12/22/2010 Feature: "GDS2 Episode #4: "Trading Places""

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This thread is for discussion of this Feature Article, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
This thread is for discussion of this Feature Article, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Loucks moved on? That cannot possibly be right. 
This thread is for discussion of this Feature Article, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.

Loucks moved on? That cannot possibly be right. 

Yeah, Loucks sounded like a goner too.  However, I am thinking they are wanting to just get rid of the plyares on the lower tier of the GDS2 pic.

At least they don't have to design over Christmas.
It appears that my opinions are almost polar opposites of what the judges' have said, even though we picked up most of the same issues with the cards. I liked most things the judges didn't like, and they panned all the things I did like. But then again, my opinions were polar opposites of just about everyone in the thread too, so at least I'm consistent. \:>

Where I'm from, it's currently summer, and water goes down the plughole the correct way - clockwise.

*Raises hand to be Antipodean Guest Judge*



Also, is the "logline game" necessary? It seems to me to be a game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey.

Jon Loucks goes on again. He must have bribed the judges, because he has proven that he is a terrible designer over and over and over and over again.

There must be some kind of favoritism going on here. Congratulations Loucks. You get another chance even though you are the worst designer in the competition. And you get the chance because someone likes you. 
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/0a90721d221e50e5755af156c179fe51.jpg?v=90000) Check out Ars Arcanum, my stat based series on Magic Limited, over at PureMTGO. Here is a link to the archive: http://goo.gl/Zvh6Q

I did not expect that; reading the judges' near-evisceration of Jon L. I was sure he was the one on the chopping block this week; Jon W. didn't get comments anywhere near as harsh.

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

At least they don't have to design over Christmas.



Anyone who's really serious will spend this whole time doing the assignment (or cultivating their wiki community.)
MaRo's closing comments on each contestant seem to provide a pretty good hint about their elimination prospects.  Maybe it's just a matter of perspective, and this pattern would disappear if I weren't reading Fleisher->Woodward.  Last week, he told Loucks to get rid of Illuminate.  This week, he says Loucks needs to "start realizing [his] potential."

Do they even know who they're eliminating when they write the closing impressions?  Does MaRo's impression just carry the most weight?  I don't know, but even after the thrashing Loucks got, those final words had me waiting to see who would mess up worse.

Woodward got a bit of a raw deal this week.  That's not to say I think the judges made the wrong call with what they had; the alien hybrids were pretty bizarre and I the alt-win cycle was just a weaker retread of Battle of Wits & friends, as cool as the red one was.  Still, I feel like Devon Rule's world has the most ambiguous flavor of all eight finalists'.  True, he (she?) has reached the finals and passed two eliminations with it him/herself, but I imagine it's one of those things that makes a lot more sense in your head than when you try to put it on paper.  Okay, black has the gold/mercantilism thing.  Now how does flameweaving-turned-to-combat magic differ from normal fire magic on a mechanical level?  One road to success this week was taking a mechanic to which the judges had reacted positively (Dig, Reflect, Incarnate, Requiem) and expand it into a cycle.  Gold was undoubtedly the best single mechanic out of Devon's submission, but defined from inception as being exclusive to black.

It was a disadvantage built into the challenge- six worlds, they can't be equally rich design space.  We can't say if different pairings would or wouldn't have seen different results.

Anyway, I haven't been following the GDS community hub, but is the free submission process closed?  That is, for the next challenge are the contestants stuck with whatever has been submitted so far for designing their perfect booster?
RW01 – Overcome
[Starfall Omen
community.wizards.com/magicthegathering/...]
3WW
Sorcery
Preeminence – Destroy all creatures with power less than X, where X is the highest power among creatures you control.



RW01 [Overcome]. So I destroy all my creatures and all but your biggest creatures? The preeminence mechanic seems poorly used on this card. In fact, it seems to be mostly a negative as it guarantees all your creatures' destruction. And as Ken points out, this and the black one are "less than X" making them not parallel with the rest of the cycle.


The "less than X" clause specifically allows your largest creature(s) to survive.  MaRo spends two sentences explaining why this card should say "less than X", then criticizes it for saying "less than X".

In other words, printing the card:

Face Punch
B
Sorcery
Punch target player in the face. That player loses 4 life.



puts pressure on players to play Magic without having a face. It's too fun to have a face.



Once again, Ken displays his ignorance of the rules.

A player without a face would still be a legal target for this spell, since it only requires a "target player", not a "target player with a face".  The player would not be punched in the face (since that is an impossible action), but would still lose 4 life.

In fact, even if you targeted a player with a face, you wouldn't be able to punch him or her in the face, because local, state, and federal laws override anything in Magic.
In other words, printing the card:

Face Punch
B
Sorcery
Punch target player in the face. That player loses 4 life.



puts pressure on players to play Magic without having a face. It's too fun to have a face.



Once again, Ken displays his ignorance of the rules.

A player without a face would still be a legal target for this spell, since it only requires a "target player", not a "target player with a face".  The player would not be punched in the face (since that is an impossible action), but would still lose 4 life.



I'm pretty sure only the most hardcore of Spikes will think that "not getting punched in the face but 4 direct damage for 1cc" is worse than the other way around =p

Jon Loucks goes on again. He must have bribed the judges, because he has proven that he is a terrible designer over and over and over and over again.

There must be some kind of favoritism going on here. Congratulations Loucks. You get another chance even though you are the worst designer in the competition. And you get the chance because someone likes you. 



In the end, this is not a "who is the best designer contest" (although it is presented as one) but a "who would we like as intern contest". This could skew judgement.

Also, remember that judgement is a culmination of all weeks. Jonathon still had his "preview week top submission" buffer, but I get fromt he comments that this is definitely spent now.

Also, is the "logline game" necessary? It seems to me to be a game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey.



I've seen people posting the actual loglines from the magic sets of the last few years (on the boards, on the wiki, I don't remember). That should give some direction, and also shows how far off the current submitted ones are.
 

In the end, this is not a "who is the best designer contest" (although it is presented as one) but a "who would we like as intern contest". This could skew judgement.

Also, remember that judgement is a culmination of all weeks. Jonathon still had his "preview week top submission" buffer, but I get fromt he comments that this is definitely spent now.





This is a good point. Jonathan comes up with some decent ideas (illuminate was probably the worst one, and I could see illuminate 1 or 2 being on a couple rares in the set. His cards are pretty good generally, even if he doesn't know exactly where the line he shouldn't cross is. If he were actually hired the other designers would be able to keep his ideas in check.

 

In the end, this is not a "who is the best designer contest" (although it is presented as one) but a "who would we like as intern contest". This could skew judgement.

Also, remember that judgement is a culmination of all weeks. Jonathon still had his "preview week top submission" buffer, but I get fromt he comments that this is definitely spent now.





This is a good point. Jonathan comes up with some decent ideas (illuminate was probably the worst one, and I could see illuminate 1 or 2 being on a couple rares in the set. His cards are pretty good generally, even if he doesn't know exactly where the line he shouldn't cross is. If he were actually hired the other designers would be able to keep his ideas in check.




That's all fine and good, except that Loucks has demonstrated time and time again that he is basically incapable of collaboration. His idea of collaboration is: "Here's what we're doing. Design some cards like this." If he was on an actual design team where he was not the lead, I think his brain would asplode. Either he would just be unable to contribute because he would be quiet rather than take control of the situation, or he would foolishly attempt to take control of the entire design process. The dude has demonstrated absolutely no understanding of give and take.
This is the second week in a row that I felt MaRo should actually read the cards (correctly) before he critiques them.

Honestly I am dissapointed. I suppose everyone is only human, but I think we also want our MTG head designer to maintain an air of infallibility.

edit: really looking forward to the next challenge.
Anyway, I haven't been following the GDS community hub, but is the free submission process closed?  That is, for the next challenge are the contestants stuck with whatever has been submitted so far for designing their perfect booster?

The wiki is still open and I'm sure everyone would continue to be happy to receive ideas, feedback, or cards. My page for Wodotha is here and the finalist hub is here. I've set up a feedback page and a card suggestion page, but I'm also happy for designs to go anywhere.

If you haven't contributed before, you'll need to join the group before you can edit. The formatting can be tricky to figure out- there's a guide, but my main suggestion would be, when typing out cards, put a colon at the beginning of each line so it automatically indents and generates line breaks for you.

I'm excited about this challenge. Nearly two weeks for one pack seems like a luxury compared to the previous rounds, but the intimidating part is that it needs a flawless execution now and not one that's rough around the edges.

Many thanks to everyone who's been contributing!
Wow, i'm sad to see Jon go. Golamo was one of the few worlds with a very strong mechanical identity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nothing much to say on the judging. Brady was awesome, though would have made sense sooner in the competition when people were still trying to flesh out thier worlds. (I actually expected Doug because he has been on alot of design teams recently)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As for this week's challange. It's pretty interesting. I was expecting more cards since the designers have a longer time to design. But i guess that means each of the fifteen cards will need to be flawless.

I don't know if designers actually sit down and create the "perfect booster" but it's an interesting thought experiment none-the-less. (Kind of like the textless Shadowmoor booster that was previewed showing off the Hybridness of Shadowmoor)

* I also have a strange feeling that Jarvis will be a guest judge next time.
… and then, the squirrels came.
About "destroy target noncreature permanent":

MR: CG01 [Bury Nuisance].This is another effect that we traditionally do at uncommon, but I could see pushing it down.



CBD: (I also don't want green to have common planeswalker removal, although that's beyond my purview.)



Recent sets have had Primal Command, Woodfall Primus and Terastodon, and then Rootgrapple and Mold Shambler. Actually no uncommons at all (Chain of Acid from long ago is the only one)

Another instance where the designer's view differs from the players' perception. (There aren't that many but I am surprised there are any =)

(Like about land destruction in common and a mechanic on 2 cards max)
Anyone else notice that all the eliminations have been from the bottom row?

I don't think anything sinister is happening, but it's a bit odd. (Perhaps something to do with people only submitting cards to the first few projects)
… and then, the squirrels came.
Anyone else notice that all the eliminations have been from the bottom row?

I don't think anything sinister is happening, but it's a bit odd. (Perhaps something to do with people only submitting cards to the first few projects)

There were far more people designing for Deadsands than for the other participants, that's not the issue.
Nagle needs to gush a little more on the Titans.  I couldn't tell his unrequitted love for them in the article enough. 

I'm also saddened that he feels Mythic must have "must get a playset" cards.  Ship him to marketing, keep him out of my design team.
Anyone else notice that all the eliminations have been from the bottom row?

I don't think anything sinister is happening, but it's a bit odd. (Perhaps something to do with people only submitting cards to the first few projects)

There were far more people designing for Deadsands than for the other participants, that's not the issue.



That's true. I forgot that the second to last person was second. I guess it's just happen stance.

Nagle needs to gush a little more on the Titans.  I couldn't tell his unrequitted love for them in the article enough. 



Unless i'm mistaken, the Titains are the only mythic cycle. But Ken is a young designer, he doesn't really have the depth of card design than Maro or Brian. It's not surprising he'd return to the same examples over and over again.

I'm also saddened that he feels Mythic must have "must get a playset" cards.  Ship him to marketing, keep him out of my design team.



Rares sell sets. Mythic rares sell sets in a big way. Part of being a designer is making your set marketable (Which is the whole point of the loglines, which is the whole point of the competition).
… and then, the squirrels came.
Unless i'm mistaken, the Titains are the only mythic cycle.


You are mistaken.


  1. Ajani Goldmane, Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Chandra Nalaar, Garruk Wildspeaker.

  2. Rafiq of the Many, Sharuum the Hegemon, Sedris, the Traitor King, Kresh the Bloodbraided, Mayael the Anima.

  3. Jenara, Asura of War, Sen Triplets, Thraximundar, Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund, Uril, the Miststalker.

  4. Baneslayer Angel, Sphinx Ambassador, Xathrid Demon, Bogardan Hellkite, Protean Hydra.

  5. Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Tezzeret the Seeker, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Sarkhan Vol, Ajani Vengeant. (This one is the loosest since one card is from the next set and the Colors don't match up well, but there's one Planeswalker for each Shard here).




Your cycles four and five are a bit questionable, but you missed the cycle of Empyrial Archangel, Sphinx Sovereign, Prince of Thralls, Hellkite Overlord, and Godsire.

Great Designer Search 2 Finalist - If you're interested in getting involved, check out my Wiki Page.
They say you only have one chance to make a good first impression. For this Design Challenge I am going to give each of you the chance to create the best first impression you can.


Jeepers, that sounds like a line from these Saw movies.
Sad to see Jonathan go, though I'm not sure I disagree with the Judges

I do think he got a bit shafted world-wise, though.

Bringing in a creative guy seems like a great guest judge... but why do it on the one where they don't get to show off their own flavor?!

EDIT: I was similarly saddened to see Ken so blantantly push the "mythic rares are for money" angle.  Remember when they were supposed to be the splashy, flavorful, Legendary cards, and not a list of the top tournament rares?

His point about the cycles is valid, of course, but you know why people like the Titans?  Because they're disgustingly good!!  Not because they're super cool or flavorful or splashy.  Also I would rather have the "chained" guys than the Titans.  They were pretty sick from a development standpoint.
Magic Judge Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Rules Theory and Templating: "They may be crazy, but they're good." --Matt Tabak, Rules Manager*
Seeing Mr. Nagle cackle about how great expensive Mythics are is damned annoying.  Yes, you can make Mythics into the best cards in the format, and people will buy Mythics.  (Well, until they quit playing, which is probably where we end up eventually in this regime.)  Good job.  (Did you know that cost was a negative pressure on people who want to acquire Baneslayer Angels?)

Sad thing is, I thought Mr. Woodward had one of the strongest submissions this week, if not the outright best.  MaRo wanted to see weaponized utopia?  Versatility is the name of the game - It's ploughshares to swords, all around.  Mr. Woodward delivered on that.  He gives us a common cycle that is a set of tools being put to different uses, some warlike, some not.  He gives us a distinct and interesting cycle of uncommons that really distinguishes the invaders from the natives, and gives them a powerful flavor push.  Then, he truly gives us "Weaponized Utopia" at Rare, improving on the loose Odyssey cycle of alternate win conditions.

But hey.  I guess that was too subtle for the judges to catch, and he's out.  Subtle interactions and complexity are BAD.  Flashy stuff that dazzles little children?  GOOD.
Rares sell sets. Mythic rares sell sets in a big way. Part of being a designer is making your set marketable (Which is the whole point of the loglines, which is the whole point of the competition).


Does it really? I would like to see a real study on that.

Personally, it's things like Mythic Rares that stop me from buying card games. I like the random nature of a booster pack, as it's like opening a mini present. But once I've opened a couple and realize that I have a pretty small chance of getting what I want (and enough of what I want), I give up on a set.

I've given up on other card games for reasons like that, when I was a kid and today.
Rares sell sets. Mythic rares sell sets in a big way. Part of being a designer is making your set marketable (Which is the whole point of the loglines, which is the whole point of the competition).


Does it really? I would like to see a real study on that.

Personally, it's things like Mythic Rares that stop me from buying card games. I like the random nature of a booster pack, as it's like opening a mini present. But once I've opened a couple and realize that I have a pretty small chance of getting what I want (and enough of what I want), I give up on a set.

I've given up on other card games for reasons like that, when I was a kid and today.



Sure it makes money. It's the industry standard. Wotc didn't decide to do Mythic rares on a whim, they saw the figures and went for it.

You have to realize that the vast majority of boosters are bought and opened by the person who's going to use it. Having mythics gives people a random surprise that keeps them comming back. It's the same principal lotteries work by, "give people rewards in unpredictable intervals and they'll repeat the action more often".

Therefore Mythics have to be extra sexy to work.
… and then, the squirrels came.
Wow, Jonathan Woodward got the shaft.  Yes, his submission was really weak, but at least he was trying to give some direction for Utopia.  Many of the other contestants were just fleshing out well received ideas.  Utopia is easily the most bland world; even Devon has problems realizing his vision for the world.  How do you design cards for a peaceful world in a game about combat?  Whoever received Utopia was going to be at a severe disadvantage.

Loucks should've been cut this week.  Epiloth seemed to be developing away from the "big creature matter" theme, evolving into a much more rounded set.  However, Loucks' submission was a complete step backwards for Epiloth.  Also, who designs a vanilla cycle for a contest testing your design skills? That's a slap in the face to all of those who didn't make it to the final 8.

Also, I felt like Shawn's submission was really weak.  The shackled legends were a mistake.  Anyone can design obviously broken legendary creatures (is stifle being reprinted in the set?).  The worst thing is their flavor though.  Why are there massive 6/6s and 8/8s with flying underground?   If they are shackled, how do they fly?  And most importantly, why the f&*$ is a giant tree in handcuffs underground?  If this was a novel, it would probably be one of the worst fantasy novels ever (which is saying a lot).
Loucks is still in it because MaRo sees far more potential in him than Loucks is showing.  And that's perfectly fine, there's no reason why MaRo can't give him another chance if he thinks that the qualities he wants are there.  But I believe that this is was the last challenge where he skates by on what MaRo thinks he "could" do, the other contestants are just getting too good now.   Loucks had a chance to blow them all out of the water from the opening gate, instead he stumbled multiple times and let everyone catch up.

The judges absolutely can not fault him for his common cycle.  MaRo didn't tell him to be less complex.  He told him to MAKE SURE he is not the most complex entry.  A cycle of vanilla creatures is the logical thing to do when the head designer (who ultimately is running the contest) tells you that.

If I were competing for an NFL quaterback position, and the coach told me to MAKE SURE that I completed more passes than the other contenders, the best choice for me is to throw the ball as least far as possible.

 

Also, the more I read Ken's comments, the less I like him.  Each time he seems like a bigger arrogant jerk than the previous time.  Nearly all of his comments this week boiled down to "this is not nearly as good as the stuff I already did."   He's starting to sound like Topper from the Dilbert comic strip.
I really didn't know whether to root for the contestants or the worlds this round...

Wow, Jonathan Woodward got the shaft.  Yes, his submission was really weak, but at least he was trying to give some direction for Utopia.  Many of the other contestants were just fleshing out well received ideas.  Utopia is easily the most bland world; even Devon has problems realizing his vision for the world.  How do you design cards for a peaceful world in a game about combat?  Whoever received Utopia was going to be at a severe disadvantage.


I agree that Devon seems to be having problems realizing his vision for Utopia, but I'm not entirely convinced that designing for the world is inherently problematic.  After all, isn't paradise being invaded by outsiders basically the idea behind Bant?  There was even discussion about the potential similarities to Alara on Jonathan's wiki.

Sad thing is, I thought Mr. Woodward had one of the strongest submissions this week, if not the outright best.  MaRo wanted to see weaponized utopia?  Versatility is the name of the game - It's ploughshares to swords, all around.  Mr. Woodward delivered on that.  He gives us a common cycle that is a set of tools being put to different uses, some warlike, some not.  He gives us a distinct and interesting cycle of uncommons that really distinguishes the invaders from the natives, and gives them a powerful flavor push.  Then, he truly gives us "Weaponized Utopia" at Rare, improving on the loose Odyssey cycle of alternate win conditions.


I'm not sure that versatility represents Utopia moreso than it represents any other setting.  Charms appear in quite a few sets, so there needed to be something "utopian" about them for them to make sense in this challenge.  Farmer's Charm is the only part of the common cycle that seems to have any sort of obvious peacetime application, and then only because of the card's name and not because of its design.  Eager Cadet managed to accomplish that much with just its flavor text.

The invaders were kind of strange because they had mechanical identities that didn't seem to have anything to do with the setting.  Why are they hybrid?  Why are they using the Zubera mechanic?  What's up with the funky creature type?  Bant had a much easier time playing up the invasion angle since the invaders' worlds were all being designed independently.  The same could be said of Mirrodin versus Phyrexia to some extent.

As for the rares, I thought using alternate win conditions would a great way to emphasize the non-combative side of each color, so I was surprised that it didn't go over well with the judges.  However, their concerns--the potential to undermine expected gameplay and the oversaturation of alternate win conditions within a single set--do make sense, but on top of that, the designs weren't particularly tight, either.  Brady's suggestion of creating one alternate condition and using the cycle to give each color a different way to help achieve it is interesting, but I wonder what that cycle would look like?
From the first two challenges I learned something. These lessons in design are one of the most delightful aspects of the Great Designer Search Two.

Challenge One: Common Ground illustrated how much a set changes as it goes from tagline concept to actual cards. As Tom LaPille said last Friday
As a Magic player in the real world, Magic sets occurred to me as full and complete sets of cards that were handed down by some divine power and therefore immutable. As a Magic developer, Magic sets now occur to me as being malleable and amorphous things that I get to freely change and experiment with if I wish.



Challenge Two: Second Time's the Charm hammered in the lesson about the simplicity required on common cards. They are tools to explain the set to players, and cannot require explaining themselves.

Challenge Three: Trading Places still has me scratching my head. What makes a cycle and what purpose do they serve in a set?

Mark Rosewater explained cycles eight years ago in Zen and the Art of Cycle Maintenance. He explained how cycles create aesthetic flavor, structure, connection, and contrast. I don't see that in the judge's comments. They praises\d cycles strongly linked by set mechanics and panned cycles that could fit into any set. Does that mean that flavor equals a set mechanic?

I remember a lot of cycles from Alara block. That set emphasized five-fold symmetry and would have had no connection between Shards without the cycles. Bant Charm, Esper Charm, Grixis Charm, Jund Charm, and Naya Charm illustrated the tricolor costs, Gleam of Resistance, Traumatic Visions, Absorb Vis, Fiery Fall, and  Sylvan Bounty were connected as the only cards with basic landcycling, and the five blades Bant Sureblade, Esper Stormblade, Grixis Grimblade, Jund Hackblade, and Naya Hushblade were a set of quintuplets with one ability to distinguish them.

Zendikar block had some obvious cycles, such as the five Expeditions, but it left more room for doubt. SOme mechanics, such as Allies, were distributed among the five colors without deliberately creating cycles. The landfall instants in Worldwake: Rest for the Weary, Mysteries of the Deep, Tomb Hex, Searing Blaze, and Groundswell--were a loose cycle, but were the five kicker instants in Zendikar: Bold Defense, Into the Roil, Vampire's Bite, Burst Lightning, and Vines of Vastwood--another loose cycle or just a coincidence?

The contrast between Alara and Zendikar show that different blocks treat cycles differently. Shawn Main created a pair of three-card faction-based cycles. Brian Tinsman said, "I also like occasional three-color cycles for variety." Ethan Fleischer had a misfit in his uncommon Living Reflection cycle because Penumbria's contrast of dark and light did not allow light in black. Brady Dommermuth said, "You might get a little flak for the black card deviating from the cycle a bit, but it doesn't bother me." Okay, the judges' purpose is to judge the submissions, but this seemed a prime opportunity for enlightenment.

Perhaps I overlooked something. Did any of you other forum participants learn something new about cycles?
I really didn't know whether to root for the contestants or the worlds this round...

Wow, Jonathan Woodward got the shaft.  Yes, his submission was really weak, but at least he was trying to give some direction for Utopia.  Many of the other contestants were just fleshing out well received ideas.  Utopia is easily the most bland world; even Devon has problems realizing his vision for the world.  How do you design cards for a peaceful world in a game about combat?  Whoever received Utopia was going to be at a severe disadvantage.



I agree that Devon seems to be having problems realizing his vision for Utopia, but I'm not entirely convinced that designing for the world is inherently problematic.  After all, isn't paradise being invaded by outsiders basically the idea behind Bant?




The difference is that Bant was, in many ways, still centered around combat.  This makes it much easier to find a mechanical identity that works with the game. 
 
Utopia's premise, on the other hand, is that each color fights an invasion using different-than-normal methods.  Finding a mechanical identity that works well with that premise is likewise that much more difficult than normal.  I wouldn't go so far as to say the Woodward got totally shafted, but his challenge was definitely a bit more difficult that the other's this time around.    

 


I remember a lot of cycles from Alara block. That set emphasized five-fold symmetry and would have had no connection between Shards without the cycles. Bant Charm, Esper Charm, Grixis Charm, Jund Charm, and Naya Charm illustrated the tricolor costs, Gleam of Resistance, Traumatic Visions, Absorb Vis, Fiery Fall, and  Sylvan Bounty were connected as the only cards with basic landcycling, and the five blades Bant Sureblade, Esper Stormblade, Grixis Grimblade, Jund Hackblade, and Naya Hushblade were a set of quintuplets with one ability to distinguish them.

Zendikar block had some obvious cycles, such as the five Expeditions, but it left more room for doubt. SOme mechanics, such as Allies, were distributed among the five colors without deliberately creating cycles. The landfall instants in Worldwake: Rest for the Weary, Mysteries of the Deep, Tomb Hex, Searing Blaze, and Groundswell--were a loose cycle, but were the five kicker instants in Zendikar: Bold Defense, Into the Roil, Vampire's Bite, Burst Lightning, and Vines of Vastwood--another loose cycle or just a coincidence?

The contrast between Alara and Zendikar show that different blocks treat cycles differently. Shawn Main created a pair of three-card faction-based cycles. Brian Tinsman said, "I also like occasional three-color cycles for variety." Ethan Fleischer had a misfit in his uncommon Living Reflection cycle because Penumbria's contrast of dark and light did not allow light in black. Brady Dommermuth said, "You might get a little flak for the black card deviating from the cycle a bit, but it doesn't bother me." Okay, the judges' purpose is to judge the submissions, but this seemed a prime opportunity for enlightenment.

Perhaps I overlooked something. Did any of you other forum participants learn something new about cycles?




I don't think you overlooked anything about cycles, but I do think that you overlooked something about the GDS2:

The contestants weren't just trying to make cycles that will work.  They're also trying to beat other contestants.  That means that their quality of work has to me MUCH higher.   I'm sure that each submission would have been considered great work if they were already working for Wizards and designing for a set  (Not to say that they would see print as is, but if Woodward were already working for MaRo and turned in this cycle, I don't think MaRo would say "Get out, you're fired").  

All the contestants are on about equal footing, there's really no saftey net. If you turn in a bad design, you're out. I'd love to see a competition where no one's eliminated, and everyone continues playing (up until the end where R&D picks it's top 3).

But that's not Maro's vision for things.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On cycles. I don't think this challange was reallly about the cycles as much as it was working on another person's set. The cycles were just a good way to put people in the hot seat.

Since only two sets of commons were made, each designer had to figure out the rest for himself. Cycles also tell the reader what's important about the set.

I learned nothing new about cycles (which is sad), but that's likely becasue there isn't much to learn. Cycles exist to contrast the five colors by mechanically mirroring each other.
… and then, the squirrels came.
Mark Rosewater explained cycles eight years ago in Zen and the Art of Cycle Maintenance. He explained how cycles create aesthetic flavor, structure, connection, and contrast. I don't see that in the judge's comments. They praises\d cycles strongly linked by set mechanics and panned cycles that could fit into any set. Does that mean that flavor equals a set mechanic?



As Skibo pointed out, the contestants were given more tasks than simply designing cycles.  The goal of the GDS2 is to test the contestants' skills at building a world rather than their skills at designing individual cards, so cycles that could fit in any set would be considered misses for this contest.

As the judges pointed out a couple times (e.g. Brady's comparison of Rule and Loucks' common cycles), the function of a cycle is to establish identity through contrast, either the identity of each color by showing how it executes a particular concept or the identity of a world/mechanic by showing how each color realizes an aspect of that world/mechanic.

Regarding Loucks squeaking by, I am pretty sure that the order that the contestants are listed in on the elimination page is Rosewater's ranking of the contestants for that particular challenge.  Unfortunately, there was no ranking given for the Design Tests which Rosewater seems to be taking into account in addition to each of the challenges.  This was actually the first week that the person on the bottom was eliminated (indicating the Jay Treat and Daniel Williams had less built up credit than the people below them on the weeks they were eliminated).  

Not counting Treat who was already eliminated, Woodward and Loucks have been the bottom two every week.  That Loucks survived this week indicates to me that his Design Test must have been just enough better than Woodward's to avoid elimination this week.  If the contest really is cumulative, then Loucks should be close to clinching elimination in the next challenge because he has now finished lower than the other remaining contestants in every challenge; well below them in fact, since usually one of Treat, Woodward, or Williams was also above Loucks and below the other remaining contestants.

So what basic land should the contestants put in their packs for the next challenge?  I guess the art description makes it not totally worthless.
So what basic land should the contestants put in their packs for the next challenge?  I guess the art description makes it not totally worthless.



They should pick Island. It's the bold design choice.


Basic lands do tell alot about the setting, and drive speculation. Remember the Hedrons from Zendikar's basic land art? Basic lands are a good way to show off what makes your plane different than any that came before.
… and then, the squirrels came.
So what basic land should the contestants put in their packs for the next challenge?  I guess the art description makes it not totally worthless.



They should pick Island. It's the bold design choice.


Basic lands do tell alot about the setting, and drive speculation. Remember the Hedrons from Zendikar's basic land art? Basic lands are a good way to show off what makes your plane different than any that came before.




I dunno. I heard Island's overpowered.
The difference is that Bant was, in many ways, still centered around combat.  This makes it much easier to find a mechanical identity that works with the game. 
 
Utopia's premise, on the other hand, is that each color fights an invasion using different-than-normal methods.  Finding a mechanical identity that works well with that premise is likewise that much more difficult than normal.  I wouldn't go so far as to say the Woodward got totally shafted, but his challenge was definitely a bit more difficult that the other's this time around.


Each color fighting the invasion using different-than-normal methods was part of Devon's original pitch, but I think the attempts to design mechanics for things like "artistic flameweaving" are focusing on the wrong part of the story.  Devon's set would be about the Utopians fighting off the invaders, not the Utopians living their daily lives.  In other words, we need to see Eager Cadet, not the farmer attending to his unburnt crops.  This relates back to the point about Bant because even though the exalted mechanic expressed how combat evolved to become more ceremonious on Bant, it still operated in terms of something the game already understood: attacking with one creature at a time.  There wasn't any need to design a new mechanic that reflected how sigils are awarded, we just saw the effect they had on combat.

I think Devon's world was harder to design for not because of his premise was about paradise being invaded but because his premise wasn't very fleshed out.  In the case of Bant and Mirrodin, we know who the invaders are and why they're invading, so we can see the opposition between their mechanics and the natives' mechanics.  Bant's got exalted, but red and black can kill the champion before it gets to attack.  Mirrodin's got indestructible, but Phyrexia's got -1/-1 counters.  Johnathan essentially had to make up everything about the invaders, and so he ended up with odd mechanics that didn't seem to correspond to the set.

On cycles. I don't think this challange was reallly about the cycles as much as it was working on another person's set. The cycles were just a good way to put people in the hot seat.

Since only two sets of commons were made, each designer had to figure out the rest for himself. Cycles also tell the reader what's important about the set.

I learned nothing new about cycles (which is sad), but that's likely becasue there isn't much to learn. Cycles exist to contrast the five colors by mechanically mirroring each other.


This sums up what I would have said pretty well.

Well i checked into each contestant's wiki.

Devon's actually reworking his entire set, scraping the idea of five seperate nations and fleshing out the invaders.

It's too late to help Jon, but it's a nice change of pace.

Devon's still wrestling with how to show off "Using tools of peace as weapons of war".

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Conversly, Shawn has finally realized that when Maro said "Make blight the center of your design" he meant "Make blight the center of your design". And now he's scrambling to fit a nonblue, nonwhite mechanic into white and blue. (and red and green for that matter).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott's sitting pretty, as Shawn has made the choice to go to -1/-1 counters for him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ethan is also sitting pretty, as he has no real issues with his design right now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jon L is trying to overhaul his mechanics.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

So it looks like everyone's on equal footing this time around. Except for Ethan, everyone's making major changes to thier set. While some have bigger challanges than others, everyone's got work to do.
… and then, the squirrels came.
Conversly, Shawn has finally realized that when Maro said "Make blight the center of your design" he meant "Make blight the center of your design". And now he's scrambling to fit a nonblue, nonwhite mechanic into white and blue. (and red and green for that matter).

Blight, as it exists, has always been intended for black, red, green (and colorless). MaRo didn't like assault in blue, but it still fits well into white, green, and red. We have death mechanics (requiem, forsake) that span all five colors, but, despite working on it in challenge 2, blue remains the odd man out that needs a stronger identity.

MaRo mentioned that he might have been tempted to include one common blue blight card, so I've been investigating blue (and white) blight possibilities. They exist, but I'm not convinced any are robust enough to serve as those missing pieces.
Actually, I'm not sitting pretty either. I'm happy with a lot of what I have so far, but the set (and the block) needs more.  I'm still searching for the "mechanic that evolves over the course of the block" that Maro challenged me to find.  Expect to see new mechanics added  when you "open my booster pack" in January.

-Ethan Fleischer
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