Throne of Eldraine Vision Design Handoff, Part 2

Posted in Making Magic on November 18, 2019

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 began showing you the Vision Design handoff document I made when I handed over the Throne of Eldraine set from the Vision Design team to the Set Design team. I got through the first half about the Camelot part of the design. Today, I'll be talking about the fairy-tale portion. As with last week, I'll be showing you the actual document with notes from me giving extra context. I would recommend first reading last week's column if you haven't already.

FAIRY TALES

The fairy-tale portion is the heart of the design. Fairy-tale tropes are so infused into our society (the average American, for instance, sees the Cinderella story in at least ten different versions during their lifetime) that it allows us to do something we haven't been able to do since Innistrad: create strong and instantly recognizable cards built on genre awareness.

The fairy-tale portion of the set is defined less by structure and more by modularity. It's defined by top-down design and hitting upon story archetypes. The goal of the design of the fairy-tale section is to make sure that each piece is as flavorful as possible while mechanically linking to the pieces that associate with it. We want players to be able to see the stories they know happen on cards. For instance, you can trade the cow for magic beans, or you can wake the sleeping princess with true love's kiss.

We worked hard to make sure that the relevant pieces click together as players would want them to, but we also made sure that those pieces were open-ended enough to allow the "Mad Libs" mix-and-match feel we were going for. The key to doing this was to have some flavorful themes woven through the set that pieces can click into. (A few of the themes that weave through both fairy tales and Camelot, such as the build-up theme, were listed in the Camelot section).

Enchantment Theme

As we explored all the fairy-tale themes, one of the things we noticed was that fairy tales tended to have threats that had answers. Sure, you could put someone into a deep sleep, but true love could wake them up. You could lock someone in a tower or turn them into a frog, but it was undoable. They could be rescued, or the spell could be broken. We liked the idea that most of the threats had answers. It made the world feel a little less cruel (see below for the difference between Archery and Baseball). To accomplish this, more of the set's threats are done through Auras.

Fairy tales also have a lot of magic in them, so we also wanted a bunch of magical effects represented through enchantments. The two things combined make enchantments play a larger role than normal in the set—mostly through an emphasis on Auras, but there will be some global enchantments, like the Quests, that are relevant.

We have focused the pro-enchantment themes in blue and black. While all the colors have more Auras than normal, white, blue, and black, due to the nature of their effects, have the most.

Artifact Theme

R&D is making a conscious shift to move toward more colored artifacts to allow us to use artifact themes without causing tournament issues. Archery is going to be a transition set using choice costs to make artifacts that are colored yet castable with colorless mana.

The reason this is a good fit for the set is that fairy tales, and to a lesser extent Camelot, are overrun with objects, often magical. By mixing them with the choice costs, we can help the monocolor theme in two ways. The colored artifacts can be prioritized in the right color but can be picked up and used off-color if necessary. We have also created a slightly higher percentage of artifact creatures to help in this area.

I know there's some concern that people aren't using the off-color artifact costs enough in Draft, but I believe it's partially a frame issue more than anything else that drafters aren't always looking to see if they can draft an artifact if it's in another color's frame. I believe colored artifact frames will help. Also, using choice costs in artifacts helps stretch the theme across different sections to make the set feel more cohesive.

The pro-artifact colors are blue and red. Much like the enchantment theme, all the colors have colored artifacts, but the colors that care are focused down to two. This allows many variants of an artifacts-matter deck.

Non-Human Tribal

Due to the nature of the needs for both Camelot and fairy tales, this set is going to have a higher concentration of Humans than most sets. We realized we can make use of this to create a markable subtype to capture magical creatures and animals: non-Human tribal. We don't often do negative tribal because it hits too many of the creatures, but the higher concentration of Humans makes it work in this set. We feel it adds flavor while making a tribal element that feels new. Note that many Humans are Knights and will get to be included in the Knight tribal theme talked about above.

The non-Human tribal cards appear in red and green. Again, every color will have non-Human creatures, allowing flexibility for how decks are built.

Fairy-Tale Tropes

This is the bread and butter of Archery, and it's the component we believe will be the set's hallmark. While we're doing a cool take on Knights and medieval life, that's something Magic has hit many times. Fairy tales, classical continental European ones, are something we've barely touched upon.

Working with the Creative team, we did come up with some guidelines for what we didn't want in the set.

  1. No talking animals. The set wants animals as they show up a lot in fairy tales, but they shouldn't take on human qualities like dressing up or talking. They are allowed to have agency (the duck brings you a key). We do reference things like the three bears and the three pigs, but more as normal animals.
  2. No nursery rhymes.
  3. No fables.
  4. No specific references to stories not in the public domain.

Below is every card referencing a fairy-tale trope or story spelled out.

Note #1: All of the following cards are named to reference their source material. The Creative team will do shifting with gender and other aspects to create a modern-feeling set. We named the cards directly after the tropes and stories so more people recognized what we were referencing.

Note #2: There are more Faeries in the file than faerie tropes. I listed them all, but some of the more generic Faeries could turn into something else if need be.

Note #3: A few things ended up getting hit more than once. The Set Design team can pick their favorite.

CW02 White Clover Faerie – A helpful Faerie.

CW04 Animated Harp – This is one of the items Jack steals from the giant.

CW05 Friendly Faerie – This is a Faerie obsessed with magic.

CW10 Beautiful Princess – This is playing into the trope of the princess that gets along with most everyone, including all the animals.

CW10 True Love's Kiss – The go-to fairy-tale solution.

CW11 Big Wing Faerie – A larger Faerie.

CW14 Midsummer Ball – Dances are a common fairy-tale trope, the most famous being in Cinderella.

CW17 Locked in the Tall Tower – Reference to Rapunzel.

UW01 Tin Soldier – A fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. He falls in love with a paper ballerina (see in blue below).

UW04 Wishing Well – Where the princess wishes to meet the man of her dreams.

UW05 Charming Prince – Prince Charming

UW08 Faerie Enchantress – A Faerie who charms or hexes others. Seen in stories like "Sleeping Beauty."

UW11 Bake into a Pie – A ghastly fairy-tale punishment.

UW12 Glass Coffin – What Snow White was put into after everyone thought she was dead from eating the poisoned apple. The glass coffin originally comes from its own fairy tale, but Disney's use of it makes people think of it as a Snow White thing.

RW05 Happily Ever After – How happy fairy tales end.

RW07 Star-Crossed Lovers – There are a bunch of fairy tales about young lovers who fall in love but come from factions where they aren't supposed to be together. Romeo and Juliet became the most famous version, but the story's roots are in fairy tales.

RW08 Pinocchio – We have two different takes on the small wooden boy.

CU01 Paper Ballerina – The love of the Tin Soldier

CU03 Love-Struck Mermaid – The young mermaid who dealt with the sea witch to become human to pursue the man she loved.

CU04 Curious Puppet – A second take on Pinocchio.

CU07 Very Slow Tortoise – A nod to "The Tortoise and the Hare." Possibly off limits as it's a fable, not a fairy tale.

CU09 Faerie Artificer – A Faerie with a fascination for mechanical objects. Tinkerbell, for example, falls into this trope.

CU10 Form of the Frog – A creature is turned into a frog like the Frog Prince.

CU11 Shrinking Hex – A hex that shrinks the creature to a tiny size.

CU14 Emperor's New Clothes – Illusionary clothes from "The Emperor's New Clothes."

CU15 Storybook – Numerous fairy tales involve a magical storybook.

CU16 Sleeping Spell – The spell that put Sleeping Beauty to sleep.

UU01 Clever Faerie – Fairy tales often have Faeries that try to trick people.

UU02 Mystical Faerie – A Faerie obsessed with magic.

UU06 Notorious Thief – Several fairy tales have a main character who is a thief. Aladdin is the Middle Eastern version of this type of tale.

UU07 Faerie Godmother – The Faerie who helps Cinderella with her temporary magic.

RU01 Wish-Granting Faerie – Tying Faeries to Magic's wish mechanic.

RU02 Blue Faerie – The Faerie that brought Pinocchio to life.

RU03 Goldilocks – The visitor of the three bears with very exacting likes and dislikes.

RU04 Spellthief Faerie – A Faerie that steals magic.

RU05 Trickster Faerie – A Faerie that messes around with others.

RU08 Giant Whale – The whale that swallowed Pinocchio.

RU09 Magic Mirror – The mirror the Evil Queen uses to find out who is the fairest in the land. (It's not her.)

RU10 Magic Disguise – The Evil Queen uses this magic to look like an elderly lady selling apples.

RU11 Illusionary Control – Mind control shows up in a number of fairy tales.

RU12 Swap – Another trope is two people swapping roles. The Prince and the Pauper is probably the most famous example.

CB01 Witch's Cat – Witches are a big part of fairy tales, and the black cat is a trope associated with witches.

CB02 Omen Witch – The trope of the witch that sees the future, usually of bad things to happen.

CB03 Field Watcher – Farming plays a role in many fairy tales, so scarecrows show up occasionally, usually in a scary role.

CB04 Blackthorn Faerie – As in the story of Sleeping Beauty, there are good Faeries and evil Faeries.

CB07 Widow – Death of a parent is very common in fairy tales.

CB12 Blinded by Birds – A fairy-tale punishment, usually of bad people.

CB13 Spoil Hex – Magic that addresses a problem but at a high personal cost.

CB14 Tainted Blessing – Supposed positive magic that comes at a cost to the affected.

CB16 Potion of Forgetfulness – Potions are popular in fairy tales. Removing memories is a popular magical effect.

CB17 Poisoned Apple – The Evil Queen tricks Snow White into eating a poisoned apple, supposedly killing her.

UB01 Bluebeard – A fairy tale about a wealthy violent man who has a habit of killing his wives.

UB02 Hex Casting Witch – The evil witch that curses Sleeping Beauty to death from a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday is a good example of this trope.

UB06 Bridge Troll – The troll from "The Billy Goats Gruff" that won't let the goats cross the bridge.

UB07 Fated for Death – Sleeping Beauty's curse.

UB08 Scary Witch – A more stereotypical scary-looking witch.

RB03 Pied Piper – The tale of the musician who drives the rats out of town.

RB06 Witch's Cauldron – Another witch trope.

RB07 Dark Curiosity – Curiosity is a common thing that gets fairy-tale characters into trouble.

RB09 Stroke of Midnight – The thing that marks the end of the Faerie Godmother's magic in Cinderella.

RB10 Forbidden Room – Beauty is told to avoid going into a certain room by the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast."

RB12 Barter with Death – There are numerous fairy tales where characters barter with death or a character that could kill them.

CR01 Trading Cow – Jack trades a cow for magic beans in "Jack and the Beanstalk."

CR02 Gingerbread Golem – A nod to the Gingerbread Man who no one can catch.

CR04 Tik Tok – A mechanical creature that's roughly human shaped. The best-known version of this trope is Tik Tok from The Wizard of Oz.

CR05 Dwarven Miner – The seven dwarves from the story of Snow White.

CR07 Scary Scarecrow – Another scarecrow

CR09 Tall Giant – There are lots of giants in fairy tales, the most famous is probably the one from "Jack and the Beanstalk."

CR15 Tempt with Power – Another temptation often seen in faerie tales.

UR01 First-Born Child – Something of value that bad characters want, most famous being Rumpelstiltskin.

UR04 Redcap – An evil creature from fairy tales.

UR06 Self-Playing Lyre – Self-playing musical instruments are a fairy-tale trope, most famously from "Jack and the Beanstalk."

UR08 Stomping Giant – Playing up the trope of giants liking to crush people underfoot.

RR00 Deal-Making Imp – A nod to Rumpelstiltskin.

RR03 Giant Killer – Nod to "Jack, the Giant-Killer," a follow-up to "Jack and the Beanstalk."

RR11 No More Spinning Wheels – In "Sleeping Beauty," when the king destroys all the spinning wheels in the castle to try and prevent the curse from coming true.

CG01 Deep-Woods Ranger – The good guy who saves Little Red Riding Hood.

CG03 Huntsman – The character assigned by the Evil Queen to kill Snow White; he ultimately can't do it and lets her go.

CG09 Gruff Goat – A nod to the goats from "The Three Bill Goats Gruff."

CG11 Smartest Pig – A nod to the Three Little Pigs.

CG12 Basket of Food – A nod to the basket Little Red Riding Hood brings to her grandmother.

CG17 Visit Grandmother – Another nod to "Little Red Riding Hood."

UG01 Curse of the Beast – A nod to the Beast's transformation from "Beauty and the Beast."

UG02 Golden Goose – One of the items Jack steals from the Giant in "Jack & the Beanstalk."

UG03 Magic Beans – Jack trades a cow for magic beans, and they grow to make the beanstalk in "Jack and the Beanstalk." That leads to the Giant chasing Jack.

UG10 Three Bears – A nod to "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."

UG11 Wake the Sleeping Giant – Nod to "Jack and the Beanstalk."

RG01 Shoemaker – Nod to "The Elves and the Shoemaker."

RG05 Big Bad Wolf – Nod to "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Three Little Pigs," although, more the former as he eats Grandma and then she's alive when they cut him open at the end.

RG06 Stray from the Path – Nod to "Little Red Riding Hood."

RG07 Drawn by Hunger – Nod to "Hansel and Gretel."

RG08 Once Upon a Time – How fairy tales begin.

RG10 Lost in the Woods – A common fairy-tale trope, the most famous example being "Hansel and Gretel."

MG01 The Grand Ball – The fancy dance in "Cinderella."

CZ01 Faerie Trio – Nod to the three helpful Faeries in "Sleeping Beauty."

CZ02 Surprise Visitor – Common fairy-tale trope, most famous probably from the beginning of "Beauty and the Beast."

CZ04 Wildlands Giant – There are many giants in fairy tales.

CZ06 Temporarily Gone – Characters, especially children, that go missing is a fairy-tale trope.

CZ08 Cursed Dancing Shoes – Nod to "The Dancing Shoes" about cursed shoes that force the wearer to continually dance.

CZ10 Remove Evil – There are many methods in fairy tales to rid evil magic that has cursed people.

RZ01 Faerie Channeler – A Faerie queen is a common trope.

RZ02 Hexing Witch – The witch casting curses on others is all over fairy tales. "The Frog Prince" is a popular one.

CA02 Wind-Up Automaton – Wind-up mechanical people is another fairy-tale trope.

CA03 Golden Key – Nod to "The Golden Key," an old Brothers Grimm tale.

CA04 Magic Broom – Another witch trope.

UA01 Magical Carriage – Nod to "Cinderella".

UA03 Nail-Filled Barrel – Nod to original Grimm "Cinderella."

UA09 Spinning Wheel – Nod to both "Sleeping Beauty" and "Rumpelstiltskin."

RL02 Magical Spring – Magical waters are a fairy-tale trope.

RL02 Witch's Hut – Another witch trope.

RL04 Gingerbread House – Nod to "Hansel and Gretel."

RL05 Woodland Path - Nod to "Hansel and Gretel."

Draft Themes

Here are the ten decks we built in for players to draft:

  • Mono-White – This plays into the white court and stresses a go-wide strategy of loyalty.
  • Mono-Blue – This plays into the blue court and stresses a control strategy using knowledge.
  • Mono-Black – This plays into the black court and has a mid-range deck that brings creatures back through persistence.
  • Mono-Red – This plays into the red court and has an aggro deck making use of courage.
  • Mono-Green – This plays into the green court and has a ramping strategy of strength.
  • White-Black – This is an aggressive Knight tribal deck.
  • Blue-Black – This is a slower deck caring about enchantments.
  • Blue-Red – This is a tempo deck caring about artifacts.
  • Red-Green – This is a mid-range deck caring about non-Humans.
  • Green-White – This is a creature-focused deck about growth.

Difference Between Archery and Baseball

If you trace the history of fairy tales, they go through an interesting evolution. Fairy tales originated as morality tales, and the earliest versions were very harsh and graphic. Fairy tales then went through a phase where they were shifted to more of a family thing and became much lighter in tone. Most of the modern, family-friendly ones in pop culture are inspired by this point in time. Fairy tales then went through a deconstructionist phase where they started becoming darker and a bit more adult.

Archery is trying to capture the lighter, more optimistic phase of fairy tales where bad things were threatening, but in the end, good prevailed. Baseball is a combination of the early Brothers Grimm and later deconstruction era of fairy tales, where things got a little darker. Good didn't always prevail.

This will allow us not only to have a cool tonal shift but also lets us repeat many of the same tropes through a different lens. In Archery, Goldilocks gets to be Inquisitive Child, while in Baseball, she can be an Unwanted Interloper.

Exploratory design for Archery suggested a temptation theme for the set, but through playtesting, we found that the designs had a darker tone, so we're holding off on the theme until Baseball.

Summation

Archery is a complex design, and I tried hard to capture its essence in this document, but I doubt 7,000-plus words captures it all. If anyone has any questions, please feel free to talk with me, and I'll be happy to explain how different elements weave together.

Thanks for reading,

—Mark Rosewater


That's it. That's all 7,000-plus words of the Throne of Eldraine Vision Design handoff document. I hope you enjoyed reading it. As I said last week, if this is something you'd like to see me do again (or maybe never do again), please email me or contact me through social media (Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram) and let me know.

Join me next week when I talk about facing the scariest thing in design.

Until then, may you enjoy playing Throne of Eldraine as much as I enjoyed making it.

 
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