Monday, July 20, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 071715—Grafik

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a card for this art. For additional challenge, choose a specific card that is or was recently dominating Standard, and make your card a good sideboard answer to it.

For {1} more than Neutralizing Blast, Ancient Owl gives you an instant 2/1 flyer, and it's not dead against a mono-colored or colorless deck. In a format with no gold spells, a sneaky Wind Drake won't see Standard, but in a format with a lot, Ancient Owl would be main-deckable in most blue decks. So we'll just imagine this is aimed at a format with relatively few multicolored spells, but ones worth countering where they appear.

Bury in Snow turns two echoes of the past into birds. You're probably not running half a Midnight Haunting in Constructed if you don't care about hitting your opponent's graveyard, but you can play this regardless: The first line isn't a cost and doesn't target. Given the way Mind Rot works, I'm guessing you can even exile one card if that's all the graveyard you chose contains. As a sideboard card, I'd say this has excellent potential. I would clarify exactly how it works by adding "up to" or "target" or "as an additional cost" depending on our intention, and deference to flavor.

Deathgazer makes sure the dead stay dead. I can get behind that as hoser against reanimation strategies, or even just Strangleroot Geist.

The cost is interesting to discuss, so let's do that. At four mana for a Wind Drake, this is definitely making no maindecks and only coming in against full-bore recursion decks. At two mana, it would be plenty efficient; Not just any black-white deck would run it, but you could maindeck it in a format where recursion is a factor without being laughed at. At three mana, even in that format you still feel underwhelmed about maindecking it, but wouldn't feel so bad when you do sideboard it in against the relevant deck. Disagree?

Descent of the Nighthunter is a blue-black Murder because you can cast it during your opponent's upkeep and the only thing they can do to save their creature is activate another creature with a tap ability and sacrifice it instead. If it were a sorcery or could only be cast after attackers have been declared, then it would be interactive, but we also lose the ability to prevent two creatures from attacking, which is neat.

What would you sideboard this card against? Untargeted sacrifice could hit a hexproof creature, but the other half of the card is giving your opponent an out.

Gather Specimens could be an important sideboard card against an amazing creature or an amazing token maker. I'm not convinced this art is a great fit for the spell; it is easy to see how one could, given the original—but the original doesn't seem like a great fit either.

I was going to suggest the first trigger just outright prevent such effects, but the second ability can't, and I'd definitely prefer them match. So assuming we need both abilities, I prefer how Hoar Frost is now. Do we need both, though? Sometimes Wizards' makes sideboard cards more palatable by putting them on efficient bodies so they serve another purpose… Could you hit that note by making a card that's a good sideboard option against multiple kinds of problems? If you did, should it also be a creature?

Jenesis mentioned Frost should counter Courser of Kruphix. The second ability limits crack-land shenanigans and thus how often you can play a land from your library. For this purpose, I would replace both abilities with "cards can't enter the battlefield from an opponents' libraries." That said, the version we see above also appeals to Johnny as a fun way to kill your opponent by causing them to shuffle and/or manifest a lot.

Jeskai Starwatcher is a tiny blue Dodecapod. Actually, it's more proactive then that, countering all discard and not just discard that hits the Starwatcher. This definitely counts as a sideboard card, since very few decks would want to maindeck in Constructed, but it would be amazing against—again—literally any discard spell. I'm concerned that's too good of a counter, especially since it's a Negate you cast with no mana, potentially in a deck with no islands, and it nets you a Storm Crow wannabe.

Lurking Owl is a blue Oak Street Innkeeper. It's immune to sorcery speed removal, and your opponent can't mess with its ability to block. Definitely a much safer uncommon for Limited than Invisible Stalker, and decent flavor. I would still hesitate to load this Wind Drake up with auras since it's just as vulnerable to Doom Blade.

Majestic Sentinel can prevent you from losing life, making it a sweet Fog, but it can also be used to prevent opponent's from gaining life. White can set rules like that, though it still feels odd to me to see white denying life gain. Could it red-white? Anyhow, this fits the 2/1 flash flying model we're starting to build and it does show some clear sideboard uses. (It could also find a way into a combo deck, but that's just bonus, right?)

Nightwing Strix is meant to keep dragons at bay. It does look like it would serve that purpose well, though as a three-mana creature with hexproof and evasion, it'll also probably get loaded up with auras and equipment to go on the offensive pretty often. That third keyword probably pushes it to rare, even though Tidehollow Strix is so similar. (Plus we lose the meaning of its colors, unless we replace {1} with {G}.)

Not sure whether to pronounce this Owl-swell or Owls-well. It's a much more complicated Essence Scatter. Against red or green, it gives both players an owl, but otherwise it only gives your opponent the owl. So clearly you only want to cast this against a red/green deck, making it inherently sideboard-only. We also have to ask when we'd prefer it over Essence Scatter, and I guess the answer is when we expect our opponent to have more X/1s than we do? Or maybe you've got a Johnny deck that wants your opponent to have owls?

What? Let me read that again.

Got it: "The first time an opponent would draw a card each turn, name a card. If that player chooses not to reveal that it isn't the card you named, draw a card."

It would be nice if the bonus were something unrelated to card drawing, just so the text is easier to process, but half a Consecrated Sphinx can't be terrible. Particularly since it's an efficient flyer on its own and can start working for you so soon.

Definitely not a sideboard card, but a maindeck card.

Silent Frostwing disables a specific set of triggers. I might word it "Attacking doesn't cause creature abilities to trigger," though that's slightly different. Torpor Orb is worded very differently, but I'm not convinced better.

Not quite awesome enough to main-deck; good enough to bring in again Goblin Rabblemaster; yup, sideboard-tastic.

Protection from green points me one direction, but the anti-recursion clause points in another. Usually. Both abilities fight against Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor, though, so it would seem Spectral Predator has a very specific role in the metagame. I would ask if it's too strong against the deck that runs those, though, since it comes down for free, after attackers are declared; blocks, kills and survives; and then comes back again if they find a way to kill it.

In fact, the recursion on this spirit bird is definitely too strong, because I can make put this in a deck with a little mill and I don't even care if my opponent is green or not.

I'm not 100% sure Stalking Owl is a fair common, but I'd absolutely put it in my set to find out. This is clean and attractive. Take that, Sage Owl!

I'm not entirely sure that this works, but if I saw it printed I'd assume it did. We might also ask for details about how it interacts with a lot of mechanics, but I actually think it's clear enough there. Where I'm less happy is that it allows spells to be played in any way since casting and playing are unique actions, and I wouldn't want to write "can't be cast or played." Apart from that concern, yes, definitely, sideboard.

So the consensus is this art depicts a 2/1 bird. Maaaybe 2/2. That's definitely a fair size, though it is a bit funny we think so, when bears have long been 2/2. Heh.

Good stuff. It's a bit weird designing around an unspecified other card, but I've learned that if you can get "can't" in your card text and don't make it too efficient otherwise, you've probably got a sideboard card for something.

That's not to say we don't have some very focused and clever answers here. And more.

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards. And fast!


  1. Yeah, I really had no idea how to word Strict Strix. Jenesis offered some alternatives that I think were more immediately grokkable and applicable to the average gamestate, but each changed the ability enough that I didn't alter what I had written.

    Regardless, I'm sure such an effect would necessitate a hefty entry from Matt Tabak in its set's FAQ.

  2. Honestly, I didn't make Descent to be a sideboard card against anything in particular. The idea was that the owl's descent causes its prey to run, and it can only hunt things that are running away. You can use it to pick off hexproof creatures but I think it'd be just an efficient removal spell.

  3. The intent of Owlswell is like a Swan Song against a random creature, giving your opponent the 1/1, but it's a Spellstutter Sprite against a red or green creature, not giving your opponent anything! The "instead" might need rewording for emphasis or to be part of the same ability, maybe.

    "Turn your spell into birds!" is always fun, and the pronunciation guide is in the artist line.

    Bury in Snow is I think my favorite card from this week.

    1. I completely missed the 'instead.' My mistake.

  4. On further thinking about it I was trying to be too fancy with the owl...
    It should have been:

    Predicting Owl {1}{U}
    Creature - Bird (rare)
    Whenever an opponent would draw a revealed card, draw a card.