Monday, March 3, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge Review 022814—Tung Monster

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

This weekend, I gave explicit permission to bend or break the core rules of the challenge, because I determined it was a bad challenge. More on that in the wrap up.

Apprentice Awakener is a direct reference to Awakener Druid, switching up whether you want the druid to survive or not. The flavor that the Elemental plays with the druid (ignoring everything else), but if the druid dies, it goes on a mad rampage is great and fits the art. The flavor text tells a completely different and conflicting story, which is my least favorite part of this card. Mechanically, it's strange having a green creature that wants to die, but it could work in a set with a strong theme of sacrifice. Otherwise, I think this wants to be black?

Gaea's Emissary is a more broadly-applicable Brooding Saurian. By that, I mean it's a body you're excited to play in Limited and not unhappy to play in Standard, with an upside that prevents green's enemies from spoiling green's fun in the ways it hates most. I approve.

Giant of the Forest is playable, if slightly underwhelming, on its own but could dominate the game with one good aura. That's exactly where I want a lot of my uncommons to be.

Guardian of the Neverwood is an impressive wall that becomes an undercosted beater if your opponent has pirates. Obviously, it comes in a set with pirates. Interesting that they can choose not to play them while this is out, or if they already had some, to chump block this with them so that it stops attacking.

This is almost strictly better than Carnivorous Plant, which was uncommon. But then again, creatures have improved across the board since The Dark. Even so, not every set could support this at common.

Despite the drawback, Horn of Anti-Magic is basically a Trigon of Avoid Fate, which I'm guessing is a bit too strong. If you had to use it preemptively ("This turn, players can't cast spells that target permanents you control.") it might be fine (or even great).

Horn of Regret is an expensive Icy Manipulator, unless your opponent is playing tribal and then it's totally worth the price. Magic doesn't often want to hose tribal (because it's fun for players, and only broken when Wizards pushes it too hard, as in Lorwyn), but when it does this could be perfect. Though I do fear how effective it would be next to Day of Judgment.

Kids Who Cried 'Elemental' is a touch heavy-handed in telling its story with text, but I do like the story as well as the gameplay (in theory), enough to choose this one over three other versions.

Looming Loam gives you a drastically undercosted creature, but you effectively lose a land to get it (ala Rogue Elephant) and it locks you into either attacking or blocking each round. I actually like that drawback, but I think pairing it with the first part muddies the message.

Loping Loam is a beefed up Dryad Arbor (with some Mossfire Valley thrown in, though I'm not seeing what's red about this now). The attack/block restriction sort of makes this a landfall-triggered Treetop Village, though there are functional differences (some elegant, some less so).

Maw of Innocence is protected against blue's countermagic and protects your creatures from… other blue magic. Probably should align those to so it gives what it haves. Stopping blue from trolling you is a noble pursuit I'm happy to get behind, though the flavor text (and name to some extent) still fit when this stopped black magic as well.

Mesmeric Melody is a green Pacifism that only works as long as you keep one of your creatures out of combat, which is a great bit of flavor (though I'm not sure it's that much greener). Plays well with Elvish Mystic and other utility creatures, less so with green's main ground force—which is a good proportion for a card that can potentially be better than Pacifism.

Overgrown Ancient seems to refine Tromokratis' ability by helping each of your creatures be relevant enough to hit at least once before the opponent Doom Blades them.

Pasturize is similar to Utopia Vow, but it can hit non-creatures (though it has no effect on a lot of artifacts and enchantments) and counts as a Forest for land-counting effects.

Pedicustos protects children, and things that fight as well as children: you know Squirrels, Royal Assassin, Psychatog. Kids.

I imagine some awkward moments when this is played in Limited and the opponent blocks it all day with a 1/1 Soldier token.

Rhuksyan Ancient is a casualty to trying to please two audiences. Without the second ability, the card punishes players for not playing a lot of land, but with it, you can often expect to draw the land you need to cast those extra spells your drawing. Hopefully not every turn, making this some kind of crazy green milling card. Shrug.

Stasis Krasis is a nerfed version of Winter Orb. I mean Meekstone. I mean Stasis. Why did they used to make so many of these? At least this version is a lot harder to upkeep and has some new vulnerabilities, even if it also recurs itself infinitely.

The Mouth in the Forest is a tribute card without tribute. A tribute support card. Not sure why'd you want a tribute support card in green-white especially, but it's always neat to see new ways to make existing mechanics relevant, and it's hard to argue this isn't a flavorful trigger (with rules/templating concerns).

Triumph of the Meek answers the age-old question, what if you could cast Wrath of God every turn for the rest of the game? It's not that bad, of course, because your 1/Xs can still attack, and your X/1s can still block. So red and/or black aggressive decks, be ready to side into mono-bad if you want to beat this one card.

I'd rather see this effect on a creature so that all colors have a chance of beating it. It's interesting, as poetic as the symmetry between the two abilities is, this really feels like two different cards because the up-front effects are so different. (The high-level effect is the same, though: No one can do much of anything anymore.)

This was a bad challenge for me to present. The ability to include/exclude particular words in a card is never directly applicable to Magic design. It's not far off conceptually from "Design a card with this art that fits in this collector number slot" or even "Make this ability word thematically relevant" or "Avoid this word because it's a card name or keyword elsewhere, so it's not completely irrelevant, but worse is worse.

More importantly, though, is that card templating is never set in stone. First, designs need to be massaged into templates that work within the rules, and then they can be tweaked a few different directions based on needs like saving words, or matching templating in concurrent cards, or old cards that are being referenced. Ultimately, the fact that a very simple idea can be worded many different ways means that caring about specific wording is just a dead-end.

On top of that, the choice of negative words pushed us both toward downside mechanics, and toward verbal complexity thanks to double negatives and run-on sentences.

I'm going to rate this as the worst challenge I've put forth. If you disagree, I'd love to hear how. Hopefully this will hold that record for a long time.

The bright side is, my failure is not yours, and while your overall quality was limited by the factors I already mentioned, there are still some thematic cards as well as some unique cards, and some that might be fun to play with. Thanks for bearing with me.

Next time will be better.


  1. The biggest problem with this challenge is the fact that it led to inflexible designs. If one ability is problematic and needs refinement, the entire card probably needs to be thrown out because the challenge requires one of the words from that ability to be present.

    For what it's worth, I really enjoy Weekend Art Challenge. Thanks for facilitating it; it's a lot of fun and a great way to keep design muscles healthy. I have no doubt that I'm going to see some familiar names from this community show up on the Mothership come GDS3.

    1. That was another flaw.

      I'm going to be upset if about half the finalists aren't GA regulars.

    2. I don't know how many of us are even eligible. I'm in the UK so I can never even enter the GDS to see how I'd do.

      The challenge was fine. The result of these challenges is not to produce cards that will get made. The result is to find designs that fit the challenge.

    3. I think this is a good description of the problems. But I also think it was an interesting idea. I don't think you should steer of unrealistic restrictions, so long as you're alert to avoid the problems this particular combination caused.

      I don't have any immediate ideas for challenges, except to link to, which is multiverse's collection of challenges, but they tend to be more whimsical and open-ended than goblin artisans, so some might be worth repurposing to an art challenge for a wider audience.

    4. Samz with Bass here, the fact that they limmit themselves to those living in the US means that even though I would love it, I will not be part of GDS.

      As far as the Weekend Challenge review, I think that the better ones are those that either:

      * really feel like hole filling, when along with the art, we get a bit of information on the needs of the set

      * require us to base our design to complement something another designer submitted before us

      * re-imagine cards from previous sets

      * explore different ways to motivate players to use a game mechanic (we have done this to encourage attack or defence, we could do this with other mechanics like different takes on milling, on discarding, on graveyard mechanics that are not broken, etc)

  2. I agree this challenge wasn't great, but given how many weeks you've been running this you've still got an excellent hit rate. I really appreciate how much you care about the challenge quality, but there's no need to apologize: after all, you're the one providing the rest of us with an incredible service!

  3. I echo what everyone else has said: not your best moment, but we really appreciate everything you do.

    1. Thanks, guys! I'm not taking it hard, but I appreciate your support a lot.

  4. I actually liked this challenge quite a bit. The points that were made about template flexibility are valid issues, of course, but if you take the challenge as a push toward symmetrical static abilities (as many people did), it was a neat constraint that produced a lot of cool designs.

  5. Interesting commentary. On my design, I was more inspired by Ogre Jailbreaker than anything else. While strong, the ability to be turned off/randomly useless would probably push this towards being a sideboard common, but a good one in the right matchups. I like the fact that it'd be a fairly strong wall even in an environment without pirates, but the 4 toughness makes it reasonable.

    Also, I was hoping for more feedback on a Peter Pan inspired set (seeing as the art lends itself to that so well), but I got nada.

    1. Ogre Jailbreaker is a good defense of Guardian of Neverwood at common. Can't argue with that.

      I love the idea of a Peter Pan set in the context of a few random designs. I don't bet it would expand well to an entire set (much less a block), but wouldn't be shocked if someone showed otherwise, and would be pleased to see it. (Hmm, want to submit A Set in Four Cards?)

  6. Realized I missed jack's submission. Added Pasturize.

  7. My opinion is that any challenge, no matter how goofy or unrealistic, is important just as acting as a starting point. I've been surprised how often bizarre requirements have led to later, even if the later ideas have nothing to do with the original.

  8. I like challenges that are tied to specific blocks. "We're returning to Innsitrad," "This design is for Tesla," etc. it allows us to express something more in our design, a context or sense of place.

    I also like the heavy restriction challenges too, "non-creature green card," etc because they often force me into a different mindset when designing.

    Finally, I like any challenge that encourages me to design a keyword. Coming up with simple and flexible keywords is my favorite thing even though it's probably the toughest to get right. Probably because it so tough to get right.