Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge 032814 Review—Red/Blue Mechanic

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

Maximize lets you cast every copy of a spell in your deck, for a bunch of extra mana. It's like twin but can work on permanents as well as transients. It also has to cost a lot, because quadrupling anything is a big deal. As a result, maximize won't do much in Limited (You'll be lucky to have 2 of the same card in Sealed, and if the card's worth playing at all, it won't table in Draft).

Assault Drake, for example, is a pretty good card for a blue-red player even without the new keyword. It would be nice to have a scaling version, but that might be too wordy.

Surge is trés Flowstone, but loses nothing in blue which has been doing power transferrance more lately. This is simpler rules-wise than switching power and toughness; Though it's more math in the default case, entirely avoiding rules question is easily worth it. It's a bit limiting that surge only works on creatures with substantial toughness, since red is famous for its X/1s, but even a 2/2 or 3/2 can have surge 1. If that caveat doesn't prove too restrictive, I could see this doing well in one block, or more likely being perfect for a third set.

Cracked-Mirror Drake is a Skywinder Drake when you want one and a Seacoast Drake when you don't. That's serious incentive to go into blue-red, at common.

Splash is a trample variant that lets you point otherwise wasted damage at other blocking creatures. That's more complicated because there's a choice there (and it ignores hexproof by not targeting), and it's more conditional because your opponent can negate splash by blocking less. I'm guessing testing would show this too complex to keyword, but I could totally see it appearing on a few rares in or across blocks.

Deathtide Dragon up the stakes by comboing deathtouch with splash, making each single point it deals lethal, and allowing it to kill up to five blockers (in a preposterously ideal situation) by itself. While that's not my style, I could totally see Wizards printing a rare like that.

Defection uses the whose-the-controller-whose-the-owner shenanigans mechanic from Akroan Horse to make a violence-conditional Mind Control. I can't figure out why changing control of the aura matters here. (Also, you can give the aura to a player other than the creature's owner in multiplayer.)

Astral Projection is a more restrained version of Jon Louck's living reflection from GDS2. Requiring an attack to use it is great, and the ability to get multiple triggers is a nice bonus for Johnny. We still don't really want it a common for comprehension complexity, and it's still dangerously strong but I like where Double Dragon is at, clearly not unseating Broodmate Dragon.

Stun isn't a permanent-based mechanic, and while you could let any permanent do it, you could do that with any effect mechanic. Is this red? Debatable. In the case of Dragon's Glare, it's "Creatures can't block this turn" and will hopefully win the game for you, so maybe it's okay that it also prevents them from attacking back.

Iterate is Melvin-y, by which I mean, this keyword has no flavor and Vorthos won't care for it. That said, it is massively powerful, doubling most of your spells for free (after the initial downpayment) if you build around it, which you clearly should. There's no way this needs to be a keyword, because we couldn't possibly put this on more than a few rares ever.

Guess is like the Izzet take on extort. It's pretty compelling to, as any mechanic this brazenly powerful should be. Compare Meditation Wastes to Desolate Lighthouse. But that could be easily fixed by increasing the cost to use it. We might also want to limit it to the red version of looting.

Spellcharge explicitly rewards transients, but lives on permanents, asking players (with the exception of Molten Lake, which is effectively free as a land) to balance their strategy between the two. Rewarding players proportionally for completing your mini-challenge is always fun, but there's also a lot of book-keeping involved. Imagine a Standard deck built around this mechanic; that's a lot of counters.

Tactics might be more approachable worded as "Target creature can't block this turn unless it blocks Moonfire Dragon." While that's a lot better paired with evasion than provoke would be, it still feels very much like a challenge and wants mechanically to be green/red and thematically to be green/white.

I don't get why Moonfire Dragon makes other creatures fly.

Momentum looks cool, but spit-balling a few commons quickly indicated that it would be hard to justify both conditions because creatures with ETB or attack triggers automatically satisfy one of them. It might work to shoehorn "another" in there so no momentum cards help turn themselves on, but focusing on one of the two conditions is probably inevitable.

We'd probably use tempo like devotion, in templating.

Assuming the rules team would approve this templating, or could find some that works, manifest is a highly versatile keyword. You can use it something like ninjitsu or Through the Breach to upgrade your attacks. You can use it to upgrade your blocks as well. And whether you're in combat or not, you can use it Flicker one of your creatures away from a removal spell. If creatures with manifest have ETB, static, or activated abilities, they can also surprise your opponent. I'd want to test to make sure that's not too much versatility.

Invert reads very simply, and much of the time it will be pretty straightforward. The reason they don't do this at common anymore, though, is that the layering rules when p/t switching is paired with pump effects or p/t setting effects isn't immediately obvious. Apart from that, and the on-board complexity a horde of this would entail, this is a very red-blue mechanic for creatures.

Teleport lets you save your creatures or lets you untap or reuse their ETB triggers by recasting them, but you have to keep a spell up (an instant, in the first case) to do it. Spell-based shenanigans for your permanents? Sign me up.

Funny how red never gets 2/1 fliers for 3, but totally could if it were hybrid. Hybrid is crazy.

Catalysis is a punisher mechanic ("Should I cast the spell my opponent named, even though it will catalyze her drake?") wrapped in a guessing game ("Which card can I name that's most likely to be in my opponent's hand soon?") which is very red and very blue, but it's also very conditional. Would want to test this to see how often it's worth while.

Spectraphax, in fairness, is totally playable even when you name a card not in your opponent's deck.

Augment is I think meant to be a sort of splice-from-permanents mechanic, which is a neat idea, and definitely most appropriate in blue and red (though I could see it in all colors in the right block). The template needs work, but that's no problem.

Thunderwise self-combos, and might as well just add both effects to his augmentation because free lightning bolts are too good to pass up when you have 6+ mana anyhow.

If evoke were to return, it would be right at home in red-blue (and black too, honestly) and could even serve an important role in a set that needs more spells as well as more creatures for those colors.

Almost every single entry featured a keyword or ability word (including a few that actively didn't need to be keyworded), even though I only asked for a mechanic, which could be anything usable across multiple cards. That's not a bad thing at all, but I will take the opportunity to remind us all that there are mechanics that aren't keywords.

The challenge was not as open as it had originally been intended and that was entirely my fault. By providing just two pieces of art, one of which was clearly a dragon, and one of which was clearly a land (which is the last permanent type where you want to use to feature a colored mechanic), I skewed the results heavily not just toward creature mechanics, but those that would work well on a rare and/or flying creature. We still got a ton of very different results, because you folks are awesome. Thanks for that.


  1. FYI, my card was submitted as uncommon. If it were rare there'd be a few more bells and whistles attached (e.g. firebreathing).

  2. Not a single monocolored submission! Provide a piece of art that very clearly suggests two specific colors, and this community will deliver.

  3. Regarding Spectraphax,
    I know all of my submissions tend to push the envelope on power-level, but this time it was very intentional. Permanents with Catalysis should always be playable without the ability. That might mean the Catalysis won't work as a keyword, but perhaps it would work as a vertical cycle?

    A more general version occurred to me after the deadline:

    Catalysis (When you cast this spell, name a card type. If the next spell your opponent casts is of that type, catalyze this permanent.)

    As much as I love Meddling in my opponents plans, I find it difficult to see any reason why this wording isn't superior.

    1. That wording does seem better. I don't think Spectraphax is too strong.

  4. Defection needs to change control of itself because otherwise (at least as the card is worded, with "target opponent") the creature would be incapable of ever coming under your control.

    Mind you, I'm reading and reading the card, and it's about as sensical as Dead Ringers to me... I can't figure out what it's actually doing, much less how I'm supposed to use it.

    1. I was working around using "Enchanted creature's controller".

      "At the end of enchanted creature's controller's turn, if enchanted creature did not deal damage, target opponent of enchanted creature's controller gains control of enchanted creature" . To me, Defection was a straightforward solution - the card itself defects so that it's always controlled by the same player that owns the creature, so "your" always refers to the creature's controller (but it seems I missed the ball on its comprehension complexity).

      You're supposed to use it by enchanting a creature and then figuring out a way to stop it from dealing damage/attacking, either with a Fog Bank or a Stun effect (or anything else). If you succeed, you get an undercosted Mind Control, but you have to attack/deal damage with it or it will keep defecting.

    2. Worse in multiplayer, but:

      "At the beginning of enchanted creature's controller's end step, if it didn't deal damage this turn, he or she chooses an opponent who gains control of it."

  5. Totally not a big deal, but Smokecrown Drake has it's old keyword name Mercurial.

    I like a lot of the mechanics suggested here, but the Splice variant, Augment is my very favorite. It needs some retooling, here's a take that lifts directly from Splice:

    Augument R - NAME deals 3 damage to target creature or player. (As you cast an Instant or Sorcery spell, you may pay R. If you do, add this card's Augment effect to that spell.)

    1. Not sure how that happened, but it's fixed now.

      My proposed template for augment is:
      Add "this spell deals 3 damage to target creature or player" to the next instant or sorcery spell you cast this turn.

      That said, your proposal makes me realize that attaching the effects to the spell, rather than just doing the effects is kind of pointless.

      Augument — Whenever you cast an Instant or Sorcery, you may pay R. If you do, ~ deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

      If you really wanted, you could replace ~ with "that spell."