You Make the Card 4 – Round 1 (Card Type) Discussion

YMTC - Blank

So, Great Designer Search 2 Winner Ethan Fleischer announced that WotC is doing another “You Make the Card” contest. I’m excited, and you should be excited as well. If you missed the first three (And you might have since the last one was Coldsnap, around the last time we were in Ravnica), it goes something like this:

Each round the public votes on something that R&D gives us. Slowly, over the course over a year or so, we get to make decisions through voting that will make a real card. From type of card, to name, to art to what the card actually does. Now, R&D has to test the card, so we can’t just get something very powerful for very little cost or get a card that will break the Color Pie (Like a Black Disenchant or Red life gain). The card goes through any process like any other card that WotC would print. It might seem slow, but when you’re holding the card in your hand after you’ve opened it, it’s actually a pretty cool feeling.

Ethan’s announced the first decision, and I’m sure that some of you have voted. If you haven’t, I would like to talk to you about the options that you have and maybe nudge you in a direction. I don’t expect everyone to agree with I’ll say, but hopefully it’s enough to get you thinking and not throw away your vote. Here are your options:

  • Artifact
  • Creature
  • Enchantment
  • Instant/Sorcery
  • Land

No Planeswalker (Way too many issues for a YMTC and it would most likely be another Jace), and no Tribal (Most likely not about to see print). Just the basic card types Magic introduced. Let’s get to it. 

Some things to keep in mind:

  • It looks like this will be sold in booster packs, which means that it will be Standard legal. You’ll have to play with this card for two years at FNM.
  • Because it will be Standard legal, if you want to design a card for an older format it’ll have to play nice with the new cards. Plus, they’re not bending the Color Pie to “fix” something.
  • WotC will eventually get final say on the card. While you wish it would cost 2 less, it most likely won’t.
  • It won’t have any keywords/mechanics from the upcoming set it’s in. WotC isn’t going to tip their hand like that (ie. no Red Snapcaster Mage).
  • I will not be part of any niche support group for “silly” things. I will not be part of a movement for making Contraptions work, getting Pblthp into a creature, or a Squirrel Legend (That’s creative’s deal anyway, so you’re not going to win that one).

The past three YMTC choices were a creature, an artifact and an instant. So there are going to be people who say it should be one we haven’t done (Enchantment, sorcery or a land), and there’s plenty of argument there. If you haven’t seen the first three and the process I would recommend reading them first: Mr. Babycakes (Forgotten Ancient), Crucible of Worlds, and Vanish into Memory (With very little recap). To pitch this decision right, I want to bring up the concept of design space.

Design space is how much design you can fit into a space. Duh, right? It’s more than that; it’s more along the lines of what can the card type do and what can you get away with. Each of the types have bonus and drawbacks when dealing with them. Creatures can attack, but they can also die. Enchantments can take over a game, but they’re hard to set up. Yes, lands are cool because they’re uncounterable, but they’re also uncounterable when you have to play against them. By limiting yourself to a more restricting card type, you limit the options and the was the WotC can mess around with a card. Create a card with fewer “Adjustable knobs”, you’ll run yourself into a deep hole.

By “Adjustable knobs”, I mean the different ways that you can make a card balanced. If you have an ability you want to use, you have to make sure it doesn’t disrupt the game too early. Casting cost, power/toughness, mana of activated ability, creature type, and legendary status are all different ways of adjusting the card to make it work. That’s why you see plenty of powerful cards at high mana costs (Enter the Infinite), or powerful creatures with low power/toughness (Dark Confidant). And I doubt we’ll get the option of choosing the rarity of the card.

Take a look at Tiago Chan’s original invitational card submission:

Denying Channel
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
2UU, Discard CARDNAME: Counter target spell.

It seems really cool, huh? WotC decided that it was too powerful and had to change the card completely. And that’s how Snapcaster Mage was invented. There wasn’t too many ways to adjust the card. Here, you have an uncounterable counterspell that you don’t have to miss a land drop for if you draw it early enough in the game. You only had four options of adjusting the card:

  1. Enters the battlefield tapped (It doesn’t matter, you’re not playing it anyway)
  2. The color of mana it produces (It doesn’t matter, you’re not playing it anyway)
  3. Legendary Land (It doesn’t matter, you’re not playing it anyway)
  4. The cost of the activation

There are plenty of things that WotC could’ve tried with the activation (Discard another card, sacrifice a land, lose X life), but that was the only knob they were able to realistically touch in developing this card. There’s no casting cost to make sure this card get played “fairly”, because that’s a restriction with the land card type. This is the type of thing that I’m not sure many people are thinking of when they vote Land for the YMTC. “Restrictions breed creativity,” MaRo always says. In this case I feel there are too many restrictions to make everyone happy. Remember: This card will be Standard legal; there are restrictions on what you can do with it. With something like artifact or land, every deck will have access to it. People were complaining about Cavern of Souls but that’s the type of card I see the public pushing in this type of contest.

This a popularity contest, plain and simple. It’s not just for the Johnnies, or the Spikes, or the Timmies, but for all of them. There’s a reason why Crucible of Worlds is so beloved by the community: it fits into each one of those demographics. Forgotten Ancient is liked by everyone but the Spikes, and Vanish into Memory is really only liked by the Johnnies. Once the decisions start getting made it’s going to narrow down the number of interested people which means fewer voters (If the vote isn’t anything you like, why should you pay attention?). I feel this is why it took so long to get another one of these into place because of Vanish into Memory being a huge niche card.

If you haven’t voted yet (you have until this Friday), here’s the advice I’m going to offer: Vote for Artifact or Creature. Again, restrictions breed creativity and I feel that there can be some good cards that can be created by the community with the other card types. However, I don’t feel like this kind of contest benefits those types of cards as easily. At this point in the game we need to keep as many options open as we can. If we start narrowing down the adjustable knobs or the restrictions the card type places on us then it’s going to lose interest, and what the card can ultimately do, fast.

9 thoughts on “You Make the Card 4 – Round 1 (Card Type) Discussion”

  1. I agree with most of your post, however, let me offer a different take.

    Cavern of Souls was the cause of a lot of controversy, but nowadays I don’t think that it was a mistake, and I don’t see a lot of people complaining about the card. People complain because whatever the new card is, they will have to think and play differently. You’re right about the moving parts, but good cards can be created using any number of moving parts, and in the end, maybe having lots of options could be detrimental to the final result.

    I believe that any card type is fine, as long as we make this contest about the players, not the Standard environment or the EDH folks. Let’s make a Magic card, not a broken Spikey cog nor a big Timmy monster and neither a complicated Johnny commander.

  2. Actually, I still think Cavern of Souls is a stupid mistake. I just don’t complain about it anymore because my stance on the subject was made clear long ago, and they’ve either accepted or denied it by now. Just like I don’t bother complaining much about Tolarian Academy this days, even though I still think it is a terrible mistake as well.

  3. I almost wish this had gone up sooner or that I hadn’t voted yet. Your post may have changed my mind. I voted Instant/Sorcery because I enjoy a good back-breaking spell [Cruel Ultimatum/Comet Storm] or even something as “Johnny” as Vanish into Memory.
    However this is a community event and not a wishlist. Both creatures and artifacts are much more malleable and could potentially provide the spell like quality I personally enjoy [Snapcaster Mage/Mirari].

  4. I understand your concerns, but I don’t fully understand your reasoning. You say that, during design, voters should maximize the number of knobs that can be turned, giving R&D more options to adjust power level later. If that’s the case, then voters should only choose “creature” and not “artifact.” Artifacts have fewer knobs to turn than creatures (For example, creatures also have power and toughness), so voters shouldn’t select “artifact” because that contradicts the idea to maximize the number of knobs.

    Furthermore, enchantments have more knobs than artifacts do, so they should be a viable option if artifacts are. Enchantments have the knobs that color restrictions offer them; artifacts don’t unless there’s a specific theme like Phyrexian mana.

    So the way I see it, either “artifact” shouldn’t be a viable option for voters or “enchantment” should as well, according to your thinking.

    1. Enchantments are fine when it comes to this choice. However, if you spread the suggestion between too many choices, then the votes will thin themselves out (See: MVP voting in sports).

      Artifacts have two “knobs” over Enchantments in this contest when it comes to balancing them out. First is the possibility of the effect of the card: a one time use, constant use,mor a continuous use. You find plenty of one time uses in artifacts (Mindslaver), but very few in non-common enchantments. Constant (Activated/triggered abilities) and continuous use are both seen in Artifacts and Enchantments but have different functions sometimes (Velidikan Shackles vs. Mind Control).

      The second “knob” is tapping, which is something that Enchantments don’t do. Artifacts can enter the battlefield tapped, be tapped down to use continuously, be tapped to be used, and be tapped to be turned off (though something that hasn’t been used much lately).

      Yes, I could’ve just said “choose Creatures”, but with Artifacts as a choice as well, you have the option of creating a card that can go in most decks (one of the reasons I’ve seen people choosing Land), something that a colored Enchantment can’t do.

  5. Land is exactly the kinda thing modern needs:



    t: add 1 mana to your mana pool.

    t and sac: destroy target land capable of adding more than 1 mana to a player’s mana pool, or a destroy target land that has more than 1 basic type.

    Not as good as wasteland, but helps combat decks that feel they can overextend their base too much to splash whatever they’d like.

  6. Those are fine arguments against Denying Channel, but they do almost nothing to argue against making a land in general. You can’t say lands don’t have design space to balance them out if your only example is a land that’s not intended to even be played as a land. So long as it’s not created just to cycle or forecast or whatever but to actually be played as a land, there’s plenty to balance it out.

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