Great to hear another excellent podcast from you. As always, I love your card reviews. Always something insightful that I haven't thought about.
Okay, gonna take a stab at reviewing these cards. I think I'm fairly good at making cards now, though I always have room to improve, but I'd like to improve my ability to critique other people's designs. Feedback on my critiques would be appreciated.
Flyrocopter Scout: Colonization seems like an interesting mechanic. As you said, the differences in limited and constructed applications are quite significant. It would be pretty trivial to get three lands of different types in constructed, where it would be significantly harder in limited. I think this mechanic has a lot of potential, but would need significant support in the limited environment to fully realize it. If there isn't a sufficient amount of nonbasics or mana-fixing to support colonization decks, it could easily flop like Converge in BFZ. If there is, it could potentially be really great. The card itself is quite a clean common. Good without colonization, and the the colonization benefit is definitely worth it. One potential developmental concern is that it might be too good; it can potentially be quite a high-pick common and might not make it to the colonization decks that want it.
Soul Drain: I agree with you, this design is beautiful. I feel like beautiful, elegant, universally applicable designs like these aren't made so much as discovered, and there isn't much unsettled territory left to claim. This card has staked its claim on a beautiful patch of design space.
Frenzied Corsairs: Yes, a 1/3 in red feels rather off, but I can see the reasoning behind it. 1/3 is the only possible size that's reasonable for a 2-drop and also benefits significantly from a +1/+0 boost. Red doesn't get 2/2s for 2 without drawbacks, and if it were 2/1 or 3/1, even after a boost it would still be blocked and trade with a random token. 1/3 is the best possible size for this particular design, but nevertheless, it does feel off. The set probably doesn't need this particular design, but it probably won't do too much harm. I agree that it would be better suited to a different color.
Settler's Caravan: The design is a bit inelegant and clunky, but again, I see what this card is trying to do. It's a way of land fixing that hasn't been done before, and is more random and uncertain than the standard land-search. It is a bit too wordy for common, and even though the effect itself is fairly simple, it probably can't be conveyed in fewer words, and doesn't do much that less wordy mechanics can't accomplish almost as well.
Guardian of Kazundoo: A solid common. Nothing too much to say about it, really. A bread-and-butter common, which serves its purpose. I do like the aesthetic symmetry you pointed out.
Kahana Observer: The ability is weird, and quite minor. I really don't know how it'll affect gameplay, and I don't really know how to evaluate it. A minor upside on a standard-sized small body is always a fine design. The attack trigger does make this feel aggressive, which adds to the pirate-y feel. Revealing a card from the hand would have been the more obvious route, and the one I would have gone with, but I hadn't considered the advantages you mentioned that this design has over the obvious alternative.
Lone Evangelist: Sorcery-speed tapping can sometimes be relevant, but is quite minor, and does not make this card worth jumping through the hoops for colonization. Even if it didn't have the issue of misdirecting the players, I feel that this would still not be a very fun card, simply because its impact is too low. Also, sorcery-speed tapping is a very aggressive ability, as it basically equates to making the target unable to block. Such aggressive gameplay feels really contrary to the flavor of the card. I wonder if the design would be better if it had flash? It would then be worth playing without the colonization, and instant-speed tapping would be both more relevant and more flavorfully resonant.
And that's all the cards you critiqued. I'm venturing out on my own for the rest of them, which means I'll probably be making quite a few poor judgment calls.
Sinister Strike: The pirate mode is really powerful: instant-speed fight for one mana in red that comes with a P/T boost. It is very situational and dependent on having the right deck, but I'm not sure red should have such a strong fight spell, even a situational one. The non-pirate mode is much weaker, but still pretty playable, so this card is rarely dead. I believe that is a positive in design. It really needs to be restricted to creatures you control, so it can't hijack the opponent's pirates for fighting; I assume that's an oversight, and an easily fixable one.
Stitched Gulgud: From this card alone, I can't tell what jinx does. Does it always grant the creature's ability to the jinxed creature? If so, that's really narrow, and the design space for it is quite small. Looking at the full spoiler, it turns out that that's the case most of the time but not always. Symmetry with the innate and granted abilities is nice, but if it can't be achieved for all the jinx cards, the inconsistency might be a net negative for aesthetics. Jinx is a fairly specific ability, kind of like a reverse scavenge, where you can use creatures in your graveyard to place negative effects on opposing creatures. I like flashback and similar abilities that allow you to reuse cards from the graveyard and provide a mana sink for the late game; I think they have a very good effect on gameplay. The complexity level of jinx is quite high, which is a concern.
For the card itself, it's a 4/8 for 6 with a small drawback. I don't think a 4/8 for 6 really needs a drawback; it's on-curve as a vanilla creature. The drawback is likely to impact the Gulgud more than the creature it jinxes, as a 4/8 is the kind of creature you would really want to block alone a lot of the time, while conferring it on an opponent's creature is hard to utilize efficiently. This card shows the difficulty of satisfying jinx designs of the "confer its own drawback to another creature" type; there might be too few good designs in that space, and it might be wiser to abandon those designs in favor of broader jinx designs.
Wave of Dispersion: The main thing to talk about here is Recall. The keyword is essentially flashback, but much more complicated. Is the gameplay addition worth the extra complexity? The main benefit I see of recall over flashback is that recall cards are much more synergistic than flashback cards; playing multiple recall cards allows you to recall a single spell multiple times. This would allow a recall deck to be built. And perhaps there can be other cards that make Totem tokens, which would aid with recall. The problem I see with that is that it is likely to lead to very repetitive gameplay as you build a deck around casting a particular powerful recall spell over and over, a problem that flashback doesn't have. That plus the significant increased complexity leads me to the initial conclusion that recall is worse than flashback.
Recall and jinx play around in similar space, allowing cards to be used from the graveyard. This points to a graveyard theme in the set. I'm not sure how well that reinforces the theme of colonization. The two do step on each other's toes a bit. They do go on different card types, but they accomplish much of the same gameplay purpose. Is having two separate mechanics for a similar gameplay purpose good design? I'm inclined to say no, but I'll defer to your expertise on that.
Saleisan Biomancer: Scry-and-draw is a fun effect, as is the Coiling Oracle ability. My main concern with this is that in the late game, the value for X could be massive, and scrying, say, 10 cards or more could take too much time and mental effort and reduce variance too much. If the scry were for a fixed value, I think this card could be pretty good. It's a medium-cost creature, so you're less likely to need more land when you play it compared to something like Coiling Oracle. The potential for the extra land drop is thus more situational, and it would be more often correct to give up the land and get something into your hand instead. That can feel like giving up value, and lead to some minor feel-bad moments. But if there is a significant need for ramp in blue/green in the set, a 4-mana choice of ramp or draw could still serve a purpose.
Soul Harvest: A pure card draw for 4 mana at instant speed should draw two cards to be decent, and more to be really good. This has the potential to draw a huge amount of cards, or it could just be dead. I love Grim Haruspex, and this card could play a similar role. But it's much harder to use, as Grim Haruspex was a creature, whereas this is a 4-mana instant. You'd need to be able to set up a lot of creatures dying in one turn, while spending 4 mana on a card that doesn't directly accomplish that goal. That makes this really difficult to use. I don't think I would enjoy playing this very much, but the potential is there. This is one of the cards I'm less sure about, design-wise.
Flaming Skull: A powerful burn spell that requires a specific setup to cast; in this case, a creature of a specific type in a graveyard. This points toward a very specific archetype: suicide Humans in red. That's a pretty bizarre combination, and would need significant support to be worth trying. Traditionally, black is the color that cares about creatures in the graveyard, and there have been black-red sacrifice themes in the past. But mixing Human tribal with black-red sacrifice hasn't been done before, as far as I know, and is probably too narrow an archetype, especially since Humans don't appear to be centered in black or red in this set.
Trystor, Who Seeks Revenge: I'm somewhat nervous about mana-taxing effects, as they can be quite oppressive. This one does require a hit to get through, which makes it more manageable, but having to pay 2 more for all your spells can be pretty brutal. It is a pretty unique effect, and I think putting taxing on a saboteur ability is a pretty clever design and worth trying out. I don't think this needs double strike or vigilance; the unique ability speaks loudly enough for itself, and placing a high-impact ability like double strike distracts from it, as does a defensive ability like vigilance that doesn't really synergize with the rest of the card. I'd give him first strike at most, or just no keyword abilities.
How'd I do in my judgments? Anything you'd care to comment on, or should we wait until the next podcast comes out?
Glad you enjoyed it and cool to see your critiques. I'd like to hold off on commenting on them for now, because I don't want to give away our own impressions of the next cards yet. Also, you'll get our thoughts on the podcast too.
Will comment on this cause it was already in the podcast.
1) Obvious design is not obvious. Look how long it took to make Murder. Often the best design involves you saying, "how did we never do this before"?
2) Great design often involves applying and improving upon previous ideas. When people include round edges in their designs to promote a sense of friendliness, that's aesthetics 101. It's still good design to use it.
3) Elegance is harder than originality. Anyone can make a card that is original, we see never-before-used-mechanics in this forum all the time. It's very difficult to design a compelling card in just a few words. There's a reason why commons are the hardest rarity to design well.
I agree the design is not a revolutionary leap forward in design space. It's simply an extraordinary elegant and well-executed idea that hasn't been done in a 20 year old game, at any mana cost.
I think we are exaggerating a little on Soul Drain here. Extraordinarily elegant, sure. Well-executed? If anything, the other common cards that have the exact same cost and the same life gain ability with a draw-back hint at the fact that such a potentially powerful 100% turned-on life gain might be too good for the average environment. At a glance, the environment of Kuzandoo isn't really that far out from the norm.
I understand that's the development side of things, but when you have designs that are exactly the same minus the drawback already in existence, I feel it's important to question why those decisions were made. In murder's case, R&D made a fundamental change in what Black was allowed to do. Maybe I've spent too much time in front of a MCC rubric as of late, but this just reads as functionally elegant, good design. Nothing brilliant.
It's very elegant design that is also very satisfying to play. I'm not concerned on the developmental side, because I'd be reacting similarly if it cost 6 mana, the environment is a factor and I wouldn't mind seeing this at uncommon in any case if we need to worry about that.
The card is flavorful, the replayability is higher than most removal, it taps into a very popular mechanic (life gain) with new players, the design feels so obvious that it should have been done a long time ago and it pulls all this off in an extremely elegant, simple text line. This is extremely hard to do and is an immense benefit to the game. A simple design that achieves all this is huge, because it leaves more room for other interesting complicated designs in the set too. I can see why the card might appear to be obvious or simplistic, and that's fine, but to me it does so much so simply and flavorfully. And that's both very hard and very beneficial.
I agree, but one does have to wonder why this card hasn't been printed before. It's surely not because they haven't thought of it, as there have been very similar designs. Maybe there just hasn't been the right environment for it?
Very possible. But then again, look how long it took Murder to see print.
There's a serious impulse in designers to try and make things fancier. We have a card in Faeria that says "Destroy a creature" and that's it. It used to have a really fancy extra ability, but we removed it for elegance. Whenever we're trying to add in new support for a specific archetype, someone suggests using the blank space on this card to add in the synergy. Surely we can do something cooler than just, "Destroy a creature" right?
So far we've managed to keep it simple and elegant though.
Flyrocopter Scout –Excellent 08/10
Soul Drain – Fantastic 09/10
Frenzied Corsairs – Change the body to 2/1 or color shift to black. As-is it’s virtually unprintable 02/10
Settler’s Caravan – Very flavorful. Probably not printable because of the “any order” clause. Eternal format Johnny wants to break it. But will probably be a letdown much of the time. 05/10
Guardian of Kazundoo – Not sure about double colored aside Colonization. 06/10
Kahana Observer – Okay 06/10
Lone Evangelist – Name flavor is a little off. Would be decent as a 2/3. As-is, it’s okay 06/10
Sinister Strike – Name sounds black. Redflagged as 2-for-1. Decent 07/10
Stitched Gulgud – Jinx is cool. The body is odd. Overall it seems too strong. Needs development 04/10
Wave of Dispersion – Recall needs development 03/10
Saleisan Biomancer – Bad flavor. Otherwise excellent 8/10
Soul Harvest – Fantastic 9/10
Flaming Skull – Odd. Red Pirate tribal and red Human tribal in the same set. It’s an odd design with weird flavor. Doesn’t look appealing. 03/10
Trystor, Who Seeks Revenge – Awesome 10/10