The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Jonathon Loucks

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Jonathon Loucks

Penumbria

Deep underground a new form of magic threatens to extinguish the light.

MR: The logline establishes the setting but doesn't do a very good job of establishing the conflict, which seems like the current backbone of your block. It instead focuses on a particular mechanic. Loglines tend to work better with theme than specific mechanics.

1) Common Card #1 –
Being from Below
4@
Creature – Horror
5/4
(@ Can only be paid with colorless mana.)

Art: A pale gray horror emerging from a large dark crack in the ground.

KEN: Wow, this is a doozy being in this booster pack. Neither Forest, nor Mountain, nor Island, nor Swamp, nor Plains will work here. I've considered this mechanic before, but at most I'd make one Johnny rare, something like:

Mishra's Juggernaut
3
Artifact Creature – Juggernaut
9/9
Cast CARDNAME using only colorless mana.

While we normally don't engineer cards to work precisely with other cards (in this case Mishra's Workshop), once a set might be OK.

MJG: Wow. This is a straightforward and backwards compatible implementation of a sixth color. It does make me interested in going through existing decks to see which ones can already produce sufficient colorless mana. I like @, though this is not the most exciting card to make me want to see more.

MP: Colorless creatures that can only be cast with colorless mana? I'm intrigued, but nervous about adding a sixth color to Magic ...

MR: Let me start by saying I think the basic structure of your @ mana is solid. It manages to add a pseudo-sixth color in a way that is backward compatible. It's also pretty clean in its execution. I worry though that it isn't fun. We've messed around with this mechanic in the past and as I'll spell out through my notes on the @ cards, it's splashy but it doesn't have great play value.

Other issues I have with it: I don't feel like you gave it any real definition. The cards mostly feel like slightly harder to cast artifacts or colorless spells. Part of the fun of adding a new "color" is making it have some quality that you aren't finding in other colors.

Next, while I get that @ is on the dark side and prismatic is on the light side, I don't feel like their existence is doing much for the set other than showing a contrast. You have designed plenty of cards to work with them, but those cards aren't ones that tie into the core conflict of your set.

Much of what I'm talking about can be seen in this card. What does the @ do for this design? You've made a Phyrexian Hulk that's one mana cheaper but requires you to play with specific lands or mana generators. I'm not sure that the hoop is even worth the one mana.

I do appreciate the desire to try and stretch boundaries to find something to produce contrast, but I don't feel like @ is what your set needs. (I promise I'll be hitting this topic through my notes.)

2) Common Card #2 –
Shinewing
[Lightperch Griffin http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs_talk:Gds/gds2/loucksj/feedback/challenge4]
2U
Creature – Elemental
2/2
Flying
Prismatic (This card is all colors.)

Art: A bright multicolored elemental flying near a cave ceiling.

KEN: This would be the prettiest Wind Drake ever. The prismatic keyword is crazy—I imagine it's going to generate some kind of Shadowmoor / Eventide interactions with Edge of the Divinity. I'm not sure what a set with common Transguild Couriers has in store.

MJG: Simple, but it neither inspires me to build something new, nor go into something existing. Show me why I care that my creature is prismatic.

MP: Interesting. I'm glad to see that there are brightly colored beings in this world, because a set of gray, drab cave-dwellers would be a tough sell.

MR: Now we get to the opposite side of the spectrum. This is the kind of a card that feels like it would go in a set all about color. It would be to a "color matters" block what changelings were to a Tribal block. The other problem with this card is that the bonus doesn't mean anything in a vacuum. While Magic does this from time to time, we are very careful about making cards that can't make sense on their own. The prismatic doesn't have any bonus unto itself. It's reliant on other cards to make it matter. We do make these kinds of cards if the thing it cares about is the thing of the set, but once again, I don't think you want the backbone of this set to be "color matters."

3) Common Card #3 –
Pale Elder
2G
Creature – Elf Druid
1/2
T: Add 2 to your mana pool.

Art: An elf with pale skin drawing dark energy from the ground.

KEN: Here's that precious colorless mana. Why not Green Mana 1/1 Tap: 1 Mana? I'd prefer clean Boreal Druid here.

MJG: Nice. I like how this is good in existing ramp decks as well as working with @.

MP: Following in the footsteps of Boreal Druid, but better? I can understand the need to provide colorless mana sources so that I can play my colorless cards, but are you forcing me to play with cards I don't want just so that I can cast my 5/4 vanilla horror? This is starting to remind me of "snow mana" from Coldsnap, and not in a good way.

MR: I like that you tweaked the mana elf to make sense in a set that cares about @ mana. My gut would probably be to make it cheaper and produce just one colorless mana. A three-drop that ramps you up to five mana feels more uncommon than common to me.

Also, note how @ mana forces you to warp the design around it. The big question is, of course, is it worth it?

4) Common Card #4 –
Savage Upbringing
[Colortrip Giant Growth http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/feature/122b]
1G
Instant
Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn. If that creature is green, draw a card.

Art: A green beast, we see the impact of its back into the cave ceiling.

KEN: I'd actually prefer Green Mana +2/+2 or +4/+4 or a trample bonus, but I guess I shouldn't be too mean to my own card designs I've admitted to the public.

MJG: Sure. I would substitute this in for giant growths in mono-green decks.

MP: I like that this is a simple card design that rewards people for doing something that they're probably already doing (playing green creatures in their green deck). The success of landfall in Zendikar really taught us that this sort of carrot is very popular across all levels of player.

MR: Using a design from one of the judges. Very savvy, I like it. Obviously, you're trying to make prismatic matter. This card though shows some of my issues about @ mana and prismatic. To make them matter, all of a sudden your set isn't about light versus dark but about colorlessness versus color. I like this card (I too have put similar cards into multiple designs—I tend to like boosting the Giant Growth effect rather than adding a card draw), but I don't understand why it wants to be in your set.

5) Common Card #5 –
Zyx Scorpion
[Gloom Lurker http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs_talk:Gds/gds2/loucksj/feedback/challenge4]
@
Cretaure – Horror
1/1
(@ can only be paid with colorless mana.)
Deathtouch
Morph B (You may play this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)

Art: The defining features of a scorpion (pinchers, tail) can be seen in the darkness.

KEN: Holy moly, the complexity goes up long before we go up in rarity. What a weirdo. I'd be happy with just Black Mana 1/1 deathtouch, but there's an added layer of colorlessness on top of that.

MJG: While @ is interesting to me, it isn't interesting to me on this card. Why do I care that this morph card could be cast for @? What makes it @ instead of just black? You need to do more to make me care about @.

MP: The return of morph! A very popular mechanic among core players, but one that's tricky with the new guys. That's OK if used sparingly—this is a non-core-set expansion after all!

MR: Morph is a complicated mechanic. If it didn't need to be at common to work (morph needs volume for the bluffing aspect), complexity would probably push it up to uncommon. I don't think adding a brand-new mechanic is what common morph creatures need.

Let's examine this card as an example. What value is there to adding the @ mana cost? So I can circumvent the whole morph mechanic if I have one colorless mana? On top of that, the deathtouch makes you want to play with the morph cost. I feel like the @ mana cost isn't adding anything strategically interesting, it's just making a complicated card a little more complicated.

In addition, there is one other problem crossing @ mana with morph. Morph has a generic cost. @ mana has colorless costs. While these two things are similar they are not the same. Forcing both into the same set feels like a mistake; forcing them onto the same card only compounds the problem. As an example, I feel like a set with @ mana probably wants to avoid making many artifacts for the same reason.

6) Common Card #6 –
Brightcuffs
1W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature can't attack or block.
As long as enchanted creature is colorless, Brightcuffs has shroud.

Art: Some kind of horror bound by very bright energy chains.

KEN: This isn't the bonus I would give for colorlessness. Most Pacifisms sit on the battlefield for the rest of the game anyway. I'd rather see this be like a card I cut from Worldwake: "1 ManaWhite Mana If enchanted creature is colorless, +2/+2. Otherwise, it can't attack or block."

MJG: I'm not a fan. While this is technically a strict upgrade of Pacifism, in most cases it doesn't mean anything. I'd be more frustrated than excited to switch out Pacifisms in my decks for Brightcuffs. It also tells me to be nervous about playing my @ cards as there is common hate out there for them.

MP: Interesting. Pacifism with upside seems good, but is it punishing players for playing the primary innovation of this set? Also okay, but only if used sparingly.

MR: This card shows up another problem with your colorless/prismatic schism. Cards like this tend to communicate that the sides break into two: colorless or prismatic. But the set can't do that. Partly because @ and prismatic can't support a lot of cards, partly because there are things you are going to want for each side that you need to lock into colors. So when this Aura is put on a creature that is clearly from the dark side yet isn't colorless, it doesn't get the rider.

7) Common Card #7 –
Cave Torcher
[Pallid Hellhound http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs_talk:Gds/gds2/loucksj/feedback/challenge4]
2R
Creature – Goblin Warrior
0/3
@: Cave Torcher gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
(@ Can only be paid with colorless mana.)

Art: A goblin manipulating purple fire.

KEN: This is more like how Coldsnap executed Snow mana. I would give it at least one power so it's a threat. Based on the art description, I see that @ is actually purple. Yet somehow, the mana symbol is not purple. This whole execution is going unexpectedly, when I think the expected is the way to go.

MJG: I still don't have a sense of where @ fits. Nothing is telling me about @ itself. As such, I don't have direction or inspiration in deck-building and so I wouldn't use these cards.

MP: Reminiscent of Wandering Goblins from Conflux, but I don't yet have a feel for how hard it is to generate colorless mana.

MR: This card shows a different issue with @ mana. This card wants you to have a lot of it. The pressure this puts on a deck is making it play with a lot of mana producers that make colorless mana, but there's a reason we tend not to do that. The reason is that it tends to "color screw" players. That is, it makes players unable to play their spells because they don't have the colorled mana they need.

I know that you like to add these types of tensions to deck building, but it is only popular with a narrow band of players. The majority of players won't understand the risk of adding too much colorless mana and will have a bad play experience unaware that they are the cause of it.

8) Common Card #8 –
Pilgrim's Eye
[Reprint – Worldwake]
3
Artifact Creature – Thopter
1/1
Flying
When Pilgrim's Eye enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a basic land card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.

Art: A thopter hanging upside-down from a cave ceiling.

KEN: A handsomely designed card!

MJG: A fine reprint.

MP: Bravo for picking a good reprint for this pack. I'm sure the inclination was to fill every slot with new card designs, but reprints do several good things for us: Established players get to feel smart when they recognize where they're from, and they help point new players back to Magic's rich history.

MR: Interesting reprint. I'm not quite sure why you felt this was the reprint you wanted but at least it will help undo some of the color mana problems that @ mana is causing.

9) Common Card #9 –
Bloodmender
[Reverer of Shadows http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs_talk:Gds/gds2/loucksj/feedback/challenge4]
B
Creature – Vampire Cleric
1/1
B, T: Regenerate target colorless creature.

Art: A vampire tending to a bloody wound on an unknown pale creature.

KEN: We get the set's Loxodon Mender. By the way, some players confuse artifact being a color, the judge community testifies.

MJG: While black-artifact isn't a deck I normally have around, I might try this in one with some @ cards.

MP: I like the simple card design, but this seems a little out of flavor for Vampires.

MR: Let me start with a quick color pie issue. Black is one of the colors that gets regeneration, but it tends to regenerate itself and not others, especially as a repeatable effect. Black is the selfish color so it tends to leave saving others to white and green (its enemies—the idiots).

Next is the issue that we tend not to put repeatable regeneration at common as it adds significant complication to the board. Math gets complicated when it can save multiple creatures in play. (Yes, this regeneration is somewhat restricted although I have no idea exactly how many colorless creatures this set is going to have.)

Vampire Cleric is also an odd combination as traditionally clerics are the enemy of vampires.

Finally, this card shows off another odd side effect of @ mana. It wants you to make cards that affect colorless creatures. Cards like that encourage artifact creatures, but the confusion between generic mana costs and colorless mana cost make you not want them in the same set.

10) Premium Mythic Card –
Liliana Released
5 (cost)
Planeswalker – Liliana
4
+2: During target player's next turn, that player can't attack with more than one creature or cast more than one spell.
-2: Each player sacrifices a colored permanent.
-9: Target opponent gains an emblem with "At the end of your turn, you lose half your life, rounded up."

Art: Liliana, shrouded in darkness, defined by the glowing purple lines on her body.

KEN: This set somehow turned into Scars of Rise of the Eldrazi or something. I like this planeswalker well enough, but I expected Chandra here as the first colorless planeswalker—she has a colorless story arc with the Purifying Fire and the Eye of Ugin.

MJG: What does Liliana cost? 5? 5@? I am excited to see a new Liliana, and I like how her middle ability fits both with the set and artifact creatures from the past. However, the card doesn't feel cohesive, nor do I know what deck to put it in.

MP: Opening a foil planeswalker is quite the luck! This one is clearly a powerful one as well. I think all of these abilities are flashy, powerful, and in character for Liliana. My minor gripes about it are that the abilities don't really relate to each other (we've printed planeswalkers like this before anyway), and the first ability is quite a beating on my opponent's turn five (although this sort of thing could be balanced in development).

My major gripe is with her colorlessness. Like a green-blue Garruk, stripping her of her color identity would represent a major personality shift for one of our most important characters. If her fundamental character qualities aren't changing (as her abilities suggest), then between the colorless horror, the direct damage instant, and our mono-blackest Planeswalker, you're telling me that colorless cards are actually "Black2." So why bother?

MR: I don't get the flavor of the first ability on Liliana nor does it feel black. Of course, there's the issue that Liliana, what we've worked to build as our iconic black planeswalker, isn't black. It feels very much like she's colorless merely for the entertainment value of making it that way. I get that your set has a colorless theme, but I don't see how that justifies this change.

The middle ability leads me to believe that Liliana has chosen a side in the fight (the dark side obviously). Is that what you are trying to convey?

I like the ultimate ability. It feels very Liliana. My only problem with it is that it feels very black and I'm not quite sure who's supposed to be able to play this card. I find it odd that a nonblack deck could play it and get to the ultimate.

One final note, I really like the art description. It is the first time that I felt you really embraced some of the ways to make your world stand out in the art.

11) Uncommon Card #1 –
Dwarven Flame-axe
1R
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +2/+0.
Equip – 2
Equip a red creature – 0

Art: A flaming axe in the hand of a dwarf.

KEN: There's something cool here—Obsidian Battle-Axe is definitely fun times. I don't see why this costs red mana to cast. The equip a red creature ability is definitely a place we could go.

MJG: This would go quite nicely in a red aggro deck, and everything from the casting cost and equip cost to the name and art tell me this. I'd be happy to try out this card.

MP: An interesting twist on Equipment, the likes of which we've not really seen since Fifth Dawn. Again, I like the straightforward design that rewards you for doing something you're probably already doing. The red mana Equipment is a little strange, but we've certainly done colored artifacts before.

MR: As a general rule of thumb, artifacts cost colored mana. We are willing to break that rule if it's important enough but I don't see why this couldn't have a generic cost. The "equip a red creature" text makes it feel plenty red.

Prismatic has led you down the "colors matter" path. I'm not convinced it is a path you want to be done, but if you're going to travel this way, with tweaks, I like this card.

12) Uncommon Card #2 –
Darkfire
@
Instant
(@ can only be paid with colorless mana.)
Darkfire deals 2 damage to target creature or player. This damage can't be prevented.

Art: A creature being burned by a fire that doesn't give off any light.

KEN: So ... @ gets slightly better Shock. I guess that's OK because red gets much better Shock? I'll give props for identifying that there's no color with the "bad burn" spells (just like I wish white was the "bad countermagic" color).

MJG: I'd put this in a monocolored green, white, or blue deck with some non-basic lands that produce colorless, but this just feels like a color pie cheat. I am totally lost at this point as to @'s portion of the color pie.

MP: So ... it's really clear to me by now that this set is all about the tension between colored vs. colorless, which seems like dangerous territory to me. This card illustrates pretty clearly one of the biggest pitfalls: Wrecking the color pie. I can now put Shock in my mono-green deck—all I have to do is run a few Pale Elders ... who needs red? Printing cards like this also detracts from the identity of your colorless creatures. If they can do anything with their colorless mana, what are they really all about?

MR: So anyone who has access to colorless mana gets to have a Shock? Of all my dislikes of @ mana, this is my biggest. The color pie is important. From time to time, we allow a little bleeding, but we always do so with a very concrete purpose. I don't understand why you're doing it here. This card seems like it's giving away a key red ability for very little downside. In fact, there are many decks that are going to be able to play this easier than a mono-red deck, which in theory should have the easiest time playing this ability. @ mana cannot be a license to throw out the color pie.

Your art description has a key problem. I don't know how easy it's going to be to show fire without light. There are two opposite problems that could happen. One, without the visual cues to represent fire it's possible that there's no way to make it clear that what you're drawing is fire. Or two, many Magic illustrations cut to the bone to show as little as needed. It's possible that you can cut the light out and it's not even noticeable as being gone. My main point here is that it's fun to come up with crazy visuals, but they don't always work when someone has to actually illustrate them.

13) Uncommon Card #3 –
Amorphize
2U
Sorcery
Draw a card, then put a card from your hand onto the battlefield face down. (It is a 2/2 creature.)

Art: An indistinguishable dark mass.

KEN: I can't tell if this is a slightly better or worse execution of a card I designed during GDS1. Slightly worse, probably?

Also, "an indistinguishable dark mass" is precisely what Magic art tries not to be.

MJG: Even though this card is a natural fit for a deck with a bunch of morphs, it doesn't give me a reason to play it. I would toss this card.

MP: I love cards that do things we've never done before. The fact that we're still able to do them after so many years is a testament to the brilliance of Richard's game design and the talent of card designers. This card isn't earth shattering, but we've never given you the ability to turn a spell in your hand into a morph creature, so I think it's pretty neat (assuming it actually works within the rules). One strike against this card for me is that the art description is fantastically uncompelling.

MR: Various rules managers have drummed into my head that you are not allowed to get nonpermanents onto the battlefield. Something about the collapse of the Space/Time Continuum. Basically this card opens up a can of worms. Now I've opened many a worm can in my day, but I've learned that you should only do so when it's worth it. Is this card worth substantially rewriting the rules? No, it isn't. I'd talk with the Rules Manager. Maybe there's a way to make this work, but this isn't the card I'd go to the mat for.

14) Rare Card #3 –
Tariel, the Undersun
3WW
Creature – Elemental
5/5
Prismatic
White creatures you control have vigilance, blue creatures you control have flying, red creatures you control have first strike, and green creatures you control have trample.

Art: A very bright elemental floating in the center of a large cavern.

KEN: This would make a pretty cool White ManaBlue ManaBlack ManaRed ManaGreen Mana creature, but as it stands I have trouble swallowing the card whole. I think this card has four line breaks, by the way.

Coincidentally, Tariel is the name of one of the wedge legends in the Commander product coming out later this year.

MJG: While this looks fun, the casting cost puts me off. I need a five-color base-white deck to maximize this card? Yuck. At best, I'd put it aside to see if I got other prismatic white creatures in further packs, but this pack hasn't convinced me to buy more.

MP: This guy is interesting. I'm imagining a lot of checking and review would go on for each player every turn when this guy is on the table. "What does your Cave Torcher have?" "First Strike." "What does your Bloodmender have?" "Nothing." (etc.) That's not to say we shouldn't do things that shake up the board like this, but this card is right where it belongs at rare.

One other note—although I dig the name, it makes him/her/it sound like a legendary creature rather than a floaty glob of light. I also feel obligated to say that I first read this card several weeks after my favorite legend in Magic: The Gathering Commander was finalized. That last sentence will make more sense in June.

MR: I'm glad this card's rare because it's a pain and a half to monitor the board state while it's in play. It's also quirky that prismatic creatures are black yet the prismatic helpers don't reference black. I get that black is the dark side but it will read weird to the players that just want to build a prismatic deck.

15) Basic Land –
Cavern
Basic Land
(T: Add 1 to your mana pool.)

Art: A large stadium-sized cavern, dimly lit by light from various entrances.

KEN: I knew this was coming after seeing the first @ card. However, I didn't expect it to be missing a basic land type. Then I read below about a massive distribution plan to sprinkle infinite Caverns to every Magic tournament because "It would be bad if players drafted cards they couldn't play." That's the basic mechanic behind drafting—you pick the cards you want to play and pass up the rest. I believe there's a fundamental flaw with the @ mechanic, not with the Draft format.

Coldsnap didn't offer infinite Snow lands to players upon draft completion—Snow costs requiring relatively scarce Snow lands were part of the set's draft design. This designer proposes printing and shipping costs for something like a million free cards rather than solving the problem via game design.

Magic's business model is based on creating cards that players desire, with some of those cards being scarce. If Cavern is indeed a scarce card that players desire, good job, but why undermine the company's business model?

I would love to be in the leads meeting when you propose "Cavern is a Magic card players shouldn't have to buy" just to hear everyone's reaction. You've heard mine.

MJG: I'll admit that while I was reading the @ cards, I was wondering if this was going to be the land. Kudos for setting this up!

MP: Interesting, and not entirely unexpected ... I suppose it would even be required to make this set work!

MR: I'm curious why you chose to go the basic land route rather than just having a bunch of common lands that tap for colorless mana. One of the major reasons Barry's Land's never made it to print has to do with its basic land status. The problems don't all just go away with your one rule addition.

This card makes me feel you were drawn to the forbidden design fruit more than you were trying to pick what best serves your set.

16) Token –
Elemental
Creature – Elemental
2/2
Prismatic (This is all colors.)

Art: A bright multicolor elemental.

KEN: This would be a pretty token, all things considered.

MP: Have you put much thought into what exactly the Elementals of this world look like? In Lorwyn, they were quite a departure from "Fire Elemental." With so few classic fantasy archetypes in your set, they're going to have to be pretty bad ass to carry the marketing of your set.

MR: I like the token. It's distinctive to the set but relatively simple. My only issue with it is the same issue I have with prismatic in the first place, but I already talked about that above.

Comments:

On @: An empty colorless symbol with a hard dark outline, and colorless cards with @ in their casting cost have punched-up colorless frame to help them stand out. (Similarly, prismatic cards have a punched-up multicolor frame.) Designing with @ has felt like creating the 6th color, without the difficult backwards-compatibility issues. I imagine @ having access to much of the color pie, but with the general theme of making the opponent's life more difficult - damage that can't be prevented, exiling things, can't be countered, unblockable, shroud, deathtouch, etc.

Ideally @ is as draftable as the other colors in limited, as well as being easily splashed. Colorless instants/sorceries are tricks that might be better saved for set two or three, but I'm presenting it here as an option.

On Cavern: Like the other basic lands, players have access to any number of caverns at tournaments, and can play any number in their deck. I can avoid creating a new basic land type by creating a new rule ~305.6b "A basic land with no basic land types has 'T: add 1 to your mana pool.'" This should avoid some of the rules issues a new type creates. Caverns would be distributed to tournament organizers and through booster packs as a possible basic land. I chose to give player's access to caverns because I didn't want people drafting cards they couldn't cast.

KEN: In conclusion, I'm afraid this designer, in my opinion (and remember Rosewater makes the final call), has reached the end of this competition. When one plays copious amounts of Magic, one craves the untapped veins of design space that would add layers of interestingness to humdrum attacksies/blocksies.

Unfortunately, most players don't have the capacity or patience for infinite design trees, infinite tension, and infinite complexity like this designer does. I've sampled most TCGs out there, and some of them have a problem I call "designer boredom." The designers work forty hours a week on the same game, and through sheer boredom their card designs become laden with complexity by the time the product ships. It takes honed discipline to hold fast to the simplest cards possible knowing that every player starts playing your game completely clueless in the beginning.

Case in point: most cards in Uno are as simple as "Red 2", which can be played on a red card or a 2 card. Similar cards include "Green 4" and "Blue 7." The uncommon-esque cards mess with the turn order ("Skip" and "Reverse"), while the mythic rare is the broken "Wild Draw Four." There are few cards in Magic as simple as Uno's Red 2. And yet, tons of people enjoy a simple game of Uno every day.

This designer seems bored of Magic's Red 2s, Green 4s, and Blue 3s, and invented radically weird and complex fractional cards to entertain his jaded gaming experience. I get the feeling this designer plays infinite Cube Drafts—his friends/playtest group are always surrounded by the most powerful and complex Magic cards ever printed and they wouldn't have it any other way. I fear this designer would instinctively move Magic where every deck is Fauna Shaman + Necrotic Ooze complex with glee. His fondness for complexity is detrimental to his card design skills; he suffers from "designer boredom."

MJG: This booster was very frustrating. I found @ to be very elegantly done ... and then I didn't find any of the executions of the mechanic to be compelling. What defines @? You told me in your comments, but I didn't feel it in the cards.

MP: The dream of adding a sixth color to Magic has been swirling around fan communities for more than a decade, and you've taken an admirable stab at it here. It certainly is a hook that we could use to get enfranchised players excited about the set!

One problem with this approach is that doing something this radical will have a very big impact on all parts of the company. I applaud you for identifying some of the challenges here! You correctly noted that in order to make Limited play work, you'd have to provide these lands to tournament organizers and stores as a sixth basic land. That one little line has significant financial implications! We're a global brand that prints in ten languages, and the logistics of sending hundreds of lands to thousands of tournament locations around the world are an undertaking and an extremely significant resource drain.

That's not to say that we wouldn't do it, but for this sort of radical change, the decision to move forward would have to be made at the highest levels of the company. You would have to convince Bill Rose, and eventually the CEO and CFO of Wizards that these steps are going to result in greater excitement and success for your set that will lead to growth of the brand.

Stepping back to the card layouts themselves, you're talking about modifying a couple of card frames here, and that can have considerable resource implications as well. It's really, really tough to come up with new card frames that look good, and support game play rather than detract from it. Our creative team and several graphic designers spend more time than I would guess any fan would expect whenever we come up with cards that require new frames. And what of Caves? What goes in the text boxes there? A giant, "1" with a gray circle around it?

Although the "sixth color" is going to definitely get attention in the fan community, what is there here to draw in new players? A dark cave environment where the only light source is crazy globs of elemental light? Our creative team can work wonders, but I'm not getting a sense of what your elementals look like from your card descriptions. Without a bright, recognizable fantasy image or character to put on the packaging, this set might have trouble standing out on the shelf.

The player in me has some concern about how you're handing the sixth color, as well. I'm a little worried that being forced to use colorless mana to cast some of these spells, you're going to create more potential for mana screw. While it is an important part of Magic's success, tipping the balance to more mana screw might just create more un-fun play experiences, which means less people playing with your set. I also don't see in the cards you presented how you're going to preserve the color pie and give these new creatures and spells their own identity.

If, after all of these concerns are considered, R&D (as a department) believes that these challenges can be overcome and are worth the extra work, we could make this set happen. Of the five candidate sets, releasing this set has the highest risk of hurting the brand long-term, but with high risk comes the potential of high reward. I'm nervous about all of these risks though!

MR: Jonathon, I felt like your submission this week got hijacked by your infatuation with a mechanic. You latched onto @ mana and started changing everything in your set around it. My problem though is that @ mana isn't at the core of what your set is about or at least what your set's been about. I like the conflict between light and dark but I feel like you've chosen to represent it through a contrast that produces suboptimal game play.

I do recognize all the work you did to make @ mana and prismatic work in the set. My question to you is: is this a better set with these mechanics in it? I have stressed that I like light vs. dark as a theme. What you submitted today is not light vs. dark. It is colorless vs. color and that is a very different set.

The other big problem is the one Nagle identifies. You clearly have a very specific niche that you enjoy playing. You tend to design to that niche and your designs are very compelling—for that audience. The problem is that the vast majority of Magic players aren't in that niche and many of them would be turned off by much of the cards and mechanics you're making. I do not think the set you hinted at in your booster would actually be fun for most Magic players. That's a big problem.



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