Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Weekend Art Challenge Review 100915—wanbao

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Design a creature card for this art. Bonus points if it's justifiably not mono-blue.

Being submersible protects a creature from direct damage. Given how often 'burn spells' are themed as fire, that seems like a solid flavor hit. Is the ability mechanically relevant enough to warrant using repeatedly as a keyword? I think submersible would be a cool ability for one or two blue creatures, like Abyssal Blowfish. (I would expect it to template as "prevent all non-combat damage dealt to this" since leaving the damage on raises questions.)

Bathydrone draws you a card whether it deals combat damage to the opponent or not, which isn't as strong of flavor as Stealer of Secrets but fine at a higher cost/rarity. It also draws from the bottom of your library instead of the top, which is a flavor win since this creature lurks among the deep, though it is a little annoying to execute and more dangerous generally, since effects that put cards under your library are never balanced for that possibility. Probably fine to print, though it's not clear what purpose this would serve in its set.

Is this a fish or a drone? Why is it colorless / an artifact?

Deepborn is… Misthollow Griffin tribal? In a vacuum, this keyword doesn't remotely justify itself, but I imagine it living in a set with a lot of exile costs or effects, and where it's important to the story/setting that the deepborn can restore each other from outside existence (but not from death). It does strain the imagination slightly that this set would have so much exile we'd need deepborn at common; Cards like Chasm Dweller aren't prize enough to jump through such hoops, but they do enable rarer deepborn cards and that should have value.

At first blush, Compelling Angler seems to be a multiplayer card, forcing one of your opponents to attack another. And if the victim dies, you get your fish right back! But it turns out Angler is quite effective in a duel too: Force your opponent's entire team to attack… every turn. That's a really neat combination of uses, though I wonder if the second is too consistent and powerful for {3}{R}.

This can definitely be mono-red, no problem, and if the set were mostly underwater, I'd buy this as-is; this could also be mono-blue (or could have a few years ago) though, so in a normal set I'd wonder why red fish not blue fish. (one fish two fish)

Sweet flavor.

I wouldn't be shocked to see Deep Underminer in a booster pack tomorrow. Dev might tweak cost/rarity/size a bit—and could let you target the permanent to bounce if rare—but really wouldn't have to, in a vacuum.

Deep-Sea Delver is a rare spokescard for delve, rewarding you more than usual for delving with up to a 12/12 for {G}{U} if you can delve six. To increase the card's apparent value further, it gains a pair of useful keywords at the very top level. It's very hard to judge the viability of such swingy cards, so I'll just say that Development will have to keep an eye on it. Particularly, I'd be curious to see how often it achieves maximum tier and how often its controller loses despite that.

While this could be mono-green or even mono-blue, requiring both allows us to enforce a higher minimum mana cost despite delve.

Engulfing Angler automatically consumes an attacker each turn. Or, if you've got Abzan mana up, it consumes any creatures without a tap ability. That sounds pretty good, but will die in combat normally and its first ability is only a bit better than deathtouch. That's a cool black uncommon fish.

Why does it require {G}{W}? I can see the green requirement, since provoke effects are primarily green, but the only reason I can imagine white is in there would be to satisfy some kind of double-enemy-activated-abilities cycle for another wedge set. Checking the comments, it seems that white is there to let you untap the target… white lets you untap your creatures (and so does green), but it doesn't have a habit of untapping opposing creatures.

Dragonlord Ojutai shares this hexproof variant, but I'm not sure a 3/4 blocker that can't be murdered is worth {6}, nor am I sure either cards is done much justice by a don't-attack carrot.

Eternal Deepling does want to attack, though—and that's a contradiction of identity (like Ojutai). Curiously, its saboteur effect is secondary or tertiary in black and entirely foreign to blue.

If this pair of abilities supplied slam-dunked the flavor of a popular trope, I'd be down, but I'm not getting it. The first does feel like something inaccessibly deep that might come up to get us, but what's the other ability? Is it eating the shoreline to get at us?

Not a bad design, but I want more.

Fathom Ambusher lets you Assassinate when you unmorph it (which you can do at any time, say, after your opponent declares attackers). That's a cool way to do a black shark (though sadly, shark is not a type, so we'll have to convey that in the name/art). The hexproof drives home the deep dark territory this shark hunts in, as well as the blue half of the card. No synergy in those abilities, but they can't all synergize. Seems legit. Could be uncommon if the morph cost {1} more or so.

Frenzy Hunt is a Trumpet Blast (x1.5) at sorcery-speed (why not "creatures you control get +3/+0 until EOT?") with lure. Lure is an ability word that lets you 'play' the card from exile at the cost of having some other cards of a particular type in gy to exile along with it, for some effect… probably always a creature token. I dig the delve-powered flashback concept behind lure, though it's not clear why the prize should be a different effect than the original. Could lure just be "Flashback—Exile three cards from your graveyard?" This definitely deserves more investigation.

Anyhow, it looks like the spell effect acts like a precursor to the creature. A sort of forecast, Infernal Spawn of Evil, or approaching. That's pretty cool. It's unfortunate that our token will be a Fish and not a Shark, and that makes me wonder if Frenzy Hunt just wants to be an evoke creature (with Shark in the name). Here's where this idea led me:

Bass' original title was Lurking in the Depths and Brian named this version above. I'd call it Lurker Among the Depths.

This legendary fish gives away information about what you're drawing, but gives you hexproof or menace a majority of the time to compensate. Vampire Nocturnus / Mul Daya Channelers tech is neat, all the more for multiple colors. These effects are neither guaranteed nor predictable, though, so should be stronger. Alternately—and especially for a legendary rare—we can just make this more efficient. 4/4 or {1}{U}{B} might do. It would also be cool if the abilities combo'd particularly well, but that would cost us our strong flavor.

For a set that wants to push three-allied-colors, even just a little, Scornful Aether-Fish is ready to print. Could even be common.

Blue delve is a more limited delve. That doesn't scream fun to me as a player, but I can imagine it supporting a set's environment as a designer. The fact that it's on a green card immediately conveys meaning: This is a mono-green card for a green-blue deck. Neat. Purely for discussion, would affinity for Islands work similarly here?

Stalked Minnow offers an additional benefit beyond cost reduction for successfully delving, which is actually more compelling for more with limited-delve than it was for me on Deep-Sea Delver. It's a significant benefit too, and… oh. I just looked at Minnow's P/T. Seems like we've got a Plaxmanta issue here. The main identity of this card is hidden in a secondary effect while the bonus sits in the card frame. Regardless of the presentation, and regardless of the value when I successfully delve seven blue cards from my graveyard (much harder than Deep-Sea Delver's six of any), I want my {9} card to have bigger stats. I'd ditch the last ability (which totally pushed this to rare in terms of complexity) and instead make this start at 7/7. That completely ruins the story of this card—which is seriously wonderful—but gameplay (usually) trumps theme.

Submerged Angler has Tromokratis' anti-targetability (except unkeyworded for some reason) and it has the green provoke-lite ability as seen on Tangle Angler (hmm). Yup. That's solid. I could see this in most any set that wants off-color activated abilities.

Trench Angler can replace a blocked creature in combat, like a ninja. A ninja that likes fighting more than sneaking. A tag-team wrestler ninja, I guess. Sorry. Yeah, this is a sweet red-blue rare. Weirdly, I think we could debate this as half-green or half-black too. Not sure this art suggests jumping into combat from nowhere, so much as plodding along at a glacial pace.

Slap this text box on a mono-black rat and I'm sold (Pack Rat). I so don't get how this fish horror's drifting is causing it to propagate itself so rapidly.

I really want the fact that this fish lives so deep in the water to be the 'but' to the lure effect: "Everything that can block this must, but only other deep-sea creatures can block it." As it is, the lure feels counter-thematic to the fishes environment. Ignoring that, Voracious Deepdevil does appear to have a literal lure and that combos very well with modern-rampage, resulting in a very green creature that players would often enjoy immensely. For discussion: In a water world set, where most every creature is understood to dwell beneath the waves, is Deepdevil not an excellent or at least reasonable design?

I love when we get a variety of novel effects. Very cool stuff, artisans.

I feel like every time we challenge the notion that sea creatures are inherently blue, I become more comfortable with the alternative. How about you?

Thanks to Pasteur for rendering the cards.


  1. I really like my aquatic creatures to be blue. Reinforcing the connection to basic land types is important for resonance, which is why frogs are black, goats are red, oxen are white, etc.

  2. Scornful AEther-fish is a play on Scornful AEther-lich, which was also uncommon. That said I really like unjoining the colors in the activated ability.

  3. Frenzy Hunt's first effect is worded like Ondu Rising rather than Trumpet Blast so you can cast it as a spell, then use the lure effect in the same turn to attack with a 6/3.

    I am optimistic that if we ever got a Water World set, Sharks would get their own creature type like Werewolf finally did with Innistrad. There were only 3 werewolves in Magic prior to Innistrad. Greater Werewolf and Lesser Werewolf went from Lycanthrope to Human Wolf during the Grand Creature Type Update in 2007. Treacherous Werewolf was a Minion Wolf. They are all werewolves now.

    The flashback question is valid if the spell and lure effect are the same, but I intend lure to always cash cards in for a creature token. I will say, "this mechanic could be flashback" sounds a lot like "this mechanic could be kicker". :)

    1. Making shark a type would be great. I agree that's very likely if water world ever happens.

      Unusual wording for Frenzy Hunt's main effect isn't a good sign for lure having no clear relationship with the spell's main effect. I could totally see a mechanic that follows the chain from cycling to reinforce to making tokens, and I can totally see flashback-via-delve or kicker-via-delve or buyback-via-delve, but what's the gain in spending all that tech on token-cycling-flashback-via-delve?

    2. Are you saying that Ondu Rising's wording is justifiable because it's more clear how it synergizes with Awaken? Granting lifelink versus giving +3/+0 seem pretty comparable to me. And both cards can say "You used to have two creatures for this bonus, but if you pay more now you can have three."

      I originally imagined a mechanic that followed Cycling and Reinforce, but if you actually try to build that out there's a problem. Let me illustrate:

      Cycling 2 (2, Discard this card: draw a card.)

      Reinforce 2-1G (1G, Discard this card: put two +1/+1 counters on target creature.)

      Hire a 2/2 green Elf Warrior 1G (1G, Discard this card: Put a 2/2 green Elf Warrior creature token onto the battlefield.)

      All the details required to make the effect modular (IE allow for different creature token production) have to get baked into the front end of the keyword. Gross. (This why I made lure an ability word, btw. You know it makes a token, without losing resonance in the name.)

      Then when I was still thinking of this as a creature mechanic, I considered a kicker-via-delve style. When you cast the spell, you can exile a bunch of cards from the graveyard for a spell effect. That felt very good, except it doesn't fix any of the problems normally associated with kicker. It still incentivizes players to hold back on casting the spell, and makes them feel bad if they can't get the bonus effect. Plus, a lot of the designs I came up with for this, didn't really match the art we were given.

      At that point, I flipped the effect to making a creature token from the yard. The idea being, players won't feel compelled to hold the card in their hand to get both effects, and will have more control over getting the spell in their yard in anticipation of making a token.

      I think token-flashback-via-delve could easily just be token-flashback except I wanted to allow for the potential for players to be able to cast the spell and make a token in the same turn. And that requires moving some of the cost out of mana. If Hunt Frenzy didn't delve, it would probably have to cost 2R for +2/+0 ueot and 4R for a 3/3 token with haste. With Flashback or Cycling, there's no reason to design for allowing players to cast both parts of the card in one turn. Maybe you do for one or two deigns, but it's unnecessary. Split cards don't allow for us to match a spell with a creature, but it still had Fuse so players could get two spell effects. With lure, where every card is a spell effect and a token maker, I think players will be naturally inclined to want to do both at once. Even if they don't have to, they will want to. So costing it at a different axis seems the only way to allow for multiple designs where that's possible.

    3. Ondu Rising warrants precisely the same criticism.

      I greatly enjoyed being stepped through your thought process. Very illuminating.

      It sounds like the main difference between lure and evoke, is that you can cast your lure spell whenever and kick it for the creature any time after that*. That seems like a pretty clear gain in ease-of-play. I'm just not sure it's worth tripling the cards' complexity. Lure is also limited by the variety of creatures it can produce; a set can only have so many distinct tokens.

      *Limited by cards in graveyard more than available mana.

    4. Yeah, I agree with all that.

      I'd overall like to see more cards with keywords that don't trigger when the creature enters the battlefield, or the spell is cast. At least more than we have now.

      Lure would certainly lead to a tokens matter or tribal matters subtheme for whatever set it was is.

  4. Stalked Minnow was just a way to test some ideas. The last part was unnecessary, I just wanted the Minnow to be eaten up by the thing that was stalking it. Also I just threw uncommon on there before I added the sacrifice ability. It was more complex, but not as powerful as a rare. Here's a way to still hit that flavor:

    Stalked Minnow-5GG
    When Cardname enters the battlefield, put a 7/7 Leviathan unto the battlefield.
    Sacrifice CARDNAME: Regenerate target Leviathan.
    Or may be even:
    Stalked Minnow-1G
    Sacrifice CARDNAME: Regenerate target Leviathan(Or what ever sea creature you want.)

    These still hit the stalked flavor, but in different ways.
    But to be honest, I would take off the last ability and keep delve. It's definitely more cool. Here's an idea that I just came up with:
    Stalked Minnow-7GG-Rare
    Blue Delve
    CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a number of 1/1 counters on it equal to the amount of mana spent to cast it.
    When Stalked Minnow enters the battlefield, put an X/X blue Leviathan token unto the battlefield, where X is the number of cards you exiled to cast Stalked Minnow.

    The more you delve or feed the hunter, the bigger the hunter will be. The less you feed it, the smaller it will be. Might have to change the name for this one. Just another iteration.
    And finally you have the clean version. Not say I don't like my designs to be simple, I just like to explore my options.

    Stalking Leviathan-7GG-Rare
    Blue Delve
    When Stalked Minnow enters the battlefield, put an X/X blue Fish token unto the battlefield, where X is the number of cards you exiled to cast Stalked Minnow.
    I reversed the story for this one as it makes more sense. (Random thought: Flavor wise, would it make more sense to give the token to your opponent? That way you could actually "stalk" the fish.) I love how I can make 5 different cards from the same idea, and still want to keep going.

    1. Stalking Leviathan is pretty awesome. 7GG for a 7/7 with delve is decent on its own, and all-upside fish is a great bonus. I imagine WotC would use regular delve but only count blue cards exiled for the leviathan.

      The one before it is the worst because there's a zero-sum between the creatures' power and so it makes very little difference which is big and which is small.

    2. Stalking Leviathan is pretty ridiculous.

      Yes, you can't delve lands or (monocolor) green cards, but you can potentially vomit 14 power spread across two bodies onto the field on turn 3-4. With enough multicolor support to reliably pay GG out of a mostly blue deck that doesn't seem too difficult.

    3. @Jay: What if that card had a keyword, like Trample or Hexproof. That way if you have nine mana you can get a 9/9 with Trample/Hexproof. Would this create enough of a difference to make the card and the token different?

      Hungry Twins( Not a very good name, I know)-7GG
      Blue Delve, Trample
      CARDNAME enters the battlefield with a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the amount of mana you spent to cast it.
      When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, put an X/X blue Leviathan token unto the battlefield, where X is the number of cards you exiled to cast Stalked Minnow.
      @Jenesis: I would disagree. If Wolfir Silverheart is 5 mana for 12 power, wouldn't this be okay being 14 power for 9? Sure you can make it 14 power for only two mana, but that's the optimal situation. That's not going to happen every game. That's like saying you can flip Jace, Vryns Prodigy on turn 3 all the time. You would have to craft your deck to make that happen. Besides, numbers is more of a development responsibility.
      How about this though:
      Stalking Leviathan 2- 7GG
      Blue Delve
      When Stalked Minnow enters the battlefield, put an X/X blue Leviathan token unto the battlefield under target opponents control, where X is the number of cards you exiled to cast Stalked Minnow.

    4. That does help give it meaning, Zeno, and that's a improvement, but ultimately N-X/N-X + X-N/X-N isn't all that interesting or fun for the player. Timmy's not going to read this card and dream about… anything. There is no magical christmas land here. (It's fine to make cards for Spike instead of Timmy, but we can totally make this for both.)