Designer's Gauntlet [Week 3] - Sign(post)s of the Times

The Basics
5 weeks, 5 challenges, participate in as many or as few as you'd like! Prizes are awarded at the end of each week and the 'Smith with the highest cumulative total score will claim the title of Designer's Gauntlet Champion.

We have a top-secret in-house grading system but points are awarded each week based on placement as follows:

1st - 20 points, 2nd - 16 points, 3rd - 12 points, 4th - 10 points
5th - 8 points, 6th - 7 points, 7th - 6 points, 8th - 5 points

Each other participant gets 3 points just for playing. Additionally, those who aren't currently in the top 8 are eligible to receive additional points from bonus challenges. This week, the bonus is worth 2 additional points.

This Week's Philosophy:
The term 'archetype' gets thrown around a lot in design, but building for them is central to putting any set together. For our purposes this week, an archetype is the suggested play pattern or theme around which a limited deck will revolve. Some are more clear than others, but the best tend to be the ones that subtly guide you into intended gameplay. Notably, these will function differently than your cycles from last week. While a vertical cycle is looking for vertical connectivity, your archetype will demonstrate more horizontal synergy, each card playing well with the next.

Designing a draft archetype (from LuckyLooter) -
An example of a good draft archetype with support can be found in M21's Orzhov "gain 3 life" theme. Sanguine Indlugence and Revitalize are serviceable commons, but the synergy found in Uncommons like Indulging Patrician ties the themes together well. The theme is unique and unlikely to happen repeatedly in any random game without intent.

An example of poor draft archetype synergy can be found in M21's Boros Dogs archetype. The Uncommon tutors for two specific cards which are both Dogs, but doesn't care about Dogs in any way, nor do the common Dogs benefit in any way from attacking with Alpine Houndmaster. Attacking happens all the time and will trigger the Uncommon with no necessary synergy except by tutoring for extra random attackers.

This Week's Challenge:
Build a showcase of a limited draft archetype. Specifically, you must design the signpost uncommon for your archetype and three supporting or versatile commons to go with it. This is a total of 4 cards. A few restrictions and a bonus:
  • Unless it directly relates to your archetype, limit your submission to no more that two colors.
  • Your cards must be newly created for this contest (no old cards)
  • Bonus (for those not currently in the top 8) - design the sweet bomb rare that draws the archetype together!

Submissions are due on Saturday, August 1st at 8pm CST. Late entries will not be accepted.

A helpful link:
2017 Mechanical Color Pie


  • Is there a typo in the deadline?
  • @DomriKade The deadline was 2 days ago?
  • Don't know bout you guys but I haven't finished building my time machine yet...
  • Oops, thanks for the catch y'all! I got it fixed.
    Do keep working on your time machine though... just in case!
  • Well mine is a Fox Avatar Archetype thats kind of a Cycle...

    That last one I forgot to put artist crediting on the card itself, its from Desktop Nexus.

  • edited July 27

    A fairly generic and nice green booster. I think this is a very green thing to do, lands matter and making creatures bigger. Definitely more of an end game booster or a nice pick in a land spam deck, as it affects all creatures entering the battlefield. Synergies nice with cheap token generation from the other commons.


    Another fun one, a knight who gets stronger with his horse! The best way to boost both of these is to pile the Horse token with all the counters so they both get strong. I was tempted to make it all counters of all horse creatures you control, but I felt like that was a little too strong. Maybe if he was higher rarity.


    This one is my favorite of the commons, personally. Simple, fun, and supports the archetype of creature tokens with counters.


    The theme of the draft archetype, the creature tokens entering the battlefield with a counter is a fairly unique. Token generation is a green and white thing, so I wanted to play around with that, which I think this theme does. Had to put the saproling entering the battlefield not triggers the card in there because there is probably someone this could go infinite otherwise.


    And a nice rare to bring it all together. Boosts token creatures with counters even more, and even has a way to get counters on those creature tokens in a big way.
  • edited July 31
    As you probably remember, Shadowmoor was a spin-off of the Lorwyn block.  Lorwyn pushed +1/+1 and "tap-matters" cards, so Shadowmoor pushed -1/-1 and "untap" cards. 

    [Side note, if you remember the lore and the flavor of that block, Shadowmoor was created from Lorwyn every 300 years when the Great Aurora came and temporarily corrupted the plane.]

    My Limited archetype is to bring back the Untap {q} mechanic ("Untap-matters", if you will), which was more than just one color wedge in Shadowmoor and Eventide.  That's why these cards aren't just mono or dual colored.  

    Here are the commons:

    Here is the signpost Uncommon:

    And here is the Rare:

    Thank you :smile:
  • edited August 1

    We start with our signpost uncommon, the whole basis if this archetype is card draw vs +1/+1 counters, pick and choose your battles. Early game you might want that card draw to build the state of your game. Then when every thing is said and done, start bulking up your guys for combat readiness. We all know how many card draw interactive cards there are out there, so this deck shouldn't be too hard to fill.

    And now we got our little work horse. This guy is purely meant to coordinate with Redistributed Power as they play off of each other.

    This guy is more of a situational common, he can provide card draw when set up properly or he can "scry" a card to the bottom for better results later on.

    A little something for fuel the system and increase Infinite Unbound.

    The end game killer, this is meant to draw tons of cards, to either make counters or fill your hand with more combat tricks.
  • My archetype is a Blue/Black combination of Mill, Discard, and Big Graveyards:

    With the ability to cause instant speed mill or discard, this strategy thrives.
  • My archetype is Green/Blue Cycling.

    Cycling is a mechanic that's been used in many sets, but I don't think Cycling as an archetype has been explored with green before. Ikoria had cycling as an archetype, but it was mainly centered in R/W with U added on.

    The Signpost Uncommon:

    Idea Keeper tells you what this is archetype is all about. You want to cycle cards quickly to get new options and gain benefits off of cycling like getting tokens with Idea Keeper.

    The Commons:

    Thoughtkeeper Drakes: This is meant to be a nice payoff when you cycle cards. An evasive creature that can grow as you cycle cards.
    Canopy Sage: This is meant to help push the cycling theme with its cycling ability and it encourages players to cycle it with its instant speed buff/combat trick effect when you cycle it.
    Swift Denial: This is meant to give players flexibility with the cycling ability. Maybe there might be a time where you want to counter an annoying ability! Maybe there is a crazy noncreature spell that needs to be countered.

    The Rare:

    Rite of the Spoken Word helps give you card advantage off of cycled cards, as it allows you to cast cards with cycling even after they've been cycled. Rite of the Spoken Word also helps protect you against opposing discard effects, which is something that can be valuable too.

    I hope you like it!
  • edited July 31
    My archetype is RW “exile threshold”.

    All the entries are flavored around a cult of religious zealots, The Scorched Believers who maintain that burning the flesh brings one closer to a world outside the mortal plane called The Beyond which is mechanically represented by the exile zone.

    This archetype represents mostly untapped design space as a theme, giving RW a completely bee set of play patterns. One of the hard and fast rules of the exile zone is not supposed to be a second graveyard and as a result cards that are exiled should not leave there unless it being used as a “holding zone” for some effect. The consequence of this as it pertains to a limited archetype caring about exile is that it is very difficult for the opponent (or the player themself) to interact with cards in exile.

    When designing cards for this archetype, I was conscious to ensure that most of the enablers (cards that put other cards into exile) fell into one of three camps: 1) required a real trade off, 2) could be interacted with by the opponent, or 3) were temporary. Some unconditional exile effects are ok, but at a lower as-fan to ensure the following play pattern would occur most of the time.

    I want this archetype to play out in a way where in order for the player must maintain the requisite 4 cards among all exile zones, they would have to commit to it by investing in multiple cards that exiled AND could not easily hit the four cards threshold in one turn and then automatically have it for the rest of the game (like Ascend, for example). 

    Lastly, I chose to count all cards in exile because both red and white have effects that exile your cards AND your opponents cards so including both players’ exiled cards played naturally with the existing mechanical space. I am aware that this does make it slightly more difficult to track the total number of cards in exile but definitely leads to better and more diverse gameplay.

    My first card takes a common red effect (tormenting voice) and stapled it together with impulsive draw to create an enabler that exemplifies lenticular design. I chose to limit the cards to be played until end of turn because it creates a lot of tension within the context of the archetype. First, sometimes it will be correct to just play both cards and forego leaving cards in exile. Other times it will be correct to leave one or even both cards in exile. The best part is, you can cast this card, have two additional cards in exile for your main and combat phases, then cast them later in the turn to get the best of both worlds. I think this card will be both skill testing and fun as it will have even more variation than typical impulsive draw effects.

    Rather than the typical pacifism effect, this archetype would be supported by a Journey to Nowhere style removal spell at common. This card is simple and effective, but most importantly puts a card into exile in a way that card be interacted with by every color besides red (which has cards that care about exile due to this archetype).

    This card is a common payoff that is quite strong if you can enable it but also contributes to getting cards in exile. The exile ability, while seemingly unconditional, allows the opponent to decide if it is worth blocking this or attacking into it and putting a card in exile. This decision amounts to interaction in the context of the archetype. Additionally, menace synergizes nicely with the exile ability as this will help you maintain 4+ cards in exile if it tussles in combat (once again, the opponent gets to choose whether this is worth it or not).

    My last card enables itself, but only the turn it enters the battlefield, combining nicely with haste. The flicker ability can be used to reset your own creatures or remove blockers, supporting several different lines of play in a way that will change from game to game. The attack trigger works with the flicker ability on the first turn, giving you an extra card in exile to hopefully launch a cultist into the sky temporarily.
  • @bnew07 That's really innovative! I love it!
  • @bnew07 ; Very well done! [standing ovation]
  • edited August 1
    Trying my hand at "Heckbent", having 1 or fewer cards in your hand, which is very much tied to discard. Having almost no cards to play usually feels bad (which is why Hellbent probably won't come back), so there would probably need to be more card draw in these colors in this set.

    Chained Mongrel

    Contract ImpPyrosavantMalicious Atmosphere

    Bomb rare:
    Zalgrim Hoarder of Souls
  • This round has been... difficult... for me, to say the least. I've probably gone through four or five different versions of this archetype to get it to a state people seem to approve of. I worked through issues such as flavorful color misalignment, mechanical identity issues, and balancing, but I hope the end result delivers after everything these cards have been through.

    The Soratami of Kamigawa, the Moonfolk scribes and wizards that call the plane's clouds home, are a wondrous and elegant race. While they aren't very well known as a creature type, many of your are familiar with the race through the planeswalker Tamiyo, who is herself a Moonfolk. They have been featured on only one plane: Kamigawa, and they were presented with a tribal tie where most of them had activated abilities that involved returning one or more lands to your hand as part of the ability's cost. When I first saw this, I thought to myself, "Well, that's just bad!" but then after a moment of consideration, it occurred that the intent of the Moonfolk was to get a large number of cards in your hand while still allowing you to play cards and use effects. This is indicated by the original Kamigawa block's numerous "hand size matters" effects. My entry plays into this by expanding the original Moonfolk mechanical identity into a more properly-fleshed-out draft archetype. While I was originally going to place this archetype into green and blue, with an additional central tie being the ability utilize the lands you get back into your hand from Moonfolk abilities in various ways, others didn't react well to the idea of a mono-green Moonfolk, and said it felt out-of-color for the race. Historically, other than Tamiyo herself, Moonfolk have been a strictly blue race, so I went back to the drawing board on the idea. Ultimately, my draft archetype came out in a way I think is unique and I hope you all find interesting. I present: mono-blue hand-size-matters.

    Soratami Blade Dancer is my interpretation of what a "traditional" Moonfolk would like in a Kamigawa set if one was made today. I wanted to continue utilizing Moonfolk that have abilities which require you to return lands to your hand as a cost, as it is an easy way to increase the number of cards in your hand, and was the "iconic tie" of the original Moonfolk cards. However, one issue most Moonfolk have was generally being understated for how large a cost and relatively little of a payoff their abilities had. 2/2 flying creatures for 3 mana have continued to be fairly strong draft commons, and it makes this card viable to attack with even if you don't activate its ability. While the activated ability may seem rather because it allows the card swing as a massive flying creature fairly early in the game—and I did consider including an additional mana cost for it—bouncing lands to your hand, especially in large quantities at one time, is a real cost that can seriously set you behind the opponent in the early-and-mid game. Furthermore, keeping the ability at sorcery speed means that players have to commit to using it before attacking and in the precombat main phase, which means that if they want all of their lands available to cast spells, they must do so before combat and likely not at instant speed, so they can't really "hold anything up" in the way of counterspells or combat tricks. If anything, I think the ability will shine the most in the late game, allowing the card to keep up with larger creatures once you have extra lands in play to spare. It keeps itself from being a dead draw due to its ability to scale in power/toughness to match the board, and it keeps your lands from being dead draws by giving them additional utility, all while, I hope, maintaining the simplicity and generally lower power level most commons have.

    With the higher-than-average number of lands you will find yourself holding in hand while playing Moonfolk like Soratami Blade Dancer, in addition to a bit of a higher-than-average amount of card draw that would be included in this hypothetical limited format, if you are dedicating yourself to this archetype you might find yourself ending turns with more than seven cards in hand. Soratami Sky Prophet is meant to be a means to remedy that. The original Kamigawa block experimented with effects that could increase and decrease your hand size by numerical amounts (as opposed to just saying "you have no maximum hand size"), and I want to make that an additional characteristic that define Moonfolk and what they are mechanically capable of. Soratami Sky Prophet provides an acceptable two-mana flying body while giving you an opportunity to increase your maximum hand size should you be holding more than seven cards so you don't have to discard anything. An additional benefit is that its activated ability stacks when activated multiple times, so it can sale to however many cards you might be holding.

    As was pointed out to me while I was looking for feedback, it can be difficult in limited to build up to having more than 7 cards in hand. After all, having eight cards in hand while playing draft or sealed means you're holding a fifth of your deck in hand! Therefore, I am delving into relatively unexplored design space and furthering the ability to alter your maximum hand size with cards that check whether or not your hand size is 7. On its own, Sweep the Clouds is meant to be the "obligatory bounce spell" most limited environments have. It is behind rate of Unsummon, but that is because it has the ability to replace itself if your maximum hand size is not 7. While this effect may be unprecedented, and thus seems unfit for a common, I envision multiple effects of this variety present in the hypothetical limited environment this archetype would be a part of. I don't think it is inherently complex to understand, or complex to check/keep track of, so an effect as simple as turning a spell into a cantrip feels appropriate at common.
  • image
    Finally, we have the signpost uncommon of the archetype. While this is not the traditional two-color draft archetype most sets support, I believe this card does a good job conveying what the "large hand matters" draft archetype can do in limited. First off, its triple-blue mana cost makes it difficult to splash into multicolor limited decks, which drives the idea of this draft archetype being largely based in blue. It also allows me to scale the power of the card up and simultaneously keep the CMC low. I wanted to keep the CMC of the Moonfolk cards on the lower end overall, so that having fewer lands in play than normal didn't mean you were barred from casting your relevant spells.
    For the cost, to start off, you get a 2/3 flying body, which outclasses Soratami Blade Dancer's base rate. That is to be expected due to the more restrictive cost. This stat line is already fairly strong in limited, but nothing particularly special. To supplement that, and really drive home the idea of this being an uncommon, though, I made it into a flip card that flips once you have five or more cards in hand. I chose to make it flip with five cards in hand rather than seven since, as I stated while discussing Sweep the Clouds, it can be difficult to get up to a 7+ card hand in limited, and five seemed like a reasonable threshold to get it to its backside. Speaking of which, the backside provides the "classic" 3/4 flying body that has consistently been strong in the late game in a lot of prior limited environments, but, more importantly, gives it an ability that can return a creature to your opponent's hand when it attacks if that creature's converted mana cost is less than or equal to the number of cards you have in hand. The ability encourages players to keep cards in their hand, as well as use the Moonfolk effects that can fill their hand up with lands, so that they can keep the opponent's most threatening creatures at bay, or get a blocker out of the way to ensure this card can connect with opponents and keep swinging repeatedly. This ability has the potential to cause major tempo loss for the opponent, allows you to scale to the late game even if you are technically falling behind based on the number of lands you control, and serves as a win condition payoff for the archetype.
    Ultimately, I think this card has the ability to take over games without being so crippling that it is downright oppressive to play against, and really drives home what this archetype can do. Now, I suppose you all have one last question: "Ranshi, why'd you make it a flip card instead of a transforming card?" I chose to keep it a flip card, because flip cards are an iconic mechanic of original Kamigawa block, and it felt appropriate to maintain them here as a "returning mechanic" to the hypothetical limited environment.
  • edited August 1
    Wow... I didn't mean to write that much... but there we go!

    @DomriKade @LuckyLooter, I'm sorry for subjecting you to an essay.
  • @Ranshi It’s good practice 😂 I like your entry! It’s unique. You should be careful with the power of Soratami Blade Dancer though.

    Theres my hat in the ring this week.  Im going for smooth card synergy across many cards. No huge combo spikes in power, just a general works together feeling like you get with planeswalker decks.   (You know when you make a cool card and you finish it, then later realize it is missing something like power/toughness..... Ya I was plagued by that this week. SMH)
  • Only 2 hours 'til the deadline - thanks for all the great submissions so far!
  • Wow! Im excited! :D hope I get top 8 this time! Good luck to you all!
  • @Phelgming ?? Are you entering this round? Just want to remind you in case you forgot about the deadline today!
  • Another late entry on my part:
    With this challenge, I chose to pick RG, as it is a color-combo which often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to signposts archetypes (as in, it's almost always RG beatdown, and often doesn't expand on that). I decided to run with "combat damage to player" matters (which, yes, is still RG beatdown, but an expansion), something which has been attempted a bit with mechanics such as Bloodthirst but never been an actual archetype. With that, I knew there would be two main pillars to the archetype: cards that make getting through during combat easier, and cards which trigger off of dealing combat damage to players.

    My first card is a Red common which falls into that first category. Preventing blocks is a staple in red, especially at common, but a lot of the time these effects are too weak to be played. This card fixes that with a reasonable body and the secondary purpose of killing off low-toughness creatures.
    Next, this green common is an example of one of the pay-offs for the archetype. The combat damage effect is relatively weak on this one, but combined with an already formidable body, this card serves as a pointer for the player in the right direction while being a minor pay-off.

    The last of my commons serves multiple purposes. As it triggers off of combat damage to players, it is a pay-off, but at the same time, granting double-strike both wins combats and doubles other effects that may trigger off of combat damage. It's debatable whether it should be two mana, but based on recent double strike granters as well as how minor rummaging can be, I determined that it was better to be 2 over 3 mana.

    Finally, we have the sign-post uncommon. For this card, I wanted it to be both an enabler of the archetype, and a pay-off (as often is with the sign-post uncommons), and as such it has two abilities. Granting trample to your whole team is a pretty common effect to see, especially at uncommon, but when there's more to the pay-off than just combat damage it becomes better. For this card's second ability, I knew I wanted it to be an effect that scaled with the number of damaging creatures, but as it was an uncommon, I knew it couldn't be too powerful. I debated many effects, but in the end, the simplest of putting +1/+1 counters on (with minor tweaks for power/rarity reasons) seemed best.

  • Now that's a scary entry!
  • edited August 2
    Nnnnnnnnnnnnnot even close.

    Hunting Werebear Claw of the Wilds Hinterland Savage Wildland Fomenter
  • This week proved to be a tough challenge (as partially evidenced by far fewer entries than previous weeks) so I wanted to take a moment to explain what we were after and how we looked at entries this week.

    This is arguably the most difficult concept we've cooked up for you to do. To prove an archetype is viable and to execute it with only a few cards is a tall order. You have to thread the needle of designs that push you into an archetype that aren't nonfunctional outside of it. One of our recurring issues this week was that the uncommons weren't always 'payoffs' for a theme - even if they played well on their own, they didn't encourage playing more cards of the theme. As aforementioned, it's admittedly tough and I may have been unclear in presenting our desire.

    One further note, the top entries often have fewer notes on them by their nature as we have fewer criticisms to offer.

    As a reminder:
    • Judging is always subjective, but we aim to hold everyone to equal standards and offer our rating based on our proposed criteria.
    • I'll typically only be sharing notes on the top 4 each week. If you'd like our feedback on your entry please message me and I'll get it sent to you.
    • DK is me (DomriKade) and LL is LuckyLooter!
    Our honorable mention this week is @Fallen_Lord_Vulganos , particularly Masterful Disguise. It was LuckyLooter's favorite this week!

    @Ilmarinen @spookoops @Ranshi @Shadaar

    4th - @shadow123 - GU Cycling
    Thoughtkeeper Drakes
    DK: Clean common, though possibly worth doing 2/3 with +1/+0 for cycling.

    Canopy Sage
    DK: I like this parallel (+2/+2 until eot or +1/+1 counter) and this is a fine package for it, if a bit wordy.

    Swift Denial
    DK: Neat idea, but probably not the effect you want at common.

    Idea Keeper
    DK: Cycling abilities you activate cost up to 1 less to activate. This effect can’t reduce the mana in that cost to less than one mana. A bit less potent than Fluctuator, but probably fine at uncommon. I’m surprised this one is “cycle or discard” but the Thoughtkeeper Drakes are just cycle. I do appreciate that this has cycling as well. Nicely done, all told.

    3rd - @Faiths_Guide - UB Discard/Mill
    Gossip Hoarder
    DK: Neat combination of effects, but I wonder if it’s too much at common to get both. This could potentially trigger your payoffs several times on its own.

    Predictable Rejection
    DK: Great design. Really like this.

    Mental Barrier
    DK: Serviceable common - 4 toughness may be a lot depending on the set.

    Intelligence Clique
    DK: Neat way to tie these together, though I wonder if discard and mill is too broad a theme to enable both. Thank you for capping toughness as this can get absurdly large!

    LL: My favorite theme so far as it feels really cohesive. The Uncommon frequently capable of having 10+ power feels odd.

    2nd - @bnew07 - RW Exile Threshold
    Immolation Prayer
    DK: Great riff on Faithless Looting.

    Blessed Banishment
    DK: I like that this is a staple limited card that plays more uniquely with this archetype. Nice. Flash may be a bit much as we start messing with things mid-combat.

    Pure-hymn Acolyte
    DK: I wonder if this wants to be “if a player owns four or more cards in exile” rather than a sum total. Nice common though!

    Scorchwing Seraph
    DK: Flying on the token is a bit odd to me but the rest of this is really neat. We’re pushing it on text but this cleanly pushes us toward the archetype. It’s a shame that this doesn’t have any way to permanently contribute toward the total.

    DK: My biggest beef with this archetype is that it’s tough to interact with. Once you have it, you just have it and there aren’t ways to undo it. I imagine you can balance that somewhat with the power of your cards, but it has the potential to be like energy counters in Kaladesh.
    LL: I especially love the concept as I have a soft spot for Warden of the Beyond, and I strongly feel that this is design space which is ripe for exploration. This execution is very interesting although the uncommon feels a bit wordy.

    1st - @TheCenterOfTheUniverse - RG Damage to Face
    Eyrinidisian Raiders
    DK: Serviceable common, helps push through damage, I like it.

    Awoken Brambletitan
    DK: I’m getting Sporemound vibes (which is a card I like pretty well) though I wonder how many times this can trigger before a game ends. Maybe a blocking trigger would help promote this theme?

    Strikes of Savagery
    DK: This is probably more valuable for double strike than for the rummaging. That said, I’d rather have seen this effect paired with trample.

    Primal Sylvanspeaker (DomriKade's Favorite!)
    DK: You’re speaking my language with this card. I love it.

    LL: This is an extremely clean entry and I really like it.

    After adding points from this week (including bonuses), that brings us to our current standings:

    Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who submitted!

    I would ask for a small grace period here as we prepare for the next challenge. It requires a bit more setup on my end and I'd like to be sure it's done well for y'all. Week 4 will be posted soon!
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