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The Search cuts to 5…

The Great Designer Search Episode #5
“Once More With Feeling”, Part II

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The letter I!f you haven't read Part I, I strongly urge you to take a peek. It shows this week's challenge as well as the submissions of our seven remaining candidates. (Note that the submissions will be repeated here for reference purposes but if you read Part I you can skip over them and go right to the judges' comments, in which case this article will be much shorter for you than it looks on the page.)

As normal, our judges for today will be Aaron Forsythe (in red), Devin Low (in blue), Gleemax (in lovely plum) and myself (in green). After the comments, we will eliminate two applicants.

Mark Globus

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) – “Do twice” instant or sorcery

Nightmares upon Nightmares (uncommon)
3BB
Sorcery
Sacrifice a creature. If you do, return a creature from your graveyard to the game. Then, sacrifice a creature. If you do, return a creature from your graveyard to the game.

A double Recurring Nightmare generates anything from trading up two weak creatures for two strong ones, to clearing a negative enchantment off of a favored creature, to the generation of out of order effects by returning and sacrificing something like a Faceless Butcher.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) – “Effect if red used” common or rare creature

Skritano Striker (rare)
3R
Creature - Human Nomad Shaman
2/2
For each RR spent casting a creature, target creature gains double-strike until end of turn.

This card is a fairly straightforward extension of the "effect if red used" mechanic by triggering off a double red instead of a single.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) – Aura that moves

Spread the Health (common)
G
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Whenever CARDNAME becomes attached to a creature put a +1/+1 counter on that creature. Whenever an instant or sorcery is played, you may choose a new target for CARDNAME.

This triggers off of instants and sorceries so that it can save itself, a creature (or both) from creature removal. By having the attachment of the aura to the creature trigger the +1/+1 counter, the power granted by this card continues to grow throughout the course of the game.

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) – Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Fury of the Spikes (uncommon)
RG
Instant
While CARDNAME is on the stack, all players gain "2: put a +1/+1 counter on target creature."
Deal X damage to target creature or player where X is the number of creatures with +1/+1 counters.

The stack effect is small, yet repeatable; the resolution effect is scalable off of the stack effect. Together this provides a clean, grokkable package. Even though the various cards are not part of a set, I like the synergy this one has with Spread the Health.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) – Rare spell with a mind game

Potential Reinforcements (rare)
2G
Sorcery
Search your library for any number of copies of a creature in play and remove them from the game face down. Target opponent states a card name. Reveal the removed cards. If the cards match the name stated, put them in your graveyard. Otherwise put the cards into play. Shuffle your library.

This card improves upon the unsuccessful Bifurcate with a better risk/reward payoff. Bifurcate would fizzle when its target was removed, and that was enough to cause that card to be unplayable. Here, removal only reduces the odds of success, and the payoff is greater.

Card #6 (Noah Weil) – Uncommon “Build around me” spell with pyre

Releaser of the Past (uncommon)
3W
Creature - Human Cleric
1/4
Pyre: 2
Gain 2 life whenever a card leaves a graveyard.

Directly, this particular challenge is about extension of other work. However, I also wanted to showcase some 'design design' on some cards as well. This one uses a new effect - there are many cards that trigger off of entering the graveyard, but none (yet) that trigger on leaving.

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) - Splashy rare persistent creature

Master of Persistence (rare)
2W
Creature - Human
2/2
W: CARDNAME becomes an enchantment. (It is no longer a creature.)
2W: Remove target enchantment from the game and then return it to play.

Enabling enchantments to 'Flicker' not only creates a reset button for persistent cards, but also dodges enchantment removal as well as allows auras to retarget. This is an extremely natural fit for persistence.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) – Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Memory Refiner (rare)
3
Artifact
Tap: Search your library for any card and put it into your graveyard. Shuffle your library.
5, Sacrifice CARDNAME: put target card from your graveyard on top of your library.

This artifact appears at first to be simple deck thinning, but also provides a nice tool for re-animation strategies, flashback spells and, of course, auratide.

Devin: I like this week's challenge, since it tests a specific skill that comes up a lot on design teams: making cards to explore design space touched on by another person's initial design. This skill is not one with which the applicants have had a lot of experience. Perhaps as a result, I did not see any of the homerun submissions this week that I did in last week's awesome Unhinged Gold Rares. On the other hand, I didn't see a lot of weak links in this week's submissions either. On the whole, the qualities of this week's designs are compressed into a tighter range than before, with zero 8's or higher, but also zero 3's or lower.

This week, Globus's set was among the better ones for me. Nightmare upon Nightmares is my favorite here, in that it's nice and simple like the “do twice” card on which its based, it's a very interesting to do twice, and it's so awesomely open-ended. You can use it to recur CIP and leaves play effects like the original Recurring Nightmare, you can swap little creatures into big ones, and much more. A great design. I also really like Releaser of the Past's ability. I appreciate the pinch of “design design” here, because the newness of the ability doesn't get in the way of the assignment - it complements it by combining well with other Pyre cards. I liked how Golgari Brownscale triggered on that weird zone change, and this card is open-ended enough to combine well with tons of other graveyard-RFGing or regrowth effects or feldon's cane in a variety of interesting ways.

Asking the applicants to design “Common or uncommon card with effect on stack” is a tough challenge. That's because I wouldn't want to make that kind of card at all, unless there was a really good reason to do it. I designed Split Second during Guildpact design, then pitched it for Coldsnap, and eventually we put it into Time Spiral. I'm confident that Split Second's integration of Time Spiral's “Nostalgia” and “Use Time Itself as a Weapon” themes made it well worth publishing in Time Spiral, and I'm proud of the way it's been received. But it would have been a mistake to print Split Second uncommons mentioning the stack in a random set like Guildpact or Coldsnap. To print this kind of card, we had better have a good reason. All that said, since the applicants had to design a card to fit this criteria, I feel Globus gives one of the best designs on this slot this week. I like Fury of the Spikes better than the other judges and while it's certainly weird, I think it's fun to think about and could play pretty well.

Potential Reinforcements and Spread the Health were good too. Globus reveals a potential weakness by calling Bifurcate “unsuccessful” and “unplayable” just because its power level wasn't high enough for tournaments. I feel Bifurcate is very playable on kitchen tables, is fun, and is a fine rare to print. Memory Refiner was a lot of shuffling. Skritano Striker's granting double strike was a pretty clunky timing on an effect that also doesn't stack well – not a good choice. And Master of Persistence fails to satisfy the lead designer's request for a splashy, preview-worthy rare. It is too subtle to be exciting and preview-worthy. Overall, good job this week. 7 out of 10, my highest score in a week of very closely-matched submissions.

Aaron: Wow, what a tough assignment to grade this week. Because everyone is working from a very well-defined starting point and needed to produce specific things, the variance level between contestants is very low. The quality, on the other hand, was pretty darned high. Finding the worst of this crop was very difficult. But I'll do my best to be critical!

Mark's cards looked like they'd play well, although I wish they “read” better. Nightmare upon Nightmares, for example, looks like it's capable of doing neat things, although it's hard to understand all the text on the card in the first read (unlike Corbett's initial “do twice” card). Releaser of the Past definitely works well with other potential pyre cards, but it bugs me that I think I should be gaining life when I play itself using pyre. Memory Refiner probably shuffles way too much too easily—wasting time on the order of Sensei's Divining Top. My favorites of Mark's cards were Potential Reinforcements and Master of Persistence; both looked really fun.

Gleemax: Stop auditioning! You're trying so hard to impress us that you're gunking up your cards. Design cards we can print as is.

Mark: Mark, I think your submission was a mixed bag for me. There were some parts I really liked and others that I felt were weak. I liked Nightmares Upon Nightmares and Spread the Health, both of which interestingly enough were very close to cards submitted by other candidates. I liked that you tried to pave new design space with Skritano Striker but in doing so made it feel less like part of a vertical cycle (a vertical cycle is a cycle in the same color that has a common, uncommon and a rare). Just having three cards all share a mechanic is not itself always enough to make the three cards feel purposefully connected.

Potential Reinforcements is playing around in an interesting area. Although this is technically a development issue, the card seems real swingy (and too swingy for my tastes) at its current cost. Releaser of the Past has a cool trigger but feels a little strained as a “build around me”. I wasn't a huge fan of Fury of the Spikes or Master of Persistence. The former seems like the kind of card that you play once and it doesn't play like you thought it would and then you never play it again. The latter loses most of the charm of the persistence mechanics as it takes away the one-wayness of the transformation. (Flickering a persistent enchantment turns it back into a creature.) Memory Refiner was my least favorite as it makes the player both search his library and then shuffle it every turn. There's not even a mana cost to force players to occasionally take a turn off.

Mark, I think you have a lot of interesting ideas. I think that you have good instincts on places to look for new design. The problem I have with your design is a common novice designer mistake. You make the player work too hard to have fun. Your cards take extra time to grok. I think that they reflect the way you like to play. You have to learn to design cards for other types of players. Not everyone wants to think so hard. The joy of Magic is that even the simplest cards create deep strategic decisions. Remember, in design – less is more.

Graeme Hopkins

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) "Do twice" instant or sorcery (uncommon)

Brain Surgery (uncommon)
XB
Sorcery
Choose a player. Look at the top X cards of that player's library. Remove any number of those cards from the game, then put the rest back in any order. Repeat this process one more time.

The key here was having your first decisions impact your second decisions. This templating allows you to choose your second player after seeing how the first one turned out. Many play options with this one, strong but still played well.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) "Effect if red used" common or rare creature

Angry Dwarf (common)
1R
Creature - Dwarf
1/1
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, this gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the amount of R spent on that spell.

I wanted to use the +X/+0 mechanic as the common representative of this cycle. Making its cost (and consequently size) as small as possible was key, to get the most effect (and most fun) during the course of the game. Interesting deckbuilding choices, and proved fun to play.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) Aura that moves

Jaunting Rage (uncommon)
1R
Enchantment - Aura
Enchanted creature gets +1/+0 and has haste.
Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, attach CARDNAME to that creature.

A limited version of "creatures you control have haste." Initially I liked the idea, but thought it would be too rough. Playtesting proved it to be both manageable and fun. Tried fiddling around with cost and bonus to make common, but was shown that this effect shouldn't be in common.

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Regroup (uncommon)
1W
Instant
Tap an untapped creature you control: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn. Play this ability only while CARDNAME is on the stack.
Untap all creatures you control.

I'd like to make this common, but following the strict warnings about mentioning the stack (with which I agree), I'd submit this as uncommon. Deals with a minor "downside" of untapping your creatures (some are already untapped and get no benefit), and makes sure each creature benefits in some way.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) Rare spell with a mind game

Goblin Chucker (rare)
2R
Creature - Goblin
3/1
2R, T, discard a card face down: Target opponent may have CARDNAME deal 3 damage to him or her. Turn the discarded card face up. If your opponent chose not to take damage, CARDNAME deals damage to him or her equal to the discarded card's converted mana cost.

I like this take on the mind game aspect; your victim chooses the known value or the hidden value. Playtesting actually exceeded my expectations for fun and interesting situations. I like how the "hidden choice" is wrapped into the activation cost.

Card #6 (Noah Weil) Uncommon "Build around me" spell with pyre

Graving Shade (uncommon)
5B
Creature - Shade
2/2
Pyre 1
B, Remove a card in your graveyard from the game: CARDNAME gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

Uses cards in the graveyard as a resource in more than one way, one costing mana, the other "providing" mana. I like the tension of elements; you have to figure out the optimal time/situation of playing him. Testing suggested decent on its own, very nasty when built around.

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) Splashy rare persistent creature

Blood Mist (rare)
2BB
Creature - Spirit
4/2
At the beginning of your upkeep, destroy target creature with the lowest toughness among creatures in play.
2B: CARDNAME becomes an enchantment.

I wanted interaction between the effect and the fact that this may or may not be a creature. A creeping death, praying on the weakest on up. The two toughness played the best during playtesting, which proved this card to be quite interesting, rather than irritating like I envisioned.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Echo Caller (rare)
3G
Creature - Beast Druid
3/3
Trample
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to an opponent, reveal that many cards from the top of your library. Put all creature cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

Auratide seems like an interesting Timmy mechanic, so I tried to make an interesting Timmy card for it. This does a number of things that would benefit an Auratide deck:

  • gets auras into your graveyard
  • gets more creatures for your auras
  • provides a good creature to enchant; its power matters

Devin: A lot of nice work here this week from Hopkins. Jaunting Rage is my favorite here. People often design auras that give haste and power-pumping because they're flavorful, but they're usually bad designs because the aura keeps granting haste for many turns after the turn the aura comes into play, but the haste is meaningless for all those turns. Also, a haste aura only works if you play it on the same turn you play a creature, but it's really hard to have the mana up to play the creature and the aura on the same turn. We usually cut the haste auras before they are printed. This moving mechanic provides a good way to make a haste aura that makes sense.

Graving Shade is a good design with a nice tension. A lot of people design “tension” cards where the tension makes you feel terrible when you play the card. This shade offers a choice of how to play it that has some tension, where you get to choose between getting it earlier at less power or later with greater potential power. Angry Dwarf was a nice and simple common execution, if a bit obvious. Echo Caller is a great open-ended combo piece. Many amateur designers put trample randomly on green creatures where it doesn't belong, in an effort to make it look cooler. It's usually a big mistake. Putting extra abilities on cards that have nothing to do with their other abilities just makes them clunkier. But on Echo Caller, trample does three great things that make it totally worth it, and key to the card. 1) It helps the ability trigger. 2) It helps it make sense that the ability triggers on the combat damage dealt instead of saying “3”, because with the trample it won't always be 3. 3) It combines well with the auratide power-pumping auras that would presumably exist, as you say.

Brain Surgery, Goblin Chucker and Regroup were all just ok for me. Hopkins says he added the prevention clause to Regroup because some of your creatures “are already untapped and get no benefit.” But in many cases tapping a bunch of your creatures to put up prevention shields at a random time will still provide no benefit. For example if nothing is being damaged. Blood Mist is a total miss for me. The Abyss that never goes away isn't fun. See Call to the Grave as an example of a better-designed The Abyss variant, because it can eventually go away. Good work overall, without anything blowing me away this week, but not a lot of gaps. 6 out of 10.

Aaron: Graeme missed on a few cards this week in my opinion. Echo Caller is the most egregious to me—the card is so much better in a deck with all creatures than in anything messing with auratide. The connection is so subtle that I'll claim it doesn't exist. Angry Dwarf seems really aggressive at common, turning all removal into damage that hits the opponent as well. Brain Surgery sets off my Spidey sense as well—the most straightforward use is to mill someone for X ManaX Mana for only X ManaBlack Mana mana which also doubles as a super Sealed Fate, which was a gold card in Mirage. I did like Graving Shade and Goblin Chucker the best—there seems to be a lot of unmined space surrounding the “mind game” cards.

Gleemax: People like how Magic makes them think but they play because of how Magic makes them feel. Stop sacrificing feeling for thinking.

Mark: Graeme, I thought you had a pretty good week. I particularly liked the face down discard on Goblin Chucker. I liked Graving Shade, Blood Mist, and Echo Caller. I've put a card like Jaunting Rage in multiple designs (okay, it's never made it through development but I really like it). Angry Dwarf seemed a little swingy but it did at least feel common (well, except for the overpowered swingy part). Brain Surgery wasn't a hit for me as I didn't feel the two effects had as much interaction as the bar set by Conrad's card. Regroup was my least favorite. It seems like a lot of hoops to jump through for what is basically a simple damage prevention spell. In addition, it doesn't take advantage of the “effect on the stack” ability. The card could be written without the “play this ability only while CARDNAME is on the stack” line.

My advice for you is to focus on your strengths. You have the ability to find neat areas of design in small spaces (the face down discard is a great example). Make sure to keep working that creative muscle. Also, you need to be careful of being overly clever (one of my own faults as a designer). Don't fall in love with weird interactions. Regroup is an example of this problem. Yeah, it's clever in concept but it's clunky in execution. And it doesn't even show off the mechanic it's supposed to be showing off. Make sure to the time to look at your cards from the vantage point of the player.

Alexis Janson

"Once Again With Feeling" (this was fun, wish I had room to submit about twice as many cards for this one)

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) - "Do twice" instant or sorcery

Hateful Lies (uncommon)
1BB
Sorcery
Name a card type other than land. Target opponent reveals his or her hand and discards a card of that type. Then, name a card type other than land. That opponent reveals his or her hand and discards a card of that type.

Very few effects are "interesting" done twice in sequence, compared to simply affecting two targets. Effects can't rely on state-based effects between iterations. A variation that fixes both is "Do this. At end of turn, do it again." As templated, most interesting effects involve zone changes or hidden information.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) - "Effect if red used" common or rare creature

Jokul Hopper (rare)
3RR
Creature - Human Shaman
3/3
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, sacrifice Jokul Hopper. For each red mana spent on that spell, each player sacrifices a permanent.

Effects must be fair but interesting at a range of sizes. My devious side wanted "spells cost you an additional Red Mana to play" as a "benefit". Common seems obvious with "firebreathing", so I went splashy rare. It's intentional you can play multiple instants; mandatory sacrifice keeps it distinct from Braids.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) - Aura that moves

Fleeting Rage (common)
1R
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and can't block.
When enchanted creature attacks, you may attach Fleeting Rage to target creature.

I wasn't sure if the goal was simply "a moving Aura" or "an Aura that has an effect, then you want to move it." (normally I'd try to clarify.) The first is quite simple at common as "Whenever a creature comes into play, you may attach CARDNAME to it."

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) - Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Ambush Scout (uncommon)
2G
Creature - Elf Rogue
2/2
Flash
If Ambush Scout is on the stack, creature cards you own that aren't in play have flash.

To minimize confusion, "stack" effects should only affect things played later. The effect can't be responded to, so affecting permanents is problematic. Worse, most effects would be nearly identical as "until end of turn". I question commons referencing the stack. I chose relevant, elegant, flavorful, and understandable over confusing innovation.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) - Rare spell with a mind game

Contested Recall (rare)
XG
Sorcery
Shuffle your graveyard face down. Search it for X cards and remove them from the game face down. Target opponent names X cards. Reveal the removed cards. Put each card that was not named into your hand. (Turn your graveyard face up afterwards.)

Figuring another tutor was duplicative (search for creature, opponent guesses cost or color) I went with another zone where the opponent has perfect information. At first, it only returned one card. That version would still be solid, but I think it's more interesting now- "Regrow X cards" is sexy.

Card #6 (Noah Weil) - Uncommon "Build around me" spell with pyre

Vampiric Rites (uncommon)
4BB
Enchantment
Pyre 2 (Remove any multiple of 2 cards in your graveyard from the game. For each 2 you remove, this spell costs 1 less to play)
Whenever you gain life, target player loses that much life.

Not every pyre card needs graveyard-related effects- sometimes pyre would just be cost reduction. X spells seem obvious. I aimed for something generally interesting, using pyre as a way to make it possible but tricky to play early. Flavor connection- using the dead to grant yourself undead-like powers.

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) - Splashy rare persistent creature

Awenyedd, Truth Incarnate (rare)
3WU
Legendary Creature - Angel
4/4
Flying
Whenever a creature or spell deals damage to a player, that player may pay 1. If that player does, he or she draws a card.
2: Awenyedd, Truth Incarnate becomes an enchantment. (It's no longer a creature. This effect doesn't end at end of turn.)

Random thought- A tap activation could be more interesting than just adding mana on some other cards. The ability can't rely on it being a creature, but the best ones will still interact with it as a creature. I think this card could also be Black ManaRed Mana, with a different flavor.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) - Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Tome of Greed (rare)
3
Artifact
X, T: Reveal the top X cards of your library. Put all cards with converted mana cost equal to X into your hand. Put all other revealed cards into your graveyard.
/"It teaches you what you want, but not what you need."/

Obvious auratide supporters would fill your graveyard or bounce permanents. I had several uncommons with variations of bounce, looting, and combinations thereof, but I ended up settling on what I think is a very intriguing rare. (On the job, I imagine I could just submit all my ideas for perusal.)

Devin: One of my two favorite cards in this submission is Ambush Scout - really simple and clean and a good fit for “on the stack.” Good work. The other is Tome of Greed. It's really weird, in an appealing way, and is very open-ended in its combinations, which is good. Hateful Lies made the “twice” matter well and is a hit. Jokul Hopper was a good rare version of the mechanic. I liked the way that Fleeting Rage would bounce back and forth between each player's creatures. +1/+1 and can't block is a good idea of a classic red effect to put on this mechanic because it makes you want to bounce it back and forth.

Vampiric Rites had an effect I liked, but I didn't like combining that effect with Pyre – the combination seemed incredibly random and had very weak flavor for me. The abilities seemed to have nothing to do with one another. Still a near-hit.

Contested Recall would take forever and ever to resolve, and would create agonizing note-taking and/or memorization by the opponent while it was on the stack. Regrow X cards is not nearly enough justification to make this an X card minigame instead of a 1 card version. We don't want to make cards that take this long to resolve and require this much note-taking. A definite miss. The Gold Angel is a miss too, mostly because the 4/4 flying body is a huge anti-combo with the “Farsight Mask for everyone” ability. When I see a 4/4 flier, I want to hit with it, and I don't want it to have abilities that punish me for hitting with it. As a player, I deeply hated Sibilant Spirit. A miss.

Overall pretty good work this week, though not as good as your previous best hits. 6 out of 10.

Aaron: The part of the assignment that dealt with the stack seemed like an impossible task to me when I first read it. Mentioning the stack at uncommon? Lunacy. And most of the cards people submitted added complication to an already complex task… but Alexis got it right. Ambush Scout is simple and does something cool. What more could I ask for? Fleeting Rage looks to have cool play to it, and Tome of Greed poses nice deckbuilding questions. I wasn't a huge fan of Jokul Hopper; in fact, most people's “use red” cards felt really forced to me. But overall, Alexis stayed at the top this week.

Gleemax: You keep impressing us but you never wow us. Doubles and triples are great. It's time to start hitting the home runs.

Mark: Alexis, I felt your submission this week was good but not great. For starters, I felt you were the only candidate that truly made a common “effect on stack” card (even if you did choose to make it uncommon). I also really liked Hateful Lies, Contested Recall and Tome of Greed. Jokul Hopper failed for me because its effect could only be used once (okay you could use it multiple times in one turn). The neat part of the original spell was that you could keep playing more red spells. Also, I think this cycle, to match up, wanted effects that just worked in your favor. Your card could occasionally hurt you.

I'm mixed on Fleeting Rage. While the card works mechanically, the move trigger just doesn't feel natural with the effect of the enchantment. Basically, it's missing the connecting flavor I liked on Christopher's card. Vampiric Rites felt backwards to me. Black seems more like the color that benefits as others suffer not vice versa. Awenyedd was basically a symmetrical version of Farsight Mask. I don't think it was the best choice for a persistent creature as it's not the kind of effect that your opponent is going to always want to get rid of.

The thing I like best about your work is your design aesthetic. Your designs have a nice simple feel. What I feel you most need to work on is making sure the accompanying flavor is as clean as your mechanics. You have a tendency to make choices that that while clean mechanically are a little jarring in a holistic sense. Fleeting Rage is a good example. The text makes sense mechanically but has an awkward feel because the two parts don't click organically. They don't feel connected. You have to learn how to take a step back and see how all the pieces work together not from a strict mechanical sense but from an overall feel.

Chris Luhrs

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) - "Do twice" instant or sorcery

Till Thoroughly (Uncommon)
1GG
Sorcery
Sacrifice any number of lands. Reveal the top card of your library until that many lands have been revealed and put them into play.
Sacrifice any number of lands. Reveal the top card of your library until that many lands have been revealed and put them into play.
Shuffle all other cards revealed into your library.
(You can't tap lands for mana during the resolution of this spell.)

The best thing about Really Focus was that you didn't know what you would do the second round until you saw the first results. I wanted to keep that. This card fixes mana, searches for Cloudposts and Urzatron, functions as a Mana Severance, and accelerates once.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) - "Effect if red used" common or rare creature

Skritano Elementalist (Rare)
3RR
Creature - Human Barbarian Shaman
3/3
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery reveal the top card of your library for each red mana spent to cast that spell. For each card revealed in this way put an X/X red Elemental token into play with haste where X is its converted mana cost. Put the revealed cards on the bottom of your library in any order. Remove all Elemental tokens from the game at the end of turn.

I played around with a lot of effects for this card: colorless mana for each red mana, +x/+0 to target creature…. I wanted to do something that felt different and unpredictably powerful. Eventually, I came up with Skritano Elementalist. The text is kind of long but the idea is understandable.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) - Aura that moves

Shared Ferocity (Common)
G
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Whenever Shared Ferocity becomes attached to a creature put a +1/+1 counter on that creature.
Whenever enchanted creature attacks or blocks you may attach Shared Ferocity to another attacking or blocking creature.

I thought about making Shared Ferocity also give untargetability and adding 1 to the cost, but that would certainly bump it to uncommon. At the minimum, you can use Shared Ferocity to put +1/+1 counters on two attacking creatures. If it moves a few times it will be very strong.

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) - Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Swiftcaller (Uncommon)
1G
Creature - Elf Druid
2/1
Flash
While Swiftcaller is on the stack all creature spells in your hand have flash.
While Swiftcaller is on the stack put a +1/+1 counter on all other creatures that come into play.

If you're going to mention the stack you better have a good reason. Swiftcaller lets you play other creatures once during your opponent's turn and buffs all those creatures. You might create a card similar to Swiftcaller without saying "stack" but you couldn't get the same flavor.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) - Rare spell with a mind game

Bluff (Rare)
RR
Sorcery
Name a card. Target opponent says yes or no. If he says no you may play that card without paying its casting cost until end of turn. If he says yes you may reveal your hand. If you do and the named card isn't in you hand draw 2 cards and return bluff to your hand.

The idea here is you would name a big spell and your opponent would have to decide whether or not to risk you having it. If they don't risk it you might get extra cards and get to Bluff again. Since Bluff does nothing sometimes, it needs a big reward when it works.

Card #6 (Noah Weil) - Uncommon "Build around me" spell with pyre

Fungal Harvest (Uncommon)
6GG
Instant
Pyre 1
Put a 1/1 green Saproling token into play for each card in your graveyard.

I feel cards with pyre should reward you for having a big graveyard. Obviously, any card with pyre will combo with self-milling effects. This one also plays nicely with anything that likes lots of token creatures. There are a lot of cards like that around. It also breaks stalled games.

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) - Splashy rare persistent creature

Defender of All (Rare)
WW
Creature - Spirit Knight
2/2
Permanents you control that don't share a type with Defender of All are indestructible.
4WWW: Defender of All becomes an enchantment.

I wanted a card that acted differently as an enchantment than as a creature even with the same text. In constructed Defender of All protects your non-creature permanents. In limited, he can dominate late by flipping. He's absurd with Armageddon but he wouldn't be the most broken thing in Vintage.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) - Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Garyx, Overlord of the Crypt (Rare)
2BB
Legendary Creature - Human Wizard
2/3
Whenever a card in your graveyard would be put into play or your hand you may remove it from the game instead. If you do, put a permanent in your graveyard into play.

This card makes auratide activations get you anything in your graveyard, which is pretty powerful. I added the "to your hand" clause because I felt there aren't enough graveyard to play effects in Magic. That clause could be removed if you really want it to just break auratide.

Devin: Luhrs has been consistent so far, but has never broken out of the pack with a homerun performance. As we get into the final weeks, we're really looking for people to step up and impress us. So far other people have always made enough mistakes that they faltered behind Luhrs' consistently solid designs, but as we cut down to the final candidates, that's not going to be good enough anymore. To advance further, Luhrs really needs to step up from being “better than average” to being the best. Swiftcaller is a nice design here. I'm not sure whether I like the card better with the third ability or without it – different designers submitted it each way. Fungal Harvest is straightforward and flavorful a la Night Soil, and is also a hit for me. Defender of All does a way better job of fulfilling the criteria of “splashy rare preview-worthy persistent creature” than the other candidates, though I'd go way fatter and less efficient to hit this criteria even more effectively. Skritano Elementalist is over the top, but pretty exciting stuff – at first it seemed so totally nuts than I gave it a miss, but on reflection it seems cool if we can get the costing right, and I upgrade it to “squiggly-line hit” which is just short of a hit.

The gist of Bluff was right, but the execution was kind of clunky. The gist of Shared Ferocity was ok, but the timing of the move trigger is very clunky, as is the needless addition of the phrase “attacking or blocking.” Both of these are misses for me. Till Thoroughly is a miss as well, mostly because it would take forever and ever to resolve. Tons of flipping, tons and tons of zone changing, probably more than the 5 ManaRed ManaRed ManaRed Mana rare Warp World, all for 1 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana at uncommon. Garyx was a pretty confusing textbox without enough payoff to justify its complexity. A slip from Luhrs' previous consistency, which is not what he needed. Overall 4 out of 10.

Aaron: Chris put too many words on his cards this week, plain and simple. Swiftcaller is just a busier version of the card I just praised Alexis for making simple. Skritano Elementalist is a giant pile of instructions and variables that don't add up to anything special. Garyx, Overlord of the Crypt took me several reads to comprehend. There were bright spots: Fungal Harvest was beautifully simple and had nice tension. Defender of All may be the best persistent submission of the group. But those two may not save Chris from the chopping block this week.

Gleemax: If cards aren't fun to play, nothing else matters. Less clever, more fun.

Mark: Chris, I was so excited last week when you pulled out a great design on the brink of elimination. I wish I could say the same this week. That isn't to say that this submission isn't a solid design. You do have some good cards. I liked Shared Ferocity and Swiftcaller. Fungal Harvest had an interesting tension. And I liked how you had the effect change as the card type changed on Defender of All. On the flip side, I felt Till Thoroughly and Bluff were kind of blah. I didn't like how Skritano Elementalist created numerous tokens of different size. Garyx seems destined for banning. And Defender of All has an effect that would be “unfun” to say the least.

There are two issues I would recommend you work on. First, you seem drawn to complexity. This is a dangerous designer trait (and trust me, I should know). Complexity is okay in small doses but you need to learn to use it more judiciously. Till Throughly, for example, jumps through a lot of hoops for not much gain. Second, you need to get a better grasp on what makes a card fun. As an example, Defender of All would get us a lot of letters because it's just too easy to get the game into a very non-interactive state.

Kenneth Nagle

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) – "Do twice" instant or sorcery

Rupture Eardrums
Uncommon
3B
Sorcery
Target player separates his or her hand into two face down piles.
Reveal a pile of your choice, choose a card there, then that player discards that card.
Repeat this effect one more time.

Hardest task. I wanted hidden information turning known, then again hidden turning known, so I chose the opponent's hand. The version that templates close to Really Focus (two piles, Coercion one, Coercion the other) lacks the discovery and 'I wonder what exactly his hand is' depth of this textier version.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) – "Effect if red used" common or rare creature

Flame-Wreathed Dragon
Rare
6R
Creature - Dragon
Flame-Wreathed Dragon comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it for each R used to play it.
Flying, protection from red
Remove a +1/+1 counter from Flame-Wreathed Dragon: Add R to your mana pool.
0/0

(Flame-Encrusted Dragon)
Straightforward task. I took the concept "the redder, the better" from Skritano Tumbler. Red mana that summons this dragon forms a wreath of flames around it. I replaced the Rock Hydra ability with the Workhorse ability. I tacked on pro red for flavor and as a 'Dragon Bonus'.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) – Aura that moves

Stormshell Armor
Common
1G
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant creature
Whenever you play a spell, you may put a +1/+1 counter on enchanted creature.
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, you may reattach Stormshell Armor to another target creature.

(Quirion Dryad's Armor)
Open-ended task. I tried to fix shortcomings of creature auras. I fiddled with putting charge counters on the Aura itself, but I liked +1/+1 counter interactions and movement incentives better. I even 'stored' this on my opponent's creature once. I inserted 'mays' to stratify players' skill levels.

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) – Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Thorough Interrogation
Uncommon
1U
Instant
While you are playing Thorough Interrogation, your opponents' hands are revealed. (This happens before you choose targets.)
Tap target creature and target land.
Draw a card.

Strangest task. The rules do allow you to begin playing a spell whose 'stack' effect reveals information, then you can choose the (new) optimal mode and target(s). The stack reveal in lieu of Peek enables Thorough Interrogation to color screw better. This feels like confusing yet unexplored design space.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) – Rare spell with a mind game

Return to Battle
1W
Sorcery
Put one or more target creature cards from your graveyard on top of your library in a hidden order. Target opponent names a card, then reveals the top card of your library. If it's the named card, put it into your graveyard. Otherwise, put it into play.

(Operation: Bone Harvest)
I'm a proponent of this mechanic in white (my Strategic Retreat): militaristic strategy involving planned attacks and reserve troops. Retemplating to "For each creature card - mind game" makes it saucier, but less parallel to Infernal Contest. I flipflopped amongst 2 ManaWhite Mana / 1 ManaWhite Mana / Instant / Sorcery.

Card #6 (Noah Weil) – Uncommon "Build around me" spell with pyre

Stoned
Uncommon
XUU
Sorcery
Pyre 1 (Stoned costs 1 less to play for each card in your graveyard that you choose to remove from the game.)
Target player puts the top X cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

(Millertime)
Can finagle your own graveyard, or via self-milling (Cephalid Illusionist) or dual-milling (Mesmeric Orb) blue fireball a library away. Pyre 1 means if your graveyard is close or > their library, it's game. Relatively lethal in Limited but a dead opening draw and you can't Pyre-power multiples in tandem.

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) - Splashy rare persistent creature

Persistant Enchantress
Rare
WG
Creature - Human Enchantress
G: Target non-Aura enchantment you control becomes an X/X creature, where X is its converted mana cost. (It's no longer an enchantment.)
2W: Target creature you control becomes an enchantment. (It's no longer a creature.)
2/2

Fun task. My envisioned 'lord' of Persistant. She's somewhat 8.5 Tails-ish, but it's the game text I was instinctively trying to play. I desynched her activation costs away from 1C, pushing her slightly toward enchantment (Opalescence) decks and away from creature (Ghazi-Glare) decks. Plays well with Glorious Anthem.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) – Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Backward Progress
Uncommon
U
Instant
As an additional cost to play Backward Progress, discard a card.
Return target nonland permanent you control and target nonland permanent an opponent controls to their owners' hands.

Arduous Task. This Peel from Reality upgrade playtested the best of my ideas. More than once I discarded an Auratide or land, bounced my Aura or creature, and also wrecked something my opponent was trying to do, coming out ahead because of Auratide. Could be too subtle / versatile, though.

Devin: Nagle started great and stumbled hard last week. I hope he gets back to his winning ways. This week I liked the mind game of Return to Battle a lot and its Bone Harvest/Reinforcements effect in white. Very good design. Flame-Wreathed Dragon had great flavor for me, and I liked both the similarity to Nightmare and its mana-production effect. I liked the symmetry of Stoned, and I thought Stormshell Armor was pretty good too, though it's definitely not common this way, and I'd rather have a move trigger that I could actually control by myself – another candidate did this one a little better.

The other 4 were not hits for me. Thorough Interrogation was a weak execution, in that the peek effect had so little to do with the main effect. It was explained as a way ‘to color screw better.' That is not a good reason to make a weird card, and color-screwing your opponent is not something I really want to encourage at all. The Enchantress was cool, but does not meet the requirements of a splashy preview-worthy rare – like some other candidates' swings at this, this is too subtle to be immediately exciting as requested, and is therefore a miss. As Nagle himself says, Backward Progress is just Peel from Reality with a drawback, and the similarity alone makes it a miss from me, despite its interactions with Auratide. It's not a great sign for Nagle that he reports that the card that playtested best out of all his designs was “Peel from Reality with a drawback.” Please take the instructions closer to heart. Missing the instructions hurt your performance this week. Still, pretty good work overall. 5 out of 10.

Aaron: Kenneth's cards are clever, maybe to a fault. He definitely understands the game's inner workings at a level probably even greater than I do, as is evidenced by the reminder text he put on Thorough Interrogation. There's a level of subtlety to most of Kenneth's cards—the choices involved in Rupture Eardrums, the gameplay decisions created when Stormshell Armor is in play (that seem insane for a common), the reason for the additional cost on Backward Progress—that I can't tell if I enjoy or not. I probably would enjoy it in small amounts, less than what he's submitting. He did show his ability to make straightforward cards, though, like Flame-Wreathed Dragon (my favorite “play red” card by far) and Stoned, both of which hit for me. And I liked Return to Battle as well. Good stuff again from Kenneth.

Gleemax: I'm getting bored of telling you to live up to your potential. It's time to put up or shut up.

Mark: Kenneth, another solid submission but I was a little underwhelmed. Many of the cards felt like they needed one or two tweaks. Flame-Wreathed Dragon was cool but didn't seem to sync up with how the uncommon worked that it was supposed to cycle with. I liked Stormshell Armor but would have rather seen a “move me” trigger that you had some control over. I thought Thorough Interrogation had neat mechanical interaction yet the overall card felt a little mean (and I should note that it's okay to make cards that feel mean but this card didn't seem like that was its goal). I liked Persistent Enchantress but really wanted the effect to be on all the time rather than activated.

Kenneth, I enjoy the creative choices you make. I really like how you see the game and your cards have a fresh perspective. The two areas I think you need to work on are this: One, you're too subtle for your own good. I think at times you make the player work too hard to “get it”. Two, your cards need more of what I call focus. You come up with a good ideas but I feel like at times you don't execute them as cleanly as you could. Stormshell Crab is a good example. I'm assuming you started with the first ability. It's a good ability. You then needed to add some move condition to meet the hole requirement. Rather than find a second ability that enhanced the first ability and gave focus to it, you picked an ability that merely interacts with it. Find the interesting aspect of your card and then cater the elements around it to play up that aspect. If you can master this skill, I think your cards will feel much sharper.

Ryan Sutherland

I'll take the physical challenge, Mark.

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) “Do twice” instant or sorcery

Grave Robbery (Uncommon)
2B
Sorcery
Sacrifice a creature and put a creature from an opponent's graveyard into play under your control. Then sacrifice a creature and put a creature from an opponent's graveyard into play under your control.

Originally, I created this as a Victimize variant, but when I remembered how much fun it was to thieve your opponent's graveyard for men I quickly edited it. It is still playable with zero men out, and may get both a creature and an additional come into play ability.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) “Effect if red used” common or rare creature

Skritano Weredragon (Rare)
1RR
Creature – Human Nomad Shaman
2/2
Whenever you play a creature, for each RRR you spent on that spell, Skritano Weredragon gains +3/+3, flying and is a Dragon until end of turn.

The statement I wanted to make with this card was: Werewolves are pansies. Wanting the rare Skritano to be reminiscent of Shivan Dragon when he changed over, the first three mana invested match Shivan's stats. From there his firebreathing is mimicked by each additional Red ManaRed ManaRed Mana pumping his power by three.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) Aura that moves

Defender's Mark (Common)
1W
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gains +1/+4.
Whenever enchanted creature becomes tapped, attach Defender's Mark to target untapped creature.

While the Mark deters you from alpha striking, it still allows you to attack with your defender by passing off the pants to a future blocker. Throw it on something with an ability that requires tapping and you get a good combat trick out of it to boot.

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Roar of the Sleuth (Uncommon)
XXG
Sorcery
Put X 2/2 green Bear creature tokens into play.
Whenever a player plays a spell while Roar of the Sleuth is on the stack, put a 2/2 green Bear creature token into play.

Say it with me now... "Da Bears." This card allows you to pull off your own stack shenanigans by responding to it with instants and flash critters. However, it also deters counterspells since at least one of those Bears will get through, even through a Time Stop.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) Rare spell with a mind game

Dawning Enlightenment (Rare)
2WW
Sorcery
Remove an enchantment card in your hand from the game face down and search your library for an enchantment with a different name and remove it from the game face up. Target opponent chooses one of those cards. Put the chosen card into play, the other one into your graveyard and shuffle your library.

While at first I shied away from tutors since that ground had been covered, I later came up with this “Let's Make a Deal” style card that seems like it would play interestingly. Do you choose the Debtors' Knell? Or do you choose door # 1?

Card #6 (Noah Weil) Uncommon “Build around me” spell with pyre

Vang Bonedancer (Uncommon)
4BB
Creature – Zombie Shaman
4/4
Pyre – Creature (When you play a spell with Pyre-Creature, you may remove any multiple of creature cards in your graveyard from the game. For each card you remove, reduce this card's casting cost by 1.)
You may play the regeneration costs of any face up creature card removed from the game to return that creature to play under your control.

I started off by tweaking Noah's original ability for the Bonedancer's flavor. At one point, he was Pyre – Zombie (pun probably intended), but I'd think everything would want to dance. I owe the inspiration for this card to everyone who first started playing Magic and used imagination rather than rules.

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) - Splashy rare persistent creature

Dreamlight Seraph (Rare)
4WW
Creature – Angel
4/5
Flying
Whenever a source causes a player to gain life, that player gains twice that much life.
XWW: You gain X life and Dreamlight Seraph becomes an enchantment. Use this ability only if Dreamlight Seraph is a creature.

I enjoyed playing around with persistence, since it reminded me of an inverted version of the Sleeper creatures from Urza's. Although, this time the enchantments were useful. Adding on an extra become enchantment ability, along with the reverse Furnace of Rath gives life gain a nice kick in the pants.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Ravishing Drake (Common)
2U
Creature – Drake
2/1
Flying
Whenever a card leaves your graveyard, put the top two cards of target player's library into that player's graveyard.

Auras being reincarnated, sounds like fun. If only we could get more of them into the graveyard. Enter the drake. With a streamlined body and ability good for either finding more auras or just flat out milling for the win, Ravishing Drake is at home with any graveyard centric set.

Have a great Turkey Day

-RS
HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION!

Devin: Sutherland needs no introduction. This week his designs were decent, but I was disappointed to find them “just decent,” and not the “good”s and “great”s of his work in past rounds. Vang Bonedancer was my favorite here. The “Regenerate means put back into play” effect is a cool ability I would like to do someday, and a nice nod to early players' misunderstandings. And it combines well with the Pyre ability. I'd wait a set before switching over to “Pyre-[Restriction]” though. Dreamlight Seraph was also a good design, with an enchantmenty effect that also felt right on an angel, and a nice bonus to flip when the angel is about to die or you are. Unfortunately, the next best two, Grave Robbery and Ravishing Drake are only “sort of hits”, and the next four decline from there. Grave Robbery is similar to Globus' card but worse, because you can't build around this one anywhere close to as much as you can around Globus' zombify version.

What's cool about the Skritano mechanic in general is that you get payoffs for every R you put into the cards you play. Sutherland's Weredragon design messes this up by chunking up the trigger to “Red ManaRed ManaRed Mana”, causing you to get no additional payoff from playing Flowstone Crusher for Red ManaRed ManaRed ManaRed ManaRed Mana instead of Green ManaGreen ManaRed ManaRed ManaRed Mana. Don't take away the payoff of the mechanic. A miss. On Defender's Mark, I didn't like how the bonus said “don't attack,” and the trigger said “do attack.” I also didn't understand the appeal of adding the “untapped” targeting restriction. Roar of the Sleuth is undermined by the X in the cost. If you play it for 5 mana, then play two spells in response to it, you get 4 bears. But if you just use the mana you spent on those other spells on Roar instead, you get 4 bears anyway. What's the point of jumping through the hoop of playing spells in response to it? When cards ask players to jump through hoops, they have to give the player enough of a payoff to make it worth all the complexity of the hoop. This card would be better if it just cost 1G and made a single bear to start. A very disappointing week for Sutherland. 4 out of 10.

Aaron: Ryan's stuff was solid, but it's clear to me that the pack has caught up to him. He did have the best line of text on any card submitted though… check out the last line of Vang Bonedancer. Probably would never work, but I love the line of thinking. Ryan seems to have rarity issues with this batch though — the Bonedancer feels like a rare to be sure, as does Roar of the Sleuth. Defender's Mark probably has such baffling gameplay consequences (“I have to put it on your guy? Really? That sucks!”) that I'd really hate to see it at common. Like Kenneth, Ryan may actually benefit from showing that he can tone things down a bit. Even Dreamlight Seraph has a two-step process that is a bit deceiving in how it works.

Gleemax: You came on strong at the start but you're losing steam. You need to find that old fire.

Mark: Ryan, you started this contest with a jump on the competition. Your first few weeks' submissions were clearly the lead of the pack. Unfortunately, the pack is catching up. This was a good week for you but not as outstanding as it's been in the past. I really liked Dawning Enlightenment and I felt the extra effect you got when you turned Dreamlight Seraph into an enchantment was a neat twist. I enjoyed both Grave Robbery and Roar of the Sleuth. But pyre-creature on Vang Bonedancer seemed like a bad idea (both because it's confusing and I don't see the reason to restrict what kind of cards you can use for pyre when the base ability doesn't differentiate), Skritano Weredragon, while cool in flavor, didn't sync up with the uncommon as much as we like vertical cycles to have (if common cared about Red Mana, and uncommon cared about Red ManaRed Mana, then Weredragon might have felt more connected), Defender's Mark seemed to have a “move effect” that didn't seem organic to the card and Ravishing Drake just doesn't feel common.

Ryan, you are a smart designer and you have a good sense of how to play with mechanics. You have a good feel of aesthetics and you make cards that play well. The areas you need to work on are twofold: One, you seem to like to go places simple because you can go there. This is a dangerous trait for a designer (although not a bad one). Make sure that you only pave new ground when the new ground makes sense to pave. Pyre-creature is a good example of exploring an area that isn't really worthy of exploring. Two, you need to be more conscious of what role the card is playing. Skritano Weredragon, for instance, was supposed to be designed as part of a vertical cycle but you instead designed it to be a rare card that simply shows off the mechanic. You focused so tightly on the card that you forgot its larger role.

Scott Van Essen

Card #1 (Conrad Corbett) – “Do twice” instant or sorcery

Pain Intensification (Uncommon)
1R
Instant
Deal damage to target creature equal to the damage dealt to it this turn.
Then, deal damage to target creature equal to the damage dealt to it this turn.

This card can be the finishing blow on either one large creature or two medium creatures. It would be nice if it could affect players too, but even if you were able to cost that fairly, it would be more of a game ender and rarely used on creatures.

Card #2 (Andrew Emmott) – “Effect if red used” common or rare creature

Skritano Channeler (Rare)
3R
Creature - Human Nomad Shaman Lord
3/2
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, for each red mana spent on that spell, Shamans you control get +1/+0 until end of turn.

BONUS CARD
Skritano Stoker (Common)
2R
Creature - Human Nomad Shaman
1/1
Whenever you play an instant or sorcery spell, for each red mana spent on the spell, put R into your mana pool.

As a bonus, I've finished out the common card of the cycle. The goal is to get all three into play, chain a few cheap spells through the stoker, destroy all the blockers with the tumbler, and then attack for the kill with everyone getting +5/+0 from the channeler.

Card #3 (Christopher Jablonski) – Aura that moves

Gift of Strength (Common)
2G
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted Creature gets +2/+2 and trample.
Whenever a creature becomes blocked, you may attach CARDNAME to that creature.

Gift of Strength creates challenging blocking decisions, and supports aggressive decks. The “may” is just so that the spell doesn't attach to every single creature. One might change it to “Whenever a creature you control” just to make it less annoying in Magic Online.

Card #4 (Greg Krajenta) – Common or uncommon card with effect on stack

Impending Doom (Uncommon)
1UB
Sorcery
All creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn.
While CARDNAME is on the stack, all creatures have “1, sacrifice a creature: return this card to its owner's hand.”

The art for this card should show big creatures pushing little creatures in the way of a great cataclysm to save themselves. Choosing the time to cast this spell should be interesting, but even if your opponent is able to save some creatures, he'll take a big tempo hit.

Card #5 (Andrew Probasco) – Rare spell with a mind game

Gifts Given (Rare)
4G
Sorcery
Search your library for up to three creature cards with different names. Target opponent may choose one and puts it into play under his control, then you pu the rest into play under your control.

Sort of a green Gifts Ungiven. The “may” is necessary so you can't just instakill your opponent with something like Phage or Leveler. As your opponent will get the “best” creature you present, there is a definite mind game in picking cards that will help you and not your opponent.

Card #6 (Noah Weil) – Uncommon “Build around me” spell with pyre

Immorality shift (Uncommon)
6BB
Pyre 2 (When you play a spell with Pyre 2, you may remove any multiple of 2 cards from your graveyard from the game. For each instance of 2 you remove, reduce this card's casting cost by 1)
Swap your graveyard and your library, then shuffle your library.

There are three really interesting things about this spell.
1) There's good tension in choosing how early to cast it.
2) The Pyre ability gives you control over what goes back in your library.
3) Dumping your library into your graveyard enables future Pyre spells
(especially Immorality Shift itself).

Card #7 (Aaron Weiner) - Splashy rare persistent creature

Phyrexian Channeler (Rare)
2BG
Creature – Zombie Shaman
2/2
Pay 1 life: Add 1 to your mana pool. Use this mana only to play creatures.
BG: CARDNAME becomes an enchantment. It's no longer a creature. This effect doesn't end at end of turn.

Channel was banned, but we can find the black/green crossover on spending life energy to get out cheap creatures. As this is a vulnerable vehicle, and creatures are slower than sorceries and instants, this should remain fair, if quite interesting.

Card #8 (Landon Winkler) – Card that subtly plays well with auratide

Fumbling Beaurocrat (Rare)
W
Creature – Human
1/1
Spells and permanents have their converted mana costs increased by 1.

This is a narrow uber-Johnny rare card. It will have subtle effects on everything from Disembowel to Soulshift to the Scourge “cares about converted mana cost” cards. It also enables Auratide by allowing cheaper enchantments trigger it.

Devin: Van Essen comes into this week with a consistent string of 5,5,5. That's been enough so far, but as the competition heats up past the 5 level, Van Essen really needs to impress this week to stay in. I liked Gifts Given a lot this week. Played “fairly” it seems fun to get two giant monsters beating up my opponent's one giant monster. And to play it more “unfairly,” my mind is already churning for what three creatures I would put in my deck to bend this card in my favor. To fit an “I have all forests and yoooou don't!” theme, how about Uktabi Wildcats, Gaea's Liege, and Gargantuan Gorilla? Or swap out Gaea's Liege for mystery-future-card-I-can't-tell-you-about-Q. Fun times. A hit. Skritano Channeler was a cool tribal lord too, and Van Essen's “include an extra card” gambit totally worked for me here, setting up a cool vertical cycle trio that all make sense together and seem really fun. I also liked Immorality Shift, Gift of Strength, and the bizarre Impending Doom.

Phyrexian Channeler missed for me. Once you've paid 2 ManaBlack ManaGreen Mana, are you really that excited about paying life for mana…that's colorless…and only plays creatures? If you're paying 4 anyway, you can just play Thran Dynamo or something and play your fatties without all the hoop-jumping. Pain Intensification is not a good candidate for the “same effect twice” treatment, because it will be very infrequent that the doing the same effect again will have any effect on the board. Fumbling Bureaucrat missed for me too and would be a miserable rare. Many people seem to think that saying something is an “uber-johnny rare” is enough reason to make it not do anything. But design needs way more Doubling Seasons and Paradox Hazes (which “do” a lot in normal play besides being uber-johnny rares) in Magic than we need One with Nothings and Norin the Warys, each of which is cleaner and more flavorful than this Bureaucrat.

Overall this week Van Essen scores 6 out of 10 from me. It's good work this week, and a slight step up from his recent submissions, but I'm worried that Van Essen's history of consistent 5-6's without any homeruns is going to make it hard for him to get further in the competition.

Aaron: Hit and miss this week. Fumbling Bureaucrat is a miss, as it would only confuse people, as most would think he makes spells actually cost more to play. Immorality Shift is a miss, as this effect has been done before, and not in ways that make setting up your library so darned easy. You can “overpay” with pyre to get the exact few cards you want in your library. Phyrexian Channeler is a miss in that I probably never need to make him an enchantment—he does all his damage right away the turn he comes into play, giving you eleven mana for a Darksteel Colossus on turn three. Impending Doom was a hit, as much as any card messing with the stack can be, and I think with some tweaking something like this would be interesting to print. Gifts Given is also a neat card, probably broken, but neat. The biggest miss though… the Bonus Card. All my red instants and sorceries are free, eh? Seething Song spits out eight mana instead of five? Bad idea, even worse because it was unsolicited. I felt Scott needed to hit a home run this week, but only managed a double.

Gleemax: I feel you more “made cards” than “filled holes”. Many of these cards are interesting but they aren't what was asked for.

Mark: Scott, this was a hit and miss submission for me. I liked Pain Intensification, Skritano Channeler and Immortality Shift (I do enjoy when designers tweak less common effects). I felt Gift of Strength didn't feel as much like a moving aura as it did like a non-aura enchantment that read “blocked creatures get +2/+2 and trample”. Impending Doom seems more busy work than it's worth. Gifts Given just doesn't have any real “mind game” to it as asked by the hole specifications. Phyrexian Channeler's effect doesn't feel enchantment-y. And Fumbling Bureaucrat, while a neat card, seems like it will cause more confusion than fun.

Scott, I like the way you think. You attack your designs from an interesting vantage point. The area you most need to work on is your holistic card view. You need to have a better understanding of what the card you're designing wants to be doing. What role is it filling? You seem too focused on the nuts and bolts of the card that you don't take the time to see if the bigger effect you want is reached. Cards aren't just read, they're experienced. You need to keep this in mind when designing.

CONTINUE PLAYING or GAME OVER

Now that we've reviewed the submissions, it's time for eliminations. This week, two candidates will be eliminated.

Ryan Sutherland

Alexis Janson

Mark Globus

Graeme Hopkins

Chris Luhrs

Scott Van Essen

Kenneth Nagle

With the two eliminations, we are now down to five candidates. One more Design Challenge and we will narrow down the field to the Final Three, all of which will be flown to Renton, Washington for interviews with R&D. Who will the Final Three be? Tune in next week.

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