Look At Me, I’m The Great Designer Search

Mark Rosewater has been in the Magic news for defending a question from the Great Designer Search 3 test. SCG’s own Mark, of the Nestico persuasion, mildly disagrees…oh, who are we kidding? He’s in rare form today, folks!

Hey there, believers, this is Mark…probably Rosewater and I’m here to clear some things up that you all might’ve read on the Twittersphere about The Great Designer Search 3, or, as we call it in the office, “a sucker is born every minute.” (Insert Roseanne laugh track.) Now, you may have heard that the questions we asked of our victi… er, applicants were “unfair” or “convoluted” or “didn’t make much sense.” I’m here to tell you that’s a bunch of hooey!

Here. Take a look:

False? False? False? How dare he challenge the… whoops, lost my composure there for a second.

I wanted to get to the root of this issue because I believe it’s a simple misunderstanding, and with a little explanation we may be able to get to the bottom of what is otherwise an entirely unloaded question.

First, here was my answer to Paulo:

It wasn’t about the precedents that we have set throughout 25 years of Magic: The Gathering™, but instead is about what could have been throughout the 25 years of Magic: The Gathering™. Magic at its core is a complex, often thought-provoking game. Players are expected to think outside of the box when it comes to deck design, which is why I ask my game designers to do the same. I want them to look at the box as an abstract concept; yes, there are sides and you can put things in it, but imagine a box that we put nothing in except our imaginations. We imagine things inside the box. Schrodinger’s Box, as it were: simultaneously empty and full. That’s what I want them to do. I don’t want them to design a 4/4 flying creature with vigilance that costs 3BG, but rather I want them to know that they can but shouldn’t because we’d outright reject the idea unless it was one of those Planar Chaos sets where we made Ball Lightning green. But I digress.

Check these bad boys out!

A simple search on our Magic: The Gathering™ Gatherer™ page will show you that you can, in fact, make creatures that have both green and black in their casting cost while having flying and vigilance. Sure, they are also technically white and blue as well, but that doesn’t mean that the answer wasn’t “E” all along.

Here’s the answer we gave:

“Flying is primary in white and blue and secondary in black. Vigilance is primary in white and secondary in green. As both abilities can be done in mono-white, we don’t want to use white in this card. That means white-blue, white-black, and green-white are out. Blue-black can’t use vigilance, meaning E, black-green, is the only possible answer.”

Things get tricky when you read the entire question, which is, again, entirely unloaded. “We don’t want to use white in this card” means that you can only pick two possible answers. I establish that blue doesn’t get vigilance, but green does, showing that G/B should be the easiest choice. I practically gave you the answer, right? Being a rebel and choosing U/W as if it were some kind of trick question was the wrong choice. Seems like some of you out there decided to out-fox yourselves, when in reality it was I who out-foxed the out-foxers by challenging their feeble thought processes.


Done and done.

Problem solved.

Move on, Pablo Doritos.

But if anything, I’m a fair man. We want the 2900 people that failed this test to feel like they could still be future designers. After all, failing is the first step to achieving true success, so in that way I think 2900 of you should be thanking me for creating a convoluted subtext. I went ahead and decided to share with you all some of the questions we left on the cutting room floor. I deemed them far too easy to answer, so that meant they weren’t included in the initial multiple-choice test. For all of you, today only, I’m going to give them to you so that you’ll see that even a dog without a shock collar could have gotten these answers right.

Here we go!

Redacted Question #1:

If we put little paper legs on cards, would they be able to walk?

a) Only if you believe.

b) If you strap rubber bands to your fingers and the cards they would.

c) Silly Wizards, cards can’t walk.

d) If you give them arms and a head to stabilize the torso, yes.

e) “Vegas, Vegas” was the best episode of Roseanne.

I’ll give you a second to sit back and really read the question, and then come to a conclusion.

The answer is simple, mortal… I mean dear readers. With Magic: The Gathering™ we are always trying new things. From tokens to little inserts about FNM events, packs have always tried to include focal points other than the cards packaged within. That’s why a clever designer would see this as an opportunity to put in little Wizards of the Coast rubber bands. Players across the Multiverse would be able to wrap these rubber bands around their fingers along with the new legs we put on cards. A new dimension of attack steps would open up, as the battlefield became just that: a place where you could use little finger legs to kick over your opponents blocking creatures and trample over for damage. This would make the game itself vastly more interactive and inherently more interesting to players. I’d want my designers to know that just because something hasn’t been done before, it doesn’t mean we can’t give it a shot.

The answer is: D, for obvious reasons. Not B.

Redacted Question #2:

A creature is created with a converted mana cost of 1GW and is a 3/3 with vigilance in the common slot. It has unearth for GW. What is wrong with this card?

a) Absolutely nothing.

b) Unearth traditionally isn’t in the identity of Selesnya.

c) The Unearth should be cheaper.

d) The Unearth should cost more.

e) The creature should have Scavenge instead.

Take a moment.

Over the years we’ve done our best to design creatures that fall in line with certain philosophies. Vigilance, being a white-first ability, makes a great deal of sense on this card, as does the casting cost, given that the overall size of it is as a 3/3. Unearth, usually an ability reserved for black or red creatures, could be shifted to green as well given the context of a set. Think Plant Zombies. Or Plants vs. Zombies. Power creep with creatures should generally mean that it’s slightly larger, say a 3/4, but because we’ve given it an extra ability upon entering the graveyard and because it’s a common we’d like to keep things relatively simple. On the surface, you’d think the answer would be B, since we’ve never done anything like this creature, which means that it’s not the clear choice.

The answer is: E. We give it the creature type of Fungus, and all of sudden scavenge is the keyword that looks the coolest. Imagine that! A Thallid that lets you scavenge three +1/+1 counters on your other creatures, making more Fun-Guys! Get it? Fungi. Fun-Guys? Whoa doggy!

Redacted Question #3:

Which of these phrases is a follower of Golgari’s philosophy least likely to say?

a) “Take of my body. Use it to forge a weapon.”

b) “They dig for the sport of it; to find the newest crop of recruits is the thrill.”

c) “His skull will make a fine fist.”

d) “Oh, look! A flying creature with vigilance!”

e) “Life and death are one in the same. The cycle is complete only through obliteration.”

I’ll wait.

Each option but one presents a philosophy most in tune with the Golgari Swarm. A, for example, shows their willingness to recycle pieces of themselves to create devastating weapons. B gives you the impression that the dead are just as valued as the living to the Golgari, since they may become new additions to their ranks. C, my personal favorite, showcases the scavenge mechanic the Golgari are famous for…and a fist made out of a skull is wildly interesting. D, well…wait a minute? Who put that in there? I said…who put that in there? Which one of you interns thought that would be funny? How dare you besmirch my genius when I, Mark (probably) Rosewater, am trying to put it on full display? This is why we’re doing this Great Designer Search 3, to replace whoever the hell changed the answer in “D” to something so…soo…soooo….ridiculous.

I seem to have lost my temper.

This is normal to the design process. You see, I am passionate and very, very…passionate. Yes. Passionate. And when I see that…passion getting mocked, I feel an unimaginable rage that builds up inside me. Anyway…D was supposed to be the actual correct answer, but if you picked it regardless, you’d be wrong. Golgari philosophy would totally be something like, you know, the Swarm is out in the streets of Ravnica turning the dead into additions or whatever, when one of them, probably a scorpion or bug or something that has people lips, would look into the sky and say, “Hey, dudes and dudettes, check it out. One of our ilk is flying and not tapping when it is declared as an attacker. Seems totally reasonable to me. Azorius idiots don’t have a monopoly on flying and vigilance. No, they don’t. That thing up there? It’s called Golgari Mantis or Golgari Wind Skeleton. Yeah. Golgari Wind Skeleton sounds sweet.”

That’s exactly what would happen. The answer is definitely not D. It’s E now, because Obliterate is a stupid Magic: The Gathering™ card and no one likes playing against it, so the correct answer is E. You’re welcome. Again.

If you got those three questions right, congratulations. You’re the kind of person we are looking for, except for the fact that you likely failed that first test and aren’t really the kind of person that we are looking for yet. But don’t give up hope, readers. There’s always next time, when we do the Great Designer Search 4 in 2026, right after we ban seven cards in Standard and are on the prowl for some new blood to refresh our ranks that’ll give us the perspective we desperately need so the cards you buy stop sinking in value faster than the Titanic.

This has been Mark (probably, but not really, but at least a Mark) Rosewater and I truly, truly hope this has cleared things up for you. Like a murky marsh with foggy lens and no eyeballs to see a damn thing.

Good night!