Pattern Recognition #86 - Custom Card Critique

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


4 October 2018


Good afternoon everyone! Well, it's afternoon when this is published, so I'll roll with that. My name is berryjon,'s resident Old Fogey , and this is, as you may have guessed, Pattern Recognition, wherein I, your most gracious of writers, regale you with tales of Magic the Gathering, it's history, it's design, it's ups and it's downs. Or maybe I'm just leading you into a Fog Bank so I can make my getaway. ;)

Today's article is going to be quite interesting - mostly because I'm going to be jumping from item to item and giving feedback on all of them. You see, for those of you just joining us now, I, for a couple weeks previous, solicited cards created by you, the TappedOut community for my review.

And I got a few, about a dozen or so. Which I can work with.

Now, before I want to get to the cards themselves, (which I know you all want), I want to talk a little about Card Design.

Let me begin by pointing out the single most important factor anyone who has ever actually designed this sort of thing knows;

Nothing works. Only extremely rarely will a card make it through the design and development process intact. And when they do, it's either because the card is so low-key, it's inoffensive. Something like having a 2/2 for with the creature type of Bear.

Rather, cards are designed through an iterative process, where each change (should be) meticulously cataloged, effects predicted and tested, with further changes causing further testing. Whenever you here Wizards mention their FFL, their Future Future League, this is the group of testers assigned to review and test cards by actually playing them - with pens and pencils in hand to make changes on the fly to respond to scenarios and issues that arise.

So, what you're about to see are the cards that were submitted to me in temporal order. That is, first come, first on the chopping block. This is only the first pass, and I will certainly make errors of over-compensation myself, which would in turn be fixed by other people.

This process is not perfect, as anyone who can tell you about the accidental infinite combo of Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian that came from Kaladesh. Where the change of a single word - from creature to permanent - caused a massive break in Standard, where this was one of the biggest decks predicted for a while once the combo happened.

Then Felidar Guardian got banned in Standard as part of one of the largest such actions since Mirrordin, and that was that.

Well, enough dawdling. On with the show! Each person will be credited with their name, then their card, then the feedback.


Mizzium Jumper Cables -
Whenever you cast a spell, if you didn't cast it from your hand, Mizzium Jumper Cables deals 2 damage to any target.

This first suggestion actually came from the other site I link my articles directly to - SpaceBattles.Com. Here, the author intended this card to synergize with Flashback, Commanders, Eternal Scourge and the then-recently revealed Jump Start mechanic.

Now, Red actually does have a history of using Enchantments to deal damage. My favourite is either Mana Barbs or Citadel of Pain . This isn't new to the game. It's something that Wizards does keep in 's back pocket.

Now, casting from outside of your hand is something that Wizards has taken advantage of with Red, and yes, this does synergize well with the so-called "Impulse Draw" that you can find on cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance .

The question then is, what does this card represent?

Well, it's a passive benefit to doing something that already does. But the question then becomes, is this too much? This is what playtesting would reveal.

Now, here is what I think right off the bat. That being, this card has some amazing overlap with Burning Vengeance . This card, printed in Innistrad and reprinted in Eternal Masters, is less than Mizzium Jumper Cables and only works from the Graveyard, rather than from non-hand locations.

Now, Burning Vengeance was printed in a set that had a lot to do with Graveyard matters, and so having a card that rewarded Red players for using the mechanic of the set was only natural.

With that in mind, while I don't have a problem with this card, I can only say that this card would probably never see the light of day outside of a Commander product, where it would be in the deck of a plus whatever colours for recursion in order to help enforce the theme. Combo with Zurgo Bellstriker as his Dash cost is explicitly Casting the card, though you are going to drive up his casting cost a lot if you repeatedly do this. And let's not talk about Squee, the Immortal . Or Food Chain .

That it is meant to work with Jump Start (and the points given by my editor) does imply that this was meant to work with Guilds of Ravnica, probably as a Rare. In this case, it becomes more workable in a Limited format, where, like Burning Vengeance ,

So yeah, I can see this card in a Commander set, but no where else. It's workable, but putting it into a regular set is just asking for trouble.


Rocky Coastline
: add .

Whelp, this didn't take long.

I knew going into this that cards would fall into three broad categories. The first would be utility cards that would work very well with a specific deck type, such as the preceding Mizzium Jumper Cables. These won't be bad as they aren't bad cards by themselves, but rather they are combo pieces. Which by definition are lesser than the sum of its part.

The second were going to be joke cards. These weren't serious submissions, but rather something that would be fun to play, or not fun at all and just there because people wanted to see my reaction.

Lastly are the cards that are over-powered. Through means subtle, blatant and innocuous, these are the cards that would take other cards, and make then completely irrelevant.

Ladies and Gentlemen of TappedOut.Net, I present to you better Fetch Lands.

Let me list the ways in which this card is better. First, Rocky Coastline can actually tap for mana. Yes, it's merely , but it's still better than Fetches, or Evolving Wilds or even Terramorphic Expanse . Each of those cannot produce mana on their own, their only purpose is to get other lands out of your deck.

Second, and this is the most important thing here, Cycling is better. Fetch Lands work by playing the land, then activating the ability (including paying the life cost) and then getting your new land.

When you Mountiancycle this card, you discard the card, then search your library for a Mountain and put it into your library. Same with Islandcycling, except for an Island. I cannot begin to describe how much better this works. Cycling in this case only costs a single mana, and not even one life, and doesn't even require playing a land - meaning you can set up your land drops even better.

In addition, Cycling, thanks to Amonkhet and Hour of Devestation, you get cards like Cunning Survivor , Flameblade Adept , or even older cards like Lightning Rift . All cards that cause you to gain some small benefit for cycling a card.

Yes, there is a mana cost, but it is minuscule. A single mana or a single point of life when you compare the idea of the Fetch or the Cycler. And if Phyrexian Mana is any indication, it's 2 life per point of mana.

Now, please excuse me while I go wash my mouth out with lye for actually using something from New Phyrexia in a positive light.

There is one way for me to see this card as a real one, and that is to add the word "Basic" in front of the two Cycling abilities. Like Ash Barrens . This will keep the manafixing without going completely overboard on the opportunity costs involved.

My editor disagrees though, thinking this card is more along the lines of Rocky Tar Pit , in that it can slow down a player, but I disagree. I can cycle on my opponent's turn if I haven't needed to spend that mana on something else. Then he would point to the life payment for a Fetch, and the two of us would have to stay disagreeing.


Leftraru, Indomitable Cacique

Legendary Creature - Human Berserker
Humans you control have Haste and Hexproof

As an interesting Tribal Commander, Mig-El's suggestion implies that he wants this to serve as a 'Lieutenant' to Kaalia of the Vast .

Except, you know, for the near total lack of synergy.

Well, but for putting Hexproof on Kaalia of the Vast , which protects her from everything, and allowing her to attack on the turn she comes into play, allowing her ability to activate.

But that's only because she's human.

Tribal Commanders are very hard to design even at the best of times, and this particular example doesn't do its tribe any favours.

Humans are everywhere. You won't find a colour without them. It's something that Wizards recognizes as part of our collective psyche. That being said, however, the idea of Mardu Humans isn't that bad of one. With the tribal support that has come from Ahn-Crop Captain, Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale in recent years, I honestly see this card fitting in as a Commander on its own merits.

Now, there are still problems with this card. Wizards no longer wants Lord-type creatures to affect themselves. This particular example would have Haste and Hexproof innately, while granting other Humans the same.

I also have concerns with the abilities granted. Hexproof is powerful, and getting it on your Tribe for a converted casting cost of is, frankly, ridiculous. Yes, it's in White, but it also tends to be paired up with Green.

And I don't buy the idea that having three different mana symbols in the casting cost will slow this guy down one bit. I remember Siege Rhino 's domination of Standard, thank you very much. Mana costs that are 'hard', really aren't.

I just grin and smile at how Wizards thinks that the new Niv-Mizzet's casting cost of is actually some kind of hindrance when we're in a Standard Rotation of perfect Mana thanks to Shock and Checklands.

But as for the creature himself? Herself? Hirself? Well, I like it. It's a very simple aggro commander. I would drop the Hexproof for other Humans for the most part, but other than that, I do like it. It's not spectacular, nor is it completely overpowered. It does what it does straight and true, and you can't go wrong with that.

Alternately, perhaps you can go full bore on the Commander's Lieutenant thing, and instead have this card read: "Your Commander has Haste and Hexproof." This will allow this card to protect itself if it's your commander, or you can go back to Kaalia of the Vast and protect her at the cost of not protecting this creature directly.

You know, I'm running out of space here, so join me mext week when I keep looking at other cards you've all submitted to me.

Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #85 - Range Strike The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #87 - Convoke

Ithyn says... #1

Looking at Rocky Coastline now, I agree that making it basic blankcycling (and possibly removing the tapping for colorless) would be necessary to balance it.

As another point, when I initially made it, the fact that they could search for shocklands, ABUR Duals, etc. completely slipped my mind.

I definitely didn't look at the card hard enough or long enough, so thank you for pointing out the problems. I really appreciate the honesty.

October 4, 2018 9:22 p.m.

DragonKing90 says... #2

i had to stop reading when you got to the land. you didn't proofread your article, and its hard to read when you have sentence fragments and state things incorrectly, like "search your library for a Mountain and put it into your library". rocky coastline is actually far inferior to fetches simply because it costs mana. you can play a fetchland and a Thoughtseize turn 1, but you could not use "rocky coastline" to grab a Watery Grave or Blood Crypt and play that Thoughtseize, as an example. everything about rocky coastline vs fetches is exactly the same, except coastline eats up 1 of your mana for the turn.

October 4, 2018 9:59 p.m.

DragonKing90 says... #3

Ithyn: rocky coastline is already balanced because it costs mana, which puts a player behind for the turn.

October 4, 2018 10:01 p.m.

BlazingAbsol says... #4

Rocky Coastline isn’t nearly as good as a fetch. The most important reason: you need another non-Cycle land in hand. A hand of 3 Scalding Tarn is totally keepable (great, even) but a hand of 3 Rocky Coastline is almost certainly a mulligan.

To top it off, Coastland is essentially a tapped land, whereas a Fetch is only tapped (ie getting a tapped shock land) if you want it to be. Sure you can hold up mana and cycle at opponent’s eot, but that doesn’t help me cast Opt on Turn 1.

If you only let Rocky Coastline get basics, it would be a strictly worse Ash Barrens which isn’t a great card in general.

October 4, 2018 10:19 p.m.

Boza says... #5

Oops, missed the library thing. sorry for that one, the ones in the middle of the paragraph are harder to catch.

Anyways, I enjoy the article and I think that Rocky Coastline is a-ok to print in a standard set, as long as you do not have duals with the land type in standard at the same time (no dark jeskai decks with perfect mana, thank you very much!). It has a powerful effect, we need more cycling in the game and will lower the price of fetches by being in direct competition with them.

My favorite of the three is the jumper cables. Not only is it a pun on jump-start, but it is a good payoff for it. I think it would have been a great rare for the izzet deck, enabling an izzet control deck in Limited around it and being fun in other formats.

October 5, 2018 5:30 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #6

My thoughts on each of these cards:

gladiuslucix's Mizzium Jumper Cables:

I like this card. It's fun, has lots of synergies, and has some good flavour. That said, while I think it might be neat to build with in kitchen table and in casual commander, as noted in the article, it's not quite powerful enough to see more competitive play. Four-drops that don't immediately make a difference are pretty problematic.

Since I still like it's function, my edit would be as follows:

; and a second ability like "When Mizzium Jumper Cables enters the battlefield, you may cast target instant or sorcery card with a converted mana cost of 1 from your graveyard without paying its mana cost."

Four mana for 2 damage, and an Opt, Thoughtseize, Lightning Bolt, or Path to Exile to boot is starting to get into the "playable" realm, though I still think you generally have better things to do on turn 4. I don't think this would be too game-breaking in limited either--there are generally a lack of playable 1-mana instant or sorcery spells, particularly at common.

Ithyn's Rocky Coastline

I disagree entirely with this review. While I think this is a tad better than most enters-tapped lands, as you can use it for mana in a pinch, I think it is entirely outclassed by pretty much any other land that enters untapped. Unless I was playing a deck with good synergies, I'd rather run a fast/check/pain land as my budget option.

I don't foresee this having that big of an impact on fetch lands' cost, as Boza suggested--fetch lands are just too good, and no competitive deck is going to want to be down a mana. The kinds of people who will want this land are building on a budget, and are not in the market for fetchesanyway. There flexibility and synergies make them better than Rocky Tar Pit, but still not in the same league as fetches.

I see no reason to limit this card to basics--I think the very design provides enough limitations to its power.

That's not to say I don't like this card. I think there's a place for lands that enter tapped (budget commander; limited; standard), and I really like the flexibility of this card. That it might have some interesting discard/cycling synergies is an added plus, making a mediocre land somewhat more playable--provided you've designed your deck to use it.

So, despite my argument against it being a powerful land, I fully think it has a place in the game, and support it as-is.

Mig-El's Leftraru, Indomitable Cacique

I have a number of issues with this card, but my biggest issues come from the colour pie.

Red makes sense in this card--Red is known for giving other creatures Haste, and 3/1 stats are exactly what I expect from an aggressive red creature.

White and Black is where things fall apart.

Let's look at White first.

Right now, there is only one mono-White card that grants your creatures hexproof--Shalai, Voice of Plenty--and even she has a Green/White colour identity. In fact, looking at all the cards that grant anything Hexproof, it's pretty clear it is the Green part of her colour identity that is providing Hexproof to the creatures, and the White to you.

While Drogskol Captain Sigarda, Heron's Grace are similar to this card in effect, Sigarda, Heron's Grace runs into the same issue as Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Drogskol Captain's hexproof seems much more in line with Blue's Lord of the Unreal than White's lack of mono-colored equivalent.

Moving on to Black--there is no reason for this card to have Black in its casting cost, other than flavour, and I don't think that is sufficient on its own.

How would I change this, while sticking with the original design idea of assissting Kaalia?

My revised copy of this card:

Indomitable Cacique

Creature - Human Berserker

Other creatures you control have haste.

Sacrifice Indomitable Cacique: Target creature you control gains indestructible until end of turn.


Breaking down the revisions. The general concept follows that of Fires of Yavimaya and Firewake Sliver. Three mana is pretty reasonable for giving your creatures haste (Goblin Chieftain, Fervor, Blur Sliver, etc.), so I think this is priced fairly well CMC wise.

The Indestructible ability is pretty reasonably costed as well--Selfless Spirit provides the same ability for , and also has two power and evasion.

The lack of legendary keeps it from being a commander--I think having an "everyone has haste" card always in-hand is problematic. While you could make an argument for a tribal limitation, that's pretty insignificant--that just creates a tribal deck where, in effect, "everyone still has haste, we're just a bit more cohesive in our type."

Those were my thoughts. Overall, though I disagree with a lot of what was said in the article, this is a pretty fun topic. It's always interesting to see what people find reasonable or not in a card.

October 5, 2018 5:59 p.m.

Mig-El says... #7

First of all, thank you berryjon for considering me and cdkime for your feedback. After reading you both, I cannot agree more.

On one hand, it is too powerful, I though the three colour mana could make it slower, but in Commander (and mostly in Commander) it is not very hard to get those colours. Although, since the beginning the idea was being able to cast it on turn three, in order words, the turn before Kaalia, something like her Silver Surfer. But you are right, three mana for somethink like this is too much.

Regarding if it is related to Mardu, honestly I didn't even think about it, I only wanted him to share the identity.

And finally, the tribal aspect, perhaps the issue is I was too specific, because in my Kaalia Deck I use Humans as a Plan B, or as defense. Probably I thought too much in what I wanted, and very little in make it "possible".

Great article and great opportunity, thank you!

October 6, 2018 8:29 p.m.

Please login to comment