Skeletons in R&D's Closet, Part 4

Posted in Latest Developments on June 17, 2016

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.

Hello, and welcome to another edition of Skeletons in R&D's Closet. You can read the previous ones here, here, and here. This time, I wanted to do something a little different, and instead of just focusing on the broken cards that we missed, take a second to look at some of the weirder and wackier cards from Magic's history. I want to try and give you a sense of what we were thinking when working on them. To find a start, I asked Twitter what cards they'd like to see.

The card I got the most questions about was Goblin Game.

Goblin Game

D1: Could this have too many cheating and confusion issues?

D2: Call them counters instead of "objects" for clarity?

D3: Priced for casual play and I think it's fine.

D4: Shouldn't the first life loss be the number of objects he or she revealed?

D5: Shouldn't there be a cap on the number of objects? You don't want players bringing in 8,000 beads for some wacky life-gain combo deck with this card in it.

D5: Does a player lose life equal to the number he or she revealed, or equal to the total number revealed by all players? If all players, doesn't this card say, "Pay 5R. This game is a draw"?

I wish there could've been more here—but the big takeaway is that this is one of those cards that we knew as a fun casual card. We were willing to put up with the awkwardness that was involved with it, so long as it wasn't something happening at a very high rate.

Now, there were other cards we thought were casual, but kind of missed on.

Painter's Servant

D1: I'm not seeing the target audience for this card. Can this overwrite other colors, play up the hoser side?

D2: The target audience is Nantuko Blightcutter! And Reap!

D3: As long as it affects spells/other cards, I see lots of nifty (not necessarily Constructed-worthy) combo potential. If it changes to permanents only, then it's just Shifting Sky.

Clearly, nobody was thinking about Grindstone on this one.


Mind over Matter

D1: It's a Cadaverous Bloom, and it works with your Winter Orb. It's a Flood and a Relic Barrier.

D2: This seemed fairly scary and annoying in playtest.

D3: Changed from 2UUU to 2UUUU. Feeling was it needed to be 4UUU or 2UUUU. Should be okay at this cost.

D3: Tested some at 2UUUU. Seems fine.

Hindsight is 20/20, etc.

Blazing Shoal

D1: The creature-kill version could go here if we have a better black effect we like.

D2: Nervous about pitch spells that hit players (Fireblast). But it may be there are enough conditions on this that no deck that can consistently make this work for a lot of damage.

D3: Nice design, theoretically best in a weenie deck until you read the line about X being CMC. Still might be pretty good.

D4: Mountain, Raging Goblin, two of these, and two Searing Flesh equals a first-turn kill. There are other cards you can use other than Searing Flesh, but that's not the point. I usually hate these speed examples, but this card seems extreme. The potential for doing easy, insane amounts of damage is really high.

D5: First-turn combos are hard, but second-turn ones are pretty easy to imagine with this card.

D6: I think that the deck this creates is so inconsistent that it's okay, but we should definitely test.

D7: I played it. My deck sucked, but it could kill quickly out of left field sometimes. I believe somewhere someone will abuse the hell out of this, and we'll be sad.

D3: This card still on the table or shelved?

D5: It's still in.

D5: In our meeting today, D8 said this card would be "no problem."

D2: "No problem" in Type 2. In a world where Erratic Explosion/Draco made Top 32 in an Extended Pro Tour, this card could make it in Extended.

Cue the Laverne and Shirley theme song with Blazing Shoal and Progenitus. Obviously, there was no real way to know that this would work with infect, but there was clearly the idea this was a card that could work as a combo in the same way that Draco/Erratic Explosion worked. We were willing to take that kind of risk at that time—which was reasonable, considering breaking it took the better part of a decade, a then-unimagined mechanic, and a new format.

For another dangerous-looking card, I looked up the comments and found this:

Show and Tell


Hmm...I have no idea what the Lotus Vale problem was. Maybe that, when working on Sixth Edition rules, it was clear that Lotus Vale would turn this into a turn-one play if it wasn't errata'd. I don't know. But in my further investigations on another card in this article, I found this:

Summer Bloom


Hmm...still kind of mysterious. I assume this was a similar issue, where the proposed Sixth Edition rules changes would have caused problems with Lotus Vale, unless we made it so you couldn't use it as a Black Lotus. I looked up the Lotus Vale problem in Multiverse, and found the tag on the following cards.

So, what exactly was the Lotus Vale problem? The world may never know.


D1: Filling a hole...needs to be tested, could be good in a bad way in Constructed (could also be at urza-tron power level, which is what we're hoping for).

D1: Should this be "you control" or "in play." In play could be pretty cool in team games. If power level is not a concern, then I think we should change to that.

D1: Was uncommon, but we had one too many uncommons and a hole at common. Team hasn't talked about this decision yet. My thought was to give up on finding more instant artifacts and fill one of those holes with this. Currently the set has one common too many.

D1: Team fine with this at common (and numbers work now). Team switching to "in play." Let the team players have their fun.

D2: This would be an interesting place to use a land subtype—could make this a Lair and have it count Lairs in play. Interaction with the Planeshift Lairs seems okay.

D1: Team likes D2's suggestion to give this a subtype, but we don't think "Lair" is the correct one.

D1: The subtype should be something we can use in future years when

D3: When what? Changed to "Locus," which seems flavorful yet generic to me.

Sure enough, when we returned to Mirrodin, the subtype came up to help create the sixteen-Post deck in Modern! So well that we banned it.

Now, sometimes we knew cards could be a problem but left them in because they might also be cool.


D1: In for Future Sight.

D2: Banning Show and Tell in Legacy yet?

D1: Now at ten.

Something tells me moving it from nine to ten wasn't the thing that has kept it or Show and Tell from being banned in Legacy. But I could be wrong.

This article isn't just about the strong cards that we laughed at for years, only to see them show up as combo cards. It's also about the true weirdos that really made people do a double-take on them and give them way more attention than you would expect for cards of their power level.

Norin the Wary

D1: Is printing a blank piece of cardboard really a good idea?

D2: Nice execution of the concept. He's scared.

D3: Should be end of turn.

D2: Agreed.

D4: Can this be a Barbarian, Warrior, or Berserker?

D5: New version, was "Haste; Whenever a player plays a spell, remove CARDNAME from the game. Return CARDNAME to play under its owner's control at end of turn."

D4: I don't get what this guy does. Also, I don't think we should have some effects that RFG ["remove from game"] until end of turn and others that blink RFG.

D6: Are we willing to print a card this bad?

D7: When did we put the "and the little schlub can't even attack" clause on him? Did I just not see it before?

D8: Seems like this rare is pointless. Like Chimney Imp bad.

D6: This is way worse than Chimney Imp.

D9: I love this card. Super flavorful. Looks beatdown, but is actually a wacky combo piece. Pair with anything that triggers when a creature comes into play (Genesis Chamber, Intruder Alarm, Juniper Order Convert, etc.).

D10: I vote for 2/2 so he doesn't even die to Prodigal Sorcerer.

D11: I prefer 2/1 because it's a much more famous P/T (especially with a cost of R).

Speaking of famous red weirdos, Steamflogger Boss may be the most famous one of them all.

Steamflogger Boss

D1: Cut "R, Sacrifice a Goblin: All Splorgs gain double strike until end of turn." Added new more-serious ability: "R, Sacrifice a Splorg: All Goblins gain +2/+0 until end of turn."

D2: Awesome card! Probably broken when we make Monuments, though.

D3: I think the "useful sentence" should come first. And thank god we put Mistform Ultimus on the bonus sheet. 4/3 haste!

D4: Are we supporting the words "erect" and "monument" or ignoring them? If "monument" is a subtype, it needs to be capitalized. If it's a card type, it doesn't. If it's a subtype, what card type is it associated with? If the answer is land, can effects that let you choose a land type let you choose monument?

D5: I would assume it would be associated with artifacts.

D6: Gah, I don't know! Smallish monument equals artifact, bigger monument equals land. I think "erect" should go, not because of tee-hee issue, but for the same reason that spells aren't "cast," lands aren't "explored," and artifacts aren't "built." Seems like you might want is, "If an ability of a Splorg you control would put a Monument into play, that ability puts two Monuments into play instead."

D3: New subtypes are created all the time. The unsupported game term is what screams "future."

D7: What is a monument?

D5: Now 3R.

D8: This is my favorite card in Future Sight.

D9: This is my least favorite card in Future Sight. I feel like this and planeswalkers play the same as terms the audience doesn't know but is "coming." The audience doesn't get the joke that this is never coming, and that's the only funny thing about it. Planeswalker on the other hand is something we're paying off in the very next set. My two cents is replace this card with something real and not just an in-joke that doesn't do anything.

D3: This isn't an in-joke. It is funny because it is visibly absurd to anyone playing Magic.

D10: Could publish the card, then update Oracle to eliminate the ability.

D10: Added "you control" to the first ability.

Let's just say Steamflogger Boss wasn't the least liked by everybody, but it sure got people talking—and I think, in that sense, it accomplished its job.

Sometimes we make cards that are really good. Sometimes we make weird cards that are much harder to evaluate. And sometimes we make cards that are just plain bad. Here is one of those:

One with Nothing

D1: Bad card. The design team is split here. My side says this is going too far with the badness. Plus it works against the set's theme. The other guys say it's cool to combo it with reanimator and threshold. Putting it in for discussion purposes.

D2: While I sympathize with the "going too far with the badness" argument, I think "working against the set theme" is no different than us printing a card like Hum of the Radix in Mirrodin block. As it stands, I'd be happy to see this card in the set.

D1: This card is less like Hum and more like "G, Instant, Sacrifice all artifacts you control." It only hurts you. But anyway that's not the main argument. This is worse than Pale Moon!

D3: Rare?

D4: Should be rare.

D5: Pale Moon doesn't get you to threshold!

D1: Should be a new level of ultra-rare, such as zero per display box.

D1: Team makes it an instant to increase combo possibilities.

D6: Could be rare.

D6: Moved up to rare. Wow, this is bad (but there are narrow applications...).

D1: If this sees print as-is, I'm going to pound my forehead against a cement wall until I get a little scab.

D7: does that mean you like it or dislike it? I have a tough time reading you.

D8: Print this bad boy.

I for one don't think we can make a ton of One with Nothings, but the occasional one does great things.

Another card in the "all-time worst ever" category that I got a lot of questions about was Search the City. Let's delve a bit into how it got there:

Search the City

D1: I would prefer this remove all exiled copies of the played card. Right now this card might be impossible to fulfill (i.e. you exile two Birds of Paradises and you have already one in play).

D2: That sounds fair to me.

D3: Added two mana, you get the cards, and rebuy!

D4: Confirm that the rebuy isn't supposed to be a separate ability?

D3: It could be a separate ability.

D5: Conceptually, a never-ending scavenger hunt doesn't feel right to me. Would prefer that when I win the scavenger hunt, I get a prize—not just more scavenger hunting. (Bribery has been suggested, for example.)

D4: Play/cast discussion.

D4: Confirm that the rebuy isn't supposed to be a separate ability?

D3: It could be a separate ability.

D3: I am not sure how to word it as a separate ability. My concern (with the obvious approach) is that it would enter, have exile four cards on the stack, then give you your reward (which may or may not be four cards by the end of development), then trigger resolves.

D4: Doesn't fit on a card. Need to find a way to trim some words. I think we have some options.

D4: Targets a permanent every single time. Is there a better way to do this?

D3: It no longer targets.

D3: Hunt increased to five cards, but reward changed to bribery.

D3: Changed to confiscate.

D3: Changed to time walk.

So, there you go. If you wanted to know how you get Search the City, that's how you get Search the City. Just as bad as (if not worse than) One with Nothing, but I think much less satisfying.

Angel's Grace

D1: Narrow Johnny rare?

D2: Narrow but interesting.

D3: Pretty hilarious. Might make children cry.

D1: Good with Hurricane.

D3: I no longer think this is sufficiently hilarious. Players will think this can save them from Fireballs, and be confused and upset when it doesn't. I do not like it.

D4: I don't know what to make of this. Time matters.

D5: May I suggest "until the end of your next turn"?

D6: Made slightly less bad with worship rider. Not liked.

D7: Made the "Worship rider" no longer prevent loss of life. Note that there's a big difference between "until end of turn" and "this turn" in that first sentence. Do you want people losing during cleanup or no? Also, Platinum Angel included "and your opponents can't win the game"—do you want that too?

D8: Intent is that life loss is prevented as well? Is that a problem? The link to Worship isn't terribly important here.

D6: Added split second to this. New plan for split second is uncommon in spell colors, and rare for all colors.

D3: I reeeally like the addition of Worship text here, so this card does something.

D9: How easy is this to recur?

D6: Not useless...I thought it cost 1W.

Always good to see that the department goal of "making children cry" has been taken off the list.

Testing cards is important, especially when they have risky lines of text.

Braids, Conjurer Adept

D1: Someone want to try this?

D2: Not it!

And yet, nothing bad has happened with her. Yet. (Famous last words for some future Latest Development author's retrospective.)

Barren Glory

D1: Why cards rather than permanents? And remember that the Cheese isn't on the templating team.

D2: Updated.

D2: Moved to the main set.

D3: I liked this on the bonus sheet because it's an extrapolated card. Having something in the past makes it feel like this is a change (making it tournament-legal) we will make in the future.

D1: It's like the anti-Coalition Victory. Anyway, note that the "no cards in hand" part is pretty easy to do with something like Tolarian Winds. Do you want to make that an intervening-if clause so it's a little more challenging, or is this okay as is? Warp World can take care of the permanents part, but those kinds of board-clearing effects are less common than effects that temporarily give you an empty hand.

D4: So if you have no cards in the middle of the resolution of a spell, this will trigger? I wouldn't have guessed that.

D5: This may be better than I first though...

D1: Veiled Crocodile is about the only case where it mattered before. If you don't want Tolarian Winds to affect this, the template is "When you control no permanents other than CARDNAME, if you have no cards in hand, you win the game."

D2: I think we are stuck with whatever the Cheese did. Although personally I like your new template better.

D6: If we're stuck with what The Cheese Stands Alone did, then we have to change this card so you win the game even if you still have a token creature in play. (TCSA checks for cards, not permanents). However, there's no Oracle for Un- cards, so I think we have some leeway.

D2: Gave it suggested template.

D7: This card is a real issue, and may require drastic measures.

D1: Dev changes trigger. Was "When you control no permanents other than CARDNAME, if you have no cards in hand,"

D5: We agreed to get rid of this, correct? Oh, never mind, we changed trigger time.

D8: But we're making it in the present...?

D9: Say Cheese!

Making Un- cards black-bordered is serious business.

Finally, I'll leave you with a card that is definitely cool and weird, but has also seen a reasonable amount of tournament play. It certainly fits the definition of what we like for this category of cards.


D1: Trimming a mana to push a cool design a bit

D2: Seems cheap for an artifact time walk that often lets you mess up your opponent. Not sure if we need to cost this effect aggressively for it to be "cool."

D3: Agree

D1: Team agrees this shouldn't be aggressive—and this costing isn't (since the RFG nature of it and the fact they always get at least one more turn makes it essentially impossible to abuse).

D1: Adding one mana to make sure it isn't inflationary.

D4: Wow, that seems like a mistake. This is/was a fun, cool card at six, and nowhere near Constructed power. I mean, if this was, in fact, inflationary or in danger of seeing real play, then sure bump it up. But why beat Johnny with a nerf stick when we don't have to?

D1: Going back to six.

In hindsight, I am very glad we went with a converted mana cost of 6. This is the kind of card that is fun if you are going out of your way to do it, and the easier it gets to do, the less fun it is.

That's it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this look back at memory lane as much as I did. I'm sure there will be another one of these articles in the future, perhaps just going over the cards with Multiverse comments like this:

D1: Try this in the same deck with Time Spiral and free discard effects.

D2: Was on list. Never tested.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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