The first three candidates are eliminated, and the first look at the second design challenge.

The Great Designer Search Episode #3 - "Picture This"

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The letter W!elcome back to the third installment of The Great Designer Search. We'll begin today by eliminating three candidates. I will then share with you my comments on last week's challenge. Finally, I will show you the second design challenge. You'll get to see what the remaining twelve applicants did and the judges (including myself - another change-up to go along with our move to Friday) will critique them (and we have a special judge sitting in today - more on that below).

Before I begin with my critique, I'd like to say a few words. We had over one thousand applicants for this design internship. We had an extensive interview process and narrowed down the field to fifteen candidates. These fifteen are the best of the best.

The tasks we are asking of them are insanely hard. Each challenge is very narrow and puts numerous constraints on the applicants. On top of that, we only give them seventy-two hours to do the work. To contrast, most designs take many months, some over a year. After that the file is handed off to a development team that takes many more months fine tuning everything. In addition, our restrictions are seldom as harsh as what we are asking the applicants. So, of course, the candidate's cards seem rough in comparison.

So why are the challenges so hard? Because this is, at its core, a job interview. We want to put the applicants through their paces. The judges realize what is being asked of the applicants and we are judging them based on the conditions they are working under. Why are we being so harsh in our comments? Because we want to use this as a means to help the candidates understand how to improve their work. We are holding them up to the standards we hold ourselves against.

The important point I want to get across is that we have great respect for all the applicants. What they are doing is the equivalent of a marathon for designers. The fact that they are doing so well (and in context they are doing quite well) speaks volume about the quality of our applicant pool.

CONTINUE PLAYING or GAME OVER

At the beginning of each episode I reveal who gets to continue on and who gets cut from the last challenge. I had originally planned to also give my comments here but having run through the first full iteration, I believe our original idea was slightly in error. I will still be eliminating candidates at the beginning of each episode but my comments on the applicants will appear with the other judges. This is so the candidates will be able to apply what I have to say to their next challenge. I figured this out late last week and was able to send my comments individually to the remaining candidates, so although you'll read them below, the twelve people that most needed to read them had access to them last Friday.

Okay, time to get to the eliminations. Here's how this is going to work. All applicants get one of two designations. CONTINUE PLAYING means they stick around for another week. GAME OVER means it's the end of the line and they've been eliminated.

There are fifteen candidates, three of which are going to be eliminated. First, I'll list ten candidates who are safe. That will leave five candidates that were on the bubble. These poor fellows get slow rolled. For each one you'll have to click the button and see their fate. Two get to stay and three have to go.

First, the Top Ten. Click here.

Next come the Bottom Five.

Click here.
Click here.
Click here.
Click here.
Click here.

All three of the eliminated applicants showed promise, but in such a tight field it wasn't enough to rise above the bottom three.

Next comes my review of the first design challenge. As I said above, starting this week, I'm going to be listing my comments along with the other judges, but I hadn't had the chance to post my thoughts so they are listed below. If you want to just move on to this week's challenge, click here. Otherwise, just keep reading to get my comments first.

Here in all my wordiness is how I felt about each of the fifteen applicants after their first design challenge: (note, for this first batch I wrote the review directly to the applicant - my future reviews are syncing up with the other judges and writing about them in third person)

Andrew Emmott - CONTINUE PLAYING

Andrew, you were among the top half of the candidates after the interview and I think this week's assignment dropped your standing a little. This isn't to say there was nothing of value, but I believe you made some bad overall choices. Let me walk you through them.

I had a few issues with your common cycle. For starters, it was kind of blah. It just wasn't something that we'd dedicate an entire common cycle to. I do like attack triggers but I feel they work better when you get a sense that the attack has something to do with the effect being created. Bloodrunner Scout (the red one that grants first strike to your creatures) seemed to be going down the best path but then you grant the first strike to all your creatures rather than the attacking ones. The latter is both more flavorful and more relevant.

Finally, I do not like CC (defined as two colored mana) at common let alone a whole cycle. CC cards are fine in Constructed where you can build you mana base accordingly but tend to increase color screw in Limited where you are forced to play multiple colors. I do feel you were trying to tap into a cool flavor, but I think to do this you wanted to play into that flavor. A leader granting all other attackers a bonus is cool. Random effects that feel unconnected, not as much.

Your uncommon cycle was my favorite. I like the idea of spells that want you to play other colors. My issues with this cycle are a little more technical. Your wording is confusing. Having two negatives makes parsing the text harder than it should be. I would have said (on say the white one) "Whenever you play a blue, black, red or green spell, creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn." Yes, there are some subtle mechanical differences but it's just so much easier to parse when you read it.

In addition, I'll call foul on the CC again. These spells want you to play other colors. Making these color specific just fights this pull. Yes, tension is good sometimes but I don't feel here it adds anything other than making it harder to use the card. Note that my suggestions are subtle ones and that this cycle as is was very close to printable. I do, by the way, think in general you made good choices for effects.

Your rare cycle is the big miss for me. As you might have seen after the fact in my column this week, this mechanic is too parasitic for my liking. (Parasitic means that it requires too many other cards to make it work.) In addition, this mechanic would have to have common and uncommon support to work meaning it is more of a major mechanic than a cycle and thus flunks the goal of this assignment. That aside, like with Christopher's rares, they are not particularly sexy. I can't preview one of these cards and get people excited to buy the set.

Andrew, my advice to you is this: try working harder to make modular cards; that is, work to make cards that are fun to play unto themselves and don't rely on having particular other cards to work. You demonstrated more of this in your initial card design test so I know you're capable of it.

Second, I think you need to embrace your inner-Timmy. Your cards require lots of thought but they aren't as fun as they could be. I'd like to see you make some cards that are just fun to play. Cards that people would have fun talking about after they played with them. Don't despair though, you have a good design aesthetic. Just let loose a little.

Conrad Corbett - GAME OVER

Conrad, let me just be blunt. Your design challenge was the one I was most disappointed in. I felt like your original card design test showed hints of great potential but I just didn't see it in this submission. Let's walk through the cycles.

Your common cycle was a cycle of cantrips. While in a strictly technical sense they are a cycle, it is the kind of thing that would be invisible to the public in a set. In addition, I don't think they had the impact that you described in your write-up.

You seemed to feel because they could potentially get stronger over time that you would have tension when to play them, but that isn't really how cantrips work. Cantrips are used mostly to smooth out deck consistency. Holding onto them really undoes their greatest strength. In isolation the cards are fine but they don't have any cohesion as a cycle and this challenge was about designing cycles.

Your uncommon cycle was, to be blunt yet again, not a cycle. Your write-up let me see what you were aiming for but the connection was far too esoteric for most players to see. Once again, your individual cards showed some promise, but you missed the big picture (ironically shooting for an even larger picture).

Your rare cycle was your strongest, but even it had a similar problem in that you made it hard to tell it was a cycle. I like how you used different qualities to make the spells cheaper, but you needed to parallel them better so that players could see the link. Also, they felt close to the Avatar cycle from Prophecy.

I think you have some good individual card design skills but you need to have a better grasp of how the players see the product. Your ideas are a little too esoteric making it hard for people to "get" what you're trying to do. Your designs would be aided a lot by trying to simplify your message.

Mark Globus - CONTINUE PLAYING

Mark, this wasn't a good week for you. You were sitting in the top half coming into last week and this challenge took you for a bit of a tumble. It wasn't without some redeeming qualities but you made a few classic mistakes (the biggest one outlined in my Monday column - you chose paths for your mechanics that weren't fun).

Let's start with your common cycle (revenge - the mechanic that allows your opponents to play the spell after you). I believe this mechanic flunks the most basic test - it wouldn't be fun for the majority of players. Yes, there are a bunch of Spikes that might appreciate the balance of the drawback, but it would so upset the Timmies of the world that I don't think we'd ever keyword it, and we definitely would keep it out of common where it would come up in sealed all the time. Now, I know that there are many people on the boards defending this mechanic, but as someone with eleven years of magic designing experience, you just have to trust me that this mechanic would go over like a lead balloon to most of our players. Players hate being hosed by their opponent's cards. Being hosed by their own cards is not going to make them happy.

But let's assume that we were going to do the mechanic. Even then I think you made some basic errors. For starters, the revenge cost needs to be colorless. If not, the mechanic becomes wildly swingy. It hoses you if they're playing your colors and it's overpowered if they're not. By making the cost colorless, you allow development to balance it equally in all cases. Next, the revenge cost has to be higher. There's no reason why giving your opponent access to this effect later for more mana wouldn't still add a drawback to the card. This allows you to try to get early advantage with the cards and rush against the backlash. This also lets you have your cost closer to normal to keep the swingy issue in check.

The end result is that you made a mechanic we wouldn't do and didn't execute it properly. That said, I will applaud you for looking for a different type of drawback. While I dislike some choices made, I do admire the kind of thought that got you here. The mechanic is done very elegantly and has more fans than any other mechanic that was bad mouthed this past week.

Your uncommon cycle suffers a similar problem to your common cycle. It's designed in a way that makes it less fun. Why? As I also explained in my column, you took a card aimed at Timmy and made it for Spike. Timmy is the guy who loves the lords. That's why cards like Goblin King aren't just in the fifty cent bins. Timmy likes the tribal theme partly because it's something that's fun and easy. Take a lord and throw in a bunch of creatures of the proper race. Your cards halt him in his tracks. It says don't play more than one of any card (yes, Spike gets that he can still play multiple copies but that isn't the way most Timmies approach cards). That's not the kind of restrictions most Timmies want. There will be Johnnies who like this card, but I am always wary of making cards that a subset thinks is for them but is something they'll come to strongly dislike.

You also do this odd thing where all the cards work the same except for the red one. When four cards in a cycle work the same way, (all creatures get +1/+1) then the fifth one needs to as well. R&D refers to this as the "4 and 1 Rule". Finally, you veered pretty close to some existing lords (the black one being the biggest culprit). When tweaking a known quantity stay away from seeming like the earlier versions (well, unless you're doing an homage).

Your rare cycle was your strongest one and even it had some issues. The mechanic is very parasitic and thus odd as a stand-alone rare cycle. To play the changeling deck, you need twelve plus rare cards? I also find the death triggers a little odd flavorwise. Why not allow an in play activations that cause a change. This would allow for much cooler moments.

Mark, the good news is that you had a strong initial test and this keeps you from getting eliminated this week. Also, there are some cool ideas in the cards you turned in. Your major problem is that you don't seem to have a good sense of how players that are unlike you are going to react to your cards. I very much get the feeling that you're creating cards that you want to play. While that's good, it can get you into trouble if you like certain things that don't match the majority. I would strongly urge you to get feedback (only in person and this new rule applies to all the applicants). You're only allowed to get feedback from one person, so be careful to not just get a player that plays just like you. Find a friend that specifically doesn't play the way you play and get their take on your cards. You show real promise but you have to be careful not to let your instincts lead you astray.

Graeme Hopkins - CONTINUE PLAYING

Graeme, your design challenge was interesting in that it made your strengths and weaknesses very apparent. The short version is this - very creative but way too complex. Let's walk through your cycles.

Your commons were innovative. Essentially they are creatures with comes-into-play enchantment tokens. The core idea here is quite cool but it has many execution issues. For starters, it is way too complex for common. Next, it's overrunning with memory issues. Third, you didn't even try to graft simple keyword abilities. No, you graft on full lines of text. Finally, the template makes it unclear whether this creature grants the ability to the creature with the charm counter it puts on or every creature with a charm counter. The idea is quite cool but it is weighed down with all these issues.

Your uncommon mechanic was also quite neat. It was a mechanic, imbue, that turns instants into combat damage triggers on a creature. While quite clever, it also has some confusion issues. Unlike the common cycle, I believe development could probably tackle these. The one change I would recommend is that the effects you chose should have all felt more natural as combat damage triggers. (P.S. green no longer untaps creatures in the modern day color pie.)

The rare cycle follows the theme. Very cool, way too confusing. I do like the fact that the enchantments can work once without the counters. I would have tried to make creatures that just have power toughness and basic keyword abilities (what we in R&D refer to as "French Vanilla"). You have to learn to stop grafting text whenever you can.

Graeme, you are one of the most innovative designers in the finals. You have a great sense of exploration and you do tap into neat unexplored areas of the game. These qualities were what had you coming into the finals as one of the frontrunners. But, you are killing your chance by burying great ideas under lots of complexity. It doesn't matter how good your ideas are if people can't get what you mean. You have to learn to scale back. Express your innovation in as simple ways as possible. No counters, no memory issues, and for the love of all that is holy, no text grafting. Harness your innovation and I think you stand a chance of winning this thing.

Christopher Jablonski - CONTINUE PLAYING

Christopher, you're another designer who got into the finals because they hinted great potential, and while I've seen a few glimpses, you've not yet lived up to the promise. Time is running out so you are going to have to put up pretty soon. The good news is that there are seeds in your submission that I think you can nourish.

Your common cycle both intrigued me and saddened me. We'll start with the latter. As I explained in my column, players find busywork without sufficient payoff to be unfun. The corrupt mechanic definitely flirts with this issue. A common mechanic shouldn't be putting counters on every card. In fact, we try to limit how many common cards we make with counters (and yes, Time Spiral pushed this to the limit - another case where nostalgia has us do things that we don't really do anymore).

But on the other hand, I do appreciate what you were trying to do. The corruption flavor is strong and it's a resource we've never explored before. The major problem is that the needs of the mechanic carry a lot of baggage. My gut is that this would be better on a small number of less common cards.

Your uncommon cycle was well executed but not too exciting to me. It's all areas we've touched upon before and the overall feel isn't anything special. The design is solid so this doesn't lose you any points, but it also doesn't gain you any.

Your rare cycle impressed me the most. In some ways it was the most unfinished, but I feel like you were playing around with something that lives up to the idea of a rare cycle (something very few rare cycles did). I feel like there are two ways you could have gone and instead you split the middle. I would have either made each enchantment stand on its own but get a third unified effect when the two come together or I would have gone the BFM route and made the two cards each be half of a bigger card. The good news is that your instinct to go here was a good one.

Christopher, your initial design tests got one of my highest grades. This challenge, while far from a failure, didn't live up. I see within you a lot of creativity. What you need is to be more bold. Take your ideas and run with them. Right now you seem to have cool ideas and then play safe with them. Safe is going to get you eliminated. Your strength is your creativity. Embrace it and show me why I'd be crazy to not give you a closer look.

Alexis Janson - CONTINUE PLAYING

Alexis, you should also feel good about this week. You were one of the top people last week and this challenge didn't lose you any ground. The challenge for you will be finding ways to climb from near the top to the top.

Let's begin with your commons. I thought you came up with a clever twist, sort of reverse storm. As Gleemax so bluntly put it, your common cycle stood out for being a cycle that was appropriate for common. There is some discussion in whether you'd want to power them down slightly to get them to one or two mana, as the cheaper they are the more mana you have left to play other spells. My gut is to make them two mana, but I think three is a fair choice. Also, your choice of effects was very good.

Your uncommon cycle was interesting in that you and Noah both made a similar mechanic (obviously riffing off of flashback). I thought you did a better job than Noah of making the cycle feel like a cycle and making the flashback effect connect to the body of the card. My only real criticism is that I would have had all the mana costs be 1C.

Your rare cycle was your weakest cycle. While it is true that we haven't done a lot of artifact cycles, I believe this assignment had the greatest potential as it's an area we haven't touched too much. Secretly I was hoping for a five-card cycle that wasn't color based. My biggest criticisms of your rares were that one, they were not too exciting, two there was too much repetition (your black and red were both mass creature kill) and three, it seems you forgot that you can't equip the opponent's creatures (or the white one had some use I wasn't thinking of).

Alexis, your entry is shorter than some of the others as I don't have as much to say. Your challenge was very solid. What I'd like to see is for you to shake things up a little bit. You seem to stay in safe boundaries. You explore those safe boundaries well, but I'd like to see you push your comfort zone. Your cards are always good but seldom exciting. Make me go "wow".

Greg Krajenta - GAME OVER

Greg, I feel your challenge went a bit astray. You always started with an inkling of something interesting but you went in directions that I felt hurt your overall design.

Your common cycle seemed aimed at helping break through stalemates in Limited. The problem you ran into was twofold. First, the effects you created weren't really worth the card meaning that they weren't good enough for players to include in their deck. The problem goes beyond costing because this is simply an effect (one time evasion) that is hard to justify a card slot.

Second, it's not a particularly exciting effect and cycles need to be something worthy of putting on five cards. If a player saw one of these cards they might just pass it by but once they realize there are five of them I think they'd get a little grumbly about it. I do like how you found evasion that fit with each color though.

Your uncommon cycle is interesting. I think this ability requires a little thought to really get what the play ramifications are. It also does a good job of making a creature that at first blush seems slightly stronger than it is. That said, this mechanic seems best suited as a one-of. I see it on something big and cheap at uncommon - something like 3G for a 5/5 trampler. I don't think it wants to be a keyword. I don't even think it makes sense as a keyword.

I've since learned that job obligations kept you from seeing last week's feedback before you turned in this challenge. This is why you didn't heed our "no stack mentioning" rule. The biggest problem with this mechanic is that you can't even not mention the stack like many other stack interacting cards can.

I did enjoy the inventiveness with where you were going but I do not think we'd make this cycle because it breaks one of our rules without sufficient reason to override it. (So yes, we do allow ourselves to mention the stack on very rare occasions if we feel the card is really worth it; but for this interview process I would avoid mentioning the stack unless you're dead sure you have a home run.)

All in all, I get the sense that you didn't quite have the time you needed. The ideas here hint at some interesting design space but don't follow through. If you want to get serious about design, you're going to need to put in more time to get everything right.

Chris Luhrs - CONTINUE PLAYING

Chris, your challenge was consistent with your initial card design test but I would place you middle of the pack so you still need to up your game. In general your challenge was solid but not too exciting.

Your common cycle had a few problems. For starters, you chose an area that we've played around with quite a bit over the years. We haven't done it exactly how you did it, but we've been close. To complicate the issue, you didn't make cards to avoid comparison with these cards. For example, Aspect of Corruption is just a skip away from Phyrexian Boon. If you're going to step on explored space, you have to take extra care not to make your cards comparable.

The other big strike was that you didn't make the cards as accessible as you needed. Designers aren't responsible for templating but when making a cycle you do need to have a sense of how the card is going to be conceived. The current wording makes the reader slog through two lines to get what is going on. Imagine though you had worded it as such:

If you control enchanted creature, it gains BLAH.

If you do not control enchanted creature, it gains BLAH.

The value of this wording is that, one, it makes it easier to see that it's two different effects and two, lets you know that you only need to care about one. I did enjoy how you chose two effects that felt connected although I'll be honest that I wish they felt even more connected.

As for your uncommon cycle, thumbs up for innovation, thumbs down for execution. This mechanic would confuse a lot of players. This is partly because the effect wasn't well explained and partly because what you're asking is just hard for the game to do. In addition, you needed much simpler effects. The more complex the overall mechanic, the simpler the effects it must create. Having sacrifice effects that get grafted on is particularly confusing.

I liked your rare cycle. I didn't love it but I did think you did a good job of making an exciting cycle of cards. My biggest complaint is that by mixing up the rewards you made certain cards much more attractive than others. This is not necessarily a bad choice but my instincts would have made the cycle all like the green amplifier. I'll be honest that I'm not sure that it's the right call, but I think the green one is tapping into some cool synergy with affinity for color.

Chris, you have a sensibility that I like. You definitely have a feel for what's fun. My issue with your design is that you tend to veer towards complexity. You need to figure out what is cool about your cards and then cut away everything else. Try hard to make room on your cards for flavor text. Please try harder to have as much coolness in fewer words.

Kenneth Nagle - CONTINUE PLAYING

Kenneth, I felt this was a good week for you. Your initial submission put you in the middle of the pack and the first design challenge has advanced your standing.

Your common cycle used the dispersion mechanic. It's a good mechanic that I could see us using. It has the nice flexibility in that it can be burned early cheaply for a small effect or create a larger effect later for a larger cost. The reason we do many mechanics like this is they help make limited play smoother (see question #18 on the Great Designer Search Multiple Choice Test

My biggest issue with the mechanic was that you chose the wrong effects. I believe this mechanic can be used at common, but both effects have to be acceptable for common. In addition, I think you want most of the dispersion costs, especially at common, to be colorless mana because it lessens color screw. Finally, you want to have some dispersion costs that are a little cheaper. An example of what I would want to see is something like this:

Dispersive Boost
White Mana
Instant
Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Dispersion 2

I think your uncommon cycle was also very inventive. You chose an interesting trigger, something we've only dipped our toe into a little bit but something clearly worthy of more examination. My biggest complaint was with your decision to add mana sinks. The cool part of the mechanic was that you were rewarded for using mana of the correct color. There is much more interesting tension if you need to spend the mana to be able to best use it. Not having the sink makes more interesting choices. You can always choose to mana burn to get the effect but then it is not as optimal.

I think your rare cycle was your weakest one. For starters it's not as clearly a cycle as the common and uncommon ones. You would need to name them alike or use art as a connector to make people "get" the cycle. Second, I wanted your rare cycles to be sexy. These cards while solid are not the kind of thing that would sell packs. As my instructions asked for sexy, I feel the rares were something of a let down.

Overall, I was very happy with your first design challenge. I think you are showing very good innovation and you seem to have a handle on what makes cards interesting. What you need to work on is a few things. First what I call craftsmanship. You need to have a better sense how to make use of your ideas. I recommend mocking up your cards and playing with them. Second, you need to get a better grasp on rarity definition. Third, I'd like to see you work a little more on making more exciting cards. What you are doing is very solid, but it lacks in the "wow" factor we need to get people excited about an upcoming set. All in all though you should be proud of yourself. This was a good week for you.

Andrew Probasco - CONTINUE PLAYING

Andrew, I'll be honest, I wasn't too impressed with your challenge this week. Everything was reminiscent of things we've already done. Your execution was relatively good, but everything felt like "Oh yeah, I remember that mechanic."

Your common cycle was my favorite of the three you submitted, but even it had its issues. For starters, I liked what you were trying to do, reward larger creatures. The problem is you created a mechanic that can't work until mid-game and even then can only come up so often in any deck that's playing a decent Limited mana curve. I think the limit of converted mana cost of 5 was too high. Also, I probably would have triggered off of power rather than converted mana cost as power is just more flavorful and easier to grok for most players.

Second, I think your base abilities were a little more complicated than they needed be. As I said above, the more complicated the mechanic the simpler the effects want to be. Power/toughness boosting and keyword granting would give you all the tools you need. On the plus side, I do appreciate that you realized that the cards needed a way to keep from being played in a deck that didn't have the proper color. This is a subtle but important point that many novice designers would have missed.

The uncommon cycle was the least successful for me as it seemed the most like something we've done before. Yes, there are a few subtle differences but basically this cycle is the "howling" ability from Mercadian Masques. The abilities you chose did complement the mechanic.

Your rare cycle also feels like several cycles we've done before where there's tension between the effect and the condition you need to use it. My biggest strike against your rares is that they seemed rather blah. I don't think these cards would do a good job of selling the set and as I outlined this was one of the jobs of the rare cycles.

Andrew, you need to take some drastic steps and quickly. Show me that you can do things that we haven't done. Take bold choices and try interesting things. You're currently trailing the pack and you're going to get cut soon if you don't show me some innovation. The plus side is that you have decent execution and you make good choices with matching effects to mechanics. Please heed my message, your back is to the wall. It's time to step up.

Ryan Sutherland - CONTINUE PLAYING

Ryan, you had one of the best card design tests and I'm going to dub you the winner of Design Challenge #1. This means you get frontrunner status for now. (Be careful though, there are a number of designers nipping at your heels.) Let's talk about your cycles.

Your common cycle is very clever. (They are the enchant creature auras that overwrite the creature and turn it into something else.) While I liked the cycle, it did have a few problems. First, I'm not sure I would do a Humble cycle at common. You're messing with a dangerous area of the rules and I don't think common is the proper place. Because these cards seem interesting for Limited, I'd probably put the cycle at uncommon. I like the overall flavor of turning things into known things. The only one I have issue with is the red one as I would rather see a French vanilla creature than one with a line of rules text. Also, if you're going to destroy existing auras to deal with confusion over how the auras interact, it might be a good idea to also keep the enchanted creature from being further enchanted. Despite all of my complaints I think you were playing around in a neat area of design space. (P.S. It's "lose" and not "loose".)

Your uncommon cycle was my favorite. It was a nice twist on a mechanic we've already done (affinity). Your cycle felt tight but flavorful. This was one of the best cycles submitted in the entire challenge. I don't have any real criticism of them. (Okay, I'd have made the black one care about zombies to better match the graveyard flavor, but now I'm just nit-picking.)

Your rare cycle (the flip creatures that can flip back and forth) started out great. Tempted Paladin, the white/black one is an excellent design. But then you decided to show how creative you are and made each of the other four different. None of them are nearly as good. The cycle would have been much better if you just took the mechanic from the white/black one and used the same basic template. You could have picked in-color effects to accompany the flips.

That said, you made an error we first made when we made the flip cards. You see, originally the flip cards could flip back and forth. The problem was, it became too hard to remember their orientation. They'd be tapped and you went to untap them and you'd forget which version you had. We changed to the one-way flip to help the players remember. We figured players would remember whether the big change happened because the upgrade was so significant. Not that I expect you to know this. It took us weeks of playtesting to figure this out and you had seventy-two hours.

Ryan, my word of advice to you is this. For starters, keep doing what you're doing. My biggest area of criticism is for you to avoid over designing. The rare cycle is the best example. You had a solid cycle in your black/white card (which I'd bet money was the first one you designed) and you had a need to prove you could make all of them be different rather than rest on the solid design you had.

I do appreciate you going to new places. I like that you opted for an untraditional cycle choice (enemy multicolor). Most of your choices have been spot on. The one other area for you to watch out for is originality creep (and by this I mean your desire to push boundaries beyond the complication level of the rarity). This is why your common cycle isn't really common. Innovation is good but you need to keep it matched to the rarity. Players don't like not getting the commons. All of this is tweaking though. You are doing strong work.

Scott Van Essen - CONTINUE PLAYING

Scott, I find this week's submission to be odd in that it hints at traits that seem opposite in nature. Your challenge is both very safe and very cutting edge. How is that possible? I don't know so let's walk through the cycles.

Your common cycle is a perfect example. My initial impression was one of boredom. We've done plenty of cards that have a similar feeling to these so nothing in the cycle seemed to be innovative. But then you explained what you were up to (and by the way candidates, your write-ups matter quite a bit - why you did something is as important as what you did) I saw what you were after and that I quite liked.

Upon further examination I realized the problem. You wanted to create a feeling of spells that could be used little by little but made what I believe to be a fundamental flaw. These spells wanted to have small effects that could be coupled together. For example, you say you were going after a Seal (the cycle from Nemesis of enchantments that could sacrifice for spell like effects) feel. Imagine if this were the red one (note that I would go with three uses rather than four to make it feel more disposable:

Effusion of Flame
3 ManaRed Mana
Enchantment
CARDNAME comes into play with 4 burst counters on it.
Remove a burst counter: CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

Because the separate chunks can be combined, the spell feels like a Seal but has the ability to be broken up into smaller pieces. As you did it, the feel was more like an enchantment with fading, slowly counting down each turn. Now this version I like quite a bit and it was all inspired by your vision.

Your uncommon cycle was my least favorite. I see where you were going with it and the execution while not stellar was decent. Once again, I liked the idea of where you were going but the choices made led to a rather ho-hum cycle.

My favorite part about your rare cycle is how you chose to connect them. Very few designers made bold cycle choices so I have to applaud you for being one of them. Your seven connection was cool. It would require some support from the creative team but this cycle seems worth such a treatment. The quality level of the cycle varies some but all the cards are at least going in exciting directions. With some tweaking this could be an attention-getting cycle.

Scott, my biggest piece of advice is that you need to get a better handle on execution of your ideas. You have strong vision but you don't harness it well. I suggest writing down your vision before you start designing the individual cards. Then after your first pass, come back to your vision. Did you capture what you set out to capture? How could you tweak what you have to better capture it? I'm excited by your potential but you have to prove to me that you can find the skills to execute it. As I suggested to Mark, show other people your cards (in person only please). Have them tell you what they think your vision is. If what they say doesn't match what you wrote down, figure out why and rework it until they see what you mean. You have great potential but you need to learn how to tap it correctly before the axe comes your way.

Noah Weil - CONTINUE PLAYING

Noah, you are by far the most polished designer. What I mean by that is that just about every card you turn in we could print tomorrow. I sense the development team would like how finished your designs are. The problem is that I don't see tons of innovation. I really like your rare cycle however, so there is some.

Let's start with the commons. You and Alexis went down a similar path with a rework of flashback. A survey we did recently showed that flashback was the number two all-time favorite mechanic (behind buyback) so your instincts were good. This cycle seems like a fine workhorse cycle that we'd use in a set. Where it fails is as a showoff for a designer wanting to win a single internship slot.

I recognize the solidness of the craftsmanship. These cards are quite solid. My issue is that they don't have much going for them other than that. The cards aren't particularly flavorful. Alexis, for example, added a lot more flavor in her execution. The effects seem chosen because they are good one mana effects in the chosen color rather than because you were trying to create an overall effect. Also, the effects have no connection with one another. If I was trying to jazz up the cycle, I might have tried something like:

Devotee of BLAH
 Mana
Creature - Human Shaman
1/1
KEYWORD
Release Red Mana (possible 1 ManaRed Mana): Target creature gains KEYWORD until end of turn.

This version both adds some flavor (the guy in death can give what he had in life) and better ties the five guys together as a cycle.

I have mixed feelings on your uncommon cycle. I kind of like where you were going in that you punish the enemy with a creature that will cause them trouble, but the execution was a bit clunky. My biggest issue is with the wording in that it takes a long time to communicate what it's saying.

There's not an easy answer to this problem, but you needed to find a way to simplify it. I'm not sure that starting them as enchantments was the right way to go but it is complex enough an issue that I don't have an obvious fix.

One quick word on the "sixteenth card". The judges looked upon it as a cute add-on. It didn't affect the grading in any way. If anything I think it was a slight positive as it showed some initiative. A word of warning to the applicants, the occasional flourish will be tolerated. Not following the rules, will not. Also, let the judges figure out what was and wasn't following the rules.

I'm a big fan of your rare cycle. Yes, pyre needs some development work but the overall idea is cool. I like the idea of using your graveyard as a resource to lessen the cost of spells. This cycle is the sign to me that there is an innovator deep inside you. This mechanic is a cool idea that isn't just a riff off of something we've done.

My advice for next week for you Noah is to embrace the unknown. We know you can do polished. More solid but unexciting cards isn't going to help you get the internship. I really want to see you take chances. Try something that's a little more unknown and possibly dangerous. Yes, you can then polish it, but start with a little rougher stone.

Aaron Weiner - CONTINUE PLAYING

Aaron, let me start by saying that I think you did a good job of listening to what the judges said. Last week we dinged you for complexity and this week you turned in much cleaner, simpler cards. Note to other applicants - listening to the judges gets you brownie points. Overall, your cycles were all over the board. I really liked one and hated another.

Let's start with your best cycle, the commons. I like the persistent mechanic (creatures with global effects that can turn into enchantments) quite a bit. So much so that there's a good chance you'll see something like this in future Magic (and by future Magic I don't specifically mean Future Sight).

That said, I do have some issues with it. First, it's not a common mechanic. Particularly not a common cycle. Changing card types is complex enough that we tend to do it at uncommon and rare (yes, there are exceptions - as always). Second, we don't do "0 Mana:" anymore. If you wanted to keep current functionality you would probably have them turn into enchantments as a replacement ability to being put into the graveyard from play. But I wouldn't do it that way.

I would add mana to the activation, probably just 1 Mana. Why? Because Magic is a better game when there are decisions to be made. Zero cost activations remove decisions. Barring split second, you'll just use it in response to the effect that will destroy it. Add one mana to the activation and all of a sudden there is much more play to the cards. Tap out and they become vulnerable. Sometimes you might have to preemptively change them. It's just better Magic.

While your uncommon cycle had some interesting individual cards, it didn't hold well to me as a cycle. Yes, technically it connects, but it doesn't "feel" like a cycle. I know this must be annoying feedback as I can't easily explain why the feel is off. I think the cycle would be greatly helped by syncing up the template. If all the cards read closer, it would help. Also, I might sync up the effects that come with the "get into play" effect.

I talked about your rares in my column this week. You made a bold choice (which I respect) but executed it badly. "Lose the game" is what I call a power expression. It gets people's attention when they see it. Your cards don't live up to the expression. For starters, as I explain in my column, the player who controls the card doesn't control whether or not they lose the game. Bad times.

The second strike against this mechanic is that you have to bribe the opponent to use it and since the negative is so high you have to push the offer. This makes for bad Magic because either the effect is overpowered (which is bad) or you keep losing the game (even worse). For these reasons, the rare cycle was a big miss for me.

Aaron, you seem good at taking advice so let me offer some. You have a good innovative streak. Your weakness seems to be two things. First, you need to focus a little more on your craftsmanship. The lack of cohesion of your uncommons is a good example. You could have done a lot to tie the cards better together and make them overall feel more like a cycle.

Second, you need to get a better handle on how people will perceive your cards. You have my permission (as do all the designers) to ask people's opinions of your cards (in person only). They cannot make suggestions how to change your cards but it's okay to just get their reactions. This is the only way to improve on this skill.

Third, you need to be careful on your rarity appropriateness. You tend to gravitate toward the more complex. You need to adjust when you make commons and uncommons. Basically, keep the highs of this challenge and shave off your lows. If you can do this, you can be a contender.

Landon Winkler - GAME OVER

Landon, your challenge was a mixed bag. I could really see you aiming for the fence but you got caught up in execution quite a bit.

Your common cycle was your strongest. We are constantly trying to find ways to improve auras to overcome their natural card disadvantage and this cycle seems like a nice way to do it. The biggest change I would make was that I'd lose the number. I would simply make these cards come back when any aura was played. I think development could balance for this and it makes the cards a bit easier to process and makes them seem a little better.

Your uncommon cycle was your biggest miss for me. I see what you were aiming for but you way underestimated how good an effect on a multicolor four-drop 2/2 creature with no keyword abilities has to have. You also made the mistake that a number of these effects depend upon the opponent doing something for them to work. The last thing you want to do is play your four-drop 2/2, attack, and then have your opponent keep anything from happening.

Your rare cycle has a couple major issues. For starters (as I explain in my column this week) it is very parasitic meaning that it requires a deck full of this mechanic to work. This in turn means that you would have to have common and uncommon cards to support this mechanic meaning that this isn't really a rare cycle but the rare extension of a major block mechanic.

The second issue is what I call "make or break". This mechanic seems very hard to find the proper balance between being playable but not being broken. Super linear mechanics run into this problem.

My overall feeling about you Landon is that you have good raw ideas but you haven't built up the craftsmanship you need yet. Your designs would be helped greatly by making playtest cards and playing with them. I don't think your uncommon cycle would have stayed as is, for example, if you had just mocked up the cards and put them into some decks. That said, you are messing around in areas that a lesser designer wouldn't even think of.

But enough of last week's challenge, let's get to this week's challenge!

 

Design Challenge #2 - "Picture This"

Here's the letter I sent the finalists:

Dear Applicants,

Congratulations - you have advanced to the next round! As you know, 12 of 15 applicants advanced. We recognize that the challenge was very difficult, on a tight time frame, and that you are (not yet) professional designers. The judges' critiques have been harsh - We are judging by higher standards each week, ramping up to the tough professional standards we apply to each other in R&D. You should feel very proud to have gotten this far, and very proud of the hard work you have done. Nice work.

Time for the second Design Challenge. This one is entitled "Picture This". This week we are going to capture a different set of design skills. Last week was about cycle design. This week is about hole filling. During development, cards often get killed that open up slots. The lead developer then sends email out to all the designers asking them to design cards to fill the holes. These holes are as specific as they can be to ensure that the development team is getting as useful a list as possible.

This week's challenge will be to fill ten holes. Here they are:

White (uncommon)

We need an answer to all the token making in the environment. Be subtle.

White (rare)

We're looking for a weird Johnny-style enchantment

Blue (common)

We need a sorcery. No card filtering or drawing. No bounce (aka returning cards to hand).

Blue (rare)

We need a creature. Something splashy for Timmy.

Black (uncommon)

Make an aura you want to put on your own creatures.

Black (rare)

Can be anything.

Red (common)

Instant or sorcery. No direct damage or destruction (artifact or land).

Red (uncommon)

Creature. Want a build around me for draft (aka something that will encourage players to go down a path or paths he or she wouldn't normally had they not drafted this card early; examples of this type of card are Lightning Rift, Mark of Eviction and Momentary Blink).

Green (common)

Creature. Something that costs four or more mana.

Green (rare)

Non-creature spell. Green's lacking in "wow" factor (aka something that will impress the player by how different it is).

Sound challenging? Good, but we're not done just yet. Now we get to add another layer to the hole filling. You see, sometimes hole filling gets done late in the process and we're already committed to other parts of the card, such as art.

For our test today, we're assuming that these ten holes came late in the process. So late, in fact, that all the art is in. Your ten cards have to make use of the ten pieces of art assigned to the ten holes. Feel free to use any piece on any card but all ten must be used.

Please be aware that we took the images for this challenge from what we call the Magic graveyard. This is a place where pieces go when they were unable to be used for different reasons. We try hard to find homes for graveyard art but often pieces get stranded because they specifically reference certain characters or environments that would not make sense in other sets. For this exercise you are allowed to ignore the fact that certain figures are story characters or take place in a certain world. Just treat them as generic characters and or environments. For example the card using the art with Gerard holding a flag can pretend that it is someone other than Gerard, and the card showing Mirrodin doesn't have to be treated as if it was from the Mirrodin block.

What all this means is that you will have to create your designs to accommodate the existing card concepts. You might have a great idea for a 6/6 flier but if you don't have art that will work with it, you can't use it. This week is all about designing to restraints, both the restraints of developmental needs and the restraints of creative needs.

The best designs will be the ones that create a card where the whole is more than the sum of the parts. You need to make cards that feel like a singular item rather than a bunch of pieces forced together. Note that this means that your card title is going to be very important as it needs to convey the overall sense of your card.

You will also be judged on how well you meet the need of the holes. Creating a great card that doesn't give the development team what it needs is of no use in this exercise. Failure to do this will be judged harshly.

Also, please write a single paragraph, up to 150 words, at the end of your submission explaining whatever you want us to know about your submission and why it is awesome.

That's it. That's all you have to do.

Good luck!

Mark Rosewater

Now that you've seen the design holes, let's see the art they were forced to use.

Picture #1 (Spear)

Picture #2 (Rings)

Picture #3 (Pike)

Picture #4 (Cauldron)

Picture #5 (Sword)

Picture #6 (Cape)

Picture #7 (Staff)

Picture #8 (Flag)

Picture #9 (Monster)

Picture #10 (Child)

Ten holes, ten pieces of art. Let the fun begin. The judges today are Devin Low, Gleemax, myself and our guest judge, Magic Creative Director, Brady Dommermuth. Aaron will be taking the week off (he'll berate Erik Lauer, the development intern, to stay in practice). We each write our comments independently, without reading each other's comments ahead of time.

Brady will appear in red and will focus on how well the cards matched the art.

Devin will appear in blue and will focus on the quality of the designs and how well they fulfill the hole requests.

Gleemax will appear in lovely plum and will focus on identifying each applicant's most crucial problem.

I (Mark) will appear in green, and I'm going to tackle all three topics.

Brady: Hello everyone. First I should say something about the illustrations themselves. Although this challenge was expressly not a story or continuity test, I was surprised at how few of the contestants picked up on the storyline and setting cues in the provided illustrations. They were told they could ignore specific story and character details, but I guess I'm a little disappointed that more didn't choose not to ignore those details.

Here are the story bits and mechanical cues in each illustration-as I see them, anyway:

Picture 1: The mask pegs this figure as a blue-aligned human in the Time Spiral setting, and the slag-islands in the background mean he's in a blue-aligned location as well. He's firing twin beams of stuff from his hand, so I expected the concept of duplication or 'two of something' to show up.

Picture 2: A storyline goob would tell you this artifact is sitting in the Razor Fields of Mirrodin. There's even a leonin den in the background. The rings of energy cued to the five mana colors are the strong mechanical cue here. The shattering of the top of the object implies an activation cost involving sacrificing the card.

Picture 3: No detectable story cues here. It's a zombie jester with a head on a pike.

Picture 4: Story neophytes might say, "It's a faceoff of Kamahl clones!" They are, in fact, Pardic barbarians, which makes them red-aligned and places them in Otaria, the site of the Odyssey and Onslaught block. They seem to be engaging in some kind of pain test, so I'd expect a creature-versus-creature or player-versus-player mechanic. No, it's not actually the same guy twice.

Picture 5: The keen-eyed will notice that the figures surrounding the warrior are clerics from the Daru Plain of Otaria, complete with straw garb. The state of their bodies puts them squarely in Onslaught, or maybe Legions. The illustration lends itself to a "strength in numbers" mechanic to my eye.

Picture 6: Can you spot the visual cue in this one? That's right-there's a morph crawler at the bottom of the illustration that the mage figure has just sprung from. The garb could indicate Onslaught-era clerics, but that's open to interpretation.

Picture 7: This is the pifor story fans. From left to right: Teferi, Jhoira, Barrin, and Urza. The coming Rathi planeshift swirls overhead. Urza is giving orders or instructions, and the mechanic should resonate with that somehow.

Picture 8: Yep, that's Gerrard, raising the Benalish battle standard to rally Coalition troops. There's a smoking Phyrexian husk in the foreground. In the background, elves and zombies are charging together as allies.

Picture 9: Realization #1: It's an orgg. Realization #2: It's an orgg with metal patches in its hide. Realization #3: This is a Mirrodin orgg that's evolved metal anatomy, and it's tromping across the rusted detritus of the Oxidda Chain.

Picture 10: Tough one. That's Gatha, the Tolarian renegade who took Urza's bloodline work and used it to questionable ends in Keld, where he bred crazy steroid Keldon warriors and monstrosities. The girl is a Keldon girl (although her skin tones are wrong for a Keldon), likely a young noble destined to one day become a doyenne. The gesture looks to me like an oath of loyalty or something. Keld and Tolaria stuff equates to red and/or blue.

The parameters of this challenge were very, very difficult-so difficult, in fact, that they pretty much prevented outright success. In other words, this challenge was the Kobayashi Maru of Magic design. For example, finding even one green card amid those ten illustrations is basically impossible. Finding two black cards is nigh-impossible. The illustrations skew toward white, blue, and red. Additionally, matching mechanics to illustrations is by nature a more subjective exercise than evaluating the quality of mechanics alone. Anyway, onto the results.

Devin: Hi everybody. I wanted to take a second to emphasize, like many others have, that both this week's and last week's challenges are incredibly hard! We have been piling on tons of design constraints, stretching the applicants in a variety of directions to stretch them to the limits of what they can design and hopefully beyond. The applicants have a lot of natural talent, but are untrained, and they don't know a lot of the design rules that we have questioned, debated, and agreed on in Magic R&D. There's a huge minefield of mechanics that we've already studied, playtested, and decided we shouldn't do, but the applicants don't know they are, so it's all too easy for them to design and submit something that we've already decided has big problems. And on top of all these obstacles, the applicants have only one weekend to do their designs!

In short, these challenges are intentionally enormously, well, challenging. All the top 15 finalists triumphed over round after round of cuts from over one thousand applicants. The finalists should all feel incredibly proud of their accomplishments in getting this far. I'm certainly extraordinarily proud of them. Our standards for judging each other's designs internally in Magic R&D are extremely high, and we find tons of flaws in each other's designs all the time. Magic design/development is our career, we take it very seriously, and it is very hard to do it well. Doing it for years has helped each of us to get a lot better than we were when we started. Our standards for this competition are going up every week until, by the end, they'll match the standards we set for ourselves as the winner becomes one of us. By the end, only one can win, which means we have to cut over a thousand applicants including cutting 14 finalists. We have to cut finalists each week, and the ones we cut each week should feel very proud of how far they have come. Let's look at this week's remaining finalists.

Andrew Emmott

Wolfbound Hero (uncommon)
Picture #8 (Flag)
White ManaWhite Mana
Creature - Human Soldier
2/2
Tap: Target token creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.
2 ManaWhite Mana: Destroy target token creature with power 4 or greater.

Soldiers' Aurapact (rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
1 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Whenever a creature attacks, put a pact counter on Soldier's Aurapact.
Remove X pact counters from Soldier's Aurapact: Put an enchantment card with converted mana cost X from your hand into play.

Daedali Hazebomb (common)
Picture #2 (Rings)
1 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Choose a color. Creatures of the chosen color get -4/-0 until end of turn.

Iceglade Infiltrator (rare)
Picture #1 (Spear)
1 ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Creature - Human Wizard
3/3
Iceglade Infiltrator is unblockable.
Whenever Iceglade Infiltrator deals combat damage to a player, choose artifact, creature, enchantment or land. That player returns a permanent of the chosen type to its owner's hand.

Coggoth's Deceit (uncommon)
Picture #10 (Child)
Black ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant nonblack creature.
Enchanted creature gets +2/-2, has fear and is colorless.

Tandalat's Desperation (rare)
Picture #3 (Pike)
1 ManaBlack Mana
Sorcery
Name a nonland card. Target opponent reveals the top seven cards of his or her library and removes all copies of the named card from the game. Put the rest on top of that player's library in any order you choose.

Kaatan Ambush (common)
Picture #5 (Sword)
1 ManaRed Mana
Instant
Target blocked creature gets +X/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn where X is the number of attacking creatures you control.

Skritano Tumbler (uncommon)
Picture #6 (Cape)
2 ManaRed Mana
Creature - Human Nomad Shaman
2/1
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, for each red mana spent on that spell, Skritano Tumbler deals 1 damage to target creature.

Metalgnosh Grumblar (common)
Picture #9 (Monster)
4 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Beast
4/4
Metalgnosh Grumblar can't be the target of spells or abilities.
Sacrifice an artifact: Regenerate Metalgnosh Grumblar.

Portal of the Archdruids (rare)
Picture #7 (Staff)
1 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Sorcery
Starting with you, each player may put an artifact, creature, enchantment, or land card that has been removed from the game into play. Repeat this process until no one puts a card into play.

Some remarks/concerns:

Wolfbound Hero - If token creation is prevalent, I don't see why white shouldn't also enable token strategies. Is this card too strong? Too weak? Not subtle enough?

Daedali Hazebomb - Being a sorcery keeps this from playing like a fog. I think it could create interesting situations in limited.

Iceglade Infiltrator - Given the art restrictions, I felt this slot was the hardest to fill. I'm concerned this isn't Timmy enough. Is it?

Kaatan Ambush - I think the card works fine, but does it convey the idea of an ambush well enough? Whenever I pushed the flavor mechanically, it became too swingy for common.

Portal of the Archdruids - The card can speak for itself, I just wanted to point out that I tried to maintain the symmetry that Eureka and Hypergenesis maintained by allowing each player to choose cards they didn't own. Is it costed properly?

Brady: Some successes, some strange choices. The white cards are basically fine. "Daedali Hazebomb" is a misstep; the dude trapped in that beam is being obliterated, and the card ignores the fact that the rings correspond to the five colors. The black and red cards are basically fine. The green cards are absolutely baffling to me, but I suspect that'll be true for all the contestants. Winners: Wolfbound Hero, Kaatan Ambush. Losers: Daedali Hazebomb.

Devin: Emmott is coming off a couple of weeks in the middle of the finalist pack. This week, Skritano Tumbler and Iceglade Infiltrator were my favorite designs in this submission. Skritano goes into some interesting new territory in a clean way, and Infiltrator was also simple and very appealing. Overall though, this submission suffered dramatically from not following the constraints given on the holes. When holes get sent out like this during development, the card needs to fit the constraints or it can't be used. A lot of the cards here couldn't be used because they didn't match what was asked for. Coggoth's Deceit would more often be used to kill creatures, but we were looking for a beneficial aura. Wolfbound Hero helps tokens more than it answers them, and is not at all subtle. Iceglade Infiltrator is a cool card that I like, but it's definitely not a Timmy card, which is what we needed for this hole. We asked for a green common creature at 4+ mana, but the untargetable, regenerating 4/4 we received back is clearly not a common and can't be used.

Apart from this, Daedali Hazebomb seems like an instant put into a sorcery hole and won't work well as a sorcery, and Portal of the Archdruids seems like it will never end once you play it - you'll both go on playing things almost all night, getting duplicant after nekrataal to counter whatever the other guy is getting. The many cards that cannot be used to fill the holes the "development team" asked for means I have to give this one a 3 out of 10 this week, significantly down from Emmott's previous submissions.

Gleemax: You don't seem to like following directions. Your common cards aren't common, your Timmy cards aren't Timmy and your subtle cards definitely aren't subtle.

Mark: I was torn by Andrew's submission this week. His cards had glimmers of interesting ideas but didn't meet the requirements of many of the holes. (more on the development end than the creative end although even there he had a few misses - i.e. the guy in the "Rings" art doesn't seem like he's get -4/-0) The best example of this was Wolfbound Hero, a card designed to fill a hole of a subtle fix for a token heavy environment. On the surface, the card looks good and the interaction between the two abilities is clever.

But take a step back and you realize that Andrew missed on the task at hand. First, while it could be used against tokens, it was stronger in a deck that enabled them. Second, his "subtle" design to deal with tokens was the phrase "destroy target token creature". That's about as unsubtle as it comes. My favorite card, by the way, was Skritano Tumbler as it tapped into a rather virgin area of design. In the end, I feel that this assignment tested the candidate's ability to design to restrictions and in this goal Andrew failed more than he succeeded.

Mark Globus

The Child Within (uncommon)
Picture #10 (Child)
1 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Creature becomes 0/X where X is the casting cost of the creature. If CARDNAME goes to the graveyard from play, return it to owner's hand.

Unexpected Extravagance (rare)
Picture #5 (Sword)
2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, attach any number of target auras in play or in any graveyards to target creature.

Touch of Frost (common)
Picture #1 (Spear)
1 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Creatures do not untap during target player's next untap step.

Replicator (rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
4 ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Creature - Replicant
5/5
Tap: Put a token creature into play that is a copy of CARDNAME.

Death's Laughter (uncommon)
Picture #3 (Pike)
2 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Whenever a creature is put into the graveyard from play, enchanted creature gains the following ability until end of turn:
Tap: Destroy target non-black, non-artifact creature.

Corrupted Ideals (rare)
Picture #8 (Flag)
Black ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Player
At the beginning of your upkeep, place a corruption counter on CARDNAME. Then, enchanted players loses X life where X is the number of corruption counters on CARDNAME.

Bucking Authority (common)
Picture #7 (Staff)
1 ManaRed Mana
Sorcery
Until end of turn, creatures of converted mana cost 3 or less cannot block.

Thran Blaster (uncommon)
Picture #2 (Rings)
2 ManaRed Mana
Creature - Construct
2/2
Whenever an token creature comes into play under your control, put a charge counter on CARDNAME.
Tap, remove X charge counters: CARDNAME deals X damage to target creature or player.

Ravager of Thran (common)
Picture #9 (Monster)
2 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Beast
3/3
When CARDNAME comes into play, destroy target artifact. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME.

Living Cape (rare)
Picture #6 (Cape)
2 ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +3/+3.
Morph Green Mana

These cards were designed to fit the block, and feel as if they belonged together. As it was given that the block has a token theme, many of the cards presented here work with that: The Child Within, Replicator, Thran Blaster and even Bucking Authority interact with tokens to varying degrees. Additionally, all of the cards were designed to be fun for as many people as possible, and be uninteresting to no one.

Brady: The mechanics themselves are a little messy, in my opinion, and the matches to illustrations are evenly divided between "pretty good match" and "totally unrelated to the illustration." In the former camp are The Child Within, Replicator, and Ravager of Thran. In the latter are Unexpected Extravagance, Corrupted Ideals, and Bucking Authority. The mechanics that seem irrelevant to the illustrations at least don't out-and-out contradict them, though.

Devin: Globus started the finalist competition well with his initial six cards, then tumbled badly last week to be among our bottom finishers with three missed cycles. I'm very happy to see that he has dramatically improved this week to be among this week's best submissions. What a swing - I like it! Highlights include the way The Child Within is a cool card in its own right and also hoses tokens in a cool, subtle way. Replicator was also a great blue timmy creature, which are not easy to make. The fact that you get 2 of them, then 4, then 8 is very exciting, and the card is also very clean. A ton of good cards across the board. The only misses were Touch of Frost, which we already made as Misstep, and the +3/+3 aura at rare. None of the cards totally wowed me, which prevented this from getting up to the very top of the scale. 7 out of 10. Great work.

Gleemax: I find much of your designs derivative of older cards. If you want to stick around, you're going to need to start finding areas of design that aren't just following the bread crumbs of what's been done before.

Mark: After an off week, Mark bounced back in this challenge. Barring one Misstep (note to designers: you really need to make sure you're not submitting existing cards), I thought this was a good batch of submissions. In particular I really liked The Child Within, Unexpected Extravagance and Thran Blaster. What I liked most about the last card was Mark's extrapolation of the white uncommon holes' notes. He recognized that it was a theme of the set and worked it into other cards. (And unlike Andrew he didn't work it into the card that was being designed as the answer to tokens.)

My biggest criticism of Mark's submission is that he only did a fair job of designing to the art. Now this part of the challenge was really hard because the art provided did not neatly fit with the holes given, so I'm willing to give a little more latitude. Even so, this was the weakest part of Mark's submission.

Graeme Hopkins

Pull Rank (uncommon)
Picture #8(Flag)
3 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Sorcery
Each creature's power and toughness become equal to its converted mana cost until end of turn.

Astral Council (rare)
Picture #7(Staff)
3 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Tap X untapped creatures you control: Search your library for an enchantment card with converted mana cost X or less and put that card into play. Then shuffle your library.

Seeker Trails (common)
Picture #1(Spear)
3 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Blue creatures are unblockable this turn.

Prophetic Medium (rare)
Picture #4(Cauldron)
3 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Creature
3/3
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
As long as the top card of your library is a creature card, Prophetic Medium is a copy of that card and has these abilities.

Fool's Promise (uncommon)
Picture #10(Child)
1 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+1 and has "Sacrifice this creature: return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand."

Soulthief (rare)
Picture #6(Cape)
2 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Creature - Spirit Assassin
1/1
Flash
When Soulthief comes into play, destroy target nonblack creature.
Whenever a nonblack creature comes into play, you may play Soulthief from your graveyard.

Beguilement (common)
Picture #3(Pike)
1 ManaRed Mana
Sorcery
Creatures with power 2 or less can't block this turn.

Furnace-belly (uncommon)
Picture #9 (Monster)
2 ManaRed ManaRed Mana
Creature - Beast
2/2
Trample
Whenever you sacrifice a permanent, Furnace-belly gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

Ur'Wood Champion (common)
Picture #5(Sword)
3 ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Human Ranger
3/2
Whenever Ur'Wood Champion attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each untapped creature defending player controls.

Brethren's Call (rare)
Picture #2(Rings)
2 ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment
Whenever a creature you control is put into a graveyard from play, you may search your library for a creature card that shares a color with that creature and reveal it. If you do, shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.

I extended the "generic imagery" clause to include visual "mechanics"; I ignored the art-specific Orgg and Morph references. The focus here was cards that could see print. In specific: cards that seemed like a single entity, fun to play, execution as simple as possible, no/limited rules issues. I used a custom card-creation app of my design to take full advantage of how the end result will appear on a card, and attempted to make the most pleasing (both visually and mentally) experience possible given the restrictions. I am aware I "grafted text" on my black aura (Fool's Promise), which I was told not to do if at all possible. In this case, given the ample precedence, I felt it was both the most elegant and most interesting solution. I am quite happy with how my cards "make sense" as a whole with the (admittedly difficult) given art and restrictions.

Brady: The white and blue cards matched their illustrations very well, all things considered-the best matches so far, I think. But the black cards seemed mostly unconnected to their illustrations. I don't get Beguilement's link to its illustration at all. As with all the contestants, the green cards were especially ill-suited to their illustrations, Brethren's Call in particular.

Devin: Graeme was another applicant who started the competition strong then got bogged down last week, again much improving this week. I was impressed that his comments specifically discuss his efforts to incorporate the feedback he got last week, and I see that he has definitely improved by specifically adopting the feedback he received. Highlights include Pull Rank, which solves tokens subtly but is also a fine card in its own right. It would be a little neater as an instant. Astral Council was a good Johnny enchantment, and Fool's Promise was a cool way to take the card disadvantage out of an aura and give a nice Unholy Strength. Soulthief was a cool concept too, though too good at this cost. Again, nothing wowed me like some of the best submissions from previous weeks have, but this is a good array of cards that gets one of the highest scores this week. 7 out of 10. Nice job.

Gleemax: You stopped making your cards so complex and they got less interesting. You have to find the intersection of cool and simple.

Mark: When last we saw Graeme he was submitting cool but overly complex cards. He listened to the feedback because this week's submission does not suffer from that problem. In fact, it doesn't suffer from much; I thought it was one of the best designs of the week. In particular, I felt that he did a very good job of meeting the development requirements. I feel his was not great but above average at matching art.

My favorites were Pull Rank, Fool's Promise and Brethren's Call. My biggest criticism is that Graeme's commons were on the whole kind of boring (although this week they were common). Graeme is going to have to work on his common designs.

Christopher Jablonski

NOTE: I have supplemented my usual hilarious playtest names with more realistic and boring Magic-style names in brackets where appropriate.

NOTICE: All flavor texts in this submission are just typos and should thus be ignored if at all possible.

ACHTUNG: I do hope this isn't counting against my 150 word count.

Overtly Ceremonial Uniform (uncommon)
Picture #5 (Sword)
1 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature can't attack or block. Creatures with the same converted mana cost as enchanted creature can't attack or block.
/"Cap'n ordered us to wear |what|?"/

Diversity Day [Ragtag Army] (rare)
Picture #8 (Flag)
2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
When CARDNAME comes into play, put a 1/1 white creature token into play of a single creature type of your choice.
As long as there are six or more different creature types among creatures you control, creatures you control get +2/+2.
/Surrounded by humans and elves, Flog felt like little more than the token Goblin./

Preventive Magic (common)
Picture #1 (Spear)
Blue ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Counter the first spell target player plays on his or her next turn.
/Canadaria's powerful physician-mages can project potent antimagic beams far into the future, but they won't make house calls./

The Real Grotzor - Or Is It? [Apprentice Clonemage] (rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
4 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Creature - Human Duplimancer
2/2
Haste
Tap: Draw a card.
4 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana: put a creature token into play that's a copy of CARDNAME.
At the end of each player's turn, sacrifice all but one Duplimancer.
/"Oh, it's an incredible likeness. But it lacks... substance."/

Pants of the Dead [Macabre Pants--I mean Dance] (uncommon)
Picture #3 (Pike)
3 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant black creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1.
When enchanted creature deals combat damage to an opponent, return target
creature from your graveyard to play. Attach CARDNAME to that creature. If
you can't, sacrifice CARDNAME.
/All it needs is a brain and a friend./

Creepy Old Man and Boy [Subvert the Innocent] (rare)
Picture #10 (Child)
Black Mana
Instant
Until end of turn, target nonblack creature that came into play this turn
becomes black, gains haste, and has "Tap: destroy target creature."
/"I have no jokes to make about the people or situation in question." --Flog, Goblin comedian/

Confusion Effusion (common)
Picture #7 (Staff)
4 ManaRed Mana
Sorcery
Up to four target creatures each get +2/+0 until end of turn. Those
creatures can't block this turn.
/Some said that the portal storms lasted for days. The others attacked the interviewer./

Cyborgg [Orgg of Insight maybe? Okay, fine, Silverblood Orgg] (uncommon)
Picture #9 (Monster)
3 ManaRed ManaRed Mana
Creature - Orgg
2/2
Trample
As CARDNAME comes into play, remove a counter from each permanent you control. CARDNAME comes into play with a +1/+1 counter for each counter removed in this way.
/Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton. A big one./

Overzealous Harmonizer (common)
Picture #6 (Cape)
2 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Human Monk
3/1
When Overzealous Harmonizer is put into a graveyard from play, destroy
target artifact or enchantment.
2 ManaGreen Mana, sacrifice Overzealous Harmonizer: return target artifact or enchantment
card from your graveyard to your hand.
/"Harold, one of these days you'll work yourself to death."/

Technicolor Dreamcoat [Polychromatic Transcendence] (rare)
Picture #2 (Rings)
4 ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment - Avatar Aura
10/10
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature has +5/+5 and trample.
White ManaBlue ManaBlack ManaRed ManaGreen Mana: Sacrifice enchanted creature. CARDNAME becomes a creature with flying named [and then here's where you mentally insert the name of some flavorful legend]. It is all colors.
/Dear art department: please crop out the spaceship. I know, I know, but it's on the ground./

A lot of the difficulty in this challenge came about because some of the card colors and types simply weren't well-represented in the art. There is no obvious Green creature. At least four of the pictures would seem to default to White. Rings is rather obviously an artifact (with sunburst, no less).

So anyway, some thoughts.

What's the over/under on someone else coming up with the name Cyborgg?

I knowingly colorbled on Apprentice Clonemage and Subvert the Innocent (the same color bleed, no less). Yes, I believe there are solutions that get around this, but in my defense at least they're both rare. And they're cooler this way.

Flog gets around.

What's the optimal number (of creature types) for Ragtag Army? I began with five, which would usually mean three creatures, but that's before I added the token creation. More importantly, what's the best 'Johnny number?'

Brady: Despite being insufferable, this contestant matched the illustrations much better than the previous three. The connections are credible and well-executed. The batch of cards isn't without duds-Creepy Old Man and Boy is a swing and a miss, Confusion Effusion is a little random, and Technicolor Dreamcoat gets dinged for trying to solve the problem with a crop-and-zoom. (Cropping out that much of the illustration would render it unusable.) Otherwise, good job.

Devin: Jablonski's submissions have really struggled in the last couple of weeks, and he is going to have to turn it on to stay in the running. This week is his best yet, for which he should be commended. I liked Overly Ceremonious Uniform and the way it hosed tokens and also provided a cool new option on normal nontoken cards. I also enjoyed Diversity Day, though six types is too much to ask people to swing for - I would probably say four. Preventive Magic also cute. The designs still have problems though, and the submission as a whole is weaker than his competitors' submissions this week. The weird humor angle also did not work very well. The Real Grotzor was a cool card...but he put the brakes on and sad sacrifice them all, whereas a previous applicant just said "Yep, you can have 8, 16, or 32+ of the doubling guy." which is a way more fun dream. Creepy Old Man was a weak execution - better to say "As an additional cost to play CARDNAME, tap an untapped creature you control. Destroy target creature." The haste, turning black, etc. do not pull their weight in flavor and get in the way. Pants of the dead seemed needlessly complex, and Overzealous Harmonizer would work better with CIP/Sac duality or with CIP/go to graveyard duality. Technicolor was a miss for me - if I already have a giant trampler, I don't really want to sac it, even though I'm ending up with a bigger guy. And WUBRG 10/10 flying was too easy of a place to go for me. This submission gets 4 out of 10 this week.

Gleemax: Your card designs aren't nearly as good as they need be to be as dismissive as you are to your interviewers. Here's a tip: use some of your time you spend on attitude designing better cards.

Mark: Christopher managed to design cards both to the art and the development demands, but stumbled in the area that counted most. A number of the cards had individual designs that fell flat for me. As an example, the Real Grotzor started out interesting and Timmy-friendly, but quickly turned into a narrow build-around me Johnny card. (Timmy doesn't like sacrificing his creatures.)

Creepy Old Man and Boy does not feel like a rare card and Overzealous Harmonizer does not feel like a common. On the plus side, Christopher's cards had some inventive elements. I thought Overtly Ceremonial Uniform's anti-token element was clever. I liked Pants of the Dead. And Cyborgg (okay, the name is quite clever) messed around in interesting territory. Christopher needs to continue pushing his creativity (which is his strength) but work on his craftsmanship. He needs to find the cleanest way to show off his interesting ideas.

Alexis Janson

Perimeter Defense (uncommon)
Picture #2 (Rings)
2 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Flash
Whenever a creature attacks you and isn't blocked, Perimeter Defense deals 1 damage to that creature.

Elder Edification (rare)
Picture #10 (Child)
2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Whenever you play a creature spell, you may search your library for an Aura card with the same mana cost and put it into play. If you do, shuffle your library. (Mana cost includes color.)

Turn Around (common)
Picture #8 (Flag)
2 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Simultaneously tap all untapped creatures and untap all tapped creatures.

Shifting Infiltrator (rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
1 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Creature - Shapeshifter Rogue
1/4
At the end of your turn, choose a creature controlled by another player.
Exchange control of Shifting Infiltrator and that creature. If you do, Shifting Infiltrator becomes a copy of that creature and gains this ability.

Mutiny (uncommon)
Picture #5 (Sword)
2 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature is black.
Enchanted creature has "Tap, Sacrifice a nonblack creature: Draw a card."

Gruesome Bard (rare)
Picture #3 (Pike)
3 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Creature - Zombie Bard
2/3
When Gruesome Bard comes into play, remove all nonland cards in target opponent's graveyard from the game.
You may play cards removed from the game by Gruesome Bard.
"His props are a bit unorthodox, but his stories really come to life."

Dawn of Fury (common)
Picture #7 (Staff)
3 ManaRed Mana
Instant
All creatures attack this turn if able.
Until end of turn, when a creature attacks, untap it at end of turn.

Manabomber (uncommon)
Picture #6 (Cape)
2 ManaRed ManaRed Mana
Creature - Human Rogue Shaman
3/3
Whenever you play a spell with at least RR in its mana cost, Manabomber deals two damage to target creature or player.

Aeromancer (common)
Picture #1 (Spear)
3 ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Elf Shaman
2/2
Green Mana: Target attacking creature loses flying until end of turn.
Tap: Aeromancer deals 1 damage to target creature with flying.

Pervasive Mutation (rare)
Picture #9 (Monster)
2 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment
When Pervasive Mutation comes into play, search your library for a creature card and remove it from the game, then shuffle your library.
Creatures you control have all activated and triggered abilities of the creature card removed by Pervasive Mutation.

I let the art inspire me, matching concepts up to requirements. If I have to explain the flavor, I haven't done my job properly. New abilities and ability combinations was a secondary but important goal. I avoided things (like new keywords) that wouldn't make sense for a set almost ready to publish. Red only untaps creatures to attack- usually as part of stealing a creature or attacking a second time. Dawn of Fury's untap fits this precedent. It also keeps it fair on the opponent's turn, and useful on your own turn. "Copying" abilities is normally blue, but Pervasive Mutation does it in a very unique and green way. Turn Around would be amazing as an instant, but as a sorcery requires careful planning to put to use. Both Manabomber and Elder Edification look at actual mana cost- mostly virgin design space with a lot of potential.

Brady: I found most of this contestant's connections to the illustrations to be loose, although not quite to the point of irrelevancy. Perimeter Defense is a good solution to a tough problem, though, and Turn Around works with the illustration in a way I wouldn't have thought of, albeit not wonderfully. But Elder Edification and Mutiny are a bit random, and the green cards are pretty egregious (more so than the other contestants' green cards). Trying to attach a noncreature card to Picture 9 is kind of insane.

Devin: Janson is clearly one of the leaders so far and has been doing a great job. This week slipped a little bit, but not by too much. Perimeter Defense is a nice Caltrops twist, and Elder Edification seemed really fun to build around and clean. Manabomber and Pervasive Mutation both seemed like cool cards that I would enjoy building around too - very good at that this week. From there, a few misses. Turn Around we have already printed as Breaking Wave. Shifting Infiltrator is not a timmy card. On her notes on Dawn of Fury, Janson quotes the right line about red untapping creatures only to get more attacks, but then makes a red card that untaps guys without granting any extra attacks, which made it seem nonred and a miss as a red card. Aeromancer shouldn't do both similar things at common - just pick one. Overall, still very good, though not as good as previous weeks or among the very best submissions this week. 6 out of 10. Work back up to the top!

Gleemax: You haven't yet found your rhythm as a designer. The best art is not a little bit of everything.

Mark: Alexis had a good but not great week. She matched the development demands and did okay (but just okay) on designing to the art. Her biggest weakness seemed to be her commons (although, oddly enough, not specifically because they were common). Turn Around is essentially Breaking Wave (which was done at rare - okay yes it had an extra ability), Dawn of Fury has an effect that isn't red (this is not the same as untapping to allow an extra attack) and Aeromancer seems to have one more activated ability than it needs.

On the plus side, there was much innovation. Elder Edification, Shifting Infiltrator, and Manabomber all had elements that were quite fresh design-wise. My biggest advice for Alexis is to find ways to get "wow" factor without simply breaking or bending rules.

Chris Luhrs

Encapsulated Reality (Uncommon)
Picture #2 (Rings)
1 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Whenever a creature would come into play remove it from the game instead if it wasn't cast from a player's hand.

Pooled Resources (Rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
3 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Spells can't be played unless their converted mana costs are different from the converted mana costs of all spells in all graveyards.
2 Mana: Remove target card in a graveyard from the game. Any player may play this ability.

Thaumaturgic Tempest (Common)
Picture #7 (Staff)
Blue Mana
Sorcery
Tap all lands.

Brenne, Chill Mistress (Rare)
Picture #1 (Spear)
5 ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Legendary Creature - Human Wizard
6/6
Blue ManaBlue Mana: Tap target permanent. It doesn't untap as long as Brenne, Chill Mistress is in play.

Sick Sense of Humor (Uncommon)
Picture #3 (Pike)
2 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Whenever enchanted creature becomes blocked by a creature, destroy that creature at the end of combat.
Whenever enchanted creature deals damage to a player, that player discards a card.

Soul-devourer
Picture #9 (Monster)
3 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
1/1
Creature - Demon
Trample
2 ManaBlack Mana: Place a -1/-1 counter on target creature and a +1/+1 counter on Soul-devourer.

Better Part of Valor (Common)
Picture #5 (Sword)
2 ManaRed Mana
Instant
Each creature blocked by more than one creature is removed from combat.
Draw a Card

Mob Agitator (Uncommon)
Picture #8 (Flag)
1 ManaRed Mana
2/1
Creature - Human Rogue
As long as you control four or more creatures with converted mana cost 2 or less, they all get +1/+0 and double strike.

Saltating Canopy Warden (Common)
Picture #6 (Cape)
3 ManaGreen Mana
3/3
Creature - Human Druid
Protection from creatures with flying.
Green Mana: Saltating Canopy Warden can block as though it had flying until end of turn.

Match the Mightiest (Rare)
Picture #10 (Child)
4 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
The power and toughness of all creatures you control are equal to the power and toughness of enchanted creature.

I felt introducing new keywords would be inappropriate for filling in gaps, so I didn't. I also tried for simpler texts as much as possible. Here are some thoughts on specific cards:
Encapsulated Reality: This card stops reanimation too and combos with Astral Slide.
Thaumaturgic Tempest: A name longer than its rules text.
Brenne: She originally cost less and had weaker stats, but this card is for Timmy.
Sick Sense of Humor: Comedy so horrid it drives you insane if it doesn't kill you outright.
Soul-devourer: He started out as a 6/6 with 5 -1/-1 counters on it. This version is shorter.
Mob Agitator: His flash point can be adjusted according to environment.
Saltating Canopy Warden: There wasn't much in the way of green-looking creatures in the pictures. This was the best I could find, and he looks like he's jumping.
Match the Mightiest: This card plus Verdant Force...

Brady: Most of this contestant's cards are almost entirely separable from the illustrations. They seem nearly intentionally unrelated. I found myself looking at them twice to be sure I didn't miss some connection to the illustration that I might have missed. The exceptions are Sick Sense of Humor, Better Part of Valor, and Mob Agitator, which are pretty good links to their illustrations, actually. Saltating Canopy Warden is a heroic attempt, but it doesn't quite fly (hur hur).

Devin: Luhrs started the competition with a decent six cards and upgraded to good last week. This week Pooled Resources is my favorite. I always loved playing Bazaar of Wonders back in the day, and this is a nice twist on that. I really enjoyed "Protection from flying creatures" too - I have tried to get that into sets on a spider in the past, and I still hope it makes it someday. The other 8 cards all had varying degrees of problems that undermined them. Rimescale Dragon and Consumptive Goo both got submitted here, which is a definite minus. Mob Agitator seems super-broken and way too easy. Better Part of Valor seems nonred, and Thaumaturgic Tempest was too bizarre to be common. Only 2 hits out of 10 cards is not a great percentage, and there are not enough solid anchors here to keep this in the better submissions. This ends up being (by a little bit) Luhrs' weakest submission to date. 4 out of 10.

Gleemax: I think the best word for this week's submission is mediocre. Not horrible but far from good enough to guarantee keeping the axe at bay.

Mark: Christopher was another designer that I asked to simplify and he too listened. Chris also did a decent job of matching the development demands (matching art wasn't as much a success). Unfortunately, a lot of the designs had different issues: rarity (Encapsulated Reality, Thaumaturgic Tempest), color (Better Part of Valor and Match the Mightiest), clunkiness (Mob Agitator) and simply not being all that much fun (Pooled Resources).

Like several of the other designers, Chris also made cards very close to existing cards (Brenne, Chill Master = Rimescale Dragon and Soul-devourer = Consumptive Goo). I like Chris' sensibilities but if he wants to continue he's going to have to turn in material of a higher quality than this week.

Kenneth Nagle

Hi Mom! I know this makes absolutely no sense, but thanks for reading!

Power to the Meek (Uncommon)
Picture #5 (Sword)
White Mana
Instant
Destroy target creature with power greater than its converted mana cost.

Banner of Peasantry (Rare)
Picture #8 (Flag)
2 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Non-token creatures you control with no abilities get +2/+2.

Dramatic Entrance (Common)
Picture #6 (Cape)
2 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Put a creature card from your hand into play as a 2/2 facedown creature. You may turn it face up at any time by paying its mana cost.
Draw a card.

Frostreaver (Rare)
Picture #1 (Spear)
4 ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
4/4
Creature - Human Wizard
3 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana, Tap: Tap all creatures.
Frostreaver gets +1/+1 for each tapped creature an opponent controls.

Cruel Tutelage (Uncommon)
Picture #10 (Child)
2 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
When Cruel Tutelage comes into play, target player discards a card.
Whenever enchanted creature deals combat damage to an opponent, you may put target card from that player's graveyard on top of his or her library.

Twinmortality (Rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
3 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Sorcery
Put two target creature cards with the same name from among graveyards into play under your control.

Anger Management (Common)
Picture #7 (Staff)
1 ManaRed Mana
Instant
Target creature gets +3/+0 until end of turn. That creature must attack this turn if able.

Metal-Crazed Hulk (Uncommon)
Picture # 9 (Monster)
3 ManaRed ManaRed Mana
4/4
Creature - Goblin Mutant
While an opponent controls an artifact, Metal-Crazed Hulk has haste.
2 ManaRed Mana, sacrifice an artifact: Return Metal-Crazed Hulk from your graveyard to play. Play this ability only during your upkeep.

Marauding Madcap (Common)
Picture #3 (Pike)
4 ManaGreen Mana
4/1
Creature - Human Shaman
Haste
2 ManaGreen Mana, sacrifice a creature: Creatures able to block Marauding Madcap this turn do so.

Manaclasm (Rare)
Picture #2 (Rings)
4 ManaGreen Mana
Sorcery
Manaclasm is the color or colors of mana used to play it.
Destroy target permanent if it is colorless or shares a color with Manaclasm.

This challenge, I avoided themes and hints at cycles because we weren't told what's in the set. I went top-down whenever possible. I cut unnecessary text to give Creative more flavor room to alleviate the 'filled hole' feel.

Specific card notes:

Anger Management shows characters at a seminar taking turns releasing rage.
Marauding Madcap taunts with severed heads; I tried lessening his swinginess.
Twinmortality's flavor is zombifying an urn into two entities. I cut a more 'Tooth and Nail' version.
Manaclasm might be sexier as a {6colorless sorcery. I'm trying a fixed Dead Ringers template.
Dramatic Entrance is a make-your-own-Morph card that I'd enjoy watching the pros play.
Finally, I'd ask Cavotta to color tint the green (Cape) to blue, then crop or add scale to (Spear) to appear bigger.

Rejected CARDNAMEs: Ostentatiousness, Nouveau Riche, Progressive Tax, Mutiny, March of the Simpletons, Showstopper, Dualing Revenants, Catharsis, Goad, Prismatic Boom.

Brady: Very good overall. Anger Management has little relation to its illustration, in my opinion, and I can't buy the zombie jester as a green creature. But otherwise many of the links are quite good. The white cards, Dramatic Entrance, Twinmortality, and Metal-Crazed Hulk are particularly strong in their links to the illustrations. Well done.

Devin: Kenneth has been performing pretty solidly so far, though no breakout performances yet. This week goes along the same lines - solid with a lot of hits, but doesn't have the breakout impressive cards to be among the very best this week. Banner of Peasantry and Dramatic Entrance I really liked. Frostreaver is a good timmy blue guy. And Metal-Crazed Hulk had good flavor. Manaclasm was really cool too. Thumbs up for a shout-out to your mom as well. Twinmortality is ok, but will too often lack the two targets it needs. Power of the Meek seemed like a hacky set of numbers to compare, and doesn't solve a quantity of tokens very well. Cruel Tutelage didn't appeal to me, and I don't see sufficient justification here for a very reddish 4/1 haste creature in green. 6 out of 10. Good work this week - you are poised to move into the top tier in the competition if your next submission includes some home runs.

Gleemax: I get the sense that Kenneth could really impress me. Hopefully ones of these days it'll happen.

Mark: Another solid submission from Kenneth. He did an excellent job both of matching the develop demands and of matching art. In particular I liked Power To The Meek and Manaclasm. (Twinmortality too but as Aaron pointed out last week, this was my original ability for Lim-Dul - I'm assuming, of course, that Kenneth didn't see that.)

I also liked that Kenneth purposely made his cards short enough to allow flavor text as he knew that the art links were a bit of a stretch. My biggest critique for Kenneth this week is that he still tends to play around in known areas. I would like to see Kenneth push his designs a little more to go into less understood areas.

Andrew Probasco

Stratification (uncommon) (art 4)
2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Sorcery
Until end of turn, all creatures lose all abilities and become creatures with power and toughness equal to their converted mana cost.

Lifepact (rare) (art 10)
2 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
During your upkeep, pay 2 life or sacrifice [CARDNAME].
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to creatures and players.

Aether Squall (common) (art 7)
1 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Target player skips his or her next upkeep step.

Rym, Unstable Prodigy (rare) (art 1)
2 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Legendary Creature - Wizard
2/3
Whenever any player plays a sorcery or instant spell, they may copy it.

Sinister Dance (uncommon) (art 3)
1 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
When [CARDNAME] is put into a graveyard from play, return enchanted creature to owner's hand, and return [CARDNAME] to play.

Touch of Oblivion (rare) (art 2)
3 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Instant
Remove target creature from the game. Search it's controller's library for a card of each of its colors and remove them from the game. That player then shuffles his or her library.

Bully(common) (art 5)
1 ManaRed Mana
Sorcery
As an additional cost to play [CARDNAME], reveal any number of cards from your hand. For each card type revealed, target creature can't block this turn. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, and sorcery.)

Feral Riftcaller (uncommon) (art 6)
2 ManaRed Mana
Creature -- Barbarian Shaman
1/1
Whenever another barbarian comes into play, destroy target land.

Steelskin Behemoth (common) (art 9)
4 ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Beast
4/4
Protection from spells and abilities.

Form of Many (rare) (art 8)
4 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment
Your life total is equal to the combined toughness of all creatures you control.
If you would lose life, deal that much damage divided any way you chose among creatures you control instead.
If you would gain life, put that many 1/1 green Elf tokens into play.

Brady: This contestant's cards are all over the place in terms of their links to illustrations. I was really happy to see someone finally do something with Picture 1 that made sense to me (Rym, Unstable Prodigy). And even though I think Touch of Oblivion ultimately doesn't work, it's a good attempt at solving the problem of Picture 2. Steelskin Behemoth is fine. But the rest of the cards range from somewhat unrelated to their illustrations all the way to baffling.

Devin: Probasco started well in week one, then fell off with a weak submission last week. As a preliminary note, it was pretty annoying to have to look up "art 3" and "art 10," since he was the only person to ignore the instructions to name the art he matched. This week I liked Feral Riftcaller and Form of Many and Stratification a lot, though the latter would need rules help. Nice simple tribal and a cool green Lich. All the rest were misses for me. On Bully, the revealing has so little to do with the effect that it creates a mechanical flavor mismatch. Sinister Dance has only minor differences from the Fool's Demise that we printed in Time Spiral. Rym is just a more aggressively costed Mirari that lets your opponent use it too, which people would not like as much as Mirari, which is in Time Spiral. Steelskin Behemoth is really close to an untargetable 4/4, which we wouldn't do at common unless it's got something like fading. This is way more misses than you want to have. I have to give it 3 out of 10.

Gleemax: Your cards evoked indifference, not the emotion you should be aiming for.

Mark: I asked Andrew to step up this week and I'm sad to say that he didn't do so as much as I hoped. My two biggest notes when I reviewed his submission were "wrong rarity" (Aether Squall, Bully, Feral Riftcaller, Steelskin Behemoth) and "not fun" (Lifepact, Feral Riftcaller). There were bright moments (I liked Form of Many, a cool Lich variant) but not enough to bring the submission to the level I had wanted to see. I feel Andrew is on the edge again this week. The big question is, did three other designers do worse?

Ryan Sutherland

Wayward Crusader (Uncommon)
2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Creature - Human Soldier
2/2
Whenever Wayward Crusader comes into play remove all non-white creatures from the game. At end of turn, return those creatures to play under their owners' control with a +1/+1 counter on them.
Picture #8 - Flag

Protection Racket (Rare)
2 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
When Protection Racket comes into play, choose a color.
As long as you control more creatures than all opponents, you gain protection from the chosen color. (You can't be targeted, dealt damage or enchanted by anything of the chosen color.)
Picture #5 - Sword

Whirl Rend (Common)
1 ManaBlue Mana
Sorcery
Tap two target permanents and remove a counter from each of those permanents.
Picture # 1 - Spear

Polyjuice Brewer (Rare)
3 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Creature - Human Wizard
2/2
At the beginning of your upkeep, reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a creature card. Creatures you control become a copy of that creature until end of turn. Then shuffle your library.
Picture #4 - Cauldron

Sigil of the Corrupt (Uncommon)
2 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gains +3/+1.
Whenever Sigil of the Corrupt is put into a graveyard from play, put target white creature card from an opponent's graveyard into play under your control.
Picture #10 - Child

Morbid Jokester (Rare)
1 ManaBlack Mana
Creature - Zombie Townsfolk
3/2
Whenever a source deals damage to Morbid Jokester, that source's controller may search your library for that many cards and remove them from the game.
Then shuffle your library.
Tap: Morbid Jokester deals 10 damage to itself.
Picture #3 - Pike

Pyrebreak Horizon (Common)
1 ManaRed Mana
Instant
Add Red ManaRed ManaRed Mana to all players' mana pools.
Picture #7 - Staff

Flamewake Shaman (Uncommon)
3 ManaRed Mana
Creature - Human Shaman
2/2
Whenever you play a spell with converted mana cost one, Flamewake Shaman deals 3 damage to target creature or player.
Picture #6 - Cape

Raving Amalgaroth (Common)
3 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Beast
4/4
Whenever Raving Amalgaroth becomes blocked, defending player sacrifices an Aura or Equipment.
Picture #9 - Monster

Chromatic Pulsing (Rare)
Green Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant artifact or enchantment
1 Mana: Destroy enchanted permanent.
White ManaBlue ManaBlack ManaRed ManaGreen Mana: Destroy all enchanted permanents.
Picture #2 - Rings

Initially I thought about choosing to put pictures into colors that weren't the obvious choice. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I would be better off if I chose to put my creativity into making interesting card designs rather than interesting and ultimately incorrect art direction decisions. Like my group of preliminary cards, I wanted there to be an interesting mix of abilities. Of course the restrictions helped to ensure the diversity of card designs. Protection Racket explores an area of design space that I noted in my essays about extending protection to players. I tried to realign my cards to the proper rarity after trailing off a bit last week, but beyond that I just followed my instincts. Anyways, thanks again.

Brady: I'm trying to comment only on cards' link to illustration and not to card designs themselves. But this contestant's cards had me saying "Huh?" a lot. Morbid Jokester seems crazy, and Sigil of the Corrupt seems hacky, for example. That said, the links to illustrations are pretty good. The white and blue cards' links are solid. Pyrebreak Horizon is pretty random, though. Chromatic Pulsing is the best treatment yet of Picture 2.

Devin: Sutherland has pitched the most consistently impressive designs so far. This week he has again designed the top submission for me, though it's getting a lot closer, with several people nipping at his heels. Though he is again in the lead this week, the other candidates are a lot closer than they have been in previous weeks. The gap seems to be narrowing. Polyjuice Brewer, Pyrebreak Horizon, and Protection Racket were among my favorites here, mostly because each does a cool, never-before-seen thing with a clear concept and very simple text. That is what it's all about. Only a few misses here. Whirl Rend doesn't seem like it does anything in many blocks. Sigil of the Corrupt seemed really random. Chromatic Pulsing and Morbid Jokester are both really cool ideas, making them successes despite a bit of clunkiness. 8 out of 10. Keep coming up with these simply expressed, new ideas. Good job.

Gleemax: You've clearly set the bar. The other designers need to look at what you're doing and aim to do better.

Mark: Yet another good week for Ryan. He fit the criteria both on the development side and the art side and also made numerous very cool cards. It's hard to pull out my favorites because I like almost all of them. Some highlights: Wayward Crusader was both interesting unto itself and a subtle token hoser; Protection Racket is a logical extension of the rules yet something we've never done; Pyrebreak Horizon is very innovative yet only seven words. All in all, great work!

Scott Van Essen

Rallying Hero (Uncommon)
2 ManaWhite Mana
Creature - Human Soldier
2/1
First Strike
X ManaX Mana, Tap: Destroy target attacking creature with converted mana cost X.
Picture #8 (Flag)

Army of Stone (Rare)
3 ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Creatures you control are indestructible and can't attack, block, or use activated abilities.
Picture #3 (Pike)

Rite of Energy
Blue Mana
Sorcery
Ritual X - as an additional cost to playing this spell, tap X creatures.
Tap or untap X target creatures.
Picture #7 (Staff)

Oppressive Icemaster (Rare)
4 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
Legendary Creature - Human Wizard
2/3
Blue Mana, Tap: Tap target creature and put an ice counter on it.
Tap, Sacrifice CARDNAME: Gain control of all creatures with ice counters on them.
Picture #1 (Spear)

Memories of the Master (Uncommon)
Black Mana
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
2 ManaBlack Mana: Until end of turn, enchanted creature gains the abilities of target creature in your graveyard.
Picture #10 (Child)

Test of Will (Rare)
2 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment
At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player may lose two life. If they don't, sacrifice CARDNAME and that player sacrifices three permanents.
Picture #4 (Cauldron)

Explosive Exit (Common)
1 ManaRed Mana
Instant
Turn target face-down creature you control face up. Until end of turn it gains haste and flying. Sacrifice it at the end of the turn.
Picture #6 (Cape)

Hapless Barbarian (Uncommon)
3 ManaRed Mana
Creature - Human Barbarian
5/5
CARDNAME gets -2/-2 for each creature blocking it beyond the first.
Picture #5 (Sword)

Ferrivorous Beast (Common)
4 ManaGreen Mana
Creature - Beast
4/4
Trample
Tap: Destroy target artifact. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on CARDNAME.
Picture #9 (Monster)

Energy Circle (Rare)
3 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Enchantment
Sacrifice an enchantment: Add W to your mana pool.
Discard a card: Add U to your mana pool.
Sacrifice a creature: Add B to your mana pool.
Sacrifice a land: Add R to your mana pool.
Sacrifice an artifact: Add G to your mana pool.
Picture #2 (Rings)

Comments
Rallying Hero: Obviously, the destruction ability is free for tokens. I believe this is subtle enough without being overpowered against other creatures.
Army of Stone: For a Johnny Deck that has important creature triggered and static abilities Rite of Energy: The ritual ability is intended for a cycle of these "Rites"
Oppressive Icemaster: This card had a line that said creatures with ice counters on them don't untap, but I removed it both for simplicity, and to add tension in when to sacrifice.
Test of Will: Evil, evil card
Explosive Exit: Obviously this has to be a morph environment, but since I saw a morph shell, I went for it.
Hapless Barbarian: Obviously this guy has never fought more than one opponent before.
Energy Circle: Since you only get one mana from discarding, it shouldn't be as broken as Cadaverous Bloom.

Brady: "Interesting" is the word I'd use to describe this contestant's links between mechanics and illustrations. Some work, some don't quite work, but most of them try to interpret the illustration in an unexpected way. The black, red, and green cards fare better than the white and blue ones. Memories of the Master is a nice handling of its illustration. Explosive Exit is a little silly, but it works. Energy Circle is a very good solution to the Picture 2 problem.

Devin: Scott started out just ok, and improved to good (if not very innovative) last week. This week I liked Oppressive Icemaster and Memories of the Master. Energy Circle was also a good hit for me - it was very texty, but simple in concept, and its coolness made all the text worth it. Ferrivorous Wurm was cool, though the costing is clearly off and it doesn't need trample or the clause. None of the other seven were solid hits for me, but to his credit only one of those seven is a solid miss. That miss is Hapless Barbarian because it's just a repeat of Johtull Wurm. It really is important for Magic designers to know what we have already printed very thoroughly, and to avoid making it again. Many people made this misstep this week, so that's more of a general note than something on Van Essen in particular. Ritual N is a good keyword, but this was the wrong choice of effects to put on it. Army of Stone is too restrictive to be an awesome Johnny card for me. Rallying Hero kills one token a turn, but it also kills 1 guy a turn, and Deepfire Elemental in Coldsnap basically already did this. Overall, the submission is like many of its individual cards - a lot of good stuff, not much wrong with it, but not a lot of inspiringly awesome stuff and not much risk-taking here. Van Essen has to reach farther and hit homeruns to get into the top tier. 5 out of 10.

Gleemax: You've managed to cross complexity with a lack of wordiness. The goal of design is not to outwit the players.

Mark: I asked Scott to look at his execution. And he did. This week's submissions are a step up. That said, I felt the change came at the cost of innovation. None of this week's cards hinted at the potential I saw in last week's submission. The only card that truly excited me was Oppressive Icemaster. Scott's designs have always hinted at a neat sensibility, but I just didn't get as clear a sense of it this week. (It's interesting to note that this week Scott started being allowed to get reactions from a friend.)

In addition, I feel Scott merely did okay at matching art and development needs. Army of Stone, as example, doesn't really match the art and is a little too narrow for the average Johnny (yes, Uber-Johnny would like it but he doesn't get a lot of cards). Whenever I read what Scott says he's up to I get excited. I need the cards to raise to the level of his ideas.

Noah Weil

  1. White Uncommon. We need an answer to all the token making in the environment. Be subtle.
    Gravity Break (uncommon)
    Picture #7 (Staff)
    2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
    Enchantment
    Creatures don't untap as normal during their controller's untap step.
    At the beginning of each player's upkeep, that player may return a creature they control to its owner's hand.
  2. White Rare. We're looking for a rare, Johnny-style enchantment.
    Paragon Quest (rare)
    Picture #10 (Child)
    3 ManaWhite ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
    Enchantment
    If you would draw a card, you may instead search your library for a card and remove it from the game.
    Sacrifice Paragon Quest: Play all cards removed from the game by Paragon Quest without paying their mana cost. Use this ability only if you have removed a land, creature, artifact, enchantment, sorcery, and instant with Paragon Quest.
  3. Blue Common. We need a sorcery. No card drawing or filtering. No bounce.
    Pierce the Din (common)
    Picture #1 (Spear)
    2 ManaBlue Mana
    Sorcery
    As an additional cost to play Pierce the Din, tap an untapped creature you control.
    Up to two target creatures are unblockable this turn.
  4. Blue Rare. We need a creature. Something splashy for Timmy
    Zalorm the Far Reaching (rare)
    Picture #4 (Cauldon)
    5 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana
    0/0
    Legendary Creature-Shapeshifter
    As Zalorm the Far Reaching comes into play, you may choose a creature card in play, in a graveyard, or outside the game with converted mana cost 6 or less. If you do, Zalorm the Far Reaching comes into play as a copy of that creature.
  5. Black Uncommon. Make an aura you want to put on your own creatures.
    Dance of the Jester (uncommon)
    Picture #3 (Pike)
    1 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
    Enchantment-Aura

    Enchant Creature
    Enchanted creature has "Whenever this creature attacks, you may search defending player's library and remove a card from the game. If you do, that player shuffles his or her library".
  6. Black Rare. Can be anything.
    Shattered Hope (rare)
    Picture #5 (Sword)
    2 ManaBlack ManaBlack Mana
    Sorcery
    Destroy all creatures target player controls. That player controls your next turn.
  7. Red Common. Instant or Sorcery. No direct damage or destruction effects.
    Ragewave (common)
    Picture #8 (Flag)
    1 ManaRed Mana
    Instant
    All creatures target player controls attacks this turn if able. Those creatures get +1/+0 until end of turn.
  8. Red Uncommon. Creature. Want a build around me for draft (aka something that will encourage players to go down a path or paths he or she wouldn't normally had they not drafted this card early).
    Crazed Metallurgist (uncommon)
    Picture #9 (Monster)
    3 ManaRed ManaRed Mana
    4/3
    Creature-Orgg Artificer
    Whenever Crazed Metallurgist attacks, it gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is the number of artifacts you control.
    Red ManaRed Mana, Sacrifice an artifact: Crazed Metallurgist deals two damage to target creature or player.
  9. Green Common. Creature that costs four or more mana.
    Nature's Advocate (common)
    Picture #6 (Cape)
    3 ManaGreen Mana
    3/3
    Creature-Human Monk
    Protection from colorless.
  10. Green Rare. Non-creature spell. Green's lacking in "wow" factor (aka something that will impress the player by how different it is).
    Kaleidoscopic Rendering (rare)
    Picture #2 (Rings)
    Green Mana
    Sorcery
    Destroy target permanent if you control a permanent of each color.
    Draw a card.

I interpreted this challenge to indicate the rest of the "set" was essentially finished. Thus, no new mechanics.. However a lot of these would play better or worse depending on the overarching themes of a set (e.g. Nature's Advocate alongside morph). I'm pleased with my marriage of flavor/ability/art/development's needs.

*Gravity Break fulfills its need with limited, and provides interesting tension alongside White's Pacifism/Wrath effects.
*Zalorm is a marquee creature, making players very happy with /Momir tricks. Like the Wishes, tourney players need to decide on sideboard decisions if/when they play him.
*Nature's Advocate nearly invalidates Tel-Jilad Outrider, but considering this art and how mediocre that card was, I'm ok with it.
*Kaleidoscopic Rendering's template can be efficient like it's written, or spell out each permanent to give a sense of build-up; puzzle for Creative/Editing. Could coincide new Green color pie slice (support=effect).

Brady: Kaleidoscopic Rendering is pretty good. Zalorm, Dance of the Jester, and the red cards are okay. For the other five, I simply don't see a strong enough link to the illustration. In some cases I don't see it at all.

Devin: Noah has had two weeks of being very solid with not many mistakes. He has played it a little safe in the past, and has been told by a lot of people that he needs to take more risks to get into the very top tier. This submission does do some weirder stuff, which means he is using the feedback to improve his submissions, which is smart. My favorite here by far is "Protection from Colorless" which is a pure concept, using just three words of text, and has a lot of cool implications, especially as a hose to morph suggested by the morph spider in the art, without actually mentioning morph on the card. Again I'll say it: Pure Concept + Simple Text + Never-before-seen ability + Fun = Winning Combination. Every time anyone hits this combination, that card will be a hit for me. There are other ways to make cards hits too, but that is a really good combination. Kaleidoscopic Rendering was a color bleed that hit for me. Paragon Quest was a new kind of Pursuit of Knowledge that seemed like a fun goal to build around - a hit. Zalorm and Crazed Metallurgist I enjoyed too. On the other hand, Gravity Break did not answer tokens well, interacting with them in a very slow way, and thus does not fulfill the hole request. The first sentence on Pierce the din needs to have a flavor reward to be worth it, and the flavor did not make that sentence worth it here for me - the card should lose its first sentence, which means you would want to submit something else instead.

Sidenote on the Mindslaverish card: The original Mindslaver is an awesome A+ design for a variety of reasons. But, though activating Mindslaver is fun, getting Mindslaver activated against you is not that fun, especially if it happens again and again. Shattered Hope says to everyone who reads it "Your opponent gets to Mindslaver you" which I am confident is a big big turnoff to players, making this card a miss.

Overall good work and keep it up - try to go into newer territory in future weeks to get into the top circle. 6 out of 10.

Gleemax: You're still playing it way too safe. Even your "new" ideas are the same few riffs again and again.

Mark: Noah has taken my comments to heart and is definitely being more innovative. My biggest criticism is that the innovation seems mostly messing around with known quantities (and many of the same qualities at that). I would like to see Noah take bigger and more different gambles with his ideas. That said, this was a good submission.

Aaron Weiner

Impede (uncommon)
Picture #5 (Sword)
2 ManaWhite ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
Whenever a creature attacks you, its controller may pay its mana cost. If he or she doesn't, put 2 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens into play. Sacrifice them at end of turn.

Vivipotence (rare)
Picture #1 (Spear)
White ManaWhite Mana
Enchantment
As long as your life total is even, creatures you control get +1/+0 and have first strike. (An even number is exactly double any other number.)
Pay 2 life: Gain 1 life.

Succession (common)
Picture #10 (Child)
U
Sorcery
The next time this turn another card is put into your graveyard, you may play it. (You still have to pay its mana cost. Play it immediately.)

Infused Clone (rare)
Picture #4 (Cauldron)
6U
Creature-Shapeshifter
0/0
As Infused Clone comes into play, choose a creature. Infused Clone comes into play as a copy of that creature and gains "Black Mana: This creature gets +2/+1 until end of turn," "W: This creature gains first strike and vigilance until end of turn," and "Blue Mana: Change a target of target spell or ability to another target with the same name."

Corrupt Standard (uncommon)
Picture #8 (Flag)
2 ManaBlack Mana
Enchantment-Aura
Enchanted creature is a Lord in addition to its types. If a spell or ability could target a non-Lord, it can't target a Lord.

Mocking Deserter (rare)
Picture #3 (Pike)
Black Mana
Creature-Zombie Soldier Knight
3/3
Soldiers get -1/-1.
Knights get -1/-1.
Black Mana: Until end of turn, Mocking Deserter isn't a Soldier and has fear.
Black Mana: Until end of turn, Mocking Deserter isn't a Knight.
Regenerate it.

Prismatic Liberation (common)
Picture #2 (Rings)
1 ManaRed Mana
Sorcery
For each other spell played this turn, add 2 mana to your mana pool of each of that spell's colors. (For example, add UURR to your mana pool for each blue-red spell played this turn.)

Liberation Mage (uncommon)
Picture #6 (Cape)
2 ManaRed Mana
Creature-Human Wizard
1/1
Whenever a spell is played, Liberation Mage becomes that spell's colors until end of turn and deals X damage to target creature or player, where X is the number of colors that spell has.

Vigorous Metaloth (common)
Picture #9 (Monster)
3 ManaGreen Mana
Creature-Beast Shaman
3/3
Tap: Add 1 to your mana pool.
The first time each turn Vigorous Metaloth becomes tapped, untap it.

Tromp the Aether (rare)
Picture #7 (Staff)
5 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana
Sorcery
When you play Tromp the Aether, put 4 charge counters on it.
If Tromp the Aether would be countered, remove a charge counter from it instead.
Creatures you control have trample and get +X/+X, where X is the number of charge counters on Tromp the Aether, until end of turn.

Tokens usually have no mana cost. Vivipotence is a utility Spike rare; to turn it into a Johnny one, ignore the first ability and use it with cards that like life loss or gain. In the art, 2 life is paid to allow 1 life to supercharge the spear. Succession uses its art metaphorically. Infused

Clone may disguise itself as the best creature on the board for its own protection, but it's actually nastier. Mocking Deserter is an out against Impede. Corrupt Standard's art isn't a perfect fit, but it'd do. Also, I've attached an altered version. The Liberation cards encourage a multicolor storm-like build and represent the fission of spell residue.

Vigorous Metaloth's mana is metallic, and vigor, green's twist on vigilance, creates lots of interactions. Tromp the Aether is a spell with trample. Four wizards are shown only partially countering it.

Brady: Well someone has to be at the bottom, and I'm afraid it's this contestant. Almost every card does something that is either fully irrelevant to or actually in conflict with elements of its illustration. Infused Clone starts off okay-lots of contestants chose to make a Shapeshifter card for this illustration-but then it adds elements one after the other that bizarrely disjoin it from the illustration.

Devin: Weiner started out too subtle, but had a great week last week with two great cycles. This week I liked Prismatic Liberation, Vigorous Metaloth, and Liberation Mage, though I would cut "changes colors" from the latter. The other seven elicited a range of reactions from not-quite-hit to miss. Tromp the Domains "sort of uncounterable" was a lot of text for something worse than uncounterable. This was a not good way to do a trampling spell like he hoped - Liquid Fire is a good example of a trampling spell. Impede is way too clever of a way to hose tokens - most people won't know that they can't pay the mana cost of a token, and will think they can pay zero.

Weiner makes a good comment by saying that Vivipotence should perhaps lose the buyout clause of pay 2 life: gain 1 life. He is on the right track, and the card is better without that clause.

Succession and Corrupt Standard were both too complicated, as was Mocking Deserter. A lot of these cards this week fell into the trap of being too subtle and "too clever," and it's hard to explain why that's bad, but it boils down to whether 90% of players will "get it" the first time they read the card, which is very important. When cards set up a hoop, then jump through it, it can create a too-clever card in a way that can be harmful too. Mocking Deserter is a great example of this - text length has to fight with how much gameplay payoff the card ends up providing, and on Mocking Deserter, text length is the winner. Cool ideas here, and I would love to see Weiner cast off the shackles of excessive subtlety from this week and the first week, and do more of the good work from week #2 - the three cycle challenge. Overall 4 out of 10.

Gleemax: The goal of this challenge wasn't to hide your good ideas behind meaningless text. More text does not equal better card.

Mark: I wasn't as happy with Aaron's submission as I have been the last two weeks. My biggest issue was one of unnecessary busyness on some of the cards (Infused Clone, Mocking Deserter and Tromp the Aether are good examples). This plays into the craftsmanship issue I've talked with Aaron about. He has to learn to simplify what he wants and get cleaner versions of his cards. He has some interesting ideas (Succession, while not common, piqued my interest) but they get buried behind unfriendly text.

And that is what our twelve candidates did for the second design challenge. The results (and this article) have been added to the Great Designer Search homepage. Check back next week to see which three applicants are eliminated and find out what the remaining nine do for the third design challenge. If you have an opinion on who you feel should advance or be eliminated don't be afraid to drop into this episode's thread to give your opinion.

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