Monday, November 3, 2014

Weekend Art Design Challenge Review 103114—Halloween

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

Brutal Deformity is to Debilitating Injury what Arrest is to Pacifism. Only much, much weaker. For an extra {2}{B}, we make activating abilities on the deformed creature painful for its owner. That's pretty creepy, so big thematic points there. It's neat how it parallels Stab Wound, but that card is generally stronger for {1}{B} less. I'm a huge proponent of clunky removal, but limited effectiveness needn't be combined with extra cost, and considering how often -2/-2 auras are used to kill X/2 creatures rather than shrink larger ones, the rider won't come up as often. When it does, you'll be wishing it turned off activated abilities like Arrest.

Death Incantation is one of the best black removal spells of all time before you add scare to it. Even at sorcery speed, conditionless removal for two mana is phenomenal. At {B}{B}, I'd actually love to see such a simple effect see print, though I'd expect it at uncommon to limits its impact on Limited.

Scare starts off looking crazy powerful, finishes looking too conditional, and will finally prove vastly too strong. Let's ignore the question of how this works with the game rules. The ability to cast a spell without spending a card to do so is pretty good (cantrips), and the ability to trade for the exact spell you want whenever you like is great (transmute / diabolic tutor); getting to do both for potentially less than the spell's normal price is entirely broken, and that's not hyperbole. Sure, you're not going to spend {7}{B} to scare this out on turn 1, but emptying your hand by turn 4 or 5 and getting 3-4 Murders for {B} each is kind of a problem. And that's understatement.

I would start testing scare at (You may cast this spell from your deck for {4} more than its mana cost) and I'd be surprised if that proved printable. Even if we find a fair price, what happens to the game's variance when your deck has three playsets of scare cards?

Forbidden Knowledge extends the Kindle cycle. The first time you cast it, lose 1 life to draw one card. That's not great, but when you cast your second, it's a one-mana Sign in Blood and they get better from there on. The life-loss does add up, though. When you cast your third copy—which is where you start to profit—you've lost 6 life. Granted, you've drawn 6 cards for 3x{B} and that's a great deal (for context, compare to three Sign in Bloods), but that's not an insignificant amount of life anyway.

Thematically, I love how the demon behind this magic keeps offering you more, and demanding more. If only casting this weren't optional. Is there a Phyrexian Arena with cumulative upkeep? Phyrexian Etchings? Hmm.

Looks like Evan didn't specify a rarity. Any kindle effect should be common unless we need the card to be irrelevant in Limited.

I was vexed why Hallow Summons specifies noncreature rather than creature (because you can extract souls from dead creatures) until I got to the very last line. Neat. I really like the idea of a creature that's immune to your opponent's last successful removal spell. But I want it to be bigger than 1/1 (since your opponent wasn't going to spend her removal on your dinky guy anyhow) and it wants to be at least as green as it is black.

Haha. Of course this should be a charm. I have to say, after so many years of fancy gold charms, it's really nice to see a mono-colored charm again. I like these effects and the versatility Haunting Charm boasts. I really wish the last ability completed the '2' aesthetic that the cost and first two abilities establish. Maybe, "Put two creature cards from your graveyard on top of your library."

Perfect reprint. Nice.

It's a little odd to see team-boosting on a black card, but Raider's Spoils does it all day long, and Theros had both Cutthroat Maneuver and Cruel Feeding. I guess black's doing that more again. (If you go back far enough, Mark of Malice is clearly an update to Scare Tactics / Chorus of Woe.)

Dark Art is a kicker variant fed by exiling creature cards from your graveyard (ala the blue zombies of Innistrad) that always doubles the card's effect. I've messed with kicker variants that simply double a card and found them pretty hard to balance. When the cost is as cheap as this, it will very quickly prove hard to make more expensive cards: Anything remotely worth 4 mana, say, will feel quite over-powered when you double it.

Thematically, though, dark art has potential; invoking restless spirits to empower your spells sounds creepy and fun.

I review cards in the order Blogger drops them into the page: alphabetically. So it's pure coincidence that Necromancer's Call also involves a kicker variant and exiling dead creatures as cost, though here those aspects are separate. This uses Gaze of Justice's flashback template to make it clear you've got to burn those ashes each time you cast this spell. It's much easier to profit from this than from Vile Rebirth, but it doesn't let you do clever things like hose your opponent's graveyard strategy or Murder their creature and then reanimate it. +Timmy. -Johnny. Spike stays about the same. Not an important riff, but certainly a reasonable one.

If this needs to be common, I expect the flashback needs to cost just a little more.

One sentence in and I'm already having fun (and suspecting this is un- or multiplayer). The next two lines deliver on the promise of thematic reward. My problem is that there's no functional reason to put labels on the two choices. It could be justified if there were parasitic cards in the set that trigger whenever you choose trick or treat. Eh.

Dev-wise, Nocturnal Costumed Onslaught (which reads like a MaRo joke) is likely better at uncommon, where it's even easier to justify being a whole lot cheaper. I would have fun casting this, making my cheap guys deadly and my big guys friendly, and having to figure out what to do with my medium guys.

I've having trouble connecting this card's text to its art, but I dig the effect. Pay {B}{B}{B} to get an Elvish Mystic or 6x{B} to cast a Tendrils of Corruption. It costs less to find the card you want than Diabolic Tutor does, but you have to be able to pay for that card (blackwashed) on the spot. Probably for the best you can't get land with Painful Wish. (That name begs for a life payment, btw.)

Raise Dead + 1/1 flier = Ritual at Midnight. Adding "up to" is an interesting choice. It allows you to get your half a Midnight Haunting when you've got no creatures in the bin at the cost of tying the two effects together thematically. I'd personally leave off "up to" here since players will hate to pay 3 mana and give up a Raise Dead as much as they will not being able to get an answer to that Welkin Tern, and it helps tell the story of a wicked soul escaping through the gate you opened for your dearly departed. As Disentomb variants go, I can dig it. (Compare to Cadaver Imp: Better flavor, at the cost of requiring a token.)

Shattered Jaw is strictly better than Mind Rot and I'm cool with that.

I would definitely want Development to verify this was okay at common, particularly since it can easily do twice as much as Lava Axe, and it's not that hard to do even more, but design-wise? Yeah, cool. Making Vital Harvest target only creatures would make it far safer and I'd expect Dev to recommend that. (I'd also expect more of a graveyard scene for the art. Otherwise, love the flavor.)

Vivet's Inquiry has a slightly stronger effect than Cruel Edict, hence the stricter cost. It also makes the choice poignant more often, which is a nice get. The sad trombone plays when Cruel Edict would be at its strongest but this card can't even be cast. (Test of Loyalty)

Should I know who Vivet is, or who Chandra's in love with?

Voldaren's Flame is a simple black-red common. Well done.

Considering how little play Seismic Shudder effects tends to see, I'm not sure gaining a handful of life makes the card playable enough to justify being two colors, but if the goal isn't playable, we're good to go.

Witch's Banishment makes far more sense to me than Burn Away. Even so, I'd expect "Exile target creature and all cards in its controller's graveyard."

Thanks for the renders, Ipaulsen. (I fixed it in last week's post, but thanks to Jenesis for rendering previously.)

When I google searched for "creepy art" to offer an alternative to the cute art, the first 10 vaguely suitable options were all existing Magic art. Magic has some seriously disturbing art. Just saying.

It was nice getting a mix of cute-spooky and freaky-scary-spooky cards. Lots of fun and interesting designs. Hope you all had a great holiday!

1 comment:

  1. To answer your questions:

    Vivet was just a name I made up. A lot of times central planeswalkers get simple instants/sorceries with art that focuses on them that isn't super related to the effect, so I went for that "model" with the cutsie butterfly art, imagining Vivet is some new Black planeswalker with a thing for cute butterflies.

    I'm also not aware of Chandra being in love with someone, but the "choose which person lives" trope is so often traditionally done with a male protagonist I thought I would use a female protagonist instead, and love is fundamentally red, so I chose Chandra.