Monday, March 4, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 030113—Raven Mimura

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Here's the challenge we're reviewing today.

I'm probably reading this wrong somehow. If so, let me know in the comments. It looks to me like your opponent gets to eliminate half of your hand quality and you replace it with new cards. I'm not sure why anyone would play this unless they just put 7 lands into their hand somehow.

Ace in the Hole is a nice clean design that, as Jules explains, "allows you to feign weakness while really having countermagic." It's narrow enough that I have trouble imagining players running this in Limited or even Standard (short of a combo deck), but it seems like it could be big in Legacy or Modern. I complained that it doesn't really nail the Western theme, but Jules points out it's meant to feel like a bluff.

It's fairly likely that we'll never see anything like Chaos Orb again, much less as a keyword, but I hope to try it and find out, because card-throwing games are a blast and this mechanic will never be more at happen than in Frontier. The flavor of shooting your own library (or an ally's in multiplayer) might be a miss.

Ant's original definition of Doubletap was Whenever this creature would become tapped, if it is the first time this turn, untap it. I love the name and the placement in a Western set, but that execution could lead to confusion, and also allows a card to be tapped three times per round. I'm not a fan of the new version since the only difference between it and vigilance are "when tapped" and "when untapped" triggers.

As a 2/2 for four, Seven-Card Stud is pretty likely to die after his first attack, but drawing 3-6 cards will have been more than worth it. I like this effect much better than the original, particularly with this name.

Clairvoyant Gamble is mighty clunky. Here's my stab at the template:
Target opponent looks at your hand. Then, exile face down each card in your hand but one. That opponent names a card and you reveal the card you kept. If it's not the card he or she named, that opponent takes three damage for each card exiled this way.
Regardless, this card is probably mono-red: The cost (discarding cards) is red and the effect (dealing damage) is red. The only thing blue is the mind game in between. If it is red-blue, Fading definitely got the proportion right.

Apart from the awkwardness of un-discarding cards, I like Full House a lot. I like that it's red-blue because you could play it with no cards in hand just hoping to get lucky, but you could also wait until you can do it with five cards of different types already sitting in your hand. I wonder if it could be hybrid.

So the turn you cast Shadowhand Dealer, all your cards are 0-mana Disperses. You discard as many cards as your opponent has targets (because that's amazing) and then next turn when they spent their mana trying to rebuild, you draw five cards and eliminate whatever they couldn't recast. Seems. Good.

Power concerns aside, I'm really impressed by the amount of internal synergy metaghost jammed in here.

Mad Olaf explains that Shady Dealer is meant for a set where lots of effects put cards on the bottom of your library. Usually, those effects exist as a way to get rid of cards without making you vulnerable to milling or feeling you've lost your chance to play that card. In that model, I suspect this isn't a good effect for the game.

That said, you probably could craft an environment that plays with the bottom of the deck more actively and Shady Dealer would fit right in there. Putting a card on top of your library should still just be "discard a card." The point of looting is to get rid of useless cards and this just causes you to draw it again your very next turn.

Phantom Warrior meets Stealer of Secrets and their love-child is a big Looter Il-Kor.
Am I wrong to be kinda proud of this?

I love the typeline. While the main ability doesn't often do as much as the text it requires, it's very cool and justifiably blue (white would be easier).

1U for a 2/2 is almost unheard of. There are 9 such cards in Magic and they all have drawbacks. It sure won't break the game and if it's going to happen, rare is the place. That said, UU or 2/1 seems more appropriate given the flavor.

The second ability takes Silent Trickster from 6 lines to 8, and while it clearly has uses, I think it detracts from the card more than it adds. Make me use Cloudshift to reset my Trickster.

I do wonder about a version that steals the target's abilities rather than shuts them off.

Hmm. Putting a card back allows Mind Spring to be an instant, but you're casting this at the end of your opponent's turn anyhow and so drawing that card immediately. I'm not sure it's worth the fiddliness. You could cast Sleevin' an Ace in response to a discard spell, and then you'd be guaranteed to save your best card, but I don't see anyone holding this for that eventuality rather than just grab a swath of cards. Sleevin' is printable, I'm just not sure it'll ever be the best choice for a set.

Clash hasn't been popular among the Frontier crowd, but it clearly serves the same role as duel/showdown and I like Skillful Grifter regardless of which actual keyword is chosen. Worst case you get to loot, best case you're up a card—all supporting a big component of the set.

Blue doesn't do a lot of coin-flipping, but if we're going to push a gambling theme across colors, Frontier seems like a good place to do it. Repeatable multi-tap is terrifying, but you're never guaranteed to tap the X/2 permanents you were hoping for. At rare, that might be fine. Logistically, flipping multiple coins every turn could drag out the game considerably.


I suspect repeatable showdown will also hurt the pace of the game noticeably, but otherwise I love this design. The name is great and tying the effect into the keyword as well as the blue looter of the set is clever.

I would consider replacing the un-discard with the more normal "draw a card." It's less jarring and makes you go through your own deck faster, which means there's some chance you might deck yourself—a hazard of working with a gambler. Also, if you get back the card that won you the last duel, you'll use it to win every duel thereafter until your opponent both draws and chooses to discard his own CMC 1 card.

We first messed with this effect in the M13 project and it proved really fun. There's so much potential and so much risk! Instead of "Whenever a spell targets ~, its controller draws a card" this wording suggests other spell-altering effects in the set. Perhaps splice. Hmm, could splice feel like a flurry of bulletspells?

Not a lot of us went for the flavor of actually playing poker against this character and getting taken for all our money. Nice.

It's interesting whether this should be instant or not. In either case, your opponent will only be able to respond and spend his gold first with an instant of his own. But a sorcery gives him the chance to use his own gold on his turn, where an instant can snatch it away if he doesn't spend it literally right after he gains it.

Nich intentionally linked all Accomplices together by letting you reclaim cards exiled by any Surefire Accomplice rather than just the one activating the ability. That adds a redundancy you don't normally get with cards like Bane Alley Broker. It's definitely exciting, and I think it evokes hiding cards up your sleeve in a poker game well. It might be too strong, but we'll let Development decide.

Even though Telepathy was last printed almost four years ago—because removing suspense limits the fun of the game—I think a card like this could be justified in the right set. This level of reveal would be safer at rare, though then you'd want a more exciting body.

Cardsharp turns off your opponent's spellshot since they won't have any unrevealed cards to reveal. But, like +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters, I expect that permanent reveals and indefinite reveals are mutually exclusive within a given set. Imagine that I have used spellshot, permanently revealing two of the cards from my hand. You then play Telepathic Cardsharp and I'm not able to kill it until 6 turns later. How do I know which of my cards to unreveal?

Regardless, Telepathic Cardsharp is a better option than Telepathy because players can deal with creatures more easily.

Another option:
When ~ enters the battlefield, target opponent permanently reveals each card in his or her hand.
In addition to solving the above conflict, this version also limits how much suspense is lost when you play Cardsharp because at least the opponent's new draws will be hidden.

"You can't play spells that target" is what Thaumaturge Gambler tells your opponent, but it's up to her whether to believe him or not. If you don't have any instants or sorceries in hand, he's all talk. I would definitely try this card in a set that uses card reveals as a major theme, but I think it's too strong as-is in most sets. Add an activation cost and then I could see it anywhere.

Reminds me of Bazaar of Baghdad. The Dealer isn't nearly as good, of course, because 1:2 isn't 2:3 and because this isn't a land, but I would still be curious to see what kind of play he sees. Feels like gambling at a casino.

Like Skillful Grifter, Tricky Dealer supports the keyword mechanic of the set by rewarding you every time it happens. It's interesting that both of these work even if it was your opponent that initiated the contest. Not sure if that's good or not.

Ten lines of text is too much, and a twenty card swing is entirely excessive, but you have to respect the awesome moment P was crafting. Here's my take:

This version isn't automatically as epic, but it could potentially be even bigger. The tension between improving your chance to win and increasing the payout for whoever does win is classic. That players have to consider the possibility of decking themselves puts an upper-limit on how much you can bid.

Ace High wasn't directly inspired by P's entry, but I did come up with it while thinking about The Winner Takes All. If you're going to 'name' a card in your hand, there needs to be a reason you would sometimes lie. Getting to draw a ton of cards seems like a pretty good reason.

Skilled Trickster's ability combos with the versions of duel/showdown that involve drawing a card. You increase your chance of winning the duel substantially. Sweet.

Everyone's going to get two cards. Anyone might get an extra turn. In fact, everyone might get an extra turn, which effectively means no one does—depending what order they come in. It's really cool how Bradley translated Texas Hold'Em into a Magic card. That said, I'm not sure an extra turn is worth eight lines of text. Apart from having a good spread of CMCs in your deck, there's not much you can do to stack the odds in your favor. With a result that random, I'd say Turn of the Cards is mono-red, rather than blue.

I'm astounded how many awesome designs came out of this challenge. I chose blue because so many Frontier ideas have been in the fighty colors and we needed to get a better idea of what the civilized portion of this world would look like. At least half of these twenty-seven designs are really helpful answers to that question. About twenty of them even fulfilled the name challenge, which wasn't exactly trivial.

Bully, designers!


  1. Thaumaturge Gambler would be fascinating in control match-ups. I cast my Tidings (or equivalent draw-spell), you cast Negate, I discard a mostly-useless Doom Blade to Swerve your Negate onto itself.

    It's no Forbid, and can't target creatures at all, but seems really interesting and could definitely impact a format. Gating spells that target a creature you control (something I was meddling with for Frontier-blue) play very interestingly there.

    Spellwild Gambler, for posterity, is also part of a mirror and/or cycle with Spellwild Ouphe. (They also could both support both gating-spells and storm-lite mechanics.)

    1. This spell redirection example doesn't actually work because a spell can't target itself. Shunt works because you can change the target to Shunt, but then Shunt leaves the stack and they have no legal targets.

    2. Whaaaaat? That makes a lot of sense, actually. Also goes to show that even when you think you understand this game...

      I get why a spell can't target itself before it's on the stack, but I'm curious why a spell couldn't be changed to target itself once it's on the stack. I'll see if I can't dive into the comprehensive rules!

  2. Thaumaturge Gambler is my favorite design of the lot here. Spellskite is way more interesting as an ability when it's a real choice rather than a "duh, why wouldn't you?" moment. It lends itself to bluffing, too, which fits the gambler theme spot-on. Top marks.

  3. A lot of cool stuff came out of this challenge, but I'm not as convinced as Jay that we've got blue solved for frontier. We can only have so many cards that trigger off of dueling or loot, after all.

    1. Agreed. In particular I'm not convinced that gambling is at all blue, which would mean that brainstorming a blue gambler is perhaps not the correct direction for this project.

    2. I'm not saying blue is solved by any measure. I'm saying that the number of good ideas we came up for this ONE piece of art shows a lot of promise for the other 60 blue cards.

    3. Ah, well in that case I'll agree. Sorry for misinterpreting your meaning.

  4. Now that I think about it, Thaumaturge Gambler should definitely require U to activate. That way you can leave an Island untapped to specifically bluff. I made it free because I was thinking that tapping out felt like saying, "Go ahead, do something, I dare you," but leaving U open is an even stronger signal. Good call, Jay.

  5. "When ~ enters the battlefield, target opponent permanently reveals each card in his or her hand." Is really unintuitive. It makes it sound like they permanently reveal all cards in their hand for the rest of the game. If we were actually using this, we might want "That player reveals their hand. When Telepathic Cardsharp leaves play, that player hides their hand." That makes it clear what happens to cards when he goes away. Or maybe "target player permanently reveals all cards currently in his or her hand."

    On the matter of Telepathy being the last reveal card, it's only kind of true. Basically every set has at least one card that reveals an opponents hand (Search Warrant, Duress, that crazy dimir card), and with the advent of note taking those cards are basically revealed forever.

    1. Telepathy wasn't the last reveal card, it was the last ongoing reveal card. Not sure I'm seeing the difference between "each" and "all."

    2. How would you word the ability if it made your opponent reveal their hand all the time forever?

    3. "For the rest of the game, target opponent plays with his or her hand revealed."

  6. I see your points about sleevin' an ace, but the main purpose is putting a card on top your library in case you suddenly finding yourself about clash with an opponent (or something similar). Whether this will be important in Frontier remains to be seen, since there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the set. Certainly there are many other cards in magic where this is almost cheating.

    1. Ahhh. I see. So the Frontier that Sleevin' an Ace goes into has both clash/duel effects that care about the top of your library and effects that interact with the bottom of your library. I assumed those would be mutually exclusive.

    2. Even if Frontier has a couple of cards that place cards at the bottom of your library it shouldn't exclude duel style effects that care about the top card of your library. Effects that care about the bottom of your library tend to bury them there out of reach. Clash style effects use the top card but don't really care where it goes afterwards.

  7. Slight of Hand is great :) I also like the flavour of Sleevin and Ace and other cards.

  8. Sleight of Hand! Why didn't I think of that?