Friday, October 8, 2021

Five Design Challenges for GDS4

Starting November 1st, I'm joining Wizards of the Coast as a designer. As a parting gift to the wonderful Goblin Artisans community, I'm leaving five design practice challenges to help you develop your skills on GDS4.

These challenges hew closely to the contents of GDS3, with a focus on designing commons and making cards that go together in an environment. These were inspired by Zach Barash's practice challenges for Hipsters of the Coast, which were very useful, and are intended to help you warm up after the GDS4 is announced. That said, there's nothing wrong with doing them now.

Because I'm pretty close to a point where I can't look at custom Magic designs, please do not post answers in the comments just to be safe. Thanks!

1. Design a two-color draft archetype for use in a premiere set. Try to choose a draft archetype that explores space that hasn’t been explored by that color combination before. You may use one deciduous mechanic. You may design up to three creatures and up to two of each noncreature card type. Design the following:

  • Three commons
  • Two uncommons
  • One rare
  • One mythic rare

2. Choose your favorite draftable Magic set. Create ten commons, two of each color, that could fit into that set. Each color should have one creature and one noncreature card. It’s okay if the common occupies a “slot” that was already taken; for example, you can design a bounce spell even if the set already has one at common.

3. Choose a premiere set prior to Ikoria. Create a legendary creature intended for use in Commander that explores a particular mechanical theme of that set, like we see in modern Commander precons. Design four cards that accompany that legendary creature, then choose four non-mythic cards from that set to include in the precon.

4. Create eight top-down cards for a set based on post-apocalyptic action movies like Mad Max. There must be two of each rarity, so two commons, two uncommons, and so on. You may design a maximum of four cards of each card type. Each color must be represented at least once (but it can be on a multicolored card). You may use one of the following deciduous mechanics: Vehicles, Treasure tokens, or Food tokens. You may not use any other deciduous mechanics.

5. You’ve been tasked with leading vision design on a Magic set that has some kind of mechanical twist, like Conspiracy, Battlebond, and Planechase. Figure out what twist you’d like this set to have, then design two commons, two uncommons, two rares, and one mythic rare that play along with the twist. You may design up to three creatures and up to two of each noncreature card type. Each color must be represented at least once (but it can be on a multicolored card). You may use any number of deciduous mechanics that don’t require extra expense to be printed, so no double-faced cards etc. 


  1. So exciting, congrats Jeremy! You’ve been a great read on the site and it’s going to be exciting what you create at Wizards!

  2. I spent the morning rereading your GDS3 submissions and I am really excited to see what you come up with now that you have the gig. Magic design has changed so much in the last few years, but your design sensibilities in GDS3 still felt good. I think you can keep the game on the right track.

    My favorite cards from the reread were Redundo (love variations on modal like this) and Dragonclaw Trophy. (filter rocks with late game effects rock!)

    Congrats on the job.

    1. I tweaked Redundo a bit for one of my articles if you didn’t see it!

      And Dragonclaw Trophy is cool but I agree with the judges that it should probably have been at common.

    2. Your tweak to Redundo is not my cup of tea. I much prefer the modal menu style to a block of text that says "If you paid this color, do this, or that color do that." Your first version told a clearer story. Creating the parameters for a modal menu of activated abilities could lead to more than a few fun designs, so getting it right here allows for other cards in the future to exist. Eli was worried it would be a lot of work for many departments for one card, but I don't see it as a one off. Kind of the like the work they did with Outlaws' Merriment. Its modal token making can be used in a lot of future designs now that they've done the leg work for the template. I really just like stuff like this.

  3. Looks like some great prompts. But I have some questions. I often feel a sense of “ah, this other idea I have can be retrofitted to fit this challenge”. Should I avoid this and how do I do so? Or is that ok for stuff like GDS?

    1. By all means, retrofit away! It's actually better if you submit things you've been iterating on for a while, and WotC won't have seen any publicly posted work anyway.

  4. Wait, there is a Great Designer Search 4?