Monday, December 23, 2013

Weekend Art Challenge Review 122013—ChrisCold

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

Demonhand's Possession is not only easier to cast than the too-good-to-print classic Control Magic, but has a huge additional upside. Dev could up its cost, though I have trouble imagining how much a repeatable Mind Control that can kill your opponent directly would need to cost. No question, this is mythic.

Drag Through Hellfire punishes combo and control decks that have few creatures (whether those creatures are expensive or not). At eight mana, it's not remotely good enough against an aggro or midrange deck. It's almost an auto-win against its target audience, but that audience is likely to either win before you can cast it or counter it, so it's probably not a problem to print. At the very least, this will please Vorthos (and probably Johnny).

Enclosed Inferno is Razia's Purification's older, crazier brother. Crazier because it doesn't just care about destroying all but the most important permanents, it wants to convert them into non-permanents. At first blush, you might think this is best in a deck with lots of instants and sorceries, but really, it wants to be in a deck with lots of (cantripping) permanents and just a handful of incorporeal magicks, preferably expensive ones. You also don't particularly want four of these in your deck because casting one off of another is a waste—unless you're playing a bunch of Spectral Processions and Empty the Warrens—which sounds amazing.

I love the idea of a cycle of massive charms. Cryptic Command and friends played around in this area. I'm not a huge fan of Extinction Charm, though, because (unlike cheap charms) I really want the effects to complement each other thematically or mechanically to help give the card some identity. Maybe that's just impossible for a charm of any size.

Gateway is meant to be a keyword that you need to think about. "Should I cast one extra copy, two or three?" Trouble is, the only cost to quadrupling your spell is thinning your deck: something you want to do anyhow. The only reason not to is if you believe you'll need to draw one of those copies later on, but these cards are costed to be quadrupled so you'll prefer most anything else.

Maybe Gateway could be "Search for any number of cards with the same name as this. You may cast them." Though, that's just replicate with busywork / deck thinning.

Fateful Omen definitely wants to be in a mono-color or dedicated two-color deck so you always have four good targets.

Fiery End is the great big incinerator in the sky, that blows up makes a big burny monster when it reaches critical mass a size of your choosing. I reckon this is either an anti-graveyard sideboard card or an aggro finisher (or a hybrid, which is neat).

Hmm, now I want to see a version that automatically deals 13 damage (or whatever) when you exile 13 cards.

Not sure why this mono-black card is producing a mono-red effect and a mono-red creature. Fire's Gatekeeper could cost less than 7. It's not going to do much dying in combat, so you pretty much have to sacrifice it to trigger it. I do like the idea of a hellish lock that you don't want to disturb lest terrible things happen to you.

All's well that Flameswell. Ahem, sorry.

This is a huge effect, letting you ultimate any of your planeswalkers and killing all opposing planeswalkers, as well as fast-forwarding your favorite oozes, a Dark Depths or Helix Pinnacle. I'd be curious to see how Dev would balance this.

Gate of Naar Isle might be my favorite design today. It's so very red and the flavor jives on multiple levels, one of which including my favorite obscure Magic reference—the product that was never in Standard. Planechase, in this case. Okay, there's Shah of Naar Isle in Future Sight, but this clearly references the plane, Naar Isle. Mostly, I just love attacking with Spark Elementals.

This is a nice Johnny card. It's likely broken with cascade, but I totally want to discard this to a Gathan Raider or something so I can flash it back. Geier's Reach might be okay at rare, but it's fairly unique and epic so it's not exactly out of place at mythic.

Hold Back the Night immediately inspired the idea of an Oblivion Ring / Wrath of God hybrid, which has to happen at some point. This anti-red and -black version seems too good, since red and black are the exact colors that can never kill this enchantment. Regardless, I love the idea of a spell that seals up entire armies until it's undone.

Kairon's effect is quite dangerous. Looping flashback spells endless is awesome but won't break anything. Recasting spells powerful enough to exile themselves upon resolution could be a problem. It's also not hard to exile large numbers of cards from your deck or graveyard. Maybe this isn't much worse than Omniscience, but I wouldn't personally take the chance.

Phoenix's Passion is noticeably similar to Kairon, but is more focused in color, in what it lets you recast, and what zone you can recast it from. This is an example of more text producing a less complicated card. And while it's much less powerful, it's still pretty exciting and very printable.

Portal to Explodia is clearly a big splashy Timmy card. There's much debate whether a card like this should be printed at any cost. I liked the suggestion of adding an "only cast from your hand" clause or something.

Shrine of the Flamelich saves you when you'd die, though without Angel's Grace' life setting clause; so I guess you die when the next turn begins if you don't win or gain life before then. And that's where the random barrage of free spells comes in. For each instant or sorcery you cast after erecting your shrine, is a chance at a free spell. Probably, you're running a lot more non-permanents in this deck than usual to maximize both the number of cards you exile and the likelihood that each can be used in your hour of need. Epic and very mythic. No idea if it needs to cost more. Probably fine where it is. Glad it's not Grixis.

Originally I made the Gateway {T} to kill a creature or to bring one back, but repeatable reanimation felt a little too good (I know—crazy to say that on a card with repeatable, unrestricted destruction, and a massive reanimation trigger—but somehow it just feels right) and I really like the flavor that destroying this nasty portal undoes all its evil and more.

I made a black artifact just to flaunt my lack of regard for the bonus suggestion. And because the flavor's boss.

It bothers me how similar Warp Reality is to Warp World in name, cost and rules text, though it is neat how it doesn't waste non-permanents and lets every deck play along.

This art looks particularly black or particularly like an eldritch artifact, and so I offered bonus points to anyone who could submit a design that was neither. Partially, that was a test: To see how many of you could put aside personal glory in order to deliver the best card possible. Game designers are all serious gamers and so love a challenge and love proving their mettle, but the drive to design something clever or novel often leads to a design that doesn't serve its purpose or its audience as well as something more humble could. It's imperative to separate the needs and requirements of a design from the nice-to-haves and look-how-clevers.

I'm not saying I nailed it or that the test was 'fair' or that you should feel bad if you fell for the trick; I just wanted to highlight this design lesson in a visceral way, and give folks a new chance to internalize it. Besides, there are a bunch of really awesome submissions that avoided being black or artifact without compromising quality or accessibility at all. Kudos.


  1. I had no problem with the art because I felt that the art wasn't black or artifact anyways. I felt that it was a perfect art for the more sinister side of red.

  2. I submitted a modified version of the Extinction Charm Sunday night based on some of the feedback, I guess I was a little late.

    Extinction Charm 5RB
    Choose one -- Extinction Charm deals 9 damage to each creature; or each player discards 9 cards; or Extinction Charm deals 9 damage to each player.

    Nine is a sufficiently high number that it makes the card feel humongous, but not so high that the last mode would never be castable, and that is often going to be the most important mode.

    1. When you have three nines on there like that, you really need to cost it at nine too, or it loses some of it's *ahem* charm.

    2. Sorry, I missed that. My mistake, Devin.

    3. It's cool Jay.

      I definitely considered upping the cost, but though the symmetry was better, it wasn't enough to make the card appealing at the higher cost. But you did give inspire me to go in the opposite direction:

      Extinction Charm 5RB
      Choose one -- Extinction Charm deals 7 damage to each creature; or each player discards 7 cards; or Extinction Charm deals 7 damage to each player.

      The discard actually looks better now, and I imagine Mode 3 is more useful too. Mode 1 isn't as strong, but two damage is rarely gonna be relevant, plus it increases the number of creatures you could run with this.

  3. I absolutely love Shrine of the Flamelich. I would seriously love to build that deck, or put it in an Oros EDH deck and mulligan until I see it.

    I also thought the art looked more red than black (though as usual I didn't see the challenge until well after the deadline).