Two Truths and a Lie

Posted in Making Magic on June 2, 2014

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.

On most nights, my family sits down to a home-cooked dinner. We each quickly recap our day and then, if there is time left over, we will often play a game. My kids all enjoy games but my youngest, Sarah, is the most passionate about what she calls dinner games. She bought books and has searched the Internet for more games to play during dinner. Last week, she explained that she had a new game called "Two Truths and a Lie." It was very cute because she believed she had come across a brand-new game, not realizing that the game is probably older than both her parents.

For those who have never played "Two Truths and a Lie," the game is pretty much explained in its title. One person comes up with three "facts" about him- or herself. Two are truths and one is a lie. The group tries to figure out which one the lie is. It dawned on me when Sarah brought up the game that it would actually make for a fun article, so here's what we're going to do today. We're going to play "Two Truths and a Lie," and you all can see how much you know about Magic.

Balance | Art by Randy Gallegos

For each round, I will print three "facts" about Magic and you will have to deduce which one is the lie. I will then reveal the answer and explain the details behind each one. Pretty simple. Okay, ready to play?

Round 1

This first round is going to be about Journey into Nyx.

Fact #1: The Journey into Nyx design team spent time trying to make an enchantment land.
Fact #2: An early version of the constellation mechanic was first tried out as the Azorius mechanic in Return to Ravnica.
Fact #3: The design team tried to find a way to get Lucent Liminid (the first enchantment creature from a futureshifted card in Future Sight) into the set on a token.

Figure out which one is the lie. When you have your answer, click here.

LIE—Fact #1: The Journey into Nyx design team spent time trying to make an enchantment land.

During Mirrodin, I designed a cycle of common artifact lands. They were identical to normal basic lands except they were nonbasic and also artifacts. The thought behind them was that in an artifact-heavy set, players would run artifact destruction, meaning these lands were more vulnerable to being destroyed. The set had a strong "artifact matters" theme, so the lands felt like a good mechanical fit. It turns out, they were a little too good. All five Mirrodin artifact lands, plus Azor's Elocutors | Art by Johannes Voss

The reason it was eventually killed wasn't because it didn't work in Azorius—it actually was very flavorful—but because it didn't play nicely with the guilds around it. For the multicolor environment of Ravnica to work in Limited, it's important that there is cross-guild synergy and the "enchantment matters" quality didn't blend well with other strategies. Also, late in Return to Ravnica design, we realized that the next block was going to have an enchantment subtheme and we wanted to be careful not to step on its toes. There is a fine line between creating some synergy and limiting what the later block will be able to do.

While looking for the mechanic for the gods' side of the conflict in Journey into Nyx, enchantmentfall was brought up very early. The advancement the Journey into Nyx design team had was the idea of always putting it on enchantments and then making sure that the card would also generate the same effect when it entered the battlefield. This allowed the cards to be a little less linear and allowed players to run some in Limited without requiring their decks to have high numbers of enchantments.

TRUTH—Fact #3: The design team tried to find a way to get Lucent Liminid (the first enchantment creature from a futureshifted card in Future Sight) into the set on a token.

Lucent Liminid

Future Sight hinted at Magic's future with its futureshifted cards. Whenever we get to a design space that was hinted at by Future Sight, we always look to see if there is a futureshifted card we could print as the place in the future it came from. Usually it's tricky, because everything has to line up with both the mechanics and the creative. Lucent Liminid was a 3/3 flying enchantment creature with no other abilities. As the first enchantment creature, it would have been nice to have it show up in the block that "introduces" enchantment creatures.

Here was the problem: One of the rules of enchantment creatures was that they had to have qualities of both creatures and enchantments. Lucent Liminid had the former but not the latter. But wait, hope was not completely lost. There was one exception where you were allowed to make vanilla (no rules text) and French vanilla (no rules text other than creature keywords) enchantment creatures—on tokens. We needed enchantment creature tokens for mechanical reasons, so it was decided this would be the place where we bent the rules a little.

The trick, therefore, was to make a card that made Lucent Liminid tokens. Here's the card that was in the design file:

Lucent Dreamer
4WW
Creature—Human
2/1
Inspired—Whenever CARDNAME becomes untapped, you may pay 3WW. If you do, put a 3/3 white Elemental enchantment creature token with flying onto the battlefield.

The card was killed in development because Journey into Nyx wasn't going to have all that many inspired creatures in it and Born of the Gods had already made the enchantment-token-making inspired cycle.

Round Two

This second round is going to be about card designs from Theros block.

Fact #1: Although they didn't end up making it to print, we designed Achilles, the Furies, and Wonder Woman.
Fact #2: Although they didn't end up making it to print, we designed Hercules, Charybdis, and Scylla.
Fact #3: Although they didn't end up making it to print, we designed Helen of Troy, Orpheus, and Jason of the Argonauts.

Pick which one you think is the lie and then click here.

TRUTH—Fact #1: Although they didn't end up making it to print, we designed Achilles, the Furies, and Wonder Woman.

All three of these cards saw print during design. First up is Achilles, the great warrior from the Trojan War who was invulnerable all over his body, for his mother had dipped him into the river Styx as a baby. His only weakness was his heel, where his mother had gripped him while dipping him in the river of the dead. This was, of course, where the term "Achilles' heel" comes from. Here was his original card:

Achilles (version 1)
4WW
Legendary creature—Human Soldier
5/5
Achilles is invulnerable as long as he is tapped.

Fabled Hero | Art by Aaron Miller

We played with this version in Theros design but it didn't make the cut. Ethan decided to save Achilles for Journey into Nyx because he liked the idea of the set with the conflict having the references to the Greek mythological war heroes. In Journey into Nyx design, Achilles got a whole new design:

Achilles
4WW
Legendary creature—Human Soldier
5/5
Protection from each converted mana cost except five.

Journey into Nyx design turned Achilles over in the design file but it ended up getting cut in development as the card was very hard to deal with.

The Furies (actually their Roman name; in Greek they were the Erinyes) were deities of vengeance. They would hear complaints from those who had been wronged and then seek retribution. Here was their card:

The Furies
5WW
Enchantment creature—Fury
4/5
Whenever a creature an opponent controls deals combat damage, CARDNAME deals that much damage to it.

In the end, we were never completely happy with the design and the card fell by the wayside during development.

The character of Wonder Woman is intrinsically tied to Greek mythology. She is an Amazon warrior princess and many of the characters she interacts with (such as her mother, Hippolyte, and her main adversary, Ares) are characters directly from Greek mythology. There's even a polis, Setessa, loosely based off of Wonder Woman's home of Paradise Island (or Themyscira in modern comics). Wonder Woman seemed like a natural fit.

Here's the version that we had in the design file:

Wonder Woman
3WU
Legendary Creature—Amazon Superhero
3/3
3U: Change target spell or ability that targets CARDNAME.
T: Tap target creature. It does not untap during its controller's next untap step.

The first question is, "Why is she white-blue if the actual Wonder Woman character is green-white (as is Setessa)?" The answer is the colors were chosen to match the abilities the designer (Ethan Fleischer) wanted. The first ability reflects her ability to deflect projectiles (usually bullets in the comics) with her bracelets. The second ability reflected her golden lasso. It did not, I pointed out, force the tapped creature to tell the truth.

This card never made it for two reasons. One, while Wonder Woman is connected to Greek mythology, she's not really part of the source material. Second, a superhero in our game is more Planeswalker than inhabitant of Theros. There are many female Setessan heroes, so if you want to think of one of them as Wonder Woman, please go ahead.


TRUTH—Fact #2: Although they didn't end up making it to print, we designed Hercules, Charybdis, and Scylla.

How could you make a Greek mythological inspired set and not make Hercules? Not only did we make one in Theros design, but it was one of my favorite cards in the design we handed over:

Hercules
2GG
Legendary Creature—Human God
12/12
CARDNAME cannot attack or block unless you control twelve or more permanents.

Let me begin by pointing out that the card was never going to be called Hercules. What we wanted was a demigod who matched the Hercules archetype: a tough hero who has to prove himself to the gods. The number twelve was chosen to be a subtle nod to Hercules's Twelve Labors. It turns out that twelve also worked well mechanically.

I championed this card but it had all sorts of hurdles. First, the creative team felt 12/12 was too big for a human, even a super powerful, abnormally strong character like Hercules. Second, creative didn't want Theros to have demigods. Okay, I said, maybe we could shrink him a little and (the number twelve was pretty subtle) he could just be a powerful human hero.

Meanwhile, the development team didn't like the card, mechanically. Development felt it was too much of a hoop to jump through. I said that a four-mana 12/12 would be exciting and Erik kept the card in the file mostly because I cared so much, but the development team was eager to kill it.

Erik eventually changed the card from a human hero to a hydra because he felt that the flavor would make the creative team happy. I was sad to see Hercules go, but I did like the card mechanic. Eventually, the development team realized it needed to make a card to deal with a strong blue deck in Standard, which required them killing a green creature they could redesign. The development team was already eager to kill the card, so it became the choice for the new slot. You all know the card now as Mistcutter Hydra.

Mistcutter Hydra

Charybdis and Scylla were two sea monsters that attacked Odysseus's ship in the book The Odyssey. In the story, they lay in wait on two sides of a narrow channel of water, and if a ship passed too close to either one, it was destroyed. Ethan was very excited to design these two sea monsters such that, together, the two were almost impossible to stop. Here are his designs:

Charybdis
3UU
Legendary creature—Elemental
5/9
Defender
When Charybdis enters the battlefield, you may pay 3B and search for a card named Scylla and put it onto the battlefield. Afterwards shuffle your library.
Whenever an opponent cast a spell with an odd converted mana cost, put the top six cards of that players library into his or her graveyard.

Scylla
4BB
Legendary Creature—Hydra
6/5
Intimidate
When Scylla enters the battlefield, you may pay 2U and search for a card named Charybdis and put it onto the battlefield. Afterwards shuffle your library.
Whenever an opponent cast a spell with an even converted mana cost, that player sacrifices a creature.

Charybdis and Scylla started in Theros design, got moved to Born of the Gods design, and ultimately ended up in Journey into Nyx design. Each time, they got displaced by other giant monsters we wanted to do and, thus, sadly never made it to print.

LIE—Fact #3: Although they didn't end up making it to print, we designed Helen of Troy, Persephone, and Jason of the Argonauts.

While the three design teams of the block tried their hardest to capture each and every famous character from Greek mythology, here are three that never got their own card in design. Helen of Troy was the woman whose (possible) abduction led to the Trojan War. She was a tricky figure to design to so we never tried.

Orpheus was a hero who was both poet and musician. His music was so lyrical that it could charm anyone who heard it. Orpheus's wife, Eurydice, died and he traveled to the underworld to save her. He almost did it but looked back a second too soon (he was instructed not to look back until he and his wife had left the underworld and he looked back when he had stepped out but not his wife). The card Rescue from the Underworld was a nod to Orpheus and a few other stories of people trying to rescue dead from the underworld, but we never made a card for Orpheus in particular.

Rescue from the Underworld | Art by Raymond Swanland

Jason led the Argonauts, a collection of heroes, on a quest for the Golden Fleece. The Argonauts' ship, Argo, was a card for a brief time, but Jason himself never made it into card form.

Round Three

The third and final round today is going to be about some bigger picture issues concerning Theros block.

Fact #1: The world originally planned for the 2013–2014 block, before it became a Greek-mythology-inspired plane, was very similar to the one Ethan Fleischer designed that helped him win the second Great Designer Search.
Fact #2: The early plans for the conflict in the third set was not the denizens of the world versus the gods, but all of the inhabitants of the world, gods included, against their own dreams.
Fact #3: The original pantheon of gods was not one- and two-color Gods but rather three-, four-, and five-color.

Pick which one you think is the lie and then click here.

TRUTH—Fact #1: The world originally planned for the 2013–2014 block, before it became a Greek-mythology-inspired plane, was very similar to the one Ethan Fleischer designed that helped him win the second Great Designer Search.

The block I originally pitched to Aaron was one where each set greatly advanced the timeline of the world. The first set was prehistoric, the second set was around 0 BCE, and the third was 1700/1800s. The idea was we would have a mechanic that would allow us to start very simple and greatly evolve it over the course of the block. The other mechanics would play up each timeline. Part of the reason I was enamored of Ethan's block plan (which was similar—it also evolved over time, starting with a prehistoric set) in the GDS was how similar it was to something I already had planned to do.

The reason it got shot down (by Brady Dommermuth, the man in charge of the creative team at the time) was that it was a plan where we were essentially building three completely different worlds and Brady was worried the creative team wouldn't be able to do it with the resources available. In addition, it was clear that the most compelling world, and the one with the clearest identity, would be the prehistoric world—which we would immediately be leaving—making it hard for us to return to. If the world is going to radically change, you want to end with your most compelling world and not start with it.

Rhox | Art by Carl Critchlow

Because Brady down shot my idea, he was on the hook for a new world idea and that is where Greek-mythology inspired with an enchantment component came from.

TRUTH—Fact #2: The early plans for the conflict in the third set was not the denizens of the world versus the gods, but all of the inhabitants of the world, gods included, against their own dreams.

When I first started putting the Theros block together, I had an ulterior goal in mind. I wanted to create another planeswalking villain. The Phyrexians and the Eldrazi are great, but there're only so many villains you want that are an entire race of creatures. I was eager to make a new bad guy/gal/person that was just an evil Planeswalker.

As I was messing around with the enchantment subtheme and how it related to Greek mythology, I realized that it intersected a lot with dreams. Dreaming and the role of the gods in the dream world played an important role in Greek mythology. The only way mortals in the real world could encounter the gods was through their dreams, so that aspect wove itself into many myths. What if I had an evil Planeswalker who could manipulate dreams and was drawn to Theros because of the unique nature of the gods and dreams?

Xenagos, the Reveler | Art by Jason Chan

Originally, the enchantment creatures weren't going to show up in the first set. First, we were going to meet Greek-mythology-inspired world and then in the second set, things were going to start happening. That thing was the appearance of dream creatures, which the denizens of the world assumed were created by the gods. In reality, the evil Planeswalker was building an army and would attack with it in the third act.

Note that all these ideas were before the creative team was much involved, because the team was overloaded with what was being done for the previous year, the Innistrad block. When creative started interacting with the set, the team was more interested in telling a Greek-mythology-like story than telling a story that happened to take place on a Greek-inspired world, so the story shifted to a conflict between the denizen and the gods. This, in turn, made me rethink how I wanted to use the enchantments, and they became more the creation of the gods than the creation of dreams.

LIE—Fact #3: The original pantheon of gods was not one- and two-color Gods but rather three-, four-, and five-color.

I was eager to mix the color pie with a Greek pantheon so I was always planning to start with monocolored gods in the first set, as I loved the idea of gods embodying the essence of each color. The idea to do two-color gods as the minor gods seemed the next obvious step, so I never had any alternative idea for them, either. Did we ever even consider more Gods in three, four, or five colors? Nope. Fifteen was a perfect number, as it allowed three cycles—one per set—so we never entertained any other versions.

Game Over

That's all the time I have for today. I hope you enjoyed playing "Two Truths and a Lie." I'm curious if you liked this format and would ever like to see me use it again. You can email me through the link at the bottom of the column, respond in this article's thread, or contact me through any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram) and let me know about the format and today's content.

Join me next week when I talk about different ways to look at the game.

Until then, may you play some games at your next dinner.

Because last week was a holiday, I have two weeks' worth of podcasts for you today.




"Drive to Work #124—Creature Types"

Today's first podcast is all about subtypes—creature subtypes in particular. I explain what impact creature types have on design and what impact design has on them.

"Drive to Work #125 & #126—Lenticular Design, Part 1 & Part 2"

This two-part podcast talks about a relatively new design concept. I explain what lenticular design is and talk about how it affects modern day design.

"Drive to Work #127—Worldwake, Part 1"

My final podcast today is the first (of a three-part series) about the design of Worldwake, the second set in the Zendikar block.


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