Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Weekend Art Design Challenge Review 071913—Dae-ekleN

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

I almost didn't submit anything, but while Absolution Cove doesn't evoke much of a world, I do like the mood.

Aerie of Solace is cheaper (both in mana cost and life) than Bitterblossom, but also much more limited since it will only ever give you one creature each turn. Most likely, you'll either be using it to chump-block every turn in an otherwise creatureless deck, or sacrificing it for some effect. Possibly both. Very Johnny.

Reminscent of Bonds of Faith, Commune with Spirits can be used on your own creature as a 3+ card flyer factory, or as removal against an opposing threat. Neither mode is terribly strong, but the flexibility likely makes this worth considering in Limited.

Daydreaming is appealing and potentially very strong. My primary concern is the time it will add to the game. Not only does it add at least a few seconds to each shuffle (and sometimes upwards of a minute), but it specifically promotes a deck that runs as many shuffle effects as possible.
The flavor is wonderful.

Meditate is an interesting riff on rebound: You can recast the spell every turn, but you have to pay mana to do so, and choosing not to turns the option off for the rest of the game. The templates found so far are all awkward (but that doesn't mean Del Laugel couldn't find something both succinct and unambiguous) but it might be worth it for such an interesting ability. Given that repetition isn't great for the game, it may be that the effects we can pair with this keyword have to be fairly weak/conditional, to the point that the mechanic may look anemic and unappealing. I'd sure want to try some more designs out before writing meditate off, though.

Ensorcelling Memory wants you to play as many enchantments as possible. It goes from nearly unplayable to crazy good pretty fast as you focus your deck on enchantments. Assuming the otherwise-all-enchantments deck isn't too good (and it probably isn't), this might be a nice gem of a Constructed build-around.

Like Séance, Figment Conjurer gives you an effect that's worthless on its own, but has potential in the right deck. Johnny can combo it with numerous effects that care about creatures entering and/or leaving the battlefield, presumably printed in the same set. Should be 1/1 or 0/2.

You might cast Final Meditation on a utility creature you never intended to attack with anyhow, but you're probably better off with Ranger's Guile. The last ability doesn't have much to do with the first (except the flavor, which isn't terrible), but sacrificing an enchantment in order to count your enchantments will always feel bad—you don't get to count Final Meditation.

Flash certainly makes Forced Isolation stronger, but I'm not sure the spell needs (or even warrants) it. Other than that, I like this card a lot.

Glimpse of Hope is white's reverse-Smallpox. It's significantly harder to break this symmetry and justify running the card, but even if it is unplayable, there's a Goblin Test Pilot poetry to such a card's existence. Great mood.

Last Light is a cheaper, blacker Afterlife. Good mood.

Livelands Watcher is pretty weird; Not only is it a white Shade, but it counts creatures other than itself. The mood might justify the card, but I'd probably prefer to just make it a mono-white Spirit since it's so similar to Crusader of Odric.

I like Manifest as a conditional creature generator and mana sink, but I'd prefer it as a sorcery.
Curiously, you could swap Manifest's buyback with Ensorcelling Memory's mediate and vice versa without changing the heart of either card.

Moment's Peace is a good reprint for this art. It doesn't need to be uncommon (for power reasons), but certainly could be (for gameplay reasons).

I expect every white Limited deck that can run Pages Made Life would.
In Media Res is a clever twist on the Panglacial Wurm effect, though I fear it promotes even more shuffling effects.

I don't get Presence of Extinction's flavor at all. I'm also not sure why both these abilities are on one card. I'd like to see them on their own.

If the goal is to find a cost more appealing to new players than discarding a card, Secluded Songwriter isn't a great success because new/casual players hate having cards from their deck milled with a passion. Expert players will recognize this cost as a net positive (and not a small one), and that makes me wonder if it's awkward to have it on the left side of the colon. Perhaps it would just better if the effect scaled based on what you exiled. Secluded Songwriter will be a skill differentiator as expert players play it and enjoy it's benefits while new players leave it in the sideboard. Not sure if that's good for the game or bad for it—probably depends on the rest of the set.


Chah is intentionally exploring game technology that isn't currently possible. There are numerous physical constraints that prohibit this, but it could one day work in an all-digital or augmented-reality game environment. If we pretend for a moment that it's entirely possible now, coupling requires a decision to put a card somewhere it can't be played if drawn, but will be played if coupled, which sounds tricky. Spirit Releaser might feel more focused if it only referenced one card type.

Save a creature from certain destruction and get it back when your 1/1 dies. Sounds interesting. {W} might be an appropriate cost, but {2}{W} might too; I'd be curious to see how it plays.

Quite a few submissions evoked an interesting/appropriate mood, but not many evoked a world. In the world of test-making, that's indication that the test was wrong; Most likely, it's just way too hard to evoke a world with a single card, at least one with relatively sparse art like this. I sure didn't have any leads on that end.


  1. The flavor for the 2/2 flying spirit part was meant to be the creature's lingering spirit after death coming back for a little while i.e the presence of a dead species. The second, Disentomb part was tacked on without reconsidering flavor which was a mistake on my part, although it still sort of fits, and the reason both parts are on one card is that they both want you to have guys going to your 'yard and therefore synergise together quite nicely. If a 2/2 flyer isn't doing anything for you on board, you can cash it in for a better creature that has died.

  2. I wonder if Spirit Releaser could be done with DFC and/or checklist cards tech.

    It'd be interesting to see what cards from released sets evoked the world by itself to see what we were missing. I'm guessing we should have come up with some mechanic that makes you go "well that's different, I guess that's what the set is about".

    1. Yeah. I think of cards like Armored Skaab and Gitaxian Probe that bleed mechanical effects into new colors, or cards like Mothrider Samurai or Ali from Cairo that demand a very specific setting. But beyond those two categories, I'm not sure what else can evoke a world on its own. Let me know if you think of anything else.

    2. All Is Dust is one of the best cards ever printed, flavorwise. The name, the art, the rules text, the type line, the flavor text *all* tell you what the world is about.

    3. All is Dust is a great example!

      Also, most cards in recent sets communicate a world well. They don't feel like they can be in any set. Acavcyn restored's Angels and Demons theme was well-pronounced on the cards, as was the Phyrexian invasion theme in Scars of Mirrodin. The Quests communicated Zendikar's adventure world very well. Some cards might need to be seen in a grip of cards to communicate something (like the high ratio of artifacts in Mirrodin can only be seen if you see multiple cards), but you could see a few cards and tell what the theme was about.

      Ways these cards communicate a world:
      - Art, name, creature type, flavor text.
      - Mechanics. Some seem more inherently evocative of what's happening in the world (like Annihilate, Infect, or Devour), others are evocative due to the concept assigned to the mechanic (like the "reveal the top card" mechanic being concepted as "Miracles" or "Exalted" meaning one champion fighting for the masses).
      - A story-telling card, like Zombie Apocalypse, Loyal Cathar, Chosen of Markov.
      - The kind of things that are referenced on the card. It lets you know that the referenced quality or category is important in the set. (Like Scroll of Avacyn)
      - The type of deck or play style that a mechanic represents. The Alara or Ravnica mechanics often point to what general style of deck strategy you want, and that style can be reflective of that world. (I'm not distinguishing between representing a world with a card and representing a Guild with the card; I think it's the same challenge.) Like a Gruul deck being wild, a Rakdos deck being reckless, a Dimir deck being careful and plotting.

      I think it would be interesting to go through cards and consider how each one represents a world; one good subject for this is the preview cards from Theros because they're new cards and we don't actually know about the world. What are the things that make you see the world around the card? I'm sure that it's not just about referencing another specific cultural setting like Greece, there will be themes like heroics and divinity that are clear on the cards.

  3. Spirit Releaser 2G
    Creature - Human Wizard (U)
    Whenever Spirit Releaser enters the battlefield or you activate an ability it has, look at the top card of your library. You may exile that card face down and may look at it for as long as it remains exiled.
    2G, T, Exile an enchantment card from your graveyard: You may cast a creature card exiled with Spirit Releaser if it has the same mana cost as the exiled enchantment card.

    It doesn't work quite the same way (and interacts strangely with Lucent Liminid), but it's pretty close. It's also too wordy for uncommon, but it could be greatly simplified; this is just a proof of concept.

  4. Pages Made Life seems like it could be pretty scary in Constructed, too. Break a fetchland during opponent's turn, dump 1-4 dudes onto the table in a way that can't be responded to, then Brainstorm/Top away any risk of actually putting them into your hand so you can do it all over again next turn.