The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists

Posted in Feature on November 24, 2010

By Staff

Shawn Main


On doomed Wodotha, civilization struggles against the relentless Blight that eats away the world.

MR: I like that you've brought The Blight front and center. You don't need the world's name in your logline as it's going to always be used alongside the set's name, which is the name of the world. My issue with the current logline is that it implies that the creatures are fighting the Blight—that the conflict is between the two. The reality, if I understand correctly, is the conflict that results comes from everyone trying to escape the Blight and fighting over the remaining resources. I'd like future versions of the logline to capture the actual conflict using the Blight as the cause not the conflict itself.

CB01 – Deathgreeter
[Shards of Alara]
Creature – Human Shaman
Whenever another creature is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may gain 1 life.

KEN: Pretty nice reprint here.

MR: I like this card as a repeat. It ties into what else is going on in the set but in a relatively simple card. I also like how life gain matters without creating too many interactions that could cause a card like this to get complicated.

CB02 - Craven Imp
Creature - Imp
Forsake 2 (2, Sacrifice this: Draw a card.)

KEN: This ability was on Heart Warden and friends in Urza's Destiny. I really liked Heart Warden because sometimes I needed a mana Elf and sometimes I didn't. I'm not sure I've ever really needed a Bog Imp. Is the parameter necessary? Will there be forsake , forsake , and forsake in later sets of the block?

I like the link for bloodlust triggers, but there feels like too much "my creatures can kill themselves! That's so fun!" in this set.

MT: I would argue against keywording forsake. The word sacrifice seems to cover it pretty well.

MR: Hey, it's "cycling from play," my old pal from Urza's Destiny. While I sympathize with your desire to label this, I'm not sure if it's worth the introduction of another vocabulary word. It does allow you to reference it but I'm not sure how many "forsake matters" cards you'd even want to make. My biggest issue is putting this on a small flyer. How often in Limited are you done with your flyer and you want to trade it in? Put this on almost any small to medium ground pounder and that desire will happen in many games, but on a small flyer not nearly as much.

CB03 – Gravechatter Rat
Creature - Rat
When Mindscraper is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, target player discards a card.

KEN: A nice Ravenous Rat variant.

MT: This card has many names. I assume this is a cut/paste error and not referring to another card named "Mindscraper."

MR: I like this card. It creates interesting tension and makes the opponent have to think about blocking a 1/1.

CB04 - Doom Herald
Creature - Horror
When Doom Herald enters the battlefield, blight target creature. (Destroy each permanent with a blight counter. Then put a blight counter on the blighted creature.)

KEN: This feels like a bread and butter black common for this set. The blight action keyword is in a much better place than what I was reading on the wiki. At least it's mostly upside here.

MT: I wonder if "blighting" should target or just involve choices made on resolution, like proliferate. If it requires a target, sacrificing (or forsaking) the target in response will prevent the destruction of the other blighted creatures. This could be more of a development decision, but it does impact how many vocabulary words we'd need to introduce. Perhaps the answer lies in decoupling the placement of the blight counter and the destruction.

MR: Of all the designers, I think I gave you the hardest task. Yes, the Blight was at the center of your world but designing a mechanic to it is a very tricky proposition. It has to destroy things as that's what the Blight does but it has to do so in a way that's not just miserable to play. While there is plenty of work to be done, I like your initial direction.

The ability eats up some complexity points but as this is the center of your design, I feel it's justified. The one other thing to remember is that you've chosen blight counters as the creature counters for this set, which means you're going to have to forego +1/+1 counters.

CB05 - Cowering Zombie
Creature - Zombie
Forsake 2 (2, Sacrifice this: Draw a card.)

KEN: I'm not sure what the saturation of forsaken creatures will bring. Is someone going to draft a "Forsaken" deck, going nuts with 2/2s and 1/1 flyers?

MR: I'm not sure how many forsake creatures you want, but I definitely like a 2/2 better than a 1/1 flyer.

CB06 – Bone Courier
[Reverse ,
Creature - Zombie
When Bone Courier is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return another target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

KEN: We need to be careful with s; they can form loops at common. This one could be tolerable.

MR: It's Gravefiller from Scars of Mirrodin design (not that you knew that at the time). I like this card and having played it a lot I know it plays well. My one note about death triggers is you have to be careful not to have too many as they can incrementally make the board more complex (although luckily this effect tends to skew towards advanced players as beginners don't tend to plan around death triggers, they just enjoy them when they happen).

CB07 - Maggotgut Buzzard
Creature - Zombie Bird
When Maggotgut Buzzard is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, put two 1/1 black Rat tokens onto the battlefield.

KEN: This is an utter smashing of a Symbiotic Elf. This is too generous by all my metrics. At the very least might help.

MT: Don't forget to give them a card type—in this case, creature.

MR: I'm not sure I get the flavor, but the card seems fun. Another concern with death triggers is that you have to be careful not to do any one thing too much as it makes your set feel too "one-note." I do though like how you've made "death matters" a theme of your set. It adds a nice layer of mood.

CB08 - Blightbearer
Creature - Horror
Whenever Blightbearer deals damage to a creature, blight that creature. (Destroy each permanent with a blight counter. Then put a blight counter on the blighted creature.)

KT: These 1/4 stats are bizarre for a black common. The timing on this trigger plays bizarre. Two of these dealing damage to each other is an active-player-matters event. What's more, it's a complicated trigger that may or may not care if the creature it damaged is already dead from 1 damage. There's probably an uncommon or a Wall here somewhere. The blight trigger in general has some game play I like.

MT: Is this all damage intentionally, or just combat damage?

MR: While I like blight, this card is a little more complex than I'd like to see at common. The spell blight effects are much more straightforward. This creature does some cool things but they aren't as obvious as you start playing with the card. (Damaging a creature with a blight counter on it kills it, for instance.) I think I'd move this card up to uncommon where it can have its fun, yet show up a little less. Also, I agree with Ken that 1/4 is odd for black.

CB09 - Entrail Eater
[Entrails Eater,
Creature - Zombie
Sacrifice a creature: Entrail Eater gets intimidate until end of turn.

KEN: Hill Giants are notoriously strong in black common. It's pretty easy for black to Mind Rot / Coercion / Doom Blade the big stuff away, and then Hill Giant holds the fort.

MR: You have a set where creatures want to die. This means you have to make it a little harder than normal to make them die. Cards like this make it too easy to enable your death triggers. I would recommend putting a mana activation on this card at the bare minimum. Remember that your job isn't to make it easy for the players. Your job is to make them work for it, because it is the overcoming of obstacles that makes games fun.

CB10 – Decaying Horror
[Blighted Horror,
Creature - Horror
When Decaying Horror enters the battlefield, blight Decaying Horror. (Destroy each permanent with a blight counter. Then put a blight counter on the blighted creature.)

KEN: Here's the Mass of Ghouls with some downside and upside. I like this trick here, though.

MT: It's especially weird if sometimes blighting has a target, and can be "foiled" by making the target illegal, and sometimes it's not. I'd encourage you to not go back and forth, especially on your commons.

MR: One of the hardest things about design is resisting the urge to play with all your toys. Yes, blight can be used as a drawback mechanic, but not in the first set of the block and not at common. I know you're trying to show off, but I'm just as interested at seeing you show restraint.

CB11 – Mark of Doom
[Spreading Blight,
Blight target nonblack creature. (Destroy each permanent with a blight counter. Then put a blight counter on the blighted creature.)

KEN: I find this insular enough to remove the "nonblack" here.

MR: This is the kind of blight card I like to see at common. Also, I like how you've put blight where the creature kill would go to keep it from creating too much destruction. You obviously chose black because it most shows off blight, but I'm eager to see how you handle it in other colors. Staying where the creature destruction/damage is is a good start.

CB12 - Demon's Bite
Target creature gets +3/+0 until end of turn.
Bloodlust- If a creature was put into a graveyard from the battlefield this turn, that creature gains lifelink until end of turn.

KEN: Here's a Vampire's Bite for the set. Fine. I appreciate that the bloodlust bonus yields results no matter what. However, I'm skeptical of a bloodlust bonus on a card you're likely to cast just before the aftermath of combat.

MR: What you have here is a good idea and a poor execution. I like what you're going after. "Death matters" is cool. You have to figure out how to execute it so that what you are doing happens when you expect death to happen. Boosting creatures in combat creates unhappy times as you don't get what you need until it's too late.

Also, if you're going to make death matters you have to move beyond the mechanics and think about the flavor. I want to see effects where you get why the death improves it.

CB13 – Spoil Soul
Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn.

KEN: Great!

MR: I personally don't like doing spells at common. We have a lot of data that shows that many players get confused by variables. As such I tend to keep them out of the lowest rarity. That said, there are others in R&D who feel different, which is why spells do show up from time to time in common.

When they do, they tend to be a big focal point of what the set is doing. I'm not sure this card clears that bar. I'd prefer to see this card care about something more in flavor. (The obvious choice flavor-wise is dead creatures, but your set isn't very graveyard focused right now.)

CB14 - Diabolic Visage
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+0 and has intimidate.
Pitch 2 (2, Sacrifice this: Draw a card)

KEN: Pitch on Auras makes a little more sense than on crappy-looking creatures. You can do a weird "Enchant your creature, sacrifice it" to cycle it if you have no creatures. Maybe that's cool.

MT: There's a word for what pitch does: forsake. And there's a word for that, too. Sacrifice. (Although a snarky response, there's an important lesson here about attention to detail: when dealing with the rules and templating folks, we tend to assume every word in your file is an intentional choice.)

MR: Maybe it's just me, but pitch reminds me a lot of foresake. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. A general note to all the designers: you have to be careful in your bookkeeping. I get that pitch was probably the former name for foresake but you have to be on top of this stuff. You only get one first impression and having it foiled by not dotting your i's and crossing your t's is a real issue that designers deal with every day.

My other note is the same as the one I had on the 1/1 flyer. This seems like the kind of card I'm less likely to want to sacrifice. It is an Aura, and if the opponent has the appropriate blocker this can be a dead card, so it's not quite as bad.

CB15 – Unmourn the Lost
[Graverobbing for Fun and Profit,
Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. You gain life equal to its toughness.

KEN: This is the second Raise Dead (the other is a Gravedigger). Since these commons are about your own creatures dying, two feels appropriate.

MR: My biggest issue with this card is a flavor one. Black tends to gain life at the expense of something else. Usually it's through drains but it can also be you gaining off another's loss. The problem with this card is that it's paired with a gain meaning I don't get the flavor of the life gain. It makes the card feel less of a whole card than you want.

CB16 – Blighted Expanse
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant land
When enchanted land becomes tapped, blight it. (Destroy each permanent with a blight counter. Then put a blight counter on the blighted land.)

KEN: Does this go on my land or yours? In any case, I'm not sure the set needs this and Mark of Doom at common contributing to blight matters and nothing else.

MR: I would rather this be an instant or sorcery than an enchantment. Also, I'd rather it just blighted the land rather than threatened the opponent if they tap it. It also allows some weird shenanigans where your opponent can trigger blight at any moment. This can create board complexity issues and takes the control of blight out of your hands.

CB17 – Gnawing Suspicions
[Thought Plague,
Target player discards two cards. For each land card discarded this way, put a 1/1 Black Rat creature token on the battlefield.

KEN: I already play all my Mind Rots. How much more upside does it need? 3-for-1s in commons have a tendency to take over Limited games. We like keeping the 2-for-1s at higher rarites.

MR: I get there's some black rat theme running through here but I'm not quite sure what that subtheme is. I do like black rat tokens though. It's the closest they allow me these days to squirrel tokens. I would like seeing some future definition of the rats subtheme.

CB18 – Demon's Joy
Each opponent loses 2 and you gain that much life.
Bloodlust- If a creature was put into a graveyard from the battlefield this turn, instead each opponent loses 4 life and you gain that much life.

KEN: Another card with upside for bloodlust that's always on. You get to say "Gotcha!" when you suicide a 1/1 into your opponent's team and get them with this over-the-top.

MR: I like bloodlust. I'd change the name because naming a mechanic after a somewhat iconic old card makes players think it does something it doesn't. I do like how the mechanic is on/off, meaning it just looks to check the state. I feel like this has more design space than mechanics like "carnage" that triggered off of each death.

Before receiving the judges feedback, I imagined the Blight would serve only as the inciting incident for the story of Wodotha. Encouraged by the judges to make the Blight into the centerpiece of the story, I knew I had to find it a distinct mechanical role. After three days of false starts, someone suggested the game could accumulate blight counters as a clock to an event where marked permanents would die. I liked the flavor, but was wary of the complexity. Playtesting never clicked until I brought the number of counters needed for destruction all the way down to one. Suddenly, being blighted was a rush, feeling like your marked creature could vanish suddenly. The Blight itself had character in the game.

Making each blight action both destruction and marking makes it so that, under normal circumstances, there's only one blighted permanent at a time. Thus it feels like the Blight chases cards across the table. And, though I only used it once on the final design, it opens possibilities for self-blighting cards to be used as both an advantage and a drawback.

Once blight was locked in place, I decided to design for black, since it had the most space to utilize the mechanic. Because blight was so linear, I wanted the other set mechanics to be more modular. With a sadistic demon as the villain and secret initiator of the Blight, I figured black's flavor could focus on reveling in destruction while the world falls apart.

KEN: This submission features the blight mechanic, which might be keepable if it appears on the correct card designs. The bloodlust mechanic has some "Gotcha!" moments in the waiting wanting to be Forsaken, though too much bloodlust rewards might cause zero blocking in Limited. I'm anxious to see what other colors in this set have in store.

Hightlight: Doom Herald
Lowlight: Craven Imp

AF: There's certainly something fun going on here. I like blight in general; I remember trying to get something similar to work for black Elves in Lorwyn (we ended up with just Hunter of Eyeblights, which is one of my favorite cards in that set). Anyway, you seem to be on a more successful path with the idea than we were. There were some weird interactions with the 1/4 killing a 1/1 in combat but then blighting anyway which may or may not need addressed, but most of the cards had interesting game play. (I don't like Blighted Expanse at all, and I don't think the 5/3 self-blighter is a common, but otherwise very solid.)

I'm tickled by the Rat tokens, and I like the bloodlust "death matters" thing, but it all feels very, very black, so I'm not getting a great sense of what the other colors might be doing in this world. I guess I'll find out after the next challenge.

You don't get a ton of points for keywording the Urza's Destiny "cycling from play" mechanic, but it does seem like something we might do (as we did with domain), and they played fine.

I really wanted there to be a Vampire Aristocrat kind of card in black common, but that's an easy enough fix (or maybe it's too good here). All in all, enjoyable, right amount of complexity, and definitely in the top half.

MT: Shawn, your cards were pretty tame overall as far as rules go. I didn't feel that sticking a keyword on a well-established game action was necessary, but there are certainly no rules issues with it. Bloodlust is a solid ability word. Blight is interesting, but there are some details to hammer out. Some blight cards clearly want to blight themselves specifically, but I'd imagine there are cards at higher rarities that want to blight opponents' permanents. Players expect their cards with the same keyword (or keyword action) to play the same way, so we want to frame the rules to facilitate that.

MR: Shawn, I feel like this was your week to shine. You were given a very difficult note last week and you managed to find an answer. I don't think blight has worked through all its kinks but I do believe you have tapped into something with real potential. I feel you chose the easy path by picking black but hey, choosing the piece of your set that puts it in the best light is probably the correct strategy in the GDS2.

The area I'd like to see you work on for next week is that I want to get a better sense of the rest of your world. You've figured out how to represent the Blight. Now work on the world shaped by it. I see glimpses of it with you toying around with "death matters", but I feel like there's some conflict that you had in mind that needs to resurface.

Another issue to think about is what is going to happen during the course of your block. This is important because Wodotha needs to set up the rest of the block, so whatever you're setting up has to be established here.

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