Thursday, August 20, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 081415—GuthrieArtwork

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Zombie Dinosaur. Go!

Ancient Tyrannosaur features a distinctly black ability (see Haakon, Stromgald Scourge) on a mono-green creature. The mechanic is appropriate to the zombie creature type, but that's appropriated from black too. Ghoultree is the only other mono-green zombie, which is arguably a mistake, though it is from Innistrad where every color got spookier, and it's ability is about as green as black. That's not really a precedent I'd like to follow without good reason, since it muddies the color pie. While I think we'd all be pretty comfortable with this in {B}{G}, I'd actually argue it would be better mono-black, since it's not doing anything black doesn't do, except be large. Ignoring those color concerns, I love the name and think this would be a cool rare once it's developed.


Zombie dinosaur... planeswalker? On one hand, that's clearly nonsense. On the other hand, we've combined two awesome disparate things, so how far off can a third be? Well. Planeswalkers are always sentient; Dinosaurs are always shown as dumb (or in one case, disturbingly clever but still clearly sub-human) so while we could say the dinosaurs on this plane are intelligent and this one's a genius, that's a bit more of a stretch here than for Nicol Bolas / Ugin / Niv-Mizzet.

Like Gideon Jura, Azhik can become a creature and attack your opponent personally. Rather than prevent damage (to avoid confusion and ass a kick), Azhik simply clarifies that it can't lose loyalty counters while a creature. I believe that does the job (of keeping the rules from breaking or being confusing), though I'd sure want a rules manager's opinion. The big difference is that Azhik can be Blastfire Bolted.

The second ability seems quite odd for a black-green card, and unlike the first, I have no idea why a zombie dinosaur planeswalker would have it.

Swallowing a creature whole seems great, though. I'm just not sure why that blinks Azhik. I guess eating folk renews its strength? But only to its starting value. Why use a white ability to do that rather than say, "Azhik's loyalty becomes 3. Or…" Oh. You can reuse Azhik immediately after he returns. In fact, you can Goblin Sharpshooter any number of X/2 creatures every round. Umm?

Bloodcaller's Prize likes to be reanimated. Coool. Strictly better Craw Wurm feels odd at first, but I'm certain that's just me being an old-timer: I don't think this is too far above curve for modern black creatures. Is this too good with Rescue from the Underworld? Morbid Bloom or Flesh // Blood? My guess is no.

The most intriguing thing about primordial is that it triggers on any basic card, not just basic lands. The implication is that the set will introduce basic spells, which I have to assume means you can play any number of them in your deck—whether you got any in your Limited pool or not. It's that last part that looks like a death knell for the idea. Relentless Rats aren't basic because tournament organizers don't supply any number of them to all their players.

If we change "basic card" to "basic land," primordial becomes a strict subset of landfall. Assuming the set doesn't include many nonbasics (that aren't awesome and worth playing despite not the added penalty of not being basic) or that it rewards playing basic lands in another way, that's conceivable. Imperiosaur seems like a definite connection. At six mana, Diseased Tyrannax's 2/5 body is quite underwhelming, but repeated removal at common is dangerous and so I imagine this is a fair price; even so, it'd likely just be better to make a more efficient uncommon.

I quite like the Austere Command-esque separation of modes here, and how you have to kick Epoch of Flesh to get the theoretically stronger mode. I say 'theoretically' because it's trivial to imagine an aggressive deck where Epoch is the most expensive card and you never want to kick it, which feels a bit odd. Particularly since the first ability is so very white. What if this cost {3}{W}{W} to cast and {B}{B} to kick?

Mixed hybrid if often tempting for cards that could work in a number of different colors. The issue is that the result is much more complex with no tangible mechanical or thematic gain. Glory Seeker could cost {WB}{GW} but we lose resonance on what kind of creature it is by diluting the color requirements in its cost without increasing the number of decks that can play it (we gain {B}{G} but lose {R}{W} and {W}{U}). The same is true for Experimental Necrosaur.

That said, a cost like this is helpful as a temporary notation for designers: "Hey, this could cost {3}{B}{G} or {3}{G}{G}." Except for the word 'experimental,' and the history of evolve being {G}{U}, I see no reason this should be blue, even optionally.

A five-mana 5/2 with evolve has good promise for an evolve deck, being well-placed both to evolve and to help your other creatures evolve. Scavenge on a five-mana 5/2 is pretty good too. Keeping counters on a card in your graveyard is a big pain, but feeding directly into its scavenge ability is neat. The combination feels a bit forced, but I can't deny it all works together and makes for an interesting and very playable rare. I love the name 'Necrosaur.'

Perhaps of all the creatures with reanimate, only Insatiable Predator grows after it dies, but my first instinct is to replace the death counter with a +1/+1 counter to simplify things. Much more importantly, though, is the proposal of a keyword that would appear on 6-12 cards allowing each of them to be recast an unlimited number of times: Even with the inevitable Cremates the set would use to help stop them, that's still going to substantially shift Magic to a much more repetitive game for a year and a half. (Longer, if any of those cards are Modern-worthy.) We can fix that by only allowing a creature to reanimate itself once (and we end up with undying). That adds even more text—which helps illustrate that the "black zombie" rider isn't worthwhile on a keyword the way it was on Rise from the Grave.

'Store' doesn't mean very much to me before I read the reminder text, and having done so it still doesn't. What is the purpose of moving something out of my graveyard temporarily? I see that in the case of Larder-Belly Rex, it's a cost, so I'll lose my dino when I don't have enough dead cards to feed it, but why does it then return them? I'm not seeing the value of store as an action keyword. What if it returned one or more cards to hand instead of the gy?

Is it a good idea to put regenerate and self-sacrifice on the same card, given how every player asks whether you can regenerate from a sacrifice? Does a 6/4 trampler for four even need regeneration?

How is it that Mortisaur starts as the most efficient black fatty (not counting Grave Titan's tokens) and also has the most absurd grow-on-deaths ability? We could replace the last two abilities with "{B}, Sacrifice a creature: Put +1/+1 counters on ~ equal to its toughness" and we'd still have a serious beating of a black rare. Kresh the Bloodbraided is a mythic 3/3 for five mana across three colors with no other abilities. I like that Mortisaur eats your guys and grows, but this card is doing too much.

Black doesn't tend to get Rumbling Baloths. It's certainly possible at uncommon, but I don't think two more upsides would fit below rare. It is cool that Repurposed Predator can hunt and kill anything (untapped). If the activated ability were mono-green (there's really nothing black about it), then we'd have a mono-black 4/4 deathtouch or a two-color creature that can force blocks as well, and that would feel closer to fair. I like how scary Predator is.

So in a duel, I get your best big creature and you get my worst big creature, but in multiplayer, I get all your best big creatures and only one of you gets my worst big creature. It's unfortunate how clunky it reads, but Revenge of the Mighty has value as a sideboard card for duels and different, enhanced value in multiplayer games, which is different but useful kind of lenticularity. Revenge also has a lot of potential for Johnny in either format. Is it important/better that the caster always chooses between creatures of equal power?

Rex of Extinction is a huge threat that can only be killed in combat by three 4/4s (who all die) or similar. And then its controller gets a 4/4. That—short of Murdering it while it's summoning sick—is the defender's best case scenario. Most of the time, it hits for 8, kills any creature, and makes a 4/4… ever turn. Seven-mana two-color mythics should be awesome, but that might be a bit too awesome. Just having a permanent that says "Murder every round" is pretty good, as is one that says "Rumbling Baloth every round. Both is amazing and that's before we add 8 evasive power.

"If that creature dies this way" is relevant to regenerating and indestructible creatures, but it's not worth the added confusion it causes for players who don't immediately get that. More on point, why is this making a creature at all? I get that it's zombifying them, but extinction implies destruction not conversion, and an 8/8 vigilance creature doesn't really need tokens.

Consume is a delve that rewards you tangibly for spending your graveyard in contrast with delve's cost reduction. The upside is that cost reduction is dangerous and sometimes useless, whereas +1/+1 counters will rarely break a five-drop and will never be entirely without value. The downside is that delve is bounded and consume is not, allowing a common to do truly mythical things in certain circumstances. We might want to limit consume, either with a variable, a static number, or with the creature's base power.

Thanatosaur Welp is probably as strong as a common consume card can be, passing the vanilla test, usually hitting the board as a 5/5 or 6/6 for five, and acting like a rare late in the game. It's still a very solid commong if you make it {5}{G}, hitting the table like an Alpha Tyrranax.

It looks like Whelp was later polished to only consume creatures. I like that better thematically, and it greatly limits potential, which is good for common and makes Whelp more reasonable. Nice.

Whoa. Fascinating. I love how Unextinct Predator goes all-in on the challenge to solve it. It doesn't answer anything for the player, and instead lets them feel clever figuring out how to make use of it. It'll definitely annoy a bunch of players, but I think the players who appreciate it will appreciate it more.

I'm unsure about the last ability. It helps send the message that you need a plan and aren't just running a 39-/56-card deck, but I'm not entirely sure it's worth the text.

There's not much I'm eager to change here. Unrelenting Predator is unrelenting. Nice.

I guess I can point out that the "less power" clause is trinket text.

"At end of combat" requires that Voracious Tyrranax survive combat. It'll be tricky to get a 5/3 through and kill a creature, but I guess Lava Axe'ing your opponent and still having a creature afterward is pretty good. This will encourage players to run combat tricks to help it survive combat where it shouldn't, and that seems like a net win for suspense and interaction. {3}{B}{B}?

Z-Rex is a fun name for a zombie dino. It has the same endless recursion issue as Insatiable Predator; requiring seven basic lands is better than six of any kind, but it's a tough sell that a card with the inevitability of dominating games should be common. Dawnglare Invoker is surprisingly comparable, but most folks will agree that was the most powerful card of a powerful cycle in a set full of absurd creatures. Why not just uncommon? Totally fine there.

Well done. I'm pretty jealous, honestly. What a batch of creepy awesome undead thunder lizards.

Interesting to note which creature types you all chose. 7 Dinosaur / 2 Beast / 6 Lizard. Alpha Tyrranax is a beast, but Imperiosaur is a lizard. If Magic did a set featuring a bunch of dinosaurs, which way would they go? Or would they pull the bandage off and finally make them legit dinos?

This challenge has had the best card names of any challenge ever.

Thanks to Brian for rendering the cards.


  1. Haakon does something very Black that isn't being able to be cast only from your graveyard, so I don't consider it precedent. I'm not as sold as everyone else seems to be that casting creatures from your graveyard and not other places has to be Black in Zombie Dinosaur World. Non-Black colors have to do something with zombie dinosaurs, and I think this is something that feels very Green. Black doesn't want to jump through these kind of hurdles to get this rewards.

    Perhaps not unrelatedly, Ghoultree is one of my favorite cards.

    I did update the stats to 1G 6/4 to make it feel a little more Green.

  2. Why would "basic" nonland cards need to be supplied to players at tournaments?

    1. That's one of the things that makes basic lands different from nonbasic lands. I guess snow-covered basic lands weren't required at tournaments, so it needn't be a requirement.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I love how Bloodcallers Prize and Revenge of the Mighty capture the feel of "a really really really big zombie" :)

    And I love all the names -- I liked my own Necrosaur, but also Mortisaur, Thanasaur, Z-Rex etc :)

  4. My best take on Azhik, trying to keep with the design concept:

    Azhik, the Wandering Hunger 3BG
    Planeswalker — Azhik
    +2: Until end of turn, Azhik becomes a 5/5 Zombie Dinosaur creature with trample and can't lose loyalty.
    0: Creatures you control get +2/-1 and gain trample until end of turn.
    -X: Azhik deals X damage to target creature. If that creature dies this turn, Azhik gains twice that much loyalty.

    He can still smash in as a 5/5 Zombie, but his roar scares your creatures into action, and his hunting is limited to once-per-turn. Creative templating and vocabulary give us a larger font size, which always seems to be a sticking point on planeswalkers for me.

    1. I really like your approach to this. My first draft was really me just bouncing ideas around and getting everyone's opinion. Which is why I really love the community you guys have made here. Thanks!