The M Files: Fate Reforged, Part 2

Posted in Latest Developments on January 23, 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.

Welcome back to the M Files! 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

AM: Allison Medwin—Magic Online editor

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: Magic designer—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

And now, we return to the M Files: Fate Reforged, Part 2. You can check out Part 1 here.

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

KEN 11/26/2013: Probably want CMC 2 here so it's not reanimating Karmic Guides?

DH 12/2: Fine letting FFL tell me if this has to be CMC. This is harder than Reveillark. Had avoided CMC while it was intro pack card, but still might be worth avoiding.

TML 12/2/2013: I prefer CMC 2 if we aren't needing to sell intro packs with them.

AP 3/13/14: FFL Tested this and found it not to be an issue. Could prevent us from reprinting Mulldrifters and Siege-Gang Commander type cards in the future. Hornet Queen is safe :)

We normally use CMC to keep any real shenanigans from going on. We're letting players have some shenanigans with Alesha. I hope we don't regret this one in a year. [Note: this quote flagged for possible "Skeletons in R&D's Closet" posterity.]

Humble Defector

EVL 11/12: In response, Grenade!

Mago 12/2: I like this card a lot, and I definitely think it's red.

SPS 2/22: This guy is adorable.

AP 3/13/14: My Searing Bloods always work now!

This guy was a lot of fun, in a totally top-down way. Adam Prosak points out his love for this card—and he's not kidding. When people were playing creatureless control decks in the FFL, he didn't move away from main-deck Searing Bloods, he moved toward main-deck Humble Defectors.

Lightning Shrieker

KEN 8/2/2013: Used to be double strike trick. Now a Fancy Lava Axe design from Creative/Design meeting.

ID 8/28/13: Super fun card. It's the dream of the 4x Lava Axe deck in a single card :)

GSV 08/03/13: One of the few times where the shuffling on a common seems worth it for the fun game play.

DH 9/4: Love it. Well other than the shuffle part, but I can deal with it here.

DH 10/8: Would be neat if people manage to gate this in games.

DH 11/6: Would be amusing to Snicker-Snack. [Temur Battle Rage]

AF 10/7: I like this card a lot.

EVL 11/12: I like it, but I didn't expect this common shuffler in a Dave set!

MJG 11/14/13: Awesome! It could go on bottom to cut down on shuffling.

DH 11/15: If it plays like Lava Axe I'm hoping you actually don't need to shuffle a lot and it won't see a ton of play. I like that you can hope to draw it again since that is also a good dream. The bottom is reasonable though. I'll think on it.

KEN 11/18/2013: This guy wins the Dragon saturation award—the only common Dragon in a small set while increasing chance of drawing a Dragon every turn.

TML 12/2/2013: I am going to slam first pick so many dragons! :)

Mago 2/17: I love this on many levels. Prefer to keep the shuffle.

David Humpherys is a man known for his dislike of shuffling, so you know this card has to be fun if he is letting it fly in one of his sets.

Mardu Scout

KEN 10/3/2013: Added blitz since red needs two. Kind of like Writ of Passage.

DH 10/29: Making similar moving this effect to uncommon soon.

TML 10/30/2013: Wish these didn't seem like the "right" numbers. :/

DH 11/5: Added two toughness & can't block.

TML 11/5/2013: Normally we have red must attack and black can't block.

EVL 11/12: I think Tom is right, but I am not positive.

DH 11/13: fair, may need to rethink this.

DH 11/13: back to vanilla 2/1 blitz.

KEN 11/18/2013: Matching mana/blitz cost makes it ambiguous what you did, you can change your mind based on opponent's mannerisms.

DH 12/2: I've been trying to avoid it as a rule. These are the numbers we want currently though. Players need to communicate what they are doing.

DH 2/14: 1R 2/1 → RR 3/1

Mardu Scout is doing a lot of things in this set—showing off dash (called blitz in playtesting), as well as paying off some of the raid rewards in Khans of Tarkir.

Temur Battle Rage

TML 10/30/2013: I hope this doesn't end up a C. Mechanic-bearing cards that end up rarely correct to play make me sad.

EVL 11/12: This card has big dreams. I think it is worth it.

DH 12/2: Believe this is a B not a C.

TML 12/2/2013: Then I am not sad. :)

KEN 2/12/2014: Just play tons of fatties and you're golden.

Mago 2/17: ^ I believe this appears in Latin on the Nagle family crest.

KEN 2/19/2014: "Fattius Castingus Plentium"

I wish Ken Nagle led every set, if just because it would make getting great Multiverse comments easier.

Frontier Siege

KEN 7/12/2013: New card.

KEN 7/22/2013: +1 mana.

KD 10/16: Another one that's probably too long.

KEN 7/31/2013: New design from EEF.

KEN 8/8/2013: More open-ended. Creature deals damage, creature spell cmc4+ → any source, any spell cmc4+.

DH 8/8: Neat.

KEN 8/20/2013: 3GG → 4G for more build around.

KEN 8/26/2013: This card has fans.

DH 10/9: 4G → 3G.

DH 10/16: Draw a card output becomes tokens.

DH 10/18: Might want different output to help tracking which is a concern from rare poll.

DH 10/25: Changed choice names

TML 10/30/2013: Love the reused tokens.

Tabak 11/5: Feels like the Clans ability wants more words. Is it supposed to trigger when I cast Pyroclasm?

DH 11/18: Need to think on this some more.

Del 12/1: Confirm that Pyroclasm + two creatures is supposed to trigger the last ability?

DH 12/2: Confirmed on Pyroclasm note. Added untargeted untap for a little more something on first power.

Mago 12/2: Untargeted untap feels weird; I'm not a fan.

DH 12/9: Changed first power to mana ramp since life gain felt particularly unsavage.

KEN 12/11/2013: Would like to see a bonus for 4+ damage that works in a deck with mono Lava Axes (my Rosheen Meanderer deck).

DH 1/3: Trying a new 2nd power. Everyone gets Chameleon Colossus activated text.

DH 1/22: Think the 2nd power is only one of these that doesn't stack. Are people liking the 2nd ability?

KEN 2/3/2014: I can use lots of 1st abilities to pay for the 2nd ability.

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.

TJA 2/28: Changing "it fights" to "that creature fights" because of distance to antecedent.

DH 2/21: New more draconic 2nd ability. Not sure this and Dragon land are both supposed to fight but we thought it was okay at dev meeting. Assume this still fits on card. Sort of stacks now at least, not very well though.

ID 4/4: This is the least exciting of the wars IMO. Might be worth having another brainstorm on the abilities.

Del 4/21: Added "an opponent controls" to the last ability to be consistent with other fight cards. Let me know if you want to consider alternatives.

DH 4/30: Changed to fliers etbing as green rares were too good in Limited. More build around, more draconic, which I like. I removed the mana cost since that seems safe given how much more narrow this is. It still may need mana. Weird text on a green card though. Intentionally optional.

DH 5/5: Want to try first power with GG in each main phase.

Del 6/25: "an opponent controls" → "you don't control" to line up with other fight cards in the block.

KEN 6/26/2014: Secretly this is Hornet Queen's Siege.

Once again, proof about just how hard these Sieges were to develop.

Shamanic Revelation

AF 10/7: There is a nobility to this card that Sphinx's Revelation lacks.

Aaron isn't wrong—while Shamanic Revelation lets you draw a lot of cards, it feels like it does it in a more honest way that can be interacted with.

Warden of the First Tree

ID 9/17/13: We don't often do permanent changes to creature (gaining keywords, etc.) without a way to mark them.

KEN 9/25/2013: Now mythic rare. Rotated the colors around. Memory issues but it plays well and team likes it.

DH 10/16: Cut a mana off all the abilities.

Tabak 11/4: I liked the aesthetics here until it was 7 mana to get eight counters. :)

DH 11/6: It used to be 8 mana. We'll see.

MJG 11/18/13: Cool card. How about 7 mana to get 7 counters?

DH 11/18: Intimidate becomes kithkin thing. Seven counters at top of pyramid now for aesthetics for some.

Del 12/1: Templated.

ID 12/17: Complicated card! Unlike Figure of Destiny, the abilities don't get activated in order, not all change the p/t, and those that do, do so in different ways. I'd be interested in streamlining how this levels up.

DH 2/28: Ways to improve tracking?

DH 2/28: Trying something new (and old).

Del 12/1: First ability felt too weird when it was floating over the table. Switched to a spliced ability.

Del 12/1: Retemplated second ability to match C14 Creeperhulk.

TJA 2/18: How to phrase first ability? A simple "CARDNAME can't be blocked…" would match the third ability, but I feel like people would expect it to only last until end of turn.

Tabak 2/19: Agreed. Like spliced first ability.

TJA 2/18: Wording of P/T setting effect (since it's permanent)?

TJA 2/28: "CARDNAME's base power and toughness become 4/4"?

DH 3/6: Changed around powers again based on FFL feedback.

Earlier versions of this card didn't use the Figure of Destiny-ish text, and instead let you add the creature's various abilities in whatever order you wanted. We found that to be a real tracking nightmare. I mean, you couldn't just add counters because the abilities added counters. It was just never clear how large the creature was. Instead, we went with the more sensible version of the card, which is hopefully easier to play with and against.

Whisperwood Elemental

DH 10/16: New design with lots of help from BH and AP.

DH 10/18: Currently second in the rare poll.

TML 10/30/2013: Reads like something I want to build a Commander deck around. Legendary?

DH 10/30: Sure. Doubt we want two of these in play anyhow. Hrmm nvm, that triggers his last ability when you draw your 2nd.

TML 11/8/2013: You don't have to turn the second one face up! Also, this was super miserable in Limited. Is it fun in Constructed? I'm guessing not super fun.

DH 11/13: Doesn't need to make recruits each upkeep or have these stats, but it was top 3 in rare poll. Hoping for at least a half a card here.

ID 11/13: Could be 2GG and recruit only on your upkeep? Master of the Wild Hunt was a fun card.

DH 11/25: Removed the recruit on your turn. More like MotWH as requested.

DH 11/27: Only lets you flip green creatures now

TML 12/2/2013: I can't tell if this is stronger or weaker than Master of the Wild Hunt, but I like this direction a lot.

TML 12/16/2013: I now think that we shouldn't be turning an unbounded number of recruits over for free, even only green ones. I would prefer some kind of check on this card.

KEN 12/17/2013: Can it simply tap to recruit? Special turn face up rules can be done later when Recruit is revisited.

DH 1/14: 2GG → 3GG

DH 1/15: Slightly new design. Moving away from free big creatures. No can get back any big spells you want. Your upkeep now.

KEN 1/29/2014: Can he turn any lands face up?

KD 10/16: I have no idea what to do with "face-down creature cards." The intent seems to be that I can only turn actual creature cards face up, but I don't know how to say that.

KD 10/17: New text intended to let Gods turn face up whether they're currently creatures.

Del 12/17: What's the trigger condition that stops me from getting two creatures a turn in 2HG?

AM 1/3/14: "At the beginning of each upkeep, if it's not your turn," a la Lighthouse Chronologist?

TJA 2/18: Changed to other recruit reminder text.

DH 3/6: New 2nd power to help with Crux of Fate (wrath).

DH 3/12: 4/4 → 5/5 FFL meeting.

KEN 3/13/2014: Now he goes in my Mayael Commander deck! 5/5 is kinda small there, so I'll sacrifice him to save bigger things.

DH 3/27: Changed back to opponent's upkeeps based on FFL feedback.

DH 4/2: 5/5 → 5/4

Del 4/16: In 2HG, that triggered ability triggers twice on your opponents' turn. Is that okay?

DH 4/22: Yes, fine with 2HG implications.

DH 4/23: FFL: only protects two other creatures. 5/4 → 4/4

DH 4/30: Changed sac ability again. Went with face up wording so we didn't have to splice text to avoid sac outlet loops.

Del 5/6: New ability to avoid infinite combo with Abzan Ascendancy + sac outlet. Was "Sacrifice CARDNAME: Whenever a face-up creature you control dies this turn, manifest the top card of your library."

Del 5/20: Added "face-up" to the effect.

Del 7/2: "At the beginning of each opponent's upkeep," changed to "At the beginning of your end step" to prevent scaling in multiplayer.

Whisperwood was a hard card to get right. We always want to make sure to have some number of cards showing off the set's mechanics that will show up in Constructed decks, and we felt pretty confident in the Elemental, but we also didn't want it to just blow up Constructed either. As a note, we made a change pretty late to change the timing so that you would only get one token a turn, not four or more a turn in multiplayer games. Looking back on it, the card probably would've been pretty frustrating with that text.


DH 10/22: Changed to X based on a MaGo suggestion. May need to kill other X spells and rethink the common green cards now.

TML 10/30/2013: Like.

KEN 11/4/2013: Mystery Hydra.


Atarka, World Render

DH 12/9: Trying double strike for now. And 6/5 which might be too much for Limited?

TML 12/16/2013: This card failed to win me any games today. :)

DH 1/13: Gains trample to become more green. Loses a toughness so you can now maybe remove this monster.

AP 3/13/14: I've enjoyed this with Xenagos God in FFL. Pretty fun to have a splashy high mana cost combo.

Atarka and Xenagos—best friends forever. Of for at least eight months.

Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury

DH 1/14: 5/4 → 4/5

KEN 3/17/2014: Do we like 5/5 here with "other creatures get +1/+0"? I always have to read this guy.

ID 3/28: KEN's suggestion is complicated by the fact that this triggers off of other dragons you control attacking. Which wouldn't get the bonus?

KEN 5/6/2014: Nmd, I like the card as is now.

Del 5/8: I wonder why this wording and not "attacking creatures get +1/+0 until end of turn."

Del 6/12: DH says no specific reason but leaving as is.

Getting the Fate Reforged Dragons just right took a lot of work. As you might guess, we have a few Dragons in Dragons of Tarkir, and we needed for these Dragons to both be exciting but also to not step on the toes of those Dragons and keep them from seeing play. I think we ended up with pretty good designs, especially for the Dragon lords that fulfill all of those requirements.

Hero's Blade

TML 10/30/2013: I'll play this with my Honor-Worn Shaku!

DH 12/11: +2/+2 → +3/+1

AL 2/7: This felt most like a Mardu ability, so I modeled it after Zurgo's blade design.

ID 3/24: Tried this in FFL and it was pretty fun. +3/+2 or some other small bonus might get it to be a fringe thing in Constructed.

AF 4/3: I'd love this to be good enough to incentivize a legend-filled Standard deck.

DH 4/4: +3/+1 → +3/+2

It's always nice when we can print cards that incentivize people to care about something they aren't used to caring about—at least in Standard. Hero's Blade is a really huge bonus for an Equipment, and I hope that it gives people the opportunity to play with some sweet legendary creatures in Standard.

Crucible of the Spirit Dragon

DH 4/3: New version. Now better Shimmering Grotto. Added a mana to reusable fight from way back version.

DH 4/16: New version again. Aiming for at least half a card.

DH 4/21: Added a mana to the counter addition.

Del 4/22: New card fits.

KEN 6/9/2014: "or Ugin spells."?!

Sorry, Ken—there is only so much text we can fit onto one card. This is attempting to be part of a cycle, showing off what was Ugin's bones in Khans of Tarkir, but a totally different land in Fate Reforged. What will this land look like in Dragons of Tarkir? Only time will tell.

Well, that's it for this week. Join me next week for Time Travel Week.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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