#10 - Choose a plane to revisit other than Dominaria or Mirrodin. What is a mechanical twist we could add if we revisit this plane?
“Arkazon shattered his magical prison and stretched his massive arms…”Ahhh, Freedom!” he hissed. “Now where was I?” he said as he planeswalked back to Shandalar to announce his return, and his dominion! The demon had all of eternity to advance himself to a position of power amongst the remaining planeswalkers after the mending. He had observed the whole thing from his prison, and was aware that few planeswalkers rivaled his albeit reduced power. Returning to Shandalar would be an invigoration experience. Magic is so prolific there that he could do anything. The nature of the moving plane was such that magic was common and all of its denizens could cast spells. Shandlar was a plane that had yet to be explored in the traditional sense. It had been read about in many books, but it was yet to be focused on in a planeswalker’s tome. The plane reminded him much of another place that he had read much on, Ravnica, the endless city plane that had a guild government structure, but the guilds on Shandlar were focused on Monocolor. Rarely did the colors mingle, but mana was prolific so planeswalkers stuck with their single color strategies. This made the plane unique and Arkazon found it to be weak. Thus his second coming began!
#9 - Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the worst designed? Explain why.
Clash is a keyword ability with a ton of potential to be incredibly fun but was poorly executed. Lorwyn and Morningtide were not the best place to put a mechanic that cared about converted mana costs. It did not really play into any of the sets’ themes and encouraged playing more expensive spells in a format that was filled with super quick removal spells and tribal creature decks that promote small creatures. The feeling of getting a much more powerful effect for winning a mini game where you are rewarded for playing with big splashy cards is really appealing to the casual crowd, and clash is a lot of fun with 1-2 cards featuring clash in a casual deck that allows you a much more broad card pool. In constructed environments, you have to make much more expensive spells win the game extremely quickly for them to see play, and with the release of Rise of the Eldrazi, it is likely that clash is a better mechanic in extended, but that is unlikely because the clash spells themselves all tend to have a converted mana cost of four or less. Releasing a mechanic like clash in Rise of the Eldrazi would have been much more exciting, splashy and fun, accounting for many memorable moments during casual and limited play. The design of clash is not bad (the abilty is fun), it was simply a bad fit for the environment it was submitted in. Design cannot happen in a vacuum and clash is a victim of its surroundings not being optimal.
#8 - Of all the mechanics currently in Extended, which one is the best designed? Explain why.
Of the mechanics in extended, the best design was hybrid mana symbols. There have always been colorless mana symbols that functioned similarly to hybrid insofar that they allow them to be paid for with multiple types of mana, but a completely colorless card is limited in the scope of what it can accomplish without allowing so much of a mechanical bleed that all five colors would begin to feel as though they were an unimportant distinction. Hybrid mana does several other things that cannot be achieved in the game without it. It allows the creation of one mana multicolored cards, allows cards to be designed that want to be usable in just one or two colors that could not be on an artifact without having to put extra text on the card (I.E. alternate casting costs), and it helps explore what design space the two color pairs have in common by forcing designers to think about a card as mono-white and mono green at the same time. By searching for this overlap in colors, designers are shown what abilities show up in which combinations of colors. This lets them see colors that need to have more abilities in their pie and which abilities are restricted to only one color and should be spread around more. Not only did hybrid mana open up a lot more design space. It also helps explore the design space that was already there, opening the designers’ eyes to places that need more or have too much overlap.
#7 - What do you think design can do to best make the game attractive to experienced players?
There are three different aspects of the game that keep players coming back: Nostalgia, New Interactions, and Value. Design has control over most of these aspects and they have in the past been used to great effect, but there are several ways to use each to our advantage.
Players like things they are familiar with. Designing cards that feel like cards from “the good old days” make players keep coming back for more. Molten-Tail Masticore, and really the whole idea of returning to Mirrodin, was a fantastic way to take advantage of nostalgia. Players who love and remember the original Masticore see the new card and immediately know at least partially how to feel about it. The design is not identical however, which creates the possibility of new interactions they can explore.
New interactions are another reason for a vested player to stay in the game. It is exciting to discover that a brand new card can work with older cards that have been sitting around collecting dust and make new fun play scenarios. When Training Grounds was released in Rise of the Eldrazi, players immediately leapt at the opportunity to dig through boxes of old cards to find creatures that suddenly were excellent because their activated abilities cost two less mana to activate.
The final way to keep players involved in magic is value. If powerful cards exist at lower rarities, it is more likely a player will buy boosters instead of single cards because there is more likely to be a card they wanted in any given pack. Cards like Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile insured that packs from M10 and Conflux were cracked in massive numbers and kept players buying packs. If the powerful cards in a set are too concentrated in higher rarities, players will buy singles online rather than purchase packs of the game resulting in less overall sales, as vendors will be the majority of pack purchases.
6. What do you think design can do to best make the game accessible to newer players?
Making a game accessible to newer players requires very different things than keeping a vested player involved with the game, and thus the two factors will be in constant feud with each other.
Teaching a new game to fresh blood requires simplicity and intuitive mechanics, while retaining players requires vast variety of game play to make each game stand out and maintiain interest in something the player has done before. Things that have already been done, like streamlining the rules and printing more basic cards in every set, will certainly aid in attracting new players. There are always more ways to make a game accessible to new players. Design cards that are simple and feel like fantasy creatures and spells that a new player may already be familiar with from movies, television and books. Make sure that the mechanics on cards feel like they are integrated with the flavor. Another hiccup that design has to surmount is that newer players will not be familiar with older cards that have created lingo that makes things resignate flavor. Since Firebreathing is no longer in print, players may not see R:+1/+0 and think, “Cool this dragon has firebreathing!”. The best way to deal with this problem could manifest in many different ways. You could use an ability word like Firebreathing – R: CARDNAME gets +1/+0 until end of turn, Reprint Firebreathing (although this idea is underwhelming as by todays standards Firebreathing is a bad card), or even release other cards named something similar enough that new players opening them will recognize the Firebreathing ability. Ghitu Firebreathing was a good attempt at this, but is still somewhat weak under today’s design standards.
#5 - Name a card currently in Standard that, from a design standpoint, should not have been printed. What is the card and why shouldn't we have printed it?
“My master plan was perfect…there were but two 5/5 flying dragons standing in my way. It was my nemesis’s turn. He promptly swung with both of them; I cast Mark of Mutiny on one of them and the deed was done. Both of the dragons plummeted from the sk…What’s this!? My brilliant plan thwarted!? By mine own hand! Curse you +1/+1 counter. There must be some greater purpose, some benefit to be gained by putting said counter on an opposing creature. Surely there are other spells on Zendikar that provide me some benefit to this aid I have just given my foes, surely with more explorations…”
Of all the cards in standard, Mark of Mutiny is the one that stands out to me as a poor design. Stealing a creature until end of turn is a fun, flavorful mechanic in red’s design space, but from my experience and many others’, putting a +1/+1 counter on a creature that you are going to give back to your opponent creates nonfun situations. Unless Mark of Mutiny is stealing a game-winning fatty, your opponent may or may not have taken some damage to make his creature bigger. In this case, being an instant over the sorcery that is Threaten is not a great enough bonus to outweigh the penalties. If Zendikar cared about creatures with +1/+1 counters on it like Cytoplast Manipulator and friends from Dissension, the card could create some interesting situations. Adding the +1/+1 counter to your opponent’s creature forces people playing the card into nonfun situations and devalues the card in the standard and extended card pools. Doing nice things to a creature that your opponent may get back is not a fun part of a combat trick. Making the card simply cost o3R would have been a much more elegant design and would have made the nonfun feeling you get when casting it non-existent. Zendikar is a set in which you play with a lot of land as well, so the higher mana cost is not as big an issue as players often had tons of mana to spare.
#4 - R&D has recently been looking at rules in the game that aren't pulling their weight. If you had to remove an existing rule from the game for not being worth its inclusion, what would it be?
“The [card]Pestermite[/card] token looked over at its creator shortly after its birth and began to read…”Put a token that's a copy of target nonlegendary creature you control onto the battlefield. That token has haste. …Yeah, that’s me! Oh wise and powerful master! What other wisdoms does your text box fortell!?” She read on…” Sacrifice it at the end of turn…SACRIFICE ME AT THE END OF TURN!? It’s the end step NOW! Does that mean I have been brought into this game, only to be pointlessly sacrificed!?!” The token began to worry, but then the next untap step came around and she remained safely in the battlefield, albeit perplexed.”
A rule that has always confused countless newer players is that the End Step and Cleanup step are two different things. It seems like both steps could be combined since some interactions that happen in the end step create confusing game states. “At the beginning of the end step” triggers are somewhat confusing to new players. For instance, the Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Pestermite combo creates tokens that were meant to leave play at the end of the turn they were created in. Due to the new way these rules are currently written, those tokens will stay in play until the next player’s end step. This is far from intuitive and creates a degenerate combo with Kiki-Jiki that could be avoided by restoring the intended function. Cards like Waylay will no longer need errata to keep them from being overpowered as well.
In an ideal rules set, the end step would be a single event where “At the end of turn” effects, “until end of turn” effects, damage on creatures, and extra cards in hand are all removed/discarded/resolve simultaneously with the chance to respond before they happen without confusing and strange interactions like the [card]Kiki-Jiki[/card] tokens problem. The distinction between “at the end of turn” and “until end of turn” could be removed from the game rules without much repercussion. This would clear up the rules headaches and streamline the description of the end and cleanup steps in the comprehensive rules as well, in addition to simplifying the game play for a newer player.
#3 - What block do you feel did the best job of integrating design with creative? What is one more thing that could have been done to make it even better?
Zendikar is the most recent block to do the best at integrating creative elements with design. The whole set felt like it came straight from an Indiana Jones movie and the landfall mechanic did a great job of making basic lands feel “alive” and like they were out to change the game state. The “Priceless Treasures” of older cards hidden in some of the boosters gave the set the feel of exploration and discovering ancient secrets, and the allies mechanics did a wonderful job of mechanically relaying teamwork amongst …well…allies.
The block was not perfect however. Worldwake brought Jace the Mindsculptor, which is an extremely powerful card that did not play into the sets themes and somewhat detracted from the set’s advancement of the themes and from the rivalry the world itself was supposed to provide. Then came Rise of the Eldrazi, which while an incredibly fun and well designed set, built upon no themes from the Zendikar/Worldwake sets. The Eldrazi were a powerful and interesting conclusion to the Zendikar storyline, but the set, rather than have its own themes and mechanics could have brought a lot to the table keeping a “land matters” theme. To really fill out a block, it seems that the standard 3 sets are almost required to keep the flavor on theme. If Rise had contained creatures with landfall, allies and more land-based mechanics, as well as the Eldrazi Titans, it would have been a much better contribution to the block as a whole.
Aaaaand, because the first question of the GDS essay tests isnt that interesting and no one really cares about my life without any MTG content involved, here is my answer to essay #2.
#2 - You are instructed to move an ability from one color to another. This ability must be something used in every set (i.e. discard, direct damage, card drawing etc.). You may not choose an ability that has already been color shifted by R&D. What ability do you shift and to what color do you shift it? Explain why you would make that shift.
There seem to be two optimal ways to approach shifting a core mechanic from one color to another. The first is by making a list of mechanics that are common in all sets and listing what colors they are in, then finding a mechanic that shows up in far fewer colors than most mechanics, and lastly finding a color where that mechanic could also fit.
The other approach would be to find a color that could diversify its mechanical options, and then find a mechanic that fits an aspect of its color identity that is underexplored, and then find a commonly used mechanic to suit it.
Regarding the first method, some mechanics that appear commonly in only one color are:
Discard – Black; blue and red sometimes, but usually only tacked on to a draw spell.
Bounce – Blue; white occasionally self bounces its own permanents
Animating non-creature permanents - White: Enchantments; Green: Land; Blue: Artifacts and land
[card]Lure[/card] - Green only thus far
Fast Mana – Red only in the current color pie.
Damage Redirection - White
Using the second method, I find Red to be the color that is most lacking in diversity of mechanics, It has an entire card type that it cannot destroy, and it cannot draw cards or gain life well, which leaves its late game a little lacking. At common it burns, Threatens, destroys artifacts and land, and attacks with fire breathing, haste and first strike. Of the five colors, red is the one with the fewest mechanics it can call its own and no late-game strategies. Checking with the first method again, Damage Redirection is something that has been on red/white cards in the past and does not seem out of flavor for red. Red can redirect spells and it can burn you, Damage redirections is just a riff on that, rather than redirecting a spell, red is just burning you with your own damage. As long as the word “prevent” is left off of those cards it should not feel too unusual to “[card]Shunt[/card]” damage just like you can a spell with a red card.
Well, as yet another multiple choice test bites me in the ass for my originality and the need to explain myself, I am no longer in the running for the Great Designer Search 2 so I am allowed to post my answers to the essay test. So without further ado, here are my answers to GDS 2.
#1 - Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
My name is Andrew Lee, but most people call me Shoe. I am 27 years old, I graduated from the Univeristy of Missouri in Columbia with a degree in General Studies. I was introduced to Magic in 1994 around the release of Ice Age. My first booster pack was Revised and was given to me by my father. Ever since then I have been enamored with the game, and play it as often as life allows. Gaming and game design have been important to me since I was very young. At 12 years old I was designing my own primitive games. I can only describe them as a cross between an old side-scrolling video game and a comic book. During play, we covered up the later panels so that the rest of the “game” was still a mystery. In middle school I discovered Dungeons and Dragons and was immediately indoctrinated as DM, designing hundreds of campaigns ranging from silly to epic. I began designing games intended for print in 2006 and have a couple of prototypes that thorough play testing at my local game store indicates are fun and nearly finished products. The nickname of ‘Shoe’ was given to me during a game of Magic in which I made a stupid joke about the Chinpokemonepisode of South Park, and the name stuck. I currently work in Redmond doing Technical Support and also run WOOBERG.weebly.com, a Magic website/blog that compiles and discusses Magic’s variant formats. I am a proud father of three wonderful children (ages one year, two years and four years), and I met my wife at a FNM during Time Spiral. I have been designing and playing games all of my life, and I feel that I can bring new and exciting perspectives to the game we all love.
Moderator of WOOBERG.net, the Encyclopedia of Magic Variant formats, Shoe has been playing MTG since mid to late 1994, He acquired the nickname ‘Shoe’ through a stupid joke made during a MTG game about the Chimpokomon episode of South Park. He loves MTG and gaming in general and hopes to work designing games one day. He plays mostly with his 6 year old daughter these days, but multi-player, and weird formats are his preference.