Monday, January 5, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 010215—Dragon

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

Birth of Dragons is like an amped up Talrand's Invocation, giving you a pair of Furnace Whelps with haste. That's quite the deal for five mana, and I think adding haste was just a step too far, since it's not necessary to make the card exciting and nostalgic. Single-handedly defeating any player who can't come up with two fliers and/or removal spells isn't exactly a raw deal for five mana. Cool.

Dragon Vortex does nothing by itself and for four mana, what it does when you fuel it better be good. Being able to cast two or three hastey Dragons each turn (even the same ones) is pretty impressive. I can't imagine getting enough dragons to want this in Limited, but it's not hard to imagine a Constructed deck that this card really makes tick. (Does that make it better as a mythic, or worse?) With dash, it's clear this card belongs to Fate Reforged.

Considering that most dragons cost {4}{R}{R} to begin with, and that many cost 8 or 9, Dragonbringer Storm might well be too strong, though Dragon decks tend to be clunky enough that I'd expect to see this in Modern and Commander for more than in Standard. I'd at least go {X}{X}{R}{R}{R}{R} since I don't think a real commitment to red is an unfair thing to ask of a dragon player, and this ignores color requirements of your dragons anyhow.

A safer option would be to put the dragons into your hand. That could be cheaper, though not much (see Diabolic Revelation). In any case, fetching a boundless number of dragons is pretty awesome.

Ghurritz follows the pattern for this cycle of legendary dragons. Trample is the green influence and the Flowstone Embrace is red (though, outside of Planar Chaos, red usually only flowstones its own creatures or all creatures). This card doesn't need to be green, as trample is red too. In fairness, Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury really doesn't need to be black so—apart from the targeting note—this is no worse a design than R&D's, but I'd still rather aim higher.

Precedence for increasing the cost of spells isn't crystal clear in terms of the color pie, but white-blue is a reasonably safe bet for it thanks to Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. Slumgar, the Drifting Death will often be enough to keep your opponent from sticking any creatures when you've got another dragon or two, but Khalidatra could easily prevent them from casting any more spells at all. I suspect this ability needs to drop to {1} or else specify a subset of spells—probably noncreature spells. At least they've got one turn to answer Khalidatra?

All of these abilities are red, and Mirror Dragon could easily be mono-red. I don't know if it's the artwork, but despite that, I don't mind this card being blue as well. Mirror Dragon trades Broodmate Dragon's resilience for 8 extra points of damage, and for that amount of power alone we need the more demanding mana cost. Too bad blue doesn't truck in dash, because dash would fit this dragon in this set better than haste (replacing Flamerush Rider).

Mivzzet, the Stormraiser seems to be a reference to Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. Perhaps we're suggesting the Izzet guild leader hailed from old Tarkir originally, though I'm pretty sure he wasn't a planeswalker.

Regardless, this dragon doesn't fit the trigger the other dragons in this cycle feature. Granted, "Whenever a dragon you control attacks, loot" isn't as splashy as the others' abilities, but looting every turn—much less multiple times—can keep you drawing the spells you need to maintain that advantage.

Mujinra's triggered ability feels both red (since it's a one-sided fight, like Fall of the Hammer) and green (since it picks on flying creatures) and it feels like a very dragon-y thing to do, much more than the already-spoiled dragons. Awesome. The ability's fairly swingy since it might do nothing to opponents with no fliers, but will devastate others; I'm okay with that, but it doesn't seem like Mujinra will ever get blocked. That's somewhat problematic on its own, but also means trample is just flavor text here.

I'm not sure whether the first ability exiles the dragon token or Storm of Dragon's Birth. If you read it literally, it exiles itself. Neither answer makes any sense… until you get to the second ability. You're meant to play the first ability (as many times as you intend to) without passing priority and finally respond by returning your enchantment to your hand, so you can keep your dragons (it's the dragons that are supposed to be exiled by the first ability).

It's cool to make tricky cards that'll make Melvin feel clever, but we really want them all to be lenticular: So that regular players see some of the card's value but Melvin gets to see and use its hidden value. Storm of Dragon's Birth will just completely confuse most players who try to read it (even if we clarify what gets exiled), and that's not great. Even players who figure out how to make this card go will have trouble in tournaments and in Magic Online, since keeping priority is so rare.

I've not seen any cards in Fate Reforged that do "clan-aligned but not gold" quite this way, but I'm a fan of this mechanic and it seems like it would have been perfect for this set. I like Temper of the Wilds' symmetry and synergy (and that wasn't easy), except: We need the {U} clause to come before the base ability in order for it to save your flying creatures. Also, it's weird to lose flying as a benefit. I'd rather give all my opponent's creatures flying (though that may well be too strong).

Bonus points for making a non-Dragon card.

Nice to see the red portion of Temur getting a brother to Secret Plans and Trail of Mystery.

My first reaction was that as long as it's making them dragons it should make them red too, and that's when it struck me that this boosts artifact creatures (and Eldrazi) in addition to face-down creatures. Does that make it too strong (in other formats)? Either way, I feel like we trade away too much theme and block identity for the modularity we gain.

If this did affect face-down creatures, it would be pretty interesting, both for gameplay and for story. A downside is that unmorphing will often make your creature worse for your game state, but the ability to unmorph after your creature flies over (for the last time) could be pretty spicy.

This design proposes an additional keyword mechanic for the set (which we know doesn't exist). It works a lot like outlast, trading an activation cost for a shorter boost. The Abzan already switched to bolster, though we're seeing this keyword on a red card so I'm not at all sure how the set is meant to use this keyword. In the abstract, I like Charge Attack except for potential memory issues; but the gameplay does appeal.

Warsurge Hellkite offers a trigger for charge attack and that's really neat. Thematically, I like the idea that this dragon can ready itself mentally and/or physically for one big hit, rather than swinging mindlessly. This particular trigger negates the disadvantage of charge attack entirely. In fact, you can attack charged the first time, and then tap the Hellkite to charge it again for next turn instead of attacking the second time. Of course, hitting for 16 all by itself is good too.

Nice work, artisans. There are some pretty inventive cards here as well as some pretty faithful predictions. The two biggest things I'd like folks to look out for in future designs are visualizing a design's impact on likely game states and trying to stay true to the card's context (set, block, color pie, etc).

Thanks to Ipaulsen for rendering the cards.


  1. I agree my design would have been interesting with Dash. I had thought the ability was Blue because of Geist of Saint Traft, but it certainly touches very near things Red does.

  2. I might change my design to "whenever a dragon you control attacks, draw two cards and discard a card"- since you know, attacking is dangerous, I'm expecting the player to have at most 2 dragons (net +1 in card advantage I feel is fair to be able to resolve that many dragons at such a cost or play the bad ones), and would fit the template.

    1. Note that ability is strictly better than "whenever a dragon you control attacks, draw a card" and that two dragons will be netting you two cards per turn.

  3. I meant my design to exile itself (Storm of Dragons' Birth), but you're right, that wording's terrible. And yes, it's over-the-top Melvin. At the time I thought it fit the flavor of the card pretty well.