All the excitement over Magic’s newest set (Zendikar, if you’ve been pointedly looking away the last few months) and the way it is heavily land-focused got me thinking about other ways you could link cards to land. What if the creatures could actually live on your lands? The result is not so much a card to be broken, rather a keyword to be prodded and twisted. I propose the Inhabit ability.
In terms of flavor, Inhabit is intended to make lands less abstract. They aren’t just resources for casting spells, they’re places where creatures live. And you aren’t just a planeswalker summoning these creatures to do your bidding, you are their lord and protector. Mechanically, cards with the Inhabit keyword give you some benefit (either to the creature, the land or both) if you choose to link the card to a land. The drawback is an added vulnerability — if the land is destroyed, so is the creature. The Emerald Watchwarden is just a possible example of this, with a fairly low-powered boost.
The first problem that crops up is the fact that land destruction has been out of favor among Magic’s designers for ages. Playable land destruction cards are few and far between in Standard format. Not much of a drawback if there’s no way for your opponent to take advantage of it. So this assumes that the set will include a moderate number of decent land destruction cards, which would be available in all five colors.
This leads to a new problem: land destruction slows down games and is frustrating and “unfun” to play against. The solution: land destruction that doesn’t slow things down. For example, you might have a card that destroys a target land, then that land’s controller gets to search his library for a basic land and put it into play (this would create an interesting interaction with Landfall, by the way).
Ok, so, now that we’ve designed half of a set to accommodate this keyword, what else could we do with it? How could Inhabit cards in each color reflect the Magic color pie? A black zombie might inhabit a swamp and be able to regenerate if you sacrifice the swamp (which is interesting, since you can regenerate it in response to either the zombie or the swamp being destroyed). A white creature could inhabit multiple plains, and gain +1/+1 per plain. However, it would die if any of the plains were destroyed. A multi-color creature could inhabit only non-basic lands. For a really powerful effect, a creature might have to inhabit multiple specific lands, like an island, a forest and a swamp.
In addition to finding all the ways I’ve screwed up the templating or failed to account for terribly broken interactions (and I don’t mean that sarcastically, I like having those things pointed out), I’d also love to see some interesting Inhabit card designs in the comments section. It’s all yours, Vikings.