Monday, June 04, 2012

It's the Magic: Legend--Challenge Accepted--ary

Goblin Artisans has put up a new design challenge; redesign one of the legendary multicolored creatures from the highly questionable Legends set.

Highly questionable.

The challenge stipulates that the name, art, and flavor text, but all other attributes can be changed. You can read the full details on their site here. 

My choice is a personal favorite: Sivitri Scarzam.

In the lore of Magic, Sivitri tamed dragons and terrorized a corner of Dominaria before being defeated. It's a short bit of history, but it's worth more than a 6/4 vanilla creature for 7 mana. Don't get me wrong; even in that price range, very few black and blue creatures can boast that kind of power. Those who can are often mythic rares.

There are three attributes I want to impart to Sivitri in redesigning her; character-based, truly legendary, and tempting to play.

No matter what a card is, it's just symbols on colorful paper if it doesn't represent something. In many respects Sivitri Scarzam is a colorful Razorfield Thresher. Her character is tied to her dominion over dragons. Whether her link with dragons is as explicit as stating she gives all dragons intimidate or +2/+2 or if it's just something synergistic with expensive, flying red creatures, whatever changes I make have to respect that. The biggest obstacle to this is that Sivitri Scarzam is a black and blue creature, while most dragons are red. You can't even use her to be your commander in a dragon-based EDH game unless you're running Phantasmal Dragon and Kokhusho.

We'll call all 9 of these guys, "Kokusho and Friends"

A truly legendary ability requires that she have more than flying and more than a respectable body (you know what I mean). While "Legendary" doesn't necessarily mean "no other card can do this," it isn't something you can see every day. Sivitri should have an ability that's flashy or useful--even if it's just in a niche.

A card that's tempting to play either fits into a preexisting play style (the way Vexing Devil fits neatly into most mono-Red decks) or ties together elements to make a new play style out of them (the way cards like Bone Splinters and Altar Reap let you tie together decks utilizing death triggers and those utilizing temporary creature theft). Red's been drawing and discarding cards a lot lately; that might be something she can do. It also has to be affordable for what it does, which Sivitri is not.

So I'm looking for my new Sivitri Scarzam to have:
-something dragon-based
-something red that will change her color identity for commander
-something that fills a hole in an existing deck style or links two styles
-something that no other card does

Judging by Sivitri's flavor and history, there are a few abilities I'd like to use consider:
-Giving all dragons intimidate or another bonus.
-Giving Sivitri a bonus whenever you control a dragon. If she rides dragons, giving her a Griffin Rider-like ability would make sense.
-Providing red mana or converting mana to red mana. The color issues for getting Sivitri out have been mentioned. In addition, many dragons have activated abilities that need red mana. Letting her convert regular mana or even generate extra red mana would amp up her dragons.
-Flying and Intimidate are two abilities that are a layup for her. It gives her a different board presence and makes her something players have to be wary of because she can do a lot of damage.
-Giving her firebreathing. The classically (but not exclusively) draconic ability of "R: This creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn" would clearly link her with dragons, broaden her color identity, and make her a threat. If she had Deathtouch as well she could punish opponents, whether they blocked or not.
-Let her copy or gain the abilities of dragons or creatures with a converted mana cost above a certain level. This would give her a link to dragons--or any large creature--and give her some punch. It also plays to the copying abilities of blue and even blue/black creatures like Evil Twin.

-Giving all of your creatures intimidate. This ability isn't dragon specific, but it works for dragons. They're some of red's few fliers for the most part, the only thing that can block your dragons if Sivitri is out is more dragons. It still works for other decks though.
-Gaining control of dragons. Commanding dragons is clearly part of her character. While it's not always a guarantee that an opponent has a dragon, if her ability said: "R,Tap: Gain control of target dragon until end of turn. It gains haste," it would enable her to either "borrow" an opponent's dragon every turn or to give your own dragons haste, which would also be useful.

Those last three are, sadly, right out.

Copying someone else's ability--no matter how useful--isn't going to make Sivitri II any more legendary. The ability to give just dragons a bonus is one that I like. I'd prefer something more subtle, but there are precious few dragon lords and that's a niche I think Sivitri can fill.

After some troubleshooting, I've narrowed it down to a shorter list of options:
-Giving all dragons an ability, like intimidate.
-Filtering mana that can only be used for dragons.
-Gaining flying and/or intimidate and/or firebreathing and/or deathtouch whenever you control a dragon.

All of these abilities are dragon-based, even though if she does have two abilities I'd only want one to be about dragons for the sake of simplicity and space. The firebreathing and mana filtering both change her color identity to blue/black/red, which means that failing a new mechanic, one of those is going into the final copy in some form. If the filtering ability also ramps up mana, it can help out dragon decks, not my helping drop dragons earlier, but by dropping more dragons later. Ultimately though, none of these abilities are very tempting to play as they're written. Only Kaarthus has really done any dragon-lording before, but aside from dragon specific, she still isn't doing anything new.

I'll hit the drawing board and kick around some more ideas for Wednesday. If you've got any ideas, let me know.

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