GDS2 Episode 6: "Introductions Please"

Posted in Feature on February 9, 2011

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

Welcome to Episode #6 of The Great Designer Search 2. In our last episode, the judges reviewed the submissions for the fourth Design Challenge and I eliminated Jonathon Loucks. The remaining four applicants were then given the fifth Design Challenge. Today we'll be judging the submissions for that Challenge.


As I do every show, I'll begin by introducing today's judges. Note that the color box they appear in is the color box for all their comments in today's judging. We begin with the designer I've worked closest with:


MR: This Challenge was the hardest yet to judge. All four remaining candidates are doing excellent work and it was difficult having to cut someone. We put together all four Intro Decks and played them against one another. The judges had a lot of fun as all four decks were enjoyable to play. After today's elimination, I'll explain what happens next.

Our second judge is the one other full-time judge, Ken Nagle:

KEN: This is Ken Nagle—game designer advanced, GDS1 contestant, GDS2 judge, and lover of fatties. I'll be critiquing these Intro Packs from an execution standpoint. I'll also critique new card designs on how they fit into a set. The Great Designers did well this challenge all around, so there's commendations in store.

Our guest design judge for today is Graeme Hopkins, one of the final three (along with Ken and Alexis Janson) from the first Great Designer Search:

GTH: My name is Graeme Hopkins (the T is for Timothy). I am a Software Developer for Magic Online. I also spend a good chunk of time working on Magic design. I've been on the design teams for Zendikar and Rise of the Eldrazi, as well as for the upcoming sets codenamed "Shake" and "Rattle." Some of my favorite cards I've designed include Wall of Reverence, Lotus Cobra, Splinter Twin, and Demon of Death's Gate.

I started working at Wizards of the Coast four years ago as a result of the first Great Designer Search. I was one of the finalists, so I have great respect for the work that all contestants have done and will do.

I'm glad to say we have some talented contestants. I had fun with each deck that we'll be examining, and I look forward to telling you all about it.

Our guest non-design judge is Magic developer Tom LaPille:

TML: I'm Tom LaPille. I joined Magic R&D as a contract developer in June of 2008 and was hired full time on March 1 of 2009. I was on the development teams for Magic 2010, Worldwake, Magic 2011, Mirrodin Besieged, and "Action." I led the development of Masters Edition III, Archenemy, Masters Edition IV, and Magic 2012. I am also on one development team for an unannounced set and leading another unannounced set.

Aside from set-specific work, I'm the developer in Magic R&D who is responsible for Magic's line of introductory products. I helped write the current Magic learn-to-play insert, made every Intro Pack deck from Alara Reborn to Magic 2011, and built the thirty-card Sample Decks that we give out at conventions and for Duels of the Planeswalkers promotions. I also wrote an attempt at a new learn-to-play insert that failed to teach people Magic at all, causing me to choose to kill it entirely. I don't build Intro Packs anymore, but I work closely with the people who do while they do it.

I write the Latest Developments column for DailyMTG. You should read it every week and vote in my polls!

Before I got to Wizards, I played Magic on the Pro Tour from 2005 to 2008. During that time, I gained development experience on my own time by working on a Cube that I have since become quite well known for. Near the end of that time, I started blogging about Magic strategy, then got picked up as a columnist by, then was offered the contract position in Magic R&D that got it all started. If you want to learn more about how that happened, and how it could happen to you, I recommend reading my articles "A Boy and his Cube," "Aventuras," and "The Great Developer Search."

For the purpose of today's exercise, pretend that I'm your set's lead developer. That means that I will be the person responsible for guiding your ideas from your handoff to being a finalized, draftable Magic set with enough fun Constructed cards that will also have broad appeal to all Magic players. One of the jobs that I have to do is judge the design handoff, making a decision about whether or not I can turn it into a good final set. My comments at the end of each deck will be focused on that decision. Be aware that an important part of being lead developer is being blunt with your lead designer. My comments today will reflect that need for bluntness. Note that I am not taking into account work done on anything other than this assignment.

What the Deck

For our fifth Design Challenge, we asked the candidates to design an Intro Deck for their world. The idea was to see if they could show off their world through the entry point of an Intro Deck. Building the Intro Deck required following a substantial amount of rules we have internally for Intro Deck construction. (To see all the restrictions, click here.) In addition, the applicants had to show that they've been listening to the advice of the judges and advance the construction of their world, so their work was cut out for them.

As I stress every show, what we are asking the designers to do is very hard. They are being asked to create results with a tiny fraction of the time and manpower that a real set would have. The judges are being harsh in criticisms, but please be aware that we have great respect for the work the applicants are doing.

Below are the five applicants each with their Design Challenge submission along with the judges' comments. Click on each name or avatar to see that candidate's material.

Once you are done reading what the judges had to say, click here for the fourth GDS2 elimination.

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