Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Step by Step -- “May the Forth” Weekend Design Challenge

Hi y’all! This week I’m demoing what may become a somewhat regular article on GA, walking through step-by-step how I came to my design for the weekend design challenge. I hope that doing it this way will give some insight into the things that I think about during my process, some of the potential pitfalls and concerns that come up, and a demonstration of the editing process that takes place behind the scenes.

Hope you enjoy!

This week, the challenge was as follows:

“This weekend, we’ll be celebrating May the Fourth by designing cards inspired by something Star Wars. If you want to include a screencap of the character, moment, or concept you’re trying to capture, link it with your design. If there’s enough of that, I’ll do full renders.

No other design restrictions.”

The first place that my mind went was the iconic Millennium Falcon, and turning it into a vehicle.

Given that there’s only one of them in the Star Wars universe and the role it plays in the story, it has to be mythic rare. I think that it’s fair to say that it has to be legendary too. It’s the Millennium Falcon!

The next step is to try to establish a mechanical identity for the card. I listed some of the qualities the ship has that I’d potentially like to represent.

  • Fast, evasive
  • Lots of places to hide aboard
  • Used to smuggle cargo
  • Awesome gunner chair

I also listed some mechanical constraints that seemed to make sense:

  • CMC 4+ (small/cheap doesn’t represent it well)
  • Crew 2+ (there’s a copilot, and Crew 1 doesn’t feel right)
  • Probably cares about attacking, less so blocking, so abilities and P/T should reflect that (i.e. more power than toughness)
  • Abilities it must have: Flying
  • Abilities that might make sense: Haste? Hexproof?

The first idea that I had was that attacking would give itself (fast, evasive) and its crew (places to hide aboard) hexproof.

The second idea played off the gunner chair.

The third idea went with the smuggling angle.

Note that I specifically went with Cloudshift’s “return under your control” text, as using it to “smuggle” something you temporarily owned to permanently steal it felt oh-so-right!

Once I got to these designs, I decided to look more closely at the gameplay. I quickly put together a 20 card deck with some Kaladesh commons that were lying around, and pretended that a Fleetwheel Cruiser (4 Mana 5/3, Crew 2) was each of the Falcons in a quick solitaire game.

The first Falcon immediately seemed like it had the potential to be obnoxious in both directions. For the player playing it, the “shields down” moment right before attacking would lead to it being vulnerable to every piece of instant speed removal other than things like Gideon’s Reproach, and the creatures having hexproof was mostly meaningless. It also was potentially confusing for newer players, who wouldn’t necessarily know whether killing crewed creatures would “uncrew” the vehicle, and tying them together mechanically like that seemed a little sketchy. I set this one aside.

The second Falcon was cool, in that it did feel like you had one character “at the ready” to blast down a blocker. I liked the gameplay, although it definitely comes with lots of board complexity (potentially fine at mythic rare). The one gameplay concern I had here was that people would be disappointed to untap a creature after attackers and not get to attack with it, but flavorfully it had to be that way to make sense. All in all I liked this design, but ultimately felt it was too “generic spaceship”, and didn’t get at what made the Falcon unique.

The third design, however, was awesome. Slowblinking another permanent felt very much like “smuggling” it. Untapping one of the creatures that crewed it as a default meant there was always a minor bonus to be had, and potentially getting ETB effects off your cards was sweet. This was where I decided to iterate.

First, I kept the base version, tweaking it slightly to fix two issues I’d overlooked; smuggling an entire land doesn’t REALLY make sense, and smuggling the Millennium Falcon aboard the Millennium Falcon makes even LESS sense!

Second, I wanted more. This is a mythic rare, after all! Shouldn’t you be able to more directly steal your opponent’s things?

I decided to try out letting you either smuggle your own creatures or your opponent’s artifacts, as follows:

That felt a bit complicated, so I made a version that cared only about artifacts:

Once I landed on that, I was pretty sure that was going to be my design. The idea of being able to blink your own artifacts, or steal your opponent’s, felt very right for a smuggling ship, and the rules text was very clean.

Next, I had to cost it. I wanted it to have an unequal P/T with more power than toughness, and to have it be pretty big. A 6/5 felt right, so I started there. I went with CMC 6, and gave it both flying and haste. Lastly, I went with Crew 3 (possibly inspired by Weatherlight).

Finally, I made it cost 1 less, because if we’re making a Star Wars set, the Falcon has gotta be pushed for Standard! This is where I ended up with the design I entered!

I hope this article helps give you some insight into the sorts of things I think about when I’m designing. Some of the steps I skip when I don’t have cards in front of me to playtest, or if a good idea comes early in the process, but this is more or less how I refine cards. Sometimes it’ll be two or three steps like this time, but sometimes it takes iteration upon iteration to get somewhere fruitful.

As homework, iterate on one of the designs for the Falcon that I discarded to make it work in the comments below.


  1. I get that the Falcon is supposed to be a smuggler ship, but so far in the movies it's usually smuggling people, not artifacts

    The Millennium Falcon 4
    Legendary Artifact - Vehicle
    Flying, Haste
    When the The Millennium Falcon is crewed by a creature, it gets +X/+0 until end of turn.
    Crew X, where X is at least 2.

  2. This is a lovely process article. I'm impressed you playtest for a WAC; it does show.
    Your gunner version inspires this thought:

    Gunship {3}
    Whenever creatures with total power 4 or greater crew ~, it deals 2 damage to any target.
    Crew 2

    1. Playtesting is maybe a bit generous, haha - I just can’t really theory through game situations without a bit of solitaire. :)

    2. Listening to Beacon of Creation 24, I got it:

      Millenium Falcon {3}
      Legendary Artifact-Vehicle
      Whenever you crew ~ while it's attacking, it deals 1 damage to any target.
      Crew 2

  3. I have to confess, I hadn't noticed The Millennium Falcon was a Steal Artifact on a stick until reading this post.

  4. This inspired as a cool extension to Jay's

    Whenever creatures with total power 4 or greater crew ~, it deals 2 damage to any target.
    Crew 2

    or more simple but less cool

    Gun Car
    Whenever ~ is crewed it deals X damage to any target where is the total power of creatures that crewed ~ minus 2.
    Crew 2

  5. This article is great! I like how well you describe your train of thought in these situations.

    I did not have a chance to playtest this but here are my stabs to the other two modes:


    Millenium Falcon - 4
    Legendary artifact - Vehicle
    Flying, Haste
    Whenever Millenium Falcon becomes crewed, it deals 3 damage to any target if you tapped at least three creatures to pay for its crew cost.
    Crew 3

    For the gunner, to me a neat solution was to count how many people crewed the ship. If you need at least two fly the ship, then the other one would man the guns.

    The "hiding" aspect seemed very similar to the smuggling, so I think it could be more like a "protect" kind of approach. Similar to when the Falcon appears in the midst of battle just in time to save some of the characters.

    Taking this approach, then I'd give flash to the Falcon and maybe some protection to a creature, but this reminds me too much to SOI Avacyn.

    Millenium Falcon - 6
    Legendary artifact - Vehicle
    Flash, Flying, Indestructible
    When CARDNAME enters the battlefield or attacks, target creature you control gains indestructible until the end of turn.
    Crew 3

    I don't think this is very good but could be a start, I like the flash to give it a sense of appearing just in time but it would be better if it costed less so it's not so obvious. Maybe a cost reduction in a certain situation?