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Attention to Detail #21
Sweet Sixteen
by Jordan Kronick
May 12, 2006

It's an important week in the yearly Magic schedule. No, I'm not talking about the pivotal on-sale date for a new set. That may have more ramifications in the long run, but I'm talking about the Magic Invitational. Every year, 16 of the best Magic players in the world get together for our equivalent of the all-star game. There's no money on the line. Instead, perhaps the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a player is up for grabs once again – the right to design a card and be enshrined on its art for the rest of time. Many of the biggest names in Magic have laid claim to this prize and many of their creations have proven to be very important additions to the game. Before a champion emerges however, there's 15 rounds of Invitational fun to determine the finals. And every one of the sixteen competitors is looking to have fun and hopefully to win. Today is the last day of the Invitational. By the time many of you read this, our new reigning champion will have been chosen. However, before that happens, I thought I'd take a moment to look over the cards that the invitees have submitted for creation. Everyone who has ever longed to be at the top of the world of professional Magic has wondered what's going through the minds of the people who are already at the top. Perhaps a look at the cards they want to create will help us understand.

Going into the final day of competition, three people are still in the running for a shot at the finals. Tied with a 10-2 record are Jeff Cunningham – the North American representative – and Antoine Ruel, the Judges' pick for the Invitational. The third competitor is 2005 Player of the Year, Kenji Tsumura. I thought I'd stard with their cards, since these are the ones that may actually have a chance at showing up in booster packs at some point in the coming year. Keep in mind that these cards aren't final. Wizards R&D still has the option to tinker with these cards or reject them outright. Nothing is set in stone at this point. My bias towards the western hemisphere demands that I start with Cunningham's card, so here we go.

Planter Mage – 1G

Creature – Human Wizard Gardener
G, Sacrifice a Creature: Search your library for a creature card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Obviously, comparisons must be drawn
between the Planter Mage and it's enchantment progenitor, Survival of the Fittest. Survival has been banned or restricted repeatedly as players quickly found ways to break it over and over. The Planter Mage is not nearly so broken, with a cost that requires creatures in play and a fragile 2/1 body that's a lot easier to get rid of than an enchantment. However, there are benefits as well. Not least of which is that the Planter Mage can swing for 2 damage and sacrifice itself if need be. Any reasonably efficient creature that can also replace itself definitely begs a second look. I mentioned that you had to sacrifice creatures in play, unlike Survival. Well, that may or may not be quite the drawback that it seems at first. One of the things that made Survival slightly less than completely broken is that it could never generate card advantage (until Madness was invented, anyway). You were always trading one card for another. So, while you could vastly improve the quality of your creatures and also setting up some pretty ridiculous combos, you weren't actually getting ahead on board position. This is not quite true with the Planter Mage. A board full of token creatures generated by cards ranging like Selesnya Guildmage, Scatter the Seeds or Vitu-Ghazi is a common sight these days. And being able to trade those tokens one for one to get creatures out of your deck is a fairly incredible position. In the end, I think it must be remembered that Survival of the Fittest was deemed to be too good. Planter Mage is arguably a near successor to that power level, and so I don't think that it could see print at quite this power level. Should Cunningham win the Invitational – a very real possibility – I think that Wizards may tinker this card into near uselessness. A card which could be as potentially broken as Survival of the Fittest needs to be watched carefully. Some possibilities for “fixing” the Planter Mage could be to simply make it more expensive – 2GG perhaps – or to increase the cost of using the ability – to 2G, sacrifice a creature. Either of these options is somewhat distasteful and makes the card less powerful, but I fear that may be the only way that Planter Mage will ever see play.

Antoine Ruel's Card:
Bibi – UG
Creature – Human Baby
Whenever you draw a card, put a year counter on Bibi.
At end of turn, if Bibi has two or more year counters on it, flip it.
Legendary Creature – Human
If an opponent would shuffle his or her library, instead you may search that library for a card, that player shuffles the rest, you put the card on top of that library, then you draw a card.

A multicolored split card that starts out as a baby. Yes,
you really did read that correctly. The unflipped form of this card can be basically ignored. There is nothing about it more important than to realize that it is a potential drawback to make it easier to remove before it truly comes to power. The flipped form is the one that we care about. The 3/3 body is respectable for a creature that only cost two mana in the first place, so that's fine. That brings us to the ability. It's an odd one, for sure. It essentially prevents your opponent from ever searching their library for anything. And if they try, you get to put something they don't want on top, and draw a card to boot. That seems pretty potent, but I assure you that it isn't. I don't mean to be insulting to Ruel's creation, but I really think this card stinks. The problem is that there are very very few situations where your opponent is forced to search their library. It is almost always generated by an effect they choose to activate or a spell they choose to play. Since the presence of this card means that they will get absolutely no benefit from such a choice, it means that the opponent has absolutely no reason to ever try searching. So the ability will simply prevent your opponent from searching their library, and you can pretty much ignore the parts about stacking their deck and drawing cards, because it will never happen. Is that ability worth the effort to put this guy into play, protect him and flip him? In the right situation, sure. But that's the thing. This is an extremely situational card. And not a card that's particularly hard to remove. If Bibi/Sleur ever sees print as it is, I predict it will very quickly become an afterthought which sees little if any competitive play in any format.

The third contender for the throne, who will need a perfect 3-0 record to make the finals is Kenji Tsumura. Let's see what he has to offer:

Avianomancer – 1U
Creature – Human Wizard
When Avianomancer comes into play, put a 1/1 blue Bird creature token with flying into play.
Sacrifice a Bird token: draw a card.
When Avianomancer deals combat damage to a player, draw a card.

If Planter Mage had some power issues, then Avianomancer has whole volumes. While it may seem to be just a clever card drawer, there's a flaw in the
design here. Look at those stats. Look at those abilities. Does it seem familiar? It should. This is a Thieving Magpie, with two extra abilities – for half the cost! Even though Invitational cards tend to be rare, I don't think a bump up in rarity could possibly convince R&D to print this card as is. It's simply too powerful. Essentially a Magpie for two mana which is in itself a cantrip. That's way too good. So what can be done? Well, I like this card. And because I like it, I've had a couple thoughts in that direction. First of all, the cost needs to be fixed. 2 Mana is just not going to be enough to make this card even slightly balanced. I think a 1UU cost is appropriate for what I want this card to do. Secondly, the stats are going to have to suffer, slightly. Although it's not much, I think that it will have to go down to ½ to be truly acceptable. Thirdly, it needs something to set it apart. This card is just another card drawing attacker, as it is. It needs something to really make it special. I was looking at the 'Sacrifice a Bird token' ability (which – incidentally, needs to be changed to 'Sacrifice a Bird') and it hit me. The damage trigger shouldn't draw card – it should make birds! So here's Avianomancer as I would make it:

Avianomancer – 1UU
Creature – Human Wizard
When Avianomancer comes into play, put a 1/1 blue Bird creature token with flying into play.
Sacrifice a Bird: draw a card.
When Avianomancer deals combat damage to a player, put a 1/1 blue Bird creature token into play.

Now that's what I call a bird wizard!

Now we're into the cards that unfortunately don't have a shot at making it through this year. However, we've seen from some of them that the competitors who really like their cards try to get the same ones through year after year. Perhaps in the future, some of these will have their day in the sun. First off is Jose Barbero's submission.

Master of Destruction – 1RR
Creature – Goblin
When Master of Destruction comes into play, you may put up to two +1/+1 counters on another target Goblin.
2, Sacrifice Master of Destruction: Master of Destruction deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Well, it's a goblin. That's really most of what needs to be said here. Master of Destruction doesn't seem like much of a standout card. Instead, it's the kind of card that will clearly find a home in whatever aggressive red deck exists in the same format that it does – assuming there's some goblins. What really confuses me about this card is that Jose Barbero would want his face on a goblin.

Pierre Canali
Pedro, Salsa Master – 1U
Creature – Human Wizard Dancer
You may play Pedro, Salsa Master any time you may play an instant.
When Pedro comes into play, you may rearrange the order of all spells and abilities on the stack.

Canali has submitted this card before, and each time I see it I hope that this year will be his year. I've been yearning for a card to rearrange the stack ever since they invented the stack. Since his submission has remained unchanged and he is still a regular on the pro tour, I think that some day we really will see Pedro, Salsa Master. Of course, it's entirely possible that someone in R&D thinks as I do and will choose to make a non-Canali version of this card before that happens. Here's hoping.

Antonio DeRosa
Bum-Bum 1U
Creature – Human Wizard
Triggered abilities don't trigger.

DeRosa may have come up with the simplest and most potentially abusable card in the whole Invitational. Most people will look at this and think it's a clever way to get around upkeep costs or Kokusho's sting. I look at it and think 'That removes the drawback from Phyrexian Dreadnaught'. And it does. That and Eater of Days. Or Sky Swallower. Or any number of other incredibly bad cards which could be turned into incredible machines of destruction with this card. I just don't think the world is ready for Bum-Bum quite yet.

Mike Flores
Greedy's Grasp – BGG
Creature – Spider
Greedy's Grasp can't block creatures with flying (under any circumstances).
When Greedy's Grasp comes into play, look at target opponent's hand. You may put a land card from it into play tapped under your control.

The body that this ability is put on is really pretty unimportant. The important thing here is the incredibly cool ability that Flores came up with for Greedy's Grasp. The ability to play your opponent's land is incredibly neat. It provides a little acceleration for you and a little decceleration for them, all at once. I think the spider portion of this card is pretty insignificant, and I wouldn't doubt that we could see this card showing up as a Sorcery at some point. I'll be quite happy on that day.

Tsuyoshi Fujita
Wayfarer's Treasure – 1
1, Sacrifice Wayfarer's Treasure: Search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
While you're searching your library of forty or fewer cards, you may remove Wayfarer's Treasure in your library from the game and discard two cards. If you do, reveal a basic land card from your library and put it into your hand.

This is a building block card. In it's basic function, it's just a slightly more expensive artifact version of Lay of the Land. And that's fine. Wayfarer's Bauble was hardly overpowered, after all. The second ability, obviously, is a first – an ability which can only be used in limited formats. So what does the dang thing do? Well, its an ability which you can activate off of a card which is in your deck. Let's say you cast a Wayfarer's Treasure and use it. While you're searching your deck, you can activate a Wayfarer's Treasure from your library from the game and discard two of your cards to get a land. That may seem like something of a harsh cost, but I can see the intention. This card is an excellent way of thinning a deck. The cost is a bit prohibitive and I don't think it would be completely broken to change the discard to 1 card instead of two. It's a very intriguing card at the least.

Frank Karsten
Evolution Spawn – U/B U/G (that's two split mana)
Creature – Zombie Minion
When Evolution Spawn comes into play, search your library for exactly three cards with different names. For each mulligan you took this game, an opponent chooses one of those cards. Put the chosen cards into your hand and the rest into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.

I can't say that I really like Evolution Spawn. It's a great card if you've mulliganed a few times. But that's not a very good situation to be in. Obviously the intention with this card is that you want to mulligan three times and pull this in the fourth hand. Then you cast it on turn two and get to tutor for three cards. That's a pretty unlikely situation, but definitely a potent one. I think there's creative space here that could be explored, but this may not be the way to go about it.

Osyp Lebedowicz
Ebony Liespewer – B
Creature – Human Wizard
Whenever Ebony Liespewer comes into play or is put into a graveyard from play, search your library for a nonland card with converted mana cost 2 or less, reveal it, put it into your hand, then discard a card. Then shuffle your library.

I like this card. It's rather clever. It doesn't generate any particular card advantage, as the ability requires you to discard. However, it does allow you to fill your graveyard with little stuff nicely. There's definitely a place for that. Also, there's nothing that says you have to discard the card you searched for. You can use this guy to search for something you want and discard something you don't. Or something more potent like a Madness card. That this guy triggers twice is the best part, of course. I'd like to see more cards with doubled effects like this.

Gabriel Nassif
Yellowhat – 1G
Creature – Human Wizard
T, Discard a card: Search your library for a card that shares a type with the discarded card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, and sorcery.)

Much like Planter Mage, this card is probably broken beyond all reason. It just seems like it must be. Being able to tutor up any card you want very quickly and very little cost is just too good. Yellowhat won't be seeing print this year. And, in this form, ever. I'm fairly confident of that.

Julien Nuijten
Knowledge Seeker – 1U
Creature – Human Wizard
When Knowledge Seeker comes into play, choose land or nonland. Reveal the top three cards of your library. Put all the cards of the chosen kind into your hand and put the rest into your graveyard.

I like this card a lot. It's quite potent, but has a chance of missing completely. That's the kind of thing that could make it printable even when it's potentially an Ancestral Recall with a 2/1 creature tacked on for another mana. Speaking of mana, what up with invitationalists and creatures that cost 1U?

Olivier Ruel
Oli – 1U (again!)
Creature – Human Wizard
BB: Flip Oli
Toutoune – 1B
Creature – Horror
UU: Unflip Toutoune.
When Oli is flipped into Toutoune, sacrifice Toutoune and Toutoune deals 2 damage to target creature or player and you gain 2 life.

If you thought the first flip card was weird, just wait until you see its brother. There's a lot of weirdness going on here. First of all, this creature has two casting costs. I assume this means that the creature can be played either flipped or unflipped. This would allow you to play it as Toutoune and attack with it until it becomes less useful. Then, when you need to, you can flip it into Oli for defence. And when it's outlived its usefulness completely, you can flip it back into Toutoune and do 2 damage to something or someone. It's a wacky card, but it's a fairly intriguing concept. I'm not sure if the rules allow for this sort of thing, but it's an interesting attempt, anyway.

Geoffrey Siron
Lava Flow Master – R
Creature – Human Master
When Lava Flow Master comes into play, it deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
Sacrifice Lava Flow Master: If a source named Lava Flow Master would deal damage to a creature or player this turn, it deals double that damage to that creature or player instead.

I like this card a lot. Here's what it is, if it wasn't completely obvious. This card can either act as a Sparkmage Apprentice and deal 1 damag to something. Or you can play it and sacrifice it while it's ability is on the stack, which causes it to be a Shock instead. So it's a sorcery-speed shock when you need it, or a Sparkmage if you only need 1 point or you need a blocker. You can even use its ability later to double the combat damage it would deal so that you can take down a 2 toughness attacker or blocker. That's not bad!

Terry Soh
The Bluffmaster – 1UU
Creature – Human Wizard
When The Bluffmaster comes into play, name a card. Target opponent guesses whether a card with that name is in your hand. You may reveal your hand. If you do and that opponent guessed wrong, draw three cards. Otherwise, draw a card.

Much like Julien Nuitjen's submission, we have another blue creature that can potentially be an Ancestral Recall. This one is probably quite a bit better, however. I myself am a big fan of cards that require my opponent to guess whether or not something is in my hand. I loved Liar's Pendulum and this guy is even better. Terry Soh is responsible for the most recent Invitational card, Rakdos Augermage and I find myself wishing he'd become the first person to win two Invitationals. Maybe next year.

Dave Williams
Dark Evolver – 1B
Creature – Zombie Wizard
As long as you control a Mountain, Dark Evolver gets +1/+1 and has haste. As long as you control a Plains, Dark Evolver gets +1/+1 and has "Whenever Dark Evolver deals combat damage, you gain that much life."

We finish off with perhaps the most broken card of all. Yes, it requires three different land types. However, with Ravnican dual lands this is easier than ever. You could play a Sacred Foundry tapped on turn 1, and a swamp on turn 2 and suddenly you've got a 4/3, Fear, Haste, spirit linked creature for 2 mana. That's downright ridiculous. Most of the cards that get submitted for the invitational and end up broken are broken in some combo-engine way. This one is pure beatdown. This card is way, way, way too strong. There's really not much else that needs to be said about it. The black/white/red colors of it seems odd as well. Better luck next time, Dave.

That wraps up my look at the Invitational. Best of luck to all three of the potential winners. Will it be Survival 2.0, a situational baby or twice the magpie for half the price? Log in to Magic Online today and see for yourself!


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