Guest judge Jules Robins
Jund fans, with our return to Alara, please savor bloodspill.
Cylian Physician – Bloodspill comes in three forms. First is this conditional: Attacking with a 1/1 and a 2/1 will do the trick.
Share Pain – Second form. Warriors like you don't begrudge the cost of doing business. When your enemy is too cowardly to defend themselves? Gravy.
Put those forms together to finally see the most representative use of bloodspill: Bloodthorn Acolyte.
Bloodthorn Acolyte – Acolyte rewards you for dealing damage to your opponent, but you can also choose to pay 3 life to enable it yourself. Jundians are happy to contribute their own blood to the gruesome cause.
Jund Vengeant – I'd pay 3 life to surprise an attacking 2/3. If they're too big to ambush, use the damage they deal to fuel the swing back.
Goring Taurean – It's unfortunate that double strike doesn't help after regular damage, but it's easy to arm Taurean before damage thanks to bloodspill.
Field of Gore – Field turns on your Taureans and Acolytes with a single payment. Unlike shock lands, it's also possible to use it immediately at no cost as long as you can make an opponent bleed—something I suspect you enjoy anyhow.
Blood Will Flow – Here's the third form of bloodspill. This Killing Wave will do a lot of work in your bloodspill deck, exsanguinating your opponent or their creatures and turning on bloodspill. If only you could benefit from spilling blood multiple times in a turn . . .
Insatiable Kresh – Bolas's villainous influence has twisted Kresh from a metaphorical Sanguinarian to a literal one.
Bloodspill engages both players in a heart-pumping struggle for life.
Cylian Physician (common)
Creature — Vampire Cleric
When Cylian Physician enters the battlefield, if you spilled blood this turn, gain 3 life. (You spill blood whenever a player loses 3 or more life.)
This is a fine common to get across that we are looking for packets of 3 or more life.
This is a fine common with your mechanic. I'll play it on turn two and be fine not getting the reward, but if I've damaged my opponent already, it's a reasonable bonus. That said, I expected this to be a green card. It's weird for a black card to just gain life. Usually there is life draining or life gain when a creature deals damage or dies. Just a straight-up life gain on a mono-black card is weird to me.
This design thematically feels like a Vampire, gives a moderate reward for playing with the mechanic without becoming unplayable without it, and aesthetically links numbers to create a satisfying package. All those good things said, there's a certain amount of dissatisfaction that will come with this card being extremely hard to maximize. Playing this on turn two won't trigger its ability. Trying to meet that goal for every card with this mechanic would restrict your mana costs too much, but it's wise to be wary of how many designs like this you'd need to justify the mechanic. This might have been a good spot to make a slightly more complex or less clean common that would let players feel like they "did it." (e.g., "Whenever you spill blood, gain 1 life.")
I'm a bit torn about bloodspill. I like that it's flavorful and cares about something game relevant, allowing for a lot of interactions with minimal text. I'm less excited that it might discourage attacking and cause games to slow down. I'm also worried that not enough players understand that damage becomes life loss. I do like that you made a simple common with a straightforward "enters-the-battlefield" trigger, but I wish you'd chosen a mono-black effect. (Melissa is correct that black only gets life when you drain something or in conjunction with sacrificing something.)
Share Pain (common)
You may spill your own blood. (To spill your own blood, lose 3 life.)
Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the most life any player lost this turn.
This is confusing. We have a similarly named mechanic, but it's different. A goal we have with names is that as you learn names, it becomes easier to understand what the other cards do. I am not sure why you wouldn't just write out "you may lose 3 life." Secondly, this deals with the total amount of life a player lost, not the packets of 3 or more life. I might change the "spilled blood" mechanic to look for a player who lost 3 or more life.
I dislike how narrow this spell is. Hard to cast before combat (because no one has been damaged yet), and hard to cast when I'm losing and have a low life total. I dislike the words here, and would prefer a cleaner "You lose N life, then . . ." The words you wrote here need to be processed. First, read the words, then understand why you would want to lose the life, etc. This is a hard-to-understand common in my opinion.
This is certainly some pretty different design space from your last card! Life payments appeal to a pretty narrow and Spikey group of players, so I'm skeptical that this space would ultimately prove worth all the complexity it adds to learning the mechanic. Assuming we did want to do this space, this is a solid design, but not a good common. It uses X (which, although not strictly prohibited at common, is a big hurdle for a lot of newer players), but moreover it asks you to track a quantity you weren't paying attention to. Other bloodspill cards are doing a binary check on the number 3, but this demands you keep paying attention after that threshold is met.
One of my pet peeves is mechanics that work differently on different cards. You spilling your own blood is different than blood being spilled (the first is active and the second is passive—that is, the first allows you to activate it while the second requires for something else to have happened). This is going to cause confusion. I would rather you just have spells that let you pay life and thus trigger bloodspill. Next, this is not a common design. First, it uses X. That's a red flag at common. Second, it lets you pay life, yet the effect of X might not be based on the action you're taking. Third, you made it an instant, increasing the chance people try to use it incorrectly in combat.
Bloodthorn Acolyte (common)
Creature — Goblin Barbarian
Bloodthorn Acolyte enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it if you spilled blood this turn or spill your own blood. (You spill blood whenever a player loses 3 or more life. To spill your own blood, lose 3 life.)
This is a good tension-filled creature. Given that you have two common creatures, it would be better to avoid putting the same converted mana cost, power, and toughness on both of them.
Appropriate common for this mechanic, and has Standard applications. That said, I am not a fan that your mechanic is actually two different things: a check for loss of life and a life payment. I would stick to only one.
This design skirts the "don't play it on turn two" issue, but bringing the two executions of this mechanic onto one card adds a lot of sequencing complexity for a player trying to maximize their plays—enough that I'd red-flag it at common.
You have one common where you need to spill blood, a second common that wants you to spill your own blood, and a third that lets you do either? I'm in the camp that all rarities should just have one option, but if you have more than one, at least put only one option at common. I agree with Erik that you should make your two common creatures with your mechanic different from one another.
Jund Vengeant (uncommon)
Creature — Human Warrior
You may cast this spell as though it had flash if you spilled blood this turn or spill your own blood. (You spill blood whenever a player loses 3 or more life. To spill your own blood, lose 3 life.)
Be careful mixing passive conditions and active costs like this. Draconic Roar and friends did that in Dragons of Tarkir, for an idea of what the words for this look like, though this would be even weirder.
Flash is a bit of an oddball, in that it is harder to take make someone lose 3 life. This seems appropriate at uncommon.
I like this design. I like the choices here. Can ambush or punish my opponent for attacking me. But with previous feedback I dislike that the mechanic is doing too much. I think this is a cool card that stands on its own and doesn't need a keyworded mechanic. Also, it doesn't feel green, with the life payment.
This card plays well spilling your own blood, but presents a lot of potentially frustrating moments gaining its ability from blood being otherwise spilled. Casting it with flash on your own turn after damaging an opponent doesn't do much, even though you "did the thing," and while there's value to being able to cast this card at your opponent's end step after taking a hit, it's likely to make players aware of the lost value of not having flashed in to block.
I can have a surprise blocker if somehow before combat damage I've lost 3 or more life? I know there are tricks to make this work, but it's quite frustrating if you don't have the trick. You're going to want to pick effects that you're happy getting postcombat. And as Melissa said, spilling your own blood in colors other than black is going to feel odd. We have allowed all five colors to pay life in the right environments though, so this isn't a deal-breaker.
Goring Taurean (uncommon)
Creature — Minotaur Berserker
Goring Taurean has double strike as long as you spilled blood this turn. (You spill blood whenever a player loses 3 or more life.)
This is a bit odd in how weak it is when you don't spill blood.
Awkward card. Double strike matters before combat damage is dealt, so this is hard to turn on unless you have a lot of ways to damage yourself, face burn for your opponent, etc. This is the type of card I would expect to have the life payment, but it doesn't!
This design is going to trick players and lead to arguments. Most players don't know all the intricacies of how the rules work, and just assume their cards can do everything they look like they might be able to. As a result, they'll expect this card to get a second hit when it attacks or blocks and normal damage causes them to spill blood, but the first strike damage step will already be long past without another first striker, so instead they'll get nothing. Consequently, we would never print this card.
Again, you gave an ability you really want to gain before combat damage based on something that will most often trigger after combat damage. Double strike is particularly odd because if you have another creature with first strike or double strike (or triple strike in silver-border Magic), the creature will gain double strike just in time to not do damage twice. I understand you plan to have support for this mechanic to enable things when you need them, but if your designs can't work without the support, that's usually a sign that there's a problem.
Field of Gore (rare)
Field of Gore enters the battlefield tapped unless you spilled blood this turn or spill your own blood. (You spill blood whenever a player loses 3 or more life. To spill your own blood, lose 3 life.)
T: Add B, R, or G.
A tri-land is a Constructed card in a typical Standard environment, though you could consider making one a tad stronger. A "bolt land" is already very powerful: in Modern it is common to use a fetch land to get a shock land. To add more onto that is inappropriate.
This card enables three-plus-color decks too easily. Paying 3 life is a drawback for sure, but these lands will slant the format aggressively. This card widens the gap between strong aggro and strong control, and would push control decks out of Standard. I think if you were looking for a land that could turn on your bloodspill cards, an uncommon tri-land that enters the battlefield tapped and had an activation with a life payment would be cool.
This card is appealing on its own, but causes significant issues for the wider set and for Standard. Trying to print this card requires either a mismatch in mana fixing, or placing a constraint on all of the shards to have a thematic restriction they can use for a tri-land. As for Standard, it's important that mana fixing capabilities are pretty even across color combinations to avoid all of the strongest decks gravitating to the colors with the best fixing. We normally do dual- and tri-land cycles with the same condition to ensure their balance, and asking for five disparate conditions is almost guaranteed to result in one of them being significantly stronger or weaker than the others.
This design is more functional than pretty. It's the kind of card you have to teach less enfranchised players that it's worth actually playing because it won't seem attractive at first blush. In general, I like to be careful not to make mana generation that discourages some subset of players from playing it. (Remember that some players are bad at evaluating cards, either ignoring some aspect of it or not immediately sensing that this is strictly better than an "enters the battlefield" tapped tri-land. The knowledge of the power of shock lands might help, though.)
Blood Will Flow (rare)
For each creature, spill its controller's blood unless they sacrifice it. (A player loses 3 life when their blood is spilled.)
The extra terminology isn't helpful.
This card is hard to understand even with reminder text. It reads like I have to pay 3 life per creature, even the opponent's. I understand that's not your intent or how it works, but using these words is confusing, because it's telling the spell's controller to do something (spill its blood). This card is Killing Wave, which is not an innovative design, and I don't think this card is worth the keyworded mechanic. 1BB, "For each creature, it's controller sacrifices it unless they pay 3 life" is cleaner and more elegant text and removes confusion.
This is a cool punisher effect. The card is a little bit odd in that it loudly says to play it like a sweeper (that is to say, creatureless), but most of its actual strength comes with being able to put your opponent's life total under pressure. Having a few cards that surprise players in their use is positive; we just don't want too high a density. This card is also fairly weak, but that's appropriate as forcing these very Spikey decisions on a lot of players who didn't opt into them is liable to make them have less fun.
While this might seem like you're just using an already established ability in a new way, this is actually a new ability. Spilling your own blood is allowing you to pay 3 life (usually with the promise that life loss will be rewarded elsewhere on the card). Spilling the opponent's blood, is a punisher effect, forcing the opponent sent to choose one of two options. While related, those are actually different things. I appreciate you trying to maximize how much design space you can get out of your mechanic, but you're making similar yet functionally different mechanics rather than tweaking your mechanic.
Insatiable Kresh (mythic rare)
Legendary Creature — Vampire Warrior
When Insatiable Kresh enters the battlefield, spill each opponent's blood. (A player loses 3 life whenever their blood is spilled.)
Whenever you spill blood, put that many +1/+1 counters on Insatiable Kresh. (You spill blood whenever a player loses 3 or more life, and get 3+ counters as a result.)
I can't really tell what Kresh's last ability is doing with that reminder text. Up until now, I'd have assumed that Shock plus Prodigal Pyromancer would spill blood, but Kresh's telling me that doesn't count. This one is your actual third use of bloodspill—you're watching for a one-time event instead of an aggregate history. Blood Will Flow is just the same as "spill your own blood," but with various different bloods all flowing at once (eww). You've definitely got way too much going on with this keyword at this point.
This is very strange. Now it is packets of 3 or more life, put the counters aren't the number of packets, it is the size of those packets.
I think this is a great design, but I'm still having a hard time processing the words. Spill blood means that any player needs to lose 3 life, but you are using the words "you spill blood," which is confusing to me. I would expect it to say "whenever a player spills blood," but I don't really see a reason to keyword this. I think this card is nice. It looks fun in Standard and sweet in Commander, but I would change the first ability to read "each opponent loses 3 life" and "spill blood" to read "lose life."
This card will generate a lot of confusion. It puts a wording challenge for the two uses of the mechanic front and center: while the way they refer to players is technically consistent, in the context of spilling opponents' blood, checking if you've spilled blood is going to read to many players like it's just checking if you've lost 3-plus life. That confusion is more likely to come up for players that haven't played with many other bloodspill cards, but for those who have . . . Casting two Shocks on your opponent is going to turn on Cylian Physician, but won't trigger Kresh. This sort of inconsistency makes it much harder for players to get to a point where they feel like they understand the mechanic, and most people find it hard to have fun while actively confused. Finally, the way this card scales up in multiplayer will make it appealing, but only because it's ludicrously powerful. Players are always excited by power, but we can't just scale up the power level of cards in the game indefinitely, so that appeal comes at the price of excitement for future cards. In Commander specifically, this card just posing a one-shot commander-damage kill with any effect that grants double strike is not going to make for good gameplay.
I'm starting to get confused about what counts as spilling blood. I thought the mechanic just cared about any player losing life for any reason, but now you're talking about the act of spilling blood, which makes it sounds like you only count when you're actively spilling it. This is a side effect of you trying to use one concept to do too many things. It starts to break down what the mechanic even means. Also, why does this trigger off of spilling blood and not life loss? Do I only get counters when life loss happens in chunks of 3 or more? And it says "when you spill blood" but the card implies "when anyone spills blood." There's a design buried in here that seems like it might be cool, but I have no idea what exactly it even does.
Overall Judge Commentary
You're trying to use "spill blood" as both active (spill your own blood) and passive (if blood was spilled). That's fine in general, but you have them meaning very different things. One's a conditional check for something that happens all the time, the other sounds like it could be that, but it's really saying "pay 3 life." Players reacted poorly to the "two meanings" implementation of haunt, and I'd bet they'll have the same issue here. In normal design, I'd expect you to forge ahead with testing this, but you're going to need to chop something, either into its own keyword or un-keyworded mechanic.
You have packets of 3 life, pay 3 life, the most life a player lost this turn, and amount of life lost in a packet of at least 3 life. I did not enjoy this presentation. If you had picked one thing such as "if a player has lost 3 or more life this turn," there might be something. You could still have cards that let you pay 3 life, without creating keywords. An extra pass to create a coherent theme would have helped a lot.
Positives: What I like about this is that is checks for both players. I can play an aggro deck and usually my cards will be on, but if I am playing cards with life payments or my opponent is beating me down, I can get the bonus that way as well.
Negatives: First I think this mechanic is secretly two mechanics. One is a mechanic that "turns on" whenever a player loses 3 life. I think that is fine when it's on a handful of cards, but doing this too frequently it creates a hyper-aggressive Limited format. The second mechanic you made is "pay 3 life for a bonus." Each on their own is fine, but I think combining these into one mechanic is confusing. Does spill your own blood mean that I lost 3 life that turn, or have to pay life as part of this cost? I would have just made spill blood mean only one thing. It's cleaner and once you know what it means, you'll never have to read reminder text again. In your version, I have to double check to see if the spell has a life payment or turns on when a player already lost life that turn.
There are a lot of things to like about bloodspill. The baseline morbid-esque version fosters a number of distinct gameplay patterns: attacking with creatures, dealing damage directly to your opponent, paying your own life as a cost, and acting as a comeback mechanic on instants when you're getting beaten down. It cleanly fits into three colors, gives you a good reason to build new decks, and gives the player a quest that meshes well with basic Magic gameplay and cards from across Magic's history. Despite coming up with the best mechanic design of the bunch, I found your execution lacking. The version of bloodspill that lets you pay life muddies the message about what the mechanic's doing while having pretty narrow appeal, and the baseline mechanic already could have appealed to those very same players with the addition of a few independent life-payment cards. We asked you to show off range, but also to make cards that would all go in the same set, and the set would be worse off for these divergences in the core mechanic's functionality. You also completely ignored the low-hanging fruit of the mechanic for a low rarity design: a four-plus mana creature that will naturally curve at a point where the player can be triggering bloodspill in combat. You found a mechanic that has good gameplay without doing anything fancy. Use that space!
Jay, this design was a mess for me. Buried deep inside it is a potentially cool idea (mechanically caring about damage), but your execution had numerous problems, the biggest being that you tried to use one name to cover three distinct mechanics. This leads to all sorts of templating confusion as the player is trying to figure out which version of the mechanic you mean. When "my opponent spills blood," for example, does that mean they've lost 3 life or they've been forced to pay 3 life or they've opted to pay 3 life to prevent a different effect from happening? In your quest to consolidate everything under one umbrella, you've changed effects that we already have a template for. Why not just use "pay 3 life," rather than "spill your own blood"? It's a template Magic's used for most of its lifetime. Ideas are important, but they have to be executed well, and you fell down on this challenge in that area.
Jay, I'm sorry to say that we have to let you go this week. The competition is just getting tighter and tighter and you've had a few weeks where you've ended up on the bottom half of the challenges. You have the honor, along with Scott Van Essen, of being just one of two people to ever be in two different Great Designer Search Top 8s, and I know you have great potential. Keep at it. I have faith we will one day work together.