White and Artifacts

Posted in Latest Developments on September 12, 2003

By Randy Buehler

A different kind of relationship

As you’ll discover when you finally get to see the entire set, Mirrodin’s artifact theme worked itself into every nook and cranny of the set. Obviously the first big thing you’ll see if that fully half the cards in the set are artifacts, but there’s more going on than just that. There are plenty of cool colored cards that have nothing at all to do with the artifact theme, but there are also plenty that do. In fact, each color has it’s own relationship with artifacts.

The Mirrodin design team felt strongly that each color needed a way to take advantage of an environment where half the cards that people got were artifacts. The development team mostly agreed with them, and the plan that eventually emerged was that blue and its two friendly colors should be friends with artifacts, while red and green should be on enemy terms with artifacts.

Blue has always had a love affair with artifacts, as evidenced by cards like Copy Artifact and Tinker from older sets, and that relationship is clearer than ever in Mirrodin. Vedalken Archmage and Thoughtcast are the tip of the iceberg. Blue loves artifacts, it enables artifacts, and it wants you to play with lots of artifacts.

Green’s relationship with artifacts is pretty straightforward: it hates them. As the color of nature, green stands in complete opposition to technology, and artifacts are the most technologically advanced things you can find in Magic’s multiverse. Artifacts just aren’t natural and thus green wants to, well… Naturalize them.

This aspect of green isn’t unique to the Mirrodin block. It actually emerged from some very deep, theoretical conversations about what exactly our colors represent and how they relate to each other. Mark has been doing a great job of explaining the results of those conversations in his Monday columns during our color-specific theme weeks. One of the ramifications of this realization is that green is now the #1 color for destroying artifacts, with red in second place and white in third. That’s also why Disenchant left the Core Set and was replaced by Naturalize; Disenchant has been the most efficient and effective way to remove artifacts since Alpha and it didn’t seem right to have the best way to blow up artifacts be in the color that is only supposed to be third best at destroying them.

Green’s hatred of artifacts also fits right in with its hatred of blue, since blue is the color that works with artifacts the best. You’ve already seen affinity, but that’s not the only way in which blue gets along with artifacts. All in all, blue has the best relationship with artifacts.

Red has the most amusing relationship with artifacts: it just likes to see them blow up. Red doesn’t really care if it’s destroying the opponent’s artifacts with a Shatter or eating its own artifacts with an Atog. Either way, the red mage is happy. Basically, red thinks artifacts are shiny and pretty, but it drops them a lot and likes to watch them explode. (I claimed above that there were two colors that hate artifacts and three that like them, but that’s actually an oversimplification of red’s schizophrenic—dare I say “chaotic”—role. Green is the true enemy while red actually has a number of cards that reward you for playing with artifacts, though they all require you to sacrifice artifacts to get those rewards.)

Black’s interactions with artifacts are probably the most surprising to those of you who have been playing Magic for many years. We knew that we wanted to print black cards that worked well with artifacts, especially since black’s friend blue is the king of artifacts, but historically there haven’t been very many artifact-friendly black cards so we needed to blaze some new ground. We debated for quite a while and finally wound up deciding to print black cards that got stronger and stronger the more artifacts you have in play. It’s as if artifacts emit an unnatural kind of radiation that black is able to channel and twist for it’s own purposes. (I would show you an example of this, but the card I’m actually supposed to be previewing is a white card.)

White was a much easier puzzle to solve. Equipment was one of the big themes from the very early days of design and there were lots of cool card ideas floating around for creatures that were really good at using equipment. White – with its militaristic hierarchies and well-trained soldiers – seemed like the obvious home for creatures that were particularly adept at wielding swords and armor, so white became the “plays well with equipment” color.

For example:

The Steelshaper actually started out reducing equip costs by four mana (though the guy was more expensive). The Dev Team quickly lowered it to two mana, but then when we tested that we found it was still too powerful and lowering equip costs by just one mana was plenty good enough. Note that anything with an equip cost of one becomes free to move, which is particularly handy after you’re done with your attack for the turn and you’d rather hand that sword to one of your untapped guys that you might want to block with on your opponent’s turn. (After all, it’ll be free to move back again before your next attack!) The Steelshaper’s second ability is also quite nice. It’ll be interesting to see how much better Onslaught’s Soldier tribe gets once it has access to this guy (and whatever other Soldiers we happen to print over the course of the Mirrodin block that also get better when they’re equipped).

While I’ve got your attention, I want to put in a plug for something cool that’s going on at Mirrodin prereleases. They are going to include one flight that uses the Team Sealed Deck format. That means you and two of your friends get to open a bunch of Mirrodin product together and build three decks out of it. Then each round the three of you play against another team and best 2 out of 3 matches wins the round. Anthony will have whole article tomorrow devoted to this subject, but I just thought I’d mention it here as a quick tease so you can start thinking about who you want to play with. Getting to play alongside teammates who are rooting for you during the rounds, talking strategy with you between rounds, and helping you build your deck before the rounds even start is a quite fun way to play Magic. (There’s also a Team Pro Tour going on this weekend in Boston that you might want to check out coverage of.)

Last Week’s Poll:

Which Artifact Land is coolest?
Vault of Whispers 3933 24.9%
Seat of the Synod 3824 24.2%
Great Furnace 3603 22.8%
Tree of Tales 2444 15.5%
Ancient Den 1972 12.5%
Total 15776 100.0%

My personal favorite is the red one. The art is amazing on all five cards, but the red one seems slightly more attractive to me for no particular reason. Mostly it’s the flavor text that sets it apart in my mind – I find it more evocative, though it might just be that I really like the word “horde.”

Randy may be reached at latestdevelopments@wizards.com.

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