Magic: the Gathering in the UK
massive props to everyone involved esp Simon and Tom for such epic work bringing it all together, there was a couple of issues:
The red deck had far more enablers than the portent, the life gain deck had lots of enablers but not enough that helped you punch through other than the lark. I wasn't a massive fan of green it just didn't have enough speed to make the guys good enough, blue was a very interesting colour, I found there was a lot going on without it really doing anything to special.
There was no real rush deck, which meant that games got into massive stalls.
I did give me a few ideas for the next set though
Overall though great work though people
Great work getting it all together chaps! To the various points re: lifegain and stalls I think that most colours apart from black and blue have a way of dealing with that, whether it's the fat bird, lure cyclops, or just burning your face for a million. Mill may be worth working into those colours as an alternate wincon, as we've got some support in the set already (the 2UU sorcery seems almost good enough).
Other thoughts -
Portent may be too good, there are enough permanent enablers to mean that each portent card is almost a cantrip. I think that some costs could be rebalanced so that the actual cost is less than the portent cost, so sometimes you're better off drawing it.
Creature size needs to be looked at as we've made lots of 2/2, 2/3 and 1/3 type creatures. Didn't notice many 5/5 or larger being available to force chumping (and hence breaking up the board state).
Lifelink guy is busted - windbrisk raptor only gives it to your attackers, so racing is still kinda possible. Giving it to your blockers as well is basically like trying to play against Gideon.
I'm not sure how well red mixes with other colours, it's quite parasitic, and while looting is always useful I'm not sure that pageflame is playable in a less focussed deck (compare to geistflame)
Yeah I definitely want to play this set again. I'm in CA for a couple of weeks starting Thursday but definitely up for more exploring of our creation after that.
I guess my enmity towards bombs and our attempt to push lifegain did result in some long games but I found the set very enjoyable to play.
If you look at Maro's second design skeleton article ( http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/mm/78 ) you can see that his Gravetwist theme appears on only 8 commons from 60 across all five colors. We had Soulsong on 5 white commons and two other cards. So we probably pushed our mechanics over "normal limited magic" a bit hard?
Some of the cards we made are classics though. Goblin Archer, Bound to Serve, Graveshade, Prophet of Doom, Lostsight Counsel, Diviner's Familiar, Withering Decay and Grave Geist could go almost anywhere.
I wonder if our next set should be an attempt to create a "classic" magic set. That is, not so much changing color identity or pushing our own mechanics but just putting together a sensible design skeleton with reprints and new cards along a certain theme or two.
I also wonder if we should make another set or if we should keep pimping this one for a while, make people play it and gather more info about what we did right and what we did wrong. A few Saturdays in Penderel's Oak alternating this and some more traditional cube would be fun and illuminating.
I think a creative endeavor like this wants an audience. Could we come up with some worth-having prizes and create some kind of tournament structure around either this or the next set so that we feel we are truly designing for more than just our own amusement?
Oh, and Simon, can you post the MSE file you used so I can print a copy out for myself when I'm in the States? Thanks!
I completetly agree that more play with this is needed, I think when Tom gets back we could blitz a few Saturdays, I would suggest altering a few cards may make things a bit more even, not a total change but maybe some slight alterations, I do understand if we want to leave this as set 1 and make this more about learning from our mistakes.
I think the issue with the cards that brake the stalls, that there were maybe 2 in each colour in the draft and a lot of people ended up with only 1 each.
Regarding portent I both played it and played against it and it seemed fun but just never really lived up to the hype, not sure why I often got value it was more that there were no totally broken guys to abuse with it, I just found myself making random 2/2 dorks, I do feel that the next set has to have a much more varied power/toughness level
Files are there for anyone who wants them.
I like the idea of running an event with some kind of prize/tournament to help drum up some interest for future plays.
Kieran makes a good point about repeatable enablers. I did see a comment a few days ago that Wizards made saying that Merfolk Looter was the most powerful card in M11 or M12 and that is why the red version in M13 is so crappy. Probably in our desire to push new mechanics in lifegain and looting we went a little too hard.
The "go to graveyard from anywhere" cards got a fair bit of stick on the day, but apart from Caliph of Tyrosh (which no one actually complained about), I still think they are fairly reasonable. The real problem was putting plenty of them in red, should have kept it to almost exclusively black, to give the looting deck a reason to play two colours.
Maybe we were too safe with Portent? Although if we tinker with lifegain and looting, I think portent will probably still be fine, perhaps we should have done a few more "if you cast this for its portent cast, instead do <foo>"
Apologies for the giant post. I think it's mostly interesting :)
I was looking at a layout like this for the next set.
In an 8 man draft there are:
21 Rares (on average)
3 Mythics (on average)
Each common appears on average 2 times per draft.
Each uncommon appears on average 1 time per draft.
Each rare appears on average 1 in 3 drafts.
Each mythic appears on average 1 in 6 drafts.
So we could do the following for an 8 man draft:
Print 4 of every common (120) and use half. 
Print 2 of every uncommon (72) and use half. 
Print 1 of every rare (72) and use a third. 
Either don't have Mythics (0) or print 1 of each (12) and use 2. [0 or 12]
That's 120 commons, 72 uncommons, 72 rares and possibly 12 mythics to invent (very similar to a WotC set), and 708 cards to print and sleeve (a lot, but we've done more than half that many several times for other things). And the distribution in drafts will be very similar to normal set drafts. Not quite so wildly variant (you will NEVER get five Squadron Hawks or two of any given Rare) but getting a lot closer.
There's an open question, though, about whether emulating a real set is something we want to do. We didn't really do it this time. The power level in The Five Towers is much flatter than in a normal set. Are we prepared to design, print 4 of, sleeve and draft our equivalents of Viashino Skeleton and Gruesome Encore in the interests of reproducing the feel of a real set draft? Is that a desirable and fun process and end state?
The main fun of bad cards is that some of them are secretly good (Back from the Brink, Gnaw to the Bone, Dampen Thought, Raid Bombardment, Dreamstone Hedron and the opposite like Corpse Lunge and to a lesser extent Harvest Pyre). But if we invent the set and discuss it online and playtest it then those puzzles are not there to be solved. There's a reason WotC does spoiler season and doesn't reveal playtest information for years. So we wouldn't have that fun, unless we find an audience from somewhere - develop the set away from them, and then unleash it on them. And Magic is complex enough that they'd have to play it a bunch of times to experience that enjoyment - no internet to clue them in that Fog Bank is secretly amazing in M13 sealed.
Possibly the answer to the "no point in bad cards that are just bad and everyone knows it" is to build a cube instead of a set. Part of the fun of a cube is that everything is just busted. "OMG this deck is ridiculous" type thing. To a lesser extent we have that in The Five Towers with crazy good red combo deck, etc. No one was scrubbing for 23rd card. We are half way between a cube and a set, really. Those guys who are on SCG and Facebook that are building an "even more busted than cube" cube of invented cards may be on to something?
I think my two most successful experiments in creating alternate play environments with legs are Teachings cube and Graveyard cube. Both of these used a kind of rules system to generate a set of (existing) cards. Chaos Badger's success comes from the same principle. That way even the progenitors of the format get to have the experience of exploring the format. Graveyard cube was later heavily hand-edited and is still a work in progress (W pretty much sucks, for instance) but working out that Gnaw to the Bone IS first pickable, that Skaab Ruinator does work, quite how good Brawn is, that you can just-about draft Storm combo but you probably (??) have to be in GRu to do it, that the Zombie Volrath's Stronghold is worth playing with Undead Alchemist, which spellshapers are good, etc. has been really fun and I actually still have no real idea what the nuts version of any deck other than UG with either Spider Spawning or Fauna Shaman looks like, really. I know that Pietro's Knollspine Invocation-Strip Mine-Mox Diamond-Crucible of Worlds-Rakdos Pit Dragon deck from the last time we played was unlike anything I have ever drafted.
So one answer to how to have bad cards that might secretly be good in this environment, etc. is to generate some portion of the set via a rules engine of some kind. Which might mean reprints.
One thing I really want to try for related reasons is "build your own block" where you get three sets (randomly?) selected from Magic history to make constructed decks from. Like Standard but without the netdecking and stagnation. The fact that I'm a terrible deck builder holds me back a little but that seems like a fun area to explore.
None of which completely puts me off making another set. But it's stuff to think about.
Regarding reprints I really do think that it would be easier/better to make a set with a "core set" feel that has Llanowar Elves, Grizzly Bears, Merfolk Looter, Giant Growth, Giant Spider, Terror, Augury Owl, Borderland Ranger, Oblivion Ring, Prey Upon and Cruel Edict in it alongside splashier reprints like Vedalken Dismisser, Electrolyze, Coiling Oracle, Falkenrath Noble, Grazing Gladehart, Agony Warp and Hissing Iguanar according to the theme and the needs of the set. Starting from Maro's design skeleton and inventing cards only where existing ones don't work or need tweaking. But I love core set like no one other than Reid Duke it seems so maybe that is where that comes from.
at no point did I feel that playing wih portent was broken as for the life gain the deck really struggled for a way to win.
Maybe there needed to be some cards that do something special when put into your graveyard from your deck to help the black out.
The guys that do stuff when they are discarded from anywhere are stupid as there's no cost to them, the overall problem with the Red deck was there was you could do multiple things very cheaply and actually not spend any cards doing it. Against Tom I think in 1 turn he killed 2 of my guys and made a 3/3 trampler spent 3 mana and overall spend 1 card, all of those were cards were common
OMG I haven't got my Bone Beast promo what the shit?! Do you still have them Simon?
Yes I have a bunch in the box with the cards. I should have made sure everyone took theirs home!
In reply to Tom's wall of text
First I think there are two distinct things worth talking about:
1. Card design
2. Environment creation
1. Card Design
For me the card design part is exceedingly fun, similar to how drafting can often be more enjoyable than actually playing sometimes. The reasons for this is that it is an avenue to allow me to be creative in a way that I enjoy, whereas I tend to suck at traditional creative endeavours (art, music, literature...). Also because we did it collaboratively and online it allowed me to 'play' all the time, not just in the rare moments when we can get 6-8 people together in the same geographic location to actually play with physical cards.
2. Environment Creation
The main things here that people seem to enjoy is either the chance to explore virgin territory and find out how the environment ticks, and what makes a good deck; or the ability to play something exceedingly fun and often wacky. Graveyard Cube is a good example of the first, while something like previous YMtD's and more likely 'normal' cube is an example of the second. Obviously they often bleed into each other a little.
Trying to do both of things is pretty tricky, and I actually think we did a really good job with Five Towers, but obviously there wasn't a lot of format to explore for most of us, we kind of knew all the cards and decks going in (didn't make it any less fun for me, and in the second draft I explicitly went for something a bit more unknown in G/B portent).
Tom posits 3 potential options:
1. Real WotC like set with ~300 unique cards
2. Build our own cube
3. Use a rules-engine to develop the set
For me, only #2 stands out as a real option, as I don't think any of us are really going to enjoy the logistics of #1 combined with foreknowledge of the whole set and while I'm a big fan of the rules-engine experiments Tom has created so far, I feel they are separate to a "You Make the Set" project.
Perhaps we build a ~300 card cube with some theme guideline, where rarity doesn't matter, power level can be a bit higher, and we should end up with something akin to graveyard cube in depth and enjoyment.
* with so many unique cards and lack of required rarities there should be lots of emergent synergy that isn't obvious during design and development
* we don't have to worry about forcing 'bad' cards in
* we still get to design the cards ourselves
* logistics are much simpler
* lack of development and broken cards have plagued us in the past
* we will still have foreknowledge of all the cards
* coming up with a design skeleton will be tricky
* designing 300 cards might be harder than it sounds
* finding art certainly will be!
Regarding reprints, I personally don't mind their presence in a set, but I certainly understand why people may not, especially as half the fun is the designing, why waste a slot with a card that is already made!