Designer's Gauntlet [Week 1] - What We Have in Commons

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.

LuckyLooter and I are still pinning down our exact scoring rubric but we'll share it with you quickly. We'll be primarily centering on Balance, Syntax, and Function. In short, you'll want your cards to be 'print ready' when you submit them!

This Week's Philosophy:
While flashy rares and mythics often draw our attention, the bread and butter of any set is in its commons. As Mark Rosewater says, "if your theme is not at common, it isn't your theme!" Clean common design is some of the most challenging and most rewarding 'Smithing you can do, but few elements hold an environment together like a well-balanced card that fills its role.

One pitfall in common design is overdoing complexity. Your commons should generally be understandable with a single read-through and shouldn't be terribly wordy. That said, remember that simple doesn't have to mean boring - a clever application of familiar mechanics can yield cards that are both easy to understand and fulfilling to play!

This Week's Challenge:
Design 5 commons that could have been printed in Core 2021. Easy enough right? Here are a few restrictions to help breed creativity:
  • You may only create mono-colored cards
  • You must represent each color once
  • You must have 2 creature cards, 1 instant, 1 sorcery and 1 enchantment
  • Your cards must be newly created for this contest (no old cards)
  • Bonus [not required]: Suggest the card you'd have yours replace
Submissions are due on Saturday, July 18th at 8pm CST. Late entries will not be accepted.

Some helpful links:
2017 Mechanical Color Pie (Is it that old already? How time flies!)
Core Set 2020 Design Thoughts (This is for last year, but the philosophy elements are good)


  • @DomriKade your intention is for the cards we create to synergize with the existing themes in core 2021, correct?
  • Oh wow! Bnew is out for it! Game over guys, we have a winner. XD
  • edited July 2020
  • @DomriKade, is art required? I'm having trouble finding art that feels like it would fit into the set, and an even harder time with such art that applies well to the card concepts I have.
  • edited July 2020
    Here's my entry: (You can click on the images of my cards to go to the card page.)

    1) WHITE

    Fetching Fleabag would replace Alpine Watchdog as a cheap white dog (which means we'd have one of the three-mana white creatures demoted to a french vanilla 2-CMC). It's basically a joke on the fact that MTG players call tutoring for land "fetching". I'm not even sorry XD

    Fetching Fleabag  Alpine Watchdog M21

    2) BLUE

    Neverending Journey would replace Rookie Mistake as the one mana combat trick that's meant to synergise with the UR Prowess archetype. We had creature recursion at common with things like Sanitarium Skeleton, so I wanted to explore what instant/sorcery recursion would look like at common, to synergise with prowess.

    Neverending Journey  

    3) BLACK

    Pestmonger would replace Deathbloom Thallid as the 3-mana sacrifice outlet for the RG sacrifice archetype, and bring some more synergies with UB Reanimation as M21 has, at common, both a true reanimation spell and the biggest common black creature of MTG history! (Gloom Sower, an 8/6).


    4) RED

    Commander's Order would replace Furor of the Bitten as the red enchantment (also Igneous Cur would need to find a new ability) to help the RW tokens Go Wide archetype.

    Commanders Order  

    5) GREEN

    Symbiotic Pair would replace Sabertooth Mauler as a glue card for the RG 4-power, the BG death archetype (you can create a 0/0 with it) and GW +1/+1 counters archetypes. Before I get that comment, no, state-based actions are not checked during the resolution of spells and abilities so the tokens don't die before you get to put the counters on them ;p It's like Amass, from War of the Spark. So this card is basically three options: A 4/4 (+ a free death trigger), two 2/2s, or a 3/3 + a 1/1.

    Symbiotic Pair
  • I'm just here watching my chances of winning go down the drain... Oh well! XD
  • edited August 2020
    ( Deleted )
  • @bnew07 Correct! You cards aren't required to be precisely 'on theme,' I'm just interested that they fit holistically in the set.
    @Ranshi It's not expressly necessary but I'd encourage you to find suitable placeholder art if nothing else. In fairness, art carries very little weight in judging for me since we're at the mercy of the internet.
  • @DomriKade Are those 'replacement' thingies necessary? Do we the entrants really have to make things that would 'fit' in those archetypes baloney?
  • @Fallen_Lord_Vulganos — Nope, it's specified in the rules above ^^
    • Bonus [not required]: Suggest the card you'd have yours replace

  • My Entry is as follows:

    image image
    I would replace Revitalize with Boon of Solidarity. Revitalize has been printed multiple times before in core sets, which while I suppose makes it a Core Set staple, it is wrote, and Core Set 2021 pushes what a Core Set could be, and with that I think there should be some re-examination of some of the reprinted cards. Boon of Solidarity flavorfully aligns with Basri better than Revitalize does, and it also manages to support the lifegain themes in the set.

    image image
    Spined Megalodon is a bit of a sore thumb in the set; it will rarely see play, even in draft, wherein it would be played in lieu of any control deck bombs. Tidecaller Djinn not only serves the roll of a lategame creature, but it supports the flying themes present in the set, and allows for some minor recursion of instants and sorceries. Blue decks, even in limited are usually built around control, and an evasive creature with recursion will help support that better than a big creature that lets you scry. It's not just me who thinks this too! I asked 3 other Cardsmiths, who unanimously agreed that they'd have preferred to see a card like Tidecaller Djinn to Spined Megalodon in the set.

    image image
    I can't have been the only one to say, "Hey wait a minute!" when Rise Again was reprinted as a common. Yes, it does the job of Rise From The Grave's job without the Doom Blade protection, limiting it to your own graveyard, and without the potential Zombie Tribal support, but it is still alarmingly strong for a common. Consider the fact that you could be using the pervasive theme of self-mill to get a HUGE creature into your graveyard and then in limited cheese it out on turn 5. Now consider the Ikoria Uncommon Call of the Death-Dweller; it's a cheap revival card that gets you up to two creatures that are then buffed. Considering the two cards, it only makes sense that Rotten Return is a common, and is balanced in power. Yes, it may be pushed a little in complexity, but the power is certainly much more like what a full revival card at common should look like. That's why I'd have replaced Rise Again with Rotten Return.

    image image
    Listen. I love Pitchburn Devils as much as the next guy, if not maybe a little more, as I have some nostalgia for the Core Set 2014 reprint of it, when I got my first fat pack. But I'd without question replace it with Boarback Brigade in Core Set 2021. The theme that the devils serves to support is the sacrifice them, but in few situations would I actually want to sacrifice a bigger creature. The Boarback Brigade provides smaller creatures that you can sacrifice when you're done with them, and it also supports the "Go Wide" strategy that the set has been providing in red. It is a tad wordy for a common, but the effect couldn't be shorter, and is in concept, rather simple.

    image image
    Titanic Growth is great and all, but I'm partial to its cousin Giant Growth. And I like to think that Earthen Fury is equitable to Giant Growth. It costs the same, and while it provides a slightly smaller buff, the payoff of targeting a creature with a power that's already 2 or higher, makes it more worth it. My argument here is, admittedly, not as strong as it is with the others, but I hope that you see the sort of thought process behind this one. (Not all that happy that I am ending on such a lackluster note, though.)
  • edited July 2020
    Fine, here are my re-entries.

    It should be a better sac outlet than a particular Hobblefiend. If you want to sac something for free anyway. Plus you'll get cards too.

    A playable and cheaper version of Read the Tides.

    Another cheaper beatstick for green. It should be able to replace Garruk's Gorehorn in many green decks. At least in pauper.

    Don't know if it's better than Dub. But if you're looking for protection from those annoying targeted creature removals in black and red, then you shall get it.

    And of course, a cheaper Murder. But with a kinda downside. Unless if you kill your own creatures of course.
  • edited July 2020
    Hello! I come bearing five replacements...


    Reason: Flyers tribal is a theme in the set and there was no mass pump spell at common, so I decided one would fit well! Replacing Warded Battlements as largely an aggressive card that also works well for defense. My basis for making the cards was mixing the two ally color themes into a card that cares about me. So, this is +1/+1 counters and flyers.


    I was a little underwhelmed by blue’s beater in this set. Flying is a theme in the set, and this didn’t have it. I figured there was a cool way to mix blue’s two ally color themes, reanimation/self-mill and flyers. So, I made a flying beater that wants a loaded graveyard.


    Infernal scarring is a bit of a meh enchantment (as well as the only black enchantment at common in the set) in my opinion so I decided another enchantment that cares about creature death could work well. Black’s two ally color themes are sacrifice and reanimation/self-mill, so I thought this would be a good piece for the value chain black wants in this set.


    This one’s pretty simple. Red’s two ally color themes are “ferocious” (power four or greater creature) and sacrifice. So, I made a card that can sacrifice itself to make one of your creature have four power (unless it’s targeting a 0/X), replacing Chandra’s Magmutt as an aggressive red two drop.


    Titanic Growth is a spell we’ve seen a lot, and while It’s effective for fulfilling green’s “ferocious” allied color theme, it doesn’t help +1/+1 counters as its other allied color theme. So, I made a card that manages to combine both of the archetypes and replaces Titanic Growth — a spell that serves almost the same role.
  • @DomriKade is hosting a challenge? I've got to get in on this!
  • edited July 2020
    These are my entries.
  • edited July 2020

  • @Faiths_Guide, thats what I thought too!
  • I've decided to replace only reprints from M21. I've designed a white enchantment thus far...
  • edited July 2020

    One of the weaknesses of the WB Lifegain archetype in M21 stems from the lack of payoffs at common.  Black has one in Sanguine Indulgence but white has none. I designed Release the Dogs to fill that hole, open up a new dimension for the WB Lifegain deck with a minor tokens theme, and add an enabler for the RW go-wide archetype without needing to enable the Lifegain.  I replaced Makeshift Battalion because it was pretty poor at supporting both GW and RW, ending up a vanilla 3/2 most of the time.

    Shipseeker Drake is a top end flier for UW in a format with mostly small fliers, making a bigger one more valuable. It effectively costs 5 to cast although it can easily cost less in the right blue deck particularly UG. I replaced Tome Anima because it rarely made the cut in any deck.

    Infernal scarring just is too weak to make the cut in almost any deck and doesn’t synergize well with any of the archetypes. Imperfect Compleation gives removal heavy black decks another use case for this slot by allowing it to be put on opponents creatures to generate card advantage in conjunction with a kill spell. The sacrifice and morbid decks can still use this for card advantage without having to rely on village rites (although together they draw 4 cards). This card has a high setup cost and isn’t really “good”, but it does give black decks more use cases for this type of effect and will lead to some cool “combos” and play patterns.

    Bone Pit Brute doesn't support any particular archetype that well and its ETB effect can rarely be combined with an evasive creature in the decks that would want to play it to get in for some damage. Flamerite Elemental is a much more reliable way to get through that last few points of damage and still has 4 power to support RG. It is at its strongest in RB and RW (in that order), acting as a top end for aggressive decks. Given the threaten effect in this set is at uncommon, it is most likely that tokens will be sacked to this rather than opposing creatures, making the downside of its high CMC lessened a bit. This card gives RB another payoff at common while also providing splash value to others decks.

    Life Goes On is unplayable and is technically a payoff for GB but effectively doesn’t exist in the format. Because GB wants its creatures to die, a common recursion spell would be of interest but green has none and black has only Sanguine Indulgence which is clunky at 4 mana. Sprout from the Wastes gives GB the piece it is looking for while also providing a minor life buffer and giving other green decks a recursive option for creatures.
  • edited July 2020
    ENTRY - Trying to make more interesting replacements for reprints

    M21 design to replace the Dub reprint:
    M21 Draft Archetype: Green/White +1/+1 Counters & Blue/White Flyers

    M21 design to replace the Opt reprint:
    Study The Past
    M21 Draft Archetype: Blue/Black Control & Blue/Green Card Draw

    M21 design to replace the Mind Rot reprint:
    Thought-Reap Ritual
    M21 Draft Archetype: Black/Red Sacrifice & Black/Green Death Triggers

    M21 design to replace the Pitchburn Devils reprint:
    Firebrand Devil
    M21 Draft Archetype: Black/Red Sacrifice & Red/Green 4+ Power

    M21 design to replace the Colossal Dreadmaw reprint:
    Mighty Trailbreaker
    M21 Draft Archetype: Green/White +1/+1 Counters & Red/Green 4+ Power

    More discussion on each card can be found in their comment sections.

    I realized while coming up with my replacement cards that I occasionally was stepping on the toes of other new cards designed for the set. I took this as a good sign that I was thinking in a modern WotC headspace somewhat naturally. I had to take a new approach afterwards though. Good luck entrants, thanks for the contest @DomriKade & @LuckyLooter!

  • Dude... I can't win. Weeeeeeeeelp, going to find another contest!
  • @Faiths_Guide clearly you’re misguided. The entire concept of taking out Colossal Dreadmaw disgusts me.
  • edited July 2020
    Hahah! Ya, I like him too. I only wanted to take out reprint cards and the Dreadmaw just happens to be one.
  • Cool! Now this is my kind of contest! Been thinking about making one for commons for a while, but never had the time or motivation. I hope to submit my own entries before the deadline. I don't plan to win (I'm more an art critic than an actual artist), but I want to show my support for common design philosophy.
  • Now I'm really interested in this!
  • edited July 2020
    Wow, I worked faster than I expected myself too especially considering I'm a little tipsy.

    Churned out the following cards in like an hour or so (ngl, I gave no thought to what cards they'd replace in M21; I just wanted to make a bunch of commons I thought would work in the limited format).


    I hope they're not all garbage. Please let me know your thoughts or if I made mistakes or anything like that. Thank you.
  • edited July 2020
    I've replaced Lengthy Analysis with Study the Past (the old link still works). Draw two for {u} was too strong.
  • My cards:

    Glory DrummerWaves of WisdomDusk Disciple
    Boon of the PhoenixCycle of Growth

    Cards which would be replaced:

    Alpine WatchdogRead the TidesBlood Glutton
    Sure StrikeLife Goes On
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