Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge 022715 Review—mad_jojo

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

Ambush Duel is an instant Prey Upon. In fact, it's so instant, you don't even have to have a creature on the field to use it. The downside being that you can't use it on a creature you already control. Strong, but fair for a rare.

I quite like the flavor here. My only concern is that Ambush Duel lets your creature ambush two creatures. You can play it after attackers are declared, bring your Polukranos or whatever in, kill their utility creature and then block one of the attackers. I'm not so concerned about the strength of that effect, since costing this at {1}{G} would power it down significantly (since you still have to pay to cast your sneaky creature), but doubling up on the ambush mechanically is a bit of a flavor mismatch.

Attack from Behind could potentially be a Plague Wind (at the cost of significant damage to your opponent) or a blank, depending on your team, your opponent's team, and whether she's blocking or not. That's a pretty big swing, so I'm glad it's not common. More often than not, it'll probably kill one or two creatures, either when you swarm over some blockers or are racing. Red and white lean a bit toward smaller creatures, which limits AfB's effectiveness, but the fact that the creatures you hit don't fight back is significant. Warrants testing, but probably good.

Courageous Leap is a very strong combat trick, comparing well with Wildsize and Zealous Strike. The drawback for this efficient trick any deck can run is that an opponent who happens to have the exact same card in her hand can Misdirect your copy with it. It's important that Leap is common, or you'd rarely worry about opponents having the counter. I'm sure the reason Leap is colorless is so that any player can run it in their deck, increasing the risk your opponent has a copy.

It will certainly feel good to cast Leap uncontested, and it'll feel amazing to discard one to steal your opponent's (though the trample can only be useful to the attacker; I'm not sure trample fits the flavor anyhow), but it'll feel terrible to have your Leap stolen. Knowing that will affect how players pick the card, and when they play it, which is neat. Would have to try it to see if it balances net positive experience.

Redirect doesn't seem like a mechanic we'd want to use enough to keyword.

Apart from the casual templating, the main ability of Creative Goes on Holiday really doesn't require a silver border. The raving to go ability word does, though, since it keys directly off of rarity. I'm sure there are some uses for a card that sets the creature type of every creature, even if only for a turn. Four seems like a lot for something that does nothing on its own, but we can hand-wave that as it being a Johnny card. Where I'm lost is why this is a red card and what it has to do with the art.

Glimmer of a Chance's rarity doesn't matter, but it's premium-ness does and that's certainly a related concept. I'd be tempted to print the non-foil versions with just the first line, and the foil versions with the first line where '1' is replaced by '4.  That would certainly screw with Gatherer, but it wouldn't be the first time they did that for an Un- gag. Seeing that silver-border cards aren't tournament-legal anyhow, I'd go ahead and make this {1}{W} or maaaybe even just {W}.

The first half of Knockout Blow seems straight-forward, useful, and fits the art.

The second half is a bit of a mystery. When you cast Knockout Blow, it triggers and gives itself its own name. From the graveyard, it gains the name of each spell you cast. From exile too. The weird part is that it does it from the library, starting with your very first spell of the game, and from your hand, telegraphing that you've drawn the card. That's a lot of effort for something that doesn't do anything on its own. Or 99.9% of the time. Sure does combo with Kindle, though. I assume this is meant for a set with a bunch of Kindle effects, and powering those up like changelings did in Lorwyn is cool, but we've got to find a way that doesn't break or slow the game down.

Leap into Action gives your creature first strike and "wide strike" which seems quite powerful. Cast it on a 3/3, and suddenly, the rest of your team has gained 3 points of first strike power. Actually, it's even better than that because you don't need a 'rest of your team.' I suspect a card that can conditionally Plague Wind your opponent might need to cost a touch more.

I like the idea of "wide strike" and I'd like to see it on a couple cards by itself before we see it combo with first strike, though I do like that happening eventually.

Prefecture Infighting gives two of your creatures (and any duplicates) a power boost. It also gives any copies of those creatures your opponent controls a power drain. Between games, you could name a creature your opponent has a lot of, even if you've got none of it. Being able to reveal your conspiracy at any time could ruin a block all by itself. Notably better for creatures with toughness >= power. Or with abilities that scale with power, like lifelink or first strike.

While less obvious because of the card color and type, Prepared Ambush also appears to be meant for a Conspiracy product. There's a timing issue as the first ability is stated; any players who drafted their card before you draft PA are unaffected; but we can clear that up easily enough.

In play, Prepared Ambush can be a mono-green Pit Fight, or a green Murder if it shares a name with one of the creatures drafted in the same pick. Mechanically, that's pretty weird, but thematically, imagining this frog ninja plotting against this ape samurai since the start of the draft is kind of awesome. I would definitely try this out in a Conspiracy playtest. (Though I'd rather give my creature a big p/t boost or regen shield than making it auto-win, even if indestructible and deathtouch are both green keywords.)

Revenge of the Ronin is a Giant Growth that we pay an extra {R} for so that your creature can get even bigger, faster, and smashier after one of your legends dies. I'm not convinced the first strike fits so well (in terms of card balance, color representation, or functionality). Note how this common cares about an exclusively rare/mythic super type.

Sectarian Ambush is half Fall of the Hammer and half Rivals' Duel. It can only kill one creature, but it does make your opponent's creature do the dirty work. I like that as a card, though I wonder if it shouldn't be black for betrayal or corrupting the ambusher's mind.

Like Kindle, Strike of the Student becomes better the more copies you cast (and so being common is important for Limited). Unlike Kindle, this instant takes 9 lines of text to explain, which is way too much for a common. I like the idea, but it needs to be much simpler.

Feat of strength lets you cast exactly one copy of a card for a whole lot less than the rest. It's a somewhat blunt solution to making efficient commons that won't all get snapped up by one drafter, since the second copy is so much worse than the first. Blunt isn't bad. I suspect this card would still work at {5}{B} or maybe {3}{B}{B} but you have to admit you'd think long and hard before drafting your second Surprise Strike at this cost.

I like this keyword, though it needs to be much shorter. Maybe (You may cast this card for its feat of strength cost if you haven't cast a card with the same name this game.)

Fascinating how it's upside and downside all in one. Funny how these cards are restricted in Standard, but optimal in Commander.

From a player perspective, Surprising Power costs less and is faster than Surging Might, but from a design perspective, it doesn't seem worth it to reinvent ripple. Definitely does love being a common.

It's funny. The token Unlikely Companion creates is simpler than most anything it copies, but the text it takes to make that happen is far more complicated than Clone's. Consider something closer to Miming Slime?
Choose a creature you control. Put a blue Illusion creature token onto the battlefield with power and toughness equal to that creature's.
Not seeing how this effect relates to the art, beyond one figure suddenly having a companion.

Flying Frog Technique is definitely a sweet card name.

For two more mana, you get a Fall of the Hammer with a conditional cantrip. I'm not sure I get the condition (except that a Jeskai player is likely to have instants in her graveyard), but I'm all for making more cards like Fall that aren't quite as good as Fall.

Great Cleave is sort of a cross between Strike of the Student and Muscle Burst. This one's uncommon, so I guess it's aimed at Constructed and not Limited. Is it worth paying {1}{W} three times in Constructed to get +1/+1, +2/+2 and first strike, and then +3/+3 and double strike?

Opportunistic Strike is a white Fall of the Hammer, only hitting creatures attacking you. (In multiplayer, it can actually hit creatures not attacking you too.) The first time you cast it, you get nothing extra. The second time, your card is free. The third time, you've negated the cardboard cost of all three. The fourth time, you're up two cards in addition to the four 'free' Strikes. That last bit is where things get weird, but given how hard that is to do—since you'd need a Typhoid Rat to make this worthwhile in Constructed and it's hard to get even two copies of a single uncommon in Limited—I wouldn't worry about it. Actually, it's hard enough, I'd worry it's too hard. Neat take on Kindle.

Whoa, variance. How many copies of Righteous Strike do you need to draft before it's worth playing any of them? The good news is, there won't be much competition for them; Stomping Slabs dug seven times as deep and almost never reached critical mass (though it was an uncommon and that's a huge difference). I'd even out the consolation prize (something else Slabs sorely lacked) to +1/+1.

Curse Your [Sudden But] Inevitable Betrayal should kill about 1.6 creatures and 0.2 players per opponent. No idea if that's fair: Schemes are terrifying. Thematically, I want the creature to deal its damage without suffering any itself, but whatever.

The rarity challenge was quite hard. Some of you touched on it decently, some of you went silver-bordered to nail it, and some of you recognized it was a stretch and made something unfettered by it. Smart! Nice to see the artisans learning how to handle some of my little tricks.

Also, there were a bunch of cool cards. I guess that counts for something.

Thanks to P for Pizza for rendering the cards.


  1. For Ambush Duel, what if we made the creature come into play tapped?

    1. Yeah, I actually got the same critique in an earlier WAC, so I probably should have made it ETB tapped.

      I think I just really like instant-speed fight for some reason.

    2. Yeah it's definitely not necessary, but it'd be a knob to tweak if the flavor couldn't be done quite right or the power level needed to be brought down.

  2. A related point we never discussed with so many of these designs caring about extra copies is the unintutiveness of a corner case in the rules: in limited you can play as many copies of a card as you get. I have never once explained that to someone without them responding "really?" Not that it's any less awkward to tell players they can't play one of the cards in their sealed pool. I don't really have a solution on hand, but I thought I'd bring the issue to the table.

    1. Didn't they change this rule recently? I did always like the "5-Elvish-Warriors.dec", or the lucky "6-Stomping-Slabs-in-trips-Morningtide", but I'm pretty sure the max is now four in all formats.

    2. You are definitely still able to use every card that you draft or open in sealed.

      100.2b In limited play (a way of playing in which each player gets the same quantity of unopened Magic product such as booster packs and creates his or her own deck using only this product and basic land cards), each deck must contain at least forty cards. A limited deck may contain as many duplicates of a card as are included with the product.

    3. I also find it comes as a surprise to anyone who entered Magic through Constructed, which seems to be a vast majority. But I've never found it an unwelcome surprise. It's also never caused frustration because it's unusual one has the opportunity to run more than 4 of a card they'd want to do so with. So it's an exception I never feel bad explaining.