Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 031315—Blaze Wingdragon

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

Arcanum Wings is a simple enough Johnny aura and this art is a good fit for a reprint. It does limit the size of auras you can print next to it in Standard, but I don't think we're worried about this comboing with Eldrazi Conscription in Modern.

Caller of Crows gives you birds whenever you sack one of your 'real' creatures. It doesn't help you sacrifice them, so it's "just a 2/3 flyer for 6" on its own. But with a sacrifice outlet, it triples your fodder. Something as simple as a Bloodthrone Vampire goes from 3/3 to 7/7 when you sacrifice the birds that your first sacrifice triggered. Or, y'know, you could actually use your growing army of crows to peck your opponent's eye out. Looks bad but can be amazing in the right deck? Johnny-five.

It's neat to imagine Eleon corrupting a creature so badly that it bleeds its controller too. Wither and 1 point of power is all it takes to get the ball rolling and if you're opponent were silly enough to throw multiple creatures at Corrupted Eleon, that bleed could add up quick.

This effect does a few things to open it up beyond withered creatures. It affects any permanent, not just creatures, and it checks for any counter, not just -1/-1 counters. That does open up deck-building options for Johnny, letting you use an Obsidian Fireheart, mitigate your opponent's Arcbound Ravager, making Braid of Fire dangerous again, or punishing Gemstone Mine, or completely invalidating outlast, monstrosity, evolve… multiple mechanics from every block in the last 10 years, actually.

That's too much. Johnny doesn't want to stumble onto free wins, he wants to earn them. In addition to being too easy (and passive), opening this ability up also ruins the flavor. Corrupted Eleon making infected wounds fester is gross and awesome. Making strength, charms, energy—anything represented by counters—negative ruins that story.

There's a really cool design nugget here. "ETB as a copy of a creature of the same type" is very sliver-y or perhaps reverse-sliver-y. Concepted as a young whatever, it can take on traits from its parents/elders by copying them. That's so cool.

Angels wouldn't be the first race I'd try to apply that tech to, but angels are a magically created race in almost every Magic plane we've seen, so it's hardly out of place thematically. Daughter of Angels is a neat way to make a cheap/small angel, since you can make it considerably more impressive just by having angels with more/better abilities. I'm not sold on constraining its size to 2/2, since even an Akroma, Angel of Fury isn't all that when it's just 2/2. (PS, don't copy your own legends).

There's a gameplay issue where you want to play this early because it's cheap, but you won't have any angels to copy until later. But a Wind Drake that might be a second Aegis Angel isn't exactly chum.

Divine Envoy is too small to be an angel, but if you change the creature type to cleric or aven or whatever, this could totally be a herald of angels. Reducing their cost by {1} would be a nice uncommon upgrade from Concordia Pegasus. Reducing them by {X} might push the envelope a bit, but it really depends on how safe and efficient it is to boost power in Envoy's format. Ignoring power level, giving a variable bonus that defaults low is a pretty cool way to encourage pushing the number up. For a twist, though, imagine this card with 0 power. It's strictly worse, but arguably a better Johnny card because now it demands you do something to make it worthwhile.

A single Half-Souled Seeker is just a two-color Hill Giant, but find her sister (or clone her) and you've got a pair of completely terrifying 6/6s. Only comboing with a specific card (that you can only have 3 more of) is a decent hoop, and apart from having 6 toughness they have no resilience to removal, so I'm not sure it's too strong (though it might be a touch easy in Limited at uncommon). My bigger concern is that there's not much lure for Johnny here. There are no clever pairings, the only puzzle to solve is how you more reliably get your second Seeker and keep them alive, which applies to some extent to any finisher.

If you get three Half-Souled Seeker, they're all 9/9, because one-and-a-half souls.

Isthar is doing an interesting sadomasochist thing where you hurt him, or yourself, or anything you love, and he hurts your opponent even worse. There's a tiny irregularity here where Isthar has the source of the original damage deal the new damage, where we might expect Isthar to deal it, or else for the new damage to be a replacement effect, but that's trivial to tweak. I'm concerned that Isthar plus Anger of the Gods and any three creatures is lethal. Or Boros Reckoner. Earthquake is insane. Shivan Meteor and Blasphemous Act don't even require you to have another creature.

It's weird that Isthar is so mean, but refuses to attack. And is an uncommon legend. And has six lines of rules text.

A common! Would you pay double for a Suntail Hawk that can resurrect Eight-and-a-Half-Tails at instant speed? I would. Lesser Half might not look like much, but it's got potential for a vigilant Johnny. Nice work.

Lost Forever turns graveyard hate into a potential kill spell. As a five-mana sorcery, it's likely too slow to stop a graveyard combo deck, but being able to deal 10+ damage over the course of a completely normal game, and being totally lethal with Traumatize or a couple Glimpse the Unthinkable would give it a presence in Standard. Having real value completely on its own, and closer potential with a pretty direct combo shifts this effect from Johnny toward Spike. Still, an elegant effect.

Mad with Power features a new kind of red looting that hybridizes "rummaging" and "improvising." At the low cost of {R}, you can do it as often each round as you have cards to pitch; that would be unfair with Rummaging Goblin's effect, but since your new cards are exiled, physical cardboard will be a real barrier. Card selection is appealing to Spike and can help Johnny assemble combos. What can Johnny do to get even more, hidden value out of this enchantment?

One-Winged Aria is curiosity with evasion-looting. That is, you can get your creature over some ground blockers to draw a card, but since you have to discard to do it, the result is more look looting than card advantage. That's very cool. Since the combo is entirely self-contained, though, the only Johnny appeal is madness (and the like).

You can enchant Pilgrim of Shadows at any time, turning every aura into a combat trick. They also gain delve, which means you'll be able to play some of them with just one untapped land, making it harder for your opponent to catch your pilgrim unawares. This card doesn't require Johnny to appreciate, but as soon as you start asking questions like "which auras would you most like to bestow" and "can I synergize filling my graveyard with an aura theme" you're going to draw some Johnny attention.

Before I even read the second half, I want to compare study with exploit. Neither keyword does anything on its own, and both are decently thematic. But exploit asks you to destroy what you've built, and study asks you to grow from your defeats. I'm [still] not saying exploit is bad—it's not—but study will appeal to more players and create more feel-good moments.

Scholar of Life becomes resilient against more and bigger creatures the more she studies them. I was expecting her to care about some characteristic of the creatures she studied (like type or color), but since study is a repeated effect just checking the number is much simpler. I do feel like there's a cognitive load getting from number-of-creatures-studied to power-of-creatures-blocked, but I don't have a better suggestion that keeps protection in the mix.

Not seeing much Johnny-specific appeal here. Is this blue? 7 lines.

Simic Angel is a Serra Sphinx with double-flying. Why does making Sphinx green and removing a wing give it redundant flying? What's double flying? It'd be cute in an un-set, but on a black-bordered cards, there will be players spending far too much time asking customer support.

In case anyone's not sure, there is no mechanical difference between flying and double flying.

Spiteful Deception is poetic. The first ability is obvious value, assuming you can scrap together any discard effects. The second ability would anger many players on its own, but it's optional and a perfect parallel to the first ability, so Timmy and Spike can just shrug, and Johnny can start plotting. What Johnny's plotting, IDK, but I'm sure it's nefarious.

I'm not eager to reward effects that slow the game, but ignoring that, rewarding Johnny for searching up combo pieces is an elegant way to support the psychographic. Trying to think if there are any cards that let you search 10+ times by themselves. Good sign.

I don't get the flavor at all, and I yearn for flavor text that explains why this harpy is missing a wing and can't fly.

Sunsnatcher is a reusable black-red Channel. And on a half-decent flyer, no less. Yikes. Johnny liked Channel, so Johnny will like this. When it costs five instead of two, does it still steal games? I guess the new goal is Fireballing on turn 6 instead of 3.

Was thinking Temple Singer let you spend {U} as {B} and vice-versa to cast your spells—which is a pretty sweet ability—but it only affects permanents you've already gotten onto the battlefield. And it doesn't affect activation costs either. What it does is count all your black cards as blue cards, and {B} symbols toward your devotion to blue, and vice-versa. That's a very Johnny thing to do. I like it a lot, though it would be nice if it were more apparent what it did, or even better, if it had an apparent purpose (like the one I read at first) as well as this subtle one for Johnny to find.

Bonus points for thinking about what set this would appear in.

Unfettered Mythseeker gets reckless as you enchant it. Enchant it just once, or else make sure you boost its toughness when you do. This certainly gets you thinking about what kinds of auras would pair best with it. It's funny, if this gave +1/+1 or even +1/+0 instead of +1/-1 it would be a Timmy card too/instead.

Now I'm surprised no one submitted "As long as ~ is enchanted, it has flying."

Wanton Desire sure took a sharp turn half-way through. You could play this on your own creature, and give it vigilance when needed. Or you can save it to Mind Control an opponent's creature. With a heavy upkeep. Vigilance and permanent theft aren't red, but the way Wanton Desire accomplishes them is red, which is always neat to see. Definitely debatable whether it's wise to print. Not convinced it's Johnny.

I'm betting the intention was that you choose a creature card from your library, but the way it's worded, I can choose one of those or one from my graveyard. Either way, Wisdom of the Ancients seems green to me. Maybe even red, philosophically. It's also efficient enough to be at least as Spike as it is Johnny. 6 lines. I like the effect.

So many awesome ideas and effects. Goblin Artisans are the best artisans. Bonus kudos to the commons, novel effects, thematic ideas, and short/simple text.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. Temple Singer was mis-transcribed. It should say "Each U and B in the mana costs of permanents you control is U/B instead." which makes its intention clearer. The way Jay originally read it would have been crazy, because I imagined it as part of a cycle. But it was what I first thought of too, before I considered the implications.

  2. Generally, I don't like to rebut the review. So this is more of a sales pitch. Wanton Desire is haste when you need it, an expensive Threaten, Control Magic when you can afford it, and a mana engine when paired with a mana elf.

    That versatility, bending the color pie without breaking it, and being lenticular strikes me as "Johnny"

    1. Always feel free to disagree. That's how I learn.

      Everything you say about Wanton Desire is true (except the mana engine) and it's a neat card. Versatility is an attribute Spike values most; bending the color pie isn't something any of the three psychographic audiences care about; nor is a card being lenticular (though Spike and Johnny will feel good to spot a card's hidden value).

      Johnny wants to express himself; to do something creative and unexpected, or to solve a riddle others won't tackle. To build a deck exceptional in some way, usually by assembling a neat combination of cards, or finding a context in which a bad card is good.



      While not every use of Wanton Desire is obvious, and it is indeed quite versatile, it's a fairly self-contained package with no deep puzzle to solve. It's far from being unattractive to Johnny, though, and I'd love to hear more opinions about how Johnny it is.

    2. I'd say it's very Melvin/Mel, but only a little bit Johnny/Jenny (MaRo's new naming convention). Johnny/Jenny isn't just about deck building. A Cloudshift in a preconstructed deck still gives them tingles. It's all about using Magic as a creative medium. Doom Blading your own guy to dodge damage from Chandra's Outrage appeals to Johnny/Jenny, but things self contained on the card sometimes feel like low hanging fruit. It all depends on the player's experience level to determine what feels like them being creative and what just qualifies as figuring out what somebody else intended.

    3. Lenticular design is very much a Spike thing since it lets her demonstrate her knowledge of the game by finding hidden advantages other people miss. Jenny isn't terribly interested in finding hidden value; she'd much rather find hidden potential (whether it's actually advantageous or just weird.)