Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekend [Art] Challenge Review 021414—Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Here's the challenge we're reviewing today. Note that blogger had some technical difficulties, partially inhibiting our usual back-and-forth.

Gitaxian Implantation is a griefer card in the style of Ken Nagle (known to be one of R&D's biggest griefers along with Tom LaPille and Aaron Forsythe). It coincidentally uses a mechanic Richard Garfield once gunslinged with. There are substantial logistical impediments to actually printing something like this, but you can't deny the idea is very invasive in a way that is perfect for the Phyrexians.

This card is designed in the style of Skaff Elias back in the time of Ice Age: "He seemed to like strong answers, cards that hosed narrow strategies, and the give and take that can come from that." Green Knight can block blue's flying creatures and black's fear creatures.

I personally wish it had first strike (like White Knight and Black Knight) because trading with Silver Erne doesn't qualify as 'hosing flying' in my book, but then again creature were pretty bad back then.

Ignore the rarity symbols on this and the upcoming old style cards. I didn't see an easy way to remove those.

Highbranch Wood is designed in Richard Garfield's style, where "Cards don't have to be good, just flavorful!" The last line affects, like, just Scryb Sprites, but that kind of trinket text was not unusual in the early days.

This card is utterly unprintable by today's standards, and a lovely homage.

Havelock enjoys the honor of being the only designer from this site to have his style referenced. Jousting Steed further explores an idea from a recent A Set in Four Cards. I like how this is fine on its own, and better when you  pair it with a Knight. That said, it's kind of bonkers when you do, as instant-speed, no-mana Giant Growths that last indefinitely and don't cost you a card when the targeted creature dies tend to be.

Keranos's Stormcloud is "based on Mark Globus's style of cards that form a pair." I'm guessing Festering Newt / Bogbrew Witch and/or Marauding Maulhorn / Advocate of the Beast were Globus designs. The similarity to Whelming Wave is notable too. Regardless, some players will love this and some will hate it*, witch means Chah hit this nail on the head.

*Limited players who lack perspective will be upset that some of the named cards don't exist in Theros, but if you consider that they are bonuses above Lightning Strike, and for Commander players you might see it's all upside. Not that that'll stop complainers.

Ordrox Hill Siege-Beasts illustrates Zac Hill's "drive toward flexibility and efficiency" and it's clear that this card is both efficient and flexible. I'm less convinced Zac loves modal spells, but I sure don't know that he avoided them—a big part of what made this challenge so hard is that we only hear a tiny portion of who makes what in R&D, and that only be ravenously consuming DailyMTG.

On its own, this is a card a lot of players would enjoy. I do wish both modes were red-and-green. Apart from being too efficient for a red creature of this rarity, it could easily be mono-red.

Perfect Specimen is an homage to Mark Rosewater, giving us both a Clone and a card that spews counters  like a geyser. Neat to see one of these that rewards you more for duplicating your own creatures without making that a hard restriction. This could also be a lot of fun in multiplayer. What's the brokenest persist creature we can play this with?

Sanctuary of the Wandering Mind aims to evoke Dave Guskin as a rattlesnake card to steer players away from attacking you in multiplayer. In that world, the attacker will likely choose to let you draw unless she's holding absolute chaffe. It's nice that it also works in a duel, though it will play quite differently there.

I'll link to Spell Magic Card Play It so you can see it, but I won't show it here because I suspect it's a joke at the expense of amateur designers in general, and that's not GA's style.

I made four different cards (all pretty decent) trying to emulate Ken Nagle's style of designing sick green fatties with impressive abilities. Ultimately, I think I'm still off the mark and don't think I availed the challenge well. But hey, free CCDDs.

This challenge was very different and while that proved quite difficult for most of it, that's exactly the kind of thing I want to do more of. Coming at Design from different perspectives is wildly constructive and it's these from-left-field challenges that challenge us most. If there's any value to a challenge, there's more value to a challenging challenge.

I already hit the other major takeaway: That it's often hard to know a particular designer's style since so many cards are designed by committee, or we never see their credit.


  1. To the Perfect Specimen question, I'm going to have to go with Glen Elendra Archmage, though looping Aerie Ouphe for an arbitrarily large Specimen is also tempting.

  2. My card was meant to be for a universe where Riddle of Lightning is in Into the Nyx.

    1. I like the sound of this universe! And then Stormcloud would make a lot of sense as the Theros equivalent of Helm of Kaldra.

    2. Awesome.
      Could totally happen too.

  3. I was very tempted to make a card named banana bus in homage of MaRo. but I decided against it.

  4. "Limited players who lack perspective will be upset that some of the named cards don't exist in Theros, but if you consider that they are bonuses above Lightning Strike, and for Commander players you might see it's all upside. Not that that'll stop complainers."

    Not trying to be a complainer, but I think this is really bad design. You insist on confusing less experienced players by naming obscure old cards and you think more than 10 people will think the fact that you reference older cards that....oooh, can be played in Commander is and upside? Except nobody plays Lightning Strike and Lightning Volley in Commander, and even Riddle of Lightning isn't that great. And I can for some reason cast those cards, but not one of the other 30+ cards with Lightning in the name? :)

    I think that if you would do this, find some Lightning cards that interact with each other or this card, or go out of the box and say something like "the name of the cards contains the word Lightning", so you can use it with cards from the future.

    The Jousting Steed tries with too much flavor. A Knight can mount it! Yeah, why not any creature? Because there are enough Knights that already have a mount, or fly, or something like that and they would surely not fit on a regular steed :).

    I do really like the Green Knight though. Feels really old style, well done!

    Oh, and the Perfect Specimen does not seem to be scary with persist...but more with tokens. Copy a Saproling and grow an army :).

    Keep up the good work!

    1. For Keranos's Stormcloud I'd just say Red Instant and leave it at that.

  5. This was a fun diversion but I don't think it improved our skills as designers. Most of the other challenges ("make a card for this art," "make a green uncommon that's not a creature," etc.) are challenges you'd actually need to solve in R&D: no one is going to say that a set isn't complete without a design evocative of Ethan Fleischer (with all due respect to Ethan, of course.)

    1. As with every challenge, it's not the card you make that matters, its the process you adopted to make it. Being able to think like another designer is a huge step toward broadening your perspective.

    2. As an added sentiment supporting Jay's response, it's important to note that it was not some quality inherent to this week's challenge that drove you and others to design cards in the image of an archaic ideal in order to convey an in-joke about MTG design. That isn't to say that approach was wrong, but to say that this challenge was a "diversion" because you made it a diversion.

  6. "Mount for Knight" looks grammatically bizarre. Like it's a verb when it's not. Surprised a sorcery-speed clause wasn't tacked on.

    "Limited players who lack perspective will be upset"

    Yeah, I don't think that's entirely fair. I can understand that Eye of Ugin serves an important purpose in the overall design of Zendikar block, yet still be unhappy about it when I open it as my Worldwake pack's mythic rare.

    The place I think this kind of design belongs is in a special preconstructed product with a mix of old and new cards. That way anyone who plays with the product will have the card's abilities be immediately relevant, and Limited players won't have to deal with a bad card that's required to be a rare for complexity reasons.

    1. I didn't say they'd be wrong to be upset.

      The Eye of Ugin analogy is weak because it's not playable on its own, where Keranos' Stormcloud is.

      The extra products WotC is now producing are great places to print cards with a narrower audience. That said, every major set has to have something for everyone and I'd be sad if something like Stormcloud were deemed unprintable there.