Introducing the Finalists!

Episode 1 – "In the Beginning"

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The letter W!elcome to the first episode of the Great Designer Search! For those of you that haven't been paying attention to our audition process, let me explain what's going on. R&D realized that it wanted to hire a design intern, but we didn't know exactly where to look. At that point, I suggested that we turn to one of our most valuable resources, the readers of magicthegathering.com.

But my suggestion didn't stop there. Not only could we hire one of our readers to become a paid design intern in R&D (the first ever, by the way – all the previous interns were for development), we could make it a show to let everyone else watch. (It turns out I'm a fan of reality shows.) And that "show" starts today.

In a moment, I'll introduce the finalists that will be competing for the internship. First, I would like to explain how we chose them.

The Audition

On August 25, we put out the call for applicants. To enter you had to have the following qualifications:

  1. You had to be able to take the job. This meant three things. One, you were legally able to work in the United States; two, as a design job requires a lot of interaction with other members of R&D, you had to be fluent in English; and three, as the job was in the Wizards of the Coast offices, you had to be willing to move to Seattle, Washington for six months (the length of the internship).
  2. You had to be 18 as of August 25, 2006.
  3. You had to agree to all the rules our legal team so carefully spelled out.

All qualified applicants needed to take the first test. This was an essay test with ten rather difficult questions. For each question they had to give an answer between 250 and 350 words. This meant that the overall essay was between 2500 and 3500 words. We knew that this first task was daunting but we wanted to limit applications to people that were serious about getting the internship.

One thousand sixty-one people applied. That set a new Wizards of the Coast record for the highest number of applicants for a single job.

Of these applicants, hundreds were then asked to take the second test, a multiple choice test. (You can see and take the test here and see the answers here.) The multiple choice test had thirty-five questions. Of the hundreds that took it, no one got all thirty-five correct. Only five got thirty-four (and interestingly, they each missed a different question) and only ten got thirty-three. Anyone scoring thirty or better advanced. This ended up being one hundred thirty-six applicants.

These one hundred thirty-six applicants were then asked to take a third test. This one was a card design test. (To see this test, check out my column "Tests of Endurance" where I both explain it and walk through some of the test's pitfalls.) The card design tests were then put through several waves of grading.

I conducted the first wave separating the tests into two piles. The first pile advanced and the second pile was eliminated. During the second wave, I and two other designers looked at each test in even greater detail. All of them were graded by each designer (on a 1 to 10 scale). Tests with a score of 16 or better advanced. This knocked down the field to thirty-four applicants.

For the next wave, I went back and examined all three tests in conjunction. I looked at the essays in much greater detail. I examined what questions the people missed on the multiple choice test. And I gave one more pass to their card design test. After this pass, I managed to bring the field down to sixteen applicants.

We had planned on a finalist field of between ten and twelve which meant that I needed one more pass. But as I looked at the sixteen remaining applicants I came to the conclusion that I wanted to see more from each of them, so I chose to advance them all. One applicant chose to not participate so we are continuing with fifteen finalists.

Today, you'll get to meet them all. Next week you'll see the results of their first challenge and the following week the eliminations will begin. (More on the timetable in a moment.) But that's future episodes. Before we start cutting applicants I want to give all of you a chance to meet them.

What's Next?

Before we get to the applicants, let me walk you through how the show is going to work. Each Thursday we are going to send a challenge to the remaining finalists. That assignment will be due midnight on Sunday. Then the following Thursday (aka "when the site updates Wednesday night") we will have a new episode in which we tell you the challenge, show you the work done by the applicants and let you hear commentary from all the judges save myself. The public will then have a week to chime in on who they think will go. At the beginning of the next week's episode (two weeks after the challenge was given to the applicants and the week after the public sees their work), I will give my comments and eliminate one or more of the applicants.

We keep doing this until we get down to three candidates. Those three will then be flown out to lovely Renton Washington to go through a formal interview process. One of them gets the paid design internship. Today though is the "Meet the Finalists" first episode so no one gets the boot today.

Lastly. I want to stress something important. The Great Designer Search is first and foremost a job search. While we believe it will be entertaining, we are not doing anything to sacrifice finding the best person for the job. Yes, we are imitating a reality show format but we will not be eliminating people for shock value or because it makes for good entertainment. The person or persons eliminated each week are the ones that have done the weakest job in total, not just on the current assignment. That said, I still expect The Great Designer Search to be quite interesting to watch which, of course, brings you to the point of today's episode.

The Bios (aka Meet the Finalists)

For each of the finalists we will be showing you the following:

  • A little biographic information. (Note that for legal reasons – because this is a job search – we are unable to show you their pictures; as such, we've asked each applicant to choose a piece of Magic art to represent them.)
  • Their first essay question where we asked them to introduce themselves. (Next week a whole site will be going up for The Great Designer Search, which will include pages on each of the applicants. Among other things, those pages will contain the rest of their essay answers as well as how each person answered all the questions on the multiple choice test.)
  • Their card design test complete with comments by the four Great Designer Search judges. Here is who they are:

Mark Rosewater – Yes, me. As I'm the current Magic Head Designer and this is a design internship, I'm playing the Donald Trump role and will be the one actually hiring the intern. This means it's my job to cut people. The other three judges will be advising me. My judging comments will appear in green text.

Aaron Forsythe – Aaron is the Magic Head Developer. He has been on numerous design teams, two of which (Dissension and "Peanut") he led. Aaron's text will appear in red.

Devin Low – Devin has been on six Magic design teams and six development teams, two of which he led. He is the person helping me run the logistics of this show. Devin's text will be blue.

Gleemax – Gleemax is an alien brain in a jar that currently oversees R&D. While he has never actually been on a Magic design team he is very smart and gets to do whatever he wants. He has yet to grasp the human concept of tact. Gleemax's text is plum.

I heartily encourage you to join the thread of this column and discuss the fifteen finalists. That said, let's finally meet them.


Conrad Corbett

Yavimaya_Barbarian Current Residence: North Carolina State University

Occupation: Student at North Carolina State

What Magic set did you start with?
That's a trick question! I started out playing with cards some other guys had (Fourth Edition, I think -- I remember Hippies). I liked it, so I went to the store, which recommended Portal (since I had no clue what he meant when he said "Which set do you want to buy"). I happened to pick up one pack of Visions at that time, but I really started playing more around Stronghold.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
That's a hard question; I think I like Words of War best. I like that it's a solid card that promises to always gives you a passable payoff once it's in play (one mana and one card for two damage is ok). I like that it uses resources in a new way that hadn't been done so directly before (Ivory Gargoyle is less direct). Lastly, I like that you can really work around it to make it dominate the game.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Well, ever since Exodus, I've rather liked Paladin en-Vec. I like how hard he is to kill, and protection from both Red and Black is solid. I just wish it hadn't been a major Pro-Tour card recently, so I would sound less like a stereotypical Spike.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
I believe I am the perfect fit for your internship position. I am an aerospace engineering and psychology double major at North Carolina State University. As Mark Rosewater has explained in his articles, and strong science and math (e.g. engineering) background is a strong plus, and a psychology background is also a strong plus for this job, as you understand the game itself AND the people playing it. I'm also a DCI certified Magic judge (Level 1), and I try to instruct the players around me in the proper ways to announce blocking, the correct order of the turn (especially combat), and I generally answer rules questions that local people have.

I have been playing Magic for years; I started playing more seriously while Stronghold was in print. I have read every design and development article on the website, even the archives, and have been active on the official website forums for a few years as Dragon Bloodthirsty. I have a strong interest in both Magic design and development, but I believe my talents lay more in design than development. I enjoy designing cards in my free time, though I had not seriously considered that they might see print until this promotion. I also hate leaks, hate cheaters (including Mike Long), and generally hate the things that might hurt Magic as a whole. My psychographic profile was Johnny/Spike every time I took the tests on the website. I'm an outgoing and sociable person, and I'm generally the person who tries to go out and find new people to play with.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge

Decree of Proper Form (rare)
W
Enchantment
Each player skips all his or her main phases except the first each turn.

Channel Hate (common)
BB
Instant
As an additional cost to play Channel Hate, pay X life.
Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn.

Little Spider (common)
2G
Creature – Spider

2/3 Little Spider may block as though it had flying.
1GG, Tap, Sacrifice Little Spider: Search your library for a card named Big Spider and put it into play. Then, shuffle your library.

Neka's Portal (Uncommon)
4
Artifact
2: Target creature is unblockable this turn.

Really Focus (uncommon)
4U
Sorcery
Discard any number of cards, then draw that many cards.
Then, discard any number of cards, then draw that many cards.

Valley of Shiv (rare)
Land
R,Tap, Discard a card: Add RRR to your mana pool.

I decided to stick to basic effects, since they were the most likely to come from six different blocks. I wanted a white rules changing enchantment, and the Decree is what I got. Although narrow and weak, I think it's cool. Channel Hate was from brainstorming for 1 mana black instants; I came upon this and decided that although it's functionally very similar to another card, I didn't realize it for a long time and decided they were different enough in concept to be OK. Little Spider was mentioned in my essays. I needed a 4 mana artifact, so was born Neka's (Sneak) Portal. When making Really Focus, I thought about Odyssey block. Valley of Shiv is as red as a land can be; it will burn you out of cards very fast. It's not quite as fast as a mox, so I decided it was OK.

Aaron: Conrad's cards don't really stand out to me. Five of the six of them look like cards that have crossed my desk at one point or another during design or development, and none of them scream, "Put me in the set!" In other words, we already have a department of people that can make cards like this. High point: Really Focus. Very interesting how getting to perform the action a second time influences what you do on the first iteration. Low point: Decree of Proper Form. A rare no one wants—even Johnny has to wonder what the upside of this effect is.

Devin: Conrad's submission is strong and deep. All six cards hit for me, which was very rare amongst the sixty'ish submissions I reviewed and graded. What I mean is that each card made me smile, with no weak spots. This is hard to do. Even in the top 15, the vast majority had at least a card or two that made me frown instead of smile. Each of these six is a card I can actually see us putting into a set, which is a quality I value highly and is surprisingly hard to achieve. Yet they are nonetheless innovative, new, and fun, rather than retreads of existing cards. My favorite is probably Little Spider, because of the flavor of it growing up and the gutsiness and restraint of submitting Little Spider mentioning Big Spider in the text box without ever saying what Big Spider is. The card's flavor was good enough that I was curious to know what Big Spider did (though the name gives you some big hints), and the fact that it wasn't there left me curious and wanting more.

I also really really value purity of concept and simplicity of text. One holy grail of card design is a card whose concept is pure, whose text is simple, which seems new and never-before-done, which provides new options, and which still plays well. Really Focus is a great example of this for me. A cool idea, simple text, an elegant combination, and gives you a tool you've really never had before. A palpable hit.

Gleemax: I'm glad to see Conrad was able to overcome the design test's restrictions of mana costs by simply ignoring realistic costing. But if Rosewater is any indication maybe that's a sign of design skill.

Mark:

Decree of Proper Form – Interesting; I like that it sets up a restriction that you really have to think about. What does losing your second main phase mean? White rare is exactly where it belongs.

Channel Hate – I like the card but it doesn't feel common to me. I really don't like putting X spells and game finishers (defined as cards that allow you to win from a game state not close to winning) at common. Also, I think it would be a more interesting card if it was +X/-X.

Little Spider – Conrad took a risk to refer to a card that wasn't spelled out anywhere. But that is exactly the effect a player seeing this card for the first time would have as this is a common. I liked it. It definitely makes you want to find out what Big Spider is.

Neka's Portal – I don't like the idea of an uncommon that every turn makes multiple creatures unblockable. This can be fixed with costing though. The real fault of this card is that it's boring. With development we could print it, but it seems out of place in a test where you're trying to impress judges.

Really Focus – I like the double use of the effect. This really separates it from other filtering cards.

Valley of Shiv – I like this card because of how red it feels. It definitely thinks short term. Also, it's a good rare as it's exciting but doesn't just go in any red deck.


Andrew Emmott

Gaeas_Blessing Current Residence: Tucson, AZ

Occupation: Selling used books.

What Magic set did you start with?
Started playing right before Nemesis was released. My first sanctioned match was against Replenish! (I lost that one. Surprise!)

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
I love Flashback and I love Flash and the design space they both open up. Mix that into one card and you end up with Beast Attack! Rawr!

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
When all is said and done: Wrath of God.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Andrew Emmott, BA (Honors) from the University of Arizona, emphasis in Creative Writing and Film, which means, naturally, that I'm whittling away my youth working in a used bookstore. Aside from practical matters, such as my willingness and ability to uproot and move to Seattle, I'm a great fit for this internship because I love games and Magic: The Gathering most specifically.

That is the easiest and most obvious answer, I know, but I feel it is also the most necessary. Enthusiasm and a passion for the job are important everywhere, but they are especially important in creative endeavors, where the best work is always done when the artists are having fun. Beyond a passion and general inclination toward game design, (I have, sadly, seen very few books on game design come over the transom at my bookstore (does the gaming industry keep its knowledge locked away from the common folk, or has this stuff just not been written down?), I could tell you that I am a very creative and imaginative person, but I could similarly tell you that I am nine-feet tall and can slam-dunk a basketball without jumping and it would probably be all the same to you. No, even better is that I have experience being creative and, most important, I have experience collaborating creatively.

I am not hopelessly romantic about my work, a slave to an uncompromising idealism. No, I understand the collaborative process and have seen my work refined and changed in the hands of others and have come to appreciate the process. I work well with others, accept criticism, have an organizational mind, and see creativity as something that extends far beyond the traditional scope of the matter, from painting to bridge-building. I am doubtless not the only applicant to say so, but working in Wizards R&D would truly be the proverbial "dream job."

Submissions for Card Design Challenge

Crystal Cairn (common)
Land
Crystal Cairn comes into play tapped.
As Crystal Cairn comes into play, choose a color.
T: Add one mana of the chosen color to your mana pool.

Ancient Roots (common)
3G
Sorcery
Destroy target colorless permanent.

Crypt Echoes (uncommon)
1BB
Instant
Search your library for a card and put it into your graveyard. Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn where X is the converted mana cost of that card.

Wartime Policies (uncommon)
WR
Enchantment
Creatures can't attack or block as long as their controller controls an untapped land.

Phantasm Overmind (rare)
2UUU
Creature - Spirit Lord
4/4
Flying
T: Target creature becomes a copy of Phantasm Overmind.

Tumbling Hourglass (rare)
1
Artifact
T: Return Tumbling Hourglass to its owner's hand.
When Tumbling Hourglass is put into a graveyard from anywhere, you may draw a card.

Crystal Cairn is at common because it smoothes over mana bases in Limited and is a good card for new players to learn on; it looks a lot more powerful than it really is. Ancient Roots offers classic functionality within a new subtext. Imagine this card in a block with colored lands and colored artifacts, or colorless creatures and colorless enchantments.

Crypt Echoes is versatile and skill-intensive and designed for Spike. Offers reliable removal in Limited. Wartime Policies sets rules that encourage mana burn. Fun. Phantasm Overmind is not a typo. This card might have memory issues, but not much more so than Clone. The ability is both versatile and creepy. For a card that does absolutely nothing, Tumbling Hourglass might be under-priced at 1 mana. This card should be vintage wine for the Johnny of discriminating tastes.

Aaron: There are a lot of nice ideas here that seem simple on their surface, but many of them would leave developers feeling just a tiny bit uneasy, especially when we look at them through the eyes of less-experienced players. How many people know lands are colorless? What kind of memory issues would the common land create, especially if it were heavily played? (Coldsteel Heart has the same issues, and that card may be regrettable.) Why should Terror make me shuffle? Will a majority of players think Phantasm Overlord's effect ends at end of turn? While cleverness is nice once in a while, we do need a large number of our cards to be cool at first glance, which most of these cards are not. But "too interesting" is certainly way better than "too boring." High point: Crypt Echoes. The deckbuilding potential is nice and obvious here. Low point: Tumbling Hourglass. Hatching Plans was a much more "obvious" card, and it still went over very poorly with the public. While there are people out there that might appreciate a card like this, they are in the minority.

Devin: For me, this submission is okay, but not great. I like how roots makes you think, then you realize what it does and it makes sense. Simple text, pure concept, does something in a slightly new way. Cairn is pretty good functionally, and we made a very functionally similar card in Terramorphic Expanse in Time Spiral, but this one suffers from having no way to remember what color you chose, and that not being significant enough a choice to have you remember. Quirion Elves suffers a bit of the same problem, but at least it cost mana to play, so many of them won't slip onto the board like this land will, and it dies, making you not need to remember anymore. As a common land that would be played in multiples in Limited and Constructed, this memory issue will get really annoying and make people argue.

I liked policies pretty well – I always liked Veteran Brawlers. Phantasm Overmind is a cool idea, but suffers from the fact that it's a utility tap ability on a 4/4 Flier. I can attack with just my Terraformer, then if they block or don't block, I can tap Overmind to make the Terraformer a big flying 4/4…but why didn't I just attack with my actual flying 4/4 overmind in the first place? Sure, a single overmind could help 5 Terraformers get through in theory, but in general, you'd rather just attack. And this is not a costing issue – it's the concept of putting this utility pump effect on a 4/4 flier that I feel is a design flaw. I think players feel bad when they have a giant flier, yet they're not supposed to attack with it. That's why Rith, the Awakener and friends have their abilities as combat damage triggers, not tap effects. Omnibian does this same kind of thing more effectively, since it is a 3/3 ground guy and combos with Graft.

Gleemax: Andrew's work is very polished. Of course, he had all that extra time from not taking any risks.

Mark:

Crystal Cairn – I like this card, but I'm concerned about memory issues. If you have four of these in play and each is set to a different color it will be hard on all players to remember which is which.

Ancient Roots – I like this card as well. It's a clever way to destroy artifacts and lands. The only change I might make is to put the card in red as red has a history of interacting with colorlessness (and it can also destroy artifacts and land).

Crypt Echoes – Interesting. I like that it combines two very different effects in a way that makes them feel interconnected. As with above, I think +X/-X creates more interesting opportunities than –X/-X.

Wartime Politics – Also very clever. Does a nice job of feeling white/red.

Phantasm Overmind – I'm glad you made this rare as it's a rather complicated card once the rules get involved. I might have made the card 3/3 as it better allows it to be used defensively as well as offensively. (And yes, I understand the restrictions of the mana cost forced this to be larger.)

Tumbling Hourglass – This is the kind of card we regret making years later. It seems innocuous at first and then later causes some degenerate combo that makes us gnash our teeth.


Mark Globus

Portent Current Residence: Dublin, Ohio

Occupation: Software Designer

What Magic set did you start with?
I started with Revised between Legends and The Dark.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
My favorite design is Form of the Dragon - it captures the essence of being a Dragon amazingly well.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
My favorite card to play is Portent. I love the fact that you can look at either your top three cards or your opponent's.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
I design financial and membership software for a living, and I love my job. I get to come up with innovative solutions that make our business more money as well as provide services to our members that they find useful. I enjoy the entire process of taking an idea, fleshing it out into a design that our developers can work on, working through issues that come up in development and finally seeing a finished product that provides value. I love coming up with solutions by thinking outside the box: implementing the software in a new environment, reworking the code to be more nimble so that future efforts are easier, re-using an existing process in a way to solve a new problem.

I am very, very good at this. In the last year, I have designed a new process to handle refunds that saves the company millions every year. In doing so, I made it so that it is easier for the company to handle new refund methods, and easier for software development to maintain the new system. It was so exciting to design this new system, assist in its creation, and finally see it in action! On top of all of this, the project was installed on time, and on budget.

Only one thing is lacking in my current job - I like to design fun things. While it is great to see customers happy that their refunds are correct, and see accounting happy that they have greater visibility of billing, the accounting system does not exactly create joy in people's lives.

"Great," you say. "I am glad you like your job and I am glad you are good at it. What does this have to do with designing Magic? What would make you better than everyone else? You haven't brought up Magic once!"

Read back over what I wrote above. I design things. I think outside the box. I have proven that I excel at this. As for what I can do with Magic, read on...

Submissions for Card Design Challenge

Jasper Pendant (Uncommon)
1
Artifact
Jasper Pendant comes into play tapped.
Tap, Remove target card in your graveyard from the game: Add R to your mana pool.

Yavimaya Protector (Common)
G1
Creature - Treefolk
6/5
Landbound - 6 (When you control less than 6 lands, sacrifice Yavimaya Protector.)

Goblin Arc Fire (Common)
R2
Basic Instant
(A deck can have any number of any basic card.) Goblin Arc Fire deals 2 damage to target creature or player. Reveal your hand. If there are no Goblin Arc Fires in your hand, Goblin Arc Fire deals 2 damage to target creature or player.

Ritual of Lucrezia (Rare)
UB2
Sorcery
If you control a different number of enchantments, artifacts, creatures and lands and have a different number of cards in your hand, search your library for any one enchantment, artifact, creature or land and put it into play.

Siege (Rare)
WWW2
Enchantment
Fading 4
If there are no fade counters on Siege, you win the game. Sacrifice Siege if any opponent controls more creatures than you. Untapped creatures opponents control get +0/+2.

Abandoned Mine (Uncommon)
Land
Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool.
Tap: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Play this ability only if you control 2 or fewer lands.

When designing cards it is important to realize that they are created for so many different kinds of people. Cards need to exist for Timmys, Johnnys and Spikes; for seasoned veterans and someone opening his first pack; for limited specialists, constructed players, casual groups and collectors. Not only that, but they need to evoke a sense of wonder and excitement not just through flavor and abilities but also through new twists on old ideas and the exploration of completely new territory. They need to be simple to understand, yet full of complex possibilities. It is my intent with these cards to not only satisfy the requirements of the contest, but to be fun for as many players as possible.

Aaron: The thing I like the very most about Mark's entry was his one-paragraph write-up. In it, he didn't go about justifying individual choices, but instead told me right away that he gets the "mission statement" of card design. His stuff was a nice mix of new ideas and twists on older stuff, and even though he made a few technical errors (mana costs in the wrong order, mana ability with a target, other nit-picky stuff), that stuff can be easily taught. Having good ideas in the first place—that's natural talent. High point: Goblin Arc Fire. Interesting card. One way to allow infinite copies of a card is to make the card pretty bad; the other is to make the optimal number hard to deduce. This makes the latter into a fun exercise. Low point: Ritual of Lucrezia. I love me an obscure Legends reference, but it took me three readings to determine what this card did, and then the payoff didn't live up to the hype.

Devin: I liked Mark's submission pretty well overall, and there's a lot of creativity, but there were also a couple of holes. Yavimaya Protector is a really cool idea that we also explored with Serra Avenger. Abandoned Mine is an excellent design for a multiland that would encourage certain decks, much like Pillar of the Paruns. On Goblin Arc Fire, the idea of having "Basic Instants" is cool and was well expressed. However, I really disliked the secondary clause saying "Ah, but don't play too many of this card!" The whole point of a basic instant is to enable people to play a lot – don't then punish them for doing it! Sometimes "tension" in a card's abilities is fun, but here I really feel that he is undermining his idea. On Relentless Rats, we said "Play as many as you want." and then the ability said "And you really want to play a lot in your deck!" Ritual of Lucrezia was fun to read and made me think about how to build the deck – it seemed like it would be a lot of fun to build and this one is a thumbs up for me. Siege gets points for flavor, but it felt pretty non-interactive to me and that you didn't have to work hard enough. All you have to do is play it, keep having more creatures than the opponent, and wait? Even without regard to costing, that's too little work to win the game, and seems boring to play.

Gleemax: Mark definitely thinks outside of the box. Someone should get him direction for where the box is.

Mark:

Jasper Pendant – I'm not sure why this produces red mana. I'm guessing he was hinting that this was a cycle. Other than that, a fine card.

Yavimaya Protector – This card would be much better if the sacrifice restriction was just checked upon coming into play. Making it a static ability does little to affect the card (yes, I know it allows land destruction to kill it) and avoids all sorts of issues of making players have to constantly check the game state. Landbound is also not interesting enough, in my opinion, to be a keyword. Not a huge fan of this card.

Goblin Arc Fire – I really like the idea of basic spells (don't tell Gottlieb though, it'll make him start frothing). I also think the last line creates some interesting tension with how many cards to put into a deck. That said, my spidey sense goes off on this card. I'm worried that while it's a cool concept it might not actually work out the way the designer wants when it's properly developed.

Ritual of Lucrezia – I'm torn on this card. It makes the Johnny in me happy but it's a little clunky for the designer in me. I honestly don't know what the tweak is but the card doesn't feel quite done yet. That said, I do feel it's very inventive and cool. My only real criticism is that I'm not sure the spell needs the black. Blue both tutors and puts cards from hand into play. And to be honest, even blue is a little odd for this effect (personally I probably would have made it a green/white spell).

Siege – I like what Mark is trying to do and I like alternate win game cards. My problem with Siege is that it seems too easy to build the deck to make this "I win" card possible. Still, it has a high fade cost so maybe it's okay. Development would have to watch this very carefully.

Abandoned Mine – This card is interesting. It helps you out of early game color screw. I've never seen a card designed to specifically fulfill this particular purpose. I like it.


Graeme Hopkins

Ben_Ben_Akki_Hermit Current Residence: Chicago, Illinois

Occupation: Software Designer/Developer

What Magic set did you start with?
Revised/Legends

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
This is an unfair question. Fire // Ice

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Hey, another unfair question! Fact or Fiction

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Graeme Hopkins. I am an independent software developer who has been designing for over twenty years. However, this is not how I usually introduce myself. When asked, I usually respond with "I'm a game designer."

My passion has always been with games. Board games, computer games, card games, physical games; "games" in general, are without doubt my primary focus in life. Ever since I was very young, the concept of designing such an entertaining thing consumed me, and I would always be spending my time thinking "What if?"

I am rather proud to say I designed a very immature version of Magic at the age of 9 years. The combining of a deck of cards, a fantasy setting, and a number system was too much to contain, so I created a complex set of rules for playing a two-player "role-playing game" with a deck of cards.

My game design has only gotten more advanced in the following twenty years. Most of my free time is spent divided between two things. The first is on developing of the numeric systems behind gaming, and attempting to figure out what exactly makes it all "fun".

The second thing that consumes my time is, well, Magic. I started playing in early 1994, and twelve years later I still am obsessed.

Needless to say, I have a pile of amateur Magic sets and blocks that I have designed. I can barely imagine getting paid to do something as intriguing as this!

I guarantee that I have the experience, passion, and competence that you are looking for in a Magic designer. I can think of no other position for me that is such a perfect fit.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge

Guarded Grove (common)
Land - Forest
Guarded Grove comes into play tapped.
When Guarded Grove comes into play, you may pay 1G. If you do, put a 2/2 green bear creature token into play.

Blessed Passage (common)
W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Whenever enchanted creature attacks or blocks, you gain 2 life.

Smoky Mirror (uncommon)
2
Artifact
T: Look at the top card of target opponent's library.
Sacrifice Smoky Mirror: Look at the top three cards of target opponent's library, then put them back in any order.

Sylvan Atoner (uncommon)
2G
Creature - Elf Druid
1/2
T: Add G to your mana pool. If that mana is spent on a creature spell, that creature comes into play with a +1/+1 counter.

Soultrap (rare)
2UB
Instant
Remove target creature card in a graveyard from the game. Target creature becomes a copy of that card.

Blood Rain (rare)
4R
Sorcery
Blood Rain deals X damage to each creature and each player, where X is the amount of R spent to pay for Blood Rain.

For the design of these six cards, I intentionally omitted any keyword mechanics or lengthy rules explanations. Instead I focused on flavor and utility, with the goal of creating six cards that could fit in most sets in a non-specific way, while still having the cards' focuses being as diverse as possible. Additionally, I chose to explore three different levels of design "innovation". Two cards (Blessed Passage and Smoky Mirror) are extremely basic mechanics with no new take on rules, yet provide utility in a unique, new way. Two cards (Sylvan Atoner and Soultrap) explore fairly recent design areas; becoming a copy, and mana characteristics. The final two cards (Guarded Grove and Blood Rain) use mostly unexplored design space; using your "land drop" as a cost, and "mono-colored matters."

Aaron: Good solid cards. Almost all of them blend new ideas with familiar ones, resulting in cards with a short amount of rules text but that don't feel rehashed. I wish his rares were a tad bit "sexier"—one is a one-shot Dimir Doppelganger, and the other is a scalable Inferno that is probably harder to control than it looks. But I like the non-rares. High point: Guarded Grove. Too cool to be common, but great functionality. Low point: Soultrap. Been there, done that. A super-powerful reanimation spell.

Devin: A combination of innovative new areas, cool individual cards, and many cards that I could see actually putting into a set made this a winning submission for me. Blessed Passage is nice and simple, but you have to think about what it means and all the different ways you could use it in play. Sylvan Atoner touches on an idea of doing many more cards which make the kind of mana used to play something affect the thing that was played. Boseiju and Hall of the Bandit Lord in CHK did this too, and I could see doing a lot more creatures and lands that do this. Soultrap was really cool too, while Blood Rain also touched an as-yet underexplored area of design. Smoky Mirror was too similar to Lantern of Insight for me. Guarded grove was also solid. Very good overall. Received one of my highest scores of the sixty'ish that I graded.

Gleemax: Graeme seems to have a great skill for finding effects we've only done one or twice and doing the second or third version.

Mark:

Blessed Passage – Making simple elegant commons is hard work. That this card manages to do so is definitely a nod in Graeme's favor.

Smoky Mirror – My gut is to make the first ability a one-way Field of Dreams (have them turn their top card face up) rather than an activated tap ability. As is a recurring theme, I like to lessen memory issues. Other than that issue, I like this card.

Sylvan Atoner – We messed around with this mechanic with two cards in Champions of Kamigawa (Boseiju, Who Shelters All and Hall of the Bandit Lord). This is a very good use of it.

Soultrap – Very cool.

Blood Rain – This is an interesting take off on Drain Life (in that it's kind of an X spell where only a particular color can be played). I like how the mechanic naturally limits how much damage you can do.

Guarded Grove – It's both simple and interesting. A good common.


Christopher Jablonski

Ladies_Knight Current Residence: Orland Park/Homer Glen, Illinois

Occupation: Support Technician

What Magic set did you start with?
Just after The Dark, and pretty much concurrently with Fallen Empires. Earlyish Novemberish, 1994ish.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Oh, most definitely Look at Me, I'm the DCI. The delicate dance of light and shadow create a postimpressionist-- Hmm. I think you may mean something else. Okay, let's go with (and yeah I agonized over this) Man-o'-War. Really the whole cycle of Visions "187" creatures, but the question demands a single answer. Man-o'-War.

You didn't actually say I had to explain my answer, you know! Fine. How about it represents a turning point in Magic design; it's significant of an era where the nearly limitless cool things you can do on a card were just beginning to be realized? It's not the first card printed with "when cardname comes into play," but it (and its brethren) are the first where you really feel like you're getting a creature AND a spell in the same package. It's one of those things where after it happens, you have to wonder how Magic wasn't doing it from the beginning. (Cantrips, another good example.) Plus it's got all that elegance, like, coming out the wazoo. Yeah, that's all you're getting out of me. Shoo! Shoo!

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
I don't play favorites. Ho ho ho! Sigh. That doesn't even make any sense. I was reminded fairly recently on the Magic Online Beta server (during the Coldsnap beta I believe), when I got to play one of my favorite formats again (OLS draft, for a variety of reasons), that I love the feeling of having Forgotten Ancient in play. It's one of those cards that's not all that fun to your opponent--unfair is probably something rolling around in his head--but there's something about his initial weakness turning into your eventual total board dominance that's, well, it's just a thrill. I know it appeals to the most basest parts of my psyche, but my goodness it's fun.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Christopher Jablonski, though I'm sometimes known around the web as Pugg Fuggly. (The other times I'm known as Ted Knutson, but it's all just rumors and innuendos, I swear.) I'm 27ish, and I recently got a job in tech support at a company where they don't actually let you go on the internet. Yeah, got pretty bummed out when I heard that. So I figure I'm ready for something new already.

Story of my life, really. Can't ever figure out exactly what I'm meant to do. Or maybe I'm just not very good at anything. My Bachelor's is in English (English Literature? I've never actually opened the box it's in), but I originally went to school for engineering. I read books about quantum mechanics and I do crossword puzzles. I like to think I'm a bright, friendly, creative, compassionate individual, but I should know better.

You want to know why I should be your new intern? I'll get all your jokes.

No, for serious. It's a skill I find rather unappreciated. I have the uncanny ability to get all sorts of crazy references. Dostoevsky? Check. Simpsons? Check. H.R. Pufnstuf? Geez, guys. I'm not that old.

So okay. Most of you are possibly a bit older than me, so I guess that means I'd be working without a net, so to speak. Still, I enjoy a good challenge. I'm looking forward to this. Also, I make a mean cup of coffee. It really gets personal. Frankly, I think it's compensating for its low self-esteem.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge

Either AEther (common)
1U
Instant
Return target nonland permanent to owner's hand.
Exchange U (When you play this spell, you may remove it from the game. If you do, search your library for a card with Exchange and reveal it. You may play that card for its Exchange cost. If you don't, shuffle it back into its owner's library.)

Elvish Cookie Factory (common)
Land - Forest
CARDNAME comes into play tapped.
At the beginning of your precombat main phase, you may put a chocolate counter on CARDNAME. If you do, you cannot play lands this turn.
T, remove a chocolate counter from CARDNAME: add GG to your mana pool.

Camel's Paradise (uncommon)
2RR
Enchantment
When CARDNAME comes into play, you may sacrifice it. If you do, it deals 2 damage to each creature.
Whenever a player plays a spell, CARDNAME deals 1 damage to that player.

Captain America's Shield (uncommon)
3
Artifact - Equipment
Whenever CARDNAME becomes attached to a creature, put a rivet counter on it.
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 for each rivet counter on CARDNAME. Equip 2

Henrietta the Hungry Hungry Rhino (rare)
2GGW
Legendary Creature - Rhinoceros Shaman
2/3
Whenever a nontoken creature comes into play under your control, put a 1/1 green and white Wolf token into play.
1, sacrifice a Wolf: Choose one -- put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME; or CARDNAME gains trample; or CARDNAME gains protection from the color of your choice. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery. (These effects do not end at end of turn.)

Tenuous Grasp (rare)
B
Sorcery
Return target creature from a graveyard to play. That creature gains haste.
At end of turn, target opponent gains control of it.

For this challenge, I craved constraints and restrictions, so I attempted to create some for myself. I tried to make each card the answer to a question or problem I posed. Of course, then the hard part was coming up with the questions. These ranged from "make a land that helps you through mana screw" to "improve upon Transmute" to "make a sorcery/enchantment split card thingy." And then there was the templating. I mean, really, just finding wordings that won't completely wreck the game is hard enough. Then you've got to worry about loopholes and workarounds. When your manascrew lands are giving you 8 mana on turn 3 you've got a problem. Also, I don't think I really met the "different block" part of the setup -- I shot more for the feeling of cards that might go in any block. Great, now I'm almost out of words. The end?

Aaron: Holy complicated. A common land that uses counters and refers to my "precombat main phase"? Yucky. A gold creature that not only uses counters and tokens, but also gains abilities permanently? How should I mark what colors it has protection from, with counters? And the way the red enchantment is constructed, it makes me feel like I can never get full functionality out of my card—I either get a bad Pyroclasm or a bad Spellshock. I feel that were Chris to design a set, it would be a brain-melter. High point: Captain America's Shield. At least I understand it. Low point: Elvish Cookie Factory. I understand that problem he's trying to solve, but sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

Devin: I thought that Chris had very interesting ideas here, but that this submission was horribly hurt by needlessly excessive complication on over half the cards. Not among my favorites. Exchange is a great idea – letting your spells become more versatile and allowing them to transform into another spell that you'd need, much like Transmute. However, doing this on multiple cards at common seems like a lot of complication, and requires a lot of deck knowledge and planning ahead for you to play it. Transmute encourages you to have a pretty good idea of what's in your deck to play it, but you can also just transmute for 3, knowing you have some but not knowing what they are, then put something in your hand and prepare to play it next turn. Because Exchange says "play it immediately for a mana cost depending on the card you found", you might sometimes try to use Exchange with 2 lands up, then find that all your Exchange cards in your deck have Exchange cost 3 or higher. Cookie Factory is crazy complicated for a common land. The Captain's Shield relies on people knowing whether or not activating the equip ability again and again on your own creature counts as "becomes attached." I have no idea, and most players probably don't either. Henrietta had too many choices on the ability for me. I like Tenuous Grasp.

Gleemax: Christopher excelled in his goal on the test which apparently was to make silly playtest names.

Mark:

Either Aether – I don't have the space to explain all the issues with exchange. The short answer is I doubt we would do it as it's currently written. That said, I enjoyed where Christopher was going.

Elvish Cookie Factory – This is an interesting land. I like how it trades land drops for extra mana. Plus, mmm, cookies.

Camel's Paradise – I like how the card acts as either a spell or a weaker version enchantment. Would make an interesting cycle.

Captain America's Shield – I like that this equipment encourages you to move it around. I don't know what that has to do with Cap's shield but at least you get a brownie point for understanding what subject matters the judges like.

Henrietta the Hungry Hungry Rhino – This card feels a little muddied to me. While I see the mechanical synergy, I didn't get a sense of what the point of the card was. Legendary creatures have the additional burden of having a strong flavor and this card, to me, fails in that regard. I would have probably tried to use the flavor to give a better sense of what was going on .

Tenuous Grasp – I really like this card. It's simple but it feels very unique.


Alexis Jansen

Life_Burst Current Residence: Palmdale, California

Occupation: My title is Information Technology Manager; mostly, though, I do programming and general computer troubleshooting.

What Magic set did you start with?
Revised

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
(one favorite? are you kidding?)
Gifts Ungiven - it has a great influence on deck design and a wonderfully interactive and highly skill-testing mechanic.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
(same question!)
Last Laugh. Probably the card I've built the most decks around online.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Alexis Janson, I just received a two-year degree in Information Technology, and I do computer programming and consulting for a living. My hobbies include musical composition, camping, and logic puzzles. I play Magic: The Gathering both casually and competitively. I especially enjoy Magic theory- both from a game play perspective and a design perspective.

Magic design requires both creativity and structure; both logic, and inspiration. Far more than just individual card ideas, it requires an understanding of the big picture. My experience demonstrates these qualities, including an intimate familiarity of game design on many levels.

I have been a hobbyist video game designer and programmer since elementary school. I constantly dream up new game concepts and designs, while critiquing deficiencies in other games. Whereas game design is like creating a puzzle, software programming is like solving one- another intimate part of my life as both a professional and hobbyist programmer.

My current project is a video game creation system- in game design terms, I'm solving a puzzle about how to efficiently give other people the tools to make their own puzzles. I have to decide what parts to include, and how to design them to provide users with maximum enjoyment. I have to carefully evaluate every new element, every change, to maintain a balance between usability, enjoyment, variety, and power. It's the next level above game design- in order to best create tools to design, you must first be intimately familiar with design itself.

I believe in expressing my opinion while respecting the opinions of others. I value feedback on my work, even when I disagree with it. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but I'm not afraid to release my creations into the wild and move on to the next project. I believe in respecting the box, and then thinking outside of it. I believe in ability keywording, respecting the color pie, and keeping players on their toes. I believe Magic is one of the best games ever created, and I believe I could help make it even better.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge

Crumbling Caverns (uncommon)
Land
Crumbling Caverns comes into play tapped.
T, Remove the top card of your library from the game: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Banshee's Wail (common)
B
Sorcery
Target creature gets -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in its controller's graveyard.
Insanity (As long as this card is in your graveyard, your maximum hand size is reduced by one.)

Crest of Sloth (uncommon)
4
Artifact
Crest of Sloth is blue.
1, T: Target creature gets -X/-0 until end of turn, where X is the number of blue permanents you control.

Lothgar the Furious (rare)
3RR
Legendary Creature – Dwarf Shaman
2/4
Dwarves you control have haste.
If a Shaman you control would deal damage to a creature or player, it deals twice that damage to that creature or player instead.
R, T: Lothgar the Furious deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player.

Corporeal Conjuration (rare)
1GW
Enchantment Creature – Spirit
*/*
Flying
Corporeal Conjuration's power and toughness are each equal to the number of enchantments you control.

Immaculate Deception (common)
1U
Light Instant
Counter target Dark spell.

First, I created actual block concepts. Some thematic- a war led by false gods; a world torn apart by reckless planeswalkers draining its power. Others, mechanical- enchantments as creatures, or new ways to explore supertypes. I outlined six blocks, then created cards *elegantly* demonstrating each one. I wanted each card to create abundant speculation regarding the contents of its set. I also wanted mechanics that would require forethought during deckbuilding and gameplay. I found design space that I felt was unexplored, and explored it- using the library as a resource; using the graveyard as a drawback; new ways for "color matters" outside of multicolor; a less linear tribal block using today's race-class standard. To do an enchantment block right, just make enchantments that handle basic needs, like creatures and removal. Finally, supertypes hold unique potential to divide cards into new classes, ideally with visual cues within the card frame.

Aaron: Alexis really took the "make the cards feel like they came from six different blocks" instruction to heart, and I could feel it in her submissions. Most of her cards made me sit up and say, "Ooh, I wonder what that block would be like…" which is about as good as anyone could hope for from me. They seemed to say, "Let's just assume I can make good individual cards; I want to show that I'm thinking bigger than that." That strategy easily could have backfired, but it worked for me. High point: Lothgar the Furious. Fun tribal card with a nice "payoff" ability. Low point: Crumbling Caverns. In general, contestants' lands have wowed me the least—understandable because of how difficult they are to design and balance. Alexis's land is arguably much more powerful than Grand Coliseum but with a drawback that casual players can't stand in general. Would only score highly with Spike.

Devin: Like many other candidates, Alexis says she came up with several concepts for entire blocks, then designed one example card from each block for her submission. Unlike almost all the others who claimed to do this, Alexis actually pulled it off. The strength here is that the cards actually do represent big concepts from about 4-5 blocks that I could actually see us exploring. One of the most important things we are looking for is designers who can make not just individual cards, but prompt entire set or block concepts. That was a big plus here. The colored artifact with colors matters makes me think a set could do that. Likewise with the enchantment creature that counts enchantments. I like Agrus Kos and his friends in RAV block that say "If it's Red, bonus. If it's White , different bonus" so Red&White cards get both bonuses – Lothgar did that in an effective way, and while not super new, it does unite class and race that way in a manner that is effective.

Crumbling Caverns doesn't make sense as a single card – the drawback is too small – however, it suggests a set or block where self-milling is used as a resource across a lot of cards, and that is a good idea. As it turns out, players generally hate hate hate self-milling so much that we would never actually do that as a set, but it is a decent idea if you didn't know that they hate it. Insanity was a cool idea in multiples. Spending hand size seemed cool. However it probably doesn't play well – past a certain point in the game, how often does it matter that your hand size becomes 5 or 6 instead of 7? Immaculate Deception was the weakest for me – it seemed a lot like Rend Spirit/Rend Flesh or Psychic Spear in a way that we have already sort of done. Overall, a strong submission with good set-wide ideas.

Gleemax: Alexis seems to love doing things we've never done for the sake of doing them. A dangerous instinct for a designer.

Mark:

Crumbling Caverns – My gut would be to make this card rare. I'm also inclined to remove two cards to make the card library depletion become an issue more often.

Banshee's Wail – I'm not sure if using the graveyard for scaling effects is the best idea. I'd rather remove cards from your graveyard as a cost of using the spell. "As an additional cost to play Banshee's wail, remove X cards from your graveyard from the game." If you don't use up the resource, this card feels like it gets too degenerate too easily. I think I'd rather have insanity be a keyword on cards in play as it's too easy to miss small global effects that sit in the graveyard. (Yes, this keeps it off instants and sorceries.)

Crest of Sloth – We've often talked about making colored artifacts and I like the fact that this artifact does it for a specific mechanical reason. I like this card.

Lothgar the Furious – This card has a lot of pieces to it. That said, you did a good job of making most of the pieces interact with one another. There are some power concerns (the card essentially comes into play and deals 4 to target creature or player) but we'll let development sort it out. The card is dripping with flavor.

Corporeal Conjuration – I liked this trick when you did it on Crest of Sloth, making the card have a trait not normally associated with it and then counting it. But the point of the card design test was to show diversity so you get a point off for repetition. That said, in a vacuum, I like this card.

Immaculate Deception – This was a bold choice, making a card that only cares about something that you don't know what it is from seeing this card. Points for boldness and then a few points off for making a card we wouldn't make at common. At least not in the set that we introduced the idea of dark magic. Usually if a card doesn't stand on its own we try to lessen the chance that it's the very first thing you see (and yes, we have broken this rule but I believe most of the times we did, it was a mistake).


Greg Krajenta

Inspiration Current Residence: Chicago, IL

Current occupation: Office Assistant at an investment firm

What Magic set did you start with?
Fallen Empires and the tail end of The Dark.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
It's hard to pass by Experiment Kraj. Not only does he have a unique mechanic, but he's also a fantastic interpretation of the ultimate Simic creation. On top of all that, he's an ooze mutant and you just can't top that, AND we have the same name. Case closed.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
I love playing any card that makes the game unpredictable, with a special place in my heart for cards that annoy my opponent. Therefore I'm going to pick a mostly forgotten old-school pipsqueak: Nettling Imp. Not only is he as annoying as it gets, but he can completely mess up creature-based strategies and can actually make Sengir Vampire's ability relevant!
Hooray for the Imp!

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
Greetings! My name is Gregory Krajenta (I go by Greg but feel free to call me whatever suits your fancy), I live in Chicago, IL, and I'm currently an office assistant at a highly respected investment firm. What makes me a good fit for this internship? Hmmm… because Matt Cavotta likes my style? OK, so that's not much of a criteria but then again I can't be certain as to exactly what your criteria is at this point. (True, "Design" drops a few hints.) In any case here are what I think are the most relevant attributes about myself; hopefully they are a match for what you're looking for.

I have a solid knowledge of the game and its history. I began playing Magic in late 1994 and have continued to play and collect to this day. I know how Magic started, how it has developed over the years, and how recent changes are taking the game in a new direction. My knowledge is far from absolute, but I learn more every day.

I love learning about the creative process. I relish any article on magicthegathering.com that provides insight into how the game is created, which is almost every single article if you pay attention. What that translates into is I'm a person who has a basic design skill set but who won't approach a project as if I already know everything.

I have practice at design. Although I do not have professional experience, I have spent a great deal of time and energy improving my skills as an amateur designer.

As an employee, I work hard, get along with others very easily, work well in groups, and have professional experience in a variety of work settings with different demands and stress levels. I adapt quickly and easily to a new work environment.

Overall, I believe I can make a worthwhile contribution to your team and have a great time doing it.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Liquidate (rare)
3WB
Instant
Destroy target permanent.
If you spent more B than W to pay Liquidate's mana cost, that permanent's controller loses 2 life.
If you spent more W than B to pay Liquidate's mana cost, gain 4 life.

Geothermal Eruption (rare)
RRRX
Sorcery
Geothermal Eruption deals X damage to target creature or player.
Reveal Geothermal Eruption from your hand, discard a mountain: Add RR to your mana pool. You may only use this mana to pay Geothermal Eruption's mana cost.

Land of Enchantment (uncommon)
1G
Enchantment
Enchantments are lands in addition to their other types and have "T: Add one mana of this card's color to your mana pool".

Infecting Shapecrafter (uncommon)
3U
Creature - Wizard
2/2
Whenever Infecting Shapecrafter blocks or becomes blocked by a creature, that creature becomes a copy of Infecting Shapecrafter.

Tide Pool (common)
Land
T: Add U or B to your mana pool.
When Tide Pool becomes untapped return it to your hand.

Magnolia Elixer (common)
1
Artifact
1,T: Gain 1 life. If you spent W to play this ability, gain 2 life instead.

The toughest part of this design for me was reconciling the conflicting requirements of diversity and innovation. Cards that are highly innovative individually often are lacking the feel that they come from different blocks, like they're a part of a bigger theme. Also, I strongly felt I did not want to submit six cards that had no connection to each other at all, which further conflicted with the diversity goal. The approach I decided to take was to design cards that each hinted towards a different, broader theme that a set could be built around. I tried to create abilities that felt fresh even if they're not completely ground-breaking, but also that felt like there should be other cards with the same ability or that felt like a piece of a whole. Some cards accomplish this better than others but overall I'm happy with how they turned out.

Aaron: Greg's cards take a bunch of very obvious "next steps," and to me the results are underwhelming. He expanded on the "if you paid a certain kind of mana theme" that sunburst and enhanced spells introduced, but those mechanics were far from home runs, and even more convoluted versions won't win any players over. Geothermal Eruption feels like it should just have an "As an additional cost to play this" clause instead of the bizarre activated ability, and the common land (which I assume would be part of a cycle) would frustrate players to no end. High point: Land of Enchantment. A cool ability that begs to be built around. Low point: Magnolia Elixer. Tries to be creative when this should just be split out into two abilities, one that gains 1 life for 1 and one that gains 2 life for White Mana.

Devin: A very solid array of cards that do some cool things and seem like they would play well. I marked almost all of them as good. A lack of new, innovative sparkle keeps this from being among the very best submissions, but this is solidly at the top of the second tier for me. I like Land of Enchantment and Infecting Shapeshifter and Liquidate – they are all solid. Magnolia Elixir is not very exciting by itself, but suggests colored artifacts in a well-conceived way. Geothermal Eruption is ok, but kind of just a worse, clunkier version of Cave-In and Thunderclap. Tide Pool is ok, but kind of just a worse Undiscovered Paradise. It suggests having a cycle of 5 common lands like this, which is way too many lands bouncing back to your hand. Greg, you are definitely on the right track, and you are making good cards. If I were you, I would concentrate on stretching out into more innovative territory and see what you can do about making new mechanics and themes. Watch out for too much similarity to older, simpler cards, as that approach yielded a couple of misses.

Gleemax: Hopefully, R&D has a need for lots of rare cards because that seems to be Greg's specialty.

Mark:

Liquidate – This spell is another one that plays around with caring what mana was spent to play the card. The neat twist to this card is that it cares which color spent more. Greg also managed to avoid the pitfall of making the life loss and gain the same as it would have made the white version far weaker (this mistake dates back to the boons – Lightning Bolt and Healing Salve being the ones in question – from Alpha). Another little neat touch was that Greg chose to make the mana cost five making it harder for white and black to be even.

Geothermic Eruption – I like what this card's trying to do, but I'm afraid that the sum of the pieces doesn't quite add up. I believe the key reason to discard mountains is to enhance the spell but the fact that the spell has potential to be free is going to pull focus on the card. The problem here is that the card isn't very good for this purpose. For example, you can discard two mountains to play this card for free and do 1 damage to target creature or player. That's a lot of work for not so much result. Also mixing extra mana with X is going to cause some confusion (cards with X always cause the most Customer Service calls). My inclination would be to have the spell do a set amount of damage and that discarding cards from your hand can add additional damage. That said, I really like the kind of thought that went into this design.

Land of Enchantment – For starters this feels like a rare card and not an uncommon. It's a quirky build-around-me Johnny card and not the kind of thing that's too relevant in Limited. Second, I'm not sure that the spell needs to turn all enchantments into lands. I assume this was done since normally enchantments don't have tap effects. My issue is that although the rules can handle the double typing all right, I think it creates situations that might confuse the average player (for instance, can I play two enchantments in one turn?). I would have gotten around that problem by making the enchantment have "Tap an untapped enchantment you control: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool."

Infecting Shapecrafter – This is also a rare card pretending to be an uncommon. More on this in a second. The biggest problem with this design is that the effect ends whenever the first combat happens. The blocker/blockee becomes a copy of Infecting Shapecrafter and then they destroy one another. An easy fix if the goal is to do what this card seems to want is to change the creature to a 1/3 or some lower power/higher toughness that allows the creature to live through a fight with itself. Assuming this change is made, the card really needs to go to rare because it causes all sorts of memory issues as the change it creates is permanent and the nature of the mechanic will spread until every permanent is affected.

Tide Pool – This card is basically a poor version of a depletion land. The fact that it eats up your land slot every other turn makes it worse and the depletion lands were far from powerful. I like what Greg was trying to do to simplify the mechanic but this card is a bit of a snoozer for me, especially as this ground has been covered before.

Magnolia Elixer – This is another card that plays around with caring what color mana was spent to use it. I like what Greg was trying to do but this execution is rather bland.


Chris Luhrs

Izzet_Guildmage Current Residence: Stanford, CA

Current occupation: Graduate student in computer science

What Magic set did you start with?
Fallen Empires

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Carom

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Mindslaver

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Chris Luhrs, and I would love to intern in Magic R&D. By training, I am a computer scientist, having graduated from MIT in 2003. Currently, I am working on a PhD at Stanford, but I could find a way to take some time off for Wizards.

When I'm not playing Magic, I am an avid bridge player and a World of Warcraft not-quite-addict. I am also into puzzling, and was on the writing team for the MIT Mystery Hunt last year. I wrote a pretty cool Magic puzzle called Convocation.

I have been a Magic player since Fallen Empires. In high school, I did not have the money to get anything but commons, but I still managed to find ways to beat people who had access to all the cards they wanted. I remember winning over and over again with a red-green deck of commons against what I now recognize as a fully-powered Lake of the Dead Necropotence deck.

Going to college left me unable to play Magic too often. Then, a miracle happened. Magic Online had an open beta. I played my first draft ever online and learned enough to survive during that free month. I have been addicted to limited Magic ever since. I'm a semi-serious player in that I work hard to improve my game but seldom look to play on the pro tour.

My field is computer science, but the ability to break things down and analyze them logically will carry over to anything, especially Magic design. I think one of my biggest strengths as a Magic player is my first impressions of cards. I usually have a couple cards picked out as among the most powerful in the set that it takes my play group and the Magic community as a whole a long time to figure out.

I have the flexibility to change jobs for six months, the skills to create and analyze cards, and the love of Magic to immerse myself in design completely. What more could you be looking for in an intern?

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Communal Utopia (Rare)

Land T: Each player adds one mana of any color to his or her mana pool. This mana doesn't cause mana burn.

Upgradeable Golem (Uncommon)
1
Artifact Creature - Golem
1/1
X: Put a +1/+1 counter on Upgradeable Golem if X is greater than Upgradeable Golem's power.

Forceful Denial (Common)
1U
Instant
As an additional cost to play Forceful Denial, discard a card. Counter target spell.

Evolving Beast (Common)
2G
Creature - Beast
3/2
4GG: Put three +1/+1 counters on Evolving Beast. It gains trample. Play this ability at most once.

Recurring Mania (Uncommon)
2RR
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Sacrifice a mountain: Untap enchanted creature and gain control of it until end of turn. It gains haste until end of turn.

Evening the Odds (Rare)
3WB
Sorcery
Each player with an odd number of creatures sacrifices a creature. Repeat this process for artifacts, lands, and enchantments.

Communal Utopia might be too powerful in an instant-light environment. I considered letting other players add the mana during their next main phase. That version might be too weak, and this version is cleaner. Tuning might be necessary, but I like the non-standard drawback. Forceful Denial probably bends the rules in that hard counters are supposed to cost Blue ManaBlue Mana and be uncommon. I think the discard drawback and its potential in Limited are enough to push those rules. It could be constructed playable but isn't overpowered. Evolving Beast demonstrates a potential mechanic where creatures "evolve" once during the game. Flip cards and morphs do this somewhat, but this method is more explicit and opens more design space. I think of Evening the Odds as an update of Balance. It's probably Black ManaWhite Mana in modern design though I'd like it to be just white. It should be a great multiplayer card.

Aaron: Lots of likable stuff here, interesting bits of text that I've never seen before. Recurring Mania is a great red Control Magic variant, and Evolving Beast is a decent attempt to solve a problem we haven't come up with a great answer for—playing something once per game. My only regret is that Chris didn't whet my appetite with a keyword anywhere. High point: Evolving Beast. Not sure this is the perfect implementation, but I love the attempt. Low point: Communal Utopia. Seems annoying… Players would have to base decisions around the color of mana their opponent's named. Would be cute once in a while, but every turn of the game?

Devin: Chris's cards are well thought-out and seemed like they would play well. His execution often had a few mistakes, and there were not enough interesting new concepts to bring this submission above being just decent. Evening the Odds was my favorite here – I can see having fun by planning around having the right number of each kind of permanent. Evolving Beast plays too much like Morph, but without any of Morph's crucial surprise value, which made this card a weak choice for me. Recurring Mania similarly seemed like it offered gameplay not as fun and surprising as normal Blind With Angers. Forceful Denial seems too solely targeted at Spike for me to like it – trying to edge a slight piece of costing off of counter target spell, while not offering anything interesting to anyone but Spike. I suppose there's madness, but still. With Communal Utopia I feel the opponent will very rarely have anything to do with the mana. Chris, I encourage you to strike more bravely into unknown territory!

Gleemax: I'm guessing as a kid, Chris constantly played in areas that said "Off Limits".

Mark:

Communal Utopia – While I'm all for exploring mana that doesn't produce mana burn, I don't really see the point for using it on this card. It seems like it's going to create huge memory issues, especially because players are incentivised to use the non-mana burn mana last thus keeping it around longer.

Upgradeable Golem – This is the kind of card that gets Customer Service a lot of calls. I do like what Chris was trying to do but this is one of those cards that might end up being too clever for its own good.

Forceful Denial – I don't do a lot of development these days but what little development sense I have left tells me this card probably has some power issues. In general, we tend to get burned when we push the power level of counterspells. Making it one blue mana also breaks a rule we have about all hard counters (spells which counter anything with no strings attached) having double blue mana in their mana cost.

Evolving Beast – One time activations are such a simple idea yet we've never really played with them all that much in Magic design. Recognizing underutilized simple ideas is a very good skill for a designer to have and is the kind of thing that got Chris his slot in the finals. This is a good card.

Recurring Mania – I'm torn on this card. I think the design is very clever but it kind of breaks the division we've made between blue and red stealing. Blue gets the permanent stealing while red gets the temporary stealing. This card definitely keeps the ability in red's side of the pie but the overall effect (you can essential steal the creature every turn) feels more blue.

Evening the Odds – This is one of those cards that we make in early design and that almost always gets cut before design gets handed off. It's novel in that it messes with something that Magic hasn't messed with too much, but it's the kind of thing that when you play with it just feels needlessly random. I do like the design name though.


Kenneth Nagle

Norritt Current Residence: Huntsville, AL

Current occupation: System Software Engineer

What Magic set did you start with?
Ice Age.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
I can speak only for my personal demo/psychographic, the Johnny + Spike green mage. My choice for the best designed card ever is Land Grant. Though only a tiny percentage of decks can play Land Grant, it's incredibly powerful without being broken at filling its niche. It allows a few decks to exist that otherwise couldn't (2-land Belcher, 10-land Stompy), and is substantially more powerful than a Forest or even a Forest-dual at times. The leap of logic required to imagine such a design is unfathomable. Whoever thought up Land Grant is a genius.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
My favorite Magic card to play is Gifts Ungiven. Gifts is a rogue deckbuilder's dream. It substantially increases the power of playing singletons and 'analog' cards over simply playing quads of the best cards. Resolving a Gifts Ungiven is a fantastic mental battle of game scenarios for both you and your opponent. Correct Gifts packages change with every turn and every tell, and optimally piloting a complicated Gifts deck every turn of every game of every match can only be done by the elite few grandmasters of Magic. Gifts decks are, IMO, a prime example of a deck that can be stronger at 61+ cards than at 60 cards. That's how powerful Gifts Ungiven is. I feel there is no card printed past or present that scales equally to showcase a player's deckbuilding and playskill more than Gifts Ungiven.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
I am Kenneth Nagle, aka NorrYtt, Casual Green Mage Extraordinaire. I'm 26 years old, I've played Magic since Ice Age, have an entire 2 lifetime Pro points to my name, and am a Level 1 DCI Magic Judge. I have a master's in Computer Science and I'm currently employed in Huntsville, AL as a software engineer (but not for much longer!). I have the means and desire to move to Renton at my own expense being that I'm single with no children and a minimalist by nature with little to move. My grasp of the English language while writing on the subject of Magic can be found by searching for 'Nagle' at the www.StarCityGames.com article archive. In my correspondence with members of Magic R&D, I've been told by Brian Tinsman and Aaron Forsythe that my opinions are compelling.

I have been a gamer my whole life, having grown up with the computer revolution. I've beta-tested MTGO and designed my own Magic set. I feel Magic is the best game out of the myriad games I've played throughout my life. It's the only game that's continuously demanded my attention (and money) for more than a decade, which is singing huge praise for any game. With thousands of hours of play and voracious reading of Magic Internet content for years and some writing too, I'm more than eager to try my hands at designing the game I love.

On a more personal note, I am honest to a fault. I would not leak NDA information, as Magic's health is more important than popularity or bribes. My honesty has gone too far and betrayed me; for example, I have been fired for telling my boss exactly what was on my mind.

Why should I be selected? Because I'm the best candidate! Read on!

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Forestfolk (Common)
Creature Land - Treefolk Forest
2/2
(This is not a spell.)
Forestfolk is green.
Forestfolk comes into play tapped.
Tap: Add G to your mana pool.

Retracer (Uncommon)
3
Artifact
Imprint - X, Tap: Search your library for a card with converted mana cost X or less, remove it from the game, then shuffle your library.
(The removed card is imprinted on this artifact.) Imprint - Tap: Exchange target imprinted card you control with target card imprinted on Retracer. (The imprints are permanently swapped.)

Dwarven Mountaineer (Common)
1R
Creature - Dwarf Scout
1/1
When Dwarven Mountaineer comes into play, you may search your library for a Mountain card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle your library.

Grave Prejudice (Uncommon)
B
Instant
Remove all cards of the spell type of your choice in all graveyards from the game.
(The spell types are creature, land, artifact, enchantment, sorcery, and instant.) Draw a card.

Zone Defense (Rare)
2UU
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, reveal your hand and the top card of your library. If a card named Zone Defense is the top card of your library, in your hand, and in your graveyard, you win the game.

Strategic Retreat (Rare)
3WW
Sorcery
Put all white creatures on top of their owner's libraries. Then destroy all creatures.

Author's Notes:
Forestfolk - Dual spell type manland variant. Could exist solely with just a fat green mana symbol, but memory issues are solved (summoning sickness handled by CIPT clause).

Retracer - Find your optimal Imprints at your leisure. Can produce neat effects, such as imprinting Blinkmoth Infusion onto Isochron Scepter that still work rules-wise. Belongs in a block with a thorough revisitation of the Imprint mechanic. Inspired by Power Conduit.

Dwarven Mountaineer - 'Landtrip' common costed aggressively to improve Limited.

Grave Prejudice - Spike card for cheap, fast, mutual graveyard hosing, which Constructed unfortunately needs more of.

Zone Defense - Johnny can win noninteractively via blue's strength of library manipulation. Inspired by Liar's Pendulum.

Strategic Retreat - Top-down flavor design, emphasizing the white mage's military planning in "losing the battle to win the war."

Aaron: Kenneth's cards are functional but, in general, not inspired. Some of them feel like the overly-engineered cards that developers tend to put in sets to make environments play better, and I'm looking more for crazy out-of-the-box Rosewater-style designs here. He obviously understands all the needs of the game, but he should focus less on the details of implementation and more on big-picture stuff. Let development worry about the power-level of graveyard hosers. High point: Forestfolk. A nice big-picture card, although I think it's too cool to be common. Low point: Retracer. I guess I can see the appeal here, but the card is so parasitic that it took me a minute to "get it," and most players would never, ever have a use for this card.

Devin: Kenneth's had a couple of good hits that I enjoyed, and the whole thing did not have a lot of flaws. But it did not have a lot of awesomely inspiring newness either. He played it pretty safe, and a lot of the cards said to me "We really could make this card….But which players are looking for this or will be excited to get it?" Forestfolk was the coolest idea to me. I didn't understand comes into play tapped at first, but then I realized that CIPT elegantly solves the question players would otherwise have of "Does this creature land start summoning sick?" I was impressed by that solution. Retracer seems way too parasitic, even for a set with way more imprint than Mirrodin Block. Dwarven Mountaineer and Grave Prejudice, and Strategic Retreat were all a little ho-hum for me. Zone Defense is a risk to design, and I felt it paid off – it was a hit for me. Kenneth your newness and simplicity scored on Forestfolk, and your risk-taking scored for me on Zone Defense. Take more chances to be new and different, yet still simple in concept!

Gleemax: I think Kenneth takes the term "straight and narrow" a little too close to heart.

Mark:

Forestfolk – This card plays around in an area that R&D has messed around off and on for many years. I think Kenneth's version is probably a little too good, but I really like what he's trying to do. The Treefolk Forest is absolutely brilliant.

Retracer – Even in a set with lots of imprint cards this card isn't an uncommon. Cards that do nothing but play around with cards that have a certain mechanic have rare written all over them. Add to that the fact that imprint is already a little bit of a head-scratcher. This card gives me a good sense of how Kenneth's mind works. (Not a bad sign just one that says we have to watch out for overcomplication.)

Dwarven Mountaineer – I like the simplicity. I don't know how much I want to be putting landsearching, even if only for its own land type, into other colors. (Yes, yes I know landcycling did this but that was an exception and not the rule.)

Grave Prejudice – Ooh, an improved Mudhole. That card went over so well. But make this card rare and stick it in a set that specifically cares about the graveyard and it would be fine.

Zone Defense – This is an interesting alt win card. A sign that Kenneth's paying attention to design is that he made it trigger at the beginning of upkeep to allow the opponent a chance to deal with it (important for alt win cards). The only change I would make is to have all the reveals be non-mandatory.

Strategic Retreat – Cute, I like it. It even has cool flavor.


Andrew Probasco

Brass_Man Current Residence: Tiverton, RI

Current occupation: Card player, socialite, amature independant filmmaker

What Magic set did you start with?
Revised

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Meddling Mage, more so than Null Chamber because it's playable. I like cards that force interactivity and reward unconventional choices.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Gifts Ungiven, both because it's won me more tournaments than any other card, and because it compresses so many decisions into 4 itty-bitty mana.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Andy Probasco, but as long I've been playing competitive Vintage I've been known almost exclusively as Brass Man. Randy Buehler has actually met me before, and former magicthegathering.com editor Ted Knutson is an excellent character reference, but I'm sure you want to hear about me from me. Some writing I've done for Star City Games can be found at http://www.starcitygames.com/php/news/archive.php?Article=Andy+Probasco.

I've been playing casual magic since Revised, but got myself hooked on Vintage right before it exploded in popularity around Onslaught block. I'll play any way I can, however, and many of my local friends play casual magic variants like 'Type Four' and 'Cube' drafts almost exclusively. Though I enjoy playing those casual games just to kick back and clear my head, I've found that thinking about the game from different perspectives helps your competitive play tremendously.

A while back, Wizards started hiring Pro Tour players because they needed a new perspective on card design. All things considered, Tournament Vintage and Legacy is a relatively new phenomenon. R&D doesn't currently design cards specifically for Eternal, and that makes sense to me. Not only are Eternal players a relatively small portion of the Magic-playing population, but Legacy and Vintage have been getting plenty of playable cards in recent sets without anyone working specifically on it. Be that as it may, being one of the most experienced and well-known Eternal players has given me an entirely different way of looking at Magic cards. I'm positive that this will translate directly into fresh creative energy for Design, which is exactly what you're looking for.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Pristine Lake (common)
Land
[CARDNAME] comes into play tapped.
WT: add UU to your mana pool.
UT: add WW to your mana pool.

Ceremonial Armor (common)
G
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted Creature gains +1/+1
G, Reveal [CARDNAME], discard a card: put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. Play this ability only if [CARDNAME] is in your hand, and only any time you could play a sorcery.

Infernal Contest (rare)
1B
Sorcery
Search your library for a card and remove it from the game face down. Target opponent chooses a card type. Reveal the removed card, if it is not of the chosen type, put that card into your hand.

Unstable Essence (uncommon)
2W
Creature – Spirit
4/5
Whenever [CARDNAME] deals damage to a player, that player gains that much life.
Whenever [CARDNAME] deals damage to a creature, that creature's controller gains that much life.

Quetzal Headdress (rare)
4
Artifact
3T: remove target card in an opponent's graveyard from the game. You may play that card this turn.

Recommission (uncommon)
3UR
Instant
Untap target creature and gain control of it until end of turn. That creature gains Haste until end of turn.
At end of turn, return that creature to owner's hand.

Infernal Constest here is my favorite, though I could see it being pushed up a mana. The mechanic really forces a player to get inside his opponent's head, and adds an entertaining and skill testing bluff/counterbluff element ("He must know I know what card he needs to get, right? But does he know I know he knows?"). Though the bluff mechanic isn't new, I think Infernal Contest is a better balance between card power and fun. Unstable Essence is a card that Johnny will drool over, but is also interesting to Limited players as a blocker. Cards that appeal to both of those player types are rare, but Unstable Essence seems to do that. Ceremonial Armor is an attempt at a Spellshaper that stays in your hand instead of on the board. It may be a little complex for a common as worded, but assigned a keyword ability, it could easily fit in that slot.

Aaron: I like Andrew's cards, although only one of them—Ceremonial Armor—is something I'd call truly ambitious. It's kind of like a Spellshaper that casts Battlegrowth, except it lives in your hand—pretty neat and definitely worth exploring further. The rest of his cards are solid, although if any of them were in a file that crossed my desk I doubt they'd make me sit up and take notice. High point: Infernal Contest. Not a particularly new idea, but a great execution. Would make for some fun "sub-games." Low point: Unstable Essence. A 4/5 "Wall" for 2 ManaWhite Mana would have real unfortunate consequences in Limited play, gumming up the game immensely. Not worth whatever upside he's imagining. Just thinking about it makes me twitch.

Devin: One of the best submissions. Almost every card did something new, expressed in a simple way, that created interesting decisions in gameplay. That is basically straight-up the formula for successful designs. Pristine Lake is good and new enough for common. Ceremonial Armor is a cool twist on spellshapers and buyback and forecast. Infernal Contest is a fun minigame. Quetzal Headdress is a cool Muse Vessel/Grinning Totem variant, though too powerful. Backwards Flesh Reaver was fine. Recomission was a combination that fit well. All hits, good creativity, and no misses, makes this a very solid submission. To get even better, please do more cards that hint at whole mechanics or set themes to show you can do that too, like you do with Ceremonial Armor. Nice work.

Gleemax: Andrew seems to enjoy being clever for the sake of being clever.

Mark:

Pristine Lake – Interesting. Not common, but interesting. Also, I don't think this card has to come into play tapped.

Ceremonial Armor – Again, not common. My biggest problem with this card is that there is very little incentive to ever play the card. The reveal effect (because its reusable) is just stronger than what you get for playing the card. The aura part of the card wants to grant a bigger power/toughness boost to entice you to play it.

Infernal Contest – I like this card. It creates interesting decisions for both players. My only squabble with it , and it's a small one, is the template makes it sound like you don't reveal the card unless its not of the chosen type (yes, I see the comma).

Unstable Essence – This card seems problematic. You get a bigger creature for cheap but you can't attack with it without silly sacrifice tricks. I don't like cards that don't make sense to the average player (especially at common and uncommon).

Quetzal Headdress – Interesting. I'm not sure if I would want this effect to be so easily repeatable.

Recommission – Not very splashy but a solid design.


Ryan Sutherland

Telepathy Current Residence: Spring, TX

Current occupation: Student and Customer Service Supervisor

What Magic set did you start with?
Well, my first set to get cards for was Fallen Empires, but I didn't actually learn how to play until Stronghold.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Off the top of my head I love Rise // Fall. Heck, if I had to choose just one, Rise is one of my favorite effects and I'm surprised it hasn't been done before.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Nothing says loving like resolving a Fact or Fiction. I love the decisions that both parties have to make.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
Hello, I'm Ryan Sutherland and frankly, somebody at Wizards owes me one.

I'm a twenty-two year old student living in a suburb of North Houston. I've played Magic for about twelve years now, although I don't think that I require compensation for any of these reasons.

No, you see eight years ago, when looking for a new online screen name, I decided on the name OniSlave based on a show I used to watch. Imagine my surprise when in 2005 your organization decided to print one Raving Oni-Slave. If there's one thing you need to know about me before reading my essays it's that I am not raving and I'm tired of being treated as such.

So why do I feel I would be a good fit for this internship?

The answer is that game design is my dream job. I accept the odds are wholly against me to get a job in the career field since it's not a job market that is demanding applicants in droves, but that doesn't mean that it isn't my true passion. Creating new games is what gets my blood pumping and when I found out I could get a chance, however miniscule it is, to become a part of the game that got me interested in the field, I had to jump at it.

It's a bit daunting thinking about how many other applicants I must be going up against, and perhaps disheartening thinking I may have written 3,000 words in vain. Despite these misgivings, the only thing worse than losing a few hours to a fruitless endeavor would be to never take the chance to achieve this goal. When it comes to achieving your dream, whether it is a job, a love or just a lifelong goal, then you should spare no amount of hard work or perseverance.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Birchlore Copse (uncommon)
Land
1, T: Add GG to your mana pool.
Elfcycling 1G (1G, Discard this card: Search your library for an Elf card, reveal it and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.)

Deceitful Tutor (rare)
1B
Sorcery
Search your library for a card, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library. Then target opponent names a card. Reveal your hand and discard all copies of the named card.

Fervent Militia(common)
3RW
Creature - Human Soldiers
3/3
Haste, First Strike
If you have played no spells this game, Fervent Militia costs 2 less to play.

Rank Out (common)
G
Instant
Untap target creature. That creature must block this turn.
Dualcast (At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may put a copy of Rank Out on the stack.)

Spellscribing (rare)
2UU
Enchantment
Whenever an instant or sorcery is put into a graveyard, remove that card from the game.
Whenever Spellscribing is put into a graveyard from play, put a copy of each spell removed from the game by Spellscribing onto the stack.

Hurloon Gemstone (uncommon)
3
Artifact
T: Hurloon Gemstone deals 2 damage to target creature you control.
Whenever Hurloon Gemstone becomes tapped, add RR to your mana pool.

For my card design portfolio, I set up several goals for myself along with addressing the different player psychographics and Constructed/Limited play.

More than anything, I wanted to apply what I said I would change in Magic by creating cards that interact with opponents more (Deceitful Tutor). For the rest of my portfolio, finding the right cards to represent all of the remaining aspects of design was more challenging than actually constructing the cards themselves. I wanted to address new design space through keywords, both creating new ones (Dualcast) and tweaking the old ones (Elfcycling). My final task was to create original card effects (Spellscribing) and other cards that could spread out into cycles or themes in future sets (Hurloon Gemstone and Fervent Militia). To me, finding the balance between familiar concepts and new possibilities is the most alluring aspect of the design process.

Aaron: Ryan's cards are certainly exciting, and if I found them in booster packs I opened, I'd love to try them out. My big concern with the cards—and this is significant—is that a lot of his cards are cool because they are so aggressively costed. I'm pretty sure there's no way we'd print Spellscribing at four mana, so would it be as cool at six or seven? Maybe. Similarly, Fervent Militia seems awesome because it tries to tiptoe the fine line of aggressive costing, but that is something that developers have to put through the wringer. But all in all, a great batch. High point: Fervent Militia. A really cool drawback that makes you really think hard about how many cards like that should be in your deck. After all, only one can be the first spell played. Low point: Rank Out. You have to remember to do it, and even then the fact that the card plays so differently on each player's turn makes the card too "cute" for me.

Devin: Ryan earned my top pick for best submission so far. Each card was relatively simple in text and focused in concept, and almost every one made me think "Hmm, how would that play? I'd have to think about this…and this…and I haven't made these choices before." A land that elfcycles is a good twist on creatures that landcycle. Deceitful Tutor would yield interesting decisions. Fervent Militia poses an interesting question to deckbuilders of "Is it worth it to play nothing on turns 1 or 2 to play something good on turn 3?" It's the same question posed by Birds of Paradise and Rampant Growth, but in a new way. Rank Out faces rules issues, and it's not the effect I would put on this keyword because it's not clear that provoking two turns in a row is something that a player consistently wants to do, but the dualcast keyword is a good idea that could yield a bunch of interesting cards. Spellscribing seemed really fun to build around, and also has a good ‘press your luck' element asking "How many spells do you want to stack up before you crack up?" Good flavor there too. All in all, the interesting choices posed to players by these cards made sure that of all the submissions I graded from 1 to 10, this earned my only 10.

Gleemax: I don't have much negative to say about Ryan. Definitely one of the best card design submissions.

Mark:

Birchlore Copse – I think both halves of this card are interesting. Good job.

Deceitful Tutor – Very clever. I love how much gameplay is crammed into a very basic concept.

Fervent Militia – I like the restriction. I'm a little worried that it might be too good, but hey that's development's problem.

Rank Out – I believe as written that this card's effects go on forever. Being that's this is a common and a keyword I'll assume it just repeats once the next turn.

Spellscribing – I'm glad this is rare. I like it. It tickles my inner Johnny. I enjoy the fact that you have to destroy it to "set it off".

Hurloon Gemstone – My problem with this card is that because the red mana comes from it being tapped and the negative effect only comes from using the activation that it might be too easy (using effects that tap artifacts) to just get mana out of the amulet. It seems like the point of the artifact is that you have to damage your own creature to get the mana. I would have tied them closer together. Other than that, this card is interesting.


Scott van Essen

Prodigal_Sorcerer Current Residence: Pasadena, CA

Current occupation: Aerospace Systems Engineer (rocket scientist).

What Magic set did you start with?
I started playing in Tempest block and Fourth Edition, but that was mostly with a friend's cards. The first cards I bought for myself were from Urza block.

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Shambling Shell. Nobody illustrates the beauty of Dredge better or more simply than this little guy.

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Repeal, even though I'm a Green mage at heart. I just love being able to play bounce without card disadvantage.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
Hello,

My name is Scott Van Essen, and I'm a gamer. But you knew that, because I'm your target audience, and you know me. In fact, there are lots of things about me that are going to be exactly what you expect.

Let's look at a few of them.

Hardcore gamer for 20 years? Check.
Wall full of games at home? Check.
Really good at games? Beat my friends most of the time? Win against experienced people in games I've never played before? Triple check.
Played Magic for 10 years? Read Magic articles almost every day, including every episode of "Making Magic" and "Latest Developments"? Yup.
Design Magic cards in my spare time? You know the drill.
Design my own games? Five in work.

Tomorrow morning, you're going to be reading 10,000 variations on the above, so let me tell you what's different about me.

I am a 32 year old renaissance man.
I have a BS and an MS in Applied Physics from Caltech.
My club volleyball team came within 3 inches of beating Harvard's division I team.
After school, I decided to become a professional unemployed musician.
It didn't work, I got a job as a rocket scientist.
I have written over 40 original songs.
I absorb new skills at an amazing rate. At my job, I'm a software engineer, a systems engineer, an electrical engineer, quality assurance, and IT (we're very small). All of it I learned "on the job"
I've climbed the tallest mountain in Norway.
I wrote the soundtrack for an award-wining short film.
Systems engineering is about making different systems play together nicely.
I'm engaged to a Hollywood screenwriter.
I sometimes perform improv comedy. That's where I met her.
She's very supportive. She said she'll move up to Seattle if I get a job with Wizards. Plus, she loves magic.
I'm a very lucky guy.

Working for Magic Design is my dream job. I've got all the tools to be a success and the passion to make it work.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Vault of Daydreams (Uncommon)
Legendary Land
Your maximum hand size is 1.
T: Add U to your mana pool.
UU, T: Draw a card

Entrap (Common)
W
Instant
Creatures that dealt damage to you this turn don't untap during their controller's next untap phase.

Scavenging Hyena (Uncommon)
1G
Creature - Hyena
1/1
T: If target creature would go to the graveyard this turn, remove it from the game instead. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME.
G: Untap CARDNAME. Play this ability only once per turn.

Dancing Flame (Common)
2R
Sorcery
CARDNAME deals 3 damage to target creature or player.
Replay R (While this spell is on the stack, you may pay R. If you do, remove it from the game, then put it on top of the stack. You may choose new targets for it.)

Corrupting Pact (Rare)
2BB
Enchantment
CARDNAME is indestructible.
Cumulative Upkeep BB
Creatures you control get +2/-1
You can't lose the game.
When CARDNAME leaves play, lose 4 life for each age counter on it.

Soul Mirror (Rare)
5
Artifact
4, T: Put a token into play that's a copy of target nonlegendary creature. If an effect would deal damage to one of them it deals that damage to both of them instead. If an effect would destroy one of them it destroys both of them instead.

"Vault of Daydreams" gives the Blue player the robust repeatable card drawing he wants, while adding tension by limiting his ability to play on his opponent's turn. "Entrap" I found looking for effects that punished attackers. "Scavenging Hyena" is a green card that grows from eating dead creatures, but doesn't feel black. The replacement effect on dying creatures was key to that, and untapping allows a larger Hyena to attack yet still eat its prey. I've always wanted a spell that let me change my mind after casting it. Thus was born "Dancing Flames" and "Replay". "Corrupting Pact" is cast easily, but eventually kills you and feels like selling your soul. It must be powerful enough to play without being degenerate. Reducing your creatures' toughness helps this by making fast weenies less viable. "Soul Mirror" was inspired by the Corsican Twins, who could always feel each other's pain.

Aaron: Most of Scott's cards bug me for one reason or another, which isn't a great recipe for getting things to stay in sets that I'm developing. Vault of Daydreams—a rare if I ever saw one—has too much tension to make it attractive to anyone. Scavenging Hyena is a very complex and fidgety way to make a Khabal Ghoul variant. The "replay" ability on Dancing Flame is generally only useful in response to opponents' actions, which makes it almost impossible to build around. And Corrupting Pact has too many negatives built in for it to ever be "likable." High point: Soul Mirror. Probably some issues here with keeping track of what tokens are what and what they're linked to, but it seems like a really fun card. Low point: Corrupting Pact. Way too much going on here, and most of it is bad. Platinum Angel this ain't.

Devin: Scott scored extremely impressively on the multiple choice quiz, and his "introduce myself" essay is my favorite of all the finalists'. On his card designs, I saw some cool ideas, but a lot of problems. There were too many worse-designed versions of cards we have already made and too much excessive complication. Together, these problems made this one of the weakest finalist design submissions for me. Vault of Daydreams is like Grafted Skullcap or Bottled Cloister…but lacks conviction in its drawback being "vastly reduced handsize", but backing off from the drawback by giving you handsize one. Being a costless land instead of something you have to invest mana in also made me sad. There is a little tension in the mana activation versus using your mana to play spells, but it just seemed liked a worse-designed version of Skullcap to me. Similarly, the design of the already printed Spore Cloud seems way better than this Entrap for me. Replay is way too complicated for common, forcing players to talk about the stack while many players don't know what the stack is. On Corrupting Pact, the Platinum Angel ability and the Flowstone Surge ability and the Phyrexian Etchings abilities have nothing to do with each other, and being indestructible has nothing to do with the rest of the card. Corrupting Pact has 5 abilities, and many have nothing to do with each other – That is a big negative for me. Scavenging Hyena is a cool card with good flavor and cute appeal. Soul Mirror was a very cool idea executed well. I hope in future rounds Scott designs lots of Hyenas and Mirrors and avoids the other 4 cards!

Gleemax: Scott seems to suffer from the result of trying too hard. He needs to learn the value of "less is more".

Mark:

Vault of Daydreams – I don't think I'd do a card that says "You're maximum hand size is 1" at uncommon. With that out of the way, there is something interesting going on here. I like the tension at play.

Entrap – Simple but efficient. I like.

Scavenging Hyena – I like the first ability. You did a pretty good job of making something black feel green. The second ability hasn't been part of green's color pie since the early days.

Dancing Flame – Once again, there are a number of major no no's in design. Messing with the stack is one of them. The rules manager will kill this card so fast, he'd leave skid marks.

Corrupting Pact – This card seems to want to do so much all at once. This card would improve if you lost an ability or two.

Soul Mirror – I like what you're trying to do here. My guess is that there's a better way to execute this. For example, rather than replacing the damage why not create a triggered effect that deals damage to the other copy.


Noah Weil

Cao_Cao_Lord_of_Wei Current Residence: Seattle, WA

Current occupation: Columnist and coverage reporter for magicthegathering.com.

What Magic set did you start with?
Revised, 1994

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Decimate

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
The hideously broken Firestorm, with Raven Familiar a close second.

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Noah Weil and I've been a Magic player for 12 years. I've competed in over 3,500 sanctioned events and met thousands of incredible people. I've devoted countless hours to Magic, simply because I love the game. I fiercely want Magic to succeed on the casual, tournament level, and especially the global level. I believe Magic has what it takes to do that, and I feel my unique experiences can help Wizards of the Coast get there. I continue to devote energy into my job and the gaming community, all to improve the understanding and enjoyment for the people who play it.

Right now I'm a writer for magicthegathering.com, StarCityGames.com, and work with the coverage teams for various Pro Tours and Grand Prix. Those positions were the direct result of studying the game in detail. Through research, discourse with my fellow gamers, and my own experiences, I continue to refine my understanding of how this incredible game ticks. It's an ongoing process, but I feel I have had some success, as evidenced by these accomplishments within the industry. I also continue to learn new ways to interact with other players, making me a more effective writer. That extends to being able to work with the community in determining what the players look for, what they like, and just as importantly, what they don't. I continue to strive to improve myself as a player and in my official capacities with Wizards of the Coast.

This also translates to talent within the design sphere of R&D. Speaking as someone who's been a player at every level, I feel I have a strong handle on what makes a good set or mechanic or card. Do I design my own cards? Yes I do and have published the results, although this has been an opportunity to play with my friends more than anything else. Still, every time we've had a design party, my cards have been considered interesting and fun. These practical exercises, combined with my connection and passion for the game, would make me an ideal candidate for this internship.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Seal of Potential (Common)
1
Artifact
T, Sacrifice Seal of Potential: All lands you control become the basic land type of your choice until end of turn.

Miasmatic Troops (Common)
BB
Creature-Zombie Soldier
2/2
Whenever Miasmatic Troops attacks, it gains +1/+0 and you lose 1 life.

Nature//Nurture (Rare, split card)
Nature
1GR
Sorcery
Put two 2/2 Red and Green Cat tokens into play
---
Nurture
1GW
Sorcery
Put two +1/+1 counters on each token creature you control.

Seismic Stride (Uncommon)
2RR
Enchantment-Aura
Enchant creature.
Enchanted creature loses flying.
Whenever enchanted creature attacks, Seismic Stride deals 4 damage to each creature without flying.

Æther Chasm (Uncommon)
UU3
Instant
Counter target spell. If you do you may return target permanent, if it shared a card type with the countered spell, to its owner's hand.

Excavations of Remorse (Rare)
Land
T: Add (1) to your mana pool
T: Add (3) to your mana pool. Use this ability only if you have 3 or less life.

My primary goal was to create interesting and flexible cards. I specifically avoided new mechanics or serious rule tweaks. I chose to make six cards that were applicable in any block, with varying power levels depending on the needs of a particular set. For example, Miasmatic Troops is either average or very good depending on the number of Bears in a set. Nature & Nurture depends on how many token makers there are. Excavations of Remorse could be a star player in a set where "life matters". Should that card be determined overpowered, I'd add "comes into play tapped", although I believe the original version is worth exploring. I've made sure each player type was represented over these cards, with Nature & Nurture and the Seal definitely crossing multiple types. I'm proud of these submissions. These show my capabilities at producing powerful, interesting cards, cards that remain elegant and flavorful.

Aaron: Noah didn't stick his neck out, choosing to submit six cards I know we could print as opposed to one or two that we could build a set around coupled with four that we might reject. Any one of these cards could easily be in any modern Magic set. Now that the record shows that Noah understands balance, costing, the color pie, and all the other less glamorous rules that cards must adhere to before seeing print, I hope he'll flex his creative muscles more in the upcoming contests. High point: Seismic Stride. Nice and red, and has some very interesting decisions—for both players—built into it. Low point: None of them really had anything wrong with them, so I'll say Excavations of Remorse. I really dislike cards that promote mana burn (even though we keep making them), and this is begging to be abused in such a way.

Devin: These cards are very reasonable and produce effects in a different way than we've ever quite done before. I could see us printing several of them. However, they are not exploratory enough or new enough to be among the better submissions. They don't break any rules at all, which makes them safe, but we need more risk-taking and rule-breaking to take us into new areas. These cards are all functional, but they do not get me thinking about mechanics, sets, block or themes – they are almost all self-contained. While making self-contained cards is useful, sowing the seeds of larger mechanics or sets is much more useful to us. Nature/Nurture is my favorite – both cards stand well on their own and they combine to create a cool synergy. Several cards were not new enough for me and don't show as much innovation as other finalists. Seismic Stride is a variant of Rupture, while Miasmatic Troops is a variant of Wretched Anurid, Carnophage, etc., and Seal of Potential is similar to Mana Cylix. We definitely do variants of all those cards quite often, but in terms of "using this submission to show what you can do that the other finalists cannot," these non-stretching cards do not do as well as other finalists' more risky, innovative, off-the-beaten-path designs.

Gleemax: Remarkable in its lack of being remarkable. Everything is solid but woefully safe.

Mark:

Seal of Potential – We're always on the look out for common color fixers. The only tweak I might add is to change the numbers so you can cantrip the effect. This will make it easier for more players to put it into their deck.

Miasmatic Troops – My only issue with this card is that I'm not a fan of double mana (especially at such a low converted mana cost) at common. I'm play with the numbers to be able to make this 1 ManaBlack Mana or 2 ManaBlack Mana.

Nature/Nurture – I think I would have liked this submission better if it had just been Nurture. Nature, by the way, doesn't feel rare, although Nurture does. I do like the synergy between the two effects. Also, a tiny point which really doesn't impact on the design critique, split card names are all set up to be blank & blank. Nature & Nurture is not an expression.

Seismic Stride – I like how this card can be played on both players' creatures under the right circumstances.

Aether Chasm – Cute. Nothing splashy but functional.

Excavations of Remorse – My biggest problems with effects that care about life is the existence of mana burn. With it, it's just too easy to get your life low. As such, I tend to avoid these types of effects. If the game didn't have mana burn (and yes, I'd remove it if I had the power – don't worry though, I don't), this would be a fine card.

Aaron Weiner

Aphetto_Alchemist_crop Current Residence: Chicago, Illinois

Current occupation: Student

What Magic set did you start with?
Fourth Edition

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Lightning Storm

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Ray of Command

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
Why Aaron Weiner is an automatic first pick:

  • I have a low mana cost. I come into the game as early as 1995-admittedly, you need to use an unlikely combination of an early fascination with card games and a school chess club that drifts from its mandate to accelerate that fast, but it has been done.
  • I'm difficult to get rid of. Once I come into play, I never phase out and cannot be the target of outside responsibilities that would cause me to leave play. Most of the midgame I'm playing casually, but I become intimately familiar with every Magic set and often fall asleep at night reading Inquest, The Duelist, or the Magic Encyclopedia.
  • In the late game, I end up exerting some influence over every zone. I'm strongest in Limited FNMs and prerelease tournaments, and I also contribute to Misetings and the Magic Lampoon. In one memorable story, I enter a constructed PTQ with a bizarre deck of my own design and win 3 matches by playing Psychotic Fury and Blazing Shoal splicing Desperate Ritual on Wee Dragonauts and Dimir Infiltrator and attacking for 20-30 damage. I recruit several other players to the game and read wizards.com every midnight.
  • I have the valuable 'designer' creature type. I've designed hundreds of cards; I do it to relax. I create innovative concepts, have designed 2 fan sets, and have won card design contests on fan websites. I'm a game theory student at the University of Chicago and have designed several other games that I play with friends.
  • I have a strong fantasy flavor. I come into play as an avid fantasy and science fiction reader and writer. With enough creatures like me in play, I can be an effective Dungeon Master, always writing my own adventures. Last summer, Tor Books played me to good effect, using me to edit juvenile and young adult fantasy and write advertising copy.
  • Tor Books can testify that I have good synergy with other creatures and am very reliable. You'll want to keep me in your deck.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Birnam Dryads (rare)
Legendary Land—Forest
Birnam Dryads comes into play with 4 +1/+1 counters.
Trample, forestwalk

Bloodflower Vine (common)
G
Creature—Plant
1/1
Dormant 10 (This creature can't attack or block unless it has 10 or more +1/+1 counters.) At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on Bloodflower Vine.
All creatures have trample.

Legalized Gambling (uncommon)
UR
Sorcery
Choose a creature type and put a stake counter on each creature of that type.
Flip a coin.
Trickery o3 (You may pay o3 in addition to any other cost as you play this spell. If you do, reverse the order of these effects.)
At end of turn, if you flipped heads, return each creature with a stake counter to its owner's hand. If you flipped tails, return each creature without a stake counter to its owner's hand, then remove all stake counters from all creatures.

Degradation (common)
2B
Enchantment—Aura
Enchant tapped creature
(When enchanted creature becomes untapped, put Degradation in its owner's graveyard.) At the end of each turn, enchanted creature's controller loses 3 life and you gain 3 life.

Zaqiel's Law (uncommon)
2WW
Instant
Remove target nonwhite creature or enchantment from the game.
If a creature is put into your graveyard from play while Zaqiel's Law is on the stack, flip it.
//
Zaqiel, Angel of Purity
Legendary Creature—Angel
4/4
Flying, vigilance
You can't play nonwhite spells.

Helm of Shortsightedness (rare)
5
Artifact
Any time an opponent chooses whether to mulligan and Helm of Shortsightedness is in your hand, you may remove it and another card in your hand from the game. If you do, that opponent makes the opposite choice instead.
Players can't pay costs during upkeeps.

Flavor: Bloodflower Vine is representative of a major set mechanic where seemingly innocuous plants (often with alchemical uses) slowly grow until they become animate and take over the world for Gaea. You can temporarily Degrade a creature while it's weakened, but a creature that is perpetually tapped is vulnerable to greater humiliation. Calling on Zaqiel might grant you her power or her presence, depending on whether something catches her attention.
Mechanics: Players often don't look at their hands while their opponents decide whether to mulligan. The Helm messes with that. Degradation is best placed as a hoser in a set full of optional-untap creatures, but also can be built around (Frozen Solid, Stasis) or used as a one-shot drain.
The Dormant mechanic gives green the win condition of "keep yourself and your creatures alive." Zaqiel's flip is costed as a slight drawback because opponents can trigger it inconveniently.

Aaron: This batch has issues. A lot of the cards are splashy on paper (or try to be), but would probably not be well-received once released into the real world. Birnam Dryads would be derided as "useless" by most of the audience, and they'd be pretty close to right. There's only one thing to do with the card—animate it—and when you do, no one will applaud your cleverness. Bloodflower Vine is a nutty common that won't do anything in 90% of the games it's played in, and will outright win the other 10%. Legalized Gambling is a giant mess of complicated subtlety. Degradation feels like a really complicated way of making a Syphon Soul variant with different ramifications in large multiplayer games. The flip card is in no way an uncommon, and the Helm of Shortsightedness seems like a card only real jerks could love—"No land? Too bad, you're keeping it!" High point: Assuming the flip card was rare, there's a gem of an idea there. Low point: Legalized Gambling. How about: "Kicker 3—You win the flip."

Devin: To his credit, Aaron has shown he can make a lot of subtle, clever designs. To his detriment, Aaron's designs are way way too complicated, and to be honest way way too subtle. None of the cards seem like they do anything the first time you read them, and you have to read each one like 3 times. There's often a spark of something cool, but that cool thing is not sufficient payoff to slog through all the complication and bizarre "This card doesn't do anything….but look it does something!" loops of logic. It would take any of my coworkers several reads of Legalized Gambling to figure it out what it's supposed to do, and casual or novice players would have no chance. And also it's 86 words with 3 line breaks, while Errant Ephemeron clogs the text box with 50 words and just one line break. Legalized Gambling is not close to fitting on a card. And with all this complexity it's submitted at uncommon! There is a pretty cool idea buried under all this complexity, but it's not enough to make these loops worth it.

Similarly, Birnam Dryads, Bloodflower Vine, and Degradation all require their user to jump through a billion crazy hoops to make them work. A set can take some hoop jumping cards, but they need to be simpler than this. Dissension's Earth Surge is also weird and requires lots of hoop-jumping to make it do anything, but its text is short and simple, and you only need to read it once to understand what it does. Helm of Shortsightedness also seems like a huge mistake, in that it increases mana screw for opponents in a very frustrating way, forcing them to play no-land games that will not ever be fun for either player. Aaron, I really need you to tone down the craziness, focus in much more tightly on the core of what you want the card to do, and jettison all the excess complexity that is not helping the card do what it needs to do. You definitely have some interesting ideas, but you're asking too much of Magic players in jumping through too many hoops for too little payoff.

Gleemax: Aaron must not have had blocks as a child because he seems unable to avoid playing with the stack. Also, I'm an unfeeling alien brain and even I think Helm of Short-Sightedness is too mean to print.

Mark:

Birnam Dryads – This is the kind of card that confuses the average player. It has +1/+1 counters and has two creature abilities. Of course, it's a creature. Points for being bold, but you lose a few points for needlessly confusing players.

Bloodflower Vine – Ten is too high a number. If I wait ten turns, I'd better be winning the game. An 11/11 trampler isn't enough of a payoff. Also, I don't think dormant is worthy of being a keyword.

Legalized Gambling – As I stated above, spells that manipulate the stack are a big no-no in design. Points for cleverness in having the spell work differently depending on the order. Also, this card is not an uncommon. The needed font size along should point you to rare.

Degradation – My first thought when I saw this card was that you were trying to make a multiplayer card. But reading your explanation, I realized that you were hoping to punish cards that stay perpetually tapped. That is a tiny subset so I think this card's goal is a little misplaced. What might be more interesting is that the card doesn't get destroyed but only triggers if the creature is tapped at the beginning of your upkeep. I did enjoy that it could only enchant a tapped creature.

Zaquiel's Law – Once again, messing with the stack isn't something we do. (Yeah, yeah we made split second – but at least that messes with it by not messing with it.) I do like the flavor of white punishing nonwhite.

Helm of Short-SightednessMagic's mana system is fundamental to the game, but it comes at a cost. Mulligans exist to lessen the games where it's decided by mana screw. Don't mess with the part of the game that only exists to remove bad experiences. If this card is played it is because it's making more unfun games of Magic. Be lucky you had other things going for you because this is a bad design.


Landon Winkler

Lord_of_the_Undead Current Residence: Peoria, Illinois

Current occupation: Technical Support (2nd Level)

What Magic set did you start with?
Legends

What is your favorite design of a Magic card?
Fact or Fiction

What is your favorite Magic card to play?
Thallid

Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Landon Winkler. I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and currently live in Peoria, Illinois, working in technical support. At the present, I live with my fiance and two cats. She shouldn't have any difficulties relocating, as she works at Starbucks, although the cats will probably be grumpy. I've been playing Magic on and off since Legends, but have always kept up on the game.

I'm a good fit for the internship because I design games and cards constantly, taking inspiration from everything going on around me. Few things are more enjoyable for me than finding an elegant mechanic to fit some story point, game need, or natural process. At the same time, my jobs have trained me to search for novel solutions and always determine exactly what's being requested before charging forward.

One of the things that always excited me about CCGs in particular is the way the players and individual cards interact to create a metagame. It's such an organic process; a difference in one card or one player can totally change the metagame and other players' experience with the game. That process is something I watch in every CCG I can find, even the one's I don't play, just to see how it evolves with different rules, cards, and players.

At the present, my professional design experience is wrapped up in a d20 supplement titled Secret Societies, which should be showing up in print around the end of October. If nothing else, this project really taught me how to explain how I design things, so I could show others to design and use secret societies as I do in my games. Most of my CCG design is tied up in a game named War of Shadows, which I started shortly after picking up Legends. It moved from a pale copy of Magic, through several phases of copying other games, and now is its own creation. I've had the opportunity to hand it off to others, creating local metagames, which is probably my proudest moment as a designer.

Submissions for Card Design Challenge:

Conclave Duelist (Common)
2 {W/G}
Creature – Elf Soldier
2/2
When Conclave Duelist becomes blocked by exactly one creature, it gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

Cyclopean Ruins (Uncommon)
Land
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
T, Remove three cards in your graveyard from the game: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Goblin Swarming (Rare)
RR
Enchantment
All goblins have haste.
When there are five or more goblins in play, sacrifice Goblin Swarming. If you do, destroy all goblins and all lands.

Selection Engine (Rare)
5
Artifact
Players play with the top cards of their libraries revealed.
2: Put the top card of your library into your graveyard. Any player may play this ability.

Volrath's Game (Common)
U
Instant
Buyback 2UU
Target opponent looks at the top five cards of his or her library and puts one of them back on top of his or her library, then puts the rest in his or her graveyard.

Wicked Prophecy (Uncommon)
2BB
Sorcery – Arcane
While Wicked Prophecy is on the stack, all non-spirit creatures get – 1/-1.
Target player sacrifices a creature.

When presented with broad assignments, I always restrict myself somehow. In this case, I decided to take the "six different blocks" rule very literally. I created a sizable slush pile, then narrowed it down to these six. The inspiration for each card came from a different source (from top-down design to Ashnod's Cylix), but share the common thread of encouraging interesting choices without terribly complex text. Although I don't believe every card should present deep choices, those choices are the center of my design style.

Aaron: Landon took the "six different blocks" instruction to heart in a different way than Alexis did—by making cards that could go in six existing blocks. Granted, he didn't show off any new keyword ideas—which I hope to see in the future—but all of his cards are rock-solid. Even with no new keywords, he manages to find some new design space, like the "while on the stack" clause on Wicked Prophecy. High point: Conclave Duelist. Just a really neat common for Limited. Additional props for making a hybrid card. Low point: Selection Engine. Just too darned boring for me, especially as a rare. Not only does it read boring, but it probably plays boring too, with each player knowing what the other has drawn and spending tons of time and mana digging every turn.

Devin: Landon does a good job of exploring potential drawbacks on cards that you can build around, effectively negating the drawback or turning it to your advantage, which is a classically great thing for Magic designs to do. However, this submission suffered from having too many unfocused cards that did multiple things that had nothing to do which each other. Too many cards had individual flaws, and on the whole the submission was not very inspiring or exciting to me. Goblin Swarming and Wicked Prophecy each do two things that have nothing to do with each other. Effective designs are usually more focused, expressing one pure purpose with all the abilities linked in service to that one purpose. Wicked Prophecy talks about the stack, which many casual Magic players honestly do not know exists. Cyclopean Ruins and Selection Engine both heavily encourage players to self-mill their own decks, which players really hate to do. I very much admired Conclave Duelist, which has a cool, simple, combat ability we have never done before and which would play well and make for simple and interesting combat decisions.

Gleemax: Landon seems to see a correlation between a card's rarity and how broken it is.

Mark:

Conclave Duelist – A very nice hybrid design. (Although white/green is the easiest combination to do.)

Cyclopean Ruins – I'm not sure whether this would be uncommon or rare, but I like the design.

Goblin Swarming – If you're going to have a negative this big, I think you'd want something a little more tempting than all goblins gain haste (especially seeing that the effect already exists on a pretty good card). The real problem with this card though is that it's secretly an Armageddon for goblin decks. (There are enough goblin token makers that this shouldn't be too tough to use.) Goblin decks don't need Armageddon.

Selection Engine – I'm confused by what your intent here is. Do you want any player to be able to mill any player, do you want players to mill only themselves or do you want anyone just to mill you (that's what's written). The third one seems like a horrible effect for five mana. The first just doesn't seem like fun Magic. My guess is that you're shooting for the second one but even that card doesn't seem worth the trouble. If I had to make this card, I'd let every player draw two cards, reveal them and then put one card on the bottom of their library. This gives everyone a little bit of choice without so much control over their draw. Not a fan of the current version of this card.

Volrath's Game – I do like how this effect can be both a mill for four and an Impulse like spell. I'm not sure for the need of buyback (although I believe it stems from Landon's misunderstanding what I was asking for when I said to design each card as if it were from a different block – he thought I meant existing blocks).

Wicked Prophecy – This card taps into a big R&D no-no (if you've been paying attention you'll know that's messing with the stack or in this case caring that the spell is on the stack), but once you get past that, I like what this spell was trying to do.

Fifteen and Counting

One of these fifteen people will be Magic's first ever design intern. Who will it be? Join us next week at this time (The Great Designer Search will always be on Thursday) when we'll see the results of the first challenge and join us a week later to find out who will be the first three finalists to be eliminated. You heard me, next week's challenge will lead to three eliminations. Don't miss the bloodbath.

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