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The Great Designer Search 3, or GDS3, is a Magic: The Gathering design contest by Wizards of the Coast to be held during the first quarter of 2018.[1] The goal of the contest is to find new talent for Magic design.

The Great Designer Search 3 is a sequel to The Great Designer Search, which was held in the fall of 2006 and The Great Designer Search 2 held during the fall of 2010.

Initial trials[]

On January 16, 2018 The Great Designer Search 3, like its former iterations, started with the candidates answering ten questions in essay form, with a 350 word cap per question.[2] The application process for these trials went through several technical issues, forcing Mark Rosewater to perform damage control via his social media.[3][4][5] About 7800 people expressed an interest in participating.[6]

First Trial[]

The first trial required participants to answer ten questions with 250-350 words each.[7] The questions were:

  • Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.
  • An evergreen mechanic is a keyword mechanic that shows up in (almost) every set. If you had to make an existing keyword mechanic evergreen, which one would you choose and why?
  • If you had to remove evergreen status from a keyword mechanic that is currently evergreen, which one would you remove and why?
  • You're going to teach Magic to a stranger. What's your strategy to have the best possible outcome?
  • What is Magic's greatest strength and why?
  • What is Magic's greatest weakness and why?
  • What Magic mechanic most deserves a second chance (aka which had the worst first introduction compared to its potential)?
  • Of all the Magic expansions that you've played with, pick your favorite and then explain the biggest problem with it.
  • Of all the Magic expansions that you've played with, pick your least favorite and then explain the best part about it.
  • You have the ability to change any one thing about Magic. What do you change and why?

This trial was explicitly designed as a time-consuming task because it would eliminate the people that weren't really invested; 3085 people submitted valid essays.[6][8]

Second Trial[]

The second trial was a 75-question multiple-choice trial that tested the participant's knowledge of various aspects of Magic design.[9][10] 3,085 people were invited to take the test, 3056 of them actually participated.

Three people got perfect scores. The cutoff ended up being 73 (of 75). 94 people advanced with a score of 73 or better.[6][8]

Third Trial[]

The third trial was a design test created by Erik Lauer where participants were asked to design 10 cards based on the following criteria:[11][12][13]

  1. All the cards had to be two-color and each of the ten two-color combinations needed to be represented.
  2. Each of the following five card types - creature, enchantment, instant, planeswalker and sorcery - needed to be represented twice, and never on the same color.
  3. Each rarity (common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare) had to be represented on at least two cards.
  4. The cards were to be submitted in order of quality of design, from what the designer considered their best design (first) to their worst design (last).

Additionally, the following rules were establshed by Rosewater:

The Show[]

The Great Designer Search 3 "show" began on Friday, March 9. On it, Mark Rosewater introduced the eight finalists along with the judges (Mark Rosewater, Erik Lauer, Melissa DeTora, Eli Shiffrin and a number of rotating judges).[14] Guest judge for the third trial had been the winner of The Great Designer Search 2, Ethan Fleischer. After the running the GDS3 behind the scenes, the “show” started in earnest on May 15, featuring six articles in three weeks.

Final candidates[]

The final candidates were Alex Werner, Ari Nieh, Chris Mooney, Jay Treat, Jeremy Geist, Linus Ulysses Hamilton, Ryan Siegel-Stechler and Scott Wilson.[15][16] Treat had also been a finalist in the second Great Designer Search.

Design Challenge #1 - You Might As Well Tribal[]

For this challenge, the designers had to choose a creature type, and design eight cards for a Standard-legal set.[16] The creature type has to be unique from the other designers. It also had to be one that already existed, but didn't have had a lot of previous tribal designs. All eight cards must mechanically care about the creature type. Guest judge was the winner of the first Great Designer Search, Alexis Janson.

Alex Werner was eliminated as a result of this challenge.[17]

Design Challenge #2 - A Circus Act[]

The second challenge was top-down design for "Bigtopia", a Circus plane. The designers had to create eight cards chose from a list of 25 card names. Except for a legendary card, no tweaking of card names was allowed.

The card names:

  • Acrobatics
  • Circus Peanuts
  • Circus Tent
  • Clown Car
  • Contortionist
  • Feats of Strength
  • Fire Eating
  • Flaming Hoop
  • Human Cannonball
  • Juggling
  • Knife Thrower
  • Lion Tamer
  • Magician
  • Plate Spinning
  • Ringmaster
  • Seltzer Bottle
  • Stilts
  • Sword Swallowing
  • Three Rings
  • Tightrope
  • Trained Elephant
  • Traveling Circus
  • Trick Riding
  • Trapeze Artist
  • Unicycle

Linus Ulysses Hamilton was eliminated as a result of this challenge.[18]

Design Challenge #3 - Finding a Good Mechanic[]

The third challenge was all mechanics. The designers had to design a brand-new keyword or ability word, and use it on eight cards. Apart from naming it, they also had to figure out its rules text and reminder text. The mechanic had to be featured on cards of at least three colors, and no more than two cards could be multicolored.

Jay Treat was eliminated as a result of this challenge.[19]

Design Challenge #4 - Work of Art[]

The fourth challenge was to design to constraints. The contestants were presented with a simulation of a moment in a set design process cards had to be changed after the art had been completed (a process called "hole filling"). The design challenge was to design ten cards, each with a mechanical constraint spelled (color, rarity etc.). In addition to the mechanical constraint, for each card design the contestants had to choose a piece of art (from twelve provided) to design to. No two cards could use the same piece of art.

Ryan Siegel-Stechler was eliminated as a result of this challenge.[20]

Design Challenge #5 - Pack and Play[]

The fifth challenge was to design the contents of a booster pack for an existing set. The contestants could choose any black bordered Magic expansion with a fifteen-card booster pack. The picking was first come, first served and once an expansion was chosen, all other expansions from that block were off limits for the following contestants. The cards would have to match the rarity mix that one would find in an average pack of that set. To match the usual collation, there must be at least one common of every color. No more than five cards of the same color or color combination were allowed (the exception being colorless cards if they had chosen a set that had a high as-fan of colorless cards).

Scott Wilson was eliminated as a result of this challenge.[21]


The remaining candidates, Ari Nieh, Chris Mooney and Jeremy Geist, were flown in to Seattle for a round of interviews ("The Gauntlet"), a tour of the Wizards of the Coast offices, and a final 2-hour in-person design challenge to determine the winner.[22] The winner was offered a position as a paid Magic design intern for six months.

Similar to the final challenge of the first two Great Designer Searches, the candidates had to replace a card which was cut late in the development of a set. The card in question this time was Séance in Dark Ascension. The card had to be a white rare that would fit alphabetically between Sanctuary Cat and Silverclaw Griffin and also fit the artwork for Séance. The card could be any card type as long as it matched the flavor of the name and mechanics. Because there was no time to playtest it, it shouldn't be pushing into risky developmental space.

Each designer was given a dictionary, a Dark Ascension file, a notebook, and a pen, and they were segregated into personal rooms for an hour. After the hour was up each candidate had to submit three possible cards to fill the open slot, which were subsequently discussed with the other candidates as well as Mark Rosewater, Erik Lauer, Melissa DeTora, Eli Shiffrin, and Mark Gottlieb.

No clear winner was crowned at the end of the discussion, as the selected card was not the primary factor in the decision. The challenge was to test the team interaction and the ability of selling an idea and provide constructive criticism for other ideas. The judges came to the conclusion that Chris Mooney had really shined in the Gauntlet, but hadn't closed enough ground to pass either Ari Nieh or Jeremy Geist in the overall competition. In the end, they decided that while Jeremy had done a good job on the final day, he hadn't quite caught up to Ari, who had entered the final day with a slight lead. At the second day of Pro Tour Dominaria, Mark Rosewater announced Ari Nieh as the winner of The Great Designer Search 3.[23][24][25]

External links[]

Finalist pages[]


  1. Wizards of the Coast (December 4, 2017). "Great Designer Search 3". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. Mark Rosewater (January 16, 2018). "Great Designer Search 3 Trials Begin". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (December 17, 2017). "I submitted my entry to GDS3 the very first day, but I see people talking about having to resubmit due to some technical issue?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  4. Mark Rosewater (January 17, 2017). "I sent out my GDS3 application according to the terms and conditions, but I haven't gotten any sort of mail about it.". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  5. Mark Rosewater (January 18, 2017). "Missing an GDS3 Email?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  6. a b c Mark Rosewater (January 30, 2018). "Few Comments on the GDS3 Multiple-Choice Test". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  7. Mark Rosewater (February 5, 2018). "Essay What You Will". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. a b Mark Rosewater (January 29, 2018). "Info on the GDS3 Multiple-Choice Test". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  9. Mark Rosewater (February 12, 2018). "Make a Choice, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Mark Rosewater (February 19, 2018). "Make a Choice, Part 2". Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Mark Rosewater (February 06, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 Trial 3 (The Design Test)". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  12. Mark Rosewater (March 5, 2018). "Reading the Designs". Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Mark Rosewater (March 19, 2018). "940 Cards". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Mark Rosewater (February 9, 2018) "The Great Designer Search 3" Drive to Work
  15. Mark Rosewater (March 9, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Meet The Top 8". Wizards of the Coast.
  16. a b Mark Rosewater (May 15, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Judging the Design Tests". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Mark Rosewater (May 17, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Challenge #1". Wizards of the Coast.
  18. Mark Rosewater (May 22, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Challenge #2". Wizards of the Coast.
  19. Mark Rosewater (May 24, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Challenge #3". Wizards of the Coast.
  20. Mark Rosewater (May 29, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Challenge #4". Wizards of the Coast.
  21. Mark Rosewater (May 31, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Challenge #5". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Mark Rosewater (May 31, 2018). "Have you said what the plan for the top 3 of the GDS3 is?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  23. Mark Rosewater on Twitter
  24. Mark Rosewater (June 08, 2018). "“Tales from the Pit” #1800". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  25. Mark Rosewater (June 12, 2018). "The Great Designer Search 3 - Final Day". Wizards of the Coast.