So, you just finished your fifty-seventh Oath of the Gatewatch draft on Magic Online while waiting for more Shadows Over Innistrad spoilers, and that’s just from today! Naturally, you’re feeling tired of the format, but you still want to keep drafting. Well, that’s where I come in. I’m introducing a custom expansion set to Oath of the Gatewatch limited. It’s designed to give the format one final flash of fun and a proper send off.
If you’re just here for the cards, you’re in luck! Directly beneath this paragraph are all of the 24 new cards, and directly beneath those are instructions on how to add them to your drafts. If you’re interested, I’ll be going in depth on the reasoning behind the design of the cards. (In excrutiating detail.)
The Cards Themselves
How to Play With Them
There are 24 total cards, 12 commons and 12 uncommons. If you’re playing using physical cards, first print out two of each common card and one of each uncommon card. Next, put them in a sleeve with a basic card underneath and shuffle the 24 together.
Now, whenever a player opens a pack, add one of those cards at random to it. (At the end of the draft, you will have twelve unused cards.)
Behind the Design
At this point I’ll be diving into the ideas that went behind the design of these cards.
What We Had to Start With
As a designer, it’s important to review what you’re working with before tinkering with new cards. In terms of designing for limited, it’s helpful to consider each two color combination and how they typically play out. Next up would be planning what each color needs to accomplish that. Any card added needs to fit in with at least one of these archetypes. In Oath of the Gatewatch, these combinations are:
White/Blue: This is a more controlling style of archetype, which mostly relies on flying creatures attacking while the ground creatures keep up defense. Cards like Expedition Raptor and Gravity Negator are what decks in this archetype want.
Blue/Black: This archetype typically goes with the strategy of devoid control, using colorless cards and colorless mana to grind a game out. Cards like Blinding Drone and Oblivion Strike are what decks in this archetype want.
Black/Red: This archetype also uses devoid cards, but in a much more aggressive way. The goal is to play enough cheap, efficient devoid spells and cards that benefit from playing colorless spells to overwhelm your opponent before he or she can stabilize. Cards like Sky Scourer and Reality Hemorrhage are what decks in this archetype want.
Red/Green: This is a midrange type of archetype In general, red and green play bigger creatures than what the opponent has and trample over their creatures. Cards for decks in this archetype include Cinder Hellion and Tajuru Pathwarden.
Green/White: This archetype uses support and Ally tribal to flood the board with creatures, then make them large enough to attack with. Important cards for decks in this archetype include Spawnbinder Mage and Saddleback Lagac.
White/Black: This archetype is focused around using a life gain strategy to stall the game while slowly bleeding the opponent out and gaining advantage from using the cohort ability each turn. Important cards for decks in this archetype include Ondu War Cleric and Zulaport Chainmage.
Blue/Red: There are actually two different ways to play blue and red. It can be either an aggressive surge-based strategy with some prowess creatures, or a controlling devoid style of deck that uses powerful colorless synergies to win the late game. Important cards for the surge strategy include Jwar Isle Avenger and Expedite. Important cards for the devoid strategy include Cultivator Drone and Maw of Kozilek.
Red/White: This archetype relies on Allies by using them as efficient creatures in the early game to get in some damage and then finishing the game utilizing their cohort abilities. Important cards for decks in this archetype include Kor Sky Climber and Zada’s Commando.
Green/Blue: This is undefined, without anything really cohesive holding it together. Important cards include all the generically good green and blue commons.
The Problem with Processors
If you are anything like me, you were disappointed by the lack of support Oath of the Gatewatch had for certain archetypes in Battle for Zendikar. Evolving the archetypes and the format is all well and good, but it’s too much when the third pack of a draft has so many unplayable cards because of it.
Processors in particular suffer from this problem. Since all of the payoff cards and the support cards are in the last pack, Processors became unplayable. They fight for space with the support cards that the strategy needs. However, the solution is simple. Add more support to the earlier packs. Now players can freely take the Processor cards in the last pack knowing that can use them.
One other flavor benefit of adding support for Processors is how it demonstrates the difference between Ulamog’s and Kozilek’s broods. Ulamog’s brood uses ingest to exile the opponent’s cards, while Kozilek’s brood uses colorless mana. Although Kozilek’s Watcher has a similar end effect as Benthic Infiltrator, the two do basically the same thing, but in very different ways.
Lack of Awaken Support
Another mechanic with a similar issue is Awaken. The main payoff card for awaken is Halimar Tidecaller, which shows up in BFZ. Since it’s in the same pack as the Awaken cards, it means that players have to choose between the Awaken cards and the payoffs for having them.
This scenario is the opposite of Processors. The support for the mechanic is in the third pack, so players really need earlier access to cards that reward having awaken. This idea also has some overlap with adding support for +1/+1 counters, and can be as simple as adding an additional pseudo-Halimar Tidecaller in Umara Reclaimer.
Oath Needs Help Too
Of course, the problem is not only with archetypes from Battle for Zendikar. In Oath of the Gatewatch, red and white have an Equipment sub theme but the actual equipment cards like Stoneforge Acolyte and Kazuul’s Toll Collector end up as disappointing filler cards. Luckily, a possible solution is to add an extra couple of equipment cards.
The black and green creature recycling archetype is also in need of some help. It’s lackluster without being able to generate as much value from creatures dying. To that end, black and green both need a few extra ways to create value when one of their creatures dies.
What’s New is New
Naturally, who could be content expanding a set without also adding some new archetypes? There’s also some low hanging fruit with the dire need for a new green and blue archetype. Looking through both Oath of the Gatewatch and Battle for Zendikar, green and blue are the best colors at making Eldrazi Scion tokens. Naturally, they should also be the colors best at using them. So, green and blue both got cards that can turn average Eldrazi Scion tokens into lethal attackers, and cards that make multiple Scion tokens.
The green and white support archetype can also be changed slightly. There’s already support to make +1/+1 counters matter. Now, all the set needs is a payoff that’s a little bit better than Baloth Pup. This also has the added benefit of lining up with the awaken cards that are being added to white as well, so white got the cards that make +1/+1 counters matter and both colors get ways to put +1/+1 counters on creatures. A last touch is that white also got a cheap token maker, just to make it easier to get all of the +1/+1 counters from the support ability.
And of course, what type of designer would I be if I didn’t return Eldrazis to their rightful place at the very top of the mana curve? It should be a requirement with Eldrazi that it’s possible to play Eldrazi that are significantly larger than anything else in the set. In addition to adding the obvious earth-shatteringly large Eldrazi, players will also need some realistic ways to cast them. Now is the time to remember earlier when I mentioned adding cards that make multiple Eldrazi Scion tokens. That was no mistake. It was all part of my cunning plan all along.
Phew. Well, one thousand-odd words later, I hope I’ve explained the reasoning behind these cards well enough to sate your appetite. And even if I haven’t, I hope you enjoy giving Oath of the Gatewatch the send off it deserves by stomping some players with huge Eldrazi, the way players were intended to play Magic.