Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 032213—tigaer

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

This design poses an interesting question: Is perfect mana fixing worth giving up your hidden information entirely? My guess is that the answer will be "No, are you crazy?!" for a lot of decks and "Hell yes!" for a lot of others. If so, and if the decks that do want it aren't too good with this addition, it's a great card to print because the questions it asks is novel and challenging. That's a pretty big 'if' though. I imagine something like Modern Zoo would be ecstatic about Aurora Lagoon.

Two years ago I would have said this is clearly too powerful. Compared to Gavony Township, I'm not sure it is. Granted, Castle Camelot will let you win out of nowhere if you drop it on turn 6 after curving out on creatures where the Township won't, but the Township gives you a permanent advantage and is relevant even if you only have one body.

I will say that the hidden X-1 in this ability is a bit awkward, even if it has precedence in Coat of Arms.

Devin's aim is to tell a story with Castle Sangreal. He's effectively given all your creatures Level Up—Combat and he wanted the quest counters to go on the creatures (as opposed on this enchantment, like Beastmaster Ascension) so it could interact with other cards that grant or enhance quest counters. These goals are at odds with each other. You could break this card up into three:

Sangreal Village  1W
enchantment (cmn)
At the end of the turn, put a quest counter on a creature you control that attacked this turn.
Creatures you control with one or more quest counters on them get +1/+1.

Sangreal Castle  W
enchantment (unc)
At the end of the turn, put a quest counter on a creature you control that attacked this turn.Creatures you control with two or more quest counters on them have lifelink.

Sangreal Tower  WW
enchantment (rare)
At the end of the turn, put a quest counter on a creature you control that attacked this turn.Creatures you control with three or more quest counters are indestructible.

That way, not only do you avoid having a card with tiny print that turns players off, you let the players combine these cards and feel clever about doing it.

Camelot Castle is a Seaside Citadel you can use immediately. How many do you include in your Bant (or 4- or 5-color deck)? One is easy, but four is begging for trouble. The metagame also makes a huge difference because trading your Camelot Castle for your opponent's is risky for both of you and could easily cost one of you the game. This is no Flagstones of Trokair.

I like this design much better than the legendary land that adds any color of mana because every deck with 3+ colors will be compelled to play that, which will make it show up very frequently and will cause a lot of games to turn sour from mana screw. This version will have four buddies in its cycle to help smooth out the probabilities there.

I messed with a few versions of valiant when my first one required pretty intense rules knowledge to know what happens when a valiant defender blocks a valiant attacker. At least one person loved the flavor and at least one hated it. I'd love to get more opinions.

I don't know how strong valiant is. We'd need to playtest it to see. It's possible valiant is so much better than Exalted that it can't be a land like Cathedral of War and would be better served as an enchantment. Probably a white one. At the very least, Castle Valiant probably needs to ETB tapped.

Jules submission replaced one of my secondary ideas. My version had X in the activation and the opponent had to pay X for each nonflying creature she attacks with. Jules is simpler and safer; better.

This is where good knights go to die. Until they're needed again, at which point we blow it up and they all pop out, ready to go. Ignoring the weird flavor of the sacrifice, which is entirely necessary to balance the card, this is pretty cool and reminds me of the convent in Quest for the Holy Grail. It combos pretty amazingly with Day of Judgment. Perhaps too amazingly?

You can't play Fortified Keep until you have creatures out, and if your one creature is Terror'd or your team is Damnation'd, you lose it. On the other hand, your guys are immune from Lightning Bolts and Bonfire of the Damned as long as you know to play around them.

Whether Keep is balanced or not, I will say that getting any color of mana from a card that feels this white arguably betrays the card's identity.

George submitted this after I technically closed submissions, but I couldn't not talk about it. Llyn Loch is my favorite name. It just oozes Gaelic / Middle English. Next up, we have fidelity which is identical to soul bond except that the paired permanents don't both need to be creatures.

Wizards wouldn't likely print fidelity now that soul bond exists, but you could argue that soul bond should have been fidelity in the first place. I don't think it's wise, because it'll be harder to keep it clear which permanents are paired without putting them right next to each other, something most players are reticent to do with creatures and lands that aren't currently animated.

Speaking of wacky ideas, how about an aura that enchants two things? What's cool about Idyllic Prison is that it's a two-for-one that's twice as easy to undo. The problem with it is the exact concern I just explained with Fidelity. Since you're turning these permanents off, you could arguably put them both under this card but there's still plenty of room for confusion.

Night Watch started off broken (letting you put any creature from your hand OTB with indestructibility) but James has found a much more interesting implementation. It's a tricky build-around because you want to maximize the number of cheap creatures you have, but at a certain point your deck becomes a WG rush deck and you don't want to waste card slots on "defensive" spells. Night Watch could be fine on defense, but I expect would really shine in a race.

Being able to sacrifice this card either when it's run its course or when you need the indestructibility more is a powerful choice and I'm not sure what the flavor justification is. That said, playing this the turn before you Day of Judgment and alpha with your entire team seems pretty good in its own right.

When I saw Nich's entry, I laughed because I'd also thought to myself, "I'm not sure this is a real thing. It looks so beautiful and yet the background is so ominous." My design was Phantasmal Moat and was pretty boring. Phantasmal Keep is a better Kjeldoran Outpost. It costs more to activate and requires a color that wants to sink mana into 1/1s the least, but it also doesn't cost a land to play. There aren't many creatures in the game that care less about having skulking than reproducible 1/1s.

Peace in the Realm offers a huge carrot but is very very fragile. Even so, I can imagine white players running more protection and damage prevention effects in order to keep Peace on the board and justifying their inclusion via the massive card advantage it offers. If I didn't see the name/art/flavor text and I had to guess what color this card would be, I'd say black. Blue doesn't get life gain and white doesn't get card advantage. The all-or-nothing nature here reminds me of Dark Tutelage and Phyrexian Obliterator. With the flavor, I think you could justify this as a white card, representing some kind of golden age, but it's definitely a bit of a bleed.

Safe Keep is an expensive, symmetrical Fog variant. *shrug*

With Realm of Linger Magic out, you can Giant Growth your chosen creature every turn for the rest of the game using the same card, provided you pay G for it each time (and that creature sticks around). I'm not certain Chah intended for you to be able to use spells infinitely or just one extra time, but I love that you still have to pay the non-cardboard costs to do so. The wording is a bit clunky but doesn't use any words Buyback and Rebound don't. Seven lines is a lot, but I think it's worth it for a rare as impactful as Realm.

Ben never tells us what Noble is, but it clearly hints at another part of the set that helps flesh out the core themes of Camelot. If it's something static like a supertype, keyword or creature type printed on other cards, I imagine Reminder is way too strong. But if nobility is something to be earned or something that comes and goes then this might be a perfect way to reward fighting for it. One possibility:
Whenever CARDNAME attacks or blocks, it becomes Noble. Whenever it doesn't attack or block if able, it is no longer Noble.

Except when you combo with Gideon Jura or 15 obscure cards that force your opponent's team to attack, Seat of the Pendragon effectively reads:
You can't be attacked by more than two creatures at a time (unless you're being alpha'd and a free 6/6 wouldn't help).
It's a pretty cool idea that this is where Uthur Pendragon lives and if he hears enough ruckus outside he'll come out and knock some heads together, but it's unfortunate that the punishment is both strong enough and avoidable enough that it'll never actually happen. Maybe:
Whenever you are attacked by one or more creatures, look at that many cards from the top of your library. You may cast a card named Uthur Pendragon among them without paying its mana cost. Put the rest back on top in any order.

Get it? The Lady in the Lake is tossing Arthur his sword! Or anyone, really… this particular dryad isn't all that particular. Neat.

Power-wise, Treasured Lake makes Stoneforge Mystic look a little weak. You're paying 5 to get any equipment card from your deck onto the field and equipped to a creature, as opposed to 2WW plus the card's equip cost. Yes, you have to tap the creature you're equipping it to, but you can do that at the end of your opponent's turn. The same round you played Treasured Lake. You don't get a free 1/2 out of the deal, but this doesn't cost a slot in your deck. Seems. Good.

It's not just the moat itself, but the castle behind the moat complete with archers on the walls. Cool.

In this top-down model, I'd expect the ability gained to be "T: This creature deals 1 damage to target creature attacking you." Not a huge difference, but I think a bit better.

Asceticism, but only for untapped creatures. I love the flavor and I expect this is well-balanced. My only concern is that, in practice, it'll promote board stalls by giving you an incentive not to attack. Having a lot of vigilance would help, but even on three strong green common creatures, you'd still have at least half the games stall out when Twilight Tranquility hits the table. Devin helped me notice that granting hexproof to non-creatures is both less poetic on the card and probably way too strong.

This was a hard challenge. We didn't have much information about the set, and the art felt relatively limiting, particularly given the goal of producing a design people would vote for. While not every challenge will be this difficult, I have no intention to lower the bar. A challenge is meant to test your limits in a way that an exercise might not, and that's exactly the kind of (design-) muscle-building I'm aiming for. That said, please don't hold back on feedback or constructive criticism you have; if there's a way to make the Weekend Art Challenge better, I want to hear it.

We gave up on grades a long time ago, and I believe that rating or ranking designer's submissions doesn't help us to learn and share, but given the vote-worthy requirement for this particular design, it seems wrong not to let people vote this one time.


  1. Ooh! I like how you're trying out voting, Jay! The upside is that we get more than one opinion on what makes for the best design. The downside is that there isn't any discussion on WHY they are chosen by the public, and that might skew the results, since some discussion can change opinions.

    For example, whenever I do my redesigning on my blog, I sometimes get feedback pointing out things which changes whatever original stance I had for that particular blog post!

    Anyway, the voting may give us all incentive to design often and well, if we get recognized for doing well within our Magic design community. And now I feel like you're the manager of our company of Magic designers, Jay. And I'm O.K. with that. =P

  2. A lot of these designs come with issues that Jay didn't point out, so I want to take a minute to note the ones that struck me.

    Aurora Lagoon:
    Regardless of whether or not this is balanced, I think it detracts from a lot of the fun of Magic. Personally, I don't want to be playing chess, and removing the hidden information of a player's hand makes play way less interesting.

    Camelot Castle:
    Again, balance isn't the issue here. Legendary lands have horrifically poor game play. As anyone who played with Kamigawa block in standard can attest to, oftentimes people won't notice a duplicated legendary land and somebody get's left feeling like they got cheated out of a game because their opponent had mana that they shouldn't have. What's more, they greatly increase the chance of mana screw, and judging by the presence of smoothing mechanics like landcycling, I think we're safe to assume that R&D has decided that the baseline level of mana screw is already slightly higher than they want.

    Llyn Loch:
    I could see this one getting printed, but I'm not comfortable with how it lies to players by telling them it will make all of their colors, but only doing so after it's likely irrelevant.

    Night Watch:
    It may be that since this is at rare it's okay to print anyway, but the feeling that you're never safe to attack could lead to a lot of board stalls. That said, Leyline of Anticipation saw print fairly recently, so I'm probably the one who's off base.

    Reminder of Home:
    This could easily be a fine design for the set it exists in, but it doesn't work as a submission for a YMTC-like contests because nobody knows what it does.

    Treasured Lake:
    As worded this lets you attack and then use it with no delay. To avoid this, the creature tapping could become part of the cost.

    Yeomen's Fortress:
    This is simply not a printable card. Moat could never see print today because there are so many decks that can't do anything about it, and this card makes that true for way more decks. We don't want games to end when a player casts a five mana enchantment onto an empty board.

    1. Thanks, Jules. Sometimes I miss things and sometimes I can be a bit too diplomatic. I do hope that everyone feels free to add their own praises and critiques, just keep it civil and focus on the flaws of the design itself like Jules did.

      I had meant to imply what Jules said about Camelot Castle but going back I see I'm expecting Way too much between-the-lines-reading. I'll try to be more blunt in the future.

      I'm not sure Llyn Loch is a lie. Compare it to Reflecting Pool. In both cases, you have to have other sources getting your colors started and the new land just gives you more of the colors you already have.

      I try to give submissions the benefit of the doubt when it comes to templating. I'm betting Bradley intended the tap effect to be part of the cost. I could certainly be wrong about that.

      I agree that Moat and Yeoman's Fortress wouldn't see print today without some kind of loophole for ground decks without enchantment removal.

    2. On Treasured Lake:

      I could replace the "tap target creature" to "tap an untapped creature" within the effect. That way, when the effect resolves, you need to choose a creature besides one that is tapped and attacking. I initially wanted to have the tapping be part of the cost, but I was avoiding having this kind of text:

      "N, Tap an untapped creature you control, T: Attach an Equipment card exiled with CARDNAME to the tapped creature."

      Or something referring to "creature tapped to pay the cost to activate this ability." ...which is awkward.

      But perhaps the creature tapping is unnecessary. The flavor would diminish, but perhaps that's for the best.

      Side note: I wanted to have the creature or land use "swim" counters to get it, like in Harry Potter in that one scene. *spoiler!* But too many lines of text for all my attempts. And increased complexity.

    3. Actually, yeah, since the card says "Target untapped creature" you can't choose a creature that's already attacking unless it has vigilance.

      This seems fine:

      N, T, Tap an untapped creature you control: Attach an Equipment card exiled with CARDNAME to that creature.

    4. Whoops, reading comprehension failure on my part. Treasured Lake works as intended as is! Sorry about that.

  3. I am a little surprised that none of the designs included a tribal element. I had a bunch of non-starter designs that called out Knights. Really, Castle Valiant is a prime candidate for a little Tribal specificity. “Knight creatures you control have valiant.”

    Realm of Lingering Magic has a fun effect, but I don’t see it as a Green effect. Copying effects like that should be either Blue, Red. Actually, the best and most fun version is probably an expensive Red Enchantment that every player gets to use. How would that be worded?

    Whenever an instant or sorcery spell resolves, if it targeted a creature its controller controls, he or she may exile the spell, imbuing the creature. While exiled this way, the instant or sorcery card gains “At the beginning of your upkeep, you may cast this spell card targeting the creature it imbues. If you don’t, put this spell card into your graveyard.”

    When I designed Phantasmal Keep, I imagined that the Camelot set would have a lot of equipment, or maybe even an Enchantments Matter design with an Aura subtheme. The skulking drawback matters much more in that context.

  4. Realm of Lingering Magic is meant to trigger repeatedly every turn. It's like Staying Power except it works with black-bordered Magic.

    I don't think the "Giant Growth turns into permanent/repeated +3/+3" effect has a color pie definition yet. Even though it's technically copying an Instant/Sorcery, I think it's ok to treat this effect as a separate thing. It would be similar to the way White can have "deal 3 damage to target attacking or blocking creature" even though White doesn't get direct damage, or Blue can have Mind Control effects even though Blue doesn't get creature removal. I'm a fan of taking a narrow, compartmentalized slice of an effect and putting it in another color like that.

    1. The fact that it only works when targeting one of your own creatures is what caused me not to question it in green. It is certainly debatable, but I'm on the green side of the debate.

  5. I like Treasured Lake's flavor, but maybe it shouldn't be repeatable. One change you could make is to only allow it to fetch Equipment for Legendary creatures (and only once).

    I think every environment should have a few ways to make Legendary special, because otherwise Legendary is purely a flavor/drawback mechanic. Maybe every Core set could have such a card.

    A land card would be a great place to provide incentives for Legendary because it can go in many decks, and you can fit in such narrow-purpose rewards in your deck without diluting the deck's spell slots.

    1. The only thing repeatable on Treasured Lake is the mana production… unless you read the card literally—I was assuming Bradley intended the card to ETB when you attach it to the creature.

    2. Hah, I like how there's been multiple instances of my card being misread!

      The intended effect is that there is only one Equipment exiled with Treasured Lake. The wording when you retrieve the Equipment seems to allow for it to work if there are multiple Equipments exiled with Treasured Lake. While 99% of the time there won't be, I wrote it like that in case a card combo (either in the future or one that already exists) allows for Treasured Lake to exile more than one Equipment upon it entering the battlefield.

  6. Castle Camelot looks too strong to me. Overrun effects are game-winningly powerful when they work, but balanced by the fact that they're narrow since they require you to have a good board position to work. I feel it's just wrong to be able to put that "sometimes I just win" effect in a free card slot that poses no opportunity cost, even if it's given a high cost with no trample to balance it.

    Castle Valiant might be stronger than Castle of War because it can protect a swarm of your creatures; it doesn't require attacking with only one creature to get the bonus.

    Phantasmal Keep also looks like another land design where the nature of the effect is something that shouldn't be on a free slot in your deck, even if it's assigned a clunky cost to balance it. Also, the drawback isn't really a drawback, although at least it keeps the tokens from wielding Equipment and Aura. Maybe the drawback should be to sacrifice all your Illusion Knights when one of them is targeted.

  7. I love Peace in the Realm. I think it's rather white - it reminds me of Convalescent Care except it cares more about you maintaining order rather than needing healing.

    I found this art really hard to design for - I was trying for a while to design a land that was castlelike, allowing your creatures to enter it and get bonuses, but ultimately they were all too wordy and not very exciting. I'm really impressed by a lot of the great design that was done with such a difficult piece.

  8. So I voted for Castle Valiant. It's a neat keyword mechanic, but today I realized how degenerate it gets in multiples. Fogging yourself to give all your creatures a permanent +2/+2 even once could be enough to just run away with the game.

    I think it's fine to ETB untapped, but it should be legendary.

    1. Good call. I originally worded it as a replacement effect and so multiples had no additional impact, but as written, yeah, that could be nutty. Not hard to justify legendary here, either.