Sahria - Talks of Peace - Chapter Two is Up!

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Mon, 2017-06-12 19:27
RJ's picture

Block: Sahria
Set: Talks of Peace
Development Name: "Neffy"
Set Code: STP
306 cards, 5 4-color Syndicates
1 planeswalker to rule guide them all*


Chapter Zero
Sahria is a mana-rich plane that is home to mages of all kinds, and it has been wracked by conflict for as long as anyone can remember.
This, of course, led to a large amount of magic-related conflict. In the plane’s largest city of Dalkar, laws were passed that restricted duels to specific areas in order to protect the citizens.
However, repeated duels in the same area put a great amount of strain on the leylines of the plane, until one day a mage named Roland Barr tried to channel more mana than the plane could give him.
Refusing to stop his spell, he drew power from the very essence of his own life, killing himself in the process.
His spell had only been intended to rupture the cells in his opponent; however, the addition of his own life force caused it to go out of control and rupture not only his opponent, but the surrounding seventeen city blocks.

From the catastrophe, the Five Syndicates arose.
The Zobek Assembly blamed the rule of law for the atrocity, claiming that the restriction of duels is what led to the tragedy. They therefore shun the use of white magic. Zobek magic embraces individuality, anarchy, and experimentation; however, the leaders of the Zobek Assembly have little regard for safeguards - while they care about public safety, they believe that is each person's job, not any government's, to see to it that they are safe.
The Jial Coterie know that it was people who spent too much time thinking about how to solve the problem that created a bigger problem. They therefore shun the use of blue magic. Jial magic focuses on free thinking, the public good, and self-improvement; however, because they don't place an emphasis on long-term planning for fear of over-thinking things, the leaders of the Jial Coterie often create plans that are chaotic at best and downright disastrous for public safety at worst.
The Villean Legion claim that Barr’s blind focus on self-interest was the direct cause of the atrocity. They therefore shun the use of black magic. Villean magic encourages cooperation, harmony, and creativity. However, their complete rejection of personal motivation leads to a group where no one improves for the sake of improving one's own self, which in turn leads to a group that advances very slowly rather than in irregular leaps and bounds.
The Uynol Hierarchy found the solution before the accident: too much personal freedom led to duels, which were the actual cause of the entire issue in the first place. They therefore shun the use of red magic. Uynol magic seeks to impose order, conquer death, and create a society free of selfishness. However, their disregard for personal freedoms mean that their methods are often selfishly motivated - a contradiction the other Syndicates are quick to point out.
The Kitach Dominion concluded that it was nature’s fault. The leylines were a product of nature, but if they could have been redirected by man, then man would not have had to confine duels to such a small space, and the disaster could have been averted. They therefore shun the use of green magic. Kitach magic focuses on creating continous change - but only their change. As a result, their enemies often find themselves without resources as what they had was "re-appropriated" or outright obliterated.

At first, the Syndicates were nothing more than ad-hoc collections of idealists and statesmen who held debates in public areas, but as all heated debates are bound to do where magic is involved, over time their conflict grew into open fighting. This fighting eventually became so fierce that an unwritten agreement to not bring the conflict inside the city limits of Dalkar was made and strictly adhered to.
Decades later, the fighting became so destructive and the costs of continuing the struggle became so great that the Five Syndicates decided that they had had enough. A truce was called, and each Syndicate agreed to send their leader and a small group of attendants to a peace conference at City Hall. These Peace Talks will go on until a permanent end to the fighting is agreed to or a massive paradigm shift occurs.

Chapter One
The conference was in four days, and Novek Shen was in no hurry for them to get on with it. Not until she'd made quite certain that her leader would have safe lodging during the proceedings, anyway.

Dalkar was bustling. The Syndicates were really going to talk out their differences after all: the mayor had declared an official holiday. Shops were setting up brightly-colored decorations in their windows, open-air markets were bringing out their best produce, and even the guards were wearing festive uniforms. After strolling lazily through the market and buying a few things (it was amazing what you could get for your money in a city as large as Dalkar), Novek made her way toward the inn that she and the rest of the hand-picked security detail had chosen as the most likely place for their leader to stay.

She was a day early, but that was her style. As she entered the lobby, the proprietor looked up from a small stack of paperwork. Novek was surprised: there wasn't a bell on the door, and she hadn't made a sound.

"You're early," he commented, and Novek stared. "Oh, come now. You didn't really think I wouldn't make a point to find out what you looked like before you showed up? I am, after all, the proprietor of the third-oldest inn in the city. I'm expected to know these things. Now then. Are you staying here tonight?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Novek said, realizing how late it was. "Something small, if that's available."

"Of course, ma'am. Right this way." He led the way down the hall and up the stairs. "I must admit, I was a little surprised when I received word to prepare for an illustrious guest. I don't usually get too many high-profile patrons."

"We were looking for somewhere the others won't be," Novek said simply. "Tholl would have to stay at the Vell given his size, Leganni will make camp outside the city, Zarrin will probably stay in the mountains and fly in for the day, and Ikero will stay at the most expensive place she can find. Our leader is both more... discreet and more old-fashioned. A place like this would be perfect for her."

"I see. Here we are." He opened the door to reveal a room with just enough space for a bed, an end table, and a mirror. A pair of towels for the bath house were folded and lay on the table. "If you have any problems or concerns, please do not hesitate to let a Host or Hostess know. Enjoy your stay." With a final bow, he left the room. Novek sat down on the bed. It was surprisingly comfortable, she noted. Before she could even remove her cloak, she was asleep.

Novek woke with a start. Sitting up quickly, she looked around the room frantically, but no one was there. She was certain she had heard something, but she’d worry about that later. She headed downstairs to breakfast.

‘Breakfast’ turned out to be a pair of cold muffins and cup of juice – she’d slept a lot longer than expected.
After wolfing the muffins, Novek made her way back toward the city center. The whole way there, she checked over her shoulder, but whatever presence she felt earlier seemed to be gone. A sudden thought came to her, and she summoned a Wisp to look around for her. The blueish smoke winked out soon after emanating from her hand as the wisp became invisible.

The rest of the security team met her in the outdoor market at midday. Razmyr Tendarius, a powerful mind mage, Arlien Menson, an up-and-coming pyromancer, and Logan Garel, a budding necromancer. Novek quickly relayed her experience at the hotel to her fellows, and they agreed that it seemed like the perfect place for their leader to stay during the proceedings. The next matter was that of security during the event itself.
Since there wasn’t really anything to do other than make, remake, and re-remake plans, the group decided to spar. Arlien and Logan paired off, leaving the two older mages to their own friendly spar. As he always had, Razmyr proved himself to hold the edge, though Novek came far closer to getting a spell off than she’d done in their last few matches, and he told her so.

The day was now in its waning hours, so the group headed back toward the hotel. Novek already had a room, so the others rented the suite they would be procuring for the leader of the Kitach Dominion in three days’ time. Just like the previous night, she fell asleep almost immediately.

Chapter Two
The sound of an exploding Wisp woke her before the sun was up. This time, Novek didn't brush off the possibility that someone was watching her. Instead, she lashed out at the window, the dark whip cracking against the glass. Her outburst was rewarded with another exploding Wisp. A-ha! So whoever it was who was watching her, they weren't Jial - at least not directly. That left three other options.

She wasn't going to be getting any more sleep tonight, so she may as well take advantage of the early hour to take the bath house to herself. Picking up the towels, she made her way down to the single-story building that stood behind the inn. Steam billowed out of the building the moment she opened the door, and Novek smiled. The proprietor had received a Dragon's Gift and was putting it to excellent use. Removing her clothes and necklace, she stepped down the stairs and into the warm water.

As the water gradually soothed the tension in her back, Novek let her mind wander. Razmyr had taught her years ago that the best way to set your mind to a problem was to let it get there on its own time. He was once again proven right as a though wormed its way to the front of her mind after a few minutes. Shouldn't she cast a question spell? She had an overabundance of water to use for a misty mirror, after all. And if it turned up nothing, no harm done. Divination magic was one of the first things any mage who used blue mana learned.

The spell pushed some of the steam back to reveal part of the bath water. Novek peered into it, wondering what she would be told to ask herself this time. The water shimmered, and she was still looking at her own reflection, but the background had changed. Fire dominated the landscape of what she immediately recognized as the city. As she stared in alarm at the water, the door opened and someone else came in.

"Couldn't sleep?" the newcomer asked as Novek hastily splashed water over the picture to end the spell. A young merfolk woman had entered, wearing a towel. "Me either. The air in my room was a bit dry."

Novek nodded as she moved over to allow the merfolk to step down the stairs into the water, but the latter just laughed, shed her towel, and took a swan dive into the middle of the pool. Her entry didn't even make a splash. "Noise woke me up. Not sure what it was - probably the wind or something. I guess I'm just a little jumpy of late."

The merfolk nodded. "I know the feeling Have you gone under yet? It's the perfect temperature."

Novek dunked her head under the water to see for herself and gasped as the warm water finally worked its way between the scales of her back. She stood up, sputtering, and her companion's face changed to one of concern. "I'm fine," she said, waving a hand at her. "The water found a way underneath a tight scale is all." Novek stretched, rubbing her back. Taking a deep breath, she closed her nose slits and submerged again. The water was soothing, and Novek stayed under for quite some time before popping her head back out of the water to breathe.

"You're Novek, aren't you?" the Merfolk asked suddenly. "Xoria sent me. I'm Alcea. I'm a Tidebringer."

Novek could only shake her head in mild disbelief that two people in as many days had figured out who she was without her telling them. "Nice to meet you, Alcea. Why'd she send you up here so early?"

"She wanted me to meet the team, since I'll probably be doing most of the actual negotiating. I've always been rubbish at magic, so this is my time to shine." She smiled, and Novek couldn't help but smile right back at her demeanor.

"Well, I certainly wish you the best of luck. I think I speak for everyone when I say that peace is the best thing that could happen for Sahria."

"Thanks," Alcea giggled. "I'll certainly try my best."

Things to Expect wrote:
* 3 new mechanics and 2 reprinted mechanics as set mechanics
* 7 mythic-rare non-permanent spells
* a four-color X-costed artifact
* a colorless X-costed artifact
* an equipment with an X-costed equip cost
* two horizontal land cycles, each in a different rarity
* a Vampire with Bestow
* a generic mana-fixer artifact
* the antithesis of Counterspell

*no planeswalkers** appear in this set
**cards, not characters - a Spark does ignite

Please ignore the clearly insane electrical engineer behind the instrument panel. His meds won't wear off until Thur- it's Friday?? Already?! Oh dear.

Tue, 2017-06-27 04:55
RJ's picture

Due to technical delays (read: my laptop dying in a fire), I'll be uploading Chapter One and the first batch of renders when I can recover the data.

- - -

First chapter of story is up! We've only got four renders in this one since all of the pictures I found for the cards were lost in the aforementioned fire - which, btw, actually happened. I salvaged 80% of the parts though, so hey, that's a thing.

I'll post another spoiler with the set mechanics in a few hours. In the meantime, I'll attempt to recover my lost data (thank God for my having the foresight to e-mail myself the set file a while back so I didn't completely lose everything).

Please ignore the clearly insane electrical engineer behind the instrument panel. His meds won't wear off until Thur- it's Friday?? Already?! Oh dear.

Tue, 2017-06-27 11:34
shiftyhomunculus's picture

In agreement that reverie is really suspect in white, and I'm also not sure why anyone would choose the discard unless they were at immediate risk of decking.

Red mana symbolWhite mana symbolBlack mana symbol
formerly thehuw
they/them, please

Sun, 2017-07-02 03:44
RJ's picture

Reverie is indeed a little outside of white's normal color pie, which is why it only appears on two white cards in this set - it's on white cards at all for cohesion reasons with the rest of cards that have the Kitach Dominion as a tribal subtype.

That's right, it's time for a mechanics spoiler!

Set Mechanics
The mechanic of the Zobek Assembly is a new one - Incite. A more powerful version of Provoke, Incite shows the Zobek's focus on anarchy and personal responsibility for safety. It applies a debuff to the incited creature's power and toughness: while the power debuff scales with higher numbers N, the toughness debuff is always 1 to prevent it from outright killing things (especially things with Indestructible).
Incite N (Whenever this creature attacks, you may have target creature defending player controls untap and block it if able. If you do, that creature gets -N/-1 until end of turn.)

The mechanic for the Jial Coterie is a returning one - Conspire. Focusing on the Jial's strength - the ability to think on the fly - Conspire allows them to execute the same simple plan multiple times without having to use a long chain of planned spells, as that would run contrary to their manifesto.
Conspire (As you cast this spell, you may tap two untapped creatures you control that share a color with it. When you do, copy it and you may choose a new target for the copy.)

The Villean Legion is another new one - Traject. Focusing on the Villean's directive of cooperation and harmony, Traject allows a player the option to cast their spells for two different costs, varying the effects slightly with each cost. The ability to traject a spell when it is discarded also allows them to repurpose their magic in situations that might otherwise have been a setback into something useful. All cards with the Traject keyword also have a triggered phrase "If you trajected ~, <effect>."
Traject <cost> (You can cast this card for its traject cost. If you would discard this card, you can cast it for its traject cost instead of putting it into your graveyard.)

The Uynol Hierarchy get another returning mechanic - Absorb. Highlighting the Uynol's rejection of red magic, Absorb makes creatures resistant to burn spells and combat damage, making it more difficult to deal with them.
Absorb N (If a source would deal damage to this creature, prevent N of that damage.)

The Kitach Dominion gets another new mechanic - Reverie. As the Kitach's philosophy is formed by the intersection of control and aggression, their mechanic comes from the more aggressive control style of their middle two colors - discard and mill.
Reverie N (Whenever this creature attacks, defending player discards a card unless he or she puts the top N cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.)

Thanks for checking out this set update! Since the story of the set is focused around Novek Shen (who, in case it's not quite obvious yet, is a Naga), a mage from the Kitach Dominion, most of the cards that will be spoiled by the Story section will be from the Kitach part of the skeleton. Hopefully this mechanics spoiler answers a few questions and piques someone's interest - once I'm done posting story spoilers I'll throw up some more generic "here are some of the cycles", "here are some cool cards", or "here's what came up when I hit the randomizer" spoilers before I drop the whole set.

On another note, this set is NOT meant to be drafted, and the prerelease event (which will be held IRL at my uni thanks to the awesomeness of our gamer's club) will be done in much the same way that the Dragon's Maze prerelease was done: each player will get a seeded box of boosters based on the Syndicate they choose, and the Syndicate who wins the most games will receive an additional prize at the end.

Please ignore the clearly insane electrical engineer behind the instrument panel. His meds won't wear off until Thur- it's Friday?? Already?! Oh dear.

Sun, 2017-07-02 04:13
pkStarStorm's picture

The mechanics look good, but what makes traject different from madness?

Sun, 2017-07-02 04:38
MysticalOctopus's picture

You can cast it for its traject cost normally, not just upon discard.

My Set Hub[/size]

Sun, 2017-07-02 22:20
pkStarStorm's picture

@MysticalOctopus Ah ok

Mon, 2017-07-03 00:28
Featured Set Editor - Best Set of 2015 - Community Award
voltaic-qui's picture

Ok, so, uh, lots of things stand out to me here, but chief among them is this card.

Stymie the Enemy

Let's go over this, right?

1. First of all, it's "target creature gets +1/+1 (and a combat-irrelevant keyword) until end of turn" for 1 mana symbolWhite mana symbol, which is unplayable. I'm not sure I'd run this at 0 mana symbol.
2. Even worse, this grants at instant speed a keyword that triggers on attack. A combat trick that isn't at full power unless you cast it precombat is weird. Might of Old Krosa makes sense because it's effectively a modal spell (+2/+2 at instant speed or +4/+4 at sorcery speed). This... doesn't.
3. But then I actually stop to see what reverie does and am blindsided. Let's start with the obvious: it is really goddamn weak. As a general rule of thumb, spells where your opponent get to pick between two choices tend to be bad because your opponent will always pick the choice that's most beneficial for them. But in this case, it's a no-brainer: you pick the mill because milling the top card of your library is completely meaningless.
4. There's also the bizarre problem that the card is both a discard spell and a mill spell, neither of which are remotely White mana symbol.
5. And there's also the bizarre problem that one of the factions in this set has madness as their faction keyword (or at the very least a madness-esque keyword) meaning that, when the drawback isn't so infinitesimal as to be nonexistent, it provides upside for your opponent.

I just. What?

formerly jacquipup

"It's exciting to create something that demonstrates how clever you are, that you pushed in a direction that players didn't anticipate. The problem is that the point of game design isn't to be clever, it's to create a great game."

Sat, 2017-07-08 02:34
RJ's picture

Thanks for the feedback, guys - it's always appreciated and extremely helpful!

Jacqui, you've hit upon an issue that I've been thinking about for some time, but for lack of a solution decided to just push through and let this site tear it to shreds so I can find a better method. Here are my thoughts on that:

Stymie the Enemy sucks
I actually noticed the problem with this being instant-speed while I was on vacation, and then I went down a train of thought that's very similar to what you just did and... yeah. I'm, uh, I'm just going to go ahead and toss this card in the refuse bin and work out a different way to make white cards fit the Kitach Dominion's flavor without stretching the color pie so much.

Sound good?

Reverie is weak
This absolutely rings true in Constructed, which is why I'm hoping to drop the other two sets in the block as soon as possible ("opponent's graveyard matters" becomes a subtheme for the Kitach later, along with land destruction).

However, in Limited it becomes a potent decking weapon - playtests predictably proved it to be the Kitach player's primary win condition.

All the same, see "Alternative Ability?".

Reverie v Traject
That was a calculated risk - in Limited, I've noticed that mana bases are too inconsistent to reliably be able to Traject spells on an opponent's turn since you're usually casting cards on your turn rather then hoping the Kitach player is fool enough to attack you while she still has other opponents left - especially when they're much more suited to going after the Jial player, whose forte is ignoring countermagic, before going after you.
Alternative Ability
I was (and still am, I guess) considering changing Reverie to be for the opponent to choose whether to discard a card or have you draw up to N cards, which I think is a bit more of a Morton's Fork than the current iteration of the ability. Thoughts on that?

Please ignore the clearly insane electrical engineer behind the instrument panel. His meds won't wear off until Thur- it's Friday?? Already?! Oh dear.