Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 080813—IgorKieryluk

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

Alettiner hates it when you don't block with everyone who could. Or he loves it. Either way, he gets hurtier when you do that. A little.

This creature is hard to evaluate because it plays very differently depending on the board state. On his own, he's terrible against your lone Siege Mastodon, but add a Bonebreaker Giant—to either side of the board—and suddenly he's doing work.

For an ability that won't always be relevant, I think Alettiner needs a higher base size or, better, a bigger boost for 'bad' blocking. But I could be wrong, because as I said, hard to evaluate.

Usually, this second ability would be templated as a trigger with a boost that lasts until EOT. Zefferal was able to use an arguably more intuitive template here by making the bonus power-only, thus avoiding confusion when he dies when temporarily added toughness wears off after combat.

Ashroth's first ability reads like an awkward "Target creature can't attack" so that it can be reminiscent of Maze of Ith (and as a side-effect, combo with attack triggers like Geist of Saint Traft). I'm not convinced that's worth the confusion, but a mythic rare is the most likely place it could be.

Ashroth's second ability reminds me of Crack the Whip, which is awesome, but I don't get what first strike is doing there.

His last ability gives you a permanent Master Warcraft, which is a perfect planeswalker ultimate.

The Ith ability helps you reach the Warcraft ability, so they support each other both mechanically and thematically, but the middle ability doesn't particularly do either. Maybe something like "Target creature can't be blocked [except by two creatures] this turn?"

Asterion is really good at Backlash, which is often better than Threaten (and sometimes worse).

He's also able to destroy a land every turn indefinitely, provided your opponent's mostly playing nonbasics and doesn't have a lot of life to spare. That's probably fine in Limited where nonbasics are unusual, and in Eternal where this is too slow, but I'd be concerned how it would affect Standard.

The last ability is cool, but it's unfortunate that regular Insurrection was already done by Tibalt.

I don't see any particular thematic or mechanical connection between the three abilities.

Making a legend whose a resource engine definitely conveys that character's cleverness, but I would argue it makes for a miserable card. One problem is that these abilities don't combine in a resonant way that tells us who Aurost is, other than a very red and resourceful minotaur. The larger problem is that this kind of design takes the fun of finding clever combinations of cards away from the player by solving the puzzle for them on a single card.

I can imagine a Minotaur planeswalker who enjoys the thrill of combat and grows more loyal as you're attacked, but wouldn't he also be excited about attacking?

I'm more confused by the way he pumps all your planeswalkers' loyalties; What's happening there?

It would be cleaner it Whitehorn was X/X equal to Cragar's loyalty, instead of one bigger. It's a little disappointing having no big moment on Cragar. The lack of an ultimate is a serious choice for a planeswalker and should probably only be made when it's the only right way to do it.

I don't see any connection between these abilities, and I don't get Cragar's story. I'm also not sure why this red-white card is so good at creature recursion.

Haste pushes Dikerucos from being an efficient attacker with an ability that's relevant the turn you cast him to a likely must-play for red-heavy Standard decks. It also doesn't add much to the character/art. Triggering off of any source of damage instead of focusing on creatures or spells costs Dikerucos a little clarity and identity, but also broadens him up to be useful in pretty much every stripe of red deck.

General Spor is another card where I think haste is wasted. Swinging with an extra 1 power is nothing to write home about and if you've got the mana to activate his ability in the same turn, you can do that whether he's attacking or not. I'm not sure whether this ability is better as something you have to pay for but can activate multiple times per round, or as a simple combat-trigger. It is clever that you can use it on defense as well as offense.

Hurrtrey's "normal" ability is to Zap at will. He has two twists, one that propagates damage to the opponent, and one that incites creatures to attack. While both twists support the flavor, they do it in very different ways that don't complement each other and I'm thinking the design would be better with just one of them rather than both.

Karlruum is terrifying and awesome, and fits the art in a way no other submissions have. I have to point out the awkwardness that dealing damage to players and planeswalkers allows you to instead deal double damage to planeswalkers. Granted, that's less relevant for an effect that's probably happening in batches of 3 per turn. Kalruum could be 6/4 so it looks more impressive at first blush, but Benjammn was wise not to give it 6 toughness because that would let you kill too many things at no cost (in mana or in cardboard).

Ball Lightning is an awesome planeswalker ability. +2 is a surprising cost for that, but at 6 mana, I don't know that it's wrong.

Kerato can Molten Rain for 4 turns if unchecked, which is rough but on a six-drop might be okay as long as it's not paired up with any other land destruction.

Furnace of Furnace of Rath is an exciting emblem. I imagine you'd only choose that over the first ability when your opponent has a Wall of Frost or any first strikers, though.

None of the abilities share anything explicitly in common, though I do get a vague powerful-red-elementalist vibe here.

Other red looting has the player discard first and I don't think Labyr needs to push that color boundary. Being able to play any aura for free is a little dangerous (Eldrazi Conscription, much) assuming this is intended to enchant your creatures. As worded, this is definitely enchanting the opponent's creature. White has some offensive auras (though putting Pacifism on a creature that just entered combat is a little frustrating) but red mostly sticks to boons when it comes to creature enchantments. I'm not sure Labyr needs to be white in an enchantment block. Looting into free spells is going to feel awesome when you pull it off, and will push players to run more auras. Hopefully they won't be punished for that when they don't draw Labyr.

I love turning combat damage into free spells. It might be cooler to cast them for free, but here I feel like the haste adds a lot to the card, making it more likely Machaon will trigger at least once when you cast while your opponent thought he was safe.

I'm not sure Minokoros, Moat-on-a-Stick needs to be red at all. I love the story that the solution to running a maze is simply to go over the walls. That feels clever and in a Greek way, no less. It's a problem that it looks like the second ability saves your creatures from the first ability, but it doesn't (because you can't activate abilities during the untap step).

Muuri is a bold attempt at a one-drop Planeswalker. Given how disappointed people were with Tibalt, this is dangerous territory. The good news is, despite not having a real ultimate ability, Muuri definitely looks strong enough to be worth playing in the right decks. The bad news is that it might well be too good. I certainly don't know that, but I wouldn't be surprised. Leaving that concern to Development, I wonder if the only minus ability is exciting enough to warrant an ability that's purely about gaining loyalty.

Reaus uses the new heroic ability word in a decently red way. Note that it works with Auras very differently since you have to make a permanent copy of the Aura and that'll likely require a CR update (and some reminder text). It might make more sense for this ability to target Reaus rather than anything but; if so, not by a whole lot.

Rekabos is a mythic Rage Thrower. I loved that card and this is considerably more menacing. Is a free Lava Axe if they Murder it immediately too strong? May be.

Reading Rulrik, it occurs to me that Monstrosity is half a no-secrets Morph and half an all-upside Echo. Neat. I'm guessing Rulrisk is a little overpowered as a 6/5 for {1}{R}{R}+{R}{R} with upside, but there's an interesting tension between upgrading him immediately for sick beats on turn 4, or waiting until he dings more enchantments. Speaking of which, I sure hope templating can find a less awkward way to word this trigger.

When I was reminded that 'Seeker' is an epithet already taken by a planeswalker, I gave up and made him sound like a superhero. The idea is that Tor is as good at finding his way through the multiverse as through the mazes of his home plane. I don't think I successfully translated that idea to the card.

His first ability is meant to be him circumnavigating creatures lost in the maze. What maze. Um, the one he instantly conjured? Sure, that.

The second ability lets him find anything, but sometimes his impulsive red nature causes him to forget which pocket he shoved it in on his way back.

The last ability is Wildfire, because in the same way he construct mazes, he can levitate those boulders to smash apart towns and their populace.

These abilities definitely don't combo mechanically. There's some thematic connection, but I'm skeptical it's strong enough. Let me know.

I went all-in on the maze paradigm with Tor the Mazecrafter. He shapes your land into mazes and uses them to capture anyone who would tangle with you. It's expensive to keep three lands perma-tapped to deprive your opponent of her Dreg Mangler, say, but if that pushes you to run more land than normal, it might be a good thing.

As always, lots of cool stuff. Planeswalkers remain crazy hard, but deeply fascinating. It was a small sampling, but I wonder if it's not a coincidence that there were 3 {R}{W} designs to 2 {B}{R} designs, 1 {R}{U} design and 0 {R}{G} designs.


  1. Hey Jay, this is unrelated to the article, but I was wondering what your thought on this was. My friend and I are arguing over whether this would fit current design rules:

    2 Mana Firm Counter UR
    Counter target spell. ~ deals damage to you equal to the countered spell's converted mana cost.

    Does it count as a hard, or a soft counter, given that countering a 7 cmc spell at low life would be suicide? Thereby following the rule of "hard counters get UU"

    1. It's very strong, but I suspect it's printable. Or at least, there's probably a block in which it is printable.

      It's as hard a counter as "Counter target spell with CMC less than your life total" which isn't quite conditionless but is easier to use than Mana Leak (which is also very good).

      I will add that {U}{B} seems like a more appropriate color combination, given cards like Dark Confidant, Vendetta and Withering Boon.

    2. Psychic Strike: wizards has declared that they are abandoning that rule occasionally for multicolored cards.

  2. RW is natural to design towards - Ravnica set up Minotaurs as a R/W race, and while the rest of Magic sets them up to be mono-R, you asked for a "wise and clever" character, which really pushes towards the color combination.

    1. Minotaurs can be blue too! Zedruu and Maze Minotaur are both very blue. I would have designed something much closer to Maze of Ith/Ith, High Arcanist if the art supported it. Since it didn't, I stuck with mono-red.

    2. Agreed. Minokoros above is very blue.

  3. I don't like how you graded the planeswalkers. you missed a really important critira which is the balance of the + and - abilities this is so important that it pretty much defines whether the card is fair or bah-roken (as MARO calls it).
    also on the note of one mana planeswalkers, my design group and I have played with the idea for a while and we came to a fairly obvious but important conclusion. if you play a 4th turn planeswalker chances are your opponent can attack back or at least have some sort of thing they can do. a first turn planeswalker? there is 0 chance that your opponent could even hope to deal with it before a problem. this problem persists (and needs to have power level dealt with accordingly) through 2 mana and 3 mana is really the first time your opponent has a decent chance of doing something about something as board changing as a planeswalker. that's my two cents.

    also good job on tor mazecrafter, it's a really solid design.

    another thing is that I find it very funny that as you noted nobody posted a RG guy but the "monsters" gang in theros (which the Minotaurs will be a part of) is going to be primarily RG.

    1. While I did try to look at the fundamental strength of individual abilities, I didn't examine very closely the overall balance of any of the planeswalkers because I think it's futile. We can figure out certain things, but there's so much going on that one can't understand the big picture without playtesting, which is beyond the scope of these exercises.

      Excellent insight about cheap planeswalkers. It's easy to forget how important the existence of creatures is to their balance. Best argument I've heard for a minimum cost beyond obvious balance issues.

  4. I actually designed Rekabos as 3RR, but I like him better as black-red. Resiliency to Doom Blade does push his power level higher though.

    1. Oops. That was unintentional. It does work for him, though. Heh.


  5. "a likely must-play for red-heavy Standard decks." - so, perfect mythic design, then?

    Kalruum is fantastic and breathtaking, the kind of design that makes your jaw drop and a smile break out irrepressibly. Perfect mythic by a less mercenary definition.

    Machaon is very cool as well.