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Designer Fun – Innistrad Review (Green & Other)

Green and “other” in today’s design review. But first, I had a request from last time, so I’ll talk about one more Black card:

[draft]Heartless summoning[/draft] Heartless Summoning

This design gets the wheels turning in layers. What creatures are still worth having at -1/-1? What creatures are extra good if they are a little cheaper? Then when you realize this makes [card]Perilous Myr[/card] into a free [card]Shock[/card], you start thinking about what creatures you could play that you wouldn’t mind if they were dead. You sort of know what to do with it, and that’s why this kind of trade-off deal presents a lot of interesting deck building space.

Now on to Green:

[draft]Avacyn’s pilgrim[/draft] Avacyn’s Pilgrim

Are you expecting (or hoping) to see the G 1/1 that taps for R later in this block? Don’t hold your breath! While that card is perfectly fine, it’s very unlikely to show up because Red and Green share Werewolves this block, and making mana doesn’t feel like a Werewolf thing. Humans, on the other hand, are little guys that support each other and help the team. Also, by not making the Red-making version they keep the two tribes separate. You’ll have to wait for another block.

Oh and don’t go throwing the G 1/1 that taps for R into every block you design for yourself. That card belongs where it belongs – in a set where it’s appropriate and where it has meaning.

[draft]Darkthicket wolf[/draft] Darkthicket Wolf

The “rootwalla” ability allows an early drop to get past defenders for a lot of damage, trade up in the midgame, and not be a dead draw in the late game. I would not recommend more than one or two as commons in any given set.

[draft]Essence of the wild[/draft] Essence of the Wild

This ability seems very cool, but then all you end up with are vanilla 6/6s. Most of Constructed’s fun and desirable creatures are fun and desirable because they have abilities, not just stats, and this takes that away from them. Because of that, I worry that this otherwise cool sounding design will lose out on its potential (i.e. will not get played).

It probably really shines in a deck containing a lot of mana dudes, card-drawing, Garruks and other token makers, and perhaps token-lovers realized immediately what to do with it?

I also think the presence of [card]Kindercatch[/card] in the same set makes Essence look worse. Confusing right? Since the Mythic is “better” – but the reason I think it makes Essence look bad is that it’s also a 3GG G 6/6. Until you’ve had Essence in play, you might not realize how different they really are. Also seeing the common makes you feel like your Mythic is making commons for you, which is also less cool.

[draft]Festerhide boar[/draft] Festerhide Boar

This card feels similar to [card]Gorehorn Minotaurs[/card]. They have different trigger conditions, but all the numbers are the same, and the trigger conditions can both involve you making otherwise suboptimal attacks or tricking your opponent. They’ve both been fun, and it’s interesting to see how they fit differently into their environments.

[draft]Garruk relentless
garruk, the veil-cursed[/draft] Garruk Relentless

The best part of this card is how exciting it was during the reveal process. “A five ability Planeswalker!” “Double-Faced Card Planeswalker!” “First Planeswalker with a static ability!” and so on. The worst thing about this card is that it has too many options and scenarios when you are trying to think ahead. Do you fight something right away so you can flip it now? Make a Wolf now and see what happens? How much do you need to sac a guy to search? Is it better to flip, then make a baby wolf and use that to sac and search or make a 2/2 wolf first, then try to flip and sac the 2/2 to search later? It’s not too bad one step at a time, but if you are trying to think a couple of turns ahead it gets ugly fast.

Double Faced cards are great for showing a transformation, but Planeswalkers like Garruk don’t need to do it this way because we have seen two previous Garruks already. We already know what he was like before becoming veil-cursed. It’s hard for me to not look at this card and see a gimmick. On the other hand… I can’t say I would have been able to avoid designing it if I was on the other side. I mean, it’s a five ability Planeswalker!

[draft]Gatstaf shepherd[/draft] Gatstaf Shepherd

Just wanted to say that Intimidate was a great word to put on a simple common werewolf. I’m impressed by how well this card plays. I already talked about DFc’s and the Werewolf triggers in a previous article. I still love them after several draft and sealed events, despite getting run over for 30+ trample just the other day.

[draft]Gutter grime[/draft] Gutter Grime

I have been on both sides of this, and wow does it feel unfair. R&D has a soft spot for Ooze creatures, in case you hadn’t noticed. I very much like how the tokens keep getting bigger and how they all die when this card gets [card]Naturalize[/card]d. The fact that these two things come out of the same words on the card (the part in quotes) is most elegant.

[draft]Hamlet captain[/draft] Hamlet Captain

It may be just me, but I find this ability confusing. When this guy attacks or blocks… he gives other creatures, and not all of them, just the humans, +1/+1. Most creatures that have “when I attack or block” abilities, have effects that help them fight. ([card]Ashmouth Hound[/card], for example.) So your experience with other cards tells you [card]Hamlet Captain[/card] can handle more than his 2/2 size suggests, but no, he’s just a 2/2 in a fight. This is a case where I would really like to see the word “other” left out of the text.

[draft]lumberknot[/draft] Lumberknot

A fine use of hexproof. It allows this creature to avoid small removal until it’s big enough to get into fights.

[draft]mulch[/draft] Mulch

Sometimes you have to be creative if you want to put an enabler for a theme into a color that doesn’t really get that ability. In this case, self-milling is accomplished in Green under the guise of finding lands.

[draft]Prey upon[/draft] Prey Upon & [card]Nightfall Predator[/card] ([card]Daybreak Ranger[/card])

Fight is awesome, which I hope is obvious. What I see here is one card I expected to see and the lack of a second card I expected to see. [card]Prey Upon[/card] is the simplest spell implementation of Fight, which I expected to see. What I also thought we would see is a Green creature that simply tapped to fight. Instead we have a DFc that has to first get flipped, and then requires off-color activation to fight. Why is that? Or: why not also have the simple tap-to-fight creature at a lower power level and rarity? (3G 2/2, for example.)

[card]Prey Upon[/card] covers the basic implementation in part, so they may have felt the creature didn’t need to be that simple.

It’s possible a simple creature was around, and was cut for power reasons. Or because its presence detracted from [card]Nightfall Predator[/card]. This last possibility is an interesting one – sometimes a common or uncommon that mirrors a rare makes the rare cooler, but sometimes it makes the rare less special. (Sounds like this card was added in development, but it’s unknown whether it replaced another card with Fight or not.)

[draft]Spidery grasp[/draft] Spidery Grasp

This card didn’t make it through development at least once while I was at WotC. Nice to see it finally find a home.

[draft]Tree of redemption[/draft] Tree of Redemption

+ [card]Warmonger’s Chariot[/card] + [card]Doran, the Siege Tower[/card]… anyone?

[draft]Evil twin[/draft] Evil Twin

Awesome top-down design.

[draft]Geist of saint traft[/draft] Geist of Saint Traft

A more subtle build-around, since you need to protect his fragile 2/2 body, but even if you don’t you at least get one 6-power attack out of a 3-drop. I like what this card is doing. Now I would like to share a bit of poetic love from local genius Nik Davidson: “Who didn’t cross the river styx, he’s a 2/2 but swings for 6?”

[draft]Grimgrin, corpse-born[/draft] Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

This makes me want to build a Commander deck. (In other words: build-around-me, strong rewards, somewhat easily disrupted so it feels fun / fair, easy enough to use in a basic fashion and obviously better when built around.) I feel it’s a little awkward that this design is Blue-Black instead of Black-Green or mono-black, which is what it might be if not for the Blue-Black Zombie theme. It’s quite a good design for a Demon in any other context.

[draft]Olivia voldaren[/draft] Olivia Voldaren

Sorry I “left this out” of the Black-Red review, I intended to include it and all the gold cards here from the start… isn’t that the normal way to do it?

The flavor comes through very well on this design, giving us a Vampire that bites others, makes them vampires, and through that process can eventually gain control of them. As for it being in the Visara / Drana / unbeatable-in-limited bomb? Yes, often a good player will feel they were “cheated” out of a win by such a card. Aren’t those same players just as happy to first-pick those cards? Isn’t variance a critical part of Magic? Shouldn’t a weaker player be allowed to win with a powerful card once in a while? If you believe the answer to any of these is “no,” you have a ways to go still before you really understand Magic or before you can become a professional designer.

[draft]One-eyed scarecrow[/draft] One-Eyed Scarecrow

I have been impressed with how well this works in limited. Even if you relegate it to the sideboard, it’s an answer card that really does what it’s supposed to be doing, even if it’s not as strong as something like [card]Geistcatcher’s Rig[/card]. In fact, perhaps precisely because it’s not a flier-killing 2-for-1 I am more impressed by how good it is at performing the role it has.

[draft]Runechanter’s pike[/draft] Runechanter’s Pike

So the plan here is to have an equipment that wants a lot of non-creatures in your deck? Yuck. I do think there is an interesting thing to discover here – if you have a lot of Instants & Sorceries that create token creatures, this card would be really neat in that deck. However, this set has only a handful of cards that create token creatures without needing a lot of real creatures in the same deck (or being creatures themselves). Maybe someone will be able to make it work, but probably even if you try you’ll end up disappointed with the results. I think those kinds of designs are misses, but you can’t have the “hard to discover” hits without some misses.

[draft]Sharpened pitchfork
Silver-inlaid dagger
Butcher’s cleaver
Wooden stake
Blazing torch[/draft] Sharpened Pitchfork, Silver-Inlaid Dagger, Butcher’s Cleaver (and Wooden Stake and Blazing Torch)

There have been limited archetypes that are better with equipment before, but not so explicitly. It was a great call to put these cards in the hands of Humans, both to make their decks feel different, and in terms of pure flavor.

[draft]Clifftop retreat
Hinterland harbor
Isolated chapel
Sulfur falls
Woodland cemetery[/draft] Clifftop Retreat, Hinterland Harbor, Isolated Chapel, Sulfur Falls, Woodland Cemetery

It should have been obvious from M10 that these would eventually see print. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the future. Will M13 have these instead as a way to get more of them into the hands of players? What happens after that for M14? Naturally, the non-core set duals (or triples, or whatever) will also have an effect on this situation. Planning out these lands for a couple years into the future is an interesting job, though perhaps only one that a designer could love.

So far I’ve had a great time with Innistrad, but that’s all I’ve got to say about the cards for now. I’ll be talking about a more general design topic next week, see you then!

Oh speaking of seeing you, the other day I got recognized in person as a writer for CF. Cool! Hello to all the peeps I played FNM with last Friday!

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