Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spotlight Challenge 3 Final Review—Devin E. Green

Here's the challenge Devin E. Green took lead on:

Design six cards that inject a clear flavor-identity into a returning mechanic—either by adding flavor where there is none (ala cycling), or by re-branding a returning mechanic (ala chroma and devotion). Include at least two commons, one uncommon, and one rare or mythic. Include at least two colors.

Here's the initial submission.

Let's take a look at the final submission.

Stalker Bush doesn't have a keyword, but it does have a mechanic: When it dies, you choose a small bonus. Pretty sure this is going to make more sense once we see our keyword, so let's move on for now.

Devin and his team settled on symbiosis. The only change from synthesis is the addition of "as a symbiont," a status I'm confident some of the upcoming cards will make use of.

Root Guardian is a Giant Spider you can make 4/6 by 'hiding' one of your other creatures. Somberwald Spider is clearly an apt comparison, morbid asking you to get one of your other creatures killed instead. Whether Root Guardian is fair at {2}{G}{G} depends on the environment and is up to Development to figure out. There is definitely a place and a price where this card is good for the game.

We can now come back to Stalker Bush and see that it is designed to be a symbiont. Play it early, hide it with a mutant, and make that mutant (or whatever) even bigger. When the mutant dies, Bush comes back and we can chump block and gain 2 life (or start the cycle again if we have another mutant). It's nice to have a support card that isn't useless on its own (though we don't want it too good, or decks that need to draft it won't be able to).

Make Man-o'-War green-blue and you get to add symbiosis 2, making it a potential 4/4 for three that bounces your opponent's blocker. That's an uncommon that should have no trouble seeing Standard play. Assuming it's printably fair (I'm skeptical, but not remotely sure), Cephaloweft is strong advertising for symbiosis and thus the set.

With flash, Ambush Plasm can hide a creature about to die, giving you a 3/3 for three (potentially as a surprise blocker) and returning that creature when it dies. This is beautiful. (I'd put this in white if the set had white symbiosis, but it doesn't, and blue is fine.)

Zonotic Mimic gets a name tweak, but otherwise remains untouched. I still think it would be plenty cool with symbiosis 1 or 2, letting us save big numbers for other symbiosis cards, but it's a compelling design regardless. I'd sure love to play with this, however it comes out of Dev.

It might be cool if we limit Cnidarian Mimic to copying the creature you hide, since that makes a ton of flavor sense and also guarantees the card is balanced even with symbiosis 4, but that's harder to use and notably less powerful.

Biocolossus features two of the ideas I had when I first saw this keyword: You can hide up to two creatures if you like, and you can return them better off than they left. Awesome.

Trample is a no-brainer. Haste is a little odd from a flavor/Design perspective, but I wouldn't bet against Dev adding haste to this 7cc mythic to make it conceivable for Constructed.

We finally get to see the symbiont label in action on our mythic. At face-value, this isn't enough justification for that label, but one can imagine (or see for yourself) how lower rarity cards might use it too.

Symbiosis is excellent. It's a vast upgrade in flavor over champion and a significant upgrade in both templating and gameplay as well. It's unique enough that I can imagine playtesting showing it to be un-develop-able, but given it's advantages over champion, and champion was printed, I would bet symbiosis is good to go at some scale.

Well done, Devin, and well done, Artisans. I was imminently pleased with how much so many of your contributed to this challenge, and it clearly shows in the final result. Devin, if you feel compelled to call out specific or general contributions, please do so.

I accidentally gave Devin an entire extra week, so we can't compare these results with the other Spotlight Challenges… not that we would (that's not what these challenges are about).
Who's next? You'll start March 1st or 2nd and go for the next two weeks, approximately.


  1. I'm up for a challenge, but only if there are no other takers who want a first crack at it.

  2. I will note that the first design, Stalker Bush, can't give its counter to the symbiosis creature using it as a symbiont, I believe. If it can't, then that's pretty unintuitive.

    1. No, you definitely can. It's removed as the symbiosis creature enters the battlefield, so it is a valid target when the trigger goes on the stack.

  3. Replies
    1. http://goblinartisans.blogspot.com/2016/03/spotlight-challenge-4czynski.html

  4. I liked the idea of shouting out, but I was consciously saving it to the end so I could properly thank everyone. Thanks to James Bartolotti, Ipaulsen, Zefferal, Cznzski, Jack(cartesiandaemon) and Jason Carrington who all participated at least a little, I read everything you wrote multiple times, and it was tremendous to hear your thoughts.

    A few more detailed shout-outs, in no particular order:

    @Zeno_Rage: You really came through helping me explore the possibilities, and I think your comments were often the most encouraging. You jumped in at just the right time.

    @P_for_Pizza: Symbiosis was your design before it was mine, and you outright created many of the final cards. Most of the work I did was exploring possibilities and changing the flavor to be more evocative. I couldn't have produced something this good without you.

    @Jenesis: Your comments were, from start to finish, the most challenging ones I received. It is essential in any creative endeavor to hear critical (not necessarily negative, but critical) observations, and you brought that to the table. Thanks for arguing with me!

    @Taresivon: A new voice (for me, at least I don't remember talking to you before this) Remember people, we also produced a complete submission for a second-mechanic, and it was possible because of Taresivon. I actually think that Unearth was more printable, if less daring, and I ended up including many of the designs in the custom set I'm working on at the moment, which really brought it to life!

    And of course, thanks to @Jay, who made this possible, and who probably got me into game design in the first place when I found this blog lo those many years ago.

    1. I kinda wish now that I gave a more in depth shout out for my challenge....

    2. Thanks for the shoutout, Devin. I was only bummed that last week I hadn't the time to give you some more feedback. Nonetheless, great work!

  5. I really liked symbiosis. I guess we could also have a black green version of it that is parasitism, that somehow exiles opponents creatures? Or gets exiled?

    Parasitism N: When CARDNAME comes into play, you can exile it until target creature dies. When that creature dies, exile it and return CARDNAME into play with N +1/+1 counters on it.

    Anyhow. Good work Devin &co.!