Great Designer Search 3 Finalist – Jeremy Geist

Posted in Feature on March 9, 2018

By Wizards of the Coast

Trial 2

Scored 75/75

Trial 3


Eli Shiffrin

Erik Lauer

Melissa DeTora

Guest judge Ethan Fleischer

Mark Rosewater

Design 1

Pick Your Poison (rare)
Choose any number of modes that add to exactly <4> You may choose the same mode more than once.
<1> Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.
<2> Create a 1/1 black Snake creature token with deathtouch.
<4> All creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn.

Oh, we're starting off with an impressively rules-splashy design! The rules to support this don't seem too bad, but it's definitely some work. Don't forget two important facts: Modes happen in the printed order, and targets are chosen before any of the actions are done. If a card's design looks strongly like it's asking you to break those rules, you'll be fighting your players, and no one wins there. This may limit your viable design space more than you think, though I'd still be very surprised if a perfectly awesome cycle of five or ten cards couldn't come out of this design technology.

The scaling cost is flexible, and novel, though some people won't enjoy the math.

I think there is something here, but what I actually see here is a four-choice modal spell in disguise. I think you could fix that by giving more choices and adding more numbers, but by doing that you get a super mathy card that is overly complex, and text that probably doesn't fit on a card. Additionally, I don't think these choices are all equal in weight. Two Snakes are not worth the same amount of mana as Infest, for example.

This design solves a common problem with modal spells: each mode must be roughly equal in power to each other mode. I'd want to playtest this with some less experienced players, but it looks like a new space worth exploring for a cycle of spells.

This was one of my favorite designs in that it plays into interesting untouched design space. As Eli said, there's a little more restrictions here than might appear at first blush, but you're tapping into something that could be a cool new component of a set. I also enjoy that one mode is green, one black-green, and one black. That's the kind of thing that makes the Mels of the world very happy.

Design 2

Bewitch (rare)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature
You control enchanted creature.
Enchanted creature gets -2/-2.

I like the direction here of a less impactful Control Magic. But I am still not a big fan. It isn't all that novel, and I don't know that a three-mana Control Magic is fun.

I think this is a cool Control Magic effect, but it's costed very aggressively. The drawback here does not justify the mana reduction here. I think this looks sweet with some number adjustments.

This is pretty interesting: a removal spell against small creatures, and a weak Mind Control against larger creatures. It'd actually try this at uncommon first to see how impactful it is in Limited. Normally Mind Controls are too strong compared to other uncommons, but this is worth trying, in my opinion.

I like this design. It manages to combine two different colors in a way that's unique yet simple. I also like that it can be used as a kill spell in a pinch, but more of the time will want to be used to steal larger threats.

Design 3

Mama Bear (common)
Creature — Bear
Mama Bear enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it if you control a creature with power 1 or less.

Common hybrid creatures aren't easy to do well. Very nice!

At common, this card will be the backbone of any green or white Limited deck, and a three mana 4/3 is very aggressively costed. I think the flavor is very cute, but remember to keep in mind how frequently players will see these at common. I would have taken a different direction with this; adding a counter to the smaller creature instead of Mana Bear. The flavor remains, and you won't be beating down with an overstated creature on turn four in most of your Limited games.

This is a very adorable card calculated to make me go "aww." It doesn't really feel much like a hybrid card to me, though, as I don't think green should care about small creatures in this way. Also, I worry about what sort of deck this incentivizes players to build: is it a fun one?

You managed to make a cute, new, flavorful common out of a hybrid card. That is not an easy feat.

Design 4

Pam, Shapeshifting Planeswalker (mythic rare)
Legendary Planeswalker — Pam
+1: You may choose a creature or non-Pam planeswalker on the battlefield. If you do, Pam becomes a copy of that creature or planeswalker and gains indestructible until end of turn. If Pam becomes a copy of a planeswalker, she may activate a loyalty ability once this turn as though none of her loyalty abilities have been activated this turn.
-2: Create a 3/3 green Ooze creature token.
-6: For each player, search his or her library for a creature or planeswalker card and put it onto the battlefield under your control. Then each player shuffles his or her library.

Be wary of giving planeswalkers indestructible—it won't save the planeswalker from damage-based removal, but if you say that a planeswalker gets it, it's easy to misconstrue that as your intent.

This is novel, but it takes so much text I don't know that it is fruitful.

I think this is a very cool +1. All of these abilities seem reasonable to me, as far as costs and numbers go. One concern I see here is the ultimate can be very time-consuming in a multiplayer game. Think about all the other players waiting around while you search each library. However, that is an easy fix, and overall I like this a lot.

I like the idea of a green-blue planeswalker that can shapeshift. The Ooze token is a nice simple thing that feels like it could fit thematically with a shapeshifting character. I really hate Bribery effects, but I guess as a planeswalker's ultimate it's okay, and if you have loyalty left over afterwards you can clone whatever the biggest thing is on your next turn. Just be careful of cards that punish players for casting good creatures (or planeswalkers) or even for including them in their deck.

I like each of your three activated abilities. Unfortunately, I don't understand what they have to do with one another. The key to good planeswalker design is to create something that allows the player to have an interesting set of interconnecting paths to explore, that by using the abilities in a certain order you can achieve some larger victory. Your paths don't really interconnect. On top of that your flavor doesn't bind them together either. Pam's a shapeshifter. That explains the +1 activation. Why is she making Oozes? Why is she able to summon other people's creatures and planeswalkers? It neither mechanically nor flavorfully hangs together. In short, I like your pieces, but they don't seem to be from the same jigsaw puzzle.

Design 5

Sign In Someone Else's Blood (common)
Sign In Someone Else's Blood deals 3 damage to target creature you control.
Draw two cards.

Another good common.

There isn't really anything new here, this is just Altar's Reap. There is an added bonus that sometimes your creature sticks around, and an added drawback that your opponent can remove the target, but I don't think there is anything very innovative here.

I dunno. This is only really an additional cost if the creature you target has 3 or less toughness. I'm pretty skeptical of this card's color pie appropriateness. Also, player's frequently use cheap card draw spells to help them out of mana screw; this card can't do that very well.

Good common multicolor design requires finding ways to tweak one color's ability by adding a component of the other color without making the whole thing too complex. You do a good job accomplishing this here.

Design 6

Whimsical Djinn (mythic rare)
Creature — Djinn
At the beginning of your upkeep, choose one at random that hasn't been chosen. If you can't, return Whimsical Djinn to its owner's hand.
– Whimsical Djinn deals 4 damage to each of up to two target creatures and/or planeswalkers.
– Whimsical Djinn gains double strike until end of turn.
– Draw three cards.

If a modal trigger can't have any of its modes chosen, it gets yoinked off the stack – it's awfully hard for an ability that doesn't resolve to bounce a creature. I'm confident I can work up changes to get this working the way you want, but I've learned that touching basic assumptions like this is a place that digital can have trouble, so my blessing comes with a loud caveat to talk to our digital liaison.

Very nice.

I think this card is great. I think it has the right amount of randomness. When I see a spell with random options like this I always ask myself these things: If I get the wrong choice, will that determine the outcome of the game, and will I be happy if I randomly get the choice I don't want. In this case it doesn't matter what choice you randomly get, because all these abilities are insane! If this thing gets all its modes off, I don't understand how the game is still going on. If you do even one of its modes, you will become very far ahead. I really like the design, but I think this card is too strong and swingy, and the rates on the choices can be toned down by quite a bit. A card like this is reasonable for something like Commander, but when designing for major booster releases you have to consider how cards play out in two-player games.

I don't really buy this card as a mythic rare; it's too goofy and random. These types of cards are very unappealing to Spikes, so I wouldn't want to push this for Constructed. That narrows its potential roles to Limited bomb and/or casual card. It's probably appealing enough on those axes to make it into a file for a playtest.

This design is playing in dangerous space. You're trying to make a card both Spike and Tammy would like, and that's tricky. Mostly you accomplish this task in that while the abilities are different, they're all pretty useful. I do believe this card would be exciting/fun to play. My one technical note is that I would change your first mode to be a little simpler. Normally when you have a card that requires players to parse a lot of different sections, you want to make each of them as easy to understand as possible. Having two different targets of which it can be two different card types seems a bit much. Also, if you want to make the Mels happy, I would do the one blue ability, one blue-red ability, one red ability trick.

Design 7

Mix (uncommon)
Attach target Aura enchanting a permanent to another permanent it could legally enchant.
Attach target Equipment to target creature.

This is a very coherent split card.

Cute, but this card is super narrow. The reason for making split cards is to give players choices and versatility, and this card doesn't really do that. This could easily be on a one-mana hybrid non-split card. If both halves were instant, then at least you have a bit more flexibility here. It looks like Match's functionality is to reduce an equip cost, or temporarily move an opponent's equipment onto your creature. I don't think that effect is strong enough to be worth a card.

Both of the modes on this card are extremely narrow, and both are pretty weak effects. I'm having trouble imagining putting it into a deck, even at 1 converted mana cost for each side.

The lack of a parallel structure messes up the aesthetics of the card for me. Usually you don't want split cards to be so close without being the same. Also, this seems like it just wants to be a modal mono-white card and not a dual-colored split card.

Design 8

Sorin, The Prequel (mythic rare)
Legendary Planeswalker — Sorin
+2: Each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.
-3: Exile target nonland permanent an opponent controls until Sorin, The Prequel leaves the battlefield.
-10: Create a legendary 8/8 white Angel creature token named Avacyn, Angel of Hope with flying, vigilance, indestructible, and other permanents you control have indestructible.

This fits, but I don't like piling on "the whole game is removing this planeswalker."

There is some interesting tension here with exiling a creature and then having to protect this planeswalker or else they get their creature back. However I think as a package this planeswalker is very weak. It's pretty expensive at five, and when you plus it all you're getting is a drain. Since the plus is not worth doing, then you're putting this in your deck to use the minus, and this minus is not worth five mana. It looks like this card was made with multiplayer in mind, if it was I think it would be more interesting if the ability scaled with the number of players in the game (exile a creature for each player). As is, I believe this card is too weak to excite players.

This is nice and flavorful. The +2 ability plays into Sorin's primary identity as a Vampire. The -3 ability resembles the Helvault's ability, and Sorin's ultimate creates an Avacyn token. If we ever did some sort of flashback set about early Innistrad, a design like this might be appropriate.

My notes on this card are similar to my notes on your last planeswalker. I like the pieces, but they don't add up to a compelling whole. If Avacyn, for example was a */* creature where her power and toughness was equal to your life total, then your life drain to get to the ultimate would have meant something. If anything, your middle ability decreases the chances you'll ever get to the ultimate, because once you lock something away, the ultimate essentially turns into -11 as you want Sorin to survive the ultimate. I do appreciate the flavor, and the tie to Sorin helps make this feel more cohesive than Pam, but there is still a bunch of tweaking I would want to see before we printed this.

Design 9

Remember Your Charlemagne (uncommon)
Target artifact or non-Aura enchantment you control becomes a 5/5 creature in addition to its other types until end of turn.

Fine, though not all that novel given Ensoul Artifact.

This is a good idea. I think it is very hard to build around. Most Limited decks don't play many enchantments, making this a very narrow combat trick. If you are building a Constructed deck around this card, I'm not sure when you'd want a temporary 5/5 in your enchantment deck. I think a more interesting approach would be to make this an Aura that animated an enchantment permanently (something we've done before for artifacts).

Sure, I buy this as a white-blue card. This looks like a narrow and weak Limited card. I don't know that it's an appropriate reward for filling your deck with artifacts and/or enchantments, but maybe it's worthy of a slot.

This is a cute overlap of a white and a blue ability. I'm glad you caught the Aura issue and skirted it. I agree with the other judges that it seems a bit narrow. All in all, a clever design, but one that would only work for a small number of sets (and thus, doesn't quite fit the "design for an unspecified Standard-legal set" rule).

Design 10

No Humans Allowed (uncommon)
Creatures you control get +1/+0 and have trample as long as you control no Humans.

I like this build-around uncommon.

A nice, simple uncommon enchantment that can be built around for Limited and will excite players for Constructed. Cool!

Humans, as Magic's largest tribe, are in kind of a weird space. The idea of "non-Human tribal" has some merit. It presents some challenges for the Play Design team and the card conceptors, but I think that it's space worth exploring for the right setting.

This is an interesting design in that it's anti-tribal. That's not something we do often. I think you could have made a mix of abilities where red and green added different things to the mix rather than only hitting their overlap.

Overall Judge Commentary

You have a lot of nice cards, and some novelty. Your designs are the most elegant and polished of the group. It almost feels like you are "playing it safe," which is terrific strategy for making sure your polished designs get you to the Top 8. It is time to take some risks, try to impress more than merely survive, and see how things turn out.

Overall, I thought your ideas were interesting. Many of the ideas were innovative, explored new design space, and were deep. However, your power levels were all over the place. When evaluating for power level , try to imagine how this will play out in a typical Limited game. If a card is a savage beating in Limited, take a look at the rarity. If it is anything below rare, try again. If it's rare or mythic rare, ask yourself how much fun this would be if you lost to it. I'm not saying that Limited is the most important format for our major booster releases, but playing with a limited pool of cards is how many people experience Magic. While your higher-rarity cards looked very cool, many of them were over the line in power level.

You have a good grasp of how to make top-down designs and have some cool new ideas for things we can do with Magic cards. Generally, your cards look like they would be fun if they actually get to be cast. Remember your audience! Each card should ideally be an object someone will want to own and put into a deck. If a card doesn't do enough, people won't want to play with it. Obviously we don't always get there with every card, especially with the commons in a set, but it's an important priority to keep in mind.

You had the third-best design test. You had a good mix of polish and innovation. You clearly have a solid grasp of the craft of Magic design and you have a lot of cool ideas. I agree with Erik though that I felt you were playing it a bit safe, which was probably a fine strategy to get you here. For the challenges, I want to see pushing your designs a little more. You have a strong sense of flavor and your cards holistically feel right, but you don't have much splash. I need to see cards that make my eyes pop out when I see them for the first time. My response to your cards was "Yeah, we could make that or something similar to that," but never "Wow!" I need to see some "Wow!"

Challenge #1


Eli Shiffrin

Erik Lauer

Melissa DeTora

Guest judge Alexis Janson

Mark Rosewater

Tribal Choice: Rogues

Contestant Comments

I approached this assignment with several goals in mind. First, I wanted to create a tribal archetype that challenged the default tribal strategy of generating a bunch of identical token creatures and boosting them with +1/+1 lords. Second, I wanted to create an archetype that captures players' outside knowledge of the creature type. Third, I wanted to create something that would be interesting to play in self-contained formats like Limited while still being backward-compatible with cards people already owned. Choosing Rogue let me meet all three of these.

When you think about a group of rogues working together, you think of the classic heist movie, which I tried to emulate with my designs. The creatures get better with Rogues with different names, which encourages you to assemble a ragtag bunch of misfits with different specialties while not being too much of a hoop to jump through. The noncreature cards support the archetype, as well as many previous Rogue cards, while exploring the surprisingly uncharted territory of heist tropes in Magic.

Favorite card of this batch: Impersonate. It captures a common trope really well and creates lots of funny play moments.

Design 1

Intelligent Informant (common)
Creature — Vedalken Rogue
When Intelligent Informant enters the battlefield, draw a card if you control a Rogue not named Intelligent Informant.

This is a very good common. It immediately reveals the major theme of the tribe, and matches the color. I would put this text on a four-mana creature, to increase the chance that it works the first time they play it (which is more important at common).

Cool simple common. Something I would first-pick and build a deck around.

I really like this line of text, it feels very different from "control another Rogue" even though it's probably not much different in practice. It gets your theme across in a common-compatible way. Excellent job!

This is a simple design that plays into your "spread out with different Rogues" theme. I like it. I agree with Erik that I might make it more expensive to increase the chance of the enters-the-battlefield effect happening.

Design 2

Backstreet Maneuver (common)
Target creature gets +1/+0 and gains indestructible until end of turn. If that creature is a Rogue you control, create a 1/1 black Rogue creature token.

I like combat tricks that are worth playing in Limited. This is an appropriate common reward.

Also nice. Doesn't need to be in a Rogue deck, but becomes much stronger if it is, which is great for a common.

I don't understand the story being told here. These effects feel arbitrarily stapled together. If the story was one Rogue helping another, I'd expect a creature with flash, which I suspect you avoided due to design constraints. Overall not a fan of this card.

Another simple common design. Like many of the other designers, you hit upon the need for common cards to reference just a single card of the tribe. My only complaint with this card is I'm not sure a creature token is the right reward. It feels separated from the effect. I would tend to grant a flavorful additional ability to Rogues (something like deathtouch).

Design 3

Hulking Henchman (uncommon)
Creature — Ogre Rogue
Hulking Henchman's power is equal to the number of differently named Rogues you control. (Tokens have the same name as their creature types.)

That reminder text isn't really true—they have the same name as the creature types they were created with unless otherwise specified—but I'd hope that you wouldn't make this matter in your set by having multiple different Rogue tokens. (Spoiler alert: the same goes for your eighth design.)

This is a potent and appealing uncommon reward in black, and is an appropriate draft-around card.

This is promising design space. It makes me think about deck building in a unique way.

A simple execution that demonstrates your theme, and a card that strongly encourages me to go deep on that theme. I'm a little worried about the tension of your theme with duplicates in Limited, but I'd be excited to try it in a playtest.

I like that you've chosen your larger theme and have designed cards that clearly communicate your intent. I like that the toughness wasn't a variable so your opponent can have an answer to it. I like that you recognized an area of confusion and provided reminder text (even if, as Eli points out, you got it slightly wrong). I have some larger worries about your theme in that it requires a much higher as-fan of Rogues to pull off in Limited, but I do appreciate the pushing into new design space.

Design 4

Clever Disguise (uncommon)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature can't be blocked.
If enchanted creature is a nonlegendary Rogue, it's named Innocent Citizen and has "U: Exile this creature, then return it to the battlefield under its owner's control."

Congratulations, you're the first designer this season to step in a pile of layers! Text changes, like names, are handled in a separate layer of continuous effects before type changes. We'd have to investigate whether to juggle around the layer system or push back on this card. Maybe the name change is just being too cute and the card is better off without it?

This is great flavorful design. It feels appropriate for a Rogue, and gives enough value that it could work in a Rogue deck. Getting to dodge removal one time means we still play an interactive game. Well done.

This has cool flavor, but isn't really anything new (Ghostly Wings comes to mind). I like that it's not useless in non-Rogue decks.

I love the flavor and this combination of mechanics and useful trinket text. If it weren't for the constraints of this challenge, I'd want this to work on any creature. It's more versatile, players feel clever when they figure out that it combos with Rogues, and it's likely to end up in someone's Limited deck so the cool thing will happen.

This design is flavorful and has some interesting interactions if you have enough Rogues with enters-the-battlefield triggers such as Intelligent Informant. I'm not sure why you have the nonlegendary rider; I'm guessing flavor. I would not give it a new name (for my reason and Eli's) and let it affect legendary Rogues.

Design 5

Impersonate (rare)
Destroy target creature you don't control. You may have a Rogue you control become a copy of that creature until end of turn, except it's still a Rogue.

This is my favorite design of this set. Having an effect that only lasts until end of turn creates an exciting moment, while minimizing the memory issues. This could be a Standard Constructed card. In Draft, while it rewards Rogue decks, it is powerful enough that anyone playing these colors would take it.

I love this card. It's definitely your best card, and I think it's the best card in the entire challenge. It's really hard for sorcery removal to hit competitive Constructed. This one has a shot because of its unique flexibility. Great job!

A simple one-shot Evil Twin is an interesting and reasonable card. I really like how you've taken a relatively simple, existing mechanic and given it new life in how it interacts with your set theme—this is a critical skill for being able to create thousands of Magic cards and yet keep the game feeling fresh and new. I would probably make the second ability target "up to one," as it's important to allow players to meaningfully respond to spells.

This is clearly your best design (as the judges above—and you yourself—have said). It has a wonderful blend of flavor and cool gameplay. I like that the copy remains a Rogue to allow it to continue having tribal interactions.

Design 6

The Crow and Squirrel (rare)
Legendary Land
T: Add C.
3, T: Look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a Rogue card among them and put it into your hand. If you do, sacrifice The Crow and Squirrel and you lose life equal to the revealed card's converted mana cost. Put the rest of the revealed cards on the bottom of your library in any order.

Watch out when you say "You may X and Y." If one of them is impossible, it's super weird. This can be fixed easily by changing it to flow more like "You may reveal, if you do, put it in hand, lose life, and sacrifice this" but I've seen some designs that couldn't be saved so simply.

I like the impulse effect, but only one time (rather than dominating the late game). I think this is an appropriate Constructed card (at the right activation cost; I suspect 3 is too much mana).

The design here is fine, but I don't think it's exciting enough to be a rare. Sacrificing something to be up one card has been done before at lower rarities (see Haunted Fengraf). I think would be a sweet uncommon for Limited that is also relevant for Constructed play. I don't think it needs to be legendary; there is a huge cost in playing multiples in your deck.

This design does not feel particularly inspired mechanically; we have lots of lands that, once you hit a certain point in the game, let you trade them in for a specific type of card in some way. The flavor of "hiring a rogue from the tavern" is reasonable, but I'm not sure why I'm losing life. Surprised this didn't dig based on unique card name somehow.

This card is flavorful and fun. My biggest note is that I don't think you need to sacrifice the land for the second ability. This is a rare, it can net you continual card advantage. (Although Erik disagrees, and this is an area I trust Erik more than myself.)

Design 7

Diamond Falcon (mythic rare)
When you cast Diamond Falcon, target opponent gains control of it.
Creatures get +1/+1 as long as they're attacking you and an additional +1/+1 as long as they're Rogues.
Whenever you draw a card, each opponent draws a card.

My 2/2 attacks you as a 3/3, gets blocked by your 2/2, and then after combat drops dead. That Diamond Falcon was cursed! Cursed! This should just be a triggered ability to buff the creatures when they attack so they don't fall prey to villainous state-based actions. Watch out for that mandatory draw, too. It's not too hard to end the game in a loop of draws where it matters who draws how many cards first. It can get pretty confusing to figure out whose deck runs dry first.

This is appealing, either in a Rogue deck or a multiplayer game. It feels like the controller should get something, such as "T: Target creature gains flying until end of turn."

At first I wondered why my opponent needed to gain control of this, then realized how interesting that makes it for multiplayer. I think this is an interesting card for Commander, but what's weird about it is the strong part about this card doesn't require me to play Rogues. I think it would be more interesting if the reward for controlling Rogues were a little stronger, like maybe they become unblockable or have a saboteur trigger when they hit the chosen player, and the non-Rogue parts were a little weaker.

An awesome trope, but I'm not convinced you nailed it. I would've expected a one-shot saboteur payoff. Mechanically, this design barely cares about Rogues. The card draw is almost worth it alone, and although I am clearly encouraged to play as many Rogues as possible, the reward doesn't really feel distinctly Rogue-like. It just feels like a generic tribal lord stapled onto a generically powerful card.

This is another cute card playing into a fun Rogue trope. Magic's dipped its toe into this design space, but I agree there's a lot of room for more exploration. I agree with the other judges that this could matter a bit more for Rogues.

Design 8

Merciless Mastermind (mythic rare)
Creature — Rat Rogue
Whenever Merciless Mastermind deals combat damage to a player, that player loses X life and you draw X cards, where X is the number of differently named Rogues you control. (Tokens have the same name as their creature types.)
Sacrifice another creature: Merciless Mastermind can't be blocked this turn.

While this effect is very powerful, I am not excited by this card. Drawing that many cards per turn tends to put the game out of reach very quickly, even though the game might not end for a long time. However, the slot is fine, since it is a matter of finding the right scaling effects (perhaps mill them for X, then cast a card from their graveyard with CMC X or less).

I think this is a great and novel design. I wish I didn't have to sacrifice something to make it unblockable. I'm already being asked to keep a lot of creatures on the table to get maximum value out of this. Something like base menace or 1U: unblockable would be cool. Unbounded sacrifice is a little risky in other contexts, if cards like Zulaport Cutthroat or other dies triggers are in the same format. We use unbounded sacrifice very sparingly.

This reads powerful, but doesn't sound particularly fun for my opponent, and creates some awkward tension if the rest of my deck is trying to scale unique names as wide as possible. I was hoping one of your rares would really leverage the "unique names" theme and show me something we've never done before, but I can easily play four-ofs with this card and still have it be amazing.

My biggest complaint with this card is it should be legendary. It's not the kind of card you need four of on the battlefield, and the Commander community would hound you for not letting this be a commander. Plus, the flavor screams legendary. I do like how the card is a nice blending of blue and black.

Overall Judge Commentary

Your submission is very fruitful. First of all, I like your overall theme a lot. It is a novel tribal concept, and works well for Rogues. Secondly, it is really interesting as a potential Standard Constructed deck; this may motivate players to play a more diverse set of creatures, for a larger potential reward. Your designs are very fruitful. Some play in novel spaces, and your use of one shot effects is great. Well done!

Your cards were very well done. Flavor was great. You designed my favorite card of the challenge. I really like how the "cards with different names" changes the way I build my decks.

I really liked that you chose both a mechanical theme and a matching flavor concept that we haven't really explored yet. I'm actively excited to play the polished version of this. This is my favorite theme from this round, hands down, and you had the most individual cards that I want to put into a set. Please keep doing more of this.

You are the winner of this challenge. Rogue was an excellent pick and you executed on it wonderfully. Your play pattern was new and felt like it would play well (I should point out that there would be a lot of fine-tuning needed to balance the as-fan and duplication issues, but I believe they're all solvable). Your designs were flavorful, exciting, and encouraged deck building. My biggest gripe with this challenge was there were a bunch of small details that weren't optimized. You had strong ideas and designed good cards, but not always the best version of them. For the next challenge, I would like you to spend a little more time sweating the details. I want your execution to be as polished as your concepts, which once again, were very strong. Good job!


Jeremy, your designs have been strong so far. I want you to keep that up while finding new areas to stretch. Show me you're capable of (pleasantly) surprising us.

Challenge #2


Eli Shiffrin

Erik Lauer

Melissa DeTora

Guest judge Aaron Forsythe

Mark Rosewater

Contestant Comments

This assignment seemed easier than the tribal one at first glance, but it had a lot of secret challenges that I tried my best to work with.

The first was that there were maybe one or two names in the whole list of 25 that made sense as black cards. White, green, and red were well represented, and there were a decent number of blue cards if you squinted, but it was tough to make a resonant card in black. I basically built the entire set around Knife Thrower, since I couldn't do without it.

The second challenge was filling out the two mythic rare slots, since most of the names didn't make sense as huge, splashy cards. I tried making a Ringmaster planeswalker for a while, but it's really hard to make grokkable planeswalkers because they have so many moving parts.

The third was making the cards feel like they were from the same set. It's difficult to show traditional things like set-wide mechanics or synergies under the boundaries of the assignment, so I instead tried to capture the emotional feel of the circus: Exhilaration, anticipation, and exaggeration. It's no coincidence that Feats of Strength rewards you for having the strongest creature on Earth.

Favorite card of this batch: Trapeze Artist. It doesn't look much different from other cards like it, but it plays very differently and captures its flavor in a really elegant way.

Design 1

Trapeze Artist (common)
Creature — Human
When Trapeze Artist attacks, target creature you control gains flying until end of turn.

This is a simple and flavorful design. It is an excellent common. Typically, I like these having flying themselves; they would frequently give themselves flying, so why ask players to announce that every attack? But, in this case the flavor is worth it, and the stats are appropriate to make the choice more worthwhile.

Nice! Nothing new here, but this feels like a trapeze artist.

Nice flavorful common. We usually put this line of text on flying creatures to help break board stalls, but with the right stats, I imagine it would play great on a non-flier.

Simple and flavorful. A fine common. My only question is from a flavor standpoint: shouldn't Trapeze Artist also have flying? Aren't they both up in the air?

Design 2

Traveling Circus (common)
As an additional cost to play Traveling Circus, sacrifice a land.
Search your library for a basic land card and put it on the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.
Draw a card.

Standard only wants so many one-mana cantrips, especially those that shuffle. Draft only wants so many common shuffling effects. This pushes up against both of those, and I don't see this being so great that it would be worth using those resources. I would probably replace this with a card that merely puts the land in your hand.

Interesting idea for a mana-fixer. I'm a little skeptical of putting this at common. It creates a lot of shuffling for Limited, and feels bad if it gets countered. The biggest concern is the shuffling. As a common, this will go in many Limited decks and it's a card that you'll play multiples of, so I would worry how much this slows down games.

This is a redo of the Homelands card Renewal. Granted, it's two mana cheaper, but it's a redo of the Homelands card Renewal. Renewal is a better flavor for this card than Traveling Circus. This card probably plays fine, but the flavor isn't there.

Mechanically, I'm not sure this effect is worth a card and, I agree with the others, isn't a common. Flavorfully, the connection feels a bit stretched.

Design 3

Feats of Strength (uncommon)
Feats of Strength costs X less to cast, where X is the greatest power among creatures you control.
Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature.

Strength begets strength tells me "strength," not "feats of strength." If the effect were something other than making creatures bigger, it would feel more like "feats of strength."

This is deceivingly very strong. This will usually never cost seven. I would imagine that this will cost three mana on average, which sounds a bit strong for two permanent counters. I like the design and flavor.

Ah, a feats of strength card that cares about having a strong creature in play—I was waiting for one of those. But what does your strong creature do with all his strength? Put two +1/+1 counters on something. Not exactly the flavor I was hoping for. Additionally, the card is very unattractive—you've made a seven-mana version of a three-mana card.

I like this card. It's one of the few Feats of Strength designs that actually feels like a circus interpretation. I imagined a strongman/woman holding up an Elephant in the art. Referencing the highest power as a means for cost reduction is interesting.

Design 4

Knife Thrower (uncommon)
Creature — Vampire Rogue
Knife Thrower enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters.
Remove a +1/+1 counter from Knife Thrower: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn. Activate this ability only when you could play a sorcery.

This matches a knife thrower, but isn't all that novel. It is a fine card.

Cool design and looks fun, appropriately uncommon, flavor is on point. Nice job. Also, a nice build-around; I'm going to be looking for ways to add counters to this.

A mini-Triskelion with a bunch of restrictions on it makes for a totally passable uncommon Knife Thrower. Looks fun to draft with cards that add +1/+1 counters to things.

I like this card, with one note. I would put some mana on the activation. As a general rule, we like to have "shields down" moments on effects that can kill creatures.

Design 5

Three Rings (rare)
When Three Rings enters the battlefield, exile the top three cards of your library.
If you would draw a card, instead put a card you own that was exiled by Three Rings into your hand, then exile the top card of your library.

Is it intentional that you'll never lose to decking while you've got Three Rings out? It's a little subtle that the last ability links to itself—consider whether it's okay if you exile the card first then let you pick from four cards to put into hand. That might not actually help, but it's worth considering ways to get players to play your card as intended.

The flavor fits, and the game effect is a lot like Mirri's Guile. I think players would like it, at a Constructed mana cost.

Weird design to me. You are investing three mana into this card, and you are only getting limited card selection and not even gaining any cards, and my opponent knows all of my draws for the rest of the game. I don't think it's worth putting this in my deck.

This is a "fixed Mirri's Guile," but I don't know that that card needed that much fixing. Your opponent knows every card you draw—or could­ draw—which would drag the pace of play way down. On top of that, you can't even do any shuffle tricks to see a new batch of cards. This needs work.

You need to be aware when you design a card close to a pre-existing Magic card. R&D and the players will view the design through that lens. I always ask if I'm improving upon a design when I'm making something similar to a thing we've made before. In this case, I'm not sure that this is a better Mirri's Guile, mostly because of the reason Melissa and Aaron bring up—the cards have to be made public. As for flavor, a card called Three Rings has to do more than just mechanically connect to the number three.

Design 6

Clown Car (rare)
Clown Car enters the battlefield with X troupe counters.
At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a troupe counter from Clown Car. If you do, create a 1/1 red Clown creature token.
2: Put a troupe counter on Clown Car.

This feels more like an army recruiter than a clown car.

Looks cool and fun. Good flavor. You get the creatures too slowly, which makes this look weak for Standard, but with numbers tweaks it looks like a fun card.

Cool card, hard to tell exactly how powerful it is, but I appreciate the options it gives you. You can cast it for a huge number, or something small-ish and then refill it whenever you have spare mana. My only complaint is that the "car" concept really connotes "Vehicle," and this isn't a Vehicle nor does it play much like one. Still, I like it.

I'm mixed on this one. I agree with Aaron that it's real odd to have a car and not have it be a Vehicle. With that rather big caveat, I like this design a lot. It's both functional and flavorful. Clowns keep getting out of the car. The one thing missing is I would have added some Clown tribal to encourage players to build around this card. It's a rare, so it could have had a global Clown tribal effect added and would make this more of the build-around Clown card it wants to be.

Design 7

Redundo the Magician (mythic rare)
Legendary Creature — Human Wizard
Whenever you cast a spell, you may activate one –
•  R: Redundo deals 2 damage to target player.
• 1U: Return target creature to its owner's hand.
• 2W: Create two 1/1 white Bird creature tokens with flying.

That's a spiffy new modal thing. It's going to behave somewhat strangely in digital and the rules underlying it will be odd, but I'm confident this can be a real thing. I hope you've got a cycle cooking here, because it'd be a lot of work from multiple groups for one card.

This has a resonant feel, and plenty of knobs for development. This is my favorite card of yours.

Definitely reminds me of a magician. Abilities look fun, but the rates look pretty weak. You are already paying mana for a spell, which makes it difficult to activate these, especially making Birds. I think this is close. For a five-mana investment, I would want a little more. I would cut the colorless mana from the activations (and make only one Bird).

I don't think this template works, and the words we'd need to put on it to mimic the functionality I imagine you're after aren't pretty. If the card worked, it feels like it would be frustrating for someone most of the times it's played. Either you invest five mana into something that dies easily, or it sticks and the game snowballs out of control. The magician flavor is in there, but there's a lot of other stuff going on so it doesn't come through clearly.

I don't think templating these as activation costs was the right choice. In general, this card seems like it would play well although I agree with Melissa that I would try to get the costs down to allow you to better interact with spells. I get the second two abilities being from a magician (making things disappear and making doves appear), but I'm less clear on the first one.

Design 8

Human Cannonball (mythic rare)
You can't cast spells.
At the beginning of your end step, if you didn't cast Human Cannonball this turn, sacrifice it. If you do, Human Cannonball deals 5 damage to each creature target opponent controls and 5 damage to you.

I am the cannonball! I suspect the card would need some testing and changes. However, it is a very impressive concept, certainly appropriate for mythic rare.

So, the first words I read are "You can't cast spells." That is quite the drawback. This card better win the game or something! Then after reading it, it's nothing more than a wrath with even more downside! As a mythic rare, this card needs to read exciting and splashy, and with two different drawbacks, it's a miss for me. I like your ambition; mythic red noncreatures are the hardest to design. Flavor is A+.

This is definitely a web comic. It's funny and fun to read, but wow is that a lot of downsides for a mythic rare. If I needed a mythic rare, I'd be unhappy if this was the submission. If I just needed flavorful cards, maybe there's a thread here worth pulling . . . maybe.

I like the boldness of trying Human Cannonball as something other than a creature (you are the cannonball). I assume the flavor is the Human Cannonball is being used in a combat situation. This design seems like it's going to cause more confusion than lead to fun gameplay. I'd rather have some countdown mechanism that didn't keep you from doing stuff.

Overall Judge Commentary

Generally, I like your card set. You took some ambitious shots, and have some simpler cards with extra decision space. I dislike the Travelling Circus. Sometimes it is necessary to make a card a cantrip to make it strong enough, but we have plenty of people who can do that, and plenty of cantrips already. Every "incidental cantrip" you make is a missed opportunity.

I think you did very well here on flavor, but a lot of your cards looked more fun to read than fun to play. Mythic rares especially need to wow players. I would avoid making a mythic rare with so much downside, despite the amazing flavor. It was very fun to read that card's story, but it wasn't a card I was interested in playing. We are looking for a good balance between cards that are both flavorful and fun to play.

Most of your cards were a little off. Even among the couple I liked, there were things that felt off. I didn't get much of sense of an environment and I had issues with several of the flavor executions. You were in the bottom bunch for me this week.

The judges picked you as second best of the week (obviously, Aaron was less of a fan). You had a good mix of flavor and functionality. When you hit, you were on (Trapeze Artist, Knife Thrower, Clown Car, Redundo) and when you missed you often had cool concepts that we liked even if the execution was a bit off (Human Cannonball). You're the only person to make top three in all three judgings so far, which puts you in the frontrunner position.


Jeremy, my advice is to keep doing what you're doing and I think the Top 3 is in reach.

Challenge #3


Eli Shiffrin

Erik Lauer

Melissa DeTora

Guest judge Jules Robins

Mark Rosewater

Contestant Comments

Bloodied is an ability word, primary in black and red and secondary in white, that gives you various bonuses if you lost life during the current turn.

By nature, bloodied is an A/B mechanic, and because all my cards had to have the mechanic, I unfortunately couldn't demonstrate the "B" of cards that make you lose life. The theoretical support environment for bloodied includes things that can ping you like Forked Bolt, life payment like Sign in Blood, and aggressive creatures like Horde Ambusher. White would probably have to bend a little bit to get these effects, but there's precedent (Adanto Vanguard) and my common white card can be cast at instant speed to make use of your opponent's attacking creatures.

I made sure to avoid the pitfall of creating an environment where players would be afraid to attack lest they trigger bloodied effects. Many of the cards trigger primarily during your turn, and the ones that don't are hidden information or higher rarity. The Modern mana base also lets you trigger bloodied essentially at will, so I designed with that in mind.

Favorite card of this batch: Let's give Handy Assassin a . . . round of applause!

Note: I'm not sure if Truzi is a bend or break. I put it in black-red on the basis of black now being secondary in flash and Quicken effects making sense in red and being on Hypersonic Dragon. I feel like bloodied also makes it make more sense flavor-wise.

Design 1

Goblin Tag Team (common)
Creature — Goblin Warrior
Bloodied — When Goblin Tag Team enters the battlefield, if you lost life this turn, create a 1/1 red Goblin creature token. (Damage causes loss of life.)

This is a fairly simple mechanic, and one that enable cards that are in an appropriate power level in both Standard and Modern. However, it does not have a wide enough appeal for a Standard set. For a common, it is too challenging to get the reward. In practice, I would adjust your mechanic. So, for the rest of this assignment, I am changing your mechanic to "if any player lost life this turn."

How am I losing life in my main phase? Secretly not a two-drop, since I need to play a life loss card first.

This card (and mechanic) is very Spikey. The vast majority of Magic players are not interested in hurting themselves. On top of that, this card adds additional tension by being very hard to get full value from in Limited the turn you want curve into it. Again, fun decision point for a Spike, frustrating scenario for everyone else.

Bloodied ties into a natural part of the game—life loss. I do like that you included reminder text as I agree that many players might not realize that damage causes life loss. The tricky part about bloodied cards that are only cast on your turn is that it doesn't tap into the natural place that damage to you occurs: from your opponent's creatures. It means that you'll have to build enablers, which make the mechanic trickier to splash. Given all that, I do like that you made a vanilla version as your first common with a reward that should tempt you to try and make it work. As you have to combo with another spell or card to make bloodied work, making it cheaper makes sense.

Design 2

Debone (common)
Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
Bloodied — If you lost life this turn, you may return another target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. (Damage causes loss of life.)

The rules for conditional extra targets are weird. This needs to also return "up to one other target creature card" to work at all, but you'll still always be able to target two creature cards, even if you're not bloodied. That works for this design with minimal oddness, but I've seen others that took much more work to get to behave.

This is an interesting reward. At common, it risks creating some very stalled board states, where "playing around this" means not attacking for several turns.

I'm assuming there are lots of ways for me to lose life on my turn. Otherwise these cards just don't work! I think this design is too hard to do. A+B mechanics are very hard to draft, and are not satisfying if you aren't able to get your A or B cards. Since sometimes you aren't able to get your synergy, these cards have to have reasonable rates on their own (see madness from Shadows over Innistrad—fine if you don't madness them, huge cost reduction/reward if you do). No one will play a two-mana Raise Dead in their Limited deck.

Having this wide a gap in value exacerbates peoples' natural tendency to want to hold onto their cards for full value, but in this case, we might be tricking them. Disentombs are already slow, and waiting until you can cast another spell and hurt yourself, then cast this, and no longer have mana to deploy the recurred creature may lead to a lot of people dying "before they could do anything."

Goblin Tag Team was positioned in a place where you might cast it without triggering bloodied, but Debone feels like that will happen far less.

Design 3

Apprehend (common)
Tap up to two target creatures.
Bloodied — Those creatures don't untap during their controller's next untap step if you lost life this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

I think this is a bit more puzzling than I would want for a common.

Awkward timing here. I want to tap them so I don't get attacked by them, but then I don't meet the bloodied requirement. If I wait and get damaged by them, it's just a delayed tap anyway. I think tapping and freezing feels more blue than white.

This card steers clear of the extreme Spikiness, though it's a slightly strange upgrade since either way you cast it (without synergy) denies the creatures one attack step.

Now we get to bloodied cards that can be cast on your opponent's turn. While this version has more natural synergy, it suffers from a different problem: it discourages the opponent from attacking. Normally we like our conditions to be things that promote the game ending. We have to be careful when mechanics push toward slowing the game down. At first blush, this card seems odd as its main ability wants to be used before attack, but the extra ability locks them down, so it's functional post damage. Melissa is correct that "freezing" (tapping and they don't untap) is blue and not white.

Design 4

Handy Assassin (uncommon)
Creature — Orc Assassin
Bloodied — 1B, discard Handy Assassin: Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn. Activate this ability only if you lost life this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

This is flavorful, and appropriate for a comeback card.

This one is cool; it offers great flexibility for Limited. There are still some timing issues here. I can't kill the creature before it attacks me. However, I think this is a better execution than your previous designs. That said, -2/-2 is much stronger than a 3B 4/2, so it's pretty rare that I'm casting this as a creature. When making cards with choices, choices should be even in power level. I would add a stat to this somewhere so there is more of a choice.

This card also dodges the need to hurt yourself, but is doing strange stuff besides. I can't say I get why this design was preferable to an instant that gave -2/-2 or -4/-4 if you'd lost life. Well, other than that this is more decision-intensive to play with. If this is your mechanic, the set will already have plenty of that.

I'm a bit torn on this card. I like that you're branching out in how you're using your mechanic and I like how you're using bloodied to mimic effects that we normally do with a vengeance flavor (hurting creatures who hurt you). I wish though that the two sides felt more connected. Imagine a 2/2 that had an "enters-the-battlefield" effect granting -1/-1 to target creature. Now it feels like he's an assassin either way, but you can choose between a body versus a larger effect.

Design 5

Lightning Assault (uncommon)
Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain your choice of first strike, vigilance, or haste until end of turn.
Bloodied — If you lost life this turn, instead those creatures get +1/+1 and gain first strike, vigilance, and haste until end of turn.

The big challenge you have here is to not make it sound like you choose a keyword separately for each of your creatures. I'm sure your editor can find you some words, but fair warning: you might not like them.

This is appealing, but I am not sure haste is right. I would need to cast the creature, cast this, and lose life, all before combat. Unless "bloodied" is trivial (such as having lands that hurt you), that isn't going to come up enough.

This card is very weak if you aren't bloodied. The bonus is not very rewarding if you are bloodied. As a sorcery, I still am unsure how I'm using this. I'd need a high density of ways to damage myself to consider playing this in a Limited deck.

The kick to entwine space is cool, though haste is an odd reward when this card already costs two mana and is often played alongside another card to turn it on. It could work if there are enough creatures that make you lose life when they enter the battlefield.

I like that you chose a red-white effect, a white effect, and a red effect. I also would have not picked haste, though, because a bloodied sorcery is going most likely require another spell, meaning having mana to then cast a creature that turn feels like a bit much. I probably would have used trample instead.

Design 6

Truzi the Ambusher (rare)
Legendary Creature — Goblin Shaman
Bloodied — You may cast creature and sorcery spells as though they had flash if you lost life this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

This is an interesting black-red design. I find that bluffing is only fun if you need to pay a cost, so this might need an activation cost, such as T.

This card makes more sense as a bloodied card than your other designs. However, this is a very powerful effect on an aggressively costed creature. It's also not an effect we would normally put on a black-red card. I think the line of text is cool and rewarding, but it's bizarre to see this on a black-red Goblin. If my opponent had this in play and had mana untapped, I'd be too scared to attack them, and that doesn't sound fun.

This is certainly at least new color pie territory; I don't think it's implausible to explore, but I would be pretty wary of actually doing this. The fact that on its own the flash only comes after you're hit takes away a bit of the card's appeal, but also makes it significantly more fun to play against and worthwhile to build around. I appreciate how it subtly encourages you to play with other bloodied cards because with flash you can get their bonuses without an enabler.

I would have done this bloodied effect as a normal ability and then given Truzi a splashy, but not huge, bloodied ability. Making the build-around requirement itself require a hoop to jump through feels like too much.

Design 7

Berserker's Blade (rare)
Artifact — Equipment
Bloodied — At the beginning of your end step, if you lost life this turn, put a rage counter on Berserker's Blade. (Damage causes loss of life.)
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 for each rage counter on Berserker's Blade.
Equip 3

Very cool. I like the bloodied flavor!

After reading your seventh card, I'm still not understanding why this is triggering at the beginning of your end step. How are you losing life during your turn? For this mechanic to work the set would need lots of life payments, ways to damage yourself, pain lands, etc. I feel like this should just say "If you lost life last turn" but even that comes with memory issues. We did this with Paladin of Atonement.

I don't think this card is all that appealing, despite potentially becoming quite a big boost. While this is more powerful because it's easier to pull off, compare it to Banshee's Blade and ask yourself which one players would rather be doing.

Turning bloodied into an end-of-turn trigger feels like you're slightly changing how the mechanic works. I would have made it an activated ability you can use once per turn.

Design 8

Demonic Loan Shark (mythic rare)
Creature — Demon
B, pay 2 life: Draw a card.
Bloodied — At the beginning of your end step, discard your hand unless you lost life this turn.

This is an interesting "deal with the devil" card. I am nearly, but not entirely, forced to activate this at least once on my turn.

At least this card has a life payment, so I don't need to do extra work. However, that means this is actually a six-mana card. I don't think this is an exciting mythic rare. Very similar to Bloodgift Demon which you don't have to pay extra mana for. For a mythic rare, I would expect this card to have a sweet reward if I'm bloodied, not a drawback.

Adding a big, scary, drawback is not the secret to making broadly appealing mythic rares. The two types of players who like those are interested in either figuring out that it's worth dealing with the drawback for the rate on the card, or figuring out how to circumvent it. This card just tries to scare you without actually making you deal with the drawback at all, thus pleasing neither group.

I like your mythic rare being a bloodied enabler. I don't like your bloodied ability because it basically just says you have to use your activated ability. I would have done a flavorful but smaller bloodied effect.

Overall Judge Commentary

Pretty simple ability word. Do consider that you felt the need to add reminder text to all your non–mythic rares; if an ability word also needs reminder text, is it a little too quirky to be an ability word?

Your stated mechanic is off, because a mechanic with a large footprint needs to appeal to a very large portion of the player base. Fortunately, that is easy to fix. You were thinking about the right issues, such as whether the other player would not attack. While I don't always agree with your conclusions, you were in the right solution space. However, the appeal of a mechanic and whether the rules are intuitive do matter. My advice is to think more about whether less experienced players would appreciate your designs.

This is very A+B, and you need a high density of B to make this mechanic work. Losing life on your own turn with your own spells is not something that you usually want to do, unless you have to or are getting some huge bonus. I don't like this as an entire mechanic. Players will damage themselves too much and die. This kind of thing is fine in smaller doses, like Phyrexian Arena, Paladin of Atonement, or Vendetta. But for an actual mechanic, you're going to be damaging yourself a lot, and that does not lead to satisfying gameplay. I would prefer this much more if it asked you if you were damaged last turn, so you can rely on your opponent attacking you.

I'd immediately discard bloodied if somebody submitted it as a mechanic idea for a set I was leading (or change it into something like Jay's submission). The mechanic has very narrow appeal and forces you to put more cards with that same narrow appeal into a set to support it. Its interaction with fetch lands makes it easy to create Modern cards, but whatever shots we took in that space wouldn't justify the other asks on the set compared to just making a few designs with the text, perhaps as an un-keyworded Limited theme for a single color pair. Serving this audience is necessary, but we need to find ways to do it such that other players can also enjoy it. There are just too many non-Spikes to build the structural elements of our sets from things they won't like. Jay found a way to make a mechanic that caters to players who want this, but it has other appeal as well. The hardest part of Magic design is making things for people who aren't you. Your individual cards contained a few good ideas and a lot of passable ones, but they didn't come close to bailing you out of your misstep in mechanic choice.

This was clearly your worst performance so far in the competition. Your mechanic does a poor job of tapping into the natural state of the game that uses the element your mechanic cares about. This ends up either with forcing you to fill your deck with enablers or making a game state where one or more players are discouraged from attacking. Neither is a great choice. One of the perils of this challenge is you had to put a lot of eggs in one basket and you just picked a sub-optimal basket. I do think though, given the mechanic you chose, that you made some interesting card-by-card design choices.


Jeremy, you had a bad week. Shake it off. Don't let an off week disrupt the rhythm you've established. The lesson of this week is to make sure that your cards play into the natural components of the game and don't require too much external support.

Challenge #4


Eli Shiffrin

Erik Lauer

Melissa DeTora

Guest judge Jenna Helland

Mark Rosewater

Contestant Comments


Farrox is a savage plane of sword and sorcery, scarred by eternal war and possessing eldritch magic from an age beyond reckoning. The Five Tyrants, immensely powerful figures with entire continents at their command, constantly vie for control of the plane, crushing all before them and exploiting their own followers without hesitation. Grim barbarian tribes, unscrupulous mercenaries, and the secretive amphin lurk in the few places outside the Tyrants' grip.

Recently, the tide of battle has shifted in favor of Steel Tyrant Maxima, a ruthless general known to her devoted church as the Steel Archangel. Maxima is secretly a Planeswalker who, in the guise of secluded meditation, travels to other planes to learn their strategies and weaponry. This information advantage has caused her forces to claim more territory than any Tyrant in recorded history.

Excited by the prospect of war with such a powerful foe, Gore Tyrant Azazug, an unpredictable brute who views war as entertainment, has begun assembling his hordes at the border of the amphin jungles, where Maxima aims to conquer a magical pool of unlimited power. Meanwhile, Fear Tyrant Sireth, a powerful wizard whose ancient magic twists and deepens the primal fear within any living being, is close to making a move of her own. Who shall emerge victorious?

Favorite card from this batch: Azazug's Whim.

Design 1

Steel Sermon (uncommon)
Create two 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens for each Cleric you control.
"Azazug burned my forests, slaughtered my family, destroyed my civilization! Only in the ranks of the Steel Archangel shall you find the strength to avoid my fate!"

The scaling of this card is too severe for an uncommon. I would instead give you some Soldiers as a base case, and more soldiers if you control clerics.

Create three 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens.
Create a 1/1 white Soldier creature token for each Cleric you control.

Mechanically, this card is making an army, but I don't think that is shown in the art at all. I dislike a scaling effect like at common. It's too swingy. For a common, it shouldn't scale indefinitely.

Grade: C. It's a stretch to call this a white sorcery. The single, central figure pushes this toward being a creature card.

This art is a mismatch for a few reasons, the two biggest being that the creature in the art isn't a white Soldier and there aren't two of them. Remember that your art has to match the mechanics of your card, meaning if you start with the art, it's going to impact your mechanics. Case in point, don't make two creatures if your art shows one. Mechanically, this card isn't a common and it's an odd Cleric tribal card. Clerics in general are more about utility than attacking, so getting a lot of more creatures when you don't have a go-wide strategy is confusing. Maybe your set has Clerics using creatures in a new way (if you're doing a white-black Cleric theme, maybe your black Clerics are sacrificing creatures), but when you just have one card to show off a theme, you kind of want to do something that we can see without knowing the details of the execution. What exactly is your Cleric deck doing with a bunch of 1/1s? We don't know.

Design 2

Spell-Sigil Quieter (rare)
Creature — Human Cleric
Nothing can be the target of spells or abilities. Any player may pay 1 for that player to ignore this effect until end of turn.
Steel Tyrant Maxima emerged from her meditation chamber one day with visions of law magic and honorable medallions.

We've discovered that these "pay to ignore" effects tend to go over awfully on digital platforms. You need to pay to ignore before you need to choose the targets, not as you choose them. This card stops all the spells entirely, but it's still a big gotcha on triggered abilities and "up to N" target spells and abilities. There's no simple solution, but lots of small design tweaks you could make—for example, punish the first spell or ability that targets very harshly unless a tax is paid.

This is a splashy line of text. Very nice.

Nice ability for a Spike-friendly creature. I think paying 1 is too low of a cost to just have everything get targeted. It's kind of like a complex way of saying "The first time you play a spell or ability with a target, pay an additional 1." I would start the cost at 2. Interesting card, but I think it's too low-impact.

Grade: C. The flavor text feels disconnected from the art and mechanic.

Unlike the last card, I can believe the person on this card is a white creature. The problem I have is the mismatch between the ability and the action shown in the illustration. The man in the art is swinging a hammer and is using magic to enhance it in some way. This implies that the hammer is going to be performing the function on the card. If you were affecting combat in some way, that would work, but instead you're creating a static effect that stops abilities. That feels like a disconnect. Forgetting the art, you've matched the mechanical constraint. I just wonder whether this effect, that also affects you, is something you're going to want in a deck with the creature it's attached to. I probably would have made this card only affect other players.

Design 3

Amphin Soothsayer (common)
Creature — Salamander Shaman
You may have Amphin Soothsayer enter the battlefield tapped. If you do, scry 1.
"A portent of flame. Our lands shall soon be stricken with war."

Having something make you scry while something else changing zones is a nightmare of replacement effect logistics. Let's go with "when you do" so it'll be a trigger that happens later instead of a replacement effect. There's still one fun question: If it's already entering tapped, can you choose for it to also enter tapped for its own ability? I'd recommend we go with yes.

This choice makes an interesting and appropriate common.

I like the tension on this card. Very interesting common. The art does depict a blue non-evasive creature to me.

Grade: B. Good choice on creature type. Don't understand flavor text with art.

This matches the art well enough. The card trades a turn blocking for deck filtering. It seems like a fine common design.

Design 4

Font of Eternities (mythic rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may choose a card you own from outside the game, reveal that card, and put it into your hand.
"How long has this impossible magic lain here, treated by the amphin as a hole from which land-dragons occasionally spill?" —Scout's journal

I'm not sure whether you thought that you had to reveal the card for some rules reason, but nah, the rules are cool with not revealing it.

This is a cool design. It could be blue, though it feels a bit more black than blue to me.

This is an exciting mythic rare, very cool and unique effect, and looks fun to build around. Art does look like a blue enchantment, name and flavor look good to me. Cost is appropriate for the effect it's creating. Creates interesting deck-building decisions with sideboards. It's hard to design a mythic rare that is exciting, elegant, and not too wordy and complex, and you accomplished that! Great job.

Grade: B. This is a good name for an enchantment, and the mechanic is a flavorful direction for the art.

The art doesn't contradict the spell, but also doesn't feel like it reinforces it. Mechanically, I'm also not in love with this card. It's essentially "go get any card legal in the format" every turn, and that doesn't tend to lead to particularly fun play. It's mostly likely going to set up some combo that quickly wins the game once you have all the pieces. I just don't think Wishes (tutoring for cards out of the game) should be repetitive. The randomness of Magic is a big part of what makes it fun. You have to be very careful when you remove the randomization.

Design 5

Priest of Fear (common)
Creature — Human Cleric
T, put a -1/-1 counter on Priest of Fear: Target creature gains menace until end of turn. Activate this ability only when you could cast a sorcery.
"May this blood run thick through the sleeping minds of our enemies."

Sometimes we make two-mana creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects that aren't useful unless you already control another creature. Those aren't very satisfying, because too frequently you don't control another creature. This solves that problem, and is a very interesting common.

This guy doesn't really look like a priest. I think the ability is good and appropriate for this hole. Looks like a fun common.

Grade: B. Human Cleric was a good choice for this art, but the flavor text doesn't match the mechanic.

The art match is good. I like the use of -1/-1 counters as a way to limit the number of activations. The card seems like a fine common (provided, of course, that this is a set that's using -1/-1 counters instead of +1/+1 counters).

Design 6

Fear Tyrant Sireth (mythic rare)
Legendary Creature — Human Wizard
At the beginning of the game, before shuffling your deck, you may reveal Fear Tyrant Sireth. If you do, target opponent gets a fear counter. You may only reveal a creature named Fear Tyrant Sireth once per game.
When Fear Tyrant Sireth enters the battlefield, remove a fear counter from target opponent. If you do, create three 5/5 black Nightmare Horror creature tokens.

This has an intriguing idea going on. Any sort of "one card total" mechanic is tricky to write out on cards in a clean way; you should consider a keyword and/or a supertype to give a strong anchor for both the rules and player discussion.

The idea is novel, but this could be accomplished by giving your opponent a counter when it enters the battlefield.

I think this card is sweet. I like the idea of revealing a card from your deck for an effect later when you draw it. That said I would not call this card a Timmy card. First, I can't imagine a scenario where you don't reveal this from your deck. This effect is so strong that you're going to look to play four of these and actively play ways to find these. This rate is much too strong (six mana for three 5/5s and a 3/6!), even though you are only getting the 5/5s when you resolve the first one. I think the idea here is very good, but it needs rate adjustments. The art and flavor work for me.

Grade: B. A black creature is a good choice for this art, as is creating Nightmare tokens.

The art match seems good. I like the use of the face in the art to hint at a creature token. My issues with this card are more mechanical. Why do you need to reveal this at the beginning of the game? Why not just have the creature's ability only work the first time a copy enters the battlefield? I get that revealing the creature has some intimidation flavor ("It's coming!"), but it's a lot of words and logistics to do something that could be handled much easier another way. I don't mind the trigger at the beginning of the game if it allowed you to do something you can't normally do, but this execution doesn't seem to do that.

Design 7

Starving Hellion (uncommon)
Creature — Hellion
When Starving Hellion enters the battlefield, it deals 5 damage to another target creature. Put a number of -1/-1 counters on Starving Hellion equal to that creature's power.
Smaller hellions dwelling at the edges of the Ashen Mountains often sport deep wounds from dangerous quarry.

I would make this only target opponent's creatures. It is an appropriate uncommon.

This card looks great. Powerful and fun uncommon for Limited, appropriate drawback for what it's doing. The art, name, and flavor work for me. Nice job.

Grade: B. The art doesn't imply a mechanic where the Hellion is damaged in the fight with the Dragon.

The art is a great match for the card. I think I might have used fight and then said that damage from the other creature is done in the form of -1/-1 counters (how wither and infect work). Other than that, I like the card.

Design 8

Azazug's Whim (rare)
Until end of turn, when a source you control would deal exactly X damage to a permanent or player, it deals double that damage to that permanent or player instead.
"Violence is an art. Now, what brush shall I paint with today?" —Gore Tyrant Azazug

Now that's interesting. You need this to be a replacement effect, with "if" instead of "when," but then it just works. Watch out for potential confusion with things like double strike—a 2/2 double strike wants X to be 2, not 4.

Wow, that is a very surprising effect, and very interesting at instant speed. However, it is probably too weak to play either in Draft or Standard, especially compared with Insult // Injury . I would try making it an enchantment instead, which gives up surprise, but still has a deck-building puzzle.

I would not expect this art on a red sorcery. The art looks more like a creature, given the size of the creature in the art. Interesting card that reminds me of a one-shot Dictate of the Twin Gods, in that it instantly doubles damage.

Grade: C. I like the flavor text in isolation, but it doesn't feel like a cohesive package between the name, art, and flavor text.

First off, the art is a bit of a disconnect for me. It's not a total miss, but it doesn't do a great job of reinforcing the card's mechanic. The card itself seems to be jumping through a lot of hoops for minimal gain. Also, I think you're missing the point of a Johnny/Jenny card versus a Spike card. Johnny and Jenny want a weird restriction that's going to force them to get creative. Spike is looking for challenges that are about optimization where having the slightly better tweak will gain this advantage. I believe this card is more of a Spike optimization card than a Johnny/Jenny card.

Design 9

Ferocious Growth (common)
Choose one –
* Target creature gets +3/+3 and gains trample until end of turn.
* Target creature you control fights target creature you don't control.
Uncontained magic strengthens muscle and dampens thought.

The balance of abilities is not appealing to me. I would change the first ability to put two +1/+1 counters on target creature, and maybe only charge 1G to cast this.

It will be pretty rare to choose +3/+3 over fight at sorcery speed. I think the modes should be a little more equal in power level. This can probably cost 1G (Combination of Prey Upon and weaker Monstrous Growth). Art and name make sense for the +3/+3, but the name does not sound like a fight card to me.

Grade: B. The mechanic does a good job of matching the art.

This card does a good job of having the art line up and hitting the mechanical requirements. I enjoy common designs that find a way to mix and match basic effects. I agree with Erik and Melissa that you need to do a better job of balancing the two effects. I like Erik's suggestion of the +1/+1 counters.

Design 10

Scavenger's Appetite (uncommon)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature
G, exile a card from your graveyard: Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. You gain 1 life.
While despised on most planes, scavengers are praised in the culture of Farrox for their will to do anything to live.

This is too small a bonus. I would charge 1G to activate and give a +1/+1 counter instead of a +1/+1 boost.

The art and flavor of this card is a miss for me. Doesn't really look like a creature Aura and I'm not really seeing the connection to the graveyard. I think this card design is good and looks fun.

Grade: C. More magical effects would help this feel like more than an enchantment card—it reads more like a creature.

The art is a bit of an odd fit. Is the Ooze being enchanted or is the creature being enchanted turned into an ooze? The latter seems to fit the card better, but the flavor of the name and flavor text says otherwise. The design seems solid (although I agree with Erik that it should grant a +1/+1 counter), it's just not all that "quirky."

Overall Judge Commentary

I like all the broad attempts at innovation. While not all of these work, many do. Keep taking all those shots, and you are likely in the top three.

You had a lot of great designs this week. Overall you had some great ideas that had some rate issues, but a lot of the cards looked like they could get to fun spots with testing and iteration. A good chunk of your cards had art/flavor mismatches for me, but your designs were strong enough where I still had you in the top half.

The judges picked you as having the second-best design for this design challenge. This week you did a strong job of meeting the mechanical constraints and merely an okay job of meeting the art constraints. Note that you did meet them, mostly, just not by a wide margin. I think you made a lot of fun cards and pushed in interesting design space. One of the ways I like to judge designs is by how much they inspire me to make designs to complement them and, in that regard, you did a good job this week.


Jeremy, the end is in sight and you've been doing a great job. Stay the course and I think I might be meeting you soon in Renton.

Challenge #5


Eli Shiffrin

Erik Lauer

Melissa DeTora

Guest judge Ken Nagle

Mark Rosewater

Set: Khans of Tarkir

Khans of Tarkir is an interesting set because of morph, three-color wedges, and its five individual keywords . . . and lack of Dragons. We try to make our sets less busy than this nowadays, but it's in my humble opinion the best choice so far for "cards that could've been in this set."

Contestant Comments

While it was tough to decide on a creature type for Challenge #1, this challenge was easy. Khans of Tarkir has a lot of meaning for me: it's my favorite set (and thus the one I'm most familiar with), has my favorite mechanic (morph), and was released around the point I began designing tabletop games in earnest. Its mechanics also interlock in a really satisfying way, which makes it fun to design for.

It was tough to find a good balance between "new cards" with "cards that work in the existing set environment." I don't know where the inspiration came from, but I eventually decided to treat the challenge like I was designing Khans of Tarkir in an alternate timeline where everything was slightly different. Some of the cards are alternate interpretations of cards in the set, while others interact with the existing themes in new ways. I also tried to hit the as-fans of an average Khans pack.

Since this is my last blurb, I want to thank my playtesters for being so helpful and generous with their time, and thank the judges for choosing me. This has been the hardest game design work I've ever done, but also the most rewarding. I am immensely grateful.

Favorite card from this batch: Forest.

Just kidding. Kaisham Trickster. I saved an uncommon slot specifically to play with the five-mana-morph rule and I'm pleased with its elegance.

Design 1

Basic Land — Forest

Finally, someone got it right!

A basic land that taps for green? Fascinating!

Design 2

Shearing Speed (common)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and has first strike.
R: Enchanted creature gains haste until end of turn.

This is a nice design that looks at first like it is best in Mardu, but is great with prowess creatures.

My least favorite thing about this card is the R activated ability doesn't do anything a turn later. Makes me think this wants to be a RW card that enters with haste. I think the design is fine.

This is asking for an enemy two-color cycle, which is the correct kind for fitting in two clans like RWB Mardu and URW Jeskai. I attempted this with say Mardu Runemark in Fate Reforged, but in retrospect the +2/+2 played to similarly to each other. I can imagine this cycle being lower impact but more different from each other with a smattering of powers, toughnesses, keywords, and mana costs.

I like that you recognized that the common cards with off-color activations were always enemy as we wanted to encourage players to draft enemy colors as it leaves open two wedge options. I agree with Melissa that I would have preferred a red activation that would have had a function beyond the turn you cast it.

Design 3

Ainok Companion (common)
Creature — Hound Warrior
When Ainok Companion enters the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on another target Warrior you control.

This is very functional common that works well with multiple themes.

A fine common that fits nicely in Khans.

Warrior-matters for the white-black color pair. Common is the right place for a "threshold 1" bonus like this where you only need one other Warrior to help. A clean card, though I would have been more partial to a "threshold 0" card like "3W 2/2 ETB +1/+1 counter on target Warrior" similar to Ixalan's Jade Guardian. As is, it feels too under curve for anyone not already going Warriors, but I do like the 2/3 stats which are louder in this morph environment of three-drop 2/2s.

I would have had this put a +1/+1 on "target Warrior" rather than "another target Warrior" (and costed it appropriately). It would have promoted Warrior tribal without trapping this card in your hand.

Design 4

Taigam's Studies (common)
Draw two cards. Then discard a card unless you exile three cards from your graveyard.

This is an interesting twist on delve.

Great design. Nice reward if you have a full graveyard. I like instant on here, and I like the "fixed" delve.

Here's the fabled "Instant 2U Draw two" we keep not printing. This one is upgrading Catalog with an optional resource spend. The name implies I cast this after Taigam's Scheming! Perhaps this is the card we were supposed to print instead of Treasure Cruise? I'll go with that and give this designer plenty of credit.

I like this design. I would have referenced watermarks as this was a set that used them and this clearly is a Sultai card.

Design 5

Aven Skytracer (common)
Creature — Bird Monk
Morph URW

Common morphs should simpler to appreciate. If this had a casting cost of URW, and a morph cost of 4U, it would be simple to understand. It is an efficient flier if you have all three colors, but when you don't draw all three colors you still get to make your flier.

This card is what I would expect from a Jeskai flier with morph.

Implies another morph cycle, one that I'm pretty sure we tried. I appreciate the cleanliness but I doubt there's enough payoff here for the URW cost. There's very little wiggle room for morph stats since Erik Lauer wouldn't let a morph "eat" another morph for less than five mana. The third point of toughness won't work, the 4 power is almost unprecedented on a common flier. I'm getting rather nit-picky here, but I'm just trying to demonstrate there are fewer knobs here than usual and this card is trying to be one of a cycle of five. It's likely why we went with Ponyback Brigade and friends.

We purposely didn't make any of our three-color common gold cards require MNO (one mana of each color) to cast or to morph. A three-color morph cost is particularly bad because you have to cast the morph card at three, so there's no way to maximize the morph cost. I do like the innovation of a monocolor creature you can morph cheaper for three-colors, but I think it needed to be a bigger creature so probably needed to be a rarity higher than common.

Design 6

Salt Road Bandit (common)
Creature — Human Rogue
CARDNAME can't be blocked by face-down creatures.

This is an interesting line of text, but it isn't all that useful here. I wasn't going to trade my morph for your 2/2. This creature needs to be impactful enough that my opponent would want to block it with a morph, so the text that they can't block it is important.

Interesting line of text, but I would expect this to be on a blue card.

Nice card that we can only print here. Print them while we can. We don't normally hose the main set's mechanic, but we were willing to print Dinosaur Hunter and River Darter in Rivals of Ixalan. This feels in that vein, even if the concept artist won't be happy. I think there's room for 3/2 or 3/1 here just because there's sooo many three-drop 2/2s in the set, so let's mix it up where possible. If I have five open mana, my three-drop 2/2 morph probably won't be blocked by my opponent's face down creature anyway.

I agree with Erik and Ken that I would prefer this if were a body that a face down 2/2 would want to block to make the ability mean something. I also agree with Ken that I wouldn't have done this as a 2/2 in a world of 2/2 morph creatures.

Design 7

Tear Apart (common)
Destroy target creature.
Raid – That creature's controller loses 2 life if you attacked with a creature this turn.


Fine common, but weak. A bit of tension here because it's a black removal spell that you can't use to clear blockers unless you decide to miss out on the raid, but the upside is not very strong anyway. I think this card wants a better raid bonus so that you have more of a choice of whether you use this before or after combat.

This is asking to kill a creature post-combat for a bonus. Reminds me of Arrow Storm from the same set but at least the numbers are a little different. A serviceable card, but I would've liked to see an instant that destroyed a tapped creature with raid upside.

I'm glad you made this a sorcery as an instant would have been a combat trick that works but that confused many players (killing your only blocker after attacking is declared but before blocking is); that would have been unlikely to be a common. I agree with Melissa and Ken that you probably could have had a better rider.

Design 8

Temur Forager (common)
Creature — Human
Ferocious — T, discard a card: Draw a card. Activate this ability only if you control a creature with power 4 or greater.

This is a fine card, but it is too close to Bloodfire Mentor.

Looting is very strong in Limited. As you can see, over time we have had fewer Merfolk Looters at common and more weak-rate ones like Rummaging Goblin and Research Assistant. Merfolk Looters make games of Magic more likely to play out the same, because you are more likely to find what you need when you're drawing two cards a turn. That takes some fun out of Magic. With this design, I think that this is too consistent of a looter. It's 1/3, free to activate, and the condition is trivial. I'd make this uncommon.

I felt the ferocious cards that weren't so beatdown-y did good work—Feed the Clan, Whisperer of the Wilds, and Stubborn Denial. I think it's debatable whether Temur Battle Rage (my design) is fun or unfun. This ferocious frummager feels great for being part of the first batch of cards since it's an every-turn value card rather than pushing as much damage as possible into your opponent's life total. I like the stats and rarity as well. I find myself wishing I'd made this card in Fate Reforged.

One of the difficulties of this challenge was finding new design space while understanding limitations built into the set. We made a conscious choice to hold off activated abilities with ferocious for Fate Reforged. This is a nice design, but something we wouldn't have done in Khans of Tarkir. Also, I would have put a mana cost on the activation.

Design 9

Hidden Strength (common)
Target creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn. If it's face down, it also gains indestructible until end of turn.

This is nice for communicating that green has extra morphs.

A fun and interesting common.

Great name! Great design. It even forward plants well for manifest. Let's try mana cost G!

I like how you took a simple spell and added a rider that opens up some interactive possibilities. Good job!

Design 10

Scouting Report (common)
Search your library for two basic land cards with different names, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

If you find only one land, can you put it into your hand? Search effects usually use "up to" to make it clear. If you want the player to have to find exactly two or zero cards with certain criteria, that'd be an interesting new space that might need new words for clarity.

Very nice.

Interesting card for the wedge block. Appropriate for common. Sad that Jeskai and Mardu don't have access to mana fixing this strong though.

While a mana-fixing green common seems great for this set, we actually went out of our way to not include such a thing. We already have gain-1-life lands and Banners. There aren't any gold commons except the ones that can be morphed. We were trying to avoid the soupy five-color problem of giving green a Cultivate-type card. I'm happy with this design maybe at 1G in another set looking to help green decks splash.

Ken is right that we purposely avoided this type of card in Khans of Tarkir. That said, this is a clever way to make a multicolor land-fetching spell. My biggest concern is it might make it too easy to play more than three colors. I might have gotten a Forest and a non-Forest basic land instead.

Design 11

Three-Section Staff (common)
Artifact — Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+1.
Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, untap equipped creature.
Equip 1

This is nice, but adds too much board complexity for a common. Generally, it is nice if you can ignore your opponent's tapped creatures when you are contemplating attacking.

I think that instant "gotcha" untapping on a creature is not appropriate on a common Equipment. Since this is an Equipment, it's easier to forget about since it usually sits underneath your creature. I think this line of text is fine on a creature at common, but I'd be careful with this on an Equipment. It also has the added functionality of untapping many attackers in a turn if you move the Equipment around and play a bunch of spells. This is stronger than it reads.

Common Equipment are difficult to make fun. I want to reiterate this is the first ever set to have prowess. I don't think we'd print a common "pseudo-prowess" card in the prowess debut set. Why not just an Equipment or Aura that grants prowess?

I agree with Erik and Melissa that this has too much "gotcha" potential for common. At uncommon, I like this as Jeskai Equipment. It's another place I would have mentioned using a watermark.

Design 12

Rakshasa's Rites (uncommon)
Whenever one or more cards are put into exile from your graveyard, you may pay 2. If you do, target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn.

"Whenever one or more" triggers often make us question what are simultaneous separate events and what's one event, and sometimes even what are sequential events that we never really thought about. Look over cards that will exile cards from graveyards in nearby sets to make sure you won't cause any awful questions in Standard.

This is an interesting way of rewarding a delve deck. While I suspect this is too weak, it has lot of obvious development knobs.

Looks like a fun, rewarding, and interesting build-around enchantment for Limited.

We're getting weird. An uncommon build-around seems like the aim. The -2/-2 is taking advantage of the format's most prevalent power/toughness combination. I think this has one too many "if" statements—if you have this out and then have cards in the graveyard and then play a delve card and then pay 2 and then the opponent controls a creature that -2/-2 works against. I would've been happy with "1B Enchantment Whenever one or more cards are exiled from your graveyard, you gain that much life."

I like this design. My biggest concern is whether or not there's a high enough as-fan to make this theme work as a build-around in Draft (for example, there are only four commons, all delve cards, that enable this). If not, I'd move this card to rare to make it a Constructed build-around.

Design 13

Kaisham Trickster (uncommon)
Creature — Efreet Monk
1U: Switch Kaisham Trickster's power and toughness until end of turn.
Morph 2R

I see what you did there with the five-mana-morph rule. Just be aware that power-and-toughness switching is pretty weird with just about any other power-and-toughness modifying.

This is a clever way of playing around with the morph rule.

This is interesting. I think the rarity/complexity is appropriate. Looks skill-testing and rewarding.

This hints at another enemy color cycle, this time of morphs. It's debatable if this is just mono-blue or mono-red but I get that it's trying to fit between Temur and Jeskai. Another way to do this is "1U: -2/+2 until end of turn." Nice work.

I get that you're playing around with the "five-mana-morph rule" (no creature with a morph cost less than five can "eat" a 2/2, meaning best one in combat and survive), but I think you made a card that's fighting what's fun. Players want to unmoprh their creature and then activate it to do extra damage. I would be tempted to make this bigger (to justify a five-mana morph cost) with a low power and high toughness that you can swap into a high-power creature if you have the extra mana.

Design 14

Dragonclaw Trophy (uncommon)
1, T: Add G, U, or R.
3GUR, T, sacrifice Dragonclaw Trophy: Create a 4/4 green Bear creature token. Activate this ability only when you could cast a sorcery.

This looks like it would be part of a cycle. The easiest appealing card member of the cycle is the one that makes a creature token. So, unless they are all going to make creature tokens, the card I want to see is the appealing design that does not make a creature token.

I would make mana fixing like this common in a three-color Limited format. I think the rate on this is super weak, and you're only playing this if you really need the fixing and can reliably activate the creature ability. However, at common, this rate is more appropriate and having the option to make a 4/4 late game is cool on a mana fixer this weak.

I do like these "cycles." I had a cycle of "Mana Cylixes" in Return to Ravnica for a while. It always peeved me that the Banners were additional three-drops in morph world. This might be clean enough for common, but you've positioned them more around Kolaghan's Monument or so. Good work here for proposing a mana-fixing cycle since we always need to get them right as they are the scaffolding for everything else in a multicolor set.

At uncommon, I think I'd charge a little more and have this add mana rather than just color fix. I do like that you get to trade this in for a spell in the late game.

Design 15

Vengeful Ancestor (mythic rare)
Creature — Spirit
Outlast 1WBG
Whenever you activate Vengeful Ancestor's outlast ability, exile target creature with power less than or equal to Vengeful Ancestor's until Vengeful Ancestor leaves the battlefield.

Vengeful Ancestor will take its vengeance before the outlast ability resolves, so that counter won't help exile bigger things. Is that really what you want, or should we let it trigger "when it outlasts" and trigger when the ability's resolving instead?

This is an interesting ability, and appropriate for Abzan, but it has some issues. First of all, the ability should be optional so you don't end up having to exile your own creature. Secondly people will think that because it is going to be a 2-power creature they can exile a 2-power creature. Therefore, this should exile whenever you put a +1/+1 counter on Vengeful Ancestor.

This is a very exciting mythic rare. However, I think this is a mono-white card.

An outlast trigger is a great place to go with this "other" mythic rare. I was expecting to see "Whenever you activate any outlast ability" so it's more Commander-y. Current wording suggest this will be forced to exile itself, so I think it wants to exile creatures an opponent controls. This seems not very fun to play against if it chews up an opposing creature each turn and won't swing until their entire board is empty. I can see how it's trying to be three different colors at the same time.

I had a thought similar to Ken's. I would have triggered off of any outlast ability and made this legendary to make it a build-around card. Also, the exile should be a may to keep you from being forced to exile your own creatures (unless you want to). As to Melissa's color pie issue, three-color design is hard and we allow ourselves to make things that match the overall feel of the clan in three-color, so I think this is okay as a three-color card.

Overall Judge Commentary

This is a very good set of cards. It does a good job of fitting in with Khans of Tarkir. However, it is a little lower on novelty compared with my expectation for the last week of a design challenge; it felt like you were "playing it safe."

I think you had great designs this week, and zero designs that I would consider unsuccessful. There were a few rate issues or rarity issues, but overall, I liked your cards. Your commons were great. Very elegant. I think you had the best commons (a great sign since you all had to design ten of them). My favorite card of yours was Aven Skytracer. It's elegant and a perfect fit for Jeskai. I think one thing you could work on is thinking about Limited more, especially when designing commons. Most of your cards looked like great Limited cards, but you had a few that didn't look fun. Your mana fixer uncommon looked like a fun Limited mana fixer at common.

All in all, you were able to make a couple cards I myself wished I had followed up Khans of Tarkir with in Fate Reforged.

The judges picked yours as the second-best design this week. I think you were both the most structurally solid designer and the least innovative of this challenge. I like how you understood the environment you were building in and made cards that were good fits in color, rarity, and feel. I do though wish you pushed the boundaries a little more in showing us what Khans of Tarkir could have done mechanically.


Jeremy, I agree with Erik that you played it a little safe this week, but then that's what you needed to do to make final three. You've been very consistent this entire competition, so congratulations on making it to Renton.

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