Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 050115—ilkerserdar

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a card for this art that features a new or under-used form of card advantage. Failing that, card advantage appropriate to common.

Boyung Rhythmmage could draw you several cards, provided you keep casting noncreature spells of increasing size. It's pretty clever that the +1/+1 counter looks like the cherry on top, but is actually doing important work keeping this card in check. Yes, you'll get a sizeable creature for your, but at least you won't be able to play 20 Ponder variants and draw an obscene number of cards. I suspect this wants to cost {1} more and be rare—it is exciting enough—or else cost {2} more and start at 2/2.

Drinking Contest is a straight draw spell for green, but it's a very weak cantrip unless you have not only a creature, but the toughest creature in town—in which case it's better than Divination. I'm not sure how I feel about green getting a card that's conditionally better than blue's default draw spell, but otherwise this is really neat. Cool flavor. Inspires an uncommon version:
Drinking Contest {2}{G}
Sorcery (unc)
Draw a card for each point of toughness the toughest creature you control has in excess of the toughest creature an opponent controls.

Heh. The flavor here is more debatable, but still decent. This Drinking Contest is a much kinder Wheel of Fortune. It can neither force an opponent to discard, nor draw you more cards than you pitch. In fact, it will necessarily leave its caster down a card, though it could still be worthwhile if you've drawn a lot more chaff than your opponent. Card selection.

I can't help but imagine stronger flavor:
Drinking Contest {1}{R}
Sorcery (unc)
Discard any number of cards, then draw that many cards.
Each other player discards that many cards, then draws as many as they discarded this way.

Endless Elixer cycles for {3}, with the intent of doing it more against an opponent with life gain. It's juuust expensive enough that players will rarely include it in their main deck, but could prove quite relevant against the right deck, at least in Limited. Should it require white mana to recur? I could see a cycle of 'endless beverages.'

Having read the second line, I was thinking there should be a creature that can block all opposing creatures and must (because you can always block so that your huge multi-blocker survives).  The last line makes it clear Gennyrhall Enforcers was never intended to be less than a massive haymaker. You can choose to play it after attackers are declared, but why would you? If you play it before then your opponent has to go all in and you can pick off 1-5 creatures more than your army would have otherwise. That's absolutely brutal, but it is a seven-mana gold rare after all.

Grim Excavator is a Gravedigger that gives you the option to recur a land card at the added cost of {G}. That option is fairly minimal though, and I'd expect Excavator to either cost {2}{B}{G}, or be larger, or return one of each card type. I'm also not seeing the connection with this art.

Innkeep deals in rumors, intelligence, and shady opportunities. Nice flavor. And everyone knows token creatures aren't sly or well-connected enough to trade in such commodities? I really don't see a need for the 'nontoken' exception here. Why not let me pay {4} more when I Goblin Rally to get four extra rummages? Other than that, this has good flavor and pretty solid play. Could probably cost {2} less as a rare. Do we want to add 'another' so she doesn't trigger herself? Not a power concern, so much as a clarity issue. Card selection.

Yiiikes. Isli, Muse of Fabacin keeps all your positive auras on the battlefield as long as she survives… and that's her weak mode. She also lets re-cast your Mire Blight, Spinal Graft, Yoke of the Damned, Stab Wound, Quag Sickness and Kagemaro's Clutch. That's a lot of recursion for a two-drop. Imagine giving her Indestructibility. You'll have to cast a Doom Blade in response to her trigger to ever kill her. What is blue about this card?

Keeper of Songs Unheard will let you draw handfuls of cards at a time. Anticipate becomes Ancestral Recall. Magma Jet also draws you 2 extra cards. Bow of Nylea lets you Tidings every round and Prognostic Sphinx draws you 3 each attack. Collected Company lets you keep the four cards you don't put on the battlefield. Even Temple of Enlightenment draws you a card. Oh and a single Ardent Plea draws your whole deck.

Seems like effects that care about the bottom of your library are a trap.

Do people know that alcohol is a depressant? On this plane, I guess it's not. It revs you up. Okay.

The haste and 'must attack' are useful and flavorful, respectively. I like that Liquor Peddler can advantage you and disadvantage your opponent (or vice-versa if you're sloppy), and that she can give herself haste. 2/3 might be better so she can kill some 2/2s that are forced to attack into her.

Why does she untap a creature during its controller's turn before it has attacked? It should already be untapped. And why does she only serve the weakest creatures? Is this a Drop of Honey update? Is Drop of Honey worthy of an homage 20 years later?

My first instinct was to be offended that Renew is a cheaper, commoner Make a Wish, but I'm actually glad it's cheaper. Renew is more comparable to Divination at this cost. Since you don't get to choose what you get back, and you're more likely to get back cards that were better earlier in the game, it probably doesn't need to cost much more. I'm not as excited about this being common, only because the procedure of randomly selecting two cards from your graveyard can be as cumbersome as shuffling.

Serenity Seal is a more interesting model for seals. Instead of just being an instant you play before you need, there's an obvious purpose to it sticking around. Cool. I wonder if it should cost {1}{G} to cast and another {1}{G} to sack, but I'm not remotely sure that's better.

In what kind of environment would this be a fair common? It needs to have enough artifacts and/or enchantments to warrant inclusion, but some blocks that focus on those card types also make it harder to answer them, so they can remain relevant (Theros being the most recent example).

Tavern Troublemaker grabs onto the rare moment when you make a player discard during their draw step when they've got no other cards in hand, and both simplifies it, and smoothes the sting a bit. You're down a card, and you know you won't draw an answer as soon as you'd have hoped, but at least you don't get your hopes crushed by drawing what you needed and then sending it away forever.

Putting the effect on a death trigger means generally you can choose to avoid the effect when it would inconvenience you most, but your opponent might sacrifice it to hit you when you're most vulnerable. Seems like a strong common.

Check out the crazy can of worms Jenesis helped Ipaulsen avoid (I wouldn't have caught that).

Una Rioghain reduced control over her own loyalty, like Sarkhan the Mad or Garruk Relentless. Either creatures ETB or they don't. The ability you'll be activating until she stumbles upon 7+ loyalty will likely make a creature or so, and can build her up, as does playing creatures, or better yet—token makers. Her ultimate is similarly passive: It definitely won't win you the game immediately like most. In fact, it's probably just going to gain you 4 life per turn as you resume hitting her +0 ability.

That's not a bad card in terms of power level and should appeal to some players, though it does feel distinctly indistinct for a planeswalker. I'm not seeing anything green here. Una could be blue-white, or mono-white. Note that the card advantage Una provides comes from your piles of 1/1s trading with real creatures.

Vigilant Harper is a targeted Second Sunrise on a stick, that can save one of your dying creatures and retrigger its ETB/LTB effects. It's unfortunate that you can't both use the flash to surprise block and save a creature. I can't help but think that if this just regenerated its target, it would be simpler and let players live the dream. Depends on the set it's in.

Visit the Meadhall is a little weird. What is it about 2 life that's worth a card? In fairness, older sets would have worded this "Draw cards equal to half the life you gained this turn, rounded down" and this reads much better (though I can't guarantee it passes templating). Anyhow, by itself, you get 2 life and a card, which is pretty disappointing for {1}{W}{W}, but if you can gain 4 life elsewhere, it's suddenly quite good. How many life gain cards do you play to ramp up your Meadhalls? Interesting. White doesn't usually get to draw multiple cards, but when we do allow it, an uncommon that cares about life gain seems like a good place to start.

Watchworthy Singer borrows the equipment template for a creature you attach to another creature to boost it. You can still attack with either creature, tap them, or block with them, completely independently—just as you could with soulbond—it's just that one is enhancing the other. I suppose two Singers could support each other. I suppose one Singer could support the other, and the other could support something completely different. Which could support the first Singer if it also had a support ability. I like how simple this mechanic is, though I'm starting to see why soulbond works the way it does. Also, this can draw you a ton of cards if you can keep supporting creatures with it and getting them killed. Come to think of it, Ashnod's Altar combos impressively with Watchworthy Singer.

So many cool cards this week. In fairness, it's easy to get excited about cards that offer card advantage, but still.

Is card selection a form of card advantage? If I rummage away a Mountain for a Lightning Bolt, I'm not technically up a card, but I am up a relevant card. How's that different from the virtual card advantage of having a single creature big enough to trade with 2 opposing creatures?

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. "You'll have to cast a Doom Blade in response to her trigger to ever kill her."

    Huh? You don't need to respond to her trigger, you can just kill her.

    1. Also, you asked why Isli was blue. Moving Auras between permanents is blue. (Aura Graft, Simic Guildmage, Enchantment Alteration, etc.)

      She was designed to be a quirky tier-2 Commander or a kitchen table build-around-me; I'm a bit surprised that you saw her as an unstoppable Constructed powerhouse.

    2. Not addressing the specific card discussion, but more generally:

      Bear in mind that True-name Nemesis was designed to be a quirky political card in multiplayer. Design intent matters little in the end.

    3. If you don't kill Isli in response to the trigger from destroying Invincibility, the aura snaps right back on her and she immediately becomes unkillable again.

    4. So six mana spread over two cards gets you an indestructible 2/2 with a nice bonus ability. Is that more oppressive than Tajic, Blade of the Legion?

    5. @Jay do you mean the card Indestructibility?

      Yes, if you stick Indestructibility on her she's indestructible forever (her ability doesn't use the stack). She can still be answered by anything that answers a natively indestructible creature. In addition, you can easily snag the two-for-one by killing her in response to the controller casting an Aura on her.

      The interaction with getting to reuse black "negative Auras" infinitely is probably the biggest abuse.

    6. Indestructibility is what I meant, thanks.

      I'm not at all sure whether Isli is more oppressive than Tajic in Constructed, but it's definitely less oppressive in Limited.

    7. The thing to remember about negative auras is that they typically don't kill the thing they get put on immediately. A card like Dead Weight is basically a modal card with two modes: kill their small creature, or make their big creature mediocre. If you choose the first mode, you will never kill anything big; if you choose the second mode, you won't get bad creatures with it. In this case, the way you stop the recursion loop is by having a creature larger than 2/2. If R&D were to make a -4/-4 Aura, they'd probably make it a sorcery instead. (In fact, I believe this was a question on the GDS2 test.)

      Jay mentioned Mire Blight, but then we're living in Magical Christmasland where we get Isli and Mire Blight and a repeatable damage source out and are able to keep Isli alive as we recur the combo, which doesn't even go infinite.

      As for Isli + Indestructibility, keep in mind that Gift of Immortality is pretty close to that in effect, and Gift is a card that's seeing absolutely zero competitive play.

      I definitely appreciate developmental feedback about cards, however, I think it's easy to look at a card in a vacuum and think "wow, that's busted!" without thinking about how the card would play out in an actual Constructed environment with removal and answers.

    8. Getting to permanently keep all your opponent's X/2 creatures off the board for the price of a single B each is still a really potent effect, and it gets better in formats where sideboards are involved. Granted, it's not Punishing Fire levels of strong, but "banned in Modern and has seen infrequent Legacy play" is not the greatest measuring stick from a development standpoint.

      There are also a couple infinite combos you can do with her, but none in her colors, so good call on the U I guess.

    9. I don't think we need to argue whether the current design is broken -- if she's INTENDED to be a quirky "make my positive auras good" card, she could obviously be tweaked to do that if it's necessary.

      I'm inclined to think that would help -- if a card has to be costed to balance a less-obvious use, it's likely to make it unappealing for it's more-obvious use. But maybe the current card is ok for rare, not sure.

      I take Evan's point there's no particular combo which is necessarily broken, but it seems asking for trouble. It restricts what can be printed in future sets if, say, an aura with "Sac THIS: draw a card" is unprintable.

    10. You never run out of auras, so it's trivial to get two Dead Weights on a 4/4. When you're building your deck around Isli, you've probably got 8 crazy boons and 12 efficient debuffs, minimum. I'm not saying her deck is unstoppable like affinity, but I am saying she's much much stronger than you're willing to admit, drawing you 10+ cards if you protect her.

  2. Having a single creature trade with two opposing creatures is straight card advantage. Vorstclaw was almost always at least a two for one, sometimes more.

    Card selection can definitely be a proxy for card advantage, but I think it is not quite the same thing. As a designer, I tend to believe that card selection is a far less insidious beast than card advantage.

    Card selection (even very strong card selection) can be excellent for limited, helping your deck revolve around a few key cards and making your decks really feel distinct. It is an unsolved problem in Magic R&D that you fundamentally can't build a deck around one copy of a build around card (save the delightful Laboratory Maniac), and so players are really restricted in what they can draft. Card selection cards can serve as additional copies of build arounds, and so can allow a player who has just one Bred for the Hunt (or whatever) to move in on the deck and make picks based around it. Unfortunately, it also serves as additional copies of Grave Titan or Pack Rat or whatever rare is making limited players miserable that season, so one has to be careful about that!

    On the other hand, good card selection is pure poison for constructed, making every game with a deck play out the same. This can quickly kill a format based on a relatively small number of decks and matchups interacting.

    Ideally, I think, one should cost cards so that limited has a lot of selection and constructed has relatively little, but this is rather difficult. I like what Mwonvuli Beast Tracker is trying to do in this regard, though one would have to very carefully balance what things could be chosen. It is too bad it can't say "Search your deck for an uncommon and put it on top of your library."

    1. Incidentally this is why I made Innkeep a bit expensive/restrictive even at rare. Giving red a powerful card selection engine that aligns with their traditional axis of proactive play feels like it could be dangerous.

    2. "Search your deck for an uncommon" would've been lovely.

      It's interesting that in many decks, "draw card" is occasionally worse than "discards 2 cards then draw 2 cards" or "draw 3 cards, then discard 3 cards."

    3. I really appreciate this analysis.

    4. Yeah, really good point. I wish I could think of better answers.

  3. A creature that's Supporting is supposed to be unable to attack or block, but still be able to do anything any other creature could do (get Bolt'd, wrath'd, prey upon'd, tap for Chord of Calling, etc). Should this be in the reminder text rather than the comp. rules? ...probably.

    When I thought it would go on multiple permanent types, Support seemed like the best catch-all term. With just creatures, "Follower" and "Follow {2}" are an option. If this mechanic represents both supporting humanoids and potentially mounts, which seems like a better term?

  4. I love Visit the Meadhall. The trick will be to play it with incidental lifegain. Being an instant means you can use it after combat involving a lifelink creature, for example. Though casting it 10 turns after suspending Heroes Remembered would be the best payoff ever.