The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Scott Van Essen

Posted in Feature on February 9, 2011

By Staff

Scott Van Essen

Malgareth, the UnderPrison


MR: One of my major notes from last week was that I wanted you to start taking advantage of the tropes of your prison setting. I feel you embraced this whole-heartedly making a whole deck that had the feeling of a prison breakout.

11 Swamp
13 Mountain

1 Angathrak, Gang Leader
2 Blood-Mad Bat
1 Catacomb Ritualist
1 Eternal Captive
1 Hulking Brute
1 Laconic Hitman
1 Living Magma
2 Murderous Urchin
2 Pawn of Angathrak
2 Pilfering Cutpurse
2 Raging Hooligan
1 Rampaging Maniac
2 Reckless Arsonist
1 Shackled Escapist
2 Skulking Bloodtracker
2 Tunnel Escort

Noncreature spells
1 Falling Stalactite
1 Fist of Chains
2 From the Caves!
1 Incite Anarchy
1 Loot the Lifeless
2 Poison the Guards
2 Thunder Strike
2 Vengeance of the Condemned

List of Cards

Angathrak, Gang Leader (Premium Rare)
[Don Angathrak, Guard Breaker -
Legendary Creature - Ogre Warrior
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, if this is the first combat phase of your turn, untap all your attacking creatures and after this phase you get an additional combat phase.

KEN: Great! My friends know my all-foil Godo, Bandit Warlord, Bandit Warlord is my favorite Commander deck, so it's hard for me to not like another Godo, Bandit Warlord. You definitely put the right Breakout ability on this creature—it doubles your combat damage and your other breakouts. The obvious synergy will bring smiles to many players' faces.

I appreciate the restraint with keeping cards clean, but we like to put more seasonings on our legendary creatures. I was wishing for trample or maybe first strike when playtesting this centerpiece card. The similar, and handsomely designed Hellkite Charger has haste for no particular reason except as a Dragon bonus.

The fact that it's the highest mana cost in the deck shows good instinct. There's drama waiting for your sixth land to drop your foil rare that you anticipate will be amazing.

The illustration will work well enough for an Intro Pack rare a la Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs (another handsomely designed card!) in a movie poster pose. I'll note that I prefer a Dragon / Vampire / Angel / Hydra / Sphinx iconic to show through the front of an Intro Pack, but I'll concede those things aren't really found in prisons.

GTH: I had concerns that this card would bring some difficult evaluating and decision-making. In play it was pretty straightforward and just beat my opponent over the head. It is fairly complex for the premium rare, but it advertises exactly what this deck wants: to incite anarchy.

TML: Every attempt we make at Relentless Assault effects now seems to fall flat with the public. I get why it works with breakout, but there are too many words on this card for it to work well as the exciting premium rare for a newer player, and such a player won't figure out the double-breakout connection.

MR: Let me start by talking about breakout. My first impression was bad. I remember reading it, saying to myself, "Oh Scott, what did you do?" Then I played with it and it won me over. There is a subclass of spells that read poorly but play well. Exalted from Shards of Alara falls into this subset. Usually it involves some condition that seems hard to do but once you start playing with the cards you realize that it's a lot easier than you thought at first blush.

The reason I like breakout is twofold. First, the play was very interesting. With breakout, you're very aware of what creatures you have that can't be blocked. Oftentimes this is evasion but sometimes it's about having more creatures than your opponent. I love mechanics that make you have to rethink what's important as long as it's not too mentally draining to do so. Breakout seemed to hit the sweet spot.

Second, I love that the mechanic conveys the overall flavor. The deck had the flavor of a jailbreak. My guys wanted to all attack and I liked the linking of the flavor and mechanics, something I had been pushing you to do.

Now let's talk about Angthrak. He was a great gang leader. He was everything you want in a big splashy rare. Each game I got to attack with him, that attack was the highlight of the game. His ability always is a great breakout effect and also works well with other breakout cards. All in all, awesome design.

Blood-Mad Bat (Common)
[Cave Squeaker -
Creature - Bat
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.

KEN: I liked it before and still like it. It shines brightly in this deck as the evasion creature that turns on the grounded breakout creatures.

GTH: I enjoy this card as a simple bat, both flavor-wise and mechanically. As one of the only repeatable evasion creatures in the deck, it was obviously a great breakout enabler.

TML: So this is how I am to break out. Fair enough. A fine Magic card.

MR: Another thing I appreciated about your deck was all the supporting cards you designed. The key to good set design is to be able to design simple cards that feel at home in a core set but that reinforce the themes of your set. Blood-Mad Bat is a great breakout enabler without ever having to talk about breakout. I also appreciate the extra effort you made to communicate underground.

Catacomb Ritualist (Uncommon)
Creature - Human Shaman
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

KEN: The clunk here has merit. Your opponent basically must block this Woebearer guy to stem the tide of infinite prisoners breaking out. Would more clunk here be well spent? I think so.

GTH: It is a nice idea to have a card that can help get back the creatures you're sending to their deaths for breakout. However I often would hang back until I was ready for one big attack. I was a little sad the couple of times that I had to attack with this with nothing to get, knowing that he himself was about to die without having done his thing.

TML: Sure, okay. I wonder if you understand how crushing this card can be, though. The second time this card triggers, the game is pretty much overdue to the avalanche of card advantage.

MR: Catacomb Ritualist (I would avoid using words like "Ritualist" that imply a mechanic not on the card) was a lot of fun. One of the challenges of breakout is making effects that are fair yet still encourage you to want to attack with lots of creatures. You chose correctly with the uncommon rarity as this card can create a loop with two of them so it's good to make that happen less often.

Eternal Captive (Uncommon)
[Duress Convict -
Creature - Specter
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, defending player discards a card.

KEN: Another nice card, though I'll note that a Specter in Magic fantasy is a small hooded humanoid riding some kind of mount.

GTH: I like seeing the simplest form of a mechanic, which this card does. However, how exactly does one imprison a specter? Also, with the exception of Dread Specter, specters in Magic tend to have flying.

TML: A non-flying specter is pretty weird. Then again, you maybe can't give this flying. I'd probably try anyway and see what happened.

MR: In general you have to be careful with repeatable discard but as he's a 2/2 and breakout forces him to attack, it's not hard for the opponent to answer. This is one of the things I enjoyed about breakout is that the ability for your opponent to choose who he blocks helps keep cards that could get annoying in check. To chime in with what all the judges said, this card probably shouldn't be a specter as our specters tend to fly. (Dread Specter, which Graeme points out, is the only nonflying specter, was in Mirage printed almost fifteen years ago.)

Hulking Brute (Common)
Creature - Ogre Warrior
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target creature can't block this turn.

KEN: While this card fits well in this Intro Pack, it's probably too generous of a red common assuming red's first-pick Malgareth commons are burn spells.

GTH: Breakout already dares your opponent to try racing, and this card issues the double-dare. I expect some fun playing with this and Pawn of Angathrak. Ogre Assassin is a quirky creature type combination that makes me smile.

TML: I get it! I'm supposed to use this to help break out. Most humans will probably make the connection and be pleased. At this point the only thing this deck can hope to do is activate a breakout card, so I guess I'm a little jaded. Then again, I've done tricks like this myself, so good thinking.

MR: This is a nice simple card. My only note is that big creatures with small "enter the battlefield" effects tend to rub some players the wrong way even if the effect is properly costed. My gut is if you did market research, the majority of players would want this card to have haste to make the small ETB effect feel more like it matters on a 4/4. I bring this up because it's very easy to see why the card works in your set (or in this case deck) but not step back and see how players are going to perceive it when they haven't been thinking about your set every day for months.

Laconic Hitman (Uncommon)
Creature - Ogre Assassin
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, you may destroy target tapped creature defending player controls.

KEN: The breakout well apparently hasn't dried up yet. Rather large for that cost and ability—what does your uncommon creature do that makes it as high a pick as Laconic Hitman?

GTH: Breakout already dares your opponent to try racing, and this card issues the double-dare. I expect some fun playing with this and Pawn of Angathrak. Ogre Assassin is a quirky creature type combination that makes me smile.

TML: Are any of your uncommon breakout guys not card advantage? This seems so slippery-slope.

MR: My biggest worry with this card is that it seems to push in an area that the mechanic already pushes in. If you have a bunch of creatures with breakout in play, the opponent is already discouraged from attacking, as he needs the blockers. I do like that you were trying to avoid confusing combat interactions as the destroyed creature is already by default not in the combat.

The card was very powerful in play and definitely created some neat moments. Development might nerf it but not really a design issue.

Living Magma (Uncommon)
Creature - Elemental
CARDNAME can't be blocked except by two or more creatures.
R: Cardname gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

KEN: A nice red uncommon made from stapling together two red commons. I like it!

GTH: This guys messes up the normal breakout math process, which fooled a player once as an in-play trick. The prisoner theme has been very thick, so I like seeing something unique about the underground world here.

TML: This "get-me-through" card is a little subtler. Also, Firebreathing cards in two-color decks is a trick I like to use, as noticeable awkwardness in deck construction can start someone down the happy road that leads to deck-building enjoyment.

MR: I like you playing up evasion in this set in different ways. I also enjoy that you put that evasion not on the breakout creatures. This makes you want to mix breakout creatures with nonbreakout creatures and that makes for more dynamic game play and deck building.

Murderous Urchin (Common)
Creature - Human Assassin

KEN: A fine enough common for the set. Potent on defense but fine enough as an attacker since your opponent often doesn't want to block it.

GTH: My first starting hand consisted of a bunch of C 1/1 dorks, which looked pretty unattractive. It took a game or two to appreciate the effect they have on this deck's game. I like this very simple card, and it is a great creature to attack with carelessly if you require more attackers.

TML: Wanna block me? Really? The breakout theme of this deck is so deafening to me. It feels more like a theme deck than an Intro Pack deck, as it is so single-minded that normal Magic play patterns aren't present.

MR: Simple and flavorful. I like.

Pawn of Angathrak (Common)
[Pawn of Angathrak -
Creature - Human Minion
Sacrifice CARDNAME: Target creature gains haste until end of turn.

KEN: A fine enough creature, though in this deck a sacrifice for haste effect isn't ideal for breaking out. A Death Cultist would be more appropriate since you can attack, trigger breakout, then sacrifice this for a relevant effect (haste wouldn't be).

GTH: If you already have breakout, you can cash this in for an upgraded attacker. Good stuff if you have a Catacomb Ritualist active. I like how breakout makes me enjoy my 1/1s, even as attackers.

TML: Sure. It's jarring now to see a card that isn't helping me break out. This one might make some people feel that it is helping, but you can't trick me!

MR: This card is interesting in that it helps out breakout in one way (allowing you to attack the turn you play a breakout creature that your opponent couldn't anticipate) yet bad in another (you can't attack with this guy and get his effect). I like the overall package, but it is a little murkier in its breakout helping than other cards. (For the record, I'm okay with that.)

Pilfering Cutpurse (Common)
[Prison Scavenger -
Creature - Human Rogue
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, draw a card, then discard a card

KEN: A strong addition to the growing bandwagon of red looters. We should print this someday.

GTH: While the Scavenger flavor fits this mechanic quite nicely, Cutpurse is a little looser. It was nice to have dorks like this to help achieve a critical mass of creatures.

TML: Assuming red gets to do this, this is pretty cool. Goblin Piker is real bad in Limited, and this card is better, but I don't know how much better. I like it.

MR: I see you've embraced looting in red. It's definitely something we're toying with, so perhaps this creature will see play someday.

Raging Hooligan (Common)
Creature - Human Warrior
First Strike
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, CARDNAME gets +2/+0 until end of turn.

KEN: I might've been happy without first strike here, but as is he smashes for 3 a turn until the opponent summons a 1/2 or better that you don't remove. Afterwards, you breakout, and as a 3/1 first striker Raging Hooligan defeats most common creatures in combat.

GTH: The creatures that just get bigger with breakout are a little trickier than ones that have one-shot effects. In analog play there is little difference, but the trickiness would be exposed while playing Magic Online. As the one declaring blockers against them, you already know if breakout is going to trigger or not. So while you are choosing blockers you must remember that creatures like this are actually 3/1, despite what the screen is telling you. With the one-shot effects, the blocking decision is usually not affected so much.

TML: By now, the breakout creatures just make me tired. As a player, all I have to do is get them through. Worrying about the differences between them is something I can do later. That's bad. Magic cards need to lead to different things, and yours don't.

MR: I like this guy a lot. I really thought about breakout as a group mechanic but Raging Hooligan really demonstrated how one card with breakout can be very interesting all by itself. Ken is correct that this guy probably doesn't need first strike.

Rampaging Maniac (Uncommon)
Creature - Human Berserker
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, CARDNAME gains double strike until end of turn.

KEN: Another fighting breakout guy.

GTH: This is in the same group of size-changing breakouts as Raging Hooligan above. I like the swing on creatures that conditionally gain double strike.

TML: I'm out of comments on these creatures.

MR: As I brought up with Ethan and his evolve creatures, I'm not quite sure how many cards with your Intro Deck's keyword you're supposed to have. I do get that this is the GDS2 and you're trying to demonstrate how many different cards you can make.

I feel like Rampaging Maniac and Raging Hooligan are a little too close to each other (are you rampaging or raging?). I would probably link them up if you want a common and uncommon "I pump up" breakout creature. They both played fine but they cut into too similar mind space.

Reckless Arsonist (Uncommon)
Creature - Human Rogue
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, it does 2 damage to target creature or player.

KEN: The game play here is great. It takes out a blocker and then gets in there, helping trigger breakout since you'll have an attacker's advantage. We could slot this into one of several sets currently in design.

GTH: I enjoy how breakout support cards are fine cards all on their own. This particular one was devastating when I cast him with two breakout creatures in play facing three opposing creatures.

TML: This is probably my favorite of the cards you made. It actually does help breakout a lot, but in a subtler way that I find satisfying. It also makes sense if you aren't cognizant of a need to break out. This could appear in any Magic set, not just yours. Not enough of the cards in this deck feel that way to me.

MR: I'm enjoying how many interesting "stand-alone yet work well with your mechanic" cards you managed to design.

Shackled Escapist (Uncommon)
[Vengeful Convict -
Creature - Human Rogue
CARDNAME enters the battlefield with two -1/-1 counters on it.
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, you may move a -1/-1 counter from CARDNAME to target creature defending player controls.

KEN: I was expecting this creature to just remove his own -1/-1 counters, but upon further inspection it's a Grim Poppet of sorts. You get the shrink effect after your opponent has already committed to blocks, so that kind of combat math complexity is well served here on an uncommon.

GTH: This is certainly a more complex breakout card, and I didn't quite connect with the flavor. Is it putting each of its two shackles on something else? I'd wish it could just drop one if there was no guard to put it on. Also, that is one large human.

TML: Designers tend to be a fan of this sort of "turn-downside-into-upside-over-time" mechanic. I'm not a fan myself, though. I feel like cards should just do things that are good for you. Also, this is another potentially card-advantage breakout guy.

MR: My gut is that I would just make a breakout guy that puts -1/-1 counters on people. It would have a similar play (not running out of counters trades off with not growing) but be a little less wordy and easier to process.

Skulking Bloodtracker (Common)
Creature - Vampire Rogue
Breakout - Whenever CARDNAME attacks and any of your attacking creatures aren't blocked, CARDNAME gets +1/+1 and gains lifelink until end of turn.

KEN: These breakout creatures are doing well fitting into different roles—this creature is dedicated to winning a race. You don't need to win a race by a lot, so every breakout creature helping to race would be wasted. Keeping the race close adds drama.

GTH: The creatures that just get bigger with breakout are a little trickier than ones that have one-shot effects. In analog play there is little difference, but the trickiness would be exposed while playing Magic Online. As the one declaring blockers against them, you already know if breakout is going to trigger or not. So while you are choosing blockers you must remember that creatures like this are actually 3/3, despite what the screen is telling you. With the one-shot effects, the blocking decision is usually not affected so much.

TML: All of these guys play so similarly. As a developer, how am I supposed to make drafting this set feel different the tenth time when the only thing you want to do with them is attack and have your guys not blocked? The thing you get as a reward almost doesn't matter.

MR: Another interesting part about playing against the breakout deck was trying to figure out which breakout creatures you were supposed to take out when the prisoners made an all-out attack. At first, I ignored this guy and that proved to be a big mistake. This is another card that played a lot better than my first reaction of it.

Tunnel Escort (Common)
Creature - Human Warrior Scout
When CARDNAME attacks, target creature with power 2 or less is unblockable this turn.

KEN: Goblin Tunneler's big brother.

GTH: Here is a very strong common that practically auto-enables breakout. A real underground dweller is good to see finally.

TML: Now that we're at the end of the creatures, we need to talk about vanilla creatures. You didn't include any. I try to include three in each Intro Pack. Your fellow competitors included two each.

MR: I'm not sure I would do attack triggers in a set with breakout. I think when an attack happens, you want the opponent to only have to focus on the breakout effects. It also brings up some questions about when exactly breakout is supposed to trigger. My gut is it triggers at blocking, but I'm not a templating/rules guy so I'd leave it up to them to figure out.

Non-Creature Spells

Falling Stalactite (Uncommon)
[Cave In -
Destroy target land. CARDNAME deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

KEN: Another addition to a long line of clunky Stone Rain variants. I expected this to be a clunkier-costed common as it's not really doing anything relevant for game play to merit a red uncommon slot.

GTH: This card makes me wonder if You, the Planeswalker, are intended to be underground with the prisoners? This would suggest yes. The ordering of the two abilities is essential to tell the story here, even though in play it's the reverse that one would usually care about.

TML: Hooray! I love staple effect spells that have fun stories. Well done.

MR: Finally, some underground flavor. Follow through though: "CARDNAME deals 3 damage to target creature without flying". The nonflying restriction and not hitting players helps strengthen the flavor.

Fist of Chains (Common)
[Iron Knuckles -
Artifact - Equipment
Equip 1
Equipped creature has intimidate.

KEN: Internally we keep talking about making more intimidate creatures in every color. This card does that.

GTH: I like very simple Equipment, and this one looks like it could be quite good. The name is fun to say, and sounds like a "weapon" that an inmate could have.

TML: You priced this aggressively. Otherwise, fine.

By the way, you were the contestant who made the best choice of what Equipment to include in an Intro Pack. Good thinking.

MR: Development will probably want a word with you (on the costs), but designwise, I like it.

From the Caves! (Common)
Put two 1/1 Red Goblin Warrior creature tokens with haste into play.

KEN: Great! Now I can breakout past my opponent's creatures. We often don't put the "Warrior" there because it rarely matters.

GTH: It is good that your common haste creature is tweaked into this. It does a common thing in a different way that also makes sense. Continuing my first game story from above, after I played my three 1/1s, I then drew this. The deck was starting to make sense and feel right as well as fun.

TML: There is so much breaking out going on.

MR: This card played extraordinarily well in the deck. It's another example of how you didn't just build a mechanic, you built a deck and made sure that your theme was well supported on cards that at first glance don't seem like they're about your theme.

Incite Anarchy (Rare)
Reveal the top X cards of your library. Put each revealed creature card with converted mana cost X or less onto the battlefield. They gain haste. Sacrifice them at the beginning of the next end step.
Put the rest of the revealed cards on the bottom of your library in any order.

KEN: This card is quite epic. It pulls off Sneak Attack in a fair and fun way in the style of Genesis Wave, except that your opponent is probably dead to this card this turn.

GTH: This crazy red spell fits the world and mechanic very well, yet stands on its own. Incite Anarchy is exactly what this does, again tying the story to the mechanics. Near the end of my first game, I cast this for six and dumped out four creatures, two of which had breakout. Then my opponent cast Fog, which was the last card in his hand so he didn't even have to discard!

TML: Oooh, fun. This is an operation I'm excited to do on its own, and it happens to work well with breakout. More of your cards need to look like this—things you want to do anyway, that happen to work well with your set.

MR: Hopefully the story about me playing Fog from Shawn's deck against this card makes more sense now. (Yes, I was playing Graeme.) This might have been the most fun card I played in all our intro deck playtesting. It's wild, it's wacky, crazy stuff happens. I loved it.

Loot the Lifeless (Uncommon)
[Honor in Death -
Whenever a creature you control goes to a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay R. If you do, draw a card, then discard a card.

KEN: More cards in the red looting bandwagon. This card played great, though I feel it should loot for instead of . Your creatures are prone to dying in Magic regardless, but especially so when you're crashing your team into your opponent's team to breakout.

GTH: I'm not sure when I'd want to tinker with this card. A quirky Johnny card for sure, but in this Intro Deck it didn't seem to offer much.

TML: I groused at other contestants about "You may pay cost. If you do ... " effects. They are so obnoxiously fidgety. This is also not a great Intro Pack card. A new player processes this as "Whenever something bad happens to you, look at all your cards and lose the worst one forever. If your decision about which was the worst card was wrong, you can never go back. Good luck." That's not fun for most people in Game 1.

MR: Another simple design that played very well. I'm glad you saw the need to put a mana cost on the ability. (You might be picking up that Tom and I don't agree on everything.)

Poison the Guards (Uncommon)
[Poison the Guards -
Tap up to two target creatures, then put a -1/-1 counter on each of them.

KEN: The last time I saw this "Bribe the Guards" card, it tapped creatures and drew cards, and my critique was the concept was wrong since it would barely ever be used on the opponent. A better name would be "Plan the Escape" or "Study Session." Now that it's "Poison the Guards", it certainly will be aimed at opposing creatures most of the time. I'm sure there's -1/-1 counters-as-ammunition mechanics for tension.

GTH: It looks like -1/-1 counters are officially in play for this set. I would expect a good reason, so I wonder how the rest of the set takes advantage of this. I do like multi-use cards like this double Stabbing Pain. This is another removal card that puts the removal after the less interesting part. I don't see as strong a reason as with Falling Stalactite.

TML: I wanted this card to be an instant so badly. This as an instant is a card that would make the drafter in me very happy.

MR: I think this is my least favorite card in your deck. Tapping creatures really isn't in black's portion of the pie. I get you're trying to get rid of blockers but you need to find ways to do it that work with the tools black has. This card could have simply put -1/-1 counters on two creatures and worked fine.

Thunder Strike (Common)
Magic 2011
Target creature gets +2/+0 and gains first strike.

KEN: This trick is superb in this deck. The breakout creatures are understat'd by one so they are begging to be blocked by the opponent's normal-stat'd creatures. Additionally, breakout encourages attacking even if some will die. Thunder Strike wins the combat step more often than it should because your opponent will call your bluff every time on your breakout creature.

GTH: Thunder Strike initially evokes lightning and the outdoors to me. This does a good job of keeping your precious breakout creatures alive to survive the riot.

TML: Yes! Awesome! Not only is this a simple card, but it's from the core set, and therefore gets reminder text onto your cards. Now your new player will be able to find out what first strike does without a glossary or an Internet. Excellent.

MR: A nice repeat that fit how the deck played. Good job.

Vengeance of the Condemned (Common)
Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature for each creature you control.

KEN: This card name is epic and long for a run-of-the-mill common. The effect is nice enough, though it's pretty obvious the card was designed specifically to fit into this Intro Pack.

GTH: The -1/-1 counters seem to have a different flavor in each case, but I could be wrong. Without art, I cannot place what this is doing. This plays off having many creatures, which fits nicely with the goals of breakout. It is also interesting to see black's take on this, as this is something which is normally done more in green, white, and to a lesser extent red.

TML: Sure. This is a worthy sideways removal spell for draft, and makes sense to a new player to boot. Well done.

MR: I like this card quite a bit. It reinforces your themes but just as easily goes in plenty of other decks.


Jailbreak showcases the Breakout mechanic. Breakout is an ability word for a combat trigger, modeled on Frenzy, that triggers after blockers are declared if the Breakout creature is attacking and there are any unblocked attacking creatures. It's designed to make opponents need to block every attacking creature or suffer nasty saboteur effects and stronger attackers, evoking the disruption caused by creatures "rampaging behind enemy lines". As breakout cards build up, your opponent must choose between racing or holding back creatures to contain you. This leads to an escalating board state and the eventual carnage of a riot (attack) breaking through containing forces.
Jailbreak has 10 Breakout creatures and over 20 cards which enable Breakout through haste, evasion, removal, and cards that are just annoying to block. Other subtler synergies are layered throughout the deck for players to discover.
To reduce unfun and degenerate play states, Breakout creatures do not have inherent evasion. You must put them at risk or combine them with an enabler. To reduce the complexity of breakout creatures, commons only improve themselves, and most higher rarities have effects other than changing combat math.
Games often play out with an early rush, a buildup phase, and then one or several breakout attempts. Tools are included to win races as well as to achieve breakout.
Breakout increases interactivity by encouraging attacking and blocking (as opposed to just racing), it makes both players approach combat from a new perspective, and builds up organically to exciting high-risk, high-reward plays.
Scott Van Essen

KEN: This was the most fun deck in the playtest. The breakout mechanic supports many card designs and has game play we like to encourage in Magic—casting creatures, attacking, blocking, and "I swing with everyone and see what happens." Other cards like From the Caves! and Fist of Chains support it without being overly parasitic. Excellent job.

The two rares are well done: the marquee breakout Richard B. Riddick legendary creature and the mass Sneak Attack prison riot card. Fun rare designs are important for every set. Players play the commons most but remember the rares most.

There's considerable deck-building prowess going on here. Breakout creatures don't evade and are below curve power and toughness. The creature removal in this deck is sparse and clunky for a black-red deck. This means your opponent is likely to have some creatures, somewhat likely to have a bigger creature than your breakout creature, but your numbers or tricks will trigger the breakout anyway. A more powerful breakout deck would just kill all the opponent's creatures so blocking isn't even an option and thus breakout always triggers. Cards like Poison the Guards and From the Caves! are somewhat temporary means for triggering breakout. Giving the opponent a fighting chance adds drama.

In reality, I suspect there'd be more clunk all around on breakout cards and the black and red commons showcased here. Breakout, built "properly," is probably an all Nekrataal deck that just kills all opponents' creatures so there's no chance of blocking period. That's why I mention extra clunk being a good thing.

This designer executed the strongest work this week with a swell mechanic that fits into his set and theme-deck building. What's more, he did it with a smaller backlog of praised card designs from previous rounds than other designers. Theme-deck building talent of this caliber is valuable when we produce products like Intro Decks and Duel Decks. Someone with strong vision and "fun engineering" skills should do it—is that person new Magic design intern Scott Van Essen?

GTH: The theme of prison was extremely clear here, with almost every card being some type of deviant. I see only two or three creatures and two noncreature spells that evoke an underground feel. The underground aspect seems engaging and original and I would like to see more. I do understand this deck is themed around the prison side, but perhaps more of the prisoners can reflect unique quirks of an underground world.

While I do like both of your rares, I think Angathrak, Gang Leader is not as immediately understandable as we usually like the premium rare to be. For this slot something more obvious like "breakout +5/+5 and trample" could have gone a long way.

This deck surprised me with how it all worked together. The game play was exactly as you described in your comments. The story it told was both fun and unique. Breakout is definitely something I'd want to explore.

TML: In my opinion, this is the worst of the submitted Intro Packs. The play pattern of this deck is very different from what I would call "normal Magic." Rather than casting cool creatures and attacking, this deck is about doing goofy tricks to get breakout guys through for marginal effects. If you aren't doing that, you'll be lost. Worse, all the breakout creatures played exactly the same. The goal wasn't to use the reason that the cards were different; it was just to get guys through. I wanted the differences between the breakout guys to be larger. As is, I can't imagine wanting to play more than five games or so with this deck before getting bored. A "theme deck" can afford to have the amount of mechanical prescription that this deck has. An "intro pack" can't.

If I received breakout from a design team, I would try to have it killed as soon as possible. Every breakout card played very similarly. I can't see a way to keep the cards far enough apart from one another that I could make twenty to thirty cards with the mechanic. Also, if every breakout deck plays too similarly, I can't see how I would make the set interesting to draft twenty times. The last problem I have is that the mechanic, when given effects that create card advantage, leads to unpleasantly slippery slope game-play. This is especially true of the Gravedigger card. These are enough problems put together that I would be very nervous about taking this mechanic into development without an overhaul.

MR: Scott, last time I said that you were the one designer who I felt improved every challenge. I'm glad to see you keep that trend alive. I felt this submission was your best one of the whole GDS2. You not only made a fun Intro Deck (in my opinion anyways), but you did so while really growing and evolving your overall set and block.

Be aware as Tom's comments hint at, breakout has a lot of work ahead of it. While the designers all love the potential, the developer is the one shining the mechanic in the light of day. (As you have an underground set, this is a particularly apt metaphor.) Breakout has a lot of very real challenges ahead of it, but you have tapped into something that definitely excited the majority of the judges.

A lot of this competition has been me watching you circle around good ideas. This week I felt you really started nailing them. I'm sad that the world building challenges are over because you're starting to get me very excited with your world. Good work on a good assignment.

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