*DISCLAIMER* If you are a Wizards of the Coast employee, I give you full legal permission to use any of the ideas and cards contained in this article.*END DISCLAIMER*
Wizards of the Coast has been holding a contest to fill a position on their Design team. It’s called the Great Designer Search, and each week contestants are given a design assignment – the best of them move onto the next round, and the worst of the contestants are eliminated from competition. The community has really gotten behind this series of articles, and so I thought I’d play along from home.
Now, before you go many assumptions, let me set things straight: I was prohibited from entering the “official” contest for many reasons. From the legalese of the original call for contestants:
Employees of Wizards, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, franchisees, agents, retailers, advertising and promotion agencies, and fulfillment companies, and their immediate families (parents, children, siblings, spouse) and members of their same households (related or not) are not eligible to participate in the Search.
Let’s see. I work for one of the largest Magic retailers in the world (StarCityGames.com), I’m hired as a freelance writer at MagicTheGathering.com, and do work for the Star City Game Center, and I work events for Star City Events. I’m basically screwed out of entering this contest eight ways to Sunday. I don’t mind though – I enjoy working for Pete at SCG, but I do like playing around with card design.
Last week’s assignment can be found here. The rules were as follows (text taken from MagicTheGathering.com):
Welcome to the first Design Challenge – “Gimme Five”. This week we’ll be exploring a design staple, the five-card cycle. Your assignment is to create three five-card cycles. Nice and simple. Okay, it’s not quite that simple. For starters, I have a few rules for you about the cycles:
Each of the cycles has to be designed for a different rarity (common, uncommon and rare). Each cycle must meet the needs of its rarity. (I’ll explain these below.)
At least one of the cycles has to be a tight cycle. At least one has to be a loose cycle. (I’ll also define these terms below.)
Each cycle has to be all the same card type. No mixing and matching. Not even instants and sorceries.
The card types for each cycle will be randomly assigned to you. This is listed below. Note that every player gets to make a cycle of creatures and enchantments. No one was given a cycle of lands.
No effect may be repeated. If, for example, you use a discard effect on a common black card, you may not use a discard effect on either the uncommon or rare black cards. You can’t even use it on cards of another color. Each of the fifteen cards has to use a different type of effect.
Each cycle must be accompanied by a paragraph of no more than fifty words explaining what you were up to. This means you will be writing three paragraphs.
I will now define my terms. Here is what each rarity demands of its cycle:
Common: First and foremost this cycle must be simple. This means that it doesn’t require too much text and is easily graspable when you first see it. The cards must also be relevant for Limited without being too swingy.
Uncommon: These cards can be slightly more complicated than the common cards, but still not that much more complex. The cards should be meaningful for limited. Unlike commons, it is fine if they are a little more on the swingy side. These cards should be desirable for budget players who treat them much as other players would treat rares.
Rare: Rare cycles exist to sell sets. We don’t waste five rare slots unless we feel it’s worth it. This means that the rare cycle should be splashy and exciting. They are allowed to be irrelevant to Limited so it’s okay if they’re bombs.
Here is what tight and loose means:
Tight Cycle: For purposes of this test, a tight cycle is a cycle that matches in mana cost (with the exception of the swap of what colored mana is used) as well as at least one other quality of the card (activation cost, power/toughness, keyword, repeated template, etc.) Card type does not count as this second quality.
Loose Cycle: For purposes of this test, a loose cycle is a cycle in which the mana costs are not the same between the cards (a.k.a. they do not all have the same mana cost minus the color switch) and match no more than one quality (see above). Once again, matching in card type does not count as a matching quality.
The reaction to the “official” results was pretty negative. The community in general wasn’t impressed with what the candidates threw out there, and to be quite frank, neither was I. That’s what spurred this article. To simulate the randomness of selection of card types, I rolled a die for each commonality. I ended up with the following:
You can judge how I did.
Common (Creature, Tight Cycle)
W2, Creature – Human Monk
When Wandering Monk comes into play, choose one: Gain three life; or search your library for a basic Plains card, reveal it and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
G2, Creature – Elf Druid
When Nurturing Elfkin comes into play, choose one: Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn; or search your library for a basic Forest card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
R2, Creature – Orc Druid
When Orcish Flamebringer comes into play, choose one: Add RR to your mana pool, or search your library for a basic Mountain card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
B2, Creature – Zombie
When Trespassing Ghoul comes into play, choose one: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn, or search your library for a basic Swamp card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
U2, Human Pirate
When Deep-Sea Explorer comes into play, choose one: Look at target player’s hand; or search your library for a basic Island card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.
As a player, I love common effects that help smooth out curves in Limited. I gave them each abilities that created either early-game tension (Orcish Flamebringer) or had mid-to-late game usefulness (Trespassing Ghoul).
Uncommon (Instant, Loose Cycle)
Meeting of Minds
Reveal the top two cards of your library. If they are the same card type, put them in your hand. Otherwise, put them on the bottom of your library in any order. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, and sorcery.)
Run With The Pack
Reveal the top five cards of your library. Put a 2/2 Green Bear creature token into play for each creature card revealed in this way. Then, put the cards revealed in this way on the bottom of your library in any order.
Reveal the top four cards of your library. Deal X damage to target creature or player, where X is the number of B in the mana costs of cards revealed in this way. You gain X life. Then, put the cards revealed in this way on the bottom of your library.
Reveal the top three cards of your library. For each card type revealed, prevent all damage that would be dealt by cards of that source until end of turn. Then, put the cards revealed in this way on the bottom of your library. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land and sorcery.)
Thunder From Above
Reveal the top five cards of your library. Deal X damage to target creature or player for each Mountain revealed in this way. Then, put the cards revealed in this way on the bottom of your library.
Hopefully you’ll agree with me that Drain Life and Lightning Bolt are two different effects. The Red card in this cycle is easily the weakest (in design terms), but I like where I went with the Black, White, and Blue cards.
Rare (Enchantment, Neither Tight nor Loose)
Shepherd the Meek
Whenever a source an opponent controls deals damage, they gain that much life.
Players do not lose life from mana burn.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if an opponent has 40 or more life, you win the game.
Whenever an opponent plays a land, put the top card of your library into your graveyard.
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have 40 or more cards in your graveyard, you win the game.
Whenever an opponent plays a card, they draw a card.
Your opponents have no maximum hand size.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if an opponent has 13 or more cards in hand, you win the game.
Attack of the Kudzu
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, you may search their library for a land card and put that card into play. Then, shuffle that opponent’s library.
All lands are indestructible.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if an opponent controls 15 or more lands, you win the game.
Whenever your opponent plays a spell, they gain control of a permanent you control of your choice.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if an opponent controls 7 or more permanents you own, you win the game.
I love alternate win conditions, and I thought to myself: What if each color gave one of its strengths to another color, but with ill-intent? I like to call this the Trojan Horse cycle – your opponent gets the short-term gain, but you get the long-term win.
That’s all for this week! Tune in next week where I take on the next phase of the Designer Search here at StarCityGames.com.
All input (good and bad) is greatly appreciated in the forums of this article. Happy discussion time!