Monday, November 9, 2020

The Great Redesigner Search: Booster

Welcome to the final chapter of The Great Redesigner Search, a series where I redo all of my GDS3 entries. This week was the booster pack challenge, or as I like to think of it, a thinly-veiled version of the "design a bunch of commons" challenge. As always, you can read my original entries and judge commentary here.

Despite being the one who suggested this to Maro, I never submitted a top 3 list of priorities for either the creature type challenge or this one. I don't quite recall why I didn't do it for creature types, but for the booster challenge, Khans of Tarkir was such an easy choice for me that I wanted to get it as quickly as possible.

That said, picking Khans had some downside, notably that the set was so tightly designed it was difficult to find room to innovate. My hypothetical backup choice of original Theros would have allowed for a lot more creativity. That said, playing it safe was reasonable from my position of mostly 2nd place finishes, and also one of my playtesters bought an entire box of Khans boosters because he was excited I chose that set, so perhaps it was my best option.


I picked Forest for my basic land slot because I liked this Forest art. 

Shearing Speed

My original version of Shearing Speed used the activated ability to grant haste, and several judges commented that they would prefer that the card give haste innately and have the activated ability be useful in later turns. I split the difference and made the activated ability give really crummy firebreathing, mollified by the fact that the creature has first strike too. Look, it's still better than Firehoof Cavalry.

Ainok Companion

I was really careful about making "threshold 0" tribal cards in the creature type round, so I don't know why I goofed on this one and required you to have a second Warrior at common. That said, the fix is small and easy, and I still think a vanilla 2/3 for 4 is low enough, even in a set with Morph, that the ability can get better without an increase in mana cost.

Also, it's a Dog now!

Taigam's Studies

A rare completely unchanged card. I like how it looks like a Sultai card, but it helps boost your prowess creatures by being an instant.

Aven Skytracer

I flipped the mana costs on this, so you can get a 3/4 flyer by paying three colors of mana or spend 9 mana over two turns to unmorph it. This helps get some of the commons (this is presumably a cycle) out of the crevasse of only being good in one particular archetype while still rewarding you for going into Jeskai.

Salt Road Bandit

The judges were right that being a 2/2 was too boring for that ability, so I decided to go whole hog and make it a fragile 4/1 that won't just trade off with a morph.  Call it a tribute to Kor Castigator. I'm not entirely sure about the power being 4, but 3/1 just feels crummy at 3 mana.

Tear Apart

I'm not sure if black can destroy tapped creatures anymore, but Murderous Compulsion was printed recently enough that it's reasonably safe to suggest this effect. This is based off Ken Nagle's suggestion in the judge feedback – I like how it encourages you to try to sneak around your opponent's blocker, or even throw away a chump creature to destroy their Woolly Loxodon or whatever.

Khans is notorious for having really bad removal, but I think printing this at 3 mana makes it a reasonably high pick without disrupting a mostly combat-based format. I don't know specifically if the removal was bad as an on-purpose design choice or if it was just that era of design.

Temur Forager

On the other hand, I can totally understand the concept of making bad two-drops in Khans just to make sure your morphs aren't completely outclassed before they can even hit the board. I took the rummage effect and changed it to an ETB, both to make it more in line with the ferocious effects that were in Khans and to give you a decision as to whether to play it early to trade off with morphs or later so you can get the effect.

Hidden Strength

Ken Nagle is probably right that this could just cost G.

Scouting Report

I don't know if this makes the mana fixing still too good and transform the Limited environment into a bunch of soupy five-color decks, but let's be honest, Secret Plans did that without needing any help. This makes you decide between fixing your mana and ramping.

Dragonclaw Trophy

My biggest change is switching the rarity of this card and Three-Section Staff. The banners were really not great cards in KTK draft, and if you had to play one (or, heavens forbid, multiple) to fix your mana you knew you were already in trouble. This is a proposal for weak versions of Prophetic Prism that don't make you wince when you play them. That said, 1 mana might be a little too cheap for an effect like this, particularly when it could have a knock-on effect on Pauper mana bases.

Three-Section Staff

This card was inspired by a viewing of The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, one of the classic martial arts movie masterpieces. I didn't want it to straight-up grant prowess because I thought that might raise some confusion over how stacking prowess works.

Now that it's properly at uncommon, I felt it was fine to make it essentially an onboard combat trick because it's unlikely you'll have more than one of them on the battlefield at a time.

Rite of the Rakshasa

The only EDH decks I really enjoy playing are black-based combo decks, so I would really like to make this say "whenever one or more cards leave your graveyard..." but then you could build this around looping stuff from your hand to your graveyard, and I wanted this to feel more specifically Sultai and give you a bonus for using your graveyard as a resource. I think this would be a fun card to build a draft deck around, particularly since Delve cards are still very good even without it.

Kaisham Trickster

I changed the P/T switching to the Watercourser effect so as to not run into rules management nightmares. As a bonus, this card now gets the best of both worlds – it can turtle up and play around with the five-mana-morph rule, but can also boost its own power if your opponent is foolish enough to let you connect with it. Also, being at 4 power originally helps turn on ferocious effects.

Vengeful Ancestor

Vengeful Ancestor was a last-minute addition to the set, as I was having a lot of trouble creating a fun rare that wasn't just requiring the player to jump through a bunch of hoops. I think "big splashy Outlast creature" was still a good idea, but it definitely could have used more refinement than "whatever I can throw together at 9 PM on Sunday night".

Since the new ability is unconditional exile, the Outlast cost has white and black in it.

This is the final Great Redesigner search entry, so I have a few bonus cards for you!

Bonus Card 1: Wide Whisper

This is one of the mythic rares I considered instead of Vengeful Ancestor. It's a bit more niche, but I think it's probably about as good. I like that it's very exciting and impactful with just one sentence of rules text.

Bonus Card 2: Sequester

I am very proud of the work I put in during the final round, which was an immensely stressful experience. Since the stakes were so high, I definitely panicked a bit, but I was able to stay composed and make a card that wouldn't break a format in half, but also wouldn't make people sigh when they took it out of the booster pack.

One of the big discussions about this design was the graveyard exile clause. I thought it would be easy enough to remember which creature goes back to the battlefield and which go to the graveyard by putting the battlefield creature on top of a stack, but I do respect that that won't always work out. Since Dark Ascension and Innistrad had a bunch of absurdly good flashback spells, I think the revised version is more coherent to the block themes.

Anyway, due to nerves I messed up the wording in a few places on the original card (notably, saying "owner" instead of "controller") so this revision is me being petty.

Thank you for reading this, and for reading the others if you have. If you haven't yet, check out the tag! It was nice to scratch the itch of revising cards I only had a few days to make, and I think I was able to learn some valuable design lessons from the experience. Hopefully, by GDS4, I'll be a judge!


  1. I am a bit confused by Kaisham Trickster. Is it correct in the present implementation? +1/-1?

    1. You're right. I'll make it a 4/1 if I have the time.

    2. All in all your project was a success for me. If I had the time I would love to try to give feedback on the whole series, will see if I get to.