Monday, June 4, 2012

Design Challenge #4: Results

To be honest, this challenge was more difficult than I had intended.  Top-down designs are already very hard, and there are many themes in Tolkien's work (mythology, history, diplomacy, the corruptive influence of power, magic being rare and unique) which simply don't fit the game of Magic: the Gathering well.  Still, there were some admirable solutions to the difficult problem presented, and I commend everyone who tried.

Honorable Mention
Winner: Jack V

T, sacrifice Palantír: the next instant or sorcery spell a player casts this turn they may play in any non-sanctioned or silver-bordered game they can see from their seat. (Eg. costs are paid in this game, but any targets and effects happen in the other game. Honest!)
I wasn't expecting any silver-bordered submissions for this challenge, but this is a fine one.  Two things kept this out of the top three.  First, the implementation seems slightly odd- I don't remember anything about palantíri being used up, and their main uses were spying and communication.  The second is that Ass Whuppin' has already been printed.  Nonetheless, a noble and entertaining effort!

Third Place
Winner: Jacob Munford

Samwise Gamgee
Legendary Creature - Kithkin Scout
Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, untap Samwise Gamgee.
W, T: Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
G, T: Regenerate target creature.
Well, of course hobbits are kithkin.  Sam's abilities are well-chosen; untapping for his alertness, regeneration for the many times he saved Frodo's life, and the +1/+1 for occasional feats of bravery in combat.  The compatibility of the first ability with the other two is a nice touch; I could easily some version of this card seeing print in Lorwyn.

Second Place
Winner: Piar

The One Ring
Legendary Artifact - Equipment
Equipped creature has shadow and shroud.
Equip 3
This shockingly simple design really grabbed me.  Shadow is a perfect fit for the ring's ability to pull its wearer into the spiritual realm, and Shroud has often been used to represent invisibility.  This ring does exactly what Bilbo and Frodo experienced.

But, you may ask, shouldn't there be more text to represent its other abilities?  Surprisingly, I think the answer is no.  The long-term psychological effects of wearing the ring are too subtle for a game which is fundamentally about smashing faces with Craw Wurms.  And yes, the ring would have done something very different in the hands of Sauron, Galadriel, or Gandalf; I wish there'd been some mechanical reflection of this, but such an effect would necessarily have been very complex and failed to truly capture its awesome power.  Piar's decision to keep things simple is defensible- what we have here is the One Ring, circa The Hobbit, before anyone knew what else it might do.

First Place
Winner: pasteur

Tom Bombadil
Legendary Creature - Spirit Druid
Spells cost 1 less to play.
Both of Tom's abilities here fit his role in Middle-earth.  Shroud reflects his apparent immunity to external magic: unlike any other character, he is completely unaffected by the One Ring's power.  Tom is an immensely magical being in himself, but manifests little overt power; cost reduction seems like a very reasonable way to represent his nature.  What really gets me is the creature type: clearly, pasteur has done his Tolkien research!  The fact that both his abilities are symmetric for all players is a nice manifestation of Tom's lack of concern for the impending conflict.

What's more, this is a sweet card for casual play.  Combo enablers love having shroud: Argothian Enchantress is rated a whopping 4.771 on Gatherer, putting it in the top 15 creatures.  Tom Bombadil makes awesome things happen.

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Now that we've had four design challenges, I'm curious to hear some feedback on how they've worked.  What sorts of challenges are you most interested in seeing in the future?  What would make you most excited about participating?  Is there anything you'd like changed about how the challenges work?  Let me know what you'd like best; these challenges are for you, dear readers, not for me.


  1. These have been a blast to do and personally I don't think you need to change anything.

    I did post some of my designs in the first couple of weeks on a local MTG group here in Victoria, BC and found that it generated a lot of interest and comments from people including from a few who planned to submit designs themselves until they learned it was JUST for the fun of it.

    While certainly not remotely necessary to hold my interest, one route to consider would be to seek out some prizes. I'm sure that some of the sites that sell cards would be happy to donate prizes in exchange for exposure. Maybe even some of the decklist sites like would be interested (I could ask - I'm on the admin team there).

    1. Yo, that would be awesome. I would be glad to pimp any store that gave us free prizes for contests. (I can't speak for the other bloggers, but I feel like anyone who's willing to support us deserves the publicity.)

    2. I haven't paid too much attention to what kind of readership we've been getting, but I had thought that it might be a good idea to get in touch with someone like Channel Fireball and see if they have interest in sponsoring contests with gift certificates.

      The prizes for the initial contests when we started were all from my personal collection. And while I'd be glad to offer more, most of my paper collection is irrelevant to anyone's interests.

    3. Does anyone have contacts at Channel Fireball or Star City Games? I must admit I find it a bit unlikely that they'd sponsor contests on somebody else's blog, given that they already have their own columnists writing...

    4. "if you win, we will design a card with a pun based off of your name"

      "if you win, you get to meet mark rosewater! here's his address."

      "if you win, you get up to ten basic lands of the type of your choice!"