The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Devon Rule

Posted in Feature on December 8, 2010

By Staff

Devon Rule


A peaceful world marches to war.

MR: I have mixed feelings about your logline. The writer in me enjoys the contrast that makes the reader want to know more. The salesman in me feels like this isn't going to do much to excite people. Subtlety, in general, does not work well in sales and this as the logline on your poster isn't going to have the response I think you would want. I believe you need to be a little more blunt in presenting your world.

CW01 - Forward Scout
[Plowman to Swordsman by NMEL -
Creature - Human Scout
Mobilize - Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, Forward Scout gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

KEN: We've got creaturefall. Quite a fine mechanic. Will Soul Warden get her mobilize text in this set?!

MG: "Mobilize" is an obvious copy of "landfall." That's good to some extent; "landfall" was a successful mechanic that taught us valuable lessons on good game play, so riffing on it (as opposed to riffing on an unpopular mechanic like clash) is smart. Giving players a reward for achieving a goal they want to achieve anyway makes everyone feel good. But what the mechanic has in play value, it lacks in innovation or excitement. This is about as bland a mechanic as I can think of.

Notably, landfall changed the way games felt and played—usually playing a land on turn eight is pointless; but with landfall, it's exciting! The flow of the game was altered, conventional wisdom was upended, and the result was that Limited game play in Zendikar had some entirely new aspects to it. Suddenly you wanted to top-deck a land?! mobilize lacks this entirely. You already wanted to top-deck a land. Playing a creature on turn eight is already a good idea, so making it a marginally better idea doesn't accomplish anything towards creating a new play experience.

ZH: I dig this mechanic and I think it's smart to go ahead and enable it early. It also adds upside to tokens, which you'll also want if you're going forward with mandate (although I think that mechanic has some problems). Well done.

MR: You're trying to play to white's strength which is its numbers and mobilize seems like a mechanic that will both sell this theme and work well in the decks that are doing what you want white to do—play with an army. This is a fine example of a very simple mobilize card. Mark brings up a good point that mobilize is not landfall in that it doesn't create the altered game play that landfall did.

CW02 - Noble Samaritan
[Noble Priest by Havelock Vetinari -
Creature - Human Cleric
W, sacrifice Noble Samaritan: Target creature is indestructible until end of turn.

KEN: A Benevolent Bodyguard. A one-drop protector is nice to play precombat for your mobilize creatures, then protect them in combat.

MR: We rarely put the word "indestructible" on a common (we have only five times, and only twice since the Darksteel set introduced the word), but there's one such card in Scars of Mirrodin, so it's not crazy. Something like this can be a bit tricky if it, and the other creature, are involved in combat at the same time.

ZH: I'm not sure what this card is doing here. It's a fine card, but it sort of plays against what you're going for with mandate and you already have a far cooler 1/1 for . It's not awful, or anything—I'm just not excited by it.

MR: I like what you're trying to do with this card. The flavor of a martyr willing to die foracause is very good and in theme for you. My only note is that we tend to keep indestructible out of common for complexity reasons (a lot of players get confused by what can and can't affect an indestructible item). I'm not docking you much for this because Scars of Mirrodin just did this effect in common. The reason we were willing to do it in Scars was that indestructibility played a larger role than normal as it was an ability that first showed up on the plane of Mirrodin and we were trying to make Scars feel like a return. In general, we tend to keep indestructible for uncommon and higher.

CW03 - Patrol Falcon
Creature - Bird

KEN: When all games are played out, I wonder if this card deals more total damage to players or prevents more total damage to players. I'm guessing prevention. I'll total it in the "new and simple" camp, but overall I feel the game play of Stormfront Pegasus is better.

MG: We've never done this, but I think we could. Back in Tempest, we printed 1/2 flying, but more recently we've done 1/2 flying with an additional ability. I see no reason that additional ability couldn't be replaced by another +0/+1; this creature seems on curve. Interestingly, I think 1/3 vanilla is also acceptable to print.

ZH: Solid. I like how this creature interacts with mobilize; it's cheap so it can trigger it, but also holds down the fort so it's your mobilize creatures that can go on offense. Good card.

MR: A fine French vanilla.

CW04 - Conscripted Farmer
Creature - Human Citizen Soldier

KEN: Again with the new and simple. The Citizen here really sticks out—I'm guessing there's a one-of card in the set that makes it matter, a rare lord or something?

MG: Sure. It's strictly worse than Veteran Armorsmith, but that seems fine.

ZH: This, on the other hand, I don't understand. This creature and the 1/3 flyer fill the same role. It's not that you don't want to have multiple two-drops; it's that you want your two-drops to be different from one another in some substantial way. I get that the 1/3 is flying, but with only one point of power he's not exactly an offensive powerhouse. Both of these creatures gain you initiative and then start attacking when you feel like you can afford to cede initiative. You don't need them both.

MR: I like that you took the time to find a unique but printable vanilla that has never been done before. This is not an easy task so kudos. On the downside, we tend to avoid two-drop double colored mana cards at common as players tend to play them in Limited decks unaware how hard they are to actually play early.

CW05 - Democratic Knight
Creature - Human Citizen Knight
Mandate - If you control more creatures than each opponent, Democratic Knight gets +1/+1.

KEN: I found mandate and mobilize to be overly similar. First, the names begin with m and end with e, so I got the words mixed up on my playtest cards. Secondly, they both scream "swarm" strategy.

When we make mechanics that count things, it's usually just your own things. metalcraft, threshold, Dogpile, Spiraling Embers. For this mechanic, you have to count your own things, then your opponent's things, then subtract. Those numbers are changing through normal game play, even if the result isn't changing. Be careful.

MG: "Mandate" has its good points and its bad points. In its favor, it's a mechanic that beautifully encapsulates a major philosophy of the color white. White wants to amass an army. I like that the mechanic gives you a solid deck-building direction that matches what players like to do and promotes good game play. It's also pretty easy to process.

On the down side, this is in many ways a "win more" mechanic that's very hard for your opponent to come back from. If you have the most creatures, you probably don't need the extra bonuses. Sure, your creatures might all be small while your opponent has giant fatties or fearsome flyers, but usually, the person with the most creatures is winning. And once you take the lead and make your creatures bigger, how is your opponent supposed to fight you?

On the other down side, this mechanic occupies pretty much the same conceptual space as "mobilize." They're both ability words that grant a variety of bonuses (read your cards carefully!) for playing creatures. More creatures = bonus. Some of the bonuses are even the same! (See CW01 and CW05.) The mechanics are not identical, but they are redundant.

ZH: So here's the thing about mandate: Relative "lightswitch" mechanics (mechanics that either "turn on" or "turn off" not based on some trait of the game state objectively, but rather about the status of some trait of yours relative to that same trait of your opponents) are notoriously complex even though they seem simple. The "more cards in hand than an opponent" theme in Saviors of Kamigawa showed us that keeping track of this kind of stuff is a nightmare, even though it doesn't seem like it is. There's the first-level stuff about how every spell that leaves your hand is now a combat trick, of course, but the bigger problems are twofold:

1. Keeping track of these variables makes the rest of the game less fun. In SoK, you were always flicking through your hand and then asking your opponents how many cards they had, and it was a massive pain.

2. We think we know when you're supposed to "check" on the status of our creatures, but we actually don't when it comes to these mechanics. "Oh, my Descendant of Kiyomaro, First to Stand is bigger than my opponent's creature. I'll attack, and he'll chump block. Sweet. Now I'll play a land, cast another creature, and say go. ASFGHKSHSDK!!!!!111 MY CREATURE DIED!!11111" etc. We're trained, all of us, to consider the status of Magic cards at certain points. It's really jarring to have to continuously evaluate the board state at all times, and to continuously have to think not just about some definite number—three artifacts on the board, seven cards in a graveyard—but about a series of competing rates.

With this card, I have to do all the stuff I just talked about—to give my creature +1/+1. My gut is that this mechanic isn't worth the cost. It's a little better than "relative hand size" because you can just look at the board and see, but the "democracy" thing you talk about doesn't really come across. Furthermore, the presence of tokens, while helpful with this mechanic from a game play perspective, really gets in the way when it comes to operations. "Oh, there are four torn-up pieces of paper here instead of five. I guess my entire team dies."

I would give serious thought to whether this mechanic is actually pulling its weight.

MR: I really like what mandate is trying to do. I get your theme and it does fit right in. My problem is that we have found comparative mechanics (that is—I check to see if I have more than you) to require more mental processing than they're worth. They not only require constant checking but they also make you have to take into account what happens if the toggle gets switched. For example, if you get into a combat where one of your other creatures gets killed, Democratic Knight can shrink to a 2/2 and die based on the damage it's already received.

To your credit, you picked the thing that's the easiest to track. Creatures are on the battlefield and are front and center on the players' minds. If any comparative mechanic is going to work, mandate has the best chance. Playtesting with mandate wasn't too bad, so I guess I'd be willing to give the mechanic more time to see where it evolves, but be aware that it has a red flag on it. I do like that you centered it in white.

CW06 - Forum Bailiff
[Citizen's Arrester by palpable -
Creature - Human Cleric
Mobilize - Whevever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may tap target creature.

KEN: With mobilize and mandate, as long as I was casting a creature each turn, my opponent couldn't win. It felt like an early Worldwake playtest when nearly every card in the file loved land drops—making your first eight land drops meant you won from the power of landfall and multikicker. I'm guessing that while the keywords are fine enough, together they oversaturate game play to "make four land drops, cast any creature all game, FTW."

MG: This feels smaller than it needs to be. Unlike other tappers, this one doesn't tap a creature as an activated ability. Rather, it does so as a triggered ability that will almost always happen during your own turn. That means it's good at clearing out blockers, not at preventing your opponent from attacking. This creature wants to go fight, so it should have a body on it.

ZH: I like it, and I like that your set takes advantage of what might otherwise be a relatively insubstantial body. It could become too non-interactive in multiples—you don't want to get into the world where no one can ever block—but you'd run out of creatures eventually. Strong.

MR: I like the effect you've chosen quite a bit. Normally, you don't play your creatures until after combat so I like that this card makes you rethink that default play. My biggest issue is one I share with Mark—I think you put it on the wrong body. You play a creature and get to tap a potential blocker. Now you want to attack, but the creature you have is a measly 1/1. This creature really wants a bigger body to play synergistically with the effect.

CW07 - Messenger Griffin
[Feathered Friend by NMEL -
Creature - Griffin
Flash, flying

KEN: We usually make flash creatures on the defensive side for a Simian Grunt moment, but I won't complain about aggressive creatures having flash. Wind Drake is an exemplary dedicated beater.

MG: We've pulled back hard on common flash creatures since Lorwyn block. Having such a creature here makes sense, since it can turn on both your "mandate" and your "mobilize" abilities as a surprise. Precisely for that reason, though, Development would have to consider whether this wants to be uncommon or cost more than three mana. More on this in a bit.

ZH: You make good use of flash here, and this card has pleasing "invisible text" that I talked about earlier. It's also straightforward and appealing in its own right. Nice job!

MR: I like what you're doing here. You added in a flash creature to help surprise your opponent with mandate. My only complaint is that we tend to hold back on double mana requirements in common. We tend to use them on cards that we really want the players to have to commit to the color to get. I would much rather this be than even if the creature has to shrink to a 2/1 from a 2/2. (I lowered the toughness rather than raise the converted mana cost as this card wants to be easier to cast.)

CW08 - Banishing Magistrate
[Exiling Magistrate by TerDragonMosiac -
Creature - Human Wizard
When Banishing Magistrate enters the battlefield, exile target creature other than Banishing Magistrate.
When Banishing Magistrate leaves the battlefield, return the exiled creature to the battlefield under its owner's control.

KEN: White gets Faceless Butcher more formally here. I'm sure we'll do this eventually. This is the kind of card we might push to get into Constructed since we are usually very kind to Oblivion Ring cards.

MG: It's Faceless Butcher in white (minus a colored mana and a toughness)! This makes a lot of sense; Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere have shown that this kind of "temporary" removal has a home in white, so featuring it on a creature is a logical next step.

ZH: Faceless Butcher at common happened a long time ago, and this creature is easier to splash. We don't mind putting the occasional two-for-one at common (especially if it's conditional), but there's a big difference between two cards for one and two relevant spells. We almost never allow two-relevant-spells-for-one at common without a relatively narrow condition, and we certainly wouldn't do it this easily. This card is an uncommon.

MR: You've noticed that we've shifted the "nightmare" mechanic (from Torment) into white. As such, a white Faceless Butcher is a fine card and plays nicely with your set's "I want more creatures than you" theme. Zac's right that this card would probably be uncommon for developmental concerns.

CW09 - Democratic Platoon
Creature - Human Citizen Soldier
Mandate - As long as you control more creatures than each opponent, Democratic Platoon gets +1/+1 and has first strike.

KEN: I'll mention here that mandate has the fail multiplayer wording. Multiplayer players love Knight of the White Orchid wording and hate Even the Odds wording. If you say "an opponent" instead of "each opponent", you save two characters per card and make more players happy.

This card is where the set goes overboard on the swarm strategy. An opponent trying to stabilize with say a Wall of Spears isn't going to cut it.

MG: It's kind of brutal that both mandate and mobilize feature a variety of different effects. Ability words are mnemonics that are supposed to help players grok, remember, and talk about their cards more easily. Due to the overlap between these two mechanics, and the variety in their effects, these ability words are having the opposite result (at least on me); I can't keep them straight.

ZH: In many ways, if you're going to do mandate, first strike makes good sense with it. You get points for that. However, mandate strikes me as a pretty bad idea (as I mentioned earlier) and I don't have all that much to say about it that hasn't already been said.

MR: I have a couple of issues with this card. First, I feel like the swing with the mandate makes it very hard for the opponent to catch up. A 4/2 first striker is going to kill the opponent quickly and there isn't much you can do to prevent the damage that doesn't make the mandate even harder to undo. Yes, cards like this will exist but not at common.

Next, we tend to restrict white common to only have one creature with power 3 or greater. (We don't tend to count things that change so if this was a 2 power creature that could turn into a 3 power creature we don't count it for quota reasons.) CW10 [Caravan Pachyderm] seems like the 3 powered common for the set.

Third, for reasons above, I'd prefer this creature not have two white mana in its cost. Finally, creatures with power more than two greater than toughness really feels out of flavor for white. Yes, we occasionally do it but most often at higher rarities. What this all adds up to is that this card probably wants to be a 2/1 for a mana cost with a single white.

CW10 - Caravan Pachyderm
Creature - Elephant

KEN: Siege Mastodon learned how to lash out with its trunk and still hold its ground.

MG: This is ginormous for a common vigilance creature. It will own the ground in Limited. Based on similar creatures in recent history, this should be uncommon and/or cost six mana.

ZH: Great pseudo-"reward" card in white at 3CC. Vigilance is a totally reasonable ability to put on a Siege Mastodon to justify the extra C in the cost. Solid.

MR: What's a white set without a common elephant. I'm not sure why white likes elephants so much (they're trainable?) but they do. White is supposed to have the highest percentage of creatures so I like that you went over 50%.

CW11 - Compensated Injunction
Destroy target artifact or enchantment. Its controller gains two gold counters. (Gold counters may be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: The gold mechanic returns in a Reparations-style card, whose flavor text probably inspired this card. I like it well enough, and there are tricks with your Darksteel Myr.

MG: It's nice to see gold counters bleed into white, since this group of cards seems like it belongs to a completely different set than the black commons you submitted. I appreciate the synergy between Mercenaries and both "mandate" and "mobilize" (though ... more instant-speed creatures ... hrm ... ), but nothing else seems to mesh, and that's a problem for cards that are going to get played together.

ZH: I like that you're continuing the "gold" theme in white a little bit while clearly communicating that currency isn't white's "thing." It's also flavorful and fills an important role in the white spell slots. Good job.

MR: One of my biggest strikes against this week's submission is that it had almost nothing to do with last week's submission. This was one of the few cards where I could see them starting to come together. If only the card found a way to get you gold so that you could use it with your black cards. (Yeah, you can spend one white mana and destroy your own card to get two colorless mana.)

CW12 - Raise the Alarm
Put two 1/1 white Soldier tokens onto the battlefield.

KEN: Very well-placed reprint here. There were a couple other submissions I feel could've used a token-maker card, and this submission filled the need. Also a combat trick!

MG: And even more instant-speed creatures at common to interact with "mandate" and "mobilize." These even cause "mobilize" abilities to trigger twice. It's nice that you found a reprint whose value is much different in this environment than in its original environment (I know that was one of the challenges), but this has probably gone over the line. Note that Join the Ranks was basically this same card in Zendikar block (it was a common white instant that made two 1/1 tokens, each of which caused a number of block-specific abilities to trigger), except it had to cost four mana to be balanced. Anyway, one of these flash creatures needs to get bumped from common.

ZH: Absolutely genius reprint, given your set's themes. Good discipline, as there's no need to get more fancy.

MR: Now this is a well-chosen reprint. It's simple, flavorful, and fits mechanically into your set in a way that it didn't last time the card was printed. Bravo.

CW13 - Village Congregation
[United in Focus by Will Blanks -
Gain 2 life for each creature you control.

KEN: I see the life, but before I saw gold counters; my instinct was that this would give me gold counters. There's theme here with the "control infinite creatures for scaling profit" mechanic, but again I feel it's oversaturated—you do that or lose. It was cool to power this up with my Mercenaries, I'll admit.

MG: This is Peach Garden Oath (an Eighth Edition uncommon) for one more mana. Though, to be fair, it's also Festival of Trokin (a Portal Second Age common) for one more mana. The effect fits right into the "build an army" theme.

ZH: Another strong card for what your set is trying to do. It does what it does, and does it well.

MR: You're definitely staying on theme. This card saved my butt in the one game I cast it. Design-wise, I'm glad you made it a sorcery. I find Ken's suggestion that this pays you in gold intriguing.

CW14 - Idealized Purpose
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted Creature has lifelink.
Mobilize - Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, enchanted creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

KEN: A bit hodgepodge. Again with the swarm of creatures-matter, but there's tension because this actually isn't a creature.

MG: Seems reasonable.

ZH: Meh. I realize there's stuff that allows you to cast multiple creatures, but the mobilize on this doesn't get me that excited. There isn't a huge delta between an enchantment that gives my creature lifelink and an enchantment that gives my creature +1/+1 and lifelink—I don't want to play either of them. So straddling the middle just makes me go, "Huh?"

Also, I'm not saying, "This card is bad and therefore you shouldn't make it." At all. What I'm saying is, it tends to be a bad idea to make a bad card whose "upside" turns it into a slightly-less-bad card. It begs the question, "Why am I supposed to go on this quest at all?"

MR: I agree with Zac that this card could be a little swingier. It seems okay but doesn't wow me.

CW15 - Improvised Shield
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to target creature this turn.
Draw a card.

KEN: Nice enough. This kind of effect got better when we changed the combat rules in Magic 2010. You can gangblock and the creature with the Improvised Shield will protect everyone else.

MG: It's the cantrip version of Indestructible Aura (a card that hasn't been seen since Chronicles). I like it.

ZH: In general I'm not a huge fan of cantrips, as they make me ask, "What about this improvised shield is causing someone anywhere to draw a card? Is it like Red Bull-steroids that makes you tougher AND smarter at the same time?" (though, even then I don't get why it's the controller who's drawing a card). Still, this card does what it does reasonably well, so I don't have many bad things to say about it.

MR: I like that you again found a simple effect that we hadn't specifically done yet. I would be tempted to drop the cost to and get rid of the cantrip to make it a little cleaner.

CW16 - Banish
Exile target attacking creature.

KEN: Very nice and clean. The white removal slots are sometimes irksome to fill (Faith's Fetters and whatnot), and clean is good. Purely defensive, but ok.

MG: It's the Order half of Order // Chaos (for one less mana), the non-cycling version of Resounding Silence (for one less mana), or the non-cantrip version of Second Thoughts (for two less mana). It's also a clean, simple card that's you might think is pretty amazing we haven't printed yet, so good job finding it. I have a theory on that, however: I think we print the versions with extra riders so that we have a reason to add mana to the cost. This is such a bomb-annihilating, don't-bother-attacking beating of a card in Limited that we want to make it hard to cast. At four or more mana, it usually means that you have to do nothing on your turn in order to sit back on the lands necessary to cast it (or it's acceptably late in the game). It'd play a lot differently at three mana than at four.

ZH: It still surprises me that we haven't made this card yet. It's good with "creaturefall" since it lets you race while those creatures go on offense. Strong.

MR: You really focused on making simple effects we hadn't exactly done. This is a one-mana cheaper version of Order from the split cards Order and Chaos (or Order // Chaos as the rules people write it). I like it.

CW17 - Democratic Charge
Creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn.
Mandate - If you control more creatures than each opponent, creatures you control get an additional +1/+1.

KEN: This was pretty fun when I killed Gottlieb with it. I don't think he found it fun. Did I mention every white common is twice as good when you're swarming your opponent? Well, nothing says that more than your Overrun turning into Double Overrun.

MG: What a savaging. If you already have a creature advantage, you can turn it into a totally overpowering creature advantage. At common. As an instant. For three mana. Compare cards like Bold Defense, Charge Across the Araba, Marshaling Cry, and Swell of Courage.

ZH: In addition to all the mandate-tomfoolery I was talking about earlier, this card is also ambiguous. Do my creatures continue to get +1/+1 later in the turn even if I no longer have more creatures than each opponent? The answer is "yes," but given that mandate is asking you to continually check on things, I think it's totally reasonable for a player to assume that the +1/+1 is continually checking on things, as well. Making a card like this feels a little bit to me like we're trolling our players.

MR: While I don't mind white common pumping the team +1/+1, once it starts getting to +2/+2, I like to see it in a higher rarity. When it gets +3/+3 or higher I like seeing it in another color (green for those that have never been Overrunned to death).

CW18 - Prairie Watchtower
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Plains
Enchanted Plains has "T: Target creature gains vigilance until end of turn."

KEN: I like this card for its weak sauce aspect. The Enchant Plains part makes me feel like it's a cycle. I'm guessing haste, flying, etc. on the others.

MG: How random. I like cards like this, though; it at least has some personality. It seems overcosted, though.

ZH: What?

MR: I think you've done an excellent job of making simple, compelling cards in this submission. This, though, isn't one of them. It's more complicated than it needs to be to create a pretty negligible effect. One of the few misses from a card construction standpoint.


For this round, I wanted to use two mechanics: One to represent white's role in Utopia, and one that could be used across colors and added to the set's identity as a whole.

Mandate (originally named "Plurality") is a bizarrely literal way of representing democracy, but I enjoyed the flavor and gameplay. When you're playing against other creature-based decks, it creates a very interesting struggle for a majority presence on the battlefield.

I originally wanted a mechanic to capture the "adaptation" theme I was going for, but this proved somewhat untenable at common. Flip cards, modified levelers, and other text heavy monstrosities added more complexity than they were worth. Eventually, I decided to leave the adaptation theme to higher rarities and invent something I could use at common with interesting connections to all colors.

I settled on Mobilization (originally suggested as "Creaturefall" by unbroken circle) as something that instead captured the "marching to war," feel of the set, creatures that work as more of their allies enter the fray. One of the primary reasons behind the decision is that it has interesting interactions with each color - merceries in black, fire tokens in read, weenie armies in white, flash creatures in blue, and hulking monsters in green.

Thanks again to everyone who helped me out on this challenge!

KEN: In summary, this submission was coherent, simple enough, and very focused. However, it feels over-themed where every card rewards vomiting creatures onto the battlefield. This creates some slippery slopes. If we're playing with the same cards, it's almost a given one player is "on" and the other player is "off." There's some good game play to be harnessed by one Hill Giant holding off three 2/2 creatures from attacking. I don't feel that will be true in this set. You'd need an Avatar of Hope to claw your way back from a losing board position.

MG: There is no vision here. This is so generic, it's basically a core set. The theme is that war erupts in a peaceful world—but this is Magic: The Gathering, a combat game. War erupts in a peaceful world in pretty much every set. Those sets at least have something to define them underneath the war. Mirrodin was a peaceful metallic world before the Phyrexians invaded. Kamigawa was a peaceful Japanese-themed world before the Spirits invaded. Bant was a peaceful chivalrous world before the conflux thrust it into conflict. I could keep going. Utopia is a peaceful peaceful-themed world before some sort of war happens. I don't see the opposing faction here, so I don't know whether there even is a war, why they're fighting, what's at stake, or why this world is different than any other.

The main white mechanics here promote amassing creatures, because creatures fight in a war. Again, this is true of every set: You want creatures so they can fight. This is as bland as Magic can possibly get. And just as gold counters were highly reminiscent of Eldrazi Spawn, "mobilize" is highly reminiscent of "landfall." Your black commons were interesting because they presented a black society we hadn't ever explored before.

Your white commons do the opposite thing, presenting a white society that looks exactly like every other white society, minus anything interesting. (Instant-speed creatures that turn your abilities on ain't it.) You need to find the interesting. In my opinion, you're not in the bottom two, but you're not in the top two either. Figure out how to capture my attention, because this set is boring me.

ZH: You definitely did a good job making sure almost every card in your set was a common. That's not easy to do, and you should feel good about that. That said, I think one of your core mechanics has serious unresolvable issues, and a few of your slots didn't feel like disciplined use of your real estate to me. The bigger problem was that I felt a bit of a disconnect between your white and black cards; I didn't understand the relationship between them. The "kill your stuff, here's some gold" spell was a nice touch, but I didn't understand how the cards played together. Remember: you're building a world.

MR: Devon, I am very mixed on your submission this week. In the vacuum of white common, you nailed it (well, assuming mandate works out). You managed to make a set of cards that are very much common yet had a well-focused theme that mechanically interconnected. I could make the same claim about last week's submission as well.

Here's the problem. I don't see the two submissions as being from the same set. Each is playing in its own little sandbox to the exclusion of larger set synergy. The meta goal of the GDS2 is to test your ability to do vision. One of the big parts of this is finding a way to meet your set's needs in a way that will play well. Play well doesn't just mean within each niche of your design but between all your niches. When a player opens a sealed deck, he or she is going to most likely take two or three colors and put them together. No matter what they choose the deck has to work. The synergies have to be there. (Note that the two sets aren't completely devoid of synergy. The Mercenary mechanic, for example, can help mandate.)

The thing I need you to work on is what is the synergy of your set. I like your theme and I get how each sub-design comes out of it, but I don't yet see what is mechanically tying those sub-designs together. Your world right now is tied together through a philosophical approach: how do you represent each color through its non-warlike properties. A set, though, can't just hang together philosophically, it has to hang together mechanically. I need to see one vision not a whole bunch of tiny visions.

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History of Ixalan The histories of the Sun Empire and the River Heralds are closely intertwined. The merfolk are a truly ancient people, whose legends hold that they were here when human...

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