The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Devon Rule

Posted in Feature on December 22, 2010

By Staff

Devon Rule


Geysers of mana erupt over Golamo, warping its guardians into something larger...

MR: This logline just isn't doing it for me. It seems to hint at something that I don't get and I'm not quite sure what the effect of that unknown thing was. All in all, the language is too indirect. Don't hint—tell! Loglines are the answer not the riddle.

Common Cycle:

CW01 – Fledgling Greathawk
Creature - Bird
CARDNAME has flying as long as it's enchanted.

CU01 – Goliath Eel
Creature - Fish
CARDNAME cannot attack unless it's enchanted.

CB01 - Dire Stoat
Creature - Ferret
CARDNAME has intimidate as long as it's enchanted.

CR01 – Gargantuan Ocelot
Creature - Cat
CARDNAME has first strike as long as it's enchanted.

CG01 – Titanic Hound
[Saptongue Crusher by Havelock Vetinari -
Creature - Hound
CARDNAME has trample as long as it's enchanted.

KEN: Holy gigantic Fledgling Osprey, Elspeth! These guys are fat commons that love being enchanted. I could get behind that.

This cycle will dare players to keep their Auras in hand even longer than usual. The "can't attack" clause on the blue one might be too on/off for this cycle. If these are premiere commons, they should be able to attack.

Another problem is desyncing the keywords from the common incarnate cards. You don't want trample/trample, intimidate/intimidate lining up everywhere. One will probably need to take precedence. The incarnate cards need more simplicity. Fledgling Greathawk could easily be a multi-block creature, especially if the white incarnate Aura grants vigilance.

Look at Runes of the Deus and Favor of the Overbeing and how we triple-upsided those cards on most common hybrid creatures of the appropriate colors.

Also, 5/4 intimidate Ferret!

BT: Hmm. You are supposed to hang onto your Auras until you get to 6, 7, or 8 mana, then play one of these, then play your Aura on it? That sounds like a lot to ask of a player. There's a series of psychology experiments on delayed gratification where they put a cookie in front of a kid and told him if he waits long enough without eating it he can have more cookies. They learned, among other things, that kids hate staring at a cookie without being able to eat it. It drives them nuts. With these cards you are telling players to hold on to their Auras while they are at 3, 4, and 5 mana so they can have the delayed gratification of granting an extra ability to a fatty at some point in the future. Sounds like a mean thing to do to players.

What if they said "When this enters the battlefield you may move any number of Auras you control onto it."? Then they could play their Auras early and beef up their fatties later too. Maybe the "Dragon Breath" Aura cycle from Scourge belongs in this set.

CBD: It's interesting to compare this cycle to Jonathon's for Epolith. Both are a cycle of simple, big creatures, and both intend to support their respective set's themes. But Devon's cycle succeeds where Jonathon's fails (in my opinion) through simple differences: The creature types vary, enabling the colors' identities to come through, and the enchantment-conditional ability gives you a tiny little puzzle to solve, adding interest. That said, there are some problems with the individual card choices. We do water-bound creatures as seldom as possible because they don't really make sense in the context of a mage battle, so I'd try to find an alternative to Fish. A stoat would be green-aligned, not black (and is likely too silly a concept to end up on a card). Cats are most often white now, and occasionally green; they don't really belong in red unless there's a really good reason (such as "mountain lion"). Hounds are also white and occasionally red; green-aligned canids are almost always wolves.

MR: My biggest concern with this cycle is that you saw two different needs for the set and combined them into a single cycle. The problem is that these two things don't play well together. I do like cards that get better when enchanted. I actually designed a vertical cycle with this ability in Urza's Destiny. Jonathan's set is all about Auras so the ability makes a lot of sense.

You also wanted to play up the giant creatures in his world. To reflect this you made extra large common creatures. The problem here is that giant creatures aren't very synergistic with Auras. You tend to put Auras on smaller creatures because they come out earlier and they most want to be buffed up. I do like how you made the enchantment bonus something that makes the creature much more effective. I particularly like the blue design [Goliath Eel].

The last issue (and this is something that applies to all the designers that put giant creatures at common) is that there is a reason we tend to limit the size of creatures at common. If the run of the mill creature is too big, it not only impacts Limited but it perceptually makes it harder to make more compelling creatures at higher rarities. Creatures do scale in size over rarities, so it's important for common as the bottom of the spectrum to not get too big.

Uncommon Cycle:

UW01 – Manifest Purity
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may destroy target enchantment."
Incarnate 2W

UU01 – Manifest Intellect
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may draw a card."
Incarnate 2U

UB01 – Manifest Agony
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, they discard a card."
Incarnate 2B

UR01 – Manifest Fury
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may have it deal 2 damage to target creature."
Incarnate 2R

UG01 – Manifest Destiny
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, you may search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library."
Incarnate 2G

KEN: These are nice. A 2C 2/2 is big enough that chump blocking might be an option and holding back a Hill Giant might also be the better option. The casting option is attractive because of the hasty saboteur reward. I think these will play differently enough, though they'll be plenty of 2C +2/+2 Auras in the set, which is probably still fun times.

BT: Some nice clean applications of the incarnate ability that seem appropriate for uncommons. I think most of these cards would create interesting game play decisions and would probably play well. The red one is my least favorite since it has the potential to create frustrating situations in Limited. I like the blue and green ones best.

CBD: Manifest Destiny. Delightful! Magic players love a good James K. Polk reference. Seriously, though, there's not much to say about this cycle flavor-wise. I understand the place of incarnate within the enchantment themes, but it's tough to visualize a 0/0 token, and even harder to envision what these cards' illustrations might look like. Do you show the token creature in the art? Maybe not, because the card is playable on something else entirely. So do you show a random denizen of the world as the recipient of the enchantment? That feels kind of wrong, too, since the enchantment will usually live on the token. These aren't unsolvable problems, but they don't make for super-flavorful cards. The cycle is fine, though, because it reinforces what I refer to as "mechanical flavor"—the mechanics have a kind of flavor of their own, even if that flavor isn't expressible in the cards' names, illustrations, and flavor text. Level up is an example of "mechanical flavor."

MR: You definitely seem to be embracing Jonathan's Aura theme. The judges have said they like manifest so I understand why you chose to make a cycle out of it. As with Jonathon's rare cycle, I feel as if you took something the original world's owner had already identified and cycled it out. This means that I lean a little more on execution for judging. Let's look at the cards:

UW01 [Manifest Purity]. Usually you want triggered combat damage (did you choose to make it damage rather than combat damage on purpose?) to create an effect that you want each turn. This effect is just not something you're going to want again and again making it a poor choice for this cycle.

UU01 [Manifest Intellect]. This effect is much better.

UB01 [Manifest Agony]. Another clean effect that we use all the time.

UR01 [Manifest Fury]. This one's a little harder to grok, but I'm okay with it.

UG01 [Manifest Destiny]. While this effect is one you'd want, it creates a side effect that R&D tends to avoid—repeatable shuffling. Shuffling is time consuming so we try to limit how much we put into any one set. As such, we tend to avoid repeatable shuffling, especially effects that can go off every turn.

Two successes, two misses and one in the middle. While not horrible, there was room for improvement in the design of this cycle.

Mythic Rare Cycle:

RW01 – Luminous Eruption
["White Geyser's Influence" by Bradley Rose-
Triple your life total.

RU01 – Creative Eruption
["Blue Geyser's Influence" by Bradley Rose-
For each card in your hand, draw two more cards.

RB01 – Ravenous Eruption
Exile any number of creature cards from your graveyard. For each card exiled this way, put three 1/1 black Rat creature tokens onto the battlefield.

RR01 – Furious Eruption
["Red Geyser's Influence" by Bradley Rose-
After this main phase, there are two additional combat phases followed by an additional main phase. At the beginning of each of those combat phases, untap all creatures that attacked this turn.

RG01 – Verdant Eruption
["Green Geyser's Influence" by Bradley Rose-
Search your library for up to X basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield tapped, where X is twice the number of lands you control. Then shuffle your library.

KEN: BOOOM!!! I don't know if all of these cost exactly 4CCC at sorcery speed, but I like what's going here. After Maro has done all the double effects (though I did Boon Reflection / Thought Reflection / Wound Reflection / Rage Reflection / Mana Reflection!), it's time for triple effects. We finally get some geyser action here.

BT: Hooray for simple splashy sorceries at rare. These are well designed and would be fun to open in a pack or put into casual decks. I don't think the mana costs would end up matching like this in the end but I don't think that would hurt the cohesion of the cycle. Bravo.

CBD: This cycle is totally fine and feels like the sort of rare cycle we'd do. It's tempting to work the "tripling" concept into all of them, but that might also be a "foolish consistency"—needless pattern completion for pattern completion's sake. The cards do a good job of trying to distill, what on the surface, seems to be an important Golamo world concept that's not inherently resonant or exciting: mana geysers. More on this below.

MR: I love doubling things so, of course, I'm a sucker for tripling. My biggest concern with this cycle is that the triple theme is a little hard to spot. It's there when you sit back and think about all the effects but I'll bet many readers didn't see the theme until you pointed it out to them in your comments. I do think all five effects are great and I feel you did a good job of finding tripling effects in color that made for exciting rares.


In reading the judge responses to Jonathan Woodward's previous submissions, I felt there was a gap between his concept of enlarged creatures as tiny animals raised to human size and intelligence and the audience/judge expectations of enlarged creatures as giant monsters. I wanted to address this discrepancy while staying true to Jonathan's vision. I eventually realized that if bats, rats, and insects were the humanoid races of Golamo, then maybe cats, birds, and hounds could be the gigantic beasts. I expanded this idea into a cycle of abnormally-large common creatures, using a simple mechanical twist suggested by Havelock Vetinari to tie the cycle into Golamo's mechanical themes.

I liked the design of Embodiment of Wisdom/Ophidian Aura in Woodward's Challenge #1 submission, and decided it would be well-suited to a cycle of saboteur+incarnate auras. The gameplay is fun because it creates tension without making either side feel like a missed opportunity. I decided to keep the costs and power/toughness bonus even across the auras to conserve brainspace.

I knew early on that I really wanted to do a set of splashy rare sorceries to represent Golamo's mana geysers. Bradley Rose came up with the "tripling" theme and designed 80% of the cycle himself.

Particular thanks to shdwcat, Pojo, unbroken circle, Havelock Vetinari, Bradley Rose, and especially Jonathan Woodward for giving me such a fun world to play around in.

KEN: This submission was quite clean. Theme is loud, a bit of flavor, and has Timmy appeal. Make your stuff better! Each cycle had purpose. And I feel there's high probability development would bend to design's will and keep these cycles mostly intact (mana cost on the rares notwithstanding).

BT: Props for fun cards that have interesting play value and broad appeal. I think the commons are a miss but they could easily be tweaked to work well. Personally I find this setting to be a little more abstract than I would like—it's possible to justify a huge range of mechanics as supporting this world concept. That makes it harder for me to judge how well your cards build the theme. Overall I think you have a good sense of "comfort food" cards. Your cards lean toward mashed potatoes and gravy instead of wheat bran or caviar. I think that's a totally appropriate approach and a good instinct for this exercise.

CBD: Devon's cycles are solid but don't excite my inner Vorthos. They are on-theme and in-bounds but lack the special sauce that makes cards indispensable to a set's creative identity. In the case of the rares, Devon designed some splashy bombs using the mana geysers of Golamo as a basis. But of course the mana geysers aren't the interesting part of this setting in and of themselves. It's the effect they have on the denizens of the plane that we want to hear about.

MR: Devon, Jonathan has been struggling to flesh out his vision. It was my hope that you could help him get a better feel for what he's supposed to be showing. I felt like you followed on the things that Jonathan had already proven and that the judges said they liked. You did not, though, pave any new paths.

One of the things I've enjoyed about your work on your own set was your ability to find rich flavor through the mechanics that helped identify your world. I was hoping to see some of that in your work this week. I don't feel I did.

There is some solid work here and I believe you did a good job of fleshing out some themes Jonathan was already working on, but you didn't really excel at the point of this week's assignment—helping others expand and execute on their vision.

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