column

The final Great Designer Search challenge revealed!

The Great Designer Search Episode #6
“Game, Set, Match”, Part I

  • Boards
  • Print
Author Image

The letter A!fter many weeks, we’re finally coming into the home stretch. At the end of this challenge, we’ll be down to the Final Three that will be flown to Wizards of the Coast for a formal interview. Who will that be? Before we can find that out, we need to first take a look at this week’s Design Challenge (#5 for those who are counting). Here is what we sent the applicants:

Dear Applicants,

Congratulations – You have advanced past another round!

Welcome to Design Challenge #5. I call this one “Game, Set, Match.” This is the challenge that will decide who is in the Final Three and gets flown out to Renton, Washington to visit Wizards of the Coast and interview with R&D.

This is the most important Design Challenge yet and thus is the hardest one. What do you need to do? Design a small 180 card set. You have 72 hours. Go.

What? Too hard? Come on, this is The Great Designer Search. Okay, okay. You don’t need to turn in all 180 cards. Just pick a color and turn in the commons. We’ll assume the set has a common land cycle so that means you’ll have to turn in 11 cards. Once again, the color is completely up to you.

Oh yeah, also give me the prerelease card. This should be a splashy, straightforward, Timmy-leaning (and yes, I dare say sexy) rare that is intended to be representative of the set and given away at the prerelease.

Besides the normal things we look for, here are the things we’re going to be looking for on this particular challenge:

- Are your commons all common?
- Are they representative of the set?
- Do they show off what your set has to offer?
- Do they hint at what shows up elsewhere in the set?
- Do they fill all the roles of small set commons in this color?
- Is your prerelease card rare?
- Is it splashy/sexy?
- Is it a good prerelease card?

This task is by far the hardest task we’ve given you. I recommend you pick out some small sets and just look at the commons of one color and the prerelease card for that set. See how we do it. Use it as a guide. Write an explanatory paragraph at the end, no longer than 150 words.

I’ll see three of you in a few weeks.

Sincerely,

Mark Rosewater

Even though I mention this multiple times in the challenge itself, I believe this is the hardest Design Challenge yet. While on the surface it might seem like the candidates just have to design twelve cards, this isn’t the case. The applicants have to figure out the basic structure of an entire small expansion. Yes, they don’t have to design every card but they do need to understand what the larger set is about as their commons have to hint at it. In addition, while commons might seem like the easiest cards to make, they are in fact the hardest. Commons have many more restrictions that cards at other rarities. Plus, the applicants have to use them to show off what the set is all about. Trust me, this challenge was harder than any that came before it.

So how did our five remaining applicants do? Let’s take a look.

Mark Globus

Ancestral Spirit (common)
2W
Creature - Spirit
2/2
Flying
Tilth 4 (You may cast this spell without paying its mana cost if you have at least 4 white cards in your graveyard.)

Bloodhound Mastiff (common)
2W
Creature - Hound
2/1
When attackers are declared, CARDNAME gets +0/+1 until end of turn for each attacking creature.
/* The dogs prowled the tunnels beneath Borgia, defending the settlement from goblin attacks. */

Borgian Javelineer (common)
W
Creature - Human Soldier
1/1
Flash
When CARDNAME comes into play, deal one damage to target attacking or blocking creature.

Guardian of Borgia (common)
3W
Creature - Human Soldier
2/4
If CARDNAME is untapped at the end of your turn, you may gain 1 life.
/* At last the refugees of Benalia found hope amidst the ruins of Urborg. */

Incantation of Release (common)
2W
Instant
Put target artifact or enchantment on the bottom of its owner's library.

Knight Protector (common)
3W
Creature - Human Knight
2/2
First Strike
Whenever CARDNAME deals damage, prevent that much damage to target creature or player.

Mantle of the Skyknight (common)
1W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
When CARDNAME comes into play, draw a card, then discard a card.
Enchanted creature has flying and first strike.

Mired in the Past (common)
W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature is summoning sick.
/* Those who cannot let go of the past are doomed to repeat it. */

Poultice (common)
W
Instant
Prevent the next 3 damage to target creature or player.
Tilth 3 (You may cast this spell without paying its mana cost if you have at least 3 white cards in your graveyard.)

Rubble Rouser (common)
1W
Creature - Beast
2/2
When CARDNAME comes into play, draw a card, then discard a card.

Soul Purifier (common)
4W
Creature - Dwarf Cleric
3/3
1W: Return all Auras attached to target creature you control to their owner's hands.

Cinder Dragon (rare)
4RR
Creature - Dragon
5/5
Flying
Tilth 7 (You may cast this spell without paying its mana cost if you have at least 7 red cards in your graveyard.)
RR, Reveal CARDNAME from your hand: discard any number of red cards.

Part of design is recognizing strong ideas and expanding on them.
Thus far, the Merfolk Traders ability (draw and discard) has been used only sparingly. However, it can make an excellent block ability to smooth out draws, just as cycling or morph have done in the past.
For my submission, I have created the common white cards of the second set of the block following the repair of Dominaria's time line. This block investigates new beginnings and letting go past assumptions, and the Trader ability is a perfect fit. The first set focused on the exploration of this new world; this second set spotlights the rebuilding process, and using relics from the past to fashion a new culture. Tilth shows this in action, as it uses the past to create something new. Additionally, it interacts well with the Trader mechanic.

Graeme Hopkins

Please note: Because the assumed common land cycle is quite significant, all 12 "black" commons are included below. If only 11 are to be allowed, please exclude the last common, "Sulrathi Depths."

"Terralon" 180 card set

[Black common Creatures]

Sulrathi Pilgrim (common)
B
Creature - Human Scout
1/1
Whenever a Swamp comes into play under your control, each player loses 1 life.
/"Each step further from home carries us one step closer to our destination."/

Resentful Cutthroat (common)
1B
Creature - Human Rogue
2/1
Land Deficit -- 1B, T: Target player loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.
Play this ability only if that player controls more lands than you.

Borderlands Zealot (common)
2B
Creature - Human Cleric
2/2
2B, T, discard a Swamp: Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
/"Lay down your burden. The Spirit of Sulrath shall carry it for you."/

Sulrathi Muckbather (common)
2B
Creature - Beast
3/3
When you control fewer than three Swamps, sacrifice Sulrathi Muckbather.
Swampcycling B

Spiteful Dead (common)
3B
Creature - Zombie Mercenary
3/1
When Spiteful Dead comes into play, target player discards a card.
Land Deficit -- If that player controls more lands than you, that player discards a card at random instead.

Ven's Chosen (common)
3BB
Creature - Spirit
4/2
Sacrifice a Swamp: Regenerate Ven's Chosen.
Dissipate -- While paying for this spell, you may return a Swamp you control to its owner's hand to reduce this spell's mana cost by B.

[Black common Noncreatures]

Dissolving Memories (common)
BB
Sorcery
Each player discards two cards.
Dissipate -- While paying for this spell, you may return a Swamp you control to its owner's hand to reduce this spell's mana cost by B.

Stench of Sulrath (common)
2B
Instant
Destroy target creature with power less than or equal to the number of swamps you control.
/Don't wade in for longer than you can hold your breath./

Bogdrinker's Gift (common)
1B
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Discard a Swamp: Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

["Black" common Lands]

Suspicious Slough (common)
Land - Swamp
Suspicious Slough comes into play tapped and with one action counter on it.
2B, T, remove an action counter: Target creature gets +2/-1 until end of turn.

Nightmare Alley (common)
Land - Swamp
Nightmare Alley comes into play tapped.
B, T, return Nightmare Alley to its owner's hand: Target creature gains fear until end of turn.
/As nebulous as its mists, the Alley has a dirty habit of creeping up on you./

Sulrathi Depths (common)
Land - Swamp
Sulrathi Depths comes into play tapped.
When Sulrathi Depths comes into play, you may pay 1B. If you do, you draw a card and you lose 1 life.

[Green Rare Prerelease card]

Viran Earthcaller (rare)
4GG
Creature - Elemental
5/5
Trample
Whenever a Forest comes into play, put a +1/+1 counter on Viran Earthcaller.
2G: Search your library for a land card with a basic land type and put it into play. Then, shuffle your library.

The plane Terralon shattered long ago, isolating each realm (land type) in its own world. Isolation has strongly attuned each world's inhabitants with their lands, which have in turn evolved to reflect this focus of power. The isolation has recently been broken; the worlds have been united once again, if tenuously.

Sulrath is the Swamp world. It's ruled by Ven (turned-demon).

Lands are an often-overlooked "necessity" of Magic. I believe there's lots of fun to be had with lands. This is a look at how different colors could interact more with their lands.

I tried to execute the ideas in the best manner, rather than go out of my way for new wording; there's plenty of room within Magic's current bounds.

Major focus was to make the set play well both with itself and with other sets.

"Land Deficit" label made open-ended for future use (with things other than land).

Alexis Janson

Set "Chicken":
[from the "Winner Winner / Chicken / Dinner" block]

Vile Praetor (common)
3B
Creature - Human Cleric
2/2
Inspire (When this creature goes to a graveyard from play, you may attach it to target creature as an Aura. Enchanted creature has all other abilities of this card.)
T: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn.

Cannibal Lector (common)
4B
Creature - Zombie Cleric
3/3
Inspire (When this creature goes to a graveyard from play, you may attach it to target creature as an Aura. Enchanted creature has all other abilities of this card.)
Sacrifice a creature: This creature gains fear until end of turn.

Consuming Power (common)
2B
Sorcery
Destroy target creature with one or more activated abilities.

Leyweave Parasite (common)
1B
Creature - Spirit
1/2
Whenever you play an activated ability of a black creature, you may pay 1B. If you do, target player loses 1 life.

Leyweave Shade (common)
B
Creature - Shade Shaman
1/1
Draw upon swamps (This comes into play with a charge counter for each swamp you control.)
B, Remove a charge counter from Leyweave Shade: Leyweave Shade gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

Diabolic Pawn (common)
2B
Creature - Human Spellmartyr
2/2
1B, Sacrifice Diabolic Pawn: Target player sacrifices a creature.

Confer with Death (common)
1B
Instant
Choose one — Regenerate target creature; or return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand; or remove target creature card in a graveyard from the game.
/"Those who deal with death find it quite charming."/

Distant Memory (common)
2B
Sorcery
Target player chooses two cards from his or her hand and puts them on the bottom of his or her library.

Tainted Flock (common)
3B
Creature - Bird Horror
2/2
Flying
When CARDNAME is put into a graveyard from play, each player loses two life.

Frail Fate (common)
B
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Whenever enchanted creature becomes the target of a spell or ability, destroy that creature.

Leyweave Outcast (common)
2B
Creature - Human Rogue
3/3
Leyweave Outcast gets -2/-2 for each Aura attached to it.

Patron of Gaea (rare)
4GG
Creature - Avatar
4/4
Inspire (When this creature goes to a graveyard from play, you may attach it to target creature as an Aura. Enchanted creature has all other abilities of this card.)
Trample
Whenever this creature deals combat damage to an opponent, put that many +1/+1 counters on target creature.

I started with flavor- the Leyweave, source of magical power permeating a world; providing magic to the uninitiated, making spells an easily shared resource (Inspire), providing growing power (Draw upon). Side effects?

Mutations, consumption, subversive control of others. (Pawns) Keywords inspired subthemes. I then searched for intersecting design space while balancing needs. A couple cards don't directly tie into specific themes- like every set, some cards are purposely simple tweaks to flesh things out. The "whole" was more important than making every card truly unique.

"Parasite" could be bumped to uncommon for complexity; I judged it safe. It could also be tested at 2/1. "Flock" was tweaked with multiplayer in mind. "Confer" subtly nods at Lord of the Undead's flavor text. I tried Inspire with "can't block", but decided commons should all treat Inspire as a benefit. Lots of work, but lots of fun- I'm happy with the result.

Kenneth Nagle

Rikt Initiate (Common)
G
Creature - Insect Druid
Reveal a land card from your hand, Tap: Add one mana of any color the revealed land could produce to your mana pool.
1/1

Lonely Treefolk (Common)
G
Creature - Treefolk Druid
Instead of playing a land, you may play Lonely Treefolk from your hand without paying its mana cost. (This counts as playing a land for the turn.)
Instead of playing a land, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Lonely Treefolk.
1/1

Rikt Vitalizing Charmer (Common)
1G
Creature - Insect Druid Spellshaper
G, Tap, Discard a card: Target creature gets +1/+1 and gains trample until end of turn. If a land card was discarded to play this ability, you may put a 1/1 green Insect creature token into play.
2/2

Acrid Net-Weaver (Common)
2G
Creature - Spider
Acrid Net-Weaver can block as though it had flying.
Reveal X land cards from your hand, Tap, Sacrifice Acrid Net-Weaver: Destroy target creature with both flying and converted mana cost X.
1/3

Branch-Fastened Chameleon (Common)
2G
Creature - Lizard
Forestwalk
Evolve R - red Lizard (When Branch-Fastened Chameleon is put into a graveyard from play, you may pay R. If you do, search your library for a red Lizard card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.)
2/2

Stink Beetle (Common)
3G
Creature - Insect
When Stink Beetle is put into a graveyard from play, you may remove it from the game and put a decompose counter on it.
Remove a decompose counter from Stink Beetle: Add BG to your mana pool. Put Stink Beetle into your graveyard.
3/3

Devolving Aberration (Common)
4G
Creature - Mutant
Protection from instants
Evolve 3G - converted mana cost 4 or less (When Devolving Aberration is put into a graveyard from play, you may pay 3G. If you do, search your library for a creature card with converted mana cost 4 or less, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.)
4/3

Scavenging Wurm (Common)
5GG
Creature - Wurm
Holistic 2G (2G, Remove Scavenging Wurm in your hand from the game: Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.)
6/6

Enliven (Common)
2G
Instant
If you control a Forest, you may remove a land card in your hand from the game instead of paying Enliven's mana cost.
Target creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn.

Enchantress's Touch (Common)
2G
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 for each enchantment you control.
Auratide - white (Whenever you play a white Aura card, you may return Enchantress's Touch from your graveyard to play.)

Future, Present, Past (Common)
2G
Sorcery
Search your library for a basic land card, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library. You may play an additional land this turn.
Holistic 2G (2G, Remove Future, Present, Past in your hand from the game: Return target sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand.)

Kindled Sapling (Common - TEMPLATE)
Land
Kindled Sapling comes into play tapped.
Tap: Add R to your mana pool.
Sacrifice Kindled Sapling: Add G to your mana pool.

Kalachian Tempest (Rare - Prerelease Promo)
5RG
Creature – Elemental
If you control a Mountain and a Forest, you may remove a sorcery card and a land card in your hand from the game instead of paying Kalachian Tempest's mana cost.
Trample
Kalachian Tempest gets +1/+0 for every mana in a mana pool.
6/4
/Kalach's chaotic weather is its deadliest foe./

Designer's Notes:

Kalach's Midst (Set 2 of 3) - A new primoridal plane/planet, rapidly changing and short in life-expectancy. Magic is still being discovered here. Pre-humanoid civilizations emerging. Artifacts barely invented.

Theme
'Card Type' Wars

White - Enchantment
Blue - Instant
Black - Creature
Red - Sorcery, 'weather', mana burn (manasinks deliberately scarce)
Green - Land, Animalistic, Dinosaurs?

Featured Keywords:

Evolve [cost] - [properties] (must share a card type)
(alternatively: Reshape, Reform, Rebirth) -can appear on any permanent

Holistic [cost] (must share a card type) -appears on all card types -RFG clause for safety

Auratide - [property]
-can appear on any permanent

Alternate Play Costs
-requires basic land control
-RFG clause for safety
-Lonely Treefolk plays polar opposite to Zombie Cutthroat!

Complicated Ally/enemy color bleed scheme separated per mechanic and card type -Small bleed - Stink Beetle (black) -Moderate bleed - Enchantress's Touch (white), Chameleons (all, evolution goes G->R->B->U->W) -Strong bleed - Kalachian Tempest

Gameplay Concerns
-'Free'-ish plays rather plentiful
-Hybrid card types may be confusing mechanically

Playtested with Time Spiral G/R and G/B Sealed decks, which I humbly encourage.

Ryan Sutherland

Brute Strength (Common)
1G
Instant
Choose one – Target creature gains +1/+1 and trample until end of turn, or target creature with trample gains +4/+4 until end of turn.

Elder Ritespeaker (Common)
1G
Creature – Bear Druid
2/2
Whenever Elder Ritespeaker is put into a graveyard from play, any player may pay 2. Any player who does may draw a card.

Fruits of Kol (Common)
G
Sorcery
You gain 4 life. Then any other player who pays 1W gains 4 life.

Ironweb Spiderling (Common)
1G
Creature – Spider
0/2
Ironweb Spiderling can block as though it had flying.
Focus – Put a +1/+1 counter on Ironweb Spiderling (When Ironweb Spiderling comes into play, put a +1/+1 counter on it for each other permanent in play with Focus or sacrifice Ironweb Spiderling.)

Kaidok Brawler (Common)
G
Creature – Bear Berserker
2/2
Focus - 1 (When Kaidok Brawler comes into play, pay 1 for each other permanent in play with Focus or sacrifice Kaidok Brawler.)

Kol Tiller (Common)
5GG
Creature – Wurm
4/5
Manapact (You may use mana in one of your allies’ mana pools as though it was in your mana pool to pay for Kol Tiller.)
As long as Kol Tiller has trample, it gains +2/+2.

Pilgrims of Kol (Common)
G
Creature – Human Druid
1/1
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
1, T: Target player gains control of Pilgrim of Kol.

Raging Swine (Common)
2G
Creature – Beast
2/3
Trample
Whenever Raging Swine attacks, any other player may pay R. For each player that does, Raging Swine gets +2/+0 until end of turn.

Tend the Grove (Common)
1G
Sorcery
For each permanent with Focus in play, search your library for a basic land, reveal it and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Then you may put a land from your hand into play tapped.

Timberline Force (Common)
4G
Creature – Elemental
5/5
Trample
Focus – G (As an additional cost to playing Timberline Force, pay G for each other permanent in play with Focus or sacrifice Timberline Force.)

Ursine Denmother (Common)
2GG
Creature – Bear Druid
2/2
Whenever Ursine Denmother comes into play, all players who control the highest number of creatures may put a 2/2 green Bear creature token into play.

Prerelease Card:

Baron of the Citadel (Rare)
3BBB
Creature – Human Lord
6/3
1B: Regenerate Baron of the Citadel.
All opponents play with their hands revealed.
At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, name a card. At end of turn, that player discards all copies of the chosen card.

The central theme of my set is multiplayer, inspired by the advent of two-headed giant drafting. However, in order for the set to be successful, I knew it must be playable in all formats. Along with studying structures of small sets, I adapted Anthony Alongi’s multiplayer “animal” philosophies and applied this animal pie to the color pie to give green has a very plankton feel, while black obviously enjoys feeding off of others, etc. I also wanted to reward teammates who played colors that were allies in the pie.

I chose Focus as my main new ability, because I feel that it allows for some interesting choices due to the fact that it can be used as a determent to spells by requiring additional mana or as a boon through increasing a spells’ effect. Manapact is my secondary ability that would be sparser but pushes forward the multiplayer theme.

And Then There Were Three

You’ve seen the Design Challenge. You’ve seen the applicants’ submissions. All that’s left is for the judges to make their comments and for us to narrow down to the Final Three. But we don’t do that until Part II tomorrow. That means that you all have one day to comment on what you think of the submissions and who you feel the Final Three are. Please join the thread and give us your opinion.

As for the judges, join us tomorrow as Aaron, Devin, Gleemax and myself give you our two cents and we eliminate the last two candidates before the final interviews.

See you then.

Mark Rosewater

  • Planeswalker Points
  • Facebook Twitter
  • Gatherer: The Magic Card Database
  • Forums: Connect with the Magic Community
  • Magic Locator