The Great Cardsmith Designer Search -- Stage 4: Vertical Cycles

Welcome to Stage 4 of The Great Cardsmith Designer Search (GCDS)...The Vertical Cycle Challenge!

Here are links GDS/color pie links:
Mechanical Color Pie:

The Vertical Cycle Challenge
This challenge is designed to test your skills with a series of linked cards at different rarities. Only the 5 Cardsmiths with the best overall submissions will move on.

Your task is to design 4 cards that comprise a Vertical Cycle!

A vertical cycle is a cycle of cards that have a mechanical and (usually) flavor commonality across different rarities. Here are some examples from magic history.

For this challenge, you need to design 4 cards (1 for each rarity) that are flavorfully and mechanically related and represent a progression of the chosen mechanic theme. Note that you do not have to use a named mechanic (although you may use up to one), but need to have a clear mechanical identity common to all 4 cards. When put next to each other, your entries should be instantly recognizable as a cycle that spans across rarity (a vertical cycle).

Entry Criteria
1) All 4 cards must be submitted as one post. Incomplete entries will not be judged. Entries can be edited until the judging deadline. If you edit an entry, please let me know by posting in the thread.
2) You may use up to one non-evergreen mechanic (in addition to the evergreen ones), but if you do it must be used in all of your entries.
3) RARITY: Among your four cards you must submit exactly:
1 common
1 uncommon
1 rare
1 mythic rare
4) COLOR: No restrictions, but the colors of each card in the vertical cycle must make sense.
5) CARD TYPE: Artifacts, Enchantments, Creatures, Lands, Instants, and Sorceries are allowed. No Planeswalkers are allowed.
6) All cards must be made on or after November 10, 2018. No old cards will be accepted.
7) Cards should be appropriate for printing in a generic standard legal set according to modern design principles.
8) Each card in the vertical cycle must have both a mechanical and a flavor link to the others.
9) No joke cards.

Judging Criteria
Each individual card will earn up to 20 points, and your entries as a whole will be graded out of 20 pts, so each submission will be out of 100 points. Every card will get feedback and be graded according to this holistic scale.

Rarity (3 points)
3 – The card is assigned an appropriate rarity.
2 – The card is borderline with respect to the assigned rarity.
0 - The card should be assigned a different rarity.

Flavor (2 point)
2 – Positive flavor connection between card name and mechanics AND fits into the vertical cycle's theme.
1 - Neutral flavor connection AND/OR is not a great fit in the vertical cycle's theme.
0 - Negative flavor connection between card name and mechanics AND/OR doesn't fit into the vertical cycle's theme.

Templating (1 points)
1 – Up to one very minor spelling, grammar, templating, or magic phrasing error.
0 - Two or more spelling, grammar, templating, or magic phrasing errors.

Color Pie (4 points)
4 - Card is in color pie for all colors.
3 - Card is a minor color pie bend.
2 - Card is in color pie but fits better in a different color combination.
1 - Card is a major color pie bend.
0 - Card is a color pie break.

Card Design (5 points)
This category is subjective but here are some things I will be looking at (including but not limited to):
-Does it show novelty/creativity?
-Does it innovate within the design framework?
-Is the card different from similar cards made before it?
-Do each of the individual card elements come together to make a cohesive whole?
-Is the rate (Cost/power ratio) appropriate for this card and its abilities?

Playability (5 points)
This category is subjective but here are some things I will be looking at (including but not limited to):
-Is it an appropriate power level for limited, factoring in rarity?
-Would it cause problems in constructed formats?
-Would it be fun to play?
-Would it create repetitive or unfun play patterns?
-Does it create rules issues/paradoxes?

Overall Submission (20 pts)
- Cohesiveness (8 pts)
Does each card feel linked together? Do the cards feel like a cycle? Is there a common flavor connection holding the cards together? Do the cards' colors / card types make sense within the context of a vertical cycle?
- Creativity (5 pts)
Does the overall submission show creative ideas for a vertical cycle? Does each card build on the next in a fun way? Does the mechanical execution impress from a design perspective?
- Mechanical Identity (7 pts)
Does the mechanical theme of the cycle make sense? Does it progress naturally as rarity increases / decreases? Is the mechanical identity fun and consistent throughout the cycle?

The Top 5 scoring Cardsmiths will advance to the next stage of the GCDS.

The top 3 scoring Cardsmiths will receive:
1st: 3 faves of your choice.
2nd: 2 faves of your choice.
3rd: 1 fave of your choice.

The Cardsmith who is eliminated this round will receive 6 favorites of their choice.

This contest will close for judging on Sunday November 18th at 11:59 PM EST. No late entries will be accepted.

Delay Time
Each Cardsmith will earn a total of 3 days “delay time” banked for the entirety of the GCDS. If you need more time for your submission, I will delay judging the amount of days you request. You can request 1 x 3 day extension, 3 x 1 - day extensions, or some other combo. In order to use your delay time, message me with the amount of days (1, 2, 3) you want BEFORE the judging deadline. Your delay will only apply to your entries for that stage, not to the others. You may use 1 instance of delay time each stage. When a delay occurs, I will announce it.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them.


  • This one's rules are suspiciously non-restrictive
  • @bnew07 can we enter more than one vertical cycle, or just one per contestant?
  • @MrRansom - Currently they are in an Elimination phase in an ongoing challenge, so any cards you might enter would not officially be entered into the challenge.
  • Gotcha. Might do it anyway because it seems fun. Might not. But Maybe.
  • @MrRansom

    This contest is only for the 6 Cardsmiths who have passed the first 3 stages, so unfoyrenuly you cant enter
  • @bnew07 Then I shall eagerly await the entries that are eligible! Seems like a cool contest.

    Good luck to all!
  • edited November 2018
    My vertical cycle's theme is going to be ugliness!

    Mechanically, I used the mechanical definition of beauty that you find on Gilt-Leaf Winnower in Magic Origins. Except this time, you get to be on the ugly side ^^
    I thought it was interesting in that it brought some unique deck restrictions if you were trying to build an "Ugly Tribal" deck, and that's what those cards are trying to push.
    To represent the flavour of ugliness, I mostly went with a "goblin horror" flavour, as I thought their cartoonish look allowed for some light self-deprecation humour.









    As usual, feedback is greatly appreciated from anyone (especially before the deadline on Sunday)! =D
  • edited November 2018
    I think this "Reveal the top and do something with a card type" mechanic is really cool and I wanted to do some "new" things with it. I bit a whole lot of scaling factors into these cards: CMC, P/T, cards revealed, etc. I can't take all the credit because I got help from a few of the best, but I'm very pleased with the end result (though I'm not sure they are, or ever will/could be, perfect.

    Please peruse!





    To quote @ningyounk, feedback is greatly appreciated from anyone (especially before the deadline on Sunday)! =D
  • 8 hours left until the deadline!
    @TheCenterOfTheUniverse @ChuckTesta @Fiskerton

    Get your entries in! If you need to use delay time let me know ASAP!
  • edited November 2018
    So the theme of my vertical cycle is Xenophobia! Basically, all of my cards like to exile creatures that don't share a creature type with them as long as they remain on the battlefield (Xenophobia = fear/hatred toward people of different cultures). I kind of turned it into a religion flavor-wise with the mythic being the god of said religion. I'm a little sad I couldn't fit flavor text on most of the cards...




  • edited November 2018
    My cycle is designed around the concept of piracy and the idea of stealing for your own use. This led me to use an ability that has cropped up a couple of times in red, but makes more sense in BR combined: Exiling a card that an opponent (or you) owns, then being able to cast it during that turn. Flavorwise, each card represents some part of a pirate's plundering life, and each one's name has some word synonymous to "pillage."

  • @bnew07 I'm going to use a one day extension
  • edited November 2018
  • I all right everyone this contest is now closed! No more entries/edits will be accepted except for @fiskerton who has used 1 day of delay time. Your deadline is 11:59 PM EST today 11/19.
  • @Fallen_Lord_Vulganos

    Thank you for your entries but this contest is only for Cardsmiths who have completed the previous stages. I am sorry but you cannot enter.
  • My vertical cycle is based around foxes as enchantment creatures and having many enchantments. Because enchantment creature is my non-evergreen mechanic, I designed this as if it was an enchantment-matters set (like the Theros block). But, due to the nature of enchantments, they usually aren't spammed like artifacts. Since all my cards are enchantment creatures, they will trigger off themselves.

    Common: Astute Fox


    Uncommon: Mesmeric Fox


    Rare: Generous Fox


    Mythic: Mischievous Fox

  • Alright this contest is now closed I should be completing judging within a few days.
  • All right everyone the results are in! Refer to the google doc link below for all the written feedback and scores. Let me know if anyone has trouble with the link.

    There were a lot of great entries but only the top 5 can move on.

    6th Place: @fiskerton with 73 pts
    5th Place: @ChuckTesta with 76 pts
    4th Place: @TheCenterOfTheUniverse with 80 pts
    3rd Place: @Faiths_Guide with 82 pts
    2nd Place: @Temurzoa with 84 pts
    1st Place: @ningyounk with 85 pts

    @fiskerton, unfortunately you came up short this challenge and are eliminated. You get 6 favorites of your choice.

    Congrats to everyone moving on!!! I will post the next stage's challenge in the next few days.

    The top 3 placing Cardsmiths from this stage can request the following amount of faves of their choice from me:
    3rd Place: 1 fave
    2nd Place: 2 faves
    1st Place: 3 faves

    I also owe some favorites from both this and from previous challenges so please request the following total amounts:

    @fiskerton: 6 faves
    @Lujikul: 4 faves
    @ningyounk: 3 faves
    @Faiths_Guide: 5 faves
    @Temurzoa: 2 faves
  • Congratulations to all who made the top 5! @fiskerton, it was an honor competing with you, and your brilliant designs will be missed as we move on. Good luck in the future, fellow 'smith.
  • You’re doing a really nice job here, @bnew07. Glad to be involved!
  • edited November 2018
    It was fun while it lasted. I knew I pushed it a bit, but you win some you lose some. Good luck to the remaining cardsmiths. Can't wait to see who takes first place.

    @bnew07, you can fave any 6. I don't have a preference. Thank you for the contests.

    I will disagree on one thing about Generous Fox though that white isnt allowed a lot of card draw. As per the mechanical color pie article, it is allowed that much card draw but only if its deck is built around it (in this case enchantments), and it's at rare. Mentor of the Meek and Dawn of Hope were printed with this principle. And as you said, enchantments aren't abundant in a standard legal set, so I doubt Generous fox would draw more than 2 or 3 anyway. The use of enchantment creature was necessary as if I didnt, the mechanic would be too weak without having at least one enchantment.
  • edited November 2018
    Could 4 of my 5 faves be applied to my most recent 4 designs (one of which is a placeholder)? The placeholder and a new one are "coming soon."

  • @Faiths_Guide

    Faved 4! Just let me know when you want me to fave the last.
  • @fiskerton


    As to your points about generous fox, here are my responses:

    1) Mentor of the Meek and Dawn of Hope are seemingly comparable cards that are both severe bends. MaRo is on record saying this about Mentor of the Meek and also feeling very nervous about Dawn of Hope. Yes, White is allowed to draw cards based on enchantments but not an unbounded amount of cards in one shot. That is the color pie issue, not the ability itself. I agree that in standard/limited it may not draw too many cards but for white even 3 (and maybe 2) would be too much. And in older formats and commander it would draw way too many cards to be okay in white. A color pie break in one format is a color pie break in all formats, unfortunately.
    2) I agree with your choice of enchantment creatures for these specific cards for the reason you stated above. My point was more centered around them not being a great choice for a vertical cycle. I think they both can be true at the same time.

    Thanks for following up, I am more than happy to elaborate more and I know my feedback can sometimes not explain fully as I only have so much space/time to spend on each card in the written document.
  • edited November 2018
    Thanks, @bnew07.
    Here's the last:

    I'd also love to hear your thoughts on that one.
  • @Faiths_Guide

    Faved! I commented on portal wave. It poses a Really interesting design problem.
  • @bnew07
    Ya, I thought through a lot of different wordings for that one. Maybe I just need to do away with different times of entry...
  • Do times of entry matter? Triggers that occur at the same time can be ordered any way you want. As a precedent, Scapeshift Valakut considers Valakut already on the field for its ability when it and the mountains enter the field.

    Unless you're specifically going for one at a time entry. If that's the case, maybe using the stack is a better solution?
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