Great Designer Search 3 – Challenge #4

Posted in Feature on May 29, 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 judged our third design challenge and then eliminated our third contestant (Jay Treat). We also gave our designers their fourth design challenge. Let's review that assignment and then see how they fared.

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
Art: Leap
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!

Design Challenge #4 was all about constraints, as a big a part of designing Magic is designing to constraints. The biggest of the constraints is the art, so as our guest judge this week we've invited Jenna Helland, a design manager on our creative team. I'll let Jenna introduce herself.

I began working at Wizards in 2007. I've been on worldbuilding teams since Shards of Alara and have been lead conceptor (the person who decides what the spell creatively represents) for multiple sets including Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Theros. I became design manager of the worldbuilding team in 2014. For today's judging, I will be specifically evaluating how well the designers did on matching their mechanic to the art. I will be giving each card a letter grade along with an explanation.

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

Now that you've seen the judging, it's time to get to the fifth and final design challenge.

Design Challenge #5 – "Pack and Play"

One of the most important skills for a Magic designer is to design cards for a set that's already defined. So, for this week, we're going to do just that. Here's the assignment:

  1. Choose any black-bordered Magic expansion with a fifteen-card booster pack. This will be first come, first served and once an expansion is chosen, all other expansions from that block will be off limits (If, for example, you choose original Ravnica, it, Guildpact, and Dissension will no longer be viable choices.)

  2. Design fifteen new cards (fourteen if there's a basic land) that feel as if they belong to that expansion. Note this means you will only be able to use keywords or ability words found in that expansion (and you will be limited to evergreen mechanics that existed in that set).

  3. The cards will have to match the rarity mix that one would find in an average pack of that set. If there are slots with variable rarity, you may choose any of those rarities. (The double-faced card in Shadows over Innistrad, for example, could be common, uncommon, rare, or mythic rare.)

  4. To match our collation, there must be at least one common of every color. Also, don't make more than five cards of the same color combination. (You can't have more than five mono-green cards or five blue-red cards.) The one exception is colorless cards if you have chosen a set that has a high as-fan of colorless cards.

  5. Be aware that the fifteenth card in most sets will be a basic land.

  6. Your booster pack should not have any premium foil cards in it.

  7. If your set has some quirk about it that contradicts one of the above rules, talk with me about it.

Your cards will be judged on the following criteria:

Matching Expansion – This design challenge is about designing within constraints of a defined set. You will be judged by how much your cards feel as if they belong in the expansion you've chosen.

Creativity – This assignment is not just about mimicking the set you're in but finding cool new things to do with the preexisting tools of that set.

Flavor – It's important that your cards feel and play as if they are from the world that expansion is set on.

Color Pie Appropriateness – This, and the next two categories, are the areas where I'm going to let you deviate from the original expansion. Use the modern color pie and not the color pie at the time of the set. Any mechanic that was used may be used in the colors it was used in that set. As always, 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. As with color pie, use modern-day rarity constraints.

Card Type Appropriateness – Make sure that your cards are properly representing the card type they're in. As with color pie and rarity, use modern-day constraints.

You will submit the following:

Your Name

Label each card Design 1 through 15. Put any basic land first, then your commons in WUBRG order, then your uncommons in WUBRG order, then your rares (and/or mythic rare if mythic rares exist in this set) and finally any extra card(s) if your set has a special slot(s).

We're excited to open your booster packs!

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