Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Weekend Art Challenge Review 041018 — David Alvarez

Golden Guardian by Svetlin Velinov

Weekend Art Challenge Review
Here's the challenge we're reviewing today!

As I was discussing with Isao, I'm a big fan of assigning common challenges. It's quite tricky to design good commons, and when designers are struck by inspiration, it's rare that a common is a result. However, commons form the bulk of the game, and it's important that commons, just as much as any other rarity, are fun. When I set out making this challenge in particular, I knew I wanted to see what you all thought about red's design space at common. I assigned noncreature, non-damage dealing red common cards because the space is, quite frankly, sparse. Looking at ISD for an example, we see the classics: artifact destruction, "must attack", ritual, panic, threaten, and a combat trick. Many of these categories of designs have issues in various sets. So I wanted to see what the lovely Artisans would come up with.

Of course, trust designers that when given a restriction, they find ways to creatively work around it! Many people turned in token-making spells. This is fine - technically, you followed the challenge, and many worked like Isao, where the spell was more than just 'makes a token'. However, I'll note that in working with a set skeleton, token-makers are counted as creatures (and defenders aren't; I had to consider whether to allow creatures with defender, but I ended up erring on the side of simplicity.)

Dinosaur Ranch is great. It's not quite common, as he readily admitted, but we all know the best uncommons come from attempts at great commons, right? I love that this can be a red 3/3 with a drawback, or it can be a Stone Rain with a drawback. That is some very clever flexibility on the part of a simple and (relatively) flavorful spell. I could see this easily being reflavored to fit a variety of settings and needs. While it doesn't quite meet the challenge, it's a fine design in its own right!

Isao, you also had a design that was closer to being acceptable for common. Any Artisans have suggestions on how to get it even closer for common? I'd love to hear them. Or do you think this one is fine?
I appreciate Sage's clever innovation here, using a coin to mark the result. While I'm still unsure how many players would think to do this, perhaps playtesting will reveal it works great - I hope it does, as it's some interesting design space, and an excellent idea. If it doesn't work in Magic intuitively, I think it'd work great for its own game! I do think, even if players do it intuitively, it's still not quite great for common. Coin-flipping is best at higher rarities, in my opinion; too much perceived randomness in a format produces negative feelings, and at common, this would likely be too much.

Another issue I have with Youthful Rebellion is that, while I love the design space of marking with a coin, I don't think this is the best execution on that design space. I'd prefer something like Two-Headed Giant from Dominaria, where both results are positive, or both are negative. As it is, it's far too swingy. Auras are already a problematic card type, and this one is just too frustrating when you end up helping your opponent or hurting yourself. If it it gave one of two symmetrical punishments or boons, I think it'd be fantastic. As it is, I think it presents too much tension for too little reward.

Of course, most forays into new design space produce results like that. Further iteration is the key! Any Artisans have suggestions?
Discarding a card at random is another form of randomness that is tricky at common, but the difference is that it's controllable. Chasing Butterflies plays out very differently in the early-game than in the late-game, and in aggressive red decks especially. While I still worry that this level of randomness could be problematic at common (you'll note we haven't seen it on a new design, really, since Hired Torturer), I do think this design is very compelling. It might be best modified for uncommon given the issue of perception of randomness - since it's not clear how easily this can be accounted for - but it's at least a great design with a lot of play to it. And it's such cute flavor, too!

It's also our first 'rummaging' design! A great addition to red's design space at common, and one I deliberately chose this art to be fitting for.
Such great flavor this weekend from the Artisans this weekend, I love it!

I edited the card's wording to account for my suggestion, rkohn1357, as you seemed to agree with it. I'm a big fan of this design! Many Artisans struck upon the space of "can't attack or block alone", which I agree is great in red, especially with the advent of menace to further justify it. This is a relatively weak effect, with the best comparison being Alchemist's Vial. I think the cost here is just right, given the alterations, and it comes out to be a fine common.

My major worry is whether Require Supervision is useful enough. I believe it might be playable in the right situation - it can stop early-attackers in some decks (not as useful), and it can force a player to commit to a bad block or take a hit (more useful). It gets its utility in aggressive decks diluted by also being playable when behind, which I think makes it about comparable to a card like Renegade Tactics. Still, I'd playtest this to make sure it pulls its weight!
Comparing this to Coal Stoker, I wasn't sure if Dazzling Butterflies pulled its weight. However, Tommy made me reconsider; the key is that Dazzling Butterflies, as a sorcery, produces an immediate impact upon the board unlike Coal Stoker. This immediate impact works better with the 'rebate' effect, as it helps you set up a game-winning turn (such as with a haste creature, or a pump spell). While Coal Stoker's utility is that, as a creature, it always provides value even if you have no use for the rebate, Dazzling Butterflies' utility is that it does exactly what you want a Falter to do: come down late in the game, and then chain into your other spells to secure victory. In the end, this costs {R}, and most Falters are cast late-game anyway. The 'drawback' is that it filters {2} into {R}{R} and it does require an initial investment of {3}{R}, which Falter does not. I think, overall, this is an exciting and balanced card.

It's also nice to see mana production used more in red without being on a ritual. As Ipaulsen discussed excellently on Monday Morning Maro, rituals in red has been tricky to develop.
I have to agree, Carl, Fierce Spirit is pretty safe. While part of designing a good card for these challenges is about showing off your creativity, it's still fine to play it safe. This is a nice variation on Giant Spectacle and Madcap Skills. Compared to both, I think this is quite a fine design. The major worry is that going down in mana cost produces more explosive potential, and thus, non-games. I'm not sure that's a major problem, however, as I believe this presents a pretty acceptable tradeoff (of risk and power).
This isn't a common, I'm afraid. (Despite what the render claims!) You'll note we've never seen "Elkin draw" at common. The lowest we've seen it is at uncommon. The problem is two-fold: one, these cards are pretty swingy, which is a bit too much for common; and two, they are a bit wordy and dense with vocabulary, requiring too much comprehension to figure out how to play them correctly. The reminder text on Act on Impulse is a good example of that problem.

While Free Range deftly sidesteps the issue of what it means to play a card, it introduces the idea of casting without paying mana cost. Once again, that's not quite common. We've seen this kinda stuff discussed in reminder text, but, well, that's reminder text. The last time we've seen a card discuss casting without paying its mana cost at common was Patrician's Scorn. Yikes! 

The design itself is intriguing. I'm not sure, even at uncommon, it needs to grant haste; this is a free creature you're cheating out, after all, often one that costs more than the spell. I'm not even sure this is monored because of that. You'll note, for example, that cards like Genesis Hydra and Kamahl's Druidic Vow from Dominaria are both firmly green. Just because this card is using similar wording to "Elkin draw" doesn't make it Elkin draw. However, Etali, Primal Storm also exists, so perhaps it's acceptable. At the very least, it's probably rare because of its ability to cheat out spells.
As discussed, Overawe is a weaker Wrangle, so it's perfectly acceptable. However, as we also discussed, Wrangle already has the problem of not being great. Your design goal of wanting an early-game Act variant, rather than a game-winning Act of Treason variant, is a noble one! I appreciate trying to find interesting twists on these kinds of cards. However, we need to identify where the problem lies; restricting the targets to 'early-game targets' and lowering the cost doesn't produce an early-game threaten, it produces a less playable threaten. Why?

The issue is that this just doesn't provide the value you believe it does. The scenario you described is more commonly a late-game scenario, not an early-game scenario. Forcing a player to look to early-game targets doesn't mean they want to cast this, because the tradeoff you've provided them (a discount) wasn't the one they were looking for. The cost of a threaten was less important than other factors.

So, how do we incentivize players to cast their threatens earlier, rather than later? That's a great question for our Artisans! What do you all think? Any ideas on how to get threaten effects played early-game? Is this even a goal we should be shooting for?
Larcent came a long way on this design! Something interesting to note is that we've not really seen a Call to Mind variant at common. More commonly, we see it on creatures, such as Archaeomancer and Mnemonic Wall. Sure, Call to Mind can loop another Call to Mind, which could get cutesy with Prowess or whatever... but the more pressing reason is that it's just too narrowly useful. Not a lot of decks are willing to spend {2}{U} just to get an instant/sorcery back out of the yard.

At uncommon, we've seen some bold experiments to make these effects more playable. Flood of Recollection pushes the cost aggressively, and Mystic Retrieval and Pull from the Deep promise actual card advantage, both very tempting. Waylaid Scouting falls firmly into the first camp, which, unfortunately, puts it at uncommon.

Now, Waylaid Scouting is a very interesting uncommon. The modality presents a very interesting deckbuilding prompt: you want a deck where you're balancing creatures and instants/sorceries, and might even want creatures in your yard to recast key spells, but you also can just pay {3}{R} for this effect if you don't have the creature to discard. That's interesting! It's honestly a little scary at just {R}; I can imagine some decks discarding a Griselbrand and then returning a Reanimate to your hand, for example! Perhaps that's a fun way to liven up Reanimator decks, or perhaps it's horribly broken. I'm frankly not sure! But the design excites me, and I just love the idea of 'nah, I don't want a creature, gimme that spell.'  I think with a slight flavor tweak that would come across even more clearly.

So Larcent, nice work designing an interesting and exciting uncommon, but unfortunately, it's just that: uncommon.
"Elkin draw", as noted earlier, hasn't shown up at common for a few reasons. I do think that even a design as simple as this has complexity issues, but you're right, this is definitely cleaner and simpler than most Elkin draw cards. It's very similar to Spark of Creativity in that it only exiles a single card; unlike Spark, however, it's quite a bit easier to figure out what's going on. Still, the wordiness and the vocabulary is enough to make this at least a red-flagged common.

You do a great job here of trying to avoid the swinginess of Elkin draw. If you whiff, you can recast Life is Beautiful, which is great. I have to agree with Tommy Occhipinti though that I think this is more uncommon still. As you said, in terms of frequency of play, this doesn't need to be at common to make its way to the decks who want it, and it doesn't need to show up in the numbers that being at common would do. The primary reason we put cards at common isn't about their simplicity or power level, it's about, in a fun format, how many decks want the card, and in what numbers. I have to agree that not enough decks want a lot of this card, so it's best at uncommon.

Skye, I will admit, I didn't comment on Foster the Young before because I thought it was already in a great place! I kept trying to think of a way to push you in some direction, but soon enough, it was time for reviews to go up, and well, here I am!

Bolster, in my opinion, was great fun. It had interesting impacts on deckbuilding and sequencing, and it was a solid 'middle-of-the-pack' mechanic in KTK block. What made it especially interesting was that it pushed towards aggression (offset power in favor of toughness) but also made those aggressive cards more resilient - or it could make naturally resilient cards even tougher to kill. It had some fun play.

Does Foster the Young present the same level of play? The key here is that it adds first strike as well. First Strike is naturally best on higher power creatures. The one problem I had with Foster the Young was that the creatures with lower power are likely to have high toughness, which makes the first strike matter less. However, this problem is mitigated by the fact that, well, we're in red... and that you're likely to construct a deck around that restriction, making sure Foster the Young gives first strike to the creatures who really want it. A 2 power first striker is still quite a significant trick; a 3 power first striker is even better.

Overall, while I think this might play a little weirdly, I think it's an interesting effect that produces some fun considerations in deckbuilding and play, and I'd love to see it tested.
Butterfly Effect is an interesting one to evaluate. "Target creature can't block this turn" is worth less than {R}, but "Creatures can't block this turn" is worth more than {1}{R}. The best comparable effect is probably Panic Attack. I'd call this safe, in terms of cost, given that there will be many times where this doesn't hit the three creatures you'd most like it to, or that it hits any creatures at all. Of course, in a tribal set, this might prove devastating undercosted.

My main concern isn't costing-wise, but in fact, gameplay-wise. Notice that in Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan, we didn't see any cards discouraging players from going tribal. Likewise, we didn't see any such designs in Innistrad or Dark Ascension. Now, this is different than, say, destroying all creatures with a certain type, or damaging them; this doesn't discourage players from playing out their cards. But it is antithetical to the set's themes, which makes it a problematic common. While it might be good as a safety valve in a set lighter on tribal, that also makes it narrower. 

Overall, while this is probably costed about right and works well enough, I think its gameplay isn't the best, as the more useful it is, the more of a negative effect it has. Of course, including 'hate cards' is important for a format. What do other Artisans think? Is this alright?

Dinos of the Lost Land immediately doesn't seem common to me, because it tutors up a dinosaur card. Tutoring isn't common, especially in red - red's gotten Sarkhan's Triumph and such, but those are usually uncommon, and red's tutoring usually restricted to very red types. Forerunner of the Empire could also only put dinosaurs on top of the library.

Another major worry is that, for a common, Dinos of the Lost Land is looking for a very narrow set of conditions. What deck is playing enough Deserts, and enough dinos, to make this worth playing? Most Desert-matters cards need to be functional even without any other Deserts in play - look to Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation for examples - and this is just dead when you don't have a Desert. It puts some odd constraints on deckbuilding, and requires a very unusual format.

Even at uncommon, that narrowness is problematic, and the tutoring in red doubly so. 

Many people went for "Elkin draw", which makes sense: it's relatively untapped design space in red, and the goal of this challenge was to push designers to find new design space. Now, I'm worried especially at this one being at common (compared to Free Range and Life is Beautiful) because of the unusual timing restriction. The sentence "you may play that card" mechanically means immediately, now or never, but it doesn't read that way to many players. This is a design that requires reminder text to make intuitive, and considering that Act on Impulse alone is uncommon, this is more so.

I appreciate A Dinosaur's Dream because, like others here, it sidesteps the matter of swinginess. If you don't have the mana (or the will) to play the card, you get the mana, and you can spend it on something else. Being able to cast this on a delay also helps, so that you can use it on a turn where you have nothing better to do, or on a turn where you need the {R}{R}. That's a fun design! I think this would be exciting at uncommon!
An interesting experiment! Scorching Sun and Heat Sickness naturally pair together well, of course; being able to cast {3}{R}{R} "Creatures you control get +2/+0 until end of turn. Two target creatures can't block this turn"... fantastic! It's also modular however, as you can panic two blockers on turn 2, swing with a pump turn 3, and so on... this produces some interesting ripples in draft, as the two want to be drafted together, and it plays as a nice combo. I do think Heat Sickness should say "Up to two target creatures", however.

Now, I also think Tommy had a point: if Heat Sickness didn't tutor, then it would float better to the player with Scorching Sun. However, I also think that undermines the value of the design, and the intrigue in being able to 'go off' with them indefinitely. I agree that Heat Sickness should be a 'worse' card, but I don't think you should remove the tutoring; I'd suggest altering the cost or effect somehow.
Pasteur, you have a penchant it seems for dancing around the spirit of the challenge! First with Deinonychus Daydreamer, and now with Small Wonders. Deinonychus Daydreamer was a bit too close to being a creature, and also too complex for common; Small Wonders is a lot more in-line with what this challenge was pushing for. While its function is to deal damage, which betrays the spirit of the challenge, it's clear you were striving for new common design space in red.

As I noted, the problem with these 'temporary twinning' effects is complexity, not power level. Reducing the size of the creature doesn't reduce the complexity; in fact, it exacerbates it, especially with non-square stats. I think this should have just made a 2/2. Having toughness 1, rather than 2, can be relevant, but rarely so. Being just a 2/2 makes it a lot easier to remember what the card creates, and is quite similar.

While this is an intriguing uncommon, it's not quite a common. But it does look like great fun and an interesting buildaround!
Zefferal, while I agree with Pasteur and Zachariah Howell that Ecstasy of the New produces some tension and feel-bad gameplay, I totally see what you're going for. This is similar to the space Life is Beautiful, by Jay Treat, was pushing for; letting you 'retry'. The difference is that this can produce multiple cards, which is a lot more dangerous. Of course, if you opt not to cast this for {R}, then the stream ends. I think the ability to get multiple cards out of this over time, for just {R}, isn't quite offset by the disadvantages Pastuer and Zachariah note. I agree that, given this card's play pattern and tough choices, it'd be best at uncommon. Perhaps even bumping the cost up, that way the choice to cast Ecstasy of the New again is more meaningful.

Good work, everyone! Lots of great designs for red here. This design space is very constrained, especially given the art I presented everyone with. I was happy to see a lot of exciting, creative cards pushing for new ground.


  1. Most people who I see "flip coins" in games these days use a random number generator on their smartphone, often built into a life tracker app, which makes "mark the effect with the result of the coin" pretty implausible...

    1. Also Dazzling Butterflies is supposed to cost 3R, I don't think it's as "exciting and balanced" a card at R :)

    2. Ahhh! Indeed! Thank you so much for the correction!

    3. I'd guess that most of the 'generated' coin flipping isn't done at the kitchen-table or FNM level. Youthful Rebellion certainly wasn't an attempt at making a card that was competitively playable in constructed or even limited, but rather a fun little card for more casual settings. If you're lacking a coin, you can always use a scrap of paper with H/T written on it - or literally anything flat with two sides.

      I personally don't even think it's likely to cause big memory issues, as the results are drastically different and the outcome is impactful. You're not likely to forget that you gave your opponent's creature a buff when you meant to pacify it.

    4. Youthful Rebellion is definitely my favorite design, as marking status with a coin seems brilliant to me. Most people might use a phone app to actually check the result, but people can still find a coin and use it afterwards, I think. Definitely surprised it had a bad and a good result, as I feel the more obvious would be a good and then a less good result. If that can be fixed I think this would make an excellent card. I've personally been interested in a set with the theme of "luck matters", but that's a very hard sell, especially as someone who personally dislike things like that. It's mostly in the realm of an interesting thought eaoeriment. And not much else. Great standalone cards anyway.

    5. Enzio, luckily we are custom designers. Part of the fun of making unofficial sets is that we can design for more niche audiences and not for business sense. :)

    6. I liked an ability that was talked about in one of the GDS where you could pay more to guarantee the coin would result as you want. This way the card would be both spikey and timmy. Quick Bolt-R
      Flip a coin, if you win the flip deal 4 damage to target creature or player, if you lose the flip deal 2 damage to target creature or player. You may pay an additional 2 when casting CARDNAME, if you do, you win the flip.

    7. I actually prefer dice rolls, asaI actuskly dislike coin flips (I find them too finnicky in actusl play, and even when asked to flip I usually roll a dice for odds or evens) and the primary mechanic I'd been thinking of was building aup a dice pool you could use when rolling dice to influence wins or losses (usually not scaling effects as those are tough to balance in black border).

      That being said, I actually really really like that coin flip mechanic where you can pay extra to win the flip. That's definitely a a good choice for such a mechanical theme at first blush. I kind of like the play pattern that early game you might get weaker effects, but later in the game you can pay to guarantee the sronger result. Just great.

    8. Also, not sure if this can be accurately gleaned, but it feels this would avoid the kavu titan problem kicker mechanics have, since you aren't getting anything extra by saving it. That's a very interesting bonus if true.

    9. I would love a coin flip set. I also had cards where you track coin flip results to determine abilities.
      Chaos Knight-1R
      Creature-Human Knight
      When CARDNAME enters the battlefield flip two coins.
      2 Heads: First Strike, Haste
      1 Heads: Haste
      0 Heads: First Strike

      I actually have not playtested the coin flip mechanic but depending on the effect you might hold it.
      Chaotic Time-RRR
      Flip a coin, if you win the flip take an extra turn, if you lose the flip discard up to 2 cards and draw cards equal to the number discarded. When you cast CARDNAME you may pay an additional 2 and you win the flip.

    10. Chaos is my favorite description of red but we have few cards that show them well/play well.

    11. My experience is that the most common implement people bring to Magic events, besides their decks, for randomization/tracking purposes is a bag of dice. More than coins, phone, or even pen/paper (the official tournament rules say you're supposed to have the latter; most people don't care).

      Dice is fine for tracking binary states (just agree with your opponent which one's assigned to "odds" and "evens"), but could get confusing if there are other cards in the format that put counters on things.


      Fateful Looting R
      Draw two cards, then discard two cards unless you discard a card at random.

      Gambliric Tutor BR(?)
      Kicker [something big]
      Look at the top five cards of your library. If this spell was kicked, look at your library instead.
      Exile a card from among them. You may play that card this turn. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

    12. I like Chaos Knight better than Dominaria's Two-Headed Giant.

      I don't generally have coins with me but I still love this coin-tracking mechanic. We can totally use the ad cards from the booster packs.

    13. Even a piece of paper with the number 1 or 2 on it also works.

  2. Red is secondary in creature search, weird they do not get more of it. Guidgates were a theme of a set and so were deserts I think supporting the dino search would not be too hard, but yeah probably uncommon and probably deserves an effect without a desert.

    1. They've gotten a few (Flamekin Harbinger, Forerunner of the Empire, Sarkhan's Triumph) but tutoring for specific types (as red does) only happens at uncommon and above, like most tutoring.

    2. Yeah but being secondary in the ability I would expect it a little more. I know if it is a set theme you can push down rarity, any way that tutoring could be common?

    3. Secondary doesn't imply that much frequency. Look at how much green gets vigilance or black gets haste, for example.

      In addition, it's secondary for a mechanic that just doesn't show up often in the first place. Tutoring is more and more infrequent nowadays and so this specific form of tutoring will, naturally, be really infrequent by extension.

      Set themes can occasionally push stuff down in rarity, but tutoring produces such negative gameplay at lower rarities that it's unlikely to see it there. Transmute burned Wizards bad.

  3. For Foster, I pretty much assumed in the average red limited deck that your lowest price creature would be 1, and occasionally 2. I definitely wanted it to feel like a common, but I haven't got to playtest it and see how it works. Thanks for the kind words!

    1. Yeah, it's very easy to build around in red. I like that! :)

  4. Require Suspicion is promising. There are three modes:
    • They've got no other creatures so they can't combat.
    • They've got other creatures they don't want to combat with.
    • They've got other creatures they were going to combat with anyhow.

    The first makes this worth playing, the second makes it fun, and third makes it dead. That ignores the cantrip, but if it's possible to find a solution where it always does something without that kind of hack, that would be ideal.

    I Called You A Coward {R}{G}
    Choose one:
    • Target creature can't block or attack alone this turn.
    • Target creature must attack or block this turn if able.

    Irony: I added green to justify the "must block", but now the effect costs too much, and we need to add a cantrip or something.

  5. I think Free Range could be uncommon. It's not casting anything larger than you could cast on your own.

  6. I might play Overawe early if it was a cantrip (for +2 mana, or more likely, +1 mana but only hitting 2cc cards).

    1. Cantripping was a thing I thought of, too. Threatening is, in its essence, something you want to do while you're ahead, so in order to make it something you want to do during development, you need to tack something onto the card.

      What about a card like this:

      Gain control of target creature with power 4 or less. Until end of turn, it gains haste and "whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, it deals 1 damage to any target."

      I'm not at all convinced this is the proper costing or triggered effect, but grafting a sabateur ability onto the creature would definitely incentivize it as an early play.

      Or, a designer could be even more blunt about it:

      Early Access
      Gain control of target creature until end of turn. It gains haste until end of turn. If this spell was cast on turns three, four, or five, create a 1/1 red Goblin creature token.

  7. If you read Ecstasy of the New's "either" as "one but not both," than it normally can't net you card advantage. The only exception I see is when multiple creatures ETB simultaneously (probably via token creation) and it triggers multiple times. (That can also be solved with a few words.)

  8. Thanks so much for the feedback! These are super cool designs.

    I'm curious about why Heat Sickness should read "up to two target creatures can't block." Practically speaking, Heat Sickness will never get stranded in a player's hand. Barring corner cases with Skulking Ghost style cards, there are no situations to cast this spell without two creatures on the battlefield: one you're attacking with, and one you want to stop from blocking this turn. Will new players strand it in their hand THINKING they can't cast it because their opponent doesn't have two creatures? Does that come up often enough to be worth the extra six characters? (Not that six characters is much to add!)