Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 022015—xkillz

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

All Alone slow-flickers every creature but one. Probably the one you're attacking with. At face-value, this is a white Infiltrate that limits you to a single attacker. That's pretty weak, but a clever way to do that effect in white. All Alone isn't weak, of course, because it can reset opposing creatures with counters, wrath tokens, and double-down on all your ETB creature effects. Also flavor.

Alone is like a Banishing Light but instead of exiling the creature, it treats it like it doesn't exist. We'd need to add text to prevent Alone from causing itself to fall off. Functionally, this template works the same for everything except Misthollow Griffin. So why change the template? There's certainly a comprehension boost to having all our auras actually be auras, but the rulebook would definitely need a few new sections to define non-existence and its ramifications.

Alone isn't doing anything else different, but it's white-blue, so it appears to suggest a shift for the banish mechanic from mono-white to white-blue. Anyone have thoughts why banish should be blue?

Banishment to the Moon is a Banishing Light for an air superiority deck. It tells us a little story where the target is swept off  and imprisoned on the moon where it can only be rescued by a flying ally. It costs a full mana and a second color more despite being significantly weaker against an opponent with flying creatures. Cage of Hands ability to move onto your opponent's newer and bigger threats is nothing to sneeze at, but it doesn't seem worth both the downside and price hike. If we remove "any play may play this ability," the card becomes simpler and shorter at just a little thematic cost.

For one mana less than Omniscience, Chandra Awakens gives you the same effect for just the turn, but also destroys your mana base, ensuring you don't cast anything else any time soon. It's like a Final Fortune except it doesn't explicitly lose you the game if you don't win that turn. If losing your lands made thematic sense with the card, rather than just being mechanically poetic, I might prefer that, but there's a lot to be said for the way Final Fortune gets to the point. One way lets you win with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn where the other demands a little more creativity in the form of swift destruction. Certainly debatable which fits red/Chandra better.

Curse of Isolation is a more serious Kismet. Not only can't you block with your creature for its first turn, you can't do anything with it. You also don't get to attack with it next turn. Or enjoy any kicker effects you might have liked. Blue doesn't feel out of place here, though I do wonder if it's necessary.

Desert of Exiles is happy to fix your mana five ways to Sunday provided you can populate it. Just get any one of your cards into exile and, if it's a creature, you're set. Chrome Mox might be the brokenest combo here with Forsaken City coming a close second. If this were in today's Standard, we'd pair it with the likes of Dig Through Time where it would be merely very good. Desert of Exiles is a fairly thematic and unexpected card, so kudos there.

Desert Outcast is Armageddon on a stick. Actually, that's Desolation Angel and this really isn't the same at all. Making this a death trigger ups the challenge: You've got to play something else so that you'll be ahead on the board when our mana resets, and you've got to get Outcast killed in the process, something your opponent is never going to help with. Pulling that all together sounds much more interactive and interesting to me. One change I'd make though, is giving the Outcast stats that make your opponent at least consider killing it.

Desert Visions lets you draw seven cards, but you can't cast any spells you draw, and your opponent gets to see them all. At face-value, it's a Mulch for 7 that might also give you some discard fodder. You can also use from-hand card effects that circumvent casting like cycling, forecast, and splice. It's a very Johnny card and that's cool. I would either prevent players from being able to play lands drawn this way as well (and reduce the cost) or else make it green-blue. Not sure this is white at all anyhow.

Perfect reprint.

Now I want to hear the story of the powerful wizard obsessed with this woman who accepted her offer of "I'll be with you when you're the last man on Earth."

Eldrazi's Wake nukes everything but land, even indestructible things. All it costs is one Ulamog, Kozilek, or Emrakul. That's pretty awesome, and the idea that the Eldrazi obliterated the Phyrexians is too. I do have trouble imagining an Eldrazi sacrificing itself for any purpose, much less to defeat the Phyrexian scourge. I also have trouble imagining a player building a deck meant to land Eldrazi that also expects to need to wipe the board having done so (though Eye of Ugin is a strong counter-argument). I didn't think of Mistform Ultimus working as an Eldrazi stand-in here, but that thing's the exception to everything good and wholesome in this world. Should totally reveal itself as the real villain at the end of the Magic movie.

Eternity Trap loves to counter planeswalkers. I love how that works for this art.

Yiiikes. This is bizarre and terrifying and it makes my inner Johnny SO excited. I haven't even figured out how to abuse it yet, and I already know that it's massively abuseable. I mean, it's just an enchantment—we can always Naturalize it—so it's probably 'fair' but there are so many cards this will make absurd so fast.

This design originally triggered on your end step and I want to talk about that. The nice thing about the end step trigger is that it does something basically immediately (messing with your opponent's upkeep) and it does so without using any new terminology. It was switched to your upkeep step so that it would affect you first. Fifteen years ago, upkeep was a bad thing. You were literally paying to upkeep the things you'd played. But today, upkeep is almost strictly a good thing. When you get incremental bonuses. All part of the greater movement to replace downside mechanics with upsides. The cost of making this change is that we have to specify "your first upkeep each turn" which is a phrase brand new to Magic. But, since we're making that qualification in the second ability regardless, there's no additional overhead using it earlier. Clever.

Leave Behind must be a Planechase-only card, made to interact with that format's unique planeswalking mechanic. There's a cool little story being told here, but I'd want a stronger effect for a card that's conditional in a multiplayer format. Making it cantrip would help, though I'd really love for the bonus to be thematic as well. Perhaps make the exile permanent?

Majestic Radiance does a really nice job of being completely fascist. "We're all going to lose some things and X will determine how much." *cough* I like how this scales up in a completely unfair way and how the symmetry is purely poetic. I don't this being red at all. Mono-white or white-black.

Moonwalk is a twist on the classic delayed flicker effect. Not only don't you get your creature this turn, but it'll come back regressed and you'll have to pay its mana to get it fully back. That's not bad, though where it loses me is why we need to wait until the end of the turn. Why not just "Target creature's controller manifests it"?

Manifest Destiny is pretty cool.

My Lady of Pale Birds—who is not legendary despite being very specific about whose lady she is and how dark her birds are—turns everything else into a 1/1 bird, permanently. Beyond simply handling powerful creatures and crazy abilities, it also greatly benefits quantity over quality, making your Goblin Rally as good as all four copies of my Sagu Mauler. And since they're all white Bird tokens, you can play Honor of the Pure, Soraya the Falconer, and/or Intangible Virtue to skew things even farther in your favor. I'd pay 6 for that.

This feels a lot like Curse of the Swine and should arguably be blue or blue-white. March of Souls begs to differ but is older than Modern. I can't help but think of Dovescape.

Ominous Horizon says "I'm going to blow everything up, but first let me tuck some creatures away." It's Oblivion Stone. Not a terrible fit for white, actually. Having to play a couple turns without the vert creatures you hope to bring back seems pretty awkward. Maybe worthwhile for Duneblast?

Overlapping Realities immediately evokes shadow, but of course, two creatures in overlapping realities still can't block each other. At first, it might seems worse than Aqueous Form, and when you use it on your own creature it usually is, but it gives you the option of casting it offensively to remove an opposing blocker. That blocker will now be a clock against you, but it might be worth it to get your Markov Patrician through. Especially when you enchant a wall. In creature form, Inkfathom Infiltrator and friends show this could be blue or black, but as an aura I'm a bit more comfortable with this as a black card.

Perdition is free conditionless creature removal, but it also costs {8}. I'd say it's fairness depends entirely on the format, but I'll never root for "exile target creature" as a land ability. Spine of Ish Sah made me uncomfortable by working in a blue or green deck and Perdition can hit indestructible and regenerating creatures too. It is neat to imagine Perdition claiming souls, though, even if you've got to wonder where Perdition goes when it goes to Perdition.

I'd normally say Pilgrimage should be an aura so that we have a clear marker to remind us about the trigger, but the creature being exiled under the land might be all you need. I'm not sure you should have the option to exile the creature under the same land you tapped to cast Pilgrimage, since you're effectively just paying an upkeep of {W} to keep it exiled, but part of that hesitation comes from the extra power of this being an instant. At sorcery speed, this would feel more sane. And more like a Pilgrimage. It's also a really good Cloudshift that might let you ambush a forgetful opponent, but that mode still pales in comparison to the safer-than-Path to Exile mode.

It's neat, but just looks too strong.

Haha. Banishing Light meets Day of Judgment. And it fits the art! (Except we're left wondering why this woman wasn't affected. Obviously, she's a planeswalker.) Very cool. Makes the possibility of a Naturalize all the more terrifying.

I hate the idea of putting a new kind of counter on creatures with who-knows-what counters already on them, but I love everything else about Secluded Plane. It's like a Pacifism for all your opponents creatures. I wonder if we could just group the creatures it affects together? Hmm. Tricky. You could perma-tap them instead, but that's functionally different and hurts the theme.

Vanish deals with any targetable creature, or with a little elbow grease, every targetable creature. It's not a win-condition, even if it does combo pretty well with creatures of your own, so storm probably doesn't break it. The life gain buys your opponent a turn or two to try and rebuild their base, so I'd say Vanish into Dreams is very strong, but printable.

Walk the Barren Path is like an extended Journey to Nowhere for a party of three. You could use it on yourself, but it seems much more inclined to harry your opponent instead, invalidating the next two creatures they cast in the hopes you can overwhelm them before they get the third. It's a weird card, and could backfire pretty hard, but seems like a huge tempo advantage most of the time. Would definitely have Dev keep a close eye on this, but it's unique enough to warrant the effort.

It's always a pleasure to see a great variety of designs come back. We saw every color and almost every card type, many iterations within the exile mechanic, and quite a few entirely different ideas as well. You artisans are a creative lot, and that will serve you well.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. Doesn't phasing have rules for treating things as though they don't exist?

    Also, Paradox Haze beat Eternity Trek to the punch.

    1. Sure, but phasing phases out permanents attached to the creature to. So unless you want:

      Exile target creature

      its not going to work how you want it.