Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge Review 081514—j0sh

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

Lands that can produce multiple mana are always dangerous and so require a drawback that is not just significant, but expensive to neutralize, even moreso than five-color lands like Sliver Hive. Abandoned Festival's drawback is significant. If it only cared about your creatures, you could merely play a creatureless deck (which is a real cost, except when you were going to do that anyhow). Requiring no creatures to be around removes that easy solution and requires you to Essence Scatter, Murder and Day of Judgment your way to profit. As big a deal as that is, making this ETB tapped is absolutely correct since it would be trivial on turn one, or on the same turn you clear the board. Abandoned Festival could have allowed you to tap for {1} when you don't meet the condition, but omitting that makes the card much riskier to play and for a card with such high reward, that's a much better path.

Awesome (except for the weird flavor of a festival that's more/only productive when it's empty).

An updated Arena, in red, using the fight action word, and limiting its use to one time? Yes, please. It takes a little imagination to see this art as depicting an Arena Shanty-Town, but it's possible: Think of this as the tailgate party outside. One change I'd want to suggest is making the fight sorcery-speed so that it doesn't complicate combat math and the board-state so much. With that, it could be cheaper, but how much is entirely speculation.

Interesting. Let's process this together. The first ability is clearly insane; you can draw three cards each turn with just Bazaar of Bizarre and the lands you used to cast it. The second ability, though, means you can't keep any of them past your own turn, so you'll need to cast them (in which case you'll need some of your lands for that instead) or discard them to a Lotleth Troll or Psychatog. You'll also lose your Bazaar and give it to an opponent if you tap out more than her. At face-value, this card is both tricky to use and conditionally symmetrical. It'll definitely change the pace and focus of the game, but it won't necessarily win you the game. The next question is, how breakable is it? I'm guessing the answer is 'breakable' but will leave speculation as to just how much to the Legacy and Modern experts.

There's a lot of flavor happening in the rules text, some of which is obvious for the name and art and some of which requires some more imagination. Note that this allows us to tap auras, equipment, planeswalkers, etc. Might just want to choose one of creatures, lands and artifacts (probably creatures given the flavor); the card becomes narrow, but loses nothing in value as a Johnny puzzle.

Simple and creepy, Carnival of the Soulless is a symmetrical card that's easy to bend to your favor. For that reason, I expect it needs to cost more, but I don't see a problem with the rules text (though focusing on just creatures would tell a better story)

I love the concept of these slums spreading across the land, but it sounds like a nightmare to track. I'm nervous about Rishadan Port as that's a wholly unfun ability, but I can't argue that {4} seems like a high enough cost to keep it from being a problem. This loses the feeling of progression and is both stronger and weaker, but I wonder if it would achieve the same goal:

{4}, {T}: Nonbasic lands become copies of Castle Slums until EOT.

Hey, a board game fan! I like the intent behind Caylus—You get an array of useful options if you can get three colors of mana despite playing colorless lands like this. But, there's a bit too much going on here, between the three starting options, the ability to gain more, and the unique mana requirement. The options are highly disparate too: The mana ability is potentially very good, the land-playing ability will usually be useless, and the divination ability is unprintably strong. I would take this one of two ways:

{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{2}{U}, {T}: Draw a card.
{G}{R}{B}, {T}: Add {5} to your mana pool.
{2}{W}, {T}: Gain 3 life.

Where the different abilities make it a charm land. How many colors and how much they should cost is highly debatable, as is what the effects should be included, or whether it should be a one-off or cycle. The other option…

{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{T}: Caylus gains all activated abilities of target land.

Like Vesuva but crazier. I'd love this if not for the tracking issues.

I like the flavor of Day Off a lot (I'd love it as worker's strike). This card is much stronger than it might sound at first blush. There have only been three cards that make an opponent skip their untap step. With the obvious exception of the card you get to draw, skipping your untap step is quite often equivalent to losing your entire turn. For that reason, I'd expect a spell that did just that to cost {2}{U}{U}. With a Counterspell on top, I'd expect this to be {4}{U}{U} or so, and rare for sure. Would definitely see Constructed play.

Extended Siesta is perfect. I mean, nothing's perfect, but I can't make this card better.

Okay, fine: It will be a task to track which of your tapped cards were tapped in the last round versus the previous. And this effect is strong enough I'd kind of like to see it symmetrical despite Wizards push away from symmetrical enchantments. But this is still elegant, novel and flavorful.

Now seems like a good time to mention that a cool benefit of someone else rendering the cards is that I don't know whose is whose unless I really stare at the tiny little credit. Do I regret having inflated Jules' ego? Just a little.

Fairgrounds is the Dead Ringers implementation of Exotic Orchard / Reflecting Pool. Being concise doesn't make text elegant. Being immediately understandable does.

Having finally figured out what this does, it might be too easy a way to splash colors in a mono- (or un-) colored deck. Then again, Reflecting Pool was nuts, and maybe we want the format this enables.

What happens when you have two?

Festival Grounds has some of the wackiness of Bazaar of Bizarre and Caylus while being much much simpler. It'll take some brainpower to figure out whether you want to put it in your deck, and when you want to use it during the game, but there are no sub-options to consider. As a symmetrical card with a small but not insignificant effect, it seems hard to abuse and likely safe to print. My Johnny-Spike brain is having fun trying to figure out which turn it starts being correct to start the festival, and what game states that would actually be wise in.

Foreign Festival is a symmetrical Prismatic Omen that doesn't help with domain. Would that be an improvement in Commander? Not an expert, but I'm thinking yes, just not sure if it's enough to justify making a new card. I suppose it's a great card for an Emperor.

"Exile any number of target creatures…until EOT" is a powerful and versatile effect, since you can pick and choose creatures that are positive for you to reset, negative for your opponent to reset, or—since Mass Disappearance is an instant—make combat go exactly how you'd like. That's exciting and I want it to be a card; I'm not sure how much it needs to cost but {2}{W}{W}{W} is as good a guess as I'd make.

It's the +1/+1 counters at the end that throw me off: What do those represent? Otherworldly Journey is about coming back stronger for surviving a mystifying and/or dangerous experience. What about disappearing suddenly and coming back immediately makes creatures stronger? I almost missed that they come back tapped; that fulfills the challenge, but is highly unusual for a flicker effect and at instant speed means you've also gained "tap all your opponent's creatures" so you can alpha next turn.

This is a pretty good execution on a Monstrosity-land, but it does too much. I'd rather it gave you a choice between those effects—or just always did one of them—because this is really really powerful. There's a small flavor disconnect in that Medieval Market cares about population, but only in the form of mana-bought counters and not in creatures. What if it had instead:

{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{3}, {T}: Draw a card. Activate this ability only if you control three or more creatures.

Definitely. Springleaf Drum totally wants to be on a land, and this is that land. Shrovetide Square features the same "please populate me" story/minigame the last card did but simpler. Aces.

(Click to zoom)
I have a lot less context for judging the merits of planes, but from what I've seen, this seems like a very fine plane, and appropriate to Ravnica's famous Tin Street too. The tapping at the end feels a little forced—pretty sure that wouldn't have happened if the challenge were different. My real concern is letting players pass auras and symmetrical enchantments. They feel a little clever for outwitting the system, but less things happen as a result, and that's the opposite of chaos.

Zang. Turning a land into a Black Lotus is quite a thing to do. Making a Black Lotus that travels from player to player rather than simply crumbling is rather interesting. Putting that on a green land aura is a neat move too (although it would work fine as a standard artifact). I wouldn't change anything about Travelling Fair unless playtesting warranted it.

Everyone met the technical requirements of the challenge, though a couple of you made your designs inferior in order to do so.

Land was an obvious card type for this art, and I approve everyone who made that choice since obvious is not a bad word in design. Just the same, I also applaud those who pushed the boundaries and tried something different; most of them worked with the art pretty darn well.

I say this every time, and that might dilute its value, but it's just as true now as the first time: There's so much awesome here. You goblin artisans are kicking ass and taking names. Let's all thank Zefferal for rendering our cards for us.


  1. Super impressed with Zefferal rising to the challenge of a plane.

    1. It was high time I loaded those templates into MSE anyway.

    2. Upgrading MSE is a fun design inspiration. :-) Thanks for rendering!

    3. Now I'm tempted to track down a weird template and make a challenge to a create a mechanic that would demand it. Thanks for the MSE work!

  2. Hey Jay, the card I was thinkimg of that was like "target player skips their next untap step" is Exhaustion (which does basically exactly that for 2U). Mana Vapors and Mana Short are also in the vicinity.

    1. Those are all pretty close, and Exhaustion is nearly identical. That said, it's not a coincidence none of those have been printed since 9th Edition.

  3. This was a very impressive set of challenge answers, yes. Fairgrounds is the only one I've seen before, and it does indeed have the big problem of "what if there are two". Festival Grounds is fascinating but I fear it'll only have the interesting ability activated once per game: if one player thinks it's worth doing, then the other usually won't.

    Extended Siesta reminds me of Temporal Distortion. But that affected lands as well, which meant its main effect was slowing down casting of spells. Extended Siesta gives the other half the opportunity to play on its own.

  4. Lots of interesting stuff this week. Thank you Jay, for the kind words. Shrovetide Square is definitely my favorite of the bunch though Castle Slums would be a home run if it weren't for the memory issues. I'd definitely like to see it without the tapping clause.