Monday, February 1, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge Review 012916—Colorless

Weekend Art Challenge Review
I must start this week, as always, by thanking you all for your participation. Unfortunately this week I had to grapple with windows 10 and MSE, and as such I was unable to do the renders on time. Thankfully Jay came to my rescue.

So this week's challenge was to try and differentiate between colorless and generic mana. It is a hard task, one on which wizards has not given us enough information.

The mana dynamics of using colorless are akin to using a sixth color, but the flavor they have attached to it—up until now—is that of the Eldrazi. Supposedly everything is infused with mana, but colorless mana is not impregnated by one of the color's temperaments. It could therefore be equally appropriate to use it for other colorless cards, such as artifacts.

Even better, {2}/{C} could indicate that it is easier to build something with clinically pure mana, than to try to infuse it with mana that has its own idea of what it is. This would be a nice sub-theme to Tesla in my opinion, just like the original guildmages were a nice sub-theme in Ravnica.

Another path that we could explore is a balance of how much of a color we put in a spell, using {C}/M (where M can be WUBRG) to examine how much "personality" of a given color has been added to a spell.

With that said, it is time to explore what you guys designed. Since this week had few participants, I will make an exception and discuss all the designs that were submitted.

Pitch empty is a strong combat trick / removal / for hybrid. I appreciate the flavor of using the colorless mana to indicate "connection with exile" that has been established by the Eldrazi take on colorless. Solid design.

Genericide is the brainchild of an Eternal Melvin. It's mother, Jenesis, chose to use {4}{B} instead of {B}{B}{B}{B}{B} not because she hates devotion, but rather to try and combo the mana cost with mana reduction. The distaste this unclear mana cost can cause to some people is largely outweighed in my mind by the fact that it has a specific target audience. Just like flip-a-coin cards, niche-lord and warp-world cards it is important to make cards that will be loved by some subsections of the community.

That being said, this card is somewhat of a griefer card. I do believe it is printable, and that it is less damaging than contamination and land destruction, but will it be fun for the opponent to play against? No. Still it can punish greedy decks and is probably a card that could be a silver bullet for development against a prevalence of 3+color decks.

Ipaulsen's submission hits the spot. It is a filter land that filters out colors. It differentiates generic from colorless for newer players in a very organic way. A very neat design that I expect to see one day.

The Archer Squad/Soulless One submission by theo raised some questions. With a CMC of 4 this card is expensive and slightly underwhelming. In its present form, unless you are besieged by flyers, you will always want to cast it by spending colorless mana to get a 4/4. Double faced cards are a luxury for R&D, and as such I believe that this card should create more of a dilemma. That, however, is more of an issue that development could fix.

The idea here is that if you pay {C} for these types of DFC cards, then the card loses its soul and becomes a type of soulless, colorless, typeless monster. I appreciate the story there, and I believe that it can be further dug into.

Which is what zefferal did. This is the same idea, only slightly more clean, and not using DFC. This demonstrates that there is some interesting space to dig, on which we could iterate.

Ah. The beauty of a well executed pun that makes a card more alive. I want to print one and run it in a deck. I think this is the right power level for the card and it fits into what I described in the introduction about using colorless to indicate it is easier to build a machine with colorless mana.

Zeno's submission is worded somewhat strangely. So I spend {3}{C}{C}{U}{U}. X is 5. I spent two {C}. Target player draws 10. This is unique and powerful and it only took me two tries to get it. 10 cards for 7 mana is ok. But how does it scale with other values?

X \ {C}01234567CMC






Holy strength! It scales exponentially. Who would have thought? Players like daydreaming and this card gives you the opportunity to dream big!

I like the intent and the flavor. It has a "the blind eternities hold so much knowledge" kind of vibe. Zeno himself states that he feels the card needs better wording. I would have gone with some kind of kicker, but I have not found an elegant way to parse it. Any thoughts artisans?

Frontline Fighter is yet another design that uses the colorless part to signify a transformation into an artifact. I am not really partial to the choice of keyword, since it does not feel I replace the card, but that I upgrade it instead.

Augment has been taken from us, but how about upgrade?

I could also see this happen with Phyrexian mana on New Phyrexia.

The final card we review this week is Mecha-Gisa's Monster. An uncommon that could warp Limited around it. I like the card, but I find it potentially too strong. I could see this as a rare, costing {1}{B} and having "{C}, exile a creature card from your/a graveyard, put a +1/+1 counter on cardname."

Well, this week's challenge was by no means easy. I did not find enough images that felt like creatures while retaining the weird colorless feel. I did not want to shoehorn this into making artifacts that use colorless, but in retrospect perhaps I should have. None the less, you artisans came through with interesting designs.

What are your thoughts on the matter?
Do you feel we are able to see the difference between colorless and generic mana? Are there things we missed?


  1. Replies
    1. Yes. It was a better take on obsolete it I think. I had read and forgotten about it.

  2. Ooh. Ooh.

    Archer Squad {2}{G}{G}
    Creature - Elf Archer (common)
    Soulcast (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {C}.)

    or, for more backward-compatability:

    Archer Squad {2}{G}{G}
    Creature - Elf Archer (common)
    Soulmorph {2}{G} (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {C}. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

    1. OR if 2/2 is too small / far from the original concept…

      Archer Squad {2}{G}{G}
      Creature - Elf Archer (common)
      Soulcast {3}{C} (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {3}{C}. It ETB with two +1/+1 counters on it.)

      Archer Squad {3}{G}
      Creature - Elf Archer (common)
      Soulmorph {2}{G} (You may cast this card face down as a 2/2 creature for {2}{C}. It ETB with two +1/+1 counters on it. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

    2. This is cool. So you create a new morph variant that requires colorless. It feels flavorful but kind of forces you into stretching your mana base into colorless, which is the opposite of what morph did: it let you splash a bit more freely since you were guaranteed to be able to land a three drop.

      Perhaps the two +1/+1 is enough of an incentive to do so, however.

  3. This was interesting. I felt like there wasn't much to say, that most likely colorless-matters would be used fairly rarely, like other Eldrazi mechanics, and otherwise not much would change. But I'm probably wrong, there's often more design space whenever wizards cleans up templating a lot.

    And it's always good to explore even if you don't expect to find something.

    I think my favourite wasn't quite submitted, but would be a combination of a couple of the mechanics, something like "2G. Do X. If C was spent on this, do Y as well."

    1. That could be good, care to suggest a design?

    2. Whim of the Eldrazi
      2 damage to target creature or player.
      If C was spent to cast this, also draw a card.

      Maybe a cycle all with a cantrip rider. Or another alternative would be to soup up colorless spells:

      Dimensions of Eldrazi
      Target creature gets +6/+6 UEOT.
      You may cast ~ as though it were an instant if you pay C to cast it. If you do, that creature gains flying UEOT.

  4. Maybe this would work for Knowledge of the AEther?

    Knowledge of the AEther {X}{U}{U}
    Sorcery - Mythic
    Choose target player. For each {C} spent to cast ~, that player draws X cards.

    1. That's a great template for the effect.

      Multiplication is almost impossible to develop around. I'd sooner expect something like "Draw X cards, plus an additional card for each {C} spent to cast ~."

      There's also the point that we don't need two variables:
      Draw two cards for each {C} spent to cast ~.

    2. This is so awkward that it does nothing if you cast it for UUUUU, but as far as other options go:

      2CUU: 2 cards
      1CCUU: 4 cards
      CCCUU: 6 cards
      Is the +1 card over Jace's Ingenuity worth the much more difficult casting cost? Probably not. So you're only ever wanting to cast this for 6, in which case it might as well have C in the mana cost to begin with.

      The X scaling version makes my head hurt, but as a mythic Eldrazi-flavored card, I can accept that as being kind of the point.

    3. Another way to word it would be; "Target player draws X cards. Repeat this process once for each colorless mana spent to cast CARDNAME."

      My intent was just as Jenesis pointed out, except more of a Blind Eternities vibe than eldrazi.

  5. We can also go the other way.

    Pure Flame {4}{R}
    Pure (If no {C} was spent casting ~, it's pure.)
    ~ deals 4 damage to target creature. If it's pure, it also deals 4 damage to that creature's controller.

    Pure Dino {4}{G}
    Pure (If no {C} was spent casting ~, it's pure.)
    ~ ETB with a +1/+1 counter on it if it's pure.

  6. Today's article has some thoughts on colorless too!

  7. FWIW, I am an Eternal Constructed Timmy Spike Vorthos Melvin. Yes, I wear a lot of hats.

    Mech-Gisa's Monster is pretty terrifying. A 2/2 for 2 with menace is already ahead of the curve, and in the late game it can potentially be large enough to one-shot an opponent.