Monday, June 3, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 053113—eWKn

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

There are a number of submissions that allow a single land to produce more than one mana today. That's a dangerous thing to do, but it can be done. I expect Automated Production Plant is okay to print because it requires you to tap one of your creatures to produce the second mana, effectively turning any creature into a monochromatic Llanowar Elves.

Requiring an artifact creature specifically further helps limit the power of this card, as well as progressing the artifact theme of the set. The flavor's a bit weird for me since a living creature should be able to do the work as well, but Devin's flavor text explains the requirement and tells a good story appropriate to the factory plane and with a touch of irony to boot.

Factory Inc. is similar, but you can tap any kind of creature and you only get the option to paint your mana rather than double it. The "clock in" ability word suggests that a number of cards in the set (probably just lands and artifacts) will let you tap a creature or two for an enhanced effect. Springleaf Drum seems like a reasonable artifact to landify. Other than the name of the card and ability word, I'm not sure how artifact / factory-plane this is.

I'd explored the same space with the one difference that you could allow a workforce of any size.

Whatever Happened to Barry's Land explains the origin, raison d'être, and problems with making the sixth (colorless) basic land. It's probably not worth making something like Barry's Land that doesn't combo with all versions of domain, but I included a version of it here as a nod to the colorless-mana-matters theme—one of several how-you-pay-matters themes proposed for Tesla at some point.

P's version is likely the better choice of these two for Tesla since it doesn't mess with basic-ness at all, other than ensuring players can run more than 4 if they like. If we went with either of these, they'd be printed in the basic land slot with the other basics. Speaking of basics...

Alex boldly suggested this would be excellent art for a basic Mountain in the set. I have to agree, and I applaud the restraint he showed as a designer by not designing something new when he saw a better use of the art for the game as a whole.

Beaten Down Factory rewards you for playing a lot of artifacts (ideally you want to cast one every turn) by giving you any color of mana. Since artifacts don't normally have any color requirements, we would only consider a design like this in a set either with colored artifacts and/or if we wanted to promote a five-color archetype made consistent by having a lot of no-colors-required artifacts.

I'm thinking the drawback is big enough that we needn't limit the untap effect to once-per-turn, but I wouldn't be surprised if Development determined that was too easily abused, particularly in older formats. If so, this is too much text for an uncommon.

AFAICT, they haven't printed Dark Ritual in a Standard-legal set since Mercadian Masques. Infernal Plunge was recent, but that was red and cost two cards for the mana instead of just one. If we can justify Bleak Warehouse, players who miss Dark Ritual will love it. Jenesis cleverly hid the card-cost of Ritual in ever-so-flavorful creature sacrifice cost. The fact that you can only sacrifice living creatures has some flavor to it, and the fact that you can only use the mana to cast artifacts means that you won't be able to sacrifice the fruits of the Workhouse to itself. That, in combination with the inability to use Bleak Workhouse on turn one might just be enough of a series of hoops to keep this from being broken. While it's generally red that gets ritual effects nowadays, the flavor here could well be strong enough to justify this callback. The remaining oddity is: Why do we need black mana to cast artifacts? Clearly this card only exists in a set with colored artifacts.

Jenesis clarifies this is a combination of Mishra's Workhouse and Phyrexian Tower. I didn't make that connection, but it's not hard to see at all. Beats the Cyclopean Giant callbacks by a fair mile.

Brutalist Paradise is a card that had been in the M13ga file for a very long time. It was probably Pasteur's design originally too. It fits perfectly here. The idea is that you can get two mana out of this one land, but not only do you need two other lands to do it, but you'll lose any colors you had among them. It's like a Temple of the False God, but beautiful.

That design led to this one. It's neat how many uses Azure Mill (my name) has: If you pay {U}{U}, it's giving you {2}. If you pay {2}{U}, it's giving you {U}. If you pay {4}, it converts two of that into blue mana. In other words, when you're short on blue mana, it helps you cast your blue spells, and when you're flush with blue mana, it gives you extra mana. I'm not convinced that's balanced, but it's definitely neat.

Overtime explores a compelling design space for the factory plane and Coal Plant seems like a perfect use of it. I have two concerns with the keyword currently. First, memory issues. I'd say 10-20% of the time, players automatically untap the recent targets of Hands of Binding, despite having been scooched to the side. How much more often will that happen for lands? Second (and James saw this himself), the intention is that you can't use the card the round after you work it overtime, but as worded, you can untap it via overtime every single turn. The version to the right (click to enlarge) solves both problems, but it's so long.

If I go a little further afield, this version is clean and maybe not too long:

Moving on...

I like Decrepit Factory as a build-around for Limited, but I'm concerned it might be too strong in older formats. People who know better?

Disused Workshop is a strong illustration of scrap as a mechanic for Tesla. While all scrap will be artifact tokens, not all effects that benefit from the have to require scrap specifically or even artifacts in general. And while Tendo Ice Bridge is the more reasonable template for this card in a vacuum, Disused Workshop's design is not parasitic.

Ant's Factory is perfect. Now we just need to solve the NP-complete problem, what are contraptions and how does assembling work?

I was torn on which version of Genesis Plant (based directly off of Jenesis' building submission from a recent challenge) was better to present, so I'll cheat the other one here on the side. I like that these feel like structures you're really building up and the tension between using them for mana or building for bigger future rewards. What I like considerably less is the idea of putting multiple counters on a land. Jenesis' original submission was an artifact so it was fine, but lots of counters in the land area is problematic.

Evan suggested this name and I had to design something to it. Ant's very-tapped template seemed perfect. I don't think this is a fit for Tesla at all, but it is a neat combo card.

Overclock Factory is a neat idea. This land doesn't help you to cast sorceries or permanents (without flash), but it can add ~4 mana a turn toward upkeep costs, activated abilities and instants. I expect that's why R made it legendary, even though there's nothing legendary about the flavor. I used the tilda because it's not entirely clear exactly how much mana you can get out of this. How many players will know they can't use mana generated during their untap step (or if mana can be generated then at all)?

James' riff is much simpler, also has the quirk of not tapping, but turns the purpose on its head: You get two mana (except the turn you play it), and it can be used for anything you're willing to cast at sorcery speed. This version is not hard to use at all, and also very strong.

Last up in this chain is the version I made. I also thought it would be interesting to set up and support an upkeep theme. Jagnite Mill always gives you the extra mana, but it puts you on a clock to finish off your opponent before you work yourself to death.

I'm happy to see the phrase "Tap an untapped Assembly-Worker" but I'm confounded by the second ability. What is it about having fewer-than-three-but-more-than-zero cards in hand that turns a factory that can only be run by Assembly-Workers into an Assembly-Worker? And why, having fulfilled the byzantine request this card makes of me, can I still not tap it for mana? Pasteur was exicted by Nich's idea of a "'two or three' subtheme" so maybe I'm missing something?

The only way I see Mire Factory being black is if there's a cycle, but that was exactly Ipaulsen's intention and I like the idea. It's a very chain-y, combo-esque mechanic that could let players do clever things without, I imagine, bogging the game down too much. That's a playstyle I would love to see on a factory plane.

Fading used "C" as the type of mana Parts Factory produce, which stands for "any single color of mana chosen before printing." Rather than choose that for him, I just left the chaos symbol MSE interpreted it as. Personally, I'm thinking it should be colorless.

This is the Surge Node / Energy Chamber / Power Conduit of lands. All of those artifacts are uncommon and making it a land definitely doesn't make it any less rare. The fact that it can tap for mana, place two charge counters and potentially any number more over a long game might even justify making Parts Factory rare.

Also note if we're putting charge counters on artifact creatures, that means we're not putting +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters on anything.

I don't really get Redoubt. I guess Lobster saw this structure as some kind of fortification or safehosue.

I like how Jules hid the card cost of Trash for Treasure on a stick. Still worried about the repetitive gameplay Salvaging Plant could lead to. Buried Ruin is safer in that regard. Perhaps if you exiled the artifact instead of sacrificing it?

Not in love with Scrumlo Factory, but I wanted to explore the idea of buildings that got better the more you "built" (ala Bradley's Tourist Attaction from a recent WACR).

Another attempt at making players want to build an entire compound of synergistic buildings.

Adam proposes Supply Factory as a fixed Cloudpost. Has Cloudpost proven itself too good in the formats where it's played? I'd hate to remove the magical christmas land side of it if we can avoid it.

By itself, Teslan Power Plant suggests that there are other Power-Plants, Mines and Towers, as well as  not just charge counters but also ore counters. Potentially, ore counters might only exist on artifacts in Tesla while charge counters only on lands, but we really don't want to mix them for the same reason we don't like mixing +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters on creatures. I'm skeptical we could make an homage to Urza's lands that wouldn't fall short, but I am intrigued by the idea of a processing sub-theme for Spikes to fiddle with.

Evan didn't officially submit this, but like Alex's Mountain, I had to agree that this art would make an awesome reprint for this set.

I'm glad to see zefferal working to support the star mechanic of the set, but this design isn't cutting it for me. It's a lot of text that feels like it should be split into two cards (the land that makes mana and the Soul Foundry for mech parts), and I also feel pretty uncomfortable making token copies of double-faced cards, purely because that's a lot of information to represent with some other bit.

There were 31 unique ideas (and 34 cards) this time and a lot of them—quite a lot—are really interesting and provocative. The big themes were extra-mana-for-a-cost, using-workers, using-artifacts… lots of very factory-ish stuff. Well flavored and potentially interested avenues of gameplay for Tesla to explore. Which struck you as something you'd like to play with a lot?


  1. Genesis Plant is my favorite, even over my own submission. I really like the level-up mechanic and it feels like perfect flavor to have it on an "assembly-plant-factory" type of land.

  2. Genesis Plant is the best compliment anyone ever paid me on this website.

    No comment on the flavor text of Bleak Warehouse? I worked really hard on revising the card's name to make the ETBT ability fit on a single line, but it seems it didn't work out. I wasn't even consciously thinking "Colored artifacts land" -- the card was designed as a callback to Mishra's Workshop and Phyrexian Tower, and the two abilities ended up merging in that odd way. Turns out it actually fits quite well into the vision of Tesla I had created for this challenge. Here's a card you might cast with that BBB:

    Teslan Juggernaut (2/B)(2/B)(2/B)
    Artifact Creature -- Construct (U)
    Teslan Juggernaut can't block.
    Flavor text:
    The large spikes on top aren’t part of the standard model. They’re fashioned from the bones and teeth of sandwurms too slow to get out of the way.

    Intimidate is obviously nerfed in artifacts land, but I could still see this being cast for its {6} cost in a deck that doesn't have a lot of evasion.

    1. It won't be the last compliment either. I'm grateful for the creativity and insight of all our contributors, and you are not in the bottom half of that list. (There's no list.)

      To be honest, the flavor text isn't worth shrinking the text down like it does. I really like the flavor the name, art and rules text present by themselves.

      Article edited to note the callbacks. Nice.

      Teslan Juggernaut is pretty sweet. I would quite happily pay {6} for this 4-power intimidator in Limited (unless there are a lot of 3-power artifact creatures running around).

  3. I like Mire Factory as a cycle, it's almost better than a basic, but not always, and as Pasteur pointed out, points to some cool Uncommon lands with tap abilities.

    On Coal Plant, I would want to change Overtime to an end of turn trigger with a cost, which does away with memory issues and extra counters, but still lets you pay to keep your permanent active for a second turn.

    Coal Plant
    Land (C)
    T: add 1 to your mana pool.
    Overtime 0 (At the end of your turn, you may pay 0. If you do, untap this.)

    Overworked Looter 2U
    Creature (C)
    Overtime 3U (At the end of your turn, you may pay 3U. If you do, untap this.)
    T: Draw a card, then discard a card.

    1. Overtime 0 seemed silly (why wouldn't it just be "at EOT, untap ~" or Urban Burgeoning?) but the context of Overworked Looter explains it.

  4. Automated Production Plant is interesting, because not only does your creature become a Llanowar Elves, it potentially becomes a *hasty* one as well. The plethora (and likely growing future) of 0-cost artifact creatures makes for a fairly common 2 mana on turn one. Cool? Too much? Depends on Ravagers, Signets, and Ancient Grudges, I'd guess.

  5. I like Teslan Power Plant. I like fiddling with charge and ore because it feels like industrial revolution style early technology - steampunk. It all depends on implementation in the set and whether the bookkeeping is fun enough to warrant inclusion.

    Malzra's Factory is primarily a 0 mana 2/2. The mana ability got goosed to be ironic. You need other a-workers to generate mana. I think T: Add 1 to your mana pool. would be fine.

    Why two or three cards? It represents a flavor of running efficiently. Threshold meant you've passed a reasonable amount of time in battle. Hellbent meant you're reckless and on the brink. 2-3 cards shows you've made some plays and are holding outs. Maximizing your options feels industrial. Also I am happiest when I can have a couple cards in hand. Why not reward players for maintaining a sweet spot.

    1. I see. Players hate to hold onto a full hand of cards (aside from draw-go), and they hate to have an empty hand (aside from suicide-x), so why not reward them for having an average hand? My biggest concern is unlike the first two options, this one seems to have no flavor whatsoever. How do you describe in purely story terms a planeswalker in the state of having exactly 2 or 3 cards?

    2. "How many spells do you have memorized?"
      "Some? How many?"
      "I dunno. Two or three."

    3. I think it would click better if it were a single number of cards in hand, and that number had some relevance to the story. If this were Ankh-Theb, an ability word "Trinity" that keyed off of three cards in hand would make sense.

      For Tesla, the number two is already important because of the mechs. Maybe call it something like "Dual Wield" "Twin Engines," "Double Fisted," "Double Barreled," "Double Down," "Two Faced"

    4. If I were going to try this at all, I would be heavily in favor of choosing a single number. While I still don't think either "two cards" or "three cards" has any meat for Vorthos, the numbers 2 and 3 in general have enough significance that we could phone the flavor in as James describes above.

    5. Reward players for doing what they like to do. Just like landfall. I like two or three because you can hold a trick when you have 3 cards in hand and feel okay to use it without losing your momentum. Whoa!

      Momentum - As long as you have exactly two or three cards in hand, EFFECT.

      Momentum is a good descriptive name because it connotes prior action to get you going and being in motion. You're not out of steam You're not at the end of the line. (All these train metaphors, I don't know what's up with me!)

    6. 'Momentum' is the best label I've imagined for this mechanic. And yet, I can imagine a mechanic even better for that label: The more consecutive turns you [cast a spell], the bigger [effect] is.


      Momentum (At the end of your turn, if you cast a spell this turn, put a momentum counter on ~. Otherwise, remove all momentum counters from ~.)

  6. Can I point out that nevwerending factory is essentially the same land I had in the Ekrkemes design pitch, minus the ability to be fetched by Cultivate and other mana accelerators?

    1. yeah. I swear I don't mean to lower the simplicity of the design (heck, I thought the idea was elegant and that's precisely why I had it in my pitch), but I do think the parallels are obvious.

    2. Sure. Just don't assign too much weight to the idea of owning the design.

    3. Oh, I don't, I swear I don't. In fact I felt proud that it was reproduced this way in an independent fashion.

  7. I really like the building idea as a representation of industrialization, but I don't think either of the present implementations is going to work. level up puts a bunch of counters on lands, which is a mess, and giving a continuous bonus for each building is either way to powerful or looks useless. Granting them all tap abilities to make it "or" instead of "and" leads to lots of board complexity. I think ally-style triggers might work. Or perhaps "whenever ~ or another building enters the battlefield under your control, you may tap ~. If you do, EFFECT."

    1. I like that idea, maybe something like:

      Munitions Factory
      Land - Building (U)
      ~ enters the battlefield tapped.
      When ~ enters the battlefield, it deals damage to target creature equal to the number of other buildings you tap as this enters the battlefield.
      T: add {R} to your mana pool.

      Or we could move the trigger to creatures, and use Building as a Gate-like bonus for lands.

      Factory Overseer {2}{U}
      Creature (U)
      When ~ enters the battlefield, you may tap any number of buildings you control. Put a 1/1 colorless construct artifact creature onto the battlefield for each building tapped this way.

    2. Both of these deserve exploration.

  8. I feel like designing cards that assemble contraptions is the design equivalent of Calvinball. The terms are intentionally undefined, making any design that doesn't define them meaningless. Why not design orange incantations that multiply initiative, while we're at it?

    1. Song of the Orange Grove - 2GG
      Enchantment - Incantation

      Whenever a creature with initiative attacks, put a 1/1 green Plant token with initiative onto the battlefield.

    2. You meant to cast that as 2OO, right?

    3. It's got a watermark for the Orange guild, not cast using orangutan mana.

    4. Great. Now I can't pronounce as that anything but "two-ooh-ooh!"