Monday, April 28, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge 042514 Review—AndyParkArt

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

It's true of every Design review, but worth stating explictly before we go too far: The exact balance of a card is something Development figures out through lots of playtesting and iteration. While I will make notes about things that seem too strong or too weak, they all come with the understanding that none of us can possibly know with real certainty. Indeed, there's not even a "correct" choice in Development because a point of mana, power or toughness here or there matters more or less very contextually, and a single over- or under-costed common will never break a format, just shape it one direction or another.

Bloodcrazed Minotaur looks to be a cheap Minotaur and reinforce the BR color-split of the tribe. Creative wants Minotaurs to be 5+ P/T, but this guy can grow to 2/3 or larger each turn with a mana investment. It's not my favorite solution, but it's an interesting card mechanically. It's strange seeing the Shade ability on a non-shade, but it's neat that it can go on such a cheap creature because you're guaranteed not to be mono-black or even close.

Bloodfrenzy Minotaur also fills the cheap slot. Here, we get a Hurloon Minotaur for {R} which is exciting, but it's effectively just a 2/1 since it damages itself whenever you use it. That's far above curve for a red common. Between that and the drawback with an implict X, I'd much rather see this at uncommon.

Bloodpact Minotaur is a Hurloon Minotaur for {B} but this one's fragile in a very different way: It offers a free 2:1 to your opponents (which you can mitigate by not playing other creatures they can kill). High risk, high reward; this could easily prove too good for Limited at common, but the ability to chump it with a 0/1 and still 'trade' mitigates that a lot.

Bloodthirsty Brute is a Triton Shorethief that upgrades to a Goblin Roughrider if you ever block it. Given how hard it is to force blocks in Theros, and how quickly a bad Minotaur can become good in the right deck, I like this solution to the cheap minotaur problem.

Bull-Eye Butcher offers conditional, tribal, card selection. The way it fills your graveyard feels a bit Mulch-y or Grave Defiler-esque, but mechanically this works well in black. Card selection is definitely something the tribe lacks and would enjoy.

Bullgore is just a big, efficient Minotaur, which is something we might have seen a lot more of, but didn't. Maybe R&D was so focused on fulfilling the minimum size that they forgot to make some big Minotaurs. Intimidate seems over-the-top on a 4/4 for 4, but given that it's two-color, I really think this is just right.

Celebrant of Ruin is Ruinous Minotaur's smaller cousin. In addition to being smaller and cheaper, this version triggers off of damage dealt to creature as well as players, which will make this play much differently. This doesn't compare well to Scythe Tiger or Rogue Elephant (which is fair because green gets more efficient creatures), but those cards saw very little play and I think this needs either a bigger upside, or a more conditional downside.

Deathbellow Bloodreader will scare new players away instantly with its life loss and card disadvantage, but Spikes will enjoy the ability to trade three weak cards for two potentially relevant cards. I like that this is free with Ragemonger and I'm surprised nothing like that made it into the block.

Fellhide Deathstalker shows us what a Minotaur devoted to black might look like. This might be a bit overpowered since its Bushido in the worst case and Godsend in the best. Kind of shocking Theros block didn't include any -X/-X equal to devotion cards.

Grudgeholder Minotaur is doing two big things: It's an undercosted Minotaur that can't attack unless you can get some Minotaurs killed, growing unbounded when you do; and it's also a Minotaur lord that grows your entire team as members die. I like both ideas, but the combination is too much for a single card, particularly at {R}.

Kragma Blooddrinker is our other black-devoted Minotaur, this one mirroring Mogis's Marauder (which is a human wearing a minotaur skull), but doesn't grant haste (so it never gets to benefit itself) and grants lifelink instead of intimidate (which is an odd choice for a brutal tribe of warlike beastmen).

Kragma Coward takes a page from Jackal Familiar and Mogg Flunkies. It's more efficient than either and might be too good for a common. It could be {1}{R} and just "can't attack alone" which would be fair.

Kragma Goremaster is also free via Ragemonger, but much more focused on blind aggression than Bloodreader. Even so, this might also appeal less to new players since it damages you, but it doesn't take much experience to know that everyone losing equal life is good when you're attacking with 3/2s for two.

Kragma Grunt fills the high-end gap for Minotaurs, punishing your opponent for saving cards, drawing extras, or just being mana-screwed. I'd want to test this for sure, it's clearly swingy but it might be just the right kind of swingy.

Kragma Horn-Tosser is a bigger Minotaur, also looking to give you a bit of reach in the late game. A free fling sounds perfectly bullmanish to me.

Minotaur Carnophage will please a lot of players because it's an efficient minotaur one-drop, references Carnophage, and Unholy Strength, and gets to 5+ P/T via the block mechanic Inspired. Works for me!

Reckless Minotaur is a reverse Serra Avenger. You only want to cast this in one of your first three turns. After that (whether in hand or play), it's useless. That's a huge limitation, but it's likely to deal 9 damage when you play it on turn 1. I think this wants to be a rare just for splashiness.

Slaughter Caller looks to offer you conditional, tribal card advantage at the cost of life. Given the efficient cost, I would be happy to run this in a Minotaur deck, Limited or Standard.

I was really glad I didn't tell you all to make cheap Minotaurs, because the other holes you filled revealed further limitations to the tribe, and all the cards are interesting or exciting. Very well done.

BTW, there has never been a 3/2 vanilla Minotaur. Seems like a big missed opportunity for the Pensive Minotaur slot given Kragma Butcher.


  1. I'm personally surprised 2/3 is so often adhered to for Minotaurs in a lot of ways; I wonder how many people even notice, and then "get" it.

    1. I think it's safe to say you need to have been playing since fifth edition (hurloon's last printing) to care.

    2. Hurloon Minotaur was the face of Magic. Seems fair to pay homage to that when possible. Also, I really like that minotaurs are an aggressive tribe that on average have toughness > power, which makes them interesting. I don't really want to see 3/2 minotaurs running around everywhere!

  2. I should dig out a couple of Hurloon Minotaurs to use as my Flurry of Horns tokens.

  3. Bloodcrazed Minotaur by Tommy Occhipinto
    The abilities interact well, but being so small means you have to activate the shade effect to not lose your guy. And that ties up your mana so much that it keeps you from casting creatures on your curve. This just has the same limitation as Deathbellow Raider. Minotaurs live and die on their curve, so I don't want to double down on that design space.

    Bloodfrenzy Minotaur by Ant Tessitore
    The design is driven entirely by flavor, so any complaints I have are dwarfed by what feels flavorful. Let me try by saying that laying out what a card actually does at common will keep new players from getting blown out. If it had "Whenever NAME attacks or blocks, it gets -0/-2 until end of turn." people are more likely to use it correctly.

    Bloodpact Minotaur by James Bartolotti
    I hate seeing these harsh drawbacks at common. All they do is scare people away from the archetype in draft and force the player who does try Minotaurs into playing with bad cards. I don't like Fleshmad Steed, but I will certainly play it over this in a Minotaur deck.

    Bloodthirsty Brute by Jules
    In combination with the Tribe's various lords, this can quickly put an opponent in a lose-lose situation. I miss the Raging Gorilla effect, and this plays very similarly.

    1. You can summon creatures after combat, which means you can present Bloodcrazed Minotaur as a bigger creature for blockers. If they block, you're happy to pump rather than make a new creature.

    2. For what it is worth, I wanted my Bloodcrazed Minotaur not to have the "attacks each turn if able" draw back, but it was felt that it was too dangerous without it. Designwise, I would much rather not have it, but I certainly understand the developmental concerns about the version without "attacks each turn if able."

  4. Bull-Eye Butcher by tehWERR
    This is a great design and gives the Minotaur player a real reason to play Black for what its slice of the color pie can offer beyond combat tricks.

    Celebrant of Ruin by Inanimate
    The downside of this card is a bit overwhelming (especially in Theros where limited is clogged with creatures). I would compare this to Shard Volley, a common that I am much happier to sac a land to play. That flavor text is spectacular though.
    Btw, Jay, did you purposely forget to attribute the design in this mockup because Inanimate commented on your forgetting to attribute the artist in the mockup on the design entry?

    Deathbellow Bloodreader by Pasteur
    If we're picking effects to combo with Ragemonger, I'm not sure a mandatory effect that costs life and card advantage is the way to go. It should be something way more inviting. A 2/3 that deals 1 damage when it dies, for example.

    Felhide Deathtalker by Evan Jones (1st design)
    I think this effect turns off trample, which is one of the tribal Minotaur decks' best ways to get reach. Not a deal breaker, but I almost wish you had more control over how much X was with each block. I guess it's the double-edged sword of Devotion. Also, this guy is so good that the player drafting Minotaurs has little chance of getting it.

    1. Inanimate made his own card render rather than resubmit his text, so I just used that.

  5. Grudgeholder Minotaur by Chah
    I think the combination of abilities tells a cool story. But there is no reason this needs to be an undercosted one-drop. Even as a aggressively costed four- or five-drop it'd be compelling.

    Kragma Blooddrinker by Ben Nassau
    I agree that lifelink seems really out of flavor for Minotaurs. Gaining life equal to a creature's toughness when it dies (last seen on Abattoir Ghoul) matches the tribe better.

    Kragma Coward by Jay Treat
    Why not use creature type Coward? Anyway, do we really want to depict any of the Minotaurs as a coward? I think the tribe isn't good fodder for comedy like Goblins are. Dumb muscle would work as a concept. Compared to Ember Beast or Loyal Pegasus, there could be a case that this is undercosted by 1.

    Kragma Goremaster by Jenesis
    This so much feels like a creature you want to hold back and get the most effect from, so a 2/3 seems more appropriate then a 3/2. It could also be mono-Black pretty easily. This is a very interesting direction to take Minotaurs for limited.

    Kragma Grunt by Wobbles
    The wording is off if you look at other cards that let you choose a card from your opponent's hand. And the effect feels like something a shaman would do, not a simple grunt. But those are nitpicks. I like this as a seven-drop at low rarity.

  6. Kragma Horn-Tosser by Aura
    My only suggestion would be to find a way to keep players in limited from drafting this before the Minotaur player sees it. A 4/4 for five with a powerful ETB ability is likely to get snapped up pretty quickly. Maybe it only lets you sacrifice a Minotaur?

    Minotaur Carnophage by Tigt
    I like this card. The effect works well on a one-drop.

    Reckless Minotaur by Evan Jones (a 2nd design?!)
    Definitely should be a rare, because limited with the potential for multiples of these on turn 1, 2, and 3 seems very warping. That's mitigated if it appears in a set that only drafts one pack, like Journey into Nyx. Also, I agree that it would be cleaner if the effect was a trigger rather than a static effect, like "At the beginning of your end step, if it's not your first, second or third turn, sacrifice NAME."

    Slaughter Caller by lpaulsen
    What if this just revealed the top card and gave you the option to cast it before you drew it during your draw step? That way player's aren't exiling their land drops away or top decking answers when they're too low in life to pay for the free effect and losing them forever.

    1. Including both of Evan's design was my mistake. Both were in the file and I forgot to weed the second one out.

      Thanks for the additional perspective, Nich! Lots of great insights.