The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Shawn Main

Posted in Feature on January 12, 2011

By Staff

Shawn Main

Doom of Wodotha

The Blight descends and the horizon is gone; succumb or soldier on.

MR: I still feel like your logline introduces the term "blight" but doesn't really explain what it is. Once again, I would be less subtle. The Blight is eating away at the world. That concept is cool; make sure it's clear.

Common Card #1 –
Doom Herald
Creature - Horror
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, blight target creature. (To blight, destroy each permanent with a blight counter on it, then put a blight counter on the blighted creature.)

Art: A withered abomination stands over a blighted, dying elf.

KEN: This seems like a good choice for first card in the booster. It played rather well, comes only likely just after an opponent has played a creature, and represents blight in a mostly all-upside way. As it's the major mechanic of the block, might as well thrust it on stage at the beginning. I'm not sure blight can be a key selling point of a full block's worth of content, but we've demonstrated with Zendikar + Worldwake "lands-matter" and Rise of the Eldrazi "battlecruiser Magic" that we're willing and able to execute a two-set theme or even a one-set theme.

MJG: Blight looks interesting and fun, but I can't put it in any existing decks due to its extreme parasitism: just one blight card does absolutely nothing. Bummer. However, I would put my blight cards in a pile to see if I collect enough of them to build a deck around them.

MP: Cool card. Seems pretty powerful at first blush, and makes me want to build a deck with lots of blight cards ...

MR: I think you did an excellent job finding a mechanic to give life to blight. It's flavorful and plays well. Now you have the next challenge: maximizing the mechanic. You need to figure out what works and doesn't work so that you can tweak it to try and play up where it shines and play down where it doesn't.

So what are the biggest strikes against blight? I'd say the fact that it's, as Globus points out, too parasitic. That's a design term that says that a mechanic needs to be played with others like it. This card, for example, is useless unless you have other blight cards. But there are ways to offset this. For example, imagine if this card blighted when it entered the battlefield and when it went to the graveyard from the battlefield. Now it does something all by itself. A player who's excited by this card can put it into his deck.

Note that doubling up the effect is not a trick you want to put on every blight card but it's one way to lessen the parasitism.

Common Card #2 –
Veteran Spearman
Creature - Human Warrior
Assault - Whenever you attack with three or more creatures, CARDNAME gets +1/+1 and gains first strike until end of turn.

Art: A scarred warrior leans against his spear- behind stand two younger kinsmen, battle-ready.

KEN: Swarm strategies get a nod. A straightforward card for a straightforward strategy. I wouldn't actually start with these numbers—I'd try to have first strike on the front end, Plated Geopede-style—but the card is reasonable enough that these numbers might be correct.

MJG: Cool. As opposed to blight, just one of these cards is useful—any deck that regularly has three attacking creatures can gain from this. As such, I can see putting this one into an existing White Weenie deck and I can keep adding more as I get them. I like it.

MP: I like cards and mechanics that encourage people to play creatures and fight—this mechanic seems pretty simple and powerful.

MR: You put assault into a color where it makes sense. (For the readers, Shawn Main previously had this effect in blue, which I called him out on.) On blue, the mechanic seems out of place; on white, it's a perfect fit. I like this card and I think it will play well.

Common Card #3 –
Rise from Ruin
Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
Requiem- If a creature was put into the graveyard from the battlefield this turn, you may return up to one other target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

Art: Two ghostly spirits rise from their slain bodies on the battlefield.

KEN: So far so good with the card choices—each one representing a mechanic in the set. This is a rather pretty requiem card—a Death's Duet is quite adept at making good use of a creature that just died.

MJG: A Disentomb that lets me get an extra guy when I need it? Sounds good. I really like how this card provides a bonus at a time that I would naturally want it—when my creature died. I can see putting this into any black deck with lots of creatures.

MP: This is another cool, simple card. But this is the third different, new keyword mechanic I've seen in three commons. They're pretty straightforward, but I worry about the newer player being overloaded at this point.

MR: I like requiem. As I've talked about before it limits the kind of effects you can use with it, but Raise Dead works well. I also like that it ties so well with something dying. The spell sort of says, "If something died this turn, you can get it too." A good card.

Common Card #4 –
Seeker's Wings
Enchantment- Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature has flying and has "Whenever this creature deals damage to an opponent, scry 1."

Art: A merfolk rises high above the ocean on magic wings and surveys the horizon.

KEN: We assume every player knows what "flying" means on non-Core Set expansions, but should we really assume every player knows what "scry 1" means on commons? I suppose you mean for reminder text on this card, but it's going to skyrocket the word count. Magic 2010's average words per common is 10.35 while Magic 2010's is 12.48, which is what happens when you resurrect scry. Magic 2010's low word count is applause-worthy, and I fear scry here is not worth the words for its game play.

MJG: I like how the art tells me to put it in a Merfolk deck—that seems like a great home for this card.

MP: Yikes. Cool card, but four commons, four keyword mechanics ...

MR: For starters, I feel like this card could have just been Flight + Curiosity and been a cool card. The scry seems like unnecessary complication, especially at common.

I'm kind of mixed on bringing back scry. It's a good mechanic, but I don't quite get why your set wants it. I understand mechanically why it wants it, but I don't see how it works thematically with the world. I don't get the flavor.

Common Card #5 –
Forsaken Oracle
[Merfolk Studier,
Creature - Merfolk Wizard
2, Sacrifice CARDNAME: Draw a card.

Art: A merfolk elder meditates as blight consumes the temple around him.

KEN: Here's what I mean about scry not pulling weight. The previous card demonstrates the set, common, blue, and merfolk have access to scry. Yet this card draws a card instead of scrying. Either this card should be more like Viscera Seer, or the previous card should be more like Illuminated Wings.

MJG: I don't normally like sacrificing my creatures, but I might consider this in a Merfolk deck.

MP: Simple card design using one of our established creature types.

MR: The interesting question this card brings up is how much enabling you want for requiem. Is it supposed to be something that's easy to do, or does this set want to make it a little more challenging? The area I'm more interested in with blight playing such a strong role are death triggers (a.k.a. cards that create an effect when they go to the graveyard). I'd like to make it a little harder to get your creatures into the graveyard but doubly reward you when you do.

This card is fine in a vacuum and should play fine. My advice to you though is to look and see how you want to create synergy between blight and your other creatures.

Common Card #6 –
Vidrheim Huntmaster
Creature - Elf Warrior
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield.

Art: An elven ranger in the taiga with a giant wolf at her side.

KEN: A fine card for any set, but perhaps a fine design isn't the best candidate for this booster pack exercise. Ironically, I just cut this card from my set "Hook" because my team found a cooler way to do it. You'll find out how in a couple years.

MJG: This card is fine, though I'd rather an extra Elf than a Wolf. An additional elf would gain all of the tribal bonuses I might have naturally in my Elf deck and I haven't seen anything to indicate that I should care about wolves. This card doesn't feel a part of the set like the others do.

MP: Another simple, cool card (but not terribly innovative).

MR: As the designer of Ambassador Oak, I'm a big fan of a creature that makes friends, so, of course, big thumbs up from me. I can see how this card plays nicely with assault.

Common Card #7 –
Sacred Spear
Artifact - Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0.
When equipped creature is put into a graveyard, CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target player.
Equip - 1

Art: A long spear covered with glowing runes.

KEN: This is fine card for getting more death triggers into every color at common. This card reminds me of developer Erik Lauer, who is the world's biggest fan of drawing cards in Constructed and running power-pumping Equipment in Limited.

MJG: Well, if I go with more sacrifice outlets (like the Forsaken Oracle) I can see putting this with them.

MP: I'm beginning to see a pattern here of simple card designs that are fairly flavorful, but I feel like Sacred Spear, the Huntmaster, and the Oracle could all be in a Core set. What sets this set apart?

MR: Hey, a death trigger. I like it. This card is both very flavorful and synergistic with the rest of your set. Good work.

Common Card #8 –
Wilt Away
Blight target artifact or enchantment. (To blight, destroy each permanent with a blight counter on it, then put a blight counter on the blighted artifact or enchantment.)

Art: Blight envelopes a stone circle, the elf (from Doom Herald) lies behind, a withered corpse.

KEN: Here's where I wonder if blight is actually a mechanic worthy of multiple sets. A Naturalize variant is as meat and potatoes as it gets, yet I'm unsure if this card holds its own. I appreciate the lack of additional frills.

MJG: Initially, I'd keep the blight cards I got in a separate pile to go through once I hit critical mass. With just one booster, I certainly don't get there ...

MP: The answer is blight! This simple mechanic seems like it's going to completely change the way people play. Unless I'm misunderstanding this, I can blight a guy with my Doom Herald, then kill it by blighting my opponent's howling mine with this spell.

Incidentally, I wrote the above before reading your art description! Nice job of using the creative to point players in the direction of how to use this card. My only concern here is that you can kill creatures with a green instant. My concerns would be allayed if you always need to use a non-green spell to put blight counters on creatures in the first place.

MR: Now comes another blight problem to solve. Blight wants to live in the same space as destruction cards but it's not quite destruction. Take this card as an example. The reason green common also has a Naturalize spell is because we want to make sure that green has a way to get rid of artifacts and enchantments. This card doesn't really do that without the support of other cards. If you have a non-blight deck and you want to get rid of an artifact or enchantment, the set doesn't have anything for you.

My best guess at a solution is to find a way to make sure that the card destroys an artifact or enchantment no matter what, probably leaving a blight counter on another artifact or enchantment in its wake. Put a counter on and then blight? I'm not sure quite how to execute it but I do know it's important that this card be able to destroy an artifact or enchantment without having to play other blight cards.

One other note. I like how you're using the art to connect the set together. While it's not something design has to worry about (well, except when you design Un-sets), it's nice to see you doing everything you can to tie the elements of your set together.

Common Card #9 –
Pyre Shot
CARDNAME deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from play this turn, CARDNAME deals 4 damage to that creature or player instead.

Art: Flames rise from a funeral pyre, twisting into a spike.

KEN: This is from a common cycle with Rise from Ruin? The card is nice, but I'd be more generous with manacost .

MJG: I like this requiem card, too, and can see putting this into any existing burn deck. I also like it with Mogg Fanatic, a card that I can see fitting in nicely in your set.

MP: I like that this is a simple card with upside if certain conditions are met. Using staple cards (Giant Growth, Raise Dead, Shock, or Lightning Bolt) and tweaking them with a new mechanic is a good way to convey how your world is different from others in the Multiverse. Right now I'm getting the vibe that creatures dying are an important part of this plane. I'm a little worried that with all of the blighting and other removal, there won't be enough around to trigger requiem, which can lead to a bad experience with cards like this. There's also a bit of potential chicken-and-egg with this card: "I need to kill a 3/3, and it's the only creature on the board ... " That's me frowning at Pyre Shot in hand.

MR: This is the kind of card we also make, so props for making it. If we had requiem in a set, there is a very good chance we'd make this exact card. Fine work.

Premium Rare Card –
Wasteland Warlord
Creature - Giant Warrior
Haste, Double strike
Assault — Whenever you attack with three or more creatures, if it's the first combat phase, untap all creatures you control. After this phase, you get an additional combat phase.

Art: A giant, wielding two axes, leads a bloodsoaked horde.

KEN: Nice! That's quad strike?! This reads more like an intro pack rare to me, though. 5/5 haste Relentless Assault, squarely on top of Hellkite Charger (a card I designed).

MJG: BAM! This guy looks fun in an aggro deck. He might be a little tricky to get to work at six mana, but I'm sure development can get him in the right spot!

MP: This is a cool twist on Relentless Assault, and it reads like a powerful and exciting card. What I'm starting to become concerned with is that in a world full of blight (removal), how often am I actually going to be able to turn on assault?

MR: This card shows that you can make an exciting assault card. This is definitely the kind of card we'd preview early so I think it was a good choice for your premium slot. I especially like how all the various elements work with each other so well.

Uncommon Card #1 –
Walking Prophecy
Creature - Shapeshifter Spirit
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
As long as the top card of your library isn't a land card, CARDNAME's power and toughness are each equal to that card's converted mana cost.

Art: A wispy spirit walks between praying oracles in a temple.

KEN: Cool guy. Feels rarish. But an excellent design nonetheless.

MJG: This would be a fun build around with cards like Ponder or Brainstorm—I could put an Eldrazi on top of my library and then attack. Nice.

MP: This is another nice take on a kind of card we've done ... that could probably appear in a core set.

MR: I like this card in a vacuum, but I'm not sure what it brings to the table as a card to show off your set for the first time. It makes me feel as though the shapeshifters are somehow important. (Quick tip—people seem fascinated by shapeshifters and there is some basic desire to assume shapeshifters are important storywise whenever you see them.) I wish I had a better sense mechanically what this means to your set.

Uncommon Card #2 –
Heartsinger Valkyrie
Creature - Angel Warrior
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, return a creature you control to its owner's hand.

Art: A winged Valkyrie descends, reaching down to lift a wounded warrior from a pitched battle.

KEN: This is to ... unblight your creature? I fear that in order for blight to shine, the set needs fewer things like this that undermine the major mechanic. But I like this creature otherwise—so big!

MJG: Very nice. This works well in the set (rescuing blighted creatures) and goes into many white decks naturally.

MP: Powerful Angels at uncommon are a good thing! We do a fair amount of market research, and from that we know that Angels are often the most popular cards in set. It may seem obvious, but when you get an exciting card, you're more likely to play more often so that you can see that card in action. Putting an awesome warrior Valkyrie at uncommon is smart business.

MR: The art really makes this feel as if the point of the card is to save things. If this is true, you want to put flash on the creature allowing you to occasionally do this. The current version doesn't support that flavor. (Well, okay it does "save" blighted creatures.) I do like this card and I see how you can sell it as being a warrior in the conflict, but I'm not sure if it has a role beyond that set-wise.

Uncommon Card #3 –
Blight Delirium
Untap target creature and blight it. You gain control of it until end of turn. It gains haste until end of turn. (To blight, destroy each permanent with a blight counter on it, then put a blight counter on the blighted creature.)

Art: A human warrior, crazed as she suffers from the blight, turns on her companion.

KEN: Weirdly, we do Act of Treason at common nowadays for some swinginess and a spicy "can't block" effect. I'm glad this is a rather clean spot for blight.

MJG: Goes in the blight pile ... it would be great to see a card with blight that worked on its own. Anything that could blight more than once would do the trick and would let me try out blight before needing a ton of cards.

MP: At first glance, blight seemed pretty straightforward to me, but this card brings up a question: If I want to borrow a creature that already has a blight counter on it, can I? As a Wizards employee and fifteen-year Magic player, I'm pretty sure I know the answer. But is the average beginner going to play this card correctly? The reminder text isn't entirely clear.

As for the card itself, it's another twist on an existing card. We do these occasionally, but with so many in this pack, I'm starting to get bored.

MR: This is an example of a card that doesn't need to destroy what it blights. I hope you can find more places where blight seems flavorful without having to sit on a destruction spell. The danger, of course, is how to do so without creating too much card advantage. As you can see, finding a mechanic is only the first step in getting it to print.

Mythic Rare Card –
Maltor, the Betrayer
Legendary Creature - Demon
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, blight all other creatures. (To blight, destroy each permanent with a blight counter on it, then put a blight counter on the blighted creatures.)

Art: A giant, winged demon eclipses the sun, surrounded by withered remains of the blighted.

KEN: I liked this best in the cycle before. Demonic, poetic, and epic.

MJG: This certainly goes in the blight pile, but is still unusable to me having just one pack. Bummer.

MP: This guy is a big, iconic Magic creature that uses the new mechanic (which is a good thing), but they way he uses blight here is pretty predictable.

MR: This card knows how to make blight work without help from other cards. I think I would make this card at rare rather than mythic rare. Partly because I think you need to make ETB/Death trigger blight more common and partly because this card seems to be missing the oomph I like to see in mythic rare.

Basic Land Card –

Art: Majestic, boreal forest with trees at the periphery succumbing to blight.

KEN: My most often turn-one play is "Forest, go."

MP: No complaints here (especially since we're essentially seeing some of this right now on Mirrodin.)

MR: I like the idea that the basic lands are showing the impact of blight.

Token Card –
Creature – Giant

Art: A frost giant wades through the sea amid ice floes.

KEN: Ha! Weird. Blue 4/4 Giant. If this was randomly added for kicks, I still like it.

MP: Like a smaller frost Titan?

MR: I guess this card is helping show off your Norse influences. It is a little odd to see a blue giant (Frost Giant being the one big exception) so it definitely tells you that something is different this set.


For this challenge, at shdwcat's suggestion, I've embraced elements of Norse mythology to help define Wodotha's natives. Assault, now moved to its proper place in white, green, and red, represents Wodotha's warrior clans and a world in frenzy. Playtesting confirmed the sorts of cards that enable assaults (tokens, evasion, and haste in particular). Blight too is a useful tool for encouraging assault, as creatures marked for death can play a little looser and sacrifice themselves to aid their kinsmen.

I wanted this pack to show not only the primary colors blight will appear in, but some of the breadth of interactions it can set up. I found blighting is at its most interesting when it appears on creatures (like Doom Herald) or sorceries with secondary effects (like Blight Delirium). This allows blight spells to play well outside of a dedicated blight deck and prevents them from being collect all/collect none in drafts. Instant speed blight, however, needs to be a little more deliberate, as it can lead to surprise kills even on innocuous-looking cards like Wilt Away.

Many attempts were made to codify desperate searching mechanics, but scry did everything Wodotha needed, representing a world looking for answers. Though it will appear here in multiple colors, scry helps define blue's role as the color of oracles through cards, like Walking Prophecy, that care about the top of your library.

KEN: In conclusion, I think this set design has less to work with, but the designer is doing an admirable job with it regardless. Magic has had far more compelling sets and key-selling points, but the ability to execute on what I consider a weak theme is still a skill needed in R&D.

It's like the designer painted himself into a corner, so he started painting up the walls and onto the ceiling, in a Michaelango way.

MJG: I liked the cohesion of the pack—I really felt like you were creating a world. However, the pack was a little light on cards that I could put into existing decks. In this respect, I liked requiem much better than blight: it was something new that I could enjoy right away.

MP: There are a lot of simple, solid Magic cards in this pack, but it bored me to tears. I feel like nearly every one of these cards could have been pulled from a pack of Magic 2012, or any set based on Dominaria for that matter. The new set mechanics do stuff we already do on spells in every set: destroy things and encourage creatures to fight. Worse, with all three of the mechanics, there is a real potential that the game state will mean that they have absolutely zero impact on play.

Join me in imagining this potential game state: My opponent has a 3/4 Squirrel token on the board (because all of the games in my imagination have Squirrel tokens in them).

I have Veteran Spearman in play with Pyre Shot, and Doom Herald in hand. I don't have three creatures, so my Spearman is a 2/2 "bear." The 3/4 doesn't have a blight counter, so my Doom Herald isn't going to solve the problem. And Pyre Shot only does 2 damage, since nothing went to the graveyard this turn. This might be a corner case, but if it happened to me I might chuck that deck in the shoeboxes and head down to my basement to play Starcraft, a consumer lost.

I'm not saying there aren't some solid cards here (there certainly are), but there's nothing terribly innovative here either. There's no hook to get people excited about. This would be what you call a "tough sell" for my team.

MR: Shawn, while I spent a lot of time talking about what you need to do, let me say that I am quite impressed with what you have done. I feel like your world made the greatest advancement this week and I feel like your booster did the best at showing off your world (Ethan was a close second), so I'm naming you the winner of this Challenge. (Purvis and I obviously have very different views on your booster.)

The major theme of my notes this week is that while you have come far, there is much work left to do. I really like blight as a mechanic but it has more issues than the average mechanic and is going to need a lot of work to get it to where it needs to be.

My other major note is that I want to make sure that your set doesn't become what R&D calls "bio-dome" where everything works within itself but starts having problems when you want to pull things out to play with other cards. (Globus kept hitting at this note.)

All in all, you have chosen a very challenging world. I am impressed with how you've managed so far but you have a lot of work left.

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