The Evolution of Oxidize

Posted in ARTICLES on January 16, 2004

By Randy Buehler

For your previewing pleasure this week, I offer you the artifact removal spell that you've all been waiting for:

Let's begin with a couple of follow-ups to last week's article …

I received quite a few e-mails complaining that I didn't talk about my preview card last week. I didn't realize this would annoy nearly as many of you as it apparently did. I thought the most important thing to do was to show you guys an exciting Darksteel card, and when I looked at the list of cards that hadn't already been promised to other authors (or other magazines), I thought Eater of Days was the coolest one left. However, I didn't really have anything special to say about it. Sure I could talk about how to use it, I could point out the awesome combo with Stifle, and I could debate the merits of Lightning Greaves; but that's not what I normally do with my column. I think the thing that makes my column successful is the behind-the-scenes stuff, and there just wasn't anything much to say about Eater of Days. Bill Rose really likes to design fatties, and he drew this one up pretty much exactly the way you eventually saw it. The development team looked at it and said “Mmmm … cool fatty.”

We tested it briefly to make sure it wasn't broken in an FFL deck with Stifle (and Leveler, of course). The deck seemed fun, but it wasn't consistent enough to be super special so we never actually changed any parts of the card. In addition to not having anything particularly special to say about the card, I actually thought you guys would have more fun trying to figure out for yourselves how to use it. Judging by the number of pages of message board posts (both here and on other sites) that were devoted to Eater of Days, I actually think that part of my strategy worked out. Meanwhile, I did have some stuff I thought was worth saying about indestructible, there just weren't any interesting indestructible cards left for me to preview. (There are some cool ones left, they've just been given exclusively to other places.) Anyway, I apologize to whomever I disappointed last week.

Meanwhile, even given the weird approach I took last week, I still thought the article came up a little bit short. That's why I wrote another section to the article where I mirrored Mark Rosewater's introductions of the design team members by introducing you to everyone who served on the development team. Unfortunately, an internal miscommunication led to that part of my article getting lost and it never made it onto the web. So, without any further to do:

Dev Team Bios

I liked the way Mark introduced you to the design team for Darksteel so I think I'll steal that shtick too and introduce you to the development team. (For those who may be somewhat new to the site: Design teams think up the coolest cards and mechanics they can without worrying about much else and then they hand the set off to a development team that tests the cards, figures out how much everything should cost, finds ways to make them more fun to play with, etc.)

Henry Stern (lead) - After putting up back to back Top 4 finishes at Magic's World Championships in 1995 and 1996, Henry was the first player to make the leap from the Pro Tour to R&D. Since then he has been on the development team for 18 different Magic sets and Darksteel was the 7th time that he was the lead developer. His resume as a lead is quite strong and includes Torment, Invasion, and Tempest.

Tyler Bielman - We're always interested in getting fresh perspectives on Magic and making sure none of us “regular” Magic developers fall into a rut. For that reason we like to include one person on each development team who doesn't have a lot of experience with Magic development and Tyler was a great fit for Darksteel. His real job is as Director of New Business, so he brought a lot of knowledge to the table about what makes games good in general, and one of his earlier jobs with the company was as a Magic Brand Manager, so he brought a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm about Magic to the team too.

Brandon Bozzi - Brandon is rapidly becoming a fixture on Magic development teams (Darksteel was his third dev. team in a row). As Magic Creative Coordinator he is the guy responsible for names and flavor text, so it's nice to have him on the team to make sure both the naming team and the dev team understand the implications of what the other one is doing. He's also a casual player from “back in the day” which makes him a useful barometer who can speak up in defense of cards that are just plain fun.

Charlie Catino – As one of the original Alpha playtesters who knew Richard Garfield back when he was at Penn, Charlie was the “old school” voice on this team. He's been doing Magic development since Homelands, with Alliances as his first lead developer credit. Charlie is also famous for having his name misspelled in a different way every time he appears in Magic credits. For Darksteel he went with Charlie “Catmandu.”

Brian Schneider - After leaving the Pro Tour for Magic R&D, Brian has been on 6 of the last 8 development teams and has taken over from me the task of running all of our Magic playtesting activities, including the “FFL”. As Mark pointed out, Brian also dipped his toe in the design waters for Darksteel so he (along with Tyler) was able to make sure the development team knew what the design team had been thinking and why they did the things with the set that they did.

Randy Buehler - This was only the second development team since I joined the company that I was not a member of. As the Director of Magic R&D my responsibilities include deciding who should be put onto development (and design) teams and no matter how much I might like to, I can't put myself onto all of them. I do watch over all the teams, though, to make sure I think they're doing a good job. With this team and this set that responsibility was really easy – I thought the Darksteel team did a great job and I think you'll like the set.

Oxidize

Now then, let's talk about Oxidize. This card was initially in Mirrodin. In fact, the card appeared in precisely the form that it was eventually printed (including the name) in very early “Bacon” files (except it was a common). However, the Mirrodin development team felt there was too much artifact destruction in the set, especially for Limited, and we didn't want players to feel like they never got to play with any of Mirrodin's cool new artifact toys. Thus Oxidize was pushed out of Mirrodin early in development.

Altar's Light

About a month later, the team was actually starting to miss Oxidize. Once we started playing Standard constructed in the “FFL” we really felt the absence of a 1-mana artifact removal spell and so Oxidize was dragged back into the set, though this time we changed it to “Remove target artifact from the game.” We did this in part because it read a little simpler/cleaner than the original, but we did it mostly because by this time we knew the Darksteel team had cooked up a clever new mechanic called indestructible.

It didn't take long before we realized that “remove from the game” just wasn't a green ability. Instead, that ability belonged in white and this is the point in development where Altar's Light was added to the Mirrodin file. Green may be the best color at destroying artifacts and enchantments, but white still gets the occasional “Disenchant” effect, even with the new color pie. Of course, since white is #3 at artifact removal its artifact destruction isn't going to be quite as efficient as green's (or red's).

About the same time we gave up on our brief “remove from game” experiment with Oxidize, we realized that it was unfair to the rest of the Mirrodin block to put all the good artifact destruction into the block's first set. We needed to save some simple effects for Darksteel (and Fifth Dawn) and we also need to save some tournament worthy removal effects for the other sets as well. Thus Oxidize was finally shipped out of Mirrodin and Creeping Mold was added to the set in its place.

Naturalize

Oxidize didn't actually change after it was put into the Darksteel file, but that doesn't mean we were done talking about it. We had quite a lengthy debate about whether or not to include the “it can't be regenerated” clause. The card is obviously more powerful with it, and it's nice to provide deckbuilders with an option that can deal with regenerating artifact creatures (and things like Welding Jar). On the other hand, the card is more aesthetically attractive without those extra words junking up a nice clean simple effect.

Eventually what the debate came down to was whether or not we were planning to put Oxidize into some future edition of the core set (what we inside R&D refer to as “Nth Edition”). If the card was intended for promotion into Nth Edition then we should do the simplest version possible, but if it wasn't then we should add the interesting new twist. What we finally concluded was that we already have Naturalize to be the nice simple common removal spell in Nth Edition to show off green's ability to destroy artifacts. We don't need two such cards and we'd rather have Naturalize as our staple core set spell, thus Oxidize kept its added bit of complexity. Even so, Oxidize may look simple, but the simplest cards are often the ones that receive the most attention from R&D.

Meanwhile, I think Kev Walker did a great job with the art for this card. Take a look at it again and see if you can tell what's actually going on:

Here's the art description that we sent off to Kev:

“This spell destroys a relic by causing it to age thousands of years in seconds. Suggestion: Show an iconic artifact such as Platinum Angel lying on the ground, covered with verdigris and rust, crumbling away.”

Pretty cool, huh?

Upcoming Events

Time for the shameless plug section of this week's article. I am currently in Amsterdam at the Pro Tour. This weekend the pros will be drafting Mirrodin and trying to win their share of $200,000. On Sunday, you can watch the Top 8 battle it out live over the Internet. Some of you may remember the streaming coverage that we did for Worlds last summer. Well, we're doing the same thing again this weekend. It starts at 9am local time (local to the Netherlands, of course) and runs until probably 5pm or so. I'll be doing the play-by-play commentary and the color commentary will probably be Brian Kibler (though we'll obviously have to change things up if he's competing in the Top 8). Even if you can't watch live (or don't want to), you can still watch the archives at your leisure. Meanwhile, the old Sideboard page will also have its usual collection of match coverage and other event-related feature articles going up all weekend long.

Also, while you're planning out your next couple of weekends, don't forget about next weekend's Darksteel Prerelease. Prerelease tournaments have evolved into some of the biggest and most fun Magic tournaments of the year. It's the best way to dip your toe into the tournament water for the first time, even if you never want to play anything that's actually competitive.

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