Friday, February 13, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge 021315—Ben Wooten

Weekend Art Challenge
Greetings, artisans! Click through to see this weekend's art and the design requirements for your single card submission, due Monday morning. Every submission warrants feedback, and everyone is encouraged to give feedback. You may use that feedback to revise your submission any number of times, though only the version rendered will be included in the review, if someone volunteers to render the cards.


Design a card for this art that looks imbalanced at first, but is actually quite fair in its environment. What's unusual about that environment?

51 comments:

  1. Last Slash 14RR
    Sorcery - (R)

    ~ deals 6 damage to target player.

    ~ costs 1 less to cast for each life less that player has than their starting life total.

    --------------

    I think this is the kind of card that is in a similar space to Frontier Mastodon where it looks great because you see an effect that is undercosted (a 3 mana 4/3 in that case and two Lava Spikes on one card in this case) but it is very hard to get the cheapness at a point where it matters. It is, for example, almost impossible to imagine casting two of these in the same game. The effect, though, is undeniably powerful, and the efficiency of 6 damage for one card is something aggressive decks would have to consider. Particularly in an environment like today's standard where lifegain is so prevalent, though, I don't think it would be dominating.

    I toyed a lot with the numbers. In the original version, it was 13R for 7 damage, but I decided on 14RR so that it was a lethal double Lava Spike in the best case. It is obviously impossible to push the numbers to the "great but not broken" space without a lot of testing by development, so I leave that to them.

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    Replies
    1. In retrospect, I'm gonna change back to the scarier looking one:

      Last Slash 13R
      Sorcery - (R)

      ~ deals 7 damage to target player.

      ~ costs 1 less to cast for each life less that player has than their starting life total.

      -----------

      It fits the challenge much better since it looks much scarier!

      Delete
    2. I agree, this design is very cool (either way). I couldn't resist coming up with my own version:

      Overkill Flare XR
      Sorcery (Rare)
      CARDNAME deals 20 damage to target player with X or less life.

      Basically a Last Slash that costs {7} more to cast. Funnily enough, the actual number on the card doesn't matter that much, as long as it's greater than the number of lands an aggressive deck would reasonably expect to have in play.

      Delete
  2. Mana Slash
    1R
    Instant - Uncommon
    Mana Slash deals damage to target creature equal to its converted mana cost.

    This looks like a Red Doom Blade in Limited, and could be in a normal set, but in a limited format with toughness-boosting cantrips and/or powerful cards designed like the Outlast creatures or Lagona-Band Trailblazer, one could definitely design a format where this misses enough lynchpin creatures that it's actually a pretty mediocre removal spell.

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  3. This one was a bit tough.

    Terminal Conflagration 2RR
    Sorcery - Rare
    As an additional cost to cast ~, sacrifice any number of creatures you control. ~ deals 2 damage to target creature or player. Copy this spell for each creature sacrificed. You may choose new targets for the copies.

    This is basically sacrifice storm. Its a great finisher, especially in slower formats where board stalls are common. Its nice to get some use out of those 1/1 tokens when you're walled by larger bodies. I see this in a format with no cheap/common token generators to avoid being too ridiculous.

    It starts to look less appealing when you realize you'll need to finish your opponent or risk having an empty board. Do you sacrifice everything and go for the win or do you pick and choose, trying to clear away some of their unwanted board presence?

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    Replies
    1. Quite the upgrade on Last Ditch Effort!

      Delete
    2. Interesting comparison to Soulblast. Soulblast is better if your creatures are bigger, but if you've got a bunch of 1/1s or 0/Xs then this is quite a bit better (as well as a bit cheaper).

      Delete
  4. Twinpyre Mage 1RR
    Creature - Human Wizard (R)
    Double strike
    Whenever Twinpyre Mage attacks, exile the top card of your library. Twinpyre Mage gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is that card’s converted mana cost, and you may play that card this turn.
    2/2

    Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Kor Firewalker, Jace, the Mindsculptor and Disfigure exist in this card's Standard environment (i.e this card was printed in Rise of the Eldrazi or some such). It's probably still scary, but that environment was so hostile to anything that died to Bolt and suchlike that could also be bounced by Jace without making any impact on the board the turn it came down.

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  5. Arcane Pyre 1R
    Sorcery (u)
    Arcane Pyre deals 5 damage to each of two target creatures.

    The environment this would live in would be heavily oriented on making "tall" creatures - you and your opponent would most commonly have one creature on the board apiece, and focus on growing them. This means that you might need to play your own creature in order to turn on Arcane Pyre, or if you both already only have a sole champion, it's effectively a Bone Splinters. On the upside, it can occasionally be a two mana Dead Ringers, but on the downside, it's often a sorcery speed Fiery Conclusion.

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  6. Flamewrath (common, gold bordered)
    Instant
    R
    CARDNAME deals 6 damage to target creature or player.

    "The year was 1995 and I just started working at Wizards. [Bill Rose] called it Power Lunch and the idea was this: It would be a set where the power level of all the cards was on par with Ancestral Recall. The heightened power level would allow two mages to have epic battles or let one player take on multiple players."
    - Mark Rosewater

    "Juzam [Djinn] would get its butt kicked in Power Lunch."
    - Bill Rose

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    Replies
    1. For what it's worth-- and this is nothing against your design-- I believe Ancestral Recall would be just as overpowered in Power Lunch as it is in Vintage. Now, instead of "draw three black-bordered cards", it reads "draw three gold-bordered cards." Its power level scales with the format. I'm having trouble imagining a format where turning one card into three, with minimal mana commitment, isn't insanely good.

      Delete
    2. Worthy concerns. How could we address this?

      One option would be to simply make Power Lunch a designed-for-Limited format, with no thought to Constructed's balance. This is close to how Richard originally designed the game - of course he knew that Black Lotus and Ancestral Recall were overpowered; that's why he made them rare, with the assumption being that most people probably wouldn't even play against one. With Ancestral Recall at rare (or even uncommon), there's no guarantee that you would see it in draft play, and when you did, it wouldn't even be a guaranteed win (as players of the MTGO holiday cube can attest.)

      Another option would be to design cards that specifically hate out card-drawing strategies. The challenge here is that Ancestral Recall says "target player draws three cards," meaning that a reasonable deck could be constructed where you penalize the opponent for drawing cards and then force them to draw cards. If you design a card that's so strong against Ancestral Recall (maybe some sort of Black Vise variant) that people are running it to counter Ancestral Recall, people will also use it to kill their opponents.

      A third option would be to make fixing *really* bad in Power Lunch and have lots of cards with CC and CCC mana costs, thus making splashing less appealing. Then you just give blue additional severe drawbacks that it doesn't get in the regular game (perhaps a complete inability to deal with creatures?) Mono-blue *should* be a viable deck, though, if not a great one, but considering all the oppressive tools it would have in Power Lunch (Ancestral Recall, cheap extra turns, cheap counterspells, etc.) you need it to have significant weaknesses.

      A fourth option would be to ignore the original concept of Power Lunch and don't print Ancestral Recall directly - just print a new version that's still brokenly powerful but a bit more "fixed." A {U}{U} sorcery that draws 3 cards and can't target your opponent is still really good, just a bit less oppressive - and you'll have to consider if it's really worth spending your turn 2 just to draw cards when your opponent has a (hypothetical) 8/8 trample-haste monster breathing down your neck. It also solves the reserved list problem quite handily.

      Delete
    3. This is my issue with the Cube format. The problem with trying to balance against Ancestral Recall, Black Lotus and Time Walk is that they scale with the environment. The better you make the cards around them in comparison, the stronger they all become.

      Counter-intuitively, the way to make an environment where those three cards are fair, is to make everything else terrible. That way, drawing three terrible cards isn't such a boon. Casting a terrible three-drop on turn 1 can't win you the game. Taking an extra turn just gets you one more terrible card and one more swing with your terrible creatures.

      I mean, they'd still be the best cards in the format, because three terrible cards is better than one.

      Delete
  7. Reckless Immolator 2RR
    Creature- Human Wizard Berserker (R)
    T, Remove the top X cards of your library from your card pool: CARDNAME deals X damage to target creature.
    2/2

    Environment: Conspiracy Limited

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's... crazy. In a good way, I think. What does it mean outside of Limited? Do you lose access to those cards for the rest of the match or even the tournament?!? What about deck sizes? How many of its main-deck spells can a draft deck afford to lose? What is the sound of one hand clapping???

      Anyway... losing cards in Limited is a steep enough price that I suspect you could push the design a bit more (e.g. shave a mana) to make your point. At 2RR, and even ignoring the effects of losing access to those cards in future games, I'm having trouble convincing myself that this is a better creature than Arc-Slogger.

      Delete
    2. The intent is similar to Cogwork Grinder, in that you do lose access to those cards for the rest of the event.

      2RR 2/2 is probably right for an uncommon. The blast effect is certainly rare though. I would start testing with these numbers but leave open the option to try 1RR 2/2.

      Delete
    3. What happens if this hits a basic land?

      Delete
  8. Pyromancers' Duel 2RR
    Sorcery (Rare)
    Target player may discard an instant or sorcery card. If he or she does, that player casts a copy of CARDNAME targeting you. Otherwise, CARDNAME deals 10 damage to that player.

    Inspired by the card game Bang! Totally reasonable in a supplemental Commander product.

    I'll do the renders this week.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Flame Slash R
    Sorcery
    Flame Slash deals 4 damage to target creature.

    While this card might look better than lightening bolt, the enviroment would be one filled with lots of small tokens and larger creatures out of range of this removal.

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  10. I'm thinking the imbalance comes from the way this card favors three colors... unless it's on a set that has 5 three-color shards, like "Alara Imploding" or something.

    Flareup 1 (Uncommon)
    Sorcery
    Flareup costs 1 more to cast for each card named Flareup in your graveyard.
    If G was spent to cast Flareup, target creature you control fights another target creature.
    If W was spent to cast Flareup, destroy target noncreature enchantment.
    If R was spent to cast Flareup, destroy target noncreature artifact.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Increasing cost as an upside is very clever here, nice job!

      Delete
    2. Thanks.
      BTW, this should have a clear frame and the effect order switched to WUBRG order.

      Flareup 1 (Uncommon)
      Sorcery
      CARDNAME costs 1 more to cast for each card named CARDNAME in your graveyard.
      If R was spent to cast CARDNAME, destroy target noncreature artifact.
      If G was spent to cast CARDNAME, target creature you control fights another target creature.
      If W was spent to cast CARDNAME, destroy target noncreature enchantment.

      Delete
  11. Emblaze the thief 2RR
    Instant - uncommon
    CARDNAME deals 8 damage to target unblocked creature or to target opponent controlling a permanent you own.

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    Replies
    1. I don't see the connection between these effects.

      Delete
    2. It's there. The unblocked creature is trespassing and the opponent with your stuff is a thief

      Delete
    3. That was the flavor I was going for, yes. However this card does not read overpowered to me... Another version could be:

      Emblaze the thief 2RR
      Instant - uncommon
      CARDNAME deals 8 damage to target creature you could not block this turn or to target opponent controlling a permanent you own.

      Delete
  12. Wrath of Heaven and Hell 2RW
    Sorcery (Rare)
    Destroy all creatures and lands.

    This card is only legal in Eternal formats, where R/W is considered the worst two-color combination in both Vintage and EDH, and in Legacy, normal 'Geddon and normal Wrath hardly see any play as it is.

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  13. Hmm.. I'm having a tough time with this design challenge. Some examples of cards that look better than they are in previous formats:
    Kemba's Skyguard (from Scars of Mirrodin) - life gain wasn't as strong when infect was a viable strategy.
    Harvest Pyre (from Innistrad) - lots of things using the graveyard as a resource makes all of them worse.

    Sphere of Fire 2RR
    Enchantment (R)
    Whenever a creature an opponent controls enters the battlefield, CARDNAME deals 2 damage to it.
    At end of turn, if two or more creatures dealt damage this way died this turn, sacrifice CARDNAME.

    In a normal format this is a 2 for one that can lock your opponent out of the game for a few turns. In a format with tokens as the aggressive decks, it just trades with a token spell of your opponent's choice. (and slower decks likely run guys with bigger butts)

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  14. Joke answer:

    Molten Influence 1R
    Instant (R)
    Counter target instant or sorcery spell unless its controller has Molten Influence deal 4 damage to him or her.

    Seems like mono-red counterspell, but the punisher mechanic is super weak in actuality.

    My submission:

    Fiery Interruption 1UR
    Instant (C)
    Counter target creature spell. Fiery Interruption deals 2 damage to that spell's controller.

    Format:Standard (not necessarily current Standard). Feels like value (though it's never a 2-for-1 unlike Suffocating Blast), but Counterburn is a weak archetype that never gets much Standard support. The fact that it's 3 mana and only hits creatures keeps you from deploying your own threats. It's just a bit too little too late.

    Feedback appreciated as always.

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    Replies
    1. What about Molten Influence makes it a joke? The power level might need a bit of tweaking, but it's a brilliant solution-- in slower environments most players will just take the 4 damage.

      Delete
    2. I just meant it as a joke because it's an existing card, so it'd be a reprint. I wanted to make my own card for the challenge, hence Fiery Interruption.

      Delete
  15. Relentless Slash R
    Instant (U)
    CARDNAME deals 2 damage to up to 2 target creatures and/or players. Sacrifice an artifact.

    Note that the sacrifice clause in optional, so this appears powerful. But in a limited format like Mirrodin, it could play like a Ugin's Construct.

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  17. Doesn't WotC do this all the time? Terror in Mirrodin, for example.

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    Replies
    1. A lot of people do these challenges because they hope to work at WOTC some day, so I think if there is a challenge that resembles something WOTC actually does that is better.

      My favorite challenges almost all involve designing commons.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, terror and shatter in Mirrodin, mulch in innistrad block, erase in theros. This challenge basically boils down to: make card and name a set it would play better in than if it were in a core set

      Delete
    3. That's actually a brilliant point, Tommy Occhipinti. One I had forgotten. Thanks for that.

      Delete
    4. I always try to design commons regardless of challenge, because I feel they help me learn the most.

      Delete
  18. Seeds of Strength style:

    Arcing Flames 1R
    Sorcery (U)
    CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature.
    CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature.
    CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature.

    It looks like two mana Arc Lightning, but in a set full of creatures with Absorb (a la Lymph Sliver) it can miss completely.

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    Replies
    1. The Absorb idea is genius. Make Absorb a mechanic for the set, then pack it with token-making / burn / double strike / etc. in order to differentiate it from +0/+1.

      Delete
    2. Why would this not be templated like arc lightning?

      Arcing Flames deals 3 damage divided as you choose among one, two, or three target creatures.

      Same thing, right? I think that would be clearer, especially in its interaction with absorb.

      Delete
    3. These are actually functionally different against Absorb. The Seeds of Strength wording can't deal any damage to Lymph Sliver. Arc Lightning can deal 2.

      Delete
  19. For Khans:

    Expose Weakness [BB]
    Sorcery
    Destroy target creature with no counters on it.

    Both the effect and cost make it less effective in Khans' environment.

    For Theros:

    Erupt [2RR]
    Instant
    Destroy target nonenchantment permanent.

    Strikes me as something that would see constructed play everywhere except possibly Theros standard.

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  20. For a 40 life format.

    Blaze Aspirant R
    Creature - Human Wizard (U)
    Bloodthirst 2
    1/1

    Note that multiplayer makes this both stronger and weaker as it is easier to trigger but the total life pools are larger.

    ReplyDelete