Tell Me What You Want

Posted in Making Magic on March 7, 2016

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 month, I wrote an article talking about all the different mediums and social media accounts I use. Today, I'm going to talk about an offshoot of that. You see, one of the reasons I spend so much time on social media is I want to communicate with all of you. If I'm supposed to make you all happy, I have to know what you want. Thus, an important part of my job is collecting information. Whenever I mention this, I always get the same follow-up question. So what do the players want? That's the topic of today's column: What are the most frequent requests?

After some thinking, I've decided to group these requests by category. That means they are not in any order of preference; rather, I have placed similar requests next to one another. Note that all the things I am talking about today are the more popular requests.

Request #1: I Want You to Make a Block Where...

Players are very interested in what worlds we visit, and this results in a lot of suggestions of where future blocks should take place.

...We go back to a world I really liked

Between Scars of Mirrodin, Return to Ravnica, Battle for Zendikar, and Shadows over Innistrad, it's clear that we're willing to go back to worlds we've previously visited. As such, I get requests to go back to just about any place we've ever gone before. Here are the ones I get asked about the most:

  • Kamigawa—I'm not sure if it's the popularity of the Commander format (all the rare creatures in Kamigawa block were legendary) or of the Japanese inspiration, but Kamigawa comes up a lot as a place people want to return to.
  • Dominaria—This is the world where Magic began, and we haven't been back there in over a decade. This is the most popular request from players who have been playing a long time.
  • Theros—I get request to return to Theros from two groups: the people who love Greek mythology and had fun seeing Magic's version of it, and fans of Elspeth who are interested in what is going on with her.
  • Tarkir—The end of the story hinted that the clans weren't completely wiped out when Sarkhan changed the timeline, and many fans of the clans want to return to see that storyline picked up.
  • Lorwyn/Shadowmoor—Not everyone adored the plane of Lorwyn and its shadow version, Shadowmoor, but those who did really, really like it.
  • Ravnica—This is one of the most, if not the most, beloved planes in the game. Yes, we've been there twice, but I get many requests to return for a third time.
  • Alara—We've recently seen the wedges. Let's go back and revisit the shards.
  • Ulgothra—This is the setting for Homelands. Requests for this world usually come with a challenge to prove we can do it right this time.

...We go to a world you've given us a peek at but that has never gotten its own block

These worlds are not exactly new, as players have seen them, but also not exactly old, as we've never focused on them. These are the ones I get asked about the most:

  • Kaladesh—Chandra's homeworld premiered in Magic Origins and was an instant hit. Many players are eager to see Magic's take on a steampunk plane.
  • Fiora—This world first showed up in the comics (with Planeswalker Dack Fayden) and was the setting for Conspiracy. Many players like the intrigue of the plane and are eager for Fiora to be home to an entire block.
  • Shandalar—This world goes all the way back to the MicroProse computer game that was released in 1997. It also became a staple of the core sets and hits a high-fantasy tone that players are eager to see played out in a block.
  • Vryn—This world first showed up in Planechase and then got a little more attention in Magic Origins, where we learned it's Jace's homeworld. Jace is very popular, so many players are eager to see where he came from and learn more about those mysterious mage-rings.
  • Muraganda—This world first showed up on a future-shifted card in Future Sight. It's a prehistoric world, which many players have stressed they're eager to see.

...We go to a world inspired by a real-world source Magic hasn't visited yet

Players are fans of the old, but they also like the new. Here are the worlds I'm most asked about that are connected to a real-world inspiration:

  • Viking World—We've done a world inspired by Greek mythology. How about one inspired by Norse mythology? Magic touched upon this inspiration back in Ice Age, but that was in 1995—over 20 years ago. Magic's also shown that we are willing to do gods, and Norse-inspired gods would be a lot of fun.
  • Egyptian World—Another popular mythology to draw off of would be Egyptian mythology. Magic hasn't ever done anything close to it, and it's one popular culture keeps using.
  • Indian World—Indian mythology is a little less widely known, but it also is filled with a very distinctive look and feel.
  • Meso-American WorldMagic has looked to Europe and Asia (and even Africa). How about South America?

...We go to a world inspired by a genre of storytelling

Innistrad turned gothic horror into a plane, and it was one of the most popular ones we've ever done. Here are the most popular genres players ask about:

  • Pirate WorldMagic has dipped its toe into pirates but has never really committed to the genre. What if we did a block à la Pirates of the Caribbean?
  • Fairy Tale WorldMagic has skirted the edges of fairy tales with Lorwyn and Innistrad blocks. But what if we made a block that was to fairy tales what Innistrad was to gothic horror, complete with Magic's take on the classic fairy tales?
  • Wild West World—Players are very interested to see what Magic would do with a world inspired by the western genre.
  • Prehistoric World—Dinosaurs, cave people, ancient flora and fauna, dinosaurs. Players have expressed interest in seeing Magic look toward the ancient past.

Request #2: I Want You to Bring Back...

Magic players have fond memories of past sets. As such, a lot of the requests are about us bringing back something they enjoyed.

...A particular mechanic

I get asked about a lot of mechanics, but here are the ones I get asked about most often:

  • Double-Faced Cards—These were very controversial when they first appeared in Innistrad, but players have grown to love them and I am asked about them returning all the time.
  • Split Cards—Like double-faced cards, split cards are very novel and players often ask about when we'll next see them.
  • Hybrid Mana—Players are constantly asking when we can expect to see hybrid mana again.
  • Two-brid Mana—These are the cards in Shadowmoor block that cost a colored mana or two colorless mana. We haven't done them since, but players are always asking about them.
  • Phyrexian Mana—This is another mana mechanic that comes up a lot in conversation.
  • Flashback—Players have a great fondness for casting their spells twice, and for this mechanic in particular.
  • Unearth—Unearth is seen as a flashback variant and thus also gets a lot of requests. Unlike flashback, we've never brought unearth back.
  • Cycling—This mechanic has returned more than most other non-evergreen mechanics, yet it continues to be a popular request.
  • Kicker—Players like the ability of paying extra to get even more.
  • Storm—This question was asked enough that it led to the Storm Scale I talked about last week.
  • Dredge—Another horribly broken mechanic that's a fan favorite players ask about all the time.
  • Bushido and Ninjitsu—Players like these mechanics but realize that their names make them hard to put in most sets. Usually I get asked to bring them back anyway, changing their names if we have to.
  • Splice—No one seems interested in bringing back splice onto arcane, but a lot of players seem excited by the prospect of splice onto instants.
  • Infect—There's no mechanic more divisive than infect. It's one of the mechanics I'm most often asked to bring back; it's also one of the mechanics I'm most often asked to have never return.
  • Proliferate—The other fan favorite from Scars of Mirrodin block is proliferate. Interestingly, the most common request with proliferate is to bring it back in a block with something other than infect.
  • Changeling—Very few players seem to want the green gelatin creatures back, but many players want the mechanical functionality of creatures that are all creature types.
  • Evoke—I'm not sure what percentage of this request is specifically tied to Mulldrifter, but evoke is one of the mechanics that people constantly ask about.
  • Horsemanship—I think this one is just players messing with me, but the return of horsemanship (a flying replacement in Portal: Three Kingdoms) is a frequent topic on my blog.
  • Contraptions—Oh, Steamflogger Boss. I don't think any one card has generated as many questions as this card. For those who are unaware, here's the short version: We made a future-shifted card in Future Sight that referenced "assembling a Contraption" (in design it was "erecting a Monument"). Aaron Forsythe then revealed in his developer column (he wrote Latest Developments many years ago) that it was a joke and we had no intention of ever assembling Contraptions. That, of course, threw the gauntlet down, making players insist that one day Contraptions would be assembled. As we never expected to do it, the rules surrounding Contraptions make accomplishing such a feat a challenge—but I have vowed that before I retire (which isn't anytime soon) I will crack the Contraption puzzle.
  • Grandeur—I think this request ties into the popularity of legendary creatures (due mostly to the Commander format). Many players want lots of legendary creatures, so they like a mechanic that we could use specifically on them.
  • All of the other future-shifted mechanics (absorb, Aura swap, fateseal, fortify, frenzy, gravestorm, poisonous, and transfigure) save delveFuture Sight's future-shifted mechanics are catnip because they hint at mechanics that we've done but not completely. As such, players ask about them constantly. Delve gets a reprieve only because we finally put it into sets (Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged).

...A particular card

Sometimes it's not a whole mechanic they want back but just a single card. Here are the most common requests I get:

  • Counterspell—Lightning Bolt came back in Magic 2010, and ever since some players have held out hope that another early staple of Magic could return to Standard.

  • Lightning Bolt—Hey, we brought it back once.

  • Storm Crow—It's a Magic in-joke. Take any Chuck Norris joke and replace Chuck Norris with Storm Crow and you'll get the gist. Due to its odd popularity, it's a common reprint request.

  • Force of Will—This request is usually followed by a lengthy explanation of why this card really would be just fine in Standard. (By the way, it wouldn't.)

  • Doubling Season—Many players love tokens. Many players love counters. Many players love doubling (bless their hearts). This card is a frequent request.

  • Modern-relevant cards—Modern has been growing, making it harder to find certain cards popular in the format. So whenever a set steers close in flavor to any of these cards (such as Inquisition of Kozilek, as exemplified with the release of the Kozilek-centered Oath of the Gatewatch), players flock to my social media accounts asking for us to bring the card in question back.
  • Powerful planeswalker cards—Is Liliana in the story? How about a return of Liliana of the Veil? Yes, there's a connection between the last category and this one.
  • Cards not in Modern that players want in Modern—Sometimes the reprint request isn't to get the card into Standard but rather to get it into Modern, as cards have to pass through Standard to get to Modern. Counterspell and Force of Will above, I believe, fall into this category.
  • Future-shifted cards—The pull of the future-shifted things of Future Sight applies just as much to cards as it does to mechanics. With each new set, players look at the future-shifted cards and pick whichever one feels the most at home in the new set. (A good example was Daybreak Coronet with the enchantment-heavy Theros block.)

...A particular theme

Another popular request is players wanting us to touch upon a theme that either they enjoyed the first time or didn't quite deliver everything. Here are the most common requests:

  • An "enchantments matter" block—This is an example of the latter. Urza's Saga block had an enchantment theme that got overshadowed by broken cards. Theros block had an enchantment theme but was subservient to the top-down Greek mythological flavor. There are a number of enchantment lovers who just want enchantments to finally have center stage all to themselves.
  • A tribal blockOnslaught and Lorwyn both focused heavily on tribal themes. In the modern day, the only block to come close was Innistrad, and its tribal theme was significantly lighter than either of the previous two blocks I mentioned. This has led to numerous players asking for a block with a stronger tribal theme.
  • Poison—Alternate win conditions are generally popular, and poison, with its success in some larger formats, is a common request. Interestingly, some people want poison to return with infect and some want it to return but specifically without infect.
  • Other alternate win condition block—A different set of players also want the game to focus on an alternate win condition other than poison.
  • A -1/-1 counter blockMagic normally uses +1/+1 counters, but Scars of Mirrodin block and Shadowmoor block showed that +1/+1 counters can be swapped for -1/-1 counters. Knowing that's an option, I get a lot of requests for another -1/-1 counter block.
  • An instant- and sorcery-heavy block—The shift toward a more creature-centric game has many fans, but there are some older players who liked the era where creatures mattered far less and the game was more about spells. I often get requests for a return to a more spell-heavy game.

Request #3: Can You Please Make Something That Doesn't Exist Yet...

This final request focuses on things that Magic hasn't gotten around to doing yet.

...Like a legendary _____

A common request is for us to make a legendary creature of a creature type we haven't yet made one of. (And no, Mistform Ultimus doesn't count.) Here are the most common requests:

  • Bear—I'm not sure why so many players want a legendary Bear, but they do. My great regret of Khans of Tarkir block was not realizing the Bear-centric theme in the flavor early enough to create one. I mean, the bear Surrak fought must have had a name, right?
  • Spider—This is another popular request. If you had asked me a few years back if Magic had a legendary Spider, I would have guessed yes. But I now know I would have been wrong.
  • WerewolfInnistrad's other tribes all got legendary cards. Werewolves, unfortunately, due to their double-sided nature, did not. I have yet to hear the end of it.
  • Blue-Red Artificer—This request stems from the fact that blue-red artifact decks, which are popular, have no good commander to use.

...To finish an incomplete cycle

I talk all the time about how humans are pattern completists. Most of the cycles listed below weren't even designed as cycles, but that doesn't matter. Here are the ones I'm most often asked to complete:

  • A "broken" two-drop red creature—White has Stoneforge Mystic. Blue has Snapcaster Mage. Black has Dark Confidant. Green has Tarmogoyf. There are those who believe red is missing its addition to the cycle. I and others have offered up suggestions—Goblin Piledriver, Goblin Recruiter, and Young Pyromancer—but none met the mysterious criteria, and the request continues to this day.
  • A Selesnya X spell—In Return to Ravnica block, each guild got an X spell except for Selesnya. So, of course, I get asked when we're going to make one.
  • Ally-color SwordsMirrodin block had the Sword of Fire and Ice and the Sword of Light and Shadow. Scars of Mirrodin block then had the Sword of Body and Mind, the Sword of Feast and Famine, and the Sword of War and Peace, which finished off the cycle. But those were just the enemy-color combinations. Players often ask when we're going to make the ally-color Swords.
  • White and black -lings—First there was Morphling, a blue creature in Urza's Saga with five activations. Then in Planar Chaos came Torchling, a red variant of Morphling. Conflux then had Thornling, a green version. The white and black versions have yet to be seen, and players often ask when the -ling cycle will be complete.
  • A black OathOath of the Gatewatch had four Oaths, one for Gideon (white), one for Jace (blue), one for Chandra (red), and one for Nissa (green). Where was the black Oath?
  • Full cycles of the Future Sight land cycleFuture Sight did this cool thing where it made a cycle of ally dual lands (Nimbus Maze, River of Tears, Graven Cairns, Grove of the Burnwillows, and Horizon Canopy) where each land came from a cycle we hadn't yet made. Graven Cairns's cycle would later be made in Shadowmoor, but none of the other four dual lands have yet had their cycle made. I get asked about these a lot.
  • Four-color legendary creatures—I'm not sure this one quite fits here, as the cycle is missing all of its cards, but it's a very frequent request and I'm not sure where else to put it. The Commander format requires a legendary creature to serve as the focal point of each deck. The color identity of that creature (the colors in its mana cost and rules text) dictates which colors can be played in the deck. Magic currently has zero four-color legendary creatures, so this is a very common request.

...To make a card out of a character that's never had one

If a character gets mentioned in a Magic story or in flavor text, there are players who want us to make a card with that character. The bigger the character, the greater the injustice that no card has been made. Here are the characters I am bugged the most about:

  • Urza—For most of early Magic, Urza was the man. How is it we've never made a card of him?
  • Yawgmoth—Yawgmoth was the Lex Luthor to Urza's Superman. Obviously the Phyrexians have appeared on many cards, but their old boss has yet to appear.
  • Serra—The creator of the Serra Angel, Serra was referenced in Limited Edition (Alpha) and then showed up in the story in Homelands. Players often ask for a Serra card.
  • Fblthp—Who knew a little homunculus in the art and flavor text of a single card (Totally Lost from Gatecrash) would spawn one of Magic's most beloved characters? I am constantly asked about when we'll get to see Fblthp as a card. Some want him as a legendary creature, while others hope he's actually a planeswalker.
  • TaigamDragons of Tarkir had a cycle of previous khans from the former timeline, but Narset was a planeswalker while the other four were legendary creatures. Many felt this was an incomplete cycle and have since insisted that we make a legendary creature for Taigam, the most logical character to serve as a representative of the Ojutai clan.
  • Raven Man—This character showed up in Liliana's origin story in Magic Origins and ever since has been a frequent request for a card.
  • Feather—Pierakor az Vinrenn D'Rav, better known as Feather, was the partner of Argus Kov, the protagonist of the Ravnica novel. She was a Boros Firemane angel, and her absence from card form has upset a lot of players.
  • Arixmethes—Arixmethes is a giant serpent that got referenced in a story about Kiora, which has spawned interest in him having a legendary Serpent card.

You Asked for It

That's all the time I have for today. I'll leave you with one small thought. A lot of the stuff mentioned above is definitely part of our current seven-year plan, so please discuss amongst yourselves.

I hope my peek at what all of you ask me has proven informative and entertaining. As always, I'd love to hear your feedback (especially interesting today—feedback on your feedback) through my email or any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram). Did you enjoy today's column, and would you like to see more like it in the future?

Join me next week when Shadows over Innistrad previews begin.

Until then, may you keep telling me what you want to see.


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