Sienira's Facets: The Facets Of Sienira

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As you'll notice looking at the cardlist, each card type is associated with a different pair of colours:

Enchantments: green-white

I didn't want a "oh look, the world's at war" like about half of Magic sets seem to have. I wanted more a feeling of "this is a world, with tensions and different groups with different aims, and everyday people going about their lives."

I was looking for five particular groups in this setting that could be associated with a card type and with two of the five colours. I then tried to use the ideas I had for the flavour of those groups to suggest card ideas, so flavour isn't just tacked on to the design, but influencing it as it's influenced by it.

The green-white group of enchanters is perhaps the most unusual. A lot of the upper class are in this group: it's become fashionable to take a country stately home and grounds, and augment them massively with layer after layer of magical enhancements. These augmented mansions are claaed mirrorglades.

One particularly prominent mirrorglade is the Ralatine, in a forest near the city of Terina. Its owner is an arrogant duchess and enchantress named Atine, who's unusual in that she applies most of the augments to her mansion herself rather than hiring enchanters to do it for her. She's liberally enhanced every part of her home and its extensive grounds with magic, and is rather proud of her work. Designing enchantments is quite a prestigious role in this society, so although it's unusual for a noble to do it herself, it's certainly not looked down on.

This is a fairly unusual setting for Magic: the Gathering, and it lends itself to some card names and terms that aren't as traditionally warlike as many sets. But there's still plenty of scope for conflict.

Enchantment – Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature doesn't untap in its controller's untap step.
Reminisce {1}{w} ({1}{w}, Exile this card from your hand: Return target enchantment card from your graveyard to your hand.)
"My shrubbery bows when I walk past, and so shall you." – Atine
Lavender Mist enters the battlefield with a fog counter on it.
Remove a fog counter from Lavender Mist: Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn.
Sacrifice Lavender Mist: Prevent all combat damage any number of target creatures would deal this turn.
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant land
Enchanted land has "{3}, {t}: Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature."
When a noble arrives at a mirrorglade, the outdoor baths are one of the first places she visits.
Enchantment Creature – Elemental Spider
Creatures you control have reach.
Reminisce {1}{g} ({1}{g}, Exile this card from your hand: Return target creature or enchantment card from your graveyard to your hand.)
Artifact Creature – Bird
Ralatine Sentinel has shroud as long as it's enchanted.
Atine's daughter sculpts filigree falcons. Atine enjoys bringing them to life to patrol the skies around her mansion.

Artifacts: white-blue

The primary-white-secondary-blue sphere is all about artifacts. The flavour focus is on magesmiths, a general term for any artificer who imbues his creations with magic somehow. Magesmiths are mainly human or dwarven, and live in structures called musearies, which are something between workshops, shops and display rooms. These often take the form of towers with gates locked and warded except on sale days: many magesmiths are eccentric and reclusive.

Three notable musearies feature in card names and flavour text. Ironcaste is the home of Tanith, a grizzled human smith who tolerates a number of other apprentices and journeymen. Soliforge is the most famous dwarven museary, and weapons and equipment from there are particularly highly prized (not just because they take some persuading to sell most of it). Atrapice is unusual in that it's a museary in an urban area: its tower is one of the landmarks of the city of Ridan. There are occasional faerie magesmiths working here, and they have been known to hire Elusi as guards.

Flavour-wise, there's not much question that blue and white have a strong affinity for artifacts (as it were). The main aim of this sphere was to distance it from the blue-white-black artifacts shard of Esper. To that end, I set a firm rule that no artifacts would have coloured mana in their mana costs: there's a firm delineation between the artifacts and the artificers here. A few of the white cards care about equipment rather than just any artifacts, because that seems to be clearly within this remit. I did also make occasional efforts to keep distance from the Azorius, Ravnica's white-blue guild, but that was pretty easy as the concepts don't have much in common.

Creature – Dwarf Artificer
{w}{w}, {t}, Sacrifice an artifact and an enchantment: Creatures you control get +2/+2 and gain first strike until end of turn.
He earned his reputation at the Battle of Darkwood on the shockwave of an exploding skyship.
Creature – Human Artificer
{3}, {t}: Put a 1/1 Construct artifact creature token onto the battlefield.
Whenever an artifact is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may draw a card.
{3}: Each player puts a 3/3 Golem artifact creature token onto the battlefield. Any player may activate this ability.
Golem creatures block each turn if able.
{w}{w}: Creatures you control gain first strike until end of turn.
Artifact Creature – Golem
{1}{u}: Lofty Guardian gains flying until end of turn.
Reminisce {1}{w} ({1}{w}, Exile this card from your hand: Return target artifact or creature card from your graveyard to your hand.)
Artifact Land
(Library of Atrapice isn't a spell.)
{t}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{4}, {t}: Draw a card. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.
The site of artisans' learning and training is itself an intricately crafted masterpiece.

Instants: blue-black

The primary-blue-secondary-black sphere is themed around instants. The flavour here is that these cards represent members of several criminal factions in the urban underworld of the setting. These mafia-style gangs are constantly struggling for power, making plots and schemes and counter-plots, shifting their plans at the last minute in response to new information. There's a heavy black market in information and they often run raids on each other's hideouts. When a confrontation between two gangs does happen it's a spectacular blur of action and reaction, bait and bluff and swift changes of tactics.

There are a few specific factions whose names feature on cards. The Ecriot are information dealers whose raids tend to be focused on stealth, backed up by fierce drakes when brawn is needed. The Spidra are vampire drug barons, running a network of dealers of an addictive substance called chaze. The Condri are malicious thugs with faerie messengers. These three are factions in constant rivalry with each other. But all of them hold a nervous respect for the Elusi, who are elite and aloof infiltrators, practically undetectable mercenaries with no affiliation except to those who pay them. Each of the first three gangs is headed by a Don, represented by a legendary creature. The Ecriot appear on blue cards, the Spidra on black, and the Condri on both.

Does this fit the flavour of blue-black? Organised crime is quite classically black, but there's a long history of blue having infiltrators, dodgy merchants, information dealers and so on. Blue values knowledge and preparation, and doesn't much care whether its means are legal or not. Mechanically, on the other hand, caring about instants is classically blue; black doesn't have much history of cards which specifically like either instants or sorceries, but there'd nothing out-of-pie about it – it's no more a stretch of the colour pie than Lorwyn – Shadowmoor putting merfolk in white and black.

Whenever designing a group in Magic, there's always a need to distance it from other similar groups in other Magic sets in the past. In this case, it's the Dimir, who were a secretive underworld group of infiltrators. But they had their own purposes; they weren't really organised crime – that was the Orzhov's role – and they were very united, their conflict being against the law enforcers. My blue-black factions' primary rivalry is with each other.

You may reveal exactly five instant cards from your hand. If you do, you may cast any number of those cards without paying their mana costs. If you choose the same target for all five, draw five cards.
Cast Infiltration Raid only on your turn during the declare blockers step.
You may reveal a creature card from your hand and pay its mana cost. If you do, put it onto the battlefield tapped, attacking and unblocked.
Draw a card.
Tribal Instant – Rogue
Creatures you control gain shroud until end of turn.
Rogue creatures you control are unblockable until end of turn.
The Elusi are expensive, but there are many benefits to having one on your side.
Put two 1/1 blue Faerie Rogue creature tokens with flying onto the battlefield.
The Condri lure marks into winged ambushes to ensure they get paid.
Legendary Creature – Human Assassin
{t}, Exile an instant card from your graveyard: Destroy target nonblack creature.
"My plans are far too important to be disrupted by one such as this. Kill him."

Sorceries: black-red

The primary-black-secondary-red sphere is themed around sorceries, and its flavour is all about the Zerian church, one of the major religions in the setting. They're unashamedly a church to a demon, Eharot. They have dark chapels in most villages, and major cathedrals in the big cities. They're very big on ritual and ceremony, because that's the tie with the mechanic – most of the sorceries in these colours are flavoured as church rites of some kind. Many of the rites of the church have a very visible and specific effect. A number of them summon beings from dark etherial planes: those beings have creature type Elemental in this set. They're also correspondingly big on hierarchy: there are cardinals at the top, assorted ranks of clergy below, and the mostly terrified laity.

Oh, they're also about half vampires. I'm following Wizards' lead from Zendikar of treating Vampire as a common race type: this world's society has a lot of vampires in, and they often gravitate towards the Zerian church. The rest of the clergy are ogres or humans.

One other aspect to mention about the Zerians is their black and red aspects. The black is fairly clear: demon worship, unholy rituals, power-hungry leaders – these are all very black. The red is a bit trickier. The slant I ended up with was that the red Zerians are those who care about the emotional feelings of worship services, or about religious freedom. Emotions are an aspect of red's flavour that's well-established but rarely represented on cards; freedom is generally a red trait as well, though it fits white too. Many of the red Zerian clerics are actually heretics of some kind.

Once again I find myself running the risk of being too similar to a Ravnica guild: the groups my Zerian church want to avoid being too similar to are the Rakdos (a black-red cult to a demon) and the Orzhov (a black-white "organised religion" church). Differentiating from the Rakdos was fairly easy - just major on the ritualised meetings and avoid any themes of torture or hedonism and it's fine.

Differentiating from the Orzhov was a little more of a problem. I tried to achieve this by making the Zerians really care about their dark rituals. They're not businesspeople, and they're generally not corrupt and after extorting cash from the laity the way the Orzhov do. Many Zerian bishops and cardinals are in it for the power, because that's a very black trait; but I think there are enough differences from the Orzhov for it to be okay. The Orzhov also had thrulls and spirits rather than elementals and vampires.

One pleasing aspect of making the Zerians authentic rather than corrupt, and holding passionate beliefs rather than being in it for the cash or the socialising, is that they end up a bit more sympathetic. They're still demon-worshippers and often power-hungry, but nonetheless, taking a role that could naturally be the villains of the setting and casting them in a more nuanced light is rather satisfying.

If you have exactly 10 sorcery cards and exactly 10 other cards in your graveyard, you win the game.
"The blood urns are boiling. The victims are in place. Ultimate power awaits you, Cardinal."
Creature – Elemental
Overpower {1}{b} ({1}{b}: Target creature blocking Chokebillows gets -1/-1 until end of turn.)
When it summons you to church, you don't say no.
Target opponent loses 4 life. Then if you have less life than that player, return Pulse of Pain to its owner's hand.
The cathedral bells toll the oppressive rhythm of the city.
Exile target instant card from a graveyard. Put an X/X black Elemental creature token onto the battlefield, where X is that card's converted mana cost.
Reminisce {2}{b} ({2}{b}, Exile this card from your hand: Return target sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand.)
Creature – Ogre Cleric
Disaffected Altarhand can't attack unless you've cast a sorcery this turn.
The church rituals energise him, bringing him out of his stupor. He spends the rest of the week glaring blearily at anything that comes near.

Lands: red-green

And then we have the primary-red-secondary-green sphere, mechanically focused on lands. These are associated with the wilderness spaces between and around the setting's cities. Soliforge and Ridan are both in high, mountainous country, and the road between them goes through rugged steppe country called Khert where many orc and ogre barbarians lurk.

The direct road from the Atrapice side of Ridan down to Terina on the plains is notoriously dangerous, passing beside a vast lake of lava known as Rayja. So travellers tend to take the more circuitous route through the Heaten Steppes and on through Darkwood, a forbidding forest of ferocious beasts apart from the grounds of scattered mirrorglades. All these regions are home to a number of shamans who're deeply attuned to their lands, and can sense travellers approaching from miles away. If a passing mage were to try to establish a mana bond with their land, they'd take that as a challenge, and many of them are skilled lavamancers.

When designing these cards I acquired a new respect for the Zendikar design team. It's really hard to make interesting cards that care about lands (fallingman's excellent work on Verdia notwithstanding). I tried not to reuse too many ideas from Zendikar, despite how much the set wanted (for example) a red common sorcery burn spell with "sacrifice a land" as an additional cost. But there are a few cards in the set that have abilities identical to the "landfall" abilities in Zendikar. I decided it wasn't worth going to contortions to avoid this. I have one cycle of commons which get +2 when one of their associated card types enters the battlefield (for permanents); for lands, this is identical to landfall, but oh well. I didn't give mine the "landfall" ability word, as I think this is consistent with Wizards' policies: they didn't give Chub Toad bushido. This set would have really liked Plated Geopede and Magma Rift, and perhaps in development I'll swap them in for the cards that have those slots at the moment.

As a red-green fierce wilderness group, comparisons are natural with the Gruul. I'm not that bothered about that; there are enough differences flavour-wise. And mechanically, there's much more overlap with Zendikar.

Mechanically, it was really tricky coming up with interesting things for red to do with lands. Green always gets to interact with lands, and it was partly for that reason I avoided having green the major colour for lands, in the same way as I deliberately avoided having blue be the major colour for artifacts. But this did mean I had a lot of work looking for effects that could fit in red and interact with lands. A few of the set's red cards could have been printed in green, but not that many. It did mean it took some unusual turns though. There are a vertical cycle of enchant land Auras in red, and a few in green as well, with both colours getting a rare enchant land which affects all your enchanted lands equally. Most sets wouldn't have that.

Mana Scars deals 3 damage to target player.
Whenever a land enters the battlefield under you control, if Mana Scars is in your graveyard, you may have Mana Scars deal 1 damage to target player.
Creature – Orc Shaman
When Serpentcaller enters the battlefield, it deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of lands you control.
The legend says Rayja erupts in firesnake form. It's hard to be sure, because eyewitnesses only tend to say "Aaagh!"
Creature – Human Shaman
{t}, Return a land card from your graveyard to your hand: Add {1}{r} to your mana pool.
She weaves tales of vistas lost, making them live again in her listeners' minds.
Creature – Plant Elemental
All creatures able to block Scented Briarball do so.
Overpower {2}{g} ({2}{g}: Target creature blocking Scented Briarball gets -1/-1 until end of turn.)
Fighting a thornbush is a bad idea. It's got more thorns than you have limbs.
When Spitting Volcano enters the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to target creature.
{t}: Add 1 to your mana pool.
{3}{r}: Return Spitting Volcano to its owner's hand.

And more

This isn't Lorwyn, where every creature is in one of the tribes. There are cards associated with multiple of the spheres, particularly a couple of cycles which key off both card types for a given colour. The majority of the cards don't specifically mention one of the five themed card types, but just work fairly well in one or more of those decks. And there are a number of other cards which don't have anything to do with the theme explicitly, but I think will be fun to play with.

Artifact Creature Enchantment Land – Construct
(Statue of Eternity isn't a spell, and it's affected by summoning sickness.)
{t}: Add one mana of any colour to your mana pool.
When Statue of Eternity becomes tapped, lose 3 life.
At the end of each turn, if you lost 3 or more life this turn, draw a card.
Creature – Giant Soldier
Imperturbable Guardian can't become tapped. (You can't tap it to pay a cost. If an effect would tap it, it doesn't.)
Eternally alert, eternally wary.
Tarmoblast deals damage to target creature equal to the number of card types among cards in all graveyards. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker, sorcery and tribal.)
Creature – Human Shaman
Whenever Demented Lavaflinger deals damage to a player, that player loses half his or her life, rounded up.
At the beginning of your upkeep, Demented Lavaflinger deals 3 damage to itself.
Artifact – Equipment
Equip {1}
Equipped creature is an artifact, enchantment, and land of all land types in addition to its other types. Equipped creature has haste.
Your shadow will be everywhere.

Updated on 09 Nov 2011 by Alex