Recently, Mark Rosewater posted the rules for the second design challenge of the Great Designer Search, their contest to choose the next member of R&D. Obviously I am not part of the top 8, nor was I even eligible to enter in the first place, as a Canadian, but this challenge looked like a lot of fun to try on my own.

The challenge was to make eight cards based on a list of names provided. The theme was “Bigtopia – the Circus Plane,” and the card names were all inspired by that. Since I wasn’t part of the contest I decided to take a stab at all 25 card names, rather than just doing the eight, but I did try to keep the limitations in mind.

If you’re a member of Magic R&D you should stop reading now, since I know you aren’t allowed to look at unsolicited card designs. For the rest of you, I hope you enjoy what I’ve come up with.

The Rules

Design eight cards from the 25 card names below. You must use the card names exactly, no tweaking (with one exception listed below).

Your cards must mechanically capture the flavor of their title.

You must design two cards of each rarity (common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare).

You may have no more than three cards be of the same card type.

You must use each color at least once.

You must make at least one legendary card. For legendary cards, and only legendry cards, you may slightly tweak the name to make it sound legendary.

For named keyword mechanics, you are allowed access to all evergreen mechanics and up to one non-evergeen mechanics (keywords and/or ability words). Note that there is no requirement to use named mechanics. Please do not create any new named keyword mechanics.

Mana costs are written with the following abbreviations:
W – White
U – Blue
B – Black
R – Red
G – Green
Number – Generic mana cost

For example:

Fire Shrine Keeper
Creature – Elemental
7R, TAP, sacrifice CARDNAME: It deals 3 damage to each of up to two target creatures.

My Card Designs

Acrobatics (Common)
Target creature gains flying until end of turn. Draw a card.

Circus Peanuts (Uncommon)
Create two 1/1 Plant creature tokens with “Sacrifice this creature: Target nontoken creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.”

Circus Tent (Uncommon)
Tapped creatures you control get 0/+2.

Clown Car (Rare)
Artifact – Vehicle
CARDNAME gets +3/0 for each creature that crewed it this turn.
Crew 7

Creature – Human Horror
B: CARDNAME gets +1/-1 until end of turn.

Feats of Strength (Rare)
Target creature you control gets +1/+1 until end of turn. It fights target creature an opponent controls.
Repeat this process X times.

Fire Eating (Uncommon)
Enchantment – Aura
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, draw a card.
Enchanted creature has Prowess. (Multiple instances of prowess trigger seperately.)

Flaming Hoop (Rare)
CARDNAME deals 2 damage to each of up to X target creatures.

Gregorski, the Amazing Human Cannonball (Mythic Rare)
Legendary Creature – Human Rogue
1R: CARDNAME gets +1/0 until end of turn.
2RR, Sacrifice CARDNAME: It deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player.

Juggling (Common)
Tap target permanent.
Untap target permanent.
Draw a card.

Knife Thrower (Common)
3R – Goblin Warrior
When CARDNAME attacks, you may have it deal 2 damage to any target. If you do, CARDNAME gets -2/0 until end of turn.

Lion Tamer (Uncommon)
Creature – Kithkin Cleric
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, choose target creature an opponent controls. That creature can’t attack or block for as long as CARDNAME is on the battlefield.

Magician (Common)
Creature – Human Wizard
When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, return another target creature to its owner’s hand. Its controller creates a 1/1 white Bird creature token with flying.

Plate Spinning (Rare)
At the beginning of each end step, put a plate counter on an untapped permanent you control for as long as it remains untapped and you control CARDNAME.
At the beginning of your upkeep, draw a card for each permanent you control with a plate counter.

Ringmaster (Rare)
Creature – Human Warrior
If you control five or more creatures, creatures you control get +2/+2.

Seltzer Bottle (Common)
Target creature gets -3/0 until end of turn. Tap it.

Stilts (Common)
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gets 0/+1 and has Reach.
Equip 1

Sword Swallowing (Common)
Destroy target artifact. Target creature you control gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

Three Rings (Mythic Rare)
Any player may activate abilities of CARDNAME, but only any time they could cast a sorcery.
1W: Until your next turn, target creature can’t attack.
1U: Target creature gains flying until end of turn.
2B: Target creature gets +2/-2 until end of turn.
3R: Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap it. It gains Haste.
4G: Create a 3/3 green Elephant creature token.

Tightrope (Uncommon)
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant target untapped creature.
When enchanted creature becomes tapped its controller sacrifices it.
BBB: Tap enchanted creature.

Trained Elephant (Common)
Creature – Elephant

Traveling Circus
Artifact creature – Nomad Construct

Trick Riding (Mythic Rare)
Return target attacking creature you control to its owner’s hand. Put a creature card with converted mana cost 4 or less from your hand onto the battlefiled tapped and attacking.

Trapeze Artist (Common)
Creature – Vedalken Rogue
U: CARDNAME gains flying until end of turn.

Unicycle (Uncommon)
Artifact – Equipment
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has vigilance.
If equipped creature becomes tapped, sacrifice CARDNAME.
Equip 3

My Circus World

When coming up with these designs it took me a number of iterations before settling on versions that I liked. There were a lot of names that I felt could have easily gone in a number of different directions, and I ended up with versions of the same card in several colours.

In order to sort out which version of my cards to use I considered the setting as a whole. What, thematically, was the role of each colour in the circus? It was difficult to pin everything down, especially for black, but I eventually came up with a general outline to help inform my decisions:

White: Animal Tamers.
Blue: Acrobats and Magicians.
Black: Sideshow Freaks and Geeks.
Red: Daredevils and Thrillseekers.
Green: Strongmen and Wild Animals.

Sword Swallowing, for example, could have been a white protection spell or a green card like Appetite for the Unnatural. Considering the roles I laid out, though, Sword Swallowing didn’t fit as a green spell. It was much closer to being red or black, but because black doesn’t get access to artifact destruction that left only red. The life gain of Appetite for the Unnatural didn’t fit for a red card, but by turning it into a pump spell I could retain the ‘swallowed’ feeling I was looking for.

As I was working on each card I started to establish a bit of how the world would work in my mind, too. I pictured a plane full of colour, rivalling that of Kaladesh. It would have rolling hillsides, with giant striped tents off in the distance that mimicked castles. I saw entire cities that were nothing more than grand carnivals. Peanut creatures would be like little beebles littering the background; I imagined little plant creatures with a very unique take on the phrase “please serve yourself.”

This world would be full of whimsy and colour, but I pictured some very sinister undertones hinted at in the card art and flavour text. Not everyone would be a willing participant in these circuses; this world would enslave Loxodons and Leonin. People would go missing in the night, only to appear on stage horribly transformed the next day. There would be clowns….

This could be quite a terrifying plane under the surface if the world design wanted to go in that direction, and I personally would be a big fan of that juxtaposition. It would be the sort of gradual reveal that you might not see right away, and which would make the spoiler season for a set like this especially intriguing as its story would unfold.

That’s all I have for this week. I hope you liked the cards I came up with, and my brief foray into world building.

If you were me, which eight cards would you choose to submit for the Great Designer Search? If you were taking part, what would your designs look like? Please let me know; I’d love to see what you’ve come up with!

And if you’re interested in more design challenges, make sure to check out the rest of the Great Designer Search 3!

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