Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review—022213 Takeru-San

Weekend Art Challenge Review
24 Entries. Awesome.

I went to make a black aura with sack=regen, checked Gatherer to make sure it hadn't been done and found Dark Privilege. I love this art as a reprint for Dark Privilege. While this card benefits from a token theme in black, it might be a stretch to claim that Privilege supports it.

In a similar vein, Daniel's Consuming Geist wants you to make lots of disposable dudes to feed him. I like how bad Geist is by itself, but how good it is when it eats a single 0/1 Thrull. Good common.

Metaghost was the only one to think of Scarecrows and I'm pretty jealous. I was expecting its ability to include itself, but you can see that the Skulkin is turning your little dudes into scary ghosts. That's a pretty freaky thing to do, but hard to argue that it doesn't fit the art to a tee.

Nich went an interesting direction to support the token theme: You want lots of unimportant guys to feed to the Wraith, but you don't want creature cards in your graveyard. Solution? Play the non-creature spells that make token creatures. That's a very Johnny/Melvin take, and there's nothing wrong with that. I do take issue with how playable the Wraith isn't, but Dev could fix that.

Another intimidating card, James' Apparition doubles down on tokens by asking you to have both disposable creatures and large numbers of them. Simple and creepy; I approve.

Anthony's Harbinger of Despair is also hard to block. I wouldn't begrudge that choice except that there's too much text already and this evasion isn't integral to the card's main purpose. Speaking of which, I love the kill-all-the-things-or-pay-dearly death trigger. It proactively benefit tokens but it does play very nicely with them, since you can keep all your tokens for free.

The final ability does benefit large numbers of creatures (and thus tokens), but it anti-combos with the death trigger. Rules savvy players will realize that you'll pay life for your creatures before they get bigger (but many players won't)—yet having to pay anything to keep your creatures is pretty awkward right before you alpha strike. That you have to pay 2BB beforehand doesn't help you keep much of a team either. While tokens are excepted from that cost, it would be ideal for our splashy rares to be good at face-value too. Finally, the intimidate that you grant will have less meaning when your opponent chooses which creatures to sacrifice (the ones that can't block anyhow).

I like both abilities, but not on the same card.

One more intimidating monster. Ari's Ghostwalker goes from defensive wall to evasive wallop as you play your Lingering Souls and whatnot. Simple, effective and interesting.

Jules' Herald makes your entire team deadly. Seems overpriced as-is, but Ogre Slumlord has taught us that a small army of deathtouching tokens is nothing to sneeze at. Simple, evocative and game-changing. I suspect this would be better served as a rare with a larger body.

Hope you were watching left field or Evan's curveball might've knocked you off your feet. Ominous Idol is quite the departure and I really appreciate this kind of sideways thinking that often leads to really new ideas. I believe the main purpose of this design is to keep your token creatures from poofing out of existence from a lowly Unsummon or Aetherize. If there's another purpose, it's Johnny's to find. I will say that I would much prefer if Idol affected only your own creatures to combo with Evacuation.

Alex didn't ignore the "and white" portion of the depicted beings black and white appearance. I love symmetry and Patron of Souls certainly delivers on that. It also enjoys large numbers of token creatures. I do wish it cost W/B W/B and wonder if the white trigger shouldn't be ETB.

Inanimate also went hybrid with Shepherd of the Risen. Lifelink seems like a highly defensible choice here. The second ability is fairly novel: How many other cards care about your graveyard being empty? There's a reason for that though, its a very hard threshold to maintain (and one that token-producing sorceries and instants certainly won't help with) and so it needs to be proportionally rewarding when you can pull it off (possibly by continually exiling cards from your graveyard).

A bit less difficult and more in synergistic with tokens would be "As long as there are no creature cards in your graveyard…"

Ben's Shadow Matron keys off of the 1/1 flying Spirit tokens in his proposed environment and also features lifelink. I will say that I think any card that causes life loss and has lifelink should gain you life as it steals it. Otherwise, very cool.

Devin's lifelinker is a shade, another awesome creature type call. It's the third ability that wants to have lots of creature around (either big ones you don't care about, or lots of little disposable guys like tokens). As templated, you can activate it any number of times off one other creature, but that wouldn't be hard to fix. I do wonder if this shade really wants all three of this abilities.

Lobster's Lemure Shade is quite a bit simpler and I appreciate how the second ability loves tokens but doesn't explicitly call them out.

Our final Shade departs from the standard activated ability of the type and instead remains strong as long as you have minimal creature cards in your graveyard, which is easier to do if you're making tokens. Fading Shadow uses the sacrifice cost and intimidate we've established as solid too.

Personally, I find this drawback too heavy-handed as it will be hard to keep Shade of the Many at full power and when you do manage that feat, you still just have a 4/3 for four.

Wobbles also went with a P/T drawback. This one has a bigger upside and is also much more controllable by its caster. Pretty clever how you can play any number of land and tokens without diminishing Destruction's Shadow's value. (And that playing a second still gives you more total P/T).

Chah was the only one to propose a keyword mechanic. Soul reap is pretty neat (though I wonder if the ETB part shouldn't be removed from the keyword). It both creates tokens and benefits from tokens dying. If the effect were repeatable, you'd want to specify nontoken victims, but as a one-time effect it seems fine to replace tokens with more tokens. I like how the second ability marries the first ability to the art/flavor of the card.

Ooh. Now Lucky's really found something that asks you to play as many of the same creature as possible as well as disposable creatures. Stick Man is plenty black (though you could make an argument for white with a martyr flavor) and definitely gets my Timmy-Johnny going. I will say the name belongs on a creature, rather than an enchantment, but Creative can fix that.

It's been a while since we've seen a Bad Moon variant. Olaf's Totem of the Dead is definitely strong and certainly works well with token hordes. Even in a set that warranted a callback to this color pie bleed, I'm pretty confident it would be rare rather than uncommon.

The only mythic rare submitted, Stech's Void Champion sets up a neat alternate reality: You can't make any new creatures, but the ones you do have are really tough and keep coming back. While undying won't work with your token creatures, the +2/+2 certainly will. The fact that Void Champion doesn't prohibit you from casting Lingering Souls is a nice feature too. "Creatures" was probably meant to be "Other creatures."

Like Stick Man, Shepherd of the Unmarked Graves also explicitly rewards creatures by name, which implicitly benefits token hordes. Tigt is right that the second ability isn't necessary (and could be put on another card, letting players feel clever putting them together), but it does fit the flavor he set up nicely.

While it's certainly possible for a token creature to share a type with one of your dead creature cards, this ability doesn't scream tokens as well as most of the other submissions. I included Keeper of Memories because I really like the flavor and the white expression of such a macabre illustration.

Grimgrove Protector doesn't help out tokens any more than cardboard creatures, but the ability is pretty neat. At first, I thought Pasteur had forgotten to make it "creatures you control" but there's actually a strong argument for this being a global effect. I think this effect works in white, but could also be green (though not with this art). 3/1 is a curious choice. I'd sooner expect a 1/3.

Whenever the enrobed creature attacks, its ancestors rise from their graves to lend a hand. It's definitely a neat effect, and I love tying it to this image. That said, this text is too long and it's a bit weird that you can pass the cloak to a new creature and it still remembers the old one's ancestors. I'd suggest:
Whenever equipped creature attacks, put a 1/1 black and white Spirit creature token OTB tapped and attacking for each creature card in your graveyard that shares a creature type with it. Exile them at EOT.
That doesn't have quite as much token synergy as Ant's original, but achieves the same flavor with fewer words.

Once again, really nice work here, folks. I love seeing how many different different executions can so well express the same art while fulfilling the same basic function in the set. It was equally interesting seeing the trends that arose: intimidate, lifelink, team-pump, P/T drawbacks. Also fascinating to see the common creature types—Spirit, Shade and Horror—versus the unique ones like Scarecrow. The submissions were overwhelmingly uncommon, which makes perfect sense. While I didn't say the phrase "build-around-me," that's exactly what I asked for. While it's not unusual to see a build-around-me rare or mythic, uncommon is the sweet spot for such cards because it enables Limited archetypes (and is easier for casual players to collect for the wacky Destruction's Shadow decks).

You don't see a lot of black cards that support token themes anymore (Bad Moon and Breeding Pit having been retired for color pie reasons) and that was the challenge. I'm quite impressed how many flavorful and color-appropriate solutions this group found.

I do hope you'll take a moment to share your own opinions on these designs. What did I undervalue or misread? Did going through this list inspire some uber-design?


  1. I love how Chah's reminder text should really say, "put a 0/1 black serf creature TOKEN into play" but since we got extra points for not including the word token on the card, he wisely omitted it.

    Also, I believe you misread/misjudged the Harbinger. It really supports tokens because players lose life based on the CMC of the creatures they save, not the power, which makes saving tokens free.

    1. Haha. Tricksy Chah.

      You are 100% correct, Hevaen. I misread Harbinger as paying for power. It's so gross a mistake, I'm going to edit the post right now. Thanks.

  2. The intention for Grimgrove Protector was as strong, removal-resistant drop in White. As a 3/1, it would best be answered by less-than-a-card 1/1s, and if everyone's removal is shut down, a token-based attrition strategy might have some leverage. I was trying to think of things that would "complement" a black subtheme of tokens by finding something that (in this given Limited environment, maybe) would be best answered by them.

    1. Ahh. Sneaky. So Protector is strong against black's standard removal, but weak against its new tokens. Nice.

    2. Ah! I didn't notice, but I was thinking that for similar reasons I should have submitted

      "1B. Instant. Destroy target non-token creature"


    3. Clever! I prefer "protection from instant spells and sorcery spells", because your average player might not know that permanents stop being spells when they leave the stack.

  3. For Shadekinder Promenade, the lifelink was a last minute change I made to evoke the other side of 'drains life for power' that I was going for with the -1/-1 counter ability.

    Seeings as that ability needs to be templated as:

    "Put a -1/-1 counter on another creature you control: ~ gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Use this ability only as a sorcery."

    Maybe lifelink should be removed for space concerns.

    Also, do you think "Use this ability only as a sorcery" would be a good keyword? You certainly wouldn't introduce it in an expert set, but it could be for a coreset a la fight.

    1. Call it "slow?" Heh. That raises an interesting observation. Creatures have keywords, and spells have keywords, but abilities don't. Could you put Split-Second on an activated ability? It seems like it should work in theory, but its been avoided so far. Is that because its confusing, because there are rules problems with it, or has no one really tried? Interesting.

  4. My first attempt got an "Ooh!" That makes me happy. The name and flavor text came in an attempt to justify the effect I made. The idea that it isn't an actual creature or artifact, but an idea, sort of like the Slender Man. Stick Man doesn't exist, but is very real.

  5. Good point about Lifelink on Shadow Matron. (Which, by the way, I like a lot.) Unfortunately, with the lifegain added, it would basically be a narrow Blood Artist.

    I believe Shadekinder Promenade does work correctly as written, because SBEs are checked in between activations. (Of course, the fact that it's not obvious whether or not it works is itself problematic!) I think it doesn't need to pump for mana.

    Stick Man is probably my favorite of all of these.

  6. Having had time to think about the shade of the many

    Shade of the many
    3B (U)
    Sacrifice a creature: ~ is gains intimidate until EOT
    Shade of the many has -X/-X where X is the number of creatures in your graveyard.

    I had proposed, I believe that the solutions it could receive would be a combination of the following:

    1) smaller mana cost (2B? 1B?)
    2) bigger power/toughness (6/5?)
    3) instead/ in addition to intimidate: sacrifice a creature: exile target creature card from a graveyard

    1. "Sacrifice a creature: Exile target creature card from a graveyard." is pretty meta. A lot of players are going to say WTF and dismiss the card immediately. That's fine as long as the card appeals to the Johnnies who get it.

  7. As far as favorites go, I really liked stick man (although I would prefer it on a creature) and Ominous Idol