khirareq's picture
By: khirareq, Jack Rose
Jul 13 2007 9:30am
Login or register to post comments

What is the CCC?
The Custom Card Contest is a contest held weekly by PureMTGO. Contestants use the Magic Set Editor software to design card images, and submit them to the forums to be judged. The top contestants from each month receive a MTGO Traders gift certificate, along with the right to judge next month’s contest should they so choose. All participants have the option of having receiving feedback on their cards. This article is my way of giving that feedback.
A tutorial on how to use the Magic Set Editor can be found here.
More information on this month’s contest can be found here and here.
I can’t be bothered to click those links. Just tell me what’s going on!
Very well! For the month of June, the contest was split into two parts. The top card from each contestant for each part will be added together to form that contestant’s score. The top scoring contestants win!
Each card is scored on 4 attributes: Originality, Wording, Playability, and Flavor. Those scores are averaged across the three judges to come to the final score for the card. For more on the scoring, look here.
In the first stage of the June CCC, contestants were challenged to come up with cards that used keywords from the most recent set, Future Sight. The entries from that stage are here, and the results can be found here. Check them out; there were many very good entries there!
In the second stage, contestants were challenged to create cards that could not be played from your hand. This half of the entry forced the contestant to break the rules of card creation, and the results were inventive to say the least!
Without further ado, here are the cards and my personal opinion of them…
Discarded Hammer – One of the most natural ways to play a card that can’t be played from your hand is to play it from your graveyard. Cycling gets it there. This is a natural, intuitive use of mechanics that is costed in a reasonable way. I could see Wizards printing this at common in spite of it having no mana cost.
Having said that, it does suffer in the originality portion. The only part of this card we haven’t seen before is the part where a card with no mana cost gets cycled. While it may be a worthy design for R&D, it is a bit underwhelming for a competition where you are trying to outdesign your competitors.
Lesson Learned: If you’re trying to design the chase card of the set, you’ve got to get the audience’s attention. Try something original!
Invert Reality – Original design, costed correctly, with an interesting never-before-seen effect. The name ties together with the card’s mechanic. The mechanic itself gives the card that “play around me” feel, since it is a powerful effect that requires a deck be built around it in order to be effective. The mana cost is spot on as well, though I am a little worried that the card could be too competitive using Jhoria and suspend to get it into play quickly. But I guess a deck packing Jhoria can’t be all that competitive in the first place! I think this card is good enough to see print.
Lesson Learned: Thinking outside the game is even better than thinking outside the box.
Teferi’s Nightmare – This is an interesting take on phasing. I like the flavor of having something phase out as one thing and then something goes wrong and an evil creature phases back in. The keywords should have come on the same line and been before the mechanics text, but that is really a minor quibble. The lack of a mana payment to put this into play is a bigger one fault, but the price of 5 life, the card you had phased out and the turn required for it to come back into play is nothing to sneeze at.
Atlantis, Hidden Civilization – A land that just can’t be played. Fascinating! Plus, the name is Atlantis, and its ability is tied to the number of Merfolk in play. Lots of flavor in this card, which is important! I do wish it had an ability that could be used while it is in play, because it IS possible to get it there, but it doesn’t do anything if you do. This is good, solid top-down design.
Lesson Learned: Making a card memorable is all about the total package. The most memorable cards are the ones that tie the name, color, type, art, and mechanic together.
No Rest for the Wicked -  The name of this card illustrates the value of doing a Gatherer search before you submit. There is in fact already a magic card in print with this name, which is rumored to be coming back in X. Also, there are no cards currently in print that target a graveyard. Before we can even evaluate the card, we’ve got to assume those two facts aren’t true. If you assume that isn’t the case, the card you’ve got left isn’t bad. We are left to the imagination as to what targeting a graveyard might entail, but every time you do it, you have the possibility of getting some Skeleton weenies into play for no mana cost. I do wish there was some kind of mana cost, because while losing life and having to remove creatures from your graveyard are nice drawbacks, it has much less potential to be broken if you just make them pay 1 for each token. Look at the craziness of Bridge from Below for an example of what I’m talking about; no mana cost abilities are begging to be abused!
Lesson Learned: Search Gatherer for your card name before you hit submit!
Planar Beeing – The keyworded abilities generally go above the non-keyworded abilities, except in cases where you have to print the color. In your forum post you mentioned a card that allows you to abuse this. I’m curious as to what card specifically you are thinking of. I mean, the suspend mechanic is enough to get the card pretty darn big, especially if you use it in conjunction with the delve mechanic. Still, the inability to cast the card – from anywhere – I think is a pretty good balancing mechanic, relegating the card to the role of a combo piece that (probably) won’t kill the opponent. I’m also not sure how it relates to a storyline. This thing in spite of all the abilities on it doesn’t have any particular flavor to me. I can’t figure out how the card’s name relates to its abilities, or how the abilities relate to each other, or how the creature type “Sphere” is relevant – it’s all beyond me, so it probably would be to any casual magic player.
Lesson Learned: Don’t make a flavor too obscure. If it has to be tied into a specific reference to the magic storyline in order for a player to “get it,” most of us won’t get it.
Prismatic Surge – This card represents an elegant execution of this month’s theme. I do wish this card had a little more flavor though. Why does black have prismatic removal? Why did the bolt of energy come out of the book? The card doesn’t really address these issues. The price is a little high, but that’s better than too low. It provides a subtle form of card advantage, in that it can be played without being in your hand. There’s just one problem with it – there is nothing that prevents it from being played from your hand. Therefore, Prismatic Surge is DISQUALIFIED!
Lesson Learned: Make sure you fully understand your objective before you begin design. That way you’ll be sure to come to it when you are finished.
All Rise – I guess the way you get this into your graveyard is to dredge it? That “no discard” clause is pretty brutal. I liked the fact that it was called “All Rise” and it brought multiple creatures from the graveyard to play. I didn’t like the fact that it was excessively wordy; I understand using CMC to balance the card, but man that’s a lot of words. This card is balanced by the graveyard constraints and the mana cost involved in getting it into play. It’s difficult to tell how well that balances the card, however; triggered abilities without mana costs are begging to be abused.
Lesson Learned: Put mana costs on triggered abilities. It’s much harder to abuse a mechanic with a mana cost than it is one without.
Charge of the Dead – That’s some powerful stuff. Put ALL of the cards from your graveyard into play? With haste? It does cost 7 mana, but there are ways to cheat on mana. Is this too strong? Or just strong enough? It does require that you build around it, since it can only be played from the graveyard. However dredging an Akroma of each type and a SSS means good game. Then again, shouldn’t a deck be able to cast a “good game spell” at seven mana? I would have to playtest this to figure out whether or not it’s broken. To me, that makes for a fun card!
Flavorwise this is great! All the dead rising up from their graves for one last hasty charge? Again, the mechanic, art, type and color combine for a memorable experience. Excellent work!
Urgor Hellkite – Hmmm…well, it is a big red flyer. But it doesn’t feel very red, does it? It comes with a “must be played from the graveyard” trigger along with a recursion mechanic. It doesn’t have haste or firebreathing, nor can it deal damage to other creatures. This card feels like it would be more in flavor for a demon than the dragon you have listed.
Lesson Learned: Make sure the card’s mechanic ties in with the card’s flavor in the color pie. It is okay to break the mold every once in a while, but first you need to prove you know where the mold is.
Incoherence – Gah! The wording on this card is atrocious. First, the color of the card always comes first in the rules text if it isn’t obvious from the mana cost. There’s never been a colorless instant before, but I don’t think that there is anything saying that there couldn’t be. It doesn’t say how you can play it from your library. What, can you just pick up your library at any time and tell your opponent that you have an incoherence in it? It doesn’t tell you to shuffle your library afterwards. It has two separate “target opponents”, meaning that opponent can take his hand and shuffle it into another opponent’s library.
In short, this card is incoherent.
Cryonic Suspension Chamber – I’ve got to confess right from the start, I love anything having to do with Cryonics. It’s right up there with Ninjas for me. Long story. Anyway, I liked the pun in the name. I liked the cards mechanic. However, there is no reason flavor wise why this has to be played from your graveyard. It feels like that line was tacked onto what otherwise would be a very good card, just to make it fit with the month’s theme. I also don’t like the fact that you can reuse creatures in this way over and over again. That’s going to get annoying very quickly.
Lesson Learned: Don’t force your card ideas where they don’t belong. Keep them stored safely away until the opportunity presents itself. Eventually, it will.
Arael, Light of God – Nice submission! I almost docked you on Wording for this one, because Shock counters don’t actually do anything unless Arael is in play to tell them to. Once I figured out that the trick was getting Arael in play so that they COULD mean something, I had a much higher appreciation for the card. A neat trick with this card would be a semi-grandeur ability; discard a second copy of Arael to the first copy’s forecast ability, then reanimate him. Thus turning all the cards in your hand into free Arrests. This will have your opponent frantically searching through his deck to find some way to kill the offending Angel and free up his creatures again. Well done.
Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to shock and awe a few of the bad guys!
Sea of Dirac – Ugh. This is a terrible picture, like you said. Also, you had to explain what the card does outside of the card. That’s not going to help your flavor at all. If you can’t understand why the card does what it does by looking at it, you should keep working on it until you can. Playability wise, you’ve recreated a more potent version of Stasis. Ugh again! We can only HOPE this card would not be playable, especially as you can get it onto the board on turn 0 with Gemstone Caverns.
Lesson Learned: Don’t print a card you don’t want to play against!
Ritual of the Honorbound – This is a good fit of flavor to text, and I am dying to know what the “Ritual” subtype means. There is just one problem with the card – it doesn’t do anything! It has a mechanic if you cycle it, which is fine. But it says that you can play it from the graveyard during your upkeep, while it doesn’t say what it does if you play it! Also, I think the cycling text would have been better off if you had replaced it with some sort of flavor text outlining what the ritual was and how it made you stronger.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes, understanding why a card does what it does is more important than adding rules to make it do more.
Psyche Reading – Enchant Library. Fascinating. So, what’s Thoughtlink?
I’m kidding. I know you meant Psyche Reading. Next time, use the tilda (~), it works out so much better.
I’m curious as to why Blue is hosing opponents who play Blue. Wouldn’t that be more appropriate for Green? Also, you never actually said that this was a blue enchantment; we are left to assume that from the color of the border. Not that it matters; you could play this in any color. Lastly, an enchantment that hoses blue and can be played for instant speed for no cost is a little bit too strong of a hoser, don’t you think? I mean, I hate blue as much as the next guy, but this is overboard!
Lesson Learned: Just because you hate another color doesn’t mean it is okay to make it unplayable!
Goblin Firebomber – Wait, so you can play him – for free – on the first turn? With haste? Strong much? This card is way too strong for a coin flipping mechanic, which is a distinctly casual thing. Do you really want pro tours to be decided by who can win their first turn coin flips the most often? Also, there is absolutely no incentive to play this creature in Red. In fact, he may as well be a black creature; throw down a couple in the first turn and then use the almighty Raise Dead to get back any that you lost the flip on. Wizards has been going away from coin flips that have a Win/Lose effect towards coin flips that say Effect 1/Effect 2. This is definitely a win/lose coinflip. Last but not least, why is the goblin firebomber a human berserker?
Lesson Learned: Mana costs are there for a reason. Use them!
Striding Silverback – There may be some rules confusion over this card. Cards like Rampant Growth and Farseek allow you to search for lands that might be forests, but you are not specifically searching for forests. So, this card could not be played then. Only when you cast a Wood Elf or Mwonvuli Acid Moss or Hunting Wilds would you actually be able to play this (in standard anyway). That may well have been your intent; however I think it would cause a lot of rules confusion for the casual player who might otherwise love this card. I think you would have been better off saying “search for a land” instead.
I’m also curious as to how and why the ape became a druid.
Other than that, solid flavorful card.
Lesson Learned: Don’t assume that just because you know how a card is supposed to be played, everyone else will know!
Effervesce – I think the flavor of this one is interesting; it causes life to bubble up, and it kind of floats around in the RFG zone. Very abstract and cerebral. The card itself is a waste of cardboard. It is every bit as unplayable as the most broken card submitted. No one would put a card into their deck simply to gain one life. It’s not worth the space of having a card in the deck.
Lesson Learned: Severely underpowered cards are every bit as unprintable as severely overpowered ones.
Walkers Upon the Land –How do you tell the balance on a card with no mana cost? You’ve got to assume that this creature is actually worse than any comparable creature that does have a mana cost. If this is not fairly balanced, then no huge fatty with shroud and trample could be fairly balanced. Sooo…can a huge fatty with Trample and Shroud be fairly balanced? I think it can. It doesn’t win the game on its own. It doesn’t have haste. It’s still vulnerable to Deathtouch, Wrath, and other assorted non-targetting effects. So yeah, I think that it is balanced. I like the flavor of Spirits that have to be reanimated or called by an elf (a certain piper, maybe), but when they get there they are a BIG help. I do wish this card had some some sort of connection to green other than it’s text, since this is more likely to be played in black or white where it is wildly out of flavor. With that one little change, I could see this card being printed. Good stuff.
And that’s it for the June CCC! Results from this contest are listed in here the PureMTGO forums. I’d love to hear some comments on the individual entries below. Post your opinions below and tell me how wrong (or right!) I am!
So does it look like fun? A challenge, even? Then join us now for the July CCC! Design Cards! Win prizes! Have lots of fun!
*Note* I apologize for the lateness of this entry.  I submitted it last week, but the internet ate it.  The good news is, I now know that I'm going to help judge the July CCC, so this article is a little more relevant for those of you competing.  For everyone else, consider it a primer in amateur design theory!


by Lord Erman at Sat, 07/14/2007 - 05:47
Lord Erman's picture

Nice to know what's going on inside the judges' minds when rating cards. Also I hope this kind of articles will increase the number of contestants we have so far.

by Outlaw1 at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 22:55
Outlaw1's picture

I think normally I would agree with that except for the distinction made between the free cards in TSP and FUT. For example I dont think that you could replicate for free as many copies of wheel of fate as you wanted, wheras you can with pact of the titan.

Uhm,... by Hollow0n3 at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 13:57
Hollow0n3's picture

The overall writing isn't bad, however, why does this only cover the 2nd part?

Also.. Planar Beeing isn't a reference to the normal magic-events, reading the short backgroundinformation that I gave in my first post for the 1st part should make that clear. Next time I won't just hint at my precious posting, I'll directlink to it. =/

Also, since this contest had special rules, I made a common and a rare for each part... since the overall rating mattered more, thus creating printable, solid commons and experimental rares that stretch the bounderies as we know them a little.  Next Time I build a whole set arround a months theme I guess I will have to make it even more obvious then using the same expansionsymbol. *sigh*

by Evu at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 20:36
Evu's picture

I'm not a judge, but I'm pretty sure that Chord/Stir would work with Walkers.  CR 203.3a says: "The converted mana cost of an object with no mana cost is 0."

Just what the Dr. Ordered. by Lythand at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 21:55
Lythand's picture

This is finally what I been waiting on. Feedback. Not only do I get the feedback on how my cards could do better, but how others could of improved as well. It was like a big class on card design. Excellent job. Only critique I have, is that instead of addressing each poster as if you were singling them out, word it as you are addressing a class. There is a lot of you you you, when it would be better  worded as " we can learn from this submission....." Other then that I liked it.

by AJ_Impy at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 20:35
AJ_Impy's picture

I'm glad you liked Teferi's Nightmare, and I can't argue with disliking the art either. I'm much more of an ideas guy than an art director, and I still tend to have a hangup over using someone elses art off the internet,  even with their permission, so tend to only take art which I then modify, or create from scratch. As you can see, my art skills are mediocre at best. :)

I'm pretty pleased with both my entries for the second half. It was a truly excellent restriction to work with, and I'm glad people picked up on the flavor of both cards. Invert Reality does have a good few ways to be abused, but they all take a hefty bit of effort. Still, traumatizing and haunted echoing yourself, using Jhoira, Mind's Desire, manipulate fate, Arc-Slogger, Orcish Librarian or even just lobotomising yourself would be cool.

by khirareq at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 14:42
khirareq's picture

I only submitted the second half because we did not have permission from the contestants to use submissions from the first half.  One of the criticisms of this article idea from the beginning is that some people would not like having their cards judged in a very public place like this.  Therefore, only cards whose authors explicitly granted permission for their use made the article.

I think the writing would have been helped by having some opposing points of view presented.  Hopefully the comments will help in that respect! :) 

I encourage you to spell out anything cool about your entries that you think I might miss when judging the card.  However, I am going to judge the card based on what is inside the four borders.  If I have to read some other source to figure out why the card does what it does, then there is something wrong with the flavor of the card (exceptions can be made for other cards, ie the July card cycles).  Why does Planar Being have protection from all colors?  Why is it all colors?  You could infer trampling from the art, but it is clearly not flying.  Why doesn't it have a CMC?  How is it related to the RFG zone?  These are questions the card won't answer by itself.

Comments by khirareq at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 13:34
khirareq's picture are quite right Evu, I did not notice the interaction between having one Effervesce in the graveyard and one RFG.  That does become a good deal more powerful.  I'm still not sure that it's worth a card slot in a deck, but now at least there is a question about it.

It would not be the first time I've missed something about a card.  Please, if there is something really cool but subtle about your card, point it out in the forums!

You could justify Walkers as a green creature just using the name and creature type.  My thing is, you are less likely to play this in a green deck than any other color.  Tying this card to forests or elves somehow would have helped its flavor.  Like "If you control an Elf, ~ gains shroud.  If you control a forest, ~ gains trample."

I'm not 100% certain that Chord trick works.  Chord says that you have to have a converted mana cost of X or less, but Walkers has no converted mana cost, so I'm not sure it's a legal target.  A creature with a converted mana cost of 0, yes, but one with no converted mana cost?  I think that's the same principal with Stir the Grave - you couldn't reanimate this for B, since there is no CMC on the creature.  I'd love a judge's input on that, though.  There may not even be a rule in magic addressing the issue, since AFAIK there has never been a creature without a CMC.  Well, morphs have no CMC when they are in play, but they do in your hand.  Except Zoetic Cavern.  But that's not a creature in your hand.  So I'm back to my original statement; I don't think there has been a creature with no CMC printed yet.

hk3family, I did give Cryonic Suspension Chamber an extra point in flavor because I think Cryonics is cool.  I don't think that effected the overall result much.  If you really want me to skew the results, you'll need to make a Cryonic Ninja.  Like Sub-Zero.  If you could somehow make him a Robot, Pirate, or a Cowboy as well that's all the better.

Good to know! by hk3family at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 10:06
hk3family's picture

Good to know what you thought on each card, I like the "lesson learned" portion. However, 2 things bother me...


1) It seems that you voted Cryonic chamber, because "it dealt with cryonics" a little higher than it should have been...

2) Effervesce is actually suprisingly strong. It doesn't seem that you thought about "what if there's 4 of them."  Think about it: Delve allows you to remove 1 from the game using another one... so you're gaining 1 life for each W you use... yes, life-gain sucks for the most part, but you've gotta admit gaining 7+ life a turn for a W/x control deck isn't really too bad... as an instant I think it may even have seen play in W/U a sorcery... maybe something like W/r or W/b... but it seems more like a combo/board control card to me... I think that was missed about it :D  


Just my $2.47 (After inflation and taxes)



by Evu at Fri, 07/13/2007 - 12:18
Evu's picture

Thanks for taking the time to write this up, khirareq.  It's great to have verbal feedback instead of (well, in addition to) just a bunch of numbers.

HK, you understood Effervesce perfectly.  :)  One in the grave and one RFGed (and I'm assuming this would be in a block where Delve was a major mechanic) would form a hard-to-disrupt engine that says "W: Gain 1 life".  As an instant I think it would be too powerful.  As a Sorcery it might be slightly on the weak side, but could find a home in the right kind of deck.  This also explains why it's a common: I wanted the combo to be possible in Limited.  Though, depending on whether it was in a big or a small set, and whether there were any other cards that used the same mechanic, it might need to go up to uncommon.

I wondered whether I should say something about how it was intended to be used in my submission post, but decided that cards should stand on their own.  That might have been a mistake.  The card got a very low score for playability, and I think part of the reason is that not all of the judges fully understood it.

As for Walkers Upon the Land, it seems khirareq had about the same thought process I did.  I figured that a creature with no mana cost can afford to be a little better than any existing creature with a mana cost, since you can already Zombify any costed creature on turn 4, but you still have the option of playing it fairly.  I searched Gatherer for something that would justify the design I wanted to make, and when I came to Simic Sky Swallower, I decided that Walkers was fair.

However, there is a problem with it that I didn't realize until after I submitted it: Chord of Calling.  Play any Green creature on turn 1 and you can Chord out the Walkers on turn 2.  That doesn't leave your opponent a lot of time to find Wrath of God.  Play an Elvish Champion on turn 3 (which is one of the intended uses) and it gets even worse.  I wouldn't want those two cards to be in Extended at the same time.  But aside from that, I think the card is probably strong without being broken.

I think that the keywords justify it as a Green card.  No doubt it would see more play in Black decks, but that's how it goes with reanimation targets.  Look at what people are reanimating these days -- the colors are all over the place.

My personal favorite cards from June's Stage 2 were Discarded Hammer and Teferi's Nightmare.  The former interprets the rules in a way that's elegant in its simplicity.  The latter has great mechanics and flavor -- trade this with another phased-out card; something horrible goes wrong while it's phased out, and look what it comes back as! -- and it doesn't hurt that Phasing is one of my favorite keywords.  Not a fan of the artwork, though.