You're a great designer, so I'm sure you're aware of all this. I just want to make sure this is out there, just as a general guide to anyone who views this set.
With no blue, moving abilities into other colors is really important. Wizards kindly gave red looting and green minor card draw, so that's nice. The thing about green card draw is that it mostly revolves around creatures, like Triumph of Ferocity or Garruk, Primal Hunter. And red has the order reversed (e.g. Mad Prophet), but so what? :)
I figure counter spells can go in white or black. White would probably get conditional counters, like Mana Tithe or Erayo, Soratami Ascendant/Punish Greed. Black may get preemptive spells like Womb Wither or griefer spells like Dash Hopes.
Other abilities, those that blue shares with other colors, will need to be ramped up. For example, white will probably get flying as a primary ability, black will get milling, red looting, green card draw. Maybe include something like Temporal Extortion. (I think Planar Chaos is going to help this set a great deal.)
Remember MaRo's saying, "If your theme's not at common, it's not your theme." Your theme is "not-blue," which translates to not having blue show up noticeably at common. A little backwards, but so is removing a color. For example, nothing that produces blue, like Cactus Threader, should be at common. Island-fetching should be completely avoided, except maybe at rare/mythic. Hydrate and other blue-bonuses should congregate at uncommon and rare, though have some presence at common. Finally, colorshifted abilities should have extra prevalence at common, to increase as-fan and reinforce the theme that blue has been superseded.
One last thing: why, flavorfully, is there no blue? The explanation will cement your reasoning and make it easier to figure out how it can be replaced. You even allude to this in your comment on Cactus Threader. As we discussed on Resync, is it Azoria-styled; underwater, like I and jmg mentioned; a desert plane, which you hinted at; or something else entirely?
I really want to see where this goes. It looks difficult but incredibly rewarding.
I have thought about all of that, but it's nice to have it written out in someone else's words. Thanks. :-)
I think you're absolutely right that there should be absolutely no blue at common. In fact, I think hydrate will be pushed out of the first set entirely and appear only in the second and third, as will (((Oasis Druid))).
My current concept of the plane has firmed up a bit. I like the idea of the underwater set, but I don't think it really gels with what I want to do and the story I want to tell. It will be more a fusion of Azoria and a desert plane, where the plane once had plenty of blue mana and water but lost it in some sort of cataclysm. The block would be the story of the water's return, with a bit more blue in the second set and a ton in the third.
I think it would be cool to have, as the only blue card in the set, a mono-blue planeswalker. They're supposed to be alien, right? Like Tamiyo on Innistrad, it will stick out. Plus, its bonds to foreign Islands may help in reversing the cataclysm that eliminated blue mana in the first place.
Huh. Yeah, that would be cool. Well, Tezzeret wouldn't make sense, I don't really care for Jace, Venser's dead, and Nicol Bolos isn't really blue. Tamiyo herself might be intriguing, but when I think about current planeswalkers, it's Kiora Atua that sounds like she would be the best idea... though of course she's not mon-blue, she's blue and green.
If you go with desert world, and you need a setting for where the sparse number of blue cards spawn from, you could use a small sea that is chock full of salt. Doesn't support life, so it doesn't give you many options, but it's still a source of blue mana...
"You've fallen in an error many set designers fall at the beginning: you made an insular set that makes sense and it's balanced on its own but which cards will break any other environment where they can be played or be totally irrelevant. Some of those cards will become modern and even legacy staples while the more thematic ones will not be able to mesh well with the other set in standard."
I received this comment on my set today. Sigh.
I've also been pondering the flavor of Anydria. With no blue mana, it's a bit of a wasteland. There is water, it's just lifeless, and not as nourishing as it should be. The other four colors struggle to survive, and each do so in their own ways.
White thinks the best way to survive is through strict laws that control the populace.
Black thinks the best way to survive is to look out for itself, and itself alone.
Red thinks the best way to survive is to improvise and adapt to every situation.
Green thinks the best way to survive is cooperation and cultivation of life and fertility.
i just realized that magic could live without and would probably be better off without blue given the direction magic is heading. ie catering to a specific playstyle, all creatures all the time, weak combos and control, hatred against counterspells and direct card draw.
when removing blue, there is no need to redistribute its portion of the color pie, because most of it are unwanted and unnecessary. ie people hate counters since they interact poorly with the battlefield. card draw and library manipulation help combos and tempo, both undesirable archetypes.
thus if i were to create a set without blue, i would pretend it never existed. no counters, no card draw, no milling. etc.
Cynicism aside, that's an interesting way to think about removing blue, and I'll consider it.
There are currently both +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters in this set because I haven't decided on which to use.
Perhaps use a similar method to how Maro describes each color, color pair, and 3-color shard. This means theorizing what this 4-color group stands for in the absence of blue.
What is blue about? Its main themes are water, knowledge, and time management. Without water, the world is arid and stagnant. Without knowledge, there is not much progress. Without time management, nobody thinks ahead; they live only for the moment.
The color pair opposite of blue is red and green. According to Maro, red follows its impulses and green is driven by its animal instincts. Without blue's interference and sense of progress, red/green can run rampant and wild. The world remains unchanging for many eons (except after catastrophic events). Evolution and adaptation is a gradual process, so blue trying to progress too rapidly is detrimental to natural selection.
Where does white and black come in? They represent the day and night cycles. During the day, white creatures take advantage of the dry heat and prey on the weak who have been oppressed by the heat. On the contrary, black creatures come out at night when it's cooler and scavenge on the corpses, possibly remains of the creatures that have succumbed to the daytime heat.
There should be no distributing of blue's pie to the other colors. Otherwise, the absence thereof couldn't truly be felt. It wouldn't be a block without blue, instead where blue is incorporated into the colors. So white would become white + blue. However, that seems antithesis to the theme. How did white obtain blue traits when blue doesn't exist at all?
Desert world seems way too played out. Why not a world filled with methane, or lava-filled volcanoes, or salt lakes, etc.? (I admit, I just read some articles about how other life forms could exist, like whether methane-filled Titan, Saturn's moon, could harbor life, and if so, in what form.)
You suggested this path before, and I found it very interesting. It's definitely one take on how to do this set, and honestly, it's a very smart take. It's not the way I've chosen to do it, though. However, some of your ideas are great. White has in fact stagnated itself by trying to overcome all adversity with strict laws; perhaps I can make this lack of advancement felt in other colors, as well. I like your ideas of white creatures being out in the day and black creatures at night.
Anydria isn't a plane that never had blue. It had blue in the past, and lost it to some cataclysmic event. The other colors then learned to get on without it, which is why they're seeking to fill the rolls of the things blue normally accomplishes. The story of the block is about Tamiyo accidentally bringing blue back to Anydria, and in great force. She can't bring it back if it never existed in the first place. By the last block, Anydria is basically covered in water.
By the way, perhaps calling Anydria a Desert plane is a bit of a misnomer. It's the easy way to put it, and it makes understanding the very basic flavor simple, but it's not strictly true. There is water on Anydria, and if you drink it, it will hydrate you enough to keep you alive. It just leaves you still thirsty, because the water on Anydria completely lacks blue mana. There are also large forests, which are home to treefolk; the one you see referenced most prominently on the cards right now, the Scorchwood, is very expansive and is the main habitat of green creatures on the the plane. There is less water, and there are more deserts, but Anydria is not one big desert.
I guess if I have to summarize more clearly, I'd say that Anydria is about what would happen if blue stopped existing, not what it would be like if blue never existed.
P.S. I wrote this at 3 am so I apologize for any lack of clarity.
If blue returns later in the set, then color shifting blue into other colors is even more redundant and counter-productive.
The coolest thing is how draft would progress from one set to three sets. 111 draft would be zero blue effects (except lone PW). This would play very differently than any other draft ever. Then set 2 would be a normal set, even distribution of colors. With some real blue cards, 112 or 211 would play slightly differently than 111. Finally with set 3 filled with blue cards (dare I imagine ALL cards are blue or part blue?), it will again change draft into a different mode. Theoretically each draft deck would contain several blue cards (not necessarily main deck though, but in the player's pool).
For the most part I'm not directly color-shifting anything. It's not like white or black is going to get ": Counter target spell." The tertiary things that the other colors could do, but don't as often, are just being played up. Green gets card draw. White gets soft counter spells. Red needs some fresh design space, and this is the perfect sort of set for that to start happening, so it's getting Phase Shift and Chronoflare because I think it should be able to get such things, not because I think it only deserves those things in this set.
To me, seeing that red is getting a Clone variant highlights even more that blue is missing. Seeing a green serpent, a red sphinx, and (still thinking on this one) black merfolk makes blue's absence even more obvious. Clearly we're of different opinions, though.
Please see my thoughts about the plane for the most recent thoughts on different parts of Anydria.
Note that this isn't intended to be a faction-driven set like Khans of Tarkir. These factions currently just exist as a starting point for mechanical concepts.
If I include reminisce, as seen on Sage of the Forgotten, it would make much more sense for sift (seen on Golden Sands) to put cards into the graveyard. However, I'm already questioning whether sift is a wise mechanic, so empowering it further is likely a bad idea.
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