Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge Review 052616—Stop Skulking.

Hello Artisans,
I am quite overdue with this review. Here is the challenge I am reviewing.

Skulk is an interesting mechanic, making you care about low power creatures, allowing you to slip under stronger creature boards. It is very easy to understand, and will play differently depending on the board state. Unfortunately, it was often not rewarding enough in the games I have played.

Let us see if there are any NWO contenders!

First off, we have zefferal with the deglamour mechanic (not to be confused with deglamer, the card).
Deglamour plays with repeatable exile at common, which I am not too fond of in an evergreen mechanic.
It also allows you to block endlessly without repercussions. An obvious improvement would be to only care about being blocked instead. Even with that we would often end up in situations where you thoughtlessly attack since your creature will not die in combat, yet it would get blocked and the board state would stagnate.

As always, I would like to playtest to be proven wrong, but my instinct is that this is not the replacement we are looking for. I would like it on some cards however, just not as a named mechanic.

Pasteur's Camouflage mechanic does not prevent your opponent from playing cards, it just makes their lands matter more. I like the basic idea, but having multiple creatures with this ability is not that useful, since they do not react that well. I like the conditional unblockability and caring about untapped lands, but I could see it as:

Camouflage: This creature cannot be blocked unless your opponent pays {1}.

I could also see other payments, such as milling cards, life, putting cards on top of library etc.

The name made me think about "unblockable as long as you have an unblocked creature with greater power attacking."

If we could find a way to maintain the cleanness of the design while making it scale to the number of creatures, it would be a very possible evergreen mechanic.

​David E Green gave us Infiltrate. This is reminiscent of Hardened Berserker and does not feel too U/B to me. It is slightly too R/G for my tastes. In the comments people seemed to have a similar issue arguing for and against turning the phrasing to only benefit non-creature spells.

While I like the flavor of infiltrate, I think that there must be a more flavorful and exciting way to care about creatures connecting with an opponent. While it is quite easy to grasp what it does, I do not think a 1/2 {1}{B} with infiltrate would be very interesting. I would need to playtest to be convinced that this is an evergreen mechanic worthy of parsimonious inclusion in every set.

Ipaulsen's mechanic (taunt) reminds me of Provoke (Whenever this creature attacks, you may have target creature defending player controls untap and block it if able), an already existing mechanic. Taunt is a good mechanic that avoids the complications of Provoke with the untap part and makes you have more control of the battle. While flavor-wise it could be interpreted as Dimir to some extent, it mostly feels green/red. I would love to test it.

Ipaulsen also started a discussion on a weird mechanic idea, based on the more defensive side of blue and black: trample for blockers!

This is reminiscent of Meglonoth, a card which was critiqued by MaRo—if I recall correctly—for promoting stale board states that in turn make the game last too long since no one is attacking, and reduce interaction, leading to games that are less enjoyable.

​Jack's Nightmare mechanic is very close to mine and as such I might be very biased when I say I really like it. Caring about cards going into graveyard is what Dimir does. If that makes them unblockable too, even better. Perhaps the name needs some tweaking but I would love to test it.

My take on the challenge was inspired by prowess and seems obvious, since Ben Nassau also came to that conclusion:
Culmination (Whenever one or more cards are put into an opponent's graveyard from anywhere, CARDNAME gets +1/+1 UEOT.)
It does not care if they are put through a mill effect, a discard effect or a removal spell or ability being cast.

The alternative proposed was Scheming, which unfortunately is not really a mechanic as much as a condition to get some mechanics, and as such would probably not befit the evergreen mechanic status, but it could easily be a mechanic in a future set..

​P for Pizza brought us Sneaky. The mechanic does not live up to its name, for me. Sneaking around does not reduce the attack, it avoids it. But even more, from gameplay perspectives this is equivalent of giving your creature +0/+1 when blocking or blocked. It's not very interesting and adds complexity to the board without reason.

​I have to give props to Jay for presenting a plethora of mechanics and iterating his design until he reached a version of Sneaky that feels interesting. It resembles my ramblings above. I personally lean on the version that states "if they could block another unblocked creature" for power reasons (otherwise attacking with your army of sneaky guys and one non sneaky one would make the non sneaky ones unblockable, meaning that wizards would have to print few cards with sneaky per block as to not create states with massive quasi-unblockable armies) but it would require play testing either way.

​theo proposed spy: The mechanic weirdly interested in your own secrets instead of those of your opponent. I would probably prefer if it was fateseal 1 (To “fateseal N” means to look at the top N cards of an opponent’s library, put any number of them on the bottom of that library in any order and the rest on top of that library in any order), and gets +1/+1 until end of turn whenever a card is put at the bottom of your opponent's library. As it is not, it is interesting but it imposes big deck building constraints while offering little reward.

​James Bartolotti found a very good shift for the Gustcloak ability. Having played with it, it feels quite Dimir, in its opportunistic side, even though in great numbers it can trivialize attacking for the player controlling it. As such I would suggest: "Whenever this becomes blocked, you may pay 1 life. If you do untap it and remove it from combat."

This review was, for a variety of reasons, one of the ones that were the most interesting to do for me.

Thank you for your amazing submissions!


  1. A lot of those really made me think, that was really interesting.

    I like the "can't be blocked unless opponent pays 1". But it feels like it's still missing something. I wonder if it could scale with the size of the blocking creature, or the size of the attacking creature. Something so in the early game it plays as "does the opponent dare to tap out?" But in the late game, it's a significant obstacle to block for a large creature.

    1. Unless he pays one AND pays for all you keyword having creatures? Your weaker ones would help the stronger ones that way. Still it does not feel too dimir this way.

    2. Perhaps

      Ghostly (No creatures with ghostly can be blocked this turn unless the defending player pays {1}.)

      Which scales up so that I can't block any of your three ghostly attackers unless I pay {3}.

  2. If I have two creatures with "Creatures can't block this if they could block another creature," and I attack with them both, can they be blocked? Seems like it either needs a simplifying tweak, or needs to be saved for a block set on the Island of Knights and Knaves.

    1. Followed by the Contrarian Guard with "This creature blocks each attacking creature that no other creature can block".

    2. Good point, Diane.
      "Creatures can't block a sneaky creature if they could block a creature without sneaky."

  3. Jay's version of Sneaky sounds really interesting. As long as it's written to work with multiple sneaky creatures at once, so something like "This creature can't be blocked if you control an unblocked creature without Sneaky."

    At face value it sounds pretty decent to me. But of course playtesting is necessary to see how it really turns out.

    1. If your opponent doesn't have any flyers, one flyer & a horde of sneaky!! Narcomoeba can be very distracting