02/02/2011 Feature: "GDS2 Design Challenge #5: Contestants' Submissions"

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This thread is for discussion of this Feature Article, which goes live Wednesday morning on magicthegathering.com.
As a nearly-exclusive Limited player, I have to say that I fell in love with Breakout the moment I saw it. It's a mechanic that seems like it would be a ton of fun to play with in a draft environment and is incredibly flavorful - the moment I saw it I "got" what was going on. It evokes Black and Red hurling themselves desperately against the prison bars as the White and Blue guards try equally desperately to hold them back.

Out of the other contestants, I felt Fleischer's was the best this round. Evolve has been truly distilled down to its most basic and grokkable form, and the theme deck was a solid way of capturing a green and red take on the mechanic. I didn't feel it was as inspired as Van Essen's Breakout mechanic, but it was very solid.

I think Gold counters and Blight are kind of boring (if flavorful), so while I really hope Van Essen and Fleischer make it to the next round, I have no strong feelings about the other contestants.
Breakout's wording seems a bit awkward. Based on other cards with similar abilities (whenever this attacks and isn't blocked), it seems correct, but the timing doesn't seem all that intuitive, and unlike cards with similar abilities, I can see new players having trouble with a creature with breakout attacking and then getting killed before blockers (a creature attacking and then getting removed from combat by something like regeneration in response to removal seems especially confusing, but that doesn't seem likely to come up much).

Being able to use gold for life payments seems kind of weird now that the mercenary mechanic is gone. Gold is colorless mana, and can be used for "gold payments" like goldbreather, making it do 3 different things seems needlessly complicated. Overall the deck seems kind of generic, it seems like a lot of the new cards for this round are basically french vanillas.

The blight deck seems like it has a lot of removal, and the evolve deck seems like it has a lot of counters, but without actually playing the decks, I can't really tell if that's true or not. Blight world and "Utopia" still seem very generic.
I really like the gold counters from the city of gold deck. I remember reading an article about wizards contemplating releasing another color many years ago. This accomplishes that feat in many respects. Gold counters are different enough from mana that they could show up from time to time and make their way into sets, but not be required like the regular five colors. Gold is a color, but also an asset in many definitions, so its has a dichotomy that traditional mana does not have, which makes it more splashy as well. Overall, I think gold counters give the sense that we are using our "gold" mana for payment, but it is still distinguishable from the other colors in its feel. Way to go...
Some very strong submissions this round, with probably Evolve being the most balanced deck and most polished design so far, although I must say I don't know exactly which demographic Mr Allosaurus McMassive is trying to appeal to (I just can't see it playing as an Allosaurus should, if you know what I mean).

Breakout is definitely a step in the right direction, and I can really appreciate Scott's explanation of his reasoning in regards to Breakout creatures and Breakout enablers.

The weakest link is probably Blight, just because it still seems clunky and inelegant to me, no matter how many times I look at it, although many of the individual cards from that deck I enjoyed (Deal with the Damned, i'm looking at you!)

The flavor of City of Gold really shined for me this time, from the deliciously ominous BBEG Vampire (I can just see the art now, a huge golden throne sculpted into upstretched human hands atop a vast treasure hoard, seated upon which is the Ageless Patron himself, he is either impossibly aged and twisted, or elegant and youthful, all the while lowly vassals add more gold to the pile.), to the quirky and LOL-worthy Rental Hydra. I'm honestly wondering what people rented hydras for in times of peace, perhaps garden ornaments? I don't know, but I love not knowing. The smugglers and lotus tenders are great, Lotus Garden is cool too. Mechanically very close to Eldrazi Spawn, but is has been mentioned already (plus, if players are provided shiny MTG gold coins to collect, they won't notice )

I really enjoyed the submissions this round. Keep it up guys! 
I think Breakout would read better as "Whenever CARDNAME attacks and you control at least one unblocked creature ..."
That doesn't work - creatures aren't considered "unblocked" until the declare blockers step.  Scott's template, OTOH, reads as a variant of the "attacks and isn't blocked" template.  I think it might read a bit cleaner as, say, "Whenever one or more creatures you control attack and aren't blocked, if ~ is attacking, ...", but I'm no editor; this is not really relevant.  (Though I suppose the use of the intervening if makes that technically slightly different.)

Though if you're just suggesting that for the reminder text then maybe it would be OK.
I think Breakout is awesome, and Jailbreak may be my favourite of the decks.

I still don't like Dinosaur World, but I think Ethan may be the strongest designer in the challenge.

I like blight a lot, and think Shawn did a good job of addressing its problems and making a fun deck.

I love the idea of City World, but I think Devon's uber-parasitic deck may lose him the interview. 
That doesn't work - creatures aren't considered "unblocked" until the declare blockers step.  Scott's template, OTOH, reads as a variant of the "attacks and isn't blocked" template.  I think it might read a bit cleaner as, say, "Whenever one or more creatures you control attack and aren't blocked, if ~ is attacking, ...", but I'm no editor; this is not really relevant.  (Though I suppose the use of the intervening if makes that technically slightly different.)

Though if you're just suggesting that for the reminder text then maybe it would be OK.


A creature is not considered "blocked" or "unblocked" until the declare blockers step. See Gossamer Chains's rulings.
Breakout is a great idea, and may even be undercosted for its effects - it is trivially easy to ensure you are always triggering with Signal Pest or something. 

I also liked the Evolve deck, which was very thematically pure and had a couple Lightning Bolts thrown in just like real intro packs do. This is exactly what you want to pull off the shelf at Target: a giant dinosaur and some mana elves. 

Nearing the home stretch… let’s check out the submissions:


 


* Note: I’m not going to bash people for doing obvious mechanics or color combinations. While it would be interesting to see a blue/white blight deck…. That’s not very practical, when the best blight cards aren’t in blue or white. These decks are suppose to put the best foot forward for each their mechanic. They do that by doing the “obvious thing”.


 


Epolith:


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An evolution deck seems like the best foot forward for Epolith. It’s simple, straightforward, and very Timmy friendly. Making the deck red green is about what you’d expect of an Evolve deck.


 


Elven beastcaller feels a bit weird to me, at four mana I don’t really need any more mana. Only two creatures in the deck cost more than 5 mana… so I don’t know how useful it’s mana ability would be. I think I’d rather just have a 2/2, as a 1/1 on turn 4 is pretty useless. This one feels like a duct tape card.


 


Again with the scientific names? Here’s a hint, when I have to read the creature type to figure out what the heck a creature is… that’s not a good thing. Primitive horse works just as well. Also… horses aren’t very evocative of combat on their own. Bears make sense… horses not so much.


 


Fecund Maiasaur doesn’t really work the way its template now… it should really use the first part of evolve (whenever a creature with power …). At this point a lot of contestants have submitted their mechanics to the Rules and theory forum and have gotten correct templating. It confuses me to no end why others haven’t. As for the card itself… its fine, though I would expect this in the second set, not the first. I’d much rather see evolve paired with a keyword like reach or trample in the first set’s uncommons.


 


Hunting Therapsid confuses me since I got a no-drawback version of this creature in green in this deck already. I know R&D does this… but considering that the first card isn’t maxed out at 4, I’d rather see this one replaced with one of those.


 


Leaping Ornitholestes oddly, I thought this was red for the longest time. Having high power isn’t something green often gets. This card feels red to me. Besides the fact that it’s green, the card’s fine.


 


Potbreaker Bull, see my comments before. Couldn’t this has an Enter the battlefield trigger? I mean how many artifacts and enchantments are you likely to find on a battlefield. And if cheap artifacts is a subtheme of this set, then blowing them up all the time doesn’t really play well into that. Evolve is complex enough without piling crazy stuff like trigger abilities that count power. Wait for rare or wait for the next set.


 


Primal ooze doesn’t feel uncommon, it feels rare. The closest equivalent in modern magic is Aquamorph Entity, which didn’t add abilities, only had two options, and wasn’t in a set centered around power. Also this card isn’t green, it’s blue.


Rampaging Allosaurus… awesome! Now that’s how you make a Timmy-tastic card. Bit creature, big effect, makes you want to attack. (And intimidate means you can attack and use its ability without worrying about it getting blocked and killed). Favorite card of the submission.


 


Starving Deinonychus doesn’t really feel right to me. First strike and 1 toughness… the end step trigger. Why not just write “~ attacks each turn if able”? You get the same game play, but people don’t need to jump through so many hoops. Are holy days so common in your block that it matters whether the creature actually deals damage?


 


Accelerated Evolution, I really like this card. It’s simple and too the point. I just worry if people are going to play it right with evolution. (But that’s not really a knock against the card)


 


Deliquesce confuses me… aren’t most of your artifacts low cmc?


 


Are your two auras part of a cycle? They seem to be but their names are different.


 


Verdict:


 


Overall, a very strong submission. Some nitpicks here and there, but nothing major to report. Great job Ethan.


 


Reading the comments:


(I read the submission comments after the verdict as I don’t want them to color my opinions of the submission)


 


Nothing much to say about the comments, Ethan went through his choices, and everything seems fine. I didn’t even pick up the “primitive reprint cycle”, which is a clever idea.



 


Wodotha:


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Shawn went with a blight deck, and I give him props for that. An assault deck would have been far easier to do. He choose black/green… and interesting choice given green’s limited destruction abilities, but we’ll see if that panned out.


 


Blightsky Elemental shows off an area of effecting blighted creatures. It’s a good way to make blight matter even if you only have the one blight card. The problem is… this isn’t really a first set card, it’s an evolution on blight. Another problem is that the anti-flying clause is on the creature, so when it dies all your blighted creatures gain flying again. I think a lot of people are going to play that wrong.


 


Blightthorn Vines, “on the battlefield” is a very ugly piece of text that rules has ceased using. It just confuses people more than is gained from using it. This is more of a problem with blight than with the card though.


 


* I rather like Del’s suggestion for wording blight, from the Rules theory forum. Which is just to spell out what blight does longhand. That would solve the awkwardness in this card.


 


Hungry Horror, I don’t understand why this set has sacrificial outlets. That’s a major nombo with blight. I mean I finally draw my second blight card, cast it… and you sacrifice the only creature with a blight counter on it, making my blight card feel useless. Sure, I did get some value out of it, but blight didn’t kill the creature. (At which point you might as well just be playing doom blades).


.


Void Dragon feels weird… the first attack does nothing… the second attack destroys the creature chosen by the first attack. So if my opponent has three reach creatures, I really can’t do anything about that since every time I blight one, they chump block with it. Otherwise, I’ll win the game long before I really get to destroy anything. How many 5 damage hits can a player take? Two?


 


Nether Beacon seems pretty weak.. For nine mana I expect to do something amazing, not just destroy something. I guess it’s nice to blight planeswalkers… but normally I’m going to be using this on creatures.


 


 Shadowsplit Axe feels kind of random. Is it suppose to take advantage of your opponent’s low creature count due to blight?


 


Unweave the World seems backwards… literally. If I’d rather have it split up into two abilities so that you could blight an artifact/enchantment and then destroy it. Then I get the best of both worlds. Right now, I see it creating interesting choices, but I also see it being used for it’s destruction half nine times out of ten.


 


Verdict:


A lot of your cards are solid, if not very eye catching (your staples mostly) and they fit into a blight world. But when I get to your blight cards… they seem to fall apart.


 


Blight has a whole host of problems, it’s parasitic, doesn’t do anything with the first counter, easily disrupted, confusing, overshoweded by destruction, not backwards compatible, and I’m not sure it’s fun. You solved a few of these problems here and there, but that’s slapping a bandaid over a gushing wound. To be frank, Maro said the first time he saw blight that it wasn’t where he wanted it to be… and many weeks later, it hasn’t changed.


 


Everything else is nice, unfortunately, the main draw of the deck is blight, and that’s the thing most lacking.


 


Comments:


The comments tell me what I already know, Shawn created cards to hide the flaws with blight, instead of redoing blight to work well on its own. This is fine for a mechanic like split second that adds flavor to a set, but isn’t the meat. Blight is the meat Wodotha and should be solid as a rock.


 


The shout out was nice though.



 


Utopia:


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There’s gold in them hills! Devon decides to delve into the gold mechanic. Will he be able to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, or will he be packing his bags? Find out. (Another day, since I’m not an official judge and can’t eliminate anyone)


 


On Gold… firstly, I’m still confused as to why Gold still allows for life payments. How many lifepayments are present in his cards? One. Yeah,  that’s worth the extra text. (especially when you can turn it into a colorless mana payment and keep the interaction)


 


Secondly, mana acceleration is one of magic’s biggest problem areas. See… moxes, lotus’s, and any host of other powerful cards that either produce mana, or allow you to skirt paying mana costs. Gold is very close to Affinity in this regard.


 


Thirdly, gold is very parasitic. It first started out as a very compatible mechanic, since you could use colorless mana or life instead of gold (gold would be a bonus), but now many of your cards demand gold to work well. Meaning you can’t just throw them into an older deck and have them work correctly.


 


I haven’t played any of the gold cards so I have no idea if they are skirting the line of overpowered or not.


 


Now onto individual cards:


 


Rental Hydra is a bit weird in that it’s a hydra Mercenary. Hireling is a good mechanic, fits with gold nicely, and this card shows off the mechanic nicely. Again, I have to worry about how easy it is to amass gold.


 


Callous Enforcer is a second set card, not a first one. Hireling alone is pretty complex, adding another layer of caring about power just tips the scale.


 


Goldbreather… how is paying one gold different from paying one life and/or mana? Why turn gold from an upside to a necessity?


 


Blood Contract, for 0 life and the same cost I can give a creature -3/-3. Having to pay life means that I’ll only get a profit if I pay 4 or more life. Also, Maro has stated many, many times, no X spells at common.


 


Streetwise may confuse a lot of people who don’t know how combat really works. I imagine there will be many arguments over whether you can sacrifice the enchantment after blockers are declared.


 


Verdict:


Throwing mechanics at the wall and seeing what sticks? Well color me confused. Why do you have mercenaries in green? Is gold the main mechanic in the set now? How does it fit into white? Did you abandon the idea of utopian civilizations living apart from each other? Are the invader’s gone (I expected to see some green/black hybrid cards)?


 


This is a deck I would need to play to truly get. Gold is a very flavorful mechanic and looks like it would be fun. But can it hold up a set? I don’t think so, and this deck doesn’t show me any reason it could.


 


Reading the comments:


Well I’m glad to see Devon stepped away from his previous work a bit, but I’m also confused.


 


Zendikar had allies, traps, quests, adventure gear… many different mechanics to capture the feel of an adventure world. Your world has… gold? Mercenaries? Where are the skyscrapers? The city blocks? The police patrolling on their beat? The urban sprawl? The cramped living conditions? This deck doesn’t scream city as much as mercenary… not a bad start, but mercenary is actually closer to Zendikar’s hired adventurers, than Ravnica’s cityscape.



 


 


Malgareth:


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Scott is at the same spot he was before last GDS. Can he break his curse and win a ticket to Renton? Let’s see…


 


Holy complexity batman, Breakout reads like a novel. Having been an active member of the rules Q&A forum for some time, I’ve learned what mechanics confuse players. Ninjitsu is one of them. Why? Because people don’t really understand how combat works, and when things start to talk about combat, their eyes gloss over.


 


Breakout is further confused by the fact that the creature with it doesn’t care if it’s blocked or not. Finally… why can’t Breakout trigger on dealing damage to a player? Yes it would limit the effects it could work with, but it would be a whole lot easier to understand what’s going on.


 


Nothing much to say on the cards really, Scott doesn’t enjoy using proper templating… which is annoying since the battlefield hasn’t been “play” for years now. But that doesn’t have an impact on his design skills, just on his level of professionalism.


 


The cards do a good job of showing off an underground prison, breakout (despite being overly complex) does a good job showing off the idea of a riot.


 


The -1/-1 counters just feel like a random thing in the set now. They’d make a lot of sense if they were all conceptualized as shackles… but most aren’t.


 


If the theme of the set is still counters matter, then keep them, but if they aren’t, I don’t see why you wouldn’t go back to +1/+1 counters.


 


Also, filtering cards isn’t red!


 


Verdict:


It’s hard to judge Scott’s deck because so little sticks out for me. Nothing really sticks out as wrong, but nothing forced me to stop and smile.


 


Reading the comments:


Scott does a good job selling breakout. And if it works as well as he says, he might have the winning submission this round. We’ll have to see what the judges say.


 


 


This will be an interesting judging, I’m not sure who will be out. But from looking at the top four we have now, any combination will make a strong top three.


 


 


* Also, why no love for white and blue?

… and then, the squirrels came.


 Blood Contract, for 0 life and the same cost I can give a creature -3/-3. Having to pay life means that I’ll only get a profit if I pay 4 or more life. Also, Maro has stated many, many times, no X spells at common.


 




Untamed Might? Heat Ray? Where has Maro ever stated "no X spells at common"? I refuse to believe it has been "many, many times"
Skibo - they were told to only use one new mechanic in their submissions; that's why Scott doesn't do more with -1/-1 counters and Devon doesn't have other abilities besides Gold.  Actually, even Hireling seems like it might be pushing it (although if you have the mechanic in the set, you pretty much have to put it together with Gold).
Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...


 Blood Contract, for 0 life and the same cost I can give a creature -3/-3. Having to pay life means that I’ll only get a profit if I pay 4 or more life. Also, Maro has stated many, many times, no X spells at common.


 




Untamed Might? Heat Ray? Where has Maro ever stated "no X spells at common"? I refuse to believe it has been "many, many times"



Aaron's say.
Maro's take.

X spells are confusing and often swingy. Which means they are perfect for Uncommon.

Skibo - they were told to only use one new mechanic in their submissions; that's why Scott doesn't do more with -1/-1 counters and Devon doesn't have other abilities besides Gold.  Actually, even Hireling seems like it might be pushing it (although if you have the mechanic in the set, you pretty much have to put it together with Gold).



I remembered that while stacking wood.. i think Utopia threw me off with gold counters and hireling.

Even though you only get one new mechanic, Scott could have explored -1/-1 counters a little more, and devon could have pushed the city flavor a bit more (I didn't really get it from his cards).

I mean look at Scott's deck, it drips with prison flavor. The card names, the mechanic. Even though they are forgettable, the cards are all nicely flavored. Epolith also has some great flavor going on.
… and then, the squirrels came.
I know this is a dev problem, not a design one but I feel Utopia's gold and Breakout are both incredibly broken.  Gold happens way to often.  It would take about 5 minutes to make something that ramps up huge things with no regard to land (hoard, lotus garden, gold elf guy... I'm looking at you).  In break out the trigger is to easy,  most of those creatures are under costed because its such an easy trigger to hit.  I think breakout would be better as "if this creature is unblocked."  I know why he went the way he did, but it strikes me as degenerate.  I had to laugh a little when he said he tried not to over complicate combat math.  What's with the guy who gives their guys -1/-1 when he triggers?  How about the fact that you could think you will be able to block them all and they could cast 2 hasty guys for 3?  Its fun to read, but I feel it would be a nightmare to play.  Just my 2 cents.

Utopia has some really solidly designed cards...but I'm pretty sure it's the one getting chopped this round (though I was wrong last time).

I get that there are mercenaries, and a vague feel for a city...but the deck dosen't answer the one vital question that MaRo has been waiting for Devon to answer since day 1:

What is this world about? 

There are mercenaries.  Great!  And they are well designed.  Also great!  Why are they there?  Ummm..... 

What is the principle conflict of this set?  What are the mercenaries trying to do?  As far as this deck tells me, the mercenaries are just there to be hired.  For what?  What threat has arisen so that Utopia has this huge influx of mercenary hiring? 

I still have no idea what Utopia is ABOUT, other than you're supposed to hire mercenaries. 

I thought every contestant improved by leaps and bounds this challenge. I'd be the first in line at a prerelease for any of these sets.
Hello all!

I've made three intro decks for my mock-up submission of Challenge 5. You can find them by clicking the following link to the GDS2 WIKI.
I would have loved to paste them here, but it would take forever to do the formatting and comply with the forum rules, so you'll have to visit the dreadful wiki this time. Apologies!

For this round, I've taken into consideration all feedback I got from other users and from my playtesters. Thank you all, and hope you like it! If there's interest, I'll upload an oracle spoiler of the entire set once I finish it one of these days, so that you can play with it yourself. Have fun! 
I really like the gold/hireling mechanic, though suspect that it might need some tweaking to prevent it being busted (more coloured mana in CC of commons maybe). Rental Hydra esp made me smile. One thing that I really dont get is why is Utopia filled with assasins, thugs, rogues, mercs, thiefs and bounders - not very utiopian, am i missing something? While I think this deck has the best designed mechanics and individual cards I'm not sure the plane behind it is so clearly though out (feels a little bit Ravnica Lite) and the deck doesn't do much other than showcase the mechanics. The deck name is very apt, as are most of the card names too. (overall A-)

My next favourite is the evolve deck. My one problem with this set is that the mechanic is again too good for draft. I did love the Mammoth reprint, very clever and on theme. With the deck spcifically i think the various pump spells are maybe too much. should possibly be to EoT instead of counters as the counters actually work against the evolve mechanic by pushing some guys out of evolve range. working against your central theme = a little bit of fail to me. Also, not sure if this has been discussed before elsewhere, but is America ready for an evolution themed set. Being a foreigner I'm constantly reading about how anti-evolution the american public are (just this week there was a report showing only 28% of biology teachers teach it as required out of fear of reprisals from parents and students). While I'm sure most magic players fall in to the more critical thinkiong minority that doesn't mean their parents, churchs and schools would be so understanding. I guess it could go either way with either a tonne of free publicity or descend into the whole D&D deamon summoning horrors of the 1980s. Again a good deck name - though feels like it has been used before... (overall B+)

The breakout deck i think works well as a deck and seems to have the most focus of any of them. As a deck it is probably about the best designed, but that is really all I have to say that is positive about it. Negatively, the first point I'd make is that while the mechanic make sense within the context of the set, I think it fails as a theme when you move it out of that context.  Secondly the mechanic is a bit wordy which, esp for an intro pack, is suboptimal. I understand why it has been done that way, it just feels clunky. Laconic hitman is probably my favourite card here from a design point of view - the name and mechanic all seem to work well together, but the rest is just very meh. (overall C).

The blight deck I must say I really didn't like. Again the mechanic is too wordy. It feels a lot like Haunt from guildpact - while it is good card advantage and makes sense thematically it is just so wordy on the reminder text it feels liek it is sucking the rest of the design out of cards. Also, because there is such inherent card advantage in the mechanic it always feels like the cards in it are overcosted just to make them fair. that isn't very exciting. Also blight cards dont work well at all without other blight cards. that is pretty poor design imo. It leads to limited deck design scope and reduced interaction with other cards. There are also quite a lot of 'pump' effect cards in the deck list which just dont feel like they belong even though they may be needed to make the deck playable. Lastly I dont liek the deck name and hate the set name which sounds like it stolen from the cover of some 70's pulp fantasy novel. (overall D)

In summary, i think it is very close between epolith and utopia - it might just be matter of personal taste which one is actually the better (for me it is utopia simply because it's failings are more developmental and would be easier to improve upon). While it might seem I've been quite harsh on Shawn, I do think he has a very good understanding of card design - his card costings and such seem very well thought out - i think there is an underlying flaw in the basic idea he chose to run with. Also Wizards need to print the gold/hireling mechanic just so we can all get rental hydras.

Coyltonian

Also, not sure if this has been discussed before elsewhere, but is America ready for an evolution themed set. Being a foreigner I'm constantly reading about how anti-evolution the american public are (just this week there was a report showing only 28% of biology teachers teach it as required out of fear of reprisals from parents and students). While I'm sure most magic players fall in to the more critical thinkiong minority that doesn't mean their parents, churchs and schools would be so understanding.

A lot of that sort of thing is played up for the shock value.  I believe the majority of America is well aware of evolution, particularly the people who would play a fantasy game.  Even people or groups who dislike the idea of evolution would probably be okay about associating it with fantasy!
I guess it could go either way with either a tonne of free publicity or descend into the whole D&D deamon summoning horrors of the 1980s.

That was only a local issue involving extremists - you can note that today even Magic and D&D have put the demons back in.  Besides, the extremists are thoroughly distracted now by video games.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...
Rooting for Ethan to win, with Shawn as a close second.
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
This may come off callous, but i'm jsut going to give my critisms, sorry.

Dinosaur deck
- i feel like this is jsut way too much of the same thing. Everything in the deck seems to be about getting +1/+1 counters, but then he doesn't do anything interesting with them. And some of those draws seem to be way too swingy for me.

turn 1 - Eohippus or Hunting Therapsid
turn 2 - Cave bear (opponent: 18)
turn 3 - Starving Deinonychus (opponent: 7)

Other times i forsee porblems because i drew my evolve creature and nothing to trigger it. or I drew all of the 2 power evolve guys (three of the six are 2 power). I also see a lot of inexperienced players trying to hold off their larger guys to try and trigger the evolve guys they haven't drawn yet.

I'm sorry to see lightning bolt here. It would have been nice to see you come up with a burn spell of your own design. I coul easily see a conditional 2/4 damage spell. Somthing like "deal 2 damage to target creature or player, if that creature has a +1/+1 counter on it deal 4 instead."

Blight - I was really happy to see the major improvements to blight, and this deck was easily my favorite of the four. And i really like your dragon, it's a splashy rare that would quickly swing games in your favor. That said my main problem with blight still remains, i never want to be playing against another player with blight, because all of a sudden my blight spells start killing my own permanents.

I have two 2/2 creatures each with a blight counter on them thanks to my opponent playing the same deck. He has a 4/4 creature without a counter. I draw Agonizing Fate. Yes my opponent jsut lost 4 life, but i jsut lost 2 of my own creatures, where a normal kill spell would have let me keep my creatures and my opponent would have still taken 4 from my attack.

It would have been cool to see something that lets you manipulate where counters are, something both green and black have dabbled in before.

Mercenaries - Hireling is an interesting mechanic as it does somehting else with gold counters, but plays very parasitic. none of the cards will ever really play well outside of block. The opposite is probably true of gold as it will get played outside of block not to pay for mercenaries but broken by someone to cheat out spells.

You put Doom blade and Blood Contract right beside each other in your list, which makes it realy easy to compare them, and unfortunately the comparison is not favorable to your own card. i'm not sure that green getting Haste at uncommon will fly with the judges.

Jailbreak - The way Breakout read the first time I read it made me think all of your creatures had to be unblocked. i agree with what others had said and should have only triggered if the creature itself was unblocked. Or if you want an alternative if two or more creatures you control went unblocked. I applaud you for your choice of reprint though, i think it was a good choice for a group of creatures with little evasion.

Dinosaurs: I think it's kind of a boring deck, too. you have early beaters, which can grow very fast, but that's about it. While i know it's a strong aggro deck, and shows how aggressiv an dedicated evolve deck can be, there are next to no important decisions to make with that deck, and all your creatures can do is turn sideways... maybe to gain some effect or another. It's all about attacking... some players might like it, but i certainly dont.

Blight deck.
why do you use blight counters and then stick to their only use as reminders? why don't you show some green/white mechanic removing counters from permanents? why not something that just puts counters on something without "blighting" and destroying other permanents?

in general, if you want to show that in your world, everything that touches the blight dies, why don't you use blight as a kind of "slow" death, like "Xy gets a blight counter. Destroy it at the beginning of its controller's end step (optional: if it still has a blight counter). Then you would get exactly the kind of slow corruption you wanted, and players can still use the blighted stuff, attack it, or save it removing the counter, or sacc it for an effect, all the fun things you're trying to do.
But well, with "blight" as you use it now, creatures might not lose their summoning sickness before they die, you just have to blight twice.

Jailbreak:
the mechanic looks nice to me, although it's quite wordy. and i know it's important that the effect only triggers if the creature is attacking too, so you can't just sit back and get infinite CA with you little 1/1 flyer.
but i'm wondering, why are there no +x/+x effects? i would have liked it very much if some creatures got stronger once they saw that others "made it out". Also would have encouraged some thinking on both sides of the table. like "do i attack into his 4/4 with my 3/3 that get's +2/+2 from jailbreak? what if he has something with flash to stop my jailbreak?"

and btw: i think there are looots of ways to make jailbreak trigger in this deck. it's almost too easy.