Worldwake Multiverse Outtakes

Posted in Latest Developments on March 19, 2010

By Tom LaPille

Tom LaPille makes things. Some of the things he makes are card sets, like Dark Ascension and Born of the Gods. Sometimes he makes stories, too. Sometimes he makes unexpected things, like 16th-century Japanese clothing. He's probably making something right now.

There is a storied tradition of Latest Developments authors using comments from Multiverse, the internal working database that we use to piece together Magic sets, as a window into Magic design and development. Somehow, I haven't managed to do much of that since Worldwake preview season. Today, I will make up for lost time and show you as many Worldwake Multiverse comments as I can squeeze into one article. I've done my best to choose bits that are as amusing as possible, but I'm sure we'll learn something practical along the way too.

The following is a key to the people you're about to read comments from.

MJ: Mons Johnson, Magic playtester
AF: Aaron Forsythe, director of Magic R&D
CostBenefitBot: unknown
DB: Doug Beyer, Magic creative
Del: Del Laugel, Magic editor
EVL: Erik Lauer, Magic developer
GM: Gregory Marques, game designer
KD: Kelly Digges, editor
KEN: Ken Nagle, Magic designer
MJG: Mark Globus, Magic producer
MP: Matt Place, Magic developer
MT: Mike Turian, Magic developer
sw: Steve Warner, Magic playtester
TML: Me!

AF 2/6: Golden Cricket lives! Is it weird that this same line of text is red in LIV?
TML 2/17/2009: Yes, but I find it weird in a totally adorable way.
EVL 2/18: I like it :)
KD 3/12: It's RED in Live?
DB 3/13: Red and 4/4.
TML 3/19/2009: Jumping Giant!

You may recall Jumping Giant from such articles as Making Landfall, Part I. When we got final art in, though, Ken was overcome by pathos.

KEN 5/7/2009: It's a baby Griffin that keeps trying to fly but keeps falling back to the ground. That's sad. :(

I'm a sucker for creeping tragedy in art, so I smiled to myself when I read Ken's comment. I don't know what that says about me.

Del 4/13: And then the ZEN tokens got their race back. Note that we've never done a Human token.
TML 4/16/2009: I just had an amusing vision of "Put a 1/1 white Human Soldier Ally creature token and a 1/1 white Kor Soldier Ally token onto the battlefield." Obviously horrible, but I smiled.
CostBenefitBot 04/17/2009: BEEP Smile Not Worth Token Art Commission BEEP Calculation Complete BOOP

At the time I made my comment, the art description suggested that the two allies might be of two different races, perhaps one kor and one human. This would have been confusing with cards like Kor Outfitter—which token is which?—so it was changed to two Humans instead, and ultimately it was decided that the race of the Soldier Allies it created wasn't important enough to specify on the card.

Note that I could have checked the revision history to learn the mysterious identity of CostBenefitBot, but I think it's more fun to not know.

AF 2/5: LIV has protection trick. Maybe this should be untap trick?
MT 2/19: Now untaps.
3/17: This version is playing much better.
TML 3/18/2009: The ghost likes it!
3/23/09 SJ: (Oops!) Even with a name I still like it. :)
MP 4/1: Nice card!

Goofy little tricks like this are one of the things that make limited formats fun to play over and over again. This is even trickier than most limited tricks; not only can it win you creature fights that were already happening, but it can also cause a fight that your opponent didn't know could happen. Our resident political multiplayer guru, however, wasn't satisfied with this, and demanded even more trickiness!

KEN 5/23/2009: We should delete "you control", right?
MT 5/26: Deleted.

Ken loves cards that let him get involved in combat steps that didn't otherwise involve him. Now, this card lets you give a friend a surprise blocker-or punish an enemy with one!

GM 5/6: I envision this guy with a planar chaos border... does that make me a bad person?
TML 5/7/2009: Yes.

KEN 11/20/2008: Some good feedback from MJG rescued this guy. Now a Vampire for those in love with half-dead opponents.
KD 1/22: This card is loved. By me, anyway.
TML 2/17/2009: It reads so appealing!

It's a little bizarre that we only came to this card's rescue after it was saved by someone else, but comment storms like this tell designers and developers which cards are loved. That's good data to have no matter when it is recieved.

KEN 4/3/2009: 'each opponent loses 1 life'? Then it's the little brother of Conflux's Infectious Horror, becomes 2HG-matters at common, and is good in CENSORED.
TML 4/16/2009: I like this idea.
MT 5/6: Now each opponent.

Once again, Ken is there with the multiplayer save.

DB 3/31/2009: I like.
KEN 5/26/2009: Elemental HOUND?
Del 7/10: No.

The first version of Vapor Snare essentially had "Enchant creature with power less or equal to the number of Islands you control", which is easy to write in English but cannot be written elegantly in Magic-ese without rules interactions we deemed undesirable. I suggested stealing Living Tsunami's line of text, which was added to the file (with one difference, which we’ll get to). That inspired these comments:

MT 3/31: Making blue have a little more landfall enabling. Used to count basics.
MP 4/1: I like this card in a vacuum. But with the return a land each upkeep already in liv I'm less excited...
TML 4/2/2009: The theme is "sick blue limited uncommons that help landfall." That was not an accident. Is it bad?
LS 5/6: Blue is so good that it's "drawbacks" are benefits!
KEN 5/6/2009: e.g. Gush, Ertai's Familiar.

Designers don't always think along the same axes as developers do, and it's great to get their feedback even long after the design handoff. Kelly Digges was on the Worldwake design team, and pointed out that he thought something was missing.

KD 5/22: When I first read this, my head filled in the end with "or sacrifice CARDNAME." I hate the idea that I don't get to opt out if this starts strangling me to death.
TML 5/22/2009: Agree with KD.
TML 5/22/2009: Fixed.

Other than the fact that I get to make Magic cards, my favorite thing about my job is how much everyone who works on Magic cares about it. We all love our game, and want the best for it. Without input from so many passionate people, including those outside of R&D, we could never make Magic as great as we do. In this case, Kelly's obligation to Worldwake had long since ended, but he still stopped in to check on the file. Because of that, we made the set better. Thanks, Kelly!

KEN 2/26/2009: Funny, the numbers on this card include 5, 4, 3, 2, and R.
SJ 3/18: I love him still.
KEN 4/3/2009: This guy is definitely the torch-bearer for his multikicker brethren.

Har har har.

KEN 3/12/2009: I was deflecting Blightning and Countersquall with this thing, it was really fun. Un/fortunately it can't tag Cruel Ultimatum.
MP 4/1: Is it odd that it says if they play a blue spell and most people don't know this counters counterspells?
TML 4/3/2009: Every reminder text I can come up with is hilariously bad, although I do know that we still wouldn't do one even if we had a good one.

Let's take a break for some technical rules discussion. I cast a Runeclaw Bear. You cast a Cancel targeting my Runeclaw Bear. I respond with Ricochet Trap targeting your Cancel. When my Ricochet Trap resolves, I change the target of Cancel to Ricochet Trap, which—because it is still resolving—is still on the stack and therefore a legal target of Cancel. Once this target is changed, Ricochet Trap goes to the graveyard. When the Cancel tries to resolve, it discovers that its target, Ricochet Trap, is gone, so the game counters the Cancel. Then, my Runeclaw Bear enters the battlefield. Effectively, I have just used Ricochet Trap to counter your Cancel.

Note that I can't have the Cancel target itself; I have to have it target the Ricochet Trap. This is because a Cancel found in nature cannot be cast targeting itself; targets for a spell are chosen before that spell goes on the stack, so the Cancel cannot see itself while you choose its target. Therefore, a spell on the stack is not a legal target for itself.

Did you know all of this? My guess is that I have readers who didn't, and it doesn't speak ill of you if you are one of them. This interaction is legitimately weird. Magic editor Del Laugel, however, came up with reminder text that is both hilarious and short to try to address this problem.

Del 5/1: (CARDNAME is a spell.) :)
TML 5/7/2009: I love it :D

This was Del's humorous way of prompting players to move the Cancel to the Ricochet Trap. There are so many other uses for Ricochet Trap, however, that printing this reminder text would not have been worth it.

KD 2/3: I like this card because it addresses an obvious thought while playing the set: "If I can just draw three lands in a row, I win!" Maybe a Weird Harvest type card (like... Weird Harvest?) would address that better.
KEN 2/5/2009: Swapped in over Traveling Salesman Problem.

Ken's design playtest names are always fantastic, and usually connect to the mechanics in amusing ways. I wish I remember what Traveling Salesman Problem did.

Some time later, I noticed that the art concept described Jace.

TML 2/26/2009: The concept amuses me. This is a reference to Agents of Artifice, yes?
DB 2/26/2009: Vorthos Award!
KEN 2/27/2009: This is a Johnny break-me goofy rare. Putting Jace in the art could be dangerous negative publicity. We should contact his agent. Apparently, he was willing to compromise when we told him that he would get his own new planeswalker card in the same set.

KEN 4/2/2009: I'm a huge fan of this card. GRIEFER TIMMAH!
KD 4/30: Makes me smile. Art is hilarious.
AF 5/22: heads will roll

This is a brilliant design from Ken. It doesn't conform to the same cost reduction template as all the other Traps. We don't normally let things like that go, but I think we all just adored this card so much that we didn't care.

One of Del's jobs as an editor is to hammer on templates by finding strange corner cases that cause strange things to happen. Sometimes this causes us to change cards, but other times we decide that the interaction is awesome and allow it. Here is an example of the latter.

Del 4/13: Mandatory gives me the dream of playing Gather Specimens while my opponent has this in play and then swinging with everybody. :) Okay?
MT 4/20: Del, I think that is fine.
KD 4/30: Del: Good thinking. I can't wait until that happens. :D

This was followed by a bonus observation from Aaron.

AF 5/22: This card feels like a Kamigawa escapee. A legendary Ogre with goofy text, long name, and pointy hat.

MT 5/6: Now firebreathing.
MP 5/13: Assume this is supposed to be 1: +1/+0. (changed)
AF 5/22: I'll recommend X: +X/+0 like on Demonspine Whip. X reads so powerfully!
MT 5/22: Just for you.

I'm glad we decided to go with , both for Aaron's reason and because it has already saved me tons of clicks on Magic Online even though Worldwake has only been out there for a few weeks! This changes how the card interacts with things like Rosheen Meanderer and Ceaseless Searblades, but more importantly, it makes the card play better under ordinary circumstances.

KD 11/25: This is only really justifiable if at least two of those token records already exist for cards in LIV and/or LON. Potential token confusion in any case, but also potential awesome.
MR 1/8/09: Definitely has awesome potential.
TML 1/8/2009: I hope this card makes it, because I love it. I believe we already have 1/1 snakes and 2/2 wolves.
KEN 1/12/2009: Updated creature types a bit.
KD 1/23: Fable of Snake, Wolf, and Elephant. Man, I hope this card makes it.
KEN 1/28/2009: By popular demand, forced this into uncommon. We'll make sure another LON card produces a 3/3 green token.
TML 2/17/2009: I hope I am not convinced to kill this by other developers. It's absurdly appealing. :B
TML 3/9/2009: I think we got there. :B
TML 3/11/2009: Was insanely fun in sealed today.
KD 3/12: Tom, I continue to share your elation that this card is not dead. ...Is anyone actually trying to kill it?
GM 4/16: I adore this turducken.
TML 3/18/2009: @KD We did it. :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D
MJ 3/26: ? secretly not trying to kill this also.
KEN 3/27/2009: What are you dorks talking about about...there's no government agenda to hire a hitman to snipe this card. The order from on high is to repeat that to yourself until you believe it.

Last Week's Poll

How many times have you drafted triple Zendikar?
0 1406 30.1%
1 519 11.1%
2 412 8.8%
3-5 755 16.2%
6-10 472 10.1%
11-20 456 9.8%
21+ 645 13.8%
Total 4665 100.0%

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