The Design Test

Posted in Feature on October 15, 2010

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

I explained in my first Great Designer Search 2 article that this GDS is going to have a few changes. One of the biggest changes has to do with how the challenges (and in this case the design test) will be presented.

In GDS1, we sent each challenge only to the applicants and then only after they had completed it did we show them to all of you. This time, though, as all of you are part of the process, we are going to show you the test within a day of when we show it to the applicants.

Yesterday (or earlier today depending on when and where you're reading this), the design test was sent out to the remaining applicants. After my introduction, we are going to show the design test to all of you.

I want to stress that even if you are not in contention for the internship, there are still Magic design opportunities available. We will be looking at contributions on the Great Designer Search 2 page of the Magic Wiki for other design opportunities. In addition, the best designs on the Wiki may be used in upcoming sets.

We are showing all of you the design test now because we want you to help the remaining applicants by doing design. Remember, they are only allowed to use cards created by other people if they appear on the Wiki. (The full official rules for the Great Designer Search 2 can be found here.)

With all those caveats out of the way, let's get to the design test. Note that the test is due back by the applicants by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, October 17. Also bear in mind that this is the test I sent them, so when I say "you" I'm referring to the applicants.

After the design test is another FAQ for GDS2. This wasn't in the email we sent to applicants, so even those who received the email may want to give it a read.

The Design Test

For this test you are going to show cards from the first large expansion of a block (the "fall" expansion) set on a world we've never visited in Magic. This test will have two parts:

Part I – Show Us Your World

A. What is the name of your world?
B. Describe your world in one sentence or one sentence fragment. (15 word maximum.) For example: An adventure world where the land itself attacks all visitors.
C. Describe the flavor of your world. (250 word maximum)
D. Describe your world through the lens of its mechanics. (250 word maximum)

Part II – Show Us Your Cards

You will be asked to turn in ten cards. These ten cards are going to be used to "preview" your set. The way you will be doing this is to choose a card to preview in each of the nine weekly columns as well as a preview week feature column written by Doug Beyer. All of the requirements for what each column needs are listed below.

Your test should list ten cards: (numbered as below)

1. Feature Article
2. Making Magic
3. Serious Fun
4. Limited Information
5. Savor the Flavor
6. Building on a Budget
7. Top Decks
8. From the Lab
9. The Week That Was
10. Latest Developments

You will be allowed to write up to 250 words about your ten card submissions (250 total, not 250 per card).

In addition to meeting the needs of each column (listed below), you will also have to meet the following restrictions with your ten cards:

A. All five colors must be represented on the ten cards.
B. All four rarities must be represented on the ten cards. And yes, each card's rarity will have to be marked. (I will explain how to do that below.)
C. All seven "evergreen" card types (artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker, and sorcery) must be represented on the ten cards.
D. Six of the ten cards must be created exclusively by you.
E. Four of the ten cards may not be created by you. These four cards must come from the Magic Wiki. You will list the address on the Wiki of each card you use that is not your own. (How to do this listed below.) Remember that you are allowed to ask the public for cards, but only cards submitted on the Wiki may be used. You may change the name and card type of the card to match your world and may make minor (and I do mean minor—we should be able to tell it's the same card) tweaks to the rules text.

I asked Kelly Digges, the Daily MTG editor at, to list the requirements needed for each column and the feature. Here is what Kelly needs:


Week 1 Feature
This article, written by Doug Beyer, introduces people to the world and storyline. Its preview card is almost always a legendary creature or planeswalker who figures prominently in the story.

Making Magic
This card, often a splashy rare or mythic rare, lets author Mark Rosewater introduce and discuss a major mechanic or theme in the set.


Serious Fun
This is the Timmy/casual/multiplayer column, so its preview card should have big Timmy and casual appeal, and may also have an effect that gets better in multiplayer.

Limited Information
The Limited column's preview card should be a common or uncommon that players will want to be aware of at the Prerelease and when drafting, either because of its raw power or because it is important to a particular Limited archetype.


Savor the Flavor
This card represents a chance to talk about some feature of the setting or storyline—a legendary permanent or planeswalker card that represents an important person, place, or thing in the storyline, a representative of a new or newly prominent tribe, or some other card that highlights an important creative element of the set.

Building on a Budget
This column focuses on decks for various formats and levels of competition that can be built with easily accessible cards. Its preview card may be a powerful common or uncommon, or a rare that is unlikely to see more than fringe Constructed play.


Top Decks
The serious Spike Constructed column's previews are often among R&D's top expected tournament Constructed cards. Ideal Top Decks preview cards are those whose power level may not be immediately obvious—role-players, "tricky" cards, and cards with many different potential applications.

From the Lab
This is unabashedly the Johnny column, and its preview cards are open-ended Johnny cards, often rare, with a number of potential applications. Narrower "über-Johnny" cards are usually not a good fit, because the questions posed by such cards are often more interesting to Johnnies than the answers.


The Week That Was
This column's preview cards are generally relatively powerful in Limited and/or Constructed. Johnny-Spike build-around uncommons and rares are a good fit.

Latest Developments
This card allows Tom LaPille to tell an important development story about the set, usually either by showing off a set theme or mechanic or by being a member of a high-profile cycle.

In addition to the requirements above, the individual cards need to be exciting. We're trying to get people pumped for the new set, so a card that fits the requirements for a given column but isn't exciting isn't a good preview card. For Week 1 previews, it's important to bear in mind that some of these cards will be readers' first look at various set themes and mechanics.

Thanks Kelly. Now let me explain how I want the cards laid out. Here is the template I want you to use:

Name (Rarity)
[Original Title If You Changed It – Address of Wiki Page] (Skip this line if it's your card.)
Mana Cost (Use numbers for generic mana costs and capital letters W,U,B,R & G for colored costs. List in order they would appear on a card. Skip this line if the card is a land.)
Card Type – Subtype
Power/Toughness (Skip this line if the card is a noncreature.)
Rules Text

Here are a few examples:

Serra Angel (uncommon)
Creature – Angel
Flying, vigilance

Prevent (uncommon)
[Counterspell -]
Counter target spell

Dark Ritual (common)
Add BBB to your mana pool.

Shivan Dragon
Creature – Dragon
R: Shivan Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

War Mammoth (common)
Creature – Elephant

Tundra (rare)
Land – Plains Island
T: Add W or U to your mana pool.

Every card needs to have all of these elements listed, minus the exceptions given above.

You will be judged on your individual card designs, but more importantly you will be judged on how the ten cards together create a holistic design. The skill you most want to wow us with is the ability to craft a world through the use of card design. Do these ten preview cards make us want to see more of your set? Do they create a world that excites us and makes us want to play it?

You have been very limited, on purpose, in your ability to explain what you are doing. Make use of those limited words. Be sure we understand your intent.

One last thing. This is a very hard test. What we are asking you to do is something that normally takes years to do with a team of experienced professionals. You work will most likely not be polished. The key is to show us potential. If that potential interests us, you will have challenges to better demonstrate your set. That said, get to work.

The Great Designer Search 2, FAQ #2

The official rules say the start date of the internship is March 2011. Is the start date flexible?

Yes, it is. The entire six-month internship needs to occur in the calendar year 2011, but we will work with the winner to find the best start date for them.

Should we concern ourselves with how the mechanics will work in Magic Online?

No. Just concentrate on "paper Magic." Design has been instructed to ignore Magic Online concerns for the early parts of design.

Are we designing a whole block or just the first set of the block?

If you make it to the design test, you will be giving us a glimpse of a world for a block, but all the card designs asked of you will be from the first large set of the block. The focus of GDS2 is going to be more about building a world to create the first set than about the evolution of the sets as the block evolves.

Why not have us show off how the block evolves?

It is simply a matter of resources. For the GDS2 to be effective, we have to narrow our focus. We've chosen "begin framing a large set based on a new world" as that focus. Trust me, we are already asking our applicants to bite off more than they probably want to chew.

Who is going to be judging?

The judges will be myself, Ken Nagle, and a rotating guest judge. It is looking like Alexis Janson, the GDS1 winner, is going to be our first guest judge. Gleemax is going to sit this one out—something about being busy enslaving humans.

What happens if we have conversations outside the Wiki? Can we use any of that material?

You are allowed to use two things for the design test and the challenges: designs of your own creation and things off the Magic Wiki. I would strongly urge applicants to have their conversations on the Magic Wiki

Is there a contest for people who want to work at Wizards as something other than a designer?

It's not a contest exactly, but we do have a web page where we list all available jobs. If you want to think of it as a contest, I guess we can't stop you.

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