Monday, April 4, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge Review 040116—Drake-Elf-Demon Synergy

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Hello Artisans,
Anastase here, ready to review our synergy chain design challenge.

Let us get to the cards!

Ecoabismo gives us an interesting starting point with the Keen-Eyed Overseer. I like this card. I guess it would play well with a low-power elf, so it meets the design challenge criteria, and it is in line with blue's color-pie identity and play-style. A neat design.

Jay's Dark Lord of Armies synergizes well with the Keen-Eyed Overseer since the overseer has evasion, and can allow for some surprise boosting of your team's power.

The second ability seems to serve both as an incentive to attack (which is important in MtG since combat is where most of the player interaction happens) and a flavorful way to remind us that dealing with demons has repercussions.

A general question that arose from this design concerned demonic mana costs. Should they not have more {B} in them? I think that in general it is indeed the case. However, given significant restrictions (lack of flying in this case) and a need to synergize with other colors, some times flavor has to be reduced to achieve design goals.

Jack's Archer Commander is strangely red. I like the ETB trigger effect, but we have been seeing a move of this ability from red to green (I call it sucker-punch, since it is fight without retribution). As such I could have seen this card in green. I guess it is not a rare since the previous card was a rare, but I do not know if it is an uncommon power-wise.

The Archer Commander synergizes with Dark Lord of Armies by giving +1/+0 to your team, tapping your weaker creatures to kill off a big baddie, letting you crash into your opponent with your pumped army, safe from blockers, and not get damaged by the Lord's EOT trigger! Very very good synergy.

Ipaulsen gives us a very cool, synergistic drake! I would love to play this creature! If unblocked, it gives pseudo-haste to a creature, and re-triggers its enter-the-battlefield effects. I think that its synergy with the Archer Commander can be confusing, since the Archer Commander will not be able to tap itself for its ETB effect, but still a very cool card!

Taresivon went sneaky on us by creating a defender that clearly synergizes with the previous drake's blinking-into-attack effect. I like it. Its phrasing should probably include "the" after the coma, but over all a nice synergy.

My only real gripe I have with the Tainted Protector is that this demon does not have a significant life-loss drawback for yourself, and I might have been tempted to alter it to:

"Whenever an attacking creature dies, the defending player loses 2 life".

Zeno Rage's Cornered Archer has a name befitting its illustration, yet the mechanics really do not make me feel like it is cornered… It is quite a functional card, but I fear it has too many abilities that do not feel organic to me.

I cannot imagine a standard environment that requires a green rare that is super-focused on killing flyers and nothing else. I preferred the uncommon version of the card, which was very fitting for what it does (even though it would need to have reach).

On the synergy side too, this card seems slightly underwhelming. You can sacrifice it to deal 2 damage to your opponent when it is attacking, but I really feel it could have been something more.

Pasteur's Drakaroo is doing a mulldrifter impersonation. As a card, it is quite powerful. It is great at making your opponent hesitant to attack into it or block it, allowing you to either get in for more damage than you should or survive more damage than you should, given this creature's stats.

I worry it does not feel very synergistic, especially since we could have revived an old combo of blue giving flying to a creature and green shooting down that creature.

As it stands, the elf is only a means of trading one power of flying creatures for one card. Pasteur imagined a situation where you have lots of them in play and you sac your elf for many cards, but if you have lots of 5 CMC flyers in play, you should already be in a good position. All in all, a good card but not the most synergistic in my opinion.

This demon obviously synergizes with the drake since it allows you to sac it for profit! It is a very flavorful way to give black an effect usually seen in white (Concerted Effort, Odric, Lunarch Marshal). Thumbs up!

Given ample warning, your creatures can get stronger and bring reinforcements. The scout witnesses/was part of the massacre, so now you get a chance to beef up and respond. I like this. It synergizes very well with the previous card, even though the elf would be warning your army that it is going to be slaughtered by a creature that is part of said army. I would expect a riot after such news, not a resurgence!

The Drake queen uses a templating I really enjoy. This is a neat way to limit an endless spawning of drakes while retaining a very very powerful effect. Also, if you are able to sacrifice these tokens, your elf will warn you about it, and in practice you would have payed {2} to generate {G}{G} and give a +1/+1 to one of your creatures!

Finally we have the demon of infinite power.

I feel strange about it being UB. I like its effects, but would prefer it to either be mono-black or grixis. The synergy of copying the drake's ability exists but it is a card that would probably synergize with any card… perhaps adding "sacrifice a creature, tap: copy target spell, ablity or effect"?

Also I would not be surprised if development upped the price tag.

Well done this week again, Artisans!

As a quick note, is there any improvement you wish to see in these challenges? Do you have types of challenges you prefer to others?

Until next week, keep crafting!


  1. That was great fun.

    With Drakaroo, I assumed the point was, if you were using the elf ANYWAY, Drakaroo could be a flier-blocker that you didn't mind losing, not that you'd deliberately try to use them together. But maybe that's not enough for synergy.

    1. The drake is a good design, Jack. I just found it did not adhere to the synergy principal of the challenge.
      Your other designs did, though :)

    2. Mine was the one after that, not Drakaroo. I *try* to avoid arguing the case for my cards :)

      But I'm not clear if I understand a different thing by "synergy" than most people do? It's not a combo, but the Cornered Archer and Drakaroo are clearly both a bit better together than they are alone.

    3. Yes, but only slightly. Combining well, or "combo" is a synonym for synergy for me, but I would say that synergy, in my book at least, is more about enabling parts of other cards, like Shard of broken glass does for delirium cards.

    4. Every pair of cards that isn't a 'nonbo,' actively canceling each other out has some synergy. Runeclaw Bear and Murder play better together than alone, because the removal clears the way for the bear / the bear presses the advantage after the removal deals with an opposing threat.

      For 'synergy' to be significant enough to recognize, I'd use your own qualification, Jack: Would you "deliberately try to use them together?"

    5. Hm, I think that was ambiguous and I'm not sure which I meant. I wouldn't say, "can I make a deck out of this pair of cards". But if I was playing the elf anyway and saying "what other cards might I play with it", then "fliers with leave-the-battlefield effects" is one thing I'd look for.

      I agree it's kind of marginal, since a creature with some other sort of evasion is probably better.

      But maybe it's like a 3R 1/1 goblin with "this gets +1/+1 if you control another goblin". You'd play that... pretty much never. But what it synergises with is goblins..?

    6. Well in terms of synergy you could see how the archer commander and the dark lord of armies synergise, for example. PLaying the two of them has many subtle ways that make each card better.

      The 3R goblin you suggest is something that does have synergy with goblins, albeit a very mundain and intuitive one.

      Though, to be fair, it would either way not see print with those stats in a NWO set.

      Anyhow, imagine if the lead designer of a set had come and told you we need a drake creature with this art that synergises with this green rare elf, to encourage constructed play of a simic deck. That is what this type of design challenges are about, in my head.

  2. I like how Demon of Infinite Power escalates the cost. Paying 4 life for 4 cards but twelve life for 8 is expressed pretty subtly here, and is a tempting-but-dangerous rate.

    1. Still, I think drawing 4 should normally be good enough on its own. I fear this suffers from too many effects on one card. It would have been cool with either. I let it fly on a mythic, but even there it feels like wasting design space and giving two parts of the puzzle in one card for jhony.