Ben Takes On The Great Designer Search, Part 3: Silver and Gold

For part 3 of the Designer Contest, Ben was challenged to avoid the official articles on MagicTheGathering.com, and work only with the instructions given by Wizards of the Coast, with a 72-hour timeline. These are his results!

*DISCLAIMER*: If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee, I give you full legal rights to use any of the cards, ideas or concepts contained within this article, without further obligation!

*DISCLAIMER*: If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee, I give you full legal rights to use any of the cards, ideas or concepts contained within this article, without further obligation!

Last week I took on part two of the Designer Challenge. Reactions were a lot more positive to my entry this time than to my first one, which spurred me on to keep on truckin’!

Just a reminder: I’m doing this designer challenge for fun. I enjoy trying to come up with cards along with the actual contestants, and I don’t intend in any way to compete with them. They’re all trying for their dream job, whereas I have the luxury of playing along at home with nothing to win or lose – other than to get a lot of good discussion going.

In the forums of last week’s article, Kenneth Nagle (one of our own writers here at SCG.com and one of the finalists in the Designer Search) issued the following challenge:

“How about when Web Challenge #3 gets posted this Friday, don’t read it. Get someone to email you just the challenge and you have until next Sunday 11:59 PM to submit something to Craig. Are you squirming?”

That sounded great! I wanted to approximate whatever conditions the contestants themselves were under, and so the following was arranged:

“Okay. I’ll email you the Web Challenge #3 when MTG.com updates for this Friday. Your submission will be due Sunday night 2:00am central (this is roughly three hours after MaRo’s Monday article goes up, which will probably have TGDS content in it). No exceptions.”

At midnight on Thursday night (or 11pm Wednesday, central time), I received the rules of the challenge from Kenneth, and had to beat myself away from MagicTheGathering.com for the next two days:

“Welcome, finalist, to the third Design Challenge – "Silver & Gold". For this challenge, we’re asking you to design just five cards. That’s all.

Okay, it might be a little harder than it sounds. This task is asking for three things of these cards:

#1) All five cards must be rare. And not just any kind of rare cards. We’re looking for sexy, get-people-excited, preview-worthy rares. This doesn’t just mean they have to be cool and interesting; the cards have to be something the audience can easily grok. For this category you will be judged on how well the cards feel as rares, how exciting they are and how grokkable they are. (If the term "grokkable" confuses you, see below.)

#2) All five cards must be traditional multicolor. By traditional, I mean with multiple colors represented in the mana cost and a gold frame (so no split cards or hybrid funny business). For this category you will be judged on how well the cards function as multicolor. Is each color represented in the spell? Would this spell be impossible to do in monocolor? As far as what color combinations you use, you have the following rules. The cards do not need to be a cycle. You may use any color combinations you like. Each of the five colors have to be represented on a least one card and no two cards can have the same color combination.

#3) All five cards have to be Un-cards. That is, all five cards have to fit the style of Unglued and Unhinged. Yes, you’re designing silver bordered cards. You will be responsible for the entire look and feel of the card.

What this means is that for each card you have to provide a realistic name, realistic flavor text if appropriate and a hundred-word description of how the card will look (including the card concept for the art) and how it will be laid out if it is in any way different from normal. This text is not about the designing of the card – you will also get a chance to do that, see below. This category will be judged based on how much it feels like an Un-card (which includes not being something we can just put into a normal set) and how well the entire overall card as a holistic whole feels. This criteria is probably the hardest one of the challenge. Un-cards are designed very differently from most cards as all the different pieces have to be created at the same time to meld them together and create cards with an overall feel. I am putting a limit of no more than two specific parody cards (for example, Chaos Confetti is a specific parody of Chaos Orb), and you are by no means required to do even one. Please do not make parodies of real world figures, other card games, or pop culture references. Look to both Unglued and Unhinged for a model of what we do and don’t do in Un sets. I also want to note that this category will be judged much more on your ability to design outside the box than your ability to create humor. (Being funny will mostly help you holistically.)

Finally, at the end, you will be able to write one hundred and fifty words about the design of all five cards (or any subset thereof).

You are allowed to show your cards to and playtest with one other person to get their reactions, but they cannot suggest redesigns or fixes to your cards. You should have the design instincts to fix all the problems. I strongly recommend this as it is crucial to the design process. You would benefit most from a partner that clashes with your tastes in Magic. For example, if you are a Johnny / Spike, seek out a Timmy.

Your challenge is due this Sunday morning at 2:00am, no exceptions.

That’s it. Just five cards.”

Without further ado, here are my five cards. This article was submitted to Craig and to Kenneth at 1:07am on Friday morning.

Captain Crumbles McShivershanks
4UG, Legendary Creature – Pirate Squirrel
Other Squirrels you control get +1/+1 and have Islandwalk.
Whenever a Squirrel you control deals combat damage, draw the top card of your opponent’s deck.
“Bring me their nuts!”

Description: Text box is two lines, a-la Greater Morphling. Top line is Captain Crumbles McShivershanks, written in a high-adventure type font. Second line is 4UG, except the 4 is where the mast of a boat meets the sun on the horizon, making the Mast the 4 and the sun the circle around the colorless mana. Crumbles is a bare-chested, muscled harlequin-novel Pirate, except he’s a Squirrel. He’s on deck, sword on his sash. Mast is flying Pirate Skull & Crossbones. A few crew members are on deck, and they should look like scurvy Pirate Squirrels (eyepatches, peg legs, and the such).

Which Izzet?
(?), Blue Instant or Red Sorcery
As you play Which Izzet?, name a Red Sorcery or a Blue Instant that is not currently on the DCI Legacy-format banned list. Which Izzet? becomes that spell.(You must still pay any costs and choose any targets for that spell, if necessary).
Visit www.wizards.com/banned/legacy for your banned-list needs!
”This is just like a game of Kick-the-Ouphe!” – Jaya Ballard, Task Mage

Description: The mana cost on this card is a question mark in a circle. Highlight the URL for the Legacy banned list as a banner between the card text and the Jaya Ballard quote. Izzet Guildmage is in the middle of the card. Red and Blue creatures are using his comically distended arms to play Tug-of-War. Blue is pulling on his right arm (his Blue mana-shooting arm gun) and is represented by a Merfolk, a Cephalid and a Homarid. On the right side, a Goblin, an Orc, and a Human Barbarian (Otarian Style) are pulling on his other arm.

Squire Deal
5BW, Enchantment – Aura
Enchant both a Squire and a Chimney Imp.
If either creature enchanted by Squire Deal leaves play, sacrifice Squire Deal.
Enchanted Squire gets +5/+4, Flying, Trample, Haste, Protection from Black, Protection from Red and Vigilance.
Enchanted Chimney Imp gets +5/+3, Flying, Trample, Haste, Protection from Black and First Strike while attacking.

Description: Two creatures are present on this card:
A Black creature with the body/wings of a Chimney Imp, but with the weird abstract face of Spirit of the Night
… and…
A White creature, with the face and body of Squire, but with Purple hair, Akroma’s Sword, and Akroma’s Wings.
Face the Chimney Imp to the Right, and the Squire to the left. They are standing back to back, and ready to fight against all comers. From the edge of the card, facing in, come the claws/hands/talons of other nasty creatures – Dragons, Djinns, bubbling energy. It’s do-or-die time!

Djinner Belle
4BG, Creature – Djinn
Tap: Target creature becomes an Enchantment – Aura attached to Djinner Belle. That aura reads “Enchant Djinner Belle. Djinner Belle gets +X/+X, where X is this Enchantment’s mana cost.”
At the beginning of your upkeep, Djinner Belle deals 1 to you for each Enchantment on it.
“My tummy feels funny.”

Description: A grotesquely large Blackish-Green female Djinn, holding her overly-full stomach. She should look like she has indigestion, and not like she is pregnant. She is in pain from having eaten too much. She’s in a cave, and littered around her are the remains of some of the unfortunate creatures she’s eaten. These remains should include Isamaru’s spiked collar, Meloku’s headpiece, Little Girl’s tutu and rabbit ears, Braids’s goggles, and the horns of Visara the Dreadful. The skeletal remains of Kokusho should frame the border of most of the card.

A Whole World of Un
(W/U/R/G)(W/U/B/R/G)(W/U/B/R/G)(W/U/B/R/G)(W/U/B/R/G), Sorcery
Choose an Unbound box-topper card you own from outside the game that shares the colors used to play A Whole World of Un. You may play that card without paying its mana cost.
“A whole world of unpossibilities awaits.”

Description: Instead of regular mana symbols, use five copies of the five-color pentagram on the back of a Magic card to represent the cost of this spell. This is the group photo/mob scene card of the set, and should include as many of the 24 box-topper Unbound cards as can fit into one picture. Front row treatment to the elephant from “Wooly Bully”, the beast from “Big, Bigger, Biggest.”, the demon from “Infernalist Spawn of Eviler”, the girl from “Little Girl’s Big Brother”, and the athlete from “Thallid Toss.”

Design Notes: Remember those box-toppers that come with Eighth and Ninth Edition booster boxes? One of the themes of Unbound (I named it, for sake of argument) is the use of one of 24 unique oversized cards that come three per box. These cards are not oversized reprints of other cards (including Unbound cards) but are completely new cards that can be brought into play through various other cards in this set. Since these cards are oversized, they all deal conceptually with being bigger than normal, or they have the extra room for large amounts of text that wouldn’t normally be able to fit on a regularly sized Magic card.

I tried to push the envelope as much as possible on these cards. New mana costs, card types and effects abound, but all of them felt intuitive. I think all five of these cards would get a major reaction from players.

That’s all for this week! I’m off to read the Thursday and Friday Designer Search articles (Finally!) on MagicTheGathering.com, to see what everyone else came up with. As always, please join in on the discussion about this article in the forums – feedback (good or bad) is appreciated, as long as it’s constructive!


Bonus: The Thoughts of Kenneth Nagle.

Bob from Accounting: Greetings, this is Bob, from Accounting. All the ‘real’ judges are too busy with The REAL Great Designer Search; I was asked to spare some time from my winter duty of stoking the furnace. Let’s dive right in!

This contestant’s cards are… interesting. At first glance, it appears like Ben is trying too hard and didn’t take the time to think about his card’s effect on the game beyond the surface.

While Captain Crumbles McShivershanks tries to use as much funny possible, putting your opponent’s cards in your hand is a giant no-no. This card will become notorious for its ability to physically steal Magic cards. While that is flavorful, it also promotes crime and small children crying. To the card itself, hitting the player should grant “stealing” (Thieving Magpie), not pure combat damage. The flavor is there, though the Squirrel support in the game is relatively meager.

Which Izzet? seems to me like an extremely clunky way to combine Burning Wish and Cunning Wish into one card. All you are really trying to do with that hacky text is prevent them from playing Ancestral Recall (Mana Drain and Wheel of Fortune are surprisingly fitting Izzet cards). Perhaps a mana cost of XUR and give a one-shot modified Richard Garfield, Ph.D. effect would read and play much cleaner.

Squire Deal is the narrowest of narrow for the uberest of the uber-Johnnies. I have seen a Meddling Mage chanting Carnival of Souls once in my lifetime. I believe the number of times Squire Deal will be successfully cast by the player base to be not much higher. There’s exactly zero left to the imagination here. We do want our players to play with our cards.

A Whole World of Un hints at something much more, but for a couple of poor reasons. An Oversized card is cool expressly because the Magic card (or the art) it emulates is cool and created memorable moments. You don’t really need extra room on a Magic card for rules text; the attention span/comprehension of the player is one limiting factor, microtext is one solution, and an Uncard can expand its textbox. The manacost of this card is interesting, though.

Djinner Belle is the high point, a hit, but still in the ballpark. The enchantment-warping part is in my mind a huge missed opportunity for Imprint. I’d like to see an activation cost for eating, and I’m not sure how one could distinguish Kokusho’s bones from another Dragon’s, but all in all, I like this one.

So with card stealing, uberest-Johnnies,cast-something-besides-Ancestral-Recall-please, and many designs left for the imagination, we get a tally of 5/10. That puts him in a solid lead over all the other contestants for now.