Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 073115—zimzibar

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a card for this art. Try to make a new tribal mechanic that does not affect power or toughness.

Deep-Rooted Wildheart makes all your wolves or all your dryads immortal, including itself. No matter how many times I kill your Dryad Arbor, Chorus of the Conclave, or Wildheart, you can just keep re-casting them (except when you kill the other dryads after killing Wildheart but before it's recast). That's problematic because of how many games it'll cause to grind toward the same end, and definitely rare (if it's printable at all).

It's neat in theory that you can choose wolves instead of dryads to play this in your wolf tribal deck, but it's one of those choices that so much weaker that it's not really a choice at all. That can be fixed simply by not letting this recur itself, and that also reduces its power level notably: As cards to recur, dryads and wolves tend not to compete at a high level. Though wolves have been maturing as a tribe in the last few years.

Deepwood Calling is anti-tribal; it asks you to play as many different types of creatures as possible, and rewards you with a mono-green Eladamri's Call. Given the drawback this has over Call, I think it could cost {1}{G}. Regardless, it will be frustrating that you can't use it when you need it most (when you have no creatures and desperately need one). One alternative could be requiring 2+ different creatures in your graveyard, or even between gy and play.

I'm kind of surprised there's never been a simple mono-green Eladamri's Call.

Thematically, I have a problem with living creatures becoming spirits without dying, but not as much as I never expected to see "target Spirit gains trample." I suppose the two abilities are paralleled in the the first makes wolves more like spirits, and the latter makes spirits more like wolves. Except wolves really aren't known for trample either. If this gave "can't be blocked by creatures with lower power" or "this can't be blocked by more than one creature" that would feel both more lupine and more ghostly.

Reading that the tribal in this card's set is all spirit tribal adds a new layer to this design. Some cards can support the theme by boosting spirits, while other cards can support it sublimating other creatures. Neat. A set could definitely make living spirits a real thing, and an important aspect of the story too.

I would not make "X are now also Y" a static effect on a common in a set that boosts Y, because that will add a lot of board/tracking complexity.

Faerie Wolfcaller howls in pain upon discovering how many of her brethren have fallen, and the wolves heed her call. It's slightly odd that she mentions a creature type other than Faeries, but it makes me imagine a set where wolves and faeries often interact positively (like Kithkin Greatheart) and that's fun. It's also a clever way to nerf what might otherwise just be too damn strong in a deck with the likes of Scion of Oona.

I neither love nor hate the low-flying. I'd expect it if all the green faeries in this set had it, but would otherwise leave it off to give more spotlight to the main ability.

The parallelism between Hidden Dryad's first and second ability is lovely, and tells a great story about the relationship between trees and tree spirits. On a five-mana creature, though, it's hard to imagine the first ability being used at all (except maybe to trade one dryad for another but few even have triggers). Being able to trade forests for a toolbox of creatures is pretty great: You'll generally want to cheat out the most expensive dryads, but Chorus of the Conclave is probably still worse than, say, Conclave Naturalists, so this might be one of the few tribes this ability doesn't break for. Neat! As 4/4 Dryad with a great ability, your best targets are actually more Hidden Dryads, ironically.

Dang. Six power across three bodies for three mana? And the only downside is that wolves I already controlled can't attack the turn they land?* That ought to make your opponent shake a bit. And occasionally concede. Leader of the Pack is better in a deck with no wolves, so it's anti-tribal (except when paired with Master of the Wild Hunt or Nantuko Husk), but it certainly is novel to have an exciting lord whose continued existence actually hamstrings its tribe.

*Notably, if you have two Leaders in play, they will always work together, because if one attacks and one blocks, none of your wolves can do either. That does illustrate that this wolf-restriction is actually a form of evasion for Leader of the Pack, since your opponent will often prefer it survive.

Packleader's Cunning is a Spy Raid with a tribal bonus that helps you get some of your creatures through. That seems like great space for an uncommon. The "tribal boost" ability word is so generic, the card would read better without it, but consider how this card rewards your whole team for including a wolf, rather than just making the wolves evasive (and in a way they might already be); It really feels like the wolf is leading the team like a pack, and that's really cool.

A more direct template: "Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player this turn, you may draw a card…"

Come on, artisans. You're going to let one of our own submit a card with a name like Raiser of Wolves? You gotta look out for each other here, especially our non-native speakers of English. How about Patron of Wolves, or Wolf Mother, or at least Wolf Raiser?

This is a neat ability and a nice way to support a tribe. It would be simpler to grant a Wolf token every time a non-token Wolf ETBs under your control, but that's also more powerful and would have to be accounted for elsewhere. I would be happy to get a 1/2 dryad for that upgrade since I'm not planning on attacking with my combo piece much anyhow (and dryads tend to be smaller than minotaurs).

Rowanhair's Bond is potentially two tutors in one, though you've got to control a faerie or a wolf to get either, and both to get both. That's swingy, but what a cool way to support paired-tribal. Like Deepwood Calling, it's a shame Bond does nothing when you need it most, but the game needs exciting risk as well as safe bets.

I hadn't thought of changelings, but yeah, Bond is probably too good with those weirdos.

Spirit Guide is like Wolfcaller, but it cares about wolves instead of faeries. It's simpler too, allowing its splashy ability to take center stage. Turning wolves into spirit wolves feels more like necromancy to me, blurring the line toward black more than I'd like. We'd definitely find a name that keeps this distinct from Elvish Spirit Guide.

Do we imagine making a dozen or more cards with guardian? It tells players not to attack and usually goes into effect only when you need it least. I'm fine with this ability on a card or maybe a vertical cycle, but I wouldn't keyword it.

The second ability is far more confusing than it needs to be: "Tap an untapped Wolf you control: Regenerate [another] target Wolf." The last ability is redundant with the second and a nonbo with the first. If Spirit of the Pack were a wolf, you wouldn't need to write out the last line at all, which means that being a dryad is a liability for this design where it can be an asset elsewhere.

Minor templating note: If you want to refer to any Wolf permanent, you can just say 'Wolf' but if you want to refer only to creatures, that's where you need to specify 'Wolf creature.'

Violetwood Sprite ignores the tribal component to instead propose a sixth color to the game, though it doesn't tell us anything about that color except that it can get hexproof from green and its mana is more valuable (presumably because it doesn't have a basic land and is harder to find). Evan lays out a plan for using purple in the block that basically uses Coldsnap's snow mana and supertype, which I do think is a design space that still warrants exploration.

Wild Hunt is sort of a once-off Master of the Wild Hunt, which is neat. The reminder text indicates an update to the rules for fight that accounts for multi-creature brawls. Provided the new fight can be explained fully via reminder text (since this only explains how the brawl works compared with a duel), I'd be happy to see that change. On its own, Wild Hunt is a Shock that costs and extra {G} (and might leave you with a 2/2 if you kill a 1/1 or so), but the tribal synergy could turn it into quite a lethal piece of removal in a wolf deck. Caveat in place, I quite like Wild Hunt.

Conversation-starter: Could this be mono-green? Would sorcery speed make a difference?

I think Wispwood Duo's first ability is meant to trigger on either condition: "Whenever a Wolf ETB under your control, or ~ deals combat damage to a player, draw card." Or maybe both have to happen? "Whenever ~ deals combat damage to a player, if a Wolf ETB'd under your control this turn, draw a card." Given the price, I'm going to assume the vastly less powerful latter option to be the case.

So Wispwood Duo is a faerie wolf that likes it when you cast other faeries and other wolves, but especially when you cast more faerie-wolf mutants. Mechanically, that's pretty cool. It works in a wolf deck and a faerie deck, and even suggests making a paired tribal deck. Thematically, I'm a bit confused (Thistledown Duo and friends are just one creature type, as are everything but half-breeds like Gaea's Skyfolk from Apocalypse), though it's nothing Creative couldn't fix pretty handily.

As a 3/3 for three in two colors, with two abilities that are useful on their own and that complement each other, this is a pretty sweet card. I think it could be uncommon, though, and would serve the set better at that rarity, assuming the set has a tribal pairings theme.

Is the Wolf-Student Sylvian using her wolf friend to track down a target and then kill it? I feel like I'd let my wolves do the full hunt, but that's still a pretty cool story. This is very tribal-light—with threshold 1—which is actually a great place for most tribal cards. Is it too strong for its price/rarity? I'd have to test it to see. I like it, if not.

As much as I love how "~'s familiars have [ability]" reads like English, it's really not sufficient Magic rules text. For example, does this affect only creatures you control, or all creatures of the chosen type? Does it affect non-creatures of the chosen type?

"Choose a creature type other than a type it has" is also a bit awkward. Ignoring those templating concerns, familiar is an anti-tribal mechanic (though more focused than play-all-different-creature-types since it only asks you to avoid more dryads and druids). It's a nice byproduct of this selection method that creatures with familiar don't boost themselves, which helps balance them while addressing a clarity issue many lords tiptoe around.

Woodland Caller, in particular, ends up playing rather like Standard Bearer or Spellskite, since you have to remove it in order to remove the creatures its protecting. That you can play it in a deck with any other tribe (hmm, this really isn't anti-tribal so much as not-dryad-or-druid-tribal) gives it a nice modularity.

Holy awesome socks. These are some seriously cool designs. And no one had any trouble finding tribal things to do outside of the tired +1/+1. I'm particularly excited to explore paired-tribal after this challenge, but there are quite a few promising strains here. What would you call out among these?

Thanks to Alex for rendering the cards.


  1. Add this line to the reminder text on Woodland Caller: (Creatures you control of the chosen type are its familiars.) Does that make it clearer?

    Magic seems to be going for a more "natural English" feel with its keyword choices (Comet Storm "is kicked," Renegade Krasis "evolves", opponents "pay tribute") so I wanted to utilize that.

    I have a strong preference for modular mechanics over linear ones, so this was my way of expressing that while doing a tribal challenge.

    What's wrong with the name Raiser of Wolves?

    I suggested much Spirit of the Pack's current wording. My understanding is that on abilities with only a single (or no) target, the word "another" consistently means "a permanent other than the one that has this ability", so it doesn't necessarily translate to the Wolf used to pay the cost needing to be a different one than the Wolf benefiting from the ability. I did forget about Tribal, though. Stupid Tribal.

    1. That reminder text does wonders, yes. And the move toward more natural language is fantastic, and that's what I love about Caller.

      It's subjective, so I could be in the minority, but to me the name Raiser of Wolves feels super awkward. Just me?

      You might be right about 'another.' I interpret it in the context, and in that context I thought it was clearly relative to the first wolf, but I'm not sure about that at all.

      Stupid Tribal.

    2. I don't find "Raiser of Wolves" awkward. It reads like a title... "I am Eleta, Mistress of the Wood, Defender of Stags, Raiser of Wolves, and Champion of all who run on four legs!"

      The current wording
      Wolves you control have "Tap another untapped Wolf you control: Regenerate this creature."
      *works*, but I agree it could be less clunkily written either as Jay's suggestion
      "Tap an untapped Wolf you control: Regenerate target Wolf"
      or in Crypt Sliver style
      Wolves you control have "{T}: Regenerate [another] target Wolf".

      Jay's suggestion couldn't have "another" added to it, though, because that'd look like you can't tap a wolf to regenerate itself, while in fact all it would prohibit is tapping a wolf to regenerate Spirit of the Pack itself if you make SotP a wolf.

  2. Interesting challenge this week!

    I interpreted the first ability of Wispwood Duo as "Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage, draw a card for each wolf which entered the battlefield under you control this turn." Which I think is interesting, though probably needs to be simplified.

  3. I realised low flying would be an unusual choice, but I was surprised everyone seemed to ignore the wings completely.

    Am I looking at the image wrong and those aren't wings? Or do people just assume it's obvious that they can't lift the creature?

    "Don't have wings on a creature that can't fly" is a small rule, but I thought wizards stuck to it fairly carefully, am I missing something?

    1. Low flying absolutely fits the creature in the middle of this art. That said, they are small and transparent enough, and the creature on the ground with other non-flyers... enough, that no flying at all is easy to justify as well.

    2. On the one hand she does clearly have wings. Ethereal wings made of wisps of magic, but clearly wings. On the other hand, her horns look tree-ish enough that 7 of us thought she looked more like a Dryad than a Faerie, while only 4 plumped the other way; and a Dryad is more affiliated with a number of other mechanics than flying.

  4. I hope we are asked to design an artifact this weekend. If so, I'm naming it Razor of Wolves.

    Tribal boost IS a super generic name, but I wanted it to be as descriptive as possible without being Cycle level flavorless. The idea being that you can almost predict what it does just by the ability word. "I play my spell. Oh, it has a tribal boost. My elemental gives all my attackers +1/+0 until end of turn." Getting super cutesy with the name, or finding a way to make it "SOMETHING Wolf" seems secondary to making it very grokable. Tribal sets are already complex by default, I didn't want to add complexity in the ability word.