The Rosewater Rumble

Posted in Making Magic on March 11, 2013

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.

One day, many years ago, I was working on Innistrad design and I figured out that it was my thirteenth lead design and I thought that was cool (being that thirteen was a mini-theme of Innistrad). A few days later, I realized I'm bad at counting and that Innistrad was, in fact, my fourteenth lead design. I then realized that I was just two lead designs away from having my sixteenth. Why was that important? Because I've always loved head-to-head competitions where players vote each day on a theme-based bracket. Doing this requires a power of two and I hadn't thought of it when I got to eight.

Then and there I decided that as soon as my sixteenth set came out, I was going to have a head-to-head rumble. Well, Gatecrash is my sixteenth lead (technically co-lead, along with Mark Gottlieb), and after years of waiting, I was ready to rumble. I called my head-to-head competition the Rosewater Rumble. I ran it across my social media outlets (Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+) with all the votes taking place on Twitter. Hundreds of players joined in and we had quite the rumble.

After I set up how it was done, I'm going to take you to the bracket and then I'm going to walk you through what actually happened. If you haven't had the chance to see the rumble, it will give you an opportunity to decide how you would have voted before each outcome is revealed. When that is done, I'm then going to explain how it would have turned out if I was the only one voting—what I'll call the Mark Rosewater Rumble.

Here's how it was put together. The following are the sixteen released Magic sets I was lead designer for. In chronological order, they are...

Urza's Destiny
Fifth Dawn
Future Sight
Scars of Mirrodin
Dark Ascension

The Countrymen design team (Ethan Fleischer, Dan Emmons, Matt Tabak, and myself—Erik Lauer was also on the design team but was sick this day) seeded the sets as follows:

  1. Ravnica
  2. Innistrad
  3. Tempest
  4. Zendikar
  5. Mirrodin
  6. Unglued
  7. Gatecrash
  8. Shadowmoor
  9. Dark Ascension
  10. Scars of Mirrodin
  11. Future Sight
  12. Urza's Destiny
  13. Unhinged
  14. Odyssey
  15. Eventide
  16. Fifth Dawn

We then put it into a traditional Top 16 bracket. Seeding ensures that the sets most likely to win don't meet until later in the pairings.

We had our bracket. It was time to rumble!

The only thing I said when I posted the pairings was that, for each match-up, I wanted the players to pick the set they liked the most. The criteria was completely left up to each voter to choose for him- or herself.

I am now going to go through round by round. If you haven't had a chance to vote yet, you will be given a chance to decide which set you would vote for before the outcome is revealed. Remember that the voters were my followers on Twitter, making them a slightly more enfranchised crowd.

Click here to go to the bracket.

    Drive to Work #24—The Mana System

Today's podcast is the third in the Golden Trifecta series where I talk about Richard Garfield's three genius creations when he made Magic. Two weeks ago, I talked about the trading card game genre; last week, I talked about the color wheel; and today, I talk about the most maligned of the three: Magic's mana system.


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Working for Magic Ramp;D since October, 1995, Mark Rosewater is currently the head designer. His hobbies include spending time with his family, talking about Magic on every known medium (including a daily blog and a weekly podcast), and writing about himself in the third person.

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