Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 040315—JB Casacop

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

Siegebreaker Rhino sort of has haste, but instead of risking its own life, it incites one of your other creatures to rage in. This is a rare case where the card represents the thing being ridden, rather than the thing doing the riding. I quite like the ability. I'd prefer it either had trample or didn't grant trample for greater symmetry, but the fact that the creature it boosts is fated to die certainly balances that out mechanically.

It's fascinating how targeting a 1/1 has a certain value to it, and targeting a 4/4 or 5/1 has another. Your consistently sad when you don't have a creature to target, or do but wish you weren't killing it. But that sacrifice clause is what allows Siegebreaker to enjoy the effect and keep the efficient 3/2 for three body, leaving you with the same number of dead creatures bloodthirst would. Speaking of bloodthirst, this isn't quite as surprising at sorcery speed, but +3 power and trample can end many a stalemate.

Smash the Gates is a half Tunnel, half Ride Down. Clearly it would only be printed in a set with a lot of walls, like Rise of the Eldrazi. Even then, it's a very narrow card. Which will make it all the more surprising for your opponent when you bust their wall with it. Or, I suppose, when it's stuck in a new player's hand all game. Great flavor, I must say.

Sunhome Devil belongs, I guess, to a future Ravnica where the Boros and the Rakdos have merged. (Maybe the Orzhov too, but not every card can have three mechanics on it, right?) Clearly unleash is a returning mechanic for Rakdos and tactics is a new mechanic for Boros. (Not sure how likely that is, but it's entirely conceivable.) Whether you play this in a red-white deck, a black-red deck, or a black-red-white deck, Sunhome Devil gets both abilities making it a potential 3/3 first striker for two. Or just a 2/2 for two, in a tight spot.

Tactics is pretty similar to prowess, trading sorceries for permanents with flash, and a standard +1/+1 for any number of combat abilities. Similar isn't a bad thing, though, when we're talking about a successful mechanic.

The Rift Opened gives Panglacial Wurm's ability to your whole deck, allowing you to kick every tutor you cast with a Chord of Calling / Green Sun's Zenith. In a vacuum, I could see this being black, given black's love of tutors, but since every card it references is green, it's hard to justify anything else. I was going to add that making a player play black for its tutors and green for this would help limit its power, but green has a ton of land searching that's even cheaper than black's unlimited tutoring, so that's one argument to keep it black.

The funniest thing is that one of the best things you can do with The Rift Opened is to follow R Stech's suggestion to use Dark Riddle to search for another copy of itself, letting you play creatures from your library each turn as if they were in your hand—until your opponent catches on.

Tibalt's Inquisitor does not like to be spied upon. Like a Dodecapod or Arrogant Wurm respond to discard, this Devil gives you recourse against a nosy opponent. The haste is unlikely to matter in that situation, but ensures the Devil will have the element of surprise one way or another. I like this. I'm not entirely sure this ability should be red, but I like it there. Note that this does protect against some discard like Thoughtseize, but not random or self-chosen varieties.

Warband Crasher seems to justify dipping into a tertiary ability at common by doing it twice, bleeding equally toward red and white. Do two wrongs make a right? Is there a block where {R}{G}{W} cards make sense in mono-green at common? I buy green Bull Cerodon at rare, or given these stats at uncommon (in the right set), but I'm not a fan of putting a lot of bleed at common. Not only does it reduce each color's reliance on the others, but it also hurts the color's identity by telling players "green gets this."

Wrecking Frenzy lets you save your creature from damage and costs your opponent a permanent or two. And it's black-red. I think I'm missing something. Black has done damage retribution like this once on a mythic rare in New Phyrexia, but even then it didn't prevent the damage. As a one-off effect, I'm happy to see it return on an uncommon, but I have no idea why Wrecking Frenzy is also red or how it prevents damage. I could see it as a {W}{B} card.

Hellforged Rider has resourceful for haste. You can have a Summit Prowler or a Vulshok Berserker. I'm inclined to think Prowler is about as efficient as red gets at common even now and Hellforged Rider is strictly better, but I love that it's a choice between two existing cards and while it will be strong in Limited, I'm sure it won't break anything in the right set. S'cool. A Fanatic of Xenagos where the choice is yours.

Hellsteed Rider makes use of red's most criminally underused evasion ability, and tosses in that mechanic's bff keyword, making this 4/2 pretty hard to block the turn it lands. Am I being greedy when I think we could get slightly more for {5}{R}? In any case, here's an expensive red common that could close a game out of nowhere, and so fills a niche we've seen Magic aim for before.

Masticator is a fun word, even if you'd never hear a red mage use it. Masticator of the Meek starts out looking like a fairly standard red creature, and then you get that unique last line. This orc isn't afraid of being blocked by things that could kill it like Brassclaw Orcs, instead, it's eager to tromp all over things it thinks it can handle. Of course it only takes two such creatures to kill our berserker, but sometimes that's a two-for-one (and haste helps secure that condition). I'm not entirely sold on that mechanical reversal, or red dipping its toes in green's lure territory, but there's an argument to be made for it. It's funny how much that line looks like a drawback, even though the card is strictly better with it.

Reckless Ransacker is an Incurable Ogre with haste (or a Lightning Elemental with +1/+0) which is a nice upgrade for common. Oh, and you can also get a 75% discount if you can Demolish the same turn. Or convince your opponent to activate their sack-land before your end step. IDK if a 5/1 haste for {R} is strong enough for eternal formats, but if so that's some neat balancing. I don't see it landing turn 1 in Standard, but it wouldn't be hard to do with mana-rocks around.

Rewire is a variant on Act of Treason that we haven't seen yet, and a pretty neat one. Not quite as brutal as Slave of Bolas, but still leaving its owner with a tougher question to answer than the {2}{R} version. I wonder if it wants to cost {1} more or be uncommon, but I like Rewire a lot.

Spite is sort of the opposite of heroic, except that it still helps your creature do awesome things. I like the idea of triggering off of your offensive spells because it rewards you for doing something you generally want to be doing anyhow, much like heroic but with the opposite focus. I'd be even more impressed if the end result were more fitting for that perspective too, though I can't say I'm sure how you'd do that. Maybe spell-life effects? Riot Crusader's spite ability sure does make for a good tempo deck and tempo can be a fun tightrope to walk. (Note that the haste won't help when you play this on curve, but could be quite relevant mid-game.)

Bursting Devil has flash and haste, allowing you to cast it in response to your team getting Frost Breath'd and still attack. Okay, so you're never going to use both abilities, but you have the option to either cast it on your turn and get in for four immediately, or cast it during your opponent's turn and block with it. Which would be vastly more appealing if this were 4/4, which I don't think is an unreasonable size for a {3}{R}{G} uncommon. Having the option is neat, but I don't want to pay five to trade a knight that can knock a fifth of my opponent's life out of nowhere with some X/4 unless I really have to.

Delectable Wall is a Seal of Taunting that blocks pretty well in the meantime. I have to give Unexpected Perspective points for making this card about the wall. Despite conflicting with many of red's other traits, the color has inherited walls through years of precedent, so at least we can be glad this one comes with a red ability.

Devil Mount grants a pair of abilities that feature the number two, and they play quite well with another, either killing two blockers (and possibly surviving) or dealing double damage to an opponent with no good blocks. That's potentially quite strong for a common even at five mana, potentially letting you hit an opponent for 8 damage the turn they thought they were blocking a 4/X. Whether it's too strong depends greatly on red's suite of creatures, the set's blockers and tokens, and the set's instant speed removal.

Hahaha. I'm so used to interpreting action and movement from the still art in cards, I would have never imagine this art depicting a creature frozen in time. As a Journey to Nowhere with flash, Freeze in Place is strong, though it's also a reversible Kill Shot. Great variant.

Furious Charge feels like a callback to old Craw Giant's rampage. I like the basic effect, but it'll be work to get more than +2/+0 out of this, and quite a feat to get more than +4/+0. It could easily cost {1}{R} and maybe just {R}. Mike offered a much simpler template: "[Until EOT,] target creature gains trample and gets +2/+0 for each creature blocking it."

Hellborn Rider comes out of nowhere with your nastiest corpse, and keeps unearthing new ones as long as it survives. That's very black, very rare, and very cool.

EDIT: Daniel's card didn't make it into the original render batch. Corrected:

Ruthless Hellrider hits with haste and an ETB effect that could leave the opponent defenseless for the turn. I like how the effect's condition ties in with the creature's power, though at common it would be a bit simpler to just use the standard "target creature can't block." If this cost {1}{R}{R} it could be a rare and Standard relevant. Where it is, I'd make it uncommon for its ability to push through a good chunk of damage in an aggro/tempo deck or on a stalemated board.

Haste was far and away the most common way to make this card surprising, and that's entirely reasonable given the art. How could this thing not have haste? This seems like a contradiction, but kudos both to the designers who looked for something less obvious, as well as to the designers who didn't eschew the obvious answer just because it was obvious. There's merit in both paths.

There are some very elegant designs, some poetic, some exciting, some clever and some hilarious. Even with haste everywhere, there's a great deal of variety. I love seeing the breadth of designs you Artisans bring to bear on a single challenge. It's inspiring.

EDIT: I'd meant to say that one trend I noticed were cards that were surprising to read rather than in play. While gameplay is always our highest priority, Magic sells sets initially based entirely on how the previews read, and cards that make players double-take go a long way toward generating early interest.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. There were a lot of things going at Flash and Haste this time, which is anti-synergistic. This makes me think of:

    Whatever Guy 3RR
    Creature - Whatevs (U)


    When ~ ETBs, ~ deals 4 damage to target player.


  2. The bleeds in my card were supposed to be the surprising part, if that's not clear. It doesn't seem like too much of a stretch given Strangleroot Geist, Circle of Elders and the like (mono green does get both those abilities), although uncommon would be fine. I was going for a surprising card to read rather than surprising gameplay.

    1. I'd meant to comment about cards that are surprising to read rather than to play and have updated the post. Thanks for the reminder.

      Both Strangleroot Geist and Circle of Elders are uncommon, and neither does both things. Mono-green absolutely does get haste (about one per block) and vigilance (about two per block), but at higher rarities and not together. I quite like putting them together on a single card once, but definitely not a common (unless the set is explicitly messing with the color pie like Planar Chaos).

  3. my card wasn't even rendered :(

    1. Sorry about that - totally my fault. Long comment threads, blind spots, etc.

    2. Pasteur gave me the render, I added it and reviewed it above.

  4. I was a bit late to the party it seems, and you had already done the renders :(

    Barge Uninvited RR
    Instant - Uncommon
    The next creature you play this turn gains flash and enters the battlefield tapped and attacking if played during your combat phase.

    1. It's a neat idea to use flash offensively, but more for Melvin / designers, because in practice it's just haste + unblockable.

      Neither flash or unblockable are red abilities.