Monday, September 16, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 091313—jonone

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

Evan nailed the story of Dominaria Reborn. It's not a dark, post-apocalyptic set, but a story of hope, of rebuilding a broken world—with an eye toward the future. I love the idea of chaining upward, one spell at a time and I think putting it on spells instead of permanents *cough*Rebels*cough* drives that process home. Not giving you actual card advantage was an important choice that makes the mechanic possible at common. My big concern is the ability to search for any card of the next CMC. Evan said,
"I'd love to see hope work in such a fashion that the chain of spells you use… would vary from game to game…"
I can imagine that sometimes you'd want to get your {2}{W} Hope-Pacifism and sometimes you'd prefer your {2}{W} Hope-Bear, but other than that, I expect most hope chains will play out more or less the same each game, particularly in Constructed. Perhaps hope could instead reveal cards until you find one with CMC +1, cascade-style.

Another wrinkle is that the longer you're able to chain, the less land you'll draw. Once you've reached critical mass, that's fantastic, but if A Promise of Renewal is your first turn play, your ideal hand might just be six more lands. That might be a good thing, as far as I know, but I'd be curious to see how it tests.

Calm Before the Storm terrifies me on two fronts. First, regardless of what it actually does, it's mere presence in the set would mean that storm has come back once again and there are other storm cards in the set. R&D has brought storm back several times and always regretted it. The scale on which MaRo rates the likelihood of a mechanic's return is called The Storm Scale.

Second, this particular card lets you give any spell card storm and it doesn't even cost you mana on the turn you do it. There's even a rider that prevents you from using it the same turn you cast it, as if that was half as dangerous as waiting to untap and start fresh. I'm convinced this card is broken, and since that's the opposite direction storm needs to go if it ever comes back, it confirms my first fear.

All that said, this is very exciting card ("Cruel Ultimatum you six times?"), it does call back to Time Spiral block, and the flavor is dead-on. The name, art, and rules text are beautifully one.

Crumbling Citadel is far from amazing. It's just a non-Plains Plains that auto-cycles at a relatively high threshold. Spikes building non-Control decks will appreciate it, many players will be unimpressed, and a lot of casual players will actively dislike it. It's not a homerun, but I am happy with the flavor. While I think it fits some decent interpretations of the set, I don't think it belongs in the best one (Evan's).

Crumbling Holdfast is 4/3rds of a Gemstone Mine, trading the clunkiness of land counters for the stuttering of deck searching. If there were some set where we really wanted more downtime or more shuffling effects, this would be an interesting option …except that it doesn't work in Limited (because you'll rarely have two). The flavor's on par with Crumbling Citadel (imagine that each card is one quarter of the remaining structure).

Harbor Ruins is identical to Temple of Mystery except that instead of getting the bonus effect for free when you play it, you have to sacrifice your land. That downgrade could be enough to reduce it's rarity. Note that excavate (which fits the let's-dig-up-what-was-lost version of New Dominaria) is basically scry 1 as written. This also bears a striking similarity to Misthaven.

I like the flavor that we're excavating the harbor ruins themselves.

Icatian Ruins is a continuation of the incomplete mega-cycle that is Academy Ruins and Volrath's Stronghold. While I don't think either of those cards are great for the game (trading variance for a repetitive game state), I think Icatian Ruins is an excellent continuation and that Return to Dominaria is a good place for it (if it should exist at all).

Lose Yourself is very Johnny and also fairly dangerous. By itself, it creates a suspenseful moment of peace like when Qui-Gon is waiting for the laser walls to lift so he can fight Darth Maul. But if you can draw or tutor into three more, you've pretty much guaranteed victory against many decks, and in a brutally unfun way.

I'm not a big fan of vanishing, but I get the impression a lot of R&D is, and it seems reasonably likely it could be brought back for After Time Spiral. "Lose Yourself" feels so poetic and ephemeral, but it fits this art perfectly, and the rules text isn't exactly a square peg in a round hole.

Kessig Wolf Run and friends already did the makes-colorless-but-requires-two-colors and yet it still feels a little odd to me. Real precedent obviously trumps a personal head-cock, so let's assume that aspect is perfect. It's unusual to see an activated ability on a land without {T}. Ant did it this way so that you can get more by meditating more (aka spending more mana) and has also conceded that this ability could cost as much as {2}{G}{U}, which would certainly mitigate the ability to do it a lot.

I'm not sure what that ability has to do with an Overgrown Academy, but the particular use of counters in Dominaria Restored might well explain the flavor.

Red doesn't often do defensive magic but Furious Resistance shows it does, and this is a fairly unique and reasonably red way to do it. You could argue Return to Ruins should be black. I probably would. I imagine the decision to attack through this is not unlike deciding whether to block Ruinous Minotaur.

Reclaim the Ruins is simple and aimed at Johnny. If the set has enough self-milling (and this card implies it would), Spike might also get behind it.

Return to Nothing is a rules-loophole-free Journey to Nowhere, with a built-in self-destruct. Regardless how it compares to Journey or to Pacifism, it's at least Limited playable. And the flavor's fascinating. I imagine this dude stepped out when the apocalypse happened and came back wondering what all he'd missed. Great fit for Dominaria 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Ruined Farmstead is a Nettle Sentinel land for the masses. Or something. Basically, it's terrible unless you combo out with a bunch of effects that let you play extra lands. Given that those effects are green, I'm not sure why it doesn't just make {G}.

You can tap this for {1} the turn you play it or wait and tap it for {2} the turn after (assuming you make your one-drop). It could make {2} every other turn if you keep making your land drops.

…Okay, I take it back. This card is broken. You can tap it for {2} the turn you play it because it triggers itself. Granted, it then only provides {1} per turn or {2} every other turn and only if you make all your other land drops, but you're probably also playing Rampant Growths and Cultivates which will let you get {2} (or more) out of this every turn.

We can never bring back Island Sanctuary, but if you're only able to prevent one creature from attacking, Ruins of Island Sanctuary is probably no more broken than Mystifying Maze. The call back is fun and it fits the art too. I do wonder if this should produce or require {U}, but maybe for purity of reference, it's fine.

Delve is the perfect keyword to bring back for Dominaria Rises because it was introduced in Future Sight and is all about scavenging the graveyard, something the survivors will surely be doing a lot of fun. Settle the Ruins is a nice clean common for this mechanic and is tied with Promise of Renewal for most upbeat card to use this art.

Vesuva Risen is a nice call back to Vesuva (from Time Spiral), this time turning into a land card in your graveyard instead of in play. Sweet.

Work Yet to Do is Rampant Growth Or Two, and features momentum, which rewards you for casting two spells. It may not be obvious, but that's sort of a time-based mechanic but it's far cleaner than suspend, vanishing or echo. This particular common is pretty wordy, but most wouldn't be so bad. I think this is a nice fit for Dominaria Once Again, though I can't help but wonder if it's not even better suited for Bad Times At Innistrad High.

This was a really hard challenge and I can't even express how impressed I am with the results. We got fewer entries and later than usual, and I barely managed to submit anything presentable myself, but most of what we did get was quite good. We got an even split of land and spell cards, and almost all colors. We also got a window into why Wizards hasn't already gone back to its home plane. Part of it may just be that there are a lot of other worlds that need exploring, but it may well also be that it's just a very large challenge.


  1. I feel like Work Yet to Do is a fixed version of Storm. I like it!

  2. My impression is that Vanishing, as a keyworded disadvantage, is extremely unlikely to ever see print again.

  3. Am I the only one that finds the reminder text of storm on "the calm before the storm hilarious"?