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Re-Skin for the Win - Ben Counter (8/30/2013)

Name one thing about Magic that bothers you.

Everyone will have a different answer. Playing jerks. Card prices. Blue spells. My answer is awesome cards that also suck.

Cards which are powerful, dynamic, fun and exciting, which can define a format or drive a spectacular deck to do wonderful things... but which are really boring. Or stupid. Or just uninspired. Yes, that card might be a brilliant skill tester or the bedrock of a synergistic deck that demands and gives the best, but it's also just another guy in a dress waving his hands around when you think about it. I'm talking about when the flavour of a card fails to match up with its presence on the battlefield, when a tired and clichéd image or concept becomes the face of the game or when a stupid idea or in-joke ends up wheedling its way to the forefront of Magic because someone managed to break it.

Therefore, my mission – nay, my curse – is to take such cards and tart them up with a new flavour, name, colour text and mojo, plumbing the depths of emotion and scaling the heights of awesome to show what collectable cardboard rectangles can truly be. The rules are simple – the card has to still make sense (if it did in the first place) in that its mechanics and its flavour must match up, and if it's in a particular part of the background (like Ravnica) it should probably stay there.

Return to Ravnica block has a lot of background and a very strongly-realised setting, so flavour is particularly important here. It's time to re-skin some mingers. [Editor's note: This is apparently some British slang for an unattractive person. You're welcome. - Chewie]


ASH ZEALOT
This card addressed one of the key problems a lot of Magic cards have for me – who is this person? She's a zealot, which suggests a passionate follower of an ideal or a religion, but without an indication of what that ideal is. She's a human warrior, too, and if there's one creature type that leaves me stone cold it's Warrior. What does a warrior do? Fight? Everything in Magic fights, inhabitants of Ravnica being no exception. It's hard to tell where she fits into the city-world, what she does every day or why it makes her someone we would want to summon. And then there's her flavour text. Read it, then imagine it being said by your adolescent self, giddy with Mountain
Mountain
MountainSet: Arabian Nights
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Tap to add R to your mana pool.
Dew, as you bounce twenty-sided dice and pray for a crit against the Dungeon Master's pet monster.

However, the card is very powerful both in terms of what it does and in its flavour potential. She (and for some reason I want her to stay a she) punishes players who cast things from their graveyard. And she's red, so she probably does that with lots of fire. Yes, red means lots of things – creativity, passion, emotion, speed – but let's face it, red is about fire first.

My angle for this was our fiery lady's place in Ravnica. The Golgari, recyclers of anything organic and gooey, were the key. They... do things with corpses, and the people whose loved ones recently hit 0 toughness must have a few things to say about that. To keep the bodies of their relatives out of the hands of the Golgari, they probably burn them before they get scavenged onto a Dreg Mangler
Dreg Mangler
Dreg ManglerSet: Duel Decks Izzet vs. Golgari
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
— Plant Zombie
Rarity:
U
Number:
56
Artist:
Peter Mohrbacher
Power:
3
Toughness:
3
Text:
Haste Scavenge {3}{B}{G} ({3}{B}{G}, Exile this card from your graveyard: Put a number of +1/+1 counters equal to this card's power on target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery.)
or something. And like everything to do with death, a ritual would be observed. Our Ash Zealot
Ash Zealot
Ash ZealotSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Warrior
Rarity:
R
Number:
86
Artist:
Eric Deschamps
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
First strike, haste Whenever a player casts a spell from a graveyard, Ash Zealot deals 3 damage to that player.
is a ritualist who performs this act, burning the bodies to make sure that any Golgari guildmage who tried to mess with the recently dead gets a face full of well-deserved fire. Red is a creative and passionate colour, so she throws herself about in an ecstatic dance to make sure the flames do their work.

Our re-skinned Ash Zealot
Ash Zealot
Ash ZealotSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Warrior
Rarity:
R
Number:
86
Artist:
Eric Deschamps
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
First strike, haste Whenever a player casts a spell from a graveyard, Ash Zealot deals 3 damage to that player.
:

Pyre Dancer

Illustration: An athletic woman dances beside, or perhaps through, a funeral pyre. The forms of the burning bodies are just visible in the fire swathed in funeral shrouds. The woman is a celebrant from a primal religion, festooned with fetishes, beads and relics. Her hair flies wild. She has a ritual dagger in her hand.

Flavour text: Gladly she flirts with the flame, because someone has to dance for the dead.


FRONTLINE MEDIC
This is one of the troublesome cards in the set, flavour-wise. Its purpose is very 'gamey' – it's supposed to enable battalion and provide a defence against certain powerful X-cost cards. But those two things don't marry up very neatly together into one concept and the result is a card that sort of makes sense with the first ability (he's a medic so he grants your guys indestructibility) but makes none at all with the second (for some reason if this guy explodes himself your Sphinx's Revelation
Sphinx's Revelation
Sphinx's RevelationSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
M
Number:
200
Artist:
Slawomir Maniak
Text:
You gain X life and draw X cards.
doesn't resolve). Even the medic flavour would make more sense with regeneration, or bringing back a dead creature that died this turn, than with indestructible.

So what should he be instead? Something that can both protect his fellow soldiers, and press the 'nope' button when an enemy sinks all his mana into a gigantic Revelation
Revelation
RevelationSet: Chronicles
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Enchant World
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Kaja Foglio
Text:
All players play with the cards in their hands face up on the table.
or Rakdos' Return. The card has to be Boros because it has the battalion mechanic, and Boros has a very soldiery, dudes-in-armour feel to it. The idea that gave me was someone who is both an inspirational leader for battalion, and who has a martyrdom complex for the sacrifice effect. The noble crusading feel of Boros suggested a Joan of Arc-like spiritual battlefield leader, a pure-souled paladin who knows full well he will die on the battlefield but accepts this fate to protect his fellow soldiers. He carries a magical shield that protects his fellow soldiers, but his real purpose is to die in battle for the good of all.

Our de-medificied version:

Shieldbearer Martyr

Art: A young, pure-faced warrior in silver armour stands on a vast battlefield. He carries a huge round shield behind him. He is spattered with blood, emphasising his youth and innocence, and his pose is one of defiance instead of action. Boros soldiers struggle through the mud and bodies around him.

Flavour Text: 'He knew he was fated to die in battle. Still, until the end, he bore his shield for us all.' Aurelia the Warleader.


BRUSHSTRIDER
Brushtrider has the worst flavour text I have ever read on a Magic card. Now, I am not a historian of the game and I have little doubt there is some worse text out there somewhere, but Brushstrider
Brushstrider
BrushstriderSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Beast
Rarity:
U
Number:
117
Artist:
Raoul Vitale
Power:
3
Toughness:
1
Text:
Vigilance
genuinely struck me with its blandness. Really? It steals blini-cakes? I, a mighty planeswalker capable of summoning the most terrifying creatures from across space and time, will choose to deploy this thing whose sole defining feature is that it eats people's cakes? Three power is not cake-stealing, it's man-killing. And what does it need vigilance for if all it does is wander around a park pilfering tasty snacks? The name is fine, the art is fine, but the text is appalling.

It can stay in the park, since Ravnica is a city and it's got to have parks. Vigilance
Vigilance
VigilanceSet: Champions of Kamigawa
Cost:
1
Color:
White
Type:
Enchant Creature
Rarity:
C
Number:
49
Artist:
Tsutomu Kawade
Text:
Enchanted creature has vigilance. (Attacking doesn't cause it to tap.)
suggests it's a guardian, functioning like a watchdog. So it lives in the parks and gardens of Ravnica, apparently harmless but ready to raise hell if someone ignores the 'Keep Off The Grass' sign. I decided to go for something similar to the original without trying to be too clever or dramatic, just losing the cake thing.

Tweaked Brushstrider
Brushstrider
BrushstriderSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Beast
Rarity:
U
Number:
117
Artist:
Raoul Vitale
Power:
3
Toughness:
1
Text:
Vigilance
:

Brushstrider
Brushstrider
BrushstriderSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Beast
Rarity:
U
Number:
117
Artist:
Raoul Vitale
Power:
3
Toughness:
1
Text:
Vigilance


Illustration – An antelope-like, long-necked beast sits on its haunches in a finely manicured garden, with the Ravnican skyline in the background. The beast has a golden collar, but no chain. It is calm, watchful and intelligent.

Flavour Text: There is no pleasure garden in Ravnica without its pair of eyes, ever watchful.

So, that's the first installment of Re-Skin For The Win. Any alternative versions, comments, criticisms or suggestions are always welcome,. And especially let me know your own examples of cards with awful, dull or inappropriate flavour to be flayed alive in future columns.


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