Monday, March 5, 2018

Linus Ulysses Hamilton's Design Test Submission

(These Tests are being backdated for administrative purposes. They were not disclosed to nor published on this site prior to their publication on the mothership.)

Design 1

Mirror Trick (rare)
Return target creature you control to its owner's hand. Create a token that's a copy of it.

Design 2

Lorelei, Centaur Leader (mythic rare)
Planeswalker — Lorelei
Whenever a creature you control attacks, put a loyalty counter on CARDNAME.
0: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain vigilance until end of turn.
-3: Create a 3/3 green Centaur creature token.
-10: You get an emblem with Creatures you control get +2/+2 and have trample.

Design 3

Feint Strike (uncommon)
CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature. Target player sacrifices other target creature.

Design 4

Alva, Soul Exchanger (mythic rare)
Legendary Creature — Spirit Advisor
Whenever a nontoken creature an opponent controls dies, you may pay {2}. If you do, return that card to the battlefield under that player's control. Then exile another target creature that player controls.

Design 5

Ashiok, Dream Collector (mythic rare)
Planeswalker — Ashiok
+2: Each player draws two cards.
-2: Target opponent draws a card, then reveals his or her hand. You may play a card from it without paying its mana cost.
-9: You get an emblem with You may cast nonland cards on the battlefield you don't control.

Design 6

Red Rover (uncommon)
Your opponents must attack with exactly one creature each combat if able.

Design 7

Graveyard Dig (common)
Return up to two target {green or black} creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.
You may cast this spell for 2(b/g)(b/g). If you do, ignore the braced text.

Design 8

Borrow (rare)
You may activate an activated ability of target artifact or creature you don't control without paying its costs. (If it has {X} in its cost, X is 0.)

Design 9

Figure of the Hunt (uncommon)
Creature — Elemental
Whenever CARDNAME becomes blocked, you may reveal any number of land cards from your hand. CARDNAME gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each card revealed this way.

Design 10

Converging Fog (common)
Enchant creature
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn.
Enchanted creature doesn't untap during its controller's untap step.


  1. I like Feint Strike but I feel like the templating could be cleaner. Probably I'd make it something like "CARDNAME deals 1 damage to target creature. That creature's controller sacrifices another creature they control." A little less controllable that way, so maybe just 3 mana. It could be a common, since the 2-for-1 is unlikely.
    I like Lorelei. I misread her ult as only helping Centaurs at first, but correct reading I like much better.
    Converging Fog is good but feels uncommon because of the impact it has between the two effects.
    Figure of the Hunt I worry encourages not playing lands, which is Bad.
    Graveyard Dig feels like a possible mechanic in the vein of Overload, or a backwards Kicker. Not sure about where you placed the limitation.
    Ashiok's ult is definitely templated wrong, and I'm not sure if there's a right way to do it.

  2. I'm doing my own mini-reviews of the design tests. I'm awarding a potential 2 points for each card, and will figure out what that all means when I get further along.

    1) Mirror Trick: I love it. Perfect design.
    2 points

    2) Lorlei - Static abilities and 4-ability PWs are both spaces that R&D are very conservative doling out, with good reason. Mixing the two is going to be subject to a lot of scrutiny. Even ignoring that, there's easily situations you can end up in where you are completely unable to do anything with it (it has 2 loyalty and you have no creatures on the board), which is a big feel-bad for PW designs. I'd skip the 0 ability, make this make 1/1 squirrel tokens for -1 (and change the concept accordingly) so there's always something to do.

    - 10 seems exceptionally high for such a swingy ultimate, although testing could prove it to be the right number.

    0 points.

    1. 3) Feint Strike: There is (hopefully) a typo on the mothership for this, so I'm assuming that the sacrifice is not targeted (i.e. chosen by the opponent). That's definitely the better design, and is a better story card. I'm a fan.

      2 Points.

    2. 4) Alva: I love this creature. So much Jenny/Spike opportunities, great story.

      2 points.

      5) Ashiok. I was a fan until the ultimate. The first ability probably needs balancing, probably just one card per player, the second is great for Dimir.

      That ultimate. I want to like it, but it's trying hard to be clever and there's a lot of rules implications that simply won't fit on the card. Imagine the following change:

      Exile all nonland permanents target player controls. Any player may cast a card exiled this way as long as they remain exiled.

      1 point.

      6) Red Rover is phenomenal. I might change it to each player rather than opponent, but I also might not.

      2 points.

      7) Graveyard dig. Nothing especially novel here. It's just kicker with arguably better templating. I'm also not sold on this as hybrid over gold.

      0 points.

    3. Borrow: Good, but less interesting after Ashiok. Too much similar space.

      1 point.

      9) Figure of the hunt. Solid design, although it falls into the trap of putting you in a position of not wanting to play lands, which almost never works out for the designer.

      1 point.

      10) Converging Fog: Well designed common. Nothing exciting or new here other than a never before used mix-match of basic color abilities. As a common, it works. Other rarities I would have docked a point.

      2 points.

  3. Mirror Trick- I love everything about this. If I had to pick on something... maybe too aggressively costed? Compares favorably with Acrobatic Maneuver and Ghostly Flicker. Makes more sense to me as 1WU and uncommon, especially since it's a great draft archetype enabler.

    Lorelei- Ah, the "triggered ability to gain loyalty" idea. Ari Nieh also designed one of these. I like this one better-- cleaner execution. The abilities aren't quite as innovative but they make tons of sense from both a mechanical and a flavor perspective. The ultimate read as weak until I realized it's relatively easy to reach. A pity you can't get the benefit the same turn you attack, though.

    Feint Strike- Weird templating there. I assume "other" = "another"? So then you can target their X/1 for the two-for-one, or target the least useful body to take out something bigger. Awkward that this can't kill a lone 2/2... unless being able to target your own thing is part of the design? Flavor miss if so, and the flavor is my favorite part of this card. Making this a 4-mana uncommon instant is pushing it, if you ask me.

    Alva, Soul Exchanger- Designing a creature with a text box that could go on an enchantment strikes me as a tactical error in this challenge, since creature slots are by far the scarcest compared to their real-world distribution. Not really feeling the ability here either. So you can pay 2 and give them back a small creature to get rid of a bigger threat for good? That's cool, I guess, especially if you have a repeatable way to kill the small creature, but it still feels pretty marginal. Designed for Commander?

    Ashiok, Dream Collector- The minus is very cool. The ultimate reads as even cooler, but it's going to be super awkward if you aren't playing the same colors as the opponent. The plus is disappointing-- 6-mana planeswalkers should get more value than that. And the three abilities don't have as much cohesion as I'd like. It feels like two or three decent enchantment/sorcery ideas stapled together. Overall, this one's a miss for me.

    Red Rover- No way is this uncommon, or balanced at 3 mana at any rarity. It's like Moat and Abyss had a baby. This does a decent amount of work against almost every deck, and there are some that it completely wrecks. Other than that, though, it's a good design-- I like the text box a lot.

    Graveyard Dig- I was excited about the brace mechanic, until I realized that it was just a routine usage of kicker in disguise. "Being a subset of kicker" is not usually a deal-breaker, but this design feels like it's making promises it can't keep. Also, the sans-brace version doesn't feel worth paying the extra 2 mana for.

    Borrow- It's a neat, innovative text box, that's for sure. And other submissions have included designs that present greater rules issues for less benefit. But I can't shake the feeling that this is needlessly treading on dangerous ground. Door to Nothingness, anyone?

    Figure of the Hunt- Blocking this is a scary proposition. On the other hand, if they always decline to block this is basically a Phantom Warrior, which is not nearly as scary. I very much enjoy the concept of bluffing / unpredictability in how big the creature will be, but I think it would be better with a higher CMC and "Reveal X land cards from your hand: CARDNAME gets +X/+X until end of turn. Activate this ability at most once per turn."

    Converging Fog- This is unabashedly a stapler design, but it works well. Also, I like that it never creates a feel-bad problem when you only want one half-- both halves become relevant when the opponent controls creatures and preferably attacking creatures. That shows good sense and attention to detail. Too complex and swingy for common, though.

    Linus gets two bonus points from me: one for putting his best designs first, and one for having an incredibly epic name.

    1. If you play Door to Nothingness, you deserve Borrow. I do wonder if tapping counts as part of the cost. Can the controlling player activate an artifact/creature that taps in response and cause Borrow to fizzle?

    2. Trying the same scoring system as zefferal, I get:
      Mirror Trick - 2
      Lorelei - 2
      Feint Strike - 1
      Alva - 0
      Ashiok - 1
      Red Rover - 1
      Graveyard Dig - 0
      Borrow - 1
      Figure of the Hunt - 1
      Converging Fog - 1
      for a total of 10.

      Oh, and Larcent, I missed the "you don't control" side of Borrow. That makes it much more reasonable, but annoyingly narrow.

  4. Linus definitely wins the best name contest (Sorry artisans).

    1. Mirror Trick. I love it, but the cost is absolutely bonkers when you think about ETB effects and the likelihood of it being recast the same turn. I think I'd make it 2UW to at least make them work for it.

    2. Lorelei. The trigger for loyalty counters feels off-pie. More red-white. Not having another way to get loyalty counters also feels weird, given the philosophical ideas of GW. The abilities seem straightforward and not very innovative. It also feels weird for a WG planeswalker to have to pay that much for creature tokens. That's their specialty. I expect having to minus a blue planeswalker for that, but not GW.

    3. Feint Strike. Confused by the wording on this and repeat use of "target." Sacrifice implies the opponent chooses, but target says you choose. If this is an attempt to get around hexproof, it doesn't work.

    4. Alva. Weird but interesting. I think Johnnies/Jennies in multiplayer will love it.

    5. Ashiok. Meh on the plus. Love the minus. I don't understand what the ult does :(. Even reading other comments about it. Does it allow you to summon permanents onto your opponent's battlefield? HALP. I R dumb.

    6. Red Rover. LOL on the name. If you got to decide which creature your opponent sent over it would be an un-card. I think it's a rare or possibly mythic.

    7. Graveyard Dig. Interesting mechanic attempt, but yeah, it's kicker.

    8. Borrow. Fun, but very narrow (in a good way). I feel like this should be uncommon, not rare. It might depend on the set.

    9. Figure of the Hunt. Y U NO TRAMPLE? I do like it, given the challenges of RG design, and I make fun of the "Put trample on it" design model for RG, but this does call for trample.

    10. Converging Fog. I like in general. It feels like it would fit better in UW than UG to facilitate control decks and it would still be color pie compliant. It's not common, though.