Guest judge Aaron Forsythe
"Come one, come all, step right up, to the Bigtopian Circus Extravaganza! I'm Kai, master of ceremonies for the evening's festivities. Let me shine a preview spotlight on some of tonight's attractions!
Over here, you'll see one of our talented magicians. It looks like tonight he'll be making one of our audience members disappear! (Last night he was pulling rabbits out of hats!)
In any case, over here you'll see the death defying flaming hoo . . . oh . . . well, folks, it looks like she didn't quite make it through. How about we move on to the strongmen?
Look at that strapping lad over there! What power! Such toughness! So huge! He's certainly going to win the audience's favor!
The unicyclists are warming up to my left. They're doing some testing, and it sure is impressive! How do they fit two Vampires, four Warriors, a Servo, and an Anointer Priest onto one little Vehicle?
The plate-spinning demonstration unfortunately had to be cancelled due to a bit of a mishap last night. Their show came to, ah, a crashing halt. Sorry for the inconvenience.
But the trick riders will be at it again! Who would have thought it even possible for a Tasseled Dromedary to drive a Conqueror's Galleon? It'll be utter madness in the center ring!
And finally, my fellow clowns are prepping their car in the ring to my right. Wait a second . . . one, two, three . . . I could swear only two got in.
Well, it's time for me to start the show. Enjoy the spectacle!"
Creature — Human Wizard
When Magician enters the battlefield, choose one —
*Create a 1/1 white Rabbit creature token.
*Return target creature or Vehicle to its owner's hand.
This is very nice. It has an interesting choice, with common effects.
I like the design and flavor, and the rarity is appropriate. I think it's pretty rare to choose Rabbit here. Bouncing a creature is very strong compared to getting a 1/1. If the card was 5U, bounce something or make two Rabbits, the choices are a little closer. That said, I do like this!
Fun-looking card, good flavor—it either makes something appear or something disappear. Good stuff.
This design is cute. I agree with Melissa though that I'd balance the effects so they're closer together in power. The card feels more uncommon than common to me. Each individual option is common, but once you add in the choice, I'd move it to uncommon.
Flaming Hoop (common)
Flaming Hoop deals 3 damage to target creature that entered the battlefield this turn.
"Well, folks, it looks like she didn't quite make it through."
Blue poses a major challenge in Limited design. The preponderance of its strength should come from spells, but not from spells that eliminate a creature already on the battlefield. So, to make blue feel different from the other colors, it's important to carve out some design space that we save for blue commons. Part of that design space is counterspells for creatures a la Essence Scatter. My problem with this card is that it's red stepping on the toes of something that we need to save for blue. This is a complex issue, so it's not something I would expect someone outside of the Pit to be aware of.
I'm not a fan of this as a common burn spell. This card won't do anything if you draw it late. It's very strong early. But later on, this becomes less and less useful, between opponent's having bigger things and having such a short window to play it. It plays more like Essence Scatter for small creatures. Red should have stronger and less situational removal for Limited.
I like this line of text, and I think I still would have liked it without the "That's the joke" flavor text you included. It's a (weaker) red Essence Scatter in many ways, but a card you'd still probably play in Limited a decent amount of the time.
I'm not sure the restriction of only targeting creatures that entered the battlefield is going to make for the best gameplay. Red is usually more proactive than reactive. The flavor is cute though.
Feats of Strength (uncommon)
Choose target creature you control. If it has the greatest power among creatures on the battlefield, draw a card. Then, if it has the greatest toughness among creatures on the battlefield, draw a card. Then, if it has the greatest converted mana cost among creatures on the battlefield, draw a card. (Don't draw for ties.)
The reminder text is lying, but you had a good thought to put it there so your playtesters will play it correctly and then your editor can correct the card text to make it true. Kudos! Magic has no default for ties, but something that's tied for "the greatest" whatever does have the greatest whatever itself, so you'd end up with something like:
Choose target creature you control. If its power is greater than each other creature's power, draw a card. If its toughness is greater than each other creature's toughness, draw a card. If its converted mana cost is greater than each other creature's converted mana cost, draw a card.
This card tests the strength of your creature in three different ways, and feels like a good card. I would prefer three different rewards.
This is too much card draw in green. I get what you're going for, but I think this card is doing too much. If you have the only creature on the battlefield, this is 2G Concentrate, which is not appropriate.
This card feels like a feat of strength to be sure—if your creature is swole enough, you keep raking in the rewards—but I dinged it some for being too swingy. There are probably a lot of games where you cast a 2/3 on turn two then draw three cards on turn three, then a lot of other games where your creature isn't big enough or the spell fizzles because the target is removed. I'd want to see a version where the floor and ceiling are a little closer together.
I feel the flavor of this card is good and it's one of only two Feats of Strengths that actually captures the circus strongman/woman flavor the title was hinting at. In practice, it's going to be hitting a lot of big creatures and not humanoids, but the right art will probably help you capture the flavor you need. I like that it's a green card that draws cards in a green way, but I agree that all the results shouldn't be drawing a card as that's too much card draw for green, especially on an uncommon.
Artifact – Vehicle
Unicycle gets +1/+1 for each creature crewing it.
This has all the issues with "what about creatures that died?" and "what about creatures that stopped being creatures?" with the extra bonus of caring about creatures "crewing" it, present tense. Or do you actually want its power and toughness to drop by Bolting one of the people crewing this Unicycle? We'd need to find text that's more clear in one direction or the other.
This is amusing. I think people would understand that you can "overcrew" the Vehicle.
I would have guessed this was a clown car. I think the card itself is cool, but the rate is off. It's 2 power for one mana, that scales and has trample. I would remove trample.
I can't tell if this flavor is good or not—have I seen a whole bunch of people piled up on a unicycle anywhere other than in a children's book? The card doesn't reward you very much for over-crewing, so as a package it just doesn't quite get there for me.
A Vehicle with crew 1 that encourages you to pile a lot of riders on it. Awesome! This is my favorite Unicycle design.
Plate Spinning (rare)
When Plate Spinning enters the battlefield, target opponent gains control of it.
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a plate counter on Plate Spinning, then you may pay 1 for each plate counter on it. If you don't, sacrifice Plate Spinning, you lose 5 life and Plate Spinning's owner gains 5 life.
I like the idea of the challenge of keeping the plates up. I really don't like the effect here. In most games, other than "can you win the game before dropping a plate," it doesn't matter much which turn the plate falls. If cast on turn four, the correct play will frequently be to just treat it as a 5-point drain. As a Constructed card, it would not be fun (just keep stacking these up). If I thought the drain effect was important to casual play, and this was merely a gap between Constructed and casual, that would be okay, but I don't think that is right. I think this card asks, "Someone design a black effect, where the turn it happens matters in an appropriate manner," which is probably most of the work.
I felt that this card was hard to grok. It has a lot of words compared to what it actually does. I think the flavor is good, but I don't think this is an exciting rare to open in a pack. It's an interesting idea, but the execution is wordy and in my opinion isn't exciting/doesn't do enough to justify its rarity.
Now this is cool. I don't know if the cost and effect are in the right spot, but the games where the opponent has to keep paying or lose—or paying to make sure I don't pull out of range—are really epic in my head. Testing would have to bear my imagination out, but I'd be excited to do so.
One of the puzzles of this challenge was figuring out how to make a flavorful black card. The names and concepts didn't naturally lean toward black. I like that you turned plate spinning into a black card where you force you opponent to do the plate spinning, which eventually will get away from them and cause them pain. Nice card. My favorite of your designs.
Trick Riding (rare)
Creatures you control crew Vehicles with their toughness rather than their power.
That's cute. Note that this design begins to lock you out of designs that care about the power of creatures that crewed a Vehicle—if you crew it "with" toughness, looking at their power for another effect is pretty strange, albeit not impossible.
So, the deck has a lot of Vehicles, and a lot of creatures with more toughness than power, maybe 0 power. What happens when they don't draw this one card? This card has a big problem.
A super narrow rare that really doesn't do anything. You need a lot of Vehicles in your set to make this a reasonable inclusion. It needs another ability and a rarity downshift.
This is either a web comic or a really bad rare. It doesn't even work with your Unicycle unless you're providing a bunch of 0-power creatures. If this is the trick I came to the circus to see, I'll be leaving disappointed.
The card is flavorful and the effect is novel. On the surface, that seems like a recipe for success. The card though has what I call the "all-in problem." Your deck will only work when you get this card on the battlefield and won't function at all when you don't, meaning that too many games will be you losing while you wait for your deck to do something. The trick to these type of designs is to require an effect where the supporting cards can function without it.
Clown Car (mythic rare)
Artifact — Vehicle
Whenever Clown Car deals combat damage to a player, choose up to one target creature that crewed Clown Car this turn. Create a tapped token that's a copy of that creature.
This design is more about crewing with one strong creature than lots of creatures, and does not feel like a clown car. Also, the board will have memory issues. I would probably replace this card.
I like this for a clown car, but I would argue that you made two clown cars! Interesting mythic rare that looks fun to build around. It feels blue, and I would worry about giving other colors access to this effect. But it is a design we can work with.
This is a decent attempt at a mythic rare Vehicle, and the flavor feels pretty good. I hesitate to say it's a good design, though, because it feels oppressive if you play it on curve—your opponent has to start chump-blocking immediately or risk getting overwhelmed. Reads fun, but it's a card people would probably tire of quickly.
I have a bunch of issues with this design. One, copying creatures feels very different than the same creature keeping popping out of it (one would expect a Clown). Maybe if you did something so the copies felt like Clowns? Two, this card makes numerous creature tokens that can all be different creatures, which introduces some logistical issues (although it's at least a mythic rare, so this wouldn't be a Limited issue often). Three, the trigger being combat damage feels off. Overall, I'm not a huge fan of this design.
Kai, Ringmaster (mythic rare)
Legendary Creature — Human Clown
When Kai, Ringmaster enters the battlefield, create two Aura enchantment tokens named Spotlight. They have "enchant creature or Vehicle" and "enchanted permanent gets +2/+2 and has lifelink." Attach them to Kai, Ringmaster.
WW: Attach target Spotlight you control to target permanent you control.
Multiple instances of lifelink on the same creature are redundant.
Multiple instances of lifelink on the same creature are redundant.
Multiple instances of lifelink on the same creature are redundant.
I'll just make that my Twitter name for the next eighteen months, I guess. This isn't to say that you shouldn't do this, but you should be aware when you're creating a card that plays directly into a common misconception—in this case, lots of players think lifelink multiplies the life gained when you've got multiple lifelinks.
There are some interesting aspects of this card, but I dislike how much of its game boils down to "if you can't remove this you're probably going to lose." This will be a very frustrating card to face because the combat is never going to go their way and it's near impossible to race two lifelink creatures. I would change this card so when it wins it will win faster, and granting lifelink does the opposite.
Interesting card. Very weird execution. I'm not totally sold about creating Aura tokens with words (many players use objects like coins to represent tokens, and that is an issue when making Aura tokens). I think mythic rares that are expensive and do something cool when you untap with them are fun for Standard. This definitely meets that criteria, and we can find a better way to do that without making these tokens.
This card tickles me. You get a six-mana 6/6 lifelinker that can start passing the fun around. Yes, it has a lot of words, but the words add up to something, and it promises the kind of gameplay I'd enjoy (once in a while). If the card was making combat too difficult, making the activation sorcery-only would be an easy fix.
I like the general flavor of this design. I feel like there would have been numerous ways to do it that would have been less wordy.
Overall Judge Commentary
You have some interesting flavorful designs. However, the number with significant—and difficult to fix—play issues is high. That is worrisome to me. I hope you can figure out what might go wrong for some players with the play patterns of more of your cards, and address those.
I thought your flavor was above average. Some good designs, but you had quite a few cards that I classify as "doesn't do anything." Flaming Hoop, Plate Spinning, and Trick Riding (see individual card notes for more detail). Cards have a strong enough effect to warrant a slot in your deck, especially at high rarities, and I don't think those hit the mark. I liked both of your mythic rares; both felt on point for flavor, complexity, and coolness.
I didn't get a great sense of Ryan's goals for the environment he was trying to craft other than "Vehicles matter," but several of the individual designs were very clever. Ryan, like Ari, was just outside my top this week and should live to design another day.
Last time, I told you that you needed to step up or you would be in danger of being eliminated. I'm happy to say you did the former. The judges decided you had the third-best design this week. You had a number of strong designs (Magician, Unicycle, Plate Spinning) and numerous others that needed tweaking but were impressive (Feats of Strength, Clown Car, Kai). I was happy to see you bounce back. My guess is that you're more comfortable when leaning on an external component to define the cards, so I recommend adding flavor even when not instructed to so you can help give yourself a better feel for the card.
Ryan, the trick now is to figure out what you did this week and replicate it for next week. While each design challenge tests different skills, there's a lot of overlap to lean on.