Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 072415—ninjatic

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Pair off with a partner. Design two cards with your partner that complement each other. They needn't be the same type, rarity, or color, but they do get printed in the same set, and neither would be quite as special if the other didn't exist. Improve your partner's design.

Declaration of War does three different things that are often but not always good. As long as two of them are good when you cast it, you're fairly happy, and sometimes you get all three and taunt your opponent. Often story moments are rare or mythic, but Declaration feels distinctly uncommon to me.

Parley with Ziagur also does three different things. The biggest difference—apart from what things it does and what color those things are—is that you only do two of them, and your opponent chooses which, after having done the best. Parley is fun to compare with Kiss of the Amesha; if you chose two and the opponent got nothing, it would be strictly better in three ways, but those two factors are huge. I do love the diplomatic theme here. Parley feels distinctly rare. It's quite odd that this white-blue card makes a red dragon, even if that token does fit snugly into blue-white's color pie.

We can see a parallel between the two cards. Parley gives what Declaration takes, and doubles it. Well, very nearly: The life difference isn't double, and it's clearly poetic to claim that a dragon is worth twice your worst creature. Still, the story that we can talk things out and solve our differences is neat, even if a Magic game will always end one-sided. Or we can read these events as happening in the opposite order, in which case Parley is the peace referenced in Declaration's flavor text. Probably why sequential story cards appear in separate sets, but that's a flaw of the challenge.

Finn is a Day of Judgment / Damnation that comes with a body, and that body is indestructible. (Which makes me wonder if we should keep the 'other' for clarity, or remove it for effect.) The downside of this huge one-two punch is that you can't follow it up with any other creatures. You'll want to boost it with equipment or maybe Edge of the Divinity, but you won't cry much if they answer it, because then you can play your creature cards again. In the meantime, Lingering Souls and Unburial Rites still work fine.

Last Bastion looks like a white take on Deadly Wanderings / Homicidal Seclusion. It's odd to see white focus on the individual rather than the group, but it is cool to see the last hero fighting for the unseen masses.

Paired up, Finn guarantees Last Bastion will activate, and the result is a 6/6 indestructible creature with vigilance and an extra block. That's very much a creature control players can hope to ride to victory (especially when it comes with a 'free' wrath). Nice. If I were going to make one of these two cards white-black, though, it would be Last Bastion rather than Finn. The story's weird, too: Finn is fighting alone because he killed everyone. Some hero!

Knight of the Apocalypse is a Flametongue Kavu that trades 2 power for haste, only hits red creatures but costs {1} less. Why does he only hit red creatures? Because everyone hates the people most like themselves in the apocalypse?

Night of the Apocalypse is a red wrath that spares creatures in its own color. I could certainly see a card like that happening; it's more precise than red usually gets but certainly not out of bounds, mechanically or philosophically.

Together, we can... deal 4 damage to each non-red creature and one red creature? I don't get it. Does red hate red or love red in this set? Is there a reason one is global and the other targeted? What deck is eager to cast both of these cards? Maybe it's a typo and Knight is supposed to target non-red creatures too?

Restorer's Stroke grants lifelink as well as a size bonus if you've already been damaged. The second part will usually only come up if you're being attacked by first strike and regular creatures, or if you took non-combat damage before combat; most likely, using an Earthquake-type effect to hurt yourself (but not so much you kill your target). Just the lifelink alone isn't terrible for this price, so the boost is largely bonus, but it's still hard to use.

Wasted Civilization is a symmetrical effect that punishes nonbasic lands (but in a way that speeds the game up, rather than slowing it down like Blood Moon), and potentially very harshly. I'm honestly not sure this is printable at four mana.

Curiously, the combination here is that you want to run nonbasic lands and suffer from your own Wasted Civilization, so that you can enhance your Restorer's Stroke. Stroke isn't strong enough for your white deck even if you splash for Civilization, but I could see a Civilization deck that already splashes white adding a few Strokes for lols. The story is that… the shame of weird lands can sometimes be used to fuel righteous vengeance? (There doesn't have to be a story between these cards.)

Ha. Karshov Glory-Seeker combines the Flametongue trigger we saw above with the idle musing of having Finn try to destroy himself (and fail), except this red creature does kill itself. At face-value, that's a horrible message, because you're showing the player this big, sexy creature and then at the very end yanking it back with a "psych!" Spike will see a red wrath and Jenny will look a bit further and see a wrath with a (very) conditional bonus: If you can find a way to boost this card's toughness or prevent/redirect the damage it would deal to itself, you get an awesome creature for 'free.' This card will annoy a good number of players, but might be worth that for its fans.

Karshov Protector is a nice common Glory Seeker.  Its sacrifice ability feels very white, like Benevolent Bodyguard or Selfless Cathar. That it shares a faction name with a red card tells us that faction is red-white (at least).

Obviously, Karshov Protector combos with Karshov Glory-Seeker: Sacrifice it in response to the knight's trigger to save the knight from itself. I'm not sure what the story is behind the Glory-Seeker killing itself, and the Glory Seeker sacrificing itself to save this suicidal lunatic doesn't help explain it, but both cards have value on their own and the combo is solid. This is likely a case where we're better off keeping them entirely distinct in the fiction, but letting players find the combo anyhow.

Witness Courage doesn't seem like a high pick (esp for an uncommon) but the format could change that radically: It would probably be better in Origins, for instance. The story's really great and the effect is very approachable and very white. The green is pretty out of place, though; Targeted prevention is white, green just does Fog and Vine Snare-type prevention.

Witness Victory starts out with a really unusual restriction. Why limit my targets to creatures I don't control? Have I been playing Shock wrong all this time? I guess it parallels the targeting restriction from Witness Courage, but clearly you remove that restriction rather than add this one, right? Dealing damage and getting a Knight feels plenty red-white, and this card is a decent pick in most formats.

This pair of cards show different ways white knights can demonstrate virtues that other colors admire. Neat. In green's case, preserving life, and in red's, taking it… presumably to prevent worse bloodshed, though that could have been demonstrated with "heal target blocking creature" and "hurt target attacking creature."

I counted three different kinds of relationships: Story, combo, and theme. And some pairs accomplished two of those at once. Glad I didn't specify how the cards should relate to each other.

Most of the cards are quite nice, and all of the pairs are pretty cool. I really enjoyed seeing the work you did together by pairing off. I wasn't expecting folks to collaborate off-line, and that's certainly fine; it did limit your ability to get outside feedback, but there wasn't a great deal of that anyhow. (Perhaps because it felt like a competition somehow?) I'm really curious to hear what you all that of this challenge.

Thanks to Ipaulsen for rendering the cards.


  1. About the Finn flavor: I imagined that there is a wasted land, a lost kindom, and Finn was doing some dark dabling but then had to destroy his kingdom rather than let the menaces overwhelm it and spill out into the other regions of the realm, and now cursed and alone he sits there trying to prevent the creatures from escaping in the other realms...

    Some very very nice card combinations!

    1. As far as the feedback loops, indeed there was less feed-back from outside on each design, but it did not feel like a competition to me. I thought that butting in the other team's work would break an intimacy barrier though.

    2. Yeah, I'm with fading in that I felt like I had to put even more work into my pair because I was obligated to that other person (which I don't think is a bad thing), as well as the fact that I didn't want to butt in.

  2. Jack and I went back and forth on whether Knight of the Apocalypse should target red or nonred creatures. The final call was his, but the arguments that way are that this Knight can pick off what lived through the Night of the Apocalypse, and that this way the Knight can be down at 3 mana while still dealing 4 damage the same as the Night does. If the Knight damaged nonred creatures I'd feel that he couldn't deal 4 damage at 3 mana, and even 4 mana would be probably too close to original Flametongue Kavu power levels. (Or have creature power levels crept high enough that FTK is actually back on curve now?)

    I think cards that mirror each other or are symmetrical somehow fit the terms of the challenge as stated. The Night and the Knight mirror in two ways: being global versus focused and in damaging red versus nonred. I thought that would be okay, but do you think the mirror would be clearer if they were aligned on one of them and only differ on the other?

    1. I'd say their relationship is evident for the reasons you stated, and to that extent they fulfill the challenge. I do think the mirror would be clearer—and the incentive to play them in the same deck stronger—if they only differed in one of those ways, yes.