Posted on June 7, 2019, 10:39 a.m. by Tzefick
EDIT: Revised versions appear below after the initial iteration.
This idea bases around Ajani during the Shards of Alara story but not his rage mindset from Ajani Vengeant and instead focuses on his abilities to bring out aspects or avatars of the strengths of his allies.
Ajani has always kinda had this sort of behavior as we see in his planeswalker forms like;
These sort of abilities have primarily manifested themselves in +1/+1 counters and often as a board wide buff or targeting multiple creatures. It works relatively well with White Wheenie strategies of many low cost efficient creatures.
However Ajani have also been shown to have abilities that are more focused. I'm thinking in the lines of Soul's Grace , Soul's Fire , Soul's Majesty , and Soul's Might - all of which are cards from Shards of Alara. To some extend it is also shown in Titanic Ultimatum . These abilities are more aligned with Naya's design of big fat creatures. I have always been disappointed that Ajani have never again shown any such ability in his future planeswalker designs and felt wanting a version that reflected these abilities.
So here goes an attempt at creating a Naya related version of Ajani Goldmane.
Ajani, Soulforger Show
Legendary Planeswalker - Ajani
+2 Create a 0/1 white Avatar creature token with Soulbond and "As long as this creature is paired with a creature, it is a non-legendary copy of that creature with Soulbond and creatures paired with this creature cannot attack or block."
-1 Choose a creature you control. Create a red Aura enchantment token named Avatar of Flame attached to the chosen creature. The token has enchant creature and "Sacrifice Avatar of Flame: Avatar of Flame deals damage equal to enchanted creature's power to any target."
-3 Choose a permanent you control. Look at the top x cards of your library, where x is equal to the total power of creatures you control plus 3. You may exile a card from among them face down, then put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order. When the chosen permanent leaves the battlefield, if the exiled card is a permanent you may put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise put it into your hand.
Sadly I couldn't get the Custom Card function to properly work.
Some issues I acknowledge right of the bat:
The abilities are rather lengthy and could be cut down to be less complicated at the expense of being less dynamic. For instance the +2 could be a static token that just copies the P/T at the time of creation. It's a lot less flavorful. So instead of manifesting a creature's soul and let that do the fighting and safeguard the actual creature, it would be more generic token creation, also with less limits. In the current wording you can in principle only have one avatar per creature but if the original creature gets removed, the magic of the avatar remains and can take on a new form whenever you have another creature enter the battlefield - which is something I like as an interaction.
Likewise the -1 could literally just be a Soul's Fire but it removes the ability to delay the damage to instant speed and the possibly to make the creature larger before blowing something up. It does however open the ability up to fizzling by removing the creature before the aura token is created.
The "ultimate" could be a fixed number of cards to look at. I was swaying a bit between a singular and a board wide application with more of an "ultimate feel" to it (obviously at a higher loyalty cost). However I figured this had a better application across formats and wouldn't be the typical EDH battle cruiser ability. It does however provide with some technical card advantage and can cheat out some powerful stuff, making it a risk removing permanents "enhanced" with a replacement. You are able to trigger it yourself but Ajani is also in colors that typically don't sacrifice their own permanents nor bounce them back to their hand. Well... green does have a slew of creatures that sacrifice themselves for lands or removal abilities, but in general these colors don't sacrifice their own. You can obviously utilize board wipes to facilitate their demise and secure you come out on top. It could be considered to change it so that you have to choose a non-artifact permanent, as many artifacts do sacrifice themselves.
I found it a bit more difficult than I imagined to create abilities that worked off of the Soul's X template that wouldn't just be incredibly powerful or incredibly bad, depending on cost and application. The concept is also heavily reliant on having creatures to be truly beneficial but I also think the abilities are strong enough to offset that drawback. The idea was to get away from the generic +1/+1 counters that in some terms signifies bringing out the power of the individual but is just so generic, boring, and done to death, and in that regard I consider this version successful.
The wording may need a helping hand, especially the +2 ability. In general tokens don't have abilities that grant them further abilities.
The flavor texts of all the Soul's X cards notes that Ajani sculpts these avatars (e.g. Soul's Majesty ) but it felt weird calling him Ajani, Soulsculptor... kinda running a bit too close to a certain other person of the Lorwyn-5.
Any feedback and suggestions are welcome.
Edit: I forgot to mention this before, but I figure this Ajani callback is destined for a supplemental product that doesn't go into Standard. First of all because he is quite powerful for typical Standard and more complex with ability keywords that is not explained directly on the card.
Ajani, Soulforger v2 Show
Legendary Planeswalker - Ajani
+2 Create a 0/1 white Avatar creature token with Soulbond and "As long as this creature is paired with a creature, it has power and toughness equal to that creature's power and toughness. It has Soulbond and "Creatures paired with this creature can't attack or block."
-1 Target creature you control deal damage equal to its power to any target.
-3 Look at the top 5 cards of your library, you may reveal a Creature, Enchantment, or Equipment from among them. If that card's converted mana cost is less than the greatest power among creatures you control, you may put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
So, a revised version. I kept the +2 relatively intact for a couple reasons.
First to defend Ajani, the token is 0/1 by itself but is fully capable of chump-blocking.
Second the idea of making avatars out of your creatures to engage in combat is pseudo card-advantage although missing out on that creature's abilities (in the revised version). It also has the added benefit that if you attack with the Avatar and the Avatar dies, the original creature can block, effectively giving it Vigilance. However if the attacking creature is too big to die or gets through, the original creature cannot engage in combat - effectively making it "worse" on larger creatures. I find Vigilance on large creatures to be oppressive in terms of combat, more so than many other keywords.
Another benefit that befits red is that if the Avatar lingers unpaired, it can effectively grant Haste to new creatures.
Lastly I heavily want to avoid the "traditional Ajani pump", as that design is lazy and has been done to death.
-1 changed to straight Soul's Fire . It was the least original idea and was generally just there for a good ability that had a fair requirement.
-3 changed to a more static ability that provides some card advantage that Ajani has been known to be able to do previously; Ajani, Mentor of Heroes , Ajani Unyielding , and Ajani, Valiant Protector .
I traded Mentor of Heroes's ability to grab Planeswalkers for Equipment. Mostly because Equipment in general doesn't get much love, like Auras, but also because Ajani seems to have slumped down into a Superfriends booster segment, which I get with where his story goes after Shards of Alara but as this is set during Shards, I think it makes more sense that he favors Equipment. After all he used his dead brother's axe to make his iconic Twin Axe to seek revenge for his brother's murder.
As for the ability to cheat them onto the battlefield, remember that Ajani is 3 colors (the 3rd of that kind if we exclude the Commander planeswalkers), and it requires a creature with high power to gain a large swing from it. Ajani is also in colors that don't manipulate the top of their library... much... - looking at you Sylvan Library , Mirri's Guile , and Sensei's Divining Top .
Post scriptum; I just now noticed that all iterations of Ajani has something to do with life. Either straight life gain, lifelink or life total... Kinda breaking that format with this version.
Although I think life gain in general is a weak ability without the capabilities to utilize it as a benefactor, so in interest of keeping a 3-color Ajani relatively powerful, I'll break that trend.
I think you already addressed the largest problem--you are trying to do too much with the card. '
Here are my suggestions for each ability:
Replace the +2 ability--which is far, far too powerful as it currently stands due to the combo potential it creates--with a traditional Ajani pump + vigilance ability. I think that will help with your wordiness some.
To start, your -1 ability will not fizzle if the creature is removed, as no part of that ability is targeted (choosing a creature is not targeting it; auras only target if they are a spell, and this causes the aura to be created without being cast).
The aura will still be created, will not be able to be attached, and then will go away when state based actions are checked. I know this seems a bit pedantic, but the distinction is important--because the ability does not fizzle, you will still have an aura enter the battlefield, albeit briefly, which could implicate cards like Eidolon of Blossoms .
You'd probably want to word this like Estrid, the Masked 's -1 ability, which does target:
Create a red Aura enchantment token named Soulflame attached to target creature. The token has enchant creature and “Sacrifice Soulflame: Soulflame deals damage equal to enchanted creature’s power to any target.
I changed the name of the aura to get it down to one word, but that's still 31 words long--10 more than Estrid's. I do not think you could cut it down any further without modifying the effect.
The last ability is a bit of a mess, both requiring you to choose a creature and add up the total power of all your creatures. Rather than make this too complex, how about something like:
-6: Manifest the top X cards of your library, where X is the number of creatures you control.
I think that fits the flavour of what you are trying to do fairly well, but in a fairly concise manner.
June 7, 2019 2:14 p.m.
To cut down the wordiness, what if the first ability created a token with Champion, rather that soulbond, and was just a copy of the Champion'd creature?
"Create a 0/1 Avatar token with Champion a creature, and "This creature is a copy of the Championed creature."
June 7, 2019 8:01 p.m.
Thanks for the feedback guys. I have attempted a revised version that cuts a bit back on the complexity and potential but keeps the concept more original than most of the recent Ajani iterations.
cdkime I really want to avoid the "traditional Ajani pump" if I can on the plus ability. That design is lazy and not very interesting, and as you say has become a tradition for Ajani. This idea was meant as a concept that goes differently than the template that WotC have been using for Ajani ever since Ajani Vengeant .
The -1 has been cut back to its roots. It was the least original idea and just a good removal option with a fair requirement.
While I get your idea of Manifest top X library as a way of summoning aid, I find it weird that Ajani summons spirits that occasionally turns out to be something completely different. In short, I don't think Manifest fits the theme I'm going for here.
PhotogenicParasympathetic I find it interesting to utilize Champion as the effect. Especially since it's a Keyword mechanic from Lorwyn block where we first see Ajani.
However I feel like the interactions that the Avatar token with Soulbind sets up for makes it a lot more interesting. Although Champion does protect against removal in two fold, both against board wipes and you need 2 pieces of removal to effectively get rid of a creature. Although I can't help but feel like it's basically Estrid, the Masked 's -1 ability coupled with an Untap effect but only for creatures.
I'm conflicted on the subject and really enjoy the idea of Champion but I think I want to keep the Avatar with Soulbind. The Soulbound creature that can't attack or block, can still use abilities, which have better applications.
Anyways, I posted a revised version last in the OP. Please take a look and give feedback if you want.