"Can I Help You?"

Posted in Making Magic on December 12, 2016

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"I'm sorry our agents are all out to lunch, but I'd be happy to try and answer any questions for you."

"Yes, we book Flying. Flying's very popular. Books over twice as much work as any other keyword. Do you know what card would be interested in using Flying's services?"

"I'm sorry. I'm not familiar with that card. Must be from an upcoming set. A good chunk of our work is on new cards, so don't worry. Could you tell me a little bit about it?"

"Ooh, a green creature. While Flying is a consummate professional, Flying can be a bit particular at times. Flying will gladly work with blue, white, or black. Flying even has a soft spot for dragons and phoenixes and will occasionally work in red, but Flying just doesn't really do green. I mean, every once in a while on a special occasion, Flying's helped out on a rare green iconic, but the agents always have to cash in quite a few favors to get Flying to agree. Supposedly, Flying did more work with green back in the day, but there was some kind of falling out. I don't know all the details. I've heard stories, but most of them seem a little far-fetched to actually be true. I just don't see Flying getting into a fist fight. Anyway, we have plenty of other keywords though that do some of their best work in green. Trample, for instance, will work in any color but really prefers green. Deathtouch, Vigilance, even Haste on occasion, work green. Heck, Reach works almost exclusively in green."

"I'll leave a message for Flying's agent, but I really wouldn't get your hopes up."

"My pleasure. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Yes, we work with hybrid mana. Any particular combination you were thinking of?"

"You're doing a ten-card creature cycle and want one for each, no repeats? That's going to be a little tricky, but I think we can help you out. How do you feel about tertiary abilities being used?"

"Good, that's going to make it a lot easier. We've done this a few times before, so I can jump right to the problem area, white-blue and blue-black. One of them can use Flying, but then we have to start getting creative for the other. Blue is primary in Flash and tertiary in white and black, so that's an option. All three colors also have access to Defender. But after that, we start running out of options."

"Yes, I get that's not ideal. We've been looking for a keyword that can handle both blue and black for some time."

"No, we actually had Skulk in for an audition. It didn't go well."

"No, Skulk worked in blue and black, but just didn't have the range we needed. We pride ourselves on having keywords with extensive card design chops. We've been doing this for 23 years and we have a reputation to uphold."

"I will voice your concern with the agents."

"Always happy to help. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Fear? No, Fear hasn't worked here in quite some time."

"I don't know what agency Fear is currently at. I haven't heard of Fear getting any work after leaving ECKTA. Sorry."

"Intimidate? You're correct Intimidate did pick up a lot of Fear's work after Fear left, but I'm sad to say that Intimidate has also left the agency."

"I don't know where Intimidate is represented either. Could you give me an idea of what kind card you're making? I have a hunch that we have somebody that would be a good fit for you."

"Scary black evasion creature? Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to email you the reel for Menace. Take a look and see what you think. Menace does an excellent scary black evasion. If you think it's going to be a good match, let me know and I'll get you in contact with Menace's agent. Menace also does a lot of work in red if that might be useful for you."

"No, I don't get a cut of any of the keywords. I'm just a receptionist that believes in the work we do here at ECKTA."

"It was a pleasure doing business with you as well, ma'am. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Yes, Double Strike is a client."

"Red and white."

"Usually Double Strike doesn't do common, but exceptions have been made."

"Have you ever worked with Double Strike before? As keywords go, Double Strike is a bit quirky. For instance, Double Strike demands two payments. One before work begins and then one when you would normally pay the keyword. Double Strike also has it written into the contract that every time anyone mentions Double Strike by name, a gong has to be hit. Twice. I'm not done yet. Double Strike also has it written into every contract that whenever Double Strike enters a room, you have to release doves."

"Around ten. It's specified in the contract."

"No, you're right. It's one of the reasons Double Strike books less cards than a lot of the other keywords we represent, but I must stress that Double Strike is a big crowd pleaser and definitely will draw attention to your card. I just wanted you to understand all that comes with hiring Double Strike."

"A lot of clients that don't want to put up with Double Strike's eccentric qualities hire First Strike instead. First Strike can't do everything Double Strike does, but it's close. First Strike's been with ECKTA since it first opened and has done more work than probably anyone save Flying."

"Here's what I'm going to do. I'll leave a message for Double Strike's agent with a note that you'd like to see the contract."

"Just doing my job. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"If you hired Flash, how soon could Flash start? Flash's probably already there."

"That was just a joke, sir. Flash is well known for being exceedingly prompt."

"Flash does the most work in blue and green, but will work in any color. Flash is also willing to work with other permanent types. Not all the other keywords do that."

"Peculiarities with Flash? Just one. Flash demands that Flash gets sole, up-front credit in the rules text."

"That means Flash gets listed first on its own line before any other keywords."

"Between you and me, Flash can be a bit of a prima donna. Flash likes to dress, well, Flash-y and loves drawing attention. The good news is that Flash is a professional, always gets the work done efficiently and quickly, and then fades back to let other parts of the card have their turn to shine."

"I'll make sure Flash's agent knows you'd like a call later this afternoon."

"You're welcome. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Yes, we work with traditional multicolor cards. In fact, I believe our work with multicolor goes back almost to the beginning of the agency. How many colors did you have in mind?"

"We do two-color all the time. Which two colors?"

"White and black, and you'd like to stick to primary and secondary abilities? There's one leading contender and a few fallbacks."

"That would be Lifelink. Lifelink works exclusively in white and black and has appeared on numerous white and black cards. And let me just say, that Lifelink is an absolute pleasure to work with. We get nothing but raves. Lifelink makes everything easy and fun. Lifelink will get you laughing so much, you'll forget that you're working. A lot of people say that working with Lifelink actually makes them more energized."

"There are other options. Flying has done plenty of work in this space. Booking Flying can be a bit difficult though as Flying is working so much."

"There's also Defender. A lot of people forget about Defender. Defender's worked here for numerous years, several before Defender was officially even keyworded. Just a few comments on Defender, you know, between you and me. Defender is very competent, but doesn't exactly go the extra mile. Defender gets the job done, but no more than is called for. Defender also the lowest Q rating of any of the keywords here."

"That's an industry gauge of likeability. The fans accept Defender's work, but let's just say there isn't a lot of fan mail that comes in. On the plus side, because of this, Defender has the lowest rates of any the keywords here at ECKTA. And Defender continually gets steady work, so don't discount Defender as a possibility."

"That's it, unless you're willing to go to tertiary abilities."

"That would open up a few other choices. First strike doesn't normally work in black but makes a special exception for Knights. If you're willing to have a white-black Knight, I'm pretty sure we could work something out."

"Black's recently been messing around lately with activated Indestructible and white's primary with Indestructible, so maybe there's something there."

"White hasn't ever used Menace but did work with Fear and Intimidate. I guess that's something else we could look into."

"Both black and white are tertiary in Flash and Trample, but we tend not to use an ability on a multicolor card unless one of the colors is primary or secondary."

"Here's what I'll do. I'll send a message out to the agents of all the keywords we talked about and they can have a meeting and then call you back with availabilities."

"That's what I'm here for. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Banding? No, Banding is no longer with this agency."

"I've worked here for a number of years and Banding was way before my time."

"The old time agents say nice things about Banding. Supposedly Banding was very easy to work with. 'A team player' is the expression that comes up most."

"I can only tell you based on the stories I've heard, but I think Banding left due to just having a lot of personal issues. As I understand it, Banding had a very complex relationship with the players and really had a hard time coming to terms with it. The famous story is that Banding's agent came into the office one day and there was a note from Banding taped to her door. It just read 'No one understands me.' And Banding was never seen or heard from ever again."

"If you want to talk to me about what your card needs, I might be able to offer the services of another keyword."

"No problem. If things change, please feel free to call back. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?

"Yes, we represent both Trample and Deathtouch."

"I'm sorry. They won't work together, not on the same card at least"

"It's actually an interesting story. You see, both Trample and Deathtouch have issues with interpersonal communication. Trample's really bad at picking up on social cues and tends to just blurt things out without thinking through the ramifications of what was just said. As a result, there's often a lot of hurt feelings. Meanwhile Deathtouch is known for being a bit toxic when it comes to friendships and has a bad history of insulting others. But interestingly, the two really hit it off and have become the best of friends. They hang out together all the time and they actually get along great. Trample and Deathtouch were both concerned though that having a professional relationship might affect their personal relationship and decided to never work together."

"Sorry. I guess you didn't need to hear all that. I just find the behind-the-scenes stuff so fascinating. But no, I don't think that's going to work out. We do have many other keywords that can work with either Trample or Deathtouch."

"Not interested? Fair enough. Please feel free to call back if you change your mind. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Yes, our clients often appear on instants. Well, some of them do."

"Defender, Flash, Menace, Prowess, and Vigilance don't, and Flying does it very infrequently."

"The timing doesn't work for Flash. The rest cause confusion when cast mid-combat."

"They'll all work on sorceries. Except Defender. Defender likes to stick to creatures and enchantments."

"Different keywords have different card types they're willing to work with. It varies."

"It's just something you learn when working here. Are you interested in any of our other keywords?"

"What can I tell you about Indestructible? Indestructible is probably the hardest working keyword we have. When Indestructible sets out to do a job, nothing's going to stop the job from getting done. The story I like to tell is about the early days before Indestructible was able to get its keyword status. It was just an ordinary English word. Normally, ECKTA only represents keywords, so most non-keywords try to get our attention for a while and then just give up, but not Indestructible. Indestructible sat in our waiting room every day for like fifteen months. Finally, a new agent agreed to a meeting and ending up signing Indestructible because—get this—because he just assumed Indestructible was a keyword. He was getting him work regularly and didn't realize for years that Indestructible wasn't a keyword. Some of the higher ups ended up getting Indestructible keyword status behind closed doors to avoid a scandal."

"Any others you're interested in?"

"Hexproof's also a good choice. Very professional. Nothing ever gets to Hexproof. Hexproof's mind is always focused on the job at hand."

"You like stories? I got a good one about Hexproof. So Hexproof wasn't the first one in the family to work at ECKTA. Hexproof has an older sibling named Shroud. Shroud was a good keyword, but wasn't so good at taking notes. Designers would give Shroud tips on how to improve and Shroud just never listened. Hexproof used to come to sessions with Shroud and would sit in the background not drawing attention, but always listening. Then one day, Shroud got very sick. Hexproof was supposed to call up the designer and cancel for the day, but instead Hexproof showed up and did the card. And get this—Hexproof realized that everyone disliked how Shroud ignored them, so Hexproof made it a point to always listen closely to the designer and do what they said. Shroud eventually got better, but by then word had spread to all the clients and they all wanted Hexproof instead of Shroud."

"I know what you mean. There's so many stories here."

"Okay, one more story. This one's about Reach. Do you know how Reach got signed by ECKTA? Flying recommended Reach. You want to know why?"

"No, no, no, this is great. Flying didn't like how long its reminder text was in core sets. Seriously."

"Why don't I send you the resumes and comprehensive rules for all the relevant keywords and then you can get back when you know which ones you're interested in. Sound good?"

"Always happy to help. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"No, we still represent Protection. Protection's just semi-retired."

"No one really knows quite how it happened. Protection's always had a pretty thick skin. No matter what happened, it always rolled off Protection's back, but I think Protection was just kind of getting tired doing design work. The way Protection's agent tells it, Protection just got sick of mostly showing up on Knights and reactionary instant spells."

"But if you're interested in hiring Protection, we can get in touch and ask."

"Okay, I'll send a note to Protection's agent and we'll take it from there."

"Have a nice day as well. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"You need a creature combat related keyword for a blue creature? I think I have the perfect keyword in mind."

"I'm laughing because we get this call quite often and for years we haven't had a client that could do the job, but luckily, a couple years ago we stumbled upon Prowess who's been a real boon for us."

"Prowess wasn't even trying to be an evergreen keyword. Prowess got its start being a faction keyword of all things. Prowess thought it was a one and done deal and really had no long-term plans."

"No, one of our agents was at an R&D slideshow representing a few clients and saw Prowess and just fell in love. Signed Prowess up that day. No, it's the kind of story that puts thoughts into the heads of every up and coming keyword."

"I'll send a message to Prowess's agent and stress that you want to talk to them this afternoon."

"Just doing my job. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"I'm sorry to say Regenerate is no longer a client here, but I can connect you with Indestructible's agent. Indestructible has been picking up most of Regenerate's work."

"Yeah, I know it's seemed pretty sudden, but between you and me, behind-the-scenes it really wasn't. The Powers That Be here at ECKTA haven't been happy with Regenerate's work for years, really since the Sixth Edition Rules changes, so quite a long time."

"It kept looking like Regenerate's career was going to die at any moment, but then Regenerate always found a way to keep it going. Regenerate was one of the old timers and really knew how to work the nostalgia angle."

"Okay, I'll leave a note with Indestructible's agent. She's out sick today. She doesn't have her client's fortitude. I expect she should be back later in the week."

"No problem. Always happy to help. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Will First Strike and Vigilance work together? Absolutely. They work together all the time. Almost exclusively in white obviously."

"How are they to work with? Both of them actually go all the way back to the beginning, although Vigilance took a number of years to get the keyword. First strike is a consummate professional, always a step ahead of everyone. First Strike will work with just about any of the other keywords. Okay, one big exception. First Strike refuses to work with Double Strike. First Strike says that it's a just a matter of Double Strike being unprofessional, but honestly, I think it rubs First Strike the wrong way that Double Strike's career is mostly about copying First Strike. You didn't hear it from me though."

"Vigilance is also easy to work with. You send Vigilance out to do one gig and is back before you know it ready for the next one. Vigilance understands the need to prepare and is always on the lookout for how to fine tune the process to be even more efficient. I really think you'll be happy with both of them."

"They actually share an agent who specializes in white keywords, so I'll drop her a note and make sure she gets back to you soon."

"Making you happy makes me happy. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Forestwalk is no longer a client here."

"Neither is Swampwalk."

"Nor Mountainwalk. Let me save us some time. All the Landwalk brothers are gone."

"No, they were legends here. The Landwalk family did a lot of work for us. Some more than others. Poor Plainswalk. His brothers were getting hired time and time again and I think you can count up Plainswalk's gigs on one hand. And one of those was a silver-bordered gig and another a white-bordered gig. Just between you and me, the other brothers used to tease him about it."

"The way I heard it was the brothers were just doing their thing and ignoring everyone else. One of the important things in the creature keyword business is interaction and for the Landwalk brothers that just wasn't their thing. They did hold out for a long while though. They took it pretty hard when we had to let them go."

"We do have a whole suite of keywords capable of doing evasion though. Why don't I send off a bunch of notes to their agents and let them send you resumes?"

"No problem. It's my job. Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Yes? He's already there? Well, when you hired Haste, I'm sure someone explained that Haste is pretty prompt. Actually more than prompt. We actually have a term for it. We call him overpunctual. You know when you throw a party how there's that one person who shows up before the party begins that helps move the furniture and put out the chips? Yeah, Haste lets them in."

"Just give him a bottle of water and a seat. Haste is used to being early."

"Thank you for calling."

"Evergreen Creature Keyword Talent Agency. I'm Maria. Can I help you?"

"Hello, Ms. Chen. I'm just covering the phones during lunch."

"Yes, we've talked about this. I know I'm not the receptionist. I'm the copy girl. My job is to make copies, not answer the phone."

"But we get so many calls over lunch."

"But an answering machine's so impersonal."

"No, of course I haven't been sharing stories about our clients with customers again. That's against the rules. I would never do that."

"Could I just record a message telling everyone that we're on holiday break for the next two weeks?"

"Well then I could I at least tell them about how we run two weeks of best-of content while we're gone?"

"How about I mention that when we're back in the offices, Aether Revolt previews begin?"

"None of that?"

"I just want to show you that I'd be a good receptionist."

"Maybe, one day?"

"Until then, I hope everyone has the best of holidays. Thanks for calling!"

"Drive to Work #390—Urza's Destiny, Part 4"

This is part four of a four-part series on the design of Urza's Destiny.

"Drive to Work #391—Cohesion"

In this podcast, I talk about an important aspect of card design.

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