Monday, April 23, 2018

Weekend Design Challenge Review - OG Weatherlight Remix

Wow. You guys made a great crew and cast for the Weatherlight. Here's the design challenge we're reviewing today. Let's dive in.

First of all, yes to getting rid of upkeep triggers. Let's make upkeep as invisible to the card text as the stack is. Doubling your sliver count each turn is incredibly potent, which is probably ok for a 5 color mythic rare, but it does make me a little nervous. Would Verdant Force tech seem more fair? One each turn without cost, extra potent as a commander?

The second ability is great, except it works so much better with Legions-era slivers than with Tempest block, most of which granted static abilities. That's fine, but it does lose a certain amount of in-block synergy we were aiming for, unless we start redesigning all of the Tempest slivers (Let's do that!).

Sliver Queen is probably THE card that made me fall in love with deck building way back in the day, and you did her right. Well done.

Your homework: Do a remix of two of the Tempest common slivers to give them activated abilities.

Pasteur's Gerrard employs some Flagbearer tech to make sure your opponents target him. That's very in character and plays up the Messianic archetype he was designed around. Flagbearer templating could use some ironing out if we're going to make it a normal thing, and this is a good shot at it. As discussed in the comments, it probably ought to be limited to opponents choosing targets. Could I suggest "Other creatures you control have hexproof from spells."

I feel like he needs a shield-down moment. As he stands, I have to kill him once during your turn and then once on mine to keep his tapping/regeneration out of bounds. The combo of Flagbearer and Regenerate is very difficult to play around, especially for a 3/3 3-drop that doesn't lower his shields on the attack.

The flavor text is fantastic, and the overall design nails it. The numbers need some tuning, but otherwise a fine job.

Your homework: Play design has requested that he be moved into a second color to be more appealing as a commander. What color change do you make, and what do you do to his design that justifies that color?

That is a very fun design. The first is a fantastic overlap of UG, a legendary upgrade to the Lorescale Coatl ability. I do share concerns about sharing the Cycling 2 with your peers, even in a multiplayer game. It doesn't matter how big he gets if you're giving them a quick way to draw into their Doom Blades and Pacifisms. Would an asymmetrical cycling play better? Cards in your hand have Cycling 2, cards in your opponents' hands have Cycling 4? Either way, a great interpretation of the character, and a nice take on the Maro ability.

Your homework: Play design doesn't want this to be a UG commander, and has asked you to move him into Monogreen. What changes do you make to the design while still keeping the spirit of this one?

The original version of Squee had the misfortune of having the title "Goblin Nabob" instead of Weatherlight Deckhand. That's because the Mercadian Masques story (and block) was dumb. Not much to do about that though. Ignoring his official title, this is a fun card. We get the immortality in a creative way through undying. 1-CMC might be too low, even for a legendary creature that easily comes back as a 2/2. 1R for a 1/1 undying is not as low-powered as it may read, especially with the cheap means of getting rid of the counters.

Squee as an Insect lord is also an interesting take. I remembered him talking about bugs on a few cards, but a scryfall search told me that it's pretty much every card on whose flavor text he appears, so that actually checks out. I'm not sure that the second activated ability a) needs to be limited to tokens; or b) is at all necessary to the card. Squee as an immortal sacrifice engine is great, as an insect generator is cute. As an eater of insects is certainly in-character, but it does distract from his overall mechanical identity.

Your homework: Design a common green insect that interacts nicely with Squee.

That's a great interpretation of Ertai. Letting you cast spells repeatedly is definitely potentially problematic, but no more so than the Counterspell on a stick that Ertai was in his initial printing. This at least can appeal to both Jenny and Spike.

I think buyback 4 is about right. I'm not sure that converting it to 2UU is necessary, as was discussed in the comments. Four is hard enough to hit without potentially cutting you out of casting your blue spells.

I'm not sure how much I care for the last bit of rules, which forces you to buy it back or lose it. I don't imagine there are too many degenerate strategies created by losing that rules text, other than to pressure players into possibly making misplays. It's a strict downside ability that doesn't unbreak anything or contribute flavorfully or mechanically. Maybe two lines of rules text on an important story character are enough if they're as impactful as they are?

Your Homework: Modify the second ability to be upside without changing anything else about the card.

I chose this iteration over the other final suggestion, as the other felt more like raising the dead, and this one felt like it was keeping things alive. I love this take on healing. Because the game has healing for all creatures built into the end step, capturing the flavor of a healer has led to some not-especially-fun mechanical exploration over the years. Preventing damage is a complexity nightmare, and typically either too underpowered or overcosted to seem appealing, while gaining life is a flavor disconnect in many cases.

Keeping things alive by a thread is highly resonant, and your execution is clean and powerful. I'm digging it. Could lifelink be lost, and her second ability be turned into an activated tap ability? Or does relieving the pressure to send her into the red zone open up the door to combo-nonsense? Testing would tell us.

Your Homework: Design a common white instant that has lifegain as an incidental bonus, made to play with this.

Another take on Orim. White for healing, blue for toughness boosting (cleaner than preventing damage). She's throwing Healing Salves all over the battlefield. While she can have a dramatic impact on a board, she is a little understated. Her abilities are powerful, but don't read especially so, and you don't want your legends to be undervalued on their face. Also, as a primarily Red player, I feel like I have to hate her on principal. But that's a solid design, it just needs a little more oomph, especially for a major character.

Your Homework: Play Design wants you to remove the lifegain activated ability, and to give her a very impactful ETB ability in its place.

I guessed on appropriate P/T. The first ability is solid. Tutoring for artifacts is very Hanna, very Blue, and kind of White. The second ability is kind of a headscratcher. It's flavorful, but it's not something that would come up all that often. So why does she cost 5? Would it lose too much flavor if she just granted any artifact indestructible? Legends can be powerful and impactful, but it feels like this Hanna is too tame. Let her properly tutor the artifact to your hand. Let her do something with that artifact, or with artifacts in general, that matters more. This is a good place to start for a WU artificer, but she needs some more splash value.

Your Homework: The creative team has requested that Hanna be one of the set's 15 mythic cards. Play Design feels that this is too safe for mythic. What changes do you make to make someone who opens her in draft go "wow"?

I love this take on Vhati. To be fair, the original was incredibly flavorful from the story, but I love this "lackey that will betray you" flavor here. Definitely signpost uncommon material there, and many a brawl deck would be started with him.

The ability itself could easily be keyworded, given its striking similarities to evolve. That might be a fun exploration to do.

Your Homework: Remix Greven il-Vec, but make him recreate a story element with your take on Vhati.

First off, I don't think I've seen you submit before, so welcome! Thank you for all your submissions. As a general rule, we only offer critique on one submitted design (although Artisans are encouraged, and frequently do, leave critique in the comments for more than one). If you're playing with a few different designs, you can let me know which one you'd prefer I consider your submission for critique. In this case, I just went with what was at the top.

I'm not sure if you intended to leave artifact off the creature type line, but I definitely think that, as part of the legacy and pre-spark, Karn should be an artifact creature over being a shaman. Defender is a nice nod to his pacifism, and I dig it. An alternative would be to just give him 0 power, and give him a high amount of utility.

I'm not sure that turning unbonded lands into artifact creatures is particularly flavorful. Arguably, it captures the sense of him exploring the world to assemble the legacy, but it's a stretch, especially when limited to artifact creatures. It just doesn't read well, particularly when discussing three different types of permanents in the course of describing one ability. Now if it read, "3, T, discard a land card: Search your library for an artifact card, reveal it, and put it in your hand," it would be cleaner. Sometimes keywords confuse more than they help, even with Cycling being a core part of that set's design.. You wouldn't even have to limit it to a land being discarded. There's a lot to build on with this design, but it needs a clearer and cleaner mechanical focus.

Your Homework: Take another shot at this, without any cycling or cycling derivatives. Care about the battlefield, not the library or hand.

Very nice. Deathtouch on large creatures is often redundant, but it's occasionally done, and it's flavorful enough here. I do wish there was a little more going on. A 6/5 for 6 with crew 6 is powerful, but so much so that I think "Legendary." Even with sacrificing a goblin (is this a squee-powered ship?) it's missing a little something.

Your Homework: Add a flavorful attack trigger or saboteur ability to this design.

I can get behind Gerrard in Boros. The two separate attack triggers are a little much. Each is flavorful, and clearly tying to leadership of the Weatherlight crew and his affinity for the legacy, but I think you need to stick with one over the other. I personally prefer the latter. If you really wanted to have fun, you could say each historic permanent you control with a different name. Solid design, once you commit to one ability or the other.

Your Homework: Using the unique name tech used here, remix Legacy Weapon.

I like Sleeper Agent/traitor designs, although I'm definitely in the minority on that front. This is a highly flavorful execution of Starke's betrayal of the crew and luring them to Rath, but just forcing an opponent to attack is not all that interesting a sleeper design. It's relatively easy to play around (i.e. stop casting creatures I'm not comfortable attacking with), which makes the downside of giving your opponent a free creature far less appealing. If it punished a failure to attack in some way, like with a discard or damage to the face, I think it would be a lot more playable. Playtesting could prove me wrong.

Your Homework: Design a Takara card to riff off of your design. It can be true Takara, or Volrath in disguise.

Supposed to have the same cardname, but I'll let it slide. I love this design. Static tribal, pick a tribe, or universal tribal have all been done, but pick two tribes is very interesting. I put this at rare, but it really works well as a build-around uncommon. It's such a fun, modular design, offset by it's multicolor requirements.

Your Homework: Design another pick 2 tribes buildaround uncommon. Let's see how much space there is to mine here.


This was a fantastic challenge to run. Thank you again to wobbles for the inspiration. I loved seeing the modern reinterpretations of the old cards, especially the ones that had some questionable design decisions in their official release. I left each of you some homework, which may or may not become a regular feature. Great job, everyone.


  1. I did mean for Squee's second ability to work with any insect. I accidentally said only tokens and forgot to correct it.
    The Expendable Stick Bug-1G
    When CARDNAME dies, draw a card.

  2. "Gerrard must be one of those creatures."--Weatherlight gossip

  3. Yes, Hanna was supposed to be 2/3. Not sure how I missed that. The second ability would have been regenerate, referencing her flavor as a mechanic - she spends a good deal of the story trying to repair the Weatherlight, except that it's not supported by current design philosophy, so indestructible it is. I specifically didn't want her to be able to make attacking creatures indestructible. It does read a little weirdly.

    Will post thoughts on the homework in a few.

    1. Yeah, her actual card is one of those instances where the mechanical representation (reanimating artifacts and enchantments) matches flavor, modern design standards, and isn't completely awful. Hard to remix that particular one.

    2. There's actually a few things I really dislike about it, which is why I decided to remix it!

      One, why does she care about enchantments? Rayne does, but Hanna specifically left the Tolarian Academy because she wanted to study artifacts.

      Two, I've considered building her for EDH, but repeatable recursion tends to lead to some very boring games where the "correct play" is just to play the same card over and over. (She even goes infinite with Mindslaver without the help of any other specific cards!) Part of what I wanted to do with this remix was avoid getting artifacts back from the 'yard. From the library, fine, but once they're dead they should stay dead.

      I tried a few ideas but they all seemed too cutesy and not "wow" enough. Eventually I just decided to double down on "go and get the artifacts." Trinket Mage, eat your heart out:

      Hanna, Ship's Navigator 2WU
      Legendary Creature - Human Artificer (M)
      When Hanna, Ship's Navigator enters the battlefield, you may search your library for an artifact card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.
      WU: Exile Hanna. Return it to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step.

      No idea how good she'd be in draft, though she does survive combat really well - if there's an artifact theme she should suffice as a build-around draw engine.

  4. Multani, Maro-Sorcerer 3GG
    Legendary Creature - Elemental (R)
    1G, T, Discard a creature card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card onto the battlefield, all creature cards revealed this way into your hand, and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

    Changing the Multani design to mono green while maintaining the spirit of the card is pretty tough, since both of its current effects require blue. This is definitely a bit of a stretch, but its effect and cycling are both card filtering, so there you go.

    I considered having Multani's power and toughness be equal to the number of lands you control so both versions would have a form of incremental growth, but it just seemed to make the card more complicated for very little benefit.

  5. Thanks for the feedback!

    Re: Starke -- I'm wondering if it's clear that, if you control him, you HAVE to sacrifice another tapped creature at your end step if you have one?

    1. Reading the card explains the card. My bad. That definitely works as a reasonable drawback to donate to an opponent.

    2. True, but a highly enfranchised player / designer reads the card and misses a major function of it, that's a super strong data point too!

      I'll play with it a bit, plus think about some Takara stuff (e.g. remind myself who Takara is).

  6. I like the idea of including related "homework" to riff of designs. I like the idea especially of tackling other's as sort of a group design excercise.

    I realized something about the two designs I submitted and why I did the first design. I don't think I realized exactly at the time, but on reflecting about the questioning of lifelink's necessity I came to understand why I did the first design. I was going for a specific play pattern. I wanted the card to function by itself, but for it to get supercharged if you played outside lifegain. The attached mana cost makes it hard to get lots of creatures off it st once if you play lifegain. Basically a build around for lifegain that encouraged lots of lifegain triggers, inspired by my love of Karlov of the Ghost Council. I agree that the flavor of the iteration posted is a little better. I wonder if there's a good way to combine the two.

    On that note, Karlov flavors my related submission, at least in terms of possible usage.

    Orim's Potion {W}
    Instant (C)
    Target creature gains indestructible until end of turn. You gain 4 life.

  7. In retrospect, granting Buyback makes less sense in a block where a bunch of stuff already has Buyback than it would as a one-of in a set like Khans or in a supplemental product. Doing something with Shadow might fit Ertai's flavor better (which I do not know super well).

    1. I am also not sure why I put the second ability on there. I was afraid I would break something. That ability isn't very modern though, it's very much of its time. Here is an idea to fix it to a partial upside / neutral ability.

      Change the second ability to:

      Whenever an instant or sorcery card would be put into your graveyard from anywhere, shuffle it into your library instead.


      That's potentially a lot of shuffling, but it's on a rare. It doesn't play nice with Flashback, but it's kind of a Super-Buyback. If you don't have mana to Buyback stuff early, don't worry. You don't "lose" your spell forever. You could still draw it back later on. Granted, it's a really small benefit for a toolbox style deck or to a new player who might feel bad for "losing" a spell.

  8. This "homework" is neat

    Orim Samite Healer 1WW
    Creature- Human Cleric
    When Orim Samite healer enters the battlefield whenever a creature you control would be dealt or deal damage instead exile that creature, return it to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step.
    UT: target creature gets +0/+3

  9. Agreed, appreciate the extra prompt!

    Commander Greven il-Vec (rare)
    Legendary Creature - Human Warrior
    {1}, sacrifice a creature: CARDNAME gains indestructible until end of turn.
    {R}: CARDNAME gets +1/-1 until end of turn.

    Works well with the above Vhati as he can Diabolic Edict Vhati once he's tired of him. The +1/-1 also ensures Greven's death could buff Vhati even when Vhati is a 5/5 & becoming more useful than Greven himself. A lot of the cards portraying Greven also show Volrath messing with his spine, which looks like flowstone to me.