Monday, September 12, 2016

Weekend (Art) Challenge - Digital to Analogue Review

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Translate an iconic mechanic from a video game into something cool for Magic rules.

Hard to beat a classic. Probably the iconic mechanic from the Mario Kart series, banana peals let you create a simple obstacle in the race, which if your opponents don't spot or can't avoid, stop them for a second or two while you get farther in the race. Banana Peel is a solid translation, letting you take out your opponent's most problematic permanent for a moment while you take advantage of the temporary shift in battlefield dynamics.

Another Mario Kart iconic. Blue shells are made to take out the person in first place for a moment or two. This card does that, but the execution is a little inelegant. Supertapping your opponents entire board is very powerful, and the drive to put this at 1 mana added some mathy rules text. Just putting in 15 life or more helps balance the card, but you lose the lead-seeking missile element. I think the card might be better served by splitting the ability in two:

Tap target non-land permanent controlled by your opponent with the highest life total. It doesn't untap during its controller's next untap step.
Underdog -- If the chosen player has 15 or more life than you, replace all instances of "target" with "each".
Applying some overload technology can make for an interesting group of cards, although I'm not sure there's a tremendous amount of space in Underdog.

Never played minecraft but I know a thing or two about it. Creepers self destruct when near players, doing a high amount of damage. That translates here, although not being a player, I can't say just how elegantly. I might prefer the explosion as a straight up saboteur ability, caring only if it hit a player and targeting only a creature that player controls. If we're showing off Minecraft, I wish there was some crafting/resource element to the card. Could it drop energy, gold, mana, +1/+1 counters, or some other resource that one of the players can take advantage of?

I've never even heard of Disgaea, but Zeno Rage explained that it's an RPG in which you are able to actually enter your items as stages and by playing through them, level them up. I cool conceit, and well-translated here. Leveler is considered a failure by R&D, but I see a lot of fan designs tweaking it. There's a lot of space to develop the idea of level up, even if we're unlikely to see it in Standard ever again. I think this might play more interestingly if it required the equipped creature to tap to level it, and cost less to equip, but I could see it going either way.

I'm not sure what the game referenced here is, if there's a specific one. It looks like it might be tower defense in genre, at least based on the original design, but I'm not 100% on that one. This went through a few iterations, but without knowing the source material, the end result is kind of clunky. I might stick it at rare, just for the Johnny interactions it inspires.

My mind immediately jumped to a way to turn this into an Armageddon, but then I looked up Melira, Sylvok Outcast, and realized I misread it. This absolutely translates the defining mechanic of Katamari into card form, although I wish there was a way to capture some of the whimsy mechanically as well.

Setting aside the shell mechanic for a minute, what color should Koopa Troopas be? Bowser is Black, possibly BR. The troopas seem a little too hierarchical for Red. I'm thinking they would fall into Abzan territory. The mechanic presented captures the Shell Game idea fairly well. It's highly grokkable if you know the reference, but difficult to parse if for some reason you've never stomped on a koopa.

Original title here was suppressing fire, which helps explain the mechanic a little better. I personally would have gone with Cattle Prod. This is an interesting design, giving a tapdown ability on a piece of equipment with a major drawback if the equipped creature wouldn't come out on top (or at least trade) in a fight. Timing issues definitely keep this out of common (you can't Giant Growth once your opponent decided to fight, I believe). Is the nitty gritty rules knowledge enough to bump it to rare? It's a non-intuitive interaction either way, and definitely captures tanking/distracting mechanics from a number of different video game genres.

I think this is a reference to the game Transistor, which would make it the second time that game was referenced in a non-art challenge I ran (something from the OST came up on the music challenge I ran a few months ago). Never played it, but a little research tells me there's a combat mechanic that lets you freeze the otherwise real-time action and plan sequential moves, which sounds similar to Fallout's VATS system. This captures that feel nicely. Switching from real-time to turn-based doesn't transition into an already turn-based system, but mucking with the otherwise-normal turn structure is a good analogue.

Persona is another JRPG I've neither heard of nor played, but from what I gather, the mechanic referenced is the ability to summon an avatar, or persona, to assist you in a fight. As translated into Magic-ese, this seems like it would require a legendary-dense set. Last time Legendary matters was a real theme was Kamigawa block, which is not exactly held in high regards by R&D for its design.

That said, Legendary-matters may have some space left to mine, as long as it isn't a major theme for a set. In a vacuum, this card seems fine, although maybe not as splashy as you want legendary-matters to be.


All around some excellent designs and clever implementations. I was surprised at how many video game references I didn't get, but that could be a symptom of me either being too old, too mainstream, or some combination of both. Still, as usual the cards made me want to see more of the sets that would feature them, which is always a good thing. This week's follow-up exercise: Design an elegant card inspired by Tetris.


  1. Row Clear W
    If there are exactly 10 creatures on the battlefield, destroy all creatures.

  2. Thanks for the review, zeff!

    The Ironbelly is based on Torbjörn, a defense hero from Overwatch. He's a dwarf engineer whose primary interaction with other heroes is building an auto-firing turret that he can invest time in to make it stronger - the bane of many newer players' existence. His legendary skins are both pirates, so the riff is a little bit of a stretch, but makes sense after the fact.

    Tesserion {4}
    Artifact Creature - Construct
    1: CARDNAME gets +1/-1 until end of turn.

  3. Acceleration
    Enchantment - Rare
    At the beginning of your upkeep, put a time counter on CARDNAME, then exile the top card of your library for each time counter on CARDNAME. You may play them until end of turn.

  4. Thanks for another solid review, Jay.

    Level Foundation {3}{G}
    Enchantment (rare)
    At the beginning of your upkeep step, draw a card for every exact multiple of 10 power among creatures you control.

    1. I'm not quite sure what this is supposed to do. Is it, "total up all of your creatures power, if it's an exact multiple of 10, draw that many cards"? Or "for each non-overlapping group of creatures you control with combined power 10, draw a card"? Or something else?

    2. Yeah. The idea is if you have 10 power, draw 1 card. If you have 20, draw 2, etc. I agree this isn't clear enough to warrant itself.