Monday, December 1, 2014

Weekend Art Challenge Review 112814—MaliciaRoseNoire

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

Aurora Summoner offers a powerful repeatable ability—Harm's Way—but requires you to discard a card up front and play two colors. From a design perspective, the most important idea in this submission is a spellshaper for which you discard just once (and before you get any benefit). We lose some of the aesthetic spellshapers give by disassociating the discard from the spell/effect, and we take a bit more risk in that first turn, but start saving cards the second time you shape a spell. Do we need more efficient spellshapers?

No idea why Aurora Summoner taps itself upon entering. I guess to limit haste-granting ala Magus of the Disk? I appreciate that while damage redirection is more white and not red, it feels very red-white.

'Summoning' hasn't been official game terminology for ~15 years. Safe to start using it to refer to non-creatures?

Have their been any non-mana equip costs? (Sigil of Distinction—thanks George.) Pitching a spell is an unusual cost for sure, but the way it ties into Absorbing Rod's primary effect sells it for me. It's pretty awkward that the number of spells you have to discard sometimes predetermines which creature you equip it to, and the number of creatures you control sometimes limits your ability to equip it more. Magic does awkward stuff like that on occasion, and I'd be cool with it if Rod didn't also turn cards in your hand dead. One of those factors needs to budge, and removing the downside is easier.

Given the risk involved, this card could be stronger.

Blazing Augury combines two desirable effects almost seamlessly. Lovely. I like it's power level in the average Limited scenario, where you pitch two lands and a couple other cards you'd have otherwise kept for the extra damage (and then draw four), but I suspect this is too strong when you build around it. Cycling 7 cards to deal 7 damage is kind of insane, especially at instant speed.

Burn the Skies is red's Essence Scatter. It's better in that it deals with token-making spells and effects (and stops your opponent from casting a second creature that turn), but it's worse in that they get to trigger their ETB and LTB effects and you have generally have to pay a lot more (and they can prevent damage to save them).

This is definitely a card that's using a color's mechanics to simulate an effect that color doesn't get. (See MaRo's analogy of a green card that makes a 1/1 token, gives it deathtouch, and has it fight a target creature.) Maybe there's a set where this makes sense, but in default Magic, I'd say not.

Despite sounding similar, Coastal Pyromancy only shares in common with Coastal Piracy the type enchantment and a damage-based trigger. But if we ignore that card ever existed, this actually stands on its own. It's a red card that makes other red cards be redder (read: 'deal more damage') using other mana. Mana shipped in from distant shores, if you will. It also works in a deck with just Mountains, but how could you not splash at least one of each other mana source to see this power up? Sunburst has a funny quirk that it also cares how expensive a spell is; so we don't just favor {1}{R} spells over {R}{R} spells, but we also favor {4}{R} spells over {1}{R} spells.

Coastal Pyromancy is powerful enough to be rare. Alternately, a sorcery or instant that deals damage and has sunburst could be uncommon or even common depending on the set/stats.

Coastflame supports Jeskai-colored decks, jumping straight past Pyroclasm in power level there. I suppose that's because both water and fields are visible in the art, but RWU is certainly a combination that loves mass creature removal. I don't get much Vorthos flavor from this, but it makes more sense than a handful of Development-made cards each set.

Essence Backlash is worried about Enflame the Aether being strictly better in two ways, though upgrading its rarity at least justifies half of that. Suffocating Blast arguably affirms that it's fine this can target something other than its caster, though that card is old and it's really not as clean. Still, a decent combination of effects.

Fiery Portent is either a cheaper Tormenting Voice or a reverse-cantrip Lunge. That's probably a bit too much stronger than Voice even at uncommon, though not being able to discard land for the Lunge effect does factor. Maybe this would be fine at {1}{R} instant, or if the second effect damaged just one target? I very much like that what is discarded makes all the difference.

I mostly don't mention templating tweaks, but it's quite relevant that Flame Aurora surely intends for the first 2 damage not to satisfy the conditional part. This is novel spin on Crushing Pain, defeating the primary complaint that such effects are always card disadvantage.

The other way to evaluate this is as a conditional Pyroclasm. It's a bit odd that you can't cast this if everything that did combat died in combat, and that killing the target in response cancels the effect whether global or not. The fixes I see seem just as awkward, though.

Flare of Inspiration does a bit like Blazing Augury and intertwines damage with another new(ish) red effect. I have little understanding how strong this is, and that makes me want to play it. I'm optimistic this could be a lot of fun, a bit like red's Explore.

Inspired tomorrow's CCDD.

Took me a while to catch the free rider that makes Gathering Storm not horribly worse than Act on Impulse. I very much buy that red can let you cast a red spell for free, since it's just a mana ritual. Letting you play any color for free is a bit more suspect, but justifiable. I'm more concerned with this card's variability. Sometimes you get a basic Mountain and sometimes you get a Cruel Ultimatum or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. That's a pretty big range. Of course, I expect Spike and Johnny to stack the deck and that changes things considerably; perhaps Dev will require a shuffle or put a cap on it. But I think I'm good with this from the Design side. I like it in red.

Imbued with Flame gives you Lightning Bolt's effect for Lightning Bolt's cost, but on one condition. If Rift Bolt could be common, I expect this could be too. Sure, you can get it the same turn, but you've got to get one of your creatures killed to do it. Either you're attacking (in which case this is neat evasion) or you're sacking (in which case you've earned your bolt). Note that limiting the aura to creatures you control was important, as putting it on an enemy creature and Shock'ing it would be too easy.

I found Incendiary while searching for cards like the next design. Relevant.

Torch Song was the closest thing I could find to Incandescent Cloud (with Magmatic Core and Shrine of Burning Rage coming next). I like how simple this is, but with no cost to upkeep (except for killing any creatures you were foolish enough to cast before your opponent ran out), and no sacrifice, Incandescent Cloud is far too game defining for three mana. I could see it on a creature, though; that would be vulnerable to more removal and eventually kill itself.

Leyline Ire cares about something Magic has never cared about before—whether a target has activate an ability this turn—and that's always something worth pondering. Could that be a theme (of any size) for a block or even just one set? Leyline Ire cares specifically about mana abilities, which limits it to the 1-7 Elvish Mystics of the set and so probably isn't worth the text, but if you open that up a bit, and throw in some levelers and spellshapers it could be interesting.

Generally, you want upgraded effects like this to increase the size of the effect in one dimension, either damage dealt or targets affected in this example, as that one step is a very easy story to tell. Doing both at once is like writing the solution to a tricky math problem without showing your work. The reader has to do more work than most care to if they're going to get any story out of it.

I like Mana Storm.

Phoenix's Revelation is the golder path that Blazing Augury didn't take. Though drawing first is more powerful—especially with large numbers of cards—blue accounts for that, and the fact that this bounded by your mana limits its explosive potential considerably. Funny that this one's mythic and the other is uncommon. I'd probably set both at rare.

Pyromancer's Burst starts reading like Kindle but ends up as a doubly-better Grapeshot. I'm not sure Grapeshot needs more breaking. This only counts red non-permanents, but if you're building a storm deck, that's not as big a limitation as it sounds.

Resist the storm!

Skies Aflame feels like an old-school card, offering conditional value in order to tell a neat little story. It looks a bit expensive, but I'm not sure it hits Standard regardless. Might be relevant against Faeries or W Spirits in Modern if it cost less?

I'm nagged by the feeling that this wants to be partly green somehow. The effect is very much not green, but the trigger is Just So Green.

Sky Flame is sort of a simpler Furnace of Rath just for creatures. Sort of a Crushing Pain variant. Since all damage comes from creatures, it's vaguely like giving all creatures +3/+0, but not against players (and not doubling in a double-block). Sort of a red "all creatures have deathtouch" which feels very black. In fact, Sky Flame could be mono-black. Or black-red.

Since it is red, I would remove the word "combat" so that it also buffs all your burn spells and Prodigal Pyromancers.

If it were reduced to 1 damage (or even just 2), more creatures would survive and that would make combat choices more interesting (and more complex). Dunno if that's worth it.

Hmm. Stormfire can deal 3 for {R}{R} or it can be Volcanic Geyser. I'm a bit sad to see such a simple card outclassed, but there are already stronger rares for {X}{R}{R}. In addition, the ability to cast this for less is something I know players have occasionally wished for mid-game. It's arguably not something we should give them, since its counter to the nature of the card, but I dig Stormfire.

Torch the Heavens looks on first blush weaker than Rain of Embers, but the ability to cast it post-combat means that your creatures won't be affected and the creatures your opponent blocked with will. Not sure about the flavor connection, but this is a good little utility burn spell.

Good stuff, artisans! Almost all of these are pretty solid, many are quite clean, and a few are pretty clever.

There are definitely specialties within design, like blue cards, or creatures, but there are also more focused sub-specialties like growth spells and burn spells. I love designing burn spells.

Thanks to Alex for rendering the cards.


  1. A shame the renders just missed the updated Gathering Storm.

    Your proposed version of Skyflame triggers itself, it would be a little tricky to template it so it didn't, particularly so that two Sky Flames don't kill anything, but maybe that's okay?

    I agree Phoenix's Revelation didn't end up in a Mythic place (though it started there, since i was trying to make another card in the "cycle"), but certainly Rare.

    Mana Storm still scares me. I somewhat suspect that, as written, it would see play in cube, but I could be wrong. Not so different than Generator Servant (which I am surprised did not make the MTGO cube).

    1. There may exist a rule that preventes effects from triggering themselves, but it's easy to clarify that by adding "another."

    2. Gathering Storm 3R
      Sorcery (R)
      Reveal the top card of your library. If you reveal an instant or sorcery, you may cast that card without paying its mana cost. If that card has an X in the mana cost, you may cast it for X=10.

      Hahaha. That's great.

  2. "No idea why Aurora Summoner taps itself upon entering" - I assumed the "tap it and discard a card" was to make the flavour connection with Spellshapers stronger.

    I don't think I agree that Burn the Skies is an effect red shouldn't get. Aether Flash is still red, I think, and "~ deals 2 damage to each creature that entered the battlefield this turn" is red; I don't see why scaling that up to X makes it non-red. It's still weak to all the things red removal is (high toughness, damage prevention, protection, indestructible, regenerate - okay, not hexproof, but Earthquakes get around that too).

    1. That does explain the 'tap' though I don't think the connection is strong enough to be worth it.

      Aether Flash hasn't been printed since 7th edition.
      If it's not in Modern, it's probably not still in the color pie.

    2. The fact that Burn the Skies deals X damage, and not, say, "damage equal to that creature's toughness", or something like that, to me keeps it quite red. I'm not sure how close the comparison to Essence Scatter is - this is still a step away from a red Cradle to the Grave.

    3. Cradle to Grave is a closer comparison. I didn't mention it because a card printed once and in Planar Chaos doesn't carry the same precedence as a card that's been in three modern core sets. But as a color-shifted Essence Scatter, Cradle certainly models how it can be done. I wouldn't blink twice to see Burn the Skies in a set like Planar Chaos.

      Let me clarify that I'm not taking the position that Burn the Skies is unprintable (or otherwise), merely pointing out a serious concern worth discussing. Which we are—yay!

      Do we agree that the green Murder I discussed is a step too far? If so, where do we draw the line?

      Burn the Skies remains 99% functionally identical if we change it to "~ deals X damage to each creature that ETB'd this turn." Does that template seem more in-color? Less? If either, does that affect our valuation of BtS as worded?

    4. There's a difference between Burn the Skies and the 1/1 Deathtouch-Fight card. Burn the Skies doesn't allow red to do anything it can't already do. You could just as easily cast Volcanic Geyser or Fault Line right after the creature resolves. Murder isn't a green card, but those are red cards.

      You can argue that it doesn't FEEL red, and that can be a legitimate reason not to print it, but it no more violates red's color pie than Arrows of Justice.

    5. As I thought about it through the week the "doesn't FEEL red" sense crept up on me a lot. Deliberately leaving up mana on your opponent's turn to "counter" their creature is about as un-Red as it gets.

      The fact that it is an X spell also plays very poorly with its reactionary nature, which I think makes the card bad. I'm certainly okay with the occasional bad card that does something wonky that maybe shows up out of sideboards against the right threat, and I think this is in that space (take that Empty the Pits), but I'm way less excited than most Artisans seem to be of printing the common/uncommon version of this card that is something like:

      Essence Smother 1R
      ~ deals 4 damage to the next creature that enters the battlefield this turn.

    6. Burn the Skies allows red to Heat Ray any number of creatures. Red usually targets one thing or all things and while it _could_ target any number, the condition making that possible in BtS isn't red in method or purpose. Granted, that condition is largely undefined in Magic, but if we were to imagine using a lot of it, is red the color we imagine most?

      Another comparison: Despite Shock being strictly better than Righteous Blow, should Righteous Blow be allowed in red? Arrows of Justice and Burning Oil offer the effect to a mono-red player, but not without white claiming influence on the card.

    7. Well said, Tommy.
      Essence Smother could be done in red. I suspect that it should not.

  3. Seeing the mock up; yeah, Coastal Pyromancy is a rare. It just looks rare. Also, I totally didn't clock the similarity of names with Coastal Piracy.