Monday, July 23, 2018

Weekend Design Challenge Review 052118 — You Might As Well Tribal: Review

Hello, Artisans! It took us a little while to get to here, but today we're reviewing the first of our Play-At-Home GDS Challenges, You Might as Well Tribal.
Our guest judge for this first play-along challenge is Reuben Covington. Reuben is a pillar of the custom magic design community, having long been active on the MTGSalvation custom magic forum, the Custom Magic discord, and of course, here at GA. He helped take our community project Tesla over the finish line, and has created/is creating other sets, including Dreamscape and Vastuum. He hosted the Remaking Magic Podcast, and has written one of THE defining pieces on NWO and Redflagging. Plus, he’s an all-around awesome dude. Welcome Reuben.

So you Artisans came up with a frankly absurd amount of tribal cards for this challenge. The volume of submissions, along with doing whatever we could to keep pace with the GDS show, made it a very busy few weeks since these were submitted. We tried to give meaningful feedback as best we could. If we came off slightly more critical or dismissive than usual, it’s because we are trying to emulate the “GDS Judge Voice.” But know we were all incredibly impressed with the thoughtfulness, creativity, and excitement you all poured into your designs. It showed, and frankly reinforced just how proud we are to be a part of this community

All that gushing aside, let’s get on with the show!

Judson Stangler - Kavu
Rise of the Flametongued 
Enchantment - Aura (U)
Enchant Kavu
When Rise of the Flametongued enters the battlefield, enchanted creature deals 4 damage to target creature you don't control.
Enchanted Kavu has trample.

Inanimate: Why does this have the Kavu deal the damage? I expected your Kavu creatures to care about dealing damage, but they don’t. (In fact, you only have two creatures, which is startling.) Your only reward for this unusual effect is at mythic rarity, which isn’t right. If you’re going to use an unusual effect like this, you need to sell it to me. In addition, I anticipate a lot of confusion among lower-skill players who will see the weirdness of the creature dealing the damage, see the trample, and reason, “Oh, the Kavu is dealing the damage because it tramples!” Lastly, this is very, very narrow. I’d prefer if this could enchant anything, but being a Kavu gave it a special bonus. I do like that this is a Flame Slash that requires a Kavu to enchant, that’s quite a clever balancing tactic for it.
Alpha Kavu 
Creature - Kavu (M)
This card costs 1 less for each creature that has been dealt damage by Kavu this turn.
This card enters the battlefield with a +1/1 counter on it for each +1/1 counter on Kavu you control.
Vigilance, Trample
Reuben: This card pulls me in so many different directions. It wants my Kavu’s to deal damage to creatures, but also to have +1/+1 counters, however the heavy cost means it can never be cheaper than 4 mana. When designing cards, especially build around ones, thing about what the card is communicating to the player. This is often referred to as signposting, and we see it all the time on cards like uncommon gold archetype cards.
The signposting on this is very confusing which doesn’t really help a tribe with an already fuzzy mechanical identity.
Zefferal: Choosing Kavu (or any WotC-created tribe) is a bold choice, since you can only really draw on mechanical resonance already possessed by the tribe in-game. With Kavus, that translates to damage and aggression. I like many of these designs on an individual level, but as a tribe, it feels like they lack any type of cohesion to separate them from generic Beasts.

Inanimate: Kavu have no cultural cache. Picking them, as Zefferal said, is a bold choice. You have to create evocative, exciting designs that can capture an identity without any intuition or prior experience to draw from. A unique, cohesive mechanical approach is the key to doing this: if you can’t draw from flavor, build bottom-up. You tried to do this with your “Kavu care about dealing damage” angle, and I think that is a great angle, but I wish you had spread it across your rarities better. It was simple and innovative, a rare combo. But if you can’t show me that this mechanic is spread throughout Kavu, it doesn’t give me an identity to work with.

Reuben: As Kavu’s are a little before my time as a player, I came into this submission with open expectations, hopeful the cards would make for a clear signpost on what makes this tribe mechanically interesting. However with the exception of Rewards from a Feast all the elements felt disconnected and not very different from some of the less exciting beast tribal we have seen in the past.
Work on carving out what makes a Kavu different from a generic creature in RG and make sure that gets communicated and enabled.

Moonfolklore - Turtles
Kobe, Patient Sage 
Legendary Creature – Elder Turtle (R)
Whenever another Turtle enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on it and draw a card. If you do, that creature can’t attack during your next turn.
Inanimate: Kobe is interesting, but I worry about the pace it sets for turtles. The number one problem with Turtles is that they’re very easy to design to be passive and stalling, but that just isn’t the best of gameplay. Ideally, we end up with designs that are tough and resilient, unafraid to attack, but can still serve defense. Creatures like Ravenous Leucrocota come to mind. I want to make sure that playing Turtles still keeps the game moving and exciting.

Reuben: This is a pushed and mostly exciting turtle tribal lord. I dislike the memory issues that the attack prevention trigger creates and question if it is necessary at all. On the other hand making your turtles bigger and drawing you additional cards is exactly what the tribe seems to want, so good choice.
Aoki, World Turtle
Legendary Land Creature – Turtle God (M)
Aoku enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add U or G.
Aoku isn’t a creature unless you control four or more Turtles.
When Aoku dies, shuffle all Turtle cards from your graveyard into your library.
Zefferal: Well, you just gave your rules manager a brand new ulcer. Dryad Arbor is not exactly considered a design success story, not because it isn’t fun or interesting, but because it causes endless rules headaches. But we’ll let that kind of stuff slide, because this is a mythic rare and there’s some room for fun there. But a free 8/16 that fixes your mana is more than a little broken. This needs some significant development, if you want to keep the core concept. I could see the stats staying with a major drawback, like it not untapping as long as it’s a creature, but even that seems easy to abuse. I think you’re better off making the turtle threshold higher and the stats lower. You also need to clarify whether Aoku counts itself or not towards its threshold check.

Zefferal: I really liked this submission. Each of the cards definitely read “turtle” and the tribal themes really showed throughout. Outlast was not especially well-received, but the flavor here justifies taking another shot at it. My biggest concern is the durdley nature of a “tap” tribe, a trap I’ve fallen into myself once or twice. You have to make sure that the game play is fun and interesting for both players, as turning cards sideways and back for the majority of your turn is only marginally more interesting than watching your opponent do it.

Inanimate: Turtles gotta turtle and durdle, that much is clear. But how do you make durdling fun? Making sure they have a way to close the game when they're ready, and can still do fun things before that point, is important. You clearly considered this, with designs like Siege Carapace and Stoic Snapper pushing for inevitability in attacks, and Turn Turtle and Shell Shock allowing your defensive turtles to become heroes in a half shell. I see lots of ways to temporarily get a Turtle attacking, or conditional ways (like Siege Carapace). What I wanted to see more of was ways for Turtles to continually and consistently interact in the early game, though. You clearly recognized this problem and tried to address it, but I think you more needed to be done.

Reuben: Turtles is a decent choice for a tribe, they have a good presence in the history of magic and have some great tropes to play off. My main worry is that you are making the downsides of turtles too much the focus, trying really hard to make a downsides fun. I’d look at focusing more on some of the more positive gameplay tropes of turtles such as the snapping turtle’s bite, turtle’s old age and their wisdom. Overall there are lots of cool designs here that could easily be streamlined into something playable, just be careful that playing into “turtles are slow” doesn’t conflict with the golden design rule that “A well-crafted game should end before the player wants to stop playing”

Sage - Nomads
Gather the Wanderers 
Sorcery (C)
Create a 2/2 Nomad creature token for each land that entered the battlefield under your control this turn.
Zefferal: I really like this common. One of the first fundamental rules that newer players have to wrap their heads around is the one-land-per-turn rule, and this clean common challenges that player to think of ways to maybe cheat out an extra land or two. Depending on the scale and frequency of the Rampant Growth effects the set lends to Nomads, it might need to be uncommon, but I’m a fan of this either way. The biggest problem this has is that it can be dead in hand as a late draw with no lands to pair it with. Making it an uncommon that guarantees one token and grants bonus landfall tokens would solve that issue.

Reuben: My main comment however would actually to keep this at common but make it 1W. A vanilla bear isn’t that good in limited these days and outside of Evolving Wilds effects your unlikely going to be able to get a 2nd or 3rd token at a stage of the game that will warp the limited environment. The higher floor of the card means it will be more appealing while keeping the dream scenario that makes it so appealing to certain groups of players.
I will have to penalize you slightly as this card only makes Nomad tokens and doesn’t actually mechanically care about the creature type.
Wandering Leylines 
Enchantment (R)
You may reveal Wandering Leylines from your opening hand. If you do, search your library for a basic land and put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.
Nomads you control get +1/+1.
Inanimate: I think generalizing the design space of Leylines is a great idea. This reminds me of Chancellor of the Tangle, which leads me to disagree with Reuben to a degree: I don’t think this card has to necessarily get a land when played, since then it doubles up if you got it in your opening hand, but it does need a justification to play it when you didn’t have it in your opening hand. The Leylines and Chancellor cycle are each perfectly serviceable when drawn later in the game, but Wandering Leylines is too narrow, too expensive. Giving it a more broadly applicable effect would have helped, or making it much cheaper. I agree with Reuben that this could be great with some adjustments.

Reuben: Choosing to create a leyline design is a bold choice that I think really works well with the nomad’s top down connection to the land. Having a leyline that often guarantees you an additional land drop is also another good way to reinforce the nomad “lands matters.”
My main issue however is that this took several me re-reads because the card doesn’t behave at all like the other leylines which followed a pretty strict mechanical design pattern, this acts close but not quite the same, creating confusion.
While I understand why you didn’t necessarily follow the leyline template for power level reasons, you should really get the land if you play the card as well, otherwise it is an expensive and narrow anthem if you don’t have it in your opening hand.
Overall though with some minor tweaking I think this card could be a great twist on a leyline.
Zefferal: There was a lot of clean, interesting design here. It was slightly one-note. Establishing a strong and deep mechanical hook to tie to your tribe was important to this challenge, but it was just as important to show that there are cards that are interesting and agnostic to (or at least don’t emphasize quite as much) that hook. Show us a little more what nomads care about besides lands.

Inanimate: Nomads are an obsoleted creature type, yes, but this entry shows a lot of promise and flavor to them. Are they distinct enough from Scouts? Probably, if these cards are anything to go by. I liked the emphasis on ‘sacrifice and replace’ to differentiate these landfall enablers from ones in the past, and to tie to the Nomad themes. Likewise, the Nomads clearly had strong connections to their spells, their travels, their lands, and in Nomad Chieftain, we see the emphasis on the Nomadic tribe as a whole. What I wanted to see was a little more innovation, however. Gather the Wanderers and Leyline Sensor were my favorites of your entry in this regard; yet you had Uproot the Camp, Nomad Camp, and NomadShift, which were all nearly identical. Overall, this was a strong entry, but I wanted to see more of your potential. You clearly can innovate in simple and elegant ways, but I wanted you to keep moving into new territory rather than settling down into samey design space. You did great, but you could do greater.

Reuben: Overall I think your tribal submission had some of the strongest and most elegantly executed mechanical themes that often hit the flavor of a nomad’s connect to the land and each other. Your combination of a “go wide” token strategy and a “lands matter” theme is a perfect place for landfall, making it a great choice as a returning mechanic, and a good fit for Nomads overall.
Nomad Chieftain is one of my favourite designs overall posted for this challenge, good job.

Marc DeArmond - Badgers
Anger Beyond Measure 
Instant (U)
Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature, it must attack this turn if able. If that creature is a badger it fights another target creature

Inanimate: Making my opponent’s creature attack isn’t great for RG, especially when this makes them bigger. Making my creature attack is irrelevant, as either this is a trick and they’re already attacking, or it’s the enemy’s turn, or it’s my second main phase. When the creature is a Badger, this can be a cheaper Hunt the Weak that becomes problematic cast in first-main. Why even have the downside, when this is a conditional Hunt the Weak that’s two-colors, at uncommon, where I don’t even get a choice of whether my Badger attacks? That’s not even factoring that this +1/+1 counter could disappear if the creature doesn’t attack. Top-down designs can make downsides work where they otherwise wouldn't, but not downsides like this. This design focused too much on capturing ‘angry’ and not ‘fun’.
Vinka, Badger Priest
Legendary Planeswalker - Vinka (M)
+1: Put a +1/+1 creature on each creature you control with a +1/+1 counter.
0: Create a 2/2 green badger creature token with “At the end of combat, if this creature did not attack, remove all +1/+1 counters from it.”
-5: Double all counters on all permanents. Badgers you control gain double strike and trample until end of turn.
Reuben: Having a planeswalker that creates tokens with downsides creates needless complications both with the word count and the thematic signposting. +1/+1 counters are obviously important to this walker but then it makes tokens that actively fight against that in what I’d imagine isn’t a very satisfying manner.
Planeswalkers are very very hard to design, with more iteration there is the potential for a decent card here but even then this doesn’t really feel connected to badgers currently despite what you were going for with the tokens.
Zefferal: There’s a lot of repetition to this submission. The same mechanical hooks are repeated over and again. If you were presenting in front of R&D, trust them to recognized a recurring theme after it appears more than once. Use further repetitions not to drive home that element of the tribe’s identity, but to highlight other, more subtle ones.

Inanimate: Not to badger you unnecessarily, but your tribe feels a little one-dimensional. There were some clever designs here, like Old Badger’s Glasses, but I feel a tribe can’t revolve solely around a single mechanic or concept. Vampires in Innistrad, for example, certainly had ‘Slithing’ as a central concept, but there was more to Vampire tribal than caring explicitly about counters and dealing combat damage. They had subtlety to their support, such as granting first strike with Vampiric Fury (implicitly discouraging blocks). I wanted to see more subtlety and nuance here, a real indication that Badgers were more than a one-note idea.

Reuben: Badgers as a tribe is a tricky choice, having very little resonance to me personally. You chose some solid +1/+1 counters space that show off some of the best parts of your submission in Old Badger’s Glasses. However all the quasi “must attack each turn if able” stuff fell very flat. Making a core part of a tribe’s identity be a downside mechanic is just designing uphill with a tribe that is already having a bit of a muddy identity.
I want to see you explore more ways to make badgers exciting as a tribe for me.

Amarant - Hounds
Boon of the Tracker
Enchantment (U)
Whenever a Hound enters the battlefield under your control, target opponent puts the top two cards of their library into their graveyard.
Creatures you control get +1/+1 as long as any opponent has seven or more cards in their graveyard.

Inanimate: There is an interesting seed of an idea here: a condition that works well in the general deck, while having a Tribal trigger that enables that condition, and 'enemy Threshold' could be neat. It encourages the player to make aggressive trades, use removal, and works well with mill strategies and the like. However, this doesn’t really read blue-green to me. A conditional anthem that asks for Hounds, milling, trades, and removal... sounds white-black to me, maybe white-blue. As it is, it’s interesting because blue and green don’t have access to removal as easily as the other colors, so I think the key is to change the reward. But that still leaves the problem of Hounds in blue. Hounds are the prototypical domesticated and loyal ally animal, which is solidly white. The tracking elements provide the green. You could have done ‘searching and retrieving’ with white/green, since it doesn’t make much sense for the Hounds to be the ones losing (milling) the things they find, does it? Overall, while this is an interesting design, there is a mismatch here in the colors, I think.

Spiked Harness 
Artifact — Equipment (R)
Equipped creature has +X/+X, where X is the number of nonland permanent cards in your graveyard and “whenever this deals combat damage to a player, each player puts the top three cards from their library into their graveyard.”
If equipped creature is a Hound, it has trample.
Equip 4
Zefferal: It’s hard to gauge volume of a mechanic in a set based on the eight cards we see in this challenge, but this raises some red flags for me. It’s most likely a consequence of seeing five  other cards that dump cards into your GY in rapid succession, but I get the impression that this is very easy to abuse. Playtesting could prove me wrong though. 

Zefferal: Mutual mill is a curious choice for Simic. Unlike with Black, there are few good ways to take advantage of dumping stuff in your opponent’s GY in Green. Green mostly only really care about your own GY in general, but maybe this set wants to about things in your opponent’s as well. I also wish we saw some way for blue to take advantage of the milling, like a card that did the mutual mill and then extra mill to the opponent, which would give the tribe an extra synergistic win condition. There’s definitely some inconsistency in which GYs are being tracked for which purposes when, which probably would need to be tightened up. Overall an interesting take, and some strong card designs. 

Inanimate: Overall, I see quite a few problems with your submission. You started with a mechanical seed that I think doesn’t hold up. Hounds as retrievers is great, and that fits well with a theme of getting things out of the graveyard. However, giving them mill as an enabler for this, and then making them blue to fit the mill in, is where things begin to break down. You leaned too hard into the mechanical ‘cleverness’, and lost sight of both the play value, and the flavor value. Hounds don’t make their own mysteries to solve, or lose items to find. And while self-mill is an interesting subtheme for a set, like in Innistrad, it can’t support a tribe - which are usually poised to be accessible to newer and lower-skill players. I do like the idea of giving tribes traditionally tricky mechanics for such players, like life-payments in Ixalan vampires, but it only works if you really get the players to buy into it, and I just don’t see that with your submission. In the end, I'm afraid you went barking up the wrong tree.

Reuben: Hounds could of been a strong choice to expand as a mechanical tribe, playing on player’s familiarity with the creature type in the same way that the extremely popular Cat tribal cards have. Unfortunately while you picked a good tribe the execution of some of these cards and the mechanics you chose to use feel like a miss to me. Hounds in blue only has a single precedent, and while I can understand that their ability to track/investigate may be stretched to be in blue, they are normally always doing this because that's what they are trained for, the domestication of the hound being a huge part of their identity. Having a hound tribal without white is a total miss for me, as is all the self milling. Focus next time on the tropes of hounds both in real life and that have been explored before in magic.

Secret_Wyvern - Gremlins
Gremlin Population Boom
Enchantment (R)
At the end of the turn for each player that put an artifact they control into a graveyard due to the effect of a gremlin creature put a Grub counter on this enchantment.
T, sacrifice this enchantment: Create X 2/2 red Gremlin creature tokens where X is the number of Grub counters on CARD NAME

Inanimate: The restriction that every card must mechanically care about their tribe sometimes produces cards like Gremlin Population Boom. When I see this card, I know that the clause “due to the effect of a Gremlin creature” is only there because of the restraints of the challenge. The ideal version of this design cares about any artifact going into a graveyard, to maximize deckbuilding potential and backwards compatibility. Producing designs that are obviously gnarled to fit into the requirements of the challenge is problematic. The concept of this card is good, and it’s very close to greatness. But if your design has to hobble itself to fit into the restrictions of the challenge, you need to revisit the design. I want to believe this card could come out of a booster, not that it could only come out of the specific restrictions of this challenge.

Spiel, Engine Heart Ravager 
Legendary Creature - Gremlin Mutant (M)
1RG, Sacrifice X artifacts: Monstrosity 2X (If this permanent isn't monstrous, put 2X +1/+1 counters on it and it becomes monstrous.)
When CARD NAME becomes monstrous gremlins you control gain trample until EOT

Reuben: Oh my head hurts trying to figure out the maths on this one. Maybe it is just rough templating but I suspect for many it will not be clear if the monstrous effect here adds 2*X counters as 2X in magic is usually an additive equation when used in mana costs. The reminder text could of been a good place to clear this up, or just doubling the counters on the “becomes monstrous” trigger to avoid the mathy templating all together.
While the use of a artifact sacrificing ability is a great fit for the tribe, I’m just not convinced the card has satisfying gameplay or costs to be worth the complexity. The gremlin trample anthem being until end of turn rather than permanent is also pretty unsatisfying for a mythic.
Zefferal: I like some of what is going on here, but the vast majority of these cards are very overpowered, in general but particularly at their rarities. A major part of design and testing is determining not only whether you as a player would have fun playing the card, but also whether you would have fun if your opponent were running these cards. Losing isn’t fun, but losing to something that is blatantly unbalanced and unfair is much more so. 

Inanimate: Gremlins are great! Of course they care about wrecking artifacts, of course they crowd the board quickly and threaten to get bigger as they eat more. That stuff’s great! However, every single card of yours mentions artifacts, or is an artifact. Not only does a Gremlin deck have to get enough Gremlins, it also has to get enough artifacts, or find enough artifact targets? That’s tricky. Even if this is Kaladesh, it really limits the kind of Gremlin decks one can suspect. Looking to existing Gremlins, many don’t mention artifacts at all and feel just fine. I think you really needed more designs like that, that sold me on other aspects of Gremlins besides ‘eat artifacts’. A lot of designers this challenge struggled to find that balance, that twilight zone, between cohesive mechanical identities and unique cards. You were one of these designers, I’m afraid.
In addition, as a final note, a lot of your rarities were really off. Spiel and Eat the (Radioactive) Scraps aren’t mythic; Unintelligent Nest Invation isn’t common; and so on.

Reuben: Gremlins seems like a potentially popular choice for tribal synergies, however I note that your submission is basically an artifact tribal submission as well. While I agree that artifact synergies are core for the mechanical identity, I think you focused too narrowly here on the tribe’s identity. This lead to play issues where its hard to make the deck as the gremlins themselves are too similar and not artifacts. Next time I’d consider making some gremlins that either offer alternative playstle variations, or solve some of the issues to the mix of artifacts and gremlins by using tutoring or filtering.
My final note is to watch out for your complexity and mathyness. Cards like Unintelligent Nest Invasion are just totally unacceptable at common.

Lee Owens - Dwarves
Forge Fresh Steel 
Sorcery (U)
Search your library for an Equipment card, reveal it, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.
If you control a Dwarf creature, you may put that equipment onto the battlefield attached to a Dwarf you control instead.
Zefferal: Steelshaper's Gift is always fun. This might be a tad pricey for the effect, given the dwarf restriction for dropping it straight onto the battlefield. Maybe 1RW? Either way, I like this, and it feels highly dwarfy. Strong submission.

Inanimate: Supremely flavorful and exciting, I think this is a nice spin on existing abilities we’ve seen. Being able to ‘cheat’ artifacts onto Dwarves is definitely great. I have to agree the costing is tricky, but I think for another reason; being able to cheat Equipment onto dwarves (rightfully) should cost a bit, but if you don’t control a Dwarf, this is awful. The problem is that controlling a single Dwarf is too light of a condition for the powerful effect, I think. Tweaking the condition to be a little more stringent can preserve the exciting plays while making this safer. Also, I’ll just note that Runesmith’s Hammer really counteracts the excitement of this design by making your Equipment cheaper (stealing this card’s thunder) and costing 0 to equip itself. I’d like to have seen an equipment that works well with this design rather than one that doesn’t, especially as it was the only equipment in your submission.

Kharad, War Thane 
Legendary Creature - Dwarf (R)
When Kharad attacks, other dwarves you control get +1/+1 for each dwarf you control and gain indestructible until end of turn.
Inanimate: I have to agree, this is a nice mythic. The scaling might get a little math-y, but it really makes your dwarves huge, and even protects them from multiblocking and some forms of removal. The hardiness and cooperation of dwarves really comes through with this, and their need to support their king. Nice work.

Reuben: Far too often people fall into the trap that “mythics must be complex” Kharad however is very clear in both how it plays and what it wants, making it very satisfying.
I’d personally change around the P/T or costs to make it a little more pushed but otherwise this a solid and elegant mythic dwarf.
Zefferal: One thing I noticed reading through your designs was that your commons and and uncommons all had “if you control/target a dwarf” bonus riders, while your higher rarities are only really useful in dwarf decks. Obviously that’s the type of rarity distribution we’d look for in a set with tribal components, but I do wish a I saw at least one from each category in the other. There was a nice spread of mechanics while still maintaining a strong coherency. Strong execution, though I would probably engage in a round of rareshifting. 

Inanimate: Overall, you have some great designs here, but they come in short supply. There were some great designs here, but also some that didn’t sell me on Dwarves. Cards like Runesmith’s Hammer, Forge Fresh Steel, Kharad, and Vulcas are quite exciting; while your others fell short of the greatness those cards hinted at. The equipment angle is a nice take on the tribe, but I also worry about the fact that your best cards are also the ones that really require you to not only gun for Dwarves, but also for Equipment, which could leave you with the short end of the stick in Limited formats. Obviously, Dwarves need to care about Equipment; but I wanted to see hints of another Dwarf deck in these cards, one that doesn’t need Equipment.  Overall, the highs were high, but the lows cut your standings short.

Reuben: I like that you explored a number of different aspects of dwarfs here while often keeping your complexity in check. When making tribal cards you want a mix of high power payoffs for focused decks as well as cards with higher power level floors that act as a gateway to the tribe in limited and at lower rarities. I think you mostly did this reasonably well with maybe the exception of Ironskin, an unplayable combat trick without dwarfs and thus unappealing at common. Good job.

Taresivon - Germs
Malond, Plague of Worlds
Legendary Planeswalker - Malond (M)
+1: You get an emblem with “Germs you control get +1/+1 as long as you control a Malond planeswalker.”
+1: Create two 0/0 black Germ creature tokens.
-8: Each opponent loses X life, discards X cards, and sacrifices X permanents, where X is three times the number of Germs you control.
Zefferal: I’m always so skeptical of any voluntary attempts to design a PW, and they’re such a Creative/Development product that they aren’t all that interesting from a design perspective. But this guy seriously works. The three abilities are great, synergistic, resonant, and reasonable. The one change I would consider is having the emblem be a 0 ability and have it make a germ on its own if you don’t already have one. It narrows its utility, which it might need. I’m a big fan.

Inanimate: Planeswalkers are very hard to design and playtest. By making a planeswalker, you’re taking a big gamble that you can impress us. Malond has some very interesting ideas to it, like granting emblems with its +1, and the cute reference to Pox with its ultimate. On its own, its play pattern starts prescriptive, as you have to lead with the emblem then create the backup next turn; with other Germ tribal cards, however, you can lead with the blockers, which is a nice push for tribal. I think this planeswalker certainly works, but I agree with Zefferal that you might have wanted to make this planeswalker usable on its own, too. I’d call this a solid start, but in need of polish.

Contagious Pestilence
Enchantment (M)
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a non-Germ creature. If they do, create a 0/0 black Germ creature token.
Germs you control get +1/+1.
At the beginning of each end step, if there are no non-Germ creatures on the battlefield, sacrifice Contagious Pestilence.
Zefferal: I love the flavor on this. My biggest complaint is that it doesn’t feel especially mythic. It’s an excellent rare, but lacks the dramatic gameplay a mythic enchantment would want to create. Try having it grow over time. When ~ etb and at the beginning of your upkeep, put a plague counter on ~. Sac for each counter, germs +1/+1 for each counter, etc. Great card, just a little off on rarity.

Zefferal: Very fun tribal work. There’s a seed of a very interesting and versatile tribe here, one I’d be interested in seeing more of. There is a lot of fragility to the tribe that raises some flags to me, which can create a lot amount of feel-bad moments, particularly among lower skill players. Maybe this tribe needs to be reserved to a context outside of a standard release expansion set. Either way, I’m a big fan, and would love to see some more.

Inanimate: I was extremely skeptical at the idea of Germ tribal, but you’ve got something super sick here, actually. I like the mini-game of being able to deal with the ‘vectors’ to be able to destroy the Germs, which reminds me of the best parts of Revolution in Tesla. You also did a great job of capturing the resonant tropes of Germs in their mechanical identity, with designs like Insidious Infection, Lethal Outbreak, and Contagious Pestilence showcasing the interesting strategy to playing Germs. Germs are unique, and innovative. But, and this is going to be a hard pill to swallow, while they read simple, they aren’t going to play simple. Balancing risk sequencing, and strategic tension will leave many players ill at ease. Your enthusiasm for the intrigue of Germs is contagious, but this submission needed more cards a player is just happy to play, without worry.
Nonetheless, I still think you had one of the best submissions this week, something I didn’t expect to say about Germs. Good work, Taresivon.

Reuben: While I am skeptical of Germ tribal ever appearing in these types of quantities I like a lot of the designs here. The biggest issue would be how to support the tribe at lower rarities, which this submission doesn’t answer. Of your two commons, 1 is clearly an uncommon and the other is a removal spell that is a good gateway to the tribe isn’t helping germs actually stick around.
I think making a planeswalker for a tribal challenge was a choice that really ended up making you design “upstream”, and while the final design is fine, I think the effort could of been spent better.
Considering the limitations of the tribe I think you did a great job and some of the cards such as Insidious Infection are awesome.

Doug Kent - Apes
Bites and Scratches
Instant (C)
Deal 4 damage to target creature and 1 damage to that creature's controller for each ape you control.

Reuben: A pushed common removal spell. My main comment would be to clean up the wording to make it clear that it isn’t 4 damage to the creature per ape you control. In fact I’d consider simplifying the 2nd clause overall to be a “If you control an ape, deal 2 damage to that creature's controller.” The scaling just isn’t what you often want at common unless your ape tribal is going wide which doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Golden Banana 
Legendary Artifact (M)
Whenever a player targets a single Ape with a spell or ability, that player copies that spell or ability for each other Ape that spell or ability target could target. Each copy targets a different one of those Apes.
2GG: Target Ape get +2/+2 and trample

Inanimate: This suffers from a problem of cutesiness, I believe. Obviously, when you use the ability, you’re going to copy that ability for each other Ape. So why bother having the activated ability target? You’re requiring players to make that connection when they use the ability, when you could have just spelled it out. Why make them do that, and spend unnecessary mental power to translate the ability’s results? In addition, this is a symmetrical ability that would discourage players from playing out their Apes into potential removal, alongside playing weirdly if both players have apes. Zada, Hedron Grinder was perfectly safe, and this is even safer than Zada, in my opinion. Just let the players have a good time with this ability..

Reuben: I don’t have anything to add to this mechanically, but I love the name.
Zefferal: Overall, this submission felt like it was missing some tribal oomph. The key to this challenge was finding a core and distinct mechanical identity, leaning on it for some cards and knowing when a design would stand without it. None of these designs highlight a core identity I’d like to see expanded on, and few really make me want to shuffle up a bunch of apes and see what happens.

Inanimate: I have to agree with your assessment at the start: there isn’t much identity to Apes. However, there’s plenty of resonant tropes, idioms, and such that you could have leaned on more. In addition, even if Apes don’t have much identity to start with, the goal of this challenge is to build an identity for them. You said you wanted to center the design around their ‘love of trees’. That’s great! My favorite design of yours was Hide in the Trees for that reason; flavorful, and it gives me a clear identity to work with. Likewise, in The Ape God, we have a nice reference to a classic Ape card, and another solid identity-building feel. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel anything cohesive in the rest of your cards. This felt like a collection of random red-green cards for the most part with Ape tribal arbitrarily attached to relatively safe, typical designs. In the tribal challenge, we need to see cards that really could only be printed in this tribe, as a tribal design. I wanted to see you go bananas, not ape the filler cards we see all the time.

Reuben: I felt like you often played too safe for this challenge, not connecting apes to the strong theme they needed. You hinted at “forest matters” in a few of your cards, which I’d of liked to of seen more of in combination with ape tropes and more ape playtest names.
Its a bit of a shame that monkey was recently moved to a seperate type, making the space you had to design in even tighter.
Finally work on improving your templating and costing skills, a quick mental playtest of Ape Roaring Good Time tells me it is busted beyond belief.

Larcent - Octopodes
Xexov'a, Fathoms Deep
Legendary Creature – Octopus Leviathan (M)
Xexov'a can be cast only from exile.
UU, Discard this card from your hand: Each player puts the top four cards of their library into their graveyard.
2UU, exile this card from your graveyard: Tap all non-octopus creatures.
Trample, Hexproof
Zefferal: Thats a lot of text. It comes in at eight lines, which isn’t insane on a mythic spell, but it is  something to be cognizant of. Speaking of eight lines, aesthetically speaking, if you can have eights on your octopus, you should. This could be an eight mana 8/8 and would fundamentally be the same card. This is especially the case with the scaling up of costs on its way to being cast. I wish the discard ability and the exile ability had any amount of synergy with each other. Finally, this wants some kind of payoff from having milled your opponents, since milling strategies are diametrically opposed to having a giant trampling monster. Can his mana costs and ability costs use delve (or spelled-out delve for your opponent’s GY) to reduce their costs? This is the start of something very interesting, but for a tribal legendary, this needs some significant tuning and iteration.

Ruthless Recall 
Enchantment (M)
When Ruthless Recall enters the battlefield, exile up to two target sorceries or instants from any opponents' graveyards.
UUBB, sacrifice an octopus: Copy a spell exiled by Ruthless Recall. If you do, you may cast it without paying its casting costs.

Inanimate: This is interesting, but I’m really not sold on this being about Octopuses. This could really be in most blue-black tribes. While it fits very well with the worldbuilding you had for cephalids, this doesn’t stand on its own.
Looking past the flavor, I’m unfortunately still not a fan. I’m not particularly eager to build a deck around this card, because I have no guarantee this card will be worth using for the amount of investment and resources it demands from me. This kind of effect can be fun, as Diluvian Primordial, Stolen Strategy, and Etali show, but the key to making it work is that those cards require little further investment from you, while this requires a lot. Another hint is that they’re all rare; this effect isn’t mythic, it’s not likely enough to be impactful.

Zefferal: I’m not sold on reconcepting Cephalids as Octopodes, but putting creative aside, I really liked the direction you took this tribe. Dimir in my cubes always drifts towards mill/GY shenanigans, so there’s a lot for me to enjoy here.

Inanimate: You clearly had a lot of worldbuilding and ideas on how Cephalids could be represented, but these cards just didn’t feel tied enough to the flavor of Octoupuses. These were mostly generic blue-black tribal cards that mentioned Octopuses, and even where you could have gotten an eight-mana 8/8, you didn’t. Your worldbuilding was awesome, and there are some very intriguing designs here with a cohesive identity, but I didn’t feel you leaned into the Octopus angle enough. I know Cephalids aren’t traditional Octopuses, but some more flavorful cards that an audience would ‘get’ would be nice. Cephalids are weird; suck the audience in, by getting them to dive from familiar tropes to your new and exciting worldbuilding depths.

Reuben: The flavor on a lot of these cards works really nicely, though repurposing the octopus type when Cephalids have been previously printed will get you a bit of pushback that may not end up being worth it.
I note a number of themes being explored here which I do like, however there is a real lack of a connected gameplan or playstyle with the cards you have, like I’m having octopus die or be sacrificed but have zero recursion, or I want to strip my opponent’s hand but also play things not from my hand. Pieces feel missing and I would of liked this submission far more If you’d have sat down and considered how to interlock and/or focus the themes more.

rkohn1357 - Devils
Devil's Rite 
Sorcery (U)
As an additional cost to cast Devil's Rite, sacrifice a Devil.
Add BBBRRR. When one or more mana produced this way is spent to cast a spell, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life.
Inanimate: Requiring the sacrifice of a Devil allows you to make a ritual that is less likely to make storm decks worse. I do like the core of this idea, until we reach the unusual effect you’ve given the mana. Oof. Tracking the expenditure of mana throughout the turn is problematic. You were clearly going for being innovative here, but it’s not going to play out well, I fear. The problem with this ‘novelty’ is that it really doesn’t justify itself compared to “Whenever you cast a spell this turn, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain 1 life”. It’s clearly worded this way for novelty’s sake, I feel. A ritual that pushes to cast lots of spells that turn is interesting in that, in Limited, I feel it’s more commonly going to ramp, but in Constructed it’s more commonly going to storm out; so you’ve achieved an interesting lenticular design here. I think this might be overdesigned, but at the least it’s an interesting design, with some minor issues.

Ibrithil, the Lost Altar
Legendary Artifact (M)
At the beginning of your upkeep, create a 1/1 colorless Spirit creature token.
Sacrifice a Spirit: Copy target activated or triggered ability you control. You may choose new targets for the copy. Activate this ability only if a Devil you control died this turn and no more than twice each turn.
Zefferal: Oof. I really like the flavor you’re aiming for here, but caring about sacrificing a spirit for an ability that cares about whether you’ve sacrificed a devil is a lot to process, even if the ability you want to copy is inevitably from a devil trigger. There’s a lot of fiddliness to the mechanical interplay here, which is a shame because it’s a really fun idea. I would suggest getting rid of the token generating. You could either put a counter on the altar whenever you sacrifice a creature/devil, and spend those counters to copy triggers, or exile/hold in limbo sacrificed creatures and send them to the GY for the same effect (won’t work with tokens though.).

Reuben: The first time I read this card without reading what tribe you were doing I really loved it, until I got to the Devil and twice each turn clauses. Having two creatures types here is really confusing and hurting the design here.
Zefferal: Spirit tokens are a clever idea, but they’re very distracting from an already mechanically complex idea for a tribe. This looks a lot like a mechanical push that reads like fun, but ends up being a tremendous amount of bookkeeping for nominal fun on the other side. Playtesting and iteration could turn this tribal submission into an all-star.

Inanimate: Your entry started strong, with flavorful and simple designs that had a cohesive mechanical identity, but were still unique and disparate from each other. Unfortunately, as you ascended the rarities, it’s clear you became devil-may-care with your clean execution and all hell broke loose. Otherworldly Chamber, Summoning Ritual, and Ibrithil are not just too similar to each other, but they’re also each overburdened. Summoning Ritual was the best of the bunch, with clear flavor, mechanics in line with your other cards, and the cleanest execution of the bunch. Identifying that you’ve already hit the trope of ‘a weird place or ritual that calls forth spirits’ and doing other things is important. Lastly, the devil is in the details: four of your cards drain 1, but then your Devil tokens likewise ping for 1, but don’t drain. Not only does the draining for 1 end up feeling a little samey, it makes your Devil tokens stick out egregiously. Overall, I thought you had a great grasp of the lower rarities, but your fire sputtered out.

Reuben: I think your common designs show promise but you really need to focus on how to design more elegant and exciting rares and mythic rares. You confused your theme with the spirit cards and the higher raritiy cards felt totally disconnected from the lower rarity ones. This currently reads like two submissions spliced together unfortunatly.

dvoraen - Oozes
Fluid Steel
Artifact — Equipment (U)
Whenever equipped creature attacks, choose one. If equipped creature is an Ooze, instead choose both —
* Equipped creature gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
* Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player this turn, create a 2/2 blue and green Ooze creature token.
Equip 3 or GU

Inanimate: You’ve got a lot of clever ideas here, but I think there’s too many, to be frank. If it’s an Ooze, you can choose both: cool! Different equip costs: also cool! However, both on the same card just lessens the punchiness of each individually, and overburdens the design. I’d have ditched the alternate equip cost, given that GU is not significantly different from 3, really, and this card is already going to end up in more Ooze decks by virtue of the condition on the trigger. Also, while the flavor of this works acceptably, this kind of trigger really feels befitting a different tribe more than Oozes. But I can see it.

Sludge Pools
Land (U)
Sludge Pools enters the battlefield tapped unless you control an Ooze.
T: Add G or U.
2GU, T: Create a 2/2 blue and green Ooze creature token.
Zefferal: This makes me so nervous. It’s really a play design concern, but the numbers on this are a little aggressive compared to other token generating lands. That’s more a development concern than anything else though. Just creating an ooze token, however, doesn’t sell me on any type of tribal identity for the oozes. Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree works because the mechanical identity of Selesnya in Ravnica focuses on Convoke and going wide. What tribal identity makes me want to create ooze tokens over some other type of utility for this land?

Zefferal: If you hide the card type, from me, what about tokens and counters does ooze tribal do that merfolk tribal doesn’t? These designs are perfectly fine, by and large, but none of them feel like they especially belong in a tribal set, or convey a mechanical tribal identity. Find a vein of cohesive mechanical space and mine it. 

Inanimate: Dvoraen, you have some exciting work here, but also suffer from some issues often expected of such exciting work. There's great, simple designs here, like Plasmhulk, Flourish, and Flourishing Ooze, clever stuff in cards like Fluid Steel and Liquifier, and some true innovation in Fluidform. However, many of your designs are dripping with unneeded complexity. Presenting lots of new choices to players is good, but too many new choices, and you just undermine the intrigue of your design. Overall, I think your execution on Oozes really gelled with me, and every card had a good idea as its nucleus, but for many designs there was a lot of muck to wade through first.

Reuben: As a spiky player I see all the choices your cards provide and get a bit excited, but to get to those choices I often had to wade through high levels of gooey complexity. This is only compounded when you mentally playtest the designs. You show a lot of innovation here, next time I want to see you can do elegance as well.

Jenesis - Plants
Flourishing Marsh 
Land (R)
Flourishing Marsh enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add B or G.
Plants you control have "T: Add B or G."

Inanimate: Wow, this is definitely busted, right? Imagining this as a rare dual land that lets you make a creature into a mana dork is already strong, in my opinion. If this hits two or more creatures, that’s a significant amount of potential mana ramp for no investment beyond a land drop. The idea of making your Plants into mana dorks is great, but it can’t be done for this low of a cost.

Wailing Yew 
Creature - Plant (M)
G, Exile a creature card from a graveyard: Put a +1/+1 counter on Wailing Yew.
B, Remove two +1/+1 counters from Wailing Yew: Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn. You gain 2 life.
BG: Target Plant you control gains all activated abilities of Wailing Yew until end of turn.
Inanimate: A lot of designers in the GDS3 made this same mistake of overcomplicated mythics. The core essence of a mythic is its immediate impact on the game, and on players. When a player gets this out of a pack, they should almost immediately go “Wow!”, and having to sift through this many lines of text and this many different ways to use the cards is just not very mythic. It’s an intriguing rare, but mythic is for punchiness and exciting elegance, not for intrigue.

Zefferal: I disagree a bit. I'm as Jenny as they come, and I would not at all feel cheated to find this fun toolkit in a mythic slot. I would only change it to be legendary, which helps the mythic feel and opens up plant tribal commander decks, for all those who play Pokemon all the way through with Bulbasaur as your starter.

Zefferal: I love this submission. Some of your cards definitely need some focus and development, but you succeeded in creating a tribe with mechanical coherency that is very different from what we’ve seen before in similarly creative tribes. This submission makes me want to see how plant tribal would play out on more than one plane, and that’s the best you can hope for when making a new tribal identity. 

Inanimate: Like other designers, I think you flourished at the lower rarities, but your display began to wilt when I reached the higher rarities. Various types of complexity were a blight on these rares and mythic rares, and there were some power level concerns too. Where your designs blossomed was in making Plants feel cohesive while also spreading their roots across many different areas of gameplay. Counters, graveyards, mana, this had a wide variety of gameplay while all feeling connected due to your strong theme. Where you stumbled, however, was in convincing me that Plants themselves would be fun to play. With just two creatures, you had to really show me that these Plants would lead to interesting games and could be more than passive bystanders and mana dorks. I’m sorry to say that you didn’t deliver on that hope of mine. Young Sprout was promising but I couldn’t figure out whether it would push gameplay forward enough or not with so few other Plants to judge it by, and Wailing Yew is as grindy as it gets. With some minor tending, this set of cards could improve greatly.

Reuben: Plants is not a tribe I had much confidence coming into, while very familiar to most players they are not often particularly something to get excited about and don’t have the cultural fantasy resonance and character treefolk/ents have. Despite all of this I came away enjoying a number of the designs, especially at the lower rarities.

Wobbles - Bards
Glamour Rocker 
Creature - Goblin Bard (U)
Other Bards you control have "Whenever this creature becomes tapped, Glamour Rocker gains +1/+1 until end of turn"

Inanimate: Allow me to pretend to be Eli for a second: this doesn’t work. Generally when we grant abilities that include a name in the ability, that name is a placeholder for ‘this creature’. Why are we granting this ability, in the first place? Why doesn’t this just say, “Whenever another Bard you control becomes tapped, Glamour Rocker gets +1/+1 until end of turn”? Now, moving beyond rules: this looks very fun, and has great flavor to it (love the name). It feels a little impactful for uncommon, however, especially given the sizes it can get to. But Charging Monstrosaur is a thing, so what do I know?

Mosh Pit 
Enchantment (R)
Mosh Pit enters the battlefield with a verse counter on it.
Creatures you control get +1/+0 for each verse counter on Mosh Pit.
1(R/W), tap an untapped bard you control: Add a verse counter to Mosh Pit.
Zefferal: Amazing. This is all the right kind of tension, especially with an accompanying vigilance bard or the twiddling mechanics demonstrated in the rest of the submission. Do we want the bonus to only apply as that creature is attacking? I think it might make for more interesting gameplay, and really play up the tension of attack or build.

Zefferal: Bards are a criminally neglected concept in Magic, and I like this take on them. Tapping and being tapped as a theme for the support class makes a lot of sense, although in the amount of volume you want a tribe to have, it could easily lead to gameplay that’s a little too durdley. In that sense, they really are a support tribe - this mechanical take wants them to be a component in a deck that can use them, but it would be far less fun to make a straight bard deck.

Inanimate: Bards rock! These are super flavorful. While you totally ignored the requirement that the creature type must already exist in Magic, I’m going to overlook that because I think this type should exist in Magic (though I’d make it ‘Performer’ or ‘Artist’ instead of ‘Bard’, to cover more ground), and it’s easy to just make these say Rogue like Yisan and Joraga Bard. Regardless of the specifics, this selection of cards sings with flavor, and really captures the feeling of a collaborative performance. You had some pretty novel ideas here like Eye of the Tiger and Surprise Encore, and some very fun designs, but also some designs that fell flat. I was not a fan of Boltagon, for example, and Touring Caravan’s gameplay didn’t seem to be fun to me. But overall, I felt your design had a lot of heart and promise! I’d love to see a remix of some of these cards that fell flat, and for you to shift the spotlight to the ideas that really worked.

Bradley Wilson - Horses
Stampede Mentality
Enchantment (U)
Creatures you control have haste.
Whenever a Horse enters the battlefield under your control, it gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
Zefferal: Adding horse tribal to red is a very interesting choice, as wild animals tend to be more green in nature. That said, there’s symbolism and mythology of Wild Horses that reads very red, so I’ll buy it, for now. So taking all that into consideration, I really like this enchantment. Red uncommon “do the thing” enchantments typically just do a Shock, but this accomplishes the same in a true-to-red way. Assuming that creative is cool with Red horses, this is great design.

Inanimate: While I’m dubious of Horse tribal, this is fantastic flavor and plays very well with the playstyle of Horses in your submission, while being pretty clever but simple. Perfectly functional even with just a few Horses gives it a big bonus. Smart design!

Zefferal: I think that this submission loses some points for forcing Wild West Plane design over emphasizing the Horse tribal. There are some really cool designs here, but the tribal elements seem superfluous. The cards would simply be better off without them. That does the opposite of selling me on Horse as a tribe worth supporting. 

Inanimate: A lot of these cards suffer from the problem of obviously having been designed to fit a Tribal challenge, rather than feeling natural. Flavorfully, Lasso Up, for example, doesn’t seem like it needs to have anything to do with Horses. Same with Frontier Shootout. Mechanically, the mention of Horses seems second-thought on cards like Vaquero Gunslinger and Homestead.

Isao - Assassins
Night of Knives
Sorcery (R)
Return any number of Assassin creatures you control to their owners´ hands, then reveal any number of Assassin creature cards from your hand. When you do, choose one for each card revealed this way, then choose one:
* Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature
* Destroy target creature with toughness 3 or less.

Reuben: The bounce to hand + reveal trigger is a very clever piece of design for this tribe, however I think the weird restrictive mana cost, the extra choose one and the modal options ended up being too much, pulling attention in too many directions. It can so often be tempting to overstuff your rare and mythic rare designs, a trap I’d argue you have fallen into here.
I think this is very close to being two very clean individual cards if the different aspects were separated out. I’m excited to see how this looks with a few more iterations and some pruning.
Raaf, Guildmaster
Legendary Creature - Vedalken Assassin (M)
B, Tap an untapped Assassin creature you control: Put a -1/-1 counter on target creature.
U, Return an Assassin creature you control to its owner's hand: Target creature has base toughness 3 until end of turn.
Zefferal: I like a lot about this design, but it’s very busy, and overly Mel. I think that, given a tribe with as many ETB effects as Assassin’s have, bouncing your own assassin is the desired effect, not the cost. By making your assassins difficult to kill with the rescue ability, this reads a lot cleaner, and is still very very strong. I might even make the rescue cost higher a notch or two, but Play Design/Playtesting could figure out the best numbers here.

Inanimate: You have this recurring theme of setting toughnesses to be 3, and I’m frankly not sure that’s a concept that can be carried across so many cards. It’s pretty confusing to most players, even with the new ‘base toughness’ wording, and the cutesiness of it fades pretty quickly. Beyond that, I like the symmetry of being able to ‘reload’ Assassins here, and I wish the effect for the U activation was simpler, to lend more attention to the combo of the costs themselves. I agree with Zefferaleral, however, that returning the Assassins is really your goal and a great way to protect them, so maybe the second ability just wants to be a Lantern Spirit that can be done for any Assassin.
Inanimate: Some of your designs killed it, particularly Marked for Death and Bounty Board, and to a degree Raaf. But most of your designs were designed to be more combo-tastic and cutesy, clearly reveling in your cleverness and ingenuity, rather than trying to go for resonant and elegant designs. Assassins are a culturally resonant tribe with a lot of great space to work with, and it’s revealing that your best designs were the ones that stuck closest to clean executions of the trope, rather than getting into the wet work of fixating on the toughness-setting, or the ‘reloading’ of Assassins. That ‘too-sharp-for-your-own-good’ led to a lot of designs that were too complex, and fell flat because of that. But where you did well, you slayed!

Zefferal: Dying here, reading Inanimate’s puns. I agree with his above assessment that the 3 toughness theme isn’t carrying its weight. It’s hard to find assassination flavored abilities in blue, the color with the hardest time killing creatures, but playing up gathering intel would be a better avenue to pursue than forcing a “weakened by magic” approach. Additionally, a tribe whose gimmick is literally being the best at killing other creatures is going to have some significant developmental hurdles to clear. I think this is a good start, but without finding something better for Blue to do, you may have hit a dead end.

Reuben: You did a great job with the-1/-1 counters as a really nice way to mark a foe at lower rarity, a crucial aspect of the assassin identity. However while you had some clean designs here you too often strayed into gimmicky designs and overcomplexity which is a shame. Assassins are a tricky tribe and I would of loved to see a cleaner expansion of some of the ideas you hinted at.

Jack (cartesiandaemon) - Wolves
Timber Wolf 
Creature - Wolf (U)
Whenever Timber Wolf attacks or blocks, you may have target wolf get +1/+1 UEOT.

Inanimate: This is, on its own, a 4/3 in combat. That’s big, but probably fair for uncommon. The real problem is that this presents a constant threat of +1/+1 somewhere else in the board. While, unlike Duskborne Skymarcher, this is at risk of being taken out when it does this, it still overly complicates combat math for the opponent. Unlike Skymarcher, it can’t take an opponent by surprise as an on-board trick necessarily, but it does force your opponent to have to consider each possible choice of Wolf, and with multiple Timber Wolves that gets daunting quickly.

Teeth in the Night 
Sorcery (M)
As an additional cost to cast Teeth in the Night, reveal the top 10 cards of your library.
Put any number of creature cards revealed this way with CMC 6 or less OTB and the rest into your graveyard. You may have any wolf creature cards put onto the battlefield this way deal damage equal to their power to any target.

Reuben: Green mythics that are neither planeswalkers nor creatures can be exceptionally difficult to design, however I think this is doing a pretty good job. While the converted mana cost clause makes the card less exciting I can see why you added it when comparing it to See the Unwritten. My main comment other than number and wording tweaking is that I really don’t feel this needs to be multicolor, I’d try making it mono green.

Inanimate: I have to disagree with Reuben. Like Ezuri’s Predation, this produces the very ‘ammo’ that it uses to fight with, and therefore isn’t quite green. The addition of red justifies that aspect of dealing damage without creatures present on board prior, however. I do agree with Reuben, though, that this does quite a good job of being a mythic sorcery for red/green, a color combination that typically struggles with that card type at higher rarities. In my opinion, this is great work. I will note that revealing the cards from the library shouldn’t be an additional cost, however.
Inanimate: The central concept of your tribe, that Wolves can spread their abilities around while attacking and blocking, is problematic gameplay. Your opponent has to take those permutations into consideration every combat, which will become pretty draining for them mentally. I can’t speak for you, but I don’t like to win because I made my opponent howl at the moon. This pack of cards has some promise to it, with Teeth in the Night, but many of the other designs fell flat for me, whether it’s problems of complexity like Pack Hunt, or gameplay that hasn’t been thought through like on Wolf-bot. You have a good idea with the ‘pack tactics’ mechanic; try refining that into something less dense on the board.

Zefferal: Inanimate nails it. Wolves have a lot of potential as a tribe, as their creative identity is working in tandem. Play that up, but mind your board complexity, especially at lower rarities.

Reuben: Holy board complexity batman (or maybe wolfman?) I agree with Inanimate and Zeff here that you need to tone down things. The pack mentality is a great area for wolves to shine but you need to think about how the gameplay ends up when executing.
A minor not but I’d also be interested in trying a variety of other colors, white/green wolves could focus more on teamwork, black/green more on their savagery. While red wolves are reasonably common on innistrad partly due to werewolves, when removed from that context I think the field of possibilities to explore open up a lot.

Pasteur - Devils
Lingerlaugh Cackler
Creature - Devil (C)
Haunt (When this card dies, exile it haunting target creature.)
Haunted creature is a Coward and can’t block Devil creatures alone.

Inanimate: Haunt is a smart choice, given that most of the judges on Goblin Artisans are fans of it. However, what makes Haunt hypothetically work well is the ability to make them closer to Bestow, which reduces the complexity considerably and increases the flavor. The problem with Lingerlaugh Cackler is that the haunting effect is still complex to remember, because it has no connection to the living creature. Ideally, the effect granted through haunting is related to the original creature, perhaps granting its keywords, its downsides, its power/toughness, or some other effect with a thematic or intuitive connection. This is because it helps you remember the Haunt effect at a glance. But nothing about Lingerlaugh Cackler in life implies the effect it gives a Haunted creature, so it’s not suited for common, I believe. It is some fun flavor, though, and would play well at a higher rarity I hope.

Judithe, Who Bars the Door 
Legendary Creature - Human Soldier (M) CARDNAME can block any number of creatures.
When Judithe blocks a creature, create a 1/1 red Devil creature token with “This creature attacks each turn if able” under attacking player’s control.
When Judithe dies, gain control of all Devils.
Zefferal: I’m such a fan of this design. There may or may not be a literary reference I’m not getting, but either way, that’s a very cool design. Does she want defender? Lower power? There are a lot of subtle knobs on this card that make some very dramatic changes to the way the gameplay around it happens.


Inanimate: I think you’ve got some interesting ideas here, Pasteur, but a lot of them don’t seem to have very good play patterns or experiences to them. Cards like Judithe and The Sulfur Ambassador present interesting minigames, with some questionable aspects (such as randomly blowing out Devil decks, or getting you to do things you don’t like doing.) Nihilistic Abandon also doesn’t seem too fun to me. Most of these cards just don’t look too fun to me.
Zefferal: Very cool. There were some cheats in the there, with your non-red cards caring about things other than Devils, and I’m definitely not sold on White as the secondary color for this tribe, but there were some interesting designs throughout. There are definitely some templating contortions going on in the lower rarities, that could and should be simplified, but these cards felt unique and mischievous.

Justin Kane - Spiders
Ravenous Tarantula
Creature - Spider (U)
Whenever a nontoken creature dies, put a +1/+1 counter on Ravenous Tarantula. Then, if that creature was a Spider, create a 1/2 green Spider creature token with reach.

Inanimate: We’ve only seen two spiders without reach, and both are ancient. However, tarantulas don’t use webs to catch their prey, so you clearly thought your way through this design. Is this the ‘moa problem’, where people are expecting this spider to have reach? What hurts this the most is that the tokens it makes do have reach, which will confuse players even more. In terms of actual mechanics, I think this is quite strong, but pretty reasonable. It certainly seems like a blast to play, and it tells me I want lots of Spiders that would be happy to die for me! The death trigger also makes removal and such sting a bit less. However, it looking for Spiders anywhere is problematic in its symmetry.

Reuben: A solid uncommon, similar to Algae Gharial but with a spider twist. I’m curious what the flavor here is exactly,  as spider without reach seems either like an oversight or requiring a more solid flavor explanation.
This being global will create some awkward situations in mirror matches that I’m not sure I like but is overall a pretty minor consideration.
Ol' Granny Longlegs 
Legendary Creature - Elder Spider (M)
Spiders you control have trample.
When Ol' Granny Longlegs enters the battlefield, distribute up to eight +1/+1 counters among Spiders you control.
Zefferal: Kudos on the eights. Wise aesthetic choice. This should probably exclude itself from being targeted. I also wonder whether we avoid some potential feel-bad moments (lack of appropriate spiders) by letting this either make a counter or spider token eight times. There might be timing issues there, but I do think this gives this more flexibility that it might need.

Zefferal: That’s a great submission. There was occasional flavor disconnect, especially since most of these spiders seem to be concepted as normal size spiders as opposed to oversized, but there is a lot of grokkable and interesting spider tropes explored, while still maintaining some coherent identity. Very cool.

Inanimate: You really covered Spiders eight ways to Sunday! I appreciate expanding the identity for Spiders significantly, and you showed great design sense in not only capturing a flavorful and mechanical identity, but also a mood and feel for your tribe. However, I think you ended up behind the eight ball in a few ways. For one, cards like Male Widow Spider and Corrosive Webbing felt disjointed, relying on flavor to connect effects together that needed more justification mechanically. And for two, none of your designs were novel or groundbreaking. You had plenty of clever and fun designs, but nothing that really impressed me. It’s a tangled web to weave, balancing innovation and good design, but it’s vital to winning the GDS.

Edgardo Parada - Hounds
Bond of Friendship 
Sorcery (C)
Put a +1/+1 counter on each of up to two target creatures you control.
If Bond of Friendship targets a Hound and a Human, draw a card

Inanimate: I like this card a lot, you were wise to pick it for your judging. It’s a simple take on Travel Preparations, but with an interesting reward for having the friends be a Hound and a Human. Flavorful, simple, but a strong incentive to go Hound/Human. It’s also nice that you don’t have to worry as much about getting enough Humans because, well, they’re Humans - most decks have enough of them, right? This was a clever choice of dual-tribe.

Balthus, Dog Breeder
Legendary Creature – Human (M)
When Balthus, Dog Breeder enters the battlefield, create a 2/2 green Hound creature token and a 1/1 white Hound creature token with vigilance.
T: Tap two untapped Hounds you control. Create a Hound creature token with their total power, toughness, abilities, and colors.

Reuben: For a digital game this design is still complex but potentially doable. For paper magic this seems like a nightmare to track, especially when the “parent” hounds leave the battlefield, or the combo hound tokens start interbreeding. I just don’t think black bordered is ready for a hound monster mash.
Inanimate: You had some real fun and flavorful designs here, but also some overcomplicated ones. Dog Heave and Bonds of Friendship stand out as exciting and cute cards, with Truffle Hunter, Go Fetch, and Watchdog Trainer being clever and solid uncommons. Granting tap abilities is an interesting choice for a tribe, because the more you grant the more options you have, but they don’t stack, unlike slivers. However, your design was also riddled with complexity both subtle and obvious, which really screwed the pooch for you. For example, creating two different kinds of Hound token was problematic, and Balthus is obviously a nightmare for tracking complexity. Keeping complexity on a tight leash is important when trying to innovate, and it’s a real shame because that complexity would have been relatively easy to avoid. (I personally preferred the vigilance tokens, since they synergize so well with the tap abilities, and vigilance can be both white and green.) While you had some real ingenuity to your ideas, this is a dog-eat-dog contest, and it was enough to bring you down.

Reuben: I really feel like you did a great job identifying the core identity of Hounds/Dogs that most players would be familiar with. Its a shame the complexity so often got in the wayof me enjoying these designs more.

Zefferal: That had so much potential to be awesome. I do think that making a double tribe, while cool, does undercut the spirit and difficulty of this challenge. That said, your biggest misstep was to not only contemplate two different tokens, but to have a card that specifically produces both. That can be fun conceptually, but creates some practical in-game problems. Your submission notably lacks a hound creature card, which is a big miss for this challenge. Finally, the non-Angel hound clause in your final mythic is trying too hard to be cute. I think there’s a very strong core concept at play here, and I’d really like to see it explored in a non-GDS type setting, where we could see a variety of creatures, including actual hounds, and see how else the theme can be developed. But in trying to meet the occasional distracting criterea of the challenge, your great mechanical hook and strong cards were eclipsed by some head-scratchers.

Skye - Ninjas
Synchronized Silence
Instant (R)
Kicker - tap two untapped Ninjas you control.
Destroy Target Creature. If this spell was kicked, destroy up to two target creatures instead.
Zefferal: Oh ho ho, what a great design. Play design and knobs, etc. etc. etc., but perfectly executed simultaneous executions in ninja tribal is an awesome design. The three ninja requirement will be tricky to convey through art (I assume one per target, one running point to make sure they happen concurrently), but it’s definitely doable. Well done.
Inanimate: Ninjas were a good choice for this challenge, and bringing back Ninjutsu is a solid choice. While you had plenty of flavorful designs, like Mistshroud, Kabuki Paints, and Synchronized Silence, you also had a lot of designs that either left me uninspired or confused. Shiro, for example, was a real whiff of a design I felt. Overall, I felt where you did really well was in exploring old design space, and where you did poorly was trying new things. That’s not terrible, but it’s not what the GDS would be looking for.

By the way, you broke the rules of this challenge a few times, once by bringing back both Kicker and Ninjutsu, and another time with Shadowshroud Sadist not caring about Ninjas. While some contestants in the GDS3 had broken these rules as well, those times were a lot less flagrant. (Vehicles sure seem evergreen, and making a token is pretty close to caring about that type.) Adhering to the rules is important! Don’t think you can sneak them past us just because you picked Ninjas!

Zefferal: This was a very busy design. I liked a lot of what I saw, but far too often I had to reread a card twice before I figured out what it actually did. Your ninjas felt ninja-y, and things were on-color and generally rare appropriate, but there were a lot of comprehension demands while going through it. Next time check your word counts, and make sure that you make sacrifices to elegance and clarity, the payoff is worth it.

P for Pizza - Ninjas
Poisonous Weapon
Target attacking creature gets +1/+2 and gains deathtouch until end of turn. If that creature is a Ninja, it also gains first strike until end of turn.
Zefferal: That’s interesting, although the design of this card makes me wonder why it grants a stat boost at all, let alone one with a higher toughness. Just granting deathtouch without ninja bonus mode creates the assumption that the creature won’t survive the interaction, and granting first strike to the deathtouchy ninja means that, unless the ninja has 0 power, its own power is enough and it should survive the combat. I would drop the stat boost and a mana, and also the attacking clause. It also needs to be renamed, if only because this sounds more equipment than combat trick. This is a strong first stab (if you will), but definitely needs to be cleaned up a bit to be a competitor.

Koshito, Concealed Hideout
Legendary Land (R)
Koshito, Concealed Hideout enters the battlefield tapped.
Ninjas you control get +0/+1 as long as it’s your turn.
T, Pay 1 life: Add U, R, or B.
1, Return an untapped land you control to your hand: Put Koshito, Concealed Hideout onto the battlefield tapped.
Zefferal: Ninjutsu on a land. That’s fun enough to at least develop a little bit.

Inanimate: Wow! A combat trick on a land just doesn’t seem right to me, especially since this combat trick is both narrow and frustrating, and after it’s played its role as a trick, it just serves to complicate math. As a land, it’s very easy for the opponent to lose track of it in your lands as well, forgetting about the passive toughness boost. I love the idea of a land you can ‘flash in’ for Ninjas, but this isn’t the right effect for it. I’d consider a spell land, except the gameplay on those isn’t the best either. The ‘flashing in’ line is definitely your more interesting bit, so consider trying to simplify the card and focus on what makes it intriguing. But currently, this is my least favorite card in your collection.
Hanoke, the Shadow
Legendary Creature - Human Ninja (R)
Whenever you cast a spell during combat, draw a card.
You may cast Ninja creature spells as though they had flash.
Inanimate: And this, tied with Trick of the Three Phantoms, is my favorite. Both are exactly suited for Ninjas, and feel perfectly right in the Ninja tribe, more than any other tribe. I love the trigger here and the granting of flash to Ninja creatures, both excellent, flavorful, and fun. This would make a great commander, useful beyond Ninja decks, but super useful in Ninja decks. This is great tribal design.

Zefferal: Isn’t this kind of a nonbo with Ninjutsu? Every existing black-border ninja has an ability that lets/rewards you for explicitly not casting them during combat.
Inanimate: Ninjas were a good choice for this challenge, and bringing back Ninjutsu is a solid choice. While you had plenty of flavorful designs, like Mistshroud, Kabuki Paints, and Synchronized Silence, you also had a lot of designs that either left me uninspired or confused. Shiro, for example, was a real whiff of a design I felt. Overall, I felt where you did really well was in exploring old design space, and where you did poorly was trying new things. That’s not terrible, but it’s not what the GDS would be looking for.

By the way, you broke the rules of this challenge a few times, once by bringing back both Kicker and Ninjutsu, and another time with Shadowshroud Sadist not caring about Ninjas. While some contestants in the GDS3 had broken these rules as well, those times were a lot less flagrant. (Vehicles sure seem evergreen, and making a token is pretty close to caring about that type.) Adhering to the rules is important! Don’t think you can sneak them past us just because you picked Ninjas!

Zefferal: Great submission. I liked each of these cards, and you planted the seeds of a strong and resonant mechanical identity in a few different ways. I have some very small concern that a Dimir tribe with emphasis on flash will play too similarly to Lorwyn era faeries, which was overpowered and incredibly unfun to go up against, but there seems to be enough variety here that Ninja’s won’t necessarily have to play that way, and Play Design will hopefully develop them such that they won’t be too overpowered or ubiquitous in their format. Well done. I did not see a ninja submission this evocative coming.

Ben 10 - Gorgons

Inanimate: Unfortunately, you were disqualified for not following the rules. Each card in your submission had to mechanically care about Gorgons. While in the GDS3 Ari Nieh got dinged because at least he produced a tribe token, cards like Flay and Poison Fangs aren’t tribal at all. Many designers chafed under the constraints of the challenge, but they served an important purpose: determining if designers can operate under tight conditions, such as filling holes in a set, while producing cards that feel natural and organic, where nobody could guess they’d been made to exacting requirements. Failing to meet this constraint means you failed to design to the challenge entirely, unfortunately.

Reuben: You have a number of designs leaning on top down gorgon flavor, as well a some good actual gorgon designs. However you missed an important part of the challenge where every card has to care mechanically about the tribe in some manner. Making sure you know the restraints and goals of your design task is exceedingly important to make sure your not wasting your time. For your next challenge be very careful to follow the rules so you can let your elegant designs shine.

Zefferal: What they said re following rules. A recurring theme among the black-centric tribal submissions is the over reliance on “this is how this tribe kills your creatures” on more than a few cards. My suggestion is to do more than two of those, no matter how creative or on theme. Designers get that black cards can kill creatures, so you don't need to beat them over the head with it. Instead, what else can you tell us about your tribe? Gorgons kill things. All players get that. What else can they do mechanically that makes them less one note and more deep as a tribe? I'd be interested in exploration of what makes these Gorgons white.

Andrew Evans - Plants
Vineweft Blessing 
Put a +1/+1 counter on target creature. If you control a Plant, draw a card.
Zefferal: That’s a cool common, and arguably on color, but this reads so much like a green card. It’s definitely not breaking anything in white, but I kind of want it to be hybrid GW.
Verdant Amulet
Artifact (M)
T: Create a 1/1 green Plant creature token.
2GW, T: Put X +1/+1 counters on target Plant, where X is the greatest toughness among Plants you control.
Zefferal: That's my kind of artifact. If I could change one thing, it would be to put the counters on any creature, while still tracking your toughest Plant. It makes it a much more self contained Tammy card, while still asking you to consider the tribal impact. I'm a fan.
Inanimate: For a tribe like Plants, I have to see that they can be something other than stalling and grindy. I’d have liked to see a more engaging Plant card at common, rather than two relatively defensive cards, but at uncommon we had Phytolith and Blooming Meadow, at rare Flourishing Glade, and at mythic Verdant Amulet - all of these promise some pretty exciting gameplay that pushes towards action at some point, which is great. On the other hand, designs like Sunseed Reclaimer really just don’t seem fun to me, and emphasize the worst expectations of Plants: grindy gameplay.
What I liked most about your submission was the remarkably clever idea of caring about a quality of a tribe rather than sheer numbers of the tribe. Each of these Plant cards works perfectly well on their own, but you still want to make a Plant deck to maximize the potential of these cards. This is tribal design at its finest, I feel. The core concept of caring about toughness of your tribe was where you truly excelled, and all of your best designs emerged from that idea. Overall, despite the flaws in this submission, I think your Plants really grew on me, and I’ve love to see your ideas of caring about qualities of a tribe blossom into something more. Great work.

Zefferal: I'm a lorwyn fan, so toughness matters on plantlife that isn't treefolk is a tough sell in me. Overall, very few of these designs made me think that plants would be worth digging too deep with. Inanimate’s point about tribal this way being more modular is well taken, but few of these especially read tribal or novel enough to overlook that central part of the challenge.

Cosmos - Noble Creatures
Grand Spire
Land (C)
T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. You may only use this mana to cast noble creature spells. (Noble creatures are Advisors, Knights, and creatures with converted mana cost 4 or greater.)
Reuben: Not at all a common. This only conditionally makes mana, references converted mana cost, and provides all 5 colors. Advisors not being a standalone tribe is a good choice, however jumping on the grouping here is bending, if not breaking the rules of the challenge.
Finally since knights and advisors and mostly in BW (with an additional scattering in blue), is this dedicated mana fixing really what the “tribe” is looking for?
His Wicked Majesty
Legendary Creature - Human (M)
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control the most noble creatures of any player, gain control of target land for as long as ~ remains on the battlefield.
Zefferal: Very flavorful, but not especially powerful for a mythic, and definitely not especially fun. Spike is going to look at the mana cost and the incidental ETB effect and pass. Jenny will feel railroaded by this card, and the payoff doesn’t particularly lend itself to interesting outcomes. Commander players won’t find much utility in this as a commander. I think the only players who might take an interest in this would be griefer Tammies, but if that’s your audience, double down on that and make this feel like a mythic, even if it’s just a miserable one to be facing down.

Inanimate: Well, you definitely cheated. Noble, as a batching keyword, is a new keyword. But even more than that, you also included exert, which really pushed it. Then, even more than that, you included many cards that either didn’t care about nobility, explicitly hated on noble creatures, or hated on non-noble creatures. The former and latter violate the rules of the challenge, while hating on noble creatures violates the spirit. I think you had a very clever idea with this challenge, using batching to pair two narrow tribes together and bridge them with a much larger spread of creatures to make it work, and that’s the kind of innovation I can admire. But moving as far as you did beyond the constraints of the challenge shows a disregard for the intent behind the challenge, which is troubling.
In addition, many of your designs simply did not come across as fun. Lord of the Exchequer is alright as a single card for the people who like that sort of thing, but put together with His Wicked Majesy, The gibbering Masses, and Madam Guillotine, it becomes pretty clear that your concept of this set is going to feature a lot of unfun gameplay. Playtesting these cards and seeing whether they make the game better for both players is important. The best cards are fun to play with and against, producing better games of Magic. These make non-games.

Zefferal: Batching as a tribe was a novel approach, which unfortunately fell a little flat. I think in trying to capture a feudal feel, you ended up creating cards that perpetuate unfun game states. Also, punishing your opponent for not playing enough of your “tribe” isn’t really a tribal identity. Tribal mechanics should bolster the tribe, not penalize non-tribe members. Tribal cards are baseline Tammy cards (some exceptions apply), and cards that punish for not playing the “right cards” are Spike. What makes a creature a noble beyond you just telling us that they are? What mechanical hook can you latch onto that makes a player feel like there creatures are selected by higher powers to govern over others? There are mechanical ideas to tease out there. Find them, and you’ll make a much more compelling (and more importantly, fun) tribe.

Reuben: Advisors as a choice for this challenge I think would of been a terrible choice, as advisors really want to support other tribes, not each other. You seem to have identified this and deftly avoided direct advisor tribal via your innovative batching technique. Unfortunately, it does go against the rules of the challenge and in the end you may of been better avoiding advisors all together. Putting aside the tribal choice itself, your card designs had some fun top-down flavor such as the hilarious creature type on Gibbering Masses. Unfortunately the actual gameplay really didn’t live up, often using unfun mechanics such as land destruction, giving rewards that the “tribe” didn’t seem to want, and generally locking players out of games without actually ending them. I think next time you need to playtest your designs more and focus on the making the cards mechanically fun.

Eric Chan Tai Kong - Dwarves
Glodo, Ancient Dwarven King 
Legendary Creature - Dwarf (R)
Whenever a attacking dwarf you control becomes blocked by one or more creatures, you may tap an untapped dwarf you control that isn't attacking. If you do, that creature also attacks the defending player and is also blocked by creatures blocking the other dwarf.
Zefferal: I genuinely don’t know if the rules can handle designating a creature as attacking after blockers are declared. My best guess is not. Can this be retemplated to actually work, and if not, is it worth rewriting some fundamental combat rules for? I think a triggered fight instead of jumping into combat probably accomplishes most of the same thing. The timing of damage definitely works differently, but it does work, and carries the same general flavor. The card creates a tremendous amount of on-board complexity in a deck that optimizes it, which is ok for a rare, but also has a tendency to create difficult to parse (and slow) games which is something to keep an eye on in playtesting..

Meneas, Summit of Prosperity
Land (R)
Meneas enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add R
Tap an untapped dwarf you control: Put a mining counter on Meneas. Activate this ability only when you could play a sorcery.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if CARDNAME has 15 or more mining counters on it, you win the game.

Inanimate: This reminds me of a much more clever and subtle Helix Pinnacle. While Helix Pinnacle flat out doesn’t let anybody touch it, Meneas instead cleverly uses being a land to limit the amount of spells that can hit it, while still being targetable in case of degeneracy. Nice. While this win-condition is a little stall-y, it leaves plenty of room for your opponent to interact with it by removing Dwarves, tapping them, forcing you to have to block with them, and so on. I do have a few quibbles: one, as a land, the counters will end up being finicky if you try to tap it, and the lack of a mana cost will make this quite scary developmentally. Two, being legendary doesn’t mean you can’t run four copies, and it’s not like you want multiple copies of this in play anyway. Three, the rest of your cards are Dwarves that really want to be attacking, but this and Remnants both want you to be tapping Dwarves. That’s sending me some mixed signals. Overall, though, I think this is a good start to a fun win-condition.

Inanimate: Like some other designers this week, I felt you had a lot of gems, but near the end I saw quite a few designs that ended up being fool’s gold. Your lower rarities are really pushing that Dwarves are resilient attackers who can survive combat, sneak past blockers, or get stronger for dying gloriously. Yet your higher rarities start asking me to hold back Dwarves, tapping them for other effects, and one of them even directly conflicts with the goal of Dwarves to win by combat damage. Your commons and uncommons were a unified front, but when you reached the higher rarities, you dug too deep to find another vein of design space, and you failed to strike gold. It was also clear that you were at your best when you were designing at your safest, and when you tried to be novel, you whiffed. These are common issues with the designers this week, and it’s important to learn from: balancing a cohesive identity, while not getting samey, and producing fun and printable designs that are also novel, is very hard. You did quite well given the circumstances, but unfortunately, these failings undermined your Dwarves.

Zefferal: There were a lot of one-off tributes to early Magic Dwarf mechanics in your lower rarities. Unless one of those mechanical takes is going to be the core identity of this set’s take on the tribe, there wasn’t much reason to do that. Just making callbacks to the way things were done back in the day doesn’t tell me anything about your tribe’s identity, their mechanical heart, or why I would play them over any other tribe. Sometimes submissions were too focused on one idea, but others, like this, didn’t have enough focus, other than capturing common Dwarf tropes and making Time Spiral-esque references to the type. Your winner here is easily Dwarven Battle Hymn. Figure out what makes that card fantastic and extrapolate from there.

SS - Crabs
Frothing Bottomfeeder
Creature – Crab (U)
Other Crabs you control with toughness 3 or greater have deathtouch
Inanimate: Do we really need to be looking for Crabs with toughness 3 or greater? There are only two Crabs with toughness less than 3 in all of Magic. Really, in general, I can’t imagine this being dreadfully dangerous if it granted deathtouch to all Crabs. That toughness rider just stands out to me badly.

Zefferal: Nothing much to say other than Frothing Bottomfeeder is my new favorite insult.

The Crustacean Abomination
Legendary Creature – Crab (M)
Crabs you control have skulk
Whenever a Crab you control deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card. If you do, discard a card.
2UB, Exile two creature cards from any graveyard: Scry 1, then put a +1/+1 counter on each Crab you control.

Reuben: Ahhh Skulk, a mechanic that is unpopular, difficult to design for, and not very impactful, yet I still see it again and again. It makes a bit of sense for the low power crab tribal at least.
The middle ability is a good tribal bonus, however the activated ability is potentially a color pie bend with a UB card putting mass +1/+1 countersbeing uncharacteristic.
Finally the scry 1 is very tacked on, especially when you have so much filtering already from the looting.
Inanimate: Like some other designers, you missed the restrictions of the challenge to always specifically care about Crabs, with a few of your cards getting too cute by caring about the greatest toughness instead, or simply making Crabs without caring about them. Ari Nieh got dinged for just one card that was very close to the intent of the challenge; you have three cards that failed to meet the requirements, which leaves you in a pinch, and leaves me feeling quite crabby. After fumbling with Rock Scraper and Frothing Bottomfeeder, I was hoping to see you claw your way back out, but alas, I wasn’t a fan of your higher rarity cards either. I think, like other designers, you had a good idea to expand the definition of tribal, but you lost sight of both the challenge’s restrictions and the complexity and cohesiveness of your cards.

Zefferal: You really doubled down on that whole toughness matters thing. It made a lot of your cards feel a bit repetitive. Remember, the goal of a challenge like this is not to show every crab card in the set, but rather show enough to allow your judges and/or design team to contemplate/create their own contributions to the tribe. Show me more tide counters like you have in Tidal Totem instead of the sixth variation on toughness matters. Your cards were generally well designed, if in need of some playtesting and paring, but your overall submission needed some more variety and to tell me more about what to expect from you as a designer.

bobbbyyy - Birds
Falconeer’s Stratagem
Enchantment (U)
Untapped non-bird creatures you control get +0/+1
Tapped bird creatures you control get +1/+0

Reuben: Is the tapped/untapped clause really necessary in addition to the bird/non-bird clause? It is a lot of complexity even if the end gameplay is a good fit for the blue/white fliers decks that want to gum up the board on the ground and win in the air.
Krazranian Bird Keeper
Creature Human Soldier (R)
When Krazranian Bird keeper enters the battlefield create two 1/1 white bird tokens
If you control [2 || 4 || 6] or more birds, birds you control have [vigilance || hexproof || +2/+2] and all lower options

Inanimate: I remember when you introduced this mechanic for a previous Weekend Art Challenge! I see you’re still trying to make it work. This indeed reduces the wordiness of the card considerably, but it doesn’t reduce the complexity of the card, as players have remember in what order the keywords are granted, and track that for each of their birds, then run the numbers on the +2/+2 bonus… My worry with this mechanic is that while it reduces the density of the text, it doesn’t reduce the actual comprehension complexity and gameplay complexity of the text. Abbreviated effects don’t make them simpler in practice.  Moving beyond the treatment, I do like granting hexproof at 4, to help players reach the dream while also not making this too hard to stop, and this card certainly looks exciting.

Inanimate: bobbbyyy, you had some darling designs here, but you played it entirely too safe. I know the restrictions of this challenge were an albatross around the neck of most designers, and creating novel and ingenious designs under such conditions is difficult. Yet that’s precisely what the GDS is designed to do: to find the designers who can excel and innovate even with incredible constraints and short time frames. Where you did your best was with designs like Bird Cage and Kraznian Bird Keeper, where I could really see your passion for unusual designs that nonetheless feel right. I wanted to see more designs like that, ones that might ruffle a few feathers, but show that you could rise up to the challenge, rather than enter a tailspin.

Zefferal: A strong submission, in that there very few clear missteps for me to pick on. The birds had a strong mechanical identity that carried throughout. My big gripe is that there wasn’t enough going on to make me say, oh that’s cool. There were definitely functional designs, but not enough innovation or exploration.

Reuben: I think you did a mix of some very safe designs and some very unusual ones. While your more exotic designs were not always clear hits, they definitely made me reconsider the core tension that bird tribal has where it so often just turns into flying tribal. You also showcased a good understanding of the gameplay style the tribe wanted but often overburdened yourself with complexity of finicky designs that needed a bit of extra polish. Overall there is enough here to make me interested even as I believe you can rise to new heights.
The End
Zefferal: Those were a blast to read through. Exploring tribal designs can always be fun, and there was a lot of as-of-yet unexplored design space teased at here. Well done, everybody. We had some very strong submissions, but my top 3 for the week go to Taresivon’s Germs, P For Pizza’s Ninjas, and Jenesis’s Plants. Each of these conveyed a strong mechanical heart to the tribe while still demonstrating depth of play beyond the clear strategy.

Thank you again to Reuben for being our guest judge for this challenge. As always, you had some great insight and feedback for our participants, and we appreciate all the hard work you put into the custom magic community.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the feedback and hard work y'all did on this.

    Interestingly, I've done so much iterating on my initial concepts for the cephalids that I barely recognize what I submitted anymore. I think what I learned from this is that attaching a particular play style to a race is not the same as making a tribe. As I'm iterating a set concept that brings my janky blue-black "play spells from all over the place" theme, it's still associated with the cephalids but not tied to them in a tribal sense. And so it's appropriately less dependent on creatures.