Saturday, November 1, 2014


Earlier this year, I took an entire series of blogposts to write about the design process for Commons as detailed by Mark Rosewater. In my initial article, I discussed a process called redflagging, in which Wizards Design and Development marks cards that violate the principles of New World Order, which is a design document adopted to govern all Commons going forward.

In episode #144 of Rosewater's popular Drive to Work podcast, he went into further detail about the factors that cause a Common to be redflagged. For today's post, I wanted to highlight these factors:
  1. Does it continuously affect other permanents? Rosewater uses Samite Healer as the poster-child for this kind of complexity. Since it can prevent 1 damage from any source at any time, it greater increased the mental math one has to do before attacking or blocking. However, not all cards that affect other permanents will be redflagged. A card like Akroan Mastiff, which taps another target creature, actually decreases complexity, as it reduces the decisions your opponent has to make. But in general, these type of cards will be flagged.
  2. Does it have four or more lines of rules text? Rosewater says that this is a sign that the card is either too wordy or too complex. If it's the former, that's fine. But if it's the latter, the card is judged to be too confusion to be at Common, and thus will be flagged.
  3. Does it create on-board card advantage by itself? Rosewater uses examples like killing two creatures, or killing another creature when it enters the battlefield, or creates the potential for repeatable damage. Cards like Flametongue Kavu or Prodigal Pyromancer are perfect examples of these type of effects.
  4. Does it create a loop? Rosewater stresses that having the same thing happen over and over again is not a desirable state, and thus wants to minimize the chances that this occurs. This is the factor that led Gravedigger to be moved to Uncommon, since you could often chain Gravediggers into one another, such that every time one died, you used another to bring it back into your hand.
  5. Does this card get more powerful in multiples? In Odyssey block, there was a cycle of cards at Common that gave you an additional effect if you already had a copy of that card in your graveyard. Accumulated Knowledge is another popular example of this type of effect. Such effects will always get a card redflagged now.
  6. Does this card cause confusing interactions? This is perhaps the most nebulous of the factors. But essentially, Rosewater explains it as any card that new players almost always misunderstand, especially in the context of a complicated rule or interaction. The example Rosewater uses is the combination of Deathtouch and Trample on the same creature. It is counter-intuitive that a creature with both abilities only has to deal a single point of damage to whatever creature blocks it, and the rest is applied to the player. Since the average player probably gets this interaction wrong, it shouldn't come up at Common, and thus is redflagged.
Now, it's important to remember that just because a Common is redflagged doesn't mean it can't see print at Common. But it does mean that the card has to have a strong reason to remain at Common in the set, and will require approval from both Design and Development. And in general, only about 20% of the Commons in a set can violate these principles.

Obviously, this has enormous impact  on the type of cards we will see in Standard Pauper. So what do you think of this list? Which one do you feel is too restrictive? How have these factors changed the landscape of cards at Common? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.


  1. I think wotc usually do a good job of keeping commons at a similar level. I think despite red flags they fail to notice the occasional overpowered card, such as Treasure Hunt, which does not fall int any of the 6 factors except possibly the last one.

  2. I guess the proof in the pudding is how many cards that violate these rules actually are approved by Design and Development. If 20% of the commons in a set can violate some/all of these rules, that should allow for plenty of powerful commons assuming such cards are actually approved.

    I would hope the developers would consider the Pauper/Peasant/Casual community when deciding whether or not to issue "powerful" commons. Broken cards at any rarity are no fun, but solid, flexible, and interactive cards with the potential to be powerful shouldn't be restricted to the players with deep pockets.