Ethan Fleischer. The man, the myth, the designer. Competitor in Great Designer Search 2, and lead designer of Journey into Nyx. He held an AMA on the /r/magictcg subreddit, answering questions about the latest Magic set, his experience in GDS2, and even what sort of pants he wears. Here are a few of my favorite questions and answers from Friday's AMA:
Q: Why isn't King Macar's inspired ability mandatory? - AgentOfDimir
We tried various versions of King Macar's ability. One triggered on combat, but opponents were never dumb enough to block or be blocked by it, so it never triggered. SO we tried a mandatory inspired trigger, but that was pretty un-fun if your opponent didn't control creatures and you did. So we compromised a bit on the flavor to enable more-fun gameplay.
Q: What are some funny design names from this set? Always enjoy hearing about names like Elder Spitemare (Boros Reckoner) - Luusydh
Extinguish All Hope was called Wrath of the Gods. Cloaked Siren was called Bizonk Drake during design. Sage of Hours was known as Time Walker. Flurry of Horns was yclept Small Stampede. [Ed. Note: yclept means "by the name of"]
As an additional note, we generally don't do as many wacky playtest names when we're making a top-down design, as we want the folks in charge of concepting the cards to understand what we're trying to communicate with the design.
Q: Can I ask why Pharika's activated ability puts the snake into play under the control of the owner of the exiled card and not the person who paid the mana for it? - Astantia
Consider what would happen if Pharika gave you tokens for exiling your opponent's creatures from their graveyard. Your opponent attacks, you make a 1/1 deathtouch Snake, block their creature, which goes to the graveyard. You now have fuel to make another Snake, to block their next attacker. Your opponent would be pretty helpless at that point.
Q: What is the story behind Ajani's ultimate? - Dat_Waldo_Guy
Ajani's ultimate was something we came up with in design. He's all about helping and healing his friends, so giving you an absurd amount of life seemed appropriate. The ability tested very well in our internal polling, so it survived all the way through development. Also, it made me laugh.
Q: Was it a goal to make Theros block become a significantly slower Limited format with the release of Journey into Nyx? If not, was there a specific impact Journey was meant to have on the block in terms of how Limited games are played out? - kornman
Not exactly, but kind of. I wanted to move away from the story of "lone hero blessed by the gods" to "armies of heroes fight armies of the gods' minions." It's possible that a deceleration is implied there, but it wasn't a specific priority of mine.
Q: Why does blue get exile? - remyseven
We allow blue to mechanically exile (used to be destroy) things to accomplish some transformation-type abilities, as with Curse of the Swine, Pongify, etc. These are extensions of the old card Polymorph.
Want to read more? Head over to the post on Reddit!