Thursday, October 6, 2016

Weekend Art Challenge Review 091616 -- CristianAC

Weekend Art Challenge Review

Design a card with a new keyword or ability word. Bonus points if it riffs off of an existing keyword that hasn't been used in a long while.

Lymph Sliver's absorb mechanic has been declared developmentally problematic by Maro, Withstand attempts to address that. This paladin merely requires blocking by at least two creatures, but I could see a 3/3 with Withstand 1 or a number of other variations. It's a nice riff on the ability, but it's one of those abilities that is very difficult to evaluate without playtesting. It could be fun, it could be oppressive, it could be not worth printing in volume high enough to keyword.

Protection has been put on emeritus status with R&D. It may show up once in a blue moon, but it's not a regular part of the keyword arsenal. That said, the idea of protection spells remains very white, so making it more rules-palatable is a noble quest. This is an ok shot at it, although the challenge was looking for keyword abilities specifically. One mana for a single point of prevention with limitations seems somewhat weak to me, but that's more development's call. They could tweak numbers as necessary. It was suggested in the comments that the double W casting cost here is directly in conflict with the card's desire to be played with as many colors as it can get away with.

This falls somewhere between unearth and monstrosity, with a little bit of Undying thrown in. I could absolutely see this ability being printed (with some tweaking - probably doesn't need to exile and create, just needs counters and an exile on leaving the battlefield clause). It would need a set that allocates player attention to graveyard monitoring, but that's not at all an uncommon place for R&D to focus our attention.

Last stand is a kicker variant. Before I dive into the card itself, I just want to do a quick aside on the difference between keyword ability and ability words. This was submitted with Last Stand as a keyword ability with the following reminder text:

You may discard a card when you cast this. If you do, it gains the following effect:
Keyword abilities are a word or two that are shorthand for an entire ability - costs and effect. Ability words, on the other hand, are a little bit of reminder text that tell you about a common trigger in the set, but with variable outputs. A keyword ability will always have the same effect - madness will always allow you to cast the card provided that the discard condition and mana payment are met, skulk will always prohibit blockers over the threshold, and fabricate will always give you a set number of tokens or counters on entering the battlefield.

Ability words will always have disparate effects - Delirium always requires the same four different card types in graveyards, but the output can vary from boosting a spell to losing defender to triggering a transformation.

The difference may seem semantic at times, but it's important to understand the difference, especially when you're designing a keyword or ability word to be used on more than one card.

And now back to the show.

Kicker is maligned in R&D because it's historically been used in so many variations that so many abilities (like Last Stand) can be summarized as, "oh, that's just kicker" which robs a certain amount of excitement from a set. Interestingly, Last Stand, at least as used on Desperate Defiance, is exactly how R&D intends to use kicker moving forward - as an enhancement to the card's unkicked effect.

If the card had said "Kicker -- discard a card" the overall card would be much easier to parse. It wouldn't have necessarily been sold by the art, but it would read much cleaner.

A modified form of protection, not dissimilar to Skulk. R&D has said that skulk simply doesn't have a tremendous amount of design space, but the variable number of Shield and the fact that it isn't straight up evasion may do the trick. I would like to see the mechanic at work in a playtest at different numbers, and see how it plays.

Here's a random bit of trivia: There was a keyword called Substance that was a casualty during the sweeping M10 rules changes. Most people didn't notice because only twelve cards in the history of the game had the keyword, and not one of them was ever printed with the keyword on the card. Armor of Thorns is the most notable example from the batch. It was a spell that you could either cast as a permanent aura at sorcery speed or as an until-end-of-turn instant. Fireproof Faith is effectively that in reverse. It is reminiscent of Haunt, which I think is a very underappreciated mechanic, but I think that this template is much easier to parse:

Fireproof Faith 3WW
Enchantment Aura (c)
Enchant Creature
Adorn W (You may cast CARDNAME any time you could cast an instant for its adorn cost. If you do, sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.)
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to enchanted creature.

I missed the P/T here: 2/3

Reject is what trample might look like in Red and White. Neither of those colors particularly needs a trample variant. Red has somewhat frequent access to it already, and white tends to have smaller creatures and evasion. The keyword ends up being very mathy, requiring a check of toughness (not something red normally cares about) and a difference of damage dealt by the creature to the opposing creature's toughness. Given the rapid-fire shift in focus from my creature's power to your creature's toughness and back again to my creature's toughness I can imagine a lot of head scratching going on. I also don't know how frequently this will matter, which is a big consideration in crafting a keyword.

A less-swingy version of Ripple, Chain is a spell that may replace itself in your hand. I like this execution particularly in that, after the first time you cast Hold Fast, your opponents will play very differently knowing you're sitting on one or two of these. That alone might require a higher mana-cost to create more shields-down moments. I don't know how much design space Chain has as a keyword, but I'd be interested in finding out.

Shield will convert the first bit of damage into counters to use towards an ability on the card. This is a fascinating concept with a wealth of design space around it. It suggests a lot about the overall set that it belongs to as well. It can get a little mathy, but not overly so. I'd love to design a few cards around this and playtest it.

Banding is such a nice concept, really evocative of the high-fantasy that early magic sought to capture, but it was a rules nightmare (and bonkers-powerful, although it's less-remembered for that). Teaming seeks to simplify it, primarily by limiting it to attacking and shifting the bonus from assigning damage to simpler stat boosts. This is a nice take on it, although the rules text needs a bit of editing for clarity and consistency. It bears a certain resemblance to Allies in a way, which makes me wonder if that might not be the better way to fix banding.

Allied -- Whenever another Ally creature you control attacks or blocks, it gets +1/+1 and gains lifelink until end of turn.
Not usable as an evergreen replacement for banding, but definitely captures some of that old banding feel for a block mechanic.

So Endow tries to get around the inherent weakness in enchant creature rules that cause it to fizzle if the creature is gone before resolution. I'm on board, although if this was the default, I would suspect that auras would take a pretty big hit to their overall power-level.

Creature type is Elemental, in case you were wondering

Scrycling is just painful to write out. I kind of wish the designer had offered a common as example since the power level could easily be warped here. On a more routine card, or even with a higher cost to scrycle, the decision whether or not to sink the mana would be more meaningful and create the desired level of tension. It does bring to mind Infernal Spawn of Evil of all things, as well as Sensei's Divining Top. The top definitely earns a spot on the list of All Time Bad Designs, so make of that what you will.


This was a difficult challenge, and you Artisans definitely rose to it. There are quite a few here that I could see making it to print, and quite a few others that are worthy of a playtest or two. Impressive work all around.

This week's (or really three week's ago) follow up challenge: That art really looks like it needs a companion piece. Think Live Fast/Die Young, Come up with a pair of commons using that art and it's hypothetical OTP that tell a story. Maybe even a card to complement your final design above.


  1. Paladin's Mercy 1W
    Instant (C)
    Prevent all damage that would be dealt to or dealt by target creature this turn. You gain life equal to the damage prevented this way.

    Vengeful Paladin 1W
    Creature - Human Knight (C)
    At end of combat, destroy all creatures blocking or blocked by Vengeful Paladin.

  2. To be paired with Hold Fast:

    Let Go
    Instant - Common
    Exile target creature card from a graveyard. You gain life equal to its power plus its toughness.
    "We will all remember his sacrifice."

  3. Zef, your Adorn mechanic would need to have it sacrifice during the next cleanup step so that it could be used on pump (like Armor of Thrones). The reverse wording also "hides" the flash option, which is awkward because players will think of this as a 5 mana card sorcery and not realize it could have been used as a 1 mana combat trick. That was one of the lessons Maro's mentioned about evoke and one of the reasons bestow creatures have the more expensive option as the option in the text box.

    1. So, something like this?

      Fireproof Faith {W}
      Enchant creature
      Kicker 3W
      Prevent all damage that would be dealt to enchanted creature.
      At the beginning of your end step, if ~ wasn't kicked, sacrifice it.

  4. Definitely not Another Knight's one true pairing, but a decent combo:

    Chosen by Paradise {1}{G}
    Enchantment—Aura (unc)
    Enchant creature
    Enchanted creature has hexproof and "{T}: Add two mana of any one color to your mana pool."

  5. The adornment can't be removed by enchantment removal, like a cipher. That is the idea.