Custom sets: Pokémon part 4

Hello! This is the final post about my custom Pokémon set.

After discussing the distribution of creatures and the set’s mechanics, all that remains is to talk about the non-creature cards. Most important among these are the Instants, Sorceries and Enchantments that represent the TMs and HMs.

The glaring problem i came across when trying to represent these attacks was that Pokémon is a very offensive-move-based game, notably so in the 1st generation. In Magic terms that means all of these spells would be damage-based, placing them mainly in red with a few possible splashes. Obviously this was unacceptable, and many liberties were taken to avoid that. Let me take you through the main ones:

Reprints

As i discussed last week, one HM and 8 of the TMs (after tweaking Fire Blast to Fireblast) shared a name with existent Magic cards, and as such i chose to reprint them. This means i had zero control on their content, save for rarity, and most of them are red/damage-based. Not a problem, i’ll just tone it down on the others, right?

Fireblast

Combat Tricks

A simple way to keep attacks damage-based is to let them influence damage from a different perspective. Combat tricks do just that, in the form of temporary buffs a la Giant Growth. Now since this is a creatures-matter set, and since i love cycles, i wanted all colors to have access to this kind of trick. In that sense i made the buff offer a temporary in-color ability to the card as well. I wanted this to be a tight cycle with a homogeneous buff and cost, which means that the creature-strong colors like Green got a little underpowered while the creature-weak got a bit more love.
The TMs chosen for this cycle were five very similar attacks, the likes of which gen1 got a lot of: Mega Punch, Mega Kick, Body Slam, Take Down and Skull Bash.

Mega Punch Body Slam

Removal spells

Another aspect of full offense in Magic is pure removal a la Doom Blade. However, this being a creature-focused set, i wanted to make sure that creature interaction was kept high at all times. That led me to tone down pure removal and add a couple Fight-like spells, all while trying to keep the flavor of the attacks.

Double-Edge Seismic Toss

Elements

Pokémon has a large focus on elements, so that had to be reflected in the attacks somehow. I took the disposition of elements i’d made for the creatures and adapted some spells to make them appropriate to the corresponding Magic colors, while still having them feel like attacks that interact with combat.

Water Gun Counter

Game staples

After running out of ways to adapt the flow of combat i took some attacks, got rid of the damage part, focused on the flavor and completely adapted them to fit a lot of game staples that were missing from the set – a point which i completely overlooked in my Binding of Isaac set. These staples are things like counterspells, card draw, discard, mana ramp, life gain, etcetera.

Psychic Pay Day
Mega Drain Softboiled

Offensive to Defensive

Dig

Dig is a special case where i focused on the first part of the attack – digging into the earth and avoiding attacks – and discarded the damage part, essentially turning it into a defensive spell while remaining flavorful.

Hidden Machines

While designing the attacks i wanted HMs to be a bit different from their counterparts somehow. The idea of making them into re-usable Auras, to mimic their game re-usability, came early, as did the thought of turning them into a cycle.
The first problem of making a cycle was that Flash was locked and there was nothing i could do about it. The second problem was the overlapping of colors in the flavors of the attacks; or rather, the fact that none of them felt Black.
What i ended up with was an incomplete landwalk cycle. It gave me the flavor i needed to make all the cards make sense (alright, Fly maybe not so much) while allowing me to plan ahead for the 5th card of the cycle. Unfortunately this 5th card won’t arrive until the 3rd generation.

Surf Cut

Substitute

Substitute had to be special, that was always a given. It’s a spell that creates a creature but it’s not just a simple token producer. In addition to that creature it removes one of your own until it breaks, kind of like an Oblivion Ring.

Substitute

There’s a single Enchantment Creature in Magic, Lucent Liminid, and i feel that it’s a poor one at that. Substitute is my take on that field. It’s a normal enchantment that happens to take the form of a creature, sort of like an illusion. I wonder why they made the Phantasmal mechanic rather than just turning them into Enchantment Creatures.

Damage

After all the dust settled, a few attacks remained and left me no choice but to make them damage-dealing. Still i’m proud of how much i managed to cut back, even if the set did end up with far too much red damage dealing.

Thunder Tri Attack

Artifacts and Lands

Now that creatures and attacks are taken care of all that remains are a few more cards made to complement the set, namely Evolution Stones and Gyms.

Evolution Stones are a part of the Evolve mechanic in some Pokémon, but they had to be something more than that. The elemental aspect called out for something mana-related and, since there are five of them, a cycle was an obvious choice, but the same problem that plagued me through the entire set reared its ugly head here once again: Fire and Electricity share the same color, Red.
Fine, so they can’t be a Diamond-like cycle. Then i’ll just make them into a Signet-like cycle. The two colors weren’t hard to pick for each stone and they sat quite nicely through the most part of construction. However, throughout development, i peered a bit at the following generations and realized that upcoming Pokémon and Stones would be off-color and mess up my cycle. The solution for that was adding an extra color and make an Obelisk-like cycle, giving me more space to maneuver in upcoming sets and hopefully not screwing up future me.

Moon Stone

Finally come the Lands. I had no plans for them in design but as development advanced and multicolor became abundant, i realized that more mana fixing was needed beyond the Stones. Thus came the idea for Gyms, simple two-colored common lands like the recent Gates, which allowed me to place an early idea for an alternate victory condition into card form:

Victory Road

Victory Road sounds better than Pokémon League.

“But wait!”, one might say, adding “Aren’t there only eight Gyms?”. That is correct, dear voice in my head, which is why i took an odd choice in the cycle and only eight out of the ten lands have the Gym subtype. It’s not pretty, but flavor spoke higher this time.

Pokemon Tower Earth Gym Seafoam Islands

With that we reach the end of this segment. I’m fond of how the set turned out and i believe it’s a positive evolution from the last one. I hope you agree, and thank you for reading this far. Next week resumes normal content. Until then!

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