Back to the Future Sight, Part 3

Posted in Making Magic on August 24, 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.

Three weeks ago and two weeks ago, I talked about the futureshifted cards from Future Sight, explaining how they got designed and how they may or may not have eventually found their way into a future set. I went through and addressed whether they've already been reprinted or were almost reprinted. And for those that haven't been reprinted, I predicted their chances of seeing a reprint in the future and will continue to do so today.

Click below to see a reminder of how I'm grading the cards.

Click here to see grading

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, with 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 that 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.

Today should be the third and final article on the futureshifted cards.

Legendary Monocolor Cycle

  • Baru, Fist of Krosa
  • Tarox Bladewing
  • Oriss, Samite Guardian
  • Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
  • Linessa, Zephyr Mage

One of the common things that happens in design is that you get an idea but don't know where exactly to use it, so you let it sit around until it finds a home. That's exactly what happened with this cycle. Bill Rose, vice president of tabletop Magic, had come up with a mechanic that helped offset the drawback that comes with the legendary supertype. I think he'd drawn a second copy of a legendary creature he had on the battlefield one too many times, so he did what Magic designers do and designed something you could use in that situation.

The first mechanic he created let you stack copies of a legendary creature on top of itself, granting that creature additional abilities and stats. It tended to double things that could be doubled and added additional synergistic abilities. There were too many rules issues, so he moved to a simpler idea—grandeur. It went on legendary creatures and allowed you to discard other copies of the creature for an effect. Whenever Bill comes up with a mechanic (or card or theme), he sends me an email. If I like it, I put aside and look for a place to use it.

Flash forward to Future Sight design (probably over a year later). We wanted to make some futureshifted legendary creatures and came up with the idea of making creatures that were descendants of famous Magic characters. While that helped making them creatively from the future, I still needed a way to make them mechanically from the future. That's when I remembered Bill's mechanic. We'd never done anything like it, so it seemed like a cool futureshifted idea. Grandeur ended up being the new keyword printed on the most futureshifted cards, as it was part of a cycle of rare legendary monocolor creatures. Each grandeur ability was meant to be a splashy effect that synergistically worked with the rest of the card.

Let's talk about how each card got made:

Oriss, Samite Guardian – Oriss is an descendant of Orim, Samite Healer from the Weatherlight crew—her card appeared in Tempest. Both Oriss and Orim are a beefed-up versions of the card Samite Healer from Alpha which prevents damage. Her grandeur ability also protects you by preventing the opponent from casting spells or attacking.

Linessa, Zephyr Mage – Linessa is an descendant of Alexi, Zephyr Mage from Prophecy. Both let you return multiple creatures to their owner's hand. Her grandeur ability lets you return a whole bunch of permanents.

Korlash, Heir to BlackbladeKorlash is an descendant of Dakkon Blackblade from Legends. They both have their stats tied to the number of swamps you control. The grandeur ability lets you get more swamps to make you even bigger and get you more mana.

Tarox BladewingTarox is an descendant of Rorix Bladewing from Onslaught. Both cards are big, aggressive Dragons with haste. The Grandeur ability helps you make Tarox temporarily bigger.

Baru, Fist of KrosaBaru is an descendant of Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, the protagonist of the Odyssey block and Onslaught block stories. His two cards appeared in the sets Odyssey and Onslaught. Both Fist of Krosa cards boost your creatures and grant them trample. The grandeur ability allows you to make a token that gets bigger the more lands you have (which ties into Baru's trigger).

These cards are very hard to reprint for two reasons. One, they're tied to characters that I believe are all on Dominaria. Two, it's tricky to make more grandeur cards because the format that most cares about legendary cards, Commander, can't use the mechanic due to its Singleton nature. While we're willing to print individual legendary creature cards that aren't playable or good in Commander, it's tricky to do that with a whole mechanic.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely (Oriss, Samite Guardian; Linessa, Zephyr Mage; Korlash, Heir to Blackblade; Tarox Bladewing; and Baru, Fist of Krosa)

Patrician's Scorn

This spell experimented with a different alternate cost that let you cast the spell for free. It's dangerous territory and probably something we wouldn't want to do in any volume. I don't think it's likely we're reprinting this, but I could imagine that in the right environment, it's possible. I do think the creative hints at a cool world that's unlike anything we've ever done.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Phosphorescent Feast

In Fifth Dawn design, Aaron Forsythe designed a bunch of cards that counted mana symbols. When I talked with Aaron about this, he managed to find them, so here are the actual initial cards he designed:

Acidic Atmosphere
6
Artifact
Each creature gets -1/-1 for each colored mana symbol in its mana cost. (A creature that costs 1WW gets -2/-2.)

Red Blast
1{R}{R}
Instant
Target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the number of red mana symbols in the mana costs of all creatures in play.

Keep It Light
3{W}
Enchantment
Spells with more than two colored mana symbols in their mana costs cannot be played.

Undead Bean-Counter
1{B}{B}
Creature — Zombie
CARDNAME has power and toughness equal to the number of black mana symbols in the mana costs of all cards in your graveyard.
*/*

True to Form
{G}
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 for each green mana symbol it its mana cost.

Little White Butterflies
2{W}{W}
Sorcery
Reveal your hand. Then put a 1/1 white Spirit creature token with flying into play for each white mana symbol in the mana costs of the cards in your hand.

I told Aaron that I thought the cards could be a whole mechanic and we should hold onto them until we find them a better home. A few years later, I put Phosphorescent Feast on the futureshifted sheet because I knew we were going to do the mechanic when we got to the hybrid mana-heavy block I was planning for the next year. A year later in Eventide, we reprinted Phosphorescent Feast with an ability word we named chroma.

The mechanic came out to kind of a thud. I was very disappointed because I had high hopes for the mechanic. Luckily, a number of years later, in original Theros, we were able to give it a makeover and turn it into the mechanic devotion which was a big hit. A great lesson in the importance of execution.

Reprint Chances: Already Reprinted

Quagnoth

One of the things I was concerned about at the time of Future Sight was that there weren't enough evergreen keywords. Evergreen keywords are important because we often have to build cycles with them, and if there aren't enough, every cycle starts looking the same. Also, as long as there aren't too many keywords (you can create vocabulary overload for new players), they help add flavor and cohesion to the mechanics we use a lot. I thought it would be fun to introduce the new keywords on futureshifted cards and then start using them shortly after. I say all this because the main point of this card's design was to introduce the shroud mechanic.

Quagnoth has two big problems returning. First is split second. It was in Time Spiral because it was a time-themed block and was a good fit thematically. Essentially bringing back interrupts somehow wasn't a big crowd pleaser, so I'm skeptical of its return. Second, we've retired the shroud keyword. It was replaced with hexproof because too many players intuitively thought that's how it was played. Suffice to say, I don't have high hopes for a Quagnoth reprint.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Ramosian Revivalist

This card is a tweak on the Rebel mechanic from Mercadian Masques. Instead of putting a Rebel card from your library onto the battlefield, Ramosian Revivalist puts it from the graveyard onto the battlefield. I believe it was made to work with Bound in Silence, which was a Rebel (the card introduced the tribal supertype). Rebels was very unpopular (and a bit overpowered) the first time we did them, so I'm not optimistic of their return, even this new graveyard version.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Sarcomite Myr

For those who were around when Scars of Mirrodin came out, do you remember how I said we'd placed subtle clues that the Phyrexians were already there back in original Mirrodin? This is one of those clues. It's a Phyrexianized Myr, a creature (so far) found only on Mirrodin. You see, I knew we had plans to go back to Mirrodin, and I'd been wanting to find a place to do colored artifacts. It seemed like the perfect marriage of mechanics and creative. Unfortunately, in between Future Sight and Scars of Mirrodin, we made Shards of Alara and realized that the colored artifacts idea solved our problem of how to design the Esper shard. Meaning that when we finally got to Scars of Mirrodin, we ended up solving the Phyrexian design issue with other tools. There were a small number of colored artifact creatures in New Phyrexia, but all of them had Phyrexian mana costs. As we've leaned into colored artifacts as being an evergreen thing, I do think there's a decent chance of seeing this little guy if we ever get back to New Phyrexia.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Seht's Tiger

This card grants protection from a color to you, the caster. Gasp! Okay, not all the futureshifted cards were as innovative as others. I'm actually surprised this card hasn't had a reprint yet. Maybe it's the name. I do think we tried to get this card in Amonkhet block, but two things prevented it. First, Ethan Fleischer really wanted to get Avon Mindcaster in and there wasn't much desire for two timeshifted cards in one set. Second, this was during the period where protection stopped being evergreen.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Shah of Naar Isle and Skizzik Surger

Both of these cards are messing around with non-mana echo costs. I think the first version of Shah of Naar Isle had a template like "Echo Opponent draws three cards," but the rules and templating didn't like it that way, so they changed it to a 0 echo cost with a trigger. Skizzik Surger can do it because sacrificing something is a cost. As both cards are dependent on echo coming back, and even then, it would be a discussion about non-mana costs—I'd call both a longshot.

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Shapeshifter's Marrow

This is another design that could have just as easily been non-futureshifted, and no one would have batted an eye. I'm not sure what's kept this card from getting reprinted. I think in the right set, this could be an easy include.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Snake Cult Initiation

This card and Virulent Sliver were the two cards to have poisonous. As I said when I talked about Virulent Sliver, I had every intention of using poisonous when poison returned but ended up liking infect better when I got into Scars of Mirrodin design. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that poisonous could return, but I wouldn't call it likely.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Spellweaver Volute

I would now like to present a short play entitled Volute of the Spellweaver.

Me: Can I ask you a question?
Rules Manager: Sure. That's kind of my job.
Me: Do the rules allow us to enchant things other than permanents?
Rules Manager: Like what? Players?
Me: No, I already did that in Unglued.
Rules Manager: Then what?
Me: Cards in a graveyard.
Rules Manager: Are you making another silver-bordered set?
Me: No, this is for a black-bordered set.
Rules Manager: *Shakes head*
Me: Is it possible?
Rules Manager: Theoretically yes, but . . .
Me: Close enough. Thanks!

Reprint Chances: Very Unlikely

Spellwild Ouphe

This is another random one-of design, making a tweak on cost reduction. This is another card that I'm kind of surprised hasn't been reprinted. I guess there aren't a lot of worlds with Ouphes.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Spin into Myth

Reverse scry seemed like the kind of thing we would probably do one day, so we made it into one of our futureshifted mechanics. Having created this card, we know now that this mechanic is horribly unfun. Making sure your opponent just draws their worst cards is not the recipe for an enjoyable experience. I'm not very optimistic of this card getting reprinted. (Although, I should point out that it did get reprinted once in Archenemy as it was just so on-theme.)

Reprint Chances: Unlikely or Already Reprinted (if we want to count Archenemy)

Sporoloth Ancient

This card was hinting at a return to Fallen Empires. The unique part of this design is that the ability to remove counters from this creature sits not on the creature but is granted to every other creature. Other than not being able to work if it's your only creature on the battlefield, I'm not sure I even understand the practical application of this. (I'm sure I knew it at the time we designed it.) The flavor and quirkiness of the mechanic make this an odd fit for most sets.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Steamflogger Boss

One of the things I wanted among the futureshifted cards was one card that used terminology that we'd never used before and didn't bother explaining it. I also wanted the card to be a little silly, as the whole point was to laugh at how we didn't know what the card meant. My first stab at it was this:

Goblin Splorg
2{R}{R}
Creature — Goblin Splorg Warrior
3/3
R, Sacrifice a Goblin: All Splorgs gain double strike until end of turn.
R, Sacrifice a Splorg: All Goblins gain +2/+0 until end of turn.

Aaron Forsythe pointed out that it didn't quite capture what we wanted, as we make new creature types all the time. We needed the new word to be weirder and more oblique. This was the next attempt:

[Goblin Flogpincher]**
2{R}{R}
Creature — Goblin Rigger
3/3
If a Rigger you control would erect a Monument, it erects two Monuments instead.
All other Riggers get +1/+0 and haste.

The editing team suggested that perhaps "erecting a Monument" would get more snickers than we wanted, so it was changed to assembling a Contraption. When the card came out, we got the kind of response we wanted. People made fun of the mystery of what exactly the card was referring to. If we had just stopped there, all would have been well, but Aaron had a column at the time and, in it, he revealed that we had no intention of ever making Contraptions. It was just a joke.

Life lesson—don't tell Magic players that we have no intention of doing something. It only encourages them to want it. For years, players demanded we make Contraptions. I tried, but capturing the flavor of it while making viable mechanics just never worked out. I couldn't get it to feel like a Contraption while making the mechanic viable. I had a few boring answers, but that wasn't what the Magic audience wanted. If I was going to make Contraptions, it needed to be a home run, not a single.

The salvation of Contraptions turned out to be Unstable. It was a steampunk-inspired set focused on invention. (No, that one came later. Well, designed later.) Contraptions were a perfect fit, and the freedom silver border gave me mechanically allowed me to make something that captured the feel the mechanic needed. It became a second deck with cards that you literally assembled into a giant machine. The audience loved it so much, now I get players begging me to bring it to black border.

Reprint Chances: Already Reprinted

Street Wraith

We experimented with non-mana echo costs, why not do the same with cycling costs? Life turned out to be quite efficient. In fact, probably a little too efficient for Standard, but the card has found a home in lots of reprint sets (Modern Masters, Masters 25, Mystery Booster). While I don't think a reprint is going to end up in Standard, I could imagine it maybe finding a home in a supplemental set. It's a bit of a longshot, but possible.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Storm Entity

This card started as a creature with storm. It was then explained to us that the rules don't allow that, so we did the best we could to make a creature that feels like it has storm. How successful were we? Assuming there aren't play design issues, I think this card might one day get reprinted.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Tarmogoyf

This card was on the futureshifted sheet for one purpose. It needed to have reminder text that listed all the card types, as we were going to add one that didn't exist yet. I chose to make a Lhurgoyf variant that looked at how many card types you had in your graveyard instead of creatures. The original plan was to add only "planeswalker" to the reminder text. Then the card got pulled from the set because we needed to make space for a green planeswalker card. We were going to premiere the planeswalkers on futureshifted cards. Then that plan fell through as we needed more time to perfect the planeswalker card design. Interestingly, when Mike Turian, the set's lead developer, put Tarmogoyf back in the file, he did it from memory, and instead of putting in the */* stats I'd chosen when I made the card, he made it */*+1 as that's how it worked on Lhurgoyf. While working on Lorwyn design, we realized we wanted to use the tribal keyword, so we added it to Tarmogoyf, as the card was still in development. The biggest obstacle in this card getting reprinted is its power level.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Thornweald Archer

Quagnoth introduced shroud. Thornweald Archer introduced reach and deathtouch. I missed it last week, but Mistmeadow Skulk introduced lifelink. Those were the four new keywords. As reach and deathtouch are evergreen abilities now, I'm kind of surprised this card has never been reprinted. It's just a matter of finding a world where the name fits.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Thunderblade Charge

This card is sort of a flashback/buyback variant. The twist is it's tied to combat damage. I'm surprised we didn't keyword or ability word this, as it seems to imply something larger. I'm not sure with evasive creatures if this falls into the trouble space of buyback where the player just keeps repeating the same spell. I could see us tweaking this mechanic but am skeptical we'd do it as is. Maybe as a single card reprint?

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Vedalken Aethermage

This card, along with Homing Sliver, introduces [type]cycling, a variant on basic land cycling where instead of getting a basic land, you get a creature of a certain creature type. With our crackdown on tutoring mechanics (we still do individual cards) to lessen repetitive play issues, I don't think we're going to see [type]cycling return, but maybe someone will surprise me.

Reprint Chances: Unlikely

Yixlid Jailer

This is another futureshifted card that could easily have been non-futureshifted. The card is very niche, so it's not going to fit into a lot of sets, but it seems like one day we'll find the one that it clicks with. I do know numerous sets have experimented with including this card, but for various reasons, it hasn't made it to print yet.

Reprint Chances: Likely

Days of Future Past

Whew! After three weeks. I'm finally done. I hope you enjoyed my look back at one of the odder subsets of cards I've ever been responsible for. As always, I'm eager to hear any feedback on this column or any of the cards I talked about. You can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok).

Join me next week for the start of Zendikar Rising previews.

Until then, may your future include some of your past.

 
#767: Ethan Fleischer
#767: Ethan Fleischer

33:09

In this podcast, I talk with designer Ethan Fleischer about all the premier sets he's led or co-led the design for.


 
#768: Ikoria, Part 1
#768: Ikoria, Part 1

30:55

In this podcast, I begin telling the in-depth story of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths's design.

Latest Making Magic Articles

MAKING MAGIC

November 30, 2020

Odds & Ends: Commander Legends by, Mark Rosewater

For each set, I like to do a mailbag column where I try to answer your most pressing questions about it. Here's the tweet I posted for Commander Legends: It's time for me to write a mai...

Learn More

MAKING MAGIC

November 23, 2020

How Trivial – Legendary Creatures by, Mark Rosewater

It's time for another trivia column. Inspired by Commander Legends, I've decided to focus this one on legendary creatures. Want to see how many of the 30 questions you can answer correctl...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Making Magic Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All