Great Designer Search 3 – Challenge #3

Posted in Feature on May 24, 2018

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.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Great Designer Search 3.

Last time we had our second design challenge, judged it, and then eliminated our second contestant (Linus Ulysses Hamilton). We also gave our designers their third design challenge. Let's review that task and then see how the contestants fared.

Design Challenge #3 – "Finding a Good Mechanic"

For the design test and the first two challenges, we didn't let you design any new mechanics. This design challenge is all about designing a new mechanic. Here's your assignment:

  1. You are going to design a brand-new keyword mechanic or ability word.

  2. You will have to name it and figure out its rules text and reminder text. Note it's more important that our judges can understand what it's supposed to do than its templating be 100% technically accurate.

  3. You will have to design three commons, two uncommons, two rares, and one mythic rare.

  4. You must use at least three colors.

  5. No more than two of your cards may be multicolored.

  6. Assume all the cards you are designing are in the same Standard-legal expansion.

  7. Other than your new mechanic, you may use only evergreen mechanics.

Breadth of Mechanic – The point of this design challenge is proving you can make a mechanic that would have value in a set. A big part of that is flexibility. Demonstrate that this mechanic has enough breadth that it's worth keywording/ability wording. Note that this doesn't mean it has to go on multiple card types; it means that there is a variety of ways it can be used.

Backward Compatibility – How does your mechanic play into the overall latticework of the larger game? Is this something players can add to existing decks? Is it something that will do interesting things when blended with other mechanics in larger formats? The more parasitic your mechanic, the higher the barrier of fun is going to be.

Inspiring New Decks – One of the things good mechanics do is inspire players to create new decks. This doesn't mean this mechanic has to be a build-around mechanic, but it does need to introduce something new to the game that can be combined with in novel ways.

Fun in Density – Your new mechanic needs to be fun to play, but more than that it needs to justify having a keyword/ability word. Your mechanic needs to want to exist in volume.

Limited Applications – We're asking you to create a mechanic that can show up at common, which means it has to be something that would be fun to play in Limited. It is acceptable if its role in Limited and Constructed are different.

Set Feel – These cards are all from the same set. The designs need to reflect that.

Originality – You're not just showing off your mechanic, you're showing off your individual card designs. We want to see some innovation involving your new mechanic.

Color Pie Appropriateness – Your color choice needs to be appropriate to your flavor as well as your mechanical designs. Bends are allowed if appropriate (although be frugal with them), but breaks are not.

Rarity Appropriateness – Your designs need to fit into the rarity you're designing for. This design is asking for more commons than past designs because appropriateness for common of a new mechanic is key to it working well.

Card Type Appropriateness – Make sure that your cards are properly representing the card type they're in.

You will need to submit the following:

Your Name

Design 1 (YOUR FIRST COMMON)
Design 2 (YOUR SECOND COMMON)
Design 3 (YOUR THIRD COMMON)
Design 4 (YOUR FIRST UNCOMMON)
Design 5 (YOUR SECOND UNCOMMON)
Design 6 (YOUR FIRST RARE)
Design 7 (YOUR SECOND RARE)
Design 8 (YOUR MYTHIC RARE)

Comments: You will have up to 250 words to say whatever you want about your design. You are free to talk about individual cards, but I would suggest spending some of your words explaining holistically what you were up to with your overall design.

We're hoping you find a great mechanic.


Before we get to the judging, I'd like to say one thing about today's challenge. It's hard! Really, really hard! Designing mechanics is one of the most difficult things we do in R&D. In fact, I'd say about 95% of mechanics never make it to print. Exploratory design is filled with designs that we try once and discard. Then in vision design, we pick the best ones and explore them—and most of those get tossed. Only a tiny amount of mechanics ever make it to the point where you all get to play with them.

So, what we're asking for in this challenge is super difficult. Making mechanics is an important skill we wanted to test, but we knew going in that the contestants were going to struggle. And remember, the very nature of GDS is that we're asking designers to work in much tighter time constraints than we normally work. I ask you keep this in mind as you read this week's judging comments. No one did great. The contestants are being judged on how they did relative to one another.

That said, on with the judging.

Our guest judge today is Jules Robins. I'll let him introduce himself.

Hi everyone! I'm Jules Robins: longtime competitive player, writer, and Commander aficionado turned Magic designer. I've been at Wizards since just before the release of Magic Origins, but we work so far ahead on the Vision Design side that much of the work I've been most involved in has yet to see the light of day. That said, I did serve on the initial design team for Hour of Devastation, exploratory design for Dominaria, and both the initial and final design teams for Commander (2017 Edition) and the upcoming Commander (2018 Edition), Battlebond, and Guilds of Ravnica (the fall 2018 set). Oh, and I work on the Magic Online cubes. My feedback here is going to take a pretty critical bent. Pretty much every Magic card has imperfect elements, so noting a problem with a card doesn't even necessarily mean there's a better version to make, but I hope that thinking about these issues will help inform your future designs.

Click the links below to see each contestant's designs and learn who made it through to the next round.

Once you've looked at each designer's submission and learned who has been eliminated, take a look at our fourth design challenge.

Design Challenge #4 – "Work of Art"

Often in design, we have to design to constraints. One of the more challenging design constraints is art. You see, late in the set design process we occasionally have to change cards after the art has been completed (what we call "hole filling"). When that happens, we have to design the new card to the art. This week's design challenge is going to force you to design to art. Here's the assignment:

  1. You are going to design ten cards. Each card will have a mechanical constraint spelled out below.

  2. In addition to the mechanical constraint, for each card design you will have to choose a piece of art (from the twelve provided) to design to. No two cards may use the same piece of art, meaning you will be using ten of the twelve pieces of art.

  3. The card's color and rarity will all be spelled out in its constraint.

  4. No more than three cards may be of the same card type. The one exception is you can have five creatures, as five of the mechanical constraints ask for creatures.

  5. Cards must exactly match the card's constraint. A red card can't be turned into a red-green card, for example.

  6. Assume all the cards you are designing are in the same Standard-legal expansion.

  7. You may use only evergreen mechanics with the exception of one non-evergreen mechanic which may appear on no more than two cards.

  8. Flavor is extra important on this assignment, so take extra care with your names. You may submit flavor text as long it's 100% your creation and it would fit on the card with the rules text provided. Good flavor text can help give context to your overall card.

Here are the criteria for your ten cards:

  • Card #1: White (uncommon) – We want a build-around noncreature for Draft. (It encourages the player to draft a theme that they might not normally.)

  • Card #2: White (rare) – We want a Spike-friendly creature.

  • Card #3: Blue (common) – We want a creature without evasion.

  • Card #4: Blue (mythic rare) – We want a super-exciting enchantment.

  • Card #5: Black (common) – We want a creature with an activated ability.

  • Card #6: Black (mythic rare) – We want a splashy creature for Timmy/Tammy.

  • Card #7: Red (uncommon) – We want a creature that costs four or more.

  • Card #8: Red (rare) – We want a weird Johnny/Jenny-style instant or sorcery.

  • Card #9: Green (common) – We want a noncreature spell for Limited.

  • Card # 10: Green (uncommon) – We want a quirky Aura.

And here are your art choices:

Your cards will be judged on the following criteria:

Matching Art – Our guest judge will be Jenna Helland, a member of the Creative team, who will specifically be judging how appropriate your card designs are for the art chosen.

Matching Mechanical Constraints – The art isn't the only constraint you're going to be judged on. Failure to match a mechanical restraint will also be a big strike against you.

Flavor – Your names, and flavor text if you use it, are going to carry more weight than normal as they have to help explain the overall feel of the card.

Creativity – An important part of designing to constraints is finding ways to do so that defy expectations. The best hole-filling designs often solve the problem by tackling it in an unconventional way.

Originality – You're not just showing off your ability to match constraints, you're also showing off your individual card designs. We want to see some innovation as you are "hole filling."

Color Pie Appropriateness – Matching color means staying within the color pie constraints. Bends are allowed if appropriate (although be frugal with them), but breaks are not.

Rarity Appropriateness – Your designs need to fit into the rarity you're designing for. Think about things like complexity and impact on Limited.

Card Type Appropriateness – Make sure that your cards are properly representing the card type they're in.

You will submit the following:

Your Name

Design 1 (CARD #1)
Design 2 (CARD #2)
Design 3 (CARD #3)
Design 4 (CARD #4)
Design 5 (CARD #5)
Design 6 (CARD #6)
Design 7 (CARD #7)
Design 8 (CARD #8)
Design 9 (CARD #9)
Design 10 (CARD #10)

In between the mana cost and the card type, you will have a line for the art. Please list the art by the codename. An example:

Giant Growth
G
Art: Leap
Instant
Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

Comments: You will have up to 250 words to say whatever you want about your design. You are free to talk about individual cards, but I would suggest spending some of your words explaining holistically what you were up to with your overall design.

Wow us with your designs!

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