Isperia, Supreme Judge; art by Scott M. Fischer
Azorius is one of the ten guilds of Ravnica, specifically the white-blue guild. It seeks the white ideal of order and peace using the blue means of logic, placing the law above all else. Your challenge this week is to design a card for the Azorius guild. It can be any card type (With the exception of legendary, since that is reserved for the guild leaders themselves.) and must be white and/or blue.
Law and Order
Azorius lives up to its lawful and bureaucratic nature in gameplay, using its abilities to control the opponent’s boardstate while winning itself with evasive creatures. Small, efficient creatures are perfectly at home here. Doubly so if they have evasion or disrupt the opponent’s plans in some way. Triply so if they manage to combine all three. As with Judge’s Familiar. Evasion is simple here, as Azorius uses either flying or unblockable. Flying going on Birds, Griffins, and Sphinxes while Spirits are unblockable. Disruption is a little more nuanced, since there are several options.
- Tapping the opponent’s creatures
- Returning them to their owner’s hand
- Countering spells
- Just straightforward removal
Note that Azorius removal should be more like Faith’s Fetters and Arrest in that it does not actually kill the creature, just renders it helpless. Really, as long as your card helps the Azorius plan of attacking with efficient creatures or hinders the opponent’s ability to attack, block, or cast spells, it belongs in Azorius.
Azorius also has a protective side, protecting both creatures and players. Cards like Azorius Ploy protect creatures from combat, while Deputy of Acquittals protects creatures from just about anything. Cards like Valor Made Real and Sphere of Safety help protect players from attacking creatures. As with disruption, Azorius is spoiled for options by being able to
- Counter spells
- Prevent damage
- Tax the opponent’s mana
- Return creatures to their owner’s hand
- Gain life
Even that are just some of its options. With this strategy, Azorius can end up more as a controlling deck than the tempo deck it is when it relies on disruption. To support this more controlling side, Azorius can also use cards like Sphinx’s Revelation which help win the late game by refilling a player’s hand, or cards like Righteous Authority which trigger each turn and add up to a huge lead over time, or cards like Azor’s Elocutors which win the game on their own given enough time.
One last particular strategy an Azorius card could care about is stacking enchantments. Azorius likes to use enchantments for effects, such as Martial Law and Detention Sphere, accumulating them for payoff cards like Ethereal Armor and Sphere of Safety. This is an area of Azorius which hasn’t been explored too much yet, so if you’re looking for new territory to design for this could be a good place to start.
Serve and Protect
Azorius’s first mechanic was forecast. It's an ability which allows a player to reveal a card from his or her hand and pay a cost once per upkeep for a special effect, which varies based on the card. There are really two ways to design forecast cards.
- Making the forecast ability a smaller version of the actual card, like with Steeling Stance
- Making the forecast ability naturally synergize with the card when played, like with Govern the Guildless
Whichever you choose though, one thing to be careful of is that players should want to actually play the card at some point, rather than using it only for the forecast ability. If you’re in doubt, one easy way to do this is to make the card large enough that players will always want to play it when they can, but also get to use the forecast ability while they don’t have enough mana, for example like Paladin of Prahv. As for designing cards to support forecast abilities, anything which makes the game go longer such as life gain could help, since more turns means more upkeeps to activate forecast on. Or any card which punishes playing spells, though ideally in a way that does not outright prevent casting spells. For example, Dovescape limits players’ options while still allowing them to get some value from their spells.
As mentioned previously, Azorius loves disrupting the opponent’s permanents, and there’s no better example of this than detain. Detain is an action keyword which prevents a permanent from attacking, blocking, or activating abilities until a player’s next turn. Since detain stops creatures for an entire turn cycle, it is best played at sorcery speed, so most cards with detain should be at sorcery speed. As for the design itself, it is honestly kind of difficult to go wrong with detain. It works well with aggressive decks by preventing blocking, well with control decks preventing attacking, and is all-around a generally useful ability for any deck at any point in the game.
The best suggestion I can give for designing a card which uses detain is to keep it generally broad, as detain is so useful for so many decks and part of the fun is figuring out how it’s best used. As for designing cards to support detain, any creature with an attack trigger works well since it becomes easier to attack safely with them. Effects which trigger from dealing combat damage to the opponent would technically also work here, but those feel out of place for Azorius.
Also, a brief final note. Monocolored cards detain creatures, while multicolor cards detain nonland permanents.
My example this week is fairly straightforward, a design based entirely on the name “Filibuster.” Living up to its name, it can help significantly slow down a game. Or alternatively, a more aggressive Azorius deck can use it to prevent the opponent from blocking. It is also an enchantment for Azorius decks that want to stack enchantments. Regardless of which route an Azorius deck goes, Filibuster should fill an important role of some sort.
Well, I hope I demonstrated Azorius well enough. And, here is normally where I would say I look forward to seeing all the designs people submit, but the Azorius in me feels I should briefly mention that since I am currently in trial 3 for the Great Designer Search 3, I should abstain from looking at other custom cards for now. Well, at least I’ll have the consolation prize of being able to look at all the designs I’ve missed if I end up being eliminated. So, to everyone: Good luck with the contest, and remember to play fair like a true Azorius ought to.