Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 042613—WoGzilla

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

8 lines is too much text for a common. It's a shame, because once you've read it, it's really very simple; Choose a card in your hand. Your opponent guesses whether its odd or even. If she's wrong, you've vexed her.

I was able to get it down to 7 lines (click to zoom), but that's still too much:

Zefferal suggested a simpler execution that was exactly my response upon first reading Digest:
Whenever a creature dealt damage by ~ this turn dies, you may put X +1/+1 counter on ~, where X is equal to that creature's toughness. If you do, ~ doesn't untap during your next untap step.
Chah makes a few arguments for his version, the best of which is that the waiting period adds suspense: You know when the Tyrant will wake up bigger than ever, but can you find an answer for it before then? That flavor's pretty good too. My concern with the first version (which was a 3/5 without flash) was that it always made more sense to let it through then chump-block it, until chumping it buys you enough time to turn the game around, but 4/4 is much harder to ignore and flash means it'll most likely eat something when it first lands whether your opponent likes it or not.

I would definitely try this card out. It's too texty for common, but fine at uncommon. I do suspect Digest is better off unkeyworded on one or maybe a few cards in the set.

Evan described this well as an easier to understand Ice Cauldron. Monster from Below is mechanically a ramp card, but emotionally a suspense card. You slide something face-down under this and force your opponent to sweat out what massive horror it could be. With perfect land drops and no other acceleration, you can make a Thragtusk on turn 4 (eh), a Sylvan Primordial on turn 5 (hmm), or a Craterhoof Behemoth on turn 6 (ooh).

It might also be interesting to let it help you pay colored mana costs so you can use it to splash other fatties. You could also go full-Aether Vial and/or quest with something like:
Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage, put a quest counter on ~. Then you may sacrifice ~ and put the exiled card OTB if its CMC <= the number of quest counters on ~.

Unless I feel my big creature could make a big difference on defense, I usually still attack while its enchanted by Oblivious Prey. Most of them time, you won't reveal a creature and even if you do, it might be smaller and just chump-block. Of course, you getting a free bomb creature would be brutal. Enchant a medium or small creature and, yeah, unless I've got tricks, I'm probably not attacking.

Always nice to see green removal that isn't Prey Upon or Plummet.

Zefferal has a nice take on the monster-of-unknown-size concept that gives you not only knowledge of its true size, but control. You can bluff your opponent, or just go all-in. It is worth noting, Shadowborn Monstrosity could one-shot your opponent if you draw 17 total CMC among the seven cards you draw. That only requires an average CMC of 2.4, or a lucky draw… so that's something development would surely reign in.

At 8 lines of text, this—like so many of the other submissions—is really pushing the readability limit even at uncommon.

At first, Slumbering Ancient reads like an overcosted Sea Serpent that only turns on once your opponent attacks you, but when you realize it effectively has vigilance in a race situation you can see how it might be worth an extra mana. The story's great, the text is short enough to fit flavor, and the effect isn't un-blue, making Ben's one of the best common submissions.

Click to see flavor text
Terror of the Deep is very similar to Slumbering Ancient (and for the record was submitted earlier), but this one doesn't have psuedo-vigilance; it's abilities are purely a question of whether it untaps normally or not. As such, we get a bigger body for a lower price. The trigger is based on the size of your opponents' creatures rather than whether you're being attacked. That flavor for both cards is solid, though I must say this Clash of the Titans flavor is definitely more epic. Terror's mechanics are technically all-downside where Ancient's walk the line. Which do you prefer?

Splashzilla is the simplest of my submissions. Green sure does like surprise-blocking.

There's nothing inherently wrong with "{U} = +2/-2" but it does feel odd. I get that Ipaulsen wants the effect to be splashy (pun intended) to justify the loss of hexproof. What about:
{X}{U}: CARDNAME gets +X/-X and loses hexproof until end of turn.

Suddenly I realize just how very dark this art is.

Surge is neat. At first, you think it sucks that you have to discard a card here, but then you realize that anytime you're doing that, you're effectively giving the creature on the other side -X/-X. And getting a permanent boost in the process.

It would be frustrating the second time though. Is it even worth enabling? And this does suffer the 2:1 aura problem.

I went through a dozen iterations of this one concept. The ones that used search were too time-consuming and/or just plain weird. Surging Monstrosity is the first of three I feel remotely good enough about to share.

Activated abilities save a lot of space compared to triggered abilities, so if you can justify the switch it's often worthwhile. In many cases, the player is motivated to activate the ability at very similar times so you don't always lose flavor doing so. The XC cost is useful because you motivate players to pay it just once because of the surcharge.

Landsurge requires less comittment since you can just pay {1} and stop, or pay again, each decision based on the success of the last. The one-at-a-time process also simplifies the text that handles what happens to the cards after you reveal them. There's a soft argument for always putting the revealed card on the bottom here (Why does this creature's surging let you fix your draw) and hard one (Once they find a land, they can leave it on top and have {1}: +1/+1).

Surging Levithan has the simplest variation I could find. You can reveal as many cards as you like, deciding one at a time as above, but it costs deck-size instead of mana. You can always guarantee your Leviathan is big enough to win any fight, you just don't know how much it's going to cost you. An unintended bonus of this Arc-Slogger-ish ability is that it scales to Constructed better than it looks.

This was the only version where I stuck with the off-color land requirement. The original motivation was flavor, the original justification being that cards like this enable archetypes in Limited. Given this execution, I think its important for balancing the freeness of the cost. If this keyed off of Forests or any land, +1/+1 would cost 2.5 cards on average in most decks, but requiring you to be two-color could increase that to 5 cards per. Obviously, development would need to test this and consider the environment to determine how hard to push or nerf it.

Evan proposes an update to morph where you can turn your creature face-down again. There's no inherent motivation to do that (since 2/2 vanilla is basically always worse and the secret is already out), which means all the metamorphs will need to have turned-face-up and/or turned-face-down triggers. It's a neat update to the old keyword, but I'm not convinced it would hold up across a bunch of cards in a set.

Considering Tidecaller Leviathan on its own, you can either have a 4/4 for six with, effectively, {2}{U}{U}: ~ is unblockable this turn, or a morph creature that becomes a 4/4 and floods a land when you unmorph it. To me, the former seems a little too good and the latter a little too weak.

That said, I also considered morph for this design and while my vanilla morph was fine and fit the specs, I didn't come up with any innovative, so Evan's idea at least pushes us forward in that way.

I was ready to sing this card's praises when I saw two other commentors disliked it. It's certainly not for everyone. Unknown danger is a green Scout's Warning where you get your mana back instead of your card back. Given that you'll sometimes flash in a big blocker to eat an attacker, you won't always lose card advantage. I might even replace {G} with any color of mana to add even more surprise to the kind of threats that might pop out. Another simple and solid common.

I wasn't 100% sure how to interpret Rory's submission, so I made one literal one (above) and tried to retemplate it and smooth it out as well (below):

Lurk is a lot like morph except the interim stage can't be killed, deal 2 damage, or surprise your opponent after blockers have been declared. It can definitely still surprise though, with flash and haste letting you attack or block out of nowhere. Is it worth it to make something so similar to morph? It would be if Wizards had no intention of bringing morph back, but I'm not sure that's the case.

Unseen Threat is pretty cool. We don't know what's coming, but we know it'll be big and angry. My primary concern is that it will often be a proxy (and ramp card) when you only have one big monster in your Limited deck or one playset in your Constructed deck:
Green's Diabolic Tutor {4}{G}{G}{G}
Search your library for the only creature in your deck with CMC 7+. Cast it without paying its mana cost.
If development shows that's not a problem, this is a pretty compelling card for Timmy, Johnny and even Spike. Goes right into the Modern Emrakul deck.

Oh yeah. I forgot about this one. Along similar lines to Monster from Below, Unknown Danger and Unseen Threat, What You Don't Know gives any creature morph to let you turn it face-up cheaper when the time is right. The text could be much shorter (and the card common) if I hadn't gotten greedy: You can play any card in your hand face-down, either bluffing so your opponent fears it's a big creature or just turning two dead cards into a 2/2 in a time of need. We're probably better off without all that, but y'know.

Every card submitted offers suspense or surprise and in that way, I consider this challenge a great success. While there are notable exceptions, I did see a big trend to try to push cards with enough text they'd normally be rare down to uncommon or even common. If you take one thing away, let it be that you're less rare cards needs a lot less text. Sometimes that means simplifying, or re-kajiggering, and sometimes it means just letting your awesome texty card be rare.


  1. The 3/5 flash creature with digest would get to grow because it can catch an attacker with flash.

    1. This card certainly works, but the ability's probably not worth keywording when there are so few ways to make low rarity creatures with it that will actually trigger. That said, the flavor's great. What about something like this:

      Consume (Whenever another creature dies, you may exile it being consumed by ~ with a number of +1/+1 counters equal to its toughness. If ~ would untap and it's consuming a card with a +1/+1 counter on it, move a +1/+1 counter from that card onto ~ instead.)

    2. I think there are plenty of ways to make it trigger, such as a surprise untap effect to block something, giant growths to make it trigger, one-shot lure effects, etc.

      But your idea of making it a may ability to start consuming, but requiring it to finish consuming once started is a possibility.

  2. James's Surge + Emrakul seems like a recipe for a very early win.

  3. I think that making it cost {G} straight up would reduce the power level too much, and having HiddenDanger make
    {1} might be the right call even if that makes Deconstruct less likely. Changing it to any color is a bit too much of a leap. It adds extra surprise, but it really changes the ability of the card. Suddenly, a card that was about casting a creature with flash becomes about fixing your mana. You might not even use that mana for the creature.

  4. I agree that Lurk is very similar to morph, but I don't know that this is necessarily a bad thing. Morph is something that was very popular yet the flavor doesn't fit for large monsters lurking. Undying and persist were also very similar yet Undying was part of the most successful Magic set ever.

    I think for tesla the combining of "mechs" creates large creatures earlier in the game. To combat this I propose "Lurk"

    New Template:

    Lurk (Mana Cost): Exile CARDNAME face down Lurking. Play this ability only during your end step.
    Emerge (Mana Cost):Put CARDNAME onto the battlefield with haste. Play this ability only if CARDNAME is Lurking.

    If Lurk Costs 4 it could have an emerge cost 3 less that casting cost. Or cost it at 1 and have the mana cost 1 less than the casting cost to encourage lots of lurking creatures.

    1. Your templating needs work, Rory. Are Lurk and Emerge keywords or ability words? Either way, they don't match the templating on any other Magic cards.

      Why do you insist on lurking only during your end step? So that a player can't draw one of these cards, lurk it, emerge it and attack with it all in the same turn?

  5. I really like the Slumbering Giant-esque approach.

    Slumbering Ancient reads interestingly, but I fear that it actually just leads to board stalls since your opponent doesn't want to attack which means they have all of their creatures available to make attacks bad for your small creatures and your big one's still tapped.

    Terror of the Deep's not as clean, but the ability to cast it after an opponent already has something huge should allow it to play well.

    As for the landsurge variants, while the exact size is unknown, the range seems too constrained to me. The mana version is constrained by that giving it a clear maximum size and the other version will be too big to deal with at least for the first few times.

  6. I just noticed that you can't bluff with Shadowborn Monstrosity because you don't know what the face-down cards you exiled are either. That's a lot weaker, and a lot more interesting.