No doubt you've seen those threads at the top of the Card Making Contests and Games with FCC titles. Maybe you've even wondered what they are. Well, this should answer your questions. The first section is all on general game questions. How you play, how you sign up and so forth. The second section is all on specific scenarios. The sections are notated by red text, so if you want to find a certain branch of questions, just scroll until you find it.
General game questions:
What is the FCC?
The FCC, or Feature Card Contest, is a game that runs each month in the Card Making Contests and Games forum. In it the participants create their own homemade cards. It is designed to test the participants card making skills with a series of single-elimination rounds with restrictions on what cards you can make.
How many people can play in the FCC?
As many that sign up. However, at about 100 players entries are cut off. If you really want to play, sign up as soon as you can.
How do I participate in the FCC as a player?
Near the end of each month, a thread will be stuck at the top of the forum that is titled "(next month) - Player Signups." Simply post saying that you want to participate and you'll be entered into the next months contest.
Can I join the current FCC that is in progress?
No. If you're not signed up for the current month of the FCC please do not post in the thread for the current round.
How does the FCC work exactly after I have signed up?
Once the month begins, a thread will be stuck at the top of the Card Contests and Games Forum titled "(current month) FCC - Round 1". Inside the thread is everything you'll need to know to correctly play in that round.
Right under the opening announcement is the requirement for the round. This will tell you what restrictions that the card you make must follow. If you do not follow these restrictions, you will receive a large point deduction and will likely be eliminated.
After that, there are the requirements for bonus points. These are optional requirements that vary from round to round. You earn a point for each bonus criteria that you meet. (More on points in a little while.)
Below that is the point breakdown (how many points the judges can assign in each area of a card) and a link to the list of players for the round.
Below that is something very important: the due date for your card. If your card is not in by that time, you lose. Editing your post to include your card still needs to adhere to this deadline. If you are even a minute late, you will be disqualified. This is very important to remember, a common mistake that new players make is being late. There are no exceptions to a late entry disqualification and no excuse will change that.
Under that is another important area, the "Match List". In this area, it is listed who each person is "playing" against. That is, the person that your card will be compared against to see who moves onto the next round and who doesn't. Sometimes you will be facing a single opponent, sometimes you will be playing against an entire group.
Under that are the judges for this round and which matches they will be judging this round. To see which judge will be judging your match, find your match number in the Match List and then look at the judge list.
Under that are any important announcements.
There are generally four rounds played each month. For the first two round, players are evenly divided into groups and assigned a judge. The players with the highest scores in each group advance to the next round; how many depends on the round. In round three players are either assigned small groups or the players are paired rather than grouped; it depends on how many people are left in the game. These pairs are generally referred to as matchups. The player with the higher score in a matchup advances to the next round. In the fourth round it turns into a free-for-all, with all the judges evaluating all the entries. The player who makes the card that receives the highest total score wins the contest.
Ok, so explain this whole judge and point system to me.
Judges are people who are assigned to judge at the beginning of each month. Judges are very important in this contest as it rides on their shoulders who makes it to the next round and who doesn't. Once the time to enter cards closes for the players, the judges start their judgings. Judges rate each card in Bonus, Balance, Flavor, Creativity, and Quality.
The bonus points are points that are handed out for fulfilling the optional bonus requirements near the top of each rounds thread. Your card can receive up to two points total in this category.
The Balance category is where your card is rated on how it plays. Is it costed correctly? Is it too powerful? Would anybody ever play this card? What formats would people try and use this card in? Does it make a powerful deck more powerful? Those are the kind of things that are evaluated in the balance category. Your card can receive up to ten points in this category.
The Flavor, Creativity, and Quality categories are where your card is rated on, ever so surprisingly, Flavor, Creativity and Quality. Flavor refers to how flavorful your card is. Creating a really cool mechanical card is one thing, but if its name is "Apple" and its a creature that doesn't even have flavor text to explain what exactly is going on, you can lose points in this category, and consequently the round, on that alone. Flavor in general is comprised of relation of the cards mechanic to its color, name, type, artwork (if applicable) and flavor text. Creativity is simply how creative a card is. If your card is exactly the same as another card, its not very creative. The more unique and different of a card you have the more points you'll earn in Creativity. Quality points are given out on how well your card is worded in relation to the cards that Wizards of the Coast print. The more professional looking and correctly templated your card is, the more points you'll earn in the quality category. Your card can earn up to ten points in these categories.
How do I become a judge?
Just like for playing, at the beginning of each month a thread in the Card Contests and Games Forum will be stickied asking for judge sign ups. If you are interested in judging, post in that thread. Keep in mind that not all judges are necessarily chosen to judge. It is a good idea to have played a month or two at minimum to become familiar with the contest before asking to judge.
As a judge, what do I need to know and be responsible for?
As a judge, you are expected to have a firm grasp of what makes good custom cards. A full understanding of basic concepts in Magic design, such as each color's role in the color pie and elegance, are required.
Judging is also a time consuming process. For example, in the first round of the FCC, each judge averages about 12 players. Thats twelve cards that you have to critique in three different areas per card! Considering you have to write a brief explanation for each category for each card as well as rate them, thats quite time consuming work - and thats just for the first round! You also only have about a two day window at most to get your judgings in, so you have to be timely. You also need to remove all personal biases or color biases and rate each card objectively.
Judging is prestigious, but keep in mind before you apply that it is a lot of work that you have to dedicate to.
What do I get for judging?
You receive the pride for doing it and knowing the fact that you just were a big help in running an event. We appreciate your help, but we cannot award you with anything such as money or cards for your effort.
Can I judge and play in the same FCC?
No. That would be completely unfair because it is hard to judge your own card unbiasedly, and even if you could, people would complain every time your card advanced and you were judging it. Even if you weren't judging your own card, you could still fudge the scores to eliminate the stronger opponents.
What you can do and is allowed, is to apply to both judge and play. That way, you can still play if you aren't accepted as a judge.
Of course, there is no problem with judging some FCCs and playing others, but doing both at the same time is a definitive no.
What do I get for winning the FCC?
Your card appears on the front page and is archived in the "Card of the Month" forum. You also receive a trophy under your username in your posts. As with judging, you do not receive any kind of physical award.
Why should I play at all? I can't win anything!
Because not only is it fun and consistently challenging, but it is great practice for making your own cards. Whether it is just the thrill of competition or desire to improve your design abilities, the FCC is a interesting and enjoyable experience.
Specific scenario questions:
I feel that the score my card received was completely unfair! What should I do to challenge it?
If you feel your judge made a serious error, such as adding scores incorrectly or misreading your card, you may send a polite PM to your judge and/or the moderator running the round to bring it to his or her attention. You may not argue the merits of your card based on a simple disagreement with the judges' opinion. Realize when to admit defeat; look at your opponent's card before arguing and then decide if you were really wronged.
Okay, maybe my card wasn't the best, but my opponent's card was horrific and it beat mine! Can I challenge the score of my opponent's card?
Again, if you feel the judge made a serious error you may bring it to his or her attention. Just as you may not argue the merits of your card based on opinion, you may not argue with the judge's opinion on your opponent's card.
Yes I know, I was late to the round, but I had a really important engagement and my internet glitched on me when I got home just in time to post my card. Can you accept it, please?
No. If you are late you are late and if you are late you are disqualified. There is no room to navigate here, there is no negotiation on this point. Note that your submission time goes by the last time your post was edited, so if you submitted your card before the deadline but edited your post afterwards, you will be disqualified.
Remember that the FCC is just a game with practically nothing at stake. If a pressing real life event needs to take priority over the FCC don't be concerned.
I have an important point to make about my card. Can I explain it in my post?
No. Your entry post is for your card and that's it. It should have your text card, a render if you chose to make one. Let the judges do the judging. You may only post additional information if the round specifically instructs you to.
What is a render and how do I make one?
A render is just a fancy name for a mockup of your card with art. To make one, the most widely used program is the fantastic free piece of software Magic Set Editor, which you can find here.
How should I put the render in my post?
Attach it. When you make a post, under the main area where you enter text is a button named "Manage Attachments". Click it, find the file in browse and click upload. Then submit your post and it'll be attached to your post.
Where should I find art to fit my card?
There are tons of art sites on the internet. A good place to start is a Google.com image search. Other popular sites are DeviantArt, CGSociety, and Epilogue. You do not have to make a render for your card, but it is encouraged.
The judges do understand that its near impossible to find art to exactly fit your card. For example, if you make a Kavu, you aren't going to be able to find exactly what you're looking for online. If its relatively close enough then it is usually acceptable for most judges.
Do I need to credit the artist? Should I put it on the render or in the post
For legal reasons, giving the artist credit is mandatory. If you're going to submit a render, put the name of the artist in the render. If you have art but don't know the name of the artist, either find who did the art or don't use it. The policy on crediting art can be found here.
Do I need an expansion symbol?
Some judges care about the expansion symbol, some do not. As a general safe rule, making an original expansion symbol is a good way to not get marked down, and possibly losing, on something relatively small.
What is a placeholder?
Many players, and even some judges, post "placeholders" in the thread to edit their card or judgings into later. They serve no real functional purpose except to make your card appear earlier in the judgings.
Posting a placeholder when your opponent submits nothing is still not considered a entry and you will still not advance in that situation.
Can I edit my card even after I have submitted it?
The card that is in your post when the round ends is your final entry. If it was a different card earlier in the round that is fine, all that matters is the card that is in the post the second that round submissions close.
Editing your post after the submission part of the round has closed will result in automatic disqualification.
Me and another person have been arguing on a particular issue pertaining to the FCC forever. Who can give the final ruling?
Kraj, Shepherd and Moss_Elemental take turns running the FCC. The person who's running the FCC that month will have the final say in the dispute.
I'm trying to make my card work but I just can't get the wording right. What should I do?
FCC cards should be created on your own. Help with wording is fine, especially if that help is from a rules guru and/or if English is not your first language. Help in creating a render if you are unable to do it yourself is also acceptable. You can request such help in the Art forum. You should not seek help on actual design; extensive discussions and large amounts of outside input defeats the purpose of having a competition between individuals. Such actions can and will get you disqualified.
I have a question that isn't answered here. Where should I ask it?
Post it to the FCC Rules/Discussion Thread. Somebody should answer it, usually within a few hours depending on the time of day. Many answers can be found by Searching that thread.
Thanks for reading and hopefully this answered your questions.