Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 011615—Ciameth (Griffons)

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

Ancestral Lore lets you scry X every round, where X is the number of creatures you control in your tribal deck (or rather less in a not-so-tribal deck) and that's a promising amount of card selection. It's not quite scry X, but what it loses in power it gains in simplicity (except that faux-scry 1 is useless).

You can use Ancestral Lore in any blue tribal deck, so it's not just griffins, but merfolk, wizards, birds and, um, homarids? Lore's strength is pretty swinging. With 1 or 0 of the chosen creatures, it does nothing, but with 2 it's begins to compare with Thassa, God of the Sea. And more than that it becomes very consistent card selection. 3 creatures of a single type is a tight hoop to jump, though, so I wonder if this couldn't be just a bit stronger. Maybe not. I dunno.

Notice that this counts "permanents of those chosen [creature] type?" That's a byproduct of the deprecated tribal card type and optional too. Given that it basically just counts Bitterblossom and Boggart Shenanigans, I'd rather only count creatures and avoid confusing players with that word choice.

Into the Void and Waterwhirl are our most recent comparisons for Banishing Shower. Note that Into the Void was pretty aggressively costed while Waterwhirl leans the other way (and it needs to since bounce is so strong in a set with morph). Without the type restriction, I could see Banishing Shower costing {3}{U}{U} in the average set, not unlike Whiplash Trap, but that restriction is significant, so I think this price is fair (assuming the set isn't as mana intensive as Tarkir or quite as tribal as Lorwyn).

Blizzard Sanctuary is a snow land that you can pay snow mana to landcycle for another snow land. (Perhaps another Blizzard Sanctuary if you're just trying to thin your library or fill your graveyard.) I'm not an expert on snow decks in older formats. It's not hard to imagine this card making color fixing in decks that just want to play as many snow lands as possible too easy, but it is hard to imagine this card making the snow deck too good for Modern or Legacy. Cute.

It's slightly awkward that Carrion Clash triggers when your last creature dies, but I'm probably more concerned with how easy it is to trigger a chain of fights. All my creatures are Alpine Grizzlys or Sedge Scorpions and they keep killing your creatures and dying. Now that's not card advantage, so we're not talking about something horrible, but it is a green wrath effect that never goes away, and that's sort of unsettling. Of course, you could also play this with a bunch of huge and/or indestructible creatures, in which case it is card advantage (green Grave Pact), but it's well-bounded and for a 4-mana rare, probably fine. It's a pretty cool ability (though it feels more like red vengeance than a green scavenger fight).

How much less should Clone cost if you can only copy one of your own creatures? If you have to tap that creature? {1}{U} isn't an inconceivable answer, though I find {2}{U} or {U}{U} more likely.

I don't get the flavor. Your creature draws itself on the wall, and then the wall effuses a copy of the creature (or the thing it drew, which has to be itself)?

The tricky bit of what seems like a totally fair red-green card, is that you don't have to control either creature. If your opponent has a 5/3 ground-pounder and a 4/4 angel, she's going to be pretty sad when you kill them both for {R}{G}. I like this exact text, though, so I'd say keep it as-is but increase the cost. Swingier than Branching Bolt since it doesn't work without fliers and non-fliers around, but since you can target yours in a pinch, it's stronger than it is conditional.

Our first griffin card! Here's a small design lesson not for any one card or designer, but for all of us: I was glad to see so many designs come from outside the box, to not be griffin cards, but as that trended on, I grew a bit dismayed that the simple promise of the challenge wasn't being delivered on. This is the power of low-hanging fruit. Players love clever, wacky cards, but if you're not meeting expectations, there will be some confusion and dissatisfaction. I'm not saying this factor should have influenced any of your submissions. It's not like you should have predicted the order cards would be reviewed. Just a bonus design lesson.

Mechanically, Griffin Roost is exciting. With no griffin creatures in your deck at all, this will give you a 2/2 flyer for {1}{W}{W} after two turns, more for less after that, and you can make them even faster if you like. Too fast, I'd say. Cast this on turn 2. Turn 4, make a griffin and use it to put an egg on. Turn 5, make a griffin, put two eggs on, make another griffin, put another egg on. It's very efficient. Like, makes-Sacred-Mesa-look-weak efficient.

Thematically, there's something very weird happening here. Is the roost a place where eggs get layed, or do griffins lay eggs? We're rendering the same story idea with two different abilities. Maybe the roost implicitly houses a griffin who only ever lays eggs, but why can't we kill that griffin? By removing either of these abilities, we tell a more coherent story and get the card closer to a manageable power level.

This ability word does a lot of work helping explain why this griffin only keens when it's got a buddy to protect, but I don't get at all why it refuses to work if there are other creatures headed the same direction. Granted, that might be too strong, but this is pretty strong paired with just a 1/1 too.

Is this meant to have flying? Makes a big difference.

What a neat card. I'm not sure Peaceful Example is mono-white (probably green-white), and I'm not remotely convinced it's safe to print at this cost, but this is such Johnny loveliness. What's the craziest creature I can play on the cheap without combat? Griselbrand, some Praetors, maybe an Angel-of-you-can't-play-spells. Oh, the possibilities. Note that you can't disenchant away this attacking restriction, but you can very easily Flicker it.

Tribal Memories can draw you a card for every creature card in your graveyard (and two mana), but it also naturally puts cards into your graveyard. In a dedicated tribal deck, this will be "{1}{G}: Draw a card and enable delve." 95% of the time. If we exile the unchosen cards, or put them under your library then it doesn't fuel itself and we get closer to something reasonable.

Cool flavor.

Why choose of the card's creature types? We can speed the process along by letting you take any card that matches any creature type, and that just lets players make a few more varied decks with this.

Cool. If Abzan weren't so focused on durability and survival, work together would have been a good mechanic for them, what with their slow game and focus on family/community. This mechanic will definitely draw some games out while a player grinds toward inevitability (like outlast), but will also allow some aggressive decks to finish a game out of nowhere while you're gearing up (like outlast).

Weather the Storm seems solid. Could probably be {1}{W} or even {W}.

Art F got no love, so I'm making a card for it on the spot:

Originally I was sacrificing a creature to put one counter on the rest of my team, but despite that fitting green perfectly philosophically, I couldn't justify enough it in the color pie without black. Upon further inspection… this card is probably too strong. Fine when you've got a bunch of guys and it just boosts them a little, but too much for the cost when it boosts 1-3 guys by 3+ each.

Nice work, artisans. Despite my observation about expectations, I'm quite pleased with the variety and ingenuity you showed here. I'm sure a number of you were underwhelmed by the art or the seeming demand of griffins, so finding cards that work with the art without being griffin-y was a nice solution.

Thanks to Jenesis for rendering the cards. Nice expansion icon.

1 comment:

  1. I think Blizzard Sanctuary is fine as Into the North copies 5-8. (Or 1-4 in decks that are multicolour snow but not base green.) I like it.

    I also love Carrion Clash. It should perhaps have a rider like Last Laugh and Pestilence/Pyrohemia had - "When there are no creatures on the battlefield, sacrifice ~." Do they still do those?

    You're absolutely right, Tribal Memories should just let you use any creature type of the exiled card. I did rather like the self-fuelling aspect, but I can see it's perhaps too consistent... would revealing 2 cards rather than 3 be better? It probably wouldn't as it'd just lead to more misses. Aww.