Four Hundred and Counting
I write these columns for two reasons. For older readers, it's a chance to look back over the last two years' worth of columns and get some insight into what went into making them and how they were received. For newer readers, these columns are a resource to help them get a better sense of which old columns they might want to read.
As always, I will use this scale to grade my columns:
This is as good as it gets. One of my crème de la crème. If you're going to catch up on any old articles, these are the ones to read.
While not my absolute best, this article is one of my better pieces.
One of my bread-and-butter columns. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too shabby either.
At best, a ho-hum read. At worst, a failed experiment.
The only real reason to read this is to say you've read every column. Not my finest hour.
So let's hop in our WABAC Machine and set it for early October, 2007.
Week #301 (October 1, 2007) – "And the Rest"
Lorwyn had just come out, and it was time to talk about how the mechanics got made. The problem was that almost all of the stories had already been told or were being saved for upcoming theme weeks. So I did what I always do when my column has issues to deal with: I used it as material for the column. Rereading it, the premise wasn't quite as funny as I think I was shooting for, but the information about champion and evoke was solid enough that this column pulls off an average grade.
Week #302 (October 8, 2007) – "Before and After"
It was Tribal Week, and I was surprised by how much of a tribal backlash Lorwyn had (a minority, but a loud one). This article set out to explain the difference between what that audience expected of Lorwyn and what it actually was. This is probably my best design column about Lorwyn and does a decent job of explaining a lot of the meta-issues that went into the design. A must-read for the audience that likes the ins and outs of how we craft a theme—in this case, tribal.
Week #303 (October 15, 2007) – "Three Hundred and Counting"
This was the last "hundred and counting" article, covering weeks #201 to #300. If you like this article, you might want to check out that one (if you haven't already).
Week #304 (October 22, 2007) – "Kith and Kin"
It was Planeswalker Week. Unfortunately I had turned in a column for Kithkin Week and I was on a plane for Germany (to run the last ever—for now—Magic Invitational) meaning I wasn't available to write my Planeswalker Week column. Kelly Digges (my editor) decided to just swap the two so while I'm on theme, it's for a theme week two weeks in the future. This article talks about why we chose kithkin for Lorwyn and what design issues they presented. The article is a little dry but informative on the topic.
Week #305 (October 29, 2007) – "All-Star Trek"
I was off at the Magic Invitational so I wrote about the Magic Invitational. The most famous thing about this article is that it has embedded video in it, and not just any embedded video, but video of me. So if you've ever wondered what I sound like or how I present myself when I talk, then here you go. The one other reason to read this column is that all of the formats are fun (I talk about the formats for that year's Invitational), and you might find a new fun way to play.
Week #306 (October 29, 2007) – "Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part I"
It was Kithkin Week so, of course, I wrote about planeswalkers. It is my opinion that planeswalkers are the home run of my time as Head Designer (okay, Ravnica block was no slouch either). This and the next week's article are the full (and I do mean full) story of how planeswalkers got designed. Their design was long and twisting, so if you enjoy the nitty-gritty of design stories, this is a two-parter to check out.
Week #307 (November 12, 2007) – "Planeswalk on the Wild Side, Part II"
If you enjoyed last week, you'll probably enjoy this week's column as well. My favorite behind-the-scenes item is the playtest card I made when we were testing them out. If you enjoyed my art on
Week #308 (November 19, 2007) – "The Times They Are A Changeling"
It was Changeling Week. I feel changeling was the glue that held the Lorwyn design together, and this was a pretty deep insight into what made the glue work. I also learned that a Bob Dylan reference in my title seemed to go over the head of much of my audience. (Not that that will stop me from using obscure references in the future—and come on, Bob Dylan isn't that obscure.)
Week #309 (November 26, 2007) – "What Do You Know, Part I"
For years, I have run trivia shows at Magic events (called "Question Mark"—and I will be hosting one at Pro Tour–Austin in October). Finally, it was time for me to bring my Magic trivia skills to Making Magic. This column is a little more hands on than most my columns. By the way, as is the case with my trivia, some of it is very difficult.
Week #310 (December 3, 2007) – "The Weather(light) Report"
It was Weatherlight Week, and my streak of solid columns continues. This column is all about how the Weatherlight Saga came to be (I was one of the two people that came up with it), and it tells you quite a bit about the story and the characters. Also at the end, I had a fan, named Jeremy Albert, who took the time to make a YouTube video to finish a project that I had started but never completed. Definitely check out the video if you've never seen it.
Week #311 (December 10, 2007) – "What You Know, Part II"
This was the second part of the trivia contest. This half works in a few more design stories, as that was the major complaint I had gotten from Part I. Question #50, by the way, went from being an almost impossible question to being a very easy one.
Week #312 (December 17, 2007) – "Seeing the Forest for the Treefolk"
It was Treefolk Week, so I used it as an opportunity to retell one of my greatest Magic moments. If you haven't heard my
Week #313 (December 24, 2007) – "Design Language" (REPEAT)
For two weeks each year (and sometimes three Mondays depending on how the holidays fall), the magicthegathering.com staff takes off for winter break and reprints the best of the year. The way it works is that each columnist picks his favorites.
Week #314 (December 31, 2007) – "Connect the Dots" (REPEAT)
One of my passions is the subject of creativity. This is my column on creativity and in it I share many of my thoughts on the topic. I put this column in my all-time person top ten of Making Magic columns.
Week #315 (January 7, 2008) – "Class Is in Session"
It was the first week of Morningtide Previews. This column is mostly about how the class theme came together and how design interwove it into a set that also had to care about race.
Week #316 (January 14, 2008) – "But Wait, There's More"
It was Week Two of Morningtide Previews. The most notable thing about this column is that it began a format that I've used numerous times since, including Achieving Zendikar, Part II from a few weeks ago. We started using the Visual Spoiler, and I used cards from it to run through the set to show all the different mechanical components of it.
Week #317 (January 21, 2008) – "The Amazing Race/Class"
This column came out my realization that in my column two weeks earlier (Class Is in Session) I had glossed over a very cool story: the decision to move to a race/class model for creature types. It was a very contentious decision and this column goes into the nitty gritty to explain why each side felt the way they did. The reason I really like this column is that it shows how much time and energy go into something that might on the surface seem like a very minor issue.
Week #318 (January 28, 2008) – "War(ior) Stories"
It was Warrior Week, so I told a whole bunch of design stories about individual Warrior cards. If I gave half points this would probably be three and a half. My favorite story is the story of a card called Moose and Squirrel, a card twelve years in the making.
Week #319 (February 4, 2008) – "The Space Between The Notes"
I always find it fascinating how I end up with a column that I feel is a five-star column. This column came about because people were complaining about something I had said in a previous column. I realized that I had done a poor job explaining what I wanted and as such took the time to explain better and in greater detail. The title, by the way, is a famous quote by the musician Claude Debussy.
Week #320 (February 11, 2008) – "+1/+1 Size Fits All"
It was +1/+1 Counter Week. What I knew that my readers did not was that Shadowmoor was about to bring back the -1/-1 counter with a bang, and we were planning a sister -1/-1 Counter Week later in the year. I'm a huge fan of the +1/+1 counter, so I used this column to walk through its early design metamorphosis. When I set out to write the column I was planning to follow +1/+1 counters all the way up to modern day, but around the time I got to Fallen Empires I realized I didn't have the space to write it all. I chose to stop at Alliances as I feel it is the end of the first age of Magic design. (I talk about this a bit in my State of Design 2005 column if you want to hear about all four stages.)
Week #321 (February 18, 2008) – "Innovate Is Enough (Or Is It?)"
Two weeks earlier, I wrote a column (The Space Between The Notes) based upon response I had gotten on a column two weeks before that (The Amazing Race/Class). This week's column was a response I had gotten to the follow-up column. In this column, I get to the meat of the issue: how important is innovation to design? The answer surprised many people. At the end of the year, this was one of my picks for my favorite column of the year.
Week #322 (February 25, 2008) – "Rogue Operative"
It was Rogue Week, so my evil twin took over. (I used to write stories about my evil twin back in my puzzle solution column in The Duelist many eons ago.) He uses the columns to tell embarrassing stories about me when I did some "rogue" activities that got me in trouble. These stories are all completely true. Oddly for an evil twin, he doesn't lie much. Monty made that headshot picture, by the way, in about four seconds. I had explained to him that my evil twin had, of course, a goatee.
Week #323 (March 3, 2008) – "Assume the Acquisition"
Some of my columns are rated five stars because I really like the writing. Others, like this one, are five stars because they are historically important. This is the column where I explain something that has really changed how Magic is created. I feel a great deal of Magic's current success comes from the stuff talked about in this column. My greatest regret is that I totally missed on the perfect name for this column: "The Rules of Acquisition." I hold my Ferengi head in shame.
Week #324 (March 10, 2008) – "They Might Be Giants"
It was Giant Week and I was in a silly mood so I wrote one of my silly columns where cards talk. If you like when I do that kind of thing then you should enjoy this column. If you don't, skip this. Really, I have "giant" creatures of all kinds cracking jokes. If that's not your thing, avoid it like the plague.
Week #325 (March 17, 2008) – "Building Blocks"
This column spends half its time talking about how the Shadowmoor "Week Zero" preview got created (and shows it off to those that might have missed it) and then spends the second half talking about why hybrid was returning. Probably the most important part of this column (and the reason I gave it four stars—the rest is really only three star material) is that I explain the form/function spectrum.
Week #326 (March 24, 2008) – "Shaman You"
It was Shaman Week, but somehow I managed to turn that into an explanation of why we subdivide similar mechanics by color. The column ends with my Duelist-style teasers about Shadowmoor.
Week #327 (March 31, 2008) – "Shadowmoor Than Meets The Eye, Part I"
It was week one of Shadowmoor previews. In previous "[...] and Counting" columns I have pointed out that there is a big differential between my preview articles on sets I worked on (especially sets I led) and sets I didn't. Shadowmoor was my baby, so I had lots and lots to talk about.
Week #328 (April 7, 2008) – "Shadowmoor Than Meets The Eye, Part II"
Lots and lots to talk about. In Week Two of Shadowmoor previews I pick up where I left off the week before. I talk about not just the Shadowmoor block but also the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor mega-block.
Week #329 (April 14, 2008) – "Shadowmoor Than Meets The Eye, Part III"
Lots and lots and lots to talk about. As the third week was the last week of Shadowmoor previews, I did manage to wrap it all up in this column.
Week #330 (April 21, 2008) – "Shadowmoor More More"
This is one of my card-by-card design story columns. There are a lot of nice tidbits, but this is more of a snacking column than a meal.
Week #331 (April 28, 2008) – "Mix & Match, Part I"
It was Hybrid Week, so I decided to walk through every hybrid card in the set and explain why the card made sense color pie-wise for each color. And yes, there were a few cards—one in particular—where I owned up that I didn't feel the card passed the bar as a hybrid card. While I liked the idea of this column it ran a little long (especially when you take into account that it was a two-parter.)
Week #332 (May 5, 2008) – "Mix & Match, Part II"
This was one of those two-parters that I wished I hadn't painted myself into a corner forcing me to finish it. While I like the general idea of explaining hybrid cards, far too many didn't need the explanation.
Week #333 (May 12, 2008) – "-1/-1 Singular Sensation"
It was -1/-1 Counter Week, the sister week of +1/+1 Counter Week. I used this week to explain why we break rules that we set for ourselves (tied into why we used -1/-1 counters after years of saying we wouldn't any more—see, I was on theme.) This topic is an important one, and I'm happy with how this column broke everything down. I did consider letting my evil twin write this column, as it was the dark mirror of another theme week, but as Evil Twin Week was approaching I figured that less was more.
Week #334 (May 19, 2008) – "The Evil That Designers Do"
Don't be fooled by the week's gimmicky Evil Twin theme. This is a very meaty article about design. Sure, to play into the theme, I wrote it backwards (explaining evil things to do to players), but the crux of the article is one of the most important columns I've written on design. And yes, Evil Twin Week (which was actually the week after) was inspired by my earlier Evil Twin column. The new set was out and we wanted to find a way to reflect the mirrored world of Shadowmoor in a theme week.
Week #335 (May 26, 2008) – "The Evil That Designers Do" (REPEAT)
It was Memorial Day, so there was no new Making Magic. As it was Evil Twin Week and I didn't want to miss it, I wrote my evil twin article and ran it the week before so it would repeat during Evil Twin Week.
Week #336 (June 2, 2008) – "The Year of Living Changerously"
This column is marked with five stars for its historical significance. Magic was making a few changes, and I had the opportunity to explain these changes to all of you. Some of you might know this article as the thing people quote when they are unhappy about a card we've chosen to make mythic rare. This is the article where, among other things, I explained R&D's thoughts on what mythic rares are supposed to be.
I thought I'd spend a few paragraphs calrifying a couple things about mythic rares in particular. For starters, here is what I said in the column:
This now leads us to the next question: How are cards split between rare and mythic rare? Or more to the point, what kind of cards are going to become mythic rares? We want the flavor of mythic rare to be something that feels very special and unique. Generally speaking, we expect that to mean cards like planeswalkers, most legends, and epic-feeling creatures and spells. They will not just be a list of each set's most powerful tournament-level cards.
We've also decided that there are certain things we specifically do not want to be mythic rares. The largest category is utility cards, what I'll define as cards that fill a universal function. Some examples of this category would be cycles of dual lands and cards like
Mutavaultor Char. That also addresses a long-standing issue that some players have had with certain rares like dual lands. Because we're making fewer cards per set, in the new world individual rares will be easier to acquire because each rare in a large set now appears 25% more often.
Before I jump into what I said and didn't say, let me make this point clear. When I wrote this, R&D was still forming its ideas about what mythic rare was supposed to be. An important part of Magic design and development is allowing the game to adapt and evolve. Our ideas and beliefs shift as we get more information. I wrote this when R&D had zero feedback (from players, retailers, distributors, etc.) about mythic rares.
Now let me get to what was and wasn't said. A lot of people seem to want to attribute to me things I didn't actually say. For example, I did not say mythic rares wouldn't be powerful. I did not say mythic rares wouldn't ever be tournament-viable. I did not say that mythic rares would never have low mana costs. The dividing line that R&D made between rares and mythic rares was this (and yes, in retrospect I could have been a little clearer on this point): We wanted mythic rares to feel special. We wanted them to be cards that felt worthy of being mythic rare.
What we didn't want in mythic rare were spells that you saw all the time in lower rarities doing simple, plain things only cheaper and more powerfully. We shouldn't, as an example, print
Is deciding what is rare and what is mythic rare an exact science? No. We are constantly fiddling with the line, because we are trying internally to get the right feel. There was some debate whether Lotus Cobra, as an example, was supposed to be rare or mythic rare. In the end, mythic rare won out because the majority believed that the potential to explosively cast large spells felt special. The card has the word Lotus in its name because it reminded many R&D members of
Another important point here is that the discussion isn't over. R&D hasn't set the line in stone (nor, for the record, do I ever expect us to). We are always looking for ways to make Magic better, and a big part of that is getting input from all of you. What feels right at mythic rare and what doesn't? What's special and what's run-of-the-mill? Just remember as we have this discussion that some cards have to be mythic rare, and yes, some of those—like any rarity—have to have value (a.k.a. people want to get them). That means that some of the mythic rares will be cards in high demand. That's how a trading card game works.
Week #337 (June 9, 2008) – "IM Legend"
It was Allied Color Week, and I wanted to do something light after the heavy article of the week before (although Monty Ashley, who worked out the formatting, tells me that it wasn't so light on his end). This turned out to be a fan favorite. The title, by the way, is my second most favorite of all time. (I cc: Dead People is still number one.) This article also does something that's hard in story telling: it has a strong ending.
Week #338 (June 16, 2008) – "Stating the Obvious"
My column talks about the Eventide Week Zero preview that gave away that Eventide's theme was enemy-colored hybrid. As it was a theme most players expected, I talked about the value of giving players what they expect. This is another column where I sneak in some pretty important design concepts.
Week #339 (June 23, 2008) – "A Merfolk's Tale"
I told the history of Merfolk through the guise of a bedtime story. If you liked "I cc: Dead People," then this is your kind of column. Ariel (the little girl's name), by the way, is a reference to The Little Mermaid. A lot of people complained that I didn't have a "merfolk-sounding" enough name.
Week #340 (June 30, 2008) – "Breaking Eventide"
It was the first week of Eventide previews, and I decided to try something a little higher-concept than I usually do for preview weeks. My article was broken into two halves: one written by my left brain and one by my right. It was an interesting idea, but I don't think the execution quite met up with the concept. There's still a lot of crunchy design tidbits, though. Also, reading through this for this article, I realized that I use "I Love It When A Plan Comes Together" way, way, way too much as a header. (For example, I used it last week.)
Week #341 (July 7, 2008) – "Eventide Pool"
For the second preview column, I introduce the Eventide design team and explain the design of chroma and retrace. Informative, but a little dry.
Week #342 (July 14, 2008) – "Every Card Has a Story"
The reason I write a lot of card by card design story columns is that readers seem to like them. Whenever I look back at them though I tend to rate them at three stories as they are always solid but never outstanding. This column lives up to that observation. I do though enjoy the
Week #343 (July 21, 2008) – "Don't Shoot the Messenger"
It was Mimic Week, and everyone was writing someone else's column trying to sound like them. This column was written by former House of Cards (now From the Lab) columnist Chris Millar and was a riff on my "IM Legend" column. As usual, I don't grade other writers.
Week #343 (July 21, 2008) – "Art Appreciation: Jeremy Jarvis"
What was I doing during Mimic Week? Pretending to be Doug Beyer writing "Savor the Flavor." The reason I gave this column four stars has little to do with me. I rated it four stars because Jeremy Jarvis is a hoot to read. If you've never had a chance to hear from Magic's art director in his own words, please give this a read.
Week #344 (July 28, 2008) – "Ability Word To Your Mother"
This week's column was inspired by a letter in the thread of another author's column (Latest Developments, for those who care). The issue at hand was whether or not chroma should be a keyword, so I got into the role of ability words. The article's a little technical, but it's important in understanding why we put words on cards that don't mechanically need to have those words.
Week #345 (August 4, 2008) – "After Party"
It was Enemy Color Week. I had recently started using Facebook and was interested in the concept of using a Facebook format as a means to write an article. As IM Legend was so popular and this was the mirrored theme week, I had the idea of following up on the party talked about in IM Legend. My execution was subpar and the whole article was mostly saved by Dave Guskin's (one of our programmers) amazing job to make the article look like Facebook. Following our site redesign (and Facebook's), the column no longer looks like Facebook, so that redeeming quality is gone. The column tells the outcome of the IM Legend column. In retrospect I wish I had never written this column, as it now taints a five star column. IM Legend was perfect with the ending it had. The lesson here—the evil of sequels (at least ones that weren't planned to be sequels).
Week #346 (August 11, 2008) – "In The Mailbag"
People ask questions and/or make statements. I respond. Normal mailbag stuff.
Week #347 (August 18, 2008) – "To Thine Own Elf Be True"
It was Elf Week, so I told a whole bunch of stories about the design of different Elf cards.
Week #348 (August 18, 2008) – "To Thine Own Elf Be True" (REPEAT)
It was Labor Day, so no new Making Magic.
Week #349 (September 1, 2008) – "State of Design 2008"
Every year I like to examine the state of Magic design and look back at the year before. This time I was looking back at the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor mega block and was overall pretty positive. One of the complaints I keep getting each year has to do with my goals. We work a year ahead, and people complain that my goals are cheaty as I already know what we're doing. The thing I need to point out that I grade us not on whether we attempted to do the goal but on whether we were successful. Did the public like what we did in attempting to meet the goal? If the answer was no, then we failed the goal.
Week #350 (September 8, 2008) – "Between a Rock and a Shard Place"
It was the first week of Shards of Alara previews. I introduced the voluminous design team and talked about how the five shards were designed. No big arching three-parters like on large sets I've led.
Week #351 (September 15, 2008) – "Shard Candy"
It was the second preview week, and I went through the Visual Spoiler and talked about the many mechanical aspects of Shards of Alara.
Week #352 (September 22, 2008) – "Shard Tricks"
This column for the third preview week is about the design of Esper. I finally got to the piece of the world that I was directly responsible for, so I had a lot more to talk about.
Week #353 (September 29, 2008) – "Cards of Alara"
I told card by card design stories about Shards of Alara cards.
Week #354 (October 6, 2008) – "Peace, Love and Understanding"
If you've paid attention to how we do theme weeks, it should have come as no surprise when we had Bant Week. In fact, when we explained the shards it should have become apparent that we had five theme weeks already tucked away. I decided to use the shard weeks as a means to try something I'd wanted to do for a while: explain each color's place in the color wheel through that color's perspective. This week obviously put White on the hot seat. If you're a fan of my color pie columns, these five are a must.
Week #355 (October 13, 2008) – "Cosmic Encounter, Part I"
I have a series of columns I refer to as my "personal ones." These are columns where I share an aspect of my life and tangentially tie it to Magic. My wife and I were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, so it seemed appropriate to write a column (two, as it turned out) about my wedding. As readers found out, it was far from ordinary, and it revealed a lot about how I use themes in my designs.
Week #356 (October 20, 2008) – "Looking Out For Number One"
It was Grixis Week, so Black got its turn in front of the microphone. When I started this series, Black and Red were the colors I was most interested in "hearing" from. Most people understand why White does what it does. Connecting to Black (or Red) requires more finesse.
Week #357 (October 27, 2008) – "Cosmic Encounter, Part II"
The first column was about the preparation and everything connected to the wedding. Part II was about the ceremony itself. My biggest regret is that I had wanted to put video clips in the article of the ceremony, but some technical problems prevented that from happening.
Week #358 (November 3, 2008) – "Searching Within"
The shard weeks continue to hit back-to-back-to-back. It was Naya Week, so this column put Green on center stage.
Week #359 (November 10, 2008) – "Design Seminars: The 10 Mental Locks"
A while back I began doing Magic design seminar for R&D. Since I was already doing the work for the seminars, I decided to have a recurring column where I typed them up. This was the first one (although interestingly, not the actual first one I gave—for some reason I chose to do that second in the column). This article is all about crossing Magic design with my favorite book of all time, Dr. Roger Von Oech's A Whack On The Side of the Head, an excellent book on creative thinking.
Week #360 (November 17, 2008) – "Striving for Perfection"
It was Esper Week, and Blue got a chance to explain how Blue sees the world.
Week #361 (November 24, 2008) – "80,000 Words (with Director Commentary)"
I had always wanted to do a column with director's commentary of a previous column. 80,000 Words, my all photo tour of Wizards, seemed like the perfect fit. It was interesting that many readers got mad that I "skipped" a week (two actually), when in fact I wrote over my average (around three thousand words) for each of these weeks. This is one of the columns much more about the people that make the game than the game itself. Note that even though the title doesn't reflect this, this is part I of II.
Week #362 (December 1, 2008) – "Following Your Heart"
It was Jund Week, and Red finally got a chance to talk. Of all my shard columns, I especially like how this one turned out as Red is a very misunderstood color.
Week #363 (December 8, 2008) – "80,000 Words (with Director Commentary), Part II"
I had originally planned for this to be one article, but I had so much to say that I decided to break it into two parts. The second half mostly looks at Floor Three, home of the Pit (which is in turn the home of R&D).
Week #364 (December 15, 2008) – "Reprints Charming"
It was Rerun Week. No, not our yearly two weeks of December reruns. This was a week about the topic of reruns. I had already talked about the topic twice before and was really tempted to rerun one of those articles. Come on, a rerun article about reruns during Rerun Week? You can't get much more meta than that. But as the following week started the actual December rerun weeks, I felt it would be irresponsible to have so many reruns in a row. So I wrote a brand new column on the topic, a pretty meaty one to boot.
Week #365 (December 22, 2008) – "Cosmic Encounter Parts I & II" (REPEAT)
It was time for a yearly reruns. I chose this two-parter about my wedding. (Yeah, I cheated and picked two articles. It's okay, I did the same thing a few years earlier.)
Week #366 (December 29, 2008) – "Innovate Is Enough (Or Is It?)" (REPEAT)
For my second repeat, I chose a column that I felt hit at the heart of an important design issue that I only talked about because I was trying to reply to a reply to one of my columns. This column also has my family's greeting card for 2008.
Week #367 (January 5, 2009) – "Resolutions"
I wanted to start out 2009 on a good foot, so I wrote a very personal column that was a reversal of Life Lessons, Part I & Part II. I haven't picked my repeats for this year yet (I still have a few months to write more candidates), but this column is definitely one of the frontrunners. This column is one of my more universal columns in that its message can be applied to just about anything.
Week #368 (January 12, 2009) – "Nuts & Bolts: Card Codes"
I tried out something new with a subcolumn I called "Nuts & Bolts." The idea was that I would occasionally write a column about some design minutiae to show how much energy can go into one tiny facet of design. This particular column is all about how R&D uses card codes in Multiverse, our card database we use for design and development. Warning: this column is exceedingly dry. I haven't decided yet whether to bring "Nuts & Bolts" back. Feel free to let me know if you care one way or the other.
Week #369 (January 19, 2009) – "When Worlds Collide, Part I"
This was the first week of Conflux previews. The article is solid, but it never really rises above.
Week #370 (January 26, 2009) – "When Worlds Collide, Part II"
In the second week of Conflux previews, I continue my story of the design and talk a bit about the set's five-color theme.
Week #371 (February 2, 2009) – "Party of Five"
My trivia column of the previous year went over well enough that I did another one, this time focused on five-color cards. Along the way I told a bunch of design stories. As with any trivia I do, beware—I'm sneaky.
Week #372 (February 9, 2009) – "Whatever Happened To Barry's Land?"
One of the great joys of doing a weekly column is that I have the ability to occasionally delve very deeply into a topic that interests me. This column was all about a card that almost saw print in Invasion, then Planeshift, and then Conflux, yet never did. Yes, I spent a whole column about a card that's never even been printed. That's what I love about writing Making Magic.
Week #373 (February 16, 2009) – "25 Random Things About Magic"
I do so love my internet memes. This column came about because of a fad on Facebook where people wrote "25 Random Things" articles. This inspired me to write such an article for Magic. As an added bonus, I included the very list about myself that I put up on my Facebook page.
Week #374 (February 23, 2009) – "Cycling Round The Track"
It was Cycling Week. Again. Cycling became the first topic to repeat a theme week. I had already written six different articles that had something to do with cyclingm yet I still managed to find a cycling relevant theme—the evolution of the cycling mechanic, oddly, had not yet been written about. The thing this column seems to have become famous for is a little throwaway line I had at the end of the column where I talked about having "CENSORED without CENSORED" coming up this fall. (Since then I have out the first CENSORED as being the word "kicker.")
Week #375 (March 2, 2009) – "Magic Design Seminar: Looking Within"
This column was based upon the very first design seminar I did and it talks about the fundamentals of Magic design (what actually makes the game tick) in a way I had never covered before. If Magic design is a topic you care at all about, I strongly urge you to give this column a look.
Week #376 (March 9, 2009) – "Designing For Timmy"
We decided to base three theme weeks on the player psychographics (Timmy, Johnny, and Spike). I decided for these weeks I would talk about the issues with designing cards for that psychographic. We started with Timmy, so this column is all about what designers have to do to make Timmy happy.
Week #377 (March 16, 2009) – "Looking for a Good Mechanic"
I took the topic of fleshing out base mechanics at common and turned it into a little play. Instead of talking cards, this time I have talking mechanics. My only regret is that I somehow overlooked deathtouch, which is staple green and should clearly have had an "audition." I also really liked the treatment Monty Ashley and Tom Jenkot gave it when they laid it out to look like a script.
Week #378 (March 23, 2009) – "Mana with All the Fixin's"
It was Mana Fixing Week so I spent my column talking about all the different ways design can help smooth out mana problems. There are a lot more tools to do this than you might realize at first blush. This is another one of my columns that's dry but packed with minutiae.
Week #379 (March 30, 2009) – "Other People's Shoes"
This column is about the troubles of designing for players unlike oneself. This was one of my columns that I suggested designers in R&D read, as it is a very relevant topic.
Week #380 (April 6, 2009) – "If I Had a Nicol..."
Often in my column I will embrace topics that interest me and find connections by which they tie into Magic design. This column very much tied to my screenwriter days as I explored what makes a good villain. While there is plenty that is directly relevant to Magic, this column also has a lot of pointers about how to craft good villains.
Week #381 (April 13, 2009) – "Solid Gold"
It was the first week of Alara Reborn previews, and this column is all about the problems the team had when trying to make an all-gold set. As I said up front when Aaron took the assignment: "It's a lot harder to do than you think."
Week #382 (April 20, 2009) – "Goldfingers"
Last week was about the problems of an all-gold design. The next week's column is about the answers to those problems.
Week #383 (April 27, 2009) – "Outside View"
I did my normal "lets tell stories about cards from the new set" schtick, but with a twist. Normally my stories are about behind-the-scenes stories, but for this set I wasn't as involved day-to-day. As such, I gave my insight on some Alara Reborn cards from my perspective as someone well-versed in Magic design but not the design of this particular set.
Week #384 (May 4, 2009) – "Kind Acts of Randomness"
It was Cascade Week, but the story of the mechanic's evolution had already been told in Latest Developments. I decided it was a perfect time to write an article I'd be dying to write for several years: randomness (and the appearance of randomness) and how it affects game design. This is another contender to be repeated at the end of the year.
Week #385 (May 11, 2009) – "All That Twitters Is Not Gold"
While I was very unhappy with my column in the style of a Facebook page, I am much happier with my column in the style of a Twitter page. I had recently started using Twitter, so I got inspired. My favorite part of this column is the little sub-story with Mike Turian. By the way, for those who somehow don't know this, my twitter account is @maro254.
Week #386 (May 18, 2009) – "Golden Oldies"
It was Solid Gold Week, so I talked about dancing on television. Well, I would have if I knew anything about that topic. Instead, I used my column to tell stories about multicolored cards I had designed.
Week #387 (May 25, 2009) – "Golden Oldies" (REPEAT)
It was my birthday, so the United States government had a national holiday and I had a day off. Oh yeah, it was also Memorial Day.
Week #388 (June 1, 2009) – "Once Upon a Time"
It was Origin Stories Week, and as Magic's origin story was being covered in the feature, I decided to tell my origin story with Magic. This is the definitive story of how I came to learn of Magic. As that time coincides with the game's very beginning, it also reveals a lot about how Magic functioned during its first year.
Week #389 (June 8, 2009) – "Tweet Talk"
I did a mailbag column with one small twist. Instead of responding to email, I responded to tweets (what posts on Twitter are called—that might help explain the column's name). I really liked how this worked and will most likely do another Twitter-based mailbag column.
Week #390 (June 15, 2009) – "A View From the Top"
It was Top Down Week, so I decided to do a top-down design as I wrote my column. I got the idea from my Twitter feed and went from there. I really like how this column came out and will probably be doing more "design before your eyes" style columns.
Week #391 (June 22, 2009) – "Magic Lessons"
While I am often the one to break controversial big changes to the players, I somehow got off the hook and Aaron wrote the article explaining the rules changes that accompanied Magic 2010. This column was my chance to explain the one rules change I had championed: the removal of mana burn. Many readers were upset, as they really wanted to hear about the changes to Magic's combat system. I would touch upon that issue a few columns later.
Week #392 (June 29, 2009) – "Resonate Eight Days a Week"
It was the first week of Magic 2010 previews so I hit upon a theme very important to M10 – resonance. I believe this is probably the first Magic article to ever use the film Terms of Endearment as an example to make a point. This column was going to be called "Resonate Is Enough" until Kelly pointed out that I had already written a feature and a column (Hate Is Enough and Innovate Is Enough) referencing the show "Eight Is Enough" so we changed the title to a Beatles reference instead. I also learned that Kelly had never heard of the show.
Week #393 (July 6, 2009) – "Drop and Give Me 2010"
It was Week Two of M10 previews. The most famous thing about this article is that I previewed
Week #394 (July 13, 2009) – "Feeling Blue"
This column is about as behind-the-scenes as it gets. With Aaron's help I was able to recreate an early design exercise of M10. This isn't me talking about what happened; this is me actually showing you in documented form what happened.
Week #395 (July 20, 2009) – "The Silver Lining"
It was Favorite Flavor Week, so I took the time to talk about some my favorite flavored cards, all of which just happened to have silver borders. Looking back, while I like my list, I'm a bit embarrassed that I forgot one of the most flavorful Un-cards of all time: B.F.M. (Big Furry Monster) Oops.
Week #396 (July 27, 2009) – "Decisions, Decisions, Part I"
This is one of those columns that I like the topic but looking back feel that I didn't do as good a job explaining what I wanted to say as well as I could. Choosing the right decisions for players to make is about as fundamental to game design as it comes, but I think I needed to hit the topic in a little more narrowly focused way. I was simply covering too much area, and as such it isn't as clear how everything ties together as I would like.
Week #397 (August 4, 2009) – "Designing for Johnny"
It was time for Johnny Week, so, of course, I wrote part two of my designing for specific psychographics columns.
Week #398 (August 11, 2009) – "Decisions, Decisions, Part II"
This two-parter is meaty and has much to say—probably too much to say. I do like much of it; I just wish I had broken out some of this messaging into separate columns. This is the column, by the way, where I finally talked somewhat about the changes to the combat system.
Week #399 (August 18, 2009) – "In My Day"
It was Exiled Week, and I was in a silly mood after a long string of very serious, dense articles. This column examines the many changes Magic has undergone through the lens of my Crazy Old Man voice. This is one of my columns where I really stretch the theme (things "exiled" from Magic over the years).
Week #400 (August 25, 2009) – "State of Design 2009"
The four hundredth week ended, on a strong note as I wrote my fifth State of Design column. I have noticed a trend that in years I'm happy with our work, I get lots of feedback that I went too easy on us, and in years where I'm very critical I get feedback that I was too tough. At least I'm getting feedback.
The Fab Four Hundred
I'm still having a hard time believing that Making Magic has been around for four hundred weeks and almost eight years. In a little under two years, I'll be at five hundred. Wow! This column always takes a lot longer to write than my normal column (and a lot longer to edit, post, and illustrate—so thanks guys) but I believe the archiving resource is an important one. Plus, it's kind of cool to look back and see all the stuff I've written. I had one one-star and two twos in these last hundred columns, so not too shabby. I am very curious if any of you disagree with my grades. Did I overvalue something? Did I undervalue something? I'm always interested to hear what you have to say about what you did and didn't like. (My Twitter feed once again for those who like to respond there is @maro254.)
Join me next week when I do something whenever a land enters the battlefield.
Until then, may you be as proud of your body of work.