Friday, January 22, 2016

Having a Good Knight

Art by Jason Chan
Over on Goblin Artisans, this weekend's art challenge is on knights. Five pieces of art were provided for use, though, other knight-related creative commons art can be used.

Here's the challenge prompt:
Hello to you all! This week we re-examine knights!
White Knight and Black Knight have been re-imagined many times over in mtg. Nowadays we do not have protections to mirror those knights!
Choose one of the illustrations and re-imagine what a knight does when it is tied to a specific color.

Knight Life

The very first Knights in Magic have the abilities of first strike and protection. With protection not being an ability that is only supported rarely lately, this begs the question: what makes a Knight a Knight in Magic?

I reviewed many Knight-related Magic cards and have concluded that one or more of the following may be true for any one particular Knight-related Magic card:
  • If the knight or knights depicted within the art each riding a steed, it sometimes means the card's design has bigger power and toughness stats than if the art depicted a singular creature without a mount. For example, Goblin Roughrider is a Goblin creature, but the 3/2 body for a vanilla Goblin only makes sense because it is riding that crazy mount.

  • Knights have vigilance for one or more of a few reasons: 1) they're riding steeds, so they can gallop forward to do an attack and then gallop back to your side to defend you; 2) Knights swore to protect you and are vigilant to not fail in that regard; 3) Knights are great at combat. Truefire Paladin is an example of a steed-less Knight that still has vigilance - so numbers 2 and 3 may apply toward this guy.

  • Knights are great at combat. This overlaps with the last bullet point. One of the expressions of this may be vigilance, as seen above, but it could be one of many combat-related abilities. The "first" expression of this fact was on White Knight and Black Knight having first strike. Later Knights have had vigilance, double strike, and flanking. Sometimes, a block-related keyword is used instead, like battle cry. For these abilities, they can be expressed for different reasons, whether the Knight just has more training in combat, because they're wielding a lance, or they're riding a horse. For example, a Knight depicted riding a horse is reason enough for flanking. In addition to Truefire Paladin above showing off its ability to have both vigilance and first strike (and without a horse - what a badass!), Femeref Knight is an example of Knight showing off its multiple awesome-at-warfare abilities but not necessarily a larger body for horse reasons.

  • Sometimes, a Knight is a Knight only because it rides a steed. But this is useful because some mounts have flying which in turn enables creature types that wouldn't normally be able to fly to be able to fly. How else are you going to get flying cat people like Leonin Skyhunter, especially when white is the piece of the color pie that is supposed to be great at both creatures and flying? Well, besides making comical, makeshift hang-gliders like Goblin Sky Raider does.

  •  Knights are sworn to protect us from and destroy evil. Now, remember that "evil" does not mean the color black. Evil is whatever attacks your values. So each color's Knight is going to consider different things as evil. White Knight had protection from black. Silver Knight has protection from red. These are pure expressions of how white considers what red and black do as evil and are devoted to that cause. Granted, white is really good at going after evil. See Pentarch Paladin, Tivador of Thorn, Fiendslayer Paladin, and Lightwielder Paladin. Lastly, renown and exalted are other examples of how Knights may care to head into combat to destroy the evil that is your opponent. Phyrexian Crusader is a good example of this devotion to destroy evil. It eschews the fact that black usually hates on green and white in favor of the fact that the mirrans are aligned mostly in white and red, so this Phyrexian has no problem hating on black's ally color, red.

  •  Knights are great at rallying the troops. Literally rallying in the case of Hero of Goma Fada but this is expressed in other ways as well, such as with Kabira Vindicator boosting your armies and doing nothing else. Hero of Bladehold gets bystanders who might not otherwise have decided to fight to jump into the fray as 1/1 Soldiers. Wilt-Leaf Liege and the rest of the Liege cycle are excellent examples of how a Knight can purely be about rousing your armies and not expressing its Knight-ness via other ways such as first strike or vigilance.

 Bonus: some red-aligned troop rallying:

  •  Knights have status. Well, it's probably how they got their horse or their excellent armor or was able to be afforded good training in combat. Or, in Attended Knight's case, you have a Squire.

 Knight in Gale


With the above established, I sought to design a Knight but which color do I choose? I chose to go with the color that hasn't been as fleshed out with Knight execution: green. Green has a whopping 1 creature that is monocolored, Gladehart Cavalary.

Moreover, this card was just released today to the public, in Oath of the Gatewatch! Welcome to the Knight Club, mono-green. Notice that this Knight is expressing its Knight traits by having a large body and by supporting its troops.

Besides, green's knight art for this Weekend Art Challenge has a moose and that's adorable. Check out the art I'm working with:

Art by blayrd
If you've followed my Daily Card Redesign series in the past, you'll know that I often like to match my card designs with what's going on in the art, so I'm going to let that influence me in addition to coming up with a design that also fits what I envision a green knight should currently be or do design/gameplay-wise. A confluence of both those things.

To Knight


Now, expressing all of a Knight's aspects as pointed out above would be nearly impossible, I'd imagine. It's all right to just focus on one or two. This happens with any sort of concept, like the idea of Goblins.

Goblins are portrayed in Magic as being dumb, like with the flavor texts of Goblin Piker and Skirk Fire Marshal. Goblins are expendable, as seen in Goblin Sledder and Goblin Grenade. They also like to tease or play pranks, shown in the cards Jeering Instigator and Goblin Battle Jester. Lastly, they tinker (read: poke, prod, and eventually blow up) with artifacts, like with Goblin Welder and "Goblin Archaeologist."

I'm not sure there's ever been a Goblin depicted as dumb, expendable, pranking, and tinkering all at once. But that sounds like a fun challenge for another time. Anyway, back to Knights - we only need to show Knight-ness in at least one way for this green Knight.

The most important thing to do for this assignment, though, is to create a Knight that might be lumped in with category of Knights that White Knight and Black Knight are - what Knights used to be. Blood Knight was a later addition to this "grouping" of classic Knights. Re-imagine and design like that for nowadays. So, we'll examine what aspects of Knights above that would remind us of the classic Knight design of White Knight and Black Knight.

Knight Vision


White Knight and Black Knight exemplified qualities of "swearing to destroy evil" (protection) as well as its ability to be adept in combat via first strike. This "destroy evil" thing intrigues me, so we'll go with that.

I did some brainstorming off-screen here, and it's a messy (but awesome) process sometimes, and I landed with caring about abilities that represent the enemy colors but are shared with green as well. The same applies for every other color in this cycle. I'm only mocking up green, but here's the text form of what each color would care about:

  • White: lifelink, first strike
  • Blue: hexproof, prowess
  • Black: deathtouch, lifelink
  • Red: first strike, prowess
  • Green: deathtouch, hexproof
So, for each color, the Knight would have those abilities (not bad, for each creature) and then would not able to be blocked by any creatures that have either of those abilities. We're not doing protection anymore, and I wanted to find a simple perhaps-combat-oriented way to show the hate so that it could still prevail against this "evil." I chose "can't be blocked" as the way the Knight prevails and the "evil" to be represented by the abilities its enemies also share.

You might say it's ironic that this creature can't block an opponent's copy of this Knight. Perhaps, as a show of respect to each other's devotion, they don't hurt each other. And what about fellow green creatures that have hexproof and deathtouch - perhaps this Knight's mastery means it knows how to evade such creatures that shares its traits.

Lastly, coming back to the art, you might be wondering why a moose-riding, unassuming Knight can do hexproof and deathtouch. If you look more closely at the art, there's magical, glowing green vines surrounding the Knight. These vines can restrain and choke creatures to death as well as wrap around the Knight and protect him or her from spells. =)

Knight Cap

So, here's my design:

I decided to have "card name during development" fun and did a double pun for its title. "Jaded", like with the color green; and "Vineguard", as in "vanguard", because he or she is a Knight. But has vines surrounding him or her.

Anyway, so, a black Knight in this cycle would have deathtouch and lifelink and it would also say "CARDNAME can't be blocked by creatures with deathtouch or lifelink."

I also made this a Human instead of Elf (seems dressed like a Human, anyway) since Humans can be any of the five colors, and that'd be fitting to mirror the creature types for the cycle as "Human Knight."

O.K., that's it! What do you think?

Concerns I have: I know, it costs 4 mana and that sucks, but I think I had to cost it that high based on how much it should cost to get hexproof, let alone deathtouch, onto the table. Also, I wonder if this Knight would end up being un-fun to play with if you just left this forever on your side as a good threatening blocker (like you do with your Deathtouch Snakes and Rats). Then again, protecting you IS Knight-like. In the end, it should feel fun, but I haven't playtested this card.

Also, not sure if I got the order of abilities of "deathtouch" and "hexproof" correct along with the rest of the templating. I THINK so, but not sure.


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