The M Files: Magic Origins, Part 2

Posted in Latest Developments on July 31, 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 on Magic Origins! We left off last time in the section of black cards, so it's time to get to red.

But first, our cast of characters:

 SM: Shawn Main, Magic Origins lead designer

 SPS: That's a me! Magic Origins's lead developer

 MJG: Mark Globus, game design architect

 AF: Aaron Forsythe, the big boss man

 EEF: Ethan Fleisher, designer

 DE: Dan Emmons, former designer

 AP: Adam Prosak, developer

 TJA: Tim Aten, editor

 BrH: Bryan Hawley, developer

 KEN: Ken Nagle, designer

 DOH: Dan Helland, design coordinator

 ID: Ian Duke, developer

 DH: David Humpherys, development manager

 MJJ: Mons Johnson, duel masters development manager

 GSV: Gavin Verhey, Reconstructed columnist and designer

 Tabak: Matt Tabak Rules manager and Magic Origins lead editor

 DEL: Del Laugel, lead editor and manager

 TML: Tom LaPille, former developer

 GT: Gerry Thompson, former development intern

 NMD: Nick Davidson, principal designer, digital R&D

 MARO: Mark Rosewater, head designer and the set's advisor

 EVL: Erik Lauer, head developer

 MaGo: Mark Gottlieb, design manager


Firefiend Elemental

SM 9/30/13: Was the adorable 4R 3/1 veteran 3 uncommon, becomes the less-swingy 4R 3/2 veteran 2 common.

NMD: 10/7/13: Well, he was originally 3R 1/1 veteran 4. But that's far too adorable.

SM 10/9/13: Yes, our brains would explode from the adorableness.

SPS 1/8: Trying numbers that are a little different.

SPS 1/24: Now a 2/3

SPS 2/3: Now a 3R

SPS 3/17: Back to a 2/2. Was too strong as a veteran.

SPS 3/27: Now a 3/2 RW Auras/veteran.

SPS 7/23: Now a 3/1.

SPS 9/19: Now 3/2 renown 1.

This card was hard to get right. It started off as "Man of Impeccable Timing" and the gag was that he was very weak, but if you could get in just once (perhaps with his impeccable timing), then he was great. The problem is that cards with that kind of delta are not very fun at common, and not very fun at all. We kept playing around with numbers that would make it work with renown 2, but found that the 3/2 haste version and renown 1 was just the more fun version.

Titan's Strength

Del 7/14: Welcome to evergreen status, scry!

This was the first reprint with scry I put in the set. I had been toying with trying to find the right red combat trick, and this one worked perfectly.

Goblin Piledriver

SPS 2/24; Trying this out. May be the only protection card in the set, if it makes it to print. Could also reprint removing pro-blue. Probably does very good things for Modern, though.

ID 3/13: Might be worth having FFL sketch out what the Modern Goblins deck looks like, just to double check.

AP 3/27/14: There is an existing Modern Goblin deck that is not that strong. I'm fairly certain that reprinting this won't cause a serious issue. Shared Animosity is the current payoff.

Mago 4/7: Protection?

EVL 4/15: Maybe this is what Modern Goblins needs. :)

This card was tried in core sets before, but protection kept killing it. But, as protection from color looked to be on the outs, and with core sets going away, I made it my mission to get this to print! I hope you like it.

Scab-Clan Berserker

SM 11/10/13: Needed a cheap red veteran.

SPS 2/24: Up to 3 mana and now has haste. Damage up to 2, but only counts non-creatures.

ID 6/12: Yum, yum, break out the library paste!

An earlier four-mana version was interesting, but not usually large enough to get by, and too late to do much. The three-mana version was less powerful against every deck, since they can still cast blockers, but better positioned against spell-heavy decks. Seemed right for a Gruul card.

Molten Vortex

SM 12/9/13: Updated Seismic Assault.

ID 2/15: Excited to have a fixed version of this appealing effect, however the numbers end up.

SPS 4/3: Down to R to cast.

TML 4/28/2014: These numbers are appealing. I think this is in a good spot if it's workable here.

MJJ 6/18: This + Aggressive Mining seems like a thing.

ID 7/3/14: Or with the TimTwister.

Seismic Assault is a great card, but RRR is a little too hard to cast, and its activation cost is a little cheaper than we wanted for Standard. The design handoff was a 2R enchantment that cost R to activate, but I bumped it down to R, which made the card feel like it was in a spot more comparable to Seismic Assault.

Enthralling Victor

SPS 4/4: New card. Needed to replace Scorched Rusalka.

SPS 4/7: There was too much pinging. Now a guy who gains control of other creatures, but just small guys.

GT 4/17: Should this have the ability to give himself haste?

DH 7/3: This is cute.

TJA 8/20: Oh, Victor! I'm a married woman! *blush*

SPS 10/13: Changing to Human Warrior. Human Hunk not yet a supported creature type.

TJA 10/20: I hear he's being recruited for the Abzan clan.

Enthralling Victor was the playtest name, but when the art came back, he quickly picked up Victor as his actual name. We were amused enough by the idea that his name was Victor, not that he was a victor, that we left it on. Sometimes, things just work out.

Magmatic Insight

SPS 4/1: New card.

DH 7/3: Greedy players can lose some games with this.

SPS 8/18: Moving to uncommon.

I began wanting Tormenting Voice in this slot, but the card was in KTK, and I couldn't use cards from that block, so it would need new art. Then the card was added to DTK, which really put it over the line. I looked for a new card to take up the slot. I knew R, discard a nonland to draw 2 would probably be way too crazy for eternal formats, so trying it out with land was the next step. Although I liked the effect, Dave was right that leaving it at a common was probably asking for too many players to take a risk in Limited games, and losing as a result.

Skyraker Giant

SPS 6/9: New card. Didn't want the spider.

BrH 7/22: It's super weird to me that we have both 3G 4/3 and 3R 4/3 reach.

SPS 7/28: Down to 4/2. Also, the 3G 4/3 is deaaaad.

SPS 8/21: Now to 4/3.

Del 11/5: How did reach get on a red card in the core set? *link to R&D wiki entry for color pie*

SPS 11/6: Development is interested in putting reach in Red's color pie. This is testing the waters.

When we were discussing the addition of prowess and menace to the keyword lists, one thing that came up was that red might want the ability to have some reach, so it can have more points of interaction than just removal. I started off with Needlepeak Spider, but as creative pointed out, putting reach in red seemed fine, but it made less sense to move the Spider creature type as well. I liked the idea of red reach differing from green in that it has a higher power than toughness, so it works differently.

Will this stick? Who knows, but I (for one) hope so.


The Great Aurora

SPS 3/20: New card from hole filling.

MR 4/02/14: Very red effect, but flavor's so awesome we can probably stretch it. Having the land effect helps.

SPS 7/3: Removing the life gain. Hopefully the game actually ends.

SM 7/20: Cool.

Flavor can go a long way to justifying a card's text. Having a card for such a pivotal event in the Lorwyn storyline was great, and this design just felt right.

Gaea's Revenge

[Gaea's Revenge]

BrH 8/11: Sam, you're a kind and benevolent soul, giving us peons such a champion against our UB overlords.

In our FFL, blue-black control decks were very strong, and Gaea's Revenge gave a lot of other decks that were struggling the tools to fight it—which is how the card worked from the beginning.

Wild Instincts

SPS 2/14: Instant Prey Upon instead of old Prey Upon.

KEN 3/12/2014: For Magic Duels: Origins, this would be nice if Nissa could cast it. Prey Upon feels very Garruk. Garruk has black spells now for killing things.

SPS 3/25: Now a sorcery but adds +2/+2.

Elves was a challenging archetype for Origins because green's fight cards don't work well with them. It meant that this card was really, really good in some of the green decks, and really, really bad in others. That's usually good for removal, but when green really only gets one piece, it kind of needs to be more general. Giving a bonus of +2/+2 was enough to ensure that all green decks could play it, and that every green deck in Limited had enough removal to work with.

Undercity Troll

SPS 1/24: Wolfir Avenger was a little stronger than I was happy with.

SPS 3/27: Now up to 3 to regen.

KEN 4/14/2014: Should we just make regen be "2G: CARDNAME gains indestructible until end of turn."?

SPS 8/24: Down to 1G to regen.

SPS 9/5: 2G to regen, but 1G to cast.

Regeneration is something that we talk a lot about as an evergreen keyword. It is weird, because the flavor doesn't totally make sense to new players. The thing isn't regenerating from the dead, it's not dying at all. We already have a keyword for that—indestructible. We talk every once and a while about killing it, but the fact that the flavor of the name regenerate on a Troll or a Skeleton makes more sense than indestructible, as well as the game play interactions, have kept it alive for this long.

Dwynen's Elite

SPS 4/15: New card.

SPS 9/5: Now G to get an Elf.

SPS 10/8: Trying as a new thing. Now a 2/2 that makes a 1/1 if you have another Elf.

The original version said 'whenever CARDNAME or another non-token Elf enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay 1G. If you do, get a 1/1 Elf." It wasn't doing much, so we moved it down to G, and it was suddenly really busted. Cute, but we didn't exactly need to make the Legacy/Modern Elf decks that easy. The new version is better in the Standard beatdown versions, and might even hold a place in the Eternal formats.

Conclave Naturalists

SPS 4/3: New version of Stomphowler, since that card has a bad trigger.

I am a huge fan of Indrik Stomphowler, but the trigger it had both wasn't a "may" and could target your own stuff, which was not what we wanted. So, instead, we made up this new version that is just an all-upside version of Indrik Stomphowler. Hooray for progress.


Alhammarret's Archive

SPS 4/28: Hole-filling result.

Tabak 4/28: Is this supposed to not affect costs, draw step on purpose? I assume yes, but the template to do that is awful. See also: Boon Reflection, Thought Reflection.

KEN 4/29/2014: We miss you, Sphinx's Revelation!

MJG 5/15/14: Fun!

SPS 6/19: Making legendary to start. Having two in play was SOME GOOD.

KEN 7/14/2014: This seems dangerous with something like looters, to find it and discard excess copies. Putting "pay X" makes it fair but takes it out of Constructed?

SPS 7/16: This has problems on Magic Online with the current wording. May need it to just skip the first draw on your turn à la Chains of Mephistopheles. I can't wait to read this line in a future M Files.

SM 7/20: How does this replacement effect interact with my opponent's Poisoned Cure?

SPS 8/7: Poorly.

Presented without comment.

War Horn

TJA 11/13: ORI-flamme. :B

Also Presented without comment.


Foundry of the Consuls

SM 12/13: Replacing gizmo factory.

SPS 1/1: Updating to Thopters w/ highflying.

SPS 2/6: Thopters can now block ground guys.

KEN 2/12/2014: Do we want control decks playing no threats except this? I suppose that's better than winning with Elixir of Immortality.

Tabak 2/17: I'm now imagining decks whose win condition is animating Elixir of Immortality and beating you in the face with it.

SPS 2/27: Now sac, but you get two Thopters.

KEN 5/12/2014: Proud to serve "protect the Planeswalker" duty.

The original version was more to activate, made one Thopter, but didn't sacrifice. That both made the FFLers nervous because of how strong it looked, and the less power-level savvy people unhappy with how weak it looked. Not a great spot to be in. Instead, we moved it to a sacrifice, but gave you a bigger board presence—something that made both groups happier.

That's it for this week. Join me next week for more tales of Magic's development.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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