Tuesday, February 20, 2018

GDS3 Designs for Trial Three

Hey everyone.

So I didn't make it make past Trial Three.  Now that I know, I am allowed to share the designs I submitted to Wizards, for better or worse.

Please tear these apart; I, like many others, learn best from criticism.

My first submission was a card I designed a long time ago.  It has mirrored abilities, and I think it's quite lovely.

If you know my design style, I try to use elegance and simplicity.  I try not to use to many words to get the point across.  My second submission shows how powerful, simple spells can sometimes be all you need. It was originally designed as a Host/Augment challenge for the Beacon of Creation podcast, which I co-host. I changed it to not destroy lands because the original design was made with Commander in mind and not for Standard.  I wanted to make it a little more fair.

My third submission was a hole-filler.  After all was said and done, I needed a red/green enchantment and a blue/black instant.  I really wanted to show off snowfall, and this seemed like the best place to do it.  As I was following the rules of the submissions I wasn't use the ability word, but the rules text is the same.  This card has the most text out of any of my submissions, and I feel like it should probably be lower on the list, but here it is.

My fourth submission was another one of my podcast cards, but this time it was from a worldbuilding challenge. It was the perfect fit for a blue/white sorcery, but I after I submitted my final designs I noticed that my submission had it listed as common, when it should be at least uncommon.  Oh, well.

My fifth submission was the first of my two planeswalker designs.  I found these to be some of the most difficult designs, especially becasue they have so many knobs to fiddle with.  (In design terms, knobs are all the numbers that can be changed.)  Tibalt has more numbers than most planeswalkers, and I would say he was the most challenging to design. I wanted to get the flavor just right as well, and his being a torturer fit right in. If there was one thing I would change about Tibalt, it would be his first ability.  I would change it to life loss so less experienced players wouldn't get frustrated when they weren't able to redirect the backlash damage he deals to himself.

As I look back on my designs, I think that #6 should probably be higher on the list.  It just makes me smile. Remember noggles? From EVENTIDE?!  ANYONE!?!? Well, They were great. And here is one with Grandeur.

My seventh card was my second planeswalker.  He's fine.  I made him with a Phyrexian lean and a +1/+1 counter theme.  I like that you can ult him right away to draw a bunch of cards in the right deck.

The eighth card was a combat trick!  A rare one, at that.  It's basically game over if you cast this for more than 5 mana with a few creatures attacking.

#9 was an enchantment that basically reflects how I feel when there are a bunch of people around. It's also pretty good removal in white/black.

My final submission is my blue/black instant that I wasn't able to come up with for a long time.  It's a simple, powerful effect that would have modern players excited.

And that's it.  I'm serious, by the way, about being brutally honest with how well I pulled these off.  I want to be the best designer I can be, and padding the criticism is not necessary.

I am so glad that I had a chance to compete, and I will try again if given the chance.

Thanks for reading it all, and have a good one.



  1. Hi Adam, I think these designs are all good, reasonable cards that I could expect to see in upcoming sets. I've always appreciated the eligance of your aesthetic, and these certainly come across that way, but they left me wanting to see something more. My condolences on not making the top 8, I know how that feels, and I really think you're on a good path.

    Card by card
    GW tapper: it's a nice A/B menu style card, although I'd worry about the board complexity of being able to untap any creature at any time. There's also no real tension between the two abilities, so the player never really needs to think which ability is better.

    Double Vindicate: kinda splashy, but for a 6 Mana rare I'd want more of an impact than a 2 for 1. Violent ultimatum is only one Mana more and hits three permanents and still was probably the weakest of the cycle.

    Living Rime: This is the most interesting if your designs to me, because it has a lot going on. The Snow element is a little weird, because I'm not sure how it connects with the rest of the card. The creature doesn't seem like a Glacial ice monster because it has first strike and vigilance (interesting combo for RG), so while I like the design, the pieces don't fit together as nearly as I'd hope.

    Reflector Nomage: yep, it's a good common if it just hits creatures. Hitting Planeswalkers is good too, but maybe it just wants to get any nonland permanent if it's going broad. I really like the sorcery speed, but that kinda increases the similarities to reflector mage.

    Tibald: very tibaldy in it's desire to hurt you. Nice ultimate. Not sure about the other abilities, as the drawbacks are only relevant if you have the emblem and it's really hard to get there.

    Boggle: love boggles, love the "discard: effect, draw" ability in UR. Not sold on the grandure restriction, because it doesn't feel like the ability will come up that often and it's less fun on non-legends because you're losing a real card.

    Gaxiar: neat, a Cytoplast Manipulator Planeswalker. I always liked that card and it makes the + ability very fun and linticular. The ultimate is draws a lot of cards, although I personally prefer ultimates you can't just use right away, because you lose the build up that make Planeswalkers so unique.

    Charge: A blowout X spell, it doesn't take much for this spell to be incredibly deadly. I'm not sure which psychographic it's really trying to appeal to, because while it will make a big top deck, I don't know that it has enough hoops to really feel earned.

    Anxiety: Interesting. I wonder how often the second ability really matters, because I'd imagine your opponent will just sacrifice the enchanted creature 99/100 times.

    Counterseize: a two mana hard counter is pretty neat. I worry about cards where the most compelling part is how aggressively they're costed, because the card itself should be fun regardless of that. That said, could be really fun in a Death Shadow/ your Tibald deck that wants to lose life.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. I really do appreciate it.

  3. I'd love to see an enchantment of Tibalt's ultimate.

  4. Haughty Noggle is neat. I agree grandeur is ideal on permanents you don't want a lot of. I guess you don't need a ton of 1/5s (although for 3cc that's an amazing blocker). Switching is clever, but considering how hard it is to do, we could even just square it's stats to 5/5. I'd hate to lose my 5/1 looter in a trade. (Oh, and attacking with this isn't that interesting because I know I can trade with it or negate the attack.)

  5. Why isn't Triumphant Charge locked in at X=3? It really wants to be a sorcery. Better-than-Overrun, even at rare, is problematic.

  6. Overall, good elegance, solid stuff, not super-innovative. (Creativity is something I should've paid more attention to myself, having realized how much of the grading it was after submitting.)

  7. Hey Adam! Thanks for sharing your submission. I was also 86'd yesterday, and my coping mechanism is just giving feedback to as many people as I can. Hope it's useful!

    I've never heard your podcast (though I'm going to start now!), but it's clear from these designs that you value economy in text and have a very strong knowledge of Magic history. A lot of these designs have a retro feel -- reimaginings of past environments or sets that Wizards didn't execute as well as they could today (Snow, Noggles) or pushing mechanics they don't tend to push anymore (Countermagic, Stax, Overrun). While I would enjoy playing with most or all of these cards, I can see why they may not fit the broader mold of appeal that Wizards has been cultivating in recent years.

    Starting from the top:

    Tershan Shepherd: This card is powerful and I agree that it has a satisfying aesthetic to it. It is an on-board trick, which Wizards has been hesitant about printing recently; as far as I can recall there hasn't been an untapper as cheap as this since Kiora's Follower, and the last tap/untapper was Nibilis of the Breath six years ago. But the fact that it doesn't push very hard in any one actual gameplay direction -- very powerful, very fun, very skill-testing, very flavorful, very unusual -- risks making it a card that's prettier to look at than it is fun to play.

    Dual Demise -- I like this better. It has even less text and does something splashier and more fun. I will point out that most of the time, it is double-Maelstrom Pulse, which is not an effect that gets intrinsically creates more interesting gameplay when doubled, and which these colors already have access to.

    Living Rime -- This one is really hurt by not being allowed to put an ability word on it. I feel for you, especially when the word would be as sweet as "Snowfall." I like that the land has vigilance; it lets me have my cake and eat it too.

    Should snowfall always be "another" snow permanent? Why can't I get the effect just by playing my cards, like with Constellation? I get that it would make this card work differently because it would animate the land immediately, but isn't that a good thing (assuming costs are adjusted accordingly)? Finally, this card should grant haste. Partly because players will expect it because land animation effects always grant haste (see: the entire Awaken mechanic), and partly to avoid feel-bad moments where a player plays a land, enchants it, plays another snow card, and then can't attack with their creature.

    Last thing about this card -- I liked Awaken a lot when it was giving me a bonus on top of a spell, and I liked the Genjus and Zendikons that would let me get either my Aura or my land back when it died. This card doesn't let me do those things, which makes the downside very unappealing compared to what I've come to expect for an enchant land.

    Barstoe's Banishment -- Reflector Mage without the 2/2, but it can hit Planeswalkers. I think you're right that it should be an uncommon. Why can it hit Planeswalkers exactly? I could imagine Wizards printing this card, although stopping players from casting their spells is not always the most fun gameplay.

    Tibalt -- I really like the "Tibalt hurts you" motif, but four Vendettas on a four-mana card is a LOT of Vendettas. Is this card remotely beatable in any kind of creature matchup? It could be considered a development problem but I worry it's a design one. The emblem is neat, but Tibalt has been hurting you so much that it won't get to make many 2/2s before you're at 0. Maybe there's a fun Master of Cruelties thing where he can keep you at 1 somehow just to keep torturing you.

  8. Haughty Noggle -- I hesitate to call this a looter because you need to draw a specific card in order to loot with it. It's an interesting riff on the Timberpack Wolf school of cards. Ancient Crab demonstrates that 1/5 commons for three can work but I wonder if giving it a big swingy upside and making it red pushes it to uncommon, and you definitely want this card to be common for limited play. Even 1/4 feels like it's pushing uncommon to me.

    Gaxiar: Yeah! I can really get behind this guy. I wish I could distribute the two +1/+1 counters with his +2 ability. Even though I would probably never cast this card, it would be someone's favorite card in any set it's in, and that's awesome.

    Triumphant Charge: I'm glad this card is rare, because it seems to be too weak for constructed and mostly an "oops, I'm dead" card in limited. It's kind of cool that you can sometimes sideboard and play around this card. Then again, sometimes you can't. This card's not for me -- I wonder, then, who it IS for. I guess it's a Timmy card? In that case, why not give them double strike and make it cost more (for example), just so limited Spikes wouldn't be so sad about it?

    Worth noting that again you've found a very elegant design (thunder strike everyone!) that WoTC has not printed yet.

    Crippling Anxiety -- Staxy! I get that you can sacrifice the creature to this card's ability before it gets out of hand like actual Smokestack. I worry that playing it correctly makes it feel just like a regular removal spell with a drawback in the lategame, while playing it incorrectly leads to dismal unfun games where you didn't realize you could sacrifice the creature to its own ability or just didn't quite think it through and now you can't do anything while your opponent kills you with Suntail Hawks.

    Drainflux: This is a simple, powerful card that I would love to see in a Commander or Conspiracy kind of product. That said, this card is easier to cast, and not much weaker, than Counterspell. You'd better imagine Standard decks are playing black and blue if this card is legal, and UB is easier for those decks than UU. I like that it's not that powerful against very aggressive decks, but it punishes midrange decks so hard that I wonder how much people would enjoy playing in a Standard format in which this was legal.

    Thank you for sharing your submissions! I look forward to starting to listen to your podcast.

    Brad Wilson

    1. Thanks Brad! I would recommend listening to the podcast from the beginning. We are only releasing episode 11 this Friday, so it’s a small catchup, but you can get in on the world building challenges we do every week.

    2. No problem! I'm listening to episode 3 now. If you want to see my submission it's here: https://www.reddit.com/r/custommagic/comments/7z052w/gds_3_semifinalist_trial_3_submission/

  9. There's been a lot said about individual cards, so I think I'll go from a more broad perspective.

    Overall, I think these cards are all very solid designs, elegant but safe. That's also the main problem I have with them, though - while there's cool combinations of things (like with the GW creature), the innovation seems a bit lacking, and in my mind that was the most important part of the trial (elegance was obviously also important, but in my mind very clearly secondary to innovation). For a competition like this, I don't think you can afford to play it safe, as those designs will easily be overshadowed by the risky ones which panned out.

    With all that said, I definitely think you're on the right path. Like I said, these are solid, elegant cards, which is still no easy task to pull off. Like I said yesterday, this is all part of the journey, and I'm excited to see where that journey takes you!

  10. I had a feeling that I would get dinged for playing it safe. Thank you for the feedback.