At the end of vision design, the lead of the Vision Design team writes a document known as the vision design handoff document, which talks about the larger goals, themes, mechanics, and structure of the set. I started showing these documents years ago, and you all really liked them, so I keep showing them. Here are the ones I've previously published:
- Throne of Eldraine (Part 1 and Part 2)
- Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
- Zendikar Rising
- Original Zendikar (Part 1 and Part 2)
- Strixhaven: School of Mages (Part 1 and Part 2)
- Future Sight
- Original Innistrad
- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (Part 1 and Part 2)
- Phyrexian: All Will Be One (Part 1 and Part 2)
- March of the Machine (Part 1 and Part 2)
- Wilds of Eldraine (Part 1 and Part 2)
As with all my vision design handoff articles, most of what I'm showing you is the actual document. My notes, giving explanation and context, are in boxes below the text. This document, like most of them, was long enough that I've broken it into two parts.
"Offroading" Vision Design Handoff Document
Exploratory and Vision Design teams
- Mark Rosewater (Lead, Exploratory and Vision Design)
- Ari Neah (Exploratory and Vision Design)
- Cameron Williams (Vision Design)
- Chris Mooney (Vision Design)
- Dan Musser (Vision Design)
- Doug Beyer (Exploratory and Vision Design)
- Erik Lauer (Vision Design)
- Mike Mearls (Strong Second, Exploratory and Vision Design)
- Sam Jiang (Exploratory Design)
Creative Worldbuilding and Story
- Doug Beyer (Worldbuilding)
- Emily Mei (Worldbuilding)
- Leah Miller (Worldbuilding)
- Miguel Lopez (Story)
- Ovidio Cartagena (Lead Art Director)
- Roy Graham (Story)
"Offroading" is an expansion set completely underground. As of this handoff, the underground is on a plane we've never visited before. This theme has been something we've talked about for many years, and I'm excited that we've finally gotten a chance to do it. The Exploratory and Vision Design teams, along with the Creative team, put in a lot of time thinking about what would best capture this biome, including what trope space is the most fertile to mine (puns, as always, intended). Here are the main goals of this set:
1. Capture the essence of the underground.
The underground has been such a popular suggestion, inside and outside the building, because it's a world that comes with plenty of resonance to mine, has a lot of real-world imagery to tap into, and is relevant in popular culture. Early on, we discovered there was a fork in our path that we had to decide upon. Our decision in choosing that fork would then lead to a second fork that we would also have to choose.
The first fork was the genre. There are two different genres associated with the underground—action-adventure and horror. In action-adventure, our heroes are on a journey that leads them through the underground, discovering new wonders and overcoming new threats. They come to learn about the world they've been thrust into and usually find it a wonderous place. In horror, our heroes usually come in search of some desire (or sometimes are running from a different threat) only to learn that the underground is a dark and dangerous place, one they must escape. Each of these could have led to a cool Magic set, but we had to choose one path. Between Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, and "Haunted House," we decided there was enough horror in the years surrounding "Offroading" and chose to go down the action-adventure path.
The next fork in the path was a generational one. Older players have more associations with underground adventuring being tied to adventure parties exploring hidden worlds, whereas younger players associate the underground with resource acquisition and building or upgrading of items. Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms had recently done the former, and as a department, we've been trying to find opportunities to branch out to players from younger generations, so we chose to go down the resource-acquisition path.
2. Create a set around gathering resources and building and upgrading items.
This then led to our second goal. We wanted the set to have some resources we can mine and then some means to use those resources to craft and improve objects. It was also important that crafting involved some sort of recipe, as that's an important element of the trope space we're trying to capture. Secondly, it would give the underground world some narrative purpose, as there would be things characters would want, which helps guide us toward conflict.
3. Have a set where color matters.
One of the challenges of moving from the block model to a world of constantly changing sets is that it's hard to find themes that haven't appeared in another set within the last few years. Magic has a limited number of mechanical hooks to build around, at least ones inherent to the core of the game, and it can become difficult avoiding a feel of constant repetition. One of the themes that we haven't built around in a long time (since the Shadowmoor block) is color, and I've been looking for a place to use it. Underground worlds often have a theme of light being a resource, and we went into this design seeing if we could connect that to one or more mechanics where color matters.
The key to creating this set's structure included finding a way to accomplish our goals synergistically, where they all led to a unified mechanical theme. That theme ended up being color, but not in the way we've traditionally done "color matters" in the past. This set is about splashing extra colors without splashing extra sources of mana. A deck that splashes red, for example, has ways to get red cards into the deck without having to run any red mana sources. This then allows us to care about cards of various colors being in certain zones (primarily on the battlefield and in the graveyard, more on this below).
How exactly do we accomplish this? We started by finding several useful tools, listed below in their volume of use.
Creature — Drake
Artifact Creature — Gnome
When Loam Gnome enters the battlefield, mill three cards. You may put a land card from your graveyard into your hand.
Artifact — Equipment
Equipped creature gets +1/+0.
When equipped creature dies, surveil 1.
Creature — Dwarf Miner
T: Target creature with power 2 or less can't be blocked this turn.
Put two +1/+1 counters on target creature.
Twobrid mana was first introduced in Shadowmoor on six cards. It's only ever appeared on those six cards, so it's something that the enfranchised audience is familiar with, but it's a vein of design space we've barely touched. We believe it will be an exciting thing to return to the game. Twobrid mana allows you to spend two generic mana instead of paying a specific color of mana. For color purposes, though, that card is the color(s) of the mana symbol(s).
Note that there are two different types of twobrid cards—monocolor and multicolor. Monocolor will only use one color of twobrid mana, while multicolor will use two. While it is possible to design three-, four-, and five-color twobrid cards (
Here are the rules we've laid out for how twobrid is going to work:
- If a card has twobrid symbols, all the colored mana symbols on that card will be twobrid, including activation costs and triggered costs. This is to make sure that the card is fully accessible to someone not playing the color(s).
- We're going to limit twobrid mana costs to no more than two twobrid symbols, and most of the time on monocolor cards, it will just be one. This is to offset having to balance the differential between the generic and colored versions of the cards.
- Color pie-wise, the cards are designed as if they are that color or colors. For example, a monocolor white twobrid card is designed as a mono-white card, while a multicolor blue-black twobrid card is designed as if it was a blue-black traditional hybrid card.
- The current plan is that every artifact in the set will be twobrid, the majority of which will probably be monocolor twobrid.
- The multicolor twobrid are being designed such that we expect you to be playing at least one of the two colors to play the card, while the monocolor twobrids are mostly designed to be playable in decks not running that color.
Colored Creature Tokens
Seller of Songbats
Creature — Human Druid
When Seller of Songbats enters the battlefield, create a 1/1 black Bat creature token with flying.
Usually when a card in the game generates a creature token, it's of the color that generated it. In "Offroading," we're going to be making more use of cards that generate creature tokens of a color other than themselves. The generated creature tokens will still be in color, color pie-wise, of the card making it, but the extra color will allow us to get more colors onto the battlefield.
Creature — Dog
Whenever Tunnel Mongrel attacks, it gets +1/+1 an becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.
Creature — Merfolk Wizard
T: Another target creature becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.
The set will also have some cards that can either temporarily change their own color or change another permanent's color. The current plan is to not have any permanent color changing, as that would require extra bookkeeping, which we try to avoid.
Deeper We Go
That's all the time we have for today. I hope you've enjoyed this peek at The Lost Caverns of Ixalan vision design handoff document. As always, if you have any comments on the document, my articles, or The Lost Caverns of Ixalan itself, you can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (X [formerly Twitter], Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok).
Join me next week for part two.
Until then, may The Lost Caverns of Ixalan bring you many surprises.