Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day -18: Uncommon Cycle

I've decided to, instead of flooding one post with all the five-card cycles I do as per this challenge from the last Great Designer Search, I would give each cycle its own post. Of course, since they're cycles, it'd be easier to process in your head, so they'd seem much more like mini-posts. And rightly so. But, let's get on with it already.

Uncommon Enchantments - Loose Cycle

First off, flavor. I was trying to make this cycle feel like it's NOT the Genju cycle. I settled on a daimon whose body parts were spread out in shrines across the lands of this plane (and don't point out that the ghost of a deceased hero can mean Spirit man lands which would be similar to the Genjus in that they are also Spirits). Anyway, that would also explain why animating a land would make something so small. Avatars of the body parts of a daimon. O.K, we're good? I hope so.

Next, mechanically, this is a cycle whose cards can work with each other. Each ability that was chosen (except for flying) was made to work in synergy when combined. Well, besides flying being just good for creatures period; vigilance allows the lands to attack while still having the ability to be used for mana. And that mana can be spent on regeneration of these lands, to boot. And first strike and deathtouch combined allows the small bodies of these lands to not be a concern at all. I chose the mana costs for each aura and their respective abilities to align so that the two synergy pairs (regeneration and vigilance) (first strike and deathtouch) would not fall under the same slot in the mana curve.

If a player builds a deck around these auras and gets all of them out, you have a deadly man land attack force. Of course, this is not a competitive strategy, as relying on an aura in the first place is a risk, but there would be some casual players who would like to use these. Also, I had to make sure each card didn't have more than one colored mana symbol in its mana cost, so it'd be easier to build a deck with all five auras in it. In Limited, the "Enchant <basic land>" is relevant and encourages engagement in combat, which is a healthy thing for Limited games.

Next cycle will be the rares. (I didn't forget the common cycle. I'll get to those.) So, what do you think, reader?



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day -20: Captain Hammer

Mike Flores' article this week unveiled the new planeswalker Koth of the Hammer from the upcoming set Scars of Mirrodin. Here he is:
Anyway, @mtgcolorpie heckled @fivewithflores (Mike Flores) for not making a certain joke that referenced Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. So, I decided to draw that comic of it! (I got MTG Color Pie's permission, of course.)

I'm still working on those five-card cycles. My uncommon enchantment cycle is pretty much done. The common creature cycle is giving me problems. But, I suppose that's my fault for wanting to keep a certain flavor really bad and not willing to let it go for now.



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day -21: Feedback

When I posted my card designs for the first card designing challenge, I received some feedback from my friend Grant about two of the cards. Specifically, these two:

Contempt's Quelch, I believe, was the fine the way it is. The problem was that it's not good enough for Spike. By interacting with someone who does play Magic and win money doing it, I gained some insight in how other players that aren't like me would evaluate my card designs. Looking over my eight cards, it seems that none of my cards were really screaming, "I'm for you, Spike!" So, obviously, the correct thing to do is to have some Spike cards. Why not adjust Contempt's Quelch to fit more for Spike, so I fulfill every player's needs? (Actually, I'm not sure there was anything Timmy enough in my entry, besides Halo Archon.) Anyway, we jokingly "negotiated" on the changes to the card and ended up with this:

It still makes me uneasy, since green is supposed to suck at destroying creatures. But, whatever. It's all food for thought. The other fix is something I totally agree with. I didn't elegantly execute Halo Archon as well as I could have. Here's the more elegant solution:

Now, it's all better. The simple sentence of "X must be equal to your life total." solves the problem better than not giving this card a mana cost and providing an alternate casting method. Hooray. Also, one thing is that I didn't add the reminder text of "(Halo Archon is white.)"  last time, and I still gotta do that this time since the mana cost doesn't have any white mana symbols in it.

Also, I read this primer from, an article preparing you for The Great Designer Search 2, so if you're interested in entering, I suggest you take a gander. There's gotta be at least some useful bit of information that could help you.

Another useful article is Nuts and Bolts: Design Skeleton. Mark Rosewater goes through the process of creating a design skeleton for the common cards of an imaginary set, and in it, there are some things to keep in mind when designing cards, such as which colors get to do which things.

I'm currently working on designing cards for the three five-card cycles challenge. I've decided to do four cycles because they ask for a cycle for each rarity, and, well, there's a mythic rarity now. 

One more thing: I talked about the design rule for colored artifacts in a previous post. I also had a discussion with MTG Color Pie over Twitter about it, and it ended up that he asked Mark Rosewater at the recent PAX party about it. According to @mtgcolorpie's tweet, Mark had this to say, "Once we break a rule doesn't mean we always break a rule." This seems to be true with only Transguild Courier, Reaper King and the Shards of Alara block flying in the face of that ol' design rule. That's only three exceptions in Magic's history, when artifacts show up in almost every single set.

I think the reason why I even questioned it is because the reason of "we've never had an artifact printed with a colored mana cost" wasn't a good enough reason to me. However, he may not have been talking about the WHOLE reason why artifacts aren't colored. That would've been a tangent as he was going over the answers for the multiple-choice test of the last Great Designer Search.

That's all. I'll get those four five-card cycles (twenty cards!) designed as soon as possible.



Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day -24: In the Beginning (Eight Card Designs)

I've completed Test #3 of the initial wave of weeding out applicants for the last Great Designer's Challenge. The rules were first mentioned here in the article "Tests of Endurance". And then the judges shared their thoughts on each of the finalists' submissions in Episode 1 - "In the Beginning".

Let's get to the good stuff first before I scare some of you away with some self-reflection writing. That part will be after the card designs.

What I've done was create eight cards instead of six. I initially created six, but then I realized that the "mythic rare" rarity has been introduced since the last Great Designer Search. Since the test asked for two of each rarity, I decided to first do the six cards following the rules exactly (no mythic rares), then do an extra two cards that were mythic rare just to practice my mythic rare designing skills. So, here they are:

I knew I wanted to show my ability to create a new keyword mechanic. I was exploring areas of design that dealt with combat, such as in blocking, attacking, dealing combat damage, etc. Fun fact: This card was changed from a white Human to a red Dwarf because of the synergy Rally would have with Dwarven Recruiter.

I wanted to make sure my other common design could show that I was able to design simple and elegant cards, too. I decided to involve the implication that there would be an abundance of enchantment creatures to make this card feel like it's from another block. However, enchantment creatures are not a new concept, as seen with the Future Sight card Lucent Liminid  and one of Alexis Janson's submissions for this test.

For my land card design, I liked the fact that were lands that had keyword abilities on them that normally appeared on spells. Like Tolaria West and Drifting Meadow. Also, I wanted to do something new with an existing keyword. So, I went through the Wikipedia for a list of existing keywords and noted which ones could appear on a land (or could be done with a twist, like multikicker did with kicker), and I decided between clash and champion. The champion keyword could technically work, but I think the flavor conflict would be bad (How does one champion a land?). So, I went with clash, to be safe.

First of all, I admit that I chose the combination of red and blue because it's simply my favorite color combination. Now, this was my card that would be good for limited. A "swingy uncommon". The card rewards you for playing red-blue spells, except in a new way that wasn't already done before.

The first card I designed. The easiest way to create something new was to try new combinations of card types (Heh, sorcery lands, anyone?). I settled on artifact creature, which is not new, but an equipment that is also a creature is new. Now, one problem was that players might get confused about whether an equipment attached to a creature could attack. (Yes, they can. At least, I believe so.) Similar to the Dryad Arbor problem of wondering whether it could tap for mana right away (they explained it in reminder text). I decided to just have it not be able to attack, as it also helps the flavor ("You can have me fight, lad, or you can use my abilities for your own!"). Also, this card is a throwback to Dancing Scimitar.

Going over my other submissions, I realized that there weren't any dedicated Johnny cards. If you don't know who Timmy, Johnny, and Spike are, I suggest you take the two-question quiz and read the subsequent article to found out: "Timmy, Johnny, and Spike Revisited". Anyway, so I love alternate win conditions, and that's in the Johnny department. One of the colors I chose was white, since white seems to do this often. It must be because white is the color of setting rules. I chose "exile" as a theme since white and black both do that sort of thing. I originally was thinking of twenty for winning the game, but then a single Haunting Echoes would've made achieving this goal too easy. I upped the amount to fifty, so the player would need to at least put in some effort. Using Two Echoes (against your opponent and yourself) would be a good enough effort.

I realize that my original six may be weak in the departments of making cards specifically to please Spike or Timmy. I'll accept that as I feel I these cards have strengths in many different areas. So, the two bonus mythic cards are as follows:

Now, this one's a Timmy-pleaser. I followed the current wording for Evermind for the "no mana cost" reminder text. I made sure my wording for an alternate casting cost was correct by following the examples of Flashback and Evoke. I wanted to do an epic white creature, but I didn't want it to be a typical Angel. It turns out that there are some Archons in Magic, which I loved. It looked like that the Archons have a common theme of justice, or something similar (vengeance, redemption). So, my take is giving the weakened white mage a chance to do the "eye for an eye" thing through the inverse casting cost and life total. I decided turn five would be the "do or die" turn. I figured a 7/7 with sweet abilities would be good enough for five white mana on turn five and at five life. I hope I'm not grossly mistaken. I didn't run this card through playtests to determine the correct power/toughness.

This last card is actually a card with a concept I re-used. I thought of it when trying to figure out what a mythic rare iconic creature with psychic abilities (Alakazam) would do. I then transferred the ability onto an Aura card similar to what you see here for the of the Coast contest ( is no longer functioning as was before). (Also, each participant was able to submit multiple cards, which is why, as you can see from a previous blog post of mine, my winning card is different. And that brings us to today's version. I feel like this concept of revealing everything was executed well, and I'm going to be such a cheerleader for it.

Well, that's it. I was actually about to write this post last night, but with a very different tone. I was feeling all sorts of negative feelings that were working against me and my hopes of winning this Great Designer. I felt inferior to possible other participants (both by last year's finalists and by this year's possible contenders), and I doubted my design abilities as I spent hours not making progress when trying to design cards. But, as Yoda says, "Do or do not. There is no try."

But, those feelings were quelled when I found out that my friends actually had read and comented on my posts. Like, three of them! Josh, Adam, and Devin, thanks, guys. I started feeling positive rays of encouragement. Like, people are reading my blog and discussing it.

Wow. Yeah, it's my friends, but aren't they important peeps to count for as well? So, I started feeling like I can kick ass in this competition, no matter how much I feel impressed by the other guys I would be competing with.

Also, it helps that I was reading this blog post by MTG Color Pie about the middle children of Magic. I connected, man.

So, that's it for now. Next up is the design of three five-card cycles as described here: "Episode 2 - Gimme Five".