Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge Review 121214—PE Travers

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

Resurrecting two creatures can be a big deal, even for 7 mana. Bringing back a creature bigger than ever is exciting too (see Vigor Mortis). Obviously, getting two creatures back and making them both permanently +2/+2 is quite exciting. Even targeting just a Hill Giant and a Craw Wurm, much less any kind of modern rare creature is +13 power. Timmy will love this and Johnny might too if he can find a particularly clever pair of creatures to bring back bigger. Alex says this is for black and green-black Commander players who love recursion and card advantage. While I can imagine cards hitting that note even harder, this is hardly a miss. It's right up my alley.

I will say I'm not sure why each creature gets two counters. If this is double Miraculous Recovery, I'd expect either two creatures with +1/+1 or one creature with +2/+2. The inspiration is irrelevant to the final design, though, and I'm going purely on instinct saying two feels like a strange number here.

Bal'tur is manland that feeds on your dead, unearthing them and risking itself in the process. That's pretty darn cool. It's a bit odd that the bridge becomes the animated corpse, but imagine that the bridge itself is alive and that corpse shambling evilly toward you is its misty manifestation. This repeatable Postmortem Lunge is meant to satisfy fans of the Reanimator deck archetype. I think that deck is more interested in cheap recursion than repeatable recursion, but this card will do a lot of work as a finisher in several kinds of decks, so it's hardly without value.

Flavor text: "The goblins prided themselves on coming up with the idea off barricading themselves behind the giant...until they found that a bridge had been built over him."

Counteroffensive could cost {R} since it's not as strong as "Enchanted creature can't block," but its main purpose is apparently to be a reference to Goblin Offensive. Apart from being red, having the word 'offensive' in the card name, and the flavor text potentially talking about the goblin tokens made by Goblin Offensive, there's no other connection here. I'd really love to see the effect more directly reference the original's effect, or combo with it.

Dark General Zombifys a creature and gives you an unending stream of zombies, as long as that creature survives. That's pretty cool. I like this cost for Limited, though I expect it could be {4}{B}{B} for Standard. It's definitely unfortunate that this sets up a recurring trigger but doesn't give you any physical reminder for it. It could have been an aura, but that would require the massively cumbersome template from Animate Dead. It could have been a non-aura enchantment, though if we insist on sacrificing it when the creature LTB, it will behave like an aura without being one, which is odd. I think we just need a better template for Animate Dead.

Dark General definitely has Timmy appeal.

Enlist is pretty texty, but it's not an ability you'd put at common anyhow. It is a fascinating mechanic for multiplayer. It raises logistical questions like how you track which creatures belong to which armies, but if that can be solved (perhaps with banner tokens), the choice of which creatures to enlist in your opponent's army and which not to seems interesting, particularly when the army's owner benefits from the card so much already.

Elgaud Crusade might make a a multiplayer game even longer by giving everyone at the table lifelink, but you can definitely see the appeal for a Commander or Conspiracy-like product.

Funeral Procession is a more dedicated Blood Artist, offering twice the life swing while shedding its own vulnerability as a creature, at the cost of only triggering from your own creatures and only from sacrificing them. I'm thinking that's how the vast majority of triggers happen in existing Blood Artist decks anyhow, so while this is less flexible and much harder to use in Limited, I'm thinking it's just much stronger in Constructed, especially in Modern where it would be played right alongside its forebearer.

The intended audience was Limited Johnnies, and it's not impossible to reach them, but the set would need quite a few sacrifice outlets. Regardless, I don't see how this will reach that group better than Constructed Johnnies or better than Blood Artist did.

Grave Ordeal is a black Faith's Reward, returning all your creatures—and all your opponent's creatures—that died during your turn, either in combat or perhaps after a profitable chain of sacrifices. You could even do it after a Wrath of God with enough mana. The timing restriction makes it an interesting variant on Rise of the Dark Realms.

Wobbles didn't specify his audience, but I'd say this has clear Johnny appeal (and secondary potential for Spike). Love the name, though I wonder if it might be even better for another black card.

Grave Recruitment turns your creature into a Grave Titan. We've seen a design like that before, but it remains pretty cool. I will say that on its own, making creatures by attacking feels more green—or perhaps white or red—than black. All good auras care what you put them on, and while there is a lot about a creature that doesn't affect this card's value, how good it is at attacking without dying is quite relevant. Pasteur describes his audience as "those who love black pants, or unerring nostalgia." Like Counteroffensive, that's not a huge audience. That doesn't make it invalid for this challenge since I specified no parameters, but it's worth saying that while Magic needs to serve many audiences, larger audiences will always take precedence.

Glimpse a Dream is a cross between cipher and rebound, where the spell will happen a second time (but no more) provided the creature you link it to untaps (so there's some inspired in there too). The majority of glimpse cards would likely be attached to your own creatures, but Lulling Mist demonstrates that sometimes you want to attach it to an opposing creature instead. I'm not sure how obvious that will be to players, but that flexibility is interesting as designer.

Lulling Mist itself is a double-Fog (you're guaranteed to get it twice as long your opponent attacked with a creature without vigilance), but Fog rarely gets maindecked at {G}, so I'm not sure why this costs 5. I do approve of its rarity, both because it can slow games down a lot, and because it requires players to see that they can target opposing creatures to use properly.

For players who like defensive cards like Fog and lifegain, Lulling Mist does promise two whole rounds of safety.

March of the Fallen is a simple, thematic rare that could earn you two or fewer zombies over the course of the game, or dozens (two each round in a duel). A zombie tribal player is expecting some of her zombies to die as they swarm toward victory, so triggering morbid a few times even without removal seems doable. My concern is that as worded, March of the Fallen will replace its own zombie tokens with new ones. That might be why they ETB tapped, but that just puts a one-turn delay before they start replacing themselves. You could qualify it to only check for non-zombie creatures, but then you have to fill your zombie tribal deck with something else (or kill your opponent's creatures). You could check only for non-token creatures, but that turns off a good number of attractive zombie spells. Thematically I like the first solution, but the latter sounds more appealing for gameplay.

Netherworld Bridge lets you recycle your dead creatures and spent enchantments to make Zombies and to improve them. How cool is that? I think this is black enough to be {2}{B}{B}. This will attract the same audience as March of the Fallen (simply requiring more mana and fewer tokens to get going). BTW, the second ability really isn't necessary, and indeed, it might even be creepier if it exiled creature cards for counters too, but there is a mysterious glow to this art that makes it work here.

Oppressive Fogs gives you unlimited Fogs, provided you can keep your Forest count higher than the sum power of your opponents attackers, and leave them untapped. So you need two Forests to negate a Runeclaw Bear, five if your opponent adds a Hill Giant, and nine to get any effect out of this enchantment at all if they add a 4/4 Rhino. I'm really not sure why an effect that prevents 1 damage for each mana you spend needs to be all-or-nothing, or why it has to remove the affected creatures from combat (which is a white thing) rather than just preventing their damage like Fog.

As a purely defensive card, this is targeted to the same audience as Lulling Mist, just much harder to use.

Rearm the Dead is a nice clean Zombie card. It's Necromancer's Covenant that only works on your graveyard and doesn't grant lifelink. The latter simplifies the card (and helps it be mono-black) in a nice way, but I do miss the flexibility of choosing which graveyard to exile. It's not a reanimator card because that archetype is about discarding big, broken creatures to reanimate cheaply, not simply about making creatures via the graveyard.

Revival of the Fittest is clearly a riff on Survival of the Fittest, resurrecting a creature instead of tutoring for one. Since you're putting the creature directly into play and not paying its mana cost, Revival's ability has to cost a lot more. I have to admit, I'd prefer a more direct reference that just let me 'tutor' a creature from my graveyard. TooManyPossums considered adding "If [that creature] would leave the battlefield, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else," and I do think that's important to keep players from endlessly reanimating the same absurd threat. Possums named lovers of nostalgia as his audience, but I think changing the source so much will limit their appreciation for the reference. On the other hand, this is quite a good card for the Reanimator audience several others have targeted.

Camille was hesitant to submit this rare design once we explained why it had to be silver-bordered, but I think the art fits reasonably well and I can imagine Johnny having some fun with it far away from tables where people will confuse whose card belongs to whom after the game.

I don't get what about a Toxic Bridge is white, or would help you gain life, but mechanically this would attract players focused on protecting themselves, and particularly well in multiplayer.

I'm always fascinated by the audiences you all choose when I run challenges like this. I expect more Spike/Timmy/Johnny/Melvin/Vorthos choices, but I'm certainly pleased to be surprised. That said, I feel like several of you are just designing whatever card the art inspires and then naming which players that card would appeal to, even when it's not an audience that particularly needs direct attention. That shows a failure in my challenge design and I'll work to improve that next time.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. "I feel like several of you are just designing whatever card the art inspires and then naming which players that card would appeal to, even when it's not an audience that particularly needs direct attention."


    1. Looking back I realized I did this to an extent. It is actually fairly hard to come up wit the audiance first since your wrk process tends to be used to bouncing ideas off of the art as the starting place.

      Maybe do this same challenge sometime but without a peice of art?

  2. I ought to have named my audience "those who remember the titans".

    While there is a definite audience that loves to rebuild iconic creatures, you're right that the design can definitely tend to come first and the justification after. It's possible that restricting the audience ("design a card for Timmy-Spike or Johnny-Vorthos") might be the way to help assuage/overcome that instinct.

    1. To be fair, a lot of the WACs are stated in those kinds of terms (though I don't recall one targeting a dual psychographic explicitly).

  3. I can't resist an attempt at a better template for Animate Dead. Inspired by Prismatic Runeguard:

    Enchantment - Aura

    Enchant creature card in a graveyard

    Return enchanted creature card to the battlefield under your control with Animate Dead attached to it. It gains "Animate Dead may enchant this creature" and -1/-0. When Animate Dead becomes unattached, that creature's controller sacrifices it.

    1. More direct and less confusing, but longer:

      Return enchanted creature card to the battlefield under your control. This effect does not remove auras. When Animate Dead becomes unattached, that creature's controller sacrifices it.

      Enchanted creature gets -1/-0.

      Can this be done with an "until" or "as long as"?

    2. Return enchanted creature card to the battlefield under your control until Animate Dead becomes unattached. This effect does not remove Animate Dead.

    3. Enchant creature card
      If enchanted card is in a graveyard when Animate Dead enters the battlefield, return it to the battlefield under your control as long as Animate Dead is on the battlefield.
      Enchanted creature card get -1/-0.

      ? I don't think the "as long as" tech can actually work here, but if we can make the aura a legal target regardless of zone, we can save some definite headache.

      Enchant creature card
      If enchanted card is in a graveyard when Animate Dead enters the battlefield, return it to the battlefield under your control. If Animate dead leaves the battlefield, enchanted creature's controller sacrifices it.
      Enchanted creature gets -1/-0.

    4. Very nice indeed. Trying to tidy it up slightly and combine Daniel's and Pasteur's ideas:

      Enchant creature card
      When ~ enters the battlefield, if enchanted card is in a graveyard, return it to the battlefield under your control until ~ becomes unattached.

    5. I like this a lot, AlexC! It does look to me like the "until" tech should work, but the Prismatic Runeguard wording I was trying earlier doesn't, both based on this rule:

      "610.3. Some one-shot effects cause an object to change zones “until” a specified event occurs. A second one-shot effect is created immediately after the specified event. This second one-shot effect returns the object to its previous zone."

      That would make something like AlexC's template a pretty strong choice, as far as I can tell. Does it need "...return it to the battlefield under your control and attach ~ to it", though?

      Templating is fun :)

    6. What if I cast this on a creature already on the battlefield? What if I then destroy it? I don't think "until" begins to cover the crazy situations this card could end up in, which is tragic, because this is a great stab at it.

    7. Huh? You *can* cast this on a creature on the battlefield, and it'll trigger heroic, but that's about all it'll do. The intervening if clause means the ability won't even go on the stack unless the enchanted card is on a graveyard (and it won't do anything on resolution if the enchanted card leaves the graveyard before the trigger resolves).

    8. That means it's functionally not quite the same card, which is a problem for a new template.

    9. Ah, right. Yes, Daniel is sadly right that it would need "...and attach ~ to it". Because an object changing zones becomes a new object. That's annoying because that phrase is going to confuse some people: "but I thought it was already attached to it?"

      I wonder whether this might be a case for making a minor adjustment to the Comp Rules. Something like "Some Auras with an 'enchant [category] card' ability have another activated or triggered ability that causes the enchanted card to change zones. When such an ability resolves, the enchanted card becomes a new object in the new zone, and then the Aura becomes attached to the card in the new zone. The enchanted card receives a new timestamp, but the Aura does not."

      (This would probably be a second CR adjustment for this template, to go along with the even more minor change to 108.2a to allow "creature card" to refer to a nontoken creature on the battlefield.)

  4. For March of the Fallen, the fact that the zombie tokens trigger the morbid themselves was delibrite to work well with all the zombie tokens used by other cards as well as provide the sense of inevitibility that attracts people to playing zombie tribal.
    It also makes the card more attractive to johnny as it creates a potential sacrifice engine.

    Was your concern based on power level? If so it could easily be a 6 or 7 drop.

    1. I thought it was very reasonable that the Zombie tokens can trigger morbid themselves. It makes a lot of sense for something to not stay dead if it's a Zombie, after all. The card reminded me a bit of Endless Ranks of the Dead.

  5. I think you underestimate double-Fog. It is true that Fog is worthless as a card because it just delay's the inevitable. On the other hand, Moment's Peace, which is just a Fog with flashback, is a card that makes frequent appearances in cube. I think this Fog, at least, is pretty safe because the opponent will know not to attack (unlike Moment's Peace where they have to commit to a lethal attack knowing you will blank it it).

  6. The exact reason I didn't submit a card was that I kept riffing off the art first, then tweaking to fit an audience. I think this challenge was good, but maybe you should have specified Spike/Timmy/Johnny as the audiences to shoot for, so things would be less awkwardly specific.

    1. I agree. With open challenges one has to restrict oneself to create something, but each person chooses a different restriction making it a weird thing where cards are on such different spectra its hard to gauge them.

      I think Jay, every now and again does this, but I frankly don't mind because he does this every weekend, so I'm just grateful to join in. Thanks for the challenges, Jay! :)

    2. I've done at least two of Johnny-, Timmy- and Spike-specific challenges. I should do more.

      I also want to try one where each designer chooses an audience for the next designer.

    3. I don't like that because it creates an odd time pressure to produce something instantly before someone else posts and the target changes.

    4. That is a serious logistical downside.