2/15/2010 MM: "Nuts & Bolts: Design Skeleton"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning (after the holiday break) on magicthegathering.com.

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57051078 wrote:
I just love how focused the YMtC community is.
56901828 wrote:
That's what I love about posting on these forums. Everyone's an expert(except for me).
57031358 wrote:
really no need to be so bitchy.
58021268 wrote:
@Edacade: Awright kid you go on ahead and do your thing and don't let anyone tell you different y'hear
58335208 wrote:
City of Asymmetrical Beings Land :T:, sacrifice a creature: Destroy target creature with the same converted mana cost as the sacrificed creature.
56957928 wrote:
57864098 wrote:
Might I just interject that making this a meme is the worst idea in magic in my opinion. It is too overpowered. It encourages cheating it in play. Essentially 99/100 times it is cheated in play instead of hardcast. Not only that, but you essentially win when it comes into play.
74943291 wrote:
82512575 wrote:
74943291 wrote:
Make five-color hybrid tribal instant with buyback, kicker, cycling, card draw, token production, a steal effect, alternate casting cost and landfall that embodies the love that your mom and I share.
I think you just killed all chances of my card being elegant. Ardency :1mana::symwu::symbr: Tribal Instant - Soldier You may have target opponent gain control of 3 permanents you control rather than pay ~'s mana cost. As an additional cost to cast ~, choose two creatures you control, and sacrifice the rest. If you control a soldier, you can't sacrifice permanents this turn. Landfall - If you had a land enter the battlefield under your control this turn, instead choose 4 creatures. Kicker You get an emblem with "As long as you control both chosen creatures, they have protection from everything." If ~ was kicked, creatures you control get +1/+1 for each creature card in your graveyard until end of turn. Cycling :2mana: When you cycle ~, put two 2/2 Soldier creatures onto the battlefield. Would this EVER fit on a card?~
Aside from a few wording mishaps (should say "each chosen creature" because it's not necessarily two) this is nice. Very simple and elegant. I like the alternate cost a lot, and the kicker goes nicely with the sacrifice. However, the cycling seems a bit powerful (4 power and a card for 3? Cycling is supposed be bad. 8/10 EDIT: Just looked up "ardency". Lol.
58347268 wrote:
74943291 wrote:
58325628 wrote:
74943291 wrote:
I'm immortalized too as long as no one deletes this post!
But in the shadow of the great one lurked many who sought to partake of his eternal glory.
Since when am I "many"?
You're a whole damn city.
74943291 wrote:
83237429 wrote:
74943291 wrote:
83237429 wrote:
74943291 wrote:
Ahem.
58021268 wrote:
Vivisect Sorcery As an additional cost to cast Vivisect, sacrifice a creature. Draw three cards. "For the sake of humanity," the surgeon whispered. The knife had never felt heavier in his hand.
I don't think a world that sacrifices so much would want to stop the making of children .
Vivisect =/= vasectomy
Now I just feel silly.
56287226 wrote:
I read over two hundred webcomics on a regular basis. "Terrible" doesn't even begin to describe me.
70246459 wrote:
74943291 wrote:
I think that this is the first wizards-community thread that actually made me laugh out loud. Maraxas, I love you.
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58347268 wrote:
batman is a jerk in all of my dreams
mafia is fun so play it
Well I thought this article was interesting. But I'm me. \:>

I assume higher rarities have exponentially less skeletal structure than Common does.
I found the article very interesting, and how a set needs to be balanced overall is a subject I happen to be quite interested in at the moment.

Coming up with weird ideas to make everyone happy since 2008!

 

I have now started a blog as an appropriate place to put my crazy ideas.

Yeah this sort of thing is amazing for amateur designers such as myself (Card Maker of the Year 2009 on MTGSalvation!).  Once a year seems awfully low, I had been hoping for another of these for a while.  I do get that you have to understand the audience, though, and a lot of people aren't going to care about this.
While enlightening, common was definitely the easiest part to take there, and I'm mostly interested in how to seed block mechanics, and how to choose how many cycles you want.
this is why Magic is not going to run out of ideas for a long time. Maro and co. have an organized method for efficiently designing sets, and they know what they are doing.

I personally wouldn't mind seeing these more like 3-4 times a year. They give me incredible faith in Wizards.
I definitely enjoyed this article, but I wanted to nitpick something:

"Green gets the following at common: ...  regeneration, and sometimes ... reach..."

Not recently.  Unless I made a mistake, the current standard environment has the following for green common creatures:

Reach:
M10 - 2
ALA - 2
CON - 2
ARB - 1 (although it's G/W gold)
ZEN - 1
WWK - 1

Regenerate:
M10 - 0
ALA - 0
CON - 0
ARB - 0
ZEN - 0
WWK - 0

Now, there are two (2) green common spells that give regeneration, but we were talking about creatures.  Anyway, just sayin' that perhaps the "regenerate at common" should be moved to the "and sometimes" section at the very least.

EDIT: Going back to Lorwyn Block gives three more for reach and only one for regenerate, and that one is G/B hybrid.
Once a year is "not too common"? That sounds more like Mythic Rare!
This article proves how depressingly rigid the "usual" color pie is.  We see the exact same effects over and over, particularly on commons; heaven forfend that the Pauper players should ever get any of the goodies that can be used to make a rare splashy and marketable.

A few notes: MaRo lists +N/+0 effects in black, and there are very few of these any more; Howl from Beyond was moved to red as Enrage some time back.  (IMO this was a mistake because it only heightened red's status as the mindless aggro color which either ends games early or burns out; this is why red is far and away my least favorite color to play these days, which is sad because it is my most favorite from a flavor perspective.  [PS, yes "most favorite" is grammatically dubious but i'm doing it for the sake of contrast with the sentence's previous clause, so shut your face.])

Also, in having decided that white should get the most creatures, I wonder if Design realizes that in Alpha, white had *fewer creatures even than blue*.  For most of the game's first few sets, white was the "enchantments color"; one of those enchantments was Crusade, which did recommend that you scrounge up all the Benalish Heroes and White Knights you could find, but the color also devoted five common slots to the Circles of Protection, and since commons are a lot more defining than rares, this made white look like the ultimate sit-back-and-do-nothing color back when I started.  IMO white weenie is terribly boring, and having a color whose win condition is usually passive is interesting; I'd like to have Alpha white back, minus the stupidly broken rares, and see a color which can efficiently win the game by outlasting its opponent and dropping some wincon enchantment which accrues "victory points" in some fashion without ever requiring you to attack.

I'd like to see green have the most creatures, since it's the color of natural diversity, and *lose* its status as the "biggest creature" color.  IMO black and red both make better arguments for why they should have the biggest and fewest creatures, since they are both devoted to selfishness, individualism, and power at a cost (the main difference being that black knowingly pays its very blood for the ultimate power, while red just isn't paying attention to the fact it has accidentally set itself on fire).  I'm tired of white and red always playing weenie aggro, green always playing fatty aggro, and blue and black always playing controllishly; the vampires of Zendikar were a nice shift to black aggro, but nobody shifted *away*, so between this and Landfall Zendikar is just stupidly aggressive and unforgiving.  I hope next year's block will reverse this pendulum.

Overall verdict:  One or maybe two N&B columns per year is about right, Mark.  They are useful information, but not very entertaining; given your propensity for wacky hijinks, they serve as a good balance, but definitely try to space them out so that there isn't more than a week or two where your column becomes boring and lecturey (or, for that matter, more than a week or two of off-the-wall craziness; moderation in all things, small grasshopper).
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
My favorite design article in a long time. A lot of insight into a part of the process we've never seen before.

A+
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In response to my above post, I got curious about the other abilities.  I have attempted to count the number of common creatures in the standard environment that have the given evergreen ability.  These numbers could be slightly adjusted for a couple cards that aren't techincally creatures, like Wind Zendikon, but that's really more work and kind of a grey area anyway.  Regardless, this gives a decent idea of where the numbers are at.

White:
flying: 20 (6 of which are mutli)
first strike: 5 (3 of whiche are multi)
vigilance: 3 (2 of which are multi)
flash: 1 (which is multi)
protection: 2 (both are multi (the ally color protection cycle))
lifelink: 2 (1 of which is multi)

Blue:
flying: 23 (8 of which are multi)
shroud: 2 (1 of which is multi)
islandwalk: 1
flash: 2 (both are multi)

black:
flying: 11 (5 of which are multi)
deathtouch: 5 (3 of which are multi)
intimidate/fear: 2/1 (0/1 of which are/is multi)
haste: 4 (3 of which are multi) (does not include haste from unearth)
lifelink: 2 (1 of which is multi)
regenerate: 2
swampwalk: 2

Red:
haste: 12 (5 of which are multi) (does not include haste from unearth)
first strike: 4 (1 of which is multi)
trample: 2 (1 of which is multi)
intimidate: 1
mountainwalk: 1
firebreathing: 3 (one of which is not the usual type, i.e. Wandering Goblins)

Green:
trample: 3
deathtouch: 2 (1 of which is multi)
regenerate: 0
flash: 1 (which is multi)
forestwalk: 2
reach: 9 (1 of which is multi)
shroud: 3 (1 of which is multi)
vigilance: 4 (1 of which is multi)

Okay, so what does this tell us? First of all, a couple abilities are extremely prevalent in the common slots of certain colors.  In standard there are currently 6 sets (M10, ALA, CON, ARB, ZEN, WWK).  White and blue have 14 and 15 (respectively) common creatures with flying throughout those sets, with 6 and 8 that come are multicolored but cotain the appropriate color.  So chances are you're going to see more than one flier at that common in those colors.  Black's flying is at 6 mono +5 more that take other colors, so you can expect one or two black common fliers in a given set.  Red sees 7+5 common creatures with haste, so again one or two in a set.  Green sees 8+1 with reach so expect a common creature with reach.

After this there isn't a lot that you can confidently expect to see.  White has good odds of a first striker at common, blue has nothing else, black has better than even odds of deathtouch and haste, red has better odds for first strike, and green has better odds at vigilance.

What was the point of this?  I was just pointing out that currently the last six sets don't line up with what MaRo says is the appropriate distribution of the evergreen mechanics in common creatures.  This could be due to MaRo's misconception as to the actual current color pie (as determined by the net result of all the designers), it could be due to what development does to the distribution when the cards get passed off to them, or it could be due to the direction that the distribution is going to be in for future sets better lines up with MaRo's statements and the color pie is shifting.  I personally think it's mostly a combination of the first two as I feel like the lists MaRo gave are pretty similar to what they've been saying for a while; I remember people complaining very loudly when someone announced that flash was going to become Green's thing (anyone able to dig up the article? I think it was when MaRo talked about the mass redistribution of the color pie) and then Faeries came out with a hojillion flash creatures (because flash is 'tricky') and the Green fans got pretty vocal about it.
The proliferation of limited play has necessitated a skeleton like this.  At common, you have to enforce a critical mass of creatures in each color or else the color is just unplayable.  Have you tried 4th edition Sealed, for instance?  80% of the time your deck is going to be  Red-Green because of the poor creature distribution in common.

This isn't about being boring in design; it's about being disciplined, and it's about spending your time efficiently.  The skeleton allows you to determine what themes will be important right away, such as how does each color play, what does each color care about, and even artistic look and feel.  You want your commons showcasing the world you create with your set.  Once you have an idea of how your world looks and plays, you can continue with the higher rarities on a platform which allows for more innovation.  The restricitons and needs of the lower rarities breed creativity for the higher ones.

Note that it doesn't usually work the other way around.  Jund in Shards of Alara might have been an attempt to work from a rares-first perspective, and in my opinion, it didn't breed much creativity.  I can put a big, flying scary dragon in any set.  I can't say the same for Bottle Gnomes.
This article proves how depressingly rigid the "usual" color pie is.  We see the exact same effects over and over, particularly on commons; heaven forfend that the Pauper players should ever get any of the goodies that can be used to make a rare splashy and marketable.

Also, in having decided that white should get the most creatures, I wonder if Design realizes that in Alpha, white had *fewer creatures even than blue*.  For most of the game's first few sets, white was the "enchantments color"; one of those enchantments was Crusade, which did recommend that you scrounge up all the Benalish Heroes and White Knights you could find, but the color also devoted five common slots to the Circles of Protection, and since commons are a lot more defining than rares, this made white look like the ultimate sit-back-and-do-nothing color back when I started.  IMO white weenie is terribly boring, and having a color whose win condition is usually passive is interesting; I'd like to have Alpha white back, minus the stupidly broken rares, and see a color which can efficiently win the game by outlasting its opponent and dropping some wincon enchantment which accrues "victory points" in some fashion without ever requiring you to attack.

I'd like to see green have the most creatures, since it's the color of natural diversity, and *lose* its status as the "biggest creature" color.  IMO black and red both make better arguments for why they should have the biggest and fewest creatures, since they are both devoted to selfishness, individualism, and power at a cost (the main difference being that black knowingly pays its very blood for the ultimate power, while red just isn't paying attention to the fact it has accidentally set itself on fire).  I'm tired of white and red always playing weenie aggro, green always playing fatty aggro, and blue and black always playing controllishly; the vampires of Zendikar were a nice shift to black aggro, but nobody shifted *away*, so between this and Landfall Zendikar is just stupidly aggressive and unforgiving.  I hope next year's block will reverse this pendulum.


That's why it's a skeleton, not a final plan. Skeletons need to have muscle and ligament added to them to work - this is a rough draft. Granted, you could probably make a generic, mid-point skeleton with all the bases hit in a predictable way, but with that, you can morph it to the needs of the set - up the creatures for a tribal set, see where the colour overlap lies for a multicolour set, dial back the complex effects for a core set, and so on. We see the exact same effects over and over because they're needed at common to balance limited and casual play, and because for colours to have strong identities, they need to have things they're able to do more frequently and efficiently than other colours. Too much of the same thing is boring, but too much change just for the sake of change is no better.

I agree with you to some extent on the subject of white. I like having the option to play white weenie, but white seems the natural fit for an alternative, passive win condition in addition to that. Something in the vein of Test of Endurance or Solitary Confinement, plus the cards to support it. Blue already has a semi-passive alt win condition in mill, as does black to a lesser extent, and black decks tend to be the most versatile anyway. Green only really wins through combat damage, but it has a lot of ranges it can do that through, so it effectively has multiple win conditions. Red basically only has speed aggro; admittedly Red has some strong control elements but that never really works without another colour as backup. Then again red is the colour of the here and now (and not stupidity, thank you very much, Mr. Red Accidentally Sets Itself On Fire :p) so I suppose it makes more sense for red to lack a late-game win condition. But for white - the colour of order, discipline and the rule of law - not to have a slow, defensive, controlling strategy seems odd.

Tribal is the only card type that we don't use every block. I keep getting letters about how a specific spell wants to, based on flavor, have tribal. The answer is that we only use tribal when it is a major component in the block.


As one of the people who sent such a letter, I gotta say: that just sounds really, really unintuitive. If Tribal was a supertype, maybe it'd sound a little better, but something about a full card type which is only around on a temporary basis just screams 'wrong' to me. It's like saying, "We have this card which attacks and blocks but we won't give it the type creature because we don't want this set to be about creatures."


A very interesting article though, I for one always enjoy hearing designers talk about the creation of their work.

Lets take all this information and put it into the mix.

Black is the average color so lets start by giving it 6.


God damn you, Rosewater, if you flaunt the fact that you are not good with numbers in a stack-based game designed by a mathematician, at least have some respect for the language. What are you, a 12-year-old chatter?
This article proves how depressingly rigid the "usual" color pie is.  We see the exact same effects over and over, particularly on commons; heaven forfend that the Pauper players should ever get any of the goodies that can be used to make a rare splashy and marketable..



An earlier MaRo article adressed this, using the same building/architect metaphor. Sure it's interesting to build a house without bathroom and kitchen, but would you want to live in it?

As said above, this rigidity is used to enhance the (limited) play experience.

Also, what is wrong with pauper having more defined colors?

Also, in having decided that white should get the most creatures, I wonder if Design realizes that in Alpha, white had *fewer creatures even than blue*.  For most of the game's first few sets, white was the "enchantments color"; one of those enchantments was Crusade, which did recommend that you scrounge up all the Benalish Heroes and White Knights you could find, but the color also devoted five common slots to the Circles of Protection, and since commons are a lot more defining than rares, this made white look like the ultimate sit-back-and-do-nothing color back when I started.  IMO white weenie is terribly boring, and having a color whose win condition is usually passive is interesting; I'd like to have Alpha white back, minus the stupidly broken rares, and see a color which can efficiently win the game by outlasting its opponent and dropping some wincon enchantment which accrues "victory points" in some fashion without ever requiring you to attack.



I guess they consciously keep white away from that slow/defensive image for the same reason they try to keep away from draw-go lately

As one of the people who sent such a letter, I gotta say: that just sounds really, really unintuitive. If Tribal was a supertype, maybe it'd sound a little better, but something about a full card type which is only around on a temporary basis just screams 'wrong' to me. It's like saying, "We have this card which attacks and blocks but we won't give it the type creature because we don't want this set to be about creatures."



Tribal being a card type is already unintuitive. Nobody wanted it that way but the rules didn't allow otherwise. It would make sense for Tribal to one day have evergreen status but I think they don't want to add that extra layer just yet.

Actually, I think a large part of what prevents Tribal from going evergreen is that it being a card type is so damn counterintuitive.

Also about cards not getting types, wait until they announce Walking Atlat wasn't actually a misprint! Tongue out

I remember people complaining very loudly when someone announced that flash was going to become Green's thing (anyone able to dig up the article? I think it was when MaRo talked about the mass redistribution of the color pie) and then Faeries came out with a hojillion flash creatures (because flash is 'tricky') and the Green fans got pretty vocal about it.



The problem isn't flash not in green, the problem is flash in blue, which is oil on the fire.

Also, for a game themed around magic and spellcasting, giving one color the wizards' flavor has always caused problems; there isn't much that blue wouldn't be entitled to flavorwise.

Thanks for the breakdown btw. Really interesting. Seems MaRo is definitely out of touch with a few of those (because green -not- getting that much reach it gets now is out of the question I think). Or maybe those keywords distributions are also just made up for this article and do not represent the real distribution, but that seems unlikely. (Because then I wouldn't know what to take for true and what not from that article)



Also, MaRo using a graveyard-themed block as an example. A sign we will see one of those soon, or that we won't see one of those soon?
Very interesting article. It'd be interesting to look back at the past few sets and see how their skeletons compare to this. 

I agree it'd be nice to have shakeups to the different colours' approaches from time to time, but it's rare that such a thing will need to be reflected in the skeleton. If white's very defensive, for example, that's perfectly consistent with every one of the white card slots in MaRo's example skeleton, except the power-boost instant. Now you might want to replace a couple of creatures with CoP-style enchantments, but such effects could work just as well on creatures, and the white common creatures could be mostly 1/4s and suchlike. (Though perhaps with a couple of aggressive creatures just to allow the alternative style, like the controlling Azorius had Azorius First-Wing.)

The only policy mentioned this article I particularly disagree with is the refusal to use tribal as an evergreen effect. It was ridiculous enough in Lorwyn block to have Gilt-Leaf Ambush as a Tribal Instant - Elf but Giantbaiting as Sorcery rather than Tribal Sorcery - Giant.
Now I can see that in a random non-tribal block like Zendikar, having your token-making spells and other such cards have Tribal types might be confusing to players for whom it's their first set, which is presumably the reason why you're not doing so. But I personally think the gain would outweigh the loss. It's very flavourful that certain instants are Goblin magic rather than just any magic, and the benefit is significant in terms of interactions with older cards, and upcoming tribal blocks, and (crucially) the one or two tribal cards that most sets have even when they're not a tribal block, such as Urge to Feed, Feast of Blood, and so on. 
And imagine if Blazing Torch had been a Tribal Artifact - Adventurer Equipment? (Or Ally Equipment, I suppose, since that's how Adventurers are flavoured in Zenblock.) Think of the card interactions there! 

Interesting article!

If there is a sequel while we're still in 2010, I'd like to see an article where MaRo talks about how specific sets have deviated from this rough skeleton and why.  There's obvious cases like artifact or multicolour blocks where the skeleton will obviously look quite different, but I'd like to see an analysis of the subtler cases eg a set with a higher proprtion of small creatures (Kamigawa?), or of large creatures (Naya?), or more instant effects (blue in Time Spiral had loads of flash), or domination of sorcery-speed effects (Zendikar ETB and landfall), or "every colour gets haste" (Time Spiral Suspend mechanic coupled with high quantities of flash).

I expect in times when designers intentionally warp a format, you'd see it clearly in the skeleton.

More please!

A curious mix of the blindingly obvious* and the really interesting.

Thus, the ultimate "skeleton" actually shows up how rigid the structure is (for me, there wasn't really a feeling that this was organically grown, but rather "backsolved" from the final lis, even though it clearly wasn't.)  And once stated in such cold, hard abstraction, it's hard not to see that the game really is about that, but that the superstructure of flavour has a bigger importance than it appears - why "Melvin" and "Vorthos" may be nore important archetypes in terms of keeping the game fresh.

But set against that, it was a beautifully crisp piece that distills an awful lot of knowledge and experience into a few short pages that should serve as a terrific template for wannabe designers.

And although I realise it can't happen, I too would like to see more of these sorts of pieces.  But then, I'm a designer at heart, and not really a player.  In passing, I would also note that I'm getting severe deja vu with the Set Preview articles; I have started to wonder if MaRo has a template for them now, or whether he just takes an old one and does a search-and-replace on it...

*like many others, I have done amateur set design and this is the sort of process that is second nature, at least once you have got past the "here's a bunch of cool ideas, let's throw them all together" stage and are still interested.
I wonder how often they use a basic skeleton and then tweak it for each block.  THus there is one skeleton of a skeleton, saving a lot of the first few passes.

Then you just sprinkle in the keyword and tweak the numbers based on the block theme. 
Tribal is the only card type that we don't use every block. I keep getting letters about how a specific spell wants to, based on flavor, have tribal. The answer is that we only use tribal when it is a major component in the block.


As one of the people who sent such a letter, I gotta say: that just sounds really, really unintuitive. If Tribal was a supertype, maybe it'd sound a little better...


Tribal IS a supertype, only Tarmogoyf says otherwise. Without Tarmogoyf, Tribal would clearly be a supertype.

Tribal being a card type is already unintuitive. Nobody wanted it that way but the rules didn't allow otherwise.


What exactly in the rules won't allow Tribal to be a supertype? Snow is a supertype, and it's written in the same spot on the card as Tribal. We've had Sorcery - Arcane and Instant - Trap, so why is the word Tribal necessary to have an Enchantment - Elf?

Great article! Mr. Rosewater likes to sometimes goof off in his articles, but these kind of publications easily re-establish his position as a brilliant man with tons of experience in the field he's working in.

I sure wouldn't mind if these kind of articles showed up 2-4 times a year. They are very revealing.

Also, I like how the article shows how little wiggle space design actually has. I always picture R&D as a group of creative minds that just toss ideas left and right and then try to filter the ones that work and make a set out of them. Seeing the skeleton, it does look a bit more dull. It stops being "design cool stuff" and starts being "design a medium white creature with an evergreen ability".

Now, I do realise that this kind of approach made limited so much better in recent years and that it's just commons. Still, the article takes out some romanticism out of my vision of design at WotC.
Manaug.gif | Manawu.gif | Manau.gif | Manaub.gif | Manaur.gif
Interesting...one thing you did not mention: How long does an initial skeleton like that take?  Is it an afternoon's work or a week's work? Just curious.
   As one of the people who sent such a letter, I gotta say: that just sounds really, really unintuitive. If Tribal was a supertype, maybe it'd sound a little better, but something about a full card type which is only around on a temporary basis just screams 'wrong' to me. It's like saying, "We have this card which attacks and blocks but we won't give it the type creature because we don't want this set to be about creatures."



The problem is, Tribal can't be a supertype.  Supertypes can't have subtypes, only regular card types can, so if it was a supertype, all creature types would have to become instant types, sorcery types, artifact types and enchantment types as well, mixed in with aura, equipment, arcane, shrine, trap etc....

Its just cleaner to create a new very rarely used type than make a mess like that.


As for the skeleton, good to know just how they attack this in the beginning.
one of the best articles i have read from you.
A skeleton usually takes one day at most, the rest of time is spent polishing it to make it work. Now, every time something like this shows up, there's someone saying that having structure actually makes everything too rigid and takes away your freedom, but authentic freedom doesn't lie in "lack of perceivable structure" (a structure by itself, and with a pretty limited use), but being able to freely choose a structure and adapt it to your needs (As Mark "re-Marked"), heh.

Now, some common effects seem to be constantly repeated time and time again, but that's why they are called common effects in the first place. They want the game to be fun in limited environments and these require them in order to work. Now, some of those effects might be repeated out of inertia, because I can't justify them making limited better. For example, I've never seen useful the effect that makes a creature not being able to block, because that's strictly worse than tapping it (an effect that doesn't cost even a mana). Simmilarly, playtesting limited games with my own sets shows that "defender" doesn't work too well at common if it doesn't have another use, same with removing cards in the graveyard.
I'm happy to see that white starts to get more medium-sized creatures because that was a real problem. I'm also happy to see green recovering the fog ability as a common effect.

But I'm deviating of the real question. The skeleton of a set is really important because by using it, you achieve sooner and better what you want to express/create. By applying the restrictions mentioned in the article, the designer makes sure that some problems will never arise in limited environments, and thus saves time and efforts both to him and the developers. Actually, it also speeds up the design process by a lot because you have a clear view of what needs to be done, and it becomes a process of filling holes instead of one of blind discovery and bad surprises.

Thus, I highly recommend this procedure to all amateur designers that might read this post. If you fear that this rigid structure might prevent cool things to happen, you might want to do what I personally do: reserve a small percentage of "blank spaces" that can be filled with whatever you want.

I also tend to fix narrow cards by giving them additional abilities that solve game balance issues that arise later in development.
This was a very interesting article. I could read articles like this (nuts and bolts) more often than once a year.

This will be handy as I go through my own custom expension, although I am going to have to take some serious liberties with it for my purpose. Still, it's nice to have something I can work from in order to finally get that completed. I figure to be referencing it frequently.

God damn you, Rosewater, if you flaunt the fact that you are not good with numbers in stack-based a game designed by a mathematician, at least have some respect for the language. What are you, a 12-year-old chatter?



See, you have to be very careful about making fun of typos.

As far as the article, as someone angling to get into design from inside the building, I very much appreciated this peek into the deisgn process. I'm not sure I'm in love with all the competition this might create... ;-P
Tribal being a card type is already unintuitive. Nobody wanted it that way but the rules didn't allow otherwise.


What exactly in the rules won't allow Tribal to be a supertype? Snow is a supertype, and it's written in the same spot on the card as Tribal. We've had Sorcery - Arcane and Instant - Trap, so why is the word Tribal necessary to have an Enchantment - Elf?



A good question and I'd like it to be that way too. I don't know any details, but there was an article once that explained why such superficially simple changes would pose problems to how the game actually works that would make the Licids or Humility look like Eager Cadet.

Now, some common effects seem to be constantly repeated time and time again, but that's why they are called common effects in the first place. They want the game to be fun in limited environments and these require them in order to work. Now, some of those effects might be repeated out of inertia, because I can't justify them making limited better. For example, I've never seen useful the effect that makes a creature not being able to block, because that's strictly worse than tapping it (an effect that doesn't cost even a mana). Simmilarly, playtesting limited games with my own sets shows that "defender" doesn't work too well at common if it doesn't have another use, same with removing cards in the graveyard.
I'm happy to see that white starts to get more medium-sized creatures because that was a real problem. I'm also happy to see green recovering the fog ability as a common effect.



Just look at an aggresive format like Zendikar and how Goblin Shortcutter and Kraker Hatchling are played there to see how can't block and defender can be effective Wink

Also, there's a lot of overlap between mechanics. As has been explained before by MaRo, the red enchantment "creatures can't block" and blue enchantment "creatures are unblockable" would do exactly the same. My personal favorite is how green gets both the Reach (can block creatures with flying) and 'Treetop' (can't be blocked except by creatures with flying') abilities regulary. Print them on 1 card and it's a green flyer.

To get back to the point, can't block is red, whereas tapping is white (and blue) because the latter can also be used for defense.

Also, because it's stricktly worse, can't block can cost less mana.

Also also, making multiple creatures unable to block is used many times to finish a limited game through a stalemate (as in Wave of Indifference for example)
Tribal IS a supertype, only Tarmogoyf says otherwise. Without Tarmogoyf, Tribal would clearly be a supertype.

What exactly in the rules won't allow Tribal to be a supertype? Snow is a supertype, and it's written in the same spot on the card as Tribal. We've had Sorcery - Arcane and Instant - Trap, so why is the word Tribal necessary to have an Enchantment - Elf?




www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.a...

Here's an article from October 2007 that details exactly why Tribal had to be a card type and not just a supertype.  I found it very interesting; thought I'd share.
x

Deleted what I wrote at first beause it was immature.

Anyway, this article was much more interesting than the last nuts and bolts article.   If the nuts and bolts articles going forward are more like this one, I wouldn't mind havin them more often than once a year.

As one of the people who sent such a letter, I gotta say: that just sounds really, really unintuitive. If Tribal was a supertype, maybe it'd sound a little better, but something about a full card type which is only around on a temporary basis just screams 'wrong' to me. It's like saying, "We have this card which attacks and blocks but we won't give it the type creature because we don't want this set to be about creatures.





But it would put a focus on what they don't want it to be. Having a card that is based on a tribe in a set that isn't focusing on tribals would just make it an extra that isn't needed.

They had Tribal in Lorwyn because tribes mattered. Spells had certain tricks that only came out when tribe X was around. More than that it was prevelant in that set.

Snow was also a supertype that mattered because so many cards used it and it mattered to the set.



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A bunch of comments to what a lot of people have said and I don't feel like going back through and quoting everyone, so upfront apology for that.

First, this is, on the one hand, an article directed towards a small number of people (amatuer set designers), most of which have already figured out that you need a skeleton to make sure you hit all the major effects for each color. The only thing I really like about the article, and why I've now bookmarked it, is that it gives a list of all the major common effects.

As for why the lists don't seem to be showing up in the distribution that MaRo is talking about, my guess is that we will see these distributions in upcoming sets. MaRo probably looked at the last two or three sets designed and went off of those numbers.
Also, keep in mind that this is probably how the set is handed off to development, and that development might need to tweak numbers and keywords around after playtesting.

All in all, a very nice design article in that it talks about actual set design, not card design, which is a topic that I find very interesting.
I'm hoping the next Nuts & Bolts talks about how to design keywords based off themes, or maybe how rigid keyword design in blocks is, since I'm seriously doubting that 'gravetwist' would be the only new keyword in the block.
This would make the skeleton even more rigid, but even with a very rigid skeleton, there is a LOT of space for actual design still. Small white flyer isn't just a Suntail Hawk. It's somewhere between a 1/1 and 2/3 with possibly an activated ability (which is where you can make sure you hit all the major common effects.)

Also, in terms of how fast a skeleton can be created, the first couple of passes can be done in about a half hour or so, for a large set. A small set, since you already know the keywords, can be done in about 10-15 minutes. Of course, that is for commons only. Uncommons, if done after the commons, take just a little bit longer. Plug in all the common effects you missed, then a couple more common effects that you feel are a little light, then a couple of build-around-me Limited bombs, and fill out the rest with more keywords and Constructed. Rares and Mythics take more time since they don't need to fill common effects, which is why most Rares and Mythics come in cycles so you can still think of them as a group. Mostly loose cycles so that the cycle effects aren't obvious, but they are still there if only to give people some idea of restrictions around which to design the cards.
In all, it probably takes maybe two hours to structure a set, total. With 4-5 people on a design team, that brings it down to 25-30 per person, probably done in the first design meeting when discussing the themes of the block and structuring where things are going for each set. I know I can get a larget set skeleton done in about 3 to 4 hours, but that is also trying to come up with the list of common effects, and remembering to put them all in, so this article will help me cut that time down. Although, I usually start structuring a set before I even have all the keywords actually designed, but I at least have a general idea of the type of effect, and whether or not it can go on creatures, permanents, spells, or anything I want it to, so I can plug those keywords in to the skeleton, and then worry about the actual effects when I sit down and start designing the cards themselves.

The other thing that I think the skeleton should include, which MaRo didn't talk about at all, is the CMC and the curve that each set needs to follow (usually centered around 2-4 CMC, 3-5 if a slower enviroment, 1-3 if a faster one, and the highest CMC available for usual cards (somewhere between 6 and 8 for most sets). Although CMC curve might not be part of the skeleton, it might be a seperate check they do in Multiverse to make sure the curve is correct, I personally like attaching a CMC goal to each card so I have some idea of where on the curve each card is going to hit. It helps give a scope to the size of effects that can be designed.

Friends don't let you do stupid things...alone. Previously: desolatecity
Rigidity and predictability is not as bad as you guys seem to think.  There is nothing at all wrong with intentionally devoting huge chunks of cards to 'staple' effects.

The true problem lies in devoting huge blocks to be disposable junk, that may as well be piled into a corner and set on fire after the draft ends, as the heat produced from the combustion will be far more useful for a far longer length of time than any meaningful play-value the cards themselves can ever have in a constructed deck.
A set that's mostly [block-mechanic burn], [block-mechanic counterspell], [another green reach guy], etc. in common is needed to prevent some sort of Legends Syndrome, where the whole set is a disjointed mess of random cards.  The Skeleton only becomes "depressingly rigid" when all we seem to get in common is [crappy block-mechanic burn], [crippled block-mechanic counterspell], [another overcosted green reach guy], etc.
I wonder if ROE will have Tribal - Eldrazi on all colorless non-creature spells.

Speaking of which, how does ROE's supposed colorless theme alter the skeleton?
Speaking of which, how does ROE's supposed colorless theme alter the skeleton?

Shave some slots off of the colors, move them into 'grey'.

God damn you, Rosewater, if you flaunt the fact that you are not good with numbers in stack-based a game designed by a mathematician, at least have some respect for the language. What are you, a 12-year-old chatter?



See, you have to be very careful about making fun of typos.


I am not making fun of anything. Preseving the English language is dead-serious on the Internet. soon well all b speaking like dis

See, I am a number guy, not a words guy. Also, Rosewater once said that non-native English speakers should be cut some slack (in a column about players' comments, if you really want to look it up), and so it happens that I am not a native English speaker.

Oh, not to mention that most people will probably ignore my post, while Rosewater's words will reach hundreds, angering a handful of them, and subconsciously assuring another handful that "theres nothing wrong wit lets!".

Trolling aside, don't Wizards have an editor other than the Word spellchecker?
Tribal IS a supertype, only Tarmogoyf says otherwise. Without Tarmogoyf, Tribal would clearly be a supertype.

What exactly in the rules won't allow Tribal to be a supertype? Snow is a supertype, and it's written in the same spot on the card as Tribal. We've had Sorcery - Arcane and Instant - Trap, so why is the word Tribal necessary to have an Enchantment - Elf?




www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.a...

Here's an article from October 2007 that details exactly why Tribal had to be a card type and not just a supertype.  I found it very interesting; thought I'd share.



I've read the article a dozen times ever since it was first published. And, I *get* it. I just don't *like* it. I always feel like they should have either tried harder to make it work as a type, or just skipped it (or at least shelved it till a better format was discovered as Maro is so fond of doing with his pet card ideas). 

The worst part though, is that as I come around to grudgingly accepting its existence, I start to see more and more new cards that should be Tribal. And this isn't their usual practice of a one-off mechanic that has tons of room for potential but gets dropped after one small set. This is a card type. For years there were only the original types (we even lost one with Interrupts), then within the same year they give us two new ones and only one is getting any support (and I think we know why that one is supported.) 

If you are going to cram a kludgy, unsightly, extremely unintuitive new thing down our throats, at least have the decency to keep using them so it doesn't feel like you just did it to power up Tarmogoyf. Cause honestly, that's what it feels like at this point. 

Rigidity and predictability is not as bad as you guys seem to think.  There is nothing at all wrong with intentionally devoting huge chunks of cards to 'staple' effects.

The true problem lies in devoting huge blocks to be disposable junk, that may as well piled into a corner and set on fire after the draft ends, as the heat produced from the combustion will be far more useful for a far longer length of time than any meaningful play-value the cards themselves can ever have in a constructed deck.
A set that's mostly [block-mechanic burn], [block-mechanic counterspell], [another green reach guy], etc. in common is needed to prevent some sort of Legends Syndrome, where the whole set is a disjointed mess of random cards.  The Skeleton only becomes "depressingly rigid" when all we seem to get in common is [crappy block-mechanic burn], [crippled block-mechanic counterspell], [another overcosted green reach guy], etc.



Spot on. So many of the commons anymore just seem like retreads, they may as well use older cards so we can at least use our older versions in constructed formats. 

But I will say the article was really interesting. As others have noted, it's interesting to see what so many people perceive as a "creative" endeavor reduced to mere numbers and stats, but I think it goes along with Maro has said for years about restriction breeding creativity. Sure you could come up with a bunch of crazy stuff and throw it together, but it's using this skeleton to start with, then using gaps in it to carefully and specifically apply the crazy that really makes you think things through and make sure they work. 

I'd definitely like to see more articles like this, though no more than 3-4 times a year at most.
Proud member of C.A.R.D. - Campaign Against Rare Duals "...but the time has come when lands just need to be better. Creatures have gotten stronger, spells have always been insane, and lands just sat in this awkward place of necessity." Jacob Van Lunen on the refuge duals, 16 Sep 2009. "While it made thematic sense to separate enemy and allied color fixing in the past, we have come around to the definite conclusion that it is just plain incorrect from a game-play perspective. This is one of these situations where game play should just trump flavor." - Sam Stoddard on ending the separation of allied/enemy dual lands. 05 July 2013
But I will say the article was really interesting. As others have noted, it's interesting to see what so many people perceive as a "creative" endeavor reduced to mere numbers and stats, but I think it goes along with Maro has said for years about restriction breeding creativity. Sure you could come up with a bunch of crazy stuff and throw it together, but it's using this skeleton to start with, then using gaps in it to carefully and specifically apply the crazy that really makes you think things through and make sure they work. 

I'd definitely like to see more articles like this, though no more than 3-4 times a year at most.



The skeleton itself isn't a creative entity. It's the framework to make sure 1) that every color gets it's staple effects, and 2) that there is a balance of all card types (excluding Tribal). What MaRo is talking about is not card design, but set design. Set design, and block design for that matter, are both more science than art. They exist to make the game playable. Card design is where the creative aspect comes into play.
Friends don't let you do stupid things...alone. Previously: desolatecity
I enjoyed the article, as I usually enjoy Rosewater's well-written and thought out design stories. However, I agree with a few others on here that the design of Magic just seems so formulaic according to this. It really is depressing, and seems like Magic is simply going to repeat the same basic skeleton/formula in every single set from here on out... Sure, new mechanics will occasionally be introduced just to do something new, as "gravetwist" represented here.

But with so much space devoted to the same things, how will there be much room for creativity? MaRo makes it seem like designers simply check things off on a list - first strike creature for white, got it... regenerating creature for green, got it. Seems pretty stale and uncreative for me.

I realize that this is for commons and rares/uncommons offer alot more room for experimentation, but still. For most people, commons are the vast majority of their collections and usually offer quite a few good/playable cards across all formats. If commons make up the bulk of Magic cards and they are always this bland and unchanging, how will Magic survive another decade? In ten years, we'll still be seeing the same exact creatures in every color, same formulas, same everything.

Also, I realize that limited considerations are responsible for alot of these checklists. While I really enjoy playing limited, maybe Wizards is placing too much emphasis on it and neglecting simply designing good, fun and more importantly, new/creative cards in a set.
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