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By: khirareq, Jack Rose
Aug 22 2007 9:16pm
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Welcome back to the July CCC! For those of you who don’t know what this is about, every month Pure MTGO hosts a card creation contest. Each of the contestants must make a series of cards that conform to the criteria that the judges create for the month.  Entry is free, and the winners of each month’s contest are awarded prizes in the form of credits at MTGO Traders. Ten credits are awarded to first place, six to second place, and four to third place. In addition, two of the winners from the previous month are allowed to set the criteria and participate in judging the next month!
 
The creation process behind making custom cards is detailed here. July’s contest can be found here, with discussion of the results here. August’s contest is already well under way. In fact, entries will only be accepted until August 24th, so hurry up and post your cards here!
 
Dragonmage65, Evu and myself were the judges for this month. I have posted my own thoughts on the cards below, along with Evu’s comments on the cycles overall. Evu’s comments are italicized.  My apologies for those pictures which are absent: some of them had a hard time transfering from one server to another.  The Void Cycle of cards can still be seen in the forums, though.
 
Muck Cycle
 
Muckling – Herein lies the flaw in this month’s contest. The muckling cycle is a solid cycle, a good design idea in a creature that won’t die until you chop it into its constituent parts. The Muckling itself though is an underwhelming card. We’ve seen it before, in Relentless Rats. The rats got better the more of them you played. Not so much, the Muckling, though there is something to be said for a deck full of 1/1’s that can be played every turn. The muckling’s part of the cycle is interesting, but as a card that stands on its own, the Muckling is underwhelming.
Muck Lurker – Five Oozes is a lot. It makes it virtually impossible to pull off the Ooze train in a draft, meaning “draft oozes” is not a viable strategy. I dislike the fact that Muck Lurker leaves Oozlings behind when he sacrifices himself to become a Muck Brewer. Shouldn’t he be absorbed into the Brewer? Isn’t that the flavor the card is going for? I also dislike the fact that the Lurker is strictly better dead than alive. I think tacking on an extra mana for an extra power and toughness would have been a good idea.
Muck Brewer – The highlight of the series, this is a solid card.
 
Muck Cycle Overall – This was one of my favorite cycles of the series. It’s a shame that the cards require one another to make sense, because individually they are kind of underwhelming. Regardless, good job!
 
Evu: I like Muckling at common -- it's clearly where Relentless Rats belonged, IMO. This isn't so much a cycle as a sub-theme, that (thanks to Muckling's ability) cleverly fits into three cards, but it seems like a fun one, and I can imagine plenty of Ooze decks in the casual room.

 Call Cycle
Call for Aid – Commune with Nature is a good card, but we’ve seen it before. Will making it a cheap instant improve its playability? Absolutely. Is it a particularly creative idea? No. Also, the first comma should have ended a sentence, and the next word should have started a new one. Also, in order for a card to win the competition, it has to be very evocative flavor-wise. Shorting the card on flavor text is not going to help with that. If the card has to be printed without flavor text, make sure there is something very flavorful in the rules text. I’m talking stuff like the “no black or artifact creatures” clause on Terror, or the Vampire’s ability to gain power from creatures it kills. Flavorful rules.
Call for Soil – Hmmm…this card has some power issues. First of all, if you have three mana, you shouldn’t need much more, and if you do, you probably want to put it directly into play rather than into your hand. It has the potential to become card advantage, but it could also whiff entirely. And in constructed, it’s very nearly unplayable, because if you are playing all basic lands in green in constructed, you don’t need to search for them, and you’ve got more powerful ways of doing so anyway. So, I’d call this a severely underpowered card outside of a sealed pool, and one that you’d rather not run there. It also has the same templating issue as Call for Aid.
Call for Companions – Now this is more like it. This card is capable of creating a serious advantage on the board, but also capable of whiffing entirely. I probably would have lowered the CMC of the creatures available to 2, since currently you can get 15 mana worth or creatures at instant speed for the bargain basement price of 4 with this card, which somehow seems more busted than getting 10 mana worth of weenies at instant speed. Alternatively I might have made this a sorcery, so as to give your opponent a chance to react to your newfound horde of companions before they swing. All in all this is a solid entry.
 
Overall – If you are designing a cycle of cards based explicitly on another card, you need to put in the extra umph to make that cycle stand out. I don’t feel this cycle had that umph.
 
Evu: Would have preferred it if Call for Aid weren't strictly better than Commune with Nature. It could have searched only four cards, or maybe for 1G it could have searched six cards. I like Call for Companions, but I'm worried that it might be too strong; playtesting would tell for sure. The flavor is good here -- art was well chosen -- except that the names of the uncommon and rare are kind of nonsensical: "call for aid" is a common expression, but what does it mean to "call for soil"?
 
Enemy Cycle

Weaken the Enemy – Wait, so this is a seal of Feast of Flesh? Except they hit players, so they have no potential for card advantage, or even equity. No effect on the board, in other words. The seals all cost the same mana as their instant counterparts, this probably should too. Also, Magic has a history of Weakness meaning a reduction of either toughness, power, or both. Also, what benefit does this gain by being an enchantment? Why would you wait to drain your opponent of life?
Curse the Enemy – Curses! So this is a bigger version of Weaken the Enemy, which is okay. Except that card wasn’t really playable. This card is better, as it at least does more damage per card, but it still doesn’t affect the board. So, it like super Soul Feast.
 
Plague the Enemy – And now it’s the same effect, only a little bigger.
 
Overall – If this had been a cycle that affect the board or hands in any way, it might have worked. All it affects is life totals. The effect has to be greater than this to have a playable card. If this were a series of cards like the Hondens that made one another stronger rather than needing several copies of the same card they might have worked. This cycle is just too weak.
 
Evu: It seems like the point of their being enchantments is that you can accumulate several and then sacrifice them simultaneously for a greater effect than you would get by casting them one-at-a-time as sorceries. Is that enough to justify the confusion players will experience upon seeing them for the first time? I don't know; maybe. Unfortunately, it feels like these cards are not so much a cycle as the same card printed three times. Would have been nice if the rarer cards built on the others -- e.g., the uncommon could count all copies of itself and the common, and the rare could count all copies of all three cards.
 Elven Cycle
Elven Brook – A green land? …weird. I’m not sure how that has much of an effect on the card, though, other than qualifying it for the cycle. This is a very powerful card. Since this land does not come into play tapped, you can have 4 mana on turn 3 with this. Hardly an uncommon thing in green, though. Having to keep track of which mana came from the Elven Brook will cause memory issues when playing with the card in real life, though. I like how the requirement to play forests makes it more likely that we’ll see the aforementioned elves. Also, an Elven Brook is hardly a legendary land.   There are lots of Elven Brooks.
Elven Dawn – This is a difficult card to place. Firstly, the requirements are pretty severe. Four green mana means only mono green can play it. You’ve got to get up to four mana before you can cast it, but all it does is provide additional mana. Then, it’s an aura, so there is the potential to be 2 for 1’d. Finally, it has a specific requirement on what kind of land it can be cast on, and it’s a pretty strict requirement. What do you get if you jump through all these hoops? Extra mana that does not empty at the end of your turn. In addition to the memory issues, it just isn’t worth it.
 
Brook Pass – Wow. That’s a lot of rules text. And in spite of all that text, there isn’t room to let Brook Pass tap to make mana. I think what the card is doing here is interesting, but the card would be better without dominant. It doesn’t add anything to the flavor, and it doesn’t improve the card enough to warrant entry on a very complicated card. It looks like the card is just trying to reverse the change to the legend rule. Power-wise…yeah, it’s very powerful. Many, many mana.
 
Overall – There are some interesting ideas here, but they need polish. Green decks rarely need to pay these costs to obtain the kind of mana that is provided here. I’d say this is a good idea that needs to spend some time in development.
Evu: Way too much text on all three cards; the flavor text should have been cut from the common and uncommon, and the rare needs to be simplified. Omitting reminder text on rares is usually acceptable, and I think it would have been fine to do so here, and explain the Dominant keyword in the submission post. "CARDNAME is green" on the common and rare could easily have been omitted as well; it doesn't seem to serve any purpose (other than to conform to the rules of the contest). These cards are sort of a cycle and sort of not. They do all have similar abilities... and they're designed to work together (somewhat), though that's not really necessary (or usual) for a cycle... it's difficult for me to explain. I feel like these cards could have been a lot better if they weren't forced to fit into the rules of this contest. It seems like parts of them were just added as an afterthought to make them conform.

Emblem Cycle
Emblem of Fealty – Why is this an artifact? This is a green ability. At the very least, make an artifact with a green transfer cost. This isn’t Mirrodin block!
Emblem of Loyalty – This ability is not tied strictly to a color, so that’s good. Why do these abilities trigger when a creature deals combat damage to a player? I assume that’s to capture the flavor of needing to act for one’s lord in order to receive the benefit.
Emblem of Suzerainty – This card is balanced almost entirely by its cost to play and equip. Yes, you can cheat on both card advantage and mana cost, but you’d hope to get a good deal by the time you pay 9 mana for this card’s effect. Even then, you still have to connect with the creature you connect with. This card can get out of hand and win the game, yes, but I still feel it’s balanced by the hoops you have to jump through to get there.
 
Overall - Overall, I didn’t feel this cycle was particularly evocative. I get the idea – a lord marks his servants, who get rewarded when they do battle for him. Something about the whole cycle just seems off, though. Maybe because Emblems aren’t really equipment, or the servant doesn’t really get the benefit, or just that artifacts are less flavorful than colored cards. I just felt like this cycle needed to have more to it.
 
Evu: I don't have a problem with contestants creating their own art, even if it's not professional quality, but there are a couple of things that would have gone a long way towards improving the artwork for these cards. First, any background at all, even just a simple texture or tile, would have made the cards look less empty. Second, I would have liked to see some common theme to help tie these emblems together -- they could have all had the same shape, or all contained a similar symbol or pattern. Nonetheless, the names and flavor text are strong enough that these still get high marks for flavor from me. As for the mechanics, I think that this is one of the stand-out entries in the contest. Repeated tutoring is certainly powerful, but these cards are appropriately costed or close to it, and are kept in check by elegantly designed limitations.
 
Vision Cycle

Vision of Perversion –This card is insanely powerful, primarily because it has no mana payment on this card. That means you can repeat the effect as many times as you want at instant speed. This card completely wrecks combat math, provides an instant speed sacrifice outlet for all your men, and can arbitrarily win the game provided you have a sufficiently tough unblocked creature. Combo this with a Daru Spiritualist and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You need to have a mana cost on the activated ability, and even then the card is certainly worth more than one black mana.

Vision of Delusion – It took me a minute to figure this one out. I mean, is it a unique take on Greed, or a broken card drawing engine? It’s hardly difficult to find black creature that is willing to deal damage to you. Are you willing to pay 16 life to draw 14 cards off of you lord of the pit? Because 16 life is most of what you start with. Paying 4 life to draw 2 cards is hardly broken. Again, having a mana payment on this card instead of a life payment would sort it out immediately. This is something that would have to be play tested to figure out how broken it is. 

Vision of Slaughter – You should avoid printing cards that say “you win the game” on them. The conditions for this aren’t nearly stringent enough for a card that removes all interactivity from the game. 
 
Overall - This was an interesting cycle that creates game states where you need to make decisions, or that says “Build around me!” in the deck building process. There are power issues here to be sure, many of which could be fixed by attaching a mana cost to the activated abilities of these cards.
 
Evu: Unfortunately, this isn't a cycle at all. Flavor isn't enough of a common thread; there should be some mechanical similarity as well. Judging the cards as individuals, Vision of Perversion is the standout, offering a useful ability at a fair price, with risks and costs that are very much in-flavor for Black, though this kind of repeatable effect would more likely see print at uncommon than common.
 
 
 
 
 Necromorph Cycle

 
Absorbing Cadaver – This card is…underwhelming. It’s the kind of card that Wizards prints that you are afraid you will open in your pack, terrified of seeing in your sealed pool, that you take the land over in a draft. It might be possible to work out some kind of crazy combo with it, but frankly there are probably better options. This card would be helped by removing the tap from the cost, so at least it could change colors on the fly. Even then it would be a niche card with a very small niche.
 
 
Cannibal Corpse – Okay, this is a little better, but still severely underpowered. What creature is this overpriced grizzly bear going to be putting into a graveyard without following it there itself? Plus the templating on this is terrible. Look at the Oracle wording for Sengir Vampire and Order of the Stars to see how it should have been phrased.
T’zak, Horror Ascendant – Love that picture. Here’s hoping no one finds out about his true form, because frankly it kind of sucks. Other than that, though this is an interesting and powerful creature that could easily see inclusion into reanimator or black heavy decks. I like how this card shifts the Clone ability to black but justifies its inclusion there. I am curious why he can’t kill legends, though. Anyway, good work.
 
Overall – This cycle had its hits and misses. I think it would have been well served by being more aggressive on the power/cost ratio (or in the cannibals’ case, maybe toughness/cost.) Overall though and interesting and flavorful cycle of cards that fit well together.
 
Evu: Absorbing Cadaver should say "until end of turn" -- changing color permanently as often as once per turn is too much to ask players to remember for a common. Cannibal Corpse has the same problem; it might help if the destroyed card were imprinted on it or something. T'zak has an interesting take on familiar abilities, and I think is appropriately costed. I think it's questionable whether this is really a cycle. Without the creature type, you'd never know there was supposed to be any connection between them.
Machine Cycle

 
F-22 Raptor – This card has templating issues. It becomes an artifact creature, but it has no power or toughness. How can you add +3/+3 to a number that isn’t there? Other than that, you’ve got a 3/3 (I assume) to 6/6 flyer for 4 mana. Isn’t it funny how even if the plane blows up, the Zodiac Monkey and Mtenda Lion flying it will be just fine? 
 
 
M-1 Tank – These are awesome pictures, by the way. So the creatures get tougher, but they still can’t do anything? How do you kill the guy inside the tank without blowing up the tank, anyway? And shouldn’t a round from an M-1 do more than 3 damage? I’m just saying…M-1 Tanks are pretty powerful..
APC – See, that’s better. It’s hard to kill a guy in an APC. Even harder, apparently, than killing a guy in a tank. This is essentially the artifact version of safe haven. Yeah, your guy is safe, but he can’t do anything. Except Safe Haven could be used at instant speed, and worked well with comes into play abilities, whereas this…can’t. I guess it could be used to protect your Teferi, but then can’t blue protect Teferi anyway? This is the unplayable card in the cycle.
 
Overall – All right, a couple of things right off the bat. First of all, I don’t like using modern war machines on magic cards. It does separate this cycle from the pack, but it just feels like we’re talking about a different game. I understand that there is a flavor justification for it, and I tried to put the best face on it, but…I just don’t like it. Steampunk and Dwarf Tech is about as modern as I’m willing to go with magic.
 
Secondly, let’s talk about the garrison mechanic. I don’t have a problem with having a version of equip that represents a place, but I think as a practical matter is will be difficult to garrison more than one creature. How are you going to represent that on the board? Put it between the creatures? Turn it sideways onto of the creatures? How are you going to get that APC across all four cards? I think what we’ve got here is an interesting idea that will suffer in execution. Permanents that affect more than one other permantent should have static effects, like global enchantments and artifacts (Meekstone and Angelic Chorus, for example.) I just don’t think this mechanic is going to work.
 
Evu: While somewhat complex, Garrison seems like a very interesting mechanic with a lot of potential. My biggest problem with this entry is that it can't just be a cycle. Like equipment in Mirrodin, garrisons would have to be plentiful in the set that introduced them. If these three garrison cards had similar abilities, that would justify calling them a cycle, but in fact they have very different abilities, and I don't think we have enough information to say whether the "Transport" type or the "military vehicle" theme contributes to their being a cycle. That's unfortunate, because I think that these cards individually are among the strongest in the competition. One thing that isn't clear, though, is whether there is a limit on how many creatures can be garrisoned to a single permanent -- it makes sense that there would be, but the rules don't explicitly state it.
Solitary Cycle

Overall – Ah, the “Banned in Singleton” cycle. I’m honestly not sure what to make of this cycle. Too variable to be played in serious constructed (inability to duplicate non-basic lands really hurts here), too powerful to be played in casual, where will these cards find their niche? The abilities just seem to be stuck on the mechanic, without any real regard for flavor. Why does the act of atonement make you discard 4 cards? Why is black dealing damage? Why does the Scourge remove cards from your library?
 
Evu: Revealing your library and examining each card would be a huge hassle when playing with paper cards. I could possibly stand a single rare with that text, but certainly not an uncommon or common. The other problem with these cards is that they're seriously undercosted. You would never play them unless you had built your deck to guarantee that their requirements would be met, so you would always get four-for-one card advantage for two mana, or drain eight life for three mana, which is ridiculously powerful. They would be especially powerful in Limited: you'd draw them often from a 40-card deck, and most Limited decks are Singleton or close to it anyway. On the plus side, though, this is one of the submissions that feels most like a cycle. The cards feature a novel mechanic that wouldn't be printed on any other cards in the set, and they showcase variations on it that are appropriate for their rarities.
 
Void Cycle
 

 

   

Emissary of the Void – Wow, excellent picture. There’s a mana cost on the ability, which is conditional on the opponent having cards in his graveyard and you having black mana available. It also hoses graveyard strategies, so it could see play in constructed. This is a good, powerful common that is flavorful and not unbalanced. Good work.

Disciple of the Void – The power level on this card is a little harder to place. It requires a much higher initial outlay of mana and is almost as vulnerable as the emissary. On the other hand, it can grow into a serious threat and control the board simultaneously. I like the flavor of drawing the void into itself to become more powerful. Best in a heavy black deck, this card is another solid submission.

Voidmaster – Yet again, a difficult card to place. If you’ve not managed to remove any of your opponents cards from the game, you can’t play this guy at all; he becomes blank cardboard. If you’ve been busy with the Voidmaster’s peons, he could potential be quite powerful. On the other hand, the cards in this cycle don’t work well together. Once a player runs out of cards in his graveyard, they don’t really do anything. So using the Emissary and Disciple together in a deck with the plan to summon the Voidmaster may not work. On the other hand, Visara + Extirpate is pretty handy. This card probably is not a Tier 1 creature, simply because so many things have to fall into place for it to work. It would be a fun card to build a deck around, though.
 
Overall - All in all, this is a solid cycle, where all the parts work together to form a cohesive whole. Good work!
 
Evu: One of the most cycle-like entries; interesting synergy and variations on the theme, and seems like fun to play, though a touch overpowered I think. But is "remove a card in an opponent's graveyard" fair as a cost rather than an effect? I realize that being restricted to your opponent's graveyard is a limitation on how much the abilities can be used, and a clever one, but on the other hand, these abilities can function as graveyard hate that doesn't use the stack and doesn't target the removed cards, which really blows cards like Cremate and Withered Wretch out of the water. Might be a little fairer if they read "remove a card of an opponent's choice in that player's graveyard from the game", at least.
 
And that’s it for this month’s entries! The results of this contest can be found here. There were many excellent entries again this month, which just goes to show what a creative and intelligent group of people us magic players can be. Feel free to add your own opinions in the comments section below, and please stop by the August CCC contest and post your cards!

0 Comments

stillirise by Stillirise (Unregistered) 24.70.95.206 (not verified) at Fri, 08/24/2007 - 12:24
Stillirise (Unregistered) 24.70.95.206's picture

Everyone knows the best cycles are the ones where the cards have very little to do with eachother :). Fun stuff, perhaps I shall try it again someday.

On another note, I found a way to break vision of delusion if it only cost one life; thought I cannot recall what now(It was just some crazy dude watching over my shoulder that pointed it out).

 

by AJ_Impy at Thu, 08/23/2007 - 05:08
AJ_Impy's picture

Always like seeing these articles. In defence of Emblem of Fealty, being able to dig out basic lands is an ability that all colours are granted to a lesser extent, usually through artifacts or lands. Compare with Solemn Simulacrum, Journeyer's Kite, Wayfarer's Bauble, the Scourge landcyclers, Terramorphic Expanse and Terminal Moraine. Curiously, it was only in Mirrodin block that equipment had coloured transfer costs... :)

Solitary Cycle by Stu Benedict at Thu, 08/23/2007 - 08:35
Stu Benedict's picture

I agree with Evu about the Solitary Cycle not being a good thing for limited. I totally forgot about that angle when I designed these.

I do feel that these cards are overpowered, but they need to be because the deck that they would be played in are really lacking in power as compared to other decks featuring 4 x power cards. They are also only 3 cards in a 60 card deck, which reduces their overall effect.

 The comments also asked when does black ever deal damage ... consume spirit, corrupt, and soul burn come to my mind.

 Thanks for running the contest. It was a fun exercise.

by khirareq at Thu, 08/23/2007 - 09:15
khirareq's picture

I had forgotten about Journeyer's Kite.  See, the others require that the card be used to get the one land, so they don't represent a way to accumulate mana and thin all the lands out of your deck.  This card is much more like the Scourge stable One with Nature, which if you remember ONS limited was a pretty darn good aura, even with the potential for disadvantage.  You make a good point about the Kite, though.

by khirareq at Thu, 08/23/2007 - 09:21
khirareq's picture

You are absolutely right about black dealing damage in life draining situations.  I should have been more clear; I'm looking for a flavor justification for these cards' effects.  Why does the black mage drain your life when he roars?  Why does his library have to be singleton in order for it to work?

It was certainly an original mechanic!  I hope you'll consider submitting to this month's contest as well.

by Lythand at Wed, 08/22/2007 - 22:30
Lythand's picture

I love the feedback article. I tried to make the Necromorphs a undead race that se them selves as the supreme race, even over other undead, by being able to shape change and mock other races' abilities. As far as Cannible corpse, yea I was having issues trying to get the wording right and figued i would get negative feedback on it. I jsut tried to do my best. Thanks for the feedback!.