Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 111315 - Maaria Laurinen and Nikola Anchev

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a card that tells a story using one of the two provided illustrations.

Fascinating card. Typically in Limited, many cards with a converted mana cost of 1 are either of low quality or of a highly situational nature. A card that pushes you to include more creatures with a CMC of 1 pushes you to deckbuild in a new direction, which is interesting... but if only a single card in the format does it, then it's not quite an archetype. This implies that it's either a 'sub-archetype' - like toughness-matters in Khans of Tarkir - or that it's an omnipresent feature of the set. Regardless of which it is, this card is a nice signal that the theme is present, which means that with a single card I've gotten quite the glance into the set. I know there are flying machines, I know there's a conflict between the little guy and the big man, and I know there's a theme of 'the little guy'. Overall, great meshing of design sensibility and a 'bigger picture' view. Wonderful job!

In terms of the individual card's design, it's solid. My only fear is that this is a bit too narrow to be a solid removal spell for green, since it relies on a specific subset of creature to be present on your side of the field, and for the +3/+3 to be a big enough boost to take out your target. If it was more like Savage Punch, where anything could fight but if you meet the condition you get a pump, it'd be fair. In fact, at {2}{G} Sorcery, it could probably be just that and still be fair, I think? 

The story is done well. There's an odd line between 'flavor' and 'story' - for example, some cards like Rescue from the Underworld are clearly a direct reference to flavor, yet still tell a pretty good story. I think with sorceries - which portray 'actions' and 'events' - many flavor references often overlap with a story-moment reference, thus letting us hit both with one card. 

On the other hand, as AlexC worries, there are certainly flavor cards - typically permanents, especially creatures - which tell no story at all. I think this card tells a fine story, much like Chasm Drake, Trained Condor, Battleflight Eagle - though it's not exactly an intricate story, indeed. It's interesting that Alex worries about the story being too obvious. It's definitely more satisfying when a player is able to interpret a story rather than be spoon-fed it. Many players, especially Vorthoses, get a sense of satisfaction when they realize subtle mechanics-to-flavor translations for certain cards - such as Gilt-Leaf Winnower saying "Elves are so perfect we can get away with having unequal power and toughness. Just like how we design and develop cards and formats to have 'discovery moments', so too should we work to make flavorful designs have their own 'discovery moments'.

Regarding the design itself, it's great! It's a conditional Levitate which is quite a good card, so I call this good in my book. The flavor and story is great, and I love how it works on both the defense and the offense with a completely different flavor for each. This reinforces the nature of the gameplay - when you're being attacked by fliers and desperately need fliers, you can just raid the ship. But if you're attacking with fliers, you can use it to house your men! Very nice!

The design's elegant, yet clearly pushes for a theme - mix fliers with powerful non-fliers! Simple and evocative both in gameplay and in flavor, this is a solid design.

Speaking of flying matters... I couldn't resist putting these two cards side by side! Both because it's funny, and because there's a lesson to be learned here. When one worries about whether the story of a card is too 'obvious' or not, you can help fix the perceived problem by delving into the details of the 'generic' story. In this case, Reuben Covington does well in realizing the 'story' he's using for this card is archetypal and simple, and so he can use the broad strokes to help inform the specific plot he wishes to convey, which adds a great level of nuance and worldbuilding to the set. I love it!

The card itself does what David and Goliath does - it both has a mechanically promising direction which helps inform us of some of the possible themes of the set ("Play creatures with flying!"), and also informs the flavor of the world, giving us a glimpse into the major conflict and how the Rebels are both oppressed and disadvantaged.

One thing I love about the design - a subtle 'discovery moment' - is that the card draw could represent the fact that if you already control a flying creature, you could perhaps have another rebel 'hitching a ride' to give you information - or maybe you have a Thopter or other Consul flier, which you can use to get some valuable data. Nice!

There are quite a few skills I think are under-appreciated in custom set design, and 'finding perfect reprints' is one of them. Think of the guy who figured out Blazing Torch would be a perfect reprint for Innistrad - what a genius, right? Anyway, Aerial Maneuver is a solid reprint, but it brings us to an interesting point - sometimes a new art can greatly change the flavor of a card, in a good way. Aerial Maneuver's previous art was relatively straightforward - oh man, that guy's doing a rad leap! But this new art gives us a glimpse into what the 'maneuvers' of this world are - they clearly involve flying machines and insanely risky moves. Why would anyone risk themselves like that for an advantage in battle? Clearly, things are dire, or the soldiers are daredevils...  On the other hand, it could refer to the maneuver of the ship, deftly dodging the grapnel! Multi-faceted flavor is always nice!

Rounding out the Maaria Laurinen cards, we have First Grapnel. I decided to go with the most recently suggested wording, as it looked solid to me and still conveyed the exact same gameplay as Droqen's proposed wording. Thanks, Jack! The card itself is interesting - this is a 1/1 that encourages you to multiblock to take down a big guy, which is quite cool and definitely tells an interesting story. A humble scout is prepared to put himself on the line (harhar) to help his faction bring down a threat. Very nice. The art emphasizes the risk he's going through, and his tiny stature - not art we'd likely see in Magic, but art that definitely fits well. Gameplay wise, it's a 1/1 for {G} that can be used aggressively but wants to be used defensively. A 'cannon fodder' 1/1 for {G} seems fair to me, and it's certainly got an interesting ability to help justify its existence.

Ancient Colossus introduces a new mechanic - 'advanced' meaning 'as long as you have 10 or more experience counters'. I like it! Experience counters, introduced in Commander 2015, are awarded to players for completing certain actions, and the cards that award them also have a scaling bonus based on the number of experience counters you have. This new vision of experience counters wants you to have 10 or more experience, but still scales to the experience counters you have, giving you the best of both worlds outlined in Forms the Future Takes.

I encourage you to take your idea of a new 'advanced' mechanic over to Tesla Project forums, where we can start designing more example commons and cards for the mechanic to explore the possibilities. I agree that experience counters could have a lot of potential for Tesla.

Regarding the design itself, I have a personal problem and an objective problem with it. Personally, I don't like cards that refer to things like 'experience counters' if they don't award the counters themselves. There are plenty of cards in Magic that break this rule, though, so I think it's fine. (I do think the card plays a bit poorly without granting experience though.) Objectively, the card removes defender when you become advanced, but it's static ability only grants +X/+0 to creatures with defender. So your defenders can attack, but they become tiny again. That's both disappointing and against many player's expectations! It should say what most of its ilk say nowadays - "creatures you control with defender may attack as though they didn't have defender."

The story it tells is nice. An ancient colossus, biding its time, waiting for its lost and forgotten relic-kind to be reawakened by someone with sufficient experience to understand them. Lovely, and revealing of the world, too.

This card has an interesting story. It comes to you with demands, and if you don't meet them, it gets mad - because it has the advantage of being a giant freaking robot. Very nice. Now, the problem is that your opponent may always choose to have you destroy a creature with defender - even if they don't control any creatures with defender. Also, the wording is weird - they choose it, but the choices say "you". Do they destroy a creature with defender? Do you? Which 'you' is it?

Fixing these two issues - one a simple wording issue, the other a power-level issue - it's very cool. I like the idea of enforcing a single 'cost' for all artifacts as an option - it's both strong and interesting. And the idea your opponent can refuse and face an angry robot is very red indeed.

You definitely succeeded in your goal of reinterpreting the image - I like it, and the comedic juxtaposition between the giant fist and the delicate hand outreached is only improved by the card's flavor.

A golem who repurposes trinkets into himself - and then dies and has the trinkets salvaged from his body - is an interesting story indeed. What I like is that it's not an archetypal story, either - it's a story one interprets by reading the card with a mindful eye, but isn't informed by any prior experience. A very refreshing card, in other words, since a 'new story' is always fun.

The card itself is quite strong, but seems within reasonable limits, especially for a set like Commander. I think the flavor and the mechanics come together to make a very fun card. Definitely gets my Johnny sensibilities going...

I love the idea of being inspired by Data. Personally, "Data-Lore" golem works as a story - learning all the ways of magic and growing stronger with each one learned, until he reaches harmony and becomes indestructible - but if you're going for a translation of Data's arc, something more sentimental might be nice. "Aspiring Golem" or something.

The original card gained colors as you 'introduced' it to colored spells, and when it was five colors it got a boost. This version has a bit less of the flavor, and another issue - ANY color of spell builds this guy up. Just play it in a monocolor deck and it's ridiculous. Mixing the two versions would fix the power level of this card considerably. If it was intended to gain colors like the previous version, just let me know and I will edit the render and this critique!

Other than that, the card is excellent, and definitely seems like a fun design both in terms of flavor and design. I do love growing cards, and robots that learn, so this is a design near to my heart.

Great designs this week, artisans! It was really nice being able to see many takes on the same illustrations, and on the ideas of 'telling a story'. Insightful stuff, and fun designs! Thanks for the contributions, everyone, and until next time - have a great week!


  1. Thank you for good reveiws.

    FWIW, David and Goliath was absolutely supposed to be "fight regardless, get bonus if your creature is small". I hadn't realised it was ambiguous until too late.

    The current wording of Data-Lore golem, I think, grows it with ANY spell, even colourless ones. If so, it should just say "when you cast a spell". Or, if it gains the colours, I like that a lot but agree it has memory issues.

    Maybe, instead of casting, say it gets +1/+1 for each different colour of card in your graveyard?

    1. You're welcome! Thank you all for great designs!

      Ah, I wouldn't have guessed. That does make more sense.

      Hm, that makes sense too. That wording is ambiguous but I can see that (correct) interpretation now. I like the idea of tracking the yard.

  2. And yes, I loved most of the attempts to "tell a story", especially different interpretations of the first art. I'd hoped to spend more time considering alternatives, but I liked my first idea enough I just kept it.

    I'd considered something more complicated, like, trying to get a david-and-goliath effect to play out over several turns. But I decided simple was better. In fact, I could have gone even simpler and had a niche card something like "target creature with power 1 or less gets +3/+3 UEOT" but that probably conveys the story less well.

    1. The key is to get as elegant and simple a card while retaining depth of discovery, story, and gameplay. It's not an easy balance to make. Were I in your position, I'd decide exactly the same - simple was indeed better. You managed to identify exactly how simple to go though, which is a great skill.

  3. The problem I have with these tests of design is that I usually have very few time to spend on them, so I spitball whatever comes to mind and usually have no time to reiterate. Indeed the wording for the Advantaged Negotiator was not that good, and the ability of destroying a creature with defender is probably not that great, but those are tweakable. I am not sure what the second mode should be or if there should even be one to be honest. Perhaps it should use an alternate version of tribute?

    Advantaged Negotiator 3RR
    Artifact Creature - Golem
    At the begining of combat target opponent my put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME. If he does, tap CARDNAME.
    Artifact spells you cast cost X less mana, where X is the number of +1/+1 counters on CARDNAME

    I liked the interpretation of David vs Golath in the first image, as well as the interpretation of hitching a ride. The other mechanical interpretations were not really creating a re-evaluation of the image for me.

    1. Oooh, I like this version a lot! Very nice.

      I don't think there's a need to 're-evaluate the image' for a card that tells a story. It's nice but not necessary.

    2. I find that mechanics can tell a story and an image can tell a story. Combining the two tells a better story, but the thing I find most gratifying when I see a magic card, is watching the drawing, reading the rules and going oooooooooh, I see what you did there :)

    3. Hm. Desecration Demon without the creature sacrifice, but instead making all your artifacts progressively cheaper. Pretty cool. Has the problem though that beyond a certain point (the point where the opponent concludes you've got enough mana to cast any of your artifacts anyway), they'll just always keep tapping it down; it ceases to be useful as a creature. (In fact it might hit that point very early, and very rarely be able to attack at all.)

      And yes, there are interesting things to do with it at that point, ranging from Fling / Brion Stoutarm to Fate Transfer / Dismantle. But still, as a card on its own it'll often end up doing basically nothing, which might be somewhat of a disappointing experience.

    4. Advantaged Negotiator 3RR
      Artifact Creature - Golem
      At the beginning of combat, any opponent may tap CARDNAME. If one does, put a +1/+1 counter on it and then you may cast an artifact card from your hand with CMC <= CARDNAME's power without paying its mana cost.

  4. Whoops! Data-lore golem v2.0 was supposed to gain the colors, but I was in between rounds at a draft, so I botched the update.

    Glad to see a recap that wasn't dismissive.

    1. Alright, glad to hear it. I can edit the render and critique if you'd like!

    2. Meh. I'll leave it up to you. How was the experience for you, overall?

  5. Hah! It never occurred to me that by "losing defender" my Ancient Colossus removed the +X/+0 bonus. That was silly of me. :P