LoR Shadows of the Sands (Part 4) - A new champion has appeared (along with some support).
Let's start this off strong!
When making my set, I realized I had one problem - I had too few champions, as it turns out! I was holding by exactly the card count for Bilgewater when first developing the set, but then I realized that if I released Shurima with only 5 champions and gave one to the rest of the regions, that would leave Shurima with one less than every other region!
So obviously the solution was to get rid of every champion of every other region, right? Well duh, heck no! So, I made one that I was sad to leave out last time - the Magus Ascendant and Shurima-destroying (oops, spoilers) Xerath!
When creating Xerath, I took inspiration from Lux. I wanted to have a similar charge-up time as Lux, but I wanted to approach it in a different way. And so, rather than amount of mana, I made Xerath want to cast a multitude of spells to charge up his Shocking Orb. I will say, there is a bit of a dissonance between how he may be played here versus in League of Legends, seeing as this Xerath wants you to nearly spam spells while his long cooldowns in League of Legends don't particularly facilitate that. Still, I believe this fits his spell-focused theme well. Furthermore, I wanted him to start off slow but sort of become explosive, even before Leveling Up, hence why his Shocking Orb also counts towards the 3 spells he needs to make another one.
So why Shocking Orb? Shocking Orb is most certainly not his most distinct ability in League of Legends - it must either be his Q or his ult. There's 2 main reasons for this. For 1, I wanted it to be still distinct from Lux, making it not just a damaging ability like hers. the added focus on utility and lack of overwhelm makes it have a more defensive focus. And secondly, I wanted to push more support towards the still underplayed Yasuo stun-focused deck. I'm not looking to make Shurima have a big stun focus, so I'm not trying to make it necessarily the most ideal region to pair with Yasuo, but I'm opening up the possibility to allow for more room for him to fit, rather than just the default choice of Noxus-Ionia.
And why level him up when you're enlightened? That's because Xerath reached his true potential and wrought destruction upon his old friend - Azir (oops, spoilers again?) - and Shurima once he became Ascended. I think Enlightened fits beautifully into Shurima thematically because of their focus on Ascension - a form bestowed upon worthy beings that grants them great power and elongates their life.
On the topic of his level up, I also decided to make it so he gives spells overwhelm because, simply, he is an aoe master in League of Legends. And I feel, like with Lux's final spark, that Overhwhelm on spells is a good way to reflect that.
And so, lastly, why Rite of the Arcane and why design it like I did? Simply, I think it's Xerath's most signature spell in League of Legends. It's his ult where he rains down volleys of lightning on enemies from long ranges. Like his ult in League of Legends, it's a volley of shots. As he levels up his ult, he gets more shots, hence why being Enlightened made you get an extra shot. The 3 shots also make it so that he gets his Shocking Orb. I made the costs like they were for a couple reasons as well - 1, because it incentivizes firing multiple of them, since the value of the card isn't going to come from just shooting a single one of them. And 2, it's the perfect 6 mana to work alongside Lux to get you her Final Spark (below).
On top of Xerath, I also started establishing more of Shurima's identity - starting with Azir. To start off, I want to address more of Shurima. The relevant part of Shurima for this discussion is 2 of their main keywords - Quick Attack and Piercing. Quick Attack is like first strike in Magic: the Gathering, but only when attacking. Simply, they deal damage before the opponent, meaning if they kill the opposing unit, they don't take any retaliation. Piercing is a new mechanic I made where units deal damage to both the enemy blocking them and the enemy directly to the right of the enemy blocking them, putting an emphasis on positioning. Both of these are offensive-based mechanics, but are looking to clear the board as opposed to deal damage to the enemy nexus, since these abilities don't help damage the enemy nexus directly.
And so, I've pushed Azir's archetype and support towards more offensive board-control. Think sort of how Fiora decks run, except looking to continuously control the board rather than just push for Fiora's win-con. And so, these are some of the cards I've developed thus far.
Let's start with one of the splashier epics of the set - Battle Ralliers.
A huge part of card games is allowing cards to be used in a multitude of decks. That way, they aren't one-dimensional and only fit single archetypes, resulting in relatively low play.
For Shurima, this provides a power boost to their quick attack and piercing units. Azir, in particular, states that you get a 1/1 piercing whenever you cast your first spell each round. This makes it so those 1/1s can be 3/1s, 5/1s, or even 7/1s if you're feeling really crazy! And with piercing, that damage pierces to another unit as well as long as you position things correctly!
Outside of Shurima, though, this can also go crazy in a multitude of more aggressive strategies, though. Draven gives the player 0-mana spells, which will result in a huge power boost to their whole board! It's crazy, it's a lot of damage, but...
Well, this card still does cost 6 mana. And often, I have found that 6 mana and up are where it's harder to stick cards on the board and they need to push some strong advantage. And, if you're looking to play this and get immediate value out of it, that also means you need to reach turn 6 with extra spell mana up too. And if you're keeping up spell mana, then how good is your board at that point? With all these pushes and pulls, I think this card ends up balancing itself out nicely while still providing a splashy and powerful effect to those who get rewarded by it.
While this card doesn't assert or help board dominance by himself, I believe he's a good supporter in the spell-type decks Azir looks to be a part of. He's not meant to belong in every deck - but rather reward those looking to gradually gain advantage through the added spell mana they get over time, starting at an early 2 mana.
What I like about this simple card as that it works for different playstyles. The extra mana helps certain decks, like say a mushroom deck, squeeze out an extra spell each turn. But, it also helps more controlling decks, like say Karma-Heimerdinger decks, to play spells just a little bit more liberally since it'll be easier to hold up extra spell mana for removal and denies.
Oasis Explorers is another card that directly shows that spells with this faction are directly meant to result in board control through your units, while also showing the mechanic Piercing by itself.
To show the strength and weaknesses of piercing, I've provided the following example. The attack from Player 1 looks like the following (down below):
If the opponent chooses, they can block both. If they do, piercing will work and deal damage to both the blocking units. However, if the opponent chooses to only block the 8/4 unit (right), then piercing essentially worked like a worse Elusive in some ways, where it made the create sort of unblockable, but the opponent always has the last say on whether it really is or not.
And so, putting on units like Oasis Explorers that can reach higher powers seems like the right direction, as the decision between whether to block it to potentially get 2-for-1'd or to just let a lot of damage through gets a lot harder the higher the power is. Furthermore, this is part the reason I'm always giving the keyword Vulnerable to Shurima - so that it can allow Piercing units to position correctly.
This does have a follow-up question on why wouldn't Challenger also be another keyword I put a lot of in Shurima? To me, what makes Shurima strong is their vast armies of well-trained warriors, with the exceptions to this rule being their Ascended. in the lore Azir isn't protected because he's guarded by a few elite bodyguards, he's safe because he's protected by 1,000 elite soldiers. All pictures of Shurima show their vast numbers. They grew their empire and overwhelmed with numbers. And access to Vulnerable is where these cards with piercing get to shine. And if you feel that you don't have access to the best cards that give Vulnerability, then it gives you reasons to splash Freljord or Bilgewater to get access to some of the better cards.
To me, Challenger shows single elite soldiers forcing a duel. Vulnerable, on the other hand, is showing an enemy's weakness to allow anybody to take down the unit, which to me is more thematic with Shurima and their vast armies.
I realized that when making this card, there are no cards currently in the game that provide a temporary buff to themselves for just that round. And so, I am creating the first one that would be put into the game. While I do not know the exact reason why, I would assume that it has to do more so with the hesitation of creating units that buff themselves passively (as in without having anything done directly to them and without them having to attack) and repeatedly, of which there are only a couple in Assembly Bot and Slotbot. This is likely because these sorts of cards inherently have a snowball effect. However, having it be only a temporary buff should negate some of this snowball effect while still providing a powerful effect. Again, this is just all theorized, so this card was created with just this theory in mind.
When making the card with Allegiance (which triggers when the unit is summoned if the top card of your library is of the same faction) for Shurima, there were a few things that were a necessity. First of all, all of them are 4-mana rares, so this one needed to fit in that same slot. That was easy enough. Second, though, was that I wanted to have this Allegiance card create another spell, seeing as Shurima is fairly spell-based, though of course this spell needed to affect their own units in some way.
So, that lead to this. It's a fairly defensive follower in terms of its stats, with it being a 1/6, which is a bit contradictory to the some of the "aggressively control the board" strategy other cards have represented. That's because the literal power of this card doesn't come from what these pilgrims are, but rather what they are traveling to witness - Ascension through the Sun Disc.
And that brings me to the card they create - the Sun Disc. I can't have a Shurima expansion without having this card be important, and it needs to do something big and thematic. Leveling Up is perfect for this sort of card, since it, in a way, levels up people in the lore (though, to god-like powers). On top of that, the Sun Disc is only supposed to Ascend those that are devout to Shurima and work selflessly for it, and yet again that is represented through the Allegiance mechanic! This card just seems like a natural fit all-around mechanic-wise for Shurima and their all-important Sun Disc.
These cards are meant to start to carve a path to creating the Azir-centric deck for Shurima - where you cast spells affecting your own minions to establish board control. This also shows the flexibility of some of these cards to be put into other strategies, since this is nowhere near the first spell-based strategy in the game, and several of these cards can get utilized in those other spell-based strategies.
There are more coming as I develop the support for other champions as well. After I carve out archetypes for the champions I created, I'll be looking to create more of the rest of the set as well.