Looking at a Random Card: Shinen of Stars’ Light
(What am I doing here? Read here!)
Shinen of Stars’ Light: Once more, we’re deep in a series of creature cards. Once more, I wonder if the random card feature of Gatherer gives a skewed selection.
Whenever I think about a card with channel, I come to the conclusion that this is a great mechanic suffering from a bad execution in a badly designed block, which deserves to have a triumphant return someday.
I believe the issue is that channel wasn’t designed as the generally useful, recurring ability it has the potential to be, but as a way to explicitly provide synergy with spiritcraft. Thus, it has been toned down to the point where channeling a creature is very rarely the correct way to go in a limited environment.
But why hasn’t it been reused since Kamigawa? Well, for one thing it was tied thematically very closely to spirits. On the other hand, once you severe that connection and use it as a way to effectively print split permanent / instant cards, it becomes very broad.
I suppose WotC have decided to use narrower versions of channel instead, like reinforce from Lorwyn block – a channel ability which, instead of mirroring the creature’s ability, provides +1/+1 counters. Well, reinforce hasn’t become a big hit either (although it plays really nicely in limited, especially in an environment with a +1/+1 counter theme), and I feel that WotC carve too narrow design space niches here. Just imagine that instead of cycling, there were half a dozen similar mechanics, named differently depending on if they cost colored or only generic mana to cycle, if they had an ability triggering from cycling, and what that ability did!
Channel offers a lot of so far mostly unused designed space, and I wish I had more and better options to choose from for my limited card pool. As things stand, only a handful of these cards make sense to me.
Shinen of Stars’ Light is not one of these cards. While there will be situations where channeling it is useful, these are few and far between, and even then it is entirely possible that just casting another creature might be a better idea. That creature, however, is extremely unexciting. I don’t think Youthful Knight is already pushing it powerwise, at least not in White, and adding another mana to it for the option to cast it as a spell so weak it hasn’t even seen print so far (closest things are Hope Charm, Hundred-Talon Strike and Seize the Initiative, all of which are clearly superior, but still very weak or at best mediocre) doesn’t at all make up for it. An interesting flexible card should have several solid options – a choice between two underwhelming ways to play it just isn’t enough.
That is not a general issue with channel, however, it is just a question of correctly tweaking the stats. I think a Youthful Knight / Hundred-Talon Strike (without the silly splice ability) split card would play quite well (not too big a stretch of imagination, since I know how reinforce plays). This Shinen is just too weak, though, and more importantly, will play boringly, since channel is essentially wasted on it. One can use it in a cube utilizing spiritcraft, but there are tons of more interesting options. Oh, and let’s not mention constructed here…
The overall grade here is a D- for a barely usable, disappointing card.