Thursday, December 7, 2017

GDS3 Prep: Review the GDS 2 Multiple Choice Quiz

You heard the awesome news that the Great Designer Search is back, right? This is the moment that Goblin Artisans was born for. This is your home for preparation leading up to the event, as well as coverage and analysis during. Feel free to share any other content you find relevant. Zachary Barash wasted no time contributing to the cause on Hipsters of the Coast.

The first active culling of potential GDS3 participants will be the multiple choice quiz. The first two times, this test was quite hard, including questions the answer to which had never been discussed outside R&D at the time, and some notorious trick questions. Only the 100 highest scores will move on, so we're going to review the previous quizzes, analyze them, and speculate about the next one.

First, we'll review the GDS2 quiz. I recommend taking it first. Then follow along with us as we review the questions. The page won't display the answers or grade your test, but the answers have been scraped from the page's code by Mr. Vovoda. Regardless, discussing the questions is more important now than seeing the right answers.

Questions 1–3 refer to the following card:
Fast Guy
Creature – Human
Lifelink, haste
1) Which color is most appropriate for this card?
 a) white
 b) blue
 c) black
 d) red
 e) green

The answer is definitely black, C. Lifelink only occurs in white and black. Haste is primary in red but shows up occasionally in black and green. The only overlap between those two is black.

This is one of the few easy questions.

2) Which rarity is most appropriate for this card?
 a) common
 b) uncommon
 c) rare
 d) mythic rare

A smallish french vanilla like this would normally be common because it's simple and, without a low cost, not necessarily powerful. But since haste isn't primary in black, Fast Guy isn't representative of the color, and so should be uncommon, B.

This question could trip you up if you focus on the power level or complexity of the card, and miss the fact that haste isn't primary in black. (Also, lifelink might have only been secondary back in 2010.) The question wasn't "What's appropriate" but "What's most appropriate?" We'll see that distinction often in this test.

Checking out MaRo's reasoning, I find I was right for the wrong reason: Apparently we keep lifelinkers at power 2- at common because of how swingy that can be. As of 2010.

3) You are changing one of Fast Guy's keywords to another one. Which of the following combinations would result in a card that could not be monocolored?
 a) first strike, haste
 b) flying, haste
 c) lifelink, shroud
 d) lifelink, vigilance

C. Lifelink is white/black, while shroud (or hexproof, nowadays) is blue/green. A is red, B is red (though rare), and D is white.

Here's another question where there are a couple easily removed choices, but two options worth considering. Because flying is secondary in red, flying and haste is not something we see paired often, but it's totally valid at uncommon above on phoenices and dragons. We have to look past that and choose the lifelink+shroud combo because that shouldn't be mono-colored at any rarity.

Questions 4–6 refer to the following card:
Deflecting Mage
Creature – Human Wizard
When Deflecting Mage enters the battlefield, change the target of target spell with a single target.
4) If this card were a hybrid card, which color pair would be most appropriate?
 a) white-black
 b) blue-red
 c) black-green
 d) red-white
 e) green-blue

Flash is white or blue, and target changing is red or blue. D would work for a gold card, because Deflecting Mage pulls flash from white and target changing from red, but B is the better answer because blue can have both abilities, and hybrid cards ideally fit completely in either color (red can use flash when it's necessary, as it would be to make a shunt-on-a-stick).

Again, we have to choose the most appropriate answer, not just an appropriate answer. Knowing what goals designers have when making hybrid cards makes the difference here.

5) If Design wanted to change this card's rules text but keep it a hybrid card, which of the following options would not work?
 a) flash; shroud
 b) double strike
 c) {2}: Switch Deflecting Mage's power and toughness until end of turn.
 d) {T}: Target player gains 2 life.
 e) {T}: Target player discards a card. Activate this ability only any time you could cast a sorcery.

E. Only black gets discard. A could be blue/green, B could be white/red, C could be blue/red, and D could be W/G.

Once you parse this question, it's not too hard, but notice that it's not trivial to figure out exactly what's being asked. Be careful when reading the questions. Take your time to understand what they look like they're asking, what you think the author meant to ask, and what they're literally asking.

6) Design often makes creatures that have flash and "enters the battlefield" triggered abilities like Deflecting Mage. Which of the following abilities would we least likely pair with flash?
 a) Counter target spell.
 b) The next time target instant or sorcery spell would deal damage, it deals double that damage instead.
 c) CARDNAME deals 2 damage to target attacking or blocking creature.
 d) Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn.
 e) Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

I'm going with B here, but this one's debatable. A exists in Mystic Snake. D exists in Haze Frog. E exists in Briarpack Alpha. Those are out.

C looks like a totally reasonable effect on a flash creature. It certainly couldn't exist as an ETB ability on a creature without flash. But it's important to consider how the card will play in practice. Is the timing off? If you cast that creature on offense, you can finish off a blocker after damage is dealt, and then you've got your creature sitting around. That's fine, but not amazing. (No worse than Briarpack Alpha on offense.) If you cast it on defense, you can do it after attackers are declared but before blockers are declared, allowing you to shock an attacker and block with your flash creature. Seems solid enough.

So what's wrong with B? You could cast it in response to a spell to make it more effective, right? Sure, but because of how it's worded, you can also cast it before the spell you want to Rath-ify, even at sorcery speed. And there's actually no reason you'd ever cast it in response to an opponent's spell, because you'll never want to double their damage.

This question really challenges you to think through the scenarios as they'd play out in a real game…

Except I'm wrong. I read B incorrectly. It's not "the next time a spell would deal damage this turn," it actually targets a spell while it's on the stack. So it can only be done in response to a spell. Granted, you still only want to target your own spells, but you still need instant speed to do that. 82% of respondants also chose B.

The correct answer, according to MaRo, was E. Because it's the only effect that would also work as a sorcery. Again, that "least likely" in the question is proving huge. All of these effects are completely valid on flash creatures and E was even printed before this quiz was written, but because it's the only effect that can be made without flash, it's the choice. Please take this as a lesson about the kind of logic being used to grade your test.

Questions 7–9 refer to the following card:
Return to the Æther
Return target creature you control to its owner's hand.
7) Other than blue, which color is most appropriate for this card?
 a) white
 b) black
 c) red
 d) green

White. A.

This question's super easy if you know the color pie, which the test wants to be sure you do. You'll want to double-check your instincts with Mechanical Color Pie 2017 during the upcoming quiz.

8) Which rarity is most appropriate for this card?
 a) common
 b) uncommon
 c) rare
 d) mythic rare

A again. This is common because it is both simple and neither too powerful nor swingy.

This question's super easy if you know how Wizards uses rarity. You'll want to read up on Mark Rosewater's articles about that.

9) Which of the following changes are we least likely to make?
 a) Make the card a sorcery.
 b) Change "target creature" to "all creatures" and "its owner's hand" to "their owners' hands."
 c) Change "target creature" to "target permanent."
 d) Change "you control" to "an opponent controls."
 e) Change "owner's hand" to "controller's hand."

The answer's definitely E. A is weak, but has been done. B is a huge effect, and one few decks/situations would want, but could be a Johnny rare. C is fine. D has happened. E, however, is Unstable territory. Black-bordered Magic never put cards into a hidden zone like hand or library that don't belong to that zone's owner.

This question is the old Only Invalid Answer Among Strong and Weak but All Valid Answers variety.

Questions 10–12 refer to the following card:
Mystical Fighter
Creature – Human
First strike
[Mana]: Regenerate Mystical Fighter.
10) If this card was a multicolored card, which combination of colors couldn't it be?
 a) white-black
 b) black-red
 c) red-green
 d) red-white
 e) green-white

First Strike is white/red ability and regeneration is a green/black ability. The only pair of colors here that doesn't take one color from the first and another from the second is red-white. D.

Color pie knowledge and basic multiple choice quiz skills.

11) From a design perspective, what is the most significant problem with this card?
 a) It's inelegant for one ability to require mana to activate and the other to not.
 b) To make first strike have more impact, the power should be greater than the toughness.
 c) To make the regeneration happen more often, the creature should have a lower toughness.
 d) Humans don't regenerate.
 e) The two abilities don't complement each other as the use of one tends to decrease the use of the other.

E. A is very slightly true, even if we didn't have larger concerns, it's not really even worth addressing on its own. First strike does help low toughness creatures the most, but as long as your toughness isn't higher, it's fine. The most famous first strikes are 2/2s. Not B. C is clearly irrelevant with first strike in the mix; even if you didn't know that, B gives you the heads up. D has some historical accuracy but since never-regenerating isn't a primary identifying characteristic of humans, it's not a guideline to concern ourselves with. E actually affects play and should be factored into the design.

Again, we're picking the best answer out of several valid answers. Notice that as long as you can differentiate true statements from false ones, you can use the statements offered to help evaluate one another.

12) If Design wanted to change this card to green/blue by changing first strike to another keyword, which one would not work?
 a) flash
 b) flying
 c) islandwalk
 d) shroud
 e) vigilance

We're keeping regeneration, which is the green half of our now green/blue card. All we have to do is find the ability that isn't blue, and that's vigilance. E.

If you know the color pie, the only challenge to this question is parsing it in a helpful way.

Questions 13–15 refer to the following card:
Nasty Demon
Creature – Demon
Whenever Nasty Demon deals combat damage to an opponent, that player discards two cards.
13) Which color is most appropriate for this card?
 a) white
 b) blue
 c) black
 d) red
 e) green

Black. Demons are black. Discard is black. E.

An easy one to make us feel good about ourselves.

14) Which rarity is the most appropriate for this card?
 a) common
 b) uncommon
 c) rare
 d) mythic rare

C, Rare. It's too big and powerful to be merely uncommon, but it's not unique or splashy enough to be mythic based on abilities alone. D is tempting because this would be amazing at, say, {2}{B}{B}, but evaluating the effect regardless of cost, C is closer.

Know your rarities.

15) As a Demon, which change is Design most likely to make?
 a) Add flying.
 b) Increase power and toughness.
 c) Add a mechanical downside that has potential to harm the controller.
 d) Change "combat damage" to "damage."
 e) Change the effect of the triggered ability to make the opponent discard his or her entire hand.

I'm going with C, but A and E have merit. Most demons have flying, but it's not a requirement. Intimidate is a fine substitute evasion mechanic and works flavorfully. 5/5 is plenty big for a demon. Most demons have some downside; that's happening less and less as times marches on, but it was still pretty true in 2010. D is silly. E could work on a mythic Demon, and despite the last question, we haven't actually locked in a rarity; but it's also super un-fun to lose your whole hand when you're being hit by an evasive fatty.

The correct answer was, in fact, C, for the old timey reason I suspected.

If you internalize the importance of normally over-looked words in these questions, it will help a lot. "As a Demon" feel redundant here because we already know the card is a demon, so it's easy to filter that out mentally. But Design's goal in this scenario is to do the most demon-y thing possible here. Flying is demon-y but redundant with intimidate (remember, we're adding flying, not replacing intimidate). Discarding the whole hand is something only a major villain would do, so it fits for a demon, but it doesn't represent demon-ness. A mechanical downside, however, is classic demon.

Again, the lesson is to weigh every damn word and try to rephrase the question in a way that's true to the author's perspective, without contradicting any of the language. Like this:
"Of these five possible tweaks to the card as presented, which tweak could Design make to help this card read as a Demon?"
Questions 16–18 refer to the following card:
Mimsy Borogove
Creature – Human
16) Which mana cost is least appropriate for this card?
 a) {1}{W}
 b) {1}{U}
 c) {1}{B}
 d) {1}{R}
 e) {1}{G}

B. Blue has the weakest creatures and is least likely to enjoy a card as strong as this grizzly bear. This question would be slightly harder today since black and red can now get bears and better, but blue is still the weakest. (Though we're approaching the point where this card would be more unusual in green or white who demand better.)

Color pie knowledge.

17) This card is known in R&D slang as a "vanilla creature" because it has no abilities. Of the following reasons, which is the least important reason that Design creates vanilla creatures?
 a) To increase the number of creatures in a set without pulling focus from the set's main themes.
 b) To create cards that are easier to cost.
 c) To lessen overall board complexity.
 d) To make cards that are easier for beginners to learn.
 e) To provide a baseline that helps players evaluate more complex creatures.

B. R&D isn't afraid to do hard work.

Look for the odd answer out.

18) If we wanted to make this card a "French vanilla" creature (a creature with one or more keyword abilities but no other rules text) and keep it at common, which keyword is the least appropriate?
 a) double strike
 b) lifelink
 c) reach
 d) trample
 e) vigilance

A. Double strike is the swingiest, and the least appropriate for common.

Know rarities.

Questions 19–21 refer to the following card:
Take It and Suffer
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant creature
When Take It and Suffer enters the battlefield, destroy enchanted creature. Take It and Suffer deals damage to target player equal to that creature's toughness.
19) If this card is black, which change is Design most likely to make to this card?
 a) Add "nonblack" to the enchant ability.
 b) Change the damage so it is equal to the creature's power rather than its toughness.
 c) Change the destruction to a sacrifice effect.
 d) Change the damage to loss of life.
 e) Make the card an instant or sorcery.

E. It makes no sense that this card is an enchantment rather than a sorcery. If you need that explained, ask in the comments.

20) Could Design change this card into an Equipment with only minor tweaking?
 a) yes
 b) no

No/B. Sorceries shouldn't equipment either. This question requires you to have noticed that glaring issue with card.

It's like they wanted "Should sorceries sometimes be auras" to be worth two points.

Mark's reasoning was that you can only equip your own creatures where this aura wants to enchant opposing creatures. That's true, and it did occur to me when I took the test yesterday, but the whole sorcery thing obviates that consideration.

21) Design wants to change this card so it destroys other types of permanents yet wishes to keep it black. According to black's portion of the color pie, which card types is it most appropriate for this card to destroy?
 a) artifacts
 b) enchantments
 c) lands
 d) artifacts and lands
 e) artifacts and enchantments 

C. Black kills lands, never artifacts or enchantments.

Basic color pie.
Questions 22–24 refer to the following card:
Annoying Bell
Annoying Bell enters the battlefield with three charge counters on it.
T, Remove a charge counter from Annoying Bell: Target player puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
22) In an artifact block such as Mirrodin or Scars of Mirrodin, which rarity is most appropriate for this card?
 a) common
 b) uncommon
 c) rare
 d) mythic rare

Shriekhorn is a common card. It wasn't printed until a month or two after this quiz, so I guess this was a card preview.

If you missed the whole 'artifact block,' you'd have guessed this was uncommon because artifacts aren't usually very common. Milling 6 whole cards over the course of three turns certainly isn't a power concern.

23) Assuming this card is for an artifact block, what is the most significant reason this card wouldn't be turned into an artifact creature?
 a) Its ability couldn't be activated on the turn it was cast.
 b) As artifact blocks tend to use +1/+1 or -1/-1 counters, to avoid confusion between different kinds of counters, we normally don't put charge counters on creatures.
 c) It's much easier to untap creatures and thus much easier to activate the ability more than once during the same turn.
 d) It's much easier to return creatures to their owner's hand and thus it would be too easy to "refill" the counters.
 e) Artifact blocks like to play up the tropes of artifacts and "millstones" are a popular artifact trope.

B. Counters don't mix. This is something you'd only know from reading most of what MaRo writes. Or by being both unusually observant and impossibly analytical.

Read MaRo's column. At least the stuff about Design and Development.

24) A player loses the game when he or she draws a card with no cards left in his or her library. What's the most important reason for this rule?
 a) It encourages players to play with larger decks.
 b) It gives the game an interesting win condition.
 c) It keeps the game from continuing indefinitely.
 d) It makes long games more exciting.
 e) It makes draw effects that target a player more flexible.

C. That's the reason the rule was invented originally. It's also just a larger concern. Games must end.

Study game design. And/or absorb stories about Magic's origin.

25) Which of the following is true about planeswalker design?
 a) A planeswalker must have exactly three abilities.
 b) A planeswalker cannot activate its "ultimate" ability on the turn it is cast.
 c) A planeswalker must have at least one ability that adds loyalty counters and one ability that removes them.
 d) A planeswalker must have a subtype that isn't shared by any other card.
 e) A planeswalker cannot have any card types other than planeswalker.

At first read, I liked D because each card type's subtypes are mutually exclusive, but reading it better, I realized it was including all the versions of Jace—That subtype is there for a reason. At least it had been before the last legendary update. A, B, and C fit the mold of how most planeswalkers play, but none of them are required. I was particularly tempted by C since it's such a good guideline, but Sarkhan the Mad proves that's not it. It seems like you could make an Artifact Planeswalker, but Karn Liberated (in retrospect) proves that's it. E is the answer. Apparently A-D had all already been broken by 2010.

Know cards. Use Gatherer.

26) Which of the following blocks could most appropriately be called an "enchantment block?"
 a) Tempest block
 b) Urza's Saga block
 c) Mercadian Masques block
 d) Invasion block
 e) Odyssey block

B. MaRo's has explained how the ball was dropped on making it clear that Urza's block was intended to be an enchantment block many times.

Read MaRo's articles or listen to his podcasts. Or, do a Gatherer search for enchantments in each of these blocks. Do both, to be sure.

27) If Magic 2012 needed to take an uncommon white card from Magic 2011 and reprint it as a common, which of the following cards is R&D most likely to choose?
 a) Ajani's Pridemate
 b) Celestial Purge
 c) Roc Egg
 d) War Priest of Thune
 e) White Knight

D. Ajani's Pridemate is a little too unbounded, Celestial Purge is too specific, White Knight is too iconic (and generally strong). Roc Egg is, IDK, swingy? Sometimes it's a useless 0/3, sometimes it's a cheap Phantom Monster and life gain. Prrrobably, it's more about how it just slows games down by dissuading attacks. War Priest of Thune is potentially a 2:1, but no one cares about enchantments. Honestly, that choice was made easier knowing how many times a 2/2 for {1}{W} that kills enchantments had been printed at common.

Not as clear a choice as I'd like, especially if you see that MaRo's justifications were no stronger than mine.

28) Which of the following is not an example of a modular mechanic?
 a) cycling
 b) echo
 c) flashback
 d) infect
 e) kicker

D. These are all modular except infect, which you want to play as much of as possible, or none at all.

Know design terms like modular/linear/parasitic. Learn them by following MaRo's teachings. Seriously, this is half a test about having read Making Magic for years. While that's slightly narcissistic, I have to recommend reading Making Magic to anyone interested in game design because of how insightful it is. If you're interested in making Magic, you have no excuse not to read Making Magic.

29) Which of the following enchantments are we least likely to print?
 a) All creatures with changeling have flying.
 b) All creatures with echo have deathtouch.
 c) All creatures with exalted have lifelink.
 d) All creatures with infect have first strike.
 e) All creatures with landfall have haste.

D? This is a tough one. A is a bit non-interactive, and strange flavor. B will shut the game down and has negative flavor. C is of limited use because most of your exalted creatures won't be attacking, but can still gain you life both on offense and defense, and has pretty decent flavor. D has weak flavor and sounds terribly brutal: My 2/2 hits your 3/3, shrinks it to a 1/1 first, and then takes a measly 1 damage after; Also having multiple first strike creatures is often even more attack-prohibiting than a bunch of low-toughness death-touch creatures. E is a little odd, but whatever; the best landfall creatures are aggressive and this makes them more aggressive, but like, are you really going to cast an enchantment that just gives them haste?

And the answer is... E! This was the second most missed question on the test, and the hardest in MaRo's estimation. The reason is that while A-D are all poor effects to print, E can't be printed at all because landfall is an ability word, not a keyword, and so can't be referenced by the rules. I choose to believe I got that right 7 years ago and only missed it in my haste this time around.

Lesson: Don't be hasty. Look up everything. When all the choices seem subjective, there's probably something objectively wrong hidden somewhere. Also, know technicalities like how the rules choose to suck at ability words.
30) Who is most likely to build a deck themed around The Wizard of Oz? (The description of the five answers are here and here.)
 a) Timmy
 b) Johnny
 c) Spike
 d) Vorthos
 e) Melvin

D. Vorthos cares about flavor. Johnny/Jenny is a close second here because of style points, but when the style is all theme, we're dealing with a class 1 Vorthos.

Aaand I'm wrong again! The answer was B. I'm going to copy and paste MaRo's explanation:
While this wasn't one of the five most missed questions, it did have more people guess another answer than the correct one. The reason many people missed this question is that they made one false assumption. Vorthos likes flavor, but the flavor he or she likes is that of Magic. What Vorthos enjoys is cards that bring forth the fantasy flavor of the game: top-down designs and cards that are resonant. Vorthos is excited by cards that bring Magic to life. 
The reason someone would build a  Wizards of Oz  deck is to show off their deck-building skills, to demonstrate some creative expression. The person who would do that would be Johnny. 
Hard to disagree when he literally defined these terms. (And yet I remain skeptical.)

31) Which of the following abilities is R&D most likely to put on a common creature in an upcoming set?
 a) {T}: CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
 b) {T}: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to target creature this turn.
 c) {T}: Tap target creature.
 d) {T}: Target creature gains first strike until end of turn.
 e) {T}: Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

C. Tapping a creature is something you do before combat, not during or after combat. That's important because on-board tricks (e.g. all 4 other answers) complicate games and make players feel dumb when they're missed, which is why they're avoided at common.

Know about New World Order and about good and bad complexity.

32) You're designing a rare card by starting with each of the common cards below and changing only numbers in that card's rules text. Assuming the mana cost will change to fit the power level of the card, which card is least likely to make a compelling rare?
 a) Raise the Alarm
 b) Divination
 c) Last Gasp
 d) Tremor
 e) Giant Growth

This question's tricky simply because it's not entirely clear what's up. Imagine that the 2, 2, 3, 1, and 3 in each card's respective effects is replaced with a 7. The answer's definitely C or E; I'm going to run with C because the most it will ever do is kill one creature, where all the other effects either net you serious card advantage (A, B, D), or can let you attack for the win (A, E).

C was the correct answer. MaRo gives the example that as impessive as -100/-100 looks, it's not much better than a Doom Blade, which was common at the time. Wide and efficient removal like that is now always uncommon or rarer, but it remains that killing a single creature < killing your opponent with an unblocked creature.

Being able to evaluate cards that exist is important, but a designer must be able to evaluate cards that don't exist, even wide ranges of potential cards.

33) "Each person's life unfolds according to a pattern. Accepting this fact is the key to harmony." Which color has this philosophy?
 a) white
 b) blue
 c) black
 d) red
 e) green

Green. E. 

Know the color pie.

34) Which of the following mechanics would be most at home in the Golgari guild (black-green) from Ravnica?
 a) flashback
 b) madness
 c) morph
 d) shadow
 e) storm

A? Golgari is all about the cycle of life, using life to feed death, and death to feed life. That's usually expressed on creatures, because it's creatures that do all the living and dying around here, but flashback lets you use your graveyard as a resource and that's très Golgari. Madness and Storm are clearly unrelated. Morph is arguably, but a stretch nonetheless. Shadow has neat flavor match (provided we find Golgari interested in the incorporeal dead as opposed to the physical dead), but the play style is all wrong.

A was right. Know about Magic's factions, their philosophies, mechanics, and play styles. Consider mechanics not just for how they sounds or how they've been used in the past, but for their flavor and for the gameplay they enable.

35) Which effect is usually seen on more sorceries than instants?
 a) direct damage
 b) life gain
 c) power/toughness pumping
 d) returning permanents to their owner's hand
 e) token creation

E, token creation. 

You should know this off-hand, but just do a Gatherer search to confirm.

36) Which of the following is not true about Magic sets?
 a) Design should make sure there are large, all-upside creatures for Timmy.
 b) Design should make sure there are build-around enchantments for Johnny.
 c) Design should make sure there are spells with swingy effects for Timmy.
 d) Design should make sure there are cards with unique effects for Johnny.
 e) Design does not need to design cards for Spike as they will gravitate toward whatever the best cards are.

E. Design designs designs for all the psychographics. Even if you didn't know that, being familiar enough with Timmy/Tammy and Johnny/Jenny would tell you that A-D are all true.

Know the psychographics. Use process of elimination.

37) Which of the following characteristics of a Magic creature card is most relevant to design?
 a) color
 b) creature type
 c) mana cost
 d) power and toughness
 e) rarity

A or maaaybe E. This is a tricky one, given how nebulous the differences between Design and Development are. Creature type is always decided by the Creative team, except when directly relevant to tribal sets. Mana cost and power/toughness are calibrated by the Development team. A card's color determines which set of cards it can be drafted with or built around, and must respect the color pie. Design is very much the expert on the color pie in R&D. Rarity is also important, and informs a card's design, but you can shift a card's rarity by tweaking its numbers or even doing nothing at all, whereas changing a card's color will often require more fundamental updates.

A was correct, though MaRo's justification was more process-oriented. Design makes all the cards in the set and passes them off; Dev is much more likely to change their rarity (and numbers) than their color.

Know the process R&D uses to make products. Reading Development articles as well as MaRo's many process articles is helpful to this end.

38) Which of the following abilities is R&D least likely to put onto a green creature in an upcoming set?
 a) All creatures able to block CARDNAME do so.
 b) CARDNAME can't be blocked except by two or more creatures.
 c) [Mana]: CARDNAME gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Activate this ability only once each turn.
 d) Vigilance
 e) You may have CARDNAME assign its combat damage as though it weren't blocked.

B. Menace is primary in red and has never been primary in green. All the other abilities exist on two or more green cards (that aren't also red) printed before 2010.

Know the color pie and check Gatherer.

39) Which of the following is the least likely reason a card would move from common to uncommon during design?
 a) The card is too complicated.
 b) The card needs to show up less often in limited.
 c) There are too many cards doing what the card is doing at common.
 d) The card is likely to show up in tournaments.
 e) There's no space for the card at common.

D. Wizards needs its audience to believe that it doesn't strictly make tournament-playable cards at higher rarities in order to sell packs. That's at least partially true, but the perception is more important than the truth of the matter. A, B, C, and E are all more valid (with E being least relevant).

Understand the motivations both of Magic designers and Wizards of the Cost as a business.

40) From a design standpoint, what is the most important advantage of the variance of the draw to Magic?
 a) It's a catch-up feature.
 b) It adds randomness, which creates greater variety of game play.
 c) It allows a player to beat a more skilled opponent.
 d) It creates suspense in the late game.
 e) It enables the creation of cards that manipulate the library.

B. Games in this market live and die on their replayability, and variance is essential. A game that's played as much as Magic is—particularly when players are honing their skills by playing the same deck over and over—absolutely depend on a variety of game play. A and D are important too, just not as important. E is a nice bonus, but not critical. C is somewhere between.

Know principles of game design. Read MaRo's articles.

41) According to current design standards, which of the following is least likely to be a common card?
 a) A white instant that gives protection to target creature.
 b) A blue Aura that stops enchanted creature from untapping.
 c) A black sorcery that causes you to pay life to draw cards.
 d) A red instant that states target creature can't block this turn.
 e) A green sorcery that destroys all enchantments.

E could potentially destroy 3+ cards. It will also commonly have 0 targets. Neither of those are ideal for common. The other four options are commons they keep re-making.

Know about rarity. Search Gatherer.

42) According to R&D, which of the following is the least parasitic mechanic?
 a) affinity
 b) cycling
 c) infect
 d) splice
 e) threshold

B. Cycling isn't parasitic at all, one cycling card never rewarding another. (In fact, too much cycling is a problem.) Affinity asks you to play all artifacts, infect asks you to play all poison, splice asks you to play all arcane. Threshold is less parasitic, but as long as you're activating one threshold card, you might as well activate a bunch.

Look up design terms you're not familiar with. Look up keywords.

43) "I believe that block had a lot of problems because it was just too parasitic without enough backward compatibility." Which block am I most likely talking about?
 a) Urza's Saga block
 b) Mercadian Masques block
 c) Odyssey block
 d) Champions of Kamigawa block
 e) Lorwyn block

D. If someone's talking bad about a Magic set, it's either Homelands, Mercadian Masques, or Kamigawa. Also, Kamigawa is responsible for splice onto arcane and soulshift and legends-matters, all linear, and mostly parasitic.

Know Magic blocks. In this case, you could've looked up the keywords mentioned in the previous question and seen which sets they belong to.

44) According to R&D, what is the flanking mechanic's biggest shortcoming from a design perspective? (See all creatures with flanking here.)
 a) Flanking not working against other flankers wasn't intuitive to many players and thus was often played incorrectly.
 b) Flanking creatures were all conceived as humans riding horses, thus limiting the types of creatures R&D could design.
 c) Flanking only worked on attacking and not on blocking, limiting the number of interactions it created.
 d) Flanking was priced such that players didn't actually pay anything extra for the flanking ability.
 e) Flanking didn't include a number, eliminating the ability to design future versions using increments greater than -1/-1.

"According to R&D" is a big hint that you can look this information up somewhere. The most similar mechanic, bushido, is a hint that the answer's A or E. It's A, btw. Numbers can be added later. C has some appeal, but rest assured that Wizards always wants to reward attacking and that's not so true for blocking, because attacking ends games and blocking prolongs them.

Look up discussions from DailyMTG (if only their search feature were any good). Compare keywords with their closest cousins.

45) The philosophy of four of the five colors is stated below. Which color is missing?
"Morality? There's no such thing as morality. It's a construct of the weak to justify their actions."
"What value is there in thinking about tomorrow? Who knows if we'll even be alive tomorrow?"
"Everybody is trying so hard to change everything that they sometimes miss that things don't need to be changed."
"Any problem that is understood can be solved."

 a) white
 b) blue
 c) black
 d) red
 e) green

A. Black doesn't believe in morality. Red doesn't worry about tomorrow. Green fears change. Blue solves puzzles. White's greater good philosophy is absent.

Know the color pie.
46) Which of the following cards is least a Johnny card?
 a) Clone
 b) Devastating Summons
 c) Fauna Shaman
 d) Mortician Beetle
 e) Near-Death Experience

This is a tough one because I can summon in my inner-Johnny to appreciate any of these 5. Clone a Prescursor Golem? Yes, please. Ramp into a bunch of land and kill my opponent out of nowhere with Devastating Summons? It's just risky enough to make me care. Create a toolkit full of silver bullets to fetch with my Fauna Shaman? Devious! Barter in Blood all day long to make my one-drop gigantic? Thanks, Mortician Beetle! Get my life total to 1 without losing? What kind of a fool—this kind! Sign me up for Near-Death Experience. So how do we decide? Well, I played Devastating Summons in a super-Spikey red aggro Standard deck back when. Fauna Shaman also saw play in a combo deck. Mortician Beetle doesn't do anything except get big. My heart says Summons is the least Jenny.

B is right. I did not feel great about that, though. Here's what MaRo says:
The reason  Devastating Summons is the least Johnny of the bunch is that it doesn't have much flexibility and its restriction just isn't that hard to work around. The card is much more for Spike than Johnny
Some of these are just gonna be mad subjective.

Question 47 refers to the following card:
Those Pesky Dead
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, put a 2/2 black Vampire creature token onto the battlefield tapped.
47) What change is Design most likely to be make?
 a) Change "creature" to "nontoken creature."
 b) Change "the battlefield" to "anywhere."
 c) Change 2/2 to 1/1.
 d) Change "Vampire" to "Zombie."
 e) Remove "tapped."

A. If you don't change "creature" to "nontoken creature" then you'll get a new Vampire every time one of your previous Vampire tokens dies. That's infinite sacrifices. Can't allow it. All the other changes are good or bad depending on the context.

There are a number of gotchas like this in Magic. It's helpful to know what they are. But playtesting or really focused critical thinking can get you there too.

48) One of R&D's ongoing concerns is board complexity. We've coined the term "virtual vanilla" to refer to a creature that, after the first turn it enters the battlefield, functions as a simple vanilla creature for purposes of evaluating the board state. (Avoid getting hung up on obscure combinations of cards that could make the card not function as a vanilla.)
Here are ten creatures:
Æther Adept
Ambassador Oak
Bog Raiders
Canyon Minotaur
King Cheetah
Riptide Crab
Rotting Legion
Squadron Hawk

Vulshok Berserker
How many of the ten creatures are virtual vanilla?
 a) four
 b) five
 c) six
 d) seven
 e) eight

I'm saying Seven, D. (No idea what I said in 2010.) This question is notorious. I'm just going to quote MaRo:
This was the fifth most missed question, but probably the most heatedly debated. Let's talk about each of the cards and I'll get to the hot button topic.
Æther Adept:  It's a 2/2 with an "enters the battlefield" effect. Next turn it's just a 2/2. Virtual vanilla.

Ambassador Oak:  A 3/3 with an "enters the battlefield" effect. True, it creates a token, but both Ambassador Oak and the token function as a vanilla during the next turn. Virtual vanilla.

Bog Raiders:  The card has swampwalk every turn. Not virtual vanilla.

Canyon Minotaur:  Now we get to the controversial card. By the definition I laid out for you, Canyon Minotaur is a virtual vanilla card, as are all vanilla creatures. They do, in fact, function as vanilla creatures the turn after they're played. When R&D uses the term, we do count vanilla creatures. The reason is the one I laid out for you. To understand board complexity, we want to know what on the board is creating complexity. The term "virtual vanilla" was created so we could identify what we didn't need to worry about. Leaving vanilla out of that grouping doesn't help us. Virtual vanilla.

The easy trap to fall into is to focus on the word "virtual" rather than on the definition I gave. The name was chosen more for its alliteration than its 100% accuracy. Design slang and English usage don't always line up exactly (see linear as another example).

Gravedigger:  Another 2/2 with a "enter the battlefield" effect. Virtual vanilla.

King Cheetah:  All flash creatures (without other abilities) are virtual vanilla as flash is only relevant the turn it's played. Virtual vanilla.

Riptide Crab:  The Crab has a "put into graveyard" effect that is relevant for all the turns it's in play. Not virtual vanilla.

Rotting Legion:  This card is essentially a virtual vanilla the turn it comes into play. The tapped state of the card has no relevance on its board interaction (well, other than to prevent any from happening). Virtual vanilla.

Squadron Hawk:  This was probably the sneakiest thing on the test. The Hawk has a "enter the battlefield" effect just like the many others. What's easy to miss is that it also has flying, and thus is not virtual vanilla. It is virtual French vanilla, but that's a topic for another test.

Vulshok Berserker:  Haste, like flash, is a virtual vanilla mechanic in that it is not relevant beyond the first turn. But what about an instant that could steal it? See my parenthetical sentence from the question. Virtual vanilla.

That means the correct answer was seven. This question did have the bonus that if you both overshot and undershot, you could still get the question right. 
I guessed right, but once again, for the wrong reason. I treated Canyon Minotaur as not virtual vanilla (because there's nothing virtual about its vanilla-ness) and Squadron Hawk as virtual vanilla because I forgot about flying.

I don't have a lesson for you this time, dear reader. It's up to the quiz maker to make a quiz that tests the participants' knowledge of the subject and/or problem solving skills. Questions like this test participants' ability to take tests, which is not a skill a Magic designer needs to design Magic. Just be wary, I guess.

49) R&D often likes to use cycles for its designs. Which of the following cards is not part of a five-card cycle?
 a) Angel's Herald
 b) Dawnglare Invoker
 c) Martial Coup
 d) Rest for the Weary
 e) Steppe Lynx

C. Martial Coup. 

Know or look up what the term 'cycle' refers to in Magic Design parlance. (It's a fun one because it's unrelated to the keyword 'cycling.' Check Gatherer.

50) From a design standpoint, what is the most realistic threat to Magic's long-term health?
 a) complexity creep
 b) creative limitations
 c) running out of block themes
 d) running out of design space for individual cards
 e) Mark Rosewater

A. Complexity creep was a huge problem for a long time, and stifled Magic's growth for many years. New World Order made a huge difference slowing that, and the game's audience has grown faster than ever as a result. The other concerns are very minor at this point, and shouldn't become more significant for a long time (or ever, since R&D is actively preparing against them).

Again, this is something a lucky game designer could theoretically suss out, but that you'd easily get if you follow the teachings of Mark Rosewater.

Notice any trends? Here are my top 4:
  • Be familiar with the big Design issues that Mark Rosewater talks about.
  • Be familiar with the color pie. Check it.
  • Use Gatherer to check cards, mechanics, and sets.
  • Read the questions very carefully and consider literal interpretations from the author's perspective.
That was a lot of work. I was planning on doing the same thing for the GDS1 quiz, but it's less relevant, and I imagine we'll find the same trends. Let me know if you really want to see that anyhow.

Please do chime in below if you can share other misconceptions from this test, or have more insights about what's right and what's wrong.


  1. Another way to think about your last point is that Mark Rosewater is a better sitcom writer than technical writer, which means train wrecks like #6 are going to happen. I'm not sure what the lesson is here aside from trying to get into his head and thinking, "Okay, what was he _trying_ to ask?" Seems like a dangerous recipe.

    1. He made a conscious effort to avoid intentional trick questions after blowback in GDS1. Hopefully, he's taking the criticism from GDS2 to heart for the next quiz. And/or running it by an editor.

  2. Wow, that's a lot of great content! And it's awesome to get the perspective of someone who actually took the test the first time around.

    Discussion-starter (though Jay already covered it somewhat): what questions on this test could *not* be printed verbatim as valid GDS3 multiple-choice questions?

    1. My own answers for the discussion-starter:

      5 (kinda). Shroud is dead, long live hexproof.

      15. Of the 8 Demons in Standard, 5 fly and 4 have a drawback. And it's a biased sample, since the 3 Demons with a drawback and no flying are just the weird Amonkhet block demons that say "put a -1/-1 counter on something".

      25 (technically). E would need to say "Legendary Planeswalker" now, as Jay noted.

      50 (arguably). Complexity creep seems to be pretty thoroughly under control nowadays. If "power creep" were an option I'd pull for that over complexity creep. I think one could also make cases for C or D.

    2. Re: 50, he does say "From a design standpoint" so I think power creep is out.

  3. It looks like I got 42 right, which feels okay. I was overconfident though and I have some wisdom to share. After I finished, I went through and asked "how sure am I" on each question, and that DID NOT HELP AT ALL. Every question I got wrong was one I was confident on.

    It gave me a reason to do a second pass (good) and might help me catch an obvious error (good) but since the concern is nuanced answers to secretly difficult questions, the last thing I should be focused on is what I think intuitively. What I think is that the answers I gave are right. Feels subtle, but important.

    I should have gone back and reread the questions without looking at my answer and tried to rethink them. Then I could see if I had any conflicts and go from there.

  4. What's with the rambling/waffling over haste/flying being a valid red combo? I mean you just explicitly *made a point* that black gets haste, and it has had flying for a long time, plus Blighted Bat is in standard right now (note also gurmag angler)... To me that's a way easier elimination to do that way. (but then I'm a relatively recent player, so haste=red was never really etched into my consciousness)

    1. In 2010, flying+haste wasn't a common thing.[haste]+[flying]+![suspend]&type=+[Creature]&rarity=+[c]

  5. I'm not sure if I find it comforting or unsettling that I pretty much got the exact same ones wrong this time around as seven years ago. Either I haven't grown as a designer or there were some pretty big problems with those questions.

  6. Huh. I'm pretty pleased with myself, I think I got almost all of them right, and the few I wasn't sure on were either mistakes I could have caught being more careful (the flying vv Q) or due to design changes (demons flying vs drawbacks).

    I expect I fluffed a few more technically, I'm not sure. I think I had the logic for all of them basically correct.

    And I'm sure I was helped somewhat by having done it before, but not a lot. The only one I actively remembered was the aggravating "is a vanilla a french vanilla Q". I understand Mark's point, but I think it's a fucker of a question, because even when you know that designers think of vanilla and virtual vanilla as the same thing, you need to guess, "is the quizmaster moderately pedantic, or self-aware and very very pedantic". Like, my experience of people is that if you ask "is a 2x2 shape a rectangle", they answer yes or no depending on exact phrasing, even though they know it is in any case where "being a rectangle" matters. The first time I read this, I guess wrong, that Mark would give the non-logician answer, but apparently there was a design reason for preferring that answer *shrug*.

    All the other weird questions, I felt a lot more confident understanding what they were like than I did when I first did them, like, I'm used to some "which would we be least likely to do" being either, four ok things and one impossible thing, or four mandatory things and one ok thing, etc.