Monday, June 10, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 060713—Lagutin

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

Given that Archaic Remnant costs {U}{B}{R}, those six lines of text will rarely play differently than if the card just always had hexproof, deathtouch and first strike. Perhaps if it cost {2U}{2B}{2R} or {2}{B} or something.

The flavor text tells us nothing.

Flamewraith Warrior reminded me at first of Nim Lasher, but it counts artifacts in your graveyard rather than on the battlefield, which is perfect for this setting. The closest card to it is Salvage Slasher, which could totally get reprinted here. Since it's got one toughness, you usually only attack with it once (unless you're able to kill their only blocker with the trigger).

I started out 'eh' on this design but have talked myself into liking it pretty well.

Wraith is a super black race, but I must admit that hood is quite wraith-like.

I wanted to find a mechanic about searching the wastes for items of use. 'Scavenge' was taken, so I went with 'excavate,' though having just written the above review, 'salvage' could be perfect too.

Anyhow, excavate gives you a chance to return a card from your graveyard (proportional to that card type's prevalence there). White might excavate for artifacts, while blue/red might excavate for instants/sorceries. I suppose green could excavate for enchantments, but not every color needs the mechanic, and it'll lead to more feel bad moments the rarer the card-type it looks for is.

That said, I'm not sure excavate is awesome. It'll feel great when it works (and especially when you make it work), but it'll be a let-down when it doesn't and choosing a random card from your graveyard isn't the fastest thing to execute.

The Ghoul/Mutant thing is a Fallout reference for anyone not familiar with that series.

Hey look, 'salvage' again. Clearly an important theme for a post-apocalyptic world to explore. While the flavor of this triggered version matches up less perfectly, the gameplay seems much stronger (at least in a vacuum). Ground Zero Scavenger is blue because the effect tied to the trigger is blue (and because zefferal likes the art better on a blue, black or red card), but it bugs me that blue can't destroy artifacts or enchantments and so this ability does nothing in a mono-blue deck. I'd rather see this salvage in white, green and maybe red.

Devin describes warp as the ability to hijack "the summoning magic that Planeswalkers utilize to manifest objects and creatures." It only now occurs to me that it might be interesting if you could hijack your opponent's spells: "Whenever a player casts an Artifact spell, you may cast ~ for up X less."

Back to Junctionblast Mage: I'm not entirely sure warp is something we want to put on commons, but if it is, the only way to make a simpler warp card is to put it on a big french vanilla as a cost-reduction mechanic.

I'm guessing the flavor text is either sound of a Junctionblast Mage hijacking your artifact spell, or the sound of his damage being dealt.

Ipaulsen wanted to find a mechanic that basically said "this creature can only be killed by damage" but that proves difficult to do, particularly in the face of state-based effects like having 0 toughness. Survivor is what he settled on, and it's not bad, except for also making Mage-Scarred Avenger immune to tap effects, enemy auras and the like.

I'm not entirely clear what the name means. Was this shaman scarred by a mage whom he since swore vengeance against? Has he sworn vengeance against all mages, hence the triggered ability? About that ability, it's almost functionally identical to "Whenever ~ attacks, it deals 1 damage to the defending player" since you can then redirect that damage to a planeswalker she controls.

In my initial brainstorm, I had messed with a couple cards that 'spent' artifacts from your graveyard to buff the creature. Havelock's design is better. It's simple and enticing. Sold.

Daniel riffed off of that design to make something more interesting and flavorful at the cost of more complexity. I like this Mageborn Scavenger too, though it may be better cheaper and rarer. Not sure why it's red-blue.

Delve is an excellent mechanic to try out for this setting. We quickly learned how hard it is, though, to appealingly cost cards with big cost reduction mechanics like delve and affinity. Tombstalker looks okay at {6}{B}{B} because it's a big flyer anyhow. Death Rattle looks okay at {5}{B} because six mana isn't unreasonable for nearly conditionless instant-speed removal (in Limited). And Logic Knot is solid because it only costs one more than it's kin and that won't be hard to offset via Delve (plus it's Counterspell in the best case).

Master Scavenger would definitely be disappointing to cast with no cards in your 'yard, but exiling three cards to make a 5/5 for {B}{B} is pretty exciting (and you can even delve more cards just to make him bigger). He might be too good with Intimidate, but rare is definitely the right rarity. "Equipping" Master Scavenger with the cards he delved is some nice flavor.

"Yeah, kicker. Kinda lazy. Still, fits in with whatever big mana theme is supporting giant mechs. Flavor is exactly what it says on the tin -- in a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce, he uses necromantic magic to 'recycle' expired constructs, mixing in red metalworking magic to get them fighting fit much sooner."

It feels a little strange that red mana is what lets Necroforger return the artifact creature to the battlefield instead of our hand, but no moreso than a black card returning only nonliving creatures. Not my favorite of Jenesis' work.

Antny223 proposes reincarnate as a mechanic that lets you retrieve a card from the graveyard when something else enters. There's no card advantage since it goes to your library, and there's not a 1:1 between cards entering and cards leaving your battlefield, since you could pay for multiple cards when they trigger. As a result, the flavor is entirely lost on me, but the gameplay seems interesting.

Obviously, Neurosi Salvager is the one rare that hands out reincarnate like candy, while every other card in the set that mentions reincarnate only has it for itself, and since that could let you get it back any number of times, isn't so good that you always want to reincarnate it.

It's like dredge but for mana instead of cards in your library. Which means it's not as a broken.

Ruthless Acquisitor is a build-around for Act of Treason effects, which is something we might see a lot of in this post-apocalyptic setting, what with people looting and forming gangs and maybe blackmailing or enslaving others.

The flavor text is pretty good, though I wish it ended 6 words earlier.

'Scrounge' is another good word for the action many of us have been designing to. James suggests that this set would include a bunch of artifact creatures with activated abilities like "{U}: ~ gains flying until end of turn" or "{2}: ~ gets +1/-1 until end of turn." Given the mechs we've seen, this will give you extra uses for your dead mechs.

We definitely need to add a restriction to Scrounge so that your creatures never get the equip ability of equipment cards in your graveyard.

Obviously Seeker has a huge upside, potentially much larger than Snapcaster Mage. It's a little harder to deploy and much harder to turn on, though. It may not be too hard to balance this in Limited or Standard, but Seeker breaks pretty quickly with dredge and the like. You could add a trigger (perhaps you can only use his ability once per turn, and/or only after dealing combat damage). I just love the flavor of him taking two discarded items and making one functional item out of them (You could also limit it to just permanents or artifacts).

Threshold is rather unlikely to ever return, but if it were to, a post-apocalyptic set would be perfect.

Dread Specter is the only existing specter without flying, and it also doesn't have the discard ability. Even so, the hood is very specter-y and wither feels pretty natural here.

Fateful Hour seems appropriate, and Tenacious Pyromancer is pretty exciting.

Psionic will let you transfer any kind of counter. Trap Dispeller uses a -1/-1 counter, so we don't expect any other kinds of creature counters in the same set, but there's nothing stopping you from putting +1/+1 counters on it outside of the block. And then attacking and moving the +1/+1 counters off...

Trap Dispeller does a bunch of things. It blows up an enchantment. It shrugs off (very small quantities) of wither/persist tokens as well as it's own. It kills a creature. You could print this at common (without the flavor text), though it pushes that bar. I have concerns that all psionic creatures will do the same, since the keyword does nothing by itself.

I like the flavor. Just the name suggests that the traps you're worried about are magical in origin.

This mechanic must walk a fine line between why-would-I-ever-save-this-guy and why-wouldn't-I-ever-save-this-guy. The former would leave the mechanic weak and undesirable, while the latter would lead to repetitive game states.

Twisted Survivor does a decent job of skirting that line: It's a bit on the weak side, but you might want to bring it back if you're land shy and you've got an expensive creature in hand you don't expect to cast any time soon. If you've got reanimation effects or other graveyard shenanigans, you may be actively looking for opportunities to discard your own creatures.

I do wish it had more straight-forward applications, or that it returned directly to the battlefield so that discarding a slightly better creature might be worth the mana savings.

Ben suggests naming the "loner" ability from Dark Ascencion and using it here. Makes sense to me. I think Unyielding Renegade could be a bit simpler with square numbers, but it's not a deal breaker. 5 power of intimidate is a lot, but Ben's expecting a lot of artifact creatures in this set to offset that.

Pretty good flavor text.

An update to Rag Man, Waywardly Ragman is easier to cast and activate, but not as dominating at stripping away your creature cards. You wouldn't tangle with any kind of repeated discard at common, but as a rare, this sets up a mini-game that could be as interesting as frustrating. Neat.

Whispertear recurs your equipment cards for the low-low cost of their equip cost. That's quite a splashy and strong ability on its own and I don't know if you even need another incentive to gear him up, though I wouldn't be entirely shocked to see a bad-ass legend like this printed. I propose this alternate template:

You may equip Whispertear with equipment in your graveyard. When you do, return that equipment to the battlefield.

"After this phase" is a unique choice. VanVelding's intention is that Witness of Loss should be able to block after dodging a Lyev Decree and Sleep without being distracted by a Shadow Slice or Last Thoughts. The unusual wording definitely knocks this out of running for common, and arguably justifies rare, but uncommon is certainly arguable.

We saw every color but green, which I think we can agree just couldn't work for this art. We saw a bunch of effects that care about artifacts, a bunch that care about the graveyard, and several that care about both. Most of these designs illustrate a really tough, interesting survivor and make me think that—whether it fits for Tesla or not—a post-apocalyptic world could really be an interesting setting for a Magic block at some point.

What stood out to you? Did any of these designs inspire more ideas about this world for you?


  1. I really like Ruthless Acquisitor and Seeker of the Old Ways for being clever, sleek designs.

    Junctionblast Mage's warp ability is dangerous, unusual, and goes to some strange headspaces. I'd like to see it developed more.

  2. One major problem with "choose a card at random in your graveyard" is that if you don't have an appropriate die, it more or less requires shuffling your graveyard. Technically, this is not allowed because of old cards like Ashen Ghoul.

    It's things like this that make me wish Magic would fork the rules at some point; maintain an old version that's compatible with Banding etc, but also have a streamlined version for Modern forward. This seems unlikely now, but in ten years I wonder how they'll view this issue.

    1. We already kind of have this, the rules explicitly state that graveyard order doesn't need to be maintained in formats without any of the order-matters cards legal.

      As for broader changes, I think it's problematic to have players learn interactions, but then be told the rules are different once they move to another format. What I could see is WotC no longer supporting eternal formats and let old cards be handled like un-cards. You can basically figure out how they work, but there are no official rules governing them.

    2. I don't think MTGO's cube is going away anytime soon, which makes eternal support seem likely to remain.

  3. I generally agree with Jay's analyses, but here are a few more thoughts I had while looking over the cards.

    On Flamewraith Warrior and all the similar cards: It would be really difficult to make an environment in which this effect scales excitingly as a regular thing. Even with a graveyard theme, Innistrad only had a few cards that counted creatures in graveyards. And even in a really artifact-heavy set creatures are still more abundant and die more often. We can cost these cards aggressively enough to be good, but I don't think we can make the scaling abilities feel like they're reaching their full potential in game.

    Excavate certainly seems cool conceptually, but in addition to the issues Jay brought up, there's some repetitive game play concern if we do a lot of the mechanic (think Soulshift).

    I agree with Jay's analysis of Warp. One other option I see is to do it as a less predictable suspend:

    Warp #-{COST} (Rather than cast this card from your hand, you may pay {COST} and exile it with # warp counters on it. Whenever you cast a spell, remove X warp counters from ~ where X is that spell's converted mana cost. When the last is removed, cast it without paying its mana cost.)

    This doesn't solve all of Suspend's issues, but it does make for more suspense and less mind-melting planning around your opponents next four turns.

    On Mage-Scarred Avenger: I don't see "can only be killed by damage" as an ability worth keywording. Indestructible and hexproof do enough in this area that it would never become evergreen, and you can't flood a single block with creatures like this without getting all the same problems that overloading on hexproof brings.

    On Master Scavenger: I like the reward for delving a lot, but I worry that it might be too unintuitive that you can Delve for more than the colorless count in the cards cost, and this ability makes that problematic.

    Reincarnate has way too much potential for repetitive gameplay for me to sign off on it. Imagine if each player has two creatures with Reincarnate forming two pairs that can trade with each other. Suddenly, by blocking one of the players can put the game into stasis with the board staying the same and nobody even drawing new cards! Then again, I guess Dredge was printed, so maybe it could work with few enough cards and some tweaking.

    1. Ruthless Acquisition is yet another card that's really cool in concept, but I doubt will see print. The issue here is that if you include enough Act of Treason effects to make it trigger, you've saturated the environment enough that people are afraid to play their good creatures, which isn't really a situation we're looking to create. That said, Bloodthrone Vampire has been draftable just for it's synergy with Act of Treason as a single common, so maybe I'm wrong. Either way, having a creature trigger to deal damage that is neither a single point nor equal to its power feels really weird.

      Fateful Hour doesn't have a ton of design space, but spreading it to new colors probably gives us enough to work with, and it feels perfectly desperate. It's more fitting of an apocalyptic setting than a post-apocalyptic one in my opinion.

      Psionic certainly suffers from the issues that Jay mentions. I wonder if we can broaden it enough to fit onto creatures that don't give themselves counters. Perhaps:
      Psionic (If a counters would be placed on CARDNAME, you may put that counter on a creature without Psionic instead.)
      Not quite as clean as I'd like, but probably better to head off the questions about "what if two creatures have it?" even though the rules handle it alright.

      As for Unyielding Renegade, I don't think the loner mechanic's much of a hit. The reason R&D has toned down land destruction and countermagic so much is because it feels terrible not to be able to cast your spells, so making players feel that limited by their own cards has a pretty narrow appeal. This version's not that punishing, but I'd rather get a little bit closer to the Exalted end of the spectrum: namely, letting your other cards be put to use.

      Whispertear's first ability seems like an awesome thing to put on a white rare at some point, but I'm skeptical that it'll actually do much without self-mill or equipment that sacrifice themselves. They're not exactly the permanents that get binned most frequently.

    2. Regarding Ruthless Acquisitor, if the set contiues to have parts of creatures that combine in bigger creatures, I could really easily see a sub-theme whit stealing parts, supported in different ways in black, blue and red. This card changes the math of blocking for your opponent, too. Do I keep two creatures on the defence? Act of treason, 2 damage to clear a blocker, then attack with the stolen threat and the aqcuisitor for a lot. How would you shift its stats around so it does not feel akward? I tried it as a 2/2, but it did not feel ruthless enough, and I tried making it deal 3 damage and it seemed op.

    3. A 2/3 Acquisitor that deals 2 might be good. I do think Act of Treason plus one uncommon steal or one conditional common steal might be enough to support it.

      Goblin's Offer R
      Choose a target creature, then flip a coin. If you win, untap it. It gains haste and you control it until EOT. If you lose, ~ deals 3 damage to it.

      Borrow 3R
      Sorcery (unc)
      Gain control of target permanent until end of turn. Untap it. It gains haste until end of turn.

      Bid 2RU
      Sorcery (rare)
      Choose a target creature. Reveal the top card of your library. If it's CMC >= that creature's, gain control of it. Otherwise, put the revealed card into your hand.

    4. I thought that for flavor reasons a 2/3 feels too defensive to be a ruthless acquisitor, and we should also consider what kind of decks would want this card, which probably is agressive ones. But I guess we would have to playtest this guy to find the proper cost, and that is more of a development issue.

      Goblin's offer is undercosted, since it is either a seiring spear or an act of treason, both of which cost more. It is however a very interesting design space. I would prefer it to include an element of choice but that's just me disliking coin flips. I like the other two.

      I would also go for a rare that steals lands when dealing combat damage in any of RBG (probably all of them), a switcheroo type of card in blue, and an uncommon equipment/parts stealer/salvager (whenever an equipment or parts card would be put into an opponent's graveyard, you may pay 2 to regenerate it (probably needs diferent phrasing than this) and take control of it. Oh and a jinxed idol type of card!

  4. Scrounge is fine, insofar as Myr Welder exiling Equipment cards doesn't let the Equip ability actually do anything unless the Welder somehow turns into a noncreature Equipment.

    Thus far my two worst submissions have been a common and a mythic. I think the Multiverse is telling me to stick to designing rares.

  5. Whispertear has the +1/+1 bonus per equipment to make it more attractive as an EDH general, something that I think should be a property of most (but not all) legendary creatures these days.

  6. When someone steals your Ruthless Acquisitor, does it trigger for them? I'd think so, but I hadn't thought about it.