Back to the Future Sight

Posted in Making Magic on August 3, 2020

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

Last week, I was telling stories about reprints from Double Masters. One of them was about a cycle of lands inspired by a card from the futureshifted sheet of Future Sight. That inspired me to dedicate some columns to the futureshifted cards and what's happening with each of them.

Future Shock

Back in May of 2007, we released a set called Future Sight. One of the elements of the set was 81 cards that were "futureshifted," that is, they were cards from potential Magic futures. We explored mechanical themes (as well as creative themes) we thought we might do one day with the idea that we would try to find places to actually print some of the cards in the future. It's thirteen years later. Let's see how we did.

For each card, I'm going to grade its chances of ever being reprinted, in a premier set or a supplemental set with new cards as a significant element of the product, using one of four grades: Likely, Unlikely, Very Unlikely, or Already Reprinted. Here's what each means:

Likely – This is a card that I can see us reprinting in the right environment. It's a reprint card I have actual hope of us maybe one day reprinting, although that day might not be soon.

Unlikely – This is a card that I don't see us reprinting, but possibly under the right circumstances.

Very Unlikely – This is a card I am skeptical will ever get reprinted.

Already Reprinted – I'm assuming you understand this one.

Arcanum Wings

One of the goals of the futureshifted cards was to hint at possible future mechanics. Some of the futureshifted mechanics appeared on one card while some appeared on multiple, at most five (if it was part of a cycle). Aura swap was the former. We created it as yet another way to try and help make Auras more playable. The idea behind it was that it added an element of surprise because you didn't quite know what a creature with an Aura with aura swap on it could do.

This mechanic was inspired by ninjutsu, a mechanic I'd made for the Ninjas in Betrayers of Kamigawa, except instead of swapping creatures, it swapped Auras, and instead of the mechanic working in your hand, it worked on the Aura on the battlefield. This was done to try and create drama, although in retrospect, if we'd done it from the hand, it might have added drama to all Auras.

This card has never been reprinted. Its best chance is if we ever make a set with an Aura sub-theme.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Aven Mindcensor

Some of our futureshifted cards were a little cheaty. Aven Mindcensor could have just been a card in any set, but futureshifted cards are tough to design and we'd never done this effect before. The card did see a reprint in Amonkhet, which luckily had Avens in it. The card ended up in the set because Ethan Fleischer led the second half of design, and on every set, he always goes through the futureshifted cards. I remember him coming to a meeting all excited one day because he realized that Aven Mindcensor would be a good fit for the set.

Reprint Chances: Already Reprinted

Bitter Ordeal

When hinting at new mechanics, we tended to stick mostly with tweaks of existing mechanics. Why? First, making original mechanics is difficult. We work hard to make one to three each set. Making twenty is a significantly larger task. Second, we didn't have the resources to playtest all these new mechanics like we would a normal set, so sticking toward known things makes it easier for play design (technically then development) to wrap their mind around it. (Even then, this set was an impossible task. There were just too many unknown elements in it.)

Gravestorm was a tweak on the storm mechanic. Brian Tinsman designed the storm mechanic for Scourge as a way to reward playing a lot of spells in a turn. The mechanic proved to be pretty broken (spawning a whole scale along the way). My tweak just changed what got counted. Having learned from past storm cards, I tried to make an effect that didn't directly win the game (although one could argue in high enough numbers, it effectively does).

Bitter Ordeal has not been reprinted, and most likely never will be, as my tweak of storm is just as broken as storm, and in some ways maybe more broken.

Reprint Chances: Highly Unlikely

Textless Vanilla Cycle

  • 136138
  • Fomori Nomad
  • Blade of the Sixth Pride
  • 126158
  • Blind Phantasm

One of the challenging things about designing Future Sight was trying to keep it from being too complex. The statistic I like to give is that the number of mechanics in Future Sight was just a tiny bit lower than the number of mechanics that existed in all of Magic before Future Sight. Because of this, I was always looking for ways to make simple cards in the set. This cycle was one such example. What if I could use the futureshifted sheet to show the future of something very simple, in this case, full-art vanilla creatures (a "vanilla" creature is what R&D calls a creature that has no rules text)? The one thing we did do mechanically to make a nod to the future was create mana cost and power/toughness combinations we'd never done before.

Let's check in on these cards. First off—full-art frames for vanilla creatures. It's come up a bunch of times. The biggest problem is we've been cutting back on the number of vanilla creatures we do per set as our data shows that French vanilla creatures (a "French vanilla" creature is what R&D calls a creature with only keywords) with just one keyword fill much of the function of vanilla creatures but with better gameplay.

Blade of the Sixth Pride – This was the first 3/1 for 1W, and that combination has gone onto become a staple in Magic. The actual card, though, hasn't seen a reprint yet because we haven't come to a world where that name makes sense. This will be a recurring theme in this and following columns. Also, while we still do vanilla 3/1 for 1W, we've started making cards that add abilities to it.

Blind Phantasm – This card hasn't been reprinted for a different reason. The name's vague enough to fit on most worlds, but it turns out a 2/3 for 2U has room for other abilities on it. So, we do a lot of 2U 2/3 cards, but always with additional rules text.

Mass of Ghouls – This card did see a reprint in Tenth Edition. Conceptually, it was a little paradoxical as that core set only had reprints in it (the following core set, Magic 2010, would introduce new cards in a non-Alpha/Beta core set). It's possible I shouldn't count it, but it was in a premier set, so I am.

Fomori Nomad – This card was quirky in the fact that a 4/4 for 4R vanilla creature did pre-exist the set, but it was in Portal Second Age, which at the time wasn't legal in Vintage and Legacy. (Also, the non-vanilla Two-Headed Giant of Foriys was in Alpha.) These vanilla stats did see printing but with another name (Bonebreaker Giant in Magic 2012), but this exact card has never been reprinted. While the name requires some support from the world, the bigger issue is, like Blind Phantasm, R&D is just willing to make 4R 4/4's with extra rules text.

Nessian Courser – One of the problems, as you will see in future columns, is that in order for us to reprint a futureshifted card, we had to guess right on both the mechanics and the flavor. The right mechanic tied to the wrong flavor, or vice versa, has sunk many a reprint. Here's one where we got it right, where the two matched up. (Okay, it being a vanilla creature helped a lot.) The creative hinted at a Greek mythology-inspired world, so when we did that world, Theros, we made sure to include it.

Okay, two for five isn't the greatest hit rate, but all five-mana-cost/stats combinations did see print.

Reprint Chances: Already Reprinted (Mass of Ghouls and Nessian Courser), Likely (Blade of the Sixth Pride), and Unlikely (Blind Phantasm and Fomori Nomad)

Bloodshot Trainee

This card was messing around with caring about power exceeding the base power. The idea was that it could only work if you had another effect interact with the card. We ended up reprinting it in Scars of Mirrodin as it allowed you to use your equipment as a way to activate the Trainee. Mirrodin had Goblins, and the name was non-specific enough to work.

Reprint Chances: Already Reprinted

Boldwyr Intimidator

I'll let you in on a secret. When we made the futureshifted cards, we made sure the next year's worth of sets all had a futureshifted card in them. Boldwyr Intimidator introduced a new creature type, Coward, and interacted with Warriors. Morningtide had a class creature type theme (of which Warriors was one of the five main creature types), so the card was a perfect fit. The card has gone on to become a fan favorite and has been reprinted in numerous supplemental sets and products (Conspiracy, Battlebond, and Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might).

Reprint Chances: Already Reprinted

Bonded Fetch

This card was us experimenting with giving blue haste on cards that either couldn't attack or had zero power but had an activated ability. This was something we were seriously exploring—making blue the color with haste for tap abilities. It didn't pan out, though. As such, this card has never been reprinted because we didn't end up going down that path. I guess we should stop trying to make Bonded Fetch happen.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Bound in Silence

This is another case of us trying to make a simple futureshifted card. The set needed a Pacifism variant, so we made one that was a Rebel, using the brand-new tribal keyword, tying it to the Rebel creature type from Mercadian Masques (another futureshifted card, Ramosian Revivalist, used the Rebel subtype and interacted with this card in Limited). This card was setting up the tribal card type that would become a major player in Lorwyn block, which followed Future Sight.

As we've stopped using the tribal card type and have never redone Rebels, this card doesn't have much chance at a reprint.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Bridge from Below

Normally, when we get holes in a file later in the set's life, we put out what we call a hole filling where we allow a select group of people from across the company to submit card ideas to fill the holes. For Future Sight, Mike Turian, the set's lead developer (kind of similar to a lead set designer today) put out a hole filing late in the set's life and didn't get any cards he liked for the futureshifted holes, as they're very hard to design. Mike came to me to design cards to fill those holes. The last two I filled (and I believe the last two cards to go into the file) were Bridge from Below and Narcomoeba. Bridge from Below was me messing around with an enchantment that essentially only worked in your graveyard. I added an out to make sure the opponent had some way of getting rid of it.

The card ended up being pretty powerful, so it's not something we want to add to formats that don't already have it. The card has been reprinted in two masters sets (Modern Masters and Ultimate Masters), but no premier sets.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Centaur Omenreader

This card explores two things: returning to the snow supertype and having effects that only happen when the creature is tapped. The former happened in Modern Horizons, to some fanfare, so I expect it to happen again. The latter is the kind of effect that could show up as a one-of or could be part of a larger theme. A reprint needs to have both line up in the same set.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Darksteel Garrison

Fortifications were just a tweak on Equipment, except it went on a land rather than a creature. This is one of the futureshifted mechanics I get asked about the most. The biggest problem is that there's not enough difference between Fortifications and Auras that enchant lands. The two big differences between Equipment and Auras on creatures is that the Equipment sticks around when the creature dies and you can move the Equipment from creature to creature. Neither of these is very compelling when the item is attached to a land. Lands aren't destroyed often, and there aren't tons of reasons to want to move a Fortification between lands. On top of all that, there's just not that many effects we want to put onto lands. That's partly because of the function of lands and partly because we don't want to make lands easy to destroy, which limits stronger enchantment-like effects. There is the chance that we find the execution and the world where it all comes together, but it's a bit of a longshot.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Daybreak Coronet

This card hints at an "Auras matter" theme. Here's the problem. Auras have so many issues already that making extra things rely on them is tricky. That said, we did seriously consider putting this card in Theros (in addition to Nessian Courser—that card was in the set day one). It did have an Aura theme (although I would argue not an "Auras matter" theme). I think the reason the card didn't make it to print was it was too strong. One of the difficult things about futureshifted cards was that we can't recost them, and it's tricky costing cards from potential futures in a total vacuum of what sets they might exist in. That said, maybe Daybreak Coronet will find a home one day in a non-reprint set.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Deepcavern Imp

This card was us exploring echo costs other than mana. I do believe if echo ever returned, this card would have a decent chance of being in the set. The problem is the return of echo is unlikely as it's not a very popular mechanic. In general, players don't like downside mechanics unless they're especially flavorful, and echo is about as unflavorful as it gets.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Dryad Arbor

This card seemed so innocent. It's a land and a creature. We combine other card types. Why not these two?

If the rules manager was allowed to make a list of cards and permanently erase them from the game's existence, this card would be high on that list. The rules for creatures and the rules for lands really don't like to intermix. We've learned to accept that new things affecting creatures or lands have some percentage of chance to cause a problem with Dryad Arbor.

That said, this card is popular among certain players. I get asked all the time when we're getting the other cards to finish the cycle. I always reply, "I have some bad news for you."

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Edge of Autumn

If we can do non-mana echo costs, why not non-mana cycling costs? The design of this card is cute. The effect wants you to use it if you're low on lands, and the cycling is good if you're high on lands. I think this card hasn't seen a reprint because it's too strong. I think. We do cycling often enough that I'm sure this card has been looked at many times. It's also possible the non-mana cycling has combo issues. I get suspicious in that it hasn't happened when there's been so many opportunities.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Emblem of the Warmind

This was us messing with a local enchantment that had a global effect. I'm not sure why this hasn't been reprinted. My best guess is that this ability at two mana might be too strong, even on an Aura. If that is true, it's best chances of a reprint are in a supplemental set.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Fleshwrither

Transfigure is a creature version of the transmute ability from the original Ravnica, the Dimir ability. R&D has moved away from doing lots of tutoring effects (aka getting cards out of the library and putting them in your hand), so the chance of us doing a tutoring mechanic is pretty low.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Tap Enchantments

All three of these cards are us messing with enchantments that tap. Each one is using the tap symbol in a different way. Flowstone Embrace lets you turn on the enchantment when you want. For example, if you put it on your 3/3, you can activate it only after it's unblocked. Second Wind gives you two abilities but uses the tap symbol to only let you use one at a time. Witch's Nest is using the tap symbol to limit you to using the ability once per turn, much as we use it on artifacts.

I think we were messing with this on the futureshifted cards because it was difficult finding effects and tapping enchantments felt different. Artifacts and enchantments already have so many similarities that I don't expect us to take away one of the few differences they have.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Days of Future Past

That's all the time I have for today. I hope you're enjoying this look back at the futureshifted cards. As always, I'm eager to hear your feedback on today's column and on what futureshifted cards you'd like to see reprinted. You can write to me through my email or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok).

Join me next time for more futureshifted cards.

Until then, may you enjoy predicting where your life is headed.

 
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