Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge Review 080114—samwyse

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

Awaken the Deep is a downside Rise from the Grave. In a vacuum, this would be a poor design because it limits player cleverness in exchange for shaving a mana off the cost. In a set with a power-matters theme (such as Tesla if it keeps the dominance mechanic), the downside helps communicate the set's theme as well as reinforcing it's value. While that's likely a satisfactory justification, it doesn't make this an impressive design.

Breach from Beneath-Beyond clearly has massive variance. It could net you a single land in a duel, or a set of lands in Commander, or it could net you an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, a Woodfall Primus and an Avacyn, Angel of Hope. The expected value in varies greatly depending on what kind of decks you're facing. High variance is more appropriate in a multiplayer game, and I think that's where this will belong until someone combos it with some fateseal in a duel against a big-stuff deck. Does it need to cost more? Probably, but let Dev sort that out.

Break the Surface most likely wants to be uncommon, both for the potential impact, for the strategic complexity necessary to maximize that impact, and the processing complexity. Actually, this needs another template because some players will use it to make their Bears 4/4 and their Boars 2/2. Dev can work out the cost, but I'm guessing {2}{U} or maybe {U}{U} unless there are a lot of 0/Xs in the set.

I think it'll be a long while before we see dice mentioned on cards without a silver border, but if that weren't a deal-breaker, Chaos Made Flesh makes pretty interesting use of it. Really interesting to compare this to Polymorph, both offensively and proactively. In that light, it seems quite likely under-costed.

Costs like {X}{X}{R} tend to cause a lot more confusion than single-X costs, and splitting it up like this doesn't help. If {4}{U}{B} is a reasonable cost for double Murder at uncommon, this would at least need example text to clarify the price. Even then I can imagine some players arguing Deep Freeze's two Xs are different so I can pay {3}{U}{B} to tap one and kill one. Ultimately not worth the second X. I do like the Twiddle+Assassinate off-color kicker combo.

I believe the intent is for the exiled cards to return to their owner's graveyards, and it's interesting that this new template from Banisher Priest isn't as clear about that for zones other than the battlefield. This effect is definitely black, in fact it kind of feels like you're forgetting where you are when this monstrosity appears. This was submitted as an uncommon (I'd be terrified of a set that wanted it at common). I get that there's snow in the art, and I'm okay with making it a snow creature if we were to bring that supertype back (though I'm not excited about bringing snow back), but requiring a double-snow cost makes Eldritch Horror almost impossible to play in Limited and I don't see any justification for that.

Glacier Melting Wurm is almost a big Viashino Sandstalker, but then blue gets in there and makes it return all your creatures. That's a huge downside on the face of things, but makes the card really exciting for Johnny. Just think of all the ETB triggers! I'd be curious if Dev wanted to shrink this a both in size and cost so that replaying your army would be more feasible; maybe it'd be broken at 4, IDK. I like this. I will say that wurm is an unlikely choice with hellions and serpents as in-color options. Trample is neither unwelcome nor entirely necessary.

For a moment, I thought this hit it's flavor backwards, but I guess it's bursting from beneath snow to on top of it, hence the snow it displaces going to the bottom. Either way, it's a nice use of the supertype (again, if it were to be resurrected). Making Hoarfrost Horror only hit creatures is definitely correct. Even then, I imagine a deck with 56 snow lands/spells and 4 Stuffy Dolls.

Fighting Worms! Actually, most of Magic's worms tend to be relatively fragile, so it's a bit of an odd subtype here, especially given the arctic climate and the speed it takes to hunt something. I'm more concerned about the mechanics here. What is it about an ice worm that makes it only want to attack creatures that are exactly as tough as it is strong, which is to say exactly as tough as the toughest creature was when it landed? It's not a survival thing or it would care whether the power was higher or lower. It's not that Iceplains Devestator only hunts game it knows it can kill, because then it would fight things with lower toughness too. If we ignore those two little oddities, we've got a creature that's always as big as the biggest creature when it appears and that can fight that creature (and anything the same size). That could be a really interesting story, but it sounds more like a predator from a mad scientist's lab, or some kind of avatar of the hunt.

Take that snow lovers, that white stuff turns out to have been sand all along! Erupt is a nice name for an ability that's been imagined on this site before, and I quite like it on this card. Pairing it with a combat-damage effect is really nice. I'm cool with this being a common when you erupt it and snag a card in the deal, and when you choose to keep the 4/4 for six instead; I was about to say repeated discard doesn't belong on a common at all, but maybe on a six-drop that has to connect without evasion it could work.

Suggested reprint is more than appropriate. In fact, this art is way better than the original. Nice.

Half Panglacial Wurm, half Crater/Caldera Hellion. Here's the tricky bit. If the last ability triggered from the library, it would be too good (as most free Wraths and Ball Lightnings are.) It doesn't, it only triggers when you've already got a Panglacial Hellion on the field, so it's merely very very good. My complaint is how hard it is to figure out that this callback to a card that triggers from your library doesn't trigger from your library. Ironically, that's only a problem for people who know the original. New players should have no trouble figuring out how this works. One very clever safety valve I have to point out: If you shuffle twice or thrice to a bunch of hellions (your first token triggers too), all of them but two die in the inferno (and those die at EOT). I mean 12 damage and a wrath is still pretty good, but at least it's not 24 or 48.

While bestow seems vastly superior, the technology shows that licids could be done again. I was thinking this seemed like a silly effect to put on a licid since you could only use it once, but that's untrue. You can target the enchanted creature, put Rimewurm's trigger on the stack, and then pay {U} to save your licid. In fact, you can do that every turn for {U}{U} which sounds about as interactive as Royal Assassin. Less, if you've built your deck around it. Not sure how to make this fun.

Shattered Glacier Hellion iterates on Panglacial Hellion (no bonus points here), keeping the same cast-from-library ability that Panglacial Wurm introduced, and making the explosion effect dependent on landfall. I like the first part, because it fulfills player expectations of a panglacial whatever better, but the last part suffers from two problems: It's explicitly not landfall (which we can solve by simply removing that ability word) and it anti-combos with the first ability. That is, if we cast this card from our library while Rampant Growthing, the land we grab won't hit the battlefield until after the hellion, and so can't trigger this ability.

When it does trigger, it kills itself. That's good and bad. Getting to choose whether you get a 3/2 or a Pyroclasm is a nice option, and on a spell that might not cost you a card is easily worth four mana in the right deck. It does feel like a downside, though, and it would feel amazing to get a creature and a Pyroclasm, though admittedly that would have to cost more or be harder to enable. Neat card, still.

I love seeing variations that aren't clearly better or worse than the base effect. Is this better than Essence Scatter? Yes. No. Depends. After my design, I have to respect the power-matters part of this card, but I'll say it would be just as neat and much simpler if it just always put the countered creature 3 cards down or so. Kudos for seeing this art opposite of everyone else, with the creature going down instead of coming up.

Thoughtrender is better than Ravenous Rats or Black Cat, though not strictly. Making the discard an activated ability instead of an ETB or death trigger makes the card harder to play, since the player now has to figure out when is best to use it. Given that the discard wants to happen earlier, but that defeats the creature-ness of it, there's definite tension there and I expect new players to enjoy this a lot less than its less powerful cousins. But at uncommon, that might be just fine.

Unexpected Arrival is definitely rare. Sometimes it's a really efficient looting card and sometimes it's a cheap one-time Impromptu Raid, both of which could work nicely in a certain kind of red deck. I was surprised that the last sentence went the way it did. "Otherwise put that card into your hand" and "Otherwise, put ~ back into your hand" both seem more intuitive. "Otherwise, put ~ or that card into your hand" would be novel and still plenty good. The way it is, though, lets you draw-and-then-discard (in the blue fashion of looting), and lets you discard the card you drew, a card you already had, or Unexpected Arrival if it's served it's purpose which is a lot of flexibility. If that's all the card did, that would be a feature, but it distracts massively from the summoning mode that would seem to be the card's original purpose.

Molten Rain hellion is cool and I'd love to play with it. I don't see any reason for Vent Maker Hellion to be green though. Oh wait, this hits creatures and yourself too? Well, it may not still be an homage, but it is still cool. And even more mono-red. I also think that tips the scales into being a bit too efficient for an uncommon.

Two of you submitted your own card image, thanks. Thanks to Pasteur for voluntarily mocking up more than a dozen images this time yesterday. If anyone added or changed a design since then, get an image of it to me through any means you like today and I'll post it here and review it.

As usual, I really enjoyed seeing a wide breadth of ideas in your designs. Almost all of you got the bonus points (more even than really nailed the art). Good stuff, Artisans!


  1. In order to better sell the connection between Panglacial Hellion and Panglacial Wurm, I suppose it may have been worthwhile to orient the replication trigger around the controller searching their library, as the basic idea was to have the Hellion spawning Panglacial Wurms in some sense.

    Alas, it seemed more in vogue to punish shuffling as a red effect, so I didn't really think about trying to better align with the card being referenced.

  2. I had considered a version of Thin Ice that put it on the bottom of the library because that is MUCH simpler. The issue there is that such effects are just so punishing for Commander decks. The card is designed to be more relevant in Commander, so putting something totally unfun seemed worse than having a slightly more complex version. Any other "partial" bury seemed unsatisfying, but I liked the flavor of "the bigger they are, the farther they fall".

    This was the second place contender

    Thin Ice XU
    Instant (R)
    Counter target creature spell. If that creature is countered this way, put it into its owner's library just beneath the top X cards.

    Obviously a lot more elegant. The power level and the use of X probably pushes it to rare, and it does become a more annoying card to play against just as a 1 mana memory lapse. But it's certainly another option.

    1. For what it's worth, I'd definitely start the original Thin Ice at common.

    2. I was hesitant due to the complexity of the card. X effects are weird, and the "putting beneath the top X cards" is also a weird thing. It might be clearer if its worded as

      Thin Ice 1U
      Instant (C)
      Put target creature spell into its owner's library just beneath a number of cards equal to that spell's power.

      I think that's a better template to avoid the X and the double comma in a single sentence. The problem is that it now also hits uncounterable creatures, which isn't great, and it's confusing because it looks like Time Ebb. So maybe that's the way to go:

      Thin Ice 1UU
      Sorcery (C)
      Put target creature into its owner's library just beneath a number of cards equal to that spell's power.

      So maybe that's just better overall. Hard to say. It's crazy how many options a simple common design can generate.

    3. Thin Ice 1U
      The next time a creature would enter the battlefield, sacrifice ~, and put that creature into its owner's library just beneath a number of cards equal to that creature's power.

      Might need an "if you do", and probably not common regardless. (Also instigates board stalls in newer players much more than the average Essence Scatter.) Sometimes it's fun to mix-up proactive-reactive design, though.

      Thin Ice 1UU
      Enchantment - Aura
      Enchant land
      The next time a creature would enter the battlefield, sacrifice ~. If you do, exile that creature until enchanted land leaves the battlefield.

      Too weird? Too weird.

    4. The Time Ebb variant is the best of this lot, but I have to point out that by scaling with the target's power, we're actually *removing* strategy from the card. If the spell effects all creatures equally, then I have to think whether I want to use it on your small/cheap creature now to buy me time now, or to save it for a large/expensive creature that could kill me in a couple hits. When it scales to the power, using it on the small creature is (relatively) a waste of time, while using it on the large creature often removes it permanently. Effectively making the choice less interesting. (The same is basically true of my Awaken the Deep.)

    5. Pasteur's preventative counter is also interesting, though that sort of thing has some tricky issues. On the plus side, it makes the scaling interesting because I can trigger it with a cheap creature to clear the way for my big one. It does make me want to express the flavor differently:

      Thin Ice 1U
      Whenever a creature with power 4 or higher ETB, sacrifice ~. If you do, that creature's owner puts it into his or her library third from the top.

    6. That was another thing I considered, but those types of cards are just so unfun to play against. Certainly printable, but ugh. The "challenge of playing" argument is an interesting one. I think the challenge of deciding "play this now or wait for a bigger creature" is always going to be there. I mean, it's always a better Time Ebb, and it's not like that card is always obvious as to what you should play it on. What I like even more is that Thin Ice might be correct to play on a smaller creature just because putting back in a relevant deck slot will reduce an opponents chance of drawing an out, while playing it on a larger creature is basically killing it. Different situations will call for different plays. Especially in limited, the question of when to use it for tempo versus when to hold onto it defensively for a larger creature is just as relevant if the spell scales vs is a constant. Its use depends on matchup.

  3. Yes, thank you to Pasteur! I think people mocking their cards is a good idea, but I didn't get round to it :(