Last week, I walked you all through the first Great Designer Search 3 trial, the essay test. This week it's time to start talking about the second trial, the multiple-choice test. To do that, I want to first give everyone a chance to take the test, so here's how it's going to work. You can reveal the full test by clicking the button below. Take the test, then tally your score using the answer key provided. Then continue reading the rest of this article; I'll explain all the answers. Because this test is so long, the explanations will take multiple weeks. Sound fun?
Now let's go through the test, one question at a time.
--- [converted mana cost (CMC): 6]
Creature — ---
1. What is the most appropriate color for this card
Menace is primary in black and red. Prowess is primary in blue and secondary in red. That makes red the only color where the two abilities overlap.
2. What is the most appropriate rarity for this card?
- Mythic rare
From the first question, we now know this is a red creature. It's a 5/5 with two abilities. This card is unlikely to be a common because 5/5 is a bit big for common in red, especially with two potent keywords. It's unlikely to be rare or mythic rare because the card isn't particularly exciting. Usually cards at higher rarity have a bit more going on. That makes uncommon the most likely rarity for this card.
3. You are changing one of Scrappy Survivor's keywords to another one. Which of the following combinations would result in a card that couldn't be monocolor?
- First strike, prowess
- Hexproof, prowess
- Lifelink, menace
- Menace, vigilance
First strike is white and red. Prowess is blue and red. This means answer A could be mono-red. Hexproof is blue and green. Prowess is blue and red. This means answer B could be mono-blue. Lifelink is white and black. Menace is black and red. This means answer C could be mono-black. Menace is black and red. Vigilance is white and green. This means answer D can't be monocolor and is therefore the correct answer.
Come Work for Me Temporarily
--- [CMC: 4]
Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap it. It gets +1/+1 and gains haste, hexproof, and trample until end of turn.
4. What is the most appropriate color combination for this multicolor card?
This one is a little tricky. Gaining control of another creature, untapping it, and giving it haste until the end of the turn is a red ability. Hexproof is a blue and green ability. Trample is a red and green ability. That means of the choices provided, blue-red and red-green are the two possible combinations. Red-green is the better choice because of a subtle thing we do in design when granting abilities with a two-color card. We grant three abilities: one primary or secondary in the first color (haste in red), one primary or secondary in the second color (hexproof in green), and one primary or secondary in both (trample in red and green), making this design more red-green than blue-red.
5. What is the most appropriate rarity for this card?
- Mythic rare
Temporary stealing is something red does at common. However, this spell also pumps the creature and grants two additional abilities beyond the haste: hexproof and trample. Granting three additional abilities beyond the stealing and pumping makes it unlikely we do this effect at common. This effect seems more suited for Limited than Constructed, and like the last card, it lacks a bit of splash that would make it rare or mythic rare. All this means we'd most likely make this card uncommon.
6. If we aren't planning to change the color combination, which change are we least likely to make to this card?
- Change "sorcery" to "instant."
- Change "haste" to "double strike."
- Change "+1/+1" to "+2/+2."
- Change from "hexproof" to "this creature must be blocked this turn if able."
- Change from "trample" to "this creature can't be blocked by creatures with power 2 or less."
If we take haste away from this spell, you can no longer attack with the creature you’ve stolen. That would make the spell not very useful and quite unintuitive, so B is the correct answer. Answer A isn't something we do often, but it is something we're willing to do infrequently. Answer C could be done to boost the power of the card. Answers D and E are both changing to abilities that correspond to the proper color assignment, and thus would be allowable.
7. Which of these phrases is a follower of white's philosophy least likely to say?
- "A system without structure is a system asking to fail."
- "Evil must be preemptively stopped."
- "Nothing can go wrong if you act from your heart."
- "Sometimes the individual suffers so that the larger group can thrive."
- "Violence is never preferred but is occasionally necessary."
White believes in order and sees "acting from the heart" as a chaotic thing that red would do. This makes C the correct answer. Answer A is okay because white believes in structure. Answer B is okay because white is willing to justify acting preemptively if it feels there's a strong enough moral reason. Answer D is okay because white believes in valuing the group over an individual. Answer E is okay because white accepts violence as a necessary tool in some cases, such as when it might use an army to stop a known threat.
8. Which of these phrases is a follower of blue's philosophy least likely to say?
- "Action should only follow thought."
- "Every person has the ability to become anything."
- "A fear of change is dangerous."
- "Tools are an important part of any society."
- "You are shaped more by your genes than your experience."
Blue believes in nurture over nature, making E the correct answer. Answer A is okay because blue believes one should think before acting. Answer B is okay because it taps into blue's belief that people are born a blank slate with the potential to become anything. Answer C is okay because blue actually embraces change and thus doesn't see it as inherently dangerous. Answer D is okay because blue is a big believer in tools (artifacts, in game terms), as they're one of the ways to help someone reach their potential.
9. Which of these phrases is a follower of black's philosophy least likely to say?
- "The difference between success and failure is a willingness to do what needs to be done."
- "I didn't create the system, I just understand how to take advantage of it."
- "Only I choose what path I walk."
- "Sometimes you have to put others ahead of yourself."
- "The weak serve a purpose; they are a resource of the strong."
Black is selfish and never believes in putting others before its own interests, making D the correct answer. Answer A is okay because black believes that the key to success is the willingness to do things others won't. Answer B is okay because black is very big on taking advantage of systems. Answer C is okay because black is a firm believer in free will. Answer E is okay because black sees the weak as yet another tool to be used.
10. Which of these phrases is a follower of red's philosophy least likely to say?
- "Mistakes should be avoided at all costs."
- "The greatest regrets are about things you didn't do, not things you did."
- "Life is messy."
- "A life without passion is a life unlived."
- "The fewer rules, the better."
Red embraces the messiness of life and is okay with making mistakes, making A the correct answer. Answer B is okay because red is all about action and following one's impulses. Answer C is okay because red sees life as chaotic. Answer D is okay because red is driven by its passion. Answer E is okay because red doesn't like things, such as rules, that don't let you do what you want to do.
11. Which of these phrases is a follower of green's philosophy least likely to say?
- "Adaptation is a slow process."
- "All life is interconnected."
- "Killing for sport is just a part of life."
- "The key to happiness is accepting that the world is as it's meant to be."
- "You are born into your role."
While green does see killing as a natural part of life, doing it for sport goes against everything green stands for, making C the correct answer. Answer A is okay because green sees adaptation as a natural process—provided it happens naturally over time and is not forced. Answer B is okay because green believes in the web of life and sees nature tying everything together. Answer D is okay because green believes that the key to being happy is learning that things are good as they currently are, that nature gets things right. Answer E is okay because green believes that it is nature and not nurture that defines your role in life.
12. If we were to bring back the battle cry mechanic in a Ravnica set, which guild would be the best match for the mechanic?
Battle cry is a combat mechanic (Whenever this creature attacks, each other attacking creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.) that encourages attacking with multiple creatures. It also has a military flavor. These two things make Boros the best choice for the mechanic. The mechanic has some synergy mechanically with both the Gruul and Selesnya guilds, but not as much as it does with Boros.
13. Which effect is usually seen on more instants than sorceries?
- Direct damage
- Discard effects
- Land destruction
- Land fetching (getting a land out of your library)
- Reanimation (putting creatures from the graveyard onto the battlefield)
The key to this question is actually figuring out which effects happen mostly on sorceries. We put discard effects mostly on sorceries because we don't like players locking the opponent out of their draw. We put land destruction effects mostly on sorceries because instant-speed land destruction in response to a spell being cast confuses some players. We put land fetching mostly on sorceries because we prefer lands get played during the main phase. We put reanimation mostly on sorceries because we don't want it used defensively as a surprise. Direct damage, in contrast, is used all the time on instants and thus is the correct answer.
14. What is the biggest problem design-wise with the card below?
Long-Acting Giant Growth
Target creature gets +3/+3 until the end of the turn. At the beginning of your next upkeep, that creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn. At the beginning of your next upkeep after that, that creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
- The spell is too cheap.
- The spell requires you track things for three turns without any way to mark it.
- The spell should be an instant so that it can work in combat.
- The spell should get bigger over time, not smaller, to build in excitement.
- The spell should let you target different creatures because the first one might die.
R&D is very sensitive to memory issues. If something is going to last beyond your turn, we tend to give you a memory aid to help (add counters, make it an Aura, etc.). Long-Acting Giant Growth lasts over three turns and changes its effect each turn. This makes B the correct answer. Every other answer just isn't as important as the memory issues.
--- [CMC: 4]
CARDNAME's power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand.
15. If the above card were a hybrid creature, what colors would it be?
Flash is primary in blue and secondary in green. (We've just started experimenting with it as secondary in black as well, but I didn't expect anyone who doesn't read my blog to know this.) The "Maro" ability (power and toughness equal to number of cards in hand) is blue and green. This makes E the correct answer.
16. What is the most likely rarity for the above card?
- Mythic rare
This card has what we call "variable stats," meaning that its size is constantly changing. We typically don't do variable stats at common. The Maro ability is well liked by the players. It also allows the creature to get pretty big. That makes us more likely to push it up in rarity than down. Also, the converted mana cost is more aimed at Constructed than Limited. The flash added to it is the last straw that would make it more likely to be rare than uncommon. It's not quite splashy enough to be mythic rare. The Maro ability would want to be combined with something a little more innovative than flash to make it a mythic rare, making rare the correct answer.
17. What ability could be added to the above creature without changing its colors?
- At the end of your turn, untap CARDNAME.
- CARDNAME can't be blocked by more than one creature.
- CARDNAME must be blocked if able.
- Whenever CARDNAME deals damage to an opponent, draw a card.
- Whenever a creature dies, put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME.
Answer A is a blue ability but not a green one. Green can untap creatures, but on spells and not naturally on the creature. Answers B and C are green abilities but not blue ones. Answer E is a black ability that has shown up infrequently in green. I believe it was done once in blue in Shards of Alara as part of a cycle, but it's not something blue traditionally does. Answer D is what we call "Curiosity," and it's an ability we use all the time in blue and green, making it the correct answer.
18. A player finishes their first game of Magic. Which of the following do we care most about?
- They have a favorite card.
- They have seen most of the card types, and most of the evergreen keywords.
- They see the potential depth of the game.
- They understand the cards in their deck.
- They want to play again.
Nothing matters if the new player is uninterested in playing again, so the biggest goal of a first game is to capture the player's interest and get them excited to play more. The other answers are important, just not as important.
19. When designing a card for Spike, which of the following is most important?
- The card has a low casting cost.
- The card produces card advantage.
- The card is very open ended.
- The card lets Spike feel they outplayed their opponent.
- The card tells Spike what the deck is about.
The key to making Spike happy is giving them the tools to prove their skills. We found the best way to do this is creating cards which are more skillful in the hands of a better player, allowing Spike to feel that they won because of their own decisions. This means D is the correct answer.
20. Design considers a card "too slow for tournament play." What does that mean?
- The card will make too many matches run over time in tournaments.
- The player with this card will monopolize too much of the play time in tournaments.
- The opponent will call the judge too often with a request of "slow play."
- The card will cause problems for coverage, as it will require too much commentary devoted to it.
- The card will make games take more than fifteen turns.
When we talk about something being "too slow for tournament play," we're thinking big picture: Are we making choices that will make tournaments harder to run? Part of design is understanding the impact choices you make will have on other aspects of the game, such as organized play. For this issue, it's length of rounds, and thus answer A.
21. You're working on the next Commander decks. Which is the most important goal?
- The colors are equally represented.
- The commanders inspire people to build new decks.
- Each deck has a brand-new theme.
- Designing new cards for Legacy and Vintage.
- The decks are based on popular Commander decks.
This question was testing whether you understood our motives behind making Commander decks. Our biggest goal is promoting the Commander format. To do that, we want to create cards (mostly commanders) that will inspire new decks. We roughly balance colors, but being equal is not crucial. We look for new themes, but repeating popular old themes is okay. Early on, we tried to make cards for Legacy and Vintage, and that caused all sorts of problems. Our decks can be original; they don't have to be based on existing themes. That makes B the correct answer.
22. Which of the following creatures is the weakest in a typical Standard-legal Draft format?
- 1G 2/2
- 3G 4/4
- 5G 6/6
- 7G 8/8
- 9G 10/10
The biggest limitation here is how often you're able to play the card. The higher the cost, the less chance you'll have to ever play it, making the 9G 10/10 the weakest.
23. Which of the following creatures is the strongest in a typical Standard-legal Draft format?
- 1G 2/2
- 3G 4/4
- 5G 6/6
- 7G 8/8
- 9G 10/10
A 1G 2/2 is a bit under the curve. Usually green gets more than that for 1G. A 5G 6/6 is good, but it requires you getting to six mana, which usually doesn't happen until later in the game. 7G and 9G are just dead in your hand too much of the time. This makes 3G 4/4 the correct answer.
24. The lead of a set has removed a black instant removal spell from their set, and asks you to create potential replacement designs. Which of these qualities is most important for your designs?
- It's a black card.
- It's an innovative card.
- It's an instant.
- It's a powerful card.
- It's a removal card.
If the set lead asks you to fill a hole in black, there's no more important quality than the card being black. Yes, it's nice if it can have the same functionality, but if it doesn't, the set lead can tweak a different card to solve that problem.
25. Why do green's common creatures tend to be a bit more efficient than white creatures?
- Green is the enemy of blue and black.
- Green players love powerful creatures.
- White is the enemy of black and red.
- White has stronger removal.
- This is the way it has always been.
While green and white both have a creature focus, white has more answers than green and thus is less reliant on the potency of its creatures for its overall deck strength. Green's major advantage, especially at common, is that it has the most efficient creatures.
26. Which color gets the second fewest common creatures in a typical set?
Here's the default order of colors from the most creatures to the least within a set (along with the target percentage):
- White (62%)
- Green (59%)
- Black (56%)
- Red (53%)
- Blue (50%)
This makes red the color with the second fewest.
27. Which of these green keywords does design have to be the most careful when using?
Hexproof is the most problematic of the five listed keywords, and thus is used the most sparingly.
28. We try to avoid making two-color cards where the card could be done as a monocolor card in only one of the two colors. Given that, suppose you have a two-color 4/4 creature with flying and vigilance (and no other abilities). What of the following color combinations would be the best choice for this card?
Flying is primary in white and blue and secondary in black. Vigilance is primary in white and secondary in green. As both abilities can be done in mono-white, we don't want to use white in this card. That means white-blue, white-black, and green-white are out. Blue-black can't use vigilance, meaning E, black-green, is the only possible answer.
29. Which of these is the most important quality for a set to have?
- It's easy to learn.
- It's fun to play.
- It has great strategic depth.
- It has powerful cards.
- It matches the story.
This point was so important we hit on it in a number of questions. The primary goal of Magic is to be fun, to make the audience enjoy playing it. Yes, we want strategic depth and powerful cards and to have it match the story and be conscious of complexity, but none of that matters if a set isn't enjoyable to play.
30. Which of these creature keywords tends to have the most value in a control deck?
- First strike
Control decks are decks that, given time, will take "control" of the game (aka set up the conditions such that their opponent can't easily win). The challenge of a control deck is it must last through the early part of the game until it can set up the elements it needs to take control. That means a control deck need tools that help it make the game last longer. Of the five keywords listed, lifelink accomplishes this goal the best.
31. When Set Design holds a draft, most of the time there are exactly eight drafters. Why?
- Our teams have eight people.
- That's the most common number of drafters in the real world.
- Our smaller booster boxes hold 24 booster packs.
- We have tables that sit eight drafters.
- We want four Spikes, three Timmies/Tammies, and one Johnny/Jenny.
The goal of playtesting is to simulate what players actually do in the real world, because we're trying to optimize the gameplay for that experience. Drafting with a number different than eight would lead to results that would skew the data and possibly lead us to make choices that don't optimize eight-player drafts.
32. You've designed a card, and you want the Play Design team to like it. How should you choose your casting cost?
- Ask someone from the Play Design team to choose the casting cost.
- Find a similar card as a basis for the casting cost and then make it one cheaper.
- It doesn't matter; they'll fix the cost if you get it wrong.
- Pick the strongest cost that isn't broken.
- Use your intuition.
Making Magic is a collaborative process. To best accomplish this, you need to learn to let people play to their strengths. Could I cost a card? Sure, but I won't do it as well as a play designer who was hired specifically for their ability to judge power level. By asking them first, I lessen the chance that playtesting gets affected because of poor costing. Also, if your goal is to get Play Design (or anyone, really) to sign off on something, it helps to involve them in the process.
33. Which of these evergreen keyword abilities is most likely to be put on a common white creature?
- Double strike
Double strike and indestructible are both primary in white, but we don't tend to do them a lot at common. Flash and trample are tertiary in white, and we tend not to use tertiary effects at common. Vigilance is primary in white and used in most sets at common, making E the correct answer.
34. Which of the following best describes how a counterspell-based blue deck should contribute to a Standard environment?
- Standard is the most fun when the counterspell player has the ability to stop the opponent from doing anything.
- Standard is the most fun when the counterspell player has a way to win quickly and efficiently once they take control.
- Standard is the most fun when the counterspell deck is mono-blue.
- Standard is the most fun when the counterspell deck is the strongest deck in Standard.
- Standard is the most fun when counterspell decks aren't competitive.
The biggest problem with control decks can be that they take too long and lead to tournament-length issues. As such, in Standard, we like for the control decks to be able to win quickly once they take control, making B the correct answer. Answer A is incorrect because we want back-and-forth in gameplay and like it when players can have answers to control deck strategies. Answer C is incorrect because we like archetypes to have variety, and allowing access to more colors helps accomplish this. Also, control decks aren't just about counterspells. Answers D and E are incorrect because we like the strength of archetypes to ebb and flow.
35. Assuming the creature is strong enough to see Standard play, which of the following isn't a good quality for a green creature to have?
- It can tap to produce mana.
- It can destroy an artifact or enchantment.
- It draws multiple cards without attacking or blocking.
- It has larger stats than other creatures at its mana cost.
- It uses +1/+1 counters to grow to very large sizes.
Green is allowed to have card draw provided it's connected to creatures. If the card is a creature that can draw multiple cards, we prefer to have it involve itself in combat to allow the opponent more opportunities to deal with it. The other four responses are all things we're willing to do.
36. If we were to bring back the storm mechanic in a Ravnica set, which guild would be the best match for the mechanic?
Storm (When you cast this spell, copy it for each spell cast before it this turn. You may choose new targets for the copies.) is a mechanic that goes only on instants and sorceries. The Izzet are a guild that mechanically focuses on instants and sorceries, making them the best fit for the mechanic.
37. A synergy theme in a set needs you to draw specific cards for it to work. This isn't happening frequently enough. Which of the following mechanics would not help increase the frequency of these interactions?
The above situation is asking for what we call a "card flow" mechanic, something that increases your ability to draw the card you need. Cycling and investigate allow you to draw extra cards. Scry lets you optimize your draw, increasing your chance to get the card you need. Transmute lets you tutor, going directly into your library and getting the card you need. Kicker, in contrast, allows you to use extra mana but doesn't do anything to help you draw a specific card.
38. Which of the following designs from Legends would be the most reasonable to re-cost into a competitive Standard card?
We've been dialing back color hosers, so destroying all the Forests isn't something we want to do even at a different cost. Arboria is one of the most un-fun cards ever designed and not something we'd ever want to bring back. Land Tax requires constant shuffling and gives white more card advantage than white should get. Presence of the Master is out of white's color pie. That leaves Mana Drain as the one card whose effect we would be most willing to redo at another cost.
This trial had a lot of questions, so we're going to have to get to the second half next week. As always, I'm eager to hear your feedback about the test, the answers, or the Great Designer Search in general. You can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).
If this has piqued your interest in the Great Designer Search 3, don't forget to check back in on Friday, March 9, for the first "show."
Join me next week for Part 2.
Until then, may this test lead to many fun discussions.
#509: Magic Evolution, Part 2
#509: Magic Evolution, Part 2
This is part two of my "Magic Evolution" series where I walk through sets and explain what innovations they added to Magic design.