Looking at a Random Card: Champion’s Drake
(What am I doing here? Read here!)
Champion’s Drake: Yet another creature. Seems I have to wait patiently for the law of large numbers to kick in…
This might become a short entry, since actually all I really can talk about is the level up mechanic, which simply sucks. Okay: I don’t mean every single card using it sucks, but as a mechanic overall, this is a major flop. It is unwieldy. It is inelegant. It requires yet another kind of counters to be put on your cards. It is, in most cases, excruciatingly slow (and it has to be to fulfill its intended function). It encourages you to put all your eggs in one basket (the German expression “alles auf eine Karte setzen” is so literally true here it’s hilarious!), spending several turns’ worth of mana on a single permanent, creating much of the same effect as auras do (although the issue here is tempo disadvantage, not card disadvantage). Also, in the end, these cards achieve very few things which +1/+1 counters (possibly coupled with an ability depending on their existence) and expensive activated abilities (to mimic their function of giving you lategame value when you have nothing better to do with your mana anyway) couldn’t do. In a way, they are similar to double-faced cards, adding complicated new logistics to gameplay for novelty value and flavor. Only a handful of level up cards play really well, and none of those would change essentially if they had just a single activated ability transforming them form their original state to the next more powerful. Yes, the most powerful states are splashy and probably give those cards Timmy appeal, but in actual play they are always almost a “win-more” not worth the creation of such a complicated mechanic.
Building a constructed or even casual deck around level up is effectively impossible – even with Venerated Teacher and proliferating cards as support, it is just too slow and too vulnerable. The Drake obviously needs such a deck, though, but if that deck ever works well enough that the Drake is of any use, the big flyer will most likely not be needed anymore. In Limited, on the other hand, this is a great example of a card which encourages you to construct your deck around a certain theme, but is way too swingy. There are similar issues with Griffin Rider in M12 – a card which I might put into an environment to encourage drafters to move into the griffin tribe, but NEVER at common! The Drake is even worse, though, since it is at the same time harder to “turn on”, and also more likely to be a win-more, since fulfilling the condition which it depends upon is an indication that things already go your way.
Champion’s Drake is a parasitic card; it feeds off a mechanic which is badly designed; and it does not even improve an environment it is in (to the contrary). I like the illustration, but that alone is not enough for even a slight upgrade. This is an E.