Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 6 of 6

The last post in this 6-part postapalooza about the GDS2 cycle design test. Be sure to read all 5 preceding parts!

Jonathan's cards:

Common Cycle

CW01: Farmer's Charm
W
Instant
Choose one - Put a 1/1 white Citizen creature token onto the battlefield; or search your library for a Plains card, reveal it, put it into your hand, and shuffle your library; or gain 2 life.

Excellent flavor! I like this charm quite a bit. (Even if it does plainscycle a little cheaply - development's problem!)

CU01: Scholar's Charm
U
Instant
Choose one - Untap target creature; or target creature gains shroud until end of turn; or draw a card.

Unlike the white one, which has splendid flavor, this reads like a pile of very unrelated abilities to me. Try again.

CB01: Smuggler's Charm
B
Instant
Choose one - Return target Mercenary card from your graveyard to your hand; or target creature gains Intimidate until end of turn; or you gain one Gold counter. (Gold counters may be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

How is intimidate peaceful and utopian? I'm very glad you put a Gold counter here, as missing that opportunity (to vary up a charm with the set's thematic counter mechanic) would have been sad. This, of course, assumes that the Gold mechanic works out overall, but I think it has potential, though I have not spent time playtesting it.

CR01: Flameweaver's Charm
R
Instant
Choose one - Destroy target non-creature artifact; or add RR to your mana pool; or target creature gets +2/+0 until end of turn.

No damage? I guess that's not utopian, but I'm weaving flame here! Seems like an okay card for the cycle.

CG01: Hunter's Charm
G
Instant
Choose one - You may put a land card from your hand onto the battlefield; or target creature must block this turn if able; or put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.

When do hunters ramp mana? That's for scout's and explorers. Must block is hunterish, so that's good, +1/+1... is just green. I guess it's okay.

The white charm set my expectations for flavor so high that the other cards couldn't meet it. I can't hold that against you, but it would have impressed me a lot if they were all as good.


Uncommon Cycle

UZ01: Anunnaki Eraser
2(w/u)(w/u)
Creature - Anunnaki
1/4
Flash
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, exile another target permanent. Return that card to the battlefield under its owner's control at the beginning of the next end step.

There are so many worms in this can that I can barely see the card. I like what you wrote in justification of the hybrid cards - they are the invaders of the world, and being hybrid sets them apart from the mono-colored inhabitants. It might work. The better the card designs are, the more likely the judges will let you get away with it. On to this card in particular...

Why does this have flash? I am suspicious that you are one of those players. The kind that puts flash on everything, makes too many instants, and who loves combat damage using the stack. This card could be done without flash. In other news, it costs an awful lot for a 1/4 with a conditional ability (compare to the very recent Glimmerpoint Stag). Finally, why is the requirement based on a brand-new creature type? Stop inventing wacky creature types. It's not your place (they have a whole creative team for that) and it makes your designs read much worse. Now for the hybridness test: this could be done as a white card, check. But as a blue card? I'm not so sure. In total, this card is a failure.

UZ02: Anunnaki Infiltrator
2(u/b)(u/b)
Creature - Anunnaki
2/2
Flying
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, remove all counters from target permanent or opponent.

I get that the Annunaki are the invading creature type, but you could pick any existing creature type for the invaders and just be sure not to have any of those type in the native creatures. Aside form that, this card is much better than the previous design. I am suspicious of the "or opponent" part of the wording. You want to remove Gold counters, right? I would say "or player" and have it work for poison too. More likely, you could just say "target permanent" and not worry about the interaction with infrequently appearing counter types. I am curious how the judges will react to this one. Hybridness? I think Blue and Black can both do this, so it should be okay.

UZ03: Anunnaki Lacerator
2(b/r)(b/r)
Creature - Anunnaki
3/1
Haste
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, Anunnaki Lacerator deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

A fine card... for Red. This is not acceptable as a Black card, and hybrids have to be able to exist in both mono-colors. Hybrid cards are hard to design!

UZ04: Anunnaki Ravager
2(r/g)(r/g)
Creature - Anunnaki
3/2
Trample
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, destroy target land.

I was beginning to worry you wouldn't have any that I could simply accept. This one is fine.

UZ05: Anunnaki Purifier
2(g/w)(g/w)
Creature - Anunnaki
2/3
Vigilance
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, if you control another Anunnaki, destroy target artifact or enchantment.

No real issues here (other than the creature type problem I discussed above). Solid card idea.


Rare Cycle

RW01: Majority Rule
2WW
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control at least ten more creatures than each of your opponents, you win the game.

I don't like whole cycles of alternate win conditions. I don't like seeing them more than once per block. For this card in particular, compared to the very similar Epic Struggle, 10 seems a little too low. You have to be very careful when handing out game wins. Being not very original and not quite in the right place, this card does not make me very happy.

RU01: Omniscience
4UU
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have fifteen or more cards in your hand, you win the game.

That's a little more interesting. You have to find a way around the hand-limit rule (Spellbook) and then draw and hold a lot of cards. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of things an opponent can do with an average deck to stop you. Even if they're playing Black, discard is included in only a small number of Black decks. Everyone knows they have to worry about dying to creatures, but to cards in the opponent's hand?

RB01: Vast Riches
3BB
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have twenty or more Gold counters, you win the game.

In contrast to what I just said about not being able to fight it, this one reads well and sounds like it might be cool. Hypocritical? Perhaps, but that's why design is an art. This card reads much more like poison, and the gold-hoarding flavor is great. Still, it appears to be something most opponents will not be able to do anything about, and might not be fun to have in several formats.

RR01: Walk through Fire
2RR
Enchantment
If all players would lose the game, you and your teammates win the game instead.

The name really sells it for me here. I like this design. Again, it might turn out to be unfun in multiplayer formats (Earthquake, for example), but it sounds like it would be good. Definitely the best of these rares.

RG01: Lord of the Land
3GG
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control at least five more lands than each of your opponents, you win the game.

Haha, really? Have you played standard in the past 5 months? I guess we shouldn't take the current metagame into consideration for a theoretical set, but five is far too small a number. Again, the victory is based on something your opponent can rarely do anything about.

I think you really missed here by making a win-condition cycle. It's a big risk that you should have realized would be very unlikely to pay off. Combined with using hybrid, it makes me feel you are just making cards for yourself and not for Magic. Unless your attitude changes (or perhaps your heart really is in the right place but somehow it comes out all wrong) next week, I don't expect you to make it much further. That's if you survive this round at all. (Sorry!)

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 5 of 6

Moving on to the next submission of cards for the GDS2 "cycle" design challenge.

Scott's cards:

Common Cycle

CW01
Weary of Death
1W
Sorcery
Target player gains 4 life.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from the battlefield this turn, that player gains 8 life instead.

Now where have I seen this before? Something about lands, I think. 
This is a fine card, but too obviously derivative for a design test.

CU01
Vapors of the Blight
U
Sorcery
Put the top three cards of target player's library into his or her graveyard.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from the battlefield this turn, put the top six cards of that player's library into his or her graveyard instead.

Your decision to make them sorceries was, I believe, very correct. Your explanation shows you understand why they should be sorceries and you're right. Well done.

CB01
Memories of Bereavement
1B
Sorcery
Target player discards a card.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from the battlefield this turn, that player discards two cards instead.

Acceptable. In a good way.

CR01
Flames of Retribution
1R
Sorcery
CARDNAME deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from play this turn, CARDNAME deals 4 damage to that creature or player instead.

Really? Galvanic Blast, after the judges previously criticized people for making multiple Galvanic Blasts? It's an okay design, but I would have gone for 3 and 6 or 1 target, 2 targets, anything to make it a little more distinguishable. 

CG01
Seeds of Rebirth
2G
Sorcery
Put two 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens onto the battlefield.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from play this turn, put four 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens onto the battlefield instead.

I always feel the green token makers, especially the small ones, should have strong ties to the set. Are there going to be other Saproling cards, or cards the help them? Could just be me.


Uncommon Cycle

UW01
Rescue from the Blight
2W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Flash
Enchanted Creature gets +1/+1
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner's hand.

I am very wary of flash, especially from new designers, as they tend to put it on everything because they like instants and tricking their opponents. They also like damage using the stack. You're not one of those, are you?
I think you're not. This is an okay use of flash, letting this card respond to a kill spell, though I would have gone without it.

UU01
Rise above the Blight
2U
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and has flying
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner's hand.

Any reason these are all +1/+1? You could have gotten more mileage out of them with different bonuses, I think. You've kept the cycle tight (which is just a description, not a good or bad judgement) and the word count low with simple abilities and matching numbers and costs... but you've also kept the cycle boring by doing that.

UB01
Feast on the Blight
2B
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and has lifelink.
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner's hand.

Yeah, fine, still a little boring.

UR01
Charge through the Blight
2R
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and can't be blocked except by two or more creatures.
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner's hand.

Oh goody, the card in the cycle where you couldn't find a keyword you liked so you wrote out something simple, but it kinda leaves you with that unsatisfied feeling of not being as elegant as you wanted to be. It happens all the time, in magic design.

UG01
Endure the Blight
2G
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and has shroud.
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, return that card to its owner's hand.

No. Bad designer, no biscuit. Shroud is not very fun, and if R&D could turn back the clock many of them would have keyworded troll-shroud instead of shroud. You might have gotten away with it if you combined it with flash, so it could counter a kill spell, but you didn't. This card is lame and there are more interesting things you could have done.


Mythic Rare Cycle

MW01
Celiana, the Protector
4WW
Legendary Creature - Angel
5/5
Flash, Flying
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may return any number of other permanents you control to their owner's hand.

This use of flash is better. White's use of "bounce my stuff" has seen flash before, and this mega Whitemane Lion is a cool card. Incidentially a sweet combo with Jonathon's Overcome.

MU01
Ventaro, the Preserver
4UU
Legendary Creature - Sphinx Wizard
4/4
Flying
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return all instants and sorceries in your graveyard to your hand.

Eww, that's going to be really, really annoying to play against as the finisher in a control deck. Also, it doesn't really do a lot when it dies, does it? How often are you going to cast a bunch of instants and sorceries between casting this and having it Doom Bladed? I would have said "return target instant card and/or target sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand." This change does two great things for the card. It refines the build-around instructions of the deck to demand both instants and sorceries, and it makes the death trigger work out almost all the time.

MB01
Maltor, the Betrayer
4BB
Legendary Creature - Demon
5/5
Intimidate
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, Blight all other creatures. (Destroy each permanent with a Blight counter. Then put a Blight counter on each Blighted creature)

I was worried that Blight, the only really awesome thing about this set's concept, was going to be absent again. Luckily, it showed up here! I like this one. Has a nice rattlesnake aspect too - if you kill me, everyone else dies too.

MR01
Rantor, the Ravager
4RR
Legendary Creature - Giant Warrior
5/5
First Strike
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, blight target creature, then untap it and gain control of it until end of turn. It gain haste until end of turn. (To Blight a creature Destroy each permanent with a Blight counter. Then put a Blight counter on each Blighted creature)

Haha, blight and steal. I love it. "You can have this back now, sorry I got a little blight on it, it'll probably be okay though, right?" Hilarious. However, I would put that text on an uncommon sorcery for this set, and find something else for this guy. Are you surprised I would kill a mythic design for the sake of an uncommon slot? Don't be. That's what it takes to do great Magic design - you have to put the good of the game and the set above the good of your babies.

MG01
Gaesta, the Rebirther
4GG
Legendary Creature - Spirit
6/6
Trample
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return all other creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.

Another one on which both triggers rarely work. Think them through a little more, please. There's no reason this has to say "all." Or it could just make a 6/6 trample token. How good is Broodmate Dragon when coming and going, amirite?

I like your intentions here, but the execution was flawed in most cases. Normally that would keep you in good standing, but if the judges have similar reactions to mine and the other submissions are good (which they are) you could be in trouble. Good luck!

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 4 of 6

Part 4 of my comments on this week's GDS2 card submissions. It's been a good group of cards overall so far, let's see how the next aspiring designer does.

Devon's cards:

Common Cycle

CW01 – Fledgling Greathawk
4WW
Creature - Bird
CARDNAME has flying as long as it's enchanted.
4/6

CU01 – Goliath Eel
5UU
Creature - Fish
6/6
CARDNAME cannot attack unless it's enchanted.

CB01 - Dire Stoat
5BB
Creature - Ferret
5/4
CARDNAME has intimidate as long as it's enchanted.

CR01 – Gargantuan Ocelot
4RR
Creature - Cat
5/3
CARDNAME has first strike as long as it's enchanted.

CG01 – Titanic Hound
6GG
Creature - Hound
7/7
CARDNAME has trample as long as it's enchanted.

Good common cycle. Simple, and they tell me there is an enchantment theme in this set. I don't agree 100% with some of the numbers, but that's minor enough to let slide, and without having the full set of commons in each color to compare to it's hard to be sure what I might want each of them to be. Green's is a little weak, for example, in that I'd expect to get that trample for free on an 8-mana 7/7.


Uncommon Cycle

UW01 – Manifest Purity
2W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may destroy target enchantment."
Incarnate 2W

What does Incarnate do again? You should remind us, especially since these mechanics keep changing with each new design test. It makes a 0/0 token, and for this to be attached to, right? Do I pay that in addition to, or instead of, the casting cost? I think this mechanic is something Magic can certainly do, and I think it's pretty neat to try. At first I balked at the repeated demystification, but cards like Dawning Purist and Rustmouth Ogre, plus the enchantment theme of the set, have convinced me that this is good.

UU01 – Manifest Intellect
2U
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may draw a card."
Incarnate 2U

Typical, in a good way.

UB01 – Manifest Agony
2B
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, they discard a card."
Incarnate 2B

Combat damage? You should default to combat damage on stuff like these auras. I know as high-level magic players you want the maximum openness in your cards, but WotC needs card designers first, not players, for their employees. There is a significant difference and you need to make the change in yourself. Not just because they keep telling you to, but because you have actually become a person more interested in the health of the game of Magic than a player who wants to make new cards just so you can put them into decks and beat up your friends.

UR01 – Manifest Fury
2R
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may have it deal 2 damage to target creature."
Incarnate 2R

Definitely "combat damage" on all of these. This one is pretty odd on a pinger. Maybe "shoot you, ooooh and also your dude" is exciting upside, but I'm worried about the board states it can create, and the "no outs" feeling the opponent might have when you get it going.

UG01 – Manifest Destiny
2G
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library."
Incarnate 2G

I'm not sure about the repeated searching and shuffling this delivers. It's a strong cycle overall, and if you had just said "combat damage" on all of them I would have given you an A for these uncommons.

Rare Cycle

RW01 – Luminous Eruption
4WWW
Sorcery
Triple your life total.

Power creep! Mutipliers creep! A fine card that I expect to see printed one day.

RU01 – Creative Eruption
4UUU
Sorcery
For each card in your hand, draw two more cards.

I see how you got "triple your hand" to work out there.

RB01 – Ravenous Eruption
4BBB
Sorcery
Exile any number of creature cards from your graveyard. For each card exiled this way, put three 1/1 black Rat creature tokens onto the battlefield.

Another good one. Remind me what tripling has to do with this block? Is tripling like growing super big? I would expect to see growth or hugeness related names, not seismic names, if that were the case.

RR01 – Furious Eruption
4RRR
Sorcery
After this main phase, there are two additional combat phases followed by an additional main phase. At the beginning of each of those combat phases, untap all creatures that attacked this turn.

Hmm, triple attack is pretty cool. After World at War I guess I can't be the one to criticize this card.

RG01 – Verdant Eruption
4GGG
Sorcery
Search your library for up to X basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield tapped, where X is twice the number of lands you control. Then shuffle your library.

Wow, that is quite a lot of land you've got there.

The less I have to say about the cards, the better. These seem like a fine cycle to me, though it would have been nice if the word "triple" could have appeared more often. Ideally, at least three of the cards would say "triple" on them. Maybe the names could use the word or a latin or greek root?

Overall a good submission that will keep you in the running. It's shaping up to be a very hard week for the judges, I think.

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 3 of 6

Welcome back to the third installment of GDS2 Cycle Design Commentary. If you're not familiar with Magic: the Gathering, this won't mean much to you. Also, if you have any serious interest in game design you really should be more familiar with it.

Shawn's cards:

Common Cycle

CW01 – Substitute Shield
1W
Instant
You may remove a counter from a white permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Prevent all damage target creature would deal this turn.

I like the wording you've chosen, "remove a counter from a <color> permanent you control" though I'm not sure the spells really want to be free if you do that. If the set has sufficient counters to make these interesting there won't be enough pants-down moments in limited when I don't have to worry about 2-3 on-color tricks from my opponent every turn.

CU01 – Converted Bonds
1U
Instant
You may remove a counter from a blue permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Tap or untap target permanent.

Yes, yes, tap or untap, sigh. Choices like this at common just slow down play and give us too much to think about. Blue's ice-flavored "tap and it doesn't untap" is so awesome in part because it gives design an alternative to "tap or untap." The sooner you learn that, the better.

CB01 – Improvised Garrote
1B
Instant
You may remove a counter from a black permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature.

Interesting. I like the idea that you're enabling your opponent's spells in this cycle. I could see people not liking this, but I've decided it's cool.

CR01 – Makeshift Shank
1R
Instant
You may remove a counter from a red permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Target creature gets +1/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.

An instant classic.

CG01 – Impromptu Gauntlets
1G
Instant
You may remove a counter from a green permanent you control rather than pay CARDNAME's mana cost.
Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

So 1G for +2/+2 or a free +3/+3? Somehow the casting cost seems wrong. This is an obvious one, but I don't like that much. I like the red one... so I'm not entirely sure why my instincts tell me this isn't as good. If this set has counters on non-creature permanents I might like it more. If only Vivid lands hadn't been so ruinous for Magic the first time around, I could see brining them back in this set. (That's a hint for the rest of you, for the next GDS. Vivid lands are not great design; not in the abstract, but because of what they did to constructed magic.)

Uncommon Cycle

UB01 – Corpsefly Feeding
2B
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay B. If you do, target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn.

You've got the activation cost there, very nice. Playing into the sacrifice theme, but not using the wording that only appears on 3 cards ever, also nice.

UR01 – Babbling Blood
2R
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay R. If you do, draw a card, then discard a card.

Oh sweet looting in Red. I love it!

UG01 – Offal Feast
2G
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay G. If you do, gain 3 life.

I'm glad you at least gave a common 5-card cycle before going to 3s. You did indeed make a bold choice. I think it could be fine, since you made the same amount of cards, and used the "either rare or mythic" option they gave you to work it out without really breaking any other rules. I wouldn't hold it against you.

Rare Cycle

RW01 – Watcher's Safeguard
4WW
Sorcery
Choose one or both- Search your library for an enchantment card and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library; and/or search another target player's library for an enchantment card and put it onto the battlefield under your control. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Why is this a choose one or both? This is a search effect - you can just fail to find, can't you? Plus why wouldn't you search both decks? You've added a lot of words and confusion to a card that could have been much cleaner and cooler. Look, all of the amateur designers are totally infatuated with the choose one, and choose two wording. Yes, it can be an exciting wording, when used properly. The "or both" wording here makes you look dumb. Incidentally, I would have gone for the multiplayer "search each player's deck." 

Now, after reading the next two cards I can see that you want to sync up the cycle, but if that's the case you have to abandon this design and come up with one that actually needs the wording. Also, don't make a cycle just so you can use the wording you like, make a cycle that's cool and if that happens to need this wording you can use it. The M11 Titans started out as "choose one" creatures, but we didn't hold onto the wording when the designs took us down a cooler path.

RU01 – Watcher's Mirror
4UU
Sorcery
Choose one or both- Put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of target creature you control; and/or put a token onto the battlefield that's a copy of target creature you don't control.

Okay, this is more of a "one or both" because you might not control a creature, or your opponent might not. Still, the coolness of this card is in getting two tokens of different creatures. I think cards like Branching Bolt use "one or both" because they are commons that need to make the set work, so they should be playable in most situations. Rares can be much more restrictive, in many cases they should be restrictive, and I would have been happy with a design that requires two targets.

RB01 – Watcher's Revival
4BB
Sorcery
Choose one or both- Return target creature card in your graveyard to the battlefield; and/or return target creature card in another player's graveyard to the battlefield under your control.

This is the most "one or both" to me, though it feels closer to uncommon than rare. Overall, Mirror and Revival are okay designs, but I just don't feel the "one or both" wording on these makes for a cool cycle. "choose two" was really exciting and made a cool cycle of rare cards. "choose one or both" has appeared on about four lone commons in different sets. It's a templating fix more than a cool mechanic. You could have brought back Entwine, if you wanted.

Mythic Rare Cycle

MW01 – Olorah, the Shackled Judge
WW
Legendary Creature – Angel
6/6
Flying, Vigilance
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with four -1/-1 counters on it.
2WW, Remove two -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Destroy each tapped creature.

You are totally correct that these read exciting, have a little downside in the middle, and then get more exciting as you learn how to use them. Nice that this has a theoretical pants-down turn 3. My worry is that this card simply leads to a cessation of all attacks, which is boring. I wonder if destroying untapped creatures would be better? (I'd take off the vigilance, in that case, of course.)

MU01 – Seham, the Bound Deceiver
UU
Legendary Creature – Djinn
6/6
Flying
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with four -1/-1 counters on it.
2UU, Remove two -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Other creatures become 1/1 and lose all abilities until end of turn.

"Lose all abilities" is some dangerous text. Sure, we do it once in a while, and this is only until end of turn. The question you need to ask yourself is: could this be a fine card if they just become 1/1s? Probably. I still like it, though.

MB01 – Tyvaal, the First Prisoner
BB
Legendary Creature – Demon
6/6
Trample
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with four -1/-1 counters on it.
1BB, Remove two -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Target player sacrifices a creature.

This design is a little "meh" compared to the others. The white one already kills lots of dudes, and this one doesn't even fly. It only kills their weakest guy. It reads like you, as a designer, hate black for some reason. If only you had a cooler ability here the cycle would have been fantastic overall.

MR01 – Angathrak, the Chained Tyrant
RR
Legendary Creature – Dragon
8/8
Flying, Trample
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with six -1/-1 counters on it.
3RR, Remove three -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Untap target creature and gain control of it until end of turn. It gains haste until end of turn.

I'll take four! I'm a little wary about some of them have 4 counters and some having 6, but the designs look great and seem to justify it. This one is particularly awesome. RR 2/2 flying trample is probably a little too aggressive for Red. See also: Kargan Dragonlord. You can let development handle that, though.

MG01 – Naal, the Fettered Growth
GG
Legendary Creature – Treefolk
8/8
Trample, Vigilance
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with six -1/-1 counters on it.
3G, Remove three -1/-1 counters from CARDNAME: Put three 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens onto the battlefield.

Another good one. Except for the vigilance. Trample + vigilance is just mean (to the defending player, who feels they can't do anything about it - can't chump and can't swing back). Plus, the white one has vigilance already (and unlike flying, vigilance is not a keyword you repeat within a cycle).

Overall your Mythics make up for small mistakes in other places. Especially those rares. I think this is a solid set of designs and you should expect to make it through. I certainly feel like you've got sufficient spark to be a great designer someday.

GDS2 Cycles Design Test Commentary - part 2 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. I gave feedback to the first contestant in my last post, so here are my comments on the cards of the next contestant.

Jonathon's cards:

Common Cycle




CW01 – Omeisaurus
4WW
Creature – Lizard
5/6

It's a cycle of big dinosaurs, that fits the set. I recall the judges even saying as much in previous rounds, so this should go over well.

CU01 – Baryonyx
4UU
Creature – Lizard
5/5
A cycle of  vanillas? Bold choice. Maybe after all the words you put on your cards in previous submissions you're trying to show you can keep the words to a minimum?

CBO1 – Marshosaurus 
4BB
Creature – Lizard
6/5

I am worried they're gonna blast you for not really submitting interesting designs (certainly not designs they can critique very much). Maybe they will take them as I am - a fitting cycle and proof that you're listening. 


CR01  Afrovenator
4RR
Creature – Lizard
7/4
At least these pictures I found fit the colors you chose for each of them.

CG01 – Hadrosaurus
4GG
Creature – Lizard
6/6

Aren't you impressed that I was able to make five comments about a vanilla cycle? I'm kind of impressed that you took the risk of submitting a vanilla cycle. Many might say there's not enough design to judge here, but you're partly showing what each color gets for stats when they get a big common, and that this set has some giant dinosaurs in it.


Uncommon Cycle

UW01 – Avant-garde Guard
1W
Instant
Target creature you control gains protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.
If you control two or more colors of permanents, draw a card.

UU01 – Far Out
2U
Instant
All creatures target player controls get -2/-0 until end of turn.
If you control two or more colors of permanents, draw a card.

UB01 – Torturous Breakthrough
4B
Instant
Destroy target nonblack creature.
If you control two or more colors of permanents, draw a card.

UR01 – Cutting-edge Combustion
1R
Instant
Cutting-edge Combustion deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
If you control two or more colors of permanents, draw a card.

UG01 – Ground Breaking
2G
Instant
Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.
If you control two or more colors of permanents, draw a card.

Wow, do you want to lose this round? Didn't they just rip into someone for putting a pile of cantrips into their commons? Jonathon, I was rooting for you because I've met you before and you seem like a cool guy, and your ideas were strong in the beginning, but you're slowly sliding down. These feel like a common cycle, and not a good one. Why didn't you make the effects bigger as a reward? Or double the effects? Or copy the spell? Those are all just as easy and simple as "cantrip" but they are far more interesting designs and a lot less likely to rile up R&D. Also, I think the wording would be "if you control permanents of two or more colors," though I wouldn't dock you for that in the design stage, it's a templating thing and what you have is pretty clear.

Rare Cycle

RW01 – Overcome
3WW
Sorcery
Preeminence – Destroy all creatures with power less than X, where X is the highest power among creatures you control.

Cool! Nice use of the "biggest guy" mechanic, and this wrath often leaves you with the only creature on an empty board. I love it! I expect this to be Nagle's favorite card in your submission, and it certainly is my favorite. I want to build a deck for this!


RU01 – Overthink
4UUU
Sorcery
Preeminence – Draw X cards and untap up to X lands, where X is the highest power among creatures you control.

Momentous Fall is an interesting and different card from Soul's Majesty. This Overthink was not thunk about enough, as it's just Soul's Majesty with a very junky untap effect tacked onto it. You should have looked for a different design entirely. Also, that "untap lands free-spell mechanic" is not very good for magic and this card would make for the worst kind of counterspell-heavy control deck. I would fight tooth and nail to keep this from being printed, even if I thought it was good design in the abstract, which I don't.

RB01 – Overtime
4BB
Sorcery
Preeminence – Put all creature cards with power less than X from your graveyard onto the battlefield, where X is the highest power among creatures you control.

I like this too, though I'm not sure if it takes away from Overcome... they might not fit well in the same set. I'm pretty sure design would replace this one because of the awkward conflict of interest with Overcome (which is a cooler card). Seeing that is very design level 5, so they shouldn't come down too hard on you for it. It's a solid design. (And maybe they're not all that close.)

RR01 – Overthrow
4RR
Sorcery
Preeminence – Each player sacrifices X permanents, where X is the highest power among creatures you control.

Uh, oh, this is also too close to Overcome to be in the same set. Again, it is a good design, and maybe it plays differently enough from Overcome (people will sac some lands and try to keep their creatures alive) but probably the outcome of those games will be the same - the caster's one big guy stomps around afterwards. The second problem this has is that it's a black card, not a red card. Why not destroy X lands? (It might be an unfun card, but at least it would work out better in the cycle.) Perhaps a mass Act of Treason: "Until end of turn, gain control of each creature with power less than X where X is the highest power among creatures you control. Untap those creatures, They gain haste until end of turn." There are plenty of other red effects you could have tried here.

RG01 – Overwork
3GGG
Sorcery
Preeminence – Put X +1/+1 counters on each creature you control, where X is the highest power among creatures you control.

You got totally hosed that Overwhelming Stampede was printed in M11. Because if it didn't, you would clearly have come up with it here and gotten solid credit for it. Green does want this kind of effect every other set, so this is a fine design.

Overall I'm afraid for you this week. I haven't looked at the other four submissions yet, but this is not a stellar  set of cycles. Your commons are vanilla, and while that might actually be perfect for the set, and they might love it, they may see it as a lack of design. Your uncommon cycle is astrocious. It's really a common cycle, and making cantrips was a very bad decision that you should have known to avoid. Brace yourself for the R&D comments next week.

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!