By Mark Rosewater
This means that there will be two columns today. Click below to read each one.
Left Brain’s Article
Hello, this is Mark’s left brain. I’m here today to explain how Eventide came about and reveal a preview card. As I understand a large majority of the readers are focused on seeing the preview card, I will start by revealing that to keep you focused for the somewhat complex explanation that follows.
I’ll answer a few questions about this card.
#1. The rules for regeneration do allow you to activate the regeneration shield whenever you wish. This means that for you are able to turn the creature into a 7/7 whenever you wish.
#2. Five mana for a 7/7 (even if all of that mana is colored) is definitely an aggressive costing.
#3. This creature does get additional regenerations if it somehow acquires additional -1/-1 counters.
This card came about because we were trying to explore what new design space we could create with -1/-1 counters. We’ve experimented in the past with creatures that could remove their own +1/+1 counters to regenerate themselves. The design for Deity of Scars plays into that familiar space with one interesting twist: the regenerated creature ends up growing in size rather than shrinking.
I hope you all enjoy it.
Doing the Math
With that business out of the way, let’s get down to the meat of this article. How exactly did Eventide end up as the enemy-color hybrid set? The answer is very straightforward: It was the math. Math does not lie. Yes, there are those who use math to mislead, but at its core math is a logical constant. Much of design is understanding and following the dictates of the math. Eventide was no exception. In this article, I am going to walk you through the math and explain how the outcome was the only rational option.
While Making Magic does not often talk about the math in design, make no mistake, it is a vital component. In fact, every design starts with its lead designer sitting down and doing the necessary math. This entails the lead designer figuring out how the themes he or she is looking to use fits in with the size of the set.
Let’s take Shadowmoor and Eventide as our examples. I knew going into Shadowmoor design that I wanted to use hybrid as the block’s theme. To do this I knew I needed a significant amount of cards with hybrid costs. My first ballpark guess was half the set would be hybrid. (Shadowmoor‘s hybrid came in just below half so my guess wasn’t too far off.) Time to crunch the numbers. Shadowmoor has the following number of cards in each rarity:
20 basic lands
Eventide, meanwhile, has the following numbers:
If Shadowmoor was half hybrid, this meant that the set would have the following number of hybrid cards:
Suppose that we included all ten hybrid combinations. This would mean that each hybrid combination would have the following number of cards:
Time for more math. We need to run these numbers through their paces. How often would you see a particular hybrid combination—I’ll pick red-green for my example—when you open a pack? In each rarity, the odds of seeing one are roughly one in twenty. Shadowmoor booster packs have eleven commons, three uncommons, and one rare (barring premium substitutions). One in twenty means you will see a common red-green hybrid card about once every other pack. You’d see an uncommon red-green hybrid card every seventh pack. And you’d see a rare red-green hybrid every twentieth pack.
In an average eight-person booster draft, there would be, on average, sixteen total red-green hybrid cards in the draft (twelve commons, three uncommons and one rare). That’s simply not enough cards. Players would not have enough hybrid cards to consistently draft around. The math doesn’t work out. This meant that we needed to change one or more of our parameters. We could make a higher percentage of the set hybrid, but that runs into two problems. One, hybrid design space is limited, and two, there are things basic to a Magic set that cannot be worked into hybrid. Because of these two issues, having too high a level of hybrid would cause severe design problems. The second solution is to lessen the number of different hybrid combinations. This solution has fewer obstacles in its path. It would double the number of hybrid cards in each combination, giving them enough cards to make it work.
Enemy of the People
The logical split is between ally and enemy color pairs. This is balanced and seems like a natural breaking point. This decision was obviously the one made in early Shadowmoor design (and I do mean early, as the math is one of the first things done on a design), but this doesn’t answer a secondary question: why does Eventide have only enemy-color hybrid combinations? The answer is because it has to. Once again, it boils down to the math.
As I explained above, Eventide has one hundred eighty cards: sixty commons, sixty uncommons, and sixty rares. Let’s assume hybrid is still at 50%. With five color combinations, each one would get eighteen cards (six at each rarity). Now let’s look back at Shadowmoor‘s ally hybrid combinations. The allied-color hybrid cards get twenty-eight cards (actually, with the slightly lower percentages, they end up with twenty-two).
Remember that the audience is going to want to build enemy-color decks just as much as they want to build allied-color ones. This means that the design must make sure that there are enough different cards to allow some variety in the building experience. Already the small set, by nature of its numbers, is behind. To give the enemy-color hybrid cards any shot, all the resources have to be dedicated to the enemy colors to make sure they get enough cards. Thus the math dictates that the hybrid in Eventide had to be only enemy-colored.
As you can see, all the decision-making boiled down to the math. To make each set work, the designers had to simply follow the logical path laid out before them.
I hope you enjoyed the clinical breakdown of why the decisions we made were the correct ones. Join me next week when I explain the origin of not one but two new keywords.
Until then, may you learn to not fight the path that logic lays before you.
Mark Rosewater (Left Brain)
Click here to read the Right Brain’s article.
Right Brain’s Article
Hi, this is Mark’s right brain. I’m here to show off a preview card and explain what’s what with Eventide‘s enemy hybrid theme. Now I’m going to get to the preview card but not just yet. I want to start by diving into the hybrid soup that is Eventide. I promise that I’ll get to the preview card before I wrap up today.
Okay, to understand what Shadowmoor and Eventide were up to, let’s take a big step back. Let’s look at the responsibility of a block. What all does a block have to do? For starters, it has to have a theme. It has to be about something. Magic is a game that keeps reinventing itself, so each block needs to approach the game in a slightly different way. What makes this block different from the ones that came before it? How will this block create a unique experience while still delivering the essence that makes Magic Magic?
Add to that the need for each expansion to have its own identity. The old model of big set, more of the big set, more of the big set with a little twist is passé. Small expansions have to be able to stand on their own, both to give them a focus and to allow them to change up the block play experience.
Which brings us to Shadowmoor block. We knew going in that it was going to be a hybrid set and that it was only going to have a single small expansion. This meant that the block would shift once rather than twice.
Next we add in the experience we had designing Ravnica. Remember that in the early days, hybrid was going to be a large part of the block. In City Planning, Part I (the first of a three-part column about Ravnica‘s design) I told the story of an early Ravnica playtest where we had all ten two-color combinations of gold cards and all ten two-color combinations of hybrid cards. The results were brain-melting. And this is among high caliber Magic players (most of Magic R&D started off on the Pro Tour). It was just too much information to process.
Flash forward to the beginning of Shadowmoor design. I realized that ten hybrid combinations was a lot to bite off. Just building a deck with 50% hybrid cards in the mix was going to be disorienting enough. It was clear that ten hybrid combinations would be too much.
Finally, we had a design conflict. While hybrid cards are cool, they have more restrictions than the average card. They have to meet the needs of two colors. Yes, there is a decent amount of overlap within each color pair, but that space gets chewed up very quickly. At the same time, to make hybrid work as a block theme, it had to be in large enough numbers to allow proper integration. This meant that one part of the design said “more, more, more” while the other said “less, less, less.”
I Love It When a Plan Comes Together
To sum up, we had the following problems to tackle:
- The second set needed its own identity and shift in the play experience.
- The first set couldn’t handle having ten hybrids as it was too much to process out of the gate.
- We had to produce enough hybrid cards to make the theme work but not so many that it outstripped design space
The key was to find one solution that solved all of the problems. Luckily for us, it actually existed. Here’s how it played out. We knew we needed enemy-color hybrid cards because they would allow us to create enough cards to fill up the block. We also knew we weren’t going to allow them in the first set. This meant they had to go in the second one. This plan solved other problems. It gave the small set an identity. It allowed us to add new elements that would shake up the environment. In short, making Eventide the enemy-color hybrid set answered all our design issues.
I often talk about how problems get solved late in design or even sometimes in development. This issue was the exact opposite. It was solved before Shadowmoor printed its first playtest sticker. There was some talk about whether we were making the correct decisions, but for all intense and purposes, the decision to make Eventide and all-enemy-color set was established before the Shadowmoor rolled up their collective sleeves. This isn’t to say that a lot didn’t change through design, because it did (and I’ll be talking about how it changed in the weeks to come), but rather that this one key aspect (making the set only enemy hybrid) was established early and never changed.
Speaking of enemy-color hybrid, I think it’s time to look at our preview card. I’m not going to say anything about it. Just
This card came about because I wanted to make a simple straight-forward demigod (a rare with five hybrid mana in its mana cost). The earlier version was kind of complex, so I tried my hand at making something as simple as I could. The card is pretty straightforward. Play it. Keep attacking until the opponent loses. Oh yes, regenerate it the first two times your opponent tries to destroy it. As a nice reward, it will get bigger. Hey, what doesn’t kill Deity of Scars really does make it stronger.
Hopefully you get as much of a rush playing the Deity as I had designing it.
That’s all I got for today. Join me next week when I show how some cool mechanics transformed during the design.
Mark Rosewater (Right Brain)
Click here to read the Left Brain’s article.