Part of our process is that when vision design ends, the lead of the Vision Design team creates a document known as the vision design handoff document where they walk through the vision design for the set, discussing larger goals, themes, mechanics, and structure. 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:

Normally, the vision design handoff documents I show are written by me, but Chris Mooney, the lead vision designer for Wilds of Eldraine, said it was okay for me to show off theirs. 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 the boxes below the text. This document was long enough that I've broken it into two parts.

"Netball" Vision Design Handoff

Exploratory and Vision Design Teams

  • Chris Mooney (Lead)
  • Mark Rosewater
  • Erik Lauer
  • Doug Beyer
  • Jenna Helland (Creative Lead)
  • Annie Sardelis
  • Dan Musser

This was Chris Mooney's first time leading the vision design of a premier set. When possible, we like to start first-time designers with a returning plane as it has a lot of the structure already baked into it. I just want to congratulate Chris on an amazing first design lead. For a bio on each of these people, see the first preview column of the set.


"Netball" is our second visit to Eldraine. This time, we are putting a spotlight on fairy tales. "Netball" is a storybook come to life, with recognizable characters and moments leaping off the page and onto the battlefield. The set's structure and new marquee mechanic are designed to lean heavily into the charm and resonance of these classic tales, with a signature Magic creative twist.

If you go back and look at original Throne of Eldraine, the majority of cards draw inspiration from Arthurian legends. The fairy-tale influence is definitely there, but it was smaller than players remember. It was the part that most often grabbed attention, as Magic has done Arthurian-inspired material since Alpha. For the return, we decided to focus more on fairy tales. Inspiration from Arthurian legends is still there, but it's less of a focus.

Another important lesson we learned from Throne of Eldraine was that the audience prefers it when we do our spin on the classic fairy tales rather than just retell them verbatim. For instance, Goldilocks becoming a hunter of bears was one of the favorite cards from Throne of Eldraine.

The essence of "Netball" is mixed-up fairy tales. In a similar vein to many other modern fairy-tale adaptations (Into the Woods, Shrek, Once Upon a Time, Fables, etc.), "Netball" takes the people, places, objects, and events you recognize and combines, twists, and evolves them into something new. Each game of "Netball" aims to feel like a new story is being written at the table in front of you. "This time, the princess was a Goblin, the Knight was a Witch, and the Dragon was slain by an animated Food token."

The mixing and matching of the characters, objects, places, and events of fairy tales (and Arthurian legends) was a core part of Throne of Eldraine's design. We wanted Wilds of Eldraine to lean even more into it, which is what would lead us to design Roles.


"Netball" releases after "Marathon," which is the final climactic set of the Parallax story arc. Much like the original Throne of Eldraine, "Netball" is intended to be a light-hearted pallet cleanser after an intense finale. Eldraine is already well suited for this role, but the themes we've picked certainly lean even harder into whimsy. (I doubt we'll ever have another Magic set with this many instances of the word "princess"!)

It is possible that "Netball" will help to re-establish [CENSORED] as a major villain for the next story arc, but as of this writing, that has not been finalized.

It was brought up often while we were making the set that Eldraine was the spot we visited after both War of the Spark and March of the Machine. We think a lot about how different sets shift the tone, and after a heavy-duty set, it's nice to go back to something comfortable and familiar.

I had to censor the name of a character above. All I can say is that it's a character you all know. Part of being able to show you these behind-the-scenes documents requires not revealing anything for the future.

New Mechanics


Roles are the marquee new mechanic for "Netball." They are Aura tokens that represent various classic archetypical characters that appear in many fairy tales. Roles are all-stars in delivering on the central theme of mixed-up fairy tales. They allow you to very easily create delightful situations based almost entirely on flavor alone.

A lot of the appeal in Roles comes from their flavor, which means that they've got flexibility in terms of how they can mechanically serve gameplay in Limited and potentially Constructed. We chose our current suite of Roles based on the Limited environment's needs and common character archetypes, but there's a lot of room to change them without losing the appealing flavor. We expect that the final set will have a smaller suite of Roles and/or only use certain ones at higher rarities.

Vision Design tends to work best when it over-delivers by a bit. That gives Set Design more flexibility in what to use. Vision Design was interested in how Roles could be incorporated into card designs, so we tried a lot of different things. That meant we knew we were handing in Roles at a level that was probably a touch higher than needed.

From a card-design standpoint, we were excited in how Roles opened space for fun Aura gameplay that isn't normally possible. Players like Auras, but Auras have natural downsides that make them hard to put into sets in large numbers. Roles allow us to create an environment with lots of Auras in it, many of which would be too weak to be worth a slot in the average Limited deck. This opens the potential for strategies that are usually ill-advised (like piling up a ton of Auras on one creature) or impossible (a "sacrifice enchantments" deck?).

Auras have an odd history in Magic. We know from market research that less experienced players enjoy them. They're very flavorful. But they have built-in card disadvantage (when a creature you control with an Aura is destroyed, you lose two cards), so it takes a lot to get more experienced players to use them. That's what Chris is so excited about. Roles remove the card disadvantage from Auras, which means we can do things with them that we normally can't, both in individual card design and in mechanical themes. When building a set, it's nice to enable something that Magic can't normally do, as it opens fresh new design space.

As a designer, Roles remind me a lot of party from Zendikar Rising in terms of what the mechanic offers as a tool. Both mechanics have incredibly strong flavor that ties into the themes of their respective settings, but they also represent an entirely different mechanical direction that the set can take advantage of to differentiate it from previous installments. Leveraging Roles allows us to create something that's mechanically different from the original Throne of Eldraine while staying true to what players associate with the plane.

When you do a return, you want to recapture what the set did well the previous times, but you also want to explore new mechanical space that taps into the essence of what the plane is about. That's why Roles are so key to the set. They're thematically consistent but mechanically novel. That's the sweet spot for a return.

Current Roles

Here is a quick breakdown of my thoughts on the Roles that currently exist in the file.


The most prolific and delightful Role. We haven't found a mechanical definition we love yet, but I doubt this mechanic would exist without this Role specifically. People love turning stuff into the princess, and there are tons of tropes to design cards around (notably, ones we didn't use in the previous set).

This was the very first Role we made. We knew from the start we wanted it to protect the enchanted creature in some way, as princesses and princes are often the heroes of fairy tales. This would become Royal.

Young Hero

This is a fun and common trope. It's one of the few Roles red can easily use, and we enjoy how the current execution is better on small creatures to promote diversity among Role usage.

We were conscious from the beginning that we needed to make Roles that fit in all five colors. It was also important to us that Roles had top-down designs that capture fairy-tale archetypes. Every color other than red came to us very fast.


A workhorse Role for green. Nobody's favorite, but it gets the job done. We're worried there might be too much trample in the set if this sticks, though I've enjoyed how trample makes this Role better on large creatures (which green has the most of).

We also cared about having Roles that could go on different sizes of creatures. We liked that different Roles would lead to different gameplay. Beast was one of our earliest Roles, and it always had trample. What should go with the trample, if anything, required a lot of iteration. This would become Monster.


This trope is very likely to stick, but this execution is new and untested. This used to be two Roles (Witch and Stepmother) that were combined due to similarity.

We really liked the word Wicked, and it was one of three names to stick for the printed version. We tried a bunch of different villainous Roles and ended up combining them into one. Wicked was one of the trickiest Roles to make feel flavorfully correct while keeping it simple.


This is the only surviving negative Role. While originally skeptical, a lot of charming designs have come out of this one, so maybe it will stay. The trope is strong.

There was much debate over whether we should make Roles that you put onto your opponent's creature. In the end, I think the flavor of turning your opponent's creature into a Frog won out. This would become Cursed.


Currently, the only Role that does something weird (it goes on an artifact and turns it into a creature). I think the designs here are a little less charming and abundant than for some of the other Roles; however, it's hung on partially as an example of how flexible Roles can be and how many different kinds of designs can come out of creative application of the rules technology.

Animated was an example of us testing the boundaries of Roles. What if we weren't restricted to creatures? Auras can go on other permanent types. I think this one lost out as set design wanted to keep the list of Roles tight, and this one just didn't provide enough variance in design.


A resonant trope, useful for red, but not doing much right now. Not a lot of Knight typal going on currently, either.

The big discussion topic on this card was whether all the Roles had to be fairy-tale things. Yeah, technically there might be knights in a fairy tale or two, but this leaned more heavily on the Arthurian side of the set. In the end, Set Design decided that Roles should focus on fairy-tale archetypes.


You can't have fairy tales without faeries! This Role has been tricky to use since we wanted to create Roles that encourage different play patterns, but "flying" is always a really strong incentive to pile on one creature. We thought that this Role granting the Faerie creature type in a set with Faerie typal would be interesting, but we haven't seen it do much since Faerie decks would much rather just have a Faerie creature card than transform a non-Faerie into one.

I think this is a Role that worked backwards. We thought a flying Aura would be useful and figured out what fairy-tale archetype made the most sense. On the surface, turning things into Faeries seemed cool, as the set had a Faerie typal theme, but it required you to play non-Faeries. We learned that Roles worked best when they didn't overlap directly with a creature type. It blurred the line a little too much and kept Roles from having their own distinct feel.

Wizard and Woodsman

Both Roles were created to add additional texture to the Role suite (and fulfill common tropes). As tap abilities, they wanted to be put on different kinds of creatures from the stat-boosting or evasion-granting Roles. Additionally, they each had a different power curve, with ramp being better early and scry being better late. Right now, I think they're both doing good work and are attached to B-tier tropes, but I don't think they would be greatly missed if removed.

These two Roles offered further exploration. They both granted the enchanted creature a tap ability. They played well but tended to be more powerful than many of the other Roles. (As I explained last week, Set Design decided they wanted the Roles to have an even power level.) Wizard would become Sorcerer, although the mechanical design would completely change. Again, note that we moved away from the Role directly being a creature type.


The core idea of Roles can be executed in different ways. Here is a summary of what we discussed:

We liked the current (Aura token) implementation of Roles for several reasons. Auras and tokens are both concepts familiar to most Magic players, so we felt like this execution was the easiest for players to grasp mechanically. We valued "low comprehension complexity" very highly since the mechanic is naturally very high in tracking complexity. The Aura-token execution also allowed us to easily key into the mechanic via other means (such as caring about enchantments, Auras, or tokens).

We discussed the idea of using counters instead of Auras. Counters have slightly less tracking complexity since they're not separate permanents on the battlefield, though we didn't feel this difference was enough to warrant the associated downsides—namely that counters are harder to interact with and that it was odder for a counter to carry lots of rules baggage not immediately obvious in its name compared to an Aura. Also, the existence of "Lacrosse" within a year ahead of us made us wary of doing a heavy counter theme.

Our first execution of Roles was as Aura tokens, but there was some concern that maybe it wasn't the right way to do them. It required a bunch of token cards and/or had memory issues. We did our due diligence exploring other possible ways to execute on Roles, but nothing captured the charm of Aura tokens nor had the intra-set synergy, so we never ventured too far from them. "Lacrosse" was the codename for Phyrexia: All Will Be One which went in heavy on oil counters.

We also discussed Roles as simply being titles that creatures can have, similar to the rules technology behind the Ring-bearer mechanic from "Anvil." This was pretty novel but nearly impossible to interact with. Plus, if we made many Roles this way, players would require reminder cards to remember what each meant, which we felt would essentially just be the Aura approach but harder to grok and less interactive.

It's important for the vision design handoff document to walk through the various things we tried in case Set Design needs to explore different options. Many mechanics have problems when you put them through the rigor of making a set, and having the knowledge of other avenues to explore can be important. The title idea was one of our weirder explorations.

"Anvil" was the codename for The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™, which had "the Ring tempts you." We would later make the mechanic into an emblem. (We usually work on Universes Beyond sets further ahead.) We realized there was a big difference between a mechanic that tracks a single item and Roles that could often exist in more than one instance on the battlefield at once.

We also discussed using a Lesson/learn type of mechanic to fetch actual Aura cards from your sideboard (or potentially your main deck). We thought this idea sounded difficult to pull off. With any of the above methods, a reminder card, token, counter, object, etc. isn't necessary if players know what's going on (especially with sufficient reminder text). The Lesson/learn approach would require players to have the matching Aura card present, which seemed unfeasible. Unlike Lesson/learn, Roles require you to get a very specific Role each time, otherwise the flavor falls apart (and flavor is the key appealing part of the mechanic). Of all these ideas, this is likely the one we spent the least time on, so it's possible we missed some potential solutions in this space.

I like to say your greatest weakness is your greatest strength pushed too far. The Roles were super charming and flavorful, but that meant that they couldn't easily be mixed and matched. Any particular card really wanted to make one specific Role, which made the logistics of requiring the actual card through Lesson/learn-style gameplay problematic. We've explored the logistics of having two specific cards next to each other in a booster many times, and it's currently not something we can easily do, especially in a premier set that has a larger print run. (Battlebond was small enough that we could have one printer print it.)

Once we decided on the token direction, we started to explore the various execution challenges. I spoke with Rules Manager Jess Dunks and various digital representatives. This approach seemed good to all of them. Jess felt relatively good about our approach of using reminder text shorthand to skip defining the entirety of each Role on the cards that made them, and digital had no issues other than "each new 'predefined' token (like Food or Treasure) is extra work, so adding a lot to the game at once could be work intensive but not problematic from an engineering standpoint."

There are a lot of moving pieces to making a mechanic. It must work in the rules. It must have a working template. It must work on digital. It must work in organized play. All of this has to be thought about as we're figuring out what to include.

In terms of paper distribution, solutions were discussed with Sam Jiang, our architect. We talked about various opportunities, such as having two tokens appear in each booster to get more Role tokens out into the wild. We talked about possibly having a punch-out or tear card that could hold multiple Roles on it at once. We talked about a reminder card that had a different Role along each edge allowing players to rotate the card to indicate which Role was being assigned.

Not only do you have to interact with other departments, but you also have to spend time thinking about what has to happen for you to physically make the mechanic in question. Each set has an architect. You usually go to them to pitch ideas, to see if a.) the set has the budget and b.) the idea is possible. The former is seldom the hard part, but the latter can often cause problems. You can see Chris circling around the ultimate solution to Role counters. It's not unusual if Vision Design lands on a mechanic they're confident enough in to consult with graphic design to start exploring frame and/or symbol options.

On the topic of mechanical details, early on, we discussed several different limitations on Roles based on flavor. Can a creature have multiple Roles? Can a creature have multiple copies of the same Role? Can you have multiple creatures with the same Role? Ultimately, we decided to go with the simplest route and add no additional rules or restrictions to the Roles to help players have an easier time learning the mechanic. We felt that the gameplay pattern of "pile all your Roles onto the same creature" was something that could be solved on a card level. (Plus, it offers gameplay many players find fun, so we didn't mind it existing in small amounts.)

Part of figuring out if we want to include a mechanic is figuring out how best to execute on it. When you all see a new mechanic, it's gone through its paces, and we've usually figured out the optimal way to do it. But that isn't always obvious when you start working on it. Because Roles were flavor driven, we started by asking what would make sense for flavor? In the end, as often happens, good gameplay and simplicity won out. At some point, you just need to choose to optimize it to play as well as it can, and with Roles, that meant just making them an Aura like any other. The duplication of effects usually made you want to spread them out, and the times you didn't? Whatever—have fun.

Until Next Time …

We've run out of time for today. As always, I'm eager for feedback on the document, my comments, or on Wilds of Eldraine itself. You can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and TikTok).

Join me next week for part two of the Wilds of Eldraine vision design handoff.

Until then, may you find the role that fits you.