Last week was a small blog post where I mentioned that this week, I wanted to talk about modern-day card design. It's a very broad subject, so I'm tackling one specific part of it - and that is immediate board impact. Most card games nowadays understand the importance of a card having immediate board impact, and long gone are the days of cards that are just meant to sit there and apply so value throughout a long game (outside of limited/draft events, that is).
This is one of things LoR does very right. Units being immediately able to attack helps with them all having immediate impact on the board. We don't need cards with insanely strong abilities that trigger when they enter the battlefield or can be used immediately - a staple for cards throughout recent card design in both Magic: the Gathering (with the infamous recent Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns) and Hearthstone (who have long had cards such as N'Zoth or Reno Jackson). Of course, this is not to bag on their card design and balance as much as compare them to how needed strong enter-the-battlefield abilities are in those games. Though, it is worth mentioning that part of this may be Legends of Runeterra's infancy, given how the other two have a far more established past thus far.
Anyways, that brings me to the current card design. Even though these sorts of abilities are powered down considerably in Legends of Runeterra, immediate impact is still necessary. Not only is it necessary, but often these sorts of things attract players. Players like to see the big splashy effect that their card has when it hits the field. And, being on a digital platform allows things like animations and sounds greatly amplify all of this! We are in a time with card design where immediate impact is the name of the game, especially later turns in the game where you need to start closing out the game.
So, let's see where this design philosophy brought me!
Let's start with the big splashy epic that the Poison archetype will be getting - Prey-Seeker. The concept is simple. It rewards the player for poisoning throughout the game with a large board. They are, at the current iteration, just vanilla units, however just flooding the board with a single card is always a very potent effect.
When making this card, I knew I wanted to put it in the 6-8 mana range. A good portion of Shurima wants to end the game prior to turn 10, so that it can win through board-control advantage before cards like The Harrowing and spamming out Anivias take over the game substantially. And, of course, the card stats needed to reflect the potential board impact of this card. A 4/4 is still viable as a 7-drop, as seen by the Rekindler, and 2/1s can still die to a plethora of cards throughout the game, ensuring playing this card doesn't always lead to immediate win but does necessitate an immediate answer.
Poison is a mechanic that has very little immediate board impact. And so, having these cards that establish impact on the board are important to ensuring that that deck can be viable and run smoothly. The other option to the archetype would be pushing Poison towards hard control, and Poison unfortunately is just inherently a bad effect to have with control decks that want to immediately answer threats.
I really loved the design of my last unit that spent all spell mana, so I wanted to make a similar one and let these cards open the design space up a bit. And so, I made this one who both provides a nice card draw effect and potential impact to the board by discounting said spell.
One thing I really think this card can help push is cards the utilize the Attune mechanic, which has probably ended up being the most underutilized mechanic from the last set. 2 cards with it see a bit of play in a few decks. Having a card on turn 3 that can spend that mana banked from cards with Attune can really help push a stronger tempo lead.
One thing that has been a bit lost through my recently designed cards is the strength of board-buffing through spells. And so, I wanted to introduce one that better encaptured my vision with these cards.
Shurima wants to power up their soldiers and keep them strong. Essence of the Oasis rewards the player with a whole turn of playing strengthened units, though at the costing of needing to go fairly all-in to reap the benefits. It also goes with spells that create units or other cards that summon new units, as the summoned units will get the buff as well.
I felt the need to go all-in allowed this card to be at the low cost of 3. Furthermore, having a low cost isn't as much of a risk to a card like this, since realistically it's not a turn 3 card - it's more of a mid-game card that really wants to be played alongside a lot of other cards.
Next, I wanted to try to provide Shurima with a board wipe, but one flavored towards board dominance as opposed to just clearing the entire board. And so, I made this fairly complicated card (that I tried to simplify to the best of my ability).
In essence, both players can attack repeatedly and challenge each others' units back and forth until finally one player is the only one with units left. However, this is an 8-cost spell and at slow speed. This means it uses a large chunk of your turn to play, which is mana your opponent can use to play more units to win this trade, and the slow speed means your opponent can attack first or play units first, whichever benefits them more.
There were a couple things I wasn't sure with this card. First was the cost. The drawbacks are huge on this card, so having it sit on 8 mana is risky. However, the front side of potentially being able to board clear the opponent while still having all your units seems very strong. Though, again, possibly not at 8 mana and slow.
Second was it even being in Shurima. This card also feels very Noxus, where everything is about fighting, damage, and combat. And, in the end, I do feel like it could fit in both, but for now it was put into Shurima because it reflected that spells combined with units lead to board dominance and it isn't inherently aggressive like a good portion of Noxus is.
Next is a fairly simple card in Ravenous Sandswimmer. This is meant to be a card that bridges the Shuriman "kill your opponent's units" deck with other regions. a 4/3 that heals itself when killing things isn't great, especially without challenger to ensure it can kill things. However, pairing it with the higher multitude of permanent buffs within Demacia, Freljord, or Ionia can go a long way to keeping this guy as a strong threat.
Of course, being in Shurima means he does have some buffs. However, the buffs in Shurima help the whole board, meaning they help units that want a lot of attention like this less than some other established regions.
Within Shurima, I wanted to try introducing some cards that affect your own units and enemy units differently. I understand that with recent reveals for Targon, they have now introduced cards like this with the cards being released with Lulu, however this was designed just before that so I ended up designing it a bit differently.
Prior to the reveals, they didn't have cards that said they did different things depending on whether you targeted an ally or enemy. And, as such, I worked in the design space of it having to effect everybody similarly. And so, I made this card to provided a buff that helps deal more damage without increasing survivability and a debuff that makes it easier to kill without it interfering with the ability to attack. Vulnerability and a straight power buff were the easy way to go with this one.
Making it Slow spell was the seemingly right way to go since the other established 1-mana card that gives Vulnerable is also a slow spell, and 1 mana felt right where the low mana cost only enhanced its versatility. This is a card that I would expect to see in a plethora of Shurima decks, but I believe that's fine when it comes to buffs or removal, and of course this functions as both.
Lastly, I wanted to go back a bit on something I said a bit. Before, I mentioned how Sivir, a card I designed, didn't need much support. She gave other units Quick Attack, and that naturally functions well with things like Piercing in Shurima or an abundance of other things throughout the game.
However, due to that, I've ended up pretty much neglecting Sivir. And so, I want to put some more work into her for these last cards as I finish rounding out Shurima. First is the Bel'Zhun Crippler who, as the name implies, cripples enemies he deals damage to. He's a fairly good unit generically - not meant to be necessarily spectacular, but can at least cripple large units if he's not strong enough to take them down on his own. However, he becomes an incredibly potent threat if paired with something like Quick Attack, allowing him to make it so he will really neuter a unit and barely take any damage back from them once they hit him back.
Combining this with the continued addition of cards that apply Vulnerable in Shurima should really help push him to being a potent threat in the right decks.
And with all the cards done, I want to write some ending notes. I'm realizing I'm almost done creating Shurima itself, and in the end, I'm learning some things. One is that 63 cards was less than I thought it was for a region. I can't tell whether I spread to thin with different archetypes or if I need more cards that cross over archetypes or if, in the end, there isn't always room for the vast number of cards you want to put in. But really, I'm feeling like I want to put in a lot more cards than what I have thus far!
Another thought has to do with the cards being spoiled for Freljord. With those cards, you can distinctly see which cards belong to Lulu or which cards belong to Trundle. Of course, they're different regions, but from the arts to the names you can see how certain cards link together. One thing I think I failed on a bit is really establishing the different regions in Shurima and making their effects correspond to their regions within Shurima. For example, Bel'zhun could've been a more aggressive region due to its link with Noxus, and as such been more about dealing damage, while cards with the theme of an Oasis could all do with spells or mana. This is something that I should've thought about more. Making cards isn't just about making cards - you're also making a world in many ways, and a lot of the cards need to be able to intermingle in some ways to construct said world.
Anyways, those are the extra thoughts. Regardless of those, though, I'm happy with how far I've come and what I've done! So thank you all for the continued attention given to these and I look forward to finishing up Shurima!
Side note: I will likely be posting in 3 weeks instead of 2, due to my birthday being in 2 weeks. So, see you all then!