Working through GDS3 Trial 2 - Multiple Choice Quiz (Part 2)

Ryan Normandin
February 07, 2018

I was one of the 7,000 applicants who signed up for GDS3, then one of the 3,000 who actually wrote the essays, and now, am one of the 94 who passed the much-discussed multiple choice test. While my content typically tends more toward the comedic, I’ve been quite busy with Trial 3, which requires us to....wait a second..... You thought you were clever huh? Well I’m not one to break an NDA, so you’ll have to wait just like everyone else to see what the exciting Trial 3 consists of! And all that on top of my grad school work. So instead of a clever humorous article, I’m going to show off my knowledge of Magic design. (Alongside my ability to guess correctly on the hard ones.) You can find questions 1 through 20 here.  

(Note: The numbers you see are the responses from the Google poll that was posted around social media. 80% of respondents did not participate in the actual GDS3 Trial 2.)


#21 You’re working on the next Commander decks. Which is the most important goal?

The commanders inspire players to build new decks. 1,385
Designing new cards for legacy and vintage. 9
The decks are based on popular Commander decks. 4
The colors are equally represented. 95
Each deck has a brand-new theme. 157

1,650 responses

As someone who doesn’t play Commander, I still suspected the first answer was correct, but found an article where R&D discusses designing Commander decks, and Option 1 is definitely what they care about the most.

#22 Which of the following creatures is the weakest in a typical Standard-legal Draft format?

1G 2/2  29
3G 4/4  29
5G 6/6  31
7G 8/8  46
9G 10/10  1,515

1,650 responses

Relied on intuition here. You rarely get to cast a 10-mana 10/10, and even if you do, it will die to removal that is costed far less. 10-mana 10/10’s are not just the weakest of the bunch, they’re actively pretty terrible.

#23 Which of the following creatures is the strongest in a typical Standard-legal Draft format?

1G 2/2 391
3G 4/4 1,098
5G 6/6 148
7G 8/8 8
9G 10/10 9

1,654 responses

Some argued for the Bear, as they often form the backbone of a deck, but the question asked about the power level of the creature, and that’s definitely the 4-mana 4/4. If played on-curve, it will be a must-answer and trade with similarly-costed removal. Anything more expensive trades down with removal and bears can just be ignored.

#24 The lead of a set has removed a black instant removal spell from their set, and asks you to create potential replacement designs. Which of these qualities is most important for your designs?

It’s a removal card. 644
It’s a powerful card. 7
It’s an instant 11
It’s a black card. 937
It’s an innovative card. 53

1,652 responses

This is tricky; people might go for the removal option if they’re thinking about designing a block. “Oh, if this is supposed to be the removal spell at uncommon, we need to replace it with another removal spell! Otherwise the format could be unbalanced!” Absolutely! However, this question is secretly asking about hole-filling in design skeletons, the way in which R&D builds sets. While it would ideally be a removal spell, it doesn’t have to be; it is basically impossible to change the color of a hole to be filled in a skeleton once you’ve progressed at all through set design.

#25 Why do green’s common creatures tend to be a bit more efficient than white creatures?

This is the way it has always been. 89
Green is the enemy of Blue and Black. 52
White has stronger removal. 1,322
Green players love powerful creatures. 183
White is the enemy of Black and Red. 5

1,651 responses

Green and White are the creature colors. Green gets bigger creatures because that’s what’s in its color pie. But why does it get more efficient creatures? Because if White gets removal and Green gets nothing, then White is just the better creature color. As such, Green needs more efficient creatures to balance out/compete with White’s removal.

#26 Which color gets the second fewest common creatures in a typical set?

White 68
Blue 173
Black 771
Red 625
Green 13

1,650 responses

Blue is the heaviest spell color, followed by Red. As such, Red must get the second-fewest creatures at common. It’s not quite “if you’re theme’s not at common, it’s not your theme,” but it’s along the same line. A simple Gatherer search would also confirm this to be true if you were unfamiliar with the color pie of the colors.

#27 Which of these green keywords does design have to be the most careful when using?

Deathtouch 145
Reach 9
Trample 28
Hexproof 1,409
Vigilance 61

1,652 responses

Hexproof is problematic. Always. R&D should honestly eliminate it from being evergreen (that was actually my answer for the essay portion in Trial 1).

#28 We try to avoid making two-color cards where the card could be done as a monocolor card in one of the two colors. Given that, suppose you have a two-color 4/4 creature with flying and vigilance (and no other abilities). Which of the following color combinations would be the best choice for this card?

Green-White 111
Blue-Black 48
Black-Green 591
White-Blue 857
White-Black 42

1,649 responses

This was hotly debated on the interwebs. Look, I know the GDS multiple choice test gets a bit of a rep for having trick questions, but I disagree; I think it has tricky questions, but not trick questions. Too often, ambiguous wording is mistaken as “trick questions.” As they’re interested in hiring someone, they care about your actual understanding, not how clever you are figuring out whether a question is a trick or not. WOTC is not a test-making company; unfortunately, some of their questions will be ambiguous, but this is not one of them.

They clearly state that they try to avoid making two-color cards where the card could be done as monocolor in one of the two colors. First of all, this is actually true. They actively avoid doing this, and it has been discussed in multiple design articles on the Mothership. They actually would not make a WU Serra Angel. Really. Now once in a while, stuff slips through the cracks, but they’ve made it clear that this is actually their design philosophy. As such, all answers with White can be eliminated, as White has both flying and vigilance, so a second color would contribute nothing. Blue and Black both have flying, but neither has Vigilance. Black has flying and Green has Vigilance, so we’ve found our answer.

#29 Which of these is the most important quality for a set to have?

It has powerful cards. 9
It’s easy to learn. 18
It matches the story. 10
It’s fun to play. 1,530
It has great strategic depth. 81

1,648 responses

Needs to be fun. This is what design cares about more than anything else. The other things are nice, but if it has them without being fun, it’s a dud.

#30 Which of these creature keywords tends to have the most value in a control deck?

Menace 46
Lifelink 1,475
Trample 10
First strike 101
Haste 14

1,646 responses

Control decks like to keep the board clear of creatures and they are slow, often falling to low life totals. As such, all keywords that interact in combat are useless for a control deck. Between Haste and Lifelink, the answer is Lifelink. It helps to recoup the life lost by Control, which aggressively uses life total as a resource. Haste does not matter, as Control is in no hurry to close out games.

#31 When Set Design holds a draft, most of the time there are exactly eight drafters. Why?

We have tables that sit eight drafters. 5
Our teams have eight people. 15
That’s the most common number of drafters in the real world. 1,522
We want four Spikes, three Timmy/Tammies, and one Johnny/Jenny 34
Our smaller booster boxes hold only 24 booster packs. 74

1,650 responses

Definitely not 1, 2, or 4. 5 is irrelevant for all Standard sets. Answer is pretty clearly 3.

#32 You’ve designed a card, and you want the Play Design team to like it. How should you choose your casting cost?

Use your intuition. 353
Pick the strongest cost that isn’t broken. 575
It doesn’t matter; they’ll fix the cost if you get it wrong. 136
Find a similar card as the basis for the casting cost, then make it one cheaper. 184
Ask someone from Play Design to choose the casting cost. 397

1,645 responses

This was a really, really hard question for a lot of people. I looked over the answers, wasn’t sure, so decided to think practically and answer honestly. If I really was working in R&D and had designed a card that I wanted Play Design to like, what would I actually do? Probably walk across the room and ask them how to cost it. That’s why you have teams, right? Luckily, the most practical answer was also the correct answer here.

#33 Which of these evergreen keyword abilities is most likely to be put on a common white creature?

Trample 8
Vigilance 1,631
Flash 0
Double strike 2
Indestructible 5

1,646 responses

Vigilance is easy to understand, shows up a ton, is primary in White, is low complexity, and a quick Gatherer search will confirm it’s shown up more at Common in White than any of the other options.

#34 Which of the following best describes how a counterspell-based blue deck should contribute to a Standard environment?

Standard is most fun when the counterspell deck is mono-blue. 31
Standard is most fun when counterspell decks aren’t competitive. 152
Standard is most fun when the counterspell deck is the strongest deck in Standard. 6
Standard is most fun when the counterspell player has a way to win quickly and efficiently once they take control. 1,449
Standard is most fun when the counterspell player has the ability to stop their opponent from doing anything. 7

1,645 responses

Design has talked a lot about their movement toward allowing control decks to close games quickly once they have control. This is what keeps games against Control decks as fun as possible, since sitting there for 20 minutes knowing you’ve lost isn’t fun. (Yes, obviously you should concede, but many newer players won’t, clinging onto that 0.5% chance of victory.) Recent Control decks have reflected this with finishers such as Dragonlord Ojutai, Pearl Lake Ancient, Torrential Gearhulk, and Approach of the Second Sun.

#35 Assuming the creature is strong enough to see Standard play, which of the following isn’t a good quality for a green creature to have?

It draws multiple cards without attacking or blocking. 1,583
I can destroy an artifact or enchantment. 18
It uses +1/+1 counters to grow to very large sizes. 19
It has larger stats than other creatures at its mana cost. 19
It can tap to produce mana. 7

1,646 responses

This question was a little tricky because even though my gut said Option 1, my brain cried out “COURSER OF KRUPHIX! TIRELESS TRACKER! JADELIGHT RANGER! EVERY STANDARD-PLAYABLE GREEN CARD ADVANTAGE ENGINE!!!” But honestly, none of the other options are problematic. They’re all totally fine. Additionally, the first, according to Green’s color pie, actually is a problem, and suggests that Tireless Tracker and Courser of Kruphix probably should have been designed differently. As such, I went with Option 1, hoping that Option 4 wasn’t a logistical problem if, by “very large,” they meant “1,000 power.” That’s a lot of dice.

#36 If we were to bring back the storm mechanic in a Ravnica set, which guild would be the best match for the mechanic?

Orzhov 2
Rakdos 11
Simic 10
Selesnya 5
Izzet 1,619

1,647 responses

Storm cares about casting lots of spells (I know, technically creatures count, but practically…) UR are the two biggest spell colors, Storm has mostly appeared in U and R, and Izzet has mechanics like Replicate and Overload. It would absolutely be the Storm color.

#37 A synergy theme in a set needs you to draw specific cards for it to work. This isn’t happening frequently enough. Which of the following mechanics would not help increase the frequency of these interactions?

Investigate 12
Kicker 1,428
Transmute 86
Scry 87
Cycling 28

1,641 responses

Kicker is the only mechanic on the list that does not dig you through your deck.

#38 Which of the following designs from Legends would be the most reasonable to recost into a competitive Standard card?

Presence of the Master 164
Land Tax 313
Arboria 210
Mana Drain 881
Acid Rain 67

1,635 responses

This question was more contentious than I imagined. Not only are all the other cards color pie breaks/severe bends, they’ve reprinted a strictly better Mana Drain (recosted, of course) in Spell Swindle. Mana Drain is the clear answer.

#39 Which category of player most dislikes high variance in gameplay, with “high variance” defined as larger swings in outcome possibilities for individual cards outside of the player’s control?

A new player 49
Timmy/Tammy 40
Johnnyy/Jenny 50
A player who prefers multiplayer 9
Spike 1,495


1,643 responses

Spike likes to win because they play in order to prove something, usually that they’re the better player. They can’t do that if their win was the result of randomness. Might as well just play Candy Land in that case.

#40 Which of the following cards is typically the strongest in Limited play?

Lava Axe 49
Cowl Prowler 19
Pacifism 1,330
Wind Drake 188
Duress 55

1,641 responses

Having played with all of these cards, it is Pacifism. It is also not close; Pacifism is a super high pick in Limited, whereas Lava Axe is usually pretty bad, Cowl Prowler is fine, but expensive, Wind Drake is good, but has gotten worse over the years as other creatures have been powered up, and Duress is a sideboard card. Pacifism is the only card that you are guaranteed to play if you are playing White.

#41 Which of the following are not generally aimed at competitive Standard play?

One-shot mana acceleration 1,353
Card draw 44
Direct damage that can hit either creatures or players. 67
Mass creature kill. 88
Counterspells 90

1,642 responses

As a competitive Standard player, I don’t remember the last time someone cast a Ritual against me. As a Control player, I very, very regularly do literally everything else on this list.

#42 Which of the following iconic white cards is most reasonable to reprint in a Standard-legal set?

Swords to Plowshares 97
Baneslayer Angel 1,429
Karma 53
Armageddon 19
Land Tax 38

1,636 responses

Baneslayer is the only card on the list that does not have an insane power level or lead to gameplay that is considered unfun.

#43 Which of the following iconic black cards is most reasonable to reprint in a Standard-legal set?

Sinkhole 44
Infernal Darkness 42
Underworld Dreams 1,411
Demonic Tutor 67
Demonic Consultation 67

1,631 responses

Underworld Dreams is the correct choice here because the other four lead to repetitive and/or unfun gameplay.

#44 The card Felidar Guardian was banned last year in Standard because of an unintended interaction with the planeswalker card Saheeli Rai. If this interaction were realized late in design, what would have been the best solution?

Add one colorless mana to the cost of Felidar Guardian. 10
Add “Felidar Guardian” enters the battlefield tapped. 140
Keep both cards as-is, but add a flexible instant that can destroy either one of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai 41
Change Felidar Guardian’s ability to return the permanent to the battlefield at the beginning of the next end step. 1,432
Change Saheeli Rai’s mana cost to UUR so that she is harder to cast in a three-color deck. 14

1,637 responses

The problem with Felidar Guardian was the interaction with Saheeli. They literally state this in the question. The first, third, and fifth option do nothing to prevent the interaction. Having the cat ETB tapped prevents attacking, but doesn’t prevent the interaction. Additionally, White does not typically get “ETB tapped” on its creatures; that’s a Black thing. Flicker-until-end-of-turn both cleanly eliminates the interaction and is something White has done on other cards (Flickerwisp).

#45 Assuming all of the following designs are costed at an appropriate power level and win rate in Standard, which would be the least fun to show up in competitive play?

An enchantment that lets you name a card, then stops the named card from being cast. 83
An enchantment that stops all creatures from attacking. 1,475
An artifact that taps to add three mana to your mana pool. 28
An artifact that causes each player to lose 2 life during their upkeep. 16
A sorcery that destroys all nonland permanents. 33

1,635 responses

Stopping creatures from attacking oftentimes means just stopping the game. Pretty unfun.

#46 Which of the following cards would we be most likely to reprint in a Standard-legal set?

Counterspell 84
Dark Ritual 33
Llanowar Elves 993
Lightning Bolt 482
Swords to Plowshares 43

1,635 responses

Alas, we finally reach the first question I answered incorrectly. Swords and Counterspell are way too strong for Standard, and Black doesn’t get Rituals anymore. Between Bolt and Elves, Bolt is the stronger, more warping card. R&D considers Bolt, for example, to be more powerful than Path to Exile. Elves, on the other hand, has a name so problematic (both for its plurality and its Dominaria-specificity) that it was discontinued in favor of Elvish Mystic. I thus lean toward Bolt.

However, this question could be read as, “Suppose we are designing an arbitrary Standard set. Which are we more likely to reprint?” I would answer Bolt.

It could also be read as, “Which are we more likely to reprint in some Standard set down the road?” I would answer Elves, as, despite the name, it has nostalgia appeal, we’re definitely going back to Dominaria multiple times, and Core sets have returned.

I chose to read the question the first way, and thus picked up my first lost point.

#47 From a design standpoint, what is the biggest problem with this card? Mega Bolt 3R Instant CARDNAME deals 8 damage to target creature.

7 is a more asthetic number than 8. 10
It blurs the line between black and red. 805
A card dealing this much damage should be a sorcery. 329
It’s too much damage for four mana. 450
Players may find ways to redirect the damage to their opponents. 43

1,637 responses

Red should not have access to spells that deal so much damage that, the vast majority of the time, they are no different from “Destroy target creature.” It really should not have this, except in special circumstances (Star of Extinction) at any mana cost; as such, the problem is not the cost-to-damage ratio, the problem is that it’s blurring the line between Black and Red.

#48 Which of these text boxes would most likely be red-flagged as highly complex for a common creature?

1R: CARDNAME gets +2/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn. 179
Whenever CARDNAME attacks, creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. 284
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, target creature gets +2/+2 and gains trample until end of turn. 128
2W: Target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. 696
Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, CARDNAME gets +1/+1 until end of turn. 345

1,632 responses

After doing some reading on which characteristics of a card are sufficiently complex to lead to a red flag, the answer was clearly Option 4. It is the option that most dramatically increases the number of branching probability; when a player goes to combat, they must consider what happens if EVERY CREATURE was to receive that pump. All other options are significantly less complex, as they lead to far fewer branches.

#49 You’re playing a multiplayer game. Which pair of mechanics would cause the most confusion if they frequently appeared together in a play environment?

Fabricate and formidable 37
Myriad and battalion 1,141
Miracle and cycling 155
Devour and exploit 190
Modular and scavenge 97

1,620 responses

Myriad and Battalion are confusing together because players would be unsure when the Battalion trigger is “checked.” None of the other mechanics have much opportunity for confusion when played together.

 Questions 50 through 75 will come in the next installment! 

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