Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge Review 101714—Frank Hong

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

You could play Hunt to Extinction in a duel for {4}{B}{B} as Extinction. You could play it in 2HG as two Extinctions for {3}{B}{B}. You could play it x3 for {2}{B}{B} in Emperor (w/ spell range 2+). And you could play it in a free-for-all game for as little as {B}{B} and all kinds of politics. It's odd that it scales up in power even while it scales down in cost in team games, and I'd flip the table if this were played against me in 2HG, but I do love how this would work in a team-less game and how it plays so differently by format.

Huh. All my opponents (and none of my teammates) get a dragon, and I either get a bigger dragon, or draw a bunch of cards. In a duel, I'd surely take the bigger dragon. In 2HG, I'd do the same unless there are already, say, three dragons in play (making this 5cc spell a 5-for-3) and we can answer the 8 flying power we just handed you. In a dragon-tribal Commander deck, I'd probably draw the cards. Would this break if it gave dragons to all other players instead? Then Predator's Council would be a 6-for-3 in 2HG.

Ignore the line down the middle. Qal Sisma isn't a split card, it's a plane.

When we travel to this plane, everyone names a card (of any type), putting a bounty on creatures with that name. Anyone who destroys one of them gets to draw a card. There are a lot of interesting implications there for a multiplayer game. For two, you can bribe players to save you from something you can't deal with right now, and the act of naming the table's greatest threats can have an impact all by itself.

The chaos ability seems crazy. Yes, it's a potentially massive effect and that'll shake the game up significantly, but I mean it's a crazy design. It's entirely cross-purposes with the rest of the card. If we all name the things we'd most like to kill, and this kills everything else, we're all hurt. We're all groaning and sighing, some more than others. Why do that to your players?

Interesting. Winter's Duel has you challenge an opponent to lock horns with you, telling any other players to focus elsewhere while you do. It's not quite symmetrical, though, because damage that you or your opponent deals to anyone else is still at full value, so Earthquake doesn't get any worse despite the card's flavor, which isn't quite what I'd expect. Apart from that, I like this design a lot.

I'd propose: "If a source you or enchanted player controls would deal damage to the other player, it deals double that damage instead. If a source you or enchanted player controls would deal damage to any other player, or vice-versa, it deals half that damage instead, rounded down."

The neat, multiplayer part of Young Hero is that each player gets to use it on her turn. (Or would, if we actually specified that Young Hero's controller can't use her on other player's turns.) Although, I'm not at all sure why, thematically, Young Hero is so hard-working, so un-loyal, and kills indiscriminately. Would make more sense as a psychotic Horror or Mercenary.

The weird part is that she can kill almost anything initially and gets worse and worse at killing things as she grows. I'd expect the inverse, where the hero starts out killing small threats and builds her way up to killing the big bads, the pattern in every Fantasy novel ever.

Alpha Hunt solves the multi-fight problem by making damage dealt to your creature irrelevant. This is good (but still conditional) removal in Limited, and scales up linearly with the number of players. That you can then attack safely with your creature having taken out one creature from each opponent is gravy (which this kind of needs at 5cc). My only question is how important "with the greatest power" is to the card.

I might be mistaken, but I think there are no other examples of cards where X is part of the mana cost, but its value is set in the card text. Normally, X in the mana cost is a variable the player sets by how much mana he puts into it. That's just templating, though. Archer's Ambush could be: " ~ costs {1} more to cast for each opponent. Put that many 1/1 archers OTB."

I would ask whether this spell's cost needs to scale at all. Syphon Soul and similar simply affect each opponent. Spot removal is worse in mutiplayer because it's no longer a 1-for-1 but an act that puts your and your opponent down a card relative to everyone else. Archer's Ambush is only partly removal, but could still simply make one archer for each opponent.

It's worth noting that while this looks like it's meant to answer attacking dragons and the like, you can also just cast it at EOT to get a bunch of nearly unblockable dudes. That alternate use becomes much stronger in multiplayer where Ambush actually creates multiple tokens rather than just being a tall Ambush Viper or small Winged Coatl. It does work differently with more players.

The idea behind Bloodpact Champion is that instead of getting the random top card of your library, you can get the two least-relevant non-land cards in your deck, according to an opponent. The trick being that in free-for-all, you can work a deal with a player who is legally your opponent and instead get the two best cards, every turn as long as that opponent remains happy to collude with you. That's cool.

Unfortunately, this effect doesn't work when the target isn't trying to help you because a player can always "fail to find" when searching a library for cards of a specific type. It doesn't matter that you know your deck isn't just land cards, the rules can't require her to find any. Remove the nonland restriction and they will be forced to find two cards, but—yeah—they'll be lands.

Another option? Give the opponent a reason to find cards. "If that opponent doesn't find two cards, he or she loses 5 life." "For each card an opponent find this way, that player draws a card." "An opponent searches for three cards. You choose two to keep, and she gets the third."

Hexproof is extraneous here.

Chance Rendezvous is a Symbiosis or an instant Rivals' Duel in multiplayer. (In a duel it's an over-costed Pit Fight or an over-costed, weirdly-symmetrical Giant Growth). But within MP, it plays well when you have teammates, or when you have multiple opponents, and especially with both. I would change the +2/+2 to +3/+3 both because that half of the effect is anemic compared to Rivals' Duel (see Dauntless Onslaught) and because green doesn't do bonuses smaller than +3/+3 anymore (supposedly—I'm not 100% convinced. See Gather Courage). I like the flavor too.

Interesting that Curse of the Quarry compels you as much as it does the other players. Y'know, unless you cast it on yourself because you've got some wicked Hissing Miasma deck. Or maybe I'm misreading the intention, and "other players" is meant to refer to players other than yourself, rather than players other than enchanted player.

In any case, there's a serious impact on any game where players can choose whom to attack, and seems to fit the design ethos of some of the cards in the last couple multiplayer-only sets. Probably wants to cost a little more.

On the one hand, Decisive Combat might be too easy of an alternate win condition—not giving other players enough options or warning to do anything about it. On the other hand, free-for-alls can drag out pretty badly if people are playing conservatively and this helps counter that. And if the FFA is somehow aggressive instead, the existence of this card might tone that back sometimes. Ultimately, I think "~ deals 4 damage to each opponent" would accomplish much the same purpose, simply and in a more red way.

Death by Dragons for one—and at instant speed. This is the kind of card that will make apolitical players scratch their heads, and political players cackle with malice. Unplayable in a duel or 2HG, but really interesting outside of strict teams, you can make a real ally by saving them from a vicious attack and handing them this huge stick to use. Just remember where they'll point when they're done with everyone else. Fun to imagine multiple players bringing this to the table and buddying up.

I like the idea of a dragon sworn to kill a particular player first. That's a really neat drawback. The middle ability making Draconic Nemesis 4/4 or 6/6 if you're playing Commander… doesn't seem worth the math or text. This would be fine at a static 5/5.

Sorcery-speed Smite the Monstrous for half the price, with a wickedly anti-dragon rider. This condition is mighty narrow, and the reward is massive, making Dragon Hunt really swingy. I mean, it's a great card for any black-white to main-deck regardless, and then sometimes it's a 7-for-1. Make this "draw a card" and make it {W}{W} and I'm down  (black never punishes creatures for having too much power) .

I like the main effect of Dragon Taco Breath, as a Cone of Flame for an unlimited number of players. (Although the silly name testifies to how melvin-y and athematic it is.) It's a little awkward that you have to choose yourself, but you always choose 1, and that's more damage to the rest of the lot, so it's worth it. I don't get why this cantrips at all; If to justify the cost, then just drop the cost.

Imagine the type line says Creature—Human Archer.

Dragonslayer Sniper automatically kills the first two creatures that tangle with it each combat. It can block things with flying, like dragons. Or it could, if your opponent would ever attack with them. But you don't attack into Royal Assassin, and this is a little better than that famously trollish card.

Relevant to multiplayer? It sure does scare everyone off from attacking you... and eventually draw fire. But it won't make you a villain at a multiplayer table like Royal Assassin would, and won't force players to kill it immediately. They'll just ignore you for a while. Which is perfect for hiding behind.

White gets first strike, and green gets reach and deathtouch, but I feel like it's a missed opportunity not to make this {B}{G}{W} so each color claims one keyword.

In multiplayer, Duelist's Mark is Rivals' Duel with a one-sided power boost, just to make extra sure the duel is bloody. (The sorcery is not actually 1/1). In a duel, it's still a Prey Upon with a boost. Killing a 2/3 with your 3/3 and then swinging for 6 would be pretty good. Even just killing a 4/4 with your 1/1 isn't half-bad. But in Two-Headed Giant, taking out two of your opponents' creatures will be a killing. Very good.

Mechanically, it's strange to care about where players are seated, but this is very good in Emperor (with long range) and in Star, and thematically you can call it "distance breeds contempt." There's a bit of ham-fisted design getting in the way of the clever design here: You get a bonus the further away the player whose creature you're picking on is. Players already have incentive to choose distant enemies, so restricting them to doing so has less value.

It's very hard to reward the player "most responsible" for a creature's death, and so this bounty goes to everyone except the controller of the dead creature. That's a double whammy for those of you imagining this cast against you. In the abstract, that sounds too mean, but it's not hard to imagine casting this on the creature that's killing you right now, to get someone else to kill it before you die, and that's cool. Also good in 2HG provided your ally actually finds her removal.

"You don't control" isn't necessary.

Foreshadowing Doom is a whammy of a tutor. For two more mana than Diabolic Tutor, you knock all your enemies down almost a third of their life (a fifth in EDH). You're limited to what you can get, but already having six mana, you weren't looking for mana producers anyhow. The three 6s quietly add to the thematic effect here: One that seems to draw direct inspiration from Infernal Spawn of Evil, which is a fun thing.

Some cards had more flavor than others, but basically all the designs this week have some Melvin appeal. That makes sense given the challenge was about different styles of play. In any case, there are some cool ideas and some sweet cards. I really enjoyed how broadly the group looked about for multiplayer formats to be relevant to. Good stuff, artisans.


  1. Really great stuff y'all.

    Riffing on Winter's Duel:

    Just You and Me 3WWW
    Enchantment (R)
    As Just You and Me enters the battlefield, choose an opponent.
    Prevent all damage that would be dealt to the chosen player by sources you don't control.
    Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you by sources the chosen player doesn't control.
    Prevent all damage that would be dealt to unchosen opponents by sources you or the chosen player control.

    Another idea, plays rather differently.

    Dragged Between Worlds 4BB
    Enchantment (R)
    As Dragged Between Worlds enters the battlefield, choose an opponent.
    Creatures the chosen player controls have shadow.
    Creatures you control have shadow.

    1. Smart to simplify Winter's Duel to make its purpose even clearer, though by dropping the aura, you lose the free this-goes-away-when-either-of-us-dies effect that is mostly required.

    2. Bitter Rivalry from the Commander set does this effect in a good way, letting it target two other players instead of you.

  2. I think Just You and Me has to be an Aura - Enchant Opponent so that it goes away when it is supposed to.

  3. A simpler version of Winter's Duel just got spoiled for Commander 2014.