Ask Wizards—Tuesday, September 16

Posted in ARCHIVES - ARTICLES on September 16, 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.

Ask Wizards a monthly feature that gives you a chance to ask us questions and have them answered. If you'd like to submit a question, please email it to We aren't able to answer every question we receive, but, if we can, it might show up in the coming months!

This month, we compile some questions and answers from Mark Rosewater's Tumblr, Blogatog. We start with one of his most reblogged answers ever.

Q: shevatthewindiscalling said: I attended a small Standard tourney last night at an LGS with my wife. We unfortunately left after the second round because of the hostilities she was experiencing because of her gender. Do you find on your end you hear much regarding the issues of non-male treatment in Magic? Do you feel it's improving?

A: Let me use this question to say something I've been wanting to say.

Every time you are unkind to another Magic player, be it in a game, online or through whatever interaction, regardless of your reason, you are hurting the game, you are hurting the community, you are hurting the store you play in, you are hurting the place you gather—most of all, you are hurting other people.

One of the reasons I love the Magic community is because of the kindness they show one another. Don't be the person that makes Magic something ugly for someone. You love how the Magic community has opened up for you and made you feel welcome. Well, pass that along.

Just imagine that every interaction you have with someone new is the interaction you would have wanted when you were new. A lot of people are attracted to gaming because it is somewhere they feel welcome when there are many other places they do not. Please, please, please do not take that away from people.

Be an ambassador of the game.

Be someone who makes others' lives better rather than worse.

Be the better person.

Now let's look at questions about the biggest announcement to come out in the past month, which was met with an overwhelmingly (and unexpectedly) positive response.

Q: uroborus-void said: Are you scared, that a few weeks ago, you made an announcement that you were changing one of the most fundamental aspects of Magic (the Standard and block structure) and it seems that the community are not yet accusing you of destroying Magic?

A: They'll come around. : )

Q: ttip23 said: What do you make of the overwhelmingly positive response to the new paradigm? Do you think R&D hit on something that many players subconsciously felt but hadn't really vocalized?

A: I assume so.

Q: gonzoron said: It's true that the reaction to the announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, but that's got to be affected by the fact that the people who talk about it online are largely heavily entrenched players. The new and future players who were supposed to be served by the core set won't even know that anything just happened, much less would they comment online about it. No?

A: It is true that those online are more enfranchised. And I want to note that I am getting some comments from people who are less happy about the change. It's just a much smaller group than we've had with past change announcements.

Note that we are not abandoning new players. We are going to make products specifically for them. Getting new players in the game will always be something we very much care about.

Q: atherisyggdrasil said: You've mentioned that y'all have a new beginner product in the works to replace the introductory role of the core sets. I'm guessing based on the illustrations in the "Metamorphosis" article that product won't be Standard legal.

A: No, the intention is the new product for beginners will be Standard legal. Making the entry-level product not Standard legal was a mistake we made in Portal and will not repeat.

Q: william-dearborn said: Would you say this is the largest change to Magic in a long time, possibly the largest change ever?

A: It's a big one, but not the biggest.

Q: dylandiesattheend said: Does this mean that you have known about this change coming for 7 years?

A: More like 18 months.

Q: elmikkino said: When Theros block, and Journey into Nyx in particular, were designed, did you know that it would be the last traditional large-small-small block?

A: Not while we were designing it. That decision got made after Journey into Nyx's design was done.

Q: henro88 said: One thing really, really stood out about your article to me—and that was the business ethics aspect of it. You mentioned twice that you were writing that article as a warning—"This is what you need to know before you buy." I'm on a Magic hiatus now, and I'm literally sitting here thinking, "Do I want to buy into Khans?" I find it great that you worded it as accepting that we might not want to continue buying your product rather than trying to beg us to buy more.

A: The entire timing of the article stemmed from the fact that we wanted you all to know the change to the Khans of Tarkir cards before purchasing them.

Q: somethingaboutpants said: How is drafting going to work with a two-set block?

A: The same way it does now except we skip the part where we draft with a third set. : )

Q: ask-pandemonium said: Most of my Magic playing experience is in Limited formats. The "Metamorphosis" revelation gives me mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, getting new 'story-sets' more often is awesome. On the other hand, one reason I love Limited is the variety of the format. (I cut my teeth in Magic when Caw-Blade was king, which is the biggest thing that soured me on Standard.) I just can't quite shake the feeling that having a two-set block structure will negatively affect the variety of Limited decks.

A: Remember that we get to take all the goodies that had to be spread out between set two and three and put them into set two (and maybe a little extra in set one). This is a plus for Limited play.

Q: jdbogaard said: Hi Mark. Love the Two-Block Paradigm and Standard rotating twice a year. I'm less excited about sets being in Standard only 18 months. I get the old adage 'don't knock it until you've tried it' and I am willing to withhold judgment and give 18 month Standard a try for a few years, but was there a consideration for keeping sets in Standard 24 months (4 blocks) but still rotating it twice a year? In other words, why only 3 blocks instead of 4?

A: It was on the table and we seriously considered it. Two problems:

1) Development felt it wasn't enough of a change to solve the problem of players cracking Standard too easily and it meant dominate decks could just last a lot longer.

2) The change was upping the overall complexity (core sets are on the light side) of Standard and in order to compensate, I was going to have to lower the overall average complexity of sets. The change from four blocks down to three meant that I didn't have to do that and even have a little bit of room to raise overall average set complexity.

Q: adahniii said: You've said that having four two-set blocks in Standard would make it too complex. I'm confused by that. Is there a metric you use to measure the complexity of the Standard environment?

A: Imagine there is a complexity meter to measures complexity. The meter would be higher in a Standard with four two-set blocks than in a Standard with two three-set blocks and a core set (and yes, there is a three-month period with an extra core set).

Not only do expert expansions do more new things than a core set but also having mechanics from four distinct different environments (as opposed to two and a generic one) also unto itself adds some complexity.

Q: keated said: Will the new block structure have any effect on supplemental products like Commander, etc.?

A: It won't affect them happening. Will it have any effect? Maybe, but no obvious things yet.