Monday, May 27, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 052413—Dragon's Maze fix-up

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

I don't think Blast of Genius was the worst designed card in Dragon's Maze, but it is a feel-bad engine since you've got enough mana to cast whatever you drew but need to discard something big enough to kill your target. Metaghost points out it also sucks that the whole spell can be countered if that creature is made an illegal target. I made a neat design that we decided would be better saved for when Grixis returns, and went with this Divination + Spiraling Embers combo based on Metaghost's suggestion.

James admits that Bred for the Hunt does feel very Simic, but asserts that there are too many cards in Dragon's Maze that reward +1/+1 counters and not enough that produce them. I drafted an hilarious Simic/Golgari deck with 2 Bred for the Hunt and ~5 Rakdos Drakes that worked pretty well, but that was 3xDGM. This is a pretty neat ability and I'm glad James added the cost or it could be broken too easily.

Catch & Release is better than the original, provided there's no Warleader's Helix next door.

No one's sure if this works, or if it could be templated to work, but it's an interesting idea.

Distress for {2}{B} + Recollect that only works with an odd number of cards in graveyards. Seems fair. The second half is indeed unusual, but I have to admit that the fused pair has more synergy than Down & Dirty.

Slime Molding meets Phantom General with a nod to Emmara's healer status. Making Emmara a token lord makes a lot of sense, but somehow having two kinds of +1/+1 that aren't related in a single block of rules text feels weird to me.

This Emmara's simpler, but living the dream with her just means sitting back and regenerating tokens every turn. I feel like the maze runners want to be doing something more proactive, with a bigger upside.

Mine isn't much better. I ended up using the existing text but putting it on a more reasonable body. I think what we've shown is that while it's not hard to do better than the actual Emmara Tandris, it is hard to really nail this design given all the constraints.

Ben points out that while the original Gleam of Battle is plenty red-white, it's not particularly Boros. He proposes this to bring it more in line with the guild's methods and mechanics. For me, this isn't as exciting, but I have to agree it's a flavor upgrade and I expect this could actually close out the game faster for a lot of Boros decks.

Axx1e was disappointed with the poorest of this six-drop cycle and proposed replacing Maze Rusher's haste with first strike. 5/3 is just way too big for a common first strike creature, but 3/2 is underwhelming for a six-drop even with these two abilities. This may be why Wizards went with haste. There may not be a satisfying first strike creature for 6 that isn't miserable to play against.

Ipaulsen didn't care for the double Mana Leak of Mindstatic and opted for another form of soft counter, tacking on a little extra tempo. Its debatable whether it makes more or less sense for this to target a creature and a noncreature, rather than two creatures. I do think this is a fair cost for this effect and reasonably common. The only tricky part is knowing you have to have two valid targets (and the one going away doesn't counter the spell).

Profit & Loss is a solid card, but it hurts that it costs three times as much as Zealous Persecution. Now & Forever is pretty perfect. "Tap a creature" is worth less than {W} and Assassinate is {2}{B}. Together we have "Destroy target creature" at instant speed for {3}{W}{B}. Awsome.

I love the first ability of this card. Letting you recast one of your spells and giving it cipher is awesome. Doing that twice on the first turn and once more each additional turn just seems... confusing to me. Evan explains that "if this card is broken, removing cipher won't fix its brokenness" but I'm not convinced.

Alex's spin on Trait Doctoring, which we can all agree falls a little flat for its audience, reads very well. I love the idea of snipping one card out of the opponent's deck/brain at a time. In practice, that's a lot of shuffling. You could justify it on a rare if the effect were worth it, but I'm not sure this is.

Lobster667's version lets you profit from knowing what's in your opponent's hand, pushing that player to try to empty his or her hand quickly. It does remove a good bit of private information from the game, but it's fast to execute and the fact that the reveal is a discrete event that comes after you draw your card for the turn at least means the person using this won't know everything every time. Making this effect dependent on dealing combat damage to your opponent seems perfect to me.

Antny223 finds Wake the Reinforcements too weak to play even in a deck with good token-making cards, so he proposes this upgrade. The untap effect fits the card's art and theme very well, and it could indeed push this over the edge to make some more maindecks. If it weren't such a natural fit for the theme, I'd argue it's not worth the loss of elegance, but I like this tweak.

R Stech explains that Woodlot Crawler's forestwalk and protection from green feels formulaic and makes no flavor-sense. I don't buy the flavor of his redesign either, but it's certainly not formulaic. It's cool that it works against Simic and Golgari, and maybe a little confusing that it works against Rakdos too.

Most of us agree that Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers is the most awkward member of its cycle, straddling the fence between aggressive and defensive. Gatecrashers lets you interact with the lands in the set in another way. I personally don't care for that because it's sending a mixed message for the set in general: Are Gates good or bad? According to Gatecrashers, both. Should be 2/4 to match the tight cycle.

Devin replaces Restore the Peace with another tempo card that isn't just a hybrid of Avenging Arrow and Aetherize. He recognizes that it's worse than Peel from Reality, but at least its less worse than Restore is?

A lot of these redesigns helped illustrate how far from trivial it is to make every card excellent. I found that really interesting. It was also neat to see which cards got called out. Most of them are weak, but not all. Some just felt too easy or like they missed the flavor.

I don't think we had a lot of slam-dunks in our efforts to improve these cards. I suppose we should have seen that coming.:How much better could we expect to do than Wizards given the same constraints? Even so, I enjoyed the challenge and I intend to do something similar again eventually; we'll be better then, just as we are already better than we were before this challenge.


  1. Did you forget mine?

    Also, Smelt-Ward is probably the best Gatekeeper in limited. I don't get why people dislike it.

    1. It's disliked because while the effect is strong, it's terrible in Gates.dec, so it's never both powerful and consistent.

      As for general quality, this is certainly an interesting lesson. I'd always been somewhat mystified at the number of poor designs that made it to print, but for al the creativity they inspire, restrictions still make it difficult to ensure high quality hole-fillers.

  2. Ah, so I guess my submission was indeed too late! Of all the Weekend Art Challenges to miss, the one inspired by my own work. Sorry about that, Jay. My weekend got busy!

    1. Jeez, I missed three submissions. Getting sloppy.