M-Files: Amonkhet, Part 2

Posted in Latest Developments on May 12, 2017

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

Hello and welcome to another week of Latest Developments! Last week, we started off with white, blue, and black's multiverse comments, and this week I am going to finish it up! But, before we get into the comments, click below to look over our cast of commenters.

Click to Reveal

DGH—Dave Humpherys, Amonkhet co-lead developer

EEF—Ethan Fleischer, Amonkhet co-lead designer

YS—Yoni Skolnik, developer

TABAK—Matt Tabak, editor

GSV—Gavin Verhey, designer

ID—Ian Duke, developer

TJA—Tim Aten, former editor and seven-time Jeopardy! Champion

KEN—Ken Nagle, designer

AP—Adam Prosak, developer

MJJ—Mons Johnson, Duel Masters developer and Magic playtester

JDR—Jules Robins, designer

BRYAN—Bryan Hawley, developer

SVE—Scott Van Essen, Duel Masters designer and Magic playtester

BH—Ben Hayes, developer

And with that, let's get to the comments!

Bloodlust Inciter

MJJ: I'm a fan.

Mons Johnson, of Mons's Goblin Raiders fame, is more than happy when his signature card is outmoded in more recent sets.

Thresher Lizard

DGH: Trying more partial hellbent.

DGH: Changing to +1/+2.

Hazoret the Fervent was the first card that got "heckbent" as we were calling it, and as we found that ability to be fun, we ended up looking for a few extra cards to add it to so that people could actually draft or build decks that had that as a theme rather than just having Hazoret as the only payoff.

Magma Spray

BRYAN: There's only one card in the set I can see caring about prevention, and I don't think it'll come up much in Constructed.

DGH: Giving more relevant extra text. Might not be correct if this keeps embalm out of Constructed.

DGH: Pillar to Magma Spray for Future Future League.

We started off with Pillar of Flame as our pretty simple hate card, but found it was a bit weaker than we wanted for Standard, especially as we were looking for cards that could interact with Vehicles, even if it might have to happen after a block. The goal of this wasn't to solve everything, but to create some answers for cards like Scrapheap Scrounger that were otherwise very difficult to deal with.

Consuming Fervor

EEF: New card. Color-shifted Unstable Mutation.

DESIGN FAVORITE: "This card is adorable as a color-shifted Unstable Mutation. It's considerably less adorable if any of the numbers have to change. Color-shifted Unstable Mutation is going to have a lot of fans. I think the appeal of the card lies in being exactly Unstable Mutation. If it was nerfed Unstable Mutation or a variant, I think we lose a lot of the point of the card here."

ID: A nice old favorite.

KEN: Anyone else use this as creature kill? I did, along with Fog Bank.

This was a nice pseudo-reprint! I certainly have very fond memories of Unstable Mutation, and it is also something that we really can't replicate with +1/+1 counters. That was certainly a big goal for making -1/-1 counters work in the design—to find things that we couldn't just replicate in the opposite with +1/+1 counters.

By Force

AP: Nice knowing you, Kaladesh.

While this card was not meant to totally destroy all the Kaladesh decks, we did want some pretty strong answers to exist.


BH: Awesome!

SVE: This card is great, but really frustrating in the mirror. (Last one to cast it wins). I think it should have 5 toughness, only deal 3 damage, or only hit non-fliers to avoid that problem.

DGH: 3 damage

TJA: Game Day promo

DGH: 4 damage to non-flying?

DGH: 3 damage to 4, non-flying to non-Dragon

JDR: Dealing damage to an untapped creature is also an option (though obviously less powerful).

TABAK: Restricting it to non-Dragons controlled by an opponent at DH's request.

Glorybringer was a pretty sweet card, but the mirrors for it were miserable, for the reason Scott mentioned—the person to play the last one won. We worked through a number of iterations to make that play pattern not happen, and ended up on non-Dragon as the best way of doing that when weighing both elegance and power level.

Sweltering Suns

MJJ: This card is serious.

ID: FFL was interested in moving this up in cost/damage and having the Hour of Devastation card be the three-mana deal 3 (since this can't cost three and we want that effect).

DGH: Cut a mana to cast, moved from R to 3 to cycle. Cut the lands not untapping bit.

The original version of this was:

CARDNAME deals 3 damage to each creature. Each player can't untap more than two lands during his or her next untap step.
Cycling R (R, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

It was a cool design, but it wasn't actually hitting the need that the FFL was looking for of a red sweeper in the Anger of the Gods area. We discussed making that card in the next set, but decided that it was both more important to have now and not worth having two cards so similar in the same set.

Initiate's Companion

EEF: This card is in kind of a weird space in that you can't float mana and use its ability to untap lands for big sorcery-speed spells. Maybe just untapping a creature is enough?

MJJ: Works well with exert, so if we are ever to do this text, now is the time.

This card is a bit weird, but it plays pretty well with exert. I am happy to keep doing cards like this, but Ethan does raise a valid point.

Pouncing Cheetah

DGH: Power creeping King Cheetah for more Cats.

MJJ: I always thought Cheetahs should have haste too, but maybe that's just me.

While not a common ability for green, Mons is right that it is weird that no Cheetahs in Magic have haste! We're going to need to get on that.


DGH: Better Uktabi Orangutan

TABAK: Now 2/2 and added ability to make opponents' artifacts enter the battlefield tapped.

Manglehorn was originally a 2G 3/2. The extra text on it that makes artifacts enter tapped was, in fact, not put there to combat Copy Cat, but instead to give an answer to Marvel decks. By forcing Marvel to enter tapped, the hope was that people would have better ways of either racing or just overpowering those decks.

Defiant Greatmaw

TJA: "Show a mighty fantasy hippopotamus" is a card concept I can get behind.

Seconded. Fun fact: "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" is my favorite Christmas song.

Trial of Strength

KEN: The Alpine Grizzly conveyor belt.


Honored Hydra

DGH: Our Roar of the Wurm.

DGH: Down to 6/6 for six mana to start

KEN: If only Roar of the Wurm had trample?!

TJA: This card has been surprisingly unimpressive in Constructed. It's pretty inefficient to cast the front end first (even if you might get value later), and I don't know how good a 3G 6/6 trampler would be even if you didn't have to do extra work to make it happen. Seems like this might be a role player in self-mill strategies.

Despite the lack of Quiet Speculation, Honored Hydra is very much the spiritual successor to Roar of the Wurm. But the quality of creatures today is much different than in the past. We actually do basically have Wild Mongrel and Roar of the Wurm in Standard again, but that isn't the huge quality jump in creature size that it was in 2002.

Harvest Season

BRYAN: I'm not sure that go-wide aggro ramp is a deck with much of an audience.

DGH: This seemed to get enough people excited in the rare poll.

ID: Why specify tapped creatures? Power level?

DGH: I'd assume this costs an unappealing amount of mana if we don't specify tapped.

MJJ: I see this more as a deck-building constraint (you are looking for creatures that have tap effects, such as mana elves).

EEF: LOL @ Bryan. I'm inclined to agree. This card has some serious tension going on.

KEN: I will conspire this with Wort, the Raidmother!

Bryan is right here, this isn't well placed for that deck, but there are things this can do. The mana Elf example is the best one, where the goal of this card is to get three-plus lands by utility creatures, exert, etc. rather than go-wide token-type strategies. Also, making one of Ken's Commander decks is usually a good sign for a card.

Start // Finish

JDR: I'd like to do some wider canvassing on these names. It really weirds me out to have two different meanings of "to." We're using both the transitional "I went from Paris to Rome." (Bad // Worse) and the infinitive "I like to run." (Axe // Grind).

EEF: This just reinforces the lesson in my mind that too much knowledge of grammar simply leads to unhappiness.

As someone with an English degree, I can agree with Ethan on this one.

Onward // Victory

TJA: Victory is lame as a sorcery.

DGH: Added a mana to Victory and changed to instant

MJJ: I'm dubious about aftermath instants, but at least it doesn't pump toughness.

AP: I feel like the two sides are very close to the same thing.

KEN: Quad damage!

DGH: Victory from Instant to Sorcery

It may read a bit lame, but the quad damage aspect was, in fact, very powerful. While this may not be as strong as it would be as an instant, it also doesn't allow for the kills out of nowhere that we found to be frustrating.

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

DGH: Cleopatra top-down slot

DGH: Trying the new wording to gauge reaction; it appears on four cards.

MJJ: I like the new wording. It seems to fit the set and it doesn't have any fancy hoops to jump through.

DGH: Cut deathtouch on her.

TJA: Is it possible that this is "just the wrong amount of similar" to the uncommon black enchantment? They both make 1/1s when you put -1/-1 counters on stuff, but they make different kinds and different amounts.

Bryan: Three-mana 3/3 -> two-mana 2/2 for FFL.

Top-down getting bitten by an asp? I don't completely get the story here, but I find the final card very satisfying.

Bounty of the Luxa


DESIGN FAVORITE: "This is just fun gameplay, and a great top-down Egypt design that I really like. Captures the flavor of cyclic flooding, and I really enjoy the play pattern of needing to change modes on different turns."

ID: I have enjoyed this quite a bit.

GSV: Is "remove all counters" intentional? Relevant with the Aether Revolt cards that add more counters to things.

DGH: Now adds fixed mana rather than Mana Flare-ing

DGH: Would like this to produce 1GU instead of GGUU

TABAK: So be it. Now looking forward to the mana Bear that adds CUB to your mana pool. And your heart.

This was one of the cards that was hit very late in the process by our change in rotation. While we quickly found that Howling Mine/Mana Flare on rotating turns was a bit much, adding GGUU was pretty reasonable, considering we were down to just Emrakul, the Promised End, which was being turbo'd out anyway. Once we knew that the other Eldrazi would be around for another six months, that combined with Aetherworks Marvel meant that this card needed to be a little weaker.

Nissa, Steward of Elements

TABAK: Up to five lands becoming 2/2s changed to up to two lands becoming 5/5s.

TABAK: The lands now have flying per DGH request.

This was another card that had some serious changes due to the change in rotation. Making an army of 2/2 fliers was a cool Rude Awakening call back, and helped with Nissa being green-blue, but we were concerned about how strong this ability would be with Sylvan Advocate suddenly turning 10 points of flying damage into 20. We moved it to deal the same damage on one attack, but without the risk of Sylvan Advocate making it too far over the top.

Irrigated Farmland

DGH: Changed to cycle for colorless. Ben has also suggested lands that enter untapped unless you have a card in your graveyard. Interesting given this is a graveyard set, but seems very similar to fast lands.

YS: Can one hybrid mana as a cycling cost be on the table? I think that's what is necessary to make these exciting for Modern.

DGH: I don't think Modern viability is necessarily a goal. I believe two colorless was already felt to be generous for these.

DGH: Gain relevant land type. Back to colored mana to cycle.

TABAK: Now two to cycle, per Erik.

I've talked a bit about cards that got nerfed, but here is one that got a slight buff due to the change to four blocks! We had much more confidence that these lands would see play in Standard before we returned the Battle for Zendikar lands back to Standard along with the creature lands. To better help even out the lands in Standard, we made this cycle a bit stronger to help them show up. One-mana cycling felt too much, but this was a good medium spot.

That's it for this week! I hope you enjoyed this look through the M-Files for Amonkhet.

Next week, I'll back with another article about Magic's development.

Until next time,
Sam (@samstod)

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