The M Files: Magic 2015, Part 2

Posted in Latest Developments on July 18, 2014

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! This week, we finish up Magic 2015, with red, green, gold, and artifacts.

As a reminder, here's who we're peeking in on doing all of the talking.


AF: Aaron Forsythe—senior director for Magic and M15 lead designer

BH: Ben Hayes—Magic developer

CBD: Brady Dommermuth—former senior creative designer


BM: Billy Moreno—former Magic developer and M15 lead developer

DB: Doug BeyerMagic senior creative designer

Del: Del Laugel—senior Magic editor and editor manager


GSV: Gavin VerheyMagic experience designer

ID: Ian DukeMagic developer

JCW: Jennifer Clarke-WilkesMagic creative designer


Ken: Ken NagleMagic designer

Mago: Mark GottliebMagic designer

Max: Max McCall—former Magic digital developer


SM: Shawn MainMagic designer; in charge of the Designer 15 cards

SPS: Sam Stoddard—That's A-Me!

SW: Steve WarnerKaijudo and Duel Masters developer; Magic playtester


Tabak: Matt Tabak—rules manager

TML: Tom LaPilleMagic developer

CBD 1/16/13: Probably not important, but Barbarian type is retired and therefore we try to avoid using that word in card names.
SPS 1/28/13: The barbarian nursing home has to be a terrifying place to work.
TML 1/30/2013: I am now imagining Kamahl beating people up with a walker.
AF 3/7: I question retiring the word Barbarian from Magic cards.
BM 3/7/13: Agree. What else would you call someone who finds awesome magic artifacts and uses them to club people for three more damage.
SM 3/15: A tartar?

Just a reminder, not all of these conversations are always so serious.

TML 11/29/2012: Adorable. Feels very 1996 in a good way.
BM 1/7/13: Added R to mine activation ability. Moved mine laying to sorcery speed.
TML 1/15/2013: A luckily unweird designer card.
Max 1/22: This is what passes for unweird now?

One of the great things the fifteen outside-designer cards provided us with was designs we were just much less naturally to come up with ourselves.

SPS 11/16/12: Not defenders?
AF 11/17: That is nowhere near as flavorful (which is the point of trinket text).

Aaron is right here. We use trinket text on cards to enhance game play, but to also help separate cards from each other, and make them feel unique. Destroying defenders would be more powerful, but would tell a story that is less cohesive.

AF 10/6: This could cost very little. Trying to find the balance between interesting and trap.
BM 11/12/12: Agreed. I like 4cc as a starting point.
Mago 11/21: Interesting card. I can't figure out if it's amazing or terrible.
ID 5/3: Dust off your Manabonds!

Notch's design card, Aggressive Mining scored very low on our rare poll, but is very close to what we want weird red enchantments to end up at. While we do spend some time creating cards for everyone, not every card has to be for everybody. It's possible that more people than not will not enjoy this card, but there will also be people who love it.

AF 11/18: Boldly moving to common. My Wall-filled set needs some serious aggro.
Max 11/30: I don't think this is fun if I get two of them per draft.
AF 12/4: This enables tempo decks better than most W/U cards. Maybe we need something in white and a less tempo Goblin here.
BM 12/15/12: Not a common. Too high a board impact.

Once again, rarity-shifting things can be both good and bad. If the card helps Limited, that helps a lot. Having a card with a huge variance between when it is good and when it is bad can be a problem with Limited, and Frenzied Goblin ran into that problem. There were games when two early Frenzied Goblins basically kept your opponent from meaningfully interacting with you, and then a number of games where it was totally dead. We generally want commons to not produce that kind of game play, so we bumped this back to uncommon.

BM 2/6/13: Replacing tribal helper cycle with color lord/helper for more casual satisfaction with less Limited disappointment.
DOH 2/17/13: Love this change.

The Paragon cycle started off as a tribal-cycle for Limited, but we found that it both wasn't pushing things enough, since the decks you needed to play were already mostly monocolor, but you were limited to one creature type. Also, at the same time, it was causing frustration for development in trying to decide what each creature type was. Moving to just counting colors helped make them much easier to both build around and develop.

KEN 10/10/2012: AF likes his Gutshots.
TML 11/6/2012: I am interested in this card.
SPS 11/13/12: Pew pew pew!
BM 6/5/13: Instant to sorcery.
BM 6/27/13: R 2 damage → 2RR 4 damage for FFL

Figuring out the limits of what cheap convoke cards should do takes some time. A   Shock with convoke was definitely over the line, and even moving it down to a sorcery was a bit too much, giving red decks the ability to curve out and still easily hit all of their removal. The movement to 4 damage came both to add some sanity to the card and give red more answers for powerful 4-toughness creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Courser of Kruphix.

AF 11/30: Cut land-counting enchantment for more in-your-face "have big creatures" ramp incentive.
Max 12/3: "at the beginning of your upkeep, the rich get richer."
BM 1/7/13: This no longer works on ties.
BM 2/6/13: 4R upkeep → 5R "beginning of combat" to ding slightly and break up combo with Roaring Primadox. Nicely rewards playing a precombat fatty.
AF 2/14: Kudos to whoever found the Primadox combo!
BM 2/27/13: Kudos Sam.

Aaron Forsythe is a man who likes two-card combos. Cutting the Roaring Primadox thing was less about power and more about trying to remove game states that were too lock-outty. Bouncing your opponent's creature each turn with Primadox was hard, but basically impossible to come back from if it ever came up, which, in turn, was hard because the enchantment wasn't very good. Moving it to beginning of combat and giving it pseudo-haste (often after playing a turn-five fatty) helped push the card to the right power level.

AF 10/4: Was Lunging Snake 2G 2/2 +1/+1 while tapped.
AF 11/13: Added "another." He doesn't invade himself.
Del 11/21: Target?
Max 11/30: There are no green commons for this to bounce
Max 12/3: I take it back and am baffled how I missed Farhaven Elf.
AF 12/4: Del, this matches Roaring Primadox (and Kor Skyfisher) in not targeting.
BM 12/15/12: 3/4 → 4/2 for to ding interaction with Prey Upon and push UG toward tempo play.
BM 1/11/13: 4/2 → 3/3 for bump. People felt like 4/2 didn't reward "drawback" text enough
TML 1/22/2013: I liked this here.
Tabak 1/24: Turn 1 Black Lotus, this. Take that, drawback!
BM 3/22/13: Suggesting Primadox connection in name and Beast creature type to attempt to explain why this card does what it does.
AF 4/9: I particularly loved the name Invasive Species and asked creative to keep it if they could. Hoping to revert here.
BM 4/9/13: Fair. Changed back.

Unsurprisingly, this guy was a pretty big beating at common as a 3/4. We wanted to keep the interesting interactions with it (even after Farhaven Elf became Satyr Wayfinder), but also have it strong enough that people would play it. We found the 3/3 range to be about right.

BM 1/11/13: 4B → 4G. Swapping with Elven Spiritualists to change balance of rewards in BG.
TML 1/15/2012: Listed color looks wrong.
CBD 1/15/13: Listed year of prev. comment looks wrong.
TML 4/27/2007: Time machines are a hell of a drug.
Tabak 8/11/99: I will make this joke eight years ago.
AGB 3/10/1876: Watson, come here, I need you.

Nuff said.

KEN 11/12/2012: Is there a Hornet Queen inside??
SPS 11/13/12: I laughed for about a minute straight on this card.
BM 11/30/2012: This card is sweet. Deathtouch may be too sweet?
AF 12/4: Prey Upon says, "FIGHT THE HIVE!"
Max 12/6: Agree with Billy re: deathtouch. lol'd irl at Prey Upon.
DH 12/10: Cool card. DT was unexpected.
AF 12/13: Deathtouch feels natural to those of us that have cast Hornet Queen.
TML 1/15/2013: I think that this can do only one of: make that many tokens, make deathtouch tokens, or cost three.
BM 1/21/13: 1GG 0/2 → 3GG 0/3
KEN 2/7/2013: Must make a Hornet Queen/Sting/Hive loving card in future set.

Interesting story: Hornet Nest preceded Hornet Queen, which was added as part of an effort to consolidate the tokens (which were very much out of control at some point, due in no small part to Squids, Land Mines, and */* Treefolk tokens).

BM 1/25/13: replacing Hornet Nest. Trying to find place for a sweet token for last three months of populate.
Del 3/7: This creature gets bigger when you play more Forests but the tokens don't. Suggest splicing the CDA onto the tokens:
...put a green Treefolk creature token onto the battlefield with "This creature's power and toughness are each equal to the number of Forests you control"
BM 3/13/13: Updated wording to match intent.
ID 5/3/13: Someone is going to be very happy to put this in their Dauntless Dourbark deck :)
BM 6/11/13: 3GG → 5G for FFL

This card was intended to be a cool thing by itself, but also give populate decks a really sweet token to make copies of. We ended up upping the cost from 3GG → 5G to limit the speed in which you can power out 10 power of creatures.

As an aside, the playtest name for this card was Twin-Pines Mauler. Thanks Kelly Digges!

AF 4/23: Lesser Good.
Del 5/1: Fun if you can copy it.
BM 6/5/13: Discard three → two, for more playability.
KEN 6/21/2013: I'm gonna conspire this!
DG 7/28: Greater Good is an odd callback. Why not sacrifice version of Soul's Majesty?
SPS 8/2: Now a sacrifice version of Soul's Majesty. @1G

In case you were guessing, Ken Nagle does in fact have a Wort, the Raidmother Commander deck. But, in the end, Dave Guskin was right, this was more interesting at two-mana as a Soul's Majesty callback instead of a one-mana Greater Good. Best Altar's Reap ever.

TML 11/6/2012: Reads quite efficient.
Max 11/8: Is.
KEN 11/12/2012: I'm gonna convoke & conspire this!
Max 11/30: this isn't nine mana yet?
TML 1/15/2013: I'd like it to be...
BM 1/21/13: 6GG → 8G. Am I not kind?

Cards need to cost what they need to cost for Limited, sometimes.

SPS 11/19/12: I, for one, welcome our new Sliver overlords.
BM 1/21/13: Giving all your Slivers indestructible seemed like a frustrating Commander environment. Trying something more exciting.
TML 1/30/2013: I would have been down with indestructible if it weren't legendary. Also, this will totally say "Sliver permanent card" and that makes me want to cry.
Del 2/14: It's a new card. I think "Sliver creature card" is totally in bounds. Perhaps BM should type those words.
AF 3/6: This will not widen the eyes of small children in the way indestructible would.
BM 3/22/13: Reverting to indestructible.

Indestructible was powerful and flashy, but it concerned us with how hard it would be to kill. After trying some other various wordings, nothing was as clean or interesting.

TML 11/6/2012: This is an excellent face/heel turn.
SPS 1/15/13: GARRUK SMAASH!
Max 5/1: It feels weird that it's easier for Garruk to kill a Planeswalker than it is for him to kill a creature.
ID 5/1: It's not easier, he just enjoys it more :)
BM 6/27/13: Max, he doesn't just kill creatures, he chews them up for you to eat. That takes real loyalty. Also, ultimate from -9 → -8 for FFL.
SPS 8/8/13: Updating Garruk to give deathtouch instead of intimidate.
TML 9/13/2013: Now +1's to kill Planeswalkers.

Garruk changed very little from initial design to his final printing, which is odd for Planeswalkers. As it turned out, he was cool enough and powerful enough with his original version that a large redesign wasn't needed.

AF 12/5: Was All-Upside Coat of Arms. I want to try this less-operational version. This doesn't let you attack for 25,000, but it is a lot better with 1-2 creatures in play.
Max 12/6: Dig it.
DH 12/10: I like the tribal aspect. Too bad it is relatively soon after Collective Blessing.
TML 1/15/2013: Other numbers exist. 4 and +2/+2 or something?
BM 1/21/13: +3/+3 → +2/+2. Mana cost stays same but added convoke.
AF 3/6: Nice use of convoke!

Coat of Arms is a card that we like in principal but have always found that the math gets confusing very quickly. This is especially true in the modern world, where many creatures have multiple creature types, as well as with it looking at both sides of the battlefield. The Obelisk of Urd began as a "fixed" version of the card (giving just +2/+2), and convoke was added in development to help create more fun and interesting convoke cards.

AF 11/12: I have discussed the silliness of this card with Jenna and Brady, and they're both on board.
BM 2/6/13: Changed toughness setting to trigger where creature dies to any damage to avoid layers. Probably tells a better story.
BM 4/30/13: Soup is now more expensive to buy, easier to carry.
BM 8/28/13: Swapping cast and equip cost to slow down relentlessness.

Some of the M15 oustide-designers wanted very elaborate cards, but James Earnest just wanted top-down hot soup, and wanted to make sure it kept the name Hot Soup. I feel it was really the least we could do.

TML 9/17/2013: New.
Max 10/8: For certain definitions of new.

As I mentioned in my preview article, the change to the pain lands was relatively late in the process for the set, but one we feel improved it quite a bit.

That's it for M15. I'll be back next week to discuss convoke and returning mechanics in the core set.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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