Following this week's announcement of the release of Play Boosters alongside Murders at Karlov Manor, members of the Magic Design team visited our official Discord to answer questions from fans around the world. You can see their answers here and get updates on more Q&As like this in the future by joining our Discord server. The archive of the Q&A session is on the server now, which features some additional follow-up questions from fans and our guests. Check it out on Discord for even more info on these questions!
Thanks again to everyone who was able to join us, and remember that we're hanging out and playing games with the Magic: The Gathering® – Doctor Who™ Commander decks today (Friday, October 20) 3–5 p.m. PT, over SpellTable on the server!
Introducing your panelists from the Q&A in their own words:
Aaron Forsythe: I'm Aaron Forsythe, vice president of Game Design. I'm in charge of the design, production, editing, creative worldbuilding, and art teams for Magic, including both our in-house IP and Universes Beyond. I've worked at Wizards for over two decades (although not as long as Mark!). Long-ago former Pro Magic player and long-time lover of Limited. Lead designer of a range of sets, from Lorwyn to Magic 2010 to Modern Horizons 2.
Mike Turian: Hi! I'm Mike Turian. I've been playing Magic since The Dark (1994) and joined Wizards in 2004. Before Wizards I was a pro player and was inducted into the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame. My favorite format is Limited. I now work as a product architect (think combination of executive producer and product designer) and have been the lead architect on these recent sets—Wilds of Eldraine, The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ and Phyrexia: All Will Be One and now Murders at Karlov Manor.
Mark Rosewater: My name is Mark Rosewater. Later this month will be my 28th anniversary of working on Magic, and this December will be my 20th anniversary of being head designer for Magic. I have been on over one hundred Magic Set Design teams, over forty of which I led or co-led. My, and my team's, job is to take a blank page and come up with exciting ideas for sets, themes, and mechanics. I also write a weekly column called Making Magic (on the Wizards site), a weekly podcast called Drive to Work (Spotify/Apple), and a daily blog called Blogatog.
Chris D'Andrea: Hello everyone, I'm Chris D'Andrea and I'm a design economist with Studio X. I work with our product engineers to make sure that the boosters that get printed matches our design. Basically I handle a lot of the math-y details of booster collation and production. I started playing Magic back in 1995 with Fourth Edition and have been with Wizards since 2011.
And now, on to the questions!
PharmacistJudge – With the play boosters decreasing the number of commons in a pack, is there any concern with the increased amount of complexity facing the players?
Aaron Forsythe: Not any more than usual. Drafting is a high-cognitive-load experience regardless of the specific numbers of commons, and tweaking that by one or two does not move that needle. We have been rethinking our "complexity tolerance" over the past few years and have found that most players, including new players, want cards that "do things" rather than ones that are necessarily super-simple (although when we create elegant cards that check both boxes, that's a real win). I'd say the words-per-card will stay about the same in Play Booster world compared to Draft Booster world.
gollumni – How much does the list dropping so drastically change what's included on it?
Aaron Forsythe: It changes quite a bit. I'll reveal a secret: I was the person that chose all the cards to be included on The List in Magic sets from its inception through The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. I loved doing the deep dive into the entire back catalogue and picking stuff that was famous, goofy, and everything in between to play up the "you'll never know what you're going to get" experience. But that isn't going to fly for a smaller List that is meant to be playable content, so I've handed the task of selection over to Reggie Valk primarily, a designer that is much more in touch with the on-the-ground playtesting of every set. There will still be sweet cards that matter in Limited on The List, but in general if the team finds a card to be more disruptive than cool, they'll swap it out.
Aburica – Will be the card from the list payable in Draft?
Aaron Forsythe: Yep, any Magic cards you open in Play Boosters will be draftable and playable in Limited. We see it as added content and depth, and communicating that certain cards aren't playable would be difficult and a pretty bad narrative for a lot of players. Pick cool stuff and play it!
Jakebrowne – How will Play Boosters impact digital play? Will they just include the main set? Will MTGO have the foil slot but not Arena?
Mike Turian: MTG Arena is updating their draft events alongside the switchover to Play Boosters with Murders at Karlov Manor. MTG Arena will continue to have packs that are similar to tabletop Draft Boosters. There will be some small exceptions as, for example, some of the reprint cards found on The List won't be included. A small number of rares/mythics on The List will be swapped on MTG Arena to provide more interesting content for MTG Arena's non-rotating formats, and you can find more information about the MTG Arena plans here - https://magic.wizards.com/en/news/mtg-arena/play-boosters-on-mtg-arena
MTG Arena doesn't have foils so the foil wildcard slot will be a non-foil wildcard slot.
Magic Online will mirror the tabletop Play Booster, both for Limited play and boosters sold in their store. This includes having a dedicated foil slot in each pack and matching The List from tabletop.
newershadow – I realize that this doesn't apply for Ixalan since Play Boosters don't start until Karlov Manor, but do crossovers like Jurassic Park interact with Play Boosters at all? Also, are bonus sheets compatible with Play Boosters?
Aaron Forsythe: There aren't any "crossovers" like Transformers in BRO or Jurassic Park in LCI in the short-term next few Play Booster sets. When we do get to the next one, we'll be sure to communicate how the cards will get distributed throughout the product.
Mike Provencher – With The List cards being specifically selected for Play Boosters based on the Limited environment, does that mean we're going to have fewer Common reprints in a given set?
Aaron Forsythe: Not for that reason. There will likely be fewer just because each set has fewer commons, period. But if we want a Limited environment to have
PharmacistJudge – How has play boosters changed the actual composition of the set? Are there more rares and less commons to reflect the changes in the play booster?
Mike Turian: Murders at Karlov Manor has 81 commons and 100 uncommons in the main set. This essentially is swapping with current Magic sets, for example Phyrexia: All Will Be One had 101 commons and 80 uncommons. For rares and mythics, we are staying with 60 rares and 20 mythic rares as we have have done in typical sets.
Mike Provencher – What changes were made to Limited design philosophy to facilitate this change?
Mark Rosewater: Play Boosters are making us rethink the role of commons and uncommons as they relate to Limited. Commons need to be more dependable, meaning if you're playing a deck of that color, you can seriously consider including that card. Cards that will only be desirable by a smaller number of draft archetypes or only serve a narrower effect that will probably live in the sideboard have been removed from common. Some have been moved up to uncommon, while some have been incorporated into modal effects (a path we were already going down due to "Best-of-One" on Magic: The Gathering: Arena). Uncommon expanding, means it's now the home of the more niche effects which includes having more build-around cards. It also will be the home for the high synergy cards that don't make sense at common.
Mike Provencher – Will this affect how Universes Within cards are distributed?
Aaron Forsythe: I don't think we've had to reckon with that particular question just yet. We'll keep everyone informed when a set with another SLX component pops up.
Mike Provencher – The article mentions color balance. Are Play Boosters going to be more color-balanced than Draft Boosters were previously, or are we just bringing it to "at least one common of each color" like Draft Boosters are now?
Mark Rosewater: With only six locked common slots, we ended up choosing to guarantee four of the five colors appear in common in each booster (although the fifth color will often appear).
FridayOtter – For limited play with these new packs, did the draft team consider that with three fewer cards in your draft pool, the ability to be flexible and pivot your draft strategy and colors cuts off sooner, making drafting flexibly much harder? If so, what have they done to address this?
Aaron Forsythe: On the more general topic of "How can we be sure limited is still 'good' after this change?" ... We've been drafting and playing Sealed exclusively with the Play Booster model for well over a year now internally, and we're all enjoying Limited as much as ever. The same very smart, very passionate people that have been bringing you all of the lauded Draft formats of recent years are the ones crafting these environments as well. Limited is a very flexible format to design. We've made fun environments out of Mystery Boosters, Master sets, Cubes, all sorts of things that are more different from traditional Draft Boosters than Play Boosters are. Lots of thought and iteration go into every format, and MKM and subsequent Play Booster sets are no different.
On the specific question about number of cards, it is true that you won't be able to pivot quite as late as you could with one extra card per pack. But almost no one pivots that late. I was confident that cutting a card would have little tangible impact based on how many "playables" people must cut from Draft/Sealed decks under modern design ... it's a lot! I personally enjoy having 2-3 fewer decisions on what to cut once I lay my pool out.
lightsentry – Hi, I just saw Mark say that limited was in danger of being discontinued as a format without these changes. Is it actually that unpopular with how often I see people drafting on Arena? And how does the new solution help that as opposed to just consolidating pack sales?
Mark Rosewater: Let me clarify a couple things. First, Draft is popular. Sanctioned Draft has been on the rise for the last three years. Millions of players enjoy it. Second, the issue I was talking about in the article and on my blog was an issue with the Draft Booster. While Draft play has been going up, Draft Booster sales have been going down. More and more players have decided when opening booster packs, they prefer to open Set Boosters, as they're more exciting to open. The reason we chose to make Play Boosters was to find a way to continue supporting draft, again a popular format, while addressing the player preference for a more dynamic pack opening experience.
Aaron Forsythe: I'll go a little deeper here. Draft is two things in one—an amazing intellectual exercise, and a fun way to build a collection. For years, we were hesitant to improve the latter for fear of "messing up" the former, and as a result our product team came up with Set Boosters, which were a tremendous innovation that I frankly think we would have never got to by simply iterating on the normal, draftable booster. And they were right—it turns out that getting cool-looking cards and chances at more rares and foils was a way bigger motivator of buying packs than the intellectual exercise. On top of that, MTG Arena offered the intellectual exercise portion, so you could get that aspect of the experience without needing physical packs. In order for physical draft to thrive, we need the "collection-builders" to want to play the format. So we're taking all the great learnings that Set Boosters gave us and injecting the intellectual exercise into them. Hopefully now we have something for everyone.
MC frog – How will this affect prereleases? if the price to participate in a prerelease doubles, do you think participation will see a significant decrease?
Aaron Forsythe: It will be more expensive, and I don't really expect anyone to like that aspect. But it shouldn't be anywhere close to twice the cost; we're charging the same as Set Boosters—the Booster most players have already shown to be their preference (noting that everyone downstream of us can charge whatever they want). All else being equal, economic theory tells us that could cause a decrease in attendance. But I'm hopeful that there's an upside to be had here—the cost and shape of booster is the one we've been selling the most of for the last couple of years, so giving folks that experience in a Prerelease Kit could bring players into the event that were otherwise not interested.
Karamus – During the Q&A you mentioned that the sideboard commons are going away. This brings up a few questions. What do you consider a sideboard common? Is it something like Negate or Mindrot or is it closer to something plumet? Does this mean we will be seeing more cards with consolidated effects in each color such as broken wings? Lastly, with these changes what will be philosophy of the sideboard in limited aside from just being a place that stores unplayed cards?
Aaron Forsythe: Great question, and you hit the nail on the head ... although this is a shift that has been underway for a while now more due to the huge percentage of draft games that happen in MTG Arena's Best-of-One format. If
jnik – If I understand the net changes moving forward with the Play Boosters, Set boosters lose one slot where a rare/mythic could have been opened.
Mark Rosewater: Set Boosters had two non-foil wildcard slots. Play Boosters have one. The percentage opportunity to get a rare or mythic out of the one Play Booster non-foil wildcard slot is equal to the percentage opportunity to open a rare/mythic rare between the two set booster non-foil wildcard slots. Yes, we changed the makeup of the slots, but we didn't change how often you'll get a rare/mythic rare. Your expected chance to open rares/mythic rares is roughly the same between the typical Set Booster and the Play Booster.
NLi10 – Will the Arena price to draft stay the same?
Mike Turian: MTG Arena does not plan to increase the entry cost for Limited events on MTG Arena, including Limited events that use the new Play Boosters. The cost of entry for a Murders at Karlov Manor Draft will be the same as Wilds of Eldraine, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, and other recent releases.
Seanxjohnson – Was there any consideration on moving to a 24-pack box? If so, what was the primary reason on 36 packs?
Mike Turian: We considered going to a number of different booster packs per display. The primary numbers we considered were a 30-count, to match what Set Boosters displays were, or a 36-count to match what Draft Booster displays were. We ended up going with 36-count as it means you can use a single display to both run a draft and have a nice number of prizes to use with the remaining boosters or run three eight-person drafts. Additionally, it gives us the greatest options for including the most exciting Box Topper cards like what we have done with Zendikar Rising Expeditions or the Realms and Relics cards from The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth.
PPPBBBTTT(Steven) – Is there any chance that the ad card becomes even more rare. A lot of people don't feel like it is even useful anymore.
Mike Turian: There are some products and offerings we will continue to advertise as part of the Play Booster release. Overall, we have been reducing the number of ad cards over time and are looking to continue to do so.
Mike Provencher – Will the Foil Wildcard slot translate to a normal Wildcard slot on Arena?
Mike Turian: MTG Arena is always trying to create an authentic gameplay experience. The best way to do that here is that where paper has a non-foil wildcard slot and a foil wildcard slot, in MTG Arena there will be two non-foil wildcard slots (as MTG Arena doesn't have foil cards). The cards you can get in the wildcard slot are mechanically identical between paper and MTG Arena.
Mike Provencher – We know entry isn't changing for Arena drafts; will payout stay the same?
Mike Turian: Yes, in addition to entries staying the same for MTG Arena for Murders at Karlov Manor, the payouts will stay the same as well.
Mike Provencher – Will Commander set cards be included in Play Boosters, or will they now only appear in Collector Boosters?
Mike Turian: Starting with Murders at Karlov Manor, we won't be making new Commander-only content in the Play Boosters nor the Collector Boosters. While we may bring this back in the future, we have no plans to do so at this time.
Mike Provencher – On MaRo's blog he said that the total number of unique commons is decreasing, and the total number of unique uncommons is increasing. Given that this means commons will be more common and uncommons will be more uncommon, does this change how Signpost uncommons will be designed in the future?
Mark Rosewater: We have no current plans to change how we use or design the uncommon signpost cards.
SquidSquad76 – In terms of the edited version of the list for arena - will it be major edits, such as most or all cards being historic era cards? Or will it be mainly the same as paper with only a few non digital friendly cards removed?
Mike Turian: As it says in this article, https://magic.wizards.com/en/news/mtg-arena/play-boosters-on-mtg-arena: because MTG Arena's older formats are different from those of tabletop Magic, MTG Arena worked with the Magic Play Design team on a few card swaps on The List to mesh better with MTG Arena's formats.
You can rest assured that when you draft using Play Boosters on MTG Arena, it will feel as close as possible to drafting at your local game store.
I can tell you looking at the swaps that were made, it is just a handful of cards different.
VeganPaul – With more rares potentially appearing in packs, will there be an uptick in premium level removal at Common to counterbalance this? I'm thinking Doom Blade or better level.
Mark Rosewater: Part of changing over how we design sets is increasing the as-fan of answers. The power level for most low-rarity cards will be set to match the power level of that Limited environment and will be skewed to address the most common threats (an artifact-focused set will have more artifact removal).
Mrbuzzfuzz – Will there be list cards finally appearing in Collector boosters? It feels weird that being the collector product but having no access to a wide amount of cards each set.
Mike Turian: Special Guests will be appearing in Collector Boosters. The reprint cards on The List don't appear in Collector Boosters in Murders at Karlov Manor and won't be in the future.
Plaz – With the downsizing of cards at the common rarity and the increase of cards at the uncommon rarity, has there been a consideration for the quality of cards being introduced into Pauper? Cards like Experimental Synthesiser or The Modern Age make sense at common when the majority of a release is common, but with 20 cards per set effectively being shifted to uncommon, the "window" of new commons that could shake up Pauper or be interesting includes dwindles as they'd sit at the uncommon rarity.
Mark Rosewater: Our philosophy with Pauper has always to just make the commons that we need to make the set function. Different environments will encourage different designs, and Pauper will absorb what works. We don't design cards specifically with Pauper in mind. I do believe the change for play boosters will affect how and what we choose to make common, so it will impact Pauper, but I think it will take time to understand what that impact is.
DannyMethane – With the loss of ~18 art cards per box, is there any thought given to maybe releasing an art series with each set? One of each of the Art Cards from the set, with only gold-stamped ones coming in boosters? As it stands now, in order to get a full set of all 81 art cards, you would need to open at least 7 boxes for even a chance at all of them, and this is assuming they are in every 3rd pack and each one is unique.
Mike Turian: With Murders at Karlov Manor we are switching from 81 art cards being made per set down to 49. Then with Outlaws of Thunder Junction, we will be going to 54 art cards per set release. This change was made, in part, to reflect that there are fewer art cards showing up in each pack.
Nick.Moran – Mark spent a lot of time in the announcement article and in the Twitch Q&A explaining all the problems and failings created by Set boosters that led us to the brink of the death of limited. Why shouldn't we expect that in 2026 we'll be reading another article explaining all the problems and failings created by Play boosters? Why should we have confidence that this time Wizards has gotten it right? And if Play boosters do worse than Set boosters, will we be back at the brink of limited being dropped?
Mark Rosewater: Magic's thirty-year history is one of evolution. We try things, gather feedback on them, and then adapt based on the feedback. How we design sets, themes, mechanics, even individual cards is based on technology that we're constantly improving upon. It's the iterative process which is the core of good game design. The creation of the Set Booster was a positive step forward. We discovered new ways to put together a booster pack, and the response from the player base was overwhelmingly positive. We're taking everything we learned to make the next improvement, which is basically figuring out how to make the Set Booster playable, as Limited play is a crucial part of the Magic ecosystem. It's not an issue of getting it "right," but of constantly learning and adapting. There are many things that Magic has done that, in retrospect, we could improve upon, but we wouldn't have figured that out without having tried it in the first place.
PharmacistJudge – With the play boosters not containing commander specific cards anymore, should we be expecting a larger number of commander exclusive cards in set specific precons?
Mike Turian: We vary the amount of new content in our Commander preconstructed decks based on a number of factors. For instance, our The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth and Warhammer 40,000 decks had additional new cards, because we wanted to offer an immersive experience to those worlds that solely redoing older Magic cards wouldn't capture. For our main set releases, we have varied the amount of new content ranging from between 10 new cards per deck up to around 18 new cards. As Commander continues to rise in popularity, we have also increased the number of new cards we are making designed for Commander. Overall, I don't expect the removal of new Commander-specific cards to impact our Commander preconstructed offering significantly.
Metallix87 – Was there ever any consideration for going with larger pack sizes? For example, maybe going up to 16 cards per pack, so that in a draft, you wheel something from every single pack.
Mike Turian: We looked at a variety of pack sizes, mostly ranging from 12 to 15 cards. Those ranges came from the idea that we were looking to combine the best of Set and Draft Boosters, so the card counts of each was the natural starting point. After consideration and testing, 14 cards was where we ended up as it offered the best gameplay experience of Draft Boosters and product offering of Set Boosters.
YellowPie – Will Universes Within reprints and their distribution change in any way with this? If they continue to be printed in The List, will the fact that they appear in limited games affect how Universes Beyond Secret Lairs are designed?
Mark Rosewater: I falsely said on my blog that the Secret Lair Magic Within cards will definitively appear on The List. I made an educated guess, but the reality is we don't know yet how they will appear. I do know we will design Secret Lair cards to maximize them for their use in the Secret Lair. We'll figure out the appropriate way to create the Magic Within version based on the needs of the design.
SteveHeist – Have there been any considerations for printing Arena remastered sets on paper / printing paper remastered sets on Arena?
Mike Turian: The challenge with doing one of these products for the other platform is that we are always wanting to customize the offering to the audience. For example, with MTG Arena we are always valuing including new content that hasn't yet been released on MTG Arena—but for tabletop, that isn't a concern at all.
We do try and build off of the products that are released. MTG Arena in particular finds individual events to run that are inspired by paper releases.
UnleashEnlightenment – Why weren't the Ad and Helper cards finally cut completely in favor of tokens & art cards?
Mark Rosewater: Ad cards have been significantly cut back. The reason they still exist at all in the booster pack is it's the only way we know to communicate with less enfranchised players, so if there are other resources they might enjoy, but not know about, we want to have the opportunity to let them know about it. Helper cards are as much a game tool as tokens, so their use should stay the same (in the sets that need them).
Alex S – Mana Crypt is a "Special Guest" in Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Will future sets include cards at that power level, with the potential to be drafted?
UntaPup – With the choice to move to one Planeswalker per set, for the foreseeable future, is it possible that a new set might "technically" have more than one Planeswalker through The List or Special Guests?
Mark Rosewater: Planeswalkers aren't off limits for The List or Special Guests.
Mike Provencher – On the Twitch Q&A it sounded like The List will no longer be around after MKM and that slot will be used for different things going forward. Can you clarify that this is the case, or tell me if I misheard?
Mike Turian: The List will continue on past Murders at Karlov Manor. We are going to move away from the inclusion of the reprint cards (same art, same expansion symbol as the original printing but adding PW symbol). So after MKM, The List will still exist but we adapting what is included on it.