From “Designing Under the Influence” (March 4, 2002)
When I first saw Legends, my eye was drawn to this creature. He had a novel, cool effect. Inspired by this card, years later I designed a spell called “Go Fish.” I put into numerous designs until it was finally accepted in Judgment as the card… wait a minute. Judgment isn't out yet. Ignore this paragraph. You didn't read it.
A number of readers were curious what card I was talking about. The card was Cabal Therapy. “Do you have a _____ ?” “Go Fish.”
From “Some Enchanted Card Type” (April 15, 2002)
A day after this “Ask Wizards” question was posted, I was visited by Mike Elliott, the lead designer of Urza's Legacy and one of its developers. Mike asked if he could rebut Bill's answer. (Mike, you see, remembered the whole thing differently.) I said sure. “Send a letter to ‘Ask Wizards' and you can reply to it yourself.”
You have to understand that I was dead serious. So, I'm publicly calling Mike out. Hey Mike, write the letter! We'll see what happens.
So, did Mike ever respond to my challenge? No. But Mike claims to read my columns, so once more, C'mon Mike, write the letter!
From “Squirrel of My Dreams” (July 22, 2002)
Second, I received an avalanche of mail concerning Type 1. The many posts (and yes, I read them all) really stressed the enthusiasm this format has among the players. Many writers gave me good ideas for Type 1 design space, some of which I'm exploring in the design for Bacon (the codename for the 2003 fall expansion). Thank you to everyone who took the time to write in
The trick to making viable Type I cards that don't disrupt Standard is to find elements that are unique to Type I. For example, Type I is much more dependent on a lower band of mana costs, thus a card like Chalice of the Void becomes more potent. Type I is also more reliant on a series of single powerful cards. Thus a card like Spoils of the Vault is stronger in Type I.
From “Codename of the Game” (August 12, 2003)
2005 Fall Expansion, 2006 Winter Expansion, and 2006 Spring Expansion
This block has not yet been codenamed, but the leading contenders are "Huey," "Dewey," and "Louie."
The 2005-2006 Block is codenamed “Control” “Alt” and “Delete”. The 2006-2007 Block (we're actually already talking about it so we had to name it) is codenamed “Snap” “Crackle” and “Pop”.
From “Banned on the Run” (February 17, 2003)
I have the lovely distinction of having designed more banned and restricted cards than anyone save Richard Garfield. I thought it might be interesting to look at some of my cards to see how they came to be.
Multiple people wrote in to me to see if I've managed to catch up to Richard. Between Richard's strong start and the recent improvement in development, I believe I'm a long ways away from catching Richard.
Here's the tally to date: (Note that while most of Richard's cards were solely designed by Richard, a number of the cards on my list were joint designs – the vast majority with Mike Elliott.)
Richard (30 cards)
Contract from Below
Library of Alexandria
Wheel of Fortune
Mark (18 cards)
Lion's Eye Diamond
Mind Over Matter
Survival of the Fittest
From “Inquiring Minds Want To Know” (March 10, 2003)
Mark: I don't think creative people are ever “off duty.” I think about design projects all the time. On numerous occasions I've woken from a dead sleep with an idea I have to write down. It's how I got one of the mechanics for Mirrodin.
The mechanic that literally woke me up in the middle of the night was Entwine. We were looking for a neat spell mechanic and I had been wracking my brain trying to come up with something tailored to instants and sorceries. As I was falling asleep I was thinking about modal spells. I guess it invaded my dreams, but I remember waking up shouting, “What if you could choose both?”
I then got out of my bed and wrote down a few sample cards.
From “Rules of the Game” (April 7, 2003)
So, if you're game, here's what I want. Come up with Magic-themed Tom Swifities and send them to me at email@example.com. In a future column (labeled #1B) I'll share the ones that tickled my fancy. Be aware that there's no prize other than the recognition of your cleverness. So please make sure to include your name so I can give you credit if I choose one of your submissions.
See the end of this article.
From “Dragon Racing” (April 28, 2003)
A day or two after I turned in the Dragon, I checked the database, and . . . they didn't use my card. You see, I talk a great deal about the cards that I design (this is a design column after all), but I do want to point out that many times, I don't make the card. Someone else does. This is one of those times. (But don't feel bad about the card. The mechanic on it ended up being one of the keyword mechanics in the Mirrodin set, so the card didn't exactly go to waste.)
Creature – Dragon
When CARDNAME comes into play remove an instant spell in your hand from the game.
Whenever CARDNAME deals combat damage to a player, put a copy of that instant on the stack.
Obviously, this was another early imprint card. The reason you'll never see this dragon is that it has a fatal flaw. The effect is cool but not on a 5/5 flier. You want the effect on something that has the chance of happening a number of times. The dragon simply kills the opponent too quickly. The Mirrodin team moved this effect onto a piece of equipment which was then pushed off to Darksteel. You all know it as:
From “Good to the Core” (May 7, 2003)
Next my eye went to Guerilla Tactics. The card has a colorful history in tournament play. (Remind me someday to tell the story about the Scott Johns/Tom Guevin Type I semi-final game at PT Dallas.) If Johnny and Timmy get old favorites, why not Spike?
In the early days of the Pro Tour, Wizards would sponsor big money side events. At PT Dallas, the side event was a Type 1 tournament with a $40,000 purse. One of the two semi-finals was between Scott Johns (yes, our illustrious editor) and Tom Guevin. Both had made a name for themselves on the Pro Tour. Scott had three back-to-back top 8's while Tom had come in second at the very first PT Los Angeles.
It was the third game of the semi-final match (in a best two out three match). Tom had won the coin flip and chose to play first. He played a land. Use the land to play a Sol Ring. He then played a Mox and a Black Lotus. Next he played a Zuran Orb. He then sacrificed the Lotus for three white mana. He used two of it to play Balance. In response, he sacrificed his land to his Orb to gain 2 life. With only two cards left in Tom's hand, Scott was forced to discard five cards. “I'm really sorry,” Tom said to Scott (he didn't sound very sorry), “Sometimes Type I is really stupid.”
Scott stared intently at his cards. Then after a minute of thought, Scott discarded his first card. It was a Guerilla Tactics. As this was a forced discard, Guerilla Tactics dealt 4 damage to Tom. Scott then discarded his second card. Another Guerilla Tactics. Four more damage. Then Scott discarded his third card. Yet another Guerilla Tactics. Another four damage. This left Tom at 10 life.
After going down to two cards, Scott takes his turn and plays a Tropical Island and then casts Ancestral Recall. With the Ancestral Recall Scott draws a Mox Ruby and a Gorilla Shaman. He plays the Shaman. Tom draws something irrelevant. On Scott's next turn, he drops a Strip Mine and uses the Gorilla Shaman to destroy the Mox and Sol Ring. At the end of his turn, Scott looks at Tom and says, “You're right. It can be pretty stupid.”
From “R&D-lightful” (June 16, 2003)
As I was running out the door I did make the mental note that the Mad Farmer, as a gifted prankster, would never have chosen me if he knew I wasn't going to be in the office that day. That meant anyone who knew I was out of the office was scratched of my list… except Brian, as he forced me into the building by not answering his cell phone. Hmm.
Many readers were curious if the Mad Farmer struck again or if we ever figured out who it was. No on both accounts.
From “You Make the Card Too” (June 30, 2003)
Mechanic #15 – ACCEPTED (MECHANIC D)
Just as each player type plays for a different reason, they also enjoy different types of cards. Spikes, in general, enjoy outplaying the opponent. This means that they enjoy mechanics with a lot of subtle choices and ones that allow them to gain advantage through careful play. Examples of spike mechanics would be the divvy mechanic from Invasion (i.e. Fact or Fiction) and threshold mechanic from Odyssey. Both mechanics were much more powerful in the hands of a more skilled player. In addition, they allowed lesser players to make mistakes giving yet another edge to the more skilled player.
Mechanic #22 - REJECTED
The set using this mechanic doesn't come out until later this year. When it does, I promise to reveal what it is.
Mechanic #26 - REJECTED
Unfortunately, I can't reveal this mechanic either because I want to keep the card on the Vapor Ops test and I can't do so if I tell the world about it.
From “The Making of a Legend” (August 25, 2003)
Glissa Sunseeker (Mirrodin)
This card was a tough nut to crack. In the story, Glissa played into two different aspects of green that haven't interacted all that often. So, it seemed obvious that I wanted to find a way to interweave the two abilities. I was having trouble until I decided to think outside the box a little. Who said…
Wait a minute, this is August and the previews for Mirrodin start in September. Which means that I… Oops. Please ignore the last two paragraphs. They don't exist. Yeah I know you're reading it right now. Figment of your imagination.
The most obvious answer was that she had an activated ability that cost mana that could be used to destroy artifacts. Yawn. Then I thought about an ability that destroyed artifacts and created mana. But we had already done that on the cards Deconstruct and Turn to Dust. How else could I use mana in a way to destroy artifacts? Then it dawned on me. What if I used mana in a different way? What if mana sitting in a pool was used as a means to set a number? After that thought, the mechanic came spilling out.
From “Equip of the Iceberg” (September 8, 2003)
All of the armor was given a defensive flavor and had the ability to return itself to your hand for some amount of mana. This allowed you to save the Equipment from destruction and to move it from one creature to another, albeit expensively and slowly. (Later on we changed it so that Equipment returned to your hand when they went to the graveyard from play.) We saved the best for weapons. Weapons could… Wait a minute. I can't tell you what weapons did. You see, we liked it so much we used it later in the block. So, you need to be patient for the weapon mechanic but I'll tell you it when it gets released.
The ability is used on equipment in Fifth Dawn, so I have to ask you to continue waiting. But once Fifth Dawn comes out, I promise to tell you the entire story.
From “One For All” (October 13, 2003)
The answer is… okay, the answer that I got (I'm very open to the fact that I missed a deck or two) was 17. (And it jumps to 19 once Darksteel comes out.) In addition I had one deck that can draw. And 10 decks that can beat one of the 17 decks that can win.
Here's how the two decks play:
Play – Win Turn 9
Draw – Win Turn 9
- Play a Blinkmoth Nexus.
- Play a second Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it to animate the first Blinkmoth Nexus turning it into a 1/1 flier. Attack for 1.
- Play a third Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it to animate the first Blinkmoth Nexus turning it into a 1/1 flier. Attack for 1. (2 total damage so far.)
- Play a fourth Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it and another Blinkmoth Nexus to animate the other two Blinkmoth Nexus turning them into two 1/1 fliers. Attack for 2. (4 total damage so far.)
- Play a fifth Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it and another Blinkmoth Nexus to animate two other Blinkmoth Nexus turning them into two 1/1 fliers. Attack for 2. (6 total damage so far.)
- Play a sixth Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it and two other Blinkmoth Nexus to animate the other three Blinkmoth Nexus turning them into three 1/1 fliers. Attack for 3. (9 total damage so far.)
- Play a seventh Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it and three other Blinkmoth Nexus to animate three other Blinkmoth Nexus turning them into three 1/1 fliers. Attack for 3. (12 total damage so far.)
- Play an eighth Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it and three other Blinkmoth Nexus to animate the other four Blinkmoth Nexus turning them into four 1/1 fliers. Attack for 4. (16 total damage so far.)
- Play a ninth Blinkmoth Nexus. Use it and four other Blinkmoth Nexus to animate four other Blinkmoth Nexus turning them into four 1/1 fliers. Attack for 4. (20 total damage so far.) Win the game.
Play – Win on Their Turn 57.
Draw – Win on Their Turn 58.
- Do nothing (if you played).
- Discard a card. The card is shuffled into your library. If you played, you deck your opponent on their turn 57. If you drew, you will deck your opponent on their turn 58.
From “Dear Diary” (October 20, 2003)
June 19, 2002
Chakram has been 99'ed. (His code changed from CA19 to CA99.) What this means is that he's been moved from a place in the set to a placeholder slot. While he's no longer officially in the set, being 99 means that he might be moved back in later.
Being 99'ed is very tough as it usually is the first step of being removed from the set. Because the cards know this, no one tends to talk to a '99. They become the walking dead of cards. I've been trying to cheer Chakram up, but he realizes that his chances are slim.
I got a lot of mail from players that wanted to know what Welding Jar's friend Chakram did. For those unaware of what a Chakram is, it's the circular weapon used by Xena on her television show. When used properly, the weapon does its damage and then returns to its owner. It was this boomeranging aspect of the weapon that inspired Mirrodin designer Tyler Bielman to create Chakram:
1, Return CARDNAME to your hand: Tap target creature.
This card would later inspire this Darksteel card:
From “Starting Over” (February 23, 2004)
|Meanwhile, R&D felt confident that the new mulligan worked fine for limited so we used it at Pro Tour Los Angeles, the second one won by Tommi Hovi. (Ask me someday to retell the story of the near player's riot at that Pro Tour.)|
I received more requests for this loose end than all the other loose ends grouped together. (This probably has something to do with the fact that it was in the article where I asked for loose ends.) So without any further ado, here's the story:
The time is March 2, 1997. It is the final day of the second Pro Tour Los Angeles, The finals is between American David Mills and Finn Tommi Hovi. The format was Mirage/Visions Rochester draft. This is before Sixth Edition rules and back then players had to tap their lands for mana before they played a spell. It was a minor technical rule that many players ignored, but at the Pro Tour all the rules were enforced. The problem was that David Mills was so used to tapping mana after playing his spells that he simply kept forgetting to do it the “correct” way.
During the quarter and semi-finals, David kept making the mistake. He stressed to the judges that this was a habit that was very hard to break and he clearly wasn't trying to disobey them. But the judges stressed back that the rules had to be enforced. And so, David started compiling warnings, at first unofficial ones and eventually official ones. Which leads to game four of the final match.
The finals was best three out of five. David was up two to one as they entered the fourth game. At this point David's warnings had escalated to the point that one more meant a disqualification (the tournament floor rules worked a little differently back then). David was slightly mana screwed and was watching the fourth game begin to slip through his fingers. But then just in time he drew the fourth land he needed to play Grave Servitude on his Man-o-War. He was so excited to get the land he needed, he dropped it and played his spell without first tapping his lands. Tom Wylie, the head judge, felt he had no recourse but to issue another warning thus triggering a disqualification. Tommi Hovi became the first player to win a Pro Tour through a disqualification.
This didn't go over well with the pro players watching the match on close-circuit screens (back then, the finals was played off in a separate room). David Mills had been denied a Pro Tour win based on a minor technical rule that many players didn't follow. One pro player, Mark Justice, was so outraged he took to the stage. With the help of Tom Guevin (see Tom makes it into two stories today), Mark riled up the crowd with talk of how the players weren't going to put up with Wizards deciding the Pro Tour on meaningless technicalities.
The players calmed down as Tournament Manager Andrew Finch walked to the podium. In probably his finest hour, Andrew gave a great speech about the difficulties of running the Pro Tour. He eloquently explained why David Mills would be DQ'ed (although the official rule had a DQ without prize, David would get his prize money). I wouldn't say the pros were happy but they accepted Andrew's reasons. And that is the story of the near-riot at the Pro Tour.
All Tied Up
I've tied up as many loose ends as all of you could find. If you find new ones, let me know and I'll include them in a future column. I hope you've enjoyed me “telling you later”.
Join me next week when I'll look back at one of a few keyword mechanics to grace two different blocks.
Until then, may all your questions find answers.
“Extra Helping #2”
A little less than a year ago, I asked all of you for some Magic-themed Tom Swifities. A quick reminder on what a Tom Swifty is. It is a quote, always by Tom, in which the verb or adverb of the sentence plays into the content of the quote. A classic example is “My valentine got ripped in two,” Tom said half-hearted.
I'm finally happy to show off all of your hard work. I've separated the Tom Swifities into categories. In some cases, more than one person sent in the Tom Swifty. I'm crediting the first person to send it in.
I. Straight Card References
The most popular submissions were direct references to Magic cards. Here are my top ten favorites: (and remember, this is all based on what tickled my funny bone)
10) "Would you discard two cards?", Tom probed, kicking himself. (Zsig Schneider)
II. Overall Game References
Next is my top ten of Tom Swifities that reference the game rather than just a single card:
10) "Eh... so the Mirage block is out of type two", Tom said, completely unphased. (Mario Colli)
III. Special Award
This last category is my favorite top 10 from Paul Grasshoff. Yes, one player so nailed this assignment that I've decided to give him his own top 10 list. As you'll see, Paul embraced this assignment with a unique vigor.
10) "Sure, you can beat a goldfish in five turns. But I'm a not a goldfish," Tom said coyly. (Paul Grasshoff)
While the wait was longer than expected, I hope you enjoyed the Magic Tom Swifities.
With the Tom Swifties out of the way, let's get on to the new assignment. I'm looking for the longest Magic name chain. What does that mean? I want you to take Magic names and link them together as such: the last word in one card name must be the first word in the next. An example: Hill Giant Strength of Lunacy (3). This is three names (Hill Giant, Giant Strength & Strength of Lunacy) linked together.
Here are the rules:
I'll list the ten longest chains. (And once again, I'll credit the first person to send it to me.)
And this time let me state for the record, I don't know how long before I'll post the answers.