Ask Wizards - December, 2004

Posted in Feature on December 1, 2004

By Wizards of the Coast

Ask Wizards

December 31, 2004

Q: "Why not just restrict Skullclamp in Standard? With just one, you have much less chance of drawing it. Is only one really that dangerous?"
Philadelphia, PA

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Magic R&D:

"The canned answer is that we don't restrict cards in Standard (or Block, or Extended, or Type 1.5). The only format that uses a Restricted List is Type 1, and that's because if we ban cards there, there'd be no place to play many of them at all.

"So why don't we restrict cards in Standard? In general, we don't want to add more randomness to the game than there already is. There were complaints that certain matches were coming down to 'whoever drew Skullclamp won,' and by only allowing one copy per deck there would be more of a feeling of 'random unfairness.'

"Plus, in the case of Skullclamp, would restriction really make it show up less? With cards like Trinket Mage, Steelshaper's Gift, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith in the format, even one Skullclamp is not difficult to get on the table. And we don't want it showing up at all."


December 30, 2004

Q: "I heard there was a group of cards called the Power 9. The only card that I know that is in this group is Black Lotus. I was wondering what the other cards are?"

A: From Robert Gustchera, Magic R&D:

"Besides the Black Lotus, they are the 5 Moxes (each of which costs and taps for 1 colored mana -- Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby and Mox Emerald), Time Walk, Timetwister, and Ancestral Recall. They're called the 'Power 9' because in formats where they are legal, most people believe you must have 1 of each of them (they are all restricted, so you can't have more) in any top deck. All of these cards appeared in the original Magic set, nicknamed 'Alpha.'

"These cards are so powerful that games involving them often just come down to who draws theirs first. That's no fun, so Wizards doesn't print these cards anymore. That means they are very expensive and hard to find, so not many people play with them now. But for people who still have these old cards, there's 'Type I' (also called Vintage), which is the format in which all kinds of old cards are legal, including the now all-but-legendary 'Power 9.'"


December 29, 2004

Q: "How good is the Future Future League in predicting decks and strategies for the Standard environment? I would be interested in knowing if the FFL ever tested decks like Goblin Bidding or Three-Color Wake."
-- Jonathan Bohn, WI

A: From Brian Schneider, Magic R&D:

"I'd say we very rarely build decks that exactly mirror what actually gets played in tournaments. We do, however, often rightly predict the direction of Type II environments and we often build decks that look similar to what ends up getting played.

"In the case of the decks you've mentioned, we tested Goblins primarily without Patriarch's Bidding (until it became an actual real-world entity). Most of our Wake decks were essentially combo decks (not so control-minded) because we feared its combo potential far more than its control potential. Mirari's Wake was intimidating enough in that capacity to warrant a move from to ."


December 28, 2004

Q: "What does the 'DECKMASTER' on the back of Magic: The Gathering cards mean?"
-- Fblthp, the Lost

A: From Mark Rosewater, Magic Lead Designer:


"When Magic was first designed, Wizards of the Coast had plans for a series of trading card games. To group these games together, they were all given the name "Deckmaster". Magic, Jihad (renamed Vampire: the Eternal Struggle) and Netrunner, for example, were all Deckmaster games. Wizards of the Coast eventually abandoned this method of grouping our trading card games, but the Magic card back is locked (to ensure that all the cards look the same fromm the back) so the Deckmaster logo remains."


December 27, 2004

Q: "As I was looking through some cards the other day I realized that Wizards never made an Urza or a Mishra card, except for in Vanguard. For a series of books that went on for about five years, just about them two, it is strange to see that they have no card. Why is that?" -- Julien

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Magic R&D:
"A popular question, Julien. While many characters in books and storylines have been made into cards--Kamahl, Pit Fighter, Gerrard Capashen, and Glissa, for example--they are but pawns in the big picture, to be controlled by you, the player. As a player, you represent a 'planeswalker'--a type of mighty being that commands a variety of creatures and magic to battle on his behalf. Urza is also a planeswalker, which means a card of him would need to be as powerful as a player in order to be considered accurate.

"There are many planeswalkers besides the famous brothers that have been written about in novels, appeared in card art, and have been referenced in flavor text, yet never made into cards. Some of them include Freyalise, Serra, Feroz, Teferi, Jaya Ballard, and Tevesh Szat. Some legend cards that weren't planeswalkers became planeswalkers later in the storyline, for example Karn, Silver Golem."


December 24, 2004

Q: "What determines the card number each card in a set gets (e.g. Mephidross Vampire is card number 53 out of 165 in the Fifth Dawn set)?"
Porsgrunn, Telemark, Norway

A: From Del Laugel, Magic Technical Editor:

"When I assign collector numbers to a card set, I start by grouping the cards by color. All the white cards are together at the beginning, followed by blue, black, red, and green, and finally multicolored cards. (The 'WUBRG' color order is pretty standard. It mirrors the pentagon of colors on the back of every Magic card that puts 'friendly' colors together.) After the colored cards come artifacts, nonbasic lands, and basic lands. Then I alphabetize the cards within each of these nine groups by their English card names (a card has the same collector number in all languages). Once the cards are in order, I start at the beginning with 1 and number from there. The second number printed on the card is just the total number of cards in the set.

"If you use three-ring binders to store your Magic cards, collector numbers are a good way to stay organized. All your red Mirrodin cards, for example, will be in one place, and it's easy to see which cards you're missing. Many players don't keep basic land cards in binders, though, which is why basic lands are numbered separately from nonbasic lands and put at the very end.

"What if a card falls into multiple categories? Well, until the Mirrodin block introduced artifact lands, that wasn't possible. We decided to bundle the artifact lands with the other nonbasic lands for numbering since most players putting together Constructed decks would expect to find these cards in the land section of their binders."


December 23, 2004

Q: "I've always wondered how much refreshments (especially coffee) the Magic R&D consumes every day. Are there some who manage to do their Magical work without the magic of caffeine?"
Raisio, Finland

A: From Paul Sottosanti, Magic R&D:

"Hey Lauri,

"Thanks for the question. We debated for some time and came up with the following list:

Top Five Most Caffeinated R&D Members

  1. Richard Garfield
  2. Randy Buehler
  3. John Carter
  4. Henry Stern
  5. Mons Johnson

"Richard is included at the top of this list not just for the name dropping factor, but because I'm told he likes caffeine more than all of R&D put together. When asked about the creator of Magic, Mark Rosewater paused, then answered, "Well, I've known Richard about nine or ten years, and...well, how about this. His email used to be How's that?" Randy surely needs his caffeine more than ever after the birth of his daughter. John Carter, when asked how much he'd had today, replied that he was working on his third soda and his fourth cup of hot chocolate. Henry Stern, longtime Magic developer, and Mons Johnson, leader of a little known group of goblin raiders, also qualified due to almost daily coffee consumption.

"As a bonus, we also compiled the opposite list:

Top Five Least Caffeinated R&D Members

  1. Mark Gottlieb
  2. Matt Place
  3. Paul Barclay
  4. Brian Schneider
  5. Me

"Our very own evil genius, Mark Gottlieb, learned at Evil Camp that alcohol, meat, and caffeine all blunt your mental capabilities. His dedication to the quest for world domination means that he's sworn off all three. Matt Place starts each morning off with a few laps around the mana pool, so doesn't need the artificial stimulation. It's interesting to note that the previous Rules Manager, Paul Barclay, falls at third on this list while his replacement John Carter has an equal standing on the other one. Who knew that Rules Manager could be such a stressful job? In any case, John was then quoted as saying, "If I ever leave this position, I'll probably retire from caffeine as well." Paul and Brian both have the occasional soy hot chocolate at Starbucks, but keep it fairly light. And as for me, I seem to be immune to the stuff, and coffee tastes, well, terrible, so there's not much point.

"So you could argue that the people who do partake in the magic of caffeine do better Magical work than the ones who don't, but some of us might disagree.

"Your choice."


December 22, 2004

Q: "Is there really a 'mana pool' at Wizards R&D that Matt Place had to run laps around?" -- Dave B. Delaware

A: From Matt Place, Magic R&D:

"Yes there really is a beautiful pond here at Wizards that we call the mana pool. It has a waterfall flowing into it and is surrounded by flowers and trees. Twenty-five laps around the mana pool equals one mile. On a side note, Mark Rosewater would like me to make it clear that in my March 25 Ask Wizards answer I was wrong to imply that he 'made' me run laps. As Mark has told me many times, when I make mistakes, I 'make' myself run the laps, or wash his car, or write his column, etc. Sorry Mark."

December 21, 2004

Q: "Was Matt Place serious about the new color, puce, in a recent 'Ask Wizards'? I am of course talking about the March 9th answer, in which he says: 'The only exception to this will be when we add the sixth color to Magic, puce, which will use an ultraviolet border' (when answering the land's background color question)." -- Dominik N, Ontario, Canada

A: From Matt Place, R&D Associate Developer:
"No I was not being serious when I mentioned a sixth color in Magic. I underestimated how many people would take me seriously and I would like to apologize to all of you. My 'joke' also got me in trouble here at R&D. Instead of going to lunch last week, Rosewater had me doing laps around the mana pool, so believe me when I say that I have learned my lesson!"


December 20, 2004

Q: "In regards to the border colors on lands with the new card faces: I understand why the lands that are aligned with a color have borders that are colored red, green, blue, etc.... Can you explain what the determining factors are that make a land's border have the gold hue (i.e., Mirrodin's Core) versus the darker gray hue (i.e., Blinkmoth Nexus)? I haven't been able to figure this out. Thanks!" -- Joe Miller

A: From Matt Place, Research & Development:
"The color of a nonbasic land's border is determined by the mana it can produce. Lands that produce colorless mana have a gray border. Lands like Mirrodin's Core and City of Brass that produce all five colors of mana recieve a gold border. For lands that produce two colors, the border and text box matches the colors it produces, for example Shivan Oasis fades from red into green. Basic lands simply match the color of mana they produce. The only exception to this will be when we add the sixth color to Magic, puce, which will use an ultraviolet border." [Editor's note: Matt is joking about puce, folks. There are no current plans to add a sixth color to Magic.]


December 17, 2004

Q: "I always see codenames for unnamed sets like 'Control', 'Alt' and 'Delete'. Can you post a list of all the codnames you used for all the sets? Thank you!"

A: From Mark Rosewater, Magic Head Designer:


"I actually wrote a column all about codenames called 'Codename of the Game' back in August 12, 2002. That article lists codenames through Saviors of Kamigawa. Here are the other codenames we have:

  • Large Fall Release of 2005 - Control (Revealed to be Ravnica: City of Guilds in yesterday's Magic Arcana)
  • Small Winter Expansion of 2006 - Alt
  • Small Spring Expansion of 2006 - Delete
  • Large Fall Release of 2006 - Snap
  • Small Winter Expansion of 2007 - Crackle
  • Small Spring Expansion of 2007 - Pop

"We are still working on the codenames for the following 2007/2008 block."


December 16, 2004

Q: "Is Magic Online doing anything special for Christmas?"
-- Fabian Rockwell
San Diego, California

A: From Scott Larabee, DCI Program Manager:

"Yes, indeed we are. Click here to read the schedule of events just posted to the Magic Online page. While there you may also be interested to read Randy Buehler's article on future MTGO functionality, including Vanguard."


December 15, 2004

Q: "I'm new to Magic, so I'm confused about the various editions containing the same cards as previous editions. Why would someone (not me of course, since I'm new) buy cards from Ninth Edition if they already have the same cards from the Eighth (or Seventh, etc.) Edition?"
-- Joel

A: From Devin Low, Magic R&D:

"Hi Joel,

"The key idea here is that Eighth Edition isn't just Seventh Edition all over again -- it's a new combination of cards, some from Seventh Edition, some from 2003's Scourge expansion, and some all the way from 1993's Arabian Nights expansion. Every two years, Magic developers make changes to the core set to include important cards from recent sets, interesting cards from ancient sets, and generally shake things up to keep the game fresh and interesting. Every edition of the core set is designed to present the heart of the game in a clean, straightforward way, but they do it with a revolving selection of cards. After years of playing with and against Armageddon and Counterspell, I was happy to see them go away for a while, and move out of the core set. In exchange, powerful cards like Savannah Lions, Bribery, Phyrexian Arena, Obliterate and Plow Under rotated into the core set for the first time. Since the expansions are always changing too, having changes in the core set helps to keep modern Magic always new and always evolving.

"One cool part of these changes for Eighth Edition in particular is that to celebrate Magic's 10th anniversary, we added at least one new card (never before printed in a core set) from each Magic expansion ever printed. That means Mirage, Urza's Destiny, and Invasion all have guest stars showing up in Eighth Edition."


December 14, 2004

Q: "I love the theme weeks you do for the site; but I have to ask, is 'Land Week' coming?"
Sacramento, California

A: From Scott Johns, Content Manager:

"I'm glad to hear you're enjoying the site Ross, thanks for writing in. While we haven't done 'Land Week' exactly, did have 'Non-Basic Land Week' back in the week of March 31, 2003 (almost a year before I joined the site). Since then we've also done Sorcery Week, Artifact Creature Week, Instant Week, and some other themes related to card type. Since there are still several card types that haven't been covered at all yet it's likely that we would do those first rather than doing 'Land Week', which would be quite close to 'Non-Basic Land Week'. That said, I'm sure there's plenty we could talk about on the site for Land Week. So, the short answer is: yes, there's a good chance we'll do a dedicated Land Week, but it's probably going to be a while yet."


December 13, 2004

Q: "I was wondering if you could help me find a decklist of the old Prosperous Bloom deck that from the Mirage Block tournaments? I have a decent sized group of casual players and have heard about the deck from them. Any help that you can provide would be greatly appreciated."
--Paul, USA

A: From Scott Johns, Content Manager:

"Paul, the most famous version of the deck you're asking about would have to be the version Mike Long played to first place at Pro Tour-Paris way back in '97. Here's the list:

Wishing Well

Download Arena Decklist

"You can read about that and many other famous mana engine decks (including the hysterical 'Horsecraft Deck' played by our own Randy Buehler and Mike Turian at Worlds '98) in a great article by Aaron Forsythe, 'Decks with Horsepower'."


December 10, 2004

Q: "What was the inspiration for the card Psychogenic Probe?"
-- Chris
Springfield, OR

A: From Mark Rosewater, Magic Head Designer:


"One of the things we're always on the lookout for in design and development is excessive shuffling. So one day, I set out to make a card that punished excessive shuffling. I figured it would act as a safety valve if R&D ever screwed up. The original name was simply Shuffle Hoser. It started as a red enchantment. Everyone liked the card but it kept getting cut on numbers (meaning that there was always something a little more relevant that stayed in the set instead of it). During Mirrodin design, I changed it to an artifact. And this time, it stayed. And that, Chris, is how Psychogenic Probe came to be."


December 9, 2004

Q: "Magic writers often refer to things like '1 drop' or '2 drop'. What does this mean?"
-- Gavin, Australia

A: From Paul Sottosanti, Magic R&D:

"Hey Gavin,

"The answer to this one is pretty simple: a '1 drop' is a creature that has a converted mana cost of one, and by the same logic, a '2 drop' is one that costs two mana. I'm not exactly sure about the origin for the lingo, but it's an efficient way to refer to specific parts of a deck's mana curve, i.e. 'my deck has six 1 drops, ten 2 drops, and eight 3 drops, so I should almost always have a creature on the table.'"


December 8, 2004

Q: "Who is the player in the world with the most number of sanctioned matches? How many matches has that person played so far?"
Milan, Italy

A: From RE Dalrymple, Senior Manager, Organized Play Operations:

"Thanks for asking, Sean. The guy you're looking for would be Stefano Luppi of Italy, with an impressive 4487 matches. Here's the Top 10 players of all time in terms of most sanctioned matches played (as of the beginning of November):

Player # Matches
Stefano Luppi 4487
Jimmy Jarman 3583
Alexsei Kotkov 3357
Noah Weil 3252
Michael Donovan 3231
Kouji Murata 3186
Michael Pustilnik 3158
Tarou Kageyama 3043
Raffaele Lo Moro 2965
Jason Opalka 2869

"And here's the Top 10 list if you only include competitors that played at least once in October:"

Player # Matches
Stefano Luppi 4487
Jimmy Jarman 3583
Noah Weil 3252
Kouji Murata 3186
Tarou Kageyama 3043
Raffaele Lo Moro 2965
Alex Shvartsman 2793
Grigory Pirogov 2753
Bram Snepvangers 2739
Dario Minieri 2675

December 7, 2004

Q: "How long does it usually take a question asked via the Internet to make the Ask Wizards page?"
Wheeling, WV

A: From Scott Johns, Content Manager:

"Each month I send out a new batch of Ask Wizards to the various groups that typically answer them (R&D, Organized Play, etc). Answers generally take a week or two to get back to me, so that plus the monthly batching means that you're usually looking at around roughly four to six weeks or so.

"However, that's only a loose generalization since there's also the issue of time-sensitivity. I monitor the Ask Wizards box pretty closely, so whenever there's a good question that's time-sensitive I can grab it and get an answer rushed from the appropriate person here at Wizards. The flip side of that is non-time-sensitive questions, as I usually try to keep at least a couple of those handy to fill any holes between batches. In your case, I got this Ask on 10/27. :)"


December 6, 2004

Q: "Is the Kamigawa in 'Champions of Kamigawa' in any way a reference to the Convention of Kanagawa, where the opening of Japan to the Western world was achieved? I just thought it was interesting as this set is the opening of Magic to a Japanese-inspired world."
Boston, MA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"Sorry, Don, pure coincidence. Kanagawa is the name of the Japanese prefecture that contains the city of Yokohama, where the treaty you mention was signed. The suffix '-gawa' means 'river' in Japanese, but that's where the similarity ends."


December 3, 2004

Q: "Kamigawa shows a pretty remarkable change of pace for Magic (save for maybe Ice Age); ice-elemental cards are now in Red! Witness Glacial Ray, or Frostweaver. How much concern was there that this might be confusing to some players?"
-- Michael

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"There was a little bit of concern, Michael, but not much. After all, mountains produce red mana, and many mountains are snow-capped. We did some ice- and snow-themed red spells in Kamigawa to reflect the cold mountain environment there, and also because, frankly, we were a little tired of the same ol' fire and lightning spells set after set."


December 2, 2004

Q: "I always wondered, what is the difference between Shamans and Wizards? "
Westfield, New Jersey, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"The difference is primarily for flavor, Andrew. Wizards learn their spells from books, scrolls, and other sources of arcane knowledge, whereas a shaman's spells are based in emotion, ritual, and lore. In general, wizards are white or blue, and shamans are red or green. Black is split between the two, depending on the world and its black-aligned inhabitants."


December 1, 2004

Q: "I just noticed the 'ears' of the moonfolk. They look like rabbit's ears. Would it be possible that Kamigawa's moonfolk are in fact the rabbits that live on the Moon according to the Japanese-Chinese legends?"

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"Good catch, Mike. For those of you who aren't familiar with what Mike's talking about: Whereas Westerners see a man's face on the moon, the Japanese see a rabbit -- the tsuki-usagi, or moon-hare. The moonfolk were concepted by Japanese artist Ittoku, who introduced the subtle rabbit-like elements (white hair, long ears, and so on). The idea of the moonfolk came from a famous Japanese folktale about the mythical Lady Kaguya."

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