Guest judge Ken Nagle
Innistrad is Magic's most flavorful plane in my opinion.
My goal was to create cool new cards that would feel right at home on Innistrad. The cards fall into three categories:
#1. New Horror Tropes
- Last Grasp is the hero defeating the monster with their last ounce of strength. Synergizes with white's abundance of death triggers and token making.
- Wall of Flesh is a creepy sacrifice outlet.
- Taxidermist prevents flavor-fail transformations or activations on his "stuffed" victims.
- Innocuous Sprout is the little plant that grows and devours everything.
#2. New Tribal Stuff
- Bind the Beast and Trial by Drowning play into Innistrad's light tribal themes. Bind the Beast's wording prevents a stolen Human/Human Werewolf from counting itself.
- Wolf Pup supports Werewolves and Tracking Hound supports/deters them.
- Innistrad feels like a perfect home for charms to ward off enemies, hence Blood Charm, part of a five-color cycle. Each charm uses that color's overlapping creature types.
#3. New Mechanical/Thematic Stuff
- Devil Poker gets its morbid bonus as long as it's in play, as opposed to ETB morbid commons/uncommons that disappoint when they don't trigger.
- Curse of Arachnids is green's curse since it's never gotten one in a Standard set.
- Lab Assistant (Delver combo!) and Graveyard Salvage get things back after self-milling, since nothing feels worse than milling your curse, Burning Vengeance, or Laboratory Maniac.
- Vengeful Flame is part of a rare cycle of creatures with flashback. It's a risk to include, but the biggest risk in Magic is not taking any.
Island (basic land)
Basic Land — Island
Last Grasp (common)
Enchantment — Aura
Enchant creature you control
When enchanted creature dies, you may destroy target creature that dealt damage this turn.
"I may not live to see the end of your kind's terror, but I can at least make sure that you don't either!"
A typical use is you put this on your blocking creature that is going to die in combat, it dies to combat damage, and then you kill an attacking creature. The number of players who won't appreciate this when they read the card is too high for a common card.
I think the play pattern here is interesting, but these are bizarre and confusing words to read on a common Aura. This is hard to use; the timing must be perfect. This could do nothing if your opponent kills your guy before damage, which can lead to some feel-bad moments. I think for a common removal spell this could be a Reciprocate effect and still capture the flavor.
This is a white retribution spell with some extra hoops. There is normally a clunky white common removal card each set, but this might be too clunky. I'm sure there's a shorter way to say the flavor text; Jenna Helland is always asking for shorter versions.
White is tertiary in flash within the current color pie, meaning it doesn't get it often and very rarely at common. I'm not sure this couldn't just be an instant with "destroy target creature that dealt damage to a creature you control this turn." Also, although you're not being judged on your names, be careful not to use names too close to existing names (there's a card called Last Gasp).
Tracking Hound (common)
Creature — Hound
Tracking Hound has vigilance as long as there is a Werewolf on the battlefield.
"What's wrong, buddy? It's just the town mayor. He's our friend."
You often have to be careful about rewarding yourself for your opponent controlling things. It can cause tracking issues, or it can make your opponent feel punished for playing their cards. In this case I think the bonus is low-impact enough that it's okay.
This is somewhere between liking and disliking Werewolves. I know players have been wanting some white support for Werewolves in the form of "players can't cast more than one spell each turn" and/or the Grimlock promo I made. Domesticated hounds are certainly white and this one has lots of flavor. I'm a little afraid of sending mixed signals that there's Werewolf support in white.
I get the flavor, but I'm not quite sure of the gameplay. Also, if this supposed to encourage you to play Werewolves with it, I would say "Werewolves or Wolves" since we used Wolves to fill out Werewolf tribal as they were Limited to double-faced cards.
Lab Assistant (common)
Creature — Human Advisor
When Lab Assistant enters the battlefield, you may put target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard on top of your library.
"Is this the secret you were delving for, sir?"
This is a nice design to pair with the Deranged Assistant.
I like the throwback here and the card itself looks like a fun and reasonable common. If it wasn't for the nostalgia this card could fit into any set.
For those Delver of Secrets players, or the more grown-up versions. This is probably an Igor-like character hunched over carrying scrolls and potions. Great!
This card is flavorful and synergistic. I like it.
Trial by Drowning (common)
Destroy target creature. If it was a human, its controller creates a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying.
"Her spirit ascends after death. I therefore declare her innocent of witchcraft."
This is great in capturing the flavor of the setting, much like Victim of Night.
This card is okay. I'm not a huge fan of drawback removal in black, the color that gets the strongest removal. We don't want to disincentivize players from casting removal spells, especially at common.
Macabre concept here! I know when Jenna used an "accuse you of being a witch!" concept on Witch Hunt she made sure the accuser was another female. Maybe we'd show a female "non-witch" being drowned? Maybe not. That said, I enjoy the Human-plus-Spirit link, and I tried making such a card in Eldritch Moon that was cut. Nice!
Another flavorful design. Being four mana at common, it probably would want to be a sorcery.
Wall of Flesh (common)
Creature — Wall
Sacrifice another creature: Wall of Flesh gets +2/+0 until end of turn and can attack this turn as though it didn't have defender.
". . . more . . ."
This card is just too weak. While charging 1B makes this a card I could play with, it still wouldn't be all that fun. With Nantuko Husk, I am giving my opponent a choice every turn. Here I need to sacrifice a creature before attacking. It might be interesting if it also had 5B, T: Create a 0/1 creature token. But then this would really be a token creator, more than a wall that could attack. I would just replace this card.
I wouldn't do this at common at this rate. After the attack, you can just sacrifice everything and one-shot your opponent, for free. At common we usually put gates of some kind, like once a turn, as a sorcery, or a mana requirement. That said I do think this card is sweet, it just needs to have one of those knobs turned.
This feels great and a cool concept as well.
I agree with Melissa that I would have put a mana cost on the sacrifice, so that Wall of Flesh couldn't just attack for lethal out of the blue. Because this has the ability to do so much damage, I probably would have put it at uncommon. Other than that, I like the flavor.
Blood Charm (common)
Choose one —
• Target creature gets +3/+0 until end of turn.
• Target Vampire gains double strike until end of turn.
• Transform target Werewolf you control.
Their fangs were bared at the first scent of blood.
I like the idea of adding charms, and bringing up with tribes. However, double strike and +3/+0 are too close; when they are different enough, it is because double strike is first strike. To address this, I would give the Vampire trample and double strike.
I dislike this. It reads simple, but it is doing so many things. Not directional at all. Most Limited decks will not have use for all three of these modes, making this spell too narrow.
Assuming it's clean enough to concept one card into two tribal decks, I like how this is trying to bridge the gap. I'm less happy that +3/+0 overlaps with doubles strike so much (a la Boros Charm's double strike mode overlaps a lot with its own 4-damage mode). That said, I'm sure a Vial of Blood or similar concept works here.
It's weird that two of the modes target a specific creature type and one targets creatures in general. I would have had the first mode not target creatures to avoid this inconsistency.
Devil Poker (common)
Creature — Devil
Morbid — At the beginning of each end step, if a creature died this turn, Devil Poker deals 1 damage to each opponent.
"Nothing stokes the fire better than rotting flesh!"
This is a good morbid card. However, it is asking you to remember this card at the end of turn when you are not looking at it. I generally would not put that on a common.
Overall, this is a fine, simple ability to put on a common. There is some memory/tracking going on here with the end step trigger. You could make it your end step only to reduce that. Overall, I like this card.
I like this as a nicer, tamer version of Blood Artist–like cards. We usually don't like multi-triggering cards at common, but this is the right kind of incentive and archetype enabler. Also, death matters on Innistrad!
As the other judges have pointed out, I wouldn't do a morbid with a repeatable trigger at common. Other than that, I like this card.
Graveyard Salvage (common)
Return target creature or enchantment card from your graveyard to your hand.
Flashback 4G (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)
Bones and charms both have lingering magic, waiting to be discovered and reused.
Better, color-shifted Morgue Theft! Narrow effects are great candidates for flashback commons. Looks fun. I don't see anything innovative here though.
I like this one, even though it's going to get Dead Weight back for its enchantment mode. This is a graveyard set so we want cards like this to ensure it. Maybe widening the gap at G then 6G, but there's plenty of nobs here.
There are some abilities that are carved up pretty precisely and getting things back from the graveyard is one of them. Green normally gets back any card from the graveyard or any permanent and usually at uncommon. As you start slicing up the card types, they get given to different colors. Black gets creatures and white gets enchantments, so this card is sitting in a bit of an awkward space, color pie wise.
Wolf Pup (common)
Creature — Wolf
Wolf Pup gets +2/+2 as long as you control a non-Human Werewolf.
The moonlight sends even the runts into a frenzy.
When your Werewolf dies, this can lose toughness and also die in a chain event. I shy away from doing that at common.
This card suffers from "cascading death" syndrome, which is how we refer to a card that has a static toughness boost they can suddenly lose after combat, which would then cause them to die to state-based actions. If this blocks a 1/1 and then the opponent later kills your Werewolf, this will die. We avoid doing that at low rarities. This can be solved by making this an attack trigger that lasted until end of turn. That said, I think this is a little too swingy for a common one-drop, but it would mostly depend on what the Werewolves in the format are and how easy they are to transform.
This reminds me of my dog Booster! This pup "transforms" with your other Werewolves. While that's clever, I have a feeling it would contribute too much to getting run over by early snowballing Werewolves when you can't find a spell to cast. Higher up on the curve or less of a booster maybe.
I'm not sure we'd do a one-drop that can conditionally have 3 power at common. Also, the "cascading death" issue that Erik and Melissa point out makes this out of place at common.
Bind the Beast (uncommon)
Enchantment — Aura
You control enchanted creature.
At the beginning of the end step, if you don't both own and control a Human, sacrifice Bind the Beast.
This sounds like it could be satisfied if you control a Human I own and I control a Human you own. I'm going to guess that's not what you wanted because that's odd. Let's go with the clearer "if you don't control a Human you own."
The flavor is helpful, but this tends to be so frustrating that I would put this at rare.
I don't think Control Magic with sacrifice condition is an innovative design. I think "both own and control" is clunky wording.
We try not to make uncommon Control Magics. This one is very swingy with a Human or without. I understand the "own and control" part because you can steal a Human with it. I thought Humans were trying to be green-white so this double-blue card feels a bit off. Given all this, I question if we should make the card at all. Is this a hunter trapping the beast? I'm unsure here.
We tend to do creature-stealing enchantments at rare these days because of their potency in Limited. I also don't think you need "own." I'm fine with this stealing effect being better on Humans.
Creature — Human Wizard
When Taxidermist enters the battlefield, you may exile target creature card from a graveyard. If you do, create a token that's a copy of that card, except it has defender and loses all activated abilities.
"They're so much prettier when their mouths are sewn shut."
Okay, I laughed at the concept. But here's one for you: Your Taxidermist stuffs an Evil Twin (a card from the Innistrad set, no less!). The token is created with defender and it loses no abilities. Then the token's replacement effect is applied, and it copies Taxidermist—and that replacement effect gives it the ability to kill the Good Twin!
This is a nice twist on reanimation. Well done.
I get the flavor here, but making this a defender and losing activated abilities makes this card unappealing. I'm paying six mana for a 3/3 and a vanilla blocker. Not very exciting.
This is a great concept. It feels like you tried to make it uncommon by mana cost, but I feel clones are complex enough to just be rares, especially when they make tokens. Uncommon makes it too likely there are multiple clones at the same time in my opinion. I like the card otherwise and would've made it rare.
This card is very flavorful, but I agree with Melissa that I'm not sure stealing things that you can neither attack with nor use the abilities of is all that exciting.
Curse of Arachnids (uncommon)
Enchantment — Aura Curse
At the beginning of enchanted player's upkeep, each other player creates a 1/2 green Spider creature token with reach.
"There's something on your neck . . . ."
I like brining back curses, and this is a good flavorful fit.
I like bringing back curses in Innistrad, and I like the callback to Spider Spawning. Overall a pretty cool design.
A green curse of arachnophobia is certainly something Innistrad could've had. Pretty great!
I like that you made a green curse. The absence of one is one of my biggest pet peeves about Innistrad (which is one of my favorite sets I've ever designed). The granting of Spiders is cute, and you matched the existing creature token in the set. Good job!
Vengeful Flame (rare)
Creature — Elemental
When you cast Vengeful Flame, it deals 3 damage to any target.
Flashback 1RR (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it. It doesn't enter the battlefield.)
The entity's final screech echoed from beyond the grave.
I see that you're trying to do a splashy stretch on flashback, but let's pull back a step from the mad science and use the "mana, exile this from your graveyard: effect" tech found in Shadows over Innistrad.
This is an interesting way of expanding flashback.
I think this is interesting space to explore as a cross between embalm and flashback. The riskiest thing about this space is that these abilities are uncounterable and hard to interact with. I probably would not make this flashback and instead make it a new keyword or just have activated abilities from the graveyard, like Shadows over Innistrad's Dauntless Cathar.
This is my favorite card from the whole challenge. Flashback is a workhorse mechanic we've used more than once and a clean implementation that just works on creature cards would be embraced that we'd make hundreds of cards with it. Embalm is sort of our kinda flashback version of creatures, but not really. This particular design is very card advantage-y but flashback has plenty of knobs to position it later.
I'll have to disagree with Ken. I dislike this design for two reasons. One, I dislike a flashback spell that doesn't do the same thing both times, as I think it causes confusion (that's how flashback works—consistency is important). Two, the amount of rules rewriting you have to do to make this work isn't worth the result. Just make a 3/3 creature with an "enters-the-battlefield" effect that Bolts that you can pay mana to exile it from the graveyard to Bolt something. It would do the same thing as this design and be significantly less confusing. As Eli and Melissa pointed out, Shadows over Innistrad did it that way.
Innocuous Sprout (rare DFC)
Creature — Plant
Whenever another creature dies, put a +1/+1 counter on Innocuous Sprout. Then, if it has three or more +1/+1 counters on it, transform it.
Creature — Plant Horror
Whenever Coniferous Carnivore attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on it. Then you may have it fight target creature defending player controls.
This is a good build-around for a sacrifice deck. I am not sure if it will appeal to enough people to be a rare.
I like this as a flavorful top-down. Looks fun.
Mean green mother from outer space! I suspect it wants at least 1 power on the front side so there's more of a chance that something will die. I've had a card like this in more than one playtest, so it's more than cool enough for me.
I like the flavor of a plant that grows and eventually can move. I think the fight-on-attack trigger (remember the creature is a 7/7 creature at that point) is a bit much. This creature is most often going to kill two creatures a turn. Also, it requires you to carry over the fight damage to combat and the combat math will often get messed up.
Overall Judge Commentary
Your designs are solid, and generally fit well into Innistrad. This is a very solid set, and you have improved the most of any contestant.
I think overall your pack did feel like Innistrad, but I didn't feel that you added much new space to the set. The returning keywords were not really adding anything new. Your creature flashback card was not really a new take on flashback, we did this in Shadows over Innistrad on a handful of creatures that had flashback-like effects when you exiled them from the graveyard. I think your strongest designs were your callbacks, but overall, I felt like you didn't show me anything innovative this week.
All in all, there was more than enough flavor—lots of mentions of creature types can do that.
I think you did a good job of capturing the feel of the world of Innistrad and your designs, for the most part, seemed like they would play well. I agree with the other judges though that I was hoping to see a little more innovation, demonstrating things we could have done in Innistrad but didn't.
Scott, I don't feel this elimination is you doing badly, but rather the other three designers doing better. You came into this week in last place, and while I think you had a good design challenge, unfortunately, the other three designers had stronger ones. I hope you stick with game design as I believe you're very talented and I'm eager to see the cool things you're going to come up with. I have been very impressed by you throughout this competition.