Trolling my Way Through the Great Designer Search
(Disclaimer: I love Magic, have a lot of respect for Wizards R&D, admire Mark Rosewater greatly, and understand that building formats is a very tough job. The following contains some… er… playful jabs at Wizards, but is hopefully enjoyed as good-natured.)
This past week, the first Top 8 challenge of the Great Designer Search 3 was posted on Wizards’ “website” (the term is used loosely here). While I am not publicly listed as a member of the GDS3 Top 8, Wizards was so impressed by the uniqueness of my designs that they asked me to participate alongside the other contestants.
The first design challenge (which you can find here) is basically to choose a creature type that hasn’t received much love in the past and create eight cards that all care mechanically about this tribe. These eight cards need to include at least two colors, span the four rarities and cover most card types. Without further ado, let’s introduce our judges!
Play Design: Hey there! We’re the people that WOTC hired to balance their cards after the last department they had hired to balance their cards printed a record number of bannable cards in Standard! You can thank us for the first block in Standard since Battle for Zendikar with no banned cards (yet… *cough* Karn *cough*).
Rules Manager: As Rules Manager, I’m here to make fun of you when your cards don’t work. Most of the time, my job is pretty boring, which is why I like to spice things up once in a while by dropping bombs on Twitter where I just kind of make up my own rules.
Mark Rosewater: HI THERE! I AM MARK ROSEWATER, HEAD DESIGNER OF MAGIC AND I AM SO EXCITED TO BE HERE!!! I HATE BANANAS, AND I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN THREE WEEKS! RESTRICTIONS BREED CREATIVITY HAHAHA!!!!!
And today’s guest judge is…
@Wizards_Help: Hi, have you submitted a bug report? Unfortunately, many of these bugs are load-bearing structures, and fixing them could cause MTGO to collapse. What’s that? Computer software doesn’t work like that? Awww, it’s cute that you think MTGO qualifies as “computer software.”
RYAN NORMANDIN’S DESIGN CHALLENGE:
There is no creature type mightier than the Troll. While WOTC has insisted they are trying to represent all types of players in their cards, they have continuously neglected one of the largest groups that play their games – the trolls.
Every time I’m on Twitch, Twitter, or the comment sections of articles, there are trolls everywhere. And yet, only 28 trolls have ever been printed by WOTC. They tend to be in Black and Green and have the ability to regenerate, but with the phasing out of regeneration, it’s time to give Trolls a new identity, one that players will be able to relate to. In my eight cards, I attempt to do that. And I haven’t stopped with the creature type; I’m excited to announce that my hypothetical set takes place on the plane that Trolls love more than any other – Kamigawa. While this is completely irrelevant mechanically, I feel it’s still important to know. With that said, let’s jump in!
Troll Arbor (common)
Land Creature – Forest Troll
While Troll Arbor is placed with your lands, it is not a land.
While Troll Arbor is placed with your creatures, it is not a creature.
For as long as Troll Arbor is on the battlefield, you must play your lands in front of your creatures.
Rules Manager: The rules do not currently define “with your--”
Mark Rosewater: LET ME JUST JUMP IN REAL QUICK!!! THIS CARD IS REALLY COOL! JUST REMEMBER LESSON NUMBER FIVE FROM MY TWENTY LESSONS IN GAME DESIGN: DON’T CONFUSE INTERESTING WITH FUN!!! AFFINITY IS A 6 ON THE STORM SCALE HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Play Design: What the hell? This card is terribly designed, there’s no way we could ever print something like this. It also wouldn’t work with MTGO at all.
@Wizards_Help: Hi there, feel free to submit a bug report! While we don’t do anything with them, we hope that submitting them is therapeutic for our customers!
Aethertroll Marvel (rare)
T: If you control a Troll, look at the top six cards of your library. You may reveal a Troll from among them. If you do, choose one:
-Exile two target permanents. Create a 10/10 Troll with indestructible.
-You gain control of target opponent during that player’s next turn. After that turn, that player takes an extra turn. Create a 13/13 Troll with flying, trample, and protection from instants.
-You win the game.
Rules Manager: There are a lot of abilities on the 13/13, and protection is getting phased—
Mark Rosewater: SO COOL! THIS REMINDS ME OF ONE OF MY FAVORITE SETS I EVER DESIGNED, KALADESH! I HAD A CARD LIKE THIS THAT WAS SO FUN TO PLAY THEY HAD TO BAN IT BECAUSE PLAYERS LOVED IT SO MUCH THAT THEY DIDN’T WANT TO PLAY ANY OTHER CARDS! REMEMBER LESSON THIRTEEN: MAKE THE FUN PART THE CORRECT STRATEGY TO WIN!!! KAMIGAWA WAS TRASH HAHAHAHAHA!!!
Play Design: We literally banned this card months ago, why would we make another version? And why would you give people three options that all do the same thing?
*Note: I recognize the increasing importance of digital to MTG’s future, so wanted to design a card specially for MTGO.
Trigger-Stacker-Crasher Troll (uncommon)
Creature - Troll
When Trigger-Stacker-Crasher Troll enters the battlefield, create 100 0/0 green Troll creature tokens. Sacrifice them at the beginning of the next end step.
Whenever a Troll enters the battlefield under you control, put this trigger on the stack.
Whenever a Troll dies, put this trigger on the stack.
2G: Exile Trigger-Stacker-Crasher Troll, then return it to the battlefield under its owner’s control.
Rules Manager: Huh? Does this work? I think-
Mark Rosewater: KEEP IN MIND LESSON 14: DON’T BE AFRAID TO JUST BE BLUNT! THIS CARD SHOULD SIMPLY GO AHEAD AND CRASH MTGO WHEN IT ENTERS THE BATTLEFIELD! OR MAYBE EVEN JUST HAVING IT IN YOUR HAND, KIND OF LIKE HOW LEYLINE OF SANCTITY WORKS!!!
Play Design: This card is incredibly dangerous with ETB’s and die triggers. Also, it straight-up just doesn’t work on MTGO. Although, I suppose that’s not particularly unique to this card; hell, we could crash it with a vanilla 3/3-
MARK ROSEWATER: IT’S A FEATURE NOT A BUG! DON’T DENY COOL THINGS! BLOGATOG!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA
Play Design: Mark, have you ever played Magic Online? It has to be the only flagship gaming program in the world that has significantly more bugs than features.
@Wizards_Help: Hi there, we recommend submitting a bug report! We need something to keep our fireplace going!
Serra Troll (uncommon)
Creature – Troll
Rules Manager: No problems from me! Though shouldn’t this card be UW instead of BG?
Mark Rosewater: NOOOOOOO!!!!! GREEN IS SECONDARY IN VIGILANCE AND BLACK IS SECONDARY IN FLYING, THIS IS PERFECTLY IN COLOR PIE!!!
Play Design: Mark, are you sure this shouldn’t be blue-whi--?
Mark Rosewater: NOOOOO YOU READ THE QUESTION WRONG THE ONLY LOGICAL ANSWER IS BLACK-GREEN!!! REMEMBER LESSON 17: YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE MUCH TO CHANGE EVERYTHING! #IEATCOLORPIEFOREVERYMEAL HAHAHAHAHA
Feed the Trolls (common)
As an additional cost to cast Feed the Trolls, sacrifice any number of Humans.
Put a +1/+1 counter on each Troll you control for each Human sacrificed this way.
Rules Manager: It’s kind of fiddly, a bit much to track for common, but I think the card—
Mark Rosewater: REMEMBER KIDS, YOU CAN EAT PEOPLE, BUT DON’T EAT THE TASTY CARDS HAHAHAHAHA!!!!
Play Design: This card is far too complex for common. Like I assume Mark is saying, I’m confused by the sudden desire to sacrifice Humans. It wouldn’t pose a problem for power level, but it doesn’t feel resonant with the rest of the set.
Mark Rosewater: LESSON 3: RESONANCE IS IMPORTANT!!! VERY IMPORTANT!!! I’M PULLING OUT MY LUNCHBOX!!! YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS!!!
Play Design: Mark, why are you grinding up the cards into powder…?
Mark Rosewater: TIME FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF HIIIGH AT WORK!!!
Four-Time FNM Champion Joey McTroll (rare)
Legendary Creature – Troll
Whenever a player makes a play that someone doesn’t agree with, anyone may tell them that they are the worst Magic player of all time. If they do, that player’s opponent creates a token that is a copy of Four-Time FNM Champion Joe McTroll, except it’s not legendary.
Rules Manager: It feels like we’re going a bit off the rails here. Is anyone else thinking--?
Mark Rosewater: I LOVE IT!!! DOUBLING THINGS IS MY FAVORITE!!! WHY DO OUR LAWYERS SAY NOT TO EAT THESE CARDS?!?! THEY’RE DELICIOUS!!!
Play Design: I’ll be honest, I’m intrigued by this one, but I’m not sure how this would interact with Twitch Chat. It feels like this card would spiral out of control pretty quickly any time a match is on camera. One other note: I get the flavor, but do you really think most Joey McTrolls have won four FNM’s? If we’re talking averages, I’d give them, like… a Top 8. One. At the very most.
Mark Rosewater: DOES IT COUNT AS EATING THE CARDS IF I’M EATING THEM WITH MY NOSE?!
Troll’s Suspicion (mythic rare)
Until end of turn, if a judge call would result in your opponent getting a warning for failing to maintain game state, drawing extra cards, or another game rule violation, they are instead disqualified and banned for sixth months. Counter this spell unless you immediately create a Reddit threat exposing your opponent for the filthy cheat they are.
Rules Manager: This wouldn’t even make it in an Un-set. Someone remind me why we have this guy designing cards for—
Mark Rosewater: YOU NEED TO CHILL, RULES MANAGER! HERE, HAVE SOME OF THIS DELICIOUS CARDBOARD CRACK!!!
Play Design: This is blatantly broken and definitely doesn’t work within the rules. Ryan, it feels like you’re not even trying anymore.
@Wizards_Help: Hi there, have you tried submitting a bug report? If you did, we may not have received it due to a bug in the bug reporting system.
Wizards of the Coast, Unintentional Trolls (mythic rare)
Planeswalker – WOTC
+2: Create another disappointing legendary 2/2 red and green Werewolf Troll creature token named Ulmorty, Grandson of Ulrich. It has, “RG: Ulmorty gets +2/+2 until end of turn.”
-3: Name a card. That card is banned. Name another card. All copies of the first card become copies of the second. At the beginning of your next upkeep, ban that card too.
-10: Sacrifice any number of creatures. For each creature sacrificed this way, create a 3/2 colorless Eldrazi Troll creature token. Then, create a 14/14 colorless Eldrazi Troll creature token with flying named, “Emrakul, who is Always Behind Everything Always All Along.”
Rules Manager: Words like “disappointing” are unnecessary and confu-
Mark Rosewater: GREEN’S ICONIC IS THE HYDRA BECAUSE NEW WORLD ORDER IS ABOUT COMPLEXITY OF CREATURES BEING STRONGER THAN SPELLS! IT’S ON THE SHORT LIST!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA DUMBLEDORE DIES AND MARIT LAGE IS EMRAKUL’S FATHER WHEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!
Play Design: Mark, put your clothes back on! And don’t jump out that window, we’re on the fourth floor!
Overall Judge Commentary
Rules Manager: Why bother? Mark is just going to cut—
Mark Rosewater: YOUR DESIGNS DEFINITELY HAVE TONS OF PROBLEMS, BUT—
@Wizards_Help: Hi there, have you tried submitting a bug report? Unfortunately, we may have been on the phone at the time, which means we didn’t have access to our dial-up internet. But we’re optimistic that as soon as we upgrade to Windows 98, many of these problems will be solved!
Mark Rosewater: --IF THE LAST TWO YEARS ARE ANY INDICATION, “PROBLEMATIC” IS EXACTLY THE KIND OF CREATIVITY WE’RE LOOKING FOR!!! I AM GOING TO COME OVER TO YOUR HOUSE RIGHT NOW TO MEET YOU I AM SO EXCITED I WILL BRING LOTS OF SIGNED CARDS HAHAHAHAHA
Play Design: Mark, come back! Mark!
Mark Rosewater: RYAN, YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A GREAT DESIGNER!!! REIGN IN SOME OF THE THINGS THAT DON’T WORK IN THE RULES, BUT KEEP THE CREATIVITY! MAKE ME SMILE WITHOUT MAKING ME CRY! AND BE SURE TO BREATHE IN DEEPLY WHEN YOU OPEN THOSE BOOSTER PACKS!!! HAHAHAHAHA
Top 8 Cards that Won’t be Missed Upon Rotation
Is it a little bit early to start talking about rotation? With rotation approximately six weeks away, it usually mi...
Beyond the Norm: A Standard Round (and 'round and 'round) Table
With a flurry of Standard GP’s on the horizon, I wondered how players would decide which deck to bring to the tournam...
Buylist Hot Buys