Monday, January 25, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge Review 012216—Knights

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Hello all! Anastase here. This week's challenge can be found here.

First of all I want to thank Jay for letting me run these. It does help you evaluate card design a lot and I have been enjoying them greatly. I love doing them and have more ready to go, but I would love to hear some input on the WAC format. I also guess that others might be interesting in doing them, as it is an interesting experience.

Now, some ramblings about the challenge. I was blown away by the participation and the research done. I really hoped for some discussion on what being a knight means, and seeing designs that are trying to represent what a knight of each color would consider important. Special cudos to Jay and Bradley for their analysis in the comments and on a whole blog post!

Iconic creatures deserve to have an in-depth analysis of what makes them tick, and I hope we get to discuss more about them in the future.

So without further ado, on to the cards:

Green Knight was the submission by Jack. He is a human knight that makes reference to the Arthurian story of Gawain and the Green Knight, and being healed of a fatal wound. Since this is a real-world homage, some Vorthoses will love the nudge to Gawain, while others will dislike it since it will not appear in a core set (R.I.P. core sets). I think Wizards likes to give each kind of kid a cookie, so this is very probably something they would still do and if it is in Bant no one can complain.

The second ability is quite unique. Not extremely NWO friendly but easy enough to grasp and quite flavorful. The issues here are with the first ability of the Green Knight and the card's general power level.

Making a creature lose first strike is quite unique (and you alternatively could have given the Green Knight first strike when blocking or being blocked by first strike to the same effect), but it adds a layer of complexity. Now this extra layer of complexity could be justified if it serves a specific purpose. If combat against first strike creatures is something you expect to happen very often in the format, then you could see this printed on some cards. If the flavor of the ability was on par with things like "destroy target angel" of Halo Hunter, I could also see it happen. However, this is not the case.

Finally, the ability of coming back to life along with the other creature it blocked or was blocked by is really not that impressive in itself. What does it do for the board state? If you block or get blocked by a X/2, then it is as though the combat did not happen, stalling the board. It seems bizarre on a 2/2 for CMC 2.

While I do like the flavor of the card—which is very important when printing iconic cards—after thinking a lot about it, I believe that Green Knight has room for improvement.

Holy Knight
Jay's submission was very interesting. He created a whole cycle of cards that cared about, as he says, "...looking at a knight following its principles and swearing fealty to a lord who exemplifies those same principles." And, indeed, it is a very thematic and appropriately costed cycle of uncommon knights. This design also can inspire a cycle with "If an opponent has cast an X or Y spell this game, CARDNAME has KEYWORD."

Both cycles have the added benefit of not suffering from memory issues since you can look at the graveyard, exile and the board to remember if it happened or not, but Jay's cycle also helps set you in some colors in a draft.

Czynski did not like the horseless art for the blue knight and chose the art for the red knight for his card. Prowess is a slam-dunk mechanic from R&D and it fits quite well the flavor of a cunning knight. And the second ability helps you choose your fights. I really like this design, even though I think that R&D has moved away from removing-from-combat for complexity issues.

Bradley took a very long dive into the knight issue.

I like the concept of the cycle Bradley proposed. (The creature has keywords that are secondary in the color and primary in the other two colors).

That being said, indeed the card feels slightly lackluster to me. {2}{G}{G} for a 2/2 knight in green?
I do understand the strength of deathtouch and hexproof—and they do fit the green knight—but still… at that cost, this is not an uncommon I will get excited to draft, or build around/include in Constructed.

I think this needs a bit of iteration still. I would easily see it at {1}{G}{G}.

Theo's Knight of Knowledge is probably an uncommon 2/2 that rewards you for having played 2 non-creature spells during the upkeep phase of a player's turn. This is a strong ability, and would be something Kiln Fiend.dec would probably enjoy a lot. It does create a risk/reward moment of making you cast your instants during upkeep to fully take advantage of its power, but it could supplement both U/R and U/G decks, as well as U/auras and U/equipment decks. I think the card would be better if it only rewarded you with 1 card at end of turn and had a higher or stricter CMC.

The wording of Onyx Knight bugs me: When I attack with it during the declare attackers phase, he is not blocked. Can I remove him at that point and destroy an untapped creature??? Jenesis' intent was different as she stated in the thread, but I still feel bugged because, at heart, I like this card. It is probably undercosted, and could function just as well with provoke, but in spirit I like it. It still needed a tiny bit of iteration to hit the spot.

The last submission this week is from P is for Pizza. He imagines a team-up mechanic that is interesting mechanically. It threads close to soul-bond in an interesting way. The mechanic itself is promising although I have concerns about memory issues. The two implementations suggested by P is for Pizza are interesting but do not really evoke knighthood to me.

That's all for this week. Many interesting cards again, artisans! The challenge generated a lot of interesting discussions, and lead to some interesting designs. I see that the puzzle of the green and blue knights attracted most of you. I cannot blame you. Designers prefer uncharted territory, but bear in mind that it would be interesting to think about how they would make the others nowadays. I was slightly sad no one tried to reinterpret the Red Knight!

Good work everyone! Don't forget to offer your input on how/if you would like WACs to continue!


  1. Thanks for this challenge and review, Anastase.

    If folks would like to see more of these, say so.

    If anyone else would like to run a challenge, LMK.

  2. In fairness to Jenesis, "attacks and isn't blocked" is an existing Magic template on 35 cards (not to mention the very similar ninjas.) Even with that precedent, I agree it's one of Magic's worst templates.

    If we're going to put deathtouch and trample on the same creature, it would demand reminder text to clarify that blocking it with one creature will end with 1 damage trampling over (at base power 2).

    1. I agree that the template exists, but still, I find it to be a poor choice.

      The trample and deathtoutch make it really interesting for me, and I feel that at rare it is ok for it to not have a reminder text.

    2. I agree that template isn't great, but I think its normally for challenges to use the existing magic wording for something.

      OTOH, you could probably be more direct and say "if a creature could have blocked this and didn't"

    3. The white knight I submitted was definitely the cleaner of the two. I'm still glad I took on the challenge of doing the black knight card. (Intended to have daarken's art, by the way - trample doesn't make a ton of sense with a bipedal humanoid.) The deathtouch was because I really, really wanted to use trample to capture the flavor of an aggressive cavalry charge, but at the same time I didn't want the only keyword on the card to be primarily aligned with a nonblack color. The other primary-black keywords I considered (menace, intimidate, regenerate) didn't make a lot of sense alongside trample.

      I enjoy these and would like to see more of these.

    4. @ Jack: I steer away from using nonstandard templates because I find they raise questions more often than not.

      For example, say my opponent has two Jackal Familiars. He knows that if he blocks with both, they will both die because of deathtouch, so neither of them block. Do I get to blow one up with Knight's trigger? If this template works like provoke, the answer is yes, but there's a valid argument to be made that it doesn't (or it shouldn't because it plays better the other way).

    5. @Jenesis, indeed, the white knight was a cleaner design, but I chose to portray the black one since no one had taken up the challenge of making a black knight. I am sorry for messing up with the image, I got lost someplace during the editing.

    6. Platinum Knight is pretty sweet.

    7. He is useful at every stage of the game, which is quite unusual for a 2 drop. Also it uses pariah in a very interesting way. By the way Pariah could also be black mechanically.

    8. It could. Black tends not to be able to prevent harm to itself, though. (See: "Effects that prevent or redirect damage cannot be used to counter this loss of life".) The best it can do is heal off the damage by draining it out of others.

      Bonus flavor text:

      Platinum Knight
      “Fear not, for I am ever by your side.”

      Onyx Knight
      “Be afraid, for you cannot retreat from me!”

    9. I was surprised that Shimian Night Stalker was the only old black card that did this. Foisting damage from yourself onto your minions fits black's color pie philosophically to a tee. Arguably better than white, who should be doing the opposite ala Blood of the Martyr, Sivvi's Valor, and Vassal's Duty.