Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Weekend Art Design Challenge Review 121815—dchan, sanskaran, 404mockingbirds

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Choose one of these illustrations and design a card that cares about colorless mana.

Zeno Rage explains that the change from lands producing {1} to {C} is errata, and that therefore, R&D's Secret Lair prevents lands printed before Oath of the Gatewatch from being able to pay {C} costs. I'm not convinced—given that no definitions are changing, only the symbols that represent colorless mana—but let's suppose Zeno's right:

Does the new printing feature the old symbol or the new one? What makes reprinting Lair relevant is that it prevents old lands from paying costs that require {C}, and if that's your goal in putting Lair in your deck, it doesn't make sense for it to produce {C} itself. All cards printed from now on that produce colorless matter will use the {C} symbol, but an un-card like this could easily be an exception.

In either case, would a reprint like this be worth a slot in a third un-set? If it were worth reprinting for other reasons alone, the added context would be a nice bonus, but given that there are nearly zero contexts in which un-cards are allowed to solve problems bad enough to need solving (like casting Kozilek off of four Urza's lands), I doubt it justifies itself.

Mana Deprivation makes creatures colorless, and vanilla, and… um… cancels any Giant Growth effects currently affecting it? I'm really not sure I'm interpreting that last part as intended, but it's my best guess. It's very possible that ending effects that would end at EOT is impossible for black-border Magic for the same reason that extending EOT effects indefinitely is, but let's assume it is possible:

If Mana Deprivation cost {C} and only targeted one creature, would it be a fair card? It's a one-mana Turn to Frog that doesn't shrink its target but does limit it in two other ways. For {1} that would be absurd; For {C}, it still seems strong, but perhaps it's fair? I don't think any of us have enough data to know. Even so, add replicate {C} and I'm willing to bet this is just too strong.

If this card's effects are permanent, there are memory issues.

There's also a rules issue: All the cards that remove all abilities creatures also set their P/T because */* creatures become undefined otherwise, literally breaking the game.

Those concerns aside, this is a neat card and manages to feel perfectly colorless which is a very hard thing to do.

Tartraxes follows the exact model set forth by the 15 gods of Theros, but for colorless mana. The big difference is that it will be much harder to become a creature since there is only one set that features {C} in the costs of spells (or maybe two, since this card belongs to a set that isn't OGW). To make up for that fact, Tartraxes has an absolutely terrifying activated ability. Starting turn five and for every turn thereafter, you can Scour from Existence every turn. You can hit everything without hexproof, including Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and all your opponent's lands.

That's surely much too strong, particularly on an indestructible card. Rather than leave the creature side irrelevant and make the non-creature side so powerful, I'd rather see a merely-Theros-God-level activated ability and huge stats to reward the player who does manage to overcome the difficult devotion threshold: A colorless-only god seems like the perfect place to finally make that 20/20 creature we've been waiting for.

This feels perfectly colorless.

Voidhowler requires you to have colorless mana to cast it at all, and it also punishes you for having any colored permanents. I like drawbacks more than a lot of designers, but these are redundant. Remove either part and the card serves the same function, both mechanically and thematically. Given the art, I'd prefer to keep the text and simplify the cost to {4}. That seems like a pretty cool card. Could even be uncommon, given how hard an all-colorless deck would be in Limited. Very colorless.

Primordial Peak is the first land in a long time to remind me of Dwarven Ruins or Sandstone Needle. Impressively, this is a land that can produce not just two but three mana in a single turn, yet might actually be printable. It looks printable, anyhow. I'm not sure all the flavor Devin was going for carries through in this one card, but I do think it stands on its own. Thematically, it might make more sense if red spells built the pressure, but that would be much stronger and likely require nerfing the amount it generates. I wonder/suspect that Peak should sacrifice itself when it erupts.


Green has been doing a lot of biased Fog effects lately, and this seems like a natural variation for a block like Battle for Zendikar. Simple enough, often weak but very conditionally amazing. Nice!

Terrain Engulfer can be a massive hexproof creature for just four mana, provided you've got a lot of lands you don't need to produce colored mana. Given that it costs colored mana, it'll be a measly 2/2 if you cast it on turn 4 but it could be a 6/6 on turn 8. Or maybe an 8/8… it's not entirely clear if you can pay the mana cost before you pay the additional cost. How do you profit from such a card? If most of your lands are colorless anyhow, the shadow counters you put on them cost you nothing. Maybe you've got some kind of Dimir Signet so you can use/change all lands colorless, but still cast Engulfer. Honestly, just getting bigger isn't that exciting for a hexproof creature since they're already the best targets for auras and equipment. And Plated Slagwurm already does this without jeopardizing your ability to cast spells.

You can put multiple shadow counters on a card at no extra cost or benefit, which is weird. I'd change the additional cost to an "as ~ ETB" trigger, and I might count lands that can only produce {C} rather than the ones with shadow counters on them. And I'm not sure why this is black, other than the art and typeline. Could be blue and/or green, or better yet, colorless.

Pure is a keyword that prevents you from spending any color of mana to cast a spell other than that spell's colors. That limitation can give us more for our mana, and pushes us toward mono-color decks. I'd be cautious with that, but I'm curious enough I'd want to try it out.

Purifying Fire is a Pyroclasm-and-a-half. I like how simple that is, but I don't quite feel like I'm getting rewarded for satisfying the pure requirement. That restriction might be what makes this possible at uncommon for its environment, but I wouldn't use this as a preview card to show off pure.

Amusingly, a set featuring pure could totally have lands with "{T}: Add {R} or {C} to your mana pool" and they'd actually be relevant. Is that a good sign for the mechanic or a bad one?

Sentinel Point makes colorless mana, spends colorless mana and punishes colorless creatures, but especially those that required colorless mana to be cast. While it's natural for a game of Magic to see two players pursuing the same strategy and competing for dominance along that axis, that rarely fits the fiction we're trying to sell. Sentinel Point is sending a mixed message, and it's not clear whether it's moral is that colorless is good or bad, because we're using it to punish it. I can kind of imagine using this technique to show a desperate situation in which some planeswalkers can only defeat the Phyrexians by accepting Phyrexian corruption themselves and using that power against their corruptors, but I'm not getting that here.

From a purely mechanical perspective, I like the first two lines here, but I'm not sure the last line holds its own weight.

Spectral Ookami is a 2/2 for {2} which puts it above curve for red and blue, but at uncommon that gets a pass. It can change any number of colorless mana into any color of mana, and that's a big deal. In Limited, it turns your occasional utility lands into painless Mana Confluences, but in Modern, it turns your Urza's Tower into a Gilded Lotus. Testing might show otherwise, but it looks like this spirit wolf walks the thin line between looking busted and not breaking any formats, which is a great way to sell Magic.

My inner Vorthos desperately wants some flavor text to fill in the gap between art and ability. Maybe: "Darkness isn't void; it is the canvas upon which everything is painted" or "The unknown could be anything."


I'm glad to see forged again now that factory has come true. I still quite like voidborn, which reminds me of sacred/sacredborn from Muraganda (but is much much cleaner). Voidborn makes one colorless land a big deal and offers the player a lot of potential at a low complexity cost. It's definitely tricky to develop around, but very possible. If we see another colorless-matters set, and I suspect it's only a matter of time, I would nearly expect voidborn there.

Astral Direwolf sits in a good spot, coming in under-powered with no colorless mana, as a Nessian Courser with 1, and as a 4/4 for three with 2, though a {1}{G} 2/2 with voidborn might usurp it (but just color-shift either and we're golden).

Soulfade Field requires exactly two black mana and two colorless mana to cast, but it can permanently shrink creatures by up to -5/-5, while leaving your Eldrazi horde untouched. Most of the time it will just shrink things -1/-1 or -2/-2, and the things it shrinks harder will tend to be larger by dint of their goldness anyhow, so while this is definitely strong, it could well be printable in a Standard without 3-color cards. It does a good job of feeling both black and colorless. Probably needs to be legendary to prevent shutting entire decks out.

Awesome stuff, artisans! I'm really impressed how much you all were able to express a colorless identity unique from all the colors' identities. And there are some significantly cool cards/mechanics here. Woo, colorless!

Thanks to P for Pizza for rendering the cards.


  1. Yeah, you're right about Terrain Engulfer-- it's way too much of a hoop to jump through for not enough reward. Iterating based on your comments:

    Terrain Engulfer 3C
    Creature- Eldrazi (Rare)
    As CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may put shadow counters on any number of lands you control.
    CARDNAME gets +1/+1 for each land you control with a shadow counter on it. Whenever one of those lands would produce colored mana, it produces {C} instead.

    1. Also, one reason I'm looking forward to the new spotlight challenge is that we aren't seeing as much discussion or feedback in the WAC comments these days.

  2. O shit, I forgot EOT clause in my card xD

  3. Yeah, it's always, always great to read through the submissions, but I'm looking forward to actually being more invested in the new set-up.

  4. The flavor behind Spectral Ookami is an extended series of puns and references to the video games I drew inspiration from.

    I did eventually come up with a plane and a story behind it, but I couldn't find anything pithy enough to use as flavor text. Might share it here if anyone cares.

  5. You're absolutely right about my design of Tartraxes. Of course the creature side needs to be way more powerful than the abilities. Good catch.