Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 072613—keepwalking07

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

I added 'other' so that Bleak Colossus doesn't automatically destroy itself if you use any colored mana to cast it. It looks crazy strong at first, but then you realize if you're casting it when you have just 8 mana, you're destroying all of your own nonland permanents (in addition to none, some, or all of your oppponent's). Not that there aren't ways to break it; like playing a five-color 'mono-brown' deck.

I worry that remembering which colors it is will sometimes be an issue and rarely be important, but I also have to point out the challenge required a common or uncommon, and this is definitely rare or mythic.

I went through a surprising number of iterations on this design, with a great deal of help from the comments. Apart from the card's color (I'm not actually proposing multicolor-hybrid for Tesla, just couldn't decide between white or green), I'm fairly confident about this design. I like the idea of using convoke in Tesla for artifacts that are constructed by teams, like a factory. Cloudbreak Sentinel carries that metaphor a little further, deriving strength from the team effort.

Cobbled Colossus is strictly better than Vastwood Hydra in rarity and efficiency. It's more flexible in the sense that you have more options how to spread its counters around, but obviously not having {X} in its mana cost gives you fewer options for casting it in the first place.

Ignoring that comparison, Module tokens are Scrap tokens with an inherent purpose. Something Timmy and Spike can latch onto without heavy-handed design elsewhere in the set. It does bear a striking resemblance to modular from Mirrodin.0 …particularly when it matches the creature's base P/T. Tesla is trying to distinguish itself from Mirrodin, but I'm curious if you think it's too similar or not.

Corrupted Construct is all-Johnny: Those Germs tokens do nothing on their own (except perhaps confuse players with zero Johnny bones), but can combo with Glorious Anthem or ETB/LTB effects like Blood Artist. If the set needed Germs for some other reason, it might be worthwhile having one card like this around for Johnny (and Vorthos—Love the flavor text).

I designed way too many cards for this challenge, but I had to share Deathbot because I love the flavor of a robot that won't stop attacking until everything is dead. (Bled from red for flavor, but eh.)

Lobster probably meant for Desolation Golem to be an artifact, not that it's terribly relevant to this design.

Drudge Colossus is a giant robotic Drudge Skeleton that staples scraps from its broken compatriots onto itself. Hard to argue with that.

Gatherer tangent: This set probably wants to reprint Salvage Titan. Possibly with this art.

Gloomcloud Goliath's first ability tells a dark story about building this monstrosity through weird science—grafting an artifact to a creature, probably torturously. It's second ability tells a story about perhaps this robot using swamp fumes to fuel a preemptive death cloud strike or something. Both are neat, but they don't link mechanically or thematically and should probably be on separate cards (though it was a noble effort to make Goliath relevant but not broken either way you cast it).

EDIT: James replaced Gloomcloud with Fleshgrafted Hunter, which seems like an overall improvement, especially in flavor.

Provided you're mono-white, Hopebringer Golem is much stronger than Congregate: It gives you 4 life and a 2/4 body all on its own. Each other creature you control gives you at least 2 more life, and your enchantments and planeswalkers will too. Dev can balance it later though; the core idea is solid, and chroma is a reasonable possibility to make the color-ness of artifacts matter.

Idle Idol's story is creepy and awesome. It sits quietly until you feed it, at which point it comes to life to do your dark bidding. And every time you feed it, it grows stronger and stronger.
That you could feed it multiple creatures all at once is a subtle upside.

Jules submitted a more important design, but I had to share Incomprehensible Other because the design is so lean, but the flavor is so meaty.

I suspect 6/7 is a little too big for something you can get on turn 4 just by casting a 3cc artifact on turn 3. Otherwise, I like Junkyard Behemoth, and the possibility of using artifact offering in a post-apocalyptic Tesla. Hmm, or a Tesla where artifice is witchcraft...

Crack open your broken gear for useful parts and get tinkering. We would be fools not try to this mechanic out for Tesla. It may prove trash, but it may prove treasure. I'm guessing we'll want to put a number on Tinker, limiting the number of artifacts you can trade for scrap, or else add a cost to using scrap. Perhaps {1} each, or perhaps different scrap cards can have different costs printed on them.

Fading made me guess a P/T for Leukopolis Sentinel. Ironically, I made it 3/4 (because it's a 3/3 benefiting from its own bonus) after having just advised Ben not to make Hopebringer a 3/4 for {2}{W}{W}. This card works well in a white deck without other artifact creatures, not-unplayably in an artifact deck with no white mana, and best in a white-artifact deck; clearly making its whiteness and artifactness both relevant.

Lumberboon requires too much combinatorics. By "too much" I mean "some."

Motorized Forge lets you sacrifice an artifact to produce {2W} where {W} is any of that artifact's colors, which makes colored and twobrid artifacts a little more relevant in the set. I'm not sure this really wants to be a creature or is worth {R}{R}{R} or {6}, but the ability is clever.

Offgrid Explorer poses the question, what if we introduce a new color of magic, Electric, which doesn't count toward the list of colors in Magic. In other words, Coalition Victory, Domain and Harmony (see Sunrise Sentinel below) don't look for or count electric cards. I'm pretty sure that would be implemented not as a semi-sixth color, but as a supertype, like Snow. Of course then it doesn't combo with Network as intended. Can anyone think of a way to make that work? Either way, it is an interesting thought experiment, and I'm always glad to have Wobbles and others thinking outside the box.

Platinum Servitor is a mighty strong card, but the idea is appealing and workable. Aura updated it so that it returns an artifact or a white permanent while I was writing this up. The color pie approves.

I quite like the idea of using Imperiosaur's basics-matter mechanic to represent the nature side of the factory-world-gone-mad concept for Tesla, though I'm not sure it belongs on artifacts in that context.

Spotlight Monitor is a Boldwyr Intimidator shifted to blue/artifacts. Writing out "{2}{U}: Target permanent becomes a non-artifact until end of turn," I realized this could cause a card to have no card types for a while. I don't know that that breaks anything, but is sure is wacky.

Sunrise Sentinel features a variation on domain that cares about permanents instead of lands. The number of colors among permanents you control is vastly more volatile than the number of basic land types you control. Normally you play one or zero lands each round, and when you do, it's always during one of your main phases; Lands rarely die in modern Magic. In contrast, it's not uncommon to cast 0-2 or more permanents on your turn, flash makes adding permanents during your opponent's turn or mid-combat fairly commonplace, and creatures die all the time.

Is a more volatile domain better or worse? I have no idea. Harmony definitely does combo with twobrid though, since you could cast five colors of permanents with a monocolored mana base.

Survivor Colossus's indestructibility doesn't sound terribly hard to achieve, but I'm more concerned with the thematic dissonance. Why does the colossus hide behind other creatures only if they're artifacts and they have a color, regardless of which color?

What might a red common look like with this art? I propose Sweeper.
...Because Shatter isn't strong enough in an artifact set already, apparently.

Terrifying Mecha works.
Remember that any artifact creature can block a creature with intimidate.

Chromaffinity rewards you not just for playing colored spells (the opposite of affinity) but for playing spells with high color commitments, like Predator Ooze. It's easier to build around than affinity, in that you don't even really have to try to benefit from it; just drop Tin Mound Golem right into your existing red-green deck and every permanent you cast before it will make it cheaper. Well, every other. It's a little awkward that chromaffinity gives a discount of {1} but Tin Mound Golem's cost can basically only be reduced by increments of {2}.

My primary concern is how clear it is to all players that {2G} counts as "a colored mana symbol" or that you can only pay {2G} with two pips of chromaffinity. I'm not convinced that twobrid and chromaffinity should be in the same set, much less on the same card, but I am convinced they shouldn't appear together on a common.

The only difference between Wandering Colossus and a 1/1 Golem with sunburst that costs {5} is that vibrance lets you benefit from using the same color multiple times.

The first half of Wandering Energon's ability is pretty strong and exciting (depending on the nature of the other cheap artifacts in the set). The second half is much harder to pull off, yet not much of an improvment (particularly since you probably already have three mana of that color, having cast three artifacts that require it). If you look at other cards in the basic-effect-plus-conditional-extra-effect family, the extra effect is usually quite exciting. It has to be, to warrant the extra text on the card.

Warweary Walker is a style of equipment that represents a suit of power armor. It doesn't augment your stats, it replaces them (because it doesn't matter whether you have claws or muscles underneath the robot exoskeleton you're wearing). There was some concern that P/T-setting effects can be confusing because of the layers rules, but I think most of the time it'll be intuitive and I took a shot at some reminder text that might help the rest of the time.

The design isn't worth sharing, but I made a card for this art named "Lonely Golem." It was sad. I also made a "Nihiltomaton" with the joke rules text "Artifact creatures you control are blue in addition to their other colors." There may have been a Marvin quote in the rules text.

I always find it fascinating to see what colors are chosen when we have the choice. Clearly black dominated for this art, followed by white, which I interpret as the art seeming simultaneously ominous and passive, intimidating but morose.

I also love that we ran the gamut from french vanilla all the way up to 6th-color-of-Magic experimental. Both ends of the spectrum—and everything in between—are very helpful for these kinds of explorations and I dare say we found a couple new ideas to explore for Tesla, while refining a few old ones too.

I will remind you that I tried to be as critical as possible, to afford you the most honest feedback possible. Never take a comment as an indictment of your self or your ability. Good designers sometimes make bad designs. Only bad designers quit.


  1. Designers who like twobrid: what appeals to you about twobrid?

    I'm legitimately curious as, compared to other cost-reducing mechanics (convoke, affinity, delve, etc.) it doesn't seem to introduce new deckbuilding ideas in constructed, doesn't really augment particular deck archetypes, and doesn't support a draft theme in limited. Yet it seems like something that we see practically every week in the WAC, and I'm really interested in what the appeal is.

    1. Entirely detached from gameplay, it *does* look cool.

      The other thing is that colored artifacts still feel wrong, in a lot of ways. They're not a door that is easily shut, and things like phyrexian mana or twobrid help assuage that guilt.

    2. Twobrid artifact creatures create an interesting draft environment. Basically, twobrids reward mono-color decks, but artifact creatures in general facilitate multicolor decks as well because you can cast them with any color of mana. If the set has another mechanic like Sunburst that rewards multicolor, you get a choice of "Do I go for multicolor this draft? Or do I go for monocolor?"

      That was why I originally liked the idea. However, affinity for basic land types like Oxidda Golem in Darksteel already did something very similar. 5th Dawn even had Sunburst, so as a block they already had a dichotomy of multicolor vs monocolor.

      Mirrodin block's dichotomy was more a result of a lack of block planning rather than a plan to create interesting choices. For us, there would still be some amount of value to do it, providing better support for both monocolor and multicolor strategies this time around, although it also won't be completely new.

      Also, a design probably needs to be meaningful in and of itself, not just be meaningful because of the draft environment it can create. So even if we do twobrid, I don't think it can be the central mechanic that defines what this set is about.

    3. Aside from twobrid "feeling right" for colored artifacts, I like it as a deck-construction smoothing mechanic if we go the direction of monocolored vs artifact incentives.

      One implementation would be to include a higher than normal number of 1CC, 2CC, or XCCC mana costs on non-artifact cards, and ways of generating an abundance of colorless mana for your artifacts (e.g., Urzatron-like lands, or "add 2 to your mana pool, cast only on artifacts"). Twobrids can be reasonably cast in either type of deck, but would serve different purposes.

    4. I specifically used it after having the same thoughts as Evan in order to enable Harmony decks to "splash" more colors without destroying their mana bases while keeping the artifact creature vibe given that the artifact theme would require increased numbers.

  2. I didn't get back to this like I planned, but I did think of a better design! Instead of adding colored mana, the card lets you generate lots of mana, and while reducing the cost of artifacts.

    That felt a bit Blue, so I made it Green only, which isn't a huge amount better, but I think the space is sufficiently unexplored that it could move to Green for one block. New players won't get that this doesn't discount all artifacts, so you could add "Green" in front of "artifacts".

    Wandering Energon 2G (Uncommon)
    Artifact Creature - Golem
    Artifacts cost you {G} less to cast.
    Tap three untapped artifacts you control: Add {3} mana to your mana pool.

    1. You'll have to make it "green artifacts cost you {G} less" because, surprisingly, {G} actually does reduce colorless costs.

      117.7a If a cost is reduced by an amount of colored mana, but its colored mana component doesn’t contain mana of that color, the cost is reduced by that amount of generic mana.

    2. Or you can use the template from Edgewalker

      "This effect reduces only the amount of colored mana you pay."

    3. I was going by Edgewalker when I figured it worked this way! I'm actually pleased to hear the rules work more intuitively.

  3. How long have we been doing these challenges? seems like it has been going on for some months now. It would be cool to get a retrospective after a complete year or two (2 years =104 design challenges, so we could just do it every 100...)

    1. This was our 22nd, including the initial Gatecrash art challenge.

    2. 24, by my count, including all the Dragon's Maze challenges that didn't assign a specific piece of art.

  4. Very late to the party here - trying to catch up on GA a bit - but I love reading submissions for the Tesla world. Loads of great ideas here.

    I dispute that Hopebringer Golem is "much stronger than Congregate". Congregate's terrifying strength came from the way it (a) counts tokens and (b) counts all players in your five-way chaos game, neither of which Hopebringer Golem does.

    Neurok Transmuter can do the typeless permanent thing on a noncreature artifact animated by March of the Machines. As you say, it doesn't break anything but is pretty fun and wacky.