Vikings: Berserkers

We’ve previously established that one of our major themes and keywords is berserkers. Berserker means the following: Whenever the creature is blocked or blocks, you can pay some mana and trigger the berserker ability (although its not worded as a trigger, but an activated ability). This gives the creature some temporary bonuses on power and toughness, as well as indestructibility. However, each of them comes with a negative consequence. Its hard to try to contain a berserker, after all.

This is actually the real challenge. The game has shied away from drawbacks since the early days. Although they have returned somewhat in the past few sets, there currently isn’t a real tradition of those. Well, gladly, finding enough flavorful ones for each color is pretty easy. So, here goes (in the priority order set previously, meaning RBGUW).

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Aki’s New Year’s Resolutions

I think New Year’s resolutions are a pretty stupid idea. Humans are weirdly programmed. Generally its enough to talk about something we want to do. People who share their goals don’t reach them as often as people who don’t. You get some of the sensation of accomplishment simply from talking about it and for most people that’s enough. Actual accomplishments require actual work and that’s hard. Today’s culture is much more about instant gratification than hard work.

Although that’s clearly a generilization, you should not – under any circumstances – make New Year’s Resolutions.

With that in mind, here are mine.

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Vikings: A Division of Mechanics, Continued

Last week I talked about the mechanics I might use in the set, but the more important thing is how to have each color have a pretty balanced set of these keywords.

Now, generally not all mechanics are or need to be keyworded. Things such as milling are fine without needing a shortcut for them. There are many such mechanics. However, sometimes people want names for these things. It just makes them easier to talk about them and brings certain completion (see yesterday’s post).

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Vikings: A Division of Mechanics

New mechanics in a set tell us something about the world and more importantly, they affect how the set feels when playing the game. So, lets look at how often do we see different mechanics in different colors:

White> Blue Black Red Green Gold & Colorless
Bestow 4 2 4 2 3
Devotion 2 2 5 2 4 1
Heroic 5 3 2 3 3 2
Monstrosity 1 2 2 4 4 3
Scry 3 11 1 6 1 8
Total 15  20 14 17 15 14

Including Flamespeaker Adept, because it says something about how scry is seen by different colors.

The same weighted on many you’ll pull on average from a booster:

White> Blue Black Red Green Gold & Colorless
Bestow 0.26 0.15 0.26 0.15 0.17
Devotion 0.06 0.02 0.27 0.06 0.17 0.02
Heroic 0.31 0.22 0.07 0.17 0.17 0.07
Monstrosity 0.02 0.07 0.07 0.17 0.17 0.03
Scry 0.25 0.77 0.1 0.5 0.05 0.2
Total 0.9 1.23 0.77 1.05 0.73 0.32

No heroic in mythic rare. That’s sort of interesting. Perhaps you’re supposed to think those really great heroes were built up from something rather than starting from there.

Of course, there are other considerations, such as blue has quit a few scry-effects, which give their controllers multiple chances to scry, whereas the other colors generally have to rely on scry-effects stickered on instants. Also, you’ll notice I put gold cards into their own category, whereas they are also strong indicators on where certain things fall, for example, both gold monstrosity creatures are half green and both gold heroic creatures are part white.

Summing the totals, you’ll come to the conclusion that on average, you’ll find in your booster five cards (out of 14) referencing one of these five things. And by the way: this number is exactly five (not counting foils and my rounding of the numbers), so I don’t think its an accident. MaRo talks about “as-fan” every once in a while. As-fan is what your set looks like when you open a booster and fan the cards out. In this case, about third of the cards are going to have one of the mechanics on them, meaning they have a very strong presence.

We can also see that blue is generally a bit of an outlier. In this case, it doesn’t do well in any category until we get to scry. On the other hand, we have “as-played”, which stands for how often we see these cards in action. In standard, we see a lot of devotion, especially both of the blue cards, one black common (Gray Merchant of Asphodel) and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. We see some monstrosity in Polukranos, World-Eater, Arbor Colossus and Stormbreath Dragon, although I hardly see the the last one actually becoming monstrous. In limited you see all of these mechanics abused, which means its a pretty good set.

So, in Vikings, I’d like to have about a similar number of mechanics. Four or five will do. But I also need to find ones that can encompass all colors about equally. I’m going to try and find something you can put into each color at least once, but I’m also going to try and find something especially for each color, so that each color can have its distinct identity. Although, in some cases (see heroic or monstrosity above in black), the same mechanic can have a very different feel in different colors.

Also, if possible, each color combination should have a distinct feel to it. This shouldn’t be as strong as the individual cards, but this can be as simple as blue-red wanting to cast instants and sorceries and getting extra benefit from them (see Spellheart Chimera and Flamespeaker Adept.

So, as I’ve stated prevously (in some forgotten post), I’ll be using Landfall from Zendikar. This will occur mostly in green, as I’ve already made green the exploration color. Of course, I’ll have to look closely at Zendikar so that I won’t tread the same waters, but there seems to be plenty of design space there.

Next, were going to have berserkers. I have two distinct ideas here: berserker could be a keyword (actually an ability word) which lets a creature grow and become indestructible when blocking or blocked, but it often (but not always) has a an additional cost, such as sacrifing the berserker at end of turn. These will probably be mostly in red, but again, at least one for each color. Even white and blue.

An example:

Arnulf’s Berserker
Creature – Human Berserker 1U
Berserker — UU, this creature gets +2/+2 and gains indestructibility until end of turn. Target player puts the top five cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard. (You may only active Berserker once per turn and only if this creature blocks or is blocked)

The other idea (which I might put under a different name and use anyway) is having many of the other cards have an activated ability involving discarding it and giving bonuses to a creature. A bit like bloodrush, but its not limited to being a creature ability. This way it would probably be more of a white thing, but its easy enough to find suitable abilities for all colors. This would also mean I could put pretty narrow cards into the set, and the narrowness would be mitigated by this ability. These might be hard flavorwise, though, although I am once again confident that I can come up with something.

An example of this kind of a card would look something like this:

Secret Location
Sorcery 1G
Search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.
{Mechanic title} — G, discard Secret Location: Target creature gains hexproof until end of turn.

I’m guessing this is actually Channel, but Channel (and somewhat similar Evoke) are creature abilities. I probably could just call this Channel and be done with it, although there might be some rules concers, which aren’t really my problem. I like this because it lets you put all sorts of effects into you deck without necessarily compromising your combat capabilities, which are very important in limited.

Blue is always hard, since this is a somewhat combat-oriented set in a combat-oriented game, and blue tends to be stronger outside of combat. I’m not going to use scry, as Lauri suggested, because it was just used so recently, even though it would fit here very well. Of course, another problem I have is that I’m trying to keep the fantasy in this first set pretty low key, which means no effects with effects that are too far from what could happen in the real world flavorwise.

These might be a bit farfetched or hard to get a handle on, but at this point these are only ideas anyhow:

Perhaps redirection within cards.

Well-Aimed Arrow
Instant 2W
Well-Aimed Arrow deals 4 damage to target attacking or blocking creature.
Redirect — If this card would be countered because it no longer has valid targets, you may pay R to assign it a new target.

That would probably need some clarification, but seems fine. Don’t know if there’s enough design space.

Another could be named something like “Omen”. These cards could be either cheaper or they could have an additional effect if you’ve done something during this turn.

Example:

Bloodeagle
Instant 2B
Destroy target nonblack creature.
Omen — If a creature died this turn, the destroyed creature can not be regenerated

or

Call of Home
Instant 1U
Return target creature to its owner’s hand
Omen — If you have drawn a card this turn, you may target any permanent instead.

I like the latter much more and it feels like there’s much more design space there, so that’s probably what I’m going to go with. It should be easy enough to come up with things for blue with this mechanic.

This leaves black without a signature mechanic, but that might be a good thing, because black is my favorite color and therefore it’ll be easy enough to find uses in black for all of the above.

.. and of course the Grandeur (at least for now), which is not a major thing, because we only have the five big boys, who have it. Although, I may add a land with the same ability into the set. Even then, six mythic rares with an ability don’t do much for the feel of the set.

Vikings: Eirik the Green

And finally… the green.

Green is about growth, so our green is about exploration. These would be the vikings who went west into Iceland, Greenland, and even North America in search of new places to settle.

Although, in reality, it wasn’t restlessness alone that forced these people to move, but often other circumstances. However, since this is fantasy, we can take the more romantic approach.

Eirik the Green
Legendary Creature – Human Scout 3/3, 1GG
Vigilance
T: Search your library for a basic land card, reveal it and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library afterwards.
Grandeur — Discard another card named Eirik the Green: You may play an extra land this turn. Use this ability only during your own turn.

Again, the name will change at some point, but we’re going with this for now.

I like the interplay of these two abilities. Actually three. Vigilance + tapping ability is an old standby, but it works. Its usually more of a white thing, but vigilance seems to be secondary or tertiary in green (its seen about once per set, if even that), so it can get its share of the fun… at least in a mythic rare. Attacking, then finding a land and playing it on turn four seems pretty good to me. Of course, the Grandeur ability does have a huge variance, as you might have played all your lands by the time Eirik is online.

Eirik is a illegimate son of a famous king. Cast out of his own country due to his brothers, the current king, fears of usurpers, which are quite warranted in this day and age, Eirik has been moving around for a very long time. Bad luck seems to follow him. Whenever he has settled down, some calamity (fights with neighbors, bad weather, destroyed crops, disease among animals) forces him to move, although some say he uses any excuse to get back on the road.

Never mind his bad luck, Eirik has stretched the limits of the known world. He has found several islands, which have soon become inhabited by others, and some places people tried to settle but failed.

Eirik takes his poor fortunes in a stride, thinking this is the natural way of things. He just keeps pushing on. To him, this is a survival situation and he would much rather be on the open seas, finding new lands, then coping with the politics of his brothers court, although he is sometimes funded by members of the court behind his brother’s back, when he lacks the funds himself.

There are many stories about Eirik, some true, some not, but in either case, he is quite famous, even if he really doesn’t want to be.

Vikings: Canut, the Skald

On to the red.

Red is the color of emotion and recklessness. I guess. Well, poorly put, but I need to distinguish them from the other colors, so red is the color of the berserkers and other warriors, but also the color of the skald (the troubadours of the norse).

Because I really do need to distinguish red from other colors, I’m largely going with the skald approach, because I can do something different that way. Well, I’m using pretty standard abilities, but the flavor is different. Canut is worse in combat than any of the other legendary creatures, which goes somewhat against reds usual role, but I like him.

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Vikings: Dark Thyra

And on to the black…

Black is the color of ambition and amorality. They are the central color in our set. They are the ones out for personal gain. They are probably the least flashy of the vikings, but they are everywhere. Since sacrifices are mainly a black thing, black is probably also the color of priests.

Our legendary creature for black is…

Dark Thyra
Legendary Creature – Human Shaman 1/5, 1BB
Deathtouch
Whenever an opponent sacrifices a creature, draw a card.
Grandeur -— Discard another card named Dark Thyra: Each opponent sacrifices a creature.

Obviously, since this is black, the draw is not a “may”, so if an opponent manages to pull off the wrong combo, you are screwed. But, hey that’s black for you. Otherwise, this is very build-around creature. The set probably needs an edict and maybe a Fleshbag Marauder of some sort to make this gal usable in this environment. I want people to want to put her in their decks when they get her P1P1.

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Fun with Names (Warning: Math Involved)

There’s a method for making “fonetic” random passwords. Well, there are many, but this one is a bit more interesting, because you can produce passwords, which feel right for your language. Of course, whenever there are random elements involved, things might not go quite right, but that’s just part of the fun.

Here, instead of making passwords, we are making names, which sound like they could be names from a certain language, or culture. PHP-code included (sadly, no indents, as the WordPress can’t display them properly). Below, I’m doing names for my Viking set for MtG, but it can be used for fantasy worlds as well, if you can find a good list of names. No offense to the Mongol people, but their names made a very nice basis for goblin names.

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Vikings: Arnulf, Merchant Prince

Earlier this week, I talked about white in this set, now (going in the color pie order), its blue’s turn.

Blue is the color of rationality and planning. The blue vikings are therefore the traders. These were the vikings who formed trading posts all over Europe, some of which are still major cities today.

Without further ado, here’s the leader of this faction of our vikings.

Arnulf, Merchant Prince
Legendary Creature – Human Advisor 2/3, 1UU
Tap a blue creature you control: Draw a card, then discard a card
Grandeur -— Discard another card named Arnulf, Merchant Prince: Exchange control of two target permanents of the same type.

Of course most blue players will hate a card which requires the use of creatures… and more would be better. Blasphemy! … and I hear you. I feel you. I know how painful it is to rely on creatures when spells should suffice. Sometimes its hard to be blue. (Well, you can always play Legacy…) Maybe I should drop the color requirement from the activated ability to make this less of a blue creature.

His ability is not as out of the left field as Signy’s, but its very powerful. He makes it easy to move past cards you won’t need in the late game, or just find the cards that work best in the situation you happen to be in. I’d like to come up with something more unique… We’ll see.

At first I thought the Grandeur ability should be drawing cards, but then that might give early advantage which might be too much if its anything more than simple cycling. This current version at least won’t bring huge early game advantages if the opponent is playing fair. If your opponent somehow drops a Griselbrand on turn two, it should be fair game to steal as well. Also, since creatures that fall under the control of another player are dropped out of combat, this can become a way to slow down your opponent, which is something blue definitely wants. This is also an ability you can definitely build around. If your creatures are Snapcaster Mages, Augur of Bolas’s and Omenspeakers, you probably won’t be unhappy to exchange them for something like Kalonian Tusker.

Blue is a problematic color in one sense: I wanted to give each of these leaders a keyword ability, but blue only has flying, hexproof, flash, and islandwalk. None of those felt right.

Okay, so who is this guy?

Arnulf is quite opportunistic, just like all the other Vikings, but rather than relying on his axe, he goes where the others are not going due to too much risk in raiding.

Arnulf would like to travel more, but currently he is more or less forced to remain in his trading post (more like a town these days, including a stockade and many services for travellers) so that his multitude of contacts can come to him to trade.

Arnulf is not that interested in the wealth itself. Actually, he leads a pretty spartan life with heating being the only luxury he allows himself. His palace is very luxurious, but that’s just for show. Instead, he has been accumulating books, which he buys of off other vikings, who are often raiding monasteries to get them.

In his talks with Dark Thyra (to whom will get to later), Arnulf has learned about the oncoming end of the world. This is one of the reasons he has been building his base. He has plenty of artisans he feels he might need when the time comes. Everyone will be needing weapons and armor. Arnulf will be ready to provide them.

Arnulf often rubs people the wrong way, but he has a way of rationalizing trades. He never cheats anyone and does his best to see that anyone trading with him will feel they were right to trade with him. On the other hand, anyone cheating him will be fed to the fish being raised in the fjord he lives next to.

Vikings: Signy Ulverdottir

On my vacation, I managed to read one of the books I bought on the subject of vikings: Jonathan Clements’ A Brief History of the Vikings, which also presented a question on the cover: “The last pagans or the first modern Europeans?”. It didn’t actually answer the question, which leads me to believe it was just something added by the marketing to exploit the success of some other book with a similarly emotive taglines.

It didn’t really change how I view Vikings, but it did include a lot of interesting information. It did enforce my belief that I’m going in the right direction.

Earlier, I talked about how the colors would be represented in the set

White is the color of organization and community. So, our white vikings are the ones who went out and conquered nations. Historically, the vikings who went out and conquered large tracks of the Britain would have been white.

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