Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 061215—kattnboys

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a card for this art that shows one color complimenting, emulating, or mocking an ability primary only in another color. Try not to cross the hazy line into too much color bleed.

I was about to say making a keyword that mentions another undefined keyword is clearly cheating, but then I remembered they've announced menace as a new evergreen mechanic starting with Magic Origins. Menace is the new name for the old Goblin War Drums ability and I must say I'm delighted they finally keyworded that.

Brave Companion can block creatures with menace all on its own. Unflappable is surely not worth keywording any more than 'bury' was back in the day; we simply don't want to nerf an ability like menace often enough to justify naming the nerf. That said, I could totally see Brave Companion as a one-off uncommon in a set just after one with a whole lot of menacing creatures.

Chief's Troll aggression contrasts with Scroll Thief's caution. Despite having the same ability, this Troll will happily attack where the Thief would not. It will die, but quite possibly killing a creature and drawing a card in the process. That's quite good for a common, which is why this needed to cost more than {2}{G}. This will be a lot of players new favorite Giant Growth target. I'm not buying that this art depicts a troll (not without some flavor about powerful disguise magic, which isn't a green thing at all), but the anagram is neat.

Cinderheart Wanderer is not only immune to (mostly red) damage spells, but can gain you life from them. This rare just begs to be put in your red-white deck with Pyroclasms and Spitemares. This art doesn't necessarily look like an efficient 3/3, but I totally buy the vigilance and magical protection.

Delgrifa lets you transmute a creature as you cast it from your hand into another from your library or sideboard with the exact same cost. In addition to that great versatility, it also gives the new creature flash. I question whether the flash bonus was intentional—it's certainly not necessary since playing Mental Magic with all your creatures (Ah, and now I've got the reference) is unique and cool enough on its own. Is this ability green? Questionable, but there's famous precedent: Birthing Pod, Survival of the Fittest, etc.

Elves of Deep Shadow is an interesting reprint for this challenge. It's a green card, doing a green thing for black, and in a black way. It's also a perfect fit for this art. Nice.

Eyes of the Forest specifically deals with Unsummons and Upheavals. The really cool part is that it also works great with Roaring Primadox and Temur Sabertooth. Unfortunately, this is pretty weak conditional draw since it's usually only responding to a single bounce effect (could this be an enchantment?). Worse, it's effect doesn't even mitigate the pain of losing the mana you spent to cast your creatures in the first place; in fact, it makes it even more likely that you'll have to discard for having too many cards in your hand.

Feywood Dryad takes intimidate and flips it on its head. No wait, it says "can be blocked only by" not "can't be blocked except by." So it's actually quite a bit like intimidate, swapping creatures of the same color for equipped creatures. I love the flavor, that this dryad is weak to metal whether wielded or animated. I do have to caution against making a mechanic so similar to one Wizards just demoted. Intimidate tended too often to be unblockable against some decks and meaningless to others, and 'feystep' here seems like it could have the same problem unless the set is rife with good common artifact creatures or equipment (in which case it's probably not worth four mana).

Grove Witch trumps prowess by growing permanently whenever one of my prowess creatures grows temporarily. Also it's a giant Prodigal Pyromancer. I quite like the first half of that for a rare green card meant to battle {R}{W}{U} decks. I could also see a small rare creature with just the ability to fight repeatedly, as that would be fun to support with Moldervine Cloaks and Giant Growths. (Ulvenwald Tracker and Nightfall Predator being our only comparables.) But gluing both these halves together will necessitate a higher cost and also makes each half less special. I like the templating.

EDIT: Mesmerize is a mono-white Time Warp. It achieves this effect in a very white way, prohibiting actions like a souped-up Silence. Should white get extra turns? Maybe all colors could in the right situation? If so, should it do it in this very white but much less intuitive way? I'm inclined against. I like the clever angle here, though, and it if it were split into two cards, could be a very fun combo for players.

Hold Still

Hold Still also uses white's law-making to set up a rule to mess with opponents. In this case, you can use it to prevent your opponent from drawing a card and casting any spells (which is why it's costed like Silence with a cantrip), or you could use it to counter a Mind Twist against you. White gets to invent rules, but should it make this rule? Should any color? I can definitely buy it, but that doesn't mean it feels natural or that the game needs it. Thoughts?

Ice-Eye Dryad is just a Runeclaw Bear on its own, but if you can pair it with Frost Breath, or… Old Man of the Sea (yours or your opponent's), it'll grow. And gain you life. I feel like the life gain is there for flavor, but I don't get the story at all. I guess this dryad is really into watching other creatures while they're sleeping. Kind of unfortunate that Entangling Vines exists to muddy the "please play me with other colors" clue.

Okay… So spells can have lifelink as seen by Soulfire Grand Master. Scry isn't a static keyword, but an keyword action, but you could say "and gain the text 'scry 1.'" More likely, you'd just set up a trigger: "Whenever a spell targets Queen's Blessing, scry 1." Quibbles.

My main issue is that this aura does nothing on its own, and what it does when you finally do get to use it is so marginal. Most spells don't benefit from lifelink, and particularly not spells you cast on your own creatures. You don't want to give your opponents' burn spells lifelink or scrying, so clearly you enchant opposing creatures with this aura. This aura named Queen's Blessing.

And then you burn that opposing creature to death, gaining a bit of life and a scry for your card. No, it must be that you're planning to do lots of damage over an extended period of time, benefiting from each increment, but never killing the enchanted creature. But you have to target it, so you're basically trading your Shocks for "gain 2 life and scry 1."

Scion of Envy appears to be a Cairn Wanderer for the living. I'm guessing the awkward template is to avoid surprise situations where someone exiles a Darksteel Colossus, and then suddenly the 3 damage that was sitting harmlessly on my Scion kills it. It's interesting that Scion 'borrows' abilities from both your creatures and your opponents' creatures. Thematically, it might be stronger if she only envied creatures on the other side of the battlefield. I would type this as a shapeshifter, though certainly avatars can do some weird stuff. Does black get to steal abilities from things that are still alive? Philosophically, sure. Mechanically, I'm skeptical.

Seedtime is a green Time Walk conditional on your opponent casting a blue spell during your turn. Most spells, I wouldn't be keen on leaving my mana unspent just in case a Cancel or Unsummon sneaks in there, but for a full extra turn it's totally worth it, at least when your suspicion is warranted. Is taking an extra turn a green thing? Is it not? Historically, that's blue, but I feel like time magic is just as easy to justify in green (and red), philosophically.

Note that as soon as your opponent knows you've got some of these in your deck, they can just cast all their spells during their own turn, and hold their counters until they can cast two at once.

EDIT: This is a reprint. Ha! Nice catch.

EDIT based on the revelation you don't want to target opposing creature with this:
Tabula Rasa is a Clone for one of your creatures that just died. It's a solid fantastic plan B for your killer creature, and with the bonus of an ETB trigger. Replacing the actual card with a token, though, seems annoying compared to just using Cloudshift.

Did we never simplify escort down to entice? I love this mechanic. I think you could remove 'if able' given that it's a relative blocking restriction, getting entice down to two lovely lines. Very cool.

Ticklewood Dryad steals Fog Bank's immunity to combat damage, allowing it to distract one blocker from each of your attacks, which is very cool. The end result is very much like "T: Target creature, at sorcery speed" and "Target creature can't block this turn" but very green (and/or white). Oh wait, it still deals damage? That's confusing. Oh, and it can block anything without dying? I was hoping it was at its best on offense. I'd consider "Prevent all damage dealt to and by ~ while attacking."

Entice, though? Gold.

Tranquility Dryad turns off discard and countermagic against your creatures entirely, and at instant speed, turning your whole deck into Loxodon Smiters. Seems good. I'd rather see one-time hosers with card advantage than long-term hosers, but as a 2/2 rare for {1}{G}{W}, I wouldn't be particularly surprised to see this in a booster pack.

What a cool bunch of cards! There was some pretty wide interpretation of the challenge, and I confess I'm happy to see that. This challenge was meant to be more of an inspiration point than a restriction, and I'm quite satisfied with the results. Nice work, artisans.

Thanks to Reuben for rendering the cards.


  1. FYI, Seedtime is a reprint, one that fits the challenge quite nicely. Also, I'm not seeing how Entice is functionally different from "Must be blocked if able"

    1. Both good points.
      Thanks, Jade.

    2. I think there is a difference, although the wording isn't 100% evident. If I attack with two creatures, one of which has Entice, it is legal to block neither.

    3. I was really impressed with people finding two reprints that both fit the art and the challenge terms.

  2. I agree with yoru comments about Chief's Troll although I think rather than making it more expensive it is better to make it Uncommon.

  3. ***Brave Companion by Mike George***
    So this was Mike's first submission before Tabula Rasa. I like the name, although some juvenile jokes could come from it. As for the effect, it's both too linear and too defensive. To fix that, it could hose Menace more completely "This creature can't be blocked by creatures with menace, and can block creatures with menace alone." or it could have a slightly less linear defensive ability, "This creature can block an additional creature, or block a creature with menace alone."

    Chief's Troll by Tommy Occhipinti
    That name anagram is a thing of beauty. I found this art made the challenge even tougher, because it pushed out a lot of card concepts. So, I think you made the right choice ignoring it in favor of your card name. This is a simple, but powerful card, and a strong common. The Curiosity mechanic is one that Green and Blue share, so this isn't mocking, or emulating anything. But I think the challenge goal overall was hard to meet, so that's understandable.

    Cinderheart Wanderer by Aura
    I don't think vigilance serves the primary ability of this card in any way. Doesn't it push the Wanderer to get into more combat, but that's the only time it's vulnerable? I think it's better to give it some form of evasion, (flying, shadow, etc.) which keeps it out of skirmishes and forces your opponent to want to kill it. So then, the primary ability starts to matter.

    1. Brave Wanderer: The name I was referring to that is prime for childish jokes is Unflappable.

  4. Delgrifa, Soul Evoker by Evan Jones
    I like that this uses the activation cost templating seen on Back from the Brink from Innistrad. And it's very green, since it's limited to only creatures. But, I'd like a "T" in the activation cost. That way, it not being Legendary matters. As it is now, you only need one on the battlefield to tutor multiple times a turn. If it had to tap to be activated, those multiple copies would be worth more than just tutor fodder. Speaking of which, it would be cool if it had a more poweful mana cost, I mean one that let you search for better stuff than creatures that cost 2G. Lastly, searching outside the game? Totally unneseccary. The card is cool enough, and doesn't need the complication that clause creates.

    Elves of Deep Shadow by jack
    I think the challenge was tough too. I liked what it was asking us to do, but it took me a lot of time to find a design I liked. I hope we are at a point with ally colors and enemy colors where Elves of Deep Shadow (or an Elves of Deep Water tapping for U) wouldn't have a drawback. But this was a good, nostalgic choice.

    Eyes of the Forest by Ben Nassau
    Could this say "...creature is returned to its owner's hand..." rather than "...creature is returned to your hand.." and still be mono Green? Could it check for any permanent being returned to your hand, not just creatures, and still be mono Green? As it is, it's so limited, I don't think the effect is worth a card. So maybe it needs Scry 1, or its an activated ability on a creature, Hate Bear style. Or maybe, the payoff isn't drawing a card, but putting a 2/2 green creature token onto the battlefield. Really cool name though.

  5. Feywood Dryad by Inanimate
    This effect feels like it's backwards. Green hates artifacts, so why are artifacts and equipped creatures the only ones that CAN block the Dryad? I think it should be the other way around, for sure. "NAME can't be blocked by artifact creatures, and/or equipped creatures." I love the flavor text quite a bit, but it's not enough to sell the mechanic. Especially when the mechanic flies in the face of how we expect Green to interact with artifacts.

    Grove Witch by Pasteur
    The condition to get the fight ability on this is too easy to be interesting. It just doesn't feel like a real hoop for the effect, especially since you can bypass it by putting a +1/+1 counter on the Witch yourself. I also think starting this off as a 2/2 right away makes playing with it less interesting since it's going to start fighting as a 3/3. Since it grows, it would be cool if it could kill most things right off the bat.

    Holdstill (Time Walk) by Wobbles
    This was called Mesmerize in the challenge thread. I like that this is a very clean White version of Time Walk. The instant speed part of it might create some awkward upkeeps, so maybe it should be a Sorcery with "Target player can't draw cards, cast spells, activate abilities or attack during his or her next turn." The reasons you might surprise a player with this effect don't outweigh a clean play experience for the card.

    1. For Grove Witch: "Since it grows, it would be cool if it COULDN'T kill most things right off the bat."

  6. Holdstill (handsize) by Zachariah Howell
    This reminds me of Platinum Emperion from Scars of Mirrodin. It seems much more reactive than Mermerize above, to protect your hand, or stop your opponent from going card draw crazy. So instant makes perfect sense. I also think it was smart to just say hand size can't change and use reminder text, rather then write everything out. Grouping it all under an overall effect makes the card's intention much easier to grok. I think this card could cost WW. It already feels like a White Counterspell.

    Ice-Eyed Dryad by P for Pizza
    So is this a Trace-Buster-Buster for Encase in Ice and Singing Bell Strike? The +1/+1 counter part of the card is less useful then, because the first card your opponent will want to tap down is the Ice-Eyes Dryad. However, if you play this with Blue tap down enchantments, then the counters make a lot of sense. This is a very intriguing build around me. I would have named this Dreamcatcher Dryad.

    ***Queen's Blessing by Pasteur***
    This was Pasteur's first idea before Grove Witch. It's weird, and doesn't seem tuned. You can tell it got abandoned after initial design for something else. First change would be making it a Curse with Enchant player. Then everything it wants to do makes sense. White doesn't have a lot of direct damage spells, so lifelink really wants you to put this in a deck with Red, (or Black - Consume Spirit gaining you double life is fun).

  7. Seedtime by R Stech
    Is this the type of hoser WotC would make these days? Green was sooo weak when Seedtime was first printed in Judgment. But now, getting an extra turn when your opponent counters your spell seems huge. I mean, these days they are countering a creature because it can kill them all on its own. That's just what creatures do these days. Cool choice for the challenge, and interesting to consider in a modern design context.

    Tabula Rasa by Mike George
    Mike's second card idea is a great Blue version of Regenerate! I like that it makes a token, and I like that the creature's controller gets the token, not Tabula Rasa's caster. Uncommon seems correct, but I could also see this getting bumped to 1U. It looks like a lot of fun for multiplayer games too.

    Ticklewood Dryad by Amuseum
    The "if able" part means that you can ignore the requirement if none of your creatures could block it, right? So giving this flying doesn't make the rest of your creatures unblockable if the defending player doesn't have flying or reach. That's very smart design. I like keywording this, because it's got a lot of design space. Nice job.

    Tranquility Dryad by Reuben Covington
    Green/White has a history of these types of counter measures for discard. I'm not sure if we've seen it for counterspells, though. I think this card is pretty weak. It doesn't effect itself and the cards it hoses go back online once the Dryad is removed from the battlefield. Meanwhile you have to hold up three mana just to try and get them with it. I would like this better as a 2/2 for GW without flash. Embrace that it'll at most stall your opponent and force them to answer it before they can use their spells.

    1. Thanks for adding your reviews, Nich. I really appreciate getting other perspectives, and I imagine the reviewees do too.

      Total bonus that you illuminated three errors in my review.

    2. Yeah, thanks for the thoughts! Whereas Jay's are more about overall strengths and weaknesses, it's great to hear some individual suggestions

  8. I'm not defending "unflappable" since it was just a goof and didn't expect serious scrutiny.

    I do wonder at the reactions to it. Reach references flying after all. Granted, flying > menace as far as quantity, longevity, etc. goes. But it's not completely offensive.

    Also, the word "unflappable" is hilarious.


    1. Unflappable (~ may block creatures as if they had no abilities.)