The M-Files: Eldritch Moon, Part 2

Posted in Latest Developments on July 29, 2016

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.

Welcome back! Frequent readers of this column will know that Multiverse is our internal database, used to track Magic cards already printed, early in design, and everything in between. One of the duties of being a designer or developer is making occasional passes on the cards in Multiverse and leaving comments. Looking back on the file a year later provides insights on the design and development processes, as well as a few laughs. You'll find both here.

If you'd like to have a face to put with each name, click below to reveal our cast of commenters:

Click to reveal

SPS—Sam Stoddard, that's-a-me! Also EMN lead developer

KEN—Ken Nagle, EMN design lead

KD—Kelly Digges, story

JL—Jackie Lee, designer

TJA—Tim Aten, editor

BrH—Bryan Hawley, developer

JDR—Jules Robins, designer

YS—Yoni Skolnik, developer

MDT—Melissa DeTora, development intern

AM—Alli Medwin, digital editor

MJG—Mark Globus, product architect

EVL—Erik Lauer, head developer

SM—Shawn Main, designer

AP—Adam Prosak, developer

ID—Ian Duke, developer

DH—David Humpherys, development manager

Mago—Mark Gottlieb, design manager

MJJ—Mons Johnson, Duel Masters developer and FFL playtester

GSV—Gavin Verhey, designer

Tabak—Matt Tabak, rules manager

JS—James Sooy, digital designer

And with that, we continue with the second half of Eldritch Moon's Multiverse comments.

Falkenrath Reaver

SPS: The mythical vanilla red bear.
AP: Seems like a poor mythic rare. Feels common to me. :P

This was actually a big point of contention—we'd gone so long without making a creature of this size and mana cost. The stronger the average creature got in Limited, the more red was hurting. It just couldn't get enough good two-drops, since it didn't have access to powerful evasion like flying (menace is good, but not as strong on a 2-power creature), and its decks are less likely to actually want 1/3s. Adding a 2/2 to the arsenal should help out a lot for balancing red in Limited.


Prophetic Ravings

SPS: Now Epiphany Storm.
SPS: New stats.
SPS: Down to R to cast.
SPS: Grants hate now.
MDT: So sad. It grants hate.

Sigh. So, I am well known for my typos in Multiverse. If I didn't have an editor, you'd see them here too, but they catch most of them. Thanks, editors!


Galvanic Bombardment

KEN: R -> 1R. I want green's fight cards to be better than red fight cards.
SPS: No longer fights. Now a New World Order Kindle.
SPS: Up to 3 damage.
SPS: Back to 2 damage.
SPS: Now 2R deal 3+X damage.
SPS: Now R Kindle to only creatures.

This card started off as a red one-sided fight card, which is more interesting in Limited than most damage spells, but has the problem that it messes up the color pie. We know green doesn't have a lot of room for different removal spells in Limited, and putting one-sided fight into red means that green will have a very hard time having its cards even come close to measuring up. Leaving one-sided fight in green (at least at efficient costs) should help to keep the colors feeling different, and give green more chances at having strong removal.


Furyblade Vampire

Note: This card originally got +X/+0, where X was the converted mana cost of the discarded card

AP: I don't want to die on turn three.
AM: Is this meaningfully different from Blazing Shoal?
SPS: Well, I can't use it on an infect creature.
SPS: Now gets +3/+0 not based on converted mana cost.
SPS: Now at beginning of combat.

The original version of this card got a bonus based on what you discarded, encouraging people to discard their expensive madness spells and to cast them for cheap. For instance, the Twins of Maurer Estate are a lot scarier when they are giving your trample creature +5/0. But this made the card less fun when working toward delirium, and was really not fun in combination with Emrakul for gigantic turn-three attacks. We ultimately decided to both make it a set +3/+0 and also do it at the beginning of combat as a trigger (instead of an attack trigger) so you could use your Incorrigible Youths with it.


Incendiary Flow

SPS: Now Pillar of Flame for FFL.
SPS: Now Volcanic Hammer with exile.
DH: Hope we don't use this name. Will be confusing with Pillar of Flame.
SPS: This was my name. I am sure we won't.

This started out as Pillar of Flame, since Shadows over Innistrad had Fiery Temper. But we found that red needed another generic 3-damage spell for two mana to be competitive. Ultimately, this may not be the most exciting card in the set, but it is the exact thing that red needed to be competitive.


Impetuous Devils

SPS: New card.
ID: Glad we found you a home, buddy!
BrH: This card is great. I'm glad it made it in the set.

Fun fact: this card was originally in Oath of the Gatewatch, but was cut for space. I played a bit of it in FFL, and was a huge fan of "trample block," so I decided to put it into Eldritch Moon. For this exact reason, many designers and developers like to keep a file of their cards they liked but that were cut from sets.


Harmless Offering

SPS: New card from hole filling.
MJJ: Better than it appears, as it works with creatures that you can sacrifice, Magic Origins planeswalkers, etc.
YS: How is this not strictly worse than Altar's Reap?
SPS: Down to R.
Mago: Because Altar's Reap is black and this is red. "Strictly worse" does not apply (even before the converted mana cost change).
Mago: This card has sparked a color pie debate. For the record, I like and support this card in red.
TJA: Added "target" to the creature part, because if it only targets a player, you can just run it out on turn one.
SPS: Back to two mana. Altar's Reap out of the set.
YS: I still don't get why a strictly worse version of a Limited common is a rare.
AP: I'm with Yoni on this one. This card offends me. I still would not consider playing this if it drew three cards.
TJA: Yoni, I assume it's supposed to be a Johnny card as opposed to red card draw at a fair rate. The "Donate" part is what makes it rare, though to be fair, we don't exactly make that many Lords of the Pit anymore.
SPS: Up to 2R for safety. I am fine with this being a "bad" card for Johnny players. Figure out something cute to do with it.
Tabak: Cast this, targeting my Eldrazi Scion, sac it to pay for the spell. Profit.
GSV: Sweet card! Will likely end up featuring this in my article at some point. Can this be two mana? I predict a lot of people trying to have fun with this casually and a cost of three proving unwieldly. (And yes, Donate cost three, but this is far more limited.)
SPS: Now just color-shifted donate.
DH: Problematic this gets rid of unwanted enchantment (Demonic Pact) where Bazaar Trader did not?
BrH: If by problematic you mean awesome, then yes. It's felt like a cool thing to do for a few months. You definitely feel like you're getting away with something.
KEN: This lets you steal something forever with Act of Treason by targeting yourself with it. Should it start with "Target opponent"? I don't like the Bazaar Trader plus Act of Treason deck because it's more powerful than doing the intended purpose of Bazaar Trading.

The original version of this card was doing too much—it gave an opponent a creature you controlled, then you drew two cards. It was kind of bending color pie, kind of being cute, and kind of trying to let you do goofy stuff. In the end, I decided to go full steam ahead on letting you do goofy stuff, and the art ended up satisfying the cute part.


Nahiri's Wrath

ID: Fun with Boros Reckoner.
SPS: Now up to X targets. Reckoner away.

If hitting up to X targets instead of forcing X lets cool things happen with Boros Reckoner, I am all the more for it. The cool part about Nahiri's Wrath (and what I believe makes it mythic rare) is just how much damage it does. The playtest name, "Nuke from Orbit," I think did a lot to sell this internally. While the final name isn't quite as cute, I hope the card itself is still exciting enough.


Bloodbriar

SPS: Now a sacrifice reward.
SPS: Down to common. No longer base trample, now a 2G 2/3.
SPS: Now a 2/3 and you get the counter whenever you sacrifice something.
Design Team Meeting: Why can't this trigger off our Clues? We want crossover with SOI archetypes.
SPS: Now any permanent.

Getting the right amount of overlap for SOI and EMN was hard for green-blue, since Clues left, so having opportunities on cards like Bloodbriar to tie things together was important.


Gnarlwood Dryad

SPS: Now a G 1/1 that gets +2/+2 and mills two.
Mago: A second card with a delirium toughness bonus. See CG05; watch out for accidental death.
SPS: Now starts off with deathtouch instead of milling.
YS: I liked the card better when it
ID: I mostly agree with YS except

I'm not the only one who can typo!

This card was a little stronger than I wanted when it milled two cards. Time will show how much that change impacts how well the delirium deck does in Standard.


Noose Constrictor

SPS: Now a Wild Mongrel variant.
TJA: I really hope the FFL doesn't break this.
SPS: Same. Jerks.

And they didn't. Huzzah! But on a more serious note, I am a big proponent of finding ways to add fun cards like Wild Mongrel that aren't in Modern to the format. Some, like that one, are difficult because they have weird text on them. So I took the opportunity to make a new version without that weird text, and with a different upside.


Foul Emissary

KEN: I'd prefer if he gave a bonus for saccing himself (and could not care about others) for a more toolbox-y deck flow.
SPS: Now a 3G 3/2.
SPS: now a 2G 2/4.
DH: Weird card. Somehow expect it to say, "Whenever you sacrifice [another] or CARDNAME..."
DH: Changed in FFL meeting. Check template please.
SPS: Now a 1/1 that only gives you a token if you sac it.
TJA: Now that it's just itself, the trigger condition feels bizarrely specific.
BrH: Actually, looking at this card it's just a super ugly text box. I'd prefer either losing the second ability or doubling down on it (two 3/2s?) while losing the first—but not having both.
KEN: Prefer making two 3/2s, losing the enters-the-battlefield effect. Already have Traverse the Ulvenwald and From Beyond to find an emerge guy.
YS: This card actually worked to enable a Constructed linear emerge deck. I believe that being a combination of generic value plus linear reward is the only way for this to work in Constructed.
MDT: I'd love for the emerge deck to hit. I still think it will with this change. This was the guy you usually sacrificed first, anyway.

We knew some of the emerge cards would work well by themselves, but thought it would also be fun to have a deck that could be based around emerge, rather than the cards just being one-offs. Foul Emissary (as well as Matter Reshaper in OGW) were strong three-drops that would let people easily curve into emerge creatures with an emerge cost of seven. Beyond that, the Emissary also went a long way toward ensuring you actually had the emerge card to cast.


Spirit of the Hunt

SPS: New text. Now 1GG and grants indestructible.
TJA: Avacyn died and became a Wolf ghost?
DH: This does feel a bit weird in a block with Archangel Avacyn.
KEN: This wins lots of games in the Werewolf deck against everything except Languish.
DH: From the FFL meeting, can this give your team +0/+3? That would separate it from Avacyn and give a different angle vs. Languish.
TJA: Made this change.

Sure enough, this card did look too much like Avacyn. It was serving a similar goal, but in different colors. The hope was that if Languish decks were everywhere, Spirit of the Hunt would offer some reasons to play Werewolves over some of the other beatdown decks in the format.


Splendid Reclamation

SPS: New card from MDT's team.
Mago: This card was in the Shadows over Innistrad design file for a long time.
SPS: Down to 3G.
JS: Looks like a fun puzzle for Modern Landfall.
KEN: If I open this, I'll try drafting all the Dreadwaters with it.

Maybe not exactly Modern Landfall, but this card is a pretty interesting puzzle that I can't wait to see what people do with. It's always great when we can find pretty simple lines of text that can go onto a rare that "feels" rare and also be something we haven't done before. This hit both!


Ishkanah, Grafwidow

SPS: New card from BrH.
KEN: Could be 0/1 with +1/+1 per Spider, or it should say "power equal to number of Spiders, toughness equal to Spiders plus 1."
SPS: Trying as a 3GG 2/4.
SM: Cute.
SPS: Now delirium for four.
SPS: Now a 3GG 4/5.
SPS: Now 5/5 and mythic.
BrH: We need a value four-drop more than a value five-drop. 2GG 3/4?
SPS: Trying that.
KEN: Why is this legendary if there's no tribal Spider reward for Commander? There are plenty of Spiders to play, just not many "Spiders have deathtouch"-like rewards for doing so.
TJA: "Other Spiders you control get +1/+2."
SPS: Now a 3GG 3/5.
GSV: People have been asking for a Spider lord for their Commander decks, but many will be sad if they can't play Spider Spawning in it. (And perhaps Graverobber Spider and Nyx Weaver as well.) Is there any way to get a black activation on this?
AM: Agree with Gavin. In addition to the three black-green Spider cards, there are also four red or red-green Spider cards and two green-white Spiders.
KEN: "3BB: Attacking Spiders gain deathtouch until end of turn."?
TJA: Now can spawn a Spider for 4B.
TJA: Makes three Spiders rather than four. Last ability no longer makes spider for 4B, instead causes life loss for 6B.

The original version of this card was cute, in that it entered the battlefield and cast Spider Spawning, then had power and toughness equal to the number of Spiders. It was cute, but we couldn't find numbers that were very satisfying. When we gave it a set power and toughness, we ended up not liking how it was going into delirium decks but counting a different thing, and being unbounded. We still liked the general shape of the card, and moved it into basically what you see today, making it legendary because of how strong multiples in a row could be.

Once it was legendary, there were calls to put a black activation onto the card so it could work as a commander—a legendary Spider was a top request on Mark Rosewater's blog for quite a while. I fought back for a bit, but ended up deciding that it was well worth it to make the greatest number of people happy. After that, it was only a matter of getting it to the appropriate power level for Standard.


Mercurial Geists

SPS: Now a Wee Dragonauts callback.
SPS: Now 1/3 with +3/0.

This card was originally a 2/3 that got +2/+0. We wanted to make it something that was stronger in the Blue-Red Spells deck, as opposed to being pretty good in generic decks. The goal of the uncommon gold cards here really was to direct people into building specific decks, so we pushed it in a way that would maximize that.


Tamiyo, Field Researcher

SPS: Nonland and new ultimate.
ID: I still don't like this ultimate. By the time you activate it, you probably have enough mana to cast any of your spells, and it doesn't help if you're out of gas. Even just adding "Draw three cards..." to the front would help me a lot.
SPS: Added draw three.

I have seen a lot of people question why you would need the three cards with the ultimate, but what we found (at least in Standard) was that you often didn't want to ultimate because it just didn't do enough. Throwing three cards on top of it allows people to better live the dream with the card.


Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha

SPS: Now fights.
JDR: Huntmaster had the same "which one turns over first?" mini game. It requires deep rules knowledge and feels terrible the when you first run across it. I'd rather not repeat it.
SPS: No longer fights his own kind.
TJA: Oh sure, but it'll fight Wolves? How deep is this rabbit hole?

This kind of brings up the age-old question of whether a Werewolf is a more of a Human-Wolf or a Wolf-Human. In either case, Ulrich doesn't feel like getting into the argument.


Terrarion

DH: Stronger for delirium than I tried to aim in Shadows over Innistrad, for trivial stuff like Evolving Wilds.
BrH: I've thought of this as compensation for the weaker self-mill in this set.

Bryan is right here. Delirium needed some help, and there was only so much self-mill the block wanted and only so many good designs. This card went a long way toward making Constructed and Limited work, without having as much self-mill as SOI.


Lupine Prototype

AP: I love this card. Incredibly fun in the Future Future League.
SPS: Overheard in the pit, "You can't be both a Zombie ­and a robot—TJA".

Apparently a dead Werewolf that gets put into a robot body and reanimated brings up a lot of questions when Zombies and Werewolves are both a thing.


Nephalia Academy

SPS: Freed up this slot for a top-down university. This may not be a great design, but I want this to end up as something that feels about right.
Mago: Might be too confusing with madness in the set.
Mago: I like the flavor nod, but this is a weird ability to have in a madness set.
SPS: I agree, but I like this card a lot.
Tabak: Definitely too late for this comment, but Mark had it right three months ago. This card is so baffling with madness.

Sometimes cards go into sets because they fit everything perfectly, and sometimes they go into sets because the lead developer likes something. Just how it goes. This card had a lot of fans in Commander players, and some Modern players around the office, so that combined with the setting was enough for me to go to bat over it.

That's it for this week. Join me next week when I talk about developing cards for Spikes.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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