Seven Hundred and Counting
Five weeks ago was my seven-hundredth week of writing "Making Magic" (having started back in January of 2002). Every hundred weeks, I have a column where I look back at all hundred weeks and grade each article on a scale of one to five stars. I do this for two reasons. One, it allows people who have read them all to look back and reminisce and perhaps reread a few with some hindsight. Two, it allows new readers who might be a bit overwhelmed by seven hundred weeks of content to have some idea which articles they might want to start with.
This is the seventh in the series. Here are the first six:
· "Three Hundred and Counting"
As always, here is my five-star scale:
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 articles. 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 article. Not my finest hour.
Every time I do one of these columns, people always ask why there are so few low-rated articles. One, I am keeping a constant grading scale across all the "Hundred and Counting" articles. I have written and published some lower-rated articles in the past, so I can't just get rid of the lower ratings and readjust the scale. Two, if I realize an article would fall below the level represented by three stars, I rewrite it until it doesn't. I often do this if it's at three- or four-star level because I'm always trying to write five-star articles. Three, one of the things that happens when you do something for seven-hundred weeks is you improve. I believe I am, on average, writing stronger material than I was thirteen years ago.
With that said, let's get to the columns.
Week #601 (July 15, 2013)—"Six Hundred and Counting"
This is my last recap column. It's a lot like this one, so if you enjoy what you've seen here today and haven't read it yet, give it a look.
Week #602 (July 22, 2013)—"Garfield of Play"
I had just attended Richard Garfield's 50th birthday celebration and decided it was time for me to dedicate an entire article to the creator of Magic. I tell some stories and share some of the design lessons from the man I consider my game design mentor. The article will give you a better insight into Richard Garfield…and teach you something about polar bears.
Week #603 (July 29, 2013)—"Where in the Worlds?"
It was yet another Worlds Week (we have one every year) and I decided to make a trivia column all about Worlds. If you really enjoy high-end tournament play and are interested in the history of the World Championships, give this a read.
Liliana Vess | Art by Aleksi Briclot
Week #604 (August 5, 2013)—"Twenty Things That Were Going to Kill Magic"
It was the 20th Anniversary Week and the website had a cute gimmick where all the columns were about twenty of something. I decided it would be fun to focus on twenty of the biggest controversies in the game's histories. I walk through them one by one and talk about what we did and the response it generated. This is a very good history column, talking about most of the biggest changes in the game. Interestingly, I went with a very tongue-in cheek-title, which ended up, ironically, upsetting a number of players.
Week #605 (August 12, 2013)—"Un-Seen"
Many years ago I designed a set called Unglued 2 (it never got a real name) that was shelved and never made. This column walks through a number of designs, complete with finished artwork, to let players get a glimpse of a set of cards that never made it to print.
Week #606 (August 19, 2013)—"Design 104"
In the first few years, I wrote a series I called "Design 101," where I talked about beginner design lessons for Magic card designers. I hadn't written one in a while, so I decided it was time for another article in the series. This column also highlights the sequel to my favorite book (A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech) called A Kick in the Seat of the Pants.
Week #607 (August 26, 2013)—"State of Design 2013"
Every year, I write a column where I look back at the previous year's design and analyze it, explaining what I felt went right and what went wrong. In this column, I talk all about the design of the Return to Ravnica block. These articles are the most serious critical analysis I do on our design, so they're a must-read for anyone that's interested in Magic design.
Week #608 (September 2, 2013)—"A Theros by Any Other Name, Part 1"
Theros previews started and it was time for me to tell the story of Theros design. I would recommend reading this if you love (or, I guess, hate) Theros and want to know how it came to be.
Week #609 (September 9, 2013)—"A Theros by Any Other Name, Part 2"
This is part two about the design of Theros. This article focuses mostly on how the set tied to the gods: the devotion mechanic and the set's enchantment theme.
Week #610 (September 16, 2013)—"A Theros by Any Other Name, Part 3"
This third article on Theros' design talks about how we made mechanics for the heroes and monsters.
Gods Willing | Art by Mark Winters
Week #611 (September 23, 2013)—"Theroses Are Red (and White, Blue, Black, and Green), Part 1"
This is the first part of my card-by-card design stories from Theros. The set has more outside references than most sets, so this article might help you realize where some of the cards came from.
Week #612 (September 30, 2013)—"Typecasting"
I wrote a play about the selection of enchantments as the theme for Theros. The characters are myself and all the card types. If you enjoy when I put voices to Magic concepts, this column is for you.
Week #613 (October 7, 2013)—"Theroses Are Red (and White, Blue, Black, and Green), Part 2"
This is the second part of my card-by-card design stories from Theros. It includes me talking about my favorite card in the set, Rescue from the Underworld.
Week #614 (October 14, 2013)—"Drawing Attention"
This article is me taking one aspect of the game, card drawing, and then digging down deep on what role it serves in design and how we use it in each color. You should definitely read this if you are interested in better understanding Magic card design.
Week #615 (October 21, 2013)—"Hero Complex"
It was Heroic Week, so I spent more time explaining how—exactly—we made the heroic mechanic and how it changed through design (and development).
Week #616 (October 28, 2013)—"Your Wish Is My Commander"
This column is all about the design of the Commander 2013 decks. I introduce the design team and walk through the design. Worth a read if you're a Commander fan.
Week #617 (November 4, 2013)—"Unanswered Questions: Theros"
This is an occasional mailbag column I do in which I answer unanswered questions about the latest set. This column was all about Theros.
Week #618 (November 11, 2013)—"Building a Better Monster"
It was Monstrosity Week, so I talked about what a monster needs, thematically; and then talked about what that means mechanically. I also spend a little of this column talking about the five iconics, one from each color (white—Angel, blue—Sphinx, black—Demon, red—Dragon, and green—Hydra), and how we ended up picking each.
Week #619 (November 18, 2013)—"Finding the One, Part 1"
My wife and I had just celebrated our 15th anniversary, so I wrote a two-part article about our courtship. This is another in what I call my "Rosewater Files" which are where I take very personal topics and weave in Magic design.
Week #620 (November 25, 2013)—"Finding the One, Part 2"
This is the second part of my courtship article. It ends with me proposing to my wife in Rio de Janeiro, when we visited there for the second Magic Invitational (at the time called the Duelist Invitational).
Mogis’s Marauder | Art by Chase Stone
Week #621 (December 2, 2013)—"I Second that Devotion"
It was Devotion Week, so I talked all about how I took a failed mechanic (chroma) and redid it to make something that ended up being very popular.
Week #622 (December 9, 2013)—"Live Like a Gamer"
It was my last article of 2013, so I decided to write something I had been wanting to write for a while. I had given a friend some advice that had been helpful, so I decided to write an article sharing the same advice with the world. It was received well and is one of my favorite pieces in today's rundown.
Week #623 (December 16, 2013)—NO COLUMN
We took a week off to allow Magic Online to provide a special week of content so no column from me this week.
Week #624 (December 23, 2013)—"Living in Synergy"—REPRINT
We take two weeks off every December and run two "Best of" columns. My first one is always my favorite design column of the year. In this column, I talk all about the importance of synergy and what it does for game design.
Week #625 (December 30, 2013)—"Communications Theory"—REPRINT
This was my pick of my best column of 2013. In it, I take something I had learned in college and explain how it applies to Magic design. This column spawned a three-part podcast series (Episodes #60—Comfort, #61—Surprise, and #62—Completion) and has been one of the more influential things I've written. I urge you to give it a read.
Week #626 (January 6, 2014)—"Advanced Planning"
This article talks about one of the biggest innovations we made in design in the last five years. It's referred to in the article as "Advance Planning," but we now call it "Exploratory Design." It has proved so powerful that other parts of R&D have begun exploratory processes of their own. This article talks about how this new process came to be, and explains how—at the time—we ran it. I should note that it has evolved a bit since the writing of this column. (Hmm, a topic for a future column.)
Week #627 (January 13, 2014)—"The Born Identity"
Born of the Gods previews began, so I started talking about the design of set. I introduced the design team and then dove in to the many challenges the design team had to solve.
Week #628 (January 20, 2014)—"Born Legacy"
This was the second article about Born of the Gods design. In it I explain how the mechanics for the set got designed.
Week #629 (January 27, 2014)—"Born to be Compiled, Part 1"
This is the first part of my card-by-card stories from Born of the Gods.
Week #630 (February 3, 2014)—"Born to be Compiled, Part 2"
And part two.
Week #631 (February 10, 2014)—"Being Inspired, Part 1"
It was Inspiration Week, so I started with Theros block and looked at every block, talking about where the inspiration came from to designing the block, going chronologically backwards. This first part goes all the way back to the original Ravnica block.
Week #632 (February 17, 2014)—"Being Inspired, Part 2"
Part two starts with Champions of Kamigawa block and goes all the way back to the very first block, Ice Age. (Okay, technically Mirage is the first real block, but Ice Age had more than one set in the same world with at least loosely connected mechanics.)
Week #633 (February 24, 2014)—"À La Mode"
It was Tribute Week, so I went back and looked at every mechanic involving modes. If you enjoy my research-heavy columns looking at Magic design history, this is one you should enjoy.
Week #634 (March 3, 2014)—"Nuts & Bolts: Iteration"
Every year, I do a column series called "Nuts & Bolts," where I give very technical advice for people who want to design their own cards. This column was all about the use of iteration. Even if you have no interest in designing your own cards, this column explains a fundamental part of how Magic designs (and, I would argue, all creative endeavors) are made.
Week #635 (March 10, 2014)—"Twist of Fate"
It was Fated Week, looking at a cycle from Born of the Gods. I used my column to look at all the predecessors that led to the creation of the Fated cycle's design. This is another Magic design history column for those of you that enjoy them.
Week #636 (March 17, 2014)—"How to Write an Article"
I write a lot of "how to" columns. This was one I wanted to write for years but never got around to. Well, I finally got around to it. This is my article on how to write articles. If you have any interest in writing articles, I would give this a read.
Week #637 (March 24, 2014)—"Modern Gods"
It was Gods Week, so I wrote about the design and development of Gods. What makes this article stand out is that I took Heliod, the white God from Theros, and went through every iteration the card went through from initial design to print. This is the closest thing you'll ever see to a time-elapsed film of a Magic card being created.
Week #638 (March 31, 2014)—"Lenticular Design"
If you ask me which design article I've written that has had the most influence on game design outside of Magic, I'd probably pick my first player psychographic article ("Timmy, Johnny, and Spike"). But there's a chance that this article will surpass it one day. This article talks about a big shift in my thinking about design, and has probably influenced me more than any other realization in my twenty years working on Magic.
Week #639 (April 7, 2014)—"The Incredible Journey, Part 1"
Journey into Nyx previews began, so I introduced the design team and start talking about the challenges of creating a third small set in a block, and how it affected Journey into Nyx's design.
Week #640 (April 14, 2014)—"The Incredible Journey, Part 2"
This is the second article on the design of Journey into Nyx. This article talks a lot about the many challenges of making the second mechanic for the set. And how it ended up getting made, not in design, but development.
Week #641 (April 21, 2014)—"Journey to the Center of the Set, Part 1"
This is the first card-by-card design story article for Journey into Nyx.
Eidolon of Blossoms | Art by Min Yum
Week #642 (April 28, 2014)—"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"
It was Constellation Week, so I did a mailbag column answering questions about the constellation mechanic.
Week #643 (May 5, 2014)—"Journey to the Center of the Set, Part 2"
This is the second part of my card-by-card design story article for Journey into Nyx.
Week #644 (May 12, 2014)—"In My Day…"
It was Vintage Masters Preview Week, so I talked all about aspects of the game that were no longer with us, from interrupts to the rules about when you had to tap your mana.
Week #645 (May 19, 2014)—"Conspiracy Talk"
It was Conspiracy Week, so I introduced the design team and answered a whole bunch of questions about Conspiracy—a very different kind of Magic set. This column also includes a Vine of me (and one of the designers of Conspiracy) that has over a quarter of a million views.
Week #646 (May 26, 2014)—"Conspiracy Talk"—REPRINT
It was Memorial Day (as observed in the U.S.) so there was no new "Making Magic" article and we just repeated the previous week's column.
Week #647 (June 2, 2014)—"Two Truths and a Lie"
My youngest daughter discovered the game "Two Truths and a Lie" and got us playing at home. It inspired me to write a design article where I played the game with all of you.
Thoughtbound Primoc | Art by Jeff Miracola
Week #648 (June 9, 2014)—"Building a Better Mousetrap"
It was Vintage Masters Week, so I talked about designing in a closed environment, with existing cards. If you have any interest in designing Cubes, check out this column.
Week #649 (June 16, 2014)—"A Touch of Magic"
This is most likely my best column of the hundred I'm reviewing today…and I didn't even write it. One day on my blog (Blogatog), people started talking about how Magic had positively affected their lives. The day so touched me that I went on social media and asked people to send me their stories in no more than two hundred words. I picked a collection of my favorites and posted them. The article can get a little intense, and it's long, but if you haven't ever read it, I cannot recommend enough that you give it a look. It will make you smile, and probably cry, and give you a new respect for the game we all play.
Week #650 (June 23, 2014)—"Days of Core, Part 1"
It was the first week of Magic 2015 previews, so I introduce the design team and begin talking about the design of the set. I also explain the promotion, where we invited outside designers to make cards for Magic 2015.
Week #651 (June 30, 2014)—"Days of Core, Part 2"
This is part two of my article on the design of Magic 2015. I talk about how the set was overlapping with the digital game Duels of the Planeswalkers, and talked about a number of mechanics in the set.
Week #652 (July 7, 2014)—"Card Duty, Part 1"
This is part one of my two-part column on the card-by-card design stories of Magic 2015.
Week #653 (July 14, 2014)—"Card Duty, Part 2"
And this is part two.
Week #654 (July 21, 2014)—"At All Costs"
It was Convoke Week, so I talked all about cost reduction mechanics and explored the many ways to design them. If you like it when I take one topic and plumb as deep as I can, this is an article for you.
Week #655 (July 28, 2014)—"Story Time"
I was invited to speak at Walt Disney Imagineering about the difficulties of integrating story with game design. The speech went very well, so I turned into a column.
Week #656 (August 4, 2014)—"Making Enemies"
It was Predator Week, so I talked about how some famous Magic villains got designed as cards.
Week #658 (August 11, 2014)—"Acts of Destruction"
It was Annihilation Week, so I talked about what each color is capable of when it comes to destroying things.
Week #659 (August 18, 2014)—"State of Design 2014"
Time for another State of Design column. This time, I talk about the design of Theros block.
Week #660 (August 25, 2014)—"Metamorphosis"
Magic was about to go through a big change, so I wrote an article to explain to everyone what changes were coming and why. The reaction from the audience surprised me a little because I had never had such a big announcement of change be received so positively before. This is probably the most historic article of the 100 today.
Week #661 (September 1, 2014)—"Khan Do Attitude, Part 1"
It was the first week of Khans of Tarkir previews, so I told the long and twisted story of its origin.
Week #662 (September 8, 2014)—"Khan Do Attitude, Part 2"
This was the second part of the Khans of Tarkir design story. I talked about how the clans were created and how morph ended up in the set.
Week #663 (September 15, 2014)—"Prose and Khans, Part 1"
This was part one of my Khans of Tarkir card-by-card design stories.
Week #664 (September 22, 2014)—"Prose and Khans, Part 2"
And this is part two.
Seek the Horizon | Art by Min Yum
Week #665 (September 29, 2014)—"We Will Survive"
It was Abzan Week, so I put the three colors of Abzan (White, Black, and Green) in a room and made them answer questions. I would follow this formula for all five wedge theme weeks. While I do enjoy each one in a vacuum, I will admit that the format got a little repetitive over time, so I wouldn't suggest reading these all back to back.
Week #666 (October 6, 2014)—"Volume Control"
In this column, I talk about an important concept in design known as volume. This article helps put a number of different ideas I've talked about before into context.
Week #667 (October 13, 2014)—"Team Building"
It was Multiplayer Week, so I examine the design of some multiplayer-friendly cards. I also introduce the design team for Khans of Tarkir, as I had forgotten to do it during the preview weeks.
Week #668 (October 20, 2014)—"First Impressions"
It was Things Are Not What They Seem Week, so I talked about bad first impressions. I explained what I feel causes them and how a designer can deal with these issues.
Week #669 (October 27, 2014)—"Commander in Chief"
It was Commander (2014 Edition) preview week, so I talked all about the design of the set and explained how this set of Commander decks had Planeswalkers that could be commanders.
Week #670 (November 3, 2014)—"Smart Thinking"
It was Jeskai Week, so I interview Blue, Red, and White.
Week #671 (November 10, 2014)—"Un-Seen 2: Electric Bugaloo"
Readers liked my Unglued 2 article from the previous year, so I wrote a sequel with more cards and illustrations from the set that never saw print.
Art by Zoltan Boros & Bonnie Bruenderman
Week #672 (November 17, 2014)—"Finishing First"
It was Mardu week. Time to interview Red, White, and Black.
Week #673 (November 24, 2014)—"Top 8 and a Half Tales"
It was Top 8 Week, so I made eight Top 8 lists. This article was inspired by an article many years earlier for Top 10 Week where I wrote ten Top 10 lists.
Week #674 (December 1, 2014)—"All the Worlds a Stage"
It was Worlds Week again, so I talked about some stories involving Worlds (from 1996 through 1999) and my job as a video producer. The article tackles the World Championships from a vantage point you might not have heard before.
Week #675 (December 8, 2014)—"Say When"
Over the years, I've done a series of mailbag columns (from Twitter) where all the questions start with the same word. For this column, that word was "When."
Week #676 (December 15, 2014)—"Lenticular Design"—REPRINT
It was Best-Of time again, and I picked this article as my best design article of the year.
Week #677 (December 22, 2014)—"A Touch of Magic"—REPRINT
And my best column of the year was, of course, the one I didn't write.
Week #678 (December 29, 2014)—"Whims of Fate Reforged, Part 1"
The first preview week for Fate Reforged started before 2014 ended. I introduce the design team and reveal the manifest mechanic, including the journey of how it was made.
Week #679 (January 5, 2015)—"Whims of Fate Reforged, Part 2"
This is the second article about Fate Reforged's design and I talk all about the challenges of being a middle set that pivots to draft with both large sets.
Week #680 (January 12, 2015)—"Fate-ful Stories, Part 1"
This is the first part of my Fate Reforged card-by-card design stories.
Week #681 (January 19, 2015)—"Fate-ful Stories, Part 2"
And this is part two….
Week #682 (January 26, 2015)—"Starting Over"
It was Time Travel Week, so I finally wrote an article I'd been meaning to write for years where I travel back in time and talk with Richard Garfield about what I would do differently if we had Magic to start all over again. This article turned out to be a very popular one. I would later do a podcast on it.
Week #683 (February 2, 2015)—"Whatever It Takes"
It was Sultai Week, so I (of course) interviewed Black, Green, and Blue.
Soul Summons | Art by Johann Bodin
Week #684 (February 9, 2015)—"Manifest Destiny"
It was Manifest Week, so I answered a bunch of questions about the mechanic.
Week #685 (February 16, 2015)—"Kings & Things"
It was Kings, Presidents, and Khans Week; so I talked about the design of various cards representing leaders from Chicken a la King to Sol'Kanar the Swamp King.
Week #686 (February 23, 2015)—"What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger"
It was Temur Week; so Green, Blue, and Red got interviewed in the final of the wedge weeks.
Week #687 (March 2, 2015)—"Imagine Dragons, Part 1"
It was Dragons of Tarkir's first preview week, so I introduced the design team, explained the many problems the team had to solve in the design, and then revealed megamorph.
Week #688 (March 9, 2015)—"Imagine Dragons, Part 2"
It was the second week of Dragons of Tarkir previews, so I talked about how we found the five clan mechanics.
Week #689 (March 16, 2015)—"Hooked on Draconics, Part 1"
This was the first part of the Dragons of Tarkir card-by-card design stories.
Week #690 (March 23, 2015)—"Hooked on Draconics, Part 2"
And this was part two.
Temur Runemark | Art by Ryan Alexander Lee
Week #691 (March 30, 2015)—"Nuts & Bolts: The Three Stages of Design"
It was time for my "Nuts & Bolts" article. I used it to explain how design is broken up into three parts and how each part fits into the larger design process. Even if you don't normally like the "Nuts & Bolts" columns, this one has a lot of behind-the-scenes info about how we make Magic.
Week #692 (April 6, 2015)—"Bleeding Cool"
We often get a theme week where I have already on the theme. It was Dragons Week and I had already written about dragons, so I decided to take the theme and twist it a little. In Dragons of Tarkir, we "bled" the Dragons to all five colors even though Dragons are Red's iconic creature. In this article, I talk about what "bleeding" entails, why we do it, and how it's done correctly.
Week #693 (April 13, 2015)—"Maro's Command"
It was Command Week, so I wrote my article in the style of a Command. The problem was, laying out the article proved to be a lot harder than I expected, so the article didn't quite have the impact I had hoped for. If you read this. Choose two modes and then read those two modes in order first before reading the other modes. This was a four-star column with a two-star execution (and a lesson for me to make sure I create things that can be done), so I averaged it out to three stars.
Week #694 (April 20, 2015)—"Parallel Design"
It was Exploit Week, so I brought up that the exploit mechanic was very similar to a mechanic we had made in Onslaught that we never used, and how often in design two different people or teams will design the same mechanics or cards. This article explains how parallel design, as we call it, happens so frequently.
Week #695 (April 27, 2015)—"Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known about Tempest"
It was Tempest Remastered Week, so I waxed nostalgic about my first design and revealed a whole bunch of facts about the set not a lot of people know.
Week #696 (May 4, 2015)—"Mining the Past"
It was Modern Masters 2015 Edition preview week, so I introduced the design team and talked about its design.
Week #697 (May 11, 2015)—"Phooey"
I had a week off so I decided it was time to finally tell the story of the Khans of Tarkir set no one would ever see. This article is about Phooey, the set we made as a test to see what would happen if morph was cast for two mana instead of three.
Stoneforge Mystic | Art by Mike Bierek
Week #698 (May 18, 2015)—"Modern Mailbag"
It was Modern Week, so I did a mailbag column where I let people ask me design questions about cards in Modern.
Week #699 (May 25, 2015)—"Six Continents, Six Stories"
It was Magic around the World Week, so I told six stories, each from a different continent. (Magic has yet to take me to Antarctica.) I talk about players getting sick, creating about a new Draft format, a story of Finkel dominance, a story of Phyrexian dominance, and a tale of what happens when two infamous players meet in the quarter-finals of a Pro Tour.
Week #700 (June 1, 2015)—"The (Not So) Secret Origin Story of Maro"
It was Magic Origins Week, so I told my own tale of how I ended up making Magic. This article links to almost all of my personal columns, so if you haven't read any or most of them, read this and click on every link.
Lucky Seven Hundred
Every time I sit down to write one of these recap articles, it amazes me that, first, another hundred weeks have passed; and, second, how many of the articles I forgot about until I saw them and go "Oh yeah, I remember writing that." I realized that in 2022, I believe, I will be writing "One Thousand and Counting." Wow, my first article doesn't seem that long ago.
As always, I want to take a moment to thank everyone behind the scenes who put this column together. I might be the face you see, but there is a whole team that works real hard to make it happen. Also, a special call out to Mike McArtor, my editor of most of these columns, who sadly passed away earlier this year—far too soon. We miss you, Mike.
As always, I'm curious what you all thought. What column was the best of the hundred weeks? What was the worst? Did I grade anything incorrectly? I want to know. You can email me or talk to me through any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram).
Join me next week when I get sural-y.
Until then, may you have a chance to sit back and look at all the things you've already managed to do.
"Drive to Work #240—Pro Tour with Melissa DeTora"
In a rare "Drive from Work", I discuss the Pro Tour with carpool guest Melissa DeTora.
"Drive to Work #241—Avacyn Restored, Part 1"
This is part 1 of a 4-part series on the design of Avacyn Restored.
- Episode 241 Avacyn Restored, Part 1 (14.6 MB)
- Episode 240 Pro Tour with Melissa DeTora (14.0 MB)
- Episode 239 Starting in R&D (15.0 MB)
- Episode 238 10 Things Every Game Needs: Strategy (15.5 MB)
- Episode 237 2010 (18.8MB)