Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 013015—GuthrieArtwork

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

Five mana for a 3/3 that can survive most any fight with enough blue mana isn't amazing but it is decent. If you got to choose +1/-1 or -1/+1 it would be quite good. In any case, Adaptive Axolotl does answer Bladetusk Boar; for a single {U}, it becomes a red 2/4 that can block and kill the boar. It won't be able to do that for a couple swings, but better late than never. Nice.

Brutish Imitator is a Clone that can only copy common creatures. That's a pretty clever solution, though not one that is currently possible since cards are no longer allowed to reference the expansion/rarity symbol. Still, talk about fighting fire with fire.

This should just have two phyrexian mana symbols.
Cinderskin Spitter is a 2/2 with a free Shock. As good as that combo is, 5 mana isn't cheap. You don't have to pay mana, you can pay life: {3} and 4 life or {3}{R} and 2 life. I would happily pay 4 life to kill a Bladetusk Boar I couldn't otherwise deal with, and {3} to get a 2/2 as well. I'm not sure what how this art can be a red creature, but Spitter can actually deal with two boars: burning one and blocking the other.

I'd worry a bit that some new players will think this means they need black mana to cast their spells, or that their now-black lands can produce black mana, though the problem does partly solve itself. Every permanent you control can tap to grow Devourer of Light. The word 'black' in that ability is redundant because of the first ability, though it does help explain how it works as a black ability. Devourer can block a Boar (since they're both black) and kill it as long as you tap (1-3 other permanents). I love how the name ties into the art as well as the ability.

Dinocthys is a Crippling Chill where for {1}{U} more you get a 3/4 creature instead of a card in your hand. I'd be pretty happy to play this without the tap effect in most sets as an instant 3/4 can two-for-one pretty easily. But then it wouldn't interact with Bladetusk Boar at all. Crippling Chill may only be a temporary solution, but when you've got no other answers, taking two turns off from your boar beatings is a very welcome respite.

Here's what makes Dinochthys interesting. You can't tap a Boar for two turns and surprise block a creature with your fish beast. If you want the long tap, you've got to cast it before your opponent declares attackers, and that means she can leave back her Hill Giants to spare them from marine-dinosaur-carnage. Once that's clear, it helps explain how this card isn't broken and will lead to some challenging gameplay decisions, but it will trip some people up at first.

Disfigure is certainly a good answer for Bladetusk Boar.
Does this flavor text help sell Guthrie's art for this reprint? It helps, but I'm not sold.

Should be "Dreadful Voay"
Dreadful Voay doesn't interact directly with Bladetusk Boar since neither can block the other, but it does race it, and all things being equal, it races faster. This is sort of a swallow-the-spider-to-eat-the-fly solution, where we've found an answer to one problem, but the answer presents a greater problem. Voay is far too dangerous for common.

Dreamskater is also built to race the boar rather than stop it, but rather more moderately: It kills your opponent in 10 turns rather than 5, racing at the same pace by gaining you 2 life (negating 2 of the boar's 3 damage). Except in the most aggro of decks (which aren't worried about an opposing Boar), Dreamskater actually puts you in an even better position against old Bladetusk than Voay.

So if Dreadful Voay is too strong for common, is Dreamskater? Insatiable Harpy and Lightform are inclined to think so, though probably not by much.

Leaching Terror trades Dreamskater's flying evasion for the oldest evasion in the book, lots of toughness. (No one wants to block this with anything 3/2 or smaller, and even when blocked by a 3/3, it still gains life.) Terror does even less damage to our opponent than Skater and Voay, so you might think it's an even safer answer to print at common. But Leaching Terror can do something Dreamskater can't: It can block all day (and gain life while it does). In practice, you'll often have to choose between attacking with it and gaining life (but perhaps not doing any damage), or keeping it back but not gaining any life. But if your opponent is keeping back multiple creatures because they'll die to your Terror and gain you life in the process, you're effectively gaining their combined power in life each round.

Seraph of Dawn was strictly better (ignoring colors), but it was also the marquee common of its set. And frustratingly good. A mistake, perhaps.

There's nothing in the rules that stops us from making an aura that enchants two things, even if one is yours and one isn't, but we avoid that because there's enough for players to remember in a game of Magic without having to worry about what card is attached to any given permanent without appearing to be so. Arguably, you could put such an enchantment in the middle of the table so it touches both permanents, but touching your opponent's permanents and telling them how to arrange their cards is frowned upon.

Adversary is better than our example aura, since you can align your creature with its adversary and there's not a third card in the mix, but it's still kind of awkward relationship, and prone to error. If we assume this keyword passed playtesting, Enemy Salamander can throw some dire insults at Bladey McBoarhead, and make the Boar effectively 1/2 for as long as Sal survives. Not bad. {3}{U} feels a tad expensive here, but I wouldn't be shocked to find it entirely fair after playing with it.

A combat trick? Clever.

Magisynth Growth is a Giant Growth that turns its target into an artifact for the turn. That might seem harmless, but the set it's in will surely have Shatters and the like to make it a bit risky as well as effects that reward artifact creatures. While you usually want to use tricks like this on offense, holding back a 1/1 to block and killing anything 3/4 or smaller, even something with intimidate, would be more than worthwhile.

It's pretty tricky to justify art like this on a green card, but since all we're doing is making it huge (and metallic—which is a definite stretch for a green effect), why not feature creatures of other colors?

Noxious Horror is a 2/2 for {4}{B} with a one-time Drain Life effect. The strength of that effect depends on your opponent's most powerful creature. That's fairly complex for common, but nothing a few "complexity points" can't cover. At five mana, this is basically engineered to played after your opponent's intimidating 3/2 hits the field, and it will buy you one turn of not-dying as well as shortening her life span at the same time. That's pretty well placed, though I imagine green mages basically auto-lose against a deck with 2 or 3 of these nasties.

The bad news is, Otherworldly Dominator can't take control of your opponent's Bladetusk Boar without a Sunken City around. The good news is, it will snag a Goblin Piker that can block that boar, no problem. It's far from a guaranteed answer, but given how solid it will be in other situations, I'd be happy to take that chance.

I'm glad Dominator is more expensive and limited in power than Sower of Temptation, but I can't help but wonder if it would be okay at {3}{U}{U}.

The no-text solution!

Phyrexian Landhsark is a 'twobird' blue artifact creature, which allows you to play it for {U}{U}, {2}{U}, or {4} and it can block Mr Boarstein all day long. Nice.

What's scarier than a shark? A landshark. What's scarier than that? A changeling landshark.

"Who is it?" "Plummer… Telegram!"

Also, Shyft is totally a thing! And Pygmy Shyft is a solid answer to Bladetusk Boar.

Rain Lizard can call the rains down and soak anything so thoroughly that it becomes blue. Or maybe it just breathes blueness on them and happens to like long walks on the beach and the sound of rain falling on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Either way, it's an uncommonly (but not unheard of …ly) vicious blue common that can tangle with boars. As long as the set has other reasons to care about creature colors, I'm down.

Mechanically, this is a pretty odd card for black, but the flavor gets there, I think. Shadow Eater hangs back (perhaps it's a shadow itself), and can make a creature's shadow turn against it. I was wondering why it can target a creature it's not blocking, but clearly it has to be able to in order to get Bladetusk Boar. Not a bad solution, but feels kind of forced.

Shoreline Reaper can kill an X/1, or it can shrink a 3/3 so that it can block it all day. So how does it answer Bladetusk Boar? It is a common… play two of them. That's no less reasonable an answer than our uncommon solutions, especially given that the first one reduces the boar's DPS by 33%.

A 100% vanilla solution. Coool.

I can totally buy this thing as a sliver too.

Should be {1}{U}{R}
Wow. A 2/4 common for three mana, with flash. This kills the hell out of Bladetusk Boars. Granted, it requires two colors to cast and having defender significantly mitigates its strength, but that's still a very strong common, and one that will slow the Limited format down all by itself. I could even see this making Standard sideboards. I wouldn't blink twice to see Spawnpool Guardian at uncommon.

Stonegazer is nearly Banisher Priest: It permanently gives its target defender, which is less powerful than exiling it, but it can't be undone either (except through bounce or a really desperate Vampire Hexmage). I'm okay with that at uncommon, and that certainly stops any boar in its tracks. I'm a little skeptical WotC would commission art like this for a card like this.

Despite Crippling Chill being much less powerful when cast after combat during your own turn, I'm thinking Ultramarine Landshark might just be too oppressive as a common if the set has any other tempo/disruption in blue (like that ever happens </sarcasm>).

This Landshark will race a Bladetusk well, but it'll race anything well. Perhaps too well?

Vilmetal Guardian is an efficient artifact creature with a downside; it can only rumble every other turn. {4} seems to me neither too much nor too little for a 4/4 common with this restriction. It can only murder a Bladetusk Boar every other turn, but chances are you just won't get attacked by any.

Waterfront Mauler is a nonflying drake that bitterly seeks vengeance upon those who hurt you. That story's not clicking for me.

Mechanically, Mauler does the job nicely, though I'd rather this common targeted a single damaging creature rather than the whole team. Checking the entry, I see that's exactly what the latest version did. Cool.

"Destroy target Boar?" Someone's not pussyfooting around.

I'd expect a Wild Game Hunter to be green, but then again I wouldn't expect to count boar-hunting as professional assassination, and none of this relates to the art even remotely. Color issues, etc.

Clever clever. You artisans never cease to surprise me. I'm floored by the vast array of solutions you all delivered, especially given the apparent disconnect between the art and the problem.

Secret bonus points for Salamanders.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards. Seems like he could use a break, though.


  1. When we got this challenge, I thought "hmm, there are maybe 4 or 5 unique ways to solve this" and then chose the one that I thought would be the least obvious/most clever. And then we get 26 solutions, most of them very distinct? I'm extremely impressed.

  2. I admit that the fit to a red creature was a bit iffy, but a red Phyrexian ash/cinder skinned Horror seemed like the best thing I could muster up. Lots of interesting answers overall here too, I agree with being impressed.

  3. Three errors, one on my own card even! I will definitely take a break.

    One of the most interesting things I learned this week is that the Voay was a real genus of giant crocodile, though thankfully, now extinct. Potentially useful as a fantasy name, since we can't make everything a Gharial.

    1. I was sure I read "Voay was a real genius of a giant crocodile." Apparently it had small horns. A little mini-Bolas!

  4. Note that as worded even a Vampire Hexmage doesn't cure something from Stonegazer's eyes. This use of a counter seems to be what they're doing these days (e.g. Xathrid Gorgon), but they haven't yet used an exotic counter like this on an Uncommon. I think it is worth it, but obviously not something that should be done in abundance.

    I actually thought it was a reasonable fit for the art, but the art would certainly show someone turned to a statue, but I could believe this lizard did that. Maybe I've been playing too much Dark Souls!

    1. Good point. The counter's just a reminder.

    2. Yeah I wasn't trying to be pedantic, but I found the counter and its okayness at uncommon to be an interesting question. It does not seem like something you woudl forget.


    (Well done everyone. Did not see Wild Game Hunter before.)