Beyond the Norm: How to Win the Great Designer Search Part 2 - Multiple Choice

Ryan Normandin
January 05, 2018

Hey, everyone! It’s me, Charlie! Resident mtg guru, helping all you try-hards out there to ascend to near-prohood, like I already have. As a near-pro, I have a unique edge when it comes to writing articles. Not only do I have the Magic-playing skillz, but my near-prohood also qualifies me to throw down English words into the coolest combinations out there, constructing literary masterpieces on par with some of my favorite books (See Spot Run, 101 Easy Recipes for the Unemployed Basement-Dweller, How to Stop Disappointing Your Father).

Around a month ago, I was made aware that Wizards of the Coast would be conducting The Great Designer Search 3, where they search the country for the next Magic designer. As I laid out in the first part of How to Win the Great Designer Search, WOTC luckily won’t have to search far. I revealed my winning strategy for the essay portion of the application, and today we tackle the next part – the multiple choice test! Below, I’ve selected some of my favorite questions from the test from the GDS2 along with a discussion of my answers.

Which of the following is not an example of a modular mechanic?

  1. Cycling
  2. Echo
  3. Flashback
  4. Infect
  5. Kicker

Psshh. Trick question. As an experienced near-pro, I have faced off against the modular mechanic many times. Modular reads:

Arcbound Ravager     2

When Affinity casts this card, hope the following:

-You have a sweeper

-You’re good at math


And NONE of the options listed look anything like Arcbound Ravager. I can say with confidence that the correct answer to this question is “all of the above.”


Who is most likely to build a deck themed around The Wizard of Oz?

  1. Timmy
  2. Johnny
  3. Spike
  4. Vorthos
  5. Melvin

The Wizard of Oz is one of the winningest movies of all time. It won awards, huge viewership through syndication, and is preserved in the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically” significant. The movie also contains magical ruby slippers that allow its wearer to planeswalk. So which archetype of player loves winning and loves planeswalkers like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Liliana of the Veil, and Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded? Easy – Spike.

From a design standpoint, what is the most important advantage of the variance of the draw to Magic?

  1. It’s a catch-up feature
  2. It adds randomness, which creates greater variety of gameplay
  3. It allows a player to beat a more skilled opponent
  4. It creates suspense in the late game
  5. It enables the creation of cards that manipulate libraries

Definitely c here. Oh man, the only thing keeping me from a Pro Tour title is that I keep getting beaten by players who are waaay worse than I am. If only the most-skilled players could win games, then SafffronOlive and I would be the only two people who ever won anything. Reid, Huey, and Owen would be eternally seeking (and failing) to edge us out. The reason why variance is so wonderful is because it allows the less-skilled among us (Reid, Huey, and Owen) to win the occasional Pro Tour. The cost, of course, is that some of the most-skilled players in the game (me) have yet to win even two consecutive FNM’s.

“I believe that block had a lot of problems because it was just too parasitic without enough backward compatibility.” Which block am I most likely talking about?

  1. Urza’s Saga block
  2. Mercadian Masques block
  3. Odyssey block
  4. Champions of Kamigawa block
  5. Lorwyn block

This question is less of a question and more of Wizards making a statement. No Kaladesh? Please. Energy is the most parasitic mechanic that we’ve had in, like, ever. By leaving Kaladesh off their permitted choices, they want to brazenly state to the world that there was nothing wrong with Kaladesh and everyone should just stop complaining already.

So while the real answer is Kaladesh, this is a classic case of giving the teacher the answer they want instead of the cold, hard truth. So what answer do they want? Easy. Anytime there’s a question that goes something like “’Bad Thing.’ Which block are we talking about?” It’s Kamigawa. The answer’s always Kamigawa.

From a design standpoint, what is the most realistic threat to Magic’s long-term health?

  1. Complexity creep
  2. Creative limitations
  3. Running out of block themes
  4. Running out of design space for individual cards
  5. Mark Rosewater

This is another question where the obvious answer is wrong. It’s not Mark Rosewater because he’s the most realistic threat to Magic’s short-term health. If Magic can survive his reign as tyrant, then what is the biggest long-term threat? I actually think this question is real tough, as all of these things are legitimate threats.

Complexity creep is a thing – as the game continues, designers naturally want to extend beyond what’s been done, making designs that are more complex. As things become more complex, players enjoy them more and more. There comes a point, which in academic circles is referred to as the nerdgasm, where a game becomes so enjoyable that people become physically unable to stop playing it. They essentially become addicted. This would undoubtedly lead to heavy restrictions around the distribution and playing of the game, and Wizards does not want that. As such, they need to limit complexity creep to stave off nerdgasm while also keeping the game complex enough to imbue light addiction.

Attempting to stave off complexity creep naturally leads to creative limitations. If the game is not complex enough, then people will get bored and leave. We’ve seen Wizards struggle with this in recent years as they’ve phased out boring cards like Hero’s Downfall and Counterspell for more exciting cards like Ruinous Path and Broken Concentration. But let’s be honest – the formula of making staple cards worse and stapling the block’s mechanic onto them can only enrage the playerbase for so long before they snap.

As for block themes, they’re totally running out. What was even the theme of Ixalan? People wanted dinos and people wanted pirates, but WOTC was like, “Dang, there’s not much design space to either of these! Let’s just jam everything together and make them fight each other!” In the vein of simply smashing together stuff people have asked for, I predict that Dominaria will be Norse Gods escaping from Underground World only to find themselves in Underwater World, which they eventually escape to get to Sky World, their home. Unfortunately, Sky World has been overrun by Wild West-Inspired Characters who have all escaped from Prison World. The only thing that can defeat them? Vryn’s mage rings. I guarantee to you that this is basically the plot of Dominaria.

WOTC has designed right around 17,800 cards to date. How could they possibly not be running out of design space for cards? Whenever you’re in a situation like this, where you’re taking the multiple choice test for the GDS3 and all the answers seem legit, just go with the tried-and-true method of “Bobby’s Rule.” Back in high school, Bobby was a complete idiot who never did any work for any class. When he graduated, I was a bit more than surprised. When I asked him how he’d done it, he pulled me aside and solemnly met my eyes. “Charlie,” he said, “The answer’s always C.” Then, he patted me on the shoulder and ran off to celebrate. Today, he is the CEO of one of the most successful banks on Wall Street. That’s why the biggest threat to Magic’s long-term health is definitely running out of block themes.

Hopefully this has been helpful to get you ready to lose to me in the GDS3! I’ll be sure to remember all you plebs when I make it big and start rocking that Renton, WA lifestyle of snorting crushed up Magic cards off Mark Rosewater’s superhero t-shirts.


 Ryan is a grinder from Boston with SCG & GP Top 8’s and a PT Day 2. His fragile self-esteem is built on approval from others, so be sure to tell him what you think of his articles on Twitter @RyanNormandin and in his Twitch chat at