Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 092713—IACG

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

I imagine Johnny building a deck with Abandoned Gallows and Abhorrent Overlord or, worse, Bile Urchin so that it's a free Zombify for him every turn but a Woebringer Demon to everyone else, mostly. Hmm, like Sheoldred. I would expect Development to keep a close eye on this because it's not unlikely to cause repetitive game states and a few soft-locks.

The contrast between killing and returning creatures every turn is nice, and fits the art well enough.

I love how Jules tied this dexterous chance card to black's tendency to prey upon the weary and the tapped. It's unfortunate that none of the reminder text considered will prevent players from arguing endlessly what the threshold for being tapped is.

Attempted Murder doesn't really fit the art, but the name and rules text are perfect for un-world and make a very silly play out of a very dark crime.

You don't see a lot of end step counter handling, but Ant really wanted Bloodthirsty Gallows to do something the first turn you cast it. Apart from that, this is a very neat card and should be quite appealing to mono-black control players (especially since it combos with devotion).

Repeated removal is always dangerous, but this will only trigger every other turn if it's picking off X/1s, and it can be disenchanted. I love the name and the idea that these gallows demand blood.

Built as a mirror to Bridge from Below, Bridge to Above offers you a much bigger upside than Xathrid Necromancer, but with a huge condition that could be a real challenge for the mono- or mostly-black player to circumvent.

I'd rather see this card in white, but then it wouldn't work for this challenge. I do enjoy the poetic metaphor that the gallows is a bridge to the afterlife.

Circle of Life is a bigger Shadowfeed (that doesn't target). I'd tried something similar named Pick Bare, but it was needlessly more complex. While this art doesn't show a circle, vultures do circle and that would upgrade the name to full pun status.

Chained to the Rocks works because it refers directly to an existing story all myth buffs know. The 'enchant plains' here only exists because of the art (and the directive to include some contrast) and it seems like we should be able to plant this gallows anywhere.

I like the name, Crowfood Gallows, and how that describes the middle ability.

Crow's Feast lets you trade in late creature draws for 2 points of flying power / two bodies. If you've got other things to do with your mana (or if you just drafted a terrible deck), that could be a huge boon. This is a neat black build-around uncommon.

I won't think too hard about the fact that you're feeding the crows with creatures you haven't made yet.

Delayed Execution could work in a set that features vanishing, allowing a player to delay the execution by somehow adding more time counters to it. In the abstract, vanishing is a needless addition that triples the complexity of of "At the beginning of your upkeep step, enchanted creature's controller sacrifices it." Non-artifact is a fun restriction since you probably can't asphyxiate a robot.

Eager Noose sets up a mini-game that challenges players to keep two or more creatures on the field to avoid it's wrath. Of course, you really want three or four since you know the black mage who loosed the noose probably has more juice. Poison juice, of course. Strawberry-Nightshade to be exact.

Very cool.

Execution Ground is almost a reverse Lord of the Pit. First, you kill some of your own monsters, then when you can't, you get a bunch of hard-to-block, flying power. I love how it fits the art, and how it works with other combos like self-milling. Fun stuff.

Lynchings lets you kill a creature on each of your turns. It might be huge, regenerating or indestructible, but it's not safe. In addition, you get any death triggers it might have. (What's the flavor justification there?) I'm guessing a card like that would need to cost at least 6 if not 7 or more mana. On the plus side, you have a brief window to block with it, enact a Dramatic Rescue, or sacrifice it to a Blood Bairn …assuming you don't have two or more of them.

Gallows for the Chosen is a one-sided version of Eager Noose. I mean, the sacrifice is equal, but the minigame is mostly only being played by the enchanter. That's a little less fun, but Gallows still presents an interesting challenge and I can imagine Johnny happily pairing this with non-creature permanents that make tokens at will.

Gallows Humor seems like a printable and sometimes-Constructed-playable one mana discard spell, which is a pretty nice accomplishment. I'm not convinced it fits the art at all, but the silly name and flavor text do, so there's that. Hey, contrast.

Jules proposed a simpler template for Gallows Volt and that would likely win-out nowadays, but there's some charm to this old-school way. What do you think?

I like what Goblin Gallows is doing for a tribal set like Lorwyn. It's cheap, removal that deals with most creatures (potentially even regenerating creatures), but requires goblins and is unreliable.

This is also a perfect example of why we don't need tribal.

Purge the Heretics goes the opposite direction from Gallows for the Chosen and Eager Noose requiring you to have more creatures, but letting you super-wrath for just two mana.

I'm not sure who the audience for this is, though. Spike loves the power of wraths, but the condition ensures he'll lose card advantage on the deal. Johnny loves figuring out how to turn a bad deal like this around, but can't really win the game with a wrath. I suppose the Johnny who finds our this is the cheapest way to win with Blood Artist will be pretty happy.

These vultures only swoop in to eat once all your humanoids and beasts are dead, which is neat flavor even if it's a little awkward to read. I wonder if you could get a bird for each creature in your graveyard, both for flavor and power reasons. 'Reclaimed Gallows' is a great name for this design.

I suspect Raise Dead is underrated; Vacant Gallows is incrementally better, but I don't think it's too good (especially given how people value such cards). I wonder if people try this out and see how good it is and that leads them to value Raise Dead more afterward.

I don't have a problem with this black mana production because it's not mana acceleration.

There was a lot of very good flavor this weekend: creepy, campy and some dark humor. Good stuff.

There were more than a few repeated removal spells, which makes perfect sense given the subject matter of a gallows. Some of them are probably okay, and some are probably broken. It's a dangerous line to walk. Any repeated effect is dangerous simply because it will lead to repetitive play and likely change the focus of the game to itself. That's not a deal breaker, but it is a warning flag. Attaching to that to disruption, permission and removal doubles the risk because these are the things that turn off your opponent's game and most often contribute to unfun games. Again, that's not to say this area of design is off-limits, but it's definitely a dark and gnarled wood where the travelling designer needs to keep his wits and take every caution.


  1. "Attempted Murder" was a play on the murder of crows in the art (or at least i thought they were crows), but Gallows Humor probably makes for a better pun-ny uncard name.

    1. They're crows!? I thought they were Angels that were really far away.

  2. I originally posted the wrong mana cost for Lynchings. It has been corrected to {2}{B}{B}{B}.

  3. Abandoned Gallows's 2BBB cost is deserved since it is going to combo out weirdness everytime it gets cast. At least the effect is symetrical. Good call there. I would love to see it in a big multiplayer game.

    Attempted Murder really needs some funny flavor text to tie the whole concept together. Also, I'd like to see a tumbling assortment of crows behind the textbox to simulate the spinning mechanic.

    Bloodthirsty Gallows is such a neat idea. It's constant removal, but is slow enough to be answerable. And even if it can't be answered, regeneration and hexproof get around it. Honestly, it's relentless need to kill makes it a very neat Black enchantment design, especially as it can bite its controller if they're not careful.

    Bridge to Above has such a high downside. It requires that none of your opponent's creatures die ever. Otherwise your whole army of beaters turn on you. This is very doable since the Angels have evasion and provided you have sufficient Pacifisms and Clautrophobias. But BBB makes it very unrealistic. It forces a mostly black deck to play Bridge to Above and most of it's removal is lethal. I would like this card better if the mana cost were changed to 2WB.

    Circle of Life is a nice variant of Shadowfeed (one of my favorites) and Vile Rebirth. Costing two mana may make it unplayable though.

    Crowfood Gallows needs to be simplified. it could just be a colorshifted Moonlit Wake (from Mercadian Masques).

    Crow's Feast is cool, but the trigger feels wrong. It's current wording feels more like a Blue enchantment. How about "Whenever a non-token creature enters the battlefield under your control, sacrifice it and put two 1/1 black Bird creature tokens onto the battlefield." You still get ETB triggers. The crows seem to actually be eating the creature. And it feels like a Black enchantment since there's risk.

    1. Delayed Execution is a much clunkier Lingering Death (from Scourge). Either way, the creature's controller gets a full turn before their creature dies. Cool name though.

      Execution Ground is an awesome countdown clock. The sacrifice trigger is really important, and I'm glad it doesn't make a bird everytime a creature dies, forever. 1BB is fine, but this is the kind of card that doesn't mind coming in late game, so 3B would be good too.

      I can't tell if Lynchings is supposed to track every card named, or just the most recent one. It is plural, so maybe it's supposed to track them all.

      Gallows for the Chosen is a weird name. Very French Revolution. There are going to be times where you are able to activate it multiple times in a turn, but it will require a bit of work. in exchange you'll be able to perpetually board wipe your opponent. For all that Johnny potential, this seems like a very Spikey card.

      Gallows Humor should force the player to reveal their hand first, otherwise the "If he or she can't" clause is unverifiable. It is a very strong card. Aside from the tradition of one mana discard spells, I think it should cost 1B. It always gets a creature card. Always. The reason Duress and friends cost B is that they might whiff. But this is an Edict too.

      Gallows Volt is a miss for me. Is a volt a kind of bird? And the "I can't attack while I'm eating" concept is buried under all the rules text. It would be cool if it was just a flier with "T: Exile target creature card in a player's graveyard." I don't think the downside is worth wrapping into the flavor concept.

      Goblin Gallows is missing "Enchant creature" in it's text box. It reminds me a lot of Weight of Conscience (from Morningtide). If it were more like that card (perhaps "enchanted creature can't block.") I would like it more. The Tribal on it can't be defended unless there's a wider context for the set it would be in. Will it be searchable like Bound in Silence?

      Purge the Heretics could be normally costed with an Alternate Cost of BB if you control more creatures than an opponent. Also, it is a White card, even the name is White. It doesn't fit Black or the art very well. Mass removal would mean a field full of gallows.

      The exile clause of Reclaimed Gallows is there for flavor, but could be removed really easily to simplify the card.

      Vacant Gallows is awesome. It's a great common that could do a lot of good work in a base set, like M14. It lets you get your creature back and either replay it, or boost your attacking Shade, or play a different spell. I don't think the gallows art fits with a Disentomb effect, but it was a good try.

    2. Thanks for the comments, Nich. Good stuff.

      If I were tweaking Crow's Feast, I'd make it trigger on creatures dying for maximum flavor.

      Gallows Humor doesn't need to force the hand reveal. If they discard a creature card, they've satisfied the requirement. It's only if they don't discard, claiming that they don't have any to discard, that they have to reveal to prove it.

      A 'Volt' is a flock of vultures. Fair criticism.

    3. It's fascinating to see different people's takes on things. In fact, I thought the exile clause on vacant gallows was _less_ flavourful, but might be necessary to prevent some infinite combo (as "sacrifice a creature" is sometimes a cost to stop an ability being too strong). If not, it could be removed.

  4. Plugging in "Vulture" on Wikipedia turns up a fascinating array of collective nouns, none of which sound like a bird in the slightest. Personally, I favor "wake" -- not only does it refer specifically to a group of vultures that are feeding, but to people who don't make the ornithological connection, it's the same word as a memorial service where the body is laid out for people to pay their last respects to the deceased.


      Wake of Vultures (Visions Common)
      Creature — Bird
      1B, Sacrifice a creature: Regenerate Wake of Vultures.
      "So the vulture said to the griffin, ‘You gonna eat that?'"—Azeworai, "The Ugly Bird"
      Illus. Jeff Miracola