Sunday, July 1, 2012

Challenge #6: Results

Welcome back, designers!  I apologize for the unexpectedly long hiatus.  Mark Rosewater and his crew of color pie "enforcers" paid me a visit, and I'm just getting out of the hospital.  Don't worry, they haven't entirely beaten the heretic out of me; I still love Witch Hunter as much as ever.

On to the non-red dragons!

Honorable Mention
Winner: Luminum Can

Festering Dragon
Creature - Zombie Dragon
1B: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn. When that creature dies this turn, return it to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step.
Many entrants designed zombie dragons of various sorts.  This was among the best.  It's exciting and appealing, and a good flavor fit.  The major weakness of this card is that even though it fits well as a dragon, it could easily see print as a vampire: compare it to Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet or Soul Collector

Third Place
Winner: Chris

Dragon of Winter's Breath
Creature - Dragon
2U: Tap target creature. It doesn't untap during its controller's next untap step. Activate this ability only once per turn.
Ice dragons are a well-known fantasy trope, and Chris' version is a good mechanical fit that feels nicely blue.  We did see a similar ability back in red with Rimescale Dragon, but I suspect that snow mana allowed for some color bleed that wouldn't ordinarily happen.

Second Place
Winner: Nich Grayson

Rotted Dracolich
Creature — Zombie Dragon
1BB, T: Exile up to three target cards from a single graveyard, then
put that many +1/+1 counters on Rotted Dracolich.
1, Remove a +1/+1 counter from Rotted Dracolich: Regenerate Rotted Dracolich.
This is my favorite of the undead submissions, because it tells a story: a skeletal dragon digs in a graveyard to find bones to make itself into a bigger skeletal dragon.  Card art that clearly included bones from many different creatures could drive this concept home.  There are minor quibbles here; I'm not sure a starting body of 3/1 reads well enough, nor that the ability ought to require tapping, but overall this is an excellent card.

First Place
Winner: Jay Treat

Isochron Familiar
Creature - Dragon
Imprint — When Isochron Familiar enters the battlefield, you may exile an instant card with converted mana cost 2 or less from your hand.
Whenever Isochron Familiar attacks, you may copy the exiled card. If you do, you may cast the copy without paying its mana cost.
Magic has seen a variety of familiars, but never the "tiny dragon that sits on your shoulder" kind.  Jay submitted an Isochron Scepter with wings that's simultaneously more flavorful and more fair than the original.  Again, the narrative is a vital part of the card: you teach a relatively low-powered spell to your familiar, and then it can cast it to help you out.  I think this card would strongly appeal to many different kinds of players, which makes it my favorite submission.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a card!  The critiqued entry and next challenge will be posted soon.


  1. My biggest complaint about Isochron Familiar is that the size of the creature and concept as a familiar point toward it being a Drake rather than a Dragon. Other than that, a very fun, exciting, and flavorful card.

    All the entries look good, in fact. My favorite is easily Chris's. I'd probably have chosen that as the winner out of just these four, had I been judging; it's simple, elegant, resonant, and economical with rules text needed to communicate its concept.

    I think I'm starting to have a trend of "honorable mentions." Clearly I need to step up my game. :P

  2. The challenge was to create a dragon that felt like a dragon in a different color. While Isochron Familiar is a good card, it just doesn't really seem like a dragon to me. You could easily replace the creature type with drake, illusion, elemental, or even bird and it would still work fairly well. I think there would be less of a problem if this guy was the "standard" dragon size of 5/5.

    1. I agree completely, especially considering my design's "major weakness" was that it could suit a Vampire as well. The winning design is even less Dragon-specific, and isn't even within the appropriate size range for a Magic dragon.

  3. In Magic, Liches are Zombies, not Skeletons, so I think it's funny that HavelockV thinks of my Dracolich as a pile of bones.

    I have to agree that the winner is an awesome design, but not a bit Dragon appropriate. I don't think a dragon would allow itself to be a familiar for anyone. Bird or Drake for sure. Buuuut, I learned a while ago that these challenges are going to have curve ball winners and not to worry about it too much. There's always next time.

  4. Sounds like the "tiny dragon familiar" trope feels more universal and exciting in my head than it does in the outside world. Well, that's not the first questionable flavor decision I've made, nor will it be the last.

  5. But you can get one of these guys with the Improved Familiar feat!

    Yeah, okay. In my defense, I read too many Pern books as a child?

  6. I saw the winning card and thought "That is awesome. Fantastic design." I didn't particularly think about whether it worked as a Dragon or not; HV's explanation was enough that I didn't give it a second thought.

    Interesting how different people take these things differently :)

    Also, this contest was pretty similar to one of the earliest Design Challenges on Multiverse. Although because that was wider, we didn't actually get many Dragons, and it looks like they both ended up white, weirdly enough.

  7. I fully agree that Isochron Familiar doesn't match any existing dragon tropes already expressed in Magic. That's why I submitted it over some other options: It does hit a somewhat lesser known but very real and often beloved dragon trope from D&D, Pern and other Fantasy sources.

    I originally put the ability on a 4/4 dragon (nerdy magic-wielding dragons should generally be less beefy), but the numbers felt off to the point I changed the scepter ability to use CMC 4-. That just felt weird (and dangerous) but shrinking it down to Furnace Dragon / Dragon Whelp proportions made the numbers line up, the reference unmuddied and suddenly evoked dragon familiars.

    I like the other dragons here and I'm eager to see more of the submissions. I intend to share some of the other dragon designs this exercise inspired me to create in a separate post. Dragons!

    1. Here's my question: in light of Snapcaster, Kiln Fiend, Delver, et al, where does the argument stand on Isochron Familiar as a 1RR vs 1UU creature?

    2. I'd like it as a 1RR creature if it copied sorceries instead of instants.

    3. Glad to see somebody upholds the "red loves sorceries, blue loves instants" school of thought.

  8. I would prefer to see something like Dragon of Winter's Breath win, since you look at it and think "Yep, that's a dragon" instead of Isochron Familiar, which is great design, but I see it and think "Why is this a dragon and not a drake?"

    1. I won't argue that a more prototypical dragon perhaps should have won, but I take issue with the Drake claim. Drakes in Magic are naturally occurringanimals like Runeclaw Bears or a Roc; they're never intelligent like Dragons can be and their generally (if not always) non-magical, where Dragons are inherently magical. #vorthos

    2. Ah, you're probably right. You've created a very interesting Faerie then :)