The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Devon Rule

Posted in Feature on February 9, 2011

By Staff

Devon Rule


City of Gold

MR: I know from your comments and this title that we're now in a city but the "city"-ness didn't really come through for me. Also, as the goal of this meta-assignment was to make a deck that had a unique identity, I'm not sure that choosing a city was the right choice. I understand that Ravnica has never done much mechanically to play up it's city-ness but it is such a high profile set that it seems like it hurts making your set feel like it has its own unique identity.

12 Swamp
12 Forest

1 Ageless Patriarch
1 Rental Hydra
3 Smuggler
2 Lower-City Courier
3 Lotus Peddler
2 Garden Guard
2 Lustersilk Weaver
2 Sewer Wurm
1 Vault Shade
2 Callous Enforcer
2 Goldbreather
1 Loyal Baloth
1 Soul of the Orchard

Noncreature spells
2 Doom Blade
1 Blood Contract
2 Streetwise
2 Lotus Garden
1 Degrade
2 Hoard
2 Vineyard Blessing
1 Houseguard's Sledge

List of Cards

Ageless Patriarch (Foil Rare)
Creature - Vampire
Flying, trample
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, you gain that many gold counters. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: RAWR! A very nice design indeed, but this design would make a far cooler Dragon. We made Hoarding Dragon to play into the "dragons guard treasure" trope. I suppose Vampires have their decadence, but it's the dragons that sit on piles of gold.

Of course, all that is completely made up, but if you walk around in a purple Santa costume, everyone will tell you you're doing it wrong.

GTH: This is an interesting version of draining. Rapacious One was uncommon, but I think a rich and powerful vampire is a strong flavor fit here. A premium vampire is also a strong choice, but right away I'm confused by the deck title City of Gold. I think of white clerics, not black vampires. Perhaps this helps set your tone. This is a good card to display to help sell the mechanic.

TML: This is a strange choice for the premium rare. Normally, the premium rare is the end of the line for your opponent; when you play it, it kills them. This one is not quite like that. You play it, and then you get gold counters, and then ... something else happens? The story isn't very clear, so I don't know why I'm supposed to be excited about drawing it.

MR: I like the idea of gold-link. My only issue with it is that it has better play value on a smaller creature. For example, a 1/1 flyer would create for better game play than a 4/4 flier. Once I got the Ageless Patriarch into play, I felt like I had infinite gold. In addition, a 4/4 flier just made the game end much quicker making having all the gold less necessary. You did attempt this at common with Smuggler, which I will get to in a second. I did enjoy this card but it was definitely a "rich get richer" card (in more ways than one, humorously enough). These are okay at rare, but it definitely hinted at other things you could do at lower rarities.

Rental Hydra (Rare)
Creature - Hydra Mercenary
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.
Hireling (This creature enters the battlefield with an additional +1/+1 counter for each gold counter spent to cast it.)

KEN: Hydras are dear to me since a couple of my better Hydra designs are in the pipeline. This guy has the weirdo Mercenary on its typeline. Hydras for Hire! What's more, it's a one-drop you're not likely up with your Mercenary chain.

The hireling ability in general was fun. Hand of Emrakul kind of has "Spawn Hireling" in a similar vein. I don't know about keywording onto tons of cards, but the saturation in the set can be retuned. For the Intro Pack, it was a good mechanic to showcase gold counters.

GTH: I like the double-dip nature of Hireling. You get both cost reduction and size increase, making for a very swingy mechanic. This one in particular muddies the math quite a bit, but I feel the payoff is worth it. With X in the cost, I had to sit and think a bit before the possibilities became clear. Having a single unbound hireling seems like a good idea. Rental Hydra is a hilarious name.

TML: On the other hand, there's this. I would have made this the foil card. It's huge, there's no thinking about what it does, and it kills them. It's the last step in the puzzle.

The previous card is fine, but this is the real star of the deck.

MR: I like hireling. I consider it to be the best innovation from you in this submission. One of the problems I've had with gold counters is they felt to similar to Rise of the Eldrazi's spawn tokens. Hireling started to demonstrate some ways to give gold its own feel and play. It is both very flavorful and created good game play. That said, I don't get the hired hydra flavor. Hireling works because I get the idea of greed motivating creatures, but that only works on more humanoid like creatures not monsters. Flavor aside, the card played well.

Smuggler (Common)
Creature - Human Rogue
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, gain two gold counters. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: Nice. You've addressed judge critique of the weird 1/3 for 2 gold stats. He makes more aesthetic sense as a 2/2 now.

GTH: This is simple enough to make me excited to earn gold. The flavor here is very tight, which I appreciate. This gives me dreams of tapping to deal 2 damage and add two mana to my pool, which is attractive in any deck.

TML: Of everyone, you did the best job of making playtest names that get your card concepts across. Ethan's card names read like "Dinosaur name," but I don't know what makes each dinosaur different. Here, I know what a smuggler or a lower-city courier might do, and it all works for me. Using good design names will get you very far. I occasionally use names like "Lifegain Enchantment" or "Heavy Red Reward Removal Spell", but I do my best to avoid doing that.

MR: One of the biggest mistakes of design is to make two things close to each other, but not the same. Ageless Patriarch ties gold to damage while Smuggler locks in the gold to a specific number. You can't use both. It is inconsistent and will confuse players. Personally, I prefer gold-link as it creates more interesting interactions with power boosting cards. (Note that my cute nickname is probably a poor choice in that I'm not saying the gold is based on damage to anything, just to the opponent.) Regardless of how you handle it though, I do like the ability to earn goal on each turn and combat seems like a cool way to do it.

Lower-City Courier (Common)
Creature - Human Mercenary
Hireling (This creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each gold counter spent to cast it.)

KEN: Of all the hirelings, I felt this one had the right amount of ups and downs for rewarding gold expenditure.

TML: This is pretty cool.

MR: I like hireling and this seems like a good common creature to show it off on.

Lotus Peddler (Common)
Creature - Elf Druid
1, T: Gain one gold counter. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: My only critique is that there's a high probability this would be tweaked into an appealing rare creature. It doesn't take much for a card like this to be powerful in Constructed. Case in point, I played 3 Nest Invader in my Extended G/W Hideaway deck.

GTH: It is often good to tweak your basic card effects to take advantage of the unique world you are building. This certainly takes something you are accustomed to doing and makes it work well within Utopia. Flavor-wise, I wonder if this is black or perhaps blue in this world. Because his mana-generation doesn't drain, I could see playing this elsewhere and in a different way than Llanowar Elves.

TML: Part of me wonders if you understand how good this card is, as it is very good. If you understood that, give yourself a pat on the back. It seems more correct as an uncommon to me, just because of how good it is in Limited. If this is a common, my guess is that it gets first picked a lot.

MR: I like what this card is trying to do. It's important for players to have some ability to stockpile gold. My biggest concern with the card is that it creates a possible "feel bad" style of play. Because gold matters so much, I felt that I always had to use this ability if I had the mana. Numerous games I found myself doing it even when it was most likely not going to matter, but because there was a chance I was going to draw my Hydra, I was forced to go through the motions.

In general, R&D is very careful about creating cards that create busy work without clear payout. Players will do things to eke out tiny advantages. We don't want the game to force them to have to do something that often won't matter. Lotus Peddler, I feel, falls into this danger area. I like gold. I like gold mattering, but there is an important balance that has to be reached.

Garden Guard (Common)
Creature - Elf Mercenary
Hireling (This creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each gold counter spent to cast it.)

KEN: The single colorless bugs me, making it only 2/2 or 3/3 for a parasitic mechanic. I understand simple is simple, but I'd prefer a 2/2 or two-drop 1/1 artifact creature.

GTH: It was nice to have a simple two-mode hireling that made decisions easy. The three-mode ones are much more complex in play than I had thought.

TML: Another awesome and serviceable hireling guy. I enjoyed these dudes.

MR: I'm not sure you had to create Lower-City Courier and Garden Guard. I think you could have made common cards for each that didn't step so much on each other. Also, even though 3/3 for is good, I discovered how much when I drew this card later in the game, I found the ability to only use one gold frustrating. I think I would have preferred if this card were a little more expensive and a little bigger.

Lustersilk Weaver (Common)
Creature - Spider
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, gain a gold counter. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: We're far into the green commons and still no Leprechauns giving gold ...

GTH: I was hoping to see a basic "enter the battlefield, gain a gold" creature, and here it is. I was surprised to see it on a spider, but maybe he caught it in its web? I would think this effect would be on a cheaper creature. This reminds me of Nest Invader and the like. Eldrazi Spawn started their career as Mana Crystals, which acted much like gold counters. The gold counter here was definitely a side effect, rather than a major focus like with other cards.

TML: There's a flavor disconnect for me here, as spiders don't normally care about money, but it played well. It could always get concepted to be like Ondu Giant or something.

A general warning: the more abstract a mechanical idea is, the less carefully you need to use it. Gold counters explicitly sound like money, so attaching them to non-sentient beasts is jarring. Landfall, on the other hand, is abstract enough that it can go on anything. Consider this the next time you choose where to put a mechanic like this, although most of your hireling guys make sense to me.

MR: I think part of your solution for gold is going to be these one-time, enter the battlefield gold triggers. They help give you gold but in small enough quantities that it doesn't lessen the value of gold. Tom is hitting a point that I made on the Hydra. Gold is so flavorful that it starts having mechanical impact.

Sewer Wurm (Common)
Creature - Wurm
CARDNAME cannot be blocked by more than one creature.

KEN: Big Stalking Tiger. OK, but no vanilla? Creatures with one ability are far cooler when there are poopy creatures with no abilities.

GTH: Larger creatures without hireling seem integral to this Intro Deck. This guy was fun to cast for four mana, and he also can be an easy pick to replace with another hireling or gold card if you wanted. Good use of this slot.

TML: I don't know what this has to do with anything your deck is doing. Happily, that's a good thing here. Some of the other decks were too much like theme decks, and took the game play far away from what normal Magic is. Your deck is not stuffy and does not force itself on the player, which is correct for an Intro Pack.

MR: A slightly bigger Charging Rhino. I'm not quite sure what role this plays in your set but it's a fine card. My only complaint is you putting it at common. Charging Rhino (a 4/4 version) was uncommon and getting bigger only makes this even less appropriate at common.

Vault Shade (Common)
[Yet Another Greedy Shade by Daniel - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/CommonGround/Submissions]
Creature - Shade
2: CARDNAME gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Pay 2 life: CARDNAME gains flying until end of turn.

KEN: Seen this guy before. Still a weirdo, but an ok spout for spending excess gold.

GTH: In gold world you've let the shade not have to pay , and so you need to make its bonus weaker. This is okay, but another trick could be to roll multiple activations into one (e.g., : +2/+2). On his own he seems to have many options available to him, and gold counters in the environment only complicate things. I would consider moving this to uncommon.

TML: The worst part of gold counters, in my opinion, is the fact that they can also replace life payments. Paying life is something that reads sadly, and most people will get a bad first impression from that. They'll later learn that their gold counters help, but that bad first impression will never go away. I would consider just making gold counters a mana store.

Assuming an unchanged gold counter mechanic, this card is fine. Like most Limited shades, it reads weak but is pretty good. It singlehandedly got me past a bunch of Ethan's evolved monsters to kill Mark, which was sweet.

MR: I like this card but one of two things needs to change. Either lose one of the two abilities or move it up to uncommon. I do like the idea of a common or two with a life payment to grant itself some ability until the end of turn. Evasion, in particular, seems especially appropriate. As is, there's just a little too much going on.

Callous Enforcer (Uncommon)
Creature - Vampire Mercenary
Hireling (This creature enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter for each gold counter spent to cast it.)
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may destroy target creature with less power than CARDNAME's power.

KEN: I feel obligated to point out that hireling whiffs completely on the Mercenary searcher cards like Cateran Overlord. We saw cards like that in Utopia early in the GDS2. Maybe they can coexist (because no Mercenaries produce gold?) but my gut says we'd do one or the other. I like hireling more.

GTH: Twice was this cast then taken back because the caster thought it said "less than or equal". I would take that as a cue to follow expectations and change it. The flavor of beating up someone smaller than you is good, but I think it can be modified if the card plays better. I do like the triple-dip here if using gold counters. It is very clear what you want to do with this card.

TML: Okay, so this is your uncommon Nekrataal. I was sad that this was , as several times I wanted to spend more gold counters than I was allowed to. I might consider making the card to get the card to the people who can use it best in draft and make it cooler for those people when it works out.

Also note that the flavor works really well on this card compared to the spider.

MR: One of the things I enjoy about this submission is that you've taken the basic idea of gold and really found neat ways to play with it. This card is playable without gold but it definitely does push you towards wanting gold. As with all the designers, your quest to show off what you can do spreaded you a little thinner than an actual Intro Deck would want, but I appreciate the depth of possibilities you are able to show off.

Goldbreather (Uncommon)
Creature - Elemental
Pay one gold counter: Regenerate CARDNAME.

KEN: The parasiticism never ceases! I'd surely put this ability on a hireling. There was a good opportunity here for 6/2 common I would have given points for.

GTH: Is this a gold elemental? That's an odd concept. Hireling is already directly parasitic on gold counters, so I'm not sure adding even more is the best approach. I feel the Houseguard's Sledge does this better by allowing you an alternate way to pay.

TML: This is a better implementation of the life payment thing from the shade, as far as I can tell. This version, of course, is much more parasitic, but this particular card isn't going to be what the world remembers your set for. It's going to be a Limited workhorse, and those can be parasitic with less consequence.

MR: This guy was a beater in playtests. My only real problem with him is he pointed a spotlight on the fact that certain cards get you gold too easily. When I have one or two gold, this guy is interesting. When I have ten, he is not. Playtesting showed that hitting the sweet spot was a lot of fun but it was something that would be very hard to balance.

Loyal Baloth (Uncommon)
Creature - Beast

KEN: Another designer feels this is a common. Potentially, both of you are correct for your respective sets.

GTH: I like how many of the larger generic creatures have only C in their cost, to maximize gold counter usage. This one in particular gives nice dreams. I think he could be common.

TML: Funny that two of you guys made 4/4 green vigilance guys. This thing is a house. I may steal it for sets I work on, as it did the right kind of things for a high quality green common. I would make this though, so that other colors couldn't steal it from the deserving green mages.

MR: This is one of those designs that you look at and go "Obviously we've already made this card" and then you check Gatherer and go "Wow, we haven't." Good catch and good design.

Soul of the Orchard (Uncommon)
Creature - Spirit
Haste, Trample

KEN: This looks like a card from Rise of the Eldrazi. Look at that toughness! Randomly has haste! Green haste is a strong tool for Constructed green cards (Vengevine), so spending it here might not be ideal.

GTH: This is a great target for gold counters, and he seems like a fun creature on his own. I automatically read it as 8/5 for the first few reads because I'm so used to seeing that pattern alongside haste and/or trample. I didn't get to cast him as a 10/13, but I wanted to keep playing until I did so.

TML: These numbers are deeply bizarre. I think that's okay, but man is it weird.

MR: Green is third when it comes to haste. Also, we tend to use it more for Constructed cards than we do for Limited because its use is more about giving Constructed green some uses that we want than it is for defining haste color-pie-wise as a green thing. While this card is fine in a vacuum, I feel like it's too much in the Limited camp and not enough in the Constructed camp that we probably wouldn't print this card as is. That's almost impossible to figure out from the outside, so I don't expect you would have had a chance to know that.

Doom Blade (Common)
[Magic 2011]
Destroy target nonblack creature.

KEN: Reprint quota +1!

GTH: Even merchants need to kill things.

TML: Blade 1, Angel 0.

MR: A fine repeat.

Blood Contract (Common)
[Blood Pact by Palpable - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/CommonGround/submissions]
As an additional cost to play CARDNAME, pay X life.
Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn.

KEN: Ouch. This one hurts. Luckily, there's gold to the rescue! This is more like what I like to see in the set.

GTH: This is a strange Vendetta variant. It gives far more options, making the play a bit complicated during combat situations. It also looks odd next to Doom Blade. I have a feeling the life payment is there just to make sense of the other aspect of gold counters. I would opt for a removal card more different from Doom Blade. I would suggest -X/-X until end of turn, however I'm not the biggest fan of at common.

TML: This card is very similar to Vendetta. Vendetta reads much better because the cool part—destroying the creature—is first, and then the downside is second. Here, you get downside first, and you're not even guaranteed to destroy the creature.

For intro purposes, compare this to Doom Blade. "Destroy target creature" is much simpler and more appealing on day one of playing Magic than this. This is not a card you want in your Intro Pack, gold counters or otherwise.

MR: I like the card but I would not put it at common. One, because I don't like spells at common (yes we do them infrequently, but only when we feel it's very important) and two, because paying life as a cost tends not to read well so I wouldn't want to take up one of the common removal slots with it.

Common – Streetwise
[by Kallisti - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/CommonGround/Submissions]
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gains intimidate
Sacrifice CARDNAME: Enchanted creature gets +2/+0 until end of turn.

KEN: Still works as I remember. Attack past, sac for damage. I still like it.

GTH: The trick of this card relies on the player knowing the combat steps. My opponents thought it was just +2/+0 and intimidate until I reminded them they only took 2 not 4. I would probably just make it this simple static version. I think this would match expectations a little more as well as not make the player make decisions he may not enjoy.

TML: I get what you're trying to do here. This is very Mirage-esque, though. If I'm a new player, I probably don't know that I can attack, lock in no blocks, and then sacrifice the enchantment to do 2 extra damage. Trying to do that to someone when I was in seventh grade would have produced arguments, so I don't think this is a good card to put in an Intro Pack.

MR: At first blush, I thought this card was "gets +2/+0 and gains intimidate." (Yes, playing against Graeme—that was me.) I like that card better than this card because I feel it has the same upside just with less complication. If you wanted to keep this version, I'd probably put a mana cost on the activation so that there are down moments when it doesn't have to get factored in.

Lotus Garden (Common)
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Land
Enchanted land has "T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool and gain one gold counter." (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: This card was egregious. It floods you with gold while remaining on the table for the rest of the game. It does two mana things, though, as a common it should probably do just one.

GTH: I don't often completely misread cards, but I did here. I assumed it gave the land's mana, an additional mana, and a gold counter. Of course that would be nuts, but I don't often see a mana ability granted to a land that overwrites the land's innate ability. Starting the game with this card in my hand felt like starting with a couple of extra turns. All of my creatures came out a turn earlier and a size bigger. Pretty exciting, I would consider placing this at uncommon for its complexity and power.

TML: Once again, I wonder if you understand how good this is. (It's really good.)

MR: Having played with this card, I believe it really wanted to do one or the other. I believe this for two reasons: One, the current version often made me add mana to my mana pool for no reason. Two, both going up in mana and getting the color I need each stand on their own and don't need to have to be clumped together.

Hoard (Uncommon)
Gain X gold counters. (Gold counters can be spent as colorless mana or life payments.)

KEN: Iceberg, yeah! Not sure what the dev team things about Pentad Prism nowadays, but this card should be in the design file anyway.

GTH: This is the card I found myself most thinking about after playing this deck. As a scalable Dark Ritual with suspend 1, I can imagine this powering out all sorts of insane things in casual games. It is quite exciting and a bit scary, which tells me it is definitely worth trying out. In this particular deck, I had some difficult decisions using this card. Do I cast it for on turn two so I can cast Callous Enforcer next turn and kill your Bear? Reconciling the time lost casting this versus the time gained casting larger things for cheap later was a heady process.

As a side note, I would have absolutely used all of my gold counters to pay for this card. That sounds both fun and funny.

TML: We make fast mana in red these days, so I think this is in the wrong color. I don't see anything too wrong with it otherwise, though. I'm sure FFL testing would include this, and it might get pushed to XCC, but that's not your job to figure out.

MR: The most interesting thing about this card is how often I played it to get two or three gold. While I do worry that it might be too easy to get gold in the current breakdown, I did enjoy this card and my gut says probably it can stay if the problem is addressed on some of the other cards. Also, Tom's right that mana acceleration hasn't been in black for a long time. One shots like this are red. (Hey, red likes money too.)

Degrade (Uncommon)
Destroy target noncreature permanent.

KEN: I've seen this card put into multiple sets (like Worldwake and Magic 2011 and even "Action") only to get killed for various reasons (liking Terastodon and Acidic Slime and "Action" Card more). Planeswalker removal all but guarantees we will do this card one day.

GTH: Here is a simple card that we haven't printed, but will. Anything that helps casual players kill planeswalkers more easily is good in my book. I'm happy to see it as a sorcery.

TML: Yup, this card will be made one day. Unfortunately, "noncreature permanent" is rather new-player-unfriendly, and I'd try not to include it in an Intro Pack.

MR: A simpler Chain of Acid. You seem good at making cards we just haven't gotten around to making yet but should.

Vineyard Blessing (Uncommon)
X target creatures get +2/+2 until end of turn.

KEN: Ugh. I don't like this kind of card at all. Maybe it's perfectly balanced numerically, but it's just ugly to parse because we never do this. I've cast a Winter Blast in my time, but I've cast far more Hurricanes.

GTH: This appears to be something for you to spend your extra gold counters on. However, the creatures in this deck tended to grow big rather than numerous, so the was fairly fixed.

TML: This is a strange card. For Intro purposes, you're better served by Symbiosis than this. The costing is a little aggressive, but the effect is cool enough that I'd be happy to make the card, albeit not in an Intro Pack.

MR: This card was fun in playtests. It was another spell that I often used without the having to be all that high.

My biggest note prompted by this card is that I've now gotten to the last green card and I don't have a great sense of what green is up to. Sure, it's aggressive and likes attacking but I feel like it just doesn't have the richness that black has with gold. (Pun, as always, intended.)

Houseguard's Sledge (Uncommon)
[Gem-Encrusted Axe by Dodavehu - Labs:Gds/gds2/Utopia/Decklist/Equip]
Artifact - Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and has trample.
Pay two gold counters: Attach CARDNAME to target creature you control.
Equip 2

KEN: Ugh. I'm not a fan of the "attach" clause on Equipment. It's a power and toughness that could be anywhere on the table at instant speed for (sorta) zero mana.

GTH: I like this take of specifically referencing gold counters more than on Goldbreather. However, I think adding with it the complexity of instant speed equipping may be a bit much. This effect is tricky because at first glance many players will not even realize the different between the two activated abilities. I would recommend something like "+3/+3, equip 4, pay 2 gold counters: attach." Even the beginner playing this Intro Deck can see a sizeable part of the benefit.

TML: If you're going to include an Equipment in an Intro Pack, you want something simple like Trusty Machete instead of this. The extra bonus instant equip clause just isn't necessary, and will confuse a new player about when the equip ability can actually be used. I also don't like onboard tricks like this. Cranial Plating's instant equip cost was bad enough with Chromatic Spheres and Glimmervoids, and here I have to ask about your gold counters rather than look for untapped lands. The instant equip line is not helping this card.

MR: My biggest strike against this card is also that it can instantly equip. (When all four judges say the same thing—pay attention.) Trial and error has shown us that one of the strongest parts about Equipment is that it doesn't get too fiddly. You give a guy a sword and then everyone knows he has the sword. As soon as he can toss it midcombat to whomever needs it, it starts becoming a headache to track. I do like the idea of an Equipment that likes you using gold, but this version doesn't do it for me.


I've concluded that "a peaceful world converting tools into weapons" is a good thematic concept for Utopia in the same way that "a world where destructive natural forces have made civilization impossible" was a good concept for Zendikar. But Zendikar wasn't sold on its complex societal ideas - it was advertised as "Adventure World."

I needed a simple, resonant, saleable theme for Utopia to complement its more complicated ideas. My answer was to make Utopia the "City Set." Ravnica used a city as its flavor backdrop, but it was too full of multicolor and guild themes to represent the idea of a "City World" in gameplay.

There are a number of ways this could be represented, but I chose to focus on expanding and refining my "gold counter" mechanic from previous challenges. It's been a popular mechanic with the public and really embodies the urban theme I'm going for.

Hireling came from a desire to represent the "hiring mercenaries with money" concept while avoiding the pitfalls of repeated shuffle effects and bad associations. Hireling and the other "spend gold counter" abilities are somewhat parasitic, but Gold counters themselves are so open-ended that I'm willing to make some cards that require them.

Thanks again to all the friends, family, and anonymous contributors who have helped and supported me through the Great Designer Search 2.

KEN: The gold deck plays like I'd expect—first accrue some gold, then reap dividends on hirelings. There are too many mana-slots but the resulting variance is not at all untoward. Some nice rare creatures do a good enough job being splashy, though of all the Intro Packs in this submission, I would've liked to see the eight-drop in this deck.

Finally, some things I'd write on the Utopia wiki page:

  • This set needs more Dragons!
  • This set needs more Pirates!
  • This set needs more Leprechauns!

GTH: Gold is a natural resource to use in a fantasy setting, and often is. I certainly would be compelled to learn Magic's take on gold coins. "City of Gold" immediately evokes images of a shining, clean city. Seeing the vampire on the front was a bit confusing but made me interested in what was going on here.

During play I froze up some. I felt like there were just so many decisions to make. I had a lot of floating mana, and many combinations of different creature sizes and tempo gains to choose from. I couldn't quite figure out when to invest in gold to maximize the math.

The concept of gold coins is strong, but the ability to pay for life seems strange to me. Even without it, the decisions here are heady. I feel gold is workable, but hireling was a bit much to add.

TML: This is the second best of the Intro Pack decks from my perspective as the introductory product guy. There are lots of simple cards that help introduce people to how normal Magic works, and enough spice that introduces what's different in your set. The cards that make your set different also function in understandable ways. I feel like too many of your staple removal and trick effects were attempts to show me how clever you were, but you're incentivized to do that in a contest like this. The only major oversight was not including any vanilla creatures. I try to include three in each Intro Pack. You got away with this because most of your cards operate simply, but I would have liked to see vanillas anyway.

My metric for evaluating the mechanics in this contest was to decide what I would do if someone handed off a set to me with that mechanic. With gold counters, I would be happy enough that I would want to keep it. I would push back on you to make sure that it was actually necessary that they work for life payments, but otherwise everything seems great.

MR: Devon, I felt as if this submission took your strengths and made them stronger and did little to shore up your weaknesses. Gold is an interesting mechanic and the judges have mostly given you positive feedback on it. This submission took gold and found more interesting things to do with it. I very much like hireling and found the game-play with it to be quite fun.

Here's the problem. Everyone already knew gold had potential. What I really wanted to see was you take your world and find a niche for it, something that could help sell your world. As I said in my letter to you from the last submission, you had "colors adapted to peace and then had to use those tools for war" world while Ethan had "dinosaur world." You explained that you moved to a city, but that flavor did not come through, especially mechanically.

Your deck was fun to play and I definitely see your craft as a designer. The problem with this submission was that you needed to use this challenge to refine your vision and I'm sorry to say that the work you did (and I do see a lot of work went into this) didn't shine through as much as you hoped. There are a lot of neat ideas here, but not the overall vision I was hoping to see.

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