Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 1 of 6

The competition on Magic: The Gathering's GDS2 is heating up, and with six hopefuls left they were tasked with designing cycles of cards. Because I felt like it, I'm going to make a few comments on the cards they designed. (For my newer readers, I spent some time as a Magic designer at Wizards of the Coast, so, ya'know, I have like, at least a little experience in these matters.)

First up, Ethan's cards:


Common Cycle

CW01 –
Bore Lightshaft
5W
Instant
Tap up to three target creatures.
Dig 2 (2, Discard this card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

CU01 –
Strike Water
5U
Instant
Return up to two target permanents to their owners' hands.
Dig 2 (2, Discard this card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

CB01 –
Exhume Corpses
5B
Instant
Return up to two target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.
Dig 2 (2, Discard this card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

CR01 –
Blast Bunker
5R
Instant
CARDNAME deals 5 damage to target player.
Dig 2 (2, Discard this card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

CG01 –
Bury Nuisance
5G
Instant
Destroy target noncreature permanent.
Dig 2 (2, Discard this card: Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a land card. Put that card into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.)

A very typical common cycle. So typical I almost wouldn't know it was a GDS2 entry (that's a compliment). Just like you might see from a cycle of cards with cycling. Bore Lightshaft and Exume Corpses obviously fit into the underground theme well, but the other three are just dull filler designs for the cycle. Maybe you could convince me of the flavor of Strike Water... but Bury Nusiance and Blast Bunker are not very underworld or digging worthy. The name Blast Bunker sounds like land destruction, actually. Still, they are common designs and I'm not convinced there would be better, more fitting designs for the whole cycle.


Uncommon Cycle

UW01 –
Shining Knight
2W
Creature - Human Knight
2/3
First strike
Reflect - When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may pay 2W. If you do, put a 3/2 white Human Knight creature token with first strike onto the battlefield.

I like the Reflect mechanic, I think more than R&D does. It has potential, and perhaps this implementation is good. It's very cute that the tokens have flipped stats from the originals, but WotC has really cut back on the non-symmetrical tokens. Sure, if you have the token cards you're fine, but what if you're using a 6-sized die (what I perceive to be one of the most common token substitutes)? Do you set it to 3 for the power or 2 for the toughness? It's not ideal, and especially during a GDS you want to obey all the obvious rules R&D has. Seriously! You are not yet on their good side, don't give them excuses to attack you. Even if you think you're being innovative, or even if you think you're really correct, just don't do it! It's like you want to lose, sheesh!

UU01 –
Mirror-wing Drake
3U
Creature - Drake
2/3
Flying
Reflect - When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may pay 3U. If you do, put a 3/2 blue Drake creature token with flying onto the battlefield.

Oh, I also wanted to say that I'm glad you didn't call attention to the kickeryness of this. Many novice designers would have put the work kicker in there somewhere, and boy would that have been ugly. I mean, it is kickery, but I think it can get away with it as only Verdeloth and Wolfbriar really preceed it, and don't have the same flavor.

UB01 –
Double Agent
2B
Creature - Human Rogue
2/2
Morph 2B (You may cast this face down as a 2/2 creature for 3. Turn it face up any time for its morph cost.)
When CARDNAME is turned face up, put a 2/2 black Human Rogue creature token onto the battlefield.

I guess I should have expected this. I get it, why you have one morph in this cycle of Reflect creatures, and this guy does fit in by making a copy of himself. I kind of like it, but it's the kind of risk that might totally backfire on you. R&D might rip into you for it, but you have to take some risks. I wonder if it would be more interesting if this card said "destroy target token creature" instead?

UR01 –
Giltshield Grudgebearer
1RR
Creature - Dwarf Berserker
1/2
Double strike
Reflect - When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may pay 1RR. If you do, put a 2/1 red Dwarf Berserker creature token with double strike onto the battlefield.

It's also interesting how all the tokens are ostensibly better (having more power) than the originals. As I said above, they should all be symmetrical, and it's a better, cleaner mechanic if they make perfect copies instead of "mirror images," and that's totally what you should have done... but there's something amusing about the token being more awesome than the card. Perhaps that makes the token more likely to be killed off and that will ever so slightly reduce the memory load on players.

UG01 –
Silverscale Wurm
3GG
Creature - Wurm
4/6
Trample
Reflect - When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may pay 3GG. If you do, put a 6/4 green Wurm creature token with trample onto the battlefield.

Now that's a 10-mana finisher for limited! I'd way rather have the totally sick double 5/5 version though.

Rare Cycle

RZ01 –
Left Side:
Hell
3BB
Sorcery
Destroy all creatures.

Right Side:
Back
5WW
Sorcery
Each player returns all creature cards from his or her graveyard to the battlefield.

In all of GDS2 so far, this is the first time I felt one of you guys was even mildly justified in having a gold card or hybrid card (or split card) in your submission. I can see Bill Rose being swayed by the duality argument for these. It helps that you came up with a good set of names and some pretty good cards. I like this pair, and while the name might the most stretch, I find it cute enough.

RZ02 –
Left Side:
Give
2RR
Sorcery
Target player gains control of target permanent you control.
Right Side:
Take
5UU
Sorcery
Gain control of target permanent.

Why on earth does Give cost so much? Grotag Trader is only 1R, and the original donate was only 2U. Well I guess it's close enough for development. It's also pretty lame compared to Take. How about the far more risky design of "5RR, Target player gains an emblem with 'you take 1 damage at the beginning of your upkeep'?" I'd have done that. They might yell at your for using emblems, but at least players might consider both parts of the card worth playing.

RZ03 –
Left Side:
Flesh
XGG
Sorcery
Put an X/X green Beast creature token into play. Gain X life.

Right Side:
Blood
XBB
Sorcery
Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn. Its controller loses X life.

Nice one. I love the life clauses added here, they are short and sweet but make the card new and exciting in a great way.

RZ04 –
Left Side:
Love
2WW
Sorcery
Gain 2 life for each creature you and target opponent control.

Right Side:
War
3RR
Sorcery
CARDNAME deals damage to target player equal to twice the number of creatures you control.

I'd have called it War // Peace, but I guess some people think of love and war first. Why does Love target an opponent? Just because War does? That's not how Assault // Battery works, so that can't be it. This should be "Gain 2 life for each creature on the battlefield." Not a fatal error, but an awfully sloppy looking one. (At least if it was called War // Peace you could justify the targeting as a flavor clause showing you have a peace treaty with that player.)

RZ05 –
Left Side:
Now
3UU
Sorcery
Look at the top 10 cards of your library. Put two of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

Right Side:
Then
2GG
Sorcery
Put up to two target nonland, noncreature permanents on the bottom of their owners' libraries in any order.

What happened? This last one is so... dull. The others (well, with my change to Give, heh) are cool and exciting rares, but this one reads like two uncommons (Foresee & Dust to Dust). Where are the free spells? The extra turns? This card totally fails as a rare and it's dragging down a cool cycle.

Overall I expect Ethan to pass this round handily. He's been doing well so far and has a pretty good shot at winning if he keeps it up.

These take a while, so I'm going to break it up into 6 posts. Come back soon to see the others!

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