Posted by ANDY aka GHoooSTS
When I announced the first Season Five Contest, I wasn’t expecting a lot of entries because it required a pretty specific skill set. Only so many people know how to make music, let alone send it out into the intertron as an MPThrizzle. As a result, entries were few, but the quality of each was very high, and we ended up with a solid new Free-For-All Roundtable theme song. All was well, but I knew I wanted to do a second contest that would be a bit more accessible. I also know a lot of people out there love making cards, redesigning cards, and playing around with the game mechanics. So I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to do; I’d been thinking about this contest idea since Season Two and wasn’t sure when to drop it.

Well, when you have no other ideas, it’s always the right time to deploy anything you thought of earlier.

With the announcement of Season Five Contest Two, my e-mail account began to flood with entries, then tapered off to a trickle after time went on. I was pretty sure we’d settle around fifty entries, but in the last hours before the deadline, I got like twenty entries. It was a lot, when you consider every entry had at least five cards within (some had more!). A lot of these had an enormous amount of time put in and it was pretty obvious; we got hundreds of words in explanations of mechanical and flavour considerations for each card with some entries. Others had new custom art. The range of entries were so diverse, it was pretty tough to pick winners, so I certainly deferred to my homies. To pick winners, CommanderCast staffers Brionne, Max, and Justin helped me sift through these entries to pick a winner.

I want to thank them for this. It really was a lot of stuff to look over, and they even went ahead and sent me nicely-packaged explanations of why they choose the entries that they liked to win. You’ll be able to read those below.

All entries will be posted sometime in the future, but it’ll be a while because the sheer logistics element means it will take time to get them all posted. It’s a ton of images to upload. Donovan will be handling that and will make it happen. But for now, you’ll have to content yourself with a glimpse at just the winners.

I of course also want to thank everyone who entered the contest. While I can’t blame you with such sexy prize support on the line, many of these entries went way beyond what was asked for and that made the contest even cooler. We got to see a ton of really fun-looking, interesting pieces and I would LOVE to see printed, personally. In fact, you just might see some of these being played in the near future on CommanderCast in some kind of… thing.

Worth noting is that, as always, there was a tie for a runner-up position, but given I’ve recently become rich in Giant Sharks I’m just going to give out another second-place prize. I can afford to!

Enough of my rubbish! Here’s the evaluation scores by the CommanderCast staff:

MAX’S PICKS
First I would just like to say that the number of cards where I found myself saying, “man, I would play that guy” had to be over a hundred.  There were lots of times one or two of the five cards were awesome, but the rest were found lacking for one reason or another.  I think this means there are a lot of burgeoning card designers in your audience.  This can only be a good thing.  After all, if you’re WOtC R&D, you gotta think they are checking out fan submissions, right?

And if they are, I think they should straight up pay Nathan W. for his cycle of Command-style mechanics.  Really, the only category I could possibly ding the guy on is uniqueness because the effects are so reminiscent of the Lorwyn Commands, but even then, I love how the four choices tie the color pie together.  And none of the modes copy any of the Commands.  Not only is this my favorite entry, it also contained my single favorite card, Kazari, the All-Seeing, the flash 3/3 for 1RWBU is an ETB player’s wet dream.  Just a five-star entry all around.

In second place, I had William H.‘s activated ability-centric cycle.  I was really impressed with the simplicity, balance and playability.  Of all the cards I reviewed, I thought  that Wizards would be most likely to print cards like this if they wanted to push the four-color angle.  Wizards hates four color because the pie is so convoluted, but I think William did a great job of making all four relate nicely to the cards’ abilities.

I didn’t put 2 and 2 together until I got a chance to get into Gibson H.‘s Yore-Tiller Nephilim article, but somehow I’m not shocked that one of his entries made my list before that realization hit me.  BTW, that guy can freaking WRITE.  But anyway, he hit a home run with the “return to Alara” theme, and I had to put it no lower than third.  Playability, color cohesion, fun, it’s all there.

I can’t believe I have to put Pavel M. in fourth, because that cycle totally had me wanting to play it.  I was really impressed at the playability of his new mechanics (Juror tokens!!!!!) because they didn’t seem intimidating, despite their novelty.

Eric D.‘s entry was the first one I saw, and it set the standard appropriately.  One of the unique things about Commander is the command zone, and I love how these guys generate extra advantage after they’ve died once.  Talk about turning a negative into a positive.  Cycle continuity and originality are off the charts here, as are fun and playability.  That it’s fifth says a lot for the other entries.

Finally, I liked Michael T.‘s archetype-reinforcement cycle.  Lots of playability.  I just wonder if Wizards would ever so overtly support specific archetypes in a cycle like that (and I know that wasn’t a factor per se, but it seemed to matter when trying to compare all the great submissions).  But it was an interesting thought, for sure.

So, points are as follows:

6–Nathan W.’s Command cycle
5–William H.’s activated ability cycle (Morgan, Rachel, etc.)
4–Gibson H.’s “return to Alara” cycle (Belator, Eliza, etc.)
3–Pavel M.
2–Eric D.
1–Michael T.

That was a lot of fun to judge, and really got me jonesin’ for four-color generals.  Went ahead and tested some Nephilim waters; I’m sure Gibson would be proud 🙂

BRIONNE’S PICKS
This was so hard.  I saw some really cool cards, but I eventually went with whole cycles that were good.  If we get honorary mentions for awesome, then Judson’s made me lol really hard, and I loved the guy who made the Metallica cycle.

 6 Points: Jon B.
I felt like the cards in this cycle were really good.  They were simple (grokkable, MaRo would say) and the abilities didn’t feel random–they worked together.

5 Points: Matthew D.
This cycle did something I really liked–it made re-casting generals something you want to do.  I feel like that alone would have been awesome, but the effects of the cards are cool.

4 Points: Donovan G.
This cycle is a throwback to the early days of magic.  The effort put into flavor and asthetics was astounding.  Not to mention I really like cards that offer you such complex choices.

3 Points: Bob M.
A great cycle with some really cool cards.  I absolutely adore Emakon.

2 Point: Dan K.
Once again, a cool cycle with an awesome creature (Monar).

Editor’s Note: Brionne only picked five winners, she was drunk I think

ANDY’S PICKS
Ugh, this is so much reading! YOU GUYS ARE THE WORST

6 Points: Arthur B.
This cycle was honestly too smart for me. The cohesion of the cycle, accompanied by the numbers theme, was just clutch. All five of them could be built around and be really cool, and the art was so fitting and weird. I really loved these guys and though I’m almost 100% certain they would never see print, it’s just because R&D are a bunch of jealous-ass haters.

5 Points: Andrew W.
A lot more straightforward than the cycle Arthur submitted, but there’s a lot to be said about these commanders. Fortunately I’m a simpleton and demand things are neatly wrapped up in packages, so here’s all those complex thoughts distilled into a quick phrase: FROOT

In any case, these guys are all what I like to see in Commanders–they’re game-changers when they hit play, they’re not combo enablers, they reward clever deck construction, and make their own rules… literally. Fantastic art choices, fun flavour, and an all-around solid feel really pushed these designs to the top for me. I am absolutely in love with Obdurus, the Immovable.

4 Points: Pavel M.
This cycle is interesting for a few reasons. The aspect that grabbed my attention (aside from the Wolf-Jurors, and let’s face it, that’s got merit to win the whole contest on it’s own) is that these cards tell a story together, one that I don’t have all the information to and haven’t had bludgeoned into me with advertising, but I can still say. I don’t know if it’s an indictment of how shitty Wizards is with making stories behind their cards, or just a testament to how good these are they I feel there’s a better story in these five cards than in the last five years of Magic combined. But that aside, they’re all cards I’d be happy to play.

Also, wolf jurors.

3 Points: Joshua R.
All of these cards so unique and weird. I do feel they capture the feel of four colours, which is pretty important it would seem, and they’re also all cards I would personally want to play with. I would probably end up building five new decks if these came out. They don’t have the same level of thematic connection across the cycle as some of the other entries, but they’re just really sweet cards and I can’t ask for much more.

2 Points: Travis M.
Similar to the above entry, I feel these were really good four-colour Commanders without doing something obvious like ‘protection from the colour I ain’t’. Strong unique abilities and low cost make them eminently playable. I also gave some extra points to anything that referenced format-specific rules, so these were pretty sweet in my book.

1 Points: Dan W.
I don’t have the same obsessive Ravnica fetish as a lot of other Magic players, but I think Dan’s managed to evoke solid Ravnica flavour with these and also makes the cards really feel like a sort of dirty alliance between the pertinent guilds. Most of these Commanders are also just straight-up boss, which has to count for something. Also Nara, Skargg Missionary would be like one of the dirtiest beatdown Commanders of all time, methinks.

JUSTIN’S PICKS
My order:

6 Points: Andrew W.
5 Points: Travis M.
4 Points: Joshua R.
3 Points: Drew B.
2 Points: Ben M.
1 Points: Ian W.

Seems slightly biased, I know.  I was really looking to see if Joshua’s entry could go higher but Travis’ is pretty strong, IMO.

I pretty much eliminated everything that didn’t have at least one card that stood out to me as a “I want to build that deck” general.  The whole point of having 4-color generals is to have them as build-around-me cards.  If you just want a 4-color good-stuff deck, you may as well just play all 5, it’s not like it’s making any difference.  From there I looked for the most “popping” cards that really made me sit up, which Andrew’s did.  I think the templates he has could use tweaking, and Apocalypse Maw probably doesn’t want to get Tec Break, but I think all 5 of his cards are superb and really stand out.  Travis and Joshua’s entries were similar, there was just a little less “wow” factor to what they were doing overall.

The others all had at least one card I wasn’t particularly excited about, which is why they ended up where they did.  There were some really cool ideas that got axed just b/c they were paired some lackluster cards, which is too bad.  I think next time a single-card creation contest is a better idea?

I didn’t really like any of the cards without all 4 colors in the cost (except for Andrew’s no-mana-cost general).  The only real reason to have a WR creature with a BG activation is so that it can be played in constructed while still being a 4-color general for Commander.  Well, that’s not what this contest is about, it’s about designing Commanders.  Granted, if any of the had the sufficient “wow” factor, I’d have been fine with advancing them, but none of them did for me.

That was a lot of cards.  I’m going to go pass out in a minute.

FINAL RESULTS

THIRD PLACE: Three Winners

These three participants have won two randomly-chosen CommanderCast mascot cards, sharpie alterations optional.

Jon B.

“Here are my entries for the season 5 contest.  My biggest pet peeve is expensive commanders because I like playing my commander early and if it ends up dying I like to be able to play it again or be able to play my commander and something else in the same turn so that was the initial idea I had going into my contest entry.  Needing 4 mana of very specific colors to get the commander out early seems like a tall order for those of us who run lots of basics in our decks because we can’t afford infinite duals so I decided to make all the generals cost a very reasonable 3 mana.  In order to keep with the 4 color theme I put two of the colors in the cost of the commanders and two as an activated ability.  I also really like the way enemy colors interact so as you can see all of the cards have enemy color casting costs and enemy color activations.  Each of the abilities kind of define how each of the colors interact together as well as how I hope they would interact with the other enemy colors.  I used anime names and pictures for the commanders not because they really go with the “traditional” magic artwork but because I just think the artwork is really sweet (and I’m terrible at making up names for cards).  Hope you like them.”

Nathan W.

“I had a ton of fun making these and definitely want to try them out within our playgroup at some point. At any rate, I feel that they are all powerful in their own right, but not too powerful, I hope. 🙂 I mean being in 4 colors does necessitate some sort of power bump, especially with the state of creatures lately.

So all the commanders have a unique casting cost starting at the base 4 mana with Lourneia ramping up to 8 mana for Mvon. Each are a legendary race that we haven’t seen too much of before (Scraink, being an elemental, is the only one that has previously been used as a legendary creature type). Also, each legend or commander has a secondary class or race. What’s unique about these guys (and gals) is that they all have the Command cycle where you pick two of 4 abilities. I had thought of this before I had seen your one commander that was touting this, so I hope this doesn’t ding me too much. However, what I tried to do with it was emulate the main style of play for each commander on when these Command abilities trigger. For instance, Scraink is a heavy aggro commander, so I figured having his trigger on attack made the most sense. Arrapossis is very defense, so his make sense to trigger constantly through each upkeep. Kazari flashes in at any point, so I figured her’s made sense when she enters. Mvon loves to beat some serious face, so he’ll probably die quite a bit in combat, so his make sense on when he dies; Lourneia’s are around combat damage mostly because it fits the color’s style of play and fits with her abilities quite nicely (pseudo-vigilance and forcing their creatures not to untap).

The power level of the abilities also fit with their style of play and how often they’ll trigger. Mvon’s and Kazari’s are more powerful than say Arrapossis and Lourneia’s which is why they trigger less often. Scraink’s will trigger fairly often, but his fragile body means that he often won’t get off more than 1 or 2 attacks before dying.

Also if you notice, each set of 4 abilities have some synergy within each ability and in various combinations. Some are a bit more synergistic than others, but all in all, each creature has distinct pairs of abilities that go well together.”

Arthur B.

“I want to be a card designer at some point in my career, so I decided there’s no reason for me not to participate in this contest (I started listening to your show much after the first general redux contest, unfortunately). I made a cycle of four color spirit generals in sort of style of the kami from Kamigawa because I’m a lameass that loves those cards along with the crappy mechanics of spiritcraft and soulshift. Mechanic-wise, with each I tried to explore different areas of the game that Magic has yet to exploit itself, such as the exiled zone or the order in which cards are played. I first had the idea for Master of the One Word, which is based off of an actual Kami that was worshipped in Japan under the name of Hito-koto-nushi. From there, I decided to use numbers as my unifying theme, and tried to think of mythological concepts associated with each numbers from which to base mechanics on (e.g. Gatekeeper of the Two Realms ties in with the popular concept of a guy guarding the entrance to the underworld, while Guardian of the Four Paths plays on the concept of four cardinal directions). I strongly suspect some of these have the potential to be extremely broken, but oh well.”

SECOND PLACE: Three Winners

These three participants will receive 100 Giant Sharks and 100 clear sleeves so they can protect their deck in the gaudiest way possible.

Joshua R.

“Just a few notes about my cards: there is some obvious symmetry, like the casting costs, but also some more subtle ones, like the sum of the power and toughness. I don’t know how obvious it is, but if you think about the single keyword each has, it’s a keyword that the missing color almost never gets. How the abilities set them flavorfully apart from the missing color is fairly subtle – my favorite one is Mael, the non-white one, which shuts down white’s ability to wrath.

Finally, after doing this, I totally understand why WotC hasn’t printed anything like this – it’s super hard to design. You need to walk a very fine line between not having people upgrade to a five-color general by making it splashy, but also justify the fourth color and make the ability something that none of the ten tri-color combinations can do.”

Pavel

“Optional info about the cards (plus 2 bonus tokens one of the cards uses) follows:

I had the idea of designing this cycle for a couple of months now. I knew roughly what flavor and story the cycle wants to tell, but I hadn’t work much on the mechanics of the cards themselves. Thanks to this contest I finally got to do the work.

The cycle consist of five very different cards (and bonus tokens that go along with one of them) that do unique things. The link between them is the flavor and the story that they tell. I won’t spoil the story now, but if you look at the cards you should be able to get it.

Now, to the cards themselves. Each card can potentially have a huge upside and be really powerful. However, each card requires to carefully build its deck. I intentionally made sure that the cards have downsides to prevent players from simply throwing a bunch of cardboard in a pile and call it a day. If the players take their time, those generals will allow for a myriad of unorthodox decks. I also made sure not to give the cards too many abilities and to keep the rules text as short as possible.”

“Elsker Sorg comes into play, wipes a bunch of critters and gets big. His rage is destructive and makes him stronger and intimidating. One important detail player should not overlook is that he doesn’t have to kill all you opponents’ creatures. Though he destroys all your dudes (rage is suicidal, you know), the choice gives you great diplomatic strength. One player flooded the board with dozens of little green men and just resolved Ulamog? Wipe out his creatures and leave your friends’ big dudes to deal with the eldrazi. His other ability allows you to bounce him to your hand if you need to reuse him or to prevent the added casting cost if he already died. He would not hesitate to flee from certain other characters in the cycle to fight another day. Disruption is an obvious route you can take with him, but I wish he was printed so that I can put him in the persist deck I want to make, or in a +1/+1 counters deck.”

“When Tiessa, High Judge attacks, she exiles all creatures until the end of the turn. Her vigilance (fit for a judge) allows you to get in for a few points of damage and tap her to steal one of the exiled creatures. She basically says “Stay out of my way or I will make you disappear.” Obviously, Tiessa could lead decks that revolve around blink, but she can also lead decks built around creature theft or enters the battlefield effects, for example. The pseudo-evasion Tiessa has allows her to even go into Voltron builds. Just use her with care – you might not want to attack with her if she stares a bunch of Acidic Slimes, Terrastodonts, etc. What I like about her is that her limitations open the door for creative deckbuilding.”

“Neteja, Purging Sinners is for the players who want to smash face. And when they smash face, they want to smash some more face. He is aggressive. He pings creatures that break rules (not being on his side is pretty high in his book) in search for his ultimate target (flavorwise, one particular character of the cycle, but usually your face). He is, in fact, so aggressive that he scares beatdown decks. Note that his first ability says “whenever a creature attacks.” This means that Neteja will trigger even if you are the one under attack, potentially clearing the attacker’s side of the board. This is where his diplomacy lies – if you attack me, you’ll lose a bunch of dudes. But then again, if you don’t attack me, well, I will attack you and you’ll lose a bunch of dudes. Beneath his simple abilities and fragile shell hides tremendous pressure for his opponents and tough dilemmas. Good deckbuilding will manage to solve Neteja’s drawbacks, while making him extremely powerful.”

“Valja, Evidence Auditor is for the quiet blue player. On first glance, her ability seems much less earth-shattering than the abilities of the other cards in the cycle. However, when leading decks with a decent amount of library-sculpting, she could be a very powerful general. She can dig through an opponent’s library (auditing the evidence) and play a card for free, or just draw you some cards. I could see fans of the Island choosing her, throwing high-powered spells in the deck to get the best value out of her. For more creative builds, you can bring back to life the Dimir Guild with its ability to control the opponents’ draws, for example – the sky’s the limit. She could play the diplomatic game as well, by making sure that an opponent will draw an answer to a threat you both face.”

“Jury of Peers is my favorite card of the cycle because it was the one that took me the most to design. I wanted to create a card that represents the jury in the court and I wanted it to somehow feature the number 13 – the number of the jury members. I’ve tried multiple versions (including a flip card version), but dismissed most of them because they were too slow, too fast, or too oppressive. Then I got the idea to make a card that produces tokens and allows those tokens to multiply themselves. Still complex, but the concept excites me, is powerful and flavorful. Jury of Peers’ triggered ability creates a token when a player casts a creature spell. The more interesting part is that the Jury gets a trial counter with each token it produces. When the card gets 13 counters (all jurors are now together and ready to announce the verdict), the Jury begins to spawn massive dragons to enforce the verdict. The card’s other ability can significantly accelerate this process, making Jury of Peers powerful.

The best part in this cycle is the flavor and the story behind. Choosing art for the cards created added layers upon layers to the story. Consider the relationship between Elsker Sorg and Jury of Peers that the art creates and how this affects the story, for example.”

Travis M.

“Everything in the design process started with the card that eventually became Lira. I had started trying to figure out how to design a card that did something that the missing color couldn’t do but all the other colors could. This eventually brought me to Lira’s ability, which brought me to the way I would make these cards exciting Commanders: give them all an ability that they could use even while they were sitting in the command zone. The abilities are what ties them together as a cycle. Some of them are more crazy than others, but I don’t think any of them are, by themselves, too ridiculously powerful.

Once I got to that, I decided to place a cool random ability into every color combination, such that each of the Commanders did something unique, powerful, and exciting that you could build a deck around. I wanted the ability to be something you would be willing to cast these guys for, since having them as your general already gave you a decent benefit. You want to put these guys onto the battlefield and do crazy things with them.

Hopefully you enjoy. At the very least, they should be fun to look at.”

GRAND PRIZE WINNER:

Andrew W.

“All right! Here are my contest entries for Season Five Contest Two. My design processes are below.

“So, for example, while you need a Legendary Creature with each four-colour combination in the mana cost, they don’t all have to cost exactly four mana; one can cost four, one can cost six, and the rest could cost seven.” That’s from your contest page . . . I hope it’s okay if one of my commanders costs 2 and one doesn’t have a cost at all!”

“These cards were all at least partially inspired by the art I decided would be awesome for them. This guy is like a cataclysm (not the card) on . . . fins. The main things I spent time deciding about this were the cards he’d find and whether there’d be a black card as a fourth or if he’d have the “gain 10 life” ability. One list of cards was Iceberg, Tornado, and Inferno, but with one card with X, I decided just to go all the way with it. I couldn’t find any black cards that felt natural-disastery enough, nor any other blue cards that felt enough like elemental forces. I thought about designing new cards for him, but I couldn’t come up with anything better than existing options, and I wanted to avoid discard to keep him from ending up just being Death Cloud.”

“This guy is . . . immovable. Maybe too immovable, but he can still sit there under a Pacifism. You might want to sacrifice him if you couldn’t remove the Pacifism and/or if he had some effect reducing his power into null.”

“FOUR-COLOR HYBRID. The more he costs, the bigger he can be. Also, he keeps learning new tricks! Is it a coincidence that “Monk” is the first four letters of “monkey”? I don’t think so. Another version of this card has four abilities, each of which says if CC was spent to cast him he gets two more counters and a keyword, but this version reads better and doesn’t feel so redundant. Plus, that way, he might have first strike now, but not later in the game, and I liked the idea that his monk training stayed with him.”

“This guy feels kind of like a mess to me, and he’s the card I’m least happy with the design . . . That said, I think each of the two abilities is a pretty cool one. I wanted the first ability to capture the concept of the armor plating he has, that somehow he turns Auras into metal armor, and something about that concept and him being a nonred Dragon inspired the name. Then, “Antithesis” inspired the second ability as I tried to think of something that really said “opposites.””

“Going into the contest, I had the idea that one of the commanders might have an ability that activated from the command zone. When I saw this art, I knew I’d found the one. If you think about it (or if I just explain it to you right now), this card really tells a story. This strange, celestial cat doesn’t want to be your commander. He wants to travel the Blind Eternities. But you bind him in chains and use his power until he escapes into an opponent’s control. When he dies, you capture him again, and he’s weakened, allowing you to use more of his power before he escapes again. This card is pretty weird, and it’d be hard to say just how powerful he is without trying him out. Also, this is the only one of my five that really doesn’t do anything unless he’s your commander. I guess you could cascade with your Ardent Plea into a free 4/4.”