Nephilim Design

Note: This article will not contain any unsolicited designs for Magic: The Gathering.

nephilim small

“Could you explain how each of the Nephilim work in regards to the Color Pie? This could be less mechanics based and more focusing on how the lack of one color affects each of them.”

“No, I can’t. That’s one of the biggest problems with four-color design.”

deathwish318 and Mark Rosewater

Ooo, oo, teacher! Pick me! Pick me!

So I’ve thought about Nephilim design, not in that I think the Nephilim were well-designed, but rather in how I think they can be designed.

When you look at a Nephilim the hard question is ‘why do these four colours align.’ The easier question is to instead look at the missing colour, and try to conceive of what about that colour can those other colours come to hate.

Consider a UBRG legendary nephilim. This can be seen as a UR/BG, or a UB/RG, or a UG/RB. In each case, you have combinations that don’t want White involved for some reason. There is always a pull away from white (and yes, also always a pull towards white) in these sets.

UR and BG don’t want white involved; white seeks to resist BG’s view on death as inevitable. UR doesn’t want structure to its experimentation, its proactive view on devices and the weird – it would rather step past orderly procession of study and get on to the results of their experiments.

UB and RG similarly don’t want white involved. UB is about manipulation of information, careful control, about asymmetry as control. White’s approach towards openness and fairness is contrary to what it wants. And RG is about expressing the primal want, the natural rage or roil, and white is explicitly about clamping down on that.

UG, inspired and pursuant of its own directions, is a colour pairing that wants to perfect – and while that can be done within an order, it needs to find that order itself. It can shun an imposed order, because it doesn’t need someone else to explain what it is already discovering. Red black, well of course it doesn’t like white – white is everything that resents.

In this way, the trick for defining a nephilim (and in this case, that’s shorthand for any four-colour creature that’s designed to have a creature tone to it) is not what it does do, but what it doesn’t want anyone else to do. An URBG Nephilim is not, to my mind, centered on lands and the creation of a landscape – it should instead be a creature that wants to, in some way, oppose order in a deeply fundamental way.

I don’t have a hard way of how to do this (again, not trying to present unsolicited designs), but consider that in URBG, all four of those colours have mechanics that care about mana and how it’s spent; all four of them have some way to utilise the top card of their library, drawing in a variety of ways; and of course, as Wizards have made clear, all four of them care about big creatures.

Can you design such a creature that it hates on something White does well? I’d argue that since these are rare (as in lowercase rare, not game-rarity rare) designs without much design space, you could also make them creatures with some particularly unique or oddball effect, too – some of your more Great Aurora style text pieces.

Look not to the reason those allies hold together: Look at what they hate so much they can and will. That, my friend, is the trick of the Nephilim: It is hate that defines them.

(I have other ideas for a technical solution to this problem, but that’s for another time and place. I also don’t expect this is totally new thinking to WotC.)

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