Monday, April 15, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 041213—Anndr

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

Ambassadors' Grotto doesn't quite work as the rules stand because you can't identify cards by their ability words. Battalion and bloodrush are ability words. Evan explains that this would be a simple rules change. It may be possible, but it won't be simple. On one hand, the rules are malleable and designers need to push the limits, but on the other hand, if you're told something isn't possible, most situations would require a professional designer to accept that and adapt.

Ignoring whether this could work or not, this is a cute design. It enables five-color decks provided they stick to cards featuring their guild's mechanic. It's entirely parasitic, and will be ignored by Constructed players outside of block, with the possible exception of a zany Johnny concoction in Standard. Personally, I'd prefer Pillar of the Paruns from the original Rav block. That said, Ambassadors' Grotto inarguably qualifies as a card that could only be printed in Dragon's Maze.

Center of the City turns each of your two-color gates into five-color mana producers. It also produces colorless mana. That makes it fantastic for a deck with a lot of gates and a lot of NCD spells (CD being two colors of mana, and N being any non-zero amount of colorless mana), but terrible for a Gate deck with CCDD or C/D C/D costs. The flavor's pretty cool and I imagine that casual players building the Maze's End deck would happily run Center of the City.

Change of Scenery is exactly what I've grown to expect from Jules: A card that I have no trouble imagining seeing print, but a little trouble imagining how it hasn't already seen print. It's not particularly splashy or exciting, but it's a simple, useful effect that fits Ravnica perfectly. He added a mana and let the card come into play untapped to help differentiate it from Sylvan Scrying and Farseek. That hurts the appeal in most formats, but I expect green Commander players will be plenty happy to run this.

Citizens of the Tenth is a beautiful, simple common that's easy to fit into a multicolored deck, rewards you for playing lots of gold cards (something you want to do anyhow), and slows the game down to help you do it. The only niggle is the possibility that some players won't know how much life to gain when they cast a hybrid card, which you could potentially solve with reminder text.

Conclave Conspirators requires you to be playing Selesnya and rewards you for adding Golgari and/or Orzhov. This card could only exist in Dragon's Maze. I'm not sure the effect is enticing enough to make the mediocre body appealing, but maybe roleplayers that go late in draft are exactly what RGD2 draft needs to run smoothly.

I should've put this design in the comments so I could get your feedback. Part of me hates it and part of me loves it. I really like the first ability, simultaneously rewarding and enabling multicolor play, provided you've got enough cheap spells to capitalize on it. I arguably should've stopped there, but it would really only appeal to Johnnies in that state because you'd really need to build your deck around it with cheap gold cards and activated abilities to get the most out of the free mana. So I wanted to add an ability that leveraged that gold mana, helped you keep cards in your hand to chain and pushed the flavor of the guilds coming together. Despite the way these abilities come together, Guild Conference still sets off my hot-glue-gun alarm. What do you think?

Guildless Estates is a flavorful callback to the Karoos from Ravnica: City of Guilds (Golgari Rot Farm et al). It mitigates the power level issues foremost by being uncommon and also by only producing colorless mana. It's still very good at alleviating mana screw and I could see it being pretty big outside of Block Constructed. In RGD2 Limited not producing any colors will be a big limitation; that's good in that it means I'm not worried about Estates power level in Limtied, but I'm not sure if it'll see enough play to justify its inclusion. Perhaps just being an awesome callback is reason enough.

Lost is half Swords to Plowshares and half Griptide. Found is a better Unexpected Results. Lost & Found is a zany Mind Control for {2}{W}{U}{U}{B}. I like the flavor of Lost and—apart from being too similar (and superior) to Unexpected Results—Found isn't bad either. The combination is pretty cool. Considering how epicly difficult it is to make a good Fuse card, I'm impressed with Antny223's results.

Neutral Ground is Shimmering Grotto++. It's better, though not strictly since it's purely colorless when you have just one other land. (Though I can't help but notice that Neutral Ground and Guildless Estates would play great together). This could have been in RTR or GTC, but makes much more sense in Dragon's Maze.

I'm not sure why Lobster667 wanted to submit an auto-win card, or something that promotes monocolor play in a multicolor set. At the very least, I'd make this an enchantment so someone could, uh, Golgari Charm or Sundering Growth it.

The flavor is what makes this ability hum. Or perhaps vice-versa. I love the story that one of your dudes infiltrates your enemy's defense and steals some information, but it only matters if he can get it back to another agent in the home office for processing. Does this belong on a land? I would put it on a blue enchantment personally.

Ipaulson also submitted a Karoo callback. Selesnya Cloister lets you turn a land into a Selesnya Sanctuary. As a bonus, it also calls back to Wildfield Borderpost by letting you play it cheaper in place of a land drop. I would not make a cycle out of this, since mana acceleration doesn't belong in every color. As a purely Selesnyan card, this could have been in RTR, but as a quirky-callback card it feels more at home in the third set of the block.

Gatecast is an exciting way to reward players for running more Gates. If Dragon's Maze could afford another keyword, I wouldn't be surprised if it were this one.

Tactical Alliance itself is a little too literal. "Choose two target creatures" by itself isn't quite as flavorful, but it is much simpler. You don't really need to enforce playing different colors of creatures since Gatecast is already heavily rewarding you for playing lots of gates which are enabling lots of colors. Also, it's pretty frustrating that I can't cast this on my Wojek Halberdiers and my Burning-Tree Emissary.

Combining two guild mechanics on a card that fits in either guild is a great idea. I don't know if it's possible to make a 5- or 10-card cycle out of this, but Transguild Arrestors is certainly a success in that direction. I would play the heck out of this. Very Dragon's Maze.

Transguild Pathfinder wants you to play Simic or Golgari, and maybe both with Dimir. Like Chah's plan above, James employs an admirable tactic here. Cards with low color commitments will be even more important in Dragon's Maze; on one hand, we'll be playing more colors, and thus more land types and so lower color requirements will let us cast our spells more often; but also because Maze will be the first pack we open, NC cards will help us keep our options open as we draft. Pathfinder does that and nudges you in a particular direction at the same time.

Also like Transguild Arrestors, Pathfinder wants to be part of a cycle. Can we find a good red card with a {WU} activated ability? And so forth? I don't know, but I'm optimistic.

One of my first attempts at this challenge was "Whenever you discard a card, populate" in order to tie Gruul and Selesnya together. I tried to find the reverse—a way for populate to enhance bloodrush somehow—but never found it. I also wasn't sure how to avoid each ability triggering the other. Nich has solved both these problems. Bloodrush creating tokens rather than actually populating was a good solution. Populate also making a token, I'm not loving. It breaks the symmetry for me. What if populate gave a target creature +1/+1 until EOT? I'm likely skewing my judgment by my own goal. You could argue that Explorers is just here to make lots of guys, something both guilds want, and to trigger off of their mechanics to do so.

This combination is obviously very Dragon's Maze. Let's talk about the cost briefly. You can see what Nich was going for. Use some Gruul mana, and some Selesnya mana, and be flexible about it. You can pay{R}{G}, {G}{W}, {G}{G} or {R}{W} to cast Explorers. Honestly, it's only that last combination that ruins this for me. That, and the fact that you could just cost this {1}{G} and be done with it.

This was the card I didn't feel bad about sharing after failing to make what Nich did. The once-only nature of a Sorcery means I avoid self-triggering, and being mono-green means players can read and use this as either Selesnya + Gruul or Selesnya + Golgari.

Once again, I'm impressed with the quality and creativity of the submissions. I'm not surprised by the number of land cards or gold cards, but it's interesting that the colors used skew so heavily toward white and green. I guess the very static pose and serene nature of the two crops are responsible.

I hope that you'll take a moment to share your own praise and criticism below, as well as attempts to round out some of the neat cycles that were started.


  1. I'm really excited to say that I think the average design quality's been going up significantly of late. Everyone's doing a great job of giving helpful feedback and integrating feedback from others into their designs!

    As for specific feedback on the few I didn't get to in the comments of the submission post:

    Guild Conference:
    I really don't think the 5 color activation is the way to go here, not because of the hot glue gun nature, but because players will assume it's not. The card seems to be telling you that if you cast enough multicolored spells you get to draw a bunch of cards, but it actually just makes spells cheaper without generating mana leaving players feeling robbed.
    I'd rather do something like this:
    At the beginning of each end step, if you've cast spells of every color this turn, you may search you library for a multicolored card, reveal it, and put it into you hand, then shuffle your library.

    Lost // Found:
    I don't actually have a problem with the Unexpected Results "overlap." While the choice of whose library it pulls from may seem small, for me it really changes the feeling from "watch me do this crazy thing!" to "I'm stealing your stuff." I like this card a lot, though I am a bit confused as to why Found lets you look at two cards. To me that reads more as "looking" than "finding."

    Thanks for continuing to run these, Jay!

    1. The change from one or two came late was mostly an attempt to keep the found half from being too bad on it's own. I initially wanted a stolen goods style effect with a grind twist, but that was too much for a split card. With one card only the card felt too random normally (in fact it really felt UR) compared the strong fuse effect. This compromise keeps the card playing well. There's only really around a 1/3 chance of getting a choice of cards to play and that's offset by about a 1/6 chance of hitting two land cards. Add in the prospect of finding an unplayable and you quickly realise that the top card only requires a lot of luck. This version also packs a bit more punch with Dimir Charm which is also good.

    2. Jules solution to Guild Conference is 200% better than mine. Thanks.