Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Gatecrash Art Challenge 11 — Mike Bierek

Today we're covering Mike Bierek's art.

A. I like both halves of Improvised Research Project. Doubling all the counters you put on your creatures is very Timmy/Johnny, and replacing all those +1/+1 counters is very Johnny/Spike. I'm not sure that putting both effects on the same card is ideal, though: Sometimes the choice will be easy (when one gives you a chance and the other doesn't), but when it's not it could be agonizing. Moreover, either effect could stand on its own. It's also undercosted. Despite all that, I give it an A because I want to play with this right now.

 A. Biomantic Study is very green-blue. The goal is to make creatures bigger. The method is patience… and research. Simple and solid.

C. That's a lot of text and work for an effect that will either be negligible if you have 1 or 2 creatures,  or literally broken if you have 5 or more creatures (because the second ability will trigger the first, infinitely).

B. Cast three creature spells and you can have a 3/3 or three 1/1s. I like the concept here and Mongoose Squid is hilarious. Getting a bonus creature each time seems much better than saving up for a medium or large creature, until you factor in Evolve and the fact that saving up will let you trigger all your Evolve guys. Ooze Flux's X/X template is a bit better since it combos with Populate, and this text is seriously tiny.

C. I'm often tempted to use a more granular system for those designs that fall between a solid A and B, but I'm just spitballing here anyhow, so let's not pretend my grades are more meaningful than they are.

Intensive Study is very green ala Commune with Nature and very blue ala, uh, Instants. Hmm, this could be mono-green. Still, very Simic-y. It does make me sad that the card you play to get more creatures can't be used when you don't have any creatures.

B. Simple and moderately-powered. I was thinking every guild needs less-than-exciting enablers so that other guild drafters don't poach all their picks, but the mistake I made is that cards with Evolve are the prize, not the enablers. That explains why there are no bad Limited cards with Evolve but there are cards like Leyline Phantom.

B. In isolation, this feels like a hot-glue gun card: The two effects don't interact at all. In the case of the Simic—and this card's art in particular—I think it works. I kind of wish you only got one counter for symmetry, but that wouldn't be worth GU.

C. This would never be a common in New World Order. It adds on-board complexity and screws with a lot of combat math. That it can only profitably target creatures that already have +1/+1 counters alleviates that a bit, but the effect also doesn't do what most players will think they read the first time. "It" should be replaced with "that creature" to help clarify that we're not counting Zameck Research's counters.

B. The Titan trigger pair meets the Thragtusk trigger pair. This is actually a lot more complicated than it reads because all these triggers don't synch up under a single identity in player's minds. I would prefer for this to be a rare, in which case it could be bigger and/or cheaper so that it's not just a really weird Brilliant Plan.

A. This is a great looter trigger for Simic, and I like the size and cost to pair with it. I would make it uncommon, because you probably don't want players looting 3-4 times at once all that often.

I love Unexpected Results. More Timmy than Johnny, but a guild can please multiple audiences, right? Getting the card back to cast again if you "whiff out" on a land is a really nice touch.


  1. I think this set of designs might be an interesting opportunity to look at over-themeing. A whole lot of people went with +1/+1 counters because the art is obviously Simic-y, but as Unexpected Results demonstrates, research is a great, broad flavor to make cards that appeal to other audiences.

    Too many cards hitting the same note will leave people who don't like that mechanical space feeling left out, but it's sometimes hard to see what's going on when you're in the midst of trying to come up with clever synergies.

    1. That's definitely a trap designers can fall into. We can't accuse anyone of that in this challenge for two reasons: First, we hadn't seen the rest of the set when we made this, so we didn't know how much that theme had already been hit. Second, my request for designs that could really be in the set probably skewed entries toward more predictable designs.