The M Files: Conspiracy

Posted in Latest Developments on June 20, 2014

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

Welcome once again to the M Files! Lots of releases means lots of time to delve into Magic's card database and get an idea of what people were thinking when making Conspiracy.

But first, our cast of characters:

AF: Aaron Forsythe—senior director for Magic

DE: Dan Emmons—former designer

DEL: Del Laugel—senior Magic editor and editor manager

DH: Dave Humpherys—development manager and lead developer of Conspiracy

GSV: Gavin VerheyMagic experience designer and ReConstructed columnist

Ken: Ken NagleMagic designer

Mago: Mark GottliebMagic designer

SM: Shawn MainMagic designer and lead designer of Conspiracy

SPS: Sam Stoddard—That's A-Me!

Tabak: Matt Tabak—Rules manager

TML: Tom LaPilleMagic developer

SM 7/14/12: Riffing off DH's suggestion for a creature that uses a random pick as a cost. Now provides a big, evasive body, but also cares about what you randomly picked.
DH 8/21: Name fixed. Noting for printing purposes.
DE 8/29/12: Can it not cast the spell and let you pick normally? Or is that crazy?
DH 9/9: Cut flying...gave it +1/+1.
AF 9/11: Weird and not something I'm drawn to. I don't want to put Respite in my RB deck!
DH 9/12: Can look for other ways to do this type of card. It has been getting P1P1'd a lot where the card provides possible direction, even if bad ones.
DH 11/29: Random was apparently too-feel bad. Changing to choice.
DE 1/29: I feel like this is trying very hard to be 'second copy of card' but is making it way more complicated than it needs to be.

We wanted to find a lot of really neat effects for the draft-matters cards in the set, which let us give cards some weird knobs to balance them. We found that the random choice was too unsettling, but I like where this card ended up—in that there are a lot of interesting points in the draft to take it.

DH 11/29: Riffed off a card suggested at design meeting.
DH 1/22: Tweaked so it isn't just a blocker if the named player dies or if that player isn't in your game, and so you can theoretically first pick it.
Tabak 9/4: Cost 3 to 4 post-slide show.

We changed Tracker to being a little weaker because the three-mana version was not getting passed enough! We need something that was attractive to pick early, but not generally a first pick, and a four-mana 4/4 must-attack fits the bill there.

DH 5/31: Similar to StP.
SM 6/24/12: Return as "vote to destroy anything" rare.
SM 7/10/12: Added "an opponent controls." Having votes thrown back in your face was proving unfun.
SPS 7/12/12: This is an interesting card. People can vote on my cards, right? Wording is slightly ambiguous, but it might be too powerful in non-Conspiracy sets if otherwise. In Legacy, this ends up as 2W, exile a permanent of your choice, letting you avoid untargetability, etc.
SM 7/14/12: After games where people had this blow up in their faces, intent is that it can't backfire.
DH 8/3: Prefer this at 1WW but we have a lot of CC at rare already.
DH 8/5: Moving to 1WW
TML 1/22/2013: Weird that I would immediately Cube this.

No, Tom, it isn't. The goal for this card was to create a uniquely versatile answer that might see play in Legacy and have room for play in Cubes.

DH 8/13: Replaced Rolling Thunder since it was leading to unsatisfying ending.
SPS 8/20/12: Love this change. Makes me want to play ramp a lot, and goes around later than Thunder did.

Nothing says "Welcome to Fiora" better than a 20-point Mana Geyser into Deathforge Shaman.

DH 11/13: Made this weirder. Playing off of creative's request for goblin guy "his gag is having big, hired goons to do his dirty work, backstabbing and shady, unpredictable deals." Trying to represent that at least in part on a spell.
DH 11/14: Moved to mono-red and the goblin legend itself to RB.
Del 12/3: What's the max number of permanents I control that I could be sacrificing to this effect?
DH 12/12: Del, 4. (well 3, now that I've cut PW).
DH 1/29: Changed sacrifice to destroy for flavor. Tweaked wording to remove targeting, remove 'may' and be clearer, but open to whatever wording we need here.
SPS 1/31/13: I'm going to be sad if they choose my goblin.
GSV 2/4/13: Agreed with Sam. Also, feels weird that this hits Planeswalkers—Red usually doesn't do that.
DH 2/5: Cutting PW. Part of the 'joke' is that it can hit the goblin.

Part of making Magic sets is finding the things that are fun and flavorful, and making sure those don't get swept away in the attempt to get every card to the "right" power level. In this case, Dave was right to defend the Ogre—then a Goblin—being able to be killed, as that is a trope we often do with Goblins, and it fit the flavor he imagined for the card. The token was changed to an Ogre later, but the flavor still works.

DH 9/9: Finishing uncommon cycle. Although these push boundaries of rare.
GSV 9/10: Mana Geyser has never looked so dangerous.
DH 9/12: Now rare.
DH 9/19: Moving from keyword to remove counter powers.

This cycle began as uncommon vanillas (plus their power/toughness setting). We found that they were fun, but needed some extra oomph to see play outside of Limited. So we gave them a little extra juice and moved them to rare.

KEN 11/8/2012: I almost played this turn 5 to cast two Yawning Fissures, but it only gave me 9 mana. :(

Ken Nagle, always the griefer. Yawning Fissure left the set, but Mana Geyser stayed in. It looked to many of the more Spikey developers like a pretty weak card, until the more multiplayer-focused players showed just how much mana Mana Geyser could produce and what kind of crazy turns it could lead to.

DH 9/5: Design from last meeting.
DH 9/19: 2UU → 3U to move away from Concentrate comparisons.

We wanted to get the voting cards to have reasonable costs, but we also needed them to dodge more "normal" cards. In this case, you get a Concentrate in a two-player game, so we wanted a card that felt different than that, and moving it to just one blue mana helped to accomplish that.

SM 7/23/12: Don't know if this is easier with new tokens or +1/+1 counters.
GSV 7/30: This card
Tabak 7/31: This card!
Tabak 7/31: Oh, right. The flavor here is so bizarre. Wolves show up! Oh wait, there's a dead body, the Wolves stay away and Beasts show up instead! Where the hell did the Wolves go?
DH 8/5: Moved to uncommon.
DH 8/7: And yes flavor here is weird. We also need to look at consolidating creature token types.
DH 8/7: Switching to 2 vs 3 tokens. Instead of 3/3s.
DH 9/21: Starts with one Wolf now. From 3GG → 3G. Bigger swing. Moves away slightly from Elephant Party.
KEN 10/16/2012: OMG I wanna Conspire this with Wort.

The idea on this was pretty simple—morbid gets you bigger tokens—but Tabak rightly points out that the flavor was pretty weird. Dave found a good point to fix it by changing it from bigger tokens to more of them, making the story of the card make a lot more sense.

SPS 7/12/12: I love that this gets mucky-mucky with opponents attacking each other.
GSV 7/16: Yeah, this has seemed excellent so far.

We wanted to make sure there were enough ways to play politics in all the colors and make other people's lives difficult. Provoke gave Green a "trick" to maybe untap an opponent's creature to provide a timely blocker or to force a block and get a threat out of the way.

DH 1/23: Was Ashnod's Altar. Wasn't doing much. Want a little anti-mill. Want a little digger possibility for UG (e.g. Wood Sage) returning in search-for-me guys, and for BR Legend possibly.

If you have played Conspiracy much, you might know that your own deck size can be your downfall. Reito Lantern gives everyone the opportunity to not deck, which I have personally seen swing quite a few games.

DH 8/28: Exploring creature name matters for UG.
DE 8/29/12: Gutsy. We could put this in white green, as it opens up squadron hawk. Not sure how that relates to the fliers deck, though.

We took several interesting shots at getting fun things for UG to do, but were having problems finding one that worked. I believe it was Gavin who had the idea of trying card-name matters, and giving UG the best ability to play with the card-name matters conspiracies.

DH 8/21: Was Surprise: Flying. Steering away from cards that can be perceived as combat tricks or spells that matter if they are cast as an 'instant'.
DH 8/29: Sync'd to Master Builder.
DH 9/9: C → U
AF 9/11: How high do you pick this? What if it was two 1/1 defenders?
DH 9/12: Unclear, it's at high 'B' in my estimation. You always 'play it' after all and protect against edicts, can chump block, etc.
Mago 9/24: Construct or Wall?
DH 9/26: Depends if we have a construct lord. Also not sure this isn't just supposed to be the card itself on battlefield instead of token. Sync'd to Master Builder tokens for now.

A big question for us was just how strong the draft-matters cards were. Sentinel Dispatch is a good example of a card with a pretty small impact (unless you are playing the defenders-matter deck), but one that doesn't "cost" anything.

DH 8/15: Trying this for tokens. Might mean I cut Symbiotic Elf due to too many types of tokens; white has similar issues with three different 1/1s atm.
Mago 9/24: Could use Presence of Gond.
DH 12/12: Squirrels > Elves.

I, for one, welcome our new Squirrel overlords.

SM 6/12/12: Originally was Shelter, but DH made the good point that Conspiracy doesn't like the "you control" clause, making this a better fit.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the goals of Conspiracy was to create interesting gameplay decisions. Shelter was more powerful than Stave Off, but we wanted to have as many cards as possible play a unique role here—one based around multiplayer interactions.

That's it for this week, tune in next week when Magic 2015 previews begin.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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