Guest judge Ken Nagle
Guildpact I feel is a strong choice for a set, given it's part of the landmark Ravnica block. Having led Return to Ravnica, I'll be looking for improvements in that vein.
For this challenge, I chose a set that I knew well and gave me lots of material to work with. Guildpact gave me access to three incredibly resonant guilds and the entire plane of Ravnica, and had some of the largest untapped design space in its mechanics.
My implementation of haunt ditches the confusing, fiddly ETB and death triggers in favor of grokkable static abilities. Tormented Thrull helps combat the many walls in the format, and Dutiful Debtor uses spirit link technology to haunt either side of the battlefield. Basilica Recruit serves both haunt and the block's Aura theme.
My replicate cards show off the versatility of the mechanic. Lightning Round's alternate cost is brand new, and Shrink Warp is a unique shrink and bounce combo that uses replicate's multi-targeting as more than "expensive Strive."
Bloodthirst already had a great implementation, so I pushed a little further into effects appropriate for common and made size matter. Hexhide Boar's soft hexproof is much more interesting to play with and against.
Finally, the rest of my cards play into the set's other themes. Right of Way and Regulate both tap into the block's urban flavor and minor themes of Auras and multicolor, while the rest of the cards are representations of their guild's flavor.
Guildpact has a special place in my heart (I chose a Guildpact card as my avatar!) so I put a lot of love into this pack. I hope you will enjoy this trip back to Ravnica with me.
Basic Land — Island
I think this one might be too strong to print, but I'm not judging power level here.
I'm not going to ding you heavily for this, but you didn't do your research on the Guildpact booster pack. The first set to have a basic land slot was Shards of Alara. Guildpact had, on average, eleven commons, three uncommons and a rare. You could not get a basic land in the booster pack. You had to buy the tournament pack (a 60-card deck that came with land; Shards of Alara was the last set to have tournament packs). All this means this slot should have been a common card.
Basilica Recruit (common)
Creature — Human Soldier
CARDNAME has first strike as long as it's enchanted or haunted.
"They may be young, but I'm sure they'll rise to the task if given some responsibility, or perhaps . . . supervision."
—Czaric, Orzhov prelate
This is a nice design, but a problematic common; the odds that your pack contains a haunt card (as this card doesn't tell you what haunt does) aren't high enough, so people need to look elsewhere to discover what this card does. We don't want that to be a frequent occurrence, so this does not belong at common.
I like making haunt matter to the creature on the battlefield. I like conditional first strike at common. Nice common!
I'm reminded of Ari's design #2. This has more creative points because its works in a couple ways. While you'd mostly haunt your own creatures, I've cast plenty of Cry of Contrition targeting my opponent's creatures, so a "bonus for being haunted" can be a deterrent. Another good aspect of this design is it just can't exist in another set, and Rosewater in particular likes making cards like this.
I appreciate you trying to find new ways to make haunted relevant and I like the tie to enchantments as it's thematic. My only question is whether or not I'd do this at common. If it were a major theme of the set, I'd consider it, but as this is a minor theme in one of three factions, I'd be more inclined to make this uncommon.
Right of Way (common)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature you control
When Right of Way enters the battlefield, tap up to X target creatures, where X is the number of enchantments you control.
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and has vigilance.
"Citizens lacking the proper permits shall stand aside."
What do you expect to happen if the value of X changes while the trigger is on the stack? We have an answer (the number of targets is locked in as they're chosen), but it's not necessarily easy to guess. You can add something like "as this ability is put onto the stack," but your common is getting awfully strange here.
This is a nice design. It has a reasonable base effect, and a nice scaling build around. I would have put another enchantment in this pack.
This is a weird effect at common to me. It's asking me to build around this and care about enchantments. I also don't remember Guildpact caring about enchantments in this way. I think this card would be more successful as an uncommon build-around. It could be stronger rate and give players a direction when drafting. The current card is asking the player to draft many copies of these and collect a lot of enchantments, which seems like a trap on a common card (especially because this is a weak effect for Limited).
Good urban city flavor. I was not expecting "enchant creature you control" here since it would appear to be an extension of Richard Garfield's Galvanic Arc–style "enters-the-battlefield" Auras. That said, it does scale more than that cycle and leads slightly into the Dissension Magemark cycle.
I like the thematic connection of tapping opponent's creatures while this creature doesn't tap. Like the last card, I would question how many build-around themes you're pushing in the set. If you put too many at common, it makes the draft a little too chaotic. I agree with Melissa that I would make this card a little stronger and serve as an uncommon build-around Draft card.
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 plus an additional 2 if you control a multicolor permanent.
The guilds never cease to circumvent the Guildpact, but never hesitate to employ its power on others.
This is a good way of communicating "this is a multicolor set."
The card makes sense as a common counterspell in Guildpact, but it's pretty math-y for a common. I think it could be worded as "Counter unless they pay 1. If you control a multicolored permanent, counter unless they pay 3 instead." If you have to read a common more than once to process it, it's probably not correct. That said I like the card with the updated wording.
There's very little wiggle room for these kinds of counterspells. Plenty of numbers helps. It irks me that this can't naturally curve, meaning there's no Judge's Familiar or such in Guildpact for this, just two-drops like a Guildmage. In general, countermagic that encourages some board presence has played well like Unified Will (which cost U at one point!). This feels like an Azorius card, but that guild is in in the next set. I would hate for this card to preempt a sexy white-blue card (like white-blue Mana Leak). A fine design, but there are about three vectors I just described putting pressure.
Here is yet another common card that cares about a different quantity. You don't get to have too many of these at common. Usually, common is about having the quality and uncommon and higher are about having the quality. Yes, we will make "___ matters" sets and cards at common will care, but usually that's the singular focus. Also, if your two numbers lined up (I would choose 2 and 2, costed accordingly), it would make a bit easier to track and feel more aesthetic. Templating it the way Melissa suggested would also help.
Shrink Warp (common)
Replicate 2U (When you cast this spell, copy it for each time you paid its replicate cost. You may choose new targets for the copies.)
Target creature gets -2/-0 until end of turn. Then if its power is 0 or less, return it to its owner's hand.
This is a very nice replicate card with plenty of development knobs. However, Vacuumelt is already a replicate card that can bounce multiple creatures.
Wow, I would be very cautious of making this effect on a common instant spell. Returning multiple things for one card at a weak rate might be okay, but for an instant I dislike it at this rarity. It's a pretty interesting card at instant, but I'd make it uncommon. It looks like a frustrating card to play against at high frequencies. I do like the new take on replicate.
The first thing that sticks out is the replicate cost isn't the same as the mana cost, as it is for all other replicate cards. Aaron Forsythe has said he would've preferred replicate just always being the mana cost because this theoretical design space of mismatched mana costs isn't as compelling as a clean keyword with no parameter. That said, I'll count this as a creative/innovative card. It's also compelling how it can stack up on a single target for the bounce effect or clean up a handful of tokens. I personally think we want more "gentle" token hosers, so I'm happy with this design.
I'm a fan of this design. I like that it has a built-in reason for wanting to use the replicate because it adds in a secondary function. I have two concerns though. One, as Melissa says above, I'm worried about this being at common as it has the capability of returning more than one card to its owner's hand and we tend to only do that at uncommon and higher. Two, as Ken says above, I'm not sure disconnecting the replicate cost from the mana cost is worth the mental weight it brings to gameplay.
Tormented Thrull (common)
Creature — Thrull
Haunt (When this creature dies, exile it haunting target creature.)
CARDNAME and the creature it haunts can't block.
Each day of its life is racked with the wails of the dead. Each day of its death is spent reciting them.
The rules for haunt currently only support triggers that "refer to the haunted creature," but this is so obviously an easy rules change. Yay for changing old keywords!
The design of a card that haunts your opponent's creature is very nice. However, the drawback of not being able to block makes this a challenging card, more challenging than I tend to put at common.
This looks more like a red card to me, since you are haunting an opponent's creature with this. I think it's interesting that you have a downside creature with an upside when it dies.
A clean card with probably a simpler base case for haunt than was printed. If we assume static abilities for haunt, this would be one of the first cards I'd hope to see.
Anyone who's read my column or listen to my podcast knows I'm not the biggest fan of haunt. That said, I do think you've tweaked it to make an execution that is flavorful and functional. My only criticism is I think I would have had commons mostly want to be things you haunted your own creatures with and would have saved haunt creatures you wanted to put on your opponent's creatures for higher rarity.
Skab-Clan Slinger (common)
Creature — Goblin Warrior
Bloodthirst 1 (If an opponent was dealt damage this turn, this creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, it deals damage equal to its power to target player.
Fine as fodder, better as backup.
This is very nice as a bloodthirst card that can function as an enabler in a pinch.
Interesting idea, but this card is so weak without bloodthirst that it's not worth playing in a Limited deck unless you have noncombat ways to turn it on (like Goblin Fireslinger). I would make commons like this have more decision in when you play it, and make it a worthwhile creature even when you can't bloodthirst it.
This works for me. It's clever how this kind of has haste, but haste is a very bad keyword to put on a bloodthirst creature. Should probably also hit planeswalkers. It's getting wordy for a common but all the text becomes French vanilla.
This is a cute design that gives some added bonus to bloodthirsting. I like it.
Hexhide Boar (common)
Creature — Boar
Bloodthirst 1 (If an opponent was dealt damage this turn, this creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it.)
Spells your opponents cast that target CARDNAME cost X more to cast, where X is its toughness.
This is a pretty spiffy design, but I'm skeptical it's common. It's begging players to misplay by trying to buff its toughness after a spell is cast.
This type of card adds complication for your opponent. A complicated common is one thing, in that you can choose to not put it in your deck. But a common that makes the game more complicated for your opponent is worse, so I would not keep this at common.
This is math-y and complex for a common. Will bring up questions when the opponent tries to kill this and you pump its toughness in response. Looks cool at a higher rarity.
This is a bit math-y for common. While it might not actually affect the board very often, a scaling Frost Titan–like ability is still words and math to think about. It's creative to some degree but for common I'd rather see "hexproof while it has a +1/+1 counter" or similar.
I like that you're experimenting with how to make bloodthirst matter more. You have to be careful how many cards you have on the battlefield that require calculations to know how they work. This is another in your "uncommons pretending to be commons" theme.
Flagrant Challenger (common)
Creature — Human Warrior
CARDNAME can't be blocked unless all creatures able to block it do so.
"You city-dwellers think you're tough? Come on then, I'll take you all right here."
Speaking of things that aren't common—this effect was rare in Born of the Gods. You've retooled it slightly to play more reasonably and intuitively, so bravo for that! (For those who didn't spot the difference, unlike Tromokratis, a tapped creature doesn't render this creature unblockable.) Wide-reaching combat restrictions are still a pain point for player comprehension and a red flag for digital Magic, and they have strange interactions if you introduce combat requirements. Consider kicking this back up the rarity scale.
This is an interesting line of text, and a good juxtaposition of the two colors. However, some people are going to read this and just not get it. For that reason, I would make this uncommon.
This card is cool in that it feels Gruul and helps with bloodthirst, but I don't think Lure effects are appropriate for common.
Relatively neat sideways Lure plus evasion ability that does feel like a red-green card. This puts an even louder emphasis on the bloodthirst dilemma of letting damage through or trying to block all damage coming in.
I like this design a lot, but it's in no way a common card. The combat math needed to track this card, plus the fact that I don't want two of these on the battlefield often in Limited, means this should be an uncommon.
Goblin Prodigy (common)
Creature — Goblin Wizard
T, Sacrifice CARDNAME: Exile the top two cards of your library. You may cast those cards this turn. (You must pay all costs and follow normal timing rules.)
Most goblins stop after their first idea. Only the truly gifted push through to the second.
This is a very nice Izzet common.
Another card that does not really look like a common. It's pretty swingy. Sometimes you get to cast two spells, other times you get two lands. I think this card looks great on a 2/1 Goblin, but I think it's more appropriate at uncommon (and let them play lands off this as well).
This is another neat gold card. It's drawing cards in the red way, but the two-for-one is more blue. I can imagine this playing better at "1, sac" rather than a tap ability, but the more important part is it does have a "shields down" moment in either case. It's very difficult to design compelling blue-red creatures, especially commons, so good work here.
To continue a theme, I like this card, but I don't think it's common. Having a creature you tap and sacrifice is a good way to set off the effect as you still have mana to cast the spells.
CARDNAME deals damage to target creature equal to the amount of combat damage it dealt to you this turn. You gain that much life.
"You should have read the fine print. It wouldn't have helped, but at least you'd be prepared for what's about to happen."
—Czaric, Orzhov prelate
Again, this text is a bit hard for some people to understand. While this could be common, the number of difficult commons is far too high.
This is an interesting template; it's like the way lifelink used to work (and the way Spirit Link still works). There's an argument for why this is worded like this, since you're gaining the life back right away. It makes it less flexible because you can't cast it when you're dying, and can't kill creatures with higher toughness than power. Between the clunky wording and how hard it is to use this, it doesn't really read common to me.
This implies another common cycle. Mourning Thrull is a single H (hybrid mana) so I would've liked to see 1H here on a spell cycle. Hybrid was the highest-rated new mechanic in original Ravnica, so more of it in my booster pack is a good instinct. The design itself is okay, though most "retribution" damage cards end up in red-white or red-white hybrid, which isn't available for this booster.
This is a cute hybrid design in that it finds a narrow space where the colors overlap. It's another card that's a bit more complex to track than it looks. You get some of these at common, but you have to be careful about how many.
Dutiful Debtor (uncommon)
Creature — Human Cleric
Haunt (When this creature dies, exile it haunting target creature.)
Whenever CARDNAME or the creature it haunts deals combat damage, you gain that much life.
After a lifetime of faithful service, she was rewarded with another.
This ability works just fine. But I know it'll confuse people who can't spot your very good reason that it's not just lifelink. Is that a rules concern? Eeeeeh. But it's something I'd raise in the Developer Comments field in our database to make sure everyone was very well aware it's something to pay attention to.
So, I might haunt my creature, or theirs. Very nice.
This is a pretty cool use of haunt. I think this card looks more common than uncommon though. It's a very simple use of the mechanic on a weak creature. This could use some boosted stats or just a little something else to move it away from the common rarity.
Triggered lifelink to save words. Haunt like this is more like a positive Aura, but I'm afraid there's already an Aura subtheme for the set. The other Haunt cards all trigger on creatures dying which gives a "death" feel for the Orzhov guild. While I would like to say it's creative to mimic positive Auras, I'm afraid they would overlap too much. I liked the "can't block" Thrull better since it's more of a negative Aura.
For the audience, the reason this doesn't say "lifelink" is the keyword didn't exist at the time of Guildpact (it would happen a little over a year later in Future Sight) and the players were instructed to write it out. This written out version is the Spirit Link (from Legends) version so you gain the life if you put it on your opponent's creature. This is my favorite of your haunt spells.
Lightning Round (uncommon)
Replicate — Exile two instant and/or sorcery cards from your graveyard. (When you cast this spell, copy it for each time you paid its replicate cost. You may choose new targets for the copies.)
CARDNAME deals 3 damage to target creature.
In Izzet classrooms, chaos is always cumulative.
This non-mana replicate cost is terrific. Well done.
This is a very interesting use of replicate. You have to be careful of free effects that scale. This card is bonkers in the late game, and can often be a one-sided Wrath. I think there is some fun space in free replicate, but I don't think I'd put it on a removal spell, especially one of this rate. For example, if the replicate was 1R, exile 1, you won't be able to Plague Wind people with this.
This feels like a better innovation on a Guildpact mechanic. No longer a mana sink, replicate here is somewhere between delve and spell mastery. I'm happy with the design and the uncommon slot seems appropriate. Since mana sinks are usually better in later game decks, my instinct would have been to try an aggressive-slanted face-only burn card that wouldn't want to wait for land drops past five.
I like your experimentation with replicate costs. I would have lessened the damage though and just exile one instant/sorcery. That would have made the math simpler. I agree with Melissa that the free replicate cost might cause developmental issues.
Death Collector (uncommon)
Creature — Human Cleric
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, return target creature card from a graveyard to the battlefield until CARDNAME leaves the battlefield. (Return that creature to the graveyard.)
"Looks like you've missed several payments since your departure. I'm sure we can reach an arrangement—with interest of course."
This makes infinite loops with anything that flickers when it enters the battlefield, so beware. You should also be careful about how and when the returned creature goes back to its owner's graveyard. It's not being destroyed or sacrificed, and it does die; watch out for sacrifice triggers in nearby sets.
This is interesting, but a bit dangerous. For example, it loops with a creature that flickers a creature. Rather than hope nothing goes wrong, I would have the other creature exile when it leaves the battlefield.
This is a very strong uncommon! Best case scenario is I get a huge thing at a low cost and it takes over the game. Close to worst case is that the Death Collector dies and I lose my reanimated guy. If I get to trigger an "enters-the--battlefield" effect then I'm usually happy. However, the games when I get to discard or mill my fatty, reanimate it on turn three, and win with it don't make for very fun games. This card looks more rare than uncommon to me.
This is trying to be a clean design, but the reminder text shows it's relatively fancy. It's annoying that copies two, three, and four of these can grab each other, and then a final one. You have to line them all up in a row of who-is-keeping-who alive. Fits great for sacrifice decks and it's technically a three-mana reanimation spell which we don't do, but it has 2 toughness. It indeed feels like white-black gold card and a way to do Animate Dead. If it plays as fancy as I've outlined above, I could see a bump up to rare just so multiples are less likely.
Okay, it has some infinite loops issues and is probably a rare, but ignoring that, I like this design and it feels very Orzhov.
Street-tiller Sage (rare)
Creature — Giant Warrior Druid
Whenever CARDNAME attacks, discard your hand.
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, draw that many cards.
He storms the streets in a mindless rage, then meditates among the rubble.
This is an exciting design, but I suspect most people would be afraid to play it.
This card has a really high amount of downside. If my opponent's kill it in combat, I lose not only my creature but also my entire hand. If it hits my opponent, I am getting anywhere from highly rewarded to moderately rewarded, depending on the size of the blocker. If I am expected to play a card with this much downside, I want the reward to be more reliable.
Nice big swingy effect. I enjoy large creatures like this so I doubt the other judges will like it better. It's close to being a mono-red card but just a little weird on the draw effect that I can believe the green part. Giant Warrior Druid indeed!
This card is interesting in that it gives card advantage to Gruul, a guild that doesn't get much card advantage, but it does it in a very flavorful (and in color pie) way. I like it.
Overall Judge Commentary
This is the most impressive set of cards this week. Your passion for Guildpact is obvious. If you had the discipline to hold the line on commons, it would be my favorite set of the week.
My favorite things you did this week were new space for both haunt and replicate. I think you need to work on commons more. This week some of your commons were either too complex, or too wordy, or too swingy. My favorite card of yours was Lightning Round; I think it is a sweet use of replicate, despite the fact that I think the card is the wrong rate.
All in all, I'm less happy with the rarities, but more happy with the gold cards. I appreciate all the flavor text in these submissions that shows a keen eye for the worldbuilding. We've been trying to move some processes like card naming earlier so they can get more scrutiny and iteration, and flavor text is another thing that could happen earlier.
The judges selected yours as the third-best design this week. I think you had the most innovative designs and did the most to explore new space that the set could have explored. Unfortunately, you turned in a booster pack with more uncommons than commons, and that sunk you. Part of this challenge was working within the constraints of the booster pack and that meant matching rarity constraints. Had you done that with equal innovation, I agree with Erik that I think you could have won this design challenge.
Chris, I think you had one big misstep with your rarities, but you definitely demonstrated that you're a great designer with the most innovation of anyone this week. You even had me reconsidering haunt, which unto itself is a pretty big deal, so I'm happy to tell you that you made the top three.