Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 061413—jonone

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

This scout does his exploring by intentionally launching his crashpod into an unknown territory. It's safety systems ensure his life and then he can learn about his surroundings. As a bonus, he can use the remnants of the pod as scrap to build other things he might need as he works his way back home. Awesome.

I don't know why Crashpod Explorer needs to be white or hybrid. Making the two effects happen at different times gives us a little flavor (that's the order of events in this little story), but they're too functionally similar to justify splitting them out.

I'm a little confused by the flavor text. Is the humanoid Scout pod 5XQZ or is the metal object the pod? If it's the former, 'pod' in his designation is confusing. If it's the latter, is it failing to detect the humanoid or lying about it? I like Desolate Crashsite as a card and can see some connection between the rules and concept, though it's not very solid.

As many pointed out, there are multiple tracks and it looks like this guy found the pod someone else abandoned. I imagine you might find a lot of wrecked tech this way on Tesla. I also made a version that has you grind to an artifact, partly to ensure it has some use, and partly to make it harder to get back one specific artifact already in your 'yard. That hurts the card's elegance and also creates a combo for decks with a single expensive artifact, though. One more possibility that occurs to me is instead of returning an artifact, it could generate one scrap token for each artifact card in your graveyard.

I'm just guessing at Evanescence Engine's card type and rarity. While this could as boring as a {3}{G}{G} Heartbeat of Spring, in the right deck it could be an absurd mana engine. Dredge just three lands into your yard before casting this on turn five and you'll be producing 6 extra mana immediately, and at 16-18 total on turn six. The idea of an automated (and perhaps magic-infused) terraforming device is certainly interesting and I can see this art depicting just such a thing: Those big trees weren't there yesterday!

Jules points out that many players will be (irrationally but inevitably) disappointed with this card because the obviously good effect won't be optimal unless you figure out how to make the secretly amazing effect work too. I agree and would propose replacing both abilities with "At your upkeep, Rampant Growth."

Just as Scars put metalcraft on Carapace Forger, we should strongly consider the possibility that green isn't just the anti-artifacts color in Tesla like it was in the original Mirrodin and previous artifact-heavy blocks. It's definitely true that a card like Landscape Investigation would normally be searching for lands and/or creatures instead, and while it does feel funny to consider artifacts here, it's something we should consider.

If Tesla ends up being The Factory Plane, we probably do want green to hate artifacts. If it ends up being a plane where artifacts grow on trees, however, we could swing that pendulum and make green love artifacts for a while. In retrospect, that seems like a big missed opportunity for Mirrodin, what with its copper trees and all.

This name and flavor text support the rules text and art in one cohesive (if fairly mundane) story. Curiosity's Quest is an interesting combination of green and blue. You have to use both colors to have the option of doing either the green thing or the blue thing. Sylvan Scrying or Fabricate for {2}{G}{U} isn't terrible, though I might prefer if it was uncommon and got both.

A perfect reprint.

Nature's Endurance is a wheelable build-around card for an artifact-hating green deck. That one line of flavor text does a lot to tie the trigger and the effect together for me.

Not Alone is one of the more unique flavor interpretations here. It might be a bit of a stretch, but the suspense about what could've come out of that pod and is lurking nearby sells it for me.

I like the challenge as the casting player weighing what CMC you guess your opponent will be playing soon versus what creature you really want, and for your opponent trying to guess which creature you got and play around that.

Another perfect reprint.

I love a Vesuvan Doppelganger, but I have no idea what the flavor of Sojourner Golem is that it can copy inanimate objects and organic beings, but not other artifact creatures, particularly since that's what he starts as (and can never go back to).

Benjammin explains, "…my impression of the piece was the robot looking at this foreign artifact surrounded by nature and he feels like he is neither, so he instead becomes one or the other. He is just lonely and wants to belong. :-("

Suspicious Cache had flavor text that couldn't fit: "The Daxi were notorious for booby-trapping their escape pods after a crash, but that seldom discouraged Gavindi scavengers after valuable scrap."

There's a lot going on here and most of it is questionable. Red card draw, the opponent choosing, the land being affected, sacrifice, etc. For my money, I'd rather see something like one of these two designs:

Suspicious Cache {R}
Sorcery (unc)
Flip a coin. If you win, put three +1/+1 counters on target creature. Otherwise, CARDNAME deals 3 damage to that creature.

Suspicious Cache {2}
Artifact-Equipment (unc)
Equipped creature gets +3/+3.
Whenever CARDNAME equips a creature, flip a coin. If you lose the flip, sacrifice that creature.
Equip 2

Mechanically, this could be green, but the concept of Tabula Rasa is an expressly blue philosophy. That said, this can't be mono-blue mechanically (because blue doesn't get extra land drops), so the card should either be blue-green or have a new name. Perhaps, "Start Again" "Born Again" "Start Fresh" "New Life." In any case, I'm not sure it's clear that the story is that this guy just had a near-death experience and is starting his life over again, possibly with amnesia.

I agree that emblems don't absolutely have to be restricted to planeswalkers (though exceptions should be rare and well justified). This particular spell feels like a planeswalker's ultimate ability to me, but the whole thing is way too long for that, so putting it on a mythic spell seems entirely reasonable.

We've got two different Time Capsules to consider and two alternate templates for each of them. George's started as a DFC with a Sol Forge inspired shuffle-it-back-in-upgraded mechanic, but Zefferal was able to recreate the same concept without leaning on DFC tech. To the right, I iterated on his template to make it even more intuitive.

Jules' version is very different, giving you a bit of a graveyard mini-game that could earn you quite a few cards. It's neat, but it seems pretty easy to abuse massively. I'm not even sure playing it 'fair' is balanced since you could exile 3 or 4 cards right before a big battle and profit massively and immediately. My alternate template eschews counters:

James explains "In this vision, the robots were an ancient society's hubris, sealed underground by their creators after a costly war. Millennial later, the robot myth is largely forgotten, and when they're found and dug up, the results are disastrous." Evan raises the concern that's too similar to the Eldrazi, but other than that it sounds pretty neat.

Regardless, Uncovered Oubliette is a scary card. If I attack you at all, you can go get any artifact from your sideboard (or collection if playing casually) and get it for free, something so hard to cast you didn't put it in your deck in the first place. Attacking into your opponent's choice of Blightsteel Colossus or Precursor Golem does not appeal to me. I would like this a lot better if there were a harder trigger than "if your opponent doesn't stop playing the game" and/or a bigger restriction like getting a card of a certain subtype or CMC, and probably only from your deck.

I don't know what rarity Antny223 intended for Undiscovered Lands. One-mana ramp spells have a history of tournament viability (Llanowar Elves, Birds of Paradise, Utopia Sprawl & Wild Growth), but this one really only works in the affinity deck with 0-mana artifacts. The rules text mention both artifacts and forests as depicted in the art, but I'm not sure what the act of putting an artifact under your library represents here.

Crash Test Pilot's cost seems appropriate for the name and the power level of the ability. Personally, I'd rather hire a regular pilot who won't crash my hard-built mechs, but there's something to be said for fast and free-ish.

Green removal is always a sticky subject. I originally set Whereabouts Unknown to count the number of lands you control in excess of the enchanted creature's controller, but that was both more complicated and mostly unplayable. This version is likely too strong. Let me know if you see a half-way point.

As usual, this was not an easy challenge. And, as usual, the group did a fairly impressive job regardless.

As a teaser, you might be seeing more official Tesla stuff on this site soon...


  1. Curiosity's Quest costs 2GU, not just G.

    1. It is uncommon. Sorry for not clarifying:

      How was Origins?

  2. With Uncovered Oubliette, you have to pay for the artifact you grab, you don't get to cast it for free. That way you have an opening to attack when they're tapped out.
    I agree with Evan that making the second Battlecruiser set also about locked-up monsters escaping is probably too derivative.

    I like the story with Crashpod Explorer's scrap token, a mechanic I'd like to see as support for artifact counting (Nim Lasher) and sacrifice strategies.

    1. Thanks, James. The more I think about it, the more I love scrap tokens. They're synergistic without being parasitic. They also lend themselves to other mechanics, too:

      Scrap Drudger (common)
      Artifact Creature - Construct
      Salvage 2 (As this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice any number of artifacts. This creature enters the battlefield with twice that many +1/+1 counters on it.)

  3. I like the tweak on my Time Capsule much better. I was annoyed by the counters, but wrote off using the cards as trackers because it felt wrong to return them one at a time. Flipping them over is brilliant!

    As for Evanescence Engine, I like your fix for Magic Online, but I searching your library every single turn is more time intensive than I'm comfortable with in paper.

  4. I actually also upped Nature's Claim to Uncommon because it's going to be hell at common in a limited format.

  5. Sorry, yes Evanescence Engine was a mythic artefact (probably a legendary one too)! Well guessed.

    I agree that the mechanic might be a bit deceptive, but I felt inspired by the art, thinking of what a machine that returns a desolate landscape to a fertile state would do...

  6. Whereabout Unknown has a strange wording.

  7. I would rather have it be:

    enchant creature
    This creature cannot attack or block as long as you control more untapped lands than its power.

    1. Definitely much cleaner. Though I'd prefer it counting tapped lands.

    2. Yes, that would be better. More into the get things on the battefield mentality of green, less into the keep things up for a surprise of blue.

  8. I intended the "object" in the art to be a part of a crashsite and the man to be the manner of the scout pod, but you're right that it could have been made a lot clearer.