The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists

Posted in Feature on November 10, 2010

By Staff

Ethan Fleischer

Part I - The World

A. Epolith

B. A primitive world where players actively participate in society's early progress.

MR: The reason I had everyone give what in TV we called a logline is that it's important for a set to be able to be summed up in one sentence. The inability to do this usually means your set can't be condensed down for marketing. While sets have to be played, they also have to be sold. To make players want to buy the set, it has to have a simple, easy concept we can sell.

You have an awesome throughline for your block. Unfortunately you didn't bother to sell it in your logline. "A world revisited through time where each set is a thousand years after the one before it." While my quick logline is not as crisp as it eventually needs to be it does show the potential of what your logline can do to sell the excitement of your block. You have a great block structure, probably the strongest thing about your world. Sell it!

C. The block has an archaeological and anthropological theme. The basic concept for the block is that thousands of years separate each of the sets. Each set represents one of the "three ages" of European and Mediterranean prehistory: the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Also depicted is primitive magic as described by various anthropologists.

A hundred generations or more, as mortals reckon them, go by, and technological innovation, changes in how people live, and changes in how people view magic and the supernatural occur. However planeswalkers, with the abilities to live unnaturally long lives, bend time and space, or cast their consciousness adrift from linear time, can see the big picture. Primitive stone tools are replaced with weapons of bronze, and finally the secrets of iron technology are mastered. Tribes of hunter-gatherers following herds give way to communities of farmers, and finally cities arise. Communities go from being self-sufficient, to linking in a network of trade, and finally a great empire arises and threatens to cover the plane with its armies. And the nature of magic itself changes as time passes. The veneration of animal spirits evolves into the deification of a pantheon of planeswalkers who would be gods. Finally, one planeswalker expels the others, overcome with a jealous possessiveness for the plane of Epolith and its people, and becomes remote and vindictive.

MR: Once again, the idea of skipping through time to show a world at different points of its development is a great idea. The question is how do you make a block that has a big set of jumps feel like a cohesive whole. You have to figure out how your block does this because you have to be able to show how your first large expansion is going to set all this up.

The other thing this description is lacking is what elements you're going to use that can run through all three sets. Yes, some things can change from set to set but if this is a block, there has to be some throughline.

Also, be aware modern planeswalkers (the ones post Time Spiral block; what we call modern planeswalkers) aren't the immortal planeswalkers of days past. This brings up the challenge of how to involve planeswalkers in each set (something we do now) when the block lasts longer than a planeswalker's life span.

D. Primal: Epolith, in the first set, is an unspoiled land. There are no furrows from the plow; no cities rise from the plain. The Planeswalkers who come from Epolith are accustomed to drawing their mana from such natural surroundings, and struggle to achieve full potency if the land has been altered by man's activities.

Migrate: When your food supply is on the hoof, your hunger can take you to some strange places. Hunter-gatherers move around a lot, following herds of animals. A "basic lands matter" theme means that mana fixing is going to be tricky if multicolor decks are to be accommodated. The migrate mechanic accomplishes just that. As you see from my example, it can accomplish subtler tasks, as well.

Provoke: The Provoke mechanic seems to be a good one to simulate hunting, and to provide some "low key" removal in lieu of the flashy spells that more advanced mages prefer.

Knap: In a stone-age environment, most people probably make their own tools.

Artifacts: Much of what we know of prehistoric people comes from our study of ancient artifacts. These have become iconic representations of prehistory, and need to be featured prominently if the set is to evoke the proper mood.

Homeopathic Magic: Homeopathy is a concept much-used in primitive magic. "Like cures like" is the jist of what homeopathy means. What kind of spells would primitive planeswalkers come up with, given that type of mindset? Instants to counter instants, sorceries to prevent the use of sorceries, etc.

MR: My biggest concern with your set is this. Your block theme is about evolution. You are watching a world change over time. This means that your mechanical theme also needs to be about evolution. You need to find mechanics that can evolve as the block evolves.

I'll get to your mechanics one by one as I review your cards. I'll give you a quick preview though. None of your mechanics plays up your block theme. You seem very focused on the day to day life of your people that you are missing the larger picture. You are showing how a world changes and adapts. Your mechanics have to likewise change and adapt. I'm not sure any of your mechanics have the necessary elements to do that.

Part II - The Cards

1. Irix, the Wanderer (mythic rare)
Planeswalker - Irix
+2: Put the cards in your hand on the bottom of your library in any order, then draw that many cards.
-2: Return target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand.
-10: Until end of turn, you may cast spells from your hand without paying their mana costs.

KEN: It's almost a crapshoot for designers to attack planeswalker due to the extreme number of development constraints on the card type. I don't think any planeswalker has passed through design to development without rigorous redesign. Two problems I see here – a 5-drop planeswalker should probably be plussing for a card's worth of value, and this ultimate is weird to use after your third randomized hand. Maybe that's fun, I'm guessing not fun enough, and at least Chandra Ablaze reads and plays like a poem.

AJ: In general, this +2 ability doesn't interest me—it's not an effect I want to invest in a planeswalker to do, and late game it does virtually nothing. I may even not want to activate Irix's +2 ability, making an awkward position when I want to pump Irix's loyalty but I like my current hand. I do like how the abilities work together as a cohesive unit while still providing multiple "plans"—something difficult to get right in a planeswalker design.

KD: You don't explicitly call out Irix's place in the story, but assuming that he or she has a prominent one, this is a good fit.

MR: My first note is actually a meta-note about planeswalker design as it is the number one complaint I have about not just your planeswalker design but planeswalker designs in general.

The three abilities have to have something to do with one another. Players need to feel as if there is some plan the planeswalker is up to. For instance, your first ability puts cards on the bottom of the library while your second ability wants cards in your graveyard. If you're going to keep these abilities line them up. Make the first ability feed into the second ability. The third ability does a better job of tying into the first two abilities.

The design of the planeswalker makes me feel like it is a wizard studying and gleaning information about magic but the name seems to imply it's some kind of explorer.

2. Sul of the Bow (mythic rare)
Legendary Creature - Human Archer
Primal - If you spent only mana produced by basic lands to cast CARDNAME, when it enters the battlefield, put two 1/1 Archer creature tokens with First Strike onto the battlefield.
1W, T: Search your library for a white instant card with a converted mana cost of 2 or less. Cast that spell without paying its mana cost. Shuffle your library afterwards.

KEN: The primal mechanic has me worried this designer might disagree with his job description—me, MaRo, and everyone else employed by Hasbro (NYSE: HAS) are in the business of creating desire for Magic products. Our biggest seller is booster packs. Tournament-worthy nonbasic lands are part of this equation. Some nonbasic lands are mondo combos that everyone can appreciate, like Kird Ape + Stomping Ground.

If Sul of the Bow and the primal mechanic are appealing enough to combo with Plains, it means they've also engulfed the appeal of NOT playing tons of special Emeria, the Sky Ruin lands. Perhaps the cost/benefit analysis proves they are both correct to run, but tons of players will play Magic as if primal and nonbasic lands preclude each other.

With regards to the card itself, I'd like it more if it was just a Sunforger-like spellcaster.

AJ: I don't understand why these two abilities are on the same card—they appear to have no relation whatsoever, and they compete for my mental space. I want my cards to tell a story and/or feel like a cohesive unit. Primal itself has potential, but it worries me that you've got a mechanic that is "always on" in Limited. Games are fun when I feel like I've accomplished something, not when the cards always work on their own.

KD: This shows off the "primal" mechanic, presumably the topic of Mark's first design article, but the presence of an unrelated second ability—whether showing off a second set theme or just a character-specific flourish—could muddy the issue.

MR: Let's talk about primal. I've spent a great deal of time talking about the importance of the mana system. One of the downsides is that it can create moments where the players are unable to cast spells either due to "mana screw" where you don't get the quantity of mana you need or "color screw" where you don't get the quality of mana you need.

The existence of many, many nonbasic lands is to help with the color screw issue. Now I'm all for a little bit of nonbasic hate as it's a good idea for the game to keep any strategy in check, but I'm not sure it's a good idea to build an entire mechanic to discourage a tool we've created to make the game more fun.

I could see this mechanic as a one-of or possibly even as a cycle but the volume needed to support a keyword mechanic seems like a huge mistake.

Also, as with all your mechanics, you have to ask yourself, how is this mechanic going to change or adapt as the block continues. And if it's only in this one set, what replaces it that feels like an extension of what this mechanic was doing?

3. Thunder Lizard (rare)
Creature - Lizard
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or attacks, tap all creatures with power 4 or less.
"It rocks your world. Literally."

KEN: A nice fatty. "Small things suck" is a nice Dinosaur mechanic. Bizarre it's randomly gold. However, it's got the famous Titan "enters the battlefield or attacks" ability. Titans are so famous I would not step on them—I would choose one trigger or the other. Extraneous flavor text in design is ok once in a while. We design lots of cards. We read lots of card designs. If everyone has to read your extraneous flavor text, it's wasting company time and resources. Campaigning for individual cards should be chosen wisely.

But I like fatties!

AJ: This M10 Titan riff makes no sense to me. I don't know why it's green, other than to fill your quota. It doesn't feel splashy enough to me for rare, but it's definitely too strong for uncommon. Put another way—I would never be happy to open this as a rare unless I was playing Limited—I try very hard to make sure cards like that either get made "more rare" or "more uncommon".

KD: This gets points for "big creatures matter," but it loses points because I had to think for a second to figure out why I would want to play it. I think the Serious Fun writer could work with this, but it's not an ideal choice.

MR: If you're going to show a world evolve, I like starting with dinosaurs. This card is a little ho hum to me and seems like it wants to be an uncommon, but it at least gives me a sense of direction for your first set. I agree with Ken and Alexis that it feels too much like a rip off of Titans having both the "enter the battelfied or attacks" trigger, especially on a 6/6.

4. Busy Beavers (uncommon)
Creature - Beast
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, each player migrates to an Island. (Each player sacrifices a land, then searches their library for a basic Island card, puts it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffles their library.)

KEN: This card is a comedy of errors. The "migrates" action word is heavy. Are we really going to Crop Rotation on so many cards this block? I get it—I will migrate my crummy nonbasic land that I hate into a happy basic Island to turn on my primal spells I might otherwise miss out on. The particular card migrate inhabits is one helluva Rishadan Cutpurse against opponents with no Islands in their deck. Migrate in this manner puts tremendous negative pressure to "domain" splash your mana base with two of every basic land. If you forgot to make that deck-building decision ... you have to fight 1/3s with Stone Rain instead of Crop Rotation. Migrate cards also contain the idiot moment when you play one and you lose a land because the five Islands you run are already on the battlefield. Your opponent gets to watch it unfold as you sheepishly shuffle your deck having found no basic Island.

I have a question for all gamers—do you like loading screens? Imagine you're playing a game, and there's about to be a loading screen. Would you rather skip it? Magic has loading screens—like a forced shuffle effect. Games that minimize loading screen time like God of War and DeathSpank have a key selling point over similar games in their category.

Magic designers should be careful not to needlessly add loading screens to Magic.

AJ: As a preview card, I'd be most interested in seeing your common implementation of migrate. This card makes me think migrate is always symmetrical, which is (unfortunately) a bad first impression to make, as it looks like a fine, simple, Limited-smoothing mechanic that you've accidentally turned into a frustrating blue land destruction mechanic.

KD: This is a fine card to let the Limited Information author talk about the implications of this new mechanic in Limited, both in using a card like this and in playing across from one.

MR: Let me see if I understand this correctly: For I can make my opponent sacrifice a land as long as he or she isn't playing blue? Now I'm no developer, but that seems a little unfair.

I appreciate the flavor at the core of what you're trying for with migrate. I like the idea of this first set having a more primal feel. The problem you're running into is that you are focusing more on matching the flavor than making the mechanic itself fun to play. You sacrificing a land to get an Island could be okay. Forcing your opponent to do so especially when they might not even have an Island is not.

The question I want you to ask yourself is: what is migrate doing for the set (and block). If you feel it has an important role then you have to figure out how to mechanically make the flavor relevant. This card is sacrficing game play for flavor which is undercutting what I think you're trying to do with it.

5. Spear of Extinction (mythic rare)
Legendary Artifact - Equipment
Equipped creature gets +3/+3.
When equipped creature deals lethal damage to a creature, destroy all creatures that share a creature type with that creature.
Equip 4

KEN: This "lethal" word ... I do not think it means what you think it means. Lethal isn't a kind or type of damage; a creature with lethal damage just has a boolean truth that "the damage this creature has is greater than or equal to its toughness." Remove "lethal" from the card and you've got an overcosted pump Equipment that punishes chump-blocking in fun Elf or Goblin decks. That's a fine place for a card to be, I 'spose.

AJ: I'm only able to guess at the storyline this card implies as you didn't mention it in your block summary, but I do like the strong flavor here. This card falls into a problematic "opponent-enabled" class of cards. They involve situations where (barring combos) your opponent has to do something to activate them and the result is fairly bad for them—these cards tend to never actually do what they say they do. This Equipment is a bad Vulshok Battlegear against a deck with no shared creature types; conversely, against a tribal deck it actually makes a creature into an unblockable Moat rather than actually killing anything. To solve these problems, you can either put more control in the hands of the user, or force the opponent to choose between two things of reasonably similar weight, rather than "do nothing" and "kill all your creatures." Yes, I know this works with provoke, but I want my mythic rares to be able to stand on their own merits.

KD: A flavorful legendary artifact—check. I do wonder, though, what kind of story one can tell about a spear that drives entire tribes to extinction.

MR: One of the questions, a designer always has to ask is "Does this set have a tribal component?" If the answer is no, then this card is going to feel a little left out. Another way to think of this is do you expect there to be multiple creature types in play at the same time. If not, why is this card in this set?

Also, while I like the two pieces, I'm also not sure what they have to do with one another. The added toughness helps you survive to kill again but as this is an Equipment, having the equipped creature die isn't that big a deal.

Third, this is a subjective thing, but this card does not feel mythic rare to me. I would make it a rare.

My biggest issue, though, is I'm not sure what flavor this is bringing to the set. With only ten cards to preview, I would hope that each one would reveal something about your set and I don't get what this card brings to the table. I'm not saying I don't like it because it's a novel ability, but I don't understand how it's playing into your bigger picture.

6. Flint Mine (rare)
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
3, T: Knap 1. (Put an Equipment artifact token named Hand-Axe with "Equipped creature gets +1/+1. Equip 1" onto the battlefield.)

KEN: This is a lot of type splicing to get a +1/+1 counter. It'll even be represented similarly with a penny. But wait, this +1/+1 counter can move around, sit on the battlefield, and turn on metalcraft. The cost is so low; Dragon Blood would be strong but Flint Mine lets a control deck flood the board preemptively with +1/+1 counters so its Morphling kills in two swings instead of four.

AJ: This card looks very interesting to play with. Knap mainly concerns me from a logistical perspective. Assuming Knap appears at lower rarities, you probably need to avoid +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters to prevent confusion in Limited. I'm also convinced you should not have a variable on Knap for similar reasons.

KD: This build-around, probably budget rare is a good choice, provided the pieces of a non-color-intensive, non-rare-intensive aggro deck are available to take advantage of it.

MR: I'm going to ask why go through all this rigamarole to make something that is essentially a +1/+1 counter. (Yes, I do understand it's an Equipment and can be reused.)

While the rules can support counter token Equipment, I'm not sure we want to have it in the game. Equipment comes with a lot of baggage and it worries me to have something with so much information without a card for people to refer to.

Let's assume we want to do token counter Equipment. I respect that you were trying to do the most basic version but you have to be careful not to align too closely with a mechanic we already support especially if your set has +1/+1 counters in it. This glass counter grants +1/+1 but goes away when the creature dies, but this glass bead grants +1/+1 and stays on the battlefield when the creature dies.

My one other issue is: I'm confused what state humanity is at in this set. I know it isn't Earth, but there's dinosaurs and men carrying around knapsacks and hand-axes which implies a decent amount of civilization and technology. I feel as if you need to give yourself room to grow.

7. Painful Choice (rare)
[Diabolic Ruse -
Reveal your hand. Target opponent chooses a nonland card from it. Exile that card, then search your library for a card that shares a type with the exiled card, reveal it, and put it on top of your library.

KEN: This should be fun enough for some of the audience—"pick your poison." The problem is players will break it with, for example, an all-instant deck, but maybe there's something here. Minigames, I feel, are good space for Magic rares—seems like there's design space to knap.

AJ: Although this card doesn't really tie into your themes much, I think it's a great design, full of interesting decisions and deckbuilding choices.

KD: It's definitely a Spike card—giving you a chance to make better choices than your opponent—but it looks more like Rakdos Augermage than Fact or Fiction to me. (That's bad.)

MR: Usually when you create an effect that needs a drawback you can choose one of two paths. You can put restrictions on what the player can do or you can not give the player everything they want. I feel on this card you did both. The opponent controls the card type and, even then, the card doesn't end up in your hand. As the opponent's choice seems the interesting part of this spell, that's what I'd keep.

While in a real preview, we have random good cards that don't connect to the bigger picture, I feel that as a vehicle to show off your world, you have a little too many of them in this design test.

8. Symbolic Target (rare)
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell that targets only a single permanent, copy that spell for each other permanent which shares a subtype with the targeted permanent which that spell could target. Each copy targets one of those permanents.

KEN: Great! Radiate is one of the all-time best story-generating cards. I designed Glimmervoid Basin to that end (and made it work with Regrowth). With Glimmervoid Basin as the plane, I watched Peter Knudson attempt to Mortify the table only to see Mons Johnson Swerve all the copies towards Peter's things.

AJ: I love Radiate effects, and I certainly expect to print something like this at some point. My main questions with this card revolve around use of the word "subtype." Even if we assume most players know what that word means (having never appeared on a card), I'm not convinced it's better than simply "creature type," as it's rarely or never relavant for artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers. This card, like Spear of Extinction, makes me wonder again if there is an unspoken tribal theme to your block.

KD: "Everything is Precursor Golem" is a good start for a From the Lab article. This would be a fun read.

MR: This spell, a permanent Radiate, is cutely chaotic. I could see a certain type of casual player having fun with it. Once again, I don't feel as if it's adding to the bigger picture of your world. The reason I'm harping on this is if you want to stay off the chopping block in this competition, you have to make sure that we are getting your world. The GDS2 is less about card construction and more about vision. Sacrificing the latter to show off the former might get you cut. (We do want the former just coupled with the latter.)

9. Merciless Hunter (uncommon)
[Vastal Silencer -
Creature - Human Warrior
Whenever CARDNAME attacks, target creature loses all abilities until end of turn.

KEN: Losing all abilities is a notoriously fuzzy part of the rules to be doing it repeatedly on an uncommon. Did you know ... making a huge Tarmogoyf lose all abilities results in ... still a huge Tarmogoyf? That's because characteristic-defining abilities aren't actually granting abilities!

While both attack triggers can combo to kill a Llanowar Elves, it's a "stacking order of abilities"-matters card. Stack it wrong and the Llanowar Elves will tap for a mid-combat and dodge the block. We normally do not engineer Magic as a game that tests this skill.

Now, I'm not saying to "design your cards as if they are being played by idiots." I'm saying don't make Magic into "Advanced Calculus 4", a course everyone on the planet knows is not fun just from its name.

Provoke is not a fun mechanic to saturate a set with. It was a useful tool once, in Legions, the "all-creature set." With no control over how combat resolved with instants or sorceries or enchantments or Equipment, the all-creature set would likely bog down with nothing happening. Deftblade Elite got to play Offensive Tackle against your opponent's best blocker so your Running Back could get through for points every turn.

AJ: I love this combination of abilities. This card is a bit high on complication (losing abilities is confusing, and you've got two triggers that have to be stacked correctly) but I think the payoff is worth it. This showcases the return of provoke well.

KD: This is a unique ability that looks powerful, and may or may not actually be. I'd be interested to read Brian's article about this one.

MR: I like the idea of a hunter and this card has a lot of flavor. "Loses all abilities" is a little bit of a rules minefield but the rules team could get this to do most of what you mean.

As its creator, I'm a big fan of provoke and there might be a place for it in this block. I like the sense of fighting it brings to the set. But what kind of fighting do you want. I imagine dinosaurs duking it out and you have it on a hunter.

That's one of my biggest issues with this set. I don't get a sense of where you're starting. What kind of world is this? You have to decide not only what is here but what is not here. You have to give your block room to grow. A big part of that is to figure out what happens when. Having a dinosaur and a human animal-hunter in the same set feels like you're squishing too many things together.

10. Homeopathic Purge (common)
Target player reveals his or her hand. That player discards all sorcery cards from his or her hand. You lose 2 life for each card discarded in this way.

KEN: Who would play this card? It reads like some kind of weirdo anti-combo card, except in the dream scenario where I hit your Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Ignite Memories, Dragonstorm, and Ancestral Vision, and I still lose 10 life. And yet, this is common—it's somehow supposed to be doing heavy mechanical-lifting in Limited, except it doesn't work in multiples and the cost isn't helping things.

AJ: I think that your "homeopathic" subtheme is far too subtle and will be overlooked or misunderstood by any player that doesn't read Tom's column. This card is an interesting silver bullet, although, it's not a common. Even if in practice it's worse than Mind Rot, cards that deal with "all of" something tend to be at least uncommon. I personally hate drawing a distinction between instant and sorcery, as I find them to be mostly indistinguishable both flavorfully and mechanically; however, I don't think this opinion is necessarily supported by the rest of R&D.

KD: This is the only one here that really falls flat for me; I just can't imagine reading an article about this card. The "sorceries fight sorceries" theme is abstract and has a bigger effect on design than on game play, which would make it a better fit for a design article.

MR: You made a super narrow card and then hosed the caster on top of it. Narrow cards don't need hosing. The narrowness is the hosing. Second, narrow cards are best suited not at common. Also, cards that have potential for huge effects (even if infrequently) also tend not to be common.

The commons carry the most weight of any rarity in the set and this card, to be blunt, isn't carrying its weight.

Also, not to sound like a broken record, but I feel I'm seeing cool cards that could go in any set, not "your" set.


Sul of the Bow is a demigod in the mold of Hercules or Gilgamesh. He is aligned with the sun. The plan is to have a planeswalker version of him in each of the following sets, one an Apollo analogue, and one based on YHWH from the Old Testament, but with imperialist ambitions.

Busy Beavers does NOT represent a typical implementation of the "migrate" mechanic. Normally it's a utility ability that fetches allied colors' basic lands, but I thought that something a little more nuanced was called for when choosing a card for Limited Information. The beavers' pond can flood the territory of a non-blue opponent, cutting him off from resources.

Spear of Extinction sure seems like it belongs in SOME kind of climactic scene!

Painful Choice really gets my gears turning because it tests the skill of your opponent. They have to try to figure out what deck you're playing, and then decide how to deny you advantage.

Symbolic Target shares design space with Spear of Extinction. The idea is that your original target is the ideal or ur-version of something, and by effecting it, you effect all things of that type. Or perhaps your original target is like a voodoo doll.

Homeopathic Purge is a member of one of two cycles of cards that counter-act other cards of their type, in colorpie-appropriate fashions. A reprint of Dispel would sit right next to Homeopathic Purge, and perhaps Frostling or something similar would sit on the other side.

KEN: In summary, I feel there's some very misappropriated mechanics in this world and their ramifications not fully realized. Primal, migrate, and provoke all threaten serious issues if implemented in quantities greater than one card. Sets contain far more than just the ten cards previewed here. I can't imagine these themes running very deep, and I'm scared this set's commons are barren.

Highlight: Symbolic Target
Lowlight: Busy Beavers

AJ: You've chosen a block theme that I see has high-risk—making three sets that feel like they are thousands of years apart, and yet still link mechanically and flavorfully sounds difficult. Not only that, but this theme won't sell itself during the first set, as it's more about contrasts and similarities across sets, rather than anything specific within the first set. This means your mechanics have to pull a lot of weight in the first set. For example, I found the flavor of provoke, primal, and migrate to all be solid hits for a primitive world, but they didn't tell me anything about your greater block theme.

Mechanically, I'm mostly worried that you've got a little too much for Limited and not enough for Constructed. I see the potential for powerful Constructed primal cards, but the mechanic only really hits a single note, and will still be most visible in Limited. All your other mechanics feel like they will be, at best, occasional Constructed role players. It's important that at least one of your mechanics let players build "mechanic X decks", and while technically primal does that, it feels more like I'm handicapping myself than actually building "around" primal.

I can see the seeds of many great ideas here—you just need to work on separating out the chaff and adding a bit of polish.

KD: You've got four solid hits and only one real flop. You clearly understand what the columns are about and how to design for their target audiences, and your cards have the splash value that first-week previews need. From your description of Sul of the Bow, though, I kind of wanted to read a flavor article about him instead of a design article.

MR: Ethan, you have an amazing idea. An idea so good that it's the thing that got you into the Top 8. What you need to do now is figure out how to craft your block to live up to that idea.

As I said earlier, you have to embrace your theme of evolution. Your entire mechanical identity has to reflect the flavor of your theme. Think about how you can evolve mechanics over the length of the block. Just as the world changes, so too can your mechanics.

As a side note, what is your first set showing. You seem to hint at a prehistoric world, but you don't follow through on this. The resonance of a prehistoric world requires either no humans or very primitive humans. Your current designs make humans feel much more advanced than the trope calls for.

As Alexis said, your block theme is tricky because it's about contrast and you don't get any until the second set. I personally would embrace prehistoric world, as that does a good job of feeling like the distant past. To do this though, you need to use mechanics that feel like they belong, yet also have room to grow and evolve. You have possibly my favorite block idea but also one of the hardest to execute correctly.

Also, you seem to want to include everything everywhere. The key to design is to hold back and use just as much as you need and no more. We're going to be focusing on the first set but without understanding where you're going you are not going to be able to set things up properly.

My advice for you is to spend some time during the first challenge really thinking about what your block is trying to do. What I want to see in your cards next week is a plan. Show me what you are setting up. Show me the beginning of your story. Let your mechanics show the evolution.

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