#641: Booster Packs
In this podcast, I talk all about the history of the booster pack, how it's evolved, and what impact it has on the design of Magic.
Posted in Making Magic on June 3, 2019
When I hit my hundredth week of writing "Making Magic," I wrote a column recapping all hundred weeks, grading each one on a scale of one to five stars. This has become a tradition that I do every hundred weeks. Six weeks ago was my nine-hundredth week, so it's that time again. (I delayed a bunch of weeks to finish writing my War of the Spark preview and card-by-card columns.) The reason I do this recap column is twofold. First, it serves to keep a record of all my articles for people who want to go back and find a particular one. Second, it acts as a resource for newer readers who want some idea where to start when diving into the ever-growing pool of Making Magic articles.
This is the ninth in the series. Here are the first eight:
As always, here is my five-star scale:
This is as good as it gets. The crème de la crème. If you're going to catch up on any old articles, these are the ones to read.
While not my absolute best, this article is one of my better pieces.
One of my bread-and-butter articles. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too shabby either.
At best, a ho-hum read. At worst, a failed experiment.
The only reason to read this is to say you've read every article. Not my finest hour.
Whenever I write one of these columns, I get questions about why there are so few low-rated columns. There are three reasons. One, I'm keeping a constant grade across all the "Hundred and Counting" articles. In the early years, I published some low-rated articles, so I can't just get rid of the lower ratings and readjust the scale. Two, if I feel I've written an article that falls lower than a three-star column, I rewrite it. I'm always aiming for five-star columns, so my three-star columns are me "hitting low." Three, I've been doing this for nine hundred weeks (aka over seventeen years). I believe I'm, on average, writing stronger material than I was back in 2002.
With that out of the way, let's talk about some columns.
Week #801 (May 1, 2017) – "Amonkhet Talking, Part 2"
This was part two of a three-part series on card-by-card design stories from Amonkhet. If you enjoy finding out how certain cards came to be or how they changed during the process from creation to print, you might enjoy the card-by-card design story columns. I do them during every preview season.
Week #802 (May 8, 2017) – "Amonkhet Talking, Part 3"
And this was part three of the three-part series on card-by-card design stories from Amonkhet.
Week #803 (May 15, 2017) – "Eight Hundred and Counting"
This was my previous "_____ Hundred and Counting" article. Check it out after you read this one, if you're unfamiliar with the hundred columns before this hundred.
Week #804 (May 22, 2017) – "Odds & Ends: Amonkhet, Part 1"
Another thing I do every preview season is to do a mailbag column answering fans' questions about the latest set. These "Odds & Ends" columns tend to answer a lot of the smaller issues that didn't get addressed in my preview columns. If you're a fan of a particular set, you'll probably enjoy seeing me answer various questions about it.
Week #805 (May 29, 2017) – "Odds & Ends: Amonkhet, Part 2"
This is part two of my Amonkhet mailbag column.
Week #806 (June 5, 2017) – "Mechanical Color Pie 2017"
This was one of the most adventuresome columns I ever wrote. In it, I broke down every Magic mechanic (that I could think of—I missed a few minor ones) into its place in the color pie. What colors have haste? What colors get to do direct damage to creatures? What colors can regrow artifacts? It's all in here. This is a great resource for anyone who wants to better understand the color pie. My plan for this column is that every four or five years I'll revisit and update it (Magic's color pie doesn't change all that quickly).
Week #807 (June 12, 2017) – "Metamorphosis 2.0"
In August of 2014, I wrote an article named "Metamorphosis" that explained how we were changing from three-set blocks to two-set blocks. Well, in 2017 we announced we were getting rid of blocks altogether and moving to a "three and one model" with three large sets, each drafted by itself, and the return of the core set. This article talks all about the issues that caused us to make the change. If you're at all interested in how Magic functions as a larger game, you should take a peek at this article. I believe this is currently my most read article to date.
Week #808 (June 19, 2017) – "Darkest Hour, Part 1"
This is my first preview article for Hour of Devastation. In it, I introduce the design team and walk through the various goals the design had to meet. If you're interested in Magic design, my preview articles are a good place to watch how a set came to be and what inspired its theme and mechanics.
Week #809 (June 26, 2017) – "Darkest Hour, Part 2"
This is my second and final Hour of Devastation preview article. This column talks about the many ways we evolved and tweaked the mechanical themes of Amonkhet to make Hour of Devastation.
Week #810 (July 3, 2017) – "Devastation Information, Part 1"
This is the first part of a three-part series on Hour of Devastation card-by-card design stories.
Week #811 (July 10, 2017) – "Devastation Information, Part 2"
This is the second part of a three-part series on Hour of Devastation card-by-card design stories.
Week #812 (July 17, 2017) – "Devastation Information, Part 3"
And this is the third part of a three-part series on Hour of Devastation card-by-card design stories.
Week #813 (July 24, 2017) – "Odds & Ends: Hour of Devastation, Part 1"
This is the first part of a two-parter mailbag column for Hour of Devastation.
Week #814 (July 31, 2017) – "Odds & Ends: Hour of Devastation, Part 2"
This is the second part of a two-parter mailbag column for Hour of Devastation.
Week #815 (August 7, 2017) – "Cats"
It was the preview week for Commander (2017 Edition). Each day, we were previewing a different deck. My preview cards were from the Cat deck (each of the Commander 2017 decks was built around a creature type), so I wrote a history article that walked through every Cat card in Magic, from Limited Edition (Alpha) through Hour of Devastation. If Cats (or Magic design history) happen to be your thing, I think you'll enjoy this article.
Week #816 (August 14, 2017) – "Get It, Unhinged Edition, Part 1"
When Unhinged (the second silver-bordered Un- set) got announced, I wrote an article about many of the jokes in Unglued (the first silver-bordered Un- set). Well, we had just announced Unstable (the third silver-bordered Un- set), so that meant it was time to write an article about many of the jokes from Unhinged. I explained 50 different gags (many involving more than one card) spread over two columns. This is part one. If you're at all a fan of silver-bordered sets or even just like seeing jokes about Magic, this two-parter is worth a read.
Week #817 (August 21, 2017) – "Get It, Unhinged Edition, Part 2"
This is part two of my series talking about many of the jokes from Unhinged.
Week #818 (August 28, 2017) – "State of Design 2017"
Ever since I became head designer, I have written a column each summer looking back at the previous year and giving my take on the state of Magic design (influenced by the US president's State of the Union speech). The "State of Design" columns are very self-reflective and critical. They have a great insight into what R&D cares about when making Magic and how the audience has reacted to what we've done. These are definitely columns I recommend reading. This specific column talks about how I felt about the blocks of Kaladesh and Amonkhet.
Week #819 (September 4, 2017) – "Just for Ix(alan), Part 1"
This is my first preview column for Ixalan. In it, I explain how the world of Ixalan creatively came to be, how it inspired a tribal theme, and how we figured out what exactly our four factions were going to be and in what colors.
Week #820 (September 11, 2017) – "Just for Ix(alan), Part 2"
This is my second preview column for Ixalan. In this column, I explain the large amount of flux that happened during the design and development process of Ixalan (more so than normal). I do so by walking through the various segments of design and explain what exactly happened. This column does a good job of showing how ideas that seem great out of the gate can fall apart along the way and need to be reworked.
Week #821 (September 18, 2017) – "Just for Ix(alan), Part 3"
This is my third preview column for Ixalan. This column focuses on the development of the set and how and why many of the mechanics changed.
Week #822 (September 25, 2017) – "Dinosaurs and Vampires and Pirates (and Merfolk), Oh My, Part 1"
This is the first of a two-part series on Ixalan card-by-card design stories.
Week #823 (October 2, 2017) – "Dinosaurs and Vampires and Pirates (and Merfolk), Oh My, Part 2"
This is the second article of a two-part series on Ixalan card-by-card design stories.
Week #824 (October 9, 2017) – "Odds & Ends: Ixalan, Part 1"
This is first of a two-part mailbag series on Ixalan.
Week #825 (October 16, 2017) – "Odds & Ends: Ixalan, Part 2"
This is second of a two-part mailbag series on Ixalan.
Week #826 (October 23, 2017) – "Vision Design, Set Design, and Play Design"
Of all the changes R&D has ever made to the game, I think the biggest may be the changeover we made behind the scenes with the process of how we design Magic. This column talks about how we shifted from the design/development model to the vision/set/play design model. I believe this change has been a huge boon for the game and has vastly improved how we make Magic sets. If this sounds at all interesting to you, this is a must-read.
Week #827 (October 30, 2017) – "Improv-ing on the Job"
In college, I started an improvisation troupe (an acting troupe that makes up scenes on the spot based on audience suggestions). This column talks about many of the skills I learned from doing improv and how they apply to Magic design.
Week #828 (November 6, 2017) – "The Un-Ending Saga, Part 1"
Unstable, the third silver-bordered Un- set, was finally coming out. I wrote a three-part article about the seven-year journey of making the set. This is part one. I'm usually not involved in sets all the way through the process, plus this set just took a lot longer than any set ever had, so there's a lot of story to tell. Also, I introduce the design team.
Week #829 (November 13, 2017) – "The Un-Ending Saga, Part 2"
In part two of my Unstable design story, I talk about the daunting task of creating Contraptions.
Week #830 (November 20, 2017) – "The Un-Ending Saga, Part 3"
In the third and final part of my Unstable design story, I talk about all the other mechanics in the set (host/augment, dice rolling, and "outside assistance" cards). This article shows off one of my all-time favorite design prototypes (for host/augment).
Week #831 (November 27, 2017) – "Unstable Scraps, Part 1"
Due to many different factors (how many cards I individually designed, how long the design lasted, my being on the team for its entire run, etc.) my Unstable card-by-card design stories go a little deeper than my normal card-by-card columns. This is the first part of a three-part series.
Week #832 (December 4, 2017) – "Unstable Scraps, Part 2"
This is the second part of my three-part Unstable card-by-card design stories.
Week #833 (December 11, 2017) – "Unstable Scraps, Part 3"
This is the third and final part of my three-part Unstable card-by-card design stories.
Week #834 (December 18, 2017) – Vacation Week
The website was on vacation for two weeks over the winter holidays, so there was no new Making Magic column.
Week #835 (December 25, 2017) – Vacation Week
Still no new "Making Magic" column.
Week #836 (January 1, 2018) – "The Arrival of Rivals"
This is my one and only Rivals of Ixalan preview column. The nature of when the set came out forced us to have a shorter-than-normal preview season. In this column, I introduce the design team and talk about how the set came together, including the creation of its new mechanic, ascend.
Week #837 (January 8, 2018) – "A Rivals Like No Other, Part 1"
This is part one of a three-part series of Rivals of Ixalan card-by-card design stories. Because I got only one preview column, some of my explanation of the set's design was folded into the card-by-card columns.
Week #838 (January 15, 2018) – "A Rivals Like No Other, Part 2"
This is part two of my three-part series of Rivals of Ixalan card-by-card design stories.
Week #839 (January 22, 2018) – "A Rivals Like No Other, Part 3"
This is part three of my three-part series of Rivals of Ixalan card-by-card design stories.
Week #840 (January 29, 2018) – "Odds & Ends: Rivals of Ixalan"
This is my mailbag column for Rivals of Ixalan.
Week #841 (February 5, 2018) – "Essay What You Will"
We started the third Great Designer Search (GDS3). This column walked through the ten essay questions (the first trial) and talked about what types of answers we were looking for. The questions dove pretty deep into thoughts about Magic design, so even if you're uninterested in GDS3, you might still find something to like in this column.
Week #842 (February 12, 2018) – "Make a Choice, Part 1"
The second GDS3 trial was a 75-question multiple choice test. This column gives you the test so that you can take it, and then this and the following column walk through all the answers. If you've ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a Magic designer (or just think it would be fun to see how much you know), take the test and see how you do.
Week #843 (February 19, 2018) – "Make a Choice, Part 2"
This is the second and final part of the GDS3 multiple choice test answers.
Week #844 (February 26, 2018) – "Every Card Has a Story"
It was the preview week for Masters 25. I had two preview cards, and I went deep telling the design story of each.
Week #845 (March 5, 2018) – "Reading the Designs"
The third and final trial of GDS3 was a card design test. I show off what the design test was and then walk through the many pitfalls of it the contestants had to navigate.
Week #846 (March 12, 2018) – "Quite the Rarity"
In this column, I examine the various qualities a card can have and then look through the lens of each rarity to help define what makes a card common, uncommon, rare, or mythic rare. This is a good column for anyone designing their own cards or anyone who just wants a better understanding of why certain cards are certain rarities.
Week #847 (March 19, 2018) – "940 Cards"
As a judge for GDS3, I had to read through the design test of everyone who had advanced to the third and final trial. I don't often get to see amateur card designs, so this article is me walking through some lessons for people trying their hand at Magic design. I also used this column to show off a bunch of designers who just missed the cut-off to Top 8 for GDS3.
Week #848 (March 26, 2018) – "Nuts & Bolts: Creative Elements"
I write an annual series called "Nuts & Bolts" (usually printed in February or March) dedicated to providing tactical advice to amateur Magic card designers. This year, I talked about how to handle creative elements including worldbuilding, names, and flavor text.
Week #849 (April 2, 2018) – "Returning Home"
This was my first Dominaria preview column. The story of Dominaria's design is a very interesting one, and this article talks about the many challenges of returning to Magic's home plane. I also introduce the Vision Design team and show off some very cool early prototypes for Sagas designed by Richard Garfield (who was on the Vision Design team).
Week #850 (April 9, 2018) – "A Historic Story"
For Dominaria, we created a mechanic called "historic." It was the glue that mechanically held the set together. This column talks about how the mechanic came about and the great lengths I had to go to save it. If you enjoy my "Mark fights against everyone to save the thing he really cares about" stories, this is one of those.
Week #851 (April 16, 2018) – "Stories from Dominaria, Part 1"
This is part one of my three-part Dominaria card-by-card design stories.
Week #852 (April 23, 2018) – "Stories from Dominaria, Part 2"
This is part two of my three-part Dominaria card-by-card design stories.
Week #853 (April 30, 2018) – "Stories from Dominaria, Part 3"
This is part three of my three-part Dominaria card-by-card design stories.
Week #854 (May 7, 2018) – "The Saga of Sagas"
This column talks all about how the Saga mechanic came to be. It also shows off a few early prototypes of the Saga mechanic and walks through all the changes the mechanic went through. This is a good article if you want to see how a mechanic evolves over the course of design.
Week #855 (May 14, 2018) – "Odds & Ends: Dominaria, Part 1"
This is part one of a two-part mailbag series on Dominaria. Part two comes two weeks later because of Battlebond previews.
Week #856 (May 21, 2018) – "Doubling Down"
This is my Battlebond preview column. I show off Doubling Season (my favorite card I've designed) and go in depth into how its design happened. The tale also talks a bit about doubling in Magic's design history.
Week #857 (May 28, 2018) – "Odds & Ends: Dominaria, Part 2"
This is part two of a two-part mailbag series on Dominaria.
Week #858 (June 4, 2018) – "What Is a Game?"
Based upon a popular "Drive to Work" podcast I did, this column explains my definition of what a game is. If you enjoy debating whether Candyland is a game, this is the article for you.
Week #859 (June 11, 2018) – "Storm Scale: Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin Blocks"
This is another of my "Storm Scale" articles where I look at old mechanics and talk about how likely they are to return in a Standard-legal set. This column examines the mechanics of original Mirrodin block and its return, Scars of Mirrodin block.
Week #860 (June 18, 2018) – "Getting to the Core"
Core sets were returning, so I spent this column explaining why they returned and how we expected the new core sets to be different from the core sets of old. This is another column where I dig deeper into the larger Magic ecosystem.
Week #861 (June 25, 2018) – "In the Cards, Part 1"
This part one of my two-part series of card-by-card design stories from Core Set 2019.
Week #862 (July 2, 2018) – "In the Cards, Part 2"
This part two of my two-part series of card-by-card design stories from Core Set 2019.
Week #863 (July 9, 2018) – "Narrative Equity"
This column explains a new concept I'd been mulling over about how games want to inspire stories in their players' lives. This column attracted a lot of attention from the larger game design community. If you're at all interested in any type of game design, give this a read.
Week #864 (July 16, 2018) – "Colorful Replies"
This was a mailbag column where I let the players ask any questions they wanted of any of the Magic colors. It's one of my more humorous columns, but still does a lot to shine light on the various intricacies of the color pie. This was a very popular column, and I plan to do a follow-up later this year.
Week #865 (July 23, 2018) – "Planeswalking Down Memory Lane"
This is my Commander (2018 Edition) preview column. To play into the Planeswalker theme of the product, I wrote a history column about planeswalker cards.
Week #866 (July 30, 2018) – "Odds & Ends: Core Set 2019"
This is the first of three mailbag columns about Core Set 2019.
Week #867 (August 6, 2018) – "More Odds & Ends: Core Set 2019"
This is the second of three mailbag columns about Core Set 2019.
Week #868 (August 13, 2018) – "Odds & Ends: Core Set 2019 Strikes Again"
This is the third of three mailbag columns about Core Set 2019.
Week #869 (August 20, 2018) – "State of Design 2018"
This was my "State of Design" column for 2018. I talk about my thoughts on the sets of Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Unstable, Dominaria, Battlebond, and Core Set 2019.
Week #870 (August 27, 2018) – "Founding of the City"
This was published two weeks before Guilds of Ravnica previews began, so I used it to look back at the previous two trips to Ravnica.
Week #871 (September 4, 2018) – "As Good as Gold"
This was the week before Guilds of Ravnica previews began. I did a card-by-card design column on famous gold cards from previous Ravnica sets.
Week #872 (September 10, 2018) – "Guild to Order, Part 1"
This was my first of two Guilds of Ravnica preview columns. I introduced the Vision Design team, walked through the goals of the set, and explained how the new Izzet mechanic, jump-start, came to be.
Week #873 (September 17, 2018) – "Guild to Order, Part 2"
This was my second of two Guilds of Ravnica preview columns. I walk through how we got the guild mechanics for Dimir, Golgari, Selesnya, and Boros.
Week #874 (September 24, 2018) – "Stories from the City"
This was the first part of a three-part series of Guilds of Ravnica card-by-card design stories.
Week #875 (October 1, 2018) – "More Stories from the City"
This was the second part of a three-part series of Guilds of Ravnica card-by-card design stories.
Week #876 (October 8, 2018) – "Even More Stories from the City"
This was the third part of a three-part series of Guilds of Ravnica card-by-card design stories.
Week #877 (October 15, 2018) – "Faction Packed"
This column examines what makes a faction set and looks back at Magic's history to show the many different types of factions the game has had.
Week #878 (October 22, 2018) – "How Trivial"
To celebrate Magic's 25th anniversary, I made a 30-question Magic trivia quiz (with 25 of the questions being about each year of Magic). Take it and see how much of the game's 25-year history you know.
Week #879 (October 29, 2018) – "Odds & Ends: Guilds of Ravnica"
This is part one of a two-part mailbag series on Guilds of Ravnica.
Week #880 (November 5, 2018) – "More Odds & Ends: Guilds of Ravnica"
This is part two of a two-part mailbag series on Guilds of Ravnica.
Week #881 (November 12, 2018) – "The Rabiah Scale, Part 1"
With the popularity of my "Storm Scale" articles, I brought another scale from my blog, the Rabiah Scale, which talks about how likely we are to return to a plane in a Standard-legal set. This two-part series goes through most of the planes we've ever visited. Part two is two weeks later, as I had an Ultimate Masters preview column to do.
Week #882 (November 19, 2018) – "Face Cards, Part 1"
It was my Ultimate Masters preview column. I ended up using it to talk about how we turn characters into cards using the crew of the Weatherlight as my example (I had been one of the two people, along with Michael Ryan, who created the Weatherlight Saga). This is part one of a two-part series. Part two is two weeks later as I had to finish my Rabiah Scale article.
Week #883 (November 26, 2018) – "The Rabiah Scale, Part 2"
This is part two of my two-part "Rabiah Scale" series.
Week #884 (December 3, 2018) – "Face Cards, Part 2"
This is part two of my two-part "Face Card" series talking about how we turned the various Weatherlight crew characters into Magic cards.
Week #885 (December 10, 2018) – "Ready Set Go"
This is another column inspired by a "Drive to Work" podcast. In this article, I examine every set for which I led or co-led the design and talk about the starting points for each. This article does a good job of demonstrating how differently sets can be created.
Week #885 (December 17, 2018) – Vacation Week
We took off two weeks for winter vacation, so no new Making Magic content.
Week #886 (December 24, 2018) – Vacation Week
No new Making Magic content.
Week #887 (January 2, 2019) – "Building Allegiances, Part 1"
This was my first Ravnica Allegiance preview column. In it, I talk about the challenges of the set's design and then examine how we designed Simic and Orzhov. Because of the holidays, this column was on a Wednesday instead of my normal Monday slot.
Week #888 (January 7, 2019) – "Building Allegiances, Part 2"
This was my second and final Ravnica Allegiance preview column. In it, I explain how we designed Gruul, Rakdos, and Azorius.
Week #889 (January 14, 2019) – "City Talk"
This was my first of two Ravnica Allegiance card-by-card design stories columns.
Week #890 (January 21, 2019) – "More City Talk"
This was my second of two Ravnica Allegiance card-by-card design stories columns.
Week #891 (January 28, 2019) – "Odds & Ends: Ravnica Allegiance"
This was my first of two Ravnica Allegiance mailbag columns.
Week #892 (February 4, 2019) – "More Odds & Ends: Ravnica Allegiance"
This was my second of two Ravnica Allegiance mailbag columns.
Week #893 (February 11, 2019) – "Nuts & Bolts: Art"
This was my 2018 "Nuts & Bolts" column. I talk all about the importance of art in your game and how it has a huge impact on audience perception. I also give some tips in how best to use art in your game, including for prototyping and playtesting.
Week #894 (February 18, 2019) – "Other People's Shoes"
In this column, I talk about the importance of empathy in game design. This is my most retweeted column, so far, of 2019.
Week #895 (February 25, 2019) – "Five Requests I Often Have to Ignore"
This column talks about how not all requests from players lead to good game design choices. This is another good column for people interested in game design, as it examines a lot of mistakes made by novice designers.
Week #896 (March 4, 2019) – "You Know Who"
Many years ago, I started a series of mailbag columns centered around the six question words (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How). I'd done four of them, but hadn't gotten to the other two for a while, so I decided it was time to finish off the series. This article was the "who" questions.
Week #897 (March 11, 2019) – "Where It's At"
This column is the "where" mailbag column, finally finishing the series.
Week #898 (March 18, 2019) – "Resonate Spinning"
This article examines the importance of resonance in game design.
Week #899 (March 25, 2019) – "Storm Scale: Kaladesh & Amonkhet"
This is another "Storm Scale" article, this time looking at the mechanics from Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks.
Week #900 (April 1, 2019) – "Waging War of the Spark, Part 1"
This is my first War of the Spark preview column. In it, I go in depth about how we decided to embrace the Planeswalker theme and what we had to do to make 36 planeswalkers (37 counting the Buy-a-Box promo) in one set.
That's another hundred weeks of Making Magic. Whew! I always enjoy taking a look back, so I hope you all do as well. As always, Making Magic is not a solo undertaking. I want to give a big thank you to my editors and the many other people making my column look so good week after week.
I'll leave today as I always do, asking you all what you thought of today's article? Are there columns you'd like to see me do more of? Are there ones you never want to see again? Let me know what you do and don't enjoy about Making Magic to help me continue to produce the best columns I can. You can email me or contact me through any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram).
Join me next week for my card-by-card stories of Modern Horizons.
Until then, may you know the joy of doing something you love for nine hundred weeks.
In this podcast, I talk all about the history of the booster pack, how it's evolved, and what impact it has on the design of Magic.
In this podcast, I talk about Magic mechanics that just didn't make the cut and had to be retired.