The Great Designer Search 2 Finalists: Shawn Main

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Shawn Main

Doom of Wodotha

As the Blight eats away their world, bands of desperate survivors vie for what remains.

MR: Your logline explains what is happening but doesn't really sell it. That is, you have accurately represented your set but you haven't made it sound exciting. The reason I wanted you to think of the logline this week as the blurb below your logo on the poster is that I wanted you to find the sexy selling point of your vision. While I believe you have a cool idea that could be sold sexily, this isn't it.

CU01 - Deepsea Lookout
U
Creature – Merfolk Scout
1/1
When Deepsea Lookout enters the battlefield, look at the top card of your library. You may put that card into your graveyard.

KEN: It's like my first card Merrow Witsniper. Except you can only shoot yourself in the head, maybe. I'd expect to see this in a graveyard-based set, though.

MG: I love this card. Functionally, it's a nice blue draw-smoothing one-drop for Limited. Flavorfully, the ability captures the impending feeling of the Blight in blue, as the edges of the world are disintegrating. We get it on permanents in black, and we get it in the library in blue.

ZH: Cool. Wondering what this has to do with anything, but cool.

MR: One of the roles of common is to make simple little cards that subtly play into your themes. This card seems like it's hinting at what could be a fun set. I'm just not sure that it's your set. This card would like an environment where knowing your top card mattered or one where what was in your graveyard was relevant. My point here is that this card is fine in a vacuum. I'm sure it will play just fine. But what could have been in this slot is something that did everything this card did as far as being a simple, easy-to-play but interesting common, but also fit neatly into your set's mechanical structure.

I do enjoy the flavor of seeking knowledge which was running through your submission this week. You did create an overall sense of people who are searching for answers which is a nice identity for blue and makes sense in your world. This card fit well into that flavor.

CU02 – Obscured Ibis
1U
Creature – Bird
1/1
Flying, shroud

KEN: Fine, though I prefer Slippery Bogles to Elvish Lookouts.

MG: Sure.

ZH: I really enjoy how this creature plays into your "attack with multiple creatures" theme, and I also enjoy how it encourages you to summon creatures and attack with them in blue (a constant struggle of ours). One downside is that I guarantee you people will want to put Auras/Equipment on this creature—people love to "build-a-bear—and they simply can't, but that's not the end of the world. Another good example of "invisible text": it reads like a simple, straightforward creature, but in actuality it does a lot of work. Good job.

MR: Shroud is a tricky mechanic in that it is by its nature non-interactive. We traditionally don't put shroud on creatures with evasion. On the plus, side you kept this creature small so even if your opponent doesn't have any answers, they have plenty of time to find them.

CU03 – Forsaken Scholar
[Merfolk Studier, http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
1U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard
1/3
2, Sacrifice Forsaken Scholar: Draw a card.

KEN: Here is more of that forsaken mechanic, but here it's placed a little better. Sometimes a 1 ManaBlue Mana 1/3 can save you 8 damage or more. Other times, it does no better than chumping a Craw Wurm.

MG: Putting the "cycling from the battlefield" ability on this creature makes a lot of sense to me, since this is quite a situational card. A 1/3 can provide good early defense, but it's often useless on the battlefield late in the game. This card has a clear plan.

ZH: Aah, the cycling-from-play mechanic. I think these stats are right for the kind of card you want to block a few times and then rid yourself of later. Good execution.

MR: For starters, I'm glad you got rid of the forsaken keyword. The judges do like when we can see you've listened to advice we gave. This card played well in playtesting and does a good job of conveying the knowledge seeking blue.

CU04 – Skydive Ambusher
2U
Creature – Merfolk Soldier
2/2
Assault- Whenever three or more creatures you control attack, Skydive Ambusher gets +2/+2 and gains flying until end of turn.

KEN: Here's a new mechanic for Wodotha—an aggressive swarm strategy. Three creatures is a significant number of creatures to attack with—your reward is an Air Elemental. Even though we claim to make blue the worst at attacking with creatures, the gameplay is so fun that we often go overboard anyway in blue's favor.

MG: I like this ability—encouraging attacking is always a good thing; it keeps the game moving along. It feels wrong to me in blue, but that's just an aspect of seeing the blue "assault" cards first. The ability makes a lot of sense in white (unified forces), red (impetuous assaults), and green (overwhelming incursions), so if it appears in all colors, it will feel much less jarring in blue.

I'm curious if this ability might backfire—encouraging attacking with three creatures might mean you hold back most of the time until you have a nice, safe, three-creature attack. Or the bonuses might be so great that no one can ever block, which is boring and non-interactive. But it's a compelling idea that conveys the "populace in frenzy" feel.

ZH: This is a really bizarre mechanic to see in blue—but I'm not sure that's a bad thing! Blue's evasion naturally lends itself to repeated attacks, and anything that gives blue an identity beyond "Draw cards and counter spells" makes me happy. This mechanic was courageous of you, but I think the payoff is worth it.

MR: Assault could be an interesting mechanic—in the right color. I could see this mechanic in just about any color save blue. For starters, blue is the color most focused on spells and least focused on creatures. Traditionally, in common in a large set, blue has the smallest number of creatures. Besides being a misfire on the color pie, it also doesn't work for me philosophically. You've done a lot of work to play up blue's love of knowledge. Where does assault come from? Blue isn't the "run into battle" color. No, blue likes to take its time thinking through the repercussions of its actions before it ever acts.

Assuming assault can work in blue (a big "if" in my mind), the design of this card seems pretty clean. There's the issue of whether or not you're supposed to count this card with its bonus, but templating can solve that issue. I do like how the timing works out well allowing you to get your flyer before it can be blocked by a ground creature.

CU05 – Purple Moon Jellyfish
2U
Creature – Jellyfish
2/2
When Purple Moon Jellyfish is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, return target creature to its owner's hand.

KEN: I think a significant number of players will believe this can return itself to its owner's hand when it dies, as written. In general, we like "enter the battlefield" triggers more than "is put into a graveyard from the battlefield" because of complexity. A board full of 2/2s is less complex than a board full of 2/2s that do stuff when they die.

MG: In a world with increased attrition and death, death triggers make sense. Note that this one can backfire—you might be forced to bounce your own creature. Is that intended, or should this be an optional ability?

ZH: "Put into a graveyard" triggers are an issue MaRo and I tend to disagree about. He views them as "lenticular" mechanics—things that a more advanced player will care about and will feel rewarded for caring about, while the newer player will simply experience as a matter of course, e.g. "Okay, this creature died, and now this happens." I tend to think they up on-board complexity quite a bit, because of the number of feel-bads they can generate: "Oh, I saw your creature was a 2/2 and that I could kill it, but now I just got blown out. I guess I'll just never attack." That said, I like how this card reads, I like its stats, and I certainly feel like it's a fine execution of the "When this dies" mechanic, assuming it's something we've agreed to do. Also, respect to the inclusion of Creature – Jellyfish.

MR: I like that you're carrying over the death triggers to blue. An important part of getting set cohesion is making sure that each color has aspects that will play well with aspects of another color. The card also played nicely in playtesting.

A quick note on Zac's comment. One of design's quests lately has been to increase what I have dubbed "lenticular" design. Lenticular cards are ones that look like one thing to one player and another to a different player. The goal of lenticular cards is to hide complexity that the advanced player enjoys without getting in the way of the less experienced player. The reason I like death triggers is that research has shown that beginners tend to not think about death triggers until they happen. More experienced players though play very aware of the death triggers.

Zac and I aren't that far off. I don't like death triggers that make the more novice player feel bad because they didn't track it, so I'm less likely to make death triggers that destroy things, but I feel effects like Purple Moon Jellyfish's bounce work okay. The best effects are positive ones for the controller of the creature that died. Make no mistake though that ETB effects are better overall for complexity than death triggers.

CU06 – Harried Drake
[Snoozing Drake http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
3U
Creature – Drake
3/3
Flying
Harried Drake enters the battlefield tapped.

KEN: Another designer also had a Phantom Monster. Again, they are better than we like to do, yet often a development requirement specifically of blue to get the job done.

MG: Over the past few years, all of our common 3-power flyers cost five mana, are multicolored, have less than 3 toughness, or have some sort of drawback. And I mean a lethal drawback, like the one Illusionary Servant has. I don't think this drawback is heavy enough for this card; a common evasive creature that hits this hard and is this tough to kill would tilt Limited toward it. It's close, though.

ZH: The "tapped creatures" theme confuses me a little bit. Your explanation doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and I'm not sure what the tapped creatures are supposed to represent flavor-wise. Also, I'm almost never blocking with my 4 mana 3/3 flyer the turn I cast it anyway, so the "drawback" doesn't really mean very much in practice. I like what you did, however, with the four-slot; this creature goes on offense, and the creature below (Isle Watchguard) it plays defense. Mana curve is incredibly important to a Limited environment, and one of the pitfalls of many design files is that the creatures at different points on the curve feel very similar to one another. It's like, "Which one do I take?"

MR: I'm a fan of the "enters the battlefield tapped" restriction. Used correctly, which you do, it adds flavor without adding much board complexity. This is a good example of that.

I also like how this card ties subtly into your "tapped creature" matters theme. As you'll see, I'm not a huge fan of the mini-theme, but I like the thought processes behind it.

CU07 – Isle Watchguard
3U
Creature – Merfolk Soldier
2/4

KEN: Fine, but I thought there was a blue theme of attacking with three creatures? Putting 2/4s alongside 1 ManaBlue Mana 1/3 forsaken in your set might hinder those plans, unless assault is loudly a White-Blue draft archetype or something. Perhaps a 1 ManaBlue Mana 2/1 is the better attacking vanilla to put in this set?

MG: Azure Drake is a Magic 2011 common, and this is the same card without flying! That being said, I can easily imagine that we'd print this card. It's a more appropriate blue vanilla for 3 ManaBlue Mana than Giant Octopus is, and we know that a vanilla 2/3 costs 2 ManaBlue Mana (Blind Phantasm) and a vanilla 2/5 costs 4 ManaBlue Mana (Armored Cancrix). Good job suggesting this despite Azure Drake's existence.

ZH: As mentioned before, this creature wouldn't really make all that much sense in this set context-independently. Your mechanics make blue either a) want to attack, which this creature doesn't facilitate, or b) care about tapped creatures on the battlefield, which the opponent isn't going to do if this creature is sitting back to block. However, I like it in concert with the 3/3 flyer. It gives you a nice A-B plan either way.

MR: You got your vanilla in, good. My only advice is to monitor your toughness higher creatures in blue and just make sure there aren't too many of them that will stall the game out.

CU08 – Book Hoarder Crow
[Magic-hoarding Crow http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/Demons]
3UU
Creature – Bird
2/2
Flying
When Book Hoarder Crow enters the battlefield, return target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard to your hand.

KEN: I played all my Izzet Chronarchs in Ravnica Limited. Would I play more upside Izzet Chronarch? Yes. Does it need extra upside?

MG: This is quite generous. Either it's a Mnemonic Wall with one more colored mana (which has allowed it to change from an 0/4 defender to a 2/2 flyer), or it's a mono-colored Izzet Chronarch (which, even though it's easier to cast, now has flying).

ZH: All-upside Izzet Chronarch is generous, but this card does nice work with the smattering of self-milling you've seeded here. Solid.

MR: I see you're paying attention to your virtual vanillas. You also seem to be dabbling with an information theme in blue. Just make sure that you make outlets for the knowledge to be used. Also, birds don't work so well with the information theme as flavor-wise you need humanoids to be gathering it.

CU09 – Tidewinder Serpent
5UU
Creature - Serpent
5/5
Assault- Whenever you attack with three or more creatures, Tidewinder Serpent is unblockable until end of turn.

KEN: Yikes, it's a Scrapdiver Serpent! Normally, the big blue common Serpent has downside, but here it's got rather large upside. This gives blue a dragon-esque common creature that comes down late and can end the game in short order. We only made Scrapdiver Serpent instead of a more Harbor Serpent-like design because blue in Scars required the Limited push. Perhaps that's true here, but I doubt it.

MG: The two "assault" creatures in common blue both result in giant evasive attackers: One is 4/4 flying, and the other is 5/5 unblockable. One should change.

ZH: I was of the opinion that Scrapdiver Serpent was a little too generous, so I dislike this creature for similar reasons (5UU 5/5 unblockable full stop would have been a Rare until around original Mirrodin). That said, Scrapdiver Serpent saw print so I can't really fault you for trying something in similar space. Plus, I like that this creature has to have buddies in order to be as savage of a wrecking-ball.

MR: I'm not a fan of assault in blue as I talked about above. With that out of the way, my next biggest note about this card is that it seems remarkably close in its assault bonus to CU04 [Skydiver Ambusher]. Both cards attack with a crew and then gain an evasion ability. Also, historically, the blue common serpents tend to have an attack restriction.

CU10 – Weathered Wisdom
U
Instant
Look at a number of cards from the top of your library equal to the number of tapped creatures you control. Put one of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library.

KEN: Tapped creature rewards, okay. I see the assault connection. Again rewarding attacking basically never gets oversaturated (maybe Zendikar Limited could use more blocking/stalling love.)

MG: Now we get into the "tapped creatures matters" portion of the file. The engineer in me likes it; it encourages action because you need to attack or use activated abilities to turn these cards on. It's clever. However, the cards read very mechanically, and once you fall behind on the board, they become useless. (If you're playing defense, you won't have any tapped creatures.)

It's also very strange that you have zero blue common creatures with activated abilities. This may be intentional: Perhaps those creatures are white (for example), which enables a specific white-blue archetype in Limited. Or perhaps those creatures don't exist because you want creatures to be tapped only due to attacking. I'm curious what the thought process here was.

ZH: I don't really understand why this card is an instant, because that communicates that your opponent's tapped creatures somehow matter and they don't. This card's instant-ness sets up this unfun min-maxing game where you don't know whether you should wait to respond to an opponent's removal spell on a tapped creature, or whether you should hold it to save mana. It creates a similar dilemma in the opponent's mind as well. Dilemmas aren't bad, but 95% of the time this itsy-bitsy decision doesn't actually matter. So it occupies mind-space with irritating bookkeeping instead of allowing the player to focus on what's fun. I'd like this card at sorcery.

MR: I'm dubious about assault so I'm dubious about the "count your tapped creatures for a bonus" subtheme. In R&D there is a subclass of mechanics we call "the rich get richer." These mechanics basically help the person already in the lead get farther ahead in the lead. If I'm able to easily tap all of my creatures, odds are I'm doing well. This isn't to say that the card doesn't have some play value (making players thinking about attacking in places where they normally would never think to attack), but it's not as big as I think you think it is.

The other issue with this card is what I call a "mix and match" problem. You have an effect looking for a number and you have a subclass of things that want to be counted. Why not get these two young lovelorn effects together? The problem is that just because the two effects can revolve around a number doesn't mean that they have any real connection. This card feels a little forced because I don't get why the card filtering spell cares about tapped creatures.

Finally, you have to be careful with one-drop spells that you can never use on the first turn.

CU11 - Desperate Denial
[http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/Unbrokencircle_contributions]
U
Instant
Counter target spell unless its controller pays 1 for each tapped creature you control.

KEN: More rewarding tapped creatures. This will teach players to kill your creatures immediately instead of waiting until the last moment when they are attacking. I like it.
For a couple days, Unified Will cost just Blue Mana and my Merfolk Future Future League deck shredded everything! Since we don't actually want to take the chance of the best card in the set being some 1-drop countermagic, I suggest 1 ManaBlue Mana here.

MG: CU10 can be used quite proactively: You can attack with some creatures, then immediately cast the spell before blocking even happens. You have control over how many tapped creatures you have. This spell, on the other hand, is probably going to be cast during your opponent's turn (not always, but probably), so you're relying on the number of creatures that survive combat, not the number of creatures you choose to attack with. It's much less reliable ... but much more powerful. Intriguing.

ZH: This card is also weird to me because even though it "allows" the player to counter instants and cards with flash, they're almost always just going to cast those on your upkeep after you've untapped. So it features the wrong kind of "invisible text"—the kind that's a hidden drawback. I'd be way more interested in this card if it just said "Counter target creature spell unless ... " It's a well-designed card and it reads well, but game-play-wise it's ... weird.

MR: This has a lot of the same comments as the last card. While the designer in me sees why you want to count tapped creatures, the player in me just doesn't get it. Cards like this read clunkily because the two abilities don't feel connected in any way. It's quite possible that the creative team saves you with concepting or naming.

CU12 - Winding Way
1U
Instant
Choose one: Tap up to two target creatures; or untap up to two target creatures.

KEN: Here's some multi-targeting things to do. This card and the next feel like there's three peas stuck into two pods. Feels like there should be one charm or two cards doing just one thing each.

MG: A fine blue combat trick. It can even combo with your own "tapped creatures matter" cards, though casting this spell to tap your own creatures so you can counter a spell with CU11 is generally a bad idea. It does make me think that the percentage of blue spells that care about tappedness is too high, though; five of the nine noncreature spells here include the word "tap" or "tapped" on them. Themes are good, but this collection of cards is a bit too one-note.

ZH: Exactly fitting for this set. I love it.

MR: While you're going down a path I don't like, I can't fault you for not supporting your mechanical themes. This card is there to enable the "tapped creatures matter" theme with a little twist, which both feels natural and gives the card a little more flexibility. In short, I like this card but I'm not convinced your set needs the theme that necessitates that this card be in the set

CU13 – To Wings!
[Up, up in the air! http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
1U
Instant
Up to two target creatures gain flying until end of turn.

KEN: Why not just go overboard with three creatures? Assault says three, why not marry the two even closer since it's rather painless to do so?

MG: This is the Portal Second Age & Starter 1999 card Wind Sail, but updated to be an instant rather than a sorcery. Seems fine. It's nicely synergistic with "assault," since it enables an attack where your creatures are more likely to survive ... but it's a bit odd that it would only help two of those creatures, not the three you need. Giving all three flying might be too easy, but boosting just two of them makes the pattern-matcher in me twitch.

ZH: This card, on the other hand, feels like you need to complete a spreadsheet. It's a nice, interesting card—I just have no idea what it's doing here.

MR: Blue's starting to get a mini "affect two" theme. I'm not sure if this is on purpose or just coincidence. I'm glad you used "up to." I agree with Ken and Mark—if assault stays, this card feels like it wants to affect three creatures.

CU14 – Dizzying Vision
[Temporary Restrainment http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
1U
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets -2/-0
2, Sacrifice Dizzying Vision: Draw a card.

KEN: This will sit on their creature, making it suck. This card I feel would be greatly helped if instead of sacrificing, it returned to your hand. In any case, I don't think the game play here will matter because I doubt I'd ever put this into my Limited deck.

By the way, the proper way to type that ability in design is "2, Sacrifice CARDNAME: Draw a card."

MG: This seems like another good place to put the "cycling from the battlefield" ability. The combat ramifications of a card like this are surprisingly tricky, though. Think about the scenario where this is enchanting your opponent's Runeclaw Bear, which blocks your Garruk's Companion. Will players understand their choices?

ZH: Another quality execution of cycling-from-play. I'm unsure how specifically to evaluate this card—and I think that's a good thing in this case. I feel like I will learn something from playing with it, and it's straightforward enough that I don't feel confused. Good job.

MR: You have a lot going on. I like the sacrifice theme and I can imagine it could be very relevant to your set, but I haven't seen all the pieces begin to interconnect yet. As I suggested to Jonathon Loucks, I think you need to step back and figure out the essence of what your set is about. Is it living in chaos? Is it dealing with destruction? Is it the sacrifices of survival? Once you can narrow down what messages you're playing with, it will help you get a better sense of where to center your mechanics. The Blight is definitely helping give you definition, but it's time to take the next step.

CU15 – Unexpected Retreat
[Bounce after assault http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
1U
Instant
Return target tapped creature to its owner's hand.
Draw a card.

KEN: Wow. Why so sick? Constructed blue decks might love this, and what's worse is it only works on defense. At least Repulse could remove a blocker so your Spiritmonger gets through (I did it plenty of times!).

MG: Since tapped creatures matter, here's the requisite "hose tapped creatures" card. I suppose in a set filled with "assault," we need some defense, but this is probably stronger than we'd want. It's also questionable whether you want to bang both sides of the "tapped creatures matter" drum; the message is a lot clearer if cards always interact positively with them.

ZH: This is one of those cards that reads fine, but becomes way more problematic upon reflection. Remand is one of our least favorite cards in R&D because it incentivizes frustrating, repetitive game play starting on the second turn of the game. Oftentimes the control player would be holding two Remands, and no matter what the aggressive player did they were just "No, Sir!"-'d into an empty board on turn four. This card is similar, because all you have to do is target a creature during the attack step to score yourself an effective Time Walk in the early game while cantripping into more lands and spells. Repulse pushed the boundaries a little bit, and this card is way more egregious. I would be cautioning the designer about the Constructed implications of this card.

MR: One of the signs that you haven't integrated your theme seamlessly into your cards is that people start to notice how often you're saying something. When I first read this card, I responded, "Yeah I get it, tapped creatures matter."

The other weird thing about this card is that you care about your creatures being tapped mechanically, but this card is more often going to care about your opponent's creatures being tapped. As Gottlieb said, themes work better when the cards all push in the same direction.

CU16 – Put Back
[http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
2UU
Instant
Counter target spell. Look at the top card of your library. You may put that card into your graveyard.

KEN: I'm wondering when all this milling yourself text baggage is going to pay off. Perhaps if I read further ...

MG: It's a little underpowered, but I like the "doom closing in" feel of the card as a whole, and as I stated on CU01, I like this "Think Tank" effect here a lot.

ZH: In theory this would help enable the pseudo-Chronarch, but you could always just get this spell back anyway. Still, it's a nice rider to put on countermagic, though I hope there's more support for self-milling somewhere. Not bad.

MR: Okay we have our second card with this mechanic. Now I know it' supposed to be mechanically relevant. (If something appears twice that doesn't normally appear twice it's mechanically relevant. If it's not, the designer shouldn't be making two.) I wish I had a better understanding of why it's so important.

CU17 – Autopsy
[Blight Insight http://community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/wiki/Labs:Gds/gds2/NoShoes/CardIdeas]
3U
Sorcery
Draw two cards.
Requiem - If a creature was put into a graveyard from the battlefield this turn, instead draw three cards.

KEN: I thought this Requiem ability would be the payoff of milling myself, but it's not. I need a creature to die, not a creature to get milled.

MG: Like death triggers, "requiem" spells make a lot of sense in a world plagued by the Blight. Works for me.

ZH: I'm wondering why this card isn't an instant. As a sorcery, if you're the one doing the Blighting, oftentimes you're going to be capped on mana, so it's going to be hard to execute both plans. If, on the other hand, you're getting Blighted, this doesn't really help you. Add to the fact that you'd really like to get some consolation value out of a removal spell, and I think this card's sorcery-ness calls inappropriate attention to itself—you don't want players to always be thinking about the gulf between what a card could do and what it does. I'd recommend a 4 ManaBlue Mana instant.

MR: I'm glad something else was carried over from black. Your set very much has a death theme so caring about death feels right to me. As you're exploring your themes, death is a very potent one that might serve you well.

CU18 – Stake Down
4U
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant creature
When Stake Down enters the battlefield, tap enchanted creature.
Enchanted creature doesn't untap during its controller's untap step.

KEN: A good old 5-drop blue sorcery Doom Blade of sorts.

MG: Amazingly, we've never printed this version of this card. Good find.

ZH: Awesome. Does everything you need and want it to do.

MR: This card seems fine. I kept wanting to find a way that it tied into the rest of the set (it taps the opponent's creature but you care about your creatures being tapped), but not every card has to click together.

Comments:

After figuring out the blight mechanic for the first challenge, there was a temptation to wrap everything in Wodotha around it. Because Blight was only going to work in black with small doses in red and green, blue needed to be subtle. I considered themes of counter manipulation and gating as a means of curing blighted creatures, but playtesting showed that blue wasn't doing anything on its own, only being tricky with black cards. The question quickly became: "How does blue respond to the end of the world?" Many mechanics were considered, playtested, and rejected.

The breakthrough moment came after contemplating what the world of Wodotha might look like: small bands of survivors, fleeing blighted lands, driven into conflict with their neighbors. Mechanically, this brought me to the assault mechanic. There was often an air of desperation to the combat it set up, which felt very appropriate and it played well, even in blue, even against blight. I imagine assault to be a central mechanic in each color. I toyed with the idea of "battle plan" assault enchantments like Zendikar's quests or assault spells like Worldwake's landfall instants, but both had a complexity that felt inappropriate for first set commons.

Once assault was in place, a minor tapped-creatures-matter theme was brought back into blue to represent its on-the-ground scholarship and to ensure blue would play distinctly from other colors.

KEN: In summary, we've got some milling riders that point nowhere. This has me very perplexed, though it might pay off in the other colors, or just be a weird manifestation of blue Blight. We've got the assault mechanic and some tapped-matters and multi-targeting spells that enable each other. Attacking is a noble cause, even for blue cards, so I'm very happy with this aspect of the submission. Then there are more forsaken things to work your requiem spell, though I'm not convinced it's inherently fun to pursue this line of play.

MG: I like what you're doing, but overall, it seems way too subtle, and not distinctive enough. Look at the mechanics: "Assault" goes everywhere. "Cycle from the battlefield" goes everywhere. "Requiem" goes everywhere. "Death triggers" go everywhere. What is blue doing that feels distinctly blue? It's got a couple of one-shot "Think Tank" effects, and it cares a heck of a lot about tapped creatures. Both of these are functional, but neither is sexy. I can feel the underpinnings of the set themes rippling through, but they're so gentle as to be unnoticeable. This is a solid foundation for blue commons (definitely strong enough to move on in the competition, in my opinion), but it needs some identity. You need to ask yourself why you would play this color in Limited. You need to figure out what it does.

ZH: I love what you're doing with assault, and by and large I think the cards in the set across both your colors work well with one another. They also feel like commons. The "tapped-creatures" theme feels a little tacked-on, and you probably ought to have one fewer creature, but you're doing a lot of other things right. I like cycling-from-play both in general and as a sort of "solution" to Blight. Definitely in my top tier this week. Good job!

MR: Shawn, while this wasn't a bad week for you it wasn't the success of the last Challenge. I can see you start to figure out how to bring the vision of your set to all the different parts of the set, but you haven't quite cracked it yet. Your black cards were crackling with cohesion and an overall feel that blue didn't live up to. Part of this was the choice of assault. I think you put your money on the wrong horse, so to speak.

I do admire how you crafted your set around assault—you really did a great job of finding the extensions you needed to make the various blue cards work together—but it's misplacement throws your whole design for a bit of a loop.

Because I believe The Blight is so crucial to what's going on in your set, I might have been tempted to include one blight card in blue common. The idea being that you probably won't play it unless your second color has a number of blight cards.

The thing that I feel you need to spend some time on is what we call the "mechanical heart" of the set. The mechanical heart is the thing that the set uses as the basic building block to create the design skeleton. In Zendikar, for example, the mechanical heart was "lands matter." The world theme was adventure world. You know your world theme but I don't think you've latched onto your mechanical heart yet. What game element does your set care about most. Once you know this, you can start thinking about the different ways you can play into this mechanical theme. Find your mechanical heart and you will be well on your way to executing your vision.



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