybe the little subtheme of color-bleaching, amongst the larger Sand & Desert Theme, is the ‘bad’ slice of that particular pie? You still have sand effects that bog down creatures and gunk up artifacts, meaning the Red Sands archetype is viable, but the land-affecting parts of sand are only marginally useful...
And, really, it probably just needs to be playtested, yes?

One thing they did on the Great Designer Search was build a deck out of commons from the created sets and play them against each other. You could knock up some common red cards to build a deck and test them vs another deck of commons - maybe like a white innistrad commons deck. You could do that IRL or on magic workstation. That should give you a good feel as to how the mechanic plays and what works/doesnt work.
I did have an idea though. In New Phyrexia they had poison tokens in the packs in place of tokens/tips/land cards (I cant remember which). You could have sand tokens be in the packs too (not that it really matters for a custom set :P)
This might make it so you can still have other counters in the set without too many problems? Heres a quick and dirty photoshopped image (the wording isn't perfect obviously :P ):
[[Image:http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/redned/9a844b5ae3071833906116dff5ae4f86.jpg?v=144900|sand token]]

Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head here. Greg summed it up pretty good when he said he wouldn't mind there being a land bleaching deck that came together about as often as the Kiln Fiend deck did in ROE. Kiln Fiend by itself was a pretty lackluster card that could often go all the way around the table, but in that deck it was the most important card. I think that is what we want the land bleaching guys to be. If there is one common guy that is overcosted for his p/t, then he will table constantly. Then you have some at uncommon and some at rare, and sometimes you will just scoop those up early and know that you will get a couple of those common guys since no one else would want them. And voila, you just drafted the land bleach deck. It just so happens it requires you to pick up specific uncommons and rares to make it viable so it will come together only once in a blue moon, but at least the deck exists. At the very worst the land bleaching guys will be useful to hose someones splash color as a sideboard option.
And of course the most important thing is that once we have somewhat of a set put together, we need to playtest it to make sure that it is in fact viable.
Your sand counter is pretty, but sand does more than bleach lands in our set, so something like that wouldn't make all that much sense. I think we are happy with only having sand counters and no others in the set. +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters can be nice, but I find that it isn't extremely necessary. Plus you can just design cards that make sand counters = -1/-1.

Since we are using this page as somewhat of a discussion page, I want to bring something up here.
I would like to start putting cards into the set skeleton as they get made. After they go into the skeleton they definitely can change (and probably will change), but it would be nice to start having a list of the cards we are interested in, and the cards that don't work for us.
To do this, I'm going to start by compiling a list of all the cards in one post on each design thread. I will try to update the ones that don't fit where we are at with our mechanics. I say for a card to make it to the set skeleton, 2 people other than the designer need to like it. So after the post of all the compiled cards so far, weigh in on the cards you like so that we can start filling out our skeleton.
Hopefully this will kickstart us being able to have enough cards to actually play test using MWS to develop the set further. This might still be a while out, but we need some sort of decision making process so we can eventually get there.

Sounds cool, Jeff.
Can I propose a couple of book-keeping 'rules'?
Each time somebody puts a card they've designed on a particular page, they append their name to the bottom? (I think WotC does something similar.) It will help track who made something to differentiate who needs to vote on that thing...
Also, make a 'rule' that nobody adds designs into the skeleton except Jeff & Greg. If tons of things start getting plopped in there all the time, it will be difficult to keep track...

Looking at all the creatures in depth has made it apparent that the ‘Slave’ mechanic could use some fleshing out... it seems a little thin if all it really does is put out some 1/1s. It seems like, currently, there are two different approaches:
  • Dude brings Slaves with him. As long as you have some Slaves, dude gets X ability.
  • Dude brings Slaves with him. Dude has some other inherent ability, which may or may not synergize with having the extra dudes. All the dudes die when he does.
I think the first one of these treads too closely to the way the ‘Sand’ mechanic is playing out. The second one has interesting potential in its own right, especially paired with the ‘Tribute’ mechanic. Even with that, though, I think it needs some further exploration...

I haven't been on here in a while, but I wanted to dump some custom set feedback we've received via email:
"Hey guys,
I enjoyed your segmented cast today at work and have been meaning to send you guys some ideas I had for your custom set. Time has been very scarce lately and I finally found some time to send you guys an email as I don't really know how to add to the wiki and such. I skimmed the wiki page so forgive me if I missed something but I really like the sand idea and mana denial theory but I think it could be done in a slightly less impactful way that would be more universal to all permanents. What if your "sand" keyword looked something like this:
SAND - permanents with sand counters don't untap during your untap phase. During each players upkeep, that player (may*) remove a sand counter from each permanent they control.
In my mind I see sand and slowing things down weather that means creatures can't move as well so then can't do what they need to do as well or resources are harder to use because they are covered in sand but as time (turns) go on the creatures work their way out of the sand and the land gradually go back to normal as they sand goes away. It also gives the illusion that the more "sand" is on a permanent, the longer it takes for it to go back to normal. I think that might easy up the mechanic and allow for some more interesting ways of designing cards around that keyword. Having this keyword also means that more common cards would have to be specific with what they could target with sand counters so that it wouldn't be easy to just stack sand counters on all of someones lands every turn and lock them out of ever having mana again but at the same time would allow a small amount of mana denial for specific cards to give tempo advantages etc. Here are some cards ideas I had for if the mechanic worked like this. "_____" means I don't have a name for the card because I'm really bad at making up names but its more the flavor/mechanics of the cards I want to see if you guys like. Feel free to take any ideas you might like and change around costs and such.
________ W Creature - Human _____ (C) W (tap) : tap target creature and put a Sand counter on it. _______ gains a sand counter. 1/1 SAND - permanents with sand counters don't untap during your untap phase. During each players upkeep, that player (may) remove a sand counter from each permanent they control.
This would be the Gideon's Lawkeeper of the set. Basically same functionality except both the tapper and whatever it taps would be tapped for an extra turn.
Sandstorm (assuming you guys don't care about using already used names) 1WW Sorcery (U) Tap all non planeswalker permanents and put a sand counter on them. SAND - permanents with sand counters don't untap during your untap phase. During each players upkeep, that player (may*) remove a sand counter from each permanent they control.
Somewhat of a stalling technique allows you to (possibly) survive an extra turn against heavy aggro decks but also is a hindrance to yourself. Might be playable at common.
Bury in Sand 2U Instant (C) Tap target permanent and put two sand counters on it. SAND - permanents with sand counters don't untap during your untap phase. During each players upkeep, that player (may*) remove a sand counter from each permanent they control.
Blue is know as the keeping things tapped color so might as well give it a strong tap condition at instant speed.
Sand Spreader G Creature - Beast (R) Cumulative upkeep - Add a sand counter to Sand Spreader Remove a sand counter from Sand Spreader : Place a sand counter on a permanent you control. Play this ability as a sorcery SAND - permanents with sand counters don't untap during your untap phase. During each players upkeep, that player (may*) remove a sand counter from each permanent they control. 3/3
If this was the new mechanic then you could also have cards that ignore sand conditions or are beneficial if there are sand counters on them. It seems like red being that color that like attacking could used a card such as.
Underground Tunnels 3RR Enchantment (R) Creatures with sand counters on them can still attack if they are tapped and are unblockable
The mana cost could need to be less or more depending on how relevant sand counters are in the set but every set needs a rare "do nothing" enchantment.
Tunneling Claws 2 Artifact - Equipment (U) Equipped Creature is unblockable, gets +1/+1 and may attack if it is tapped and has a sand counter on it. Equip 2
Archaeologist's Brush 1 Artifact (U) (Tap) : remove all sand counters from target permanent.
These are all the cards I could think of that kind of represent the mechanic at work in my head I'm sure you guys could think of other cards if you like the idea. I had one more idea for a flip planeswalker that would use both the tribute and sand counter mechanic.
The Pharaoh's Casket 3 Artifact (M) The Pharaoh's Casket comes into play with 3 age counters on it. During your upkeep remove an age counter from The Pharaoh's Casket if there are no age counters on The Pharaoh's Casket transform it. Tribute - You make sacrifice a creature when The Pharaoh's Casket comes into play. If you do The Pharaoh's Casket come into play with 2 age counters instead.
and it would transform into
_________, the Vengeful Pharaoh Planeswalker - ______ (starting loyalty 3) +1 - Target player Sacrifices a (non token*) creature and puts a 2/2 slave token into play. -2 - Tap target permanent and place 3 sand counter on it -5 - Tap and place a sand counter on all permanents target player controls. SAND - permanents with sand counters don't untap during your untap phase. During each players upkeep, that player (may*) remove a sand counter from each permanent they control.
Effective timewalk after 5 turns for 3 colorless or 4 turns for 3 colorless and sacing a creature I think sounds reasonable assuming there wont be proliferate in the set.
Anyways these are all the thoughts I had for the time being. I will try to check more on the wiki as I have time and let me know if you like any of my ideas let me know and I'll see if I can come up with some more good ones. Thanks again for putting all the time and effort into this I really enjoy all the content you guys produce. Keep it up.

"What about tempo-ing lands with sand counters instead of full on nixing them?
Replace the text on a land with a sand counter with the following: Tap to produce 1 colorless mana Tap to remove 1 sand counter from this land

Just thought I would bring up something I discussed with Jeff. I think the best way to implement the sand mechanic would be to word it as such:
Each player chooses a land he or she controls without a sand counter and puts a sand counter on it.
This prevents people from being able to use a single sand token to completely screw people out of a color while still enabling the mechanic to be built around, it becomes naturally better in multiples. At the same time it gives the player building an interesting hoop they have to jump through in order to take advantage of the mechanic. It seems to me if you want to use sand magic you should be embracing the sand yourself.

I just reviewed all of the cards on the Creatures page, and I hope that's a good reflection of the mechanics being worked on and considered in the set so far, as I haven't had a chance to read through all of the pages. Anyway, here are my ideas after just listening to the podcasts and thinking about what an Egypt Magic set would mean to me and after looking through the creatures.
While doing the voting on the creatures page, I came up with what I'd do for slaves. I'd just have a few "monument" artifacts that had an alternate casting cost of tapping some number of untapped Humans. For example, off the top of my head:
Pyramid of the Sun :5m::W::W:
You may tap five untapped Humans you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Creatures you control get +2/+2.
Pyramid of the Pharaohs :11m:
You may tap seven untapped Humans you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Artifacts, enchantments, and lands you control are indestructible.
These cards get across the idea that slaves are building them without actually saying so. Also, they wouldn't have to be Humans; it would depend on the creature-type makeup of the set. Maybe it's just any creatures. Also, it could be like convoke and let you pay partially with mana, but I think the "slaves or summons" design is more evocative.

I went over my sand-counter idea on the creatures page; to reiterate: Either a sand counter causes lands to make colorless mana the next time they're tapped, but then they lose a sand counter (so, sand is expendable), and sand only goes on lands; or, sand can go on any permanent and replace its next untap with losing a counter (ala Freyalise's Winds and Temporal Distortion). Either way, I think there should be very few cards that play with sand in different ways (other than to distribute the counters), and those cards should be at rare, with maybe a couple at uncommon to build around.

Finally, here are a few of my cards. When trying to think of my own Egyptian-inspired mechanics, the first things I thought of were scarabs and cats. Then, I thought, "What if there are two political houses, each with one of those as its patron?" And I ended up with this:
Aven Scarab-Keeper :2m::W:
Creature – Aven Soldier (C)
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
Ivory Consecrate :3m::W:
Creature – Human Warrior (U)
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
Whenever CARDNAME attacks or blocks, if you have a House Scarab emblem, you may have target creature gain your choice of lifelink or first strike until end of turn.
Pledge of Everliving :2m::W:
Sorcery (C)
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
You gain 5 life.

Desert Ruby Scarab :R:
Creature – Insect (C)
CARDNAME is colorless.
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
Desiccating Zephyr :3m::R:
Sorcery (C)
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
CARDNAME deals 5 damage to target creature.
Ruby Consecrate :3m::R:
Creature – Viashino Shaman (U)
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you have a House Scarab emblem, you may have CARDNAME deal 2 damage to target creature.
Scarab-House Enforcer :2m::R:
Creature – Viashino Warrior (C)
CARDNAME has first strike as long as you have a House Scarab emblem.
Jade Consecrate :3m::G:
Creature – Elf? Shaman (U)
House Scarab (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Scarab emblem.)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you have a House Scarab emblem, put two 1/1 colorless Insect creature tokens onto the battlefield.
Thornscape Familiar (The name doesn't match, but it's a scarab in the colors I've arbitrarily placed House Scarab in.)
Scarab Jeweler :1m::R::G::W:
Creature – Human Adviser (U) (R)?
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield and at the beginning of your upkeep, until the start of your next turn, target 1/1 colorless Insect creature gets +3/+2 and has hexproof and lifelink.
Those are some examples of cards that would pertain to House Scarab (assuming it ended up in Naya colors). Also, I don't actually promote the name "House Scarab", but it would be "House . . . " something. You get the idea.
Here're a couple cards from the other house: House Feline.
Savvy Insight :1m::U:
Instant (C)
Look at the top three cards of your library. Look at the top five cards of your library instead if you have a House Feline emblem. Put one of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
Flourish of Disgrace :2m::B:
Instant (C)
House Feline (When you cast this spell, if you don't have a House emblem, you gain a House Feline emblem.)
Destroy target non-Cat creature.
The House Feline cards would be less high-impact but have instant-speed emblem-gaining, and the scarab house would be less subtle. I imagine emblem tokens with house insignia or pictures of the houses' pharaohs or something. You could draft a deck around one of the houses, or just pick up a few cards, sometimes getting the bonuses and sometimes not. You could draft cards from both houses, but once you gained one emblem, you couldn't get the benefits from the other house's cards that game (though you could still play them for their lesser effects).

Anyway, that's all I got!
~ @Silent7Seven (Andrew)

Alright guys, so after our interview with Zac Hill and some discussion over the weekend, Greg and I have decided to have some major changes to the set.
The first is that we are getting rid of sand counters. Although the flavor was perfect, the idea is just getting too complex and will create board states that are accounting exercises which just isn't fun.
The second relates to the first; we want to focus less on flavor and more on playability. This comes from our realization of the fact that our favorite limited sets have always generally had mechanics that could feel natural in almost any set. I'm not saying we don't want flavorful cards, but I think our mechanics need to focus more on playing enjoyable magic than on whether it fits in our set or not.
The third is that we don't want too many different mechanics. This hasn't necessarily changed from before, but I think we want to spend more time developing standalone cards than cards that fit certain mechanics we develop. This way these standalone cards can maybe even spawn some mechanics on their own. After we decide on our mechanics we can then put them into already designed cards as well.
The last is that Greg and I are going to take the role of Lead Designer/Lead Developer. All that means is that all cards that end up in the set will have the final say by either me or Greg. I liked the idea of doing something democratically, but since all we have is this wiki that will make it difficult to do. So for simplicities sake, and also to get the set moving along, we will have all final say on cards. Of course feel free to argue with anything we decide since we are very willing to listen and adjust.

Greg and I were discussing about certain mechanics that could maybe return in our set and something that came up was cycling. This is mostly because it is such a useful thing on any card and pretty much everyone likes to play with it. We were thinking of things that haven't been done with cycling yet and this is what Greg came up with:
There are two ways to go with this: One is that for a cost you can discard the card and return a card of the same type in your yard to your hand; the other is for a cost you can discard the card and return a card with the same CMC in your yard to your hand. I like both versions and am not really sure which would work best. Here are a couple examples:
Decrepit Mummy
Creature - Zombie (C)
Gravecycling :3m::B: (:3m::B:, Discard this card: Return a card that shares a type with this card from your graveyard to your hand.)

Nahil Overgrowth
Sorcery (C)
Search your library for a basic land card and put that card onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.
Gravecycling :G::G: (:G::G:, Discard this card: Return a card with the same converted mana cost as this card from your graveyard to your hand.)
I think the transmute version of the mechanic seems a bit more flexible, but I like the card type version since it requires a little more synergy to be really good. Either way I'm a big fan of this mechanic since it creates a good graveyard interaction I've been wanting in this set. I realize there is no justification flavorwise for it yet, but I'm hoping we can find a reason. Got any ideas for flavor Rik?

Well, I think the flavor justification could easily be something like learning the secrets of the dead or uncovering buried treasure. It could be called something like "tombscour" (although that sounds like Tomescour) or "tombsift." I didn't include the term "cycling" in the name because I don't think it should discard for the effect---I think it should exile. Compare the mechanic to a card like Holistic Wisdom. Also, in the first case, did you mean type or subtype? For example, can Decrepit Mummy gravecycle for a creature card or a Zombie card?
~ Andrew

As discussed in episode 44, Greg and I would like to use a mechanic posted a long time ago from the orwellian world. The mechanic Impel was created by David Wallin and does the following:
Impel X (You may cast this card for its impel cost. If you do, it has haste and gets "Return this card to your hand at the beginning of the next end step.)
I think the name doesn't fit this set, so we need to find a new name for it. I like the thought of striking from the shadows but I can't think of a great word for conveying that. Greg mentioned just not keywording it, but it just feels so ripe for a keyword. The best I can come up with is Stalk as an homage to the original, Viashino Sandstalker. I'll use that for now, but if anyone has anything better, that would be great.

Troy sent us an awesome email voicing some concerns about where the set is headed and he prompted me to think more about what "matters" in our design. It made me realize we had kind of lost sight of the Egyptian gods and worship of those gods as a major part of our set and I think we need to focus more effort in our design on that theme of spirituality in our world.
With that in mind, I think the Ascend Mechanic is a must. This isn't really news, but I want to reinforce that here. Some others have expressed concern that we're mirroring Innistrad a little too much with this set and while using double-faced cards for Ascend doesn't alleviate that concern, I think the mechanic is too cool and unlike anything Wizards has done before (unless they give us a creature-into-planeswalker DFC in Avacyn Restored).
I also think that we should play up the Tribute mechanic a little bit more and create a little bit of a "sacrificing matters" sub-theme. Players should be rewarded for sacrificing things to the gods in our set. We can do this with cards that provide cool effects when sacrificed, as well as cards with static abilities that trigger when things are sacrificed. For example:
Yugat's Ward
Creature - Lizard Warrior (C)
When you sacrifice Yugat's Ward, Yugat's ward deals 3 damage to target creature or player.
Afforded Insight
Enchantment (U)
When you sacrifice a permanent, you may draw a card.
For what it's worth, all this sacrificing will probably play well with any graveyard mechanic we decide to use.
I also talked to Troy about focusing more on the theme of "civilization versus the wild". This is a more abstract concept and one that is harder to illustrate with mechanics. The beast theme fits in here and MAYBE the Stalk (a.k.a. Impel) mechanic does too, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how to show the civilization side fighting back through mechanics. What do you guys think?

YES. Ascension most definitely. And I think Tribute really reinforces the theme. It marks the favor of the gods and communicates that if you want that favor, you have to pay for it in blood.
As for civ. vs. wilds. That is also an important theme, I think, but it doesn't need to carry a named mechanic. We can make the wild color pairs (U/G primarily) have a lot of ramp and good creatures. We can concentrate tribute and temples in W/B, and sometimes R. That should illustrate the theme without beating people over the head with it. Even a creature types will matter. White has humans and maybe an allied race like avens and/or leonin (both fit the them of Egypt - hawks/lions). U/G will have crocodiles, hippos, snakes, and other wild animals. This doesn't have to be exclusive (there can be white lions, for instance), but the more we use the creature types with purpose, the more our tribes with thematically develop the wilds vs. civilization. Also note that "civilization" will be ironic, given that they will be sacrificing humans and are allied with Black. The wilds will be more visceral and pure. Some natural forces would be good too: flooding, tornadoes, etc.
Concentrating Tribute in W/B begs the question of what matters for U/G, though, and maybe that's where the Stalk mechanic fits in. Wild creatures pounce out of nowhere and disappear. I don't know if it's "okay" to split the "what matters" between colors, as WotC usually makes the "what matters" a set-wide factor. But hey, we are making the rules here aren't we?

I had a conversation with David yesterday about removing the sand mechanic from the set and he came up with some pretty cool ideas about keeping around the same feeling that sand created without actually designing our set around it.
Instead of having sand counters running rampant on all our cards, we can restrict it only to artifacts and maybe lands. These counters would be different from what we were doing before with sand. Instead of having cards with sand counters on them get some effect, cards with sand counters just wouldn't be useable until they are "excavated". Also, cards wouldn't put sand counters on other permanents, they would just enter with their own. Here is an example:
Buried Tablet
Artifact (C)
Buried Tablet enters the battlefield with two sand counter on it.
Tap a creature you control: Remove a sand counter from Buried Tablet.
3m:,:t:: Draw a card.

So this card does a lot for helping us define flavor of the set. One is it shows that we are in a desert that is burying civilizations. It also gives a sense of ancient cultures by having our cards be excavated before we are able to use them. It is also a play on the rosetta stone which is of course very iconic egypt.
So instead of having sand counters running rampant through the set, we can just print a few artifacts/lands with this ability to convey the encroaching desert and the feel of ancient egypt. It also creates artifacts with the theme of "creatures matter" which I know magic has been trying to push very hard for some time.

Another thing I wanted to raise here is that if we ever want to have the feeling of a creature effected by the desert, we should just use -1/-1 counters. I know this was brought up before, but I just want to cement right now that if we use any counters on creatures, they should be -1/-1 counters. In fact, this could work really well with ascend and might fix any weird templating problems we had before. An example:
Alhanhotep, Necromancer
Creature - Human Wizard (R)
t:: Search your library for a creature card and put it into your graveyard, then shuffle your library. Put a -1/-1 counter on Alhanhotep, Necromancer.
When Alhanhotep, Necromancer dies, if it had 3 -1/-1 counters on it, return it to the battlefield transformed.
Alhanhotep, Ascended
Planeswalker - Alhanhotep
- Exile a card in your graveyard: Draw a card.
- Put target creature card in your graveyard onto the battlefield.
- Search your library for any number of cards and put them into your graveyard, then shuffle your library.
With this new templating we don't have to say "remove all counters, then transform, then put counter on, etc." since he will come into play as a planeswalker so we can just print the loyalty number on him. It is a little odd making the creature kill itself, but if you think about ancient egypt, they did think that pharaohs/human gods went to their immortal life after their death.

Re: Buried Tablet - Something about your templating on the card is screwed up. Why would anyone ever tap a creature to remove a sand counter? I assume you wanted the artifact to stay tapped if it has any sand counters on it, correct?
Re: -1/-1 counters with Ascend - Seems okay, but I don't mind the whole "removed all counters, then transform" verbiage. Making all of these cards use -1/-1 counters definitely restricts the design space. I understand that restrictions breed creativity, but we may not need to restrict ourselves THAT much. We could make the Ascend creature require a sacrifice to achieve the same goal of "Return this card to the battlefield transformed".
p.s. I'm going to pretend you didn't say that using sand counters only on artifacts and lands was David's idea.

I want to try to lay out all the mechanics of the set right now so we can shut down this part of the wiki.
This is what I propose:
Keyword Mechanics
  • Tribute - When you cast this spell, you may sacrifice a creature.
  • Gravecycling - Pay X, Discard this card: Return target spell from your graveyard to your hand with the same converted mana cost as this card.
  • Stalk - You may cast this card for X, if you do it enters the battlefield with haste and gains "Return this card to its owners hand at the beginning of the end step."
  • Cycling - Pay X, Discard this card: Draw a card.

Other Mechanics
  • Sacrifice matters - Creatures will have: when you sacrifice this creature, then X. Maybe a build around enchantment, whenever you sacrifice a creature, then X.
  • Ascend - Creatures ascend by transforming into planeswalkers.
  • Sand counters - Artifacts/lands are buried in the sand and cannot function while buried. Creatures need to tap to excavate the buried items.
  • -1/-1 counters - many cards will represent the harsh desert environment with -1/-1 counters.
  • Tribal Beasts - a few cards will care about beasts.

That is all the major mechanics of the set.
Now there are quite a few keywords here, but I don't think it is too many since we are assuming that everyone who is playing this set is an "Expert" level player.
Feel free to debate what I've said here since I'm not some tyrant that is just telling everyone this is how its gonna be. I know Greg is not sold on the sand counters or -1/-1 counters yet, but I also want to know what other people think. Lets debate this so we can get it set in pseudo-stone.

Hey Jeff,
You left out the following:
  • A few cards that produce slave tokens.
  • A small number of artifacts lands to get "buried" by sand.

Also, I'm not sure that we should have both Cycling and Gravecycling as that could get confusing.

I didn't add slave token cards since there will only be a couple of them and not necessarily should be considered a mechanic. And the artifacts/lands that get buried I was just thinking of as a subsection of the artifacts that need to be excavated.
As for Cycling and Gravecycling: I think every set that has had a version of cycling - swampcycling, basiclandcycling, slivercycling - have all had cycling in the set as well. That said I'm not sad to not have this mechanic in the set. I think if we don't, it might make a lot more sense to not call our mechanic Gravecycling and give it a name that is more flavorful with our world. Maybe Graverob? what do you think?

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