Part of creating a large IP is realizing you can't do it all. Therefore, you have to learn to let some things go and get other people on board with your vision. This was very much the case with the Spined Hound. I had the core units that made up the Xizek race, but I needed more creatures to fill up the gaps in the world to make everything feel filled out. I wrote the art direction document, crossed my fingers with how Monztre Ink would approach the piece, and I was excited with what he came up with.
The Spined Hound is a spawn of the Xizek evolution manipulation system. Not a Xizek outright, but the hound is more Xizek than beast at this point. As Xizeks move into new regions, they make an extended effort to convert the local flora and fauna into something more "suitable" for their sludge-drenched lands. Equipped with serrated spines, this beast is extra pokey.
A Xizek's favorite color is green, but I needed to break up all the green in the cards with a contrasting color. What better color for this than green's complementary color red? Xizeks have a color palette of red, green, and yellow. Monztre Ink was able to capture that color palette in a unique way with the green background, red body, and yellow mouth. I think this was a brilliant choice, and makes the Spined Hound feel unique but also cohesive with the rest of the Xizek race.
Monztre Ink also sent me several hue-adjusted references, but I really this initial one was the strongest. One thing I really enjoy with art direction is the mental puzzle that comes along with making every piece of art from multiple artists feel cohesive. Sometimes this is trickier with certain pieces, but this piece really did the work for me.
I'm always looking for ways to tie in theme, art, and design into abilities and their literary/visual representation. Giving the Spined Hound's evolution ability a name wasn't necessary, but what is necessary for me is injecting lore, spice, flavor, secret sauce, whatever you want to call it. I think it's fun. So serrated spines also has a thematic mechanic. When a unit attacks the Spined Hound, it takes more damage -- that makes sense thematically. It's also battle ready as most mutated doggos are.
The Spined Hound looks great and serves a very important purpose lore-wise for the Xizeks. It shows they are not only this bug/lizard-like race, but that they also manipulate other creatures to fit their needs. This makes it clear why the Xizeks and Astracites are able to work together so well, their world view is pretty similar in some respects. The Spined Hound also showed me that it's okay to let go of some of my darlings so other artists can build on my work. I'm happier for it.