The M Files: Fate Reforged

Posted in Latest Developments on January 16, 2015

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.

It's time once again to return to the Multiverse! Frequent readers of this column will know that Multiverse is our internal database used to track Magic cards already printed, early in design, and everything in between. One of the duties of being a designer or developer is making occasional passes on the cards in Multiverse and leaving comments. Looking back on the file a year later provides insights to the design and development processes, and a few laughs. You'll find both here.

But first, our cast of characters.

AF: Aaron Forsythe—senior director of Magic

AL: Adam Lee—Magic creative designer

AP: Adam Prosak—Magic developer

DE: Dan Emmons—former Magic designer

Del: Del Laugel—Magic editor

DH: David Humpherys—lead developer of Fate Reforged

EEF: Ethan Fleisher—designer

EVL: Erik Lauer—Magic's head developer

GSV: Gavin Verhey—Magic experience designer; ReConstructed columnist

ID: Ian Duke—Magic developer

JS: James Sooy—UI Designer

KD: Kelly Digges—Magic creative designer

KEN: Ken Nagle—lead designer of Fate Reforged

Mago: Mark L. Gottlieb—head designer of Dragons of Tarkir

MJG: Mark Globus—principle design for Magic

MJJ: Mons Johnson—Duel Masters developer

SPS: Sam Stoddard—That's a-me!

Tabak: Matt Tabak—editor and rules manager

TJA: Timothy Aten—Magic editor

TML: Tom LaPille—former Magic developer; also the co-lead of Dragons of Tarkir

Monastery Mentor

AF 10/2: "Old Pyromancer"

TML 12/2/2013: This thing is saucy.

MJG 2/27/14: This doesn't read mythic rare to me.

AP 3/12/14: It plays very mythic rare. It's the coolest kid on the battlefield.

DH 3/12: 2/1 → 2/2 FFL meeting.

Monastery Mentor

Monastery Mentor was a card that we found very fun, and while there was some disagreement about it reading mythic rare or not, when we started casting spells with it in play, it lived up to its mythic rare status.

Sandblast

KEN 2/26/2014: I killed a Dragon with it, but in game 2 a Giant Growth went over the top of me. Happy to make Giant Growth better.

Sandblast

It's always good when our common removal spells have different weaknesses from each other. That makes Sandblast much more interesting than just a Divine Verdict variant.

Sandsteppe Outcast

DH 10/8: Back to the 3-drop spot. Still not sold on this ability, although we'll need it somewhere. Trying 1/2.

DH 1/3: Suggest Unmarked (or Abzan or Mardu)

DH 11/5: Now a Seller of Songbirds. Think this could be a good choice and helps RW which people aren't playing. MaGo suggestion.

DH 2/28: 1/2 → 2/1. Also switching the black common.

AP: 3/13/14: The switch to 2/1 both made the card much stronger and make me less likely to choose both modes. I'm almost always making a spirit if my 2/1 can trade with a morph

KEN 5/14/2014: Preferred these guys at 1/2, since 1/2 and 2/3 has the widest range in 3-drop 2/2 world.

DH 5/21: The change was to help out RW. I'd generally agree it was more interesting at the previous stats.

Sandsteppe Outcast

One of the themes of Fate Reforged was the idea of "a crossroads of history," and as Mark Rosewater often tells us—if your theme doesn't show up at common, then it isn't your theme. In this case, Ken went with having cards like Sandsteppe Outcast that gave the player two options—each of which represented a divergent version of history. For us, this meant trying to get the two options pretty close to each other in power level. For Sandsteppe Outcast, you may choose the Spirit option more frequently on an empty board; the version with a counter on it interacts with all of your "counters matter" card in Khans of Tarkir.

Soul Summons

MJG 8/29/13: Seems like it would be a fun instant (like Raise the Alarm).

KEN 8/29/2013: Sorcery → Instant.

EEF 9/3/13: This is much more appealing now.

KEN 9/17/2013: Changing back, Instant → Sorcery, since it's different enough from the black common Butcher Ghoul.

DH 10/1: Think we cut this and try to put it in green where morph/facedown is more of a thing. Don't think white is supposed to have two common recruit cards.

KEN 10/1/2013: Trying GU getting the recruit x2 card.

KEN 10/3/2013: 1W Sorcery → 2W Instant. Making the Monk Realist the 2-drop.

DH 10/8: Don't want this with flash. Have the green card doing that and I think this pulls the power away from the recruit part.

EVL 11/12: What is a comparable strength card? Would you draft this or a 2/3? 2/2 Vigilance?

DH 11/13: I'd say between those two, better than 2/2 vigilance, worse than 2/3. Perhaps in the neighborhood of 2/2 Kung Fu in terms of positioning (good on attacking) but again weaker than that.

Soul Summons

Recruit was the playtest name for manifest. One of the hard things for us to figure out was how to evaluate the cards. What percentage of the time the creature was a vanilla 2/2, what percentage it could actually flip up—and just how much value the bluffing was worth. We needed all of that information to figure out just how strong the cards were for balancing the set in Limited.

Soulfire Grand Master

Usually, I give you just the developer comments. For this card, let's take a look into what the editors had to say about the card:

Tabak 11/4: Instants and sorceries with lifelink, eh? The rules support it, but we've purposely not gone down this road before.

Del 12/2: Templated last ability to improve its aim. Note that this can now target a noncard spell, but it won't allow you to cast it.

Mago 2/17: "The next" vs. "target"?

TJA 2/28: Is this meant to be passive voice? Should it be:

The next time you cast an instant or sorcery spell from your hand, exile it as it resolves instead of putting it into your graveyard.

Del 3/17: Current text is consistent with Insist, Overmaster. The effect is trying to affect the spell (and how it resolves), not the act of casting the spell. If an active verb is required, I think the text would look something like this:

Exile the next instant or sorcery spell you cast from your hand this turn instead of putting it into your graveyard.

(I find that text somewhat baffling.)

TJA 3/28: Trying a different functionality. Was:

1{u/r}{u/r}: The next instant or sorcery spell you cast from your hand this turn is exiled as it resolves instead of being put into your graveyard. If a card is exiled this way, you may cast that card without paying its mana cost.

Del 4/21: Are we good with the pronouns here?

TJA 5/6: I think so?

Del 6/13: FAQ some spells cause things other than themselves to deal damage, and that won't cause you to gain life.

Soulfire Grand Master

These are the kind of things editors discuss. While the design and development teams want to make sure the cards play well, the editing team is responsible for making sure the cards work and that their wording lines up with previous cards for better rulings in the future.

Monastery Siege

KEN 7/12/2013: New cycle.

KEN 7/31/2013: Used to draw cards on casting spells. Now gives various things flash.

EEF 9/3/13: Nice.

DH 9/18: A bit weird to have 4 card types on one half and one on the other side. Might move PWs? Or just have one side be flash and something else related on the other side.

KEN 9/19/2013: Kung fu says "noncreature" so the noncreature modes are on the Jeskai side.

DH 9/23: Makes sense. Would be more clear in message if we can say noncreature spells then? If I choose Jeskai I shouldn't be able to flash enchantment creatures.

KEN 9/23/2013: Coalesced types into "noncreature" spells. I had fun with this and Exploit in draft.

DH 10/25: Changed choice names

DH 10/25: Want to redesign

DH 10/25: New placeholder. Teferi's Powers. Trying good for me, bad for you pairings.

DH 10/25: Probably want powers on these that stack. Which these haven't.

TML 10/30/2013: I think it is less important to get these to stack than usual, as you can pick each thing once if you have two.

DH 10/30: Storywise I think you want to be able to choose the same side in multiples.

EVL 11/13: City of Solitude is a risky thing; when we really need control to answer a combo deck, the combo deck locks it out.

DH 11/18: Similar to mini team design. Their 2nd power scaled but it seemed too long.

ID 11/20: Second mode is worse than a common in ISD (Curse of the Bloody Tome)

KEN 11/25/2013: This works against Witchbane Orb. :)

DH 12/2: Second power moves to 3 cards then?

DH 12/11: Changed 2nd power to mill two per card you draw

MJJ 1/8: It could be an end of turn trigger (which would also make the card stronger, of course)

TJA 2/24: Removed "Choice—" from start of triggered abilities, added intervening ifs.

TJA 3/6: Adding back "ability words" for now, but keeping intervening ifs.

TJA 4/4: New template.

DH 1/3: Changing loot to precombat main to ease game play even though the words make me sad.

Mago 2/17: Why not loot at beginning of upkeep? To make the loot happen after the draw for the turn? Could trigger at beginning of draw step, though I suppose that's confusing.

Tabak 2/19: How about end step? Cleaner words, instant gratification, sufficiently distant from draw step.

Del 2/19: Draw step trigger isn't confusing if we follow Anvil of Bogardan's Oracle template.

MJG 3/5/14: Not a fan of "precombat main phase" words. Can the abilities be sync'd up by changing the first ability to "If you chose Khans, whenever you would draw a card, instead draw 2 cards, then discard a card."

TML 3/26/2014: Dragonlords side changed from "Whenever you draw a card, each opponent puts the top two cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard."

DH 4/3: Fixed template, I think. Still color pie and functionality questions.

Del 4/21: Strongly prefer "At the beginning of your draw step, draw an additional card, then discard a card."

DH 4/22: Will try Del's wording and see if people trip on it.

Monastery Siege

When looking at the hardest cards in the set to get right, look no further than the various Sieges. I mentioned last week a little about Outpost Siege, but this is some of the long lineage of all the insane various changes that went through for just one of these Sieges. The difficult part was getting the two sides to be about the same power level, as well as making sure they play well in multiples.

Renowned Weaponsmith

TML 9/16/2013: I have no idea what this is doing.

DH 9/26: Move to two mana in hopes of an A or closer. Changed second ability to only need 1 mana.

AF 10/2: So these cards aren't in this set?

KEN 10/3/2013: Correct, he "invents" a HUE card or a LOU card.

KEN 11/13/2013: Seems coolest for this guy to invent Equipment since he's a guy that can wield them. Equipment is a colorless mana sink, too.

MJG 11/14/13: Sweet!

AL 12/12: Inventor researching war items.

HUE—Superior War Bow.

LOU—Flask of Dragonfire

MJJ 1/2: this card seems powerful. Anything that taps for mana = its cost is worthy of testing

JS 1/7/14: Would someone pick him just as a decent blocker? 1/2 would make sure the Johnny drafters got him and easier comparison with Stoneforge.

DH 3/14: He's generally not picked very early as is. Want him to be appealing so I prefer 1/3.

AF 4/3: If this guy is good, does he prevent us from making good artifacts for a year? Is that ok? How can we tell?

KEN 5/14/2014: My guess is he enables a blue-based deck that wouldn't otherwise exist. Akin to Grand Architect.

Renowned Weaponsmith

Because this set is exploring the "crossroads of history" thing, we wanted to make a creature that worked totally differently in each timeline—in that the thing he invents changes! What will Vial of Dragonfire do? Only time will tell….

Supplant Form

DH 11/11: New card from hole filling. Worded to help clarify legend situation. Template could be off.

MJG 11/14/13: Looks fun!

DH 11/26: Spoke with MaRo about this not being a creature and that sounded fine in this instance since it is harder to do as a creature.

Supplant Form

When working on sets, we put out hole filling emails to various people not just in R&D to give them a chance to create new Magic cards for our sets. Supplant Form is one example of what comes out of this process.

Ancestral Vengeance

TML 10/30/2013: Finally a clean way to do this! <3

EVL 11/13: Nice

MJG 11/14/13: Cool card.

DH 11/25: Added a mana.

SPS 12/3/13: This makes me happy.

DH 2/14: 2B → BB

Ancestral Vengeance

The "card that steals a +1/+1 counter" is something we often find ourselves wanting to do, but something that is pretty hard to get to work just right. This was a good execution that worked great in our set to go with the "+1/+1 counters matter" theme in Abzan.

Crux of Fate

KEN 10/17/2013: SEXY + TEXT = SEXTY!

DH 9/23: Don't often do this type of sweeper at mythic rare?

KEN 9/26/2013: Back down to rare.

DH 10/24: Taking out of wave 1 in case we do special art treatment here, tbd.

DH 12/5: adding back into the wave now that we've settled on this as the bolas/ugin fight piece.

KD 10/17: Doing something weird for the rare poll so these look more intentional.

KEN 7/12/2013: Card that sums up the near future of Tarkir in both timelines.

DH 8/8: Could see this costing 3BB. Let's try it. Can't curve into this like the JOU enchantments card.

MJG 8/29/13: Awesome card! Is it supposed to be black or white?

GSV 08/03/13: One of my favorite cards in the set.

EEF 9/3/13: This is THE crossroads card, IMO.

TML 9/16/2013: I have no idea how to do art for this if it isn't a split card.

KEN 9/19/2013: Ugin vs Bolas?

KEN 10/3/2013: Design team's favorite card!

AF 10/7: This card record shows me the power of the bulleted list for modal cards. Seriously, this presentation is miles better than the typical slog.

Tabak 2/19: Dragon creatures. Non-Dragon creatures. Both bulleted options, but only one will get the bullet. Choose one.

AP 3/13/14: You think Dragons care about bullets?

Crux of Fate

In many ways this was THE card that was supposed to sell the whole "timelines" aspect of the set, and I think it delivers. It gave us an opportunity to show off Ugin vs. Bolas, and there was a very good reason why it was the first card shown off from the set.

Dark Deal

KEN 8/8/2013: New card for filling yards.

DH 8/9: Suspect we'll want this to cost 1B, so making it so. Some feel bad stuff here, and possibly Dredge issues. Also, see You Make the Card.

EEF 9/3/13: YEAH You Make the Card!

ID 9/11/13: Net negative fun for all!

TML 9/16/2013: wat

DH 9/26: Added a mana to this.

AF 10/7: Clearly for the Nath Commander deck. I don't mind this card.

DE 10/11/13: I think this is a red card? Red just has sucky card draw, I'd like to give it Tolarian Winds one of these days.

DH 10/30: It is putting players down a card so mimics discard. I can see that justifying black here. Other opinions?

KEN 10/30/2013: I guess it should cost BR. However, black is a delve color and red isn't for this block.

TML 11/8/2013: We could just Delirium Skeins instead?

MJG 11/14/13: Cool card.

Dark Deal

One of the great parts of this card was it gave us a chance to try and break Waste Not. Will it work? Only time will tell.

Sultai Emissary

KEN 9/4/2013: W → 1B. Now like Butcher Ghoul.

DH 9/16: In a good spot power level wise.

TML 10/30/2013: This is a nice card. [Louie Mechanic] will love it.

EVL 11/13: Good with Delve.

Sultai Emissary

Getting Fate Reforged to work meant creating cards that worked differently in Fate/Khans/Khans draft, and Dragons/Dragons/Fate draft. Sultai Emissary is one card that helps that out. Why? Well, you'll have to see in a few months.

Typhoid Rats

Del 12/2: Also in M15.

KEN 12/2/2013: Planeswalkers would do well to invest in a typhoid inoculation, it's spreading all over the Multiverse.

Typhoid Rats

Also in Conspiracy. What can I say? We like us some Rats in R&D.

Well, this is a pretty long article, and I'm not even close to finishing up Multiverse comments for Fate Reforged. Come back neck week, when I'll go over red, green, and all the rest.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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