Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 052915—Sakura Mitsukai

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a non-land card for this art without using the words 'you' or 'your.'

That symbol before the ability's activation cost is meant to be an hourglass and it is the ability's timing restriction. It means "Activate this ability only [any time you could cast] a sorcery." I bracketed those words because they're part of the standard template, but aren't necessary, as seen in equip's and outlast's reminder text. I'm a fan of this method of communicating activation restrictions.

Deadly Coffers lets you cast a Sign in Blood every round either for its original price of {B}{B} or for more colorless mana if your deck isn't black. That's a neat way to reference an old card, and immediately makes me want an entire cycle of these. But hold on, we're not casting a normal Sign in Blood here: this effect is both conditional and symmetrical.

One of my favorite cards is Seizan, Perverter of Truth, and Deadly Coffers has a similar effect on the game, except that you and your opponents can try to opt out by keeping their hand up. Given that everyone will be drawing 3 cards a round, leaving 2 cards in your hand shouldn't be a huge challenge. In fact, for those who want the cards, keeping your hand small enough might even be tricky (at least until the late game). So that's neat.

Aesthetically, I love the pair of {2B} symbols leading to 2 cards and 2 life and I'm sad that the card doesn't cost {2} and that the text can't be "each player with fewer than two cards in hand."

Doomed Quest has a white trigger and a black effect; an effect you can rely on to be relevant if you've completed your quest. Err, if your opponent has completed her quest. Your quest?

So it's pretty awkward to have a 'quest' you don't complete, but apart from that thematic oddity, Doomed Quest is a cohesive white-black card and will lead to some interesting, if grief-flavored, play. Do I play my 5 creatures, accepting that I can sack the two worst among them? Do I stall, hoping to Naturalize the Quest? Solid design for a set in need of multicolor griefer cards.

This Gargoyle Sentinel guards an artifact, except while it's flying in to attack. Gargoyles are sculpted IRL to guard buildings from evil spirits, so it's great to see that purpose finally represented in Magic. I do wonder if it's necessary that it can only target artifacts, or if it's appropriate that it can 'guard' your opponent's artifacts. (And have to point out this can target itself as worded, causing an infinite loop.)

The bigger issue I see is that this card has its shtick, it has a novel flavor expressed via mechanics, and yet that's layered on top of an existing card with its own flavor. You could completely remove the last line and still have a neat, new, flavorful card. And whenever you can do that, you usually should. (Though I will grant that it makes guarding your own artifacts a lot more interesting since it drops them back into play.)

Half-way into reading Hunt for the Trove I'm steeling myself for a whopper of a benefit…

Aaand Ancestral Recall is our prize. No one will ever be disappointed to score a power-nine card, but is giving your opponent 6-power between 2 hasty creatures worth it? Not at face-value! Spike hisses. What do you think, Johnny? All I have to do is set up an engine that lets me repeatedly Unsummon creatures for {2} or less and suddenly Hunt is pretty solid? And it's an auto-include in UW Fog+Wrath decks? Okay then.

Compared to Steal Artifact, Noggle Traptripper clearly isn't terribly powerful, but it's hard not to love the idea of a noggle stealing an artifact for you, but then defecting to where the grass is greener. The last line ups the power a bit, almost certainly depriving your opponent of the 2/2 they might have gotten, but hurts the card's identity. "Here's a 2/2 for your awesome artifact" is a solid card (especially once you shave a mana or two off) and the added complexity doesn't really serve the story: If the artifact creature is fighting the noggle because it doesn't want to be stolen, why does it do so afterward and not before?

Pandora's Chest introduces a new supertype with inherent rules meaning. Prize cards can be attacked, just like planeswalker cards and players. But hold on, what does it mean to attack something without toughness, loyalty, or life? Each prize tells you explicitly how it reacts to combat damage (or else to being attacked). It's weird to have a card type that only tells you half of what it does, but I do like the flexibility that finishing that sentence on each card differently offers.

Pandora's Chest rewards them with a card. (Just one, regardless of the number of creatures that damaged it, or how much damage they dealt.) Attacking the Chest will be more compelling than attacking the player on occasion, though not quite half the time in an average game, and far less when you've built around it. That said, {5} is not a broken deal for 6 power of creatures, so I think Pandora's Chest is fairly balanced.

Fair is boring. Okay, so we do want the card to be somewhat balanced, but if we're going to justify a new supertype—and particularly one with a juicy name like 'prize'—we want it to be splashy and impactful. I'd like to see a combat trigger that's enticing enough to distract an important creature, and I'd like to see a cost::upside ratio that makes that risk worth considering.

I'm reading too fast. I thought this won you the game when you put it on your creature and hit your opponent with it. That, purely for reference, would be miserably broken

Quest's End, on the other hand, causes the player damaged by the enchanted creature to win. So if you cast this on your own creature, you need it to be blocked. +2/+2 for {2}{W}{G} isn't a deal, though, so that's not why you're putting in your deck. Instead, you enchant an opposing creature and as long as they can't force you to block it, they can't attack with it anymore. You've effectively given it defender. And +2/+2. For {2}{W}{G}. Okay, so that's not worth it either. Johnny?

"Put it on an opposing creature, force it to attack, and don't block it." Oh. Right. Is a game plan of Quest's End plus Bloodshed Fever too easy?

Sacred Vault is harder to crack than Ichor Wellspring but gives you twice as many cards. In fact, if you could exile it for free, Sacred Vault would be dangerously comparable to Ancestral Recall. Doing this once with something like Act of Authority or Telim'Tor's Edict would feel great. Doing it over and over again with something like Venser, the Sojourner or a suite of Ghostly Flickers and Flickerwisps sounds completely broken. I like the flavor and simplicity, but we might need a rider like "~ can't leave exile" for balance.

Tomb Statues is simple and straight-forward. Would be good in a set tracking artifact creation like Vermiculos. {3}+{4} seems like a fair cost, but I'd happily push this to rare so turn that 4 into a 3.

Untold Treasure is kind of beautiful. Would you pay {6} instead of {U}{U} for the opportunity to draw as many cards as mana you can produce? What if your deck weren't blue? I imagine this is an auto-play in Limited for all but the most aggressive of decks.

Drawing a handful of cards all at once has rarely been an artifact thing, but artifacts do offer serious card advantage over time, and cards like Tower of Fortunes and Sorcerer's Strongbox seem like precedent enough for this rare. I like {6} since you can theoretically sack it for seven cards the next turn.

Structures are enchantments (or artifacts?) that can be attacked and damaged like planeswalkers. Well not exactly. You attack the player, and then can redirect damage from some of your creatures to it. We can save some mindspace and avoid confusion if we line those mechanisms up to work the same way. Which then raises the question, if planeswalkers don't get this reminder text, should structures just be their own card type and skip it too? The best argument I see against is that walkers are both evergreen and mythic rare, where structures want to occur at lower rarities and probably only in a couple blocks (unless they prove massively popular). An argument in favor is that players who know planeswalkers don't have to learn any new rules except "structures are planeswalkers without loyalty abilities."

Anyhow, Vault of the Treasure is sort of an uncommon-level Jace Beleren: Just as vulnerable, and accomplishing about the same thing, but more simply and requiring a continuous mana investment. Oh, and it can draw you multiple cards per round… during your opponent's end step. That last bit ups Vault's power considerably. Too strong? Too weak? We'd really have to test it—and in its full environment—to see.

The phrase "target attacking creature" inherently limits Wake the Statues to being cast during combat, but the first line prevents weirdness like blocking your own attackers, or blocking after combat damage has been assigned. Good flavor (though I wish the 'statues' existence were hinted at in some form beforehand), and I quite like the effect. Your best realistic case is killing a 3/3 and keeping a 2/2 for your trouble—good deal.

Wanderlust Traveler is an Elite Vanguard with first strike and 80% vigilance. You don't want to enchant or equip her, but she does like to hang out with Soul Warden. Too strong? Maybe. Depends on the environment. Which means, there's a place this would be fine to print. Not feeling great flavor connection here between the name, the art, or the abilities.

Awesome stuff. This was a strong week with a lot of very cool cards and almost no problems of note. I'm kind of surprised no one made a vanilla or french-vanilla card, but I guess this art was just too peculiar for that.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. The art for Wanderlust Traveler was meant to line up with the person who seems to be exploring some sort of abandoned church - wanderlust maybe wasn't the best word choice, but I think it works. The "exile on landfall" is the Traveler going off to explore the new land that got played.

  2. Re: Pandora's Chest
    Giving each opponent a card is a risky drawback. Admittedly that was because at that time, I couldn't think of a wording to only reward thet active player. Now that I know that term is already in use, one might reward the active player 2 cards. Active player might then become more prevalent with introduction of Prize.

  3. Riffing on the excellently named Noggle Traptripper:

    Inspiring Challenger 3RU
    Creature (R)
    When Inspiring Challenger enters the battlefield, it fights target creature an opponent controls. If both survive, gain control of that creature.
    "If i prove the strength of my conviction, then will you join my cause?"

    The questionable things here are the mana cost, the P/T, and the use of "survives". Feedback appreciated as always.

    1. Exchange with target 1/4? I like the text but it's really hard to use this in the way it suggests.

      2/5 or 3/5 sounds far better to me.

    2. They call me "The Wallthief"

    3. Note Jay, I have it as gain control not exchange. This person rallies the other creature to their side once they prove it's worth it.