GDS2, Episode 1: "Let's Start at the Very Beginning"

Posted in NEWS on December 3, 2013

Design Challenge #1 – "Common Ground"

For your design test, you created a world. For all of the Design Challenges you are going to work within that world. Everything you've done so far has just been a warm-up to get a feeling for your world. Starting with this challenge you are going to build the world from the ground up. Please think of anything you've done prior to this as experimental homework. Other than the basic premise of your world you are under no obligation to do anything you've suggested so far. (Although obviously, you can use things already submitted.)


This first Design Challenge is going to take you to where every lead designer starts when he or she begins to build a set. This week you are going to design commons. More specifically, this week's challenge is to choose a color and make all eighteen common cards of that color. (I chose eighteen because I'm assuming there's a little space for common lands or artifacts—even if your set wouldn't have those, still design exactly eighteen cards.)

At least six of your cards must be designed solely by you. At least six of the cards cannot be designed by you and must be from the Magic Wiki. The remaining six may be designed by whomever you like. You are allowed one reprint among your eighteen commons. Vanilla and French vanilla cards don't count as reprints. If you use a reprint it comes from the six cards not specifically assigned to you or the Wiki ("others") even if someone else suggests it. A reprinted card can have a new name and/or creature type. Please list a reprinted card as you would a card from the Wiki, except list the card's original name and expansion.

What are the judges going to look for? Let me tell you:

Feeling like commons: The eighteen cards must all be appropriately common and must approximate how a large set would design its commons under modern design principles.

Conveying the theme of your set: As I often say, "If the theme of your set isn't at common, it isn't your theme." Make sure to choose your color to maximize your ability to show off your set's themes.

Demonstrating your vision: Your world is about something. Make that something apparent in your card choices and designs. Commons are a window into your world. Make sure we have a good view.

Showcasing your mechanics: While not all of your mechanics will necessarily be in your chosen color or be appropriate for common, make sure the ones that are convey the basic essence of your mechanics. As I explained above, those mechanics do not have to be the ones in your design test.

Being marketable: Your set needs to be something that we can excite players with. Make sure that your logline matches your cards. That is, make sure your commons represent how you want to sell your set.

Making good designs: While your cards have to all come together to do all of the above, they also have to each be able to stand on their own as solid card designs.

Instilling fun: At the end of the day, a set succeeds or fails on one crucial criterion: Is it fun? Make sure your set is fun to play.

That's it. That's all we're asking for.

Here's what I want you to send me:

Your Name

Your Set Name: Unless you have a very strong reason, I suggest defaulting to the name of your world. (No more than 3 words)

Your updated logline: This is the essence of what your set is all about. Use it to inform and excite us. (No more than 15 words.)

Your commons: You will be using R&D card codes to list your eighteen cards. (See my column on card codes if you don't know what I'm talking about.) The commons should be listed in the following order: list all of the creatures from the lowest converted mana cost to the highest; then print all noncreature spells from the lowest converted mana cost to the highest. (This is how R&D lists its cards.) Please list the cards using the same formatting you used for the design test.

CW01 (or CU01, CB01, CR01 or CG01) –
CW02 –
CW03 –
CW04 –
CW05 –
CW06 –
CW07 –
CW08 –
CW09 –
CW10 –
CW11 –
CW12 –
CW13 –
CW14 –
CW15 –
CW16 –
CW17 –
CW18 –

Comments: You are allowed to explain anything you want about your eighteen cards. Please put all of your comments together at the end. I recommend talking more about the cohesive whole of your common design rather than about individual cards. (Maximum of 250 words.)

The deadline for submitting this Design Challenge is 11:59 p.m. PST on Sunday, November 14. Please submit them to the same email you submitted your design tests.

Good luck!