Thursday, February 8, 2018

Write for Goblin Artisans

We're always looking for new content and writers. This community is full of fun ideas and hard-won wisdom we'd love to highlight.

If you've got an idea for an article, or a challenge, or a series, pitch it to us below or send a note to magic-by-design on googlegroups.com talk about it below in the comments. When you're ready to pitch your idea, send it over to zefferal at gmail.

If your proposal is interesting, we'll ask you to write it up. We may ask for revisions, and when it's ready we'll edit it and post it, noting you as the author.

If someone writes for us enough without need for editing, we'll probably make them an Artisan in Residence so they're free to write whatever fits. (Similarly, pitches from known Artisans will take precedence from those of first-time commenters. Try not to pitch content too similar to stuff we've already done.)

Proposals and drafts will be evaluated based on the merit of the content, provided the tone is respectful in accordance with our community guidelines.

48 comments:

  1. I've long considered writing some sort of card by card design/development set review, but that would be much too time consuming and no one would read it.

    But I imagine a more concise "Five and Five" of my five favorite individual card designs and the five I most dislike would be pithy and readable. Does that sound appealing to anyone?

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    1. Yes. Especially if you tie together a couple observations/conclusions based on trends you spot in those ten cards/critiques.

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    2. I expect I would choose them to be maximally illustrative, so if there were three cards that made the same horrible mistake, I would try to only write about it once and mention the others.

      I'd obviously be upfront about my bias being heavily in favor of limited formats.

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    3. I would totally read a card design set review. One of my slight frustrations has been that set reviews out there are very Spike-oriented because they're put out by competitive players or Commander-oriented. (My frustration is slight because I'm a hardcore Johnny, so Spike analyses does help me learn design. But it becomes very repetitive.) I'd love to read a review from a very different perspective.

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    4. I've done a few in the past, but it's been a long time. Theros New Phyrexia
      Jake Mosby did one for Amonkhet.
      I reviewed the mechanics from Shadows over Innistrad

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    5. I started reading over all the cards this morning, and was pleased to note there were way more than 5 cards I wanted to talk about in both categories, so it will be tough to narrow down!

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    6. +1 to this idea

      I like reading set evaluations that aren't just for Spike, from flavor reviews, to "how fun does this look" reviews, so a regular design series would be great.

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  2. I'd love to write for GA! Two proposals:

    1. A series of posts exploring how Magic design might change with slightly different parameters for the game (e.g. what if life totals started at 30 instead of 20?). I have 5-6 ideas in mind. Thinking of writing them up as lighthearted alternate-universe stories.

    2. Revive "Cycle of the Week" from my personal blog (choose a semi-random interesting card, design a cycle around it, invite submissions / variations). A fun way to explore mechanical design space / color pie.

    Note: I'm still in GDS3, so it might be better to wait until I'm eliminated. Also, I haven't actually written any drafts yet.

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    1. Cool.

      If you'd rather not write while your competing, that's fine, but there's plenty of downtime between challenges and it's not a problem from our perspective.

      I'll warn you that I'm planning on writing about a Magic redesign from a unique perspective, but it doesn't sound like there's too much overlap.

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  3. Interesting. I don't have a lot of time at the moment, but when I do have some, I'd be happy to explore some broader game design principles and investigate how they are implemented in Magic. I'm not sure how much of that would be a rehash though, I've got quite the backlog to read through here already.

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    1. We're glad you found us, Noah.
      Let us know.

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  4. I think an interesting column/challenge could be a Tweak-The-Card series. Each entry features a custom card (or even an actual printed card) which has good potential but some issues it needs to overcome. User submissions are "tweaks" to improve the card in some respect. Real Magic sets are designed collaboratively, and this could be a good forum to exercise those muscles.

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    1. A lot of the CCDDs take this format, but maybe something focused on that process could work.

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    2. Another idea I would be interested in would be a "Gap-Filler" challenge series. The parameters of a set are given (theme, mechanics, etc.), and a certain hole in the design skeleton is empty. Users submit cards which would best fill the hole and serve the rest of the set.

      A couple of example prompts that could be interesting if more flushed out:
      -"We need a cheap common black sorcery for a set on a new, Nordic-inspired plane. The set has sea-faring themes and is a brutal, caste-divided world. There is a light graveyard theme, and flashback returns in blue, black, and red. However, the as-fan of flashback is already high enough that this card should not itself have flashback."
      -"We need a signpost uncommon for the WB lifegain archetype. Any card type works, but it should have a CMC of 4 or less and draw players to this archetype in draft. The set is themed around arena combat with motifs of champions and glory. Combat is a focus of the set, with a rebranded Bushido mechanic appearing in all colors."
      -"We are returning to New Phyrexia and are focusing the set on artifacts. This set shows Phyrexian forces finishing off the last Mirran holdouts and preparing to somehow leave the plane for an extraplanar invasion. The set features powerful artifacts, including artifact creatures and equipment, many of which are colored artifacts. We need a rare or uncommon safety-valve card to ensure these artifact themes can be answered in the upcoming standard environment."

      I like this idea because I think that amateur designers spend a lot of time making awesome cards in a vacuum, but not enough time designing cards to serve a larger system or environment. Frequently these challenges would ask designers to create commons, since they are probably the hardest to design with a purpose while still being elegant. However, any kind of card could be requested in these challenges.

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    3. We've done a number of Weekend Art Challenges like this, but we could always stand to do more.

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  5. Perhaps a series looking at some not-so-recent sets, where we'd take a couple/few cards that had some interesting features but were largely unplayed due to power or design reasons. Then we see if any recent design trends in Magic change the context of the card.

    So, for example, we could take a look at Lorwyn, and gather a few interesting cards or mechanics that didn't get played at the time. We could start off talking about Time Spiral and Alara, a bit about the Standard environment of the time. But then expand from there, looking at how design philosophy nowadays deals with tribal themes and multicolored stuff, and then asking if the older cards might be better off in a more current environment or if MTG design is moving away from what made the old cards interesting.

    That's a pretty broad-stroke description, but individual articles would be much more focused.

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    1. Hm, guess the site didn't see my profile there...

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    2. Are we specifically looking at cards that might have made Standard but didn't? What makes this a Design article as opposed to a wistful Strategy article? I think you're saying it but I'm not quite getting it.

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  6. I propose a series called Whirlwind Tour of Design where we focus on working a small set of cards from the three different perspectives of Vision, Set and Play Design.

    In the past we've done some incredible collaborative work here. I'm interested in leading a less ambitious, more heavily focused series.

    I'd write a short introduction to the process with some sort of seed idea or focusing concept. Then we could have a vision-design jam in the comments to create our unique set-theme.

    In part two I'd propose two small, structured challenges, one from Set Design and the other from Play Design. We'd end with a good ol' fashion Artisans commentary on each submission.

    Thoughts? Questions?

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    1. If you could make 3-5 articles, one for Vision, one for Set, and one for Play Design, (and maybe separate intro / conclusion posts) that would be a pretty sweet package. I think your set would have to be in the realm of 5-10 cards to make that feasible, though.

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    2. That sounds very cool to me. I was aiming for a very compact pitch with room to grow. I don't have any reservations about expanding the idea .

      I do think an intro is essential. I will happily include links to the DailyMTG article, but I want this to be self-contained and accessible.

      What if we followed the design of 5-10 cards that explicitly replace 5-10 cards from an existing set? That way we can talk really precisely about each card's role in set and the metagame.

      This changes the goal of the Vision section, but in a cool way. Instead of discussing any possible theme in a vacuum, we could discuss *adding* a small theme to an existing set to create a sort of alternate universe version of it.

      Did you feel like Shadows Over Innistrad should have had a different villain than BFZ, and what would that villain be? How would you represent it mechanically while maintaining the integrity of the set?

      Did you wish Mirrodin won the war with Phyrexia? What's the most important thing to change about the 3rd set of that block to make that possible?

      The best part of doing it this way is how it allows us to talk about and discuss Set and Play design in definite terms. The goal of both teams is so rooted in an existing universe of cards that it would lose a lot if we were just guessing about the context of our designs.

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  7. I feel like Legacy never gets any love. I think it would be interesting to explore designing for different formats. I know we always hear this is a commander card but rarely this is a legacy card.

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    1. What kind of perspective do you bring to that subject?

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    2. I have been playing tournament Magic for 10 years and go to basically every Legacy event I can go to. This could go in line with looking at legacy cards and seeing if they could be reprinted in standard/supplemental products where the cards would be Legacy legal. I know we received a few Legacy cards in commander products, but would be interesting to have a legacy specific product.

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    3. How would you design for Legacy?

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    4. Well many people always talk about difficulty to entry. I think there could be the discussion of the archetypes. I think designing for Legacy might just read like designing for Spike though. I think it would be interesting to list the currently ten most played cards in Legacy, go over why they are most played, determine if any of them would be able to be printed in a standard environment. What makes Legacy interesting is all the different interactions. So maybe create some weird build around Johnny card discuss what new decks it could create in Legacy. The difficulties for designing for Legacy is not creating something that is better than what currently exists. Ways to deal with low mana cost things is a good way to design for Legacy, Chalice of the Void, Fatal Push, etc. Not sure if there is an article here or not, just was bringing up that as a Legacy player it is too bad that there is not a product for Legacy players.

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  8. I'm relatively new to card design, but one notable thing recently that has really captured me is integration of flavor and design. Specifically, the use of card design to convey a world, and flavor to generate designs. I see a lot of incredible technical work, but not as often are designs used to really make identifiable and and easy to grasp worlds with the cards.

    I don't believe I'm the one to do any writing on this, though it is something I've been closely examining in Wizards' own sets lately, and theres a lot of aspects to this that are tough for custom card designers to utilize, especially art related. But this is something I'd like to see more discussion of in general. Worldbuilding is becoming a bigger and bigger part of Magic's set design.

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    1. Resonance and the iteration between form and function are always relevant discussions in game design. Give us a sample paragraph or two before you write a whole draft, so we can see if you've got a sufficiently novel and informed perspective on the subject.

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  9. I've had a half completed article on making duel decks and "mock" limited decks to playtest mechanics and themes quickly without committing to making a larger project.

    Far too often I see custom magic designers step from individual card designs on reddit etc to trying to make a full 256 card large set. There needs to be more resources on stepping stones people can take before attempting something of such a large scope, potentially on a flawed foundation.

    Overall GA is somewhere I've considered submitting articles to many times as you guys all rock.

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    1. Making a deck before you make a whole set makes sense on so many levels—levels that themselves deserve discussion. Send us a draft!

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  10. Other article ideas I think would be interesting would be showcases of some of the best "completed" custom projects, what they did well, where they could potentially be improved and what it can teach us for our own designs.

    There are increasingly a large number of quality projects on http://www.planesculptors.net/
    which the community can potentially tap into for inspiration etc.

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    1. One of GA's weaknesses is a lack of visibility into projects outside its community. There are multiple justifications for that, but having someone who's tapped into other communities sharing distilled insights on their work would be fantastic. Do this, Reuben.

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    2. This sounds very interesting. I'm assuming we'd ask permission before reviewing or critiquing their creations?

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    3. Sounds like people like the idea of this.

      Yes I'd ask permission when possible to get in contact with the creator.

      There are at least 10+ sets I can think of that would be interesting, so this can make for a good longer series of articles with a post every few months.

      Any suggestions on which set I should do first? One possibility is Tesla to also act as a kind of wrap up to the project.

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  11. I've long thought that an area custom cards fail at is looking at cohesion. We can make a lot of great, unique cards, but I think real design is finding ways to layer themes in to the individual designs.

    I also thought of doing a card by cats design review like Tommy, but I also don't have the time...

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    1. There's an article here, but it sounds hard to write to me.
      Give us a sample paragraph or two before you write a whole draft, so we can see if you've got a sufficiently novel and informed perspective on the subject.

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  12. The one idea I had is articles about design that magic can't do. Things that are great and could potentially be done but also don't have feet to stand on, either due to the dual format of online and paper or rules headaches.

    Things like Fateweave from Hex or the multiple different cards of the same name.

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    1. Although things-we-can't-do is much less compelling than things-we-can, you could save some designers time who would otherwise explore a path we already know is a dead end. Particularly if you can extrapolate lessons from one or two dead ends that will apply to more.

      Give us a sample paragraph or two before you write a whole draft, so we can see if you've got a sufficiently novel and informed perspective on the subject.

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    2. It could also give ideas to designers as to things that are like this but just within the boundaries of the rules.

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  13. Hey all. I revised the post. When you have something you're ready to pitch, email it to me and I distribute it to the artisans in residence.

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  14. So I've been mulling over something called "Designing for Discovery" that looks at how cards are crafted to cause or encourage players to discover interesting uses/playstyles.

    It's not about appealing to Johnny Combo player, but that's actually what inspires the idea. I'm a hardcore super Johnny, and when I started working on my own card concepts realized I was going completely overboard with parasitic ideas that just overwhelmed a set's design. Arguably all the different psychographics enjoy the prospect of "discovery" when fiddling around with card choices.

    So what I'd do is take an existing card, look at the "discovery" components of the card's design (for better or worse) and then create a card of my own that builds on that discovery concept. And I could challenge other artisans to join in. I'll send in a pitch, but wanted to toss the idea out for feedback first.

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    1. Sounds good. Sounds harder to write.

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    2. I write for a living. (Which makes all my typos on here all the more awkward.)

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