Monday, May 14, 2012

Design Challenge #1: Results

First of all, many thanks to everyone who participated in this design challenge!  I hadn't expected so many responses, and I enjoyed reading all your submissions.  There was a great deal of skill and creativity in every one of them, and choosing the top three was difficult.  

The challenge was:
Submit three cards with the following constraints:
  • Your three cards must be "accidentally deleted from the design file" for Innistrad, Scars of Mirrodin, and Zendikar. 
  • No two of your cards may share a color or type.
  • Your cards must include one common, one uncommon, and one rare or mythic rare.
The judging will be based on the normal criteria (fun, elegance, flavor, comprehensibility, color/rarity appropriateness) and on how naturally each card fits into the set.  The perfect card should make the reader think, "Yeah, why didn't they print that?"
All cards have had art and flavor text removed.  (Since neither were required or considered in judging, I thought this was the most fair way to present the cards.)  I've also edited them very slightly for templating consistency.

Honorable Mention: Zendikar

Winner: Jules Robins

Peak Hurler (Rare)
Creature - Giant Berserker
Landfall—Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is Peak Hurler’s power.
Timmy's eyes get very, very big when he opens this card.  Amazing with any sort of landfall shenanigans, and the targeted pump makes him versatile as well.  The one flaw is that the creature type is almost certainly wrong: a giant does not have 1 toughness.

Honorable Mention: Scars of Mirrodin

Winner: Mad Olaf

Glistening Wellspring (Common)
When Glistening Wellspring enters the battlefield or is put into the graveyard from the battlefield, proliferate.
This innocuous card is synergystic with everything: metalcraft, infect, artifact sac outlets, anything with charge counters... a wonderful cog.  Fun in limited, Johnny-tastic in casual constructed.

Honorable Mention: Innistrad

Winner: Trevor Murdock

Darkness Falls (common)
Zombie creatures you control get +2/+2 and gain intimidate until end of turn.
The counterpart to Moonmist and Vampiric Fury.  Nice flavor: as night falls, the distant moaning of "braaaains" gets closer and scarier.  I think this should probably be +1/+1, since it feels a bit too beefy for a black pump card, but that's a minor quibble.

And now for the top three!

Third Place

Winner: Evan Swanzy

Unsteady Propagation (Common)
Enchant land
Landfall - Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, untap enchanted land.
This is a clever riff on green mana acceleration that would fit well in Zendikar.  It probably needs to be "Enchant Forest" so as to avoid stepping on Lotus Cobra's metaphorical toes, and cost 2G, but other than that I like it.
Soul Sucking Sword (Rare)
Artifact - Equipment
Imprint — Whenever a creature dies, you may exile it. If you do, return all other creatures exiled with Soul Sucking Sword to their owners' graveyards.
Equipped creature has all activated abilities of the exiled creature and gets +X/+0, where X is the exiled creature’s power.
Equip 3
Does this remind anyone else of Stormbringer?  Fantastic flavor, and good use of Imprint.  It's also nicely creepy and Phyrexian.
Lurking in the Mist (Uncommon)
Until end of turn, you may cast creature spells in your hand as though they had flash.
Again, a big flavor hit.  This card is so simple, I'm a bit surprised they've never printed it.  It could easily be a cantrip like Quicken, just to make it a bit more appealing.

Second Place

Winner: Jay Treat

Char the Earth (Common)
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Land
When Char the Earth enters the battlefield, it deals 3 damage to enchanted land's controller.
Enchanted land gains "T: Add 1 to your mana pool" and loses all other abilities.
This card is a great role-player: land destruction in a block that needs it without complete mana denial, plus a miniature Lava Axe in an aggressive format.  I'm torn on whether this really belongs at common.  On the one hand, it plays almost identically to Spreading Seas.  However, it looks more complicated at first glance.
Alluring Vampire (Uncommon)
Creature - Vampire Siren
T: Target creature attacks or blocks this turn if able.
Less is more, and Jay gets major elegance points here.  This can force your opponent into bad attacks or blocks, or allow your other vampires to get through for their +1/+1 counters.  We usually see effects like these in colors other than black, but as a top-down card, I find it entirely reasonable to stretch the color pie for this combination.  My one nitpick is that "siren" is its own race, and I'm not sure that a "vampire siren" makes sense.
Macabre Machine (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, if there are ten or more charge counters on Macabre Machine, you win the game.
Exile a creature card from any graveyard, T: Put a charge counter on Macabre Machine.
Pay 1 life: Untap Macabre Machine.
This card doesn't mention poison or proliferate, but it manages to feel very Phyrexian indeed.  It grinds away, corpse by corpse, until the work is done... and you can feed it your own life force to speed up the job!  This is a flavor slam-dunk.

First Place

Winner: Jacob Munford

Chimes of the Wayfarer (Mythic Rare)
Legendary Artifact
T: Add 1 mana of any color to your mana pool. Use this mana only to cast creature spells.
Landfall - Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, put a 1/1 white Soldier Ally creature token onto the battlefield.
This card speaks for itself; there's not a whole lot of subtlety here.  But sometimes, subtlety isn't necessary.  This massively boosts Ally decks, but is not so fast or hard to answer as to be un-fun.  Opening one of these in draft would feel pretty marvelous.
Tragic Portent (Common)
Each player loses life equal to the number of poison counters they have.
Yes, this card is bad.  It's an unreliable Lava Axe in a deck that doesn't care about its opponent's life total.  However, this is a useful kind of bad card, because it's tempting.  Some inexperienced players will see this and think, "Hey, I'm playing a poison deck!  This fits in perfectly with my theme."  Then they'll play it, discover that it sucks, and learn an important lesson.  Like Wurm's Tooth and friends, this card serves a useful purpose for weaker players.
Geist of Lost Dreams (Uncommon)
Creature - Spirit
Whenever you cast a spell from your graveyard, put a +1/+1 counter on Geist of Lost Dreams.
The name is actually carrying a lot of weight here.  Because the concept of a ghost made of lost dreams is such a good mechanical fit for Flashback, the card feels both complete and natural.  In fact, it's a much better flavor hit than Burning Vengeance or Secrets of the Dead.  This would also be a welcome addition to many limited archetypes and casual constructed.  

Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you all for playing!  The next challenge will go up soon.


  1. Thanks for the mention!

    One of my submissions actually started identical to Chimes of the Wayfarer except it was a CIPT land.

    I was worried about being able to trigger allies so easily with no mana cost though being really overpowered. I didn't actually play during Zendikar so maybe I was too swayed by the cost of Join the Ranks. I even played around with "may pay (2)" etc, but based on what I knew second hand of Zendikar, I ended up at this:

    Allied Headquarters
    Mythic Rare
    T: Add one mana of any colour to your mana pool.
    Allied Headquarters does not untap during your untap step. Whenever an Ally enters the battlefield, untap Allied Headquarters.

  2. Congrats to Jacob and thanks to HavelockV for a fun challenge. My personal favorite among these cards in terms of really fitting into its set is Glistening Wellspring. Mad Olaf nailed that one.

    1. While I agree that Wellspring is awesome, I don't think Glistening Wellspring would've made sense in Scars, especially since common-proliferate wasn't introduced until Besieged to show the growing influence of Phyrexia. That said, in an ideal world they would've had Mycosynth Wellspring in Scars and Glistening Wellspring in New Phyrexia.

    2. Apart from Steady Progress, that is?

      But I agree Glistening Wellspring would actually be best in NPH rather than SOM.

    3. Ha, forgot about that one. Other than Clasp and Engine and Viral Drake, I don't really remember playing any of the proliferate cards with any degree of satisfaction.

  3. I think some of these picks are pretty controversial. Anyway, here's what I submitted for the curious.

    Curse of Bestial Paws (Common)
    Enchantment - Aura Curse
    Enchant player
    At the beginning of enchanted player's end step, that player unattaches an equipment he or she controls.

    [If I could have included art or flavor text, this would have been called "Curse of Bestial Form. It's the no opposable thumbs downside of Beauty and the Beast. I liked it for limited, where equipement was king. I thought it was an appropriate common. And I liked giving Green the Curse it never got in real life.]

    Scrapyard Myr (Rare)
    Artifact Creature - Myr
    Imprint - When Scrapyard Myr enters the battlefield, you may exile target artifact.
    Scrapyard Myr gets +X/+X, where X is the exiled artifact card's converted mana cost.
    When Scrapyard Myr leaves the battlefield, you may return the exiled artifact card to the battlefield under its owner's control.

    [Probably my most generic design, I still like an all-upside Oblivion Ring for artifacts that can eat your opponent's Wurmcoil Engines and Swords. It may be too powerful that you can get your artifact back when it dies if you want, and I don't know how to feel about Black having access to this. But artifacts bleed the colorpie like crazy, so I went for it.]

    Sinkhole Trap (Uncommon)
    Instant - Trap
    If an opponent had two or more lands enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, you may pay 1B rather than pay Sinkhole Trap's mana cost.
    Destroy target land. It's controller loses 2 life.

    [A few of the Traps share triggers, so I wasn't worried about using Lavaball Trap's trigger again. Black was underplayed in Zendikar, and mana ramp was so fast in the format that I wished a card like this existed. I'd like to think a Xb deck could have kept Valakut in check if it had this Trap.]

    1. Nich, I actually liked all your cards quite a bit. The curse felt uncommon to me, and I think you're mistaken about traps sharing triggers. But you were very close to third place, and I hope you continue to participate in these challenges!

    2. I promise HavelockV, you don’t need to pump me up or defend yourself. It’s just one of those things were I thought my designs would rate better than they did. I thought more focus would be put on how well the cards fit in holes in each first set’s design or metagame. I feel picky about some of the choices, but I don’t want to be that guy. Like I said in the first thread, this was a fun challenge.

    3. Cool, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. This challenge was a lot of fun, and I love getting to see everyone's designs. The only thing I would change is how the cards are shown off at the end. Since there's no prize, we don't really need a single winner, so I'd love to see the best submission for each set/rarity combination. For instance, we didn't get to see the best Innistrad rare with this setup.

    Anyhow, I didn't think my Scars submission was very good, but I ran out of time. I did, however like this little number for Innistrad:

    Artful Observation 1U
    [Art is a painting with eyes following the viewer.]
    Enchantment (U)
    Each player plays with the top card of his or her library revealed.
    Flavor text: Some spirits linger out of malevolence, and some out of a sense of duty. Others just want to watch their legacy unfold.

    1. By the way, Jules, you accidentally sent in two creatures, and I didn't notice until after the deadline. So that disqualified you from the main competition, but your individual cards were still great. I really liked the creepy painting.

  5. This was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I got a mention! I'll be sure to submit some more cards to your design challenges in the future.

  6. Your "Lurking in the Mist plus cantrip" sounds a lot like Scout's Warning. I prefer the Innistradian flavour that Evan gave his version though.

    This was a lot of fun, even though I didn't get around to entering myself. I'm most definitely in favour of more challenges in the GDS style like this in future!

    1. Good catch! I totally forgot that card existed.

  7. This was a fun challenge. I enjoyed participating. These were my entries (as well as my thinking behind them), if anyone would like to see others' contributions to the challenge:

    [Zendikar Missing Card]
    Enticed Hunter
    Creature - Vampire Warrior
    As long as an opponent has 10 life or less, ~ has first strike.
    “The scent of a mere drop of blood drives him wild.”

    I wondered why the Vampires of Zendikar were based around Native Americans (hunters), but there weren't really any Vampires that felt like they were hunters. Just hungry. The bloodied 'mechanic' was a nice touch for the race, but there were only four cards that featured it.

    [Scars of Mirrodin Missing Card]
    Rapid Production
    At the beginning of your end step, you may proliferate. You may put a 1/1 green Insect creature with infect onto the battlefield under your control for each creature that dies this way.
    “Survival of the fittest... none are exempt.” - Glissa

    I understood that the entire Scars block was about the people of Mirrodin becoming compleat over time and becoming Phyrexians, but there weren't any cards that truly demonstrated this midgame (aside from Viridian Betrayers, but even they already appear Phyrexianized). After playing around with different types of counters to "kill" creature, I decided general proliferation was the way to go.

    [Innistrad Missing Card]
    Vampiric Conversion
    Tap target Vampire you control. Gain control of target non-Vampire creature until end of turn. It is a Vampire in addition to its other types and gains haste.
    “There are no old vampire hunters.”

    Again, aside from a few cards (Chosen of Markov/Markov's Servant and Loyal Cathar/Unhallowed Cathar) I felt there wasn't really enough feeling of one of the block's tribes (this time Vampires) growing in number. I wanted this card to work like Victim of Night but I really felt that it was then too wordy for Uncommon, and I felt that targeting only Humans was too restrictive for non-Constructed formats.

  8. My Innistrad submission was by far my strongest.

    Headless Horseman 2B
    Creature - Zombie Knight (c)

  9. Thanks to HV for setting up these challenges and thanks to everybody who entered. I hope this will be an ongoing feature. I love to see everyone's designs.