Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Late Game: Ari Nieh

Editor's Note: I sent follow up interview questions to the GDS Top 3 yesterday, mistakenly thinking the final day of the GDS was Thursday. It's today, and by now they have already started their tour of WotC. Ari responded last night, and apologies to Jeremy and Chris for sending these out too close to the Renton trip to give you time to answer. -Zeff

You've made it through the gauntlet of design challenges. So I guess my first question is, how are you doing?

Pretty spaced out, but that's because I woke up at 4 AM (without an alarm- that's how wired I am) to fly across the country. Excited about meeting WotC people as well as Chris and Jeremy in half an hour.

What kind of preparation have you done ahead of the Renton trip?

I got together Team Goblin Artisans to do an online practice run of the final design trial, under the assumption that it would be similar to that of GDS1 and GDS2. It was super helpful! We'll probably write up an article on it later. One thing it revealed was that I know Mirage and Tempest better than I do, say, Battle for Zendikar or Shadows Over Innistrad, so I've also done a bit of studying of recent sets. (I recognized an effect as being similar to Waiting in the Weeds, but accidentally designed something close to Cryptolith Rite without knowing it was a card!)

My partner hires a lot of people, and she gave me some great advice on what to ask and how to respond in interviews. On the plane today, I wrote down a variety of interview questions I thought they might ask and answered them.

Looking back at your submissions, were there any cards or themes that you consider big missteps in hindsight? What would you have done differently?
I discussed this a fair bit in my post-mortems, but my biggest blunders were some poor individual decisions in Challenge #2 and an overarching lack of creativity in Challenge #3. For the former, I think Acrobatics might have been fixable with clever templating, and The Astonishing Alfonso! needed number tweaks and recombination of abilities. For the latter, I might have picked another keyword, but I also like Melissa de Tora's proposed -1/-1 counter fix.

You may be the next member of the R&D design team. In the interests of transparency, what colors to do you prefer to design to? What psychographics?
I like to design black and green cards, and my sensibilities are overwhelmingly Jenny. See my Insects submission for how this works in practice.

As a player, though, I definitely lean Tammy. This came out in Revered; why would I ever not want a +1/+1 counter? I love rewards and large creatures!

We're prepping to spend a year on Ravnica. Which guild do you identify with? Which one do you love to play with?
As a person, I'm quite Azorius. As a player, Simic forever!

Let's say you win. The first day on the job, what's the very first design change you pitch to R&D?
Realistically? I'm not trying to push my own vision for Magic on day 1. I'm still trying to figure out where they keep this quasi-infinite supply of snacks that Matt Tabak mentioned on Twitter.

But assuming I am ready to reveal my agenda: giving Red more things to do in the late game. More along the lines of Sunbird's Invocation than Bomat Courier.

What advice do you have for those who have every intention of making the top 3 of the GDS4?
Be resilient and eager to learn from feedback. Practice implementing that feedback by designing cards and iterating on them.


  1. "quasi-infinite supply of snacks that Matt Tabak mentioned on Twitter."

    I think he was implying that he was stealing peoples lunches, haha.

  2. I managed to tune in just in time. Congrats!