"Q" From You – "A" From They

Posted in Feature on April 5, 2007

By Matt Cavotta

Matt has worn many wizard hats in the 18 years he has worked on Magic—art-mage, logomancer, lightning bard, and (of course) Planeswalker.

Some soothing balm for those burning questions.

I spend a lot of time each week reading and responding to the emails I get in response to my Taste The Magic ramblings. Sometimes I just sling back a one or two word response to an email that looks something like, "Dude, was that a Weird Al Yankovic reference?" or "You like Queensryche too!" Each of these are real, and the answer to each is yes. (Brief aside: I was astonished at how many folks out there decided to email me because of the little Weird Al and Queensryche references in my last two articles. Apparently, the Iron Maiden, Pantera, Pat Benatar, Duran Duran, Judas Priest, and Manowar fans out there just don't enjoy typing as much as the Weird Al and Queensryche crazies. Yes, you can find references to all of these musical groups in TTM articles.)

Anyway, I spend a lot of time reading through the many "You ain't fat" emails as well as the serious Magic-related messages. Often I will run across a question that deserves the sort of response that I just don't have time to properly deliver. I sometimes reply to those questions with "Hey, that's a great question. I don't really have time to get into it, but here's a quick-hitter answer..." Other times the question languishes, unanswered, in the Blind Eternities of Gmail. Until now. I am going to reach back into my email folder and pull out some of the questions that I think deserve an answer and whose answers I think you might find interesting.

But, as often is the case, I do not have the time to respond to them myself. You see, today is opening day for the Cleveland Indians, and I am blowing off work and all these questions so that I may sit and heckle at my television set. I am turning over Taste The Magic to some of the random characters who happen to hang around the Wizards of the Coast offices. I've assigned these folks questions into which they will have particular insight.

Dear Matt Cavotta,
Regarding your article "Speak the Word, the Word is All of Us":

Speaking of PLC dragons, is there any reason that the white one got a name that is strictly less than that of the green? V-Oros-H? W-The-F? Unless Vorosh used his ability enough times that he grew big enough to swallow Oros whole, I don't get this.

Vorosh, the Hunter: Will, you are a genius. You have noticed a thing that many do not. It is proof that I am the greater dragon. The humans in the Creative department went out of their way to make sure I was made out as the mightiest dragon, using our names as a subtle way to communicate this to the masses.

Vorosh, the Hunter

Oros, the Avenger: OK, Will, I see that you think you're on to something. It's not surprising to me that your human mind would think that the bigger name is "more" than the smaller one. It's funny that such a small species would be so concerned about size. The way I see it, my name is the perfectly cut diamond, the wheat without the
chaff, the crystal-clear water distilled down from the pond scum that is Vorosh. You see, Vorosh is a liar. Magic Creative was not even aware of this naming coincidence until you emailed it to Matt.

Numot, the Devastator: Oros is right—Vorosh is a liar. Just look at him, he's green-black-blue. It's in his very nature to manipulate information and subvert the truth. Now don't get me wrong, Oros is not the golden boy either (though his name might suggest it to you etymology buffs); he's got a mean streak, too. In truth, it is I, the Devastator, who dominates all the others. I mean, come on... "the Devastator!" How much cooler than that can it get? Magic Creative must have meant for me to be the one...

Dear Matt Cavotta,
Regarding your article "Time Spiral Magic Museum Planar Chaos Exhibit":

I'd like to request that an upcoming TTM (or possibly Arcana or COTD if you have any influence over them) focus on Roiling Horror. I've been having a hard time figuring out what the art of Roiling Horror is trying to show, and eventually figured out that the Horror itself must be that very vague yellowish mist surrounding the central figure, who I assume is a victim that's being drained of life by the mist. In this case, I kind of wish that the name had been more explicit, such as "Roiling Deathmist" or "Breathstealer Fog." Can you talk about this card a bit, get into what we are to believe is going on, maybe tell what Creative went through coming up with the concept?

Roiling Horror: Who'd you think Matt was going to give this question to Will, Breathstealer Fog? I suppose you think you're pretty cool because you saw that little word thingy in Vorosh's name. I don't know how you saw it because you're clearly blind to what's going on with me.

First of all, let's get one thing straight, horrors are not nice, neat little packages that you can comprehend all in one glance. We are nightmarish, shadowy, ever-changing, roiling horrors! The human mind cannot possible process it all, which is why you find us so HORRIBLE. That being said, I still do not get how you could confuse my multi-headed, multi-tailed, multi-tentacled beauty with... with... mist. OK, I will stop needling you now, Will, and thank you for asking this question. You see, each of my many heads has an ego of its own, so when you think of someone as "having a big head," think of me as having a whole bunch of them. I was annoyed that you had reduced me to nothing more than a flatulent fog. But now I get to thank you because your question gives me the opportunity to talk about myself and to show you a big picture of myself. I think the enlarged art will speak for itself. I am no mere mist, mister.

Roiling Horror

Dear Matt Cavotta,
Regarding your article "Any Time of Day Is a Good Time for Pie":

First off, I'm a huge fan of your column, your art and your website.
Reading your article for tonight, "Any Time of Day Is a Good Time for Pie," I noticed a couple of things.

Firstly, you said that Pyrohemia was originally titled "Bloodfire Infusion." I thought that was strange, because it sounded very familiar. I looked it up, and it turns out Bloodfire Infusion is an aura from Apocalypse.

Second, I noticed that you didn't mention one card in particular. Don't get me wrong, all the cards you mentioned are great flavor-wise. But I've seen only one card in Planar Chaos so far that's made my jaw drop in amazement with its flavor text. That card is Primal Plasma.
"Tocasia brushed the gears and cogs from the table. There, before two wide-eyed brothers, she began a lesson on raw elemental magic."

Are you kidding me? Did I actually just read those words? ELEMENTAL MAGIC!? The Brothers' War, perhaps the single most important event in all of Dominaria's history, was changed by the flavor text of this card. Magic wasn't re-discovered until the war was over! How might things have been different if Urza and Mishra could use magic? Would they have even cared about the powerstone at Koilos? Would Urza have bothered to refine the ornithopter if he could just fly magically?

D'Avenant Healer: Thanks for the question Sergio. No, really, thanks for dredging up such horrible memories for me. I thought I was past it all, the memories of all the bodies, the burnt, shrieking people. But no, you have to ask this question. Anyway, Matt did not remember it correctly. The playtest name for Pyrohemia was "Bloodfire Epidemic." Just so you know, Sergio, it would not matter what they called it—it was the worst thing I ever experienced. I could not heal them all. I could not bandage them. How do you soothe a burn that comes from the INSIDE? How? How?

D'Avenant Healer

Nicol Bolas: Good evening. I am taking over this question...the healer had to be taken away. I was going to burn her good to put her out of her misery, but decided to enjoy her miserable wailings instead. I'll go ahead and address the second part of the question, the part about Urza and Mishra becoming elementalists. You see, Sergio, it is not as big a deal as you think it is. Sure, it's a nice piece of flavor text and it opens up a lot of new possibilities, but it does not change the "single most important event in all of Dominaria's history." The tinkerings of Urza and Mishra did not have anything to do with my birth, the most important event in Dominaria's history, but that's not what you meant was it? Of course not. For the sake of answering the question, I'll just assume that you were talking about the Brothers' War. It does not change the Brothers' War either. That whole mess still happened/happens/will happen. Time rifts create alternate timelines that diverge from those you already know, but they do not erase the ones that have already begun. Thus, Urza and Mishra are artificers AND another Urza and Mishra are elementalists. Let's see, there may even be...oh, there, or should I say, then is an Urza and Mishra who have become a two-man juggling act. If you wait long enough, time rifts will create a situation in which Urza and Mishra are the two heads of a Foriysian dog trainer. I understand that this may be difficult for your mortal brain to grasp, but that is your lot in life as a human.

Dear Matt Cavotta,
I have been playing Magic for a while now, but have only just recently started to get really interested in the flavor of the game. Do you think that you could do an article (or two) going over some of the earlier parts of Dominia's history? Especially with Time Spiral block out, a grounding in the Brothers' War and the Weatherlight Saga, up through the Phyrexian invasion of Dominaria, would be invaluable. Thanks so much!


Vhati il-Dal: You know, ever since this Time Spiral thing, I've been spending a lot more time hanging around the Wizards offices—you know, hanging around, playing cards, and making random Wizards employees' power or toughness equal to 1. It's not as fun as you'd think, most of these bozos are 1/1s anyway. But it's good to be around, 'cause then people like Matt will ask me to do stuff like this. So let's have at it:

Vhati il-Dal

Devon, it gives me extreme, yet ironic pleasure to be given this opportunity by Matt to tell you that Matt is an uninformed doofus. You see, if I were not hanging around the office now, I would not even know who he is. This dude was not around here at all back when the Brothers' War was happening or the Weatherlight was afloat or the Phyrexians were invading. He was off flipping cards and playing D&D in Ohio. I guess that explains why he does not write so much about the storylines in your question. He tends to stick to the stuff he has been involved in—art since Mercadian Masques and names/flavor text/story since Ravnica. I can tell you that he's working on getting you some old time flavor, but he did not tell me when it would erupt. Ooh, I think Jasmine Boreal just popped into the office. Later, Devon—I'm off to see if she likes dudes with long hair.

Dear Matt Cavotta,
Regarding your article "Whos That Girl?": In several of the quotes you used from the novel she was armed with 2 tear-shaped blades. The fact that they were tear-shaped was clearly evident and repeatedly stated, so in the "set-up" section of your article i was expecting these blades but was disappointedly faced with a single cleaver type object. Which was slightly expected because of the art for undying rage, but that at least has 2 blades. As far as the card itself goes I give it 3 of 3 f's: fun, fresh, and friggin awesome!


Dear Matt Cavotta,
Regarding your article "Whos That Girl?": You did a great job describing the flavor behind Radha but I have a question for you located at the end of this message. I agree that the art is fantastic and works well with what was described in the book. I thought that a green haze of steam coming off her skin would have been cool to indicate the mana energy flowing through her but that's besides the point. The issue I have is that for all the flavor and description of her as a great and brutal warrior she's nothing but a 2/2 with no battle skills or abilities. She gets mowed down by the lowliest 2/1 with first strike. With all of the build up I was expecting some sort of combat ability such as when she attacks or blocks she gets +2/+2 and first strike in addition to some mana abilities, or something along those lines. Do you think there was a disconnect between flavor and mechanics for this card?


Yore-Tiller Nephilim: Matt grouped these two questions together for obvious reasons. Then he gave them to me for reasons that I consider just as painfully obvious. Both questions deal with the disconnect between card art, card abilities, and the novels. The best way for me to explain why this happens is that the people working on Magic are humans...lowly...little...humans. It's unfortunate for them that they are not ancient gods or planeswalking dragons. If they were, this sort of mix-up would not happen.

Yore-Tiller Nephilim

In the case of Radha, Scott Fischer was painting the art for Undying Rage at the same time as Scott McGough was writing the Time Spiral novel. Though their first names are the same, they do not possess a psychic link. There was just no time in the process to compare the works of the painter and the writer and have them adjust to each other's work. This is why there is no tear-shaped blade in the art for Undying Rage. As for the Radha card, there is no tear-shaped blade because the Creative department was going for a bigger, badder feel than that. The green haze that is described in the novel is not in the Radha art because the art was commissioned before the card was through the design process. If the card did not end up with a mana-producing ability, it would be wrong to show the green glow effect that accompanies mana production in the novel.

As for the "2/2 with no battle skills" thing, I am right there with you, Erik. I think there is a bit of disconnect between the raging battlemaster that Radha is in the novel and the 2/2 mana bear on her card. Of course, it's nothing compared to me, a moving mountain with toes the size of elephants, being a measly 2/2 bear. Now that's a disconnect. But I understand it—because I am an ancient god and I understand all. I understand the fact that Development has to balance out the power of the individual cards to preserve the overall health of the game. When you see strange things like Radha and me, this is what has happened. It just wouldn't be fair if my card was as mighty as I actually am. It would have to be a 85/85 trampler, and that's just not going to work on a four-mana card.

Dear Matt Cavotta,
This really has nothing to do with any particular article. I just happened to use this feedback link. I'm a long time D&D and MTG player, and am willing to do practically anything to work for the company I seem to invest so much money into; Wizards of the Coast.
I have a small portfolio of artwork for MTG cards of my own creation. I wake in the middle of the night with card concepts and designs. I haven't DMed in a few years because at 26 years old it's hard to find players among peers, however, I still hear the THAC0 calling me.
I'm a dork. I eat, sleep, and live for the games your company provide.
Simply; where do I fill out an application? I'll clean the bathrooms if that's all that's open.
I write this to you, because I haven't missed a "Taste the Magic" in six months. You're my fav.

Scandalmonger: Before I answer this question, let me tell you a little secret. Andy is not the only person who asked a question like this. In fact, Matt gave me my choice of about 20 or so questions like this to choose from. I chose Andy's because of the offer to clean bathrooms. That's the sort of information you could really use as leverage in the future. Watch out Andy, I've got scuttlebutt on you now.


There is no one answer to this question. I can only tell you what I know about how Matt got his job (we've known each other since I was just a little sketch) and from what my eavesdroppers and spies have been able to tell me. Let me start with a thing that keeps popping into my head. It's a scene from Jurassic Park: the human fools are in bewilderment at how the dinosaurs laid eggs when they were all supposed to be female. One of the less-dense humans says, "Life found a way." This is the sort of feeling I get when I think about people cracking into a job working on Magic. If you've got what it takes and you're passionate enough to keep at it and enterprising enough to find a way to be heard, you could end up working at Wizards. Here's a secret I will tell you. Come closer. Matt did not get to work on Magic art by following the submission guidelines. I have a lot of experience in dealing with secrets and I am smart enough to know that telling you exactly how Matt did it would not be smart. First of all, it would be giving away my informational advantage. Yeah, yeah, I'm supposed to be here to answer the question—but I'm a Scandalmonger, not a Headhunter. Secondly, it would probably send throngs of you off to pull the exact same stunt. What would that prove? The point is, life finds a way. If you've "got it," you will know it and you will find a way. Just knowing that there is more than one way to get yourself noticed (via the standard submission process) is tremendously valuable information. After all, Wizards is the kind of company that appreciates "out of the box" thinking. If you think you can be a Magic artist, find a way to get your work seen. If you want to write flavor text, find a way to make your talents known. If you want to design cards, find a way to distinguish your abilities from the million other guys out there who want the same thing.

If you're lucky, (more on that in a minute) there will be a job opening to which you can just apply. Check out the Wizards of the Coast job page to see what’s available right now. This might send you through some sort of creative wringer like the one Matt had to endure to get his job as Magic creative writer or like the Great Designer Search. Rigorous as those processes are, they are nothing compared to how difficult it is to crack in on your own. But it can be done. My very existence is proof. I was one of Matt's very first Magic illustrations. If he did not "find a way" I would not be here. Well, I might still be here, but I wouldn't look this pretty.

Oh yeah, "lucky." Here's another secret. Come closer. It doesn't exist. Matt and Alexis were not lucky to win their jobs as creative writer and designer. They were not lucky that the jobs opened up. Those very same jobs opened up to millions of you. They just found a way to make the Wizards folks notice that they were the ones.

So anyway, I really do love to talk, but I've been told by the web site editors that we're running long here. I guess the rest of these weirdoes will have to answer their questions another time. Hey, you know what I love to do even more—I love to listen. I like to hear the latest, the skinny, the word on the street, so I will be reading the message boards and doing my best to intercept Matt's emails. Knowledge is power.

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