Thursday, May 17, 2018

GDS3 Challenge #1 Writeup - Scott Wilson

Continuing in our series of reflections on the tribal challenge of the GDS, Scott Wilson returns to share his writeup on the Samurai tribe he submitted. Click through to read how he prepared for the challenge and how he assembled his eight cards.

(Scott's card designs and discussion thread for this challenge can be found here, and the judge feedback for this round can be found here.)

For this challenge, ironically enough I chose Samurai as my creature type for two potential mechanics, neither of which made it onto any final cards that I submitted.

The first mechanic was instants/sorceries that transformed into Samurai if you controlled a Samurai. Something like this:

But once I playtested these transform cards, there were two problems:
  1.  They felt more like Spirits (or perhaps Elementals) than Samurai. Sure, Spirits and Samurai have a good history together, but my task was to make Samurai cards, not Spirit cards. Also,
  2.  These cards REALLY felt bad to play if you didn't control a Samurai. I don't think basing a whole set's transform mechanic around a tribal theme is a good idea; it just won't happen in some games. Since this one card would imply more in the set, I decided to scrap the mechanic.
The second mechanic was playing with the idea of Samurai ancestry/reincarnation. Something like this:

But again, there were two problems: (1) it felt kind of bad to limit such a cool tribal ability to only one creature type. Something like "Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may exile a creature card from your graveyard that shares a creature type with it…" would work better. And (2), trying to make it into a Samurai-only mechanic on commons/uncommons felt too complex. If we could have made our own mechanics for this exercise, then maybe it could have worked, but since we couldn't, I decided to scrap it.

With the two mechanics that had inspired me to choose Samurai scrapped, I moved on to other stuff. Overall I was happy with my submission at the time, but looking at the judges' comments, I did miss a lot of things. There were a bunch of mistakes, but three stuck out:
  1. I ignored how much math there was during combat in playtesting. I mistakenly just thought, "enh, it's part of the game," rather than taking steps to make it easier.
  2. I needed to do something new with Bushido and make blocking decisions more interesting for the opponent. I didn't take into account how often my opponents simply didn't block because blocking a creature with Bushido makes it stronger. Giving some Samurai a "whenever this deals combat damage to an opponent, do something" ability would've gone a long way.
  3. A small thing, but I should've definitely changed up Shichiro's title and included flavor text with him to make it clear that he was a Planeswalker giving up his spark to fight alongside his former comrades. Definitely a wasted opportunity! 
Something like this could've worked. It's not the most elegant, but it gets the point across.

Although I do have to say I'm happy that I got seven 7s on Shichiro (assuming you have no other Samurai besides his tokens): he costs 7, flips at 7 loyalty, is the 7th Samurai when he flips, has power 7, toughness 7, and grants Bushido 7 (if he flipped at 7 loyalty) to 7 Samurai. Jackpot!


  1. You had some very interesting design space! The transforming instants and sorceries were interesting (though you need to specify putting them on the battlefield transformed, I believe) but definitely agree that they wanted to be more than just tribal.

    Blessings of the Ancestors is a great design, but yeah, not a theme that can be interwoven easily at common. I could potentially see it done with cards like Shamble Back, Beckon Apparition, Corpse Lunge... you get the idea. But it's tricky, for sure.

    There is a problem in Magic with easy ways to encourage blocking, totally. Most every evergreen keyword discourages blocks rather than encourages it, which makes these kinds of designs very tricky to do without getting too complicated for common. I've grappled with this problem before.

    I hadn't noticed the sevens on Shichiro. That's great!

    1. I noticed quote a few of them, but I hadn't realised there were seven: that's awesome :)

  2. I love trying to do new things transform, but I think you have to be real careful where to use it and I'm not sure a samurai planeswalker was the place. You created a cool narrative of your own, but I think it's important that transforming cards capture a really specific trope or idea when they're on standalone or unique cards, at least when it isn't part of a narrative people are already familiar with (like Garruk getting cursed by the Veil). If you wanted to do a transforming samurai planeswalker, for example, maybe a more recognizable trope people would get is if he'd transformed into an equipment, representing the cursed samurai sword possessed by the soul of its wielder kind of idea.

    I'm not totally against a planeswalker with two abilities to be entirely honest, so I think that was an interesting choice!