Friday, May 27, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge 052616—Stop Skulking.

Hello Artisans, Anastase here.
Wizards found out recently that prowess is good enough to be evergreen. The mechanic does enough that it will appear a bit on every set, and I do not blame them. I guess I actually congratulate them because it rewards playing instants and creatures with prowess and helps the blue/red decks a lot.

In SoI they tried to introduce skulk, to be the Dimir (blue/black) equivalent mechanic to prowess. Dimir are known for their stealth and cunning, preferring the drop of poison to the swash and buckle. Skulk has not been the success they hoped it would be and as such Dimir are left without a well defined, easy to grok, NWO evergreen mechanic.

Are you up to the task of designing it?

To better showcase the usefulness of the mechanic you are allowed to design up to three cards this time around: one at common rarity, one at  uncommon, and one at either rare or mythic rare.

Here are three images you can design a card for:

by m hugo
by JohnSilva
by excellero

Each artisan is allowed one submission for every image, but can update her/his submission as many times as they wish. Do not forget to note the rarity of the cards you submit.
I will be away this week-end, so the submission deadline extends to Tuesday.

Let us see what we can imagine!

76 comments:

  1. I've played in this space before for but I'm eager for feedback.

    Fen Demystifier 2B
    Creature - Human Wizard
    Deglamour (whenever CARDNAME blocks or becomes blocked by a creature, you may exile that creature, and return that creature to the battlefield tapped under its owner's control at the beginning of the next main phase.)
    2/1

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    Replies
    1. M Hugo art
      Idea being that instead of fighting you, I can get rid of any enhancements like counters, auras, or survey bonuses you may have taken on.

      Delete
    2. So it can block anything forever no matter the size?

      Delete
    3. Repeatable "kill target token" at common?

      Delete
  2. Fog-bank Mountebank 2U (johnsilva art)
    Creature - Human Wizard (u)
    Camouflage (This creature can’t be blocked unless defending player controls an untapped land.)
    When Fog-bank Mountebank deals damage to a player, look at the top card of each library. You may put any of those cards in their owner’s graveyards.
    2/2

    The idea is to provide something that defending players can interact with in any set, while the cost of that interaction can fluctuate. At the end of the day, it's just another evasion, but it does work on a different axis from Trample/Menace/Flying/Skulk.

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    1. I want to playtest this.
      Only obv drawback is they are worse in multiples.

      Delete
    2. I agree, I think this one looks promising. One suggestion: what if it said "unless defending player pays 1"? Then it would be better in multiples instead of worse, and also might be able to retain its functionality against draw-go decks.

      Delete
    3. Arguably less flavorful/unique, but that game play sounds better.

      Delete
  3. In order:

    Shadow Initiate UB (Common)
    Creature - Wizard Rogue
    Infiltrate (Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, the next spell you cast this turn costs 1 less.)
    Whenever Shadow Initiate dies, draw a card.
    1/1

    Criminal Intent 2UB (Uncommon)
    Enchantment
    Creatures you control have infiltrate (Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, the next spell you cast this turn costs 1 less.)

    4UB, Sacrifice Criminal Intent: Target player discards a card. Draw a card.

    Valia Empress of Crime 3UB (Rare)
    Infiltrate (Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, the next spell you cast this turn costs 1 less.)
    When Valia, Empress of Crime enters the battlefield, put three 1/1 black Rogue creature tokens with infiltrate onto the battlefield.
    U/B, Sacrifice another Rogue: Draw a card, then discard a card.
    2/2

    Thoughts?

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    1. Oooh. As combat-based acceleration, I'd try it in R&G, but the name does sell it for U/B, and, well, all cards are blue in a vacuum.

      No reason this couldn't be evergreen, but I don't know how it would affect development to have common acceleration in more colors.

      Delete
    2. Cool.
      Might want to benefit only sorceries and instants?

      Delete
    3. I could definitely see that. Or maybe just noncreature spells?

      Delete
    4. I definitely like the non-creature spell angle as a way of sharply defining this counter to Green's mana excel. It also makes it feel safe on a mono-blue card.
      Unfortunately, the ability WAY less powerful. Not just for the traditional limited reason that most of your spells are creatures, but because, unlike prowess, there is no guarantee that a 1-mana discount will impact the game on any given turn. Can that be fixed by making the other elements of the card better?

      Shadow Initiate UB (Common)
      Creature - Wizard Rogue
      Infiltrate (Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, the next noncreature spell you cast this turn costs 1 less.)
      Whenever Shadow Initiate dies, draw a card.
      2/1 or 1/3

      Simple change, this card gets better stats depending on what the color combination needs in the set.

      Criminal Intent 1UB (Uncommon)
      Enchantment
      Creatures you control have infiltrate (Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, the next noncreature spell you cast this turn costs 1 less.)

      Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, scry 1.

      This needed to be changed substantially to keep it from being terrible. This version is actually quite strong, and might need to be rare or cost even more, but a cost-reduction enchantment has to be inexpensive to be worthwhile, so either this works, or the design is unsalvageable.

      It's a shame, cause the original version was my favorite of the three designs.

      Valia Empress of Crime 3UB (Rare)
      Infiltrate (Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, the next noncreature spell you cast this turn costs 1 less.)
      When Valia, Empress of Crime enters the battlefield, put three 1/1 black Rogue creature tokens with infiltrate onto the battlefield.
      U/B, Sacrifice another Rogue: Draw a card, then discard a card.
      2/2

      Finally a sign that this change could be for the better. Without any other changes, Valia seems subtly more elegant now. I think it's that her infiltrate half is now less strong, which makes it feel safe pushing her her Siege-Gang Commander side.

      Delete
    5. I don't like the noncreature version, especially as an evergreen keyword. Somehow I need to want to be attacking with creatures, but also to play noncreature spells on my own turn, during my postcombat main phase? I can't imagine that this will happen in Limited frequently enough to warrant the three lines of reminder text. Heck, I can't imagine that this happens in Constructed very often.

      The any-spell version still doesn't feel black, but is substantially more useful.

      Delete
    6. I don't disagree with you at all, but very, very similar things were said about Prowess. The important thing here is to make creatures that are worthwhile on their own, and have Infiltrate be icing. It also has a space-controlling element where your opponents have to at least consider making blocks they might not normally to prevent you from accelerating.

      But all these thoughts leave feeling pretty luke-warm about it, I still like the any-spell variant more.

      Delete
    7. The any-spell version does seem rather more compelling. One could argue almost any effect is blue-black on a saboteur trigger.

      Delete
    8. The cards are in the same order as the art, m hugo, the john silva, then excellero

      Delete
  4. I've probably brought up this idea before, but:

    Mystic Agent 1UB
    Creature- Human Assassin (Uncommon)
    1/1
    Hexproof, deathtouch
    Taunt (Whenever CARDNAME attacks, you may choose a creature. That creature can't block creatures other than CARDNAME this turn.)

    I'm thinking of taunt as somewhere between "offensive chump-blocking" and "Goblin Heelcutter ability", depending on the relative sizes of the two creatures. It also has some similarities with provoke, but hopefully it's less oppressive.

    This probably wants to be a UR or BR mechanic, but I suspect UB will work OK flavorwise.

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    1. Seems green or red to me, but I do like it,

      Delete
    2. excellero art, by the way

      Delete
  5. A weird mechanic idea, based on the more defensive side of blue and black: trample for blockers!

    Spite (If this creature would assign enough damage to the creatures it's blocking to destroy them, you may have it assign the rest of its damage to their controller.)

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    1. I think this is an important place to explore - an ability that focuses on or rewards defense while still moving the game forward helps differentiate it from Menace and all of the evasions. (Though obviously anything that dissuades attacking does have the potential to entice stalls.)

      I'm worried about wordiness, though. Maybe just Rhox-y blocking without the trample clause? or:
      "This creature can deal excess combat damage to the attacking player while blocking."

      Wonder how often that would ever come up.

      Delete
    2. Attacking abilities are really different from blocking abilities because the choice of when to trigger them lies with your opponent. I think this would be pretty weird in blue, but I would love it on a Red/Black combat trick.

      The wording seems solid, although I was taken aback at first because I forgot how much of a relic Trample is.

      Delete
    3. Spite in a block where R/B has an unusually defensive archetype sounds like a solid fit.

      I wish there were some way to key it off of toughness - "when ~ blocks, if power of attacking creature (X) is less than toughness of ~ (Y), deal damage to attacking player = to Y-X." That could enable red's old walls and black's new catacomb slugs to ping opponents off of excess toughness. But templating that may be irreconcilable.

      Delete
    4. This actually exists on one creature from Conflux. I think in R&D they called the ability "Blample"

      Delete
    5. So, four ways to deal damage on blocking. Probably an R/B ability, but I thought I'd put the wordings next to each other for comparison.

      Meglo, to creature AND player:
      "Whenever CARDNAME blocks a creature, it deals damage to that creature's controller equal to CARDNAME's power."

      Rhox, direct only to player:
      "Whenever this blocks a creature, you may assign its combat damage to that creature's controller instead."

      Spite, excess to player:
      "While blocking, this creature deals any excess combat damage to the attacking player."

      Backlash-blocking:
      "Whenever CARDNAME is dealt damage by an attacking creature, that creature deals that much damage to the attacking player."

      Delete
    6. Was going to suggest Meglo myself, but Rhox actually seems the most interesting b/c it doesn't just scream "never attack" like the others.

      Delete
  6. Chasm Brother (Art #2)
    U (Common)
    Creature - Human Rogue
    1/1
    Nightmare (Whenever a card is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, ~ can't be blocked this turn.)

    "When a card is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere" seemed a promising trigger for U/B. I didn't want another evasion mechanic at first so I considered giving +1/+1 (up to a limit of 1 at common), and some variants of that, but they all seemed fiddly, and hard to combine in the ways you wanted. I wanted a black creature that killed opposing creatures to trigger the ability, but it was too hard to get it right. So I reverted to another form of evasion, which hopefully would find a home in U/B.

    I considered making it a combining keyword, so you'd have "nightmare unblockable" at common, but "nightmare deathtouch" and "nightmare double strike" at rare. But again, that seemed too complicated.

    I do intend that at higher rarities it will often be combined with another ability with the same trigger, "when a card is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere (for the first time this turn? for the first time during your turn?), do X" so it feels like an expanded version of the mechanic, even if the rules text is spelled out again.

    I will come back and submit some uncommon/rare designs. But I wanted to give myself a chance to think first in case I decided a different mechanic was better.

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    1. Scheme (Whenever one or more cards is put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

      I can't decide if it works well for any card, for only creature cards, only permanent cards, only noncreatures, or (as I put above) for "one or more cards" so it only triggers once off of a single mill spell.

      Delete
    2. I like scheme. It works with mill (obv) but also with kill and discard, and it's easy enough to parse. My one quibble is that a lot of the triggers will occur after combat damage when they are no longer relevant.

      Delete
    3. I also considered giving +1/+1 counters, (even though that would mean an evergreen mechanic for 90% of blocks only) up to a certain limit. That means triggers after combat still matter.

      But I think it's better to *not* count combat deaths, because if you do, they tend to outnumber all the other ways of getting cards into graveyard. If you exclude those, you still have mill, discard, creature kill, casting inst-and-sorc, countering permanents, most of which show up most games but not every turn.

      I was seriously leery of having the bonus be open-ended even though it's simpler. That has to be costed to be balanced for the occasional cards that dump ten cards into the graveyard, which means it's basically "is this a combo? ok. else, don't bother" which isn't really a creature mechanic.

      Delete
    4. Knowing — As long as opponent's graveyard is larger than their library, ~ can't be blocked.

      Delete
    5. That's a lot of counting. But maybe threshold-for-opponent's-graveyard is plausible? That gives inevitability, which UB often leans toward. And is helped by creature death (B) and mill (U).

      I'm cautious, because of all the problems with threshold. But plusses, it's really, simple, it feels UB, it combos with different UB things.

      It could either be a fixed bonus (eg. unblockable if, or +1/+1 if), with the option to tie a fancier ability to the same condition, or spelled out every time.

      Delete
    6. It rarely requires counting. Only when the stacks are very close in size and you've got sleeves (because otherwise you can literally compare height).

      Delete
    7. Hm. But when it *is* about the point of changeover is the point when a single card difference matters, and counting a deck even once seems a problem.

      Also, I just liked the idea of a fixed threshold more. (The one thing I like about bigger-than-library, is library-exile effects matter, but that's not enough to tip the balance.)

      Delete
    8. My question for knowing is how often will it happen in an average game of Magic? I can see tweaking a set or a block so it happens in Limited often enough (like delirium), but as an evergreen thing I'm doubtful.

      It could just be threshold 1 for an opponent's graveyard. Like "As long as an opponent has a creature card in his or her graveyard", or better :

      Scheming (As long as there are three or more creature cards in an opponent's graveyard...)

      Like metalcraft for graveyards. The issue is that as such it reads like an ability word which I don't think is the goal for a UB evergreen keyword. It could always be one bonus - "this creature gets +2/+2", "this creature can't be blocked", or what-have-you - but I'm not sold on that. Thoughts?

      Delete
    9. Good point.

      I like scheming's condition, but yeah, it's hard to imagine an evergreen ability word.

      Similar, with the same problem:

      Whenever one or more creature cards enter an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, EFFECT.

      (Half-morbid + milling incentives)

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. Here's mine:

      Furtive Pacifist {1}{U}
      [JohnSilva art]
      Creature - Human Wizard (Common)
      Defender
      Sneaky (Whenever one or more creatures block or become blocked by this creature, those creatures get -1/-0 until end of turn.)
      0/4

      Cunning Thief {2}{U}
      [excellero art]
      Creature - Vampire Rogue (Uncommon)
      Sneaky (Whenever one or more creatures block or become blocked by this creature, those creatures get -1/-0 until end of turn.)
      Whenever Cunning Thief deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.
      2/3

      Merciless Stalker {B}{B}
      [M Hugo art]
      Creature - Human Rogue (Rare)
      Haste
      Sneaky (Whenever one or more creatures block or become blocked by this creature, those creatures get -1/-0 until end of turn.)
      2/1

      I'm concerned that having the ability work on defense will lead to board stalls and too much on board math processing.
      Feedback Appreciated.

      Delete
    2. Man, you're right. I was so focused on having some kind of shared effect between blue and black that I lost sight of the bigger picture, and designed a WG mechanic.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Unsure if this actually fixes the problem, but it definitely makes blocking much less profitable except in the case of creatures with power less than toughness, where skulk is better.

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    Replies
    1. Having trouble evaluating, but it's not a great sign that the rare leans on prowess instead of agile.

      Delete
    2. How about, if ~ dealt combat damage to an opponent, return target creature to its owner's hand.

      Delete
  10. Possibilities:
    Glamour (can't be blocked if you cast a noncreature spell this turn)

    Sneaky (can't be blocked unless all attacking creatures are blocked)

    Dangerous (whenever you cast a spell during combat, ~ gains death touch until Eot)

    Desperate (whenever ~ becomes blocked, you may discard a card, then draw a card. ~ gets +X/+0 until Eot where x is the discarded cards cmc.)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thief (whenever ~ deals damage to a creature, draw a card.)

      Delete
    2. Sneaky is interesting. Another evasion ability, but one that works well with other evasion abilities.

      Mentioning deathtouch makes me wonder, could there be an ability between deathtouch and bounce? "Paralyse (when this deals damage to a creature, if it isn't lethal, return that creature to its owner's hand)".

      (Template tweaking necessary to function on indestructible creatures.)

      Delete
    3. Thief is interesting, but maybe repeatable (even if restricted) draw a card is a bit too much. Could it be scry 1?

      Delete
    4. I think Thief really wants to be an ability word, which knocks it out of evergreen status… I guess? Hmm. Why can't ability words be evergreen? Interesting.

      Dangerous is a strict subset of deathtouch, and that's not relevant enough for evergreen—probably not for a keyword at all.

      Jack, how about "Whenever ~ deals damage to a creature, return that creature to it's owner's hand at EOT?"

      Desperate is too inelegant for evergreen.

      Glamour could theoretically make it, but just feels more like a one-block mechanic.

      Delete
    5. I find myself wondering if Sneaky isn't too close to "Has flying as long as another creature you control has flying. Likewise for unblockable, etc."

      Reversing it also produces an interesting evasion ability, though a less intuitive one:

      Umbramancer {2}{UB}
      [m hugo]
      Creature-Human Wizard (cmn)
      Sneaky (This creature can't be blocked unless all creatures defending player controls are blocking.)
      2/2

      By Cover of Dark {B}
      [JohnSilva]
      Sorcery (unc)
      Creatures you control gain sneaky until EOT. (They can't be blocked unless all creatures defending player controls are blocking.)

      Silent Killer {B}{B}
      [excellero]
      Creature-Elf Assassin (rare)
      Sneaky (This creature can't be blocked unless all creatures defending player controls are blocking.)
      Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, pay X. Target creature he or she controls gets -X/-X until EOT.
      2/1

      Delete
    6. That's a lot harder to use well, really only kicking in benefits when you cleverly craft a board state where alpha-blocking is terribly unprofitable. That feels very blue-black to me, but I'm just not sure this version would survive playtesting.

      Delete
    7. Oh. Just realized that wording of sneaky is also: "~ is unblockable if defending player attacked you since your last turn."

      While I'm glad it's more functional than I realized, it's clear that's far too opaque for an evergreen mechanic. Going back to the original...

      Delete
    8. Stormdancer {2}{U}
      [m hugo]
      Creature-Human Wizard (cmn)
      Sneaky (This creature can't be blocked unless all attacking creatures are blocked.)
      2/2

      By Cover of Dark {B}
      [JohnSilva]
      Sorcery (unc)
      Creatures you control gain sneaky until EOT. (They can't be blocked unless all attacking creatures are blocked.)

      Silent Killer {B}{B}
      [excellero]
      Creature-Elf Assassin (rare)
      Sneaky (This creature can't be blocked unless all attacking creatures are blocked.)
      Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, target creature he or she controls gets -2/-2 until EOT.
      2/1

      Delete
    9. I read that ability words could be evergreen if they were simple and relevant, they just hadn't had any yet. I thought I read that on *this* challenge, but I can't see it now.

      I see your point about alternative implementations of sneaky. It could be "unless all creatures that can block, do block". But that's more like provoke, maybe RG not UB. Or maybe, "can't be blocked if another unblocked creature could be blocked instead"?

      Delete
    10. "Creatures can't block ~ if they could block another creature?"

      Delete
    11. "Creatures can't block CARDNAME if they could block another unblocked creature."

      One of the last three is definitely best, but I can't know without more playtesting. Leaning toward the second one because it's anti-Lure.

      Delete
    12. Oddly, the "can't block this if you could block another" ability could probably be flavoured as "unobtrusive" in U and "terrifying" in G...

      Delete
    13. I'd be fine with sneaky being UBG. Would need another name, though. Agile? Silent?

      Stormdancer {2}{U}
      [m hugo]
      Creature-Human Wizard (cmn)
      Sneaky (Creatures can't block CARDNAME if they could block another creature.)
      2/2

      Memory Walk {1}{UB}
      [JohnSilva]
      Enchantment—Aura(unc)
      Enchant creature
      Enchanted creature has sneaky (Creatures can't block CARDNAME if they could block another creature.)
      Whenever enchanted creature deals combat damage, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card.

      Silent Killer {B}{B}
      [excellero]
      Creature-Elf Assassin (rare)
      Sneaky (Creatures can't block CARDNAME if they could block another creature.)
      Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, target creature he or she controls gets -2/-2 until EOT.
      2/1

      Delete
  11. Shell of an idea:

    When CARDNAME dies, filter. (Draw a card, then put a card from your hand on the top or bottom of your library.)

    When CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, filter. (Draw a card, then put a card from your hand on the top or bottom of your library.)
    Discard a card: CARDNAME can't be blocked this turn.

    Pay 1 life: Filter. (Draw a card, then put a card from your hand on the top or bottom of your library.)

    Not sure how black this is. Finding something that works in every set is hard.

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    Replies
    1. Filter to top seems like Sensei's Top durdles, but filter to bottom helps prevent graveyard shenanigans.

      Delete
  12. If it doesn't have to be an evasion mechanic...

    Spy(At the beginning of your upkeep, you may reveal the top card of your library. If it's a noncreature card, ~ gets +1/+1)

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    Replies
    1. Designs could be:

      Dagger Sneak 1B
      [Excellero]
      Creature - Human Rogue (common)
      Spy (At the beginning of your upkeep, you may reveal the top card of your library. If it's a noncreature, nonland card, ~ gets +1/+1)
      1/2

      Somber Spy 2U
      [John Silva]
      Creature - Vedalken Wizard (Uncommon)
      At the beginning of your end step, you may look at the top card of your library.
      Spy
      1/2

      Mystic of the Thinning Decks 3BU
      [M Hugo]
      Creature - Wizard (Rare)
      Vigilance
      Spy
      ~ cannot block.
      2,T: Each player reveals the top card of their deck. You may choose to exile each card revealed this way.
      4/5

      Other options:
      Could have the look happen at the start of your first main phase, giving you information as to what you would draw next turn.
      Could care about the top card of your opponent's deck, giving you information as to what would be in the opponent's hand.

      Delete
    2. Potential support card + reprint:
      Lurking Informant

      Delete
    3. I like this mechanic, but - I don't precisely know why - it doesn't feel as evergreen to me. Maybe it feels too cumbersome, heavy.

      Delete
    4. Does blue-black want to be giving away secrets? I like the idea of looking at opp's library much better.

      Delete
  13. Good discussion here, sorry I missed it over the weekend. I have a late entry that may or may not make it in in time:

    Shadow Mage 1B
    Creature - Human Rogue (C)
    Decoy (Whenever this becomes blocked, you may untap it and remove it from combat)
    2/1
    M Hugo art


    This is the Gustcloak ability colorshifted into Blue and Black. Like Prowess, it lends itself well to combat-trick-bluffing attacks. It also works well alongside creatures with saboteur abilities, as a Decoy creature can soak up a blocker at no risk.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Whisperblade Initiate 1UB
    Evade (Whenever this creature becomes blocked, you may remove a creature blocking it from combat.)
    3/2

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    Replies
    1. Gustcloak Sentinel has a baby with Stalking Tiger and the kid loves trample.
      Could work.
      Not clear why it's removing another creature rather than itself, thematically.

      Delete
  15. Decoy (When this creature attacks and isn't blocked, you may exchange it with a blocked creature you control.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'Exchange it' meaning the blocked creature becomes unblocked and this becomes blocked by all of that creature's blockers? Does that re-trigger "when blocked" effects?

      Delete
    2. I assume not, but I agree that confusion is a point against.

      However, ninjitsu was fun, similar mechanics seem like a good idea for a U/B mechanic.

      Delete