The Great Cardsmith Designer Search: Stage 5 -The Custom Mechanic Challenge

edited December 2018 in Contests and Challenges
Welcome to Stage 5 of The Great Cardsmith Designer Search (GCDS)...The Custom Mechanic Challenge!

This is a closed contest. Only those who have already qualified may participate.

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

The Custom Mechanic Challenge
This challenge is designed to test your ability to create a brand new mechanic. Only the 4 Cardsmiths with the best overall submissions will move on.

Your task is to design 5 cards using a brand new mechanic of your design..

The mechanic must be named and can be either a:
-Ability Word (Ex. Undergrowth, Morbid, Bloodrush)
-Keyword Ability (Ex, Bloodthirst, Exalted, Mentor)
-Keyword Action (Ex. Awaken, Investigate, Exploit)
-Batching Keyword (Ex. Historic)
-“Tracking” Keyword (Ex. Devotion)

Entry Criteria
1) All 5 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) All cards must use your mechanic and no other non-evergreen mechanics.
3) RARITY: Among your five cards you must submit at least:
2 common
1 uncommon
1 rare or mythic rare
1 card of any rarity
4) COLOR: Among your five cards you must submit at least:
2 monocolor cards
1 traditional multicolor card
You must include at least two colors in your submission. You may do 3+, but remember that you only have 5 cards to showcase your mechanic so don’t stretch your submission too thin.
5) CARD TYPE: Artifacts, Enchantments, Creatures, Lands, Instants, and Sorceries are allowed. My suggestion is if you choose a mechanic that can go on multiple card types, that you showcase a variety of them.
6) All cards must be made on or after November 24, 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) No joke cards.
9) You must create a never before seen custom mechanic. You cannot use a mechanic that you have made before November 24, 2018.
10) If the reminder text is different than the rules text, please put the full rules text along with your submission.

Custom Mechanic Notes
-Try to design a custom mechanic that would have a significant amount of design space. Avoid designing mechanics like Cipher that have such narrow design space that only a handful of cards can be made or like Delve which has developmental problems.
-A good target would be aim for a mechanic that is between a 3 and a 5 on the Storm Scale. Mechanics in this range generally have a lot of design space and can support multiple sets/blocks of cards.
-This does not necessarily mean you have to make extremely complex/nuanced designs. Rather, try to show me something fun, interesting, and creative with your mechanic that will play well and demonstrates your skills as a designer.

Judging Criteria
Each individual card will earn up to 16 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 (2 points)
2 – The card is assigned an appropriate rarity.
1 – The card is borderline with respect to the assigned rarity.
0 - The card should be assigned a different rarity.

Flavor (1 point)
1 – Positive flavor connection between card name and mechanics
0 - Negative flavor connection between card name and mechanics.

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 (3 points)
3 - Card is in color pie for all colors.
2 - Card is a minor color pie bend.
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 with the mechanic?
-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 (4 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)
- Mechanical Design (10 pts)
Does the mechanic play well? Is it easy to comprehend and explain? Does the overall submission explore both simple and innovative space for the mechanic? Is that space fun? Is that space worth exploring and would add value if it was printed?
- Creativity (5 pts)
Does the overall submission show creative ideas for the mechanic? Is the mechanic itself creative? Is it notably different from other similar mechanics? Do the name and overall flavor match?
- Technical Design (5pts)
Is the mechanic placed in appropriate colors? Does the reminder text/rules text explain the mechanic? Does the mechanic encourage healthy play patterns?

The Top scoring 4 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 7 favorites of their choice.

This contest will close for judging on Tuesday December 4th 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.


  • @Faiths_Guide @Temurzoa @ChuckTesta @ningyounk @TheCenterOfTheUniverse

    Stage 5 is now open! Get brewing with your new custom mechanics! I am excited to see what you all come up with!
  • I have one, called "the machine", from my set Esotera (
    It appears in WU, and is used like this:

    The reminder text for the mechanic would be: Add this card to your machine = Exile this card face up as part of your machine. for as long as it is in your machine, it is a colorless artifact, and its activated and triggered abilities can be activated.
  • @kandra127

    I am sorry but this contest is only for cardsmiths who have qualified via the previous 4 stages. You cannot enter.
  • @bnew07
    You're going to get that a lot, especially as the first stage gets older. I'm re-reading the intro and it would probably be a good idea to state it's a closed contest like the Great Designer Search ;) Remember that everyone on the forum can read it.
  • @ningyounk

    Good idea, made the change.
  • Does the mechanic have to be created after the beginning of the contest? I have designed many abilities before, but I am unsure if I am allowed to reuse them.
  • edited November 2018

    It has to be created after the beginning of the contest.
    The reason for this is that I want to make sure everyone is on equal footing and I am sure some Cardsmiths ( like yourself) have made plenty of custom mechanics prior to this challenge and have had a lot of time to refine them. But others may not have done that and I want to make sure each Cardsmith has the same amount of time to design their mechanic.
  • edited December 2018
    Alright, I won't be available for most part of the upcoming week-end so here's my early entry!

    I took quite a few risks this week. The main one is that I did something you're not supposed to do: a mechanic that is actually two mechanics in one. I strongly considered choosing one or the other but in the end I decided both design space were too interesting to pass. From there, the challenge obviously was to make the two parts of the mechanic feel as much as one mechanic as possible, we'll see how this went after judging x)

    The mechanic is called "Malevolent" and encourage you to target opponent's creatures. Probably another risk as those kinds of mechanics can get blanked out by noncreature decks. I originally wanted the mechanic to care about you targeting an opponent or any object they control which includes permanents, spells etc. but I realised it had better design space if it focused only on creatures as it allowed the card to care about the creature's qualities and made the mechanic much more cohesive. As we had a few precedents in the real MTG world (e.g. Azorius' Detain), I fully assume this risk, we'll see where this leads me ^^

    Ok, enough presentation here's the mechanic:

    Malevolent — Whenever a spell or ability you control targets a creature an opponent controls, EFFECT.
    - For permanents

    Malevolent — If this spell targets a creature an opponent controls, EFFECT.
    - For non-permanents

    I used blue and black to depict it (though I think there is also some very interesting design space in red as well and hesitated for a long time on the colours):

    image image


    image image

    Any feedback is very appreciated as usual! =D
  • edited December 2018
    Without much fanfare, here's my mechanic:

    Biodiversity - As long as five or more creature types are represented among creatures you control, {effect}.

    This mechanic, designed for green/blue, embodies both colors' quirky fusion together. Biodiversity is broad enough to easily be activated, like Formidable, but appreciates building around it to make full use of the mechanic. Building around Biodiversity rewards a varied deck, which pleases multiple subcategories of Timmies/Tammies for its non-repeatable gameplay. Biodiversity also pleases Johnnys/Jennies and Spikes for its synergy with the Changeling ability. Finally, Biodiversity fits in with Simic's mechanical and flavorful identity, pleasing both Mels and Vorthoses.

    When designing the Biodiversity mechanic, I was careful not to design anything that would go infinite with Changelings. In addition, Biodiversity also requires varying creature types in order for players to successfully draft it. Overall, I am very proud of this mechanic, but greatly appreciate feedback.



    Myriad Sage and Paradise Tenders help form a solid foundation for Biodiversity decks. Myriad Sage provides a mediocre body not dissimilar from other 2cmc blue creatures, but drawing a card is crucial for the late game. Paradise Tender's ability also enables the player to splash other colors, signature of Simic and beneficial for adding more creature types to the mix.


    Splendid Deviation provides a nifty combat trick useful in many situations. An extra blocker or activated ability trigger is always helpful, and the buff can turn any creature into something formidable. But if Biodiversity is triggered, the extra reach and nullified removal spell can turn the tide in any combat situation.


    Like Hadana's Climb, Biomancer's Laboratory generates +1/+1 counters every turn, reminiscent of Simic's other mechanical identities. But more crucially, Biomancer's Laboratory makes those creatures into Mutants which goes towards triggering Biodiversity. It also encourages you to spread these +1/+1 counters, because one is enough to make a creature into a Mutant. Once Biodiversity is triggered, however, these Mutants get additional buffs.


    As a Mythic Rare, Menagerie Breeder makes a push for Simic to be Modern competitive. Without much else, Menagerie Breeder helps you make your own zoo, starting with the bottom and gradually growing. Once you've built your zoo, you don't need anything else to turn Menagerie Breeder into an 8/8. Combined with Changelings, Menagerie Breeder is a potent threat for 4cmc that demands an answer.

  • @Temurzoa
    Commented on card page ^^
  • @TheCenterOfTheUniverse @ChuckTesta @Faiths_Guide

    Just a reminder, there is only 36 more hours until the deadline! Get your entries in!
  • @bnew07
    I'm gonna need an extension, is that still a thing?
  • @Faiths_Guide

    Absolutely. You haven’t used any of your delay time yet, so you may use up to 3 days for this challenge. You have to let me know you are using delay time before the deadline in about 14 hours and how much you are using.
  • Just 1 day should be enough. I hope.
  • @Faiths_Guide @bnew07 I currently should have time to finish my entry today; I may use 1 day, but currently I don't need to yet.
  • @TheCenterOfTheUniverse @bnew07
    I thought the time was already up?
  • @Faiths_Guide @TheCenterOfTheUniverse

    The deadline is in about 6 hours.

    If you need to use delay time, just post it here before then.
  • Oh, then I might've made it in time.
  • @bnew07
    I'm going to need to use 1 day of my delay time
  • The mechanic I decided upon was Reap, in Black/Green:

    Reap N As an additional cost to cast this spell, you may exile N creature cards from your graveyard.

    Reap is meant to signify the idea of growing off of the dead through their consumption or decay; In green, this is signified through fungi and the like, providing for the ecosystem through decomposing the dead, while in black this is represented through either the power that undead may be able to get through using the other dead. I am still not satisfied with the name of the mechanic, but I couldn't think of anything better for this type of mechanic.

    Though technically the ability as I created it could go on any type of nonland card, I chose to only put it on creatures for two reasons; firstly, the flavor of creatures growing off of dead creatures made it work with only creatures, and secondly, the way the ability is worded, in theory it could care about different types of cards depending on what card type the spell is; that is, an instant could requiring exile instants, etc..

    This ability also is similar to both the "Skaab" ability from original Innistrad block as well as Undergrowth from Guilds of Ravnica. Because of these similarities, all of the cards were made such that they weren't uncastable without the Reap cost, and though Reap costs of X were considered, I decided to not use them in order to avoid the other similarities.

    So without further ado, here are my designs (2 Commons, 2 Uncommons, 1 Rare; 2 Green, 2 Black, 1 Black/Green; All Creatures):

    Entry 1:
    Garganshroom is the simple, "enters with +1/+1" counters common that almost every similar ability has at common. It only puts one +1/+1 counter because Reap is fairly easy to trigger without detriment to your game plan (Unlike Morbid or Revolt, for example), so it ranges from a playable filler in draft to a slightly higher level common.

    Entry 2:
    Carrion Lurcher is a slightly upgraded Shambling Ghoul such that on turn two or three, it is the same card, while later on the game it is a passable common. It is the only Reap 1 among the cards, as its effect is very minor and only matters in specific instances.

    Entry 3:
    Shambling Decomposer is meant to be an example of how well these cards resound with graveyard-themed decks; being able to return a land is good alone, but actually being able to ramp will sometimes come up and in both scenarios this card really shines when you can self-mill.

    Entry 4:
    Festering Serpent is fairly simple: either a 3/3 deathtouch, which is decent for a common and low power for an uncommon, or a higher-stat more restricted Ravenous Chupacabra.

    Entry 5:
    Quagmire Necromancer was the main reason that I took until now to post my entries. I was trying to find a reanimator that I could make at rare such that a) it wouldn't be busted if you were in a dedicated self-mill deck, but also b) because of the Innistrad Skaabs, it wasn't unplayable if you couldn't always pay the reap cost. One thing to note about the Necromancer is that, although it only has Reap 3, in reality the cost is Reap 4 because you need a fourth creature card to be reanimated.
  • all right everyone this contest is now closed! No more entries/edits will be accepted except for @Faiths_Guide and @ChuckTesta who have used 1 day of delay time each. Your deadline is 11:59 PM EST today 12/5.
  • @Faiths_Guide and @ChuckTesta

    4 hours left! Make sure you get your submissions in.
  • My mechanic is called Accumulate, and it is present in White and Red:

    Accumulate (Whenever this creature attacks put an Accumulation counter on it.)

    Additionally, each card has an effect that deals with the number of Accumulation counters on the creature.

    This mechanic really wants you to attack, just like Boros loves to do, so it seemed fitting. The cards with it become stronger over time, meaning it can be effective even when your opponent has a ton of walls or something else to blunt your attacks. The one weakness might be limited when games tend to be shorter and you want to win quickly because you can't get a ton of use out of this mechanic unless you attack a lot.

    Ruthless Brute is a pretty simple card. Can become dangerous if not dealt with quickly, because it can become a 5/1 pretty quickly.

    Protector of War "protects" during combat, buffering your life total more and more as the game goes on.

    This card summons spirits during combat to swing with and to exile afterwards. Really just wanted to make something that created tokens and was an equipment for this mechanic, and this is the result.

    Fiery Broodmother protects her eggs with fire, slowly burning stronger and stronger the more she attacks. I think this card would be better in a format like commander where the game lasts long enough for a 5/5 flier to attack a lot. She also can create little tokens inspired by Dragon Egg, that become 1/1 fliers when they die.

    Taijo is a card that not only gives himself Accumulate but gives ALL of your creatures Accumulate! This card is bonkers when your creatures attack a lot, they get bigger and bigger each time and also gain vigilance or first strike.
  • edited December 2018
    Accumulate is neat! There are a bunch of instances you don't need it capitalized though ;)
  • edited December 2018
    My new mechanic:
    Affirm (You may reveal a card from your hand that shares a color with this spell as you cast it.)

    I hope it is obvious that I intended it for 5-color. I focused on two colors for these examples, but, to be honest, I don't think I came up with very good designs here.

    The original mechanic name was Accentuate, but the space constraints on mtgcardsmith made Affirm the better "fit" literally and not figuratively. I think affirm is a reasonable term, but it made me think of a specific flavor that really wasn't that easy to show off.

    Anyway, that's enough excuses for a mechanic I'm actually proud of. So, without further ado, here are my black and green examples.

    Perhaps it is a bit pushed for a common when you assume it will be affirmed most of the time, but revealing cards in hand is a very non-zero drawback. You will have to think about cards with affirm when casting them (preferably before).

    This is comparable to Caravan Vigil, but it is more reliable, so it puts the land into play tapped.

    I like the flavor here even though the card is simplistic. If the card is affirmed you get a 2/2 and a 1/1 both with menace for {2}{b}.

    I think there is probably a more appropriate timing than the way I've worded this. This is just one example of unique applications for affirm. (The period in "battle.field" is there to force the spacing to work correctly.)

    Another card that cares about what you reveal :) It might've been better to give him hexproof and drop the flavor text.


    Woah, I forgot this wasn't PST! I almost missed my entry XD
    I've been so crazy busy :P
  • Alright everyone this contest is now closed. I will be posting results in 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 4 can move on.

    5th Place: @ChuckTesta with 67 pts
    4th Place: @Faiths_Guide with 68 pts
    3rd Place: @ningyounk with 86 pts
    2nd Place: @Temurzoa with 88 pts
    1st Place: @TheCenterOfTheUniverse with 92 pts

    @ChuckTesta, unfortunately you came up short this challenge and are eliminated. You get 7 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:

    @ChuckTesta: 7 faves
    @Lujikul: 4 faves
    @ningyounk: 1 fave
    @TheCenterOfTheUniverse: 3 faves
    @Temurzoa: 2 faves
  • edited December 2018
    The podium surprises me, but I appear to have scraped by! Personally, @ChuckTesta, I think your mechanic is really cool!

    That was the perfect breakdown of my submission. I was crunched for time and made all the mistakes you mentioned. You’ve been extremely helpful! You did mention that my mechanic was a kicker variant (which I’d mentioned to some smiths while I was designing it), but I think it should be stated that Reap is actually far closer to kicker in function.
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