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By: Evu,
Jan 08 2008 1:08am
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Each month, PureMTGO users run a card design contest in this site's forums. This article contains the entries, along with the judges' scores and commentary, for the November 2007 contest, in which competitors had to design cards with a "contraption" theme.

Before we start, some quick links: PureMTGO's monthly Custom Card Contest takes place in the Custom Cards forum. We use the Magic Set Editor software to bring our cards to life (no Photoshop skills required!). Here are November's threads for submissions (including results) and discussion.

A panel of three judges, Evu, Dark Dragon, and Verbage, graded each card on a scale from 0 to 10 in each of five categories, for a possible total of 50 points per card. Entries consisted of three cards, for a possible total of 150 points per person. The categories were as follows:

  • Originality measured whether the card design was fresh and/or clever. Had it been done before? Was it too obvious?
  • Spelling, Templating, and Grammar measured whether the card, as submitted, conformed to the rules of Magic card writing and the English language.
  • Playability took stock of whether the card was strong enough to be worth playing, also also whether it was too strong.
  • Flavor examined the card in the context of a fantasy game. Did its name and art match its mechanic? Was it in the right color?
  • Appeal asked the question, would anybody actually want to play this card? Would the set, or any given format, be better for having this card in it?


Overall scores:
Evu: 90 DD: 114 Verb: 118 Avg: 107.3

Rockfoot Bigheart

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 8 2 9 4 8 31
DD 9 5 4 8 10 36
Verb 8 9 7 9 8 41

Though I love the flavor text, not much else about this card's flavor works for me. The art depicts a creature that looks more like a Golem than a Contraption, and I don't understand the reasons for the aura-destroying and token-generating abilities. Mechanically the card seems solid, with a good collection of abilities for a rare and a fair cost, and I expect it would find fans among the casual crowd. Unfortunately, it suffers from numerous templating errors -- when designing cards, don't forget to look up the Oracle text of cards with similar abilities, or get feedback in the Wording Clinic thread!

Heart Incubator

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 6 2 9 8 7 32
DD 10 5 8 8 9 40
Verb 7 9 6 8 9 39

An interesting and seemingly fair card, with strong flavor that also provides support for the flavor of its companion cards. I am curious, though, as to why contraptions are indestructible -- to me, the word "contraption" implies something ramshackle or experimental; quite the oppostite of indestructible.


  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 6 7 4 7 3 27
DD 8 9 8 6 7 38
Verb 6 9 9 7 7 38

An interesting take on how the color white would interact with contraptions -- a kind of Battlefield Medic analogue, with contraptions in the role of clerics. The art was well-chosen; it depicts a very contraption-like creature. I worry, though, that the effect isn't powerful enough for the cost. Reducing the mana cost by one, or making the card a cantrip, might have worked out better.


Overall scores:
Evu: 97 DD: 116 Verb: 105 Avg: 106

Nullmage Rigger

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 4 6 7 5 29
DD 8 8 6 7 8 37
Verb 8 7 8 7 5 35

This card strikes me as overly complex for a common. Grafting text onto other cards, leaving tokens and counters all over the place... it's a little too much housekeeping, I think. The proposed Assemble keyword itself is also confusing... why sacrifice two artifacts, and why does one of them not really matter? That said, the card seems fair, and I like the choice of the futuristic card frame to go along with the contraption theme.

Fireproof Arsonist

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 8 7 7 8 8 38
DD 10 7 6 8 9 40
Verb 9 9 8 8 8 42

This one is also a little too complex, but mostly because there isn't enough room for the Assemble reminder text. As a rule, reminder text for set-specific keywords can only be omitted on rare cards. Without the Assemble ability, I'd be fine with this card. Another neat trick to condense the rules text and make the card seem less complex would be to eliminate the first line completely and let the Arsonist give itself protection from red using its (currently) third ability -- just change it to say "Target Contraption or Rigger...", or even just "Target creature...". Power-wise, this card seems like a high pick in Limited, but not broken, and a safe choice for an uncommon, with cards like Sulfurous Blast or Pyrohemia serving as a precedent.

Covert Assembly Line

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 8 8 2 5 30
DD 8 9 7 7 8 39
Verb 7 6 5 6 4 28

I don't get the flavor on this one. Why is it sometimes a creature that later turns into an assembly line? Why does an assembly line produce a bunch of contraptions once and then never again, instead of having a steady token-producing ability? And isn't returning artifacts from the graveyard more like recycling than assembling? In terms of power, this seems okay, maybe underpowered, although it's difficult to judge since it depends on what the other riggers and contraptions in the set are like.

MechtaK       [1st place!]

Overall scores:
Evu: 111 DD: 121 Verb: 134 Avg: 122

Krark-Clan Bio-Grafter

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 9 5 8 5 34
DD 8 10 10 8 8 44
Verb 9 10 10 9 9 47

Permanently modifying the characteristics of another permanent each turn is a lot to keep track of, which is a particular concern for a common. Even if this were rare, though, it could help to have the ability put a counter on the permanent to mark the change -- even an unrelated counter, like a +1/+1 counter, would help with the record-keeping. As for power level, I think this card is overcosted for what it does. Any color can get a 1/1 creature with a decent ability for a single mana, and just judging by the other two cards in this entry, there's no reason to think this ability would be overly powerful.

Krark-Clan Jury-Rigger

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 9 9 7 7 39
DD 8 9 7 8 7 39
Verb 8 10 9 9 8 44

The templating is off on the Assemble ability here... instead of using the word "by", it should be "Assemble a 1/1 Contraption", with the rest as reminder text. I like the flavor and balance here, although the ability seems to imply a little too much in the way of expert engineering skills for a goblin... or any red creature, really.

Krark-Clan Trans-Former

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 9 7 8 7 38
DD 7 9 7 8 7 38
Verb 8 10 8 8 9 43

What I like most about this one is that, if you have one Contraption that's already dying, in combat for example, you can take advantage of that to effectively "upgrade" your other least valuable Contraption. I might have preferred a slightly "splashier" effect for a rare, but on the whole, I think this card seems fair and fun.


Overall scores:
Evu: 85 DD: 114 Verb: 126 Avg: 108.3

Autonomous Drone

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 4 8 2 7 1 22
DD 9 8 10 8 8 43
Verb 7 9 9 8 7 40

As a 1/1 that can temporarily become 2/2, but not when attacking, and at the cost of some card advantage (not to mention mana), this card seems very weak. Even for one mana, I doubt it would be playable, unless the set mechanics offer some kind of incidental benefit for sacrificing Contraptions, and we don't have any evidence to suggest that they would. Having the ability add a +1/+1 counter would have helped the power level somewhat. I'm also curious about why all of the cards in this entry have abilities where sacrificing a Contraption is part of the effect, rather than the cost, as it would normally be -- if there's a reason for this, it's not evident.

Zerg's Workshop

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 6 6 4 8 7 31
DD 7 6 5 7 8 33
Verb 8 9 8 8 8 41

In comparison to cards like Kjeldoran Outpost and Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII, I think the first activated ability -- even if it were on the card by itself -- is undercosted. The second is fine, maybe even overcosted, unless the aforementioned possibility of a benefit to sacrificing artifacts or Contraptions is real. My other concern about this card is that it's a land without a mana ability, something that wouldn't be printed in a modern set (Coldsnap and the Time Spiral Timeshifted cards being non-modern, of course.)

Zerg's Army

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 6 6 8 7 5 32
DD 8 8 8 6 8 38
Verb 8 10 9 9 9 45

A balanced card that encourages players to build Contraption-centric decks, but I could go for something a little splashier in a rare.

Rasparthe       [3rd place!]

Overall scores:
Evu: 95 DD: 121 Verb: 122 Avg: 112.6

Steam Factory Annex

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 4 7 7 5 30
DD 10 5 10 9 8 42
Verb 10 9 8 7 8 42

I think this card is the victim of unnecesary complexity. The first ability could be shorter and easier to understand if it used the word "move" -- see Forgotten Ancient for an example. And the second could get the same effect with simpler wording if it didn't graft the text onto the fortified land. This seems like a pretty useful card -- not exciting by itself, but the other cards in the entry give us a pretty good idea of how powerful steam counters would be in this hypothetical set. My main concern is that it's a little too much bookkeeping for a common; uncommon might be a better place for this.


  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 8 4 6 9 7 34
DD 9 7 8 8 7 39
Verb 9 8 9 7 7 40

High flavor points for the cool name, although since abiogenesis is the creation of *living* matter from non-living, I wonder why the tokens are artifact creatures instead of just regular creatures. I think this card ends up with overly complex wording in the interest of using steam counters. We know from the other cards that steam counters will be mechanically significant in the set, but using +1/+1 counters would have allowed for much simpler text. Alternatively, the token's power and toughness could have been fixed numbers. That would also have allowed the mana costs to be adjusted, probably downward, so that you'd always be paying a fair price for the creature, and the tension in the card would just be about how long you're willing to wait in order to get a lot of steam counters.

Steamflog Heatsink

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 9 5 5 5 7 31
DD 9 7 6 8 10 40
Verb 10 9 5 7 9 40

I think this card is a little too strong. Its middle ability can be used to trigger its first ability, so if you can stall the game (something this card itself can help with), a mere 22 mana, of any color, divided over multiple turns if necessary, will be sufficient to win. The overall concept of a sort of targetable, chargable Pyrohemia is cool, but I think this implementation of it is too easy to use. From a flavor perspective, I'm not sure why it should be a creature (except that it needs the word "Contraption" somewhere to satisfy the rules of the contest), especially a 0-power one.

Dragonmayu       [2nd place!]

Overall scores:
Evu: 107 DD: 113 Verb: 127 Avg: 115.6


  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 5 7 4 6 3 25
DD 10 10 7 8 8 41
Verb 9 9 8 9 9 44

It's debatable whether this card meets the "must have a mechanic or ability that affects or creates contraptions" rule of the contest. But Dragonmayu's entry was accompanied by new game rules that define mechanics for any Contraption card, so that's good enough for me. However, Contraption cards should have reminder text for these new rules printed on them. Mechanically, it's difficult to tell whether this card would be too powerful or not powerful enough without seeing the set as a whole and getting a sense of what it usually takes to assemble a contraption, but my guess is that its power level is probably low to middling, and it seems like a good choice to print as a common.

Trilvan Mechanic

  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 7 9 9 8 7 40
DD 8 10 0 6 8 32
Verb 8 7 9 9 8 41

This triggered ability seems like a very interesting and balanced way to get a contraption assembled; ordinarily you'd expect assembling to be an activated ability. It's also great for flavor reasons: precedent set by cards like Trinket Mage and Fabricate would lead one to assume that assembling contraptions would be primarily a blue-aligned ability, but having a creature that assembles them immediately when an opportunity arises is very much in-flavor for red.


  Orig Tmpl Blnc Flav Appl Total
Evu 8 8 8 9 9 42
DD 8 10 7 7 8 40
Verb 9 9 7 8 9 42

A nice choice for the rare card -- a Legacy Weapon analogue that rewards you for committing to the Contraption mechanic. What I especially like about this card is the subtle synergy it has with its own mechanic: in a pinch, you can use it to remove one of your own Contraptions from the game, where it can wait to be assembled again. My biggest concern is the possibility that this card could be used for sweeping one-sided land destruction. Playtesting would tell for sure, but I might have changed the design to say "nonland permanent", just to be on the safe side.

That's it for this month! Thanks to everybody who participated. If you had fun, or if you haven't competed yet, but think it looks like fun, join us in the Custom Cards forum for this month's competition!


Assembling Contraptions by MechtaK (Unregistered) (not verified) at Tue, 01/08/2008 - 02:48
MechtaK (Unregistered)'s picture

The funky way I worded it was the cleanest I could make it to get it to work alongside the Steamflogger Boss.  The card needs to do 2 things, both assemble a contraption and put a token creature into play.  I can't say assemble a 1/1 creature, because that doesn't put it into play, and to say assemble a 1/1 contraption creature by putting a 1/1 token creature into play, is more wordy.  I did the best I could considering I was trying to make the Steamflogger Boss useful in conjunction with the cards I designed.  Harder than it looked.