7/25/2011 Feature: "Time Travel (and Other Perks of Magic Development)"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Feature Article, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
Sequel to this?

Hey, a guy can hope.
blah blah metal lyrics
An interesting article, but I wonder: does anyone know exactly how early the core set has to be finalized? Mainly the paragraph with the Titans sttod out to me as the author implies their decision needed to be finalized even before the previous core set had been released. I will openly admit that I am not a fan of the Titans' return, but they are not brokenly overpowered. However, what if they had proven so? Being forced to make decisions on reprints before even understanding how good or warping they might be the first time seems like it could be a reciipe for disaster in the future, and makes one question if yearly core sets are really that productiive from a design/development perspective.

Loved the "Blink" quote by the way.

Sequel to this?

Hey, a guy can hope.


 God I would love a sequel to that.
The Dr. Who quote sent me over the moon. I <3 you guys.

Anyway, really cool article since I love insight into how sets get made. Addressing the time issue is also cool since it's something I enjoy thinking about. 
Wait, so M12 was pencils down before the M11 pre-release? We hadn't yet cracked any packs of M11 before they were done making M12?
An excellent read. I enjoyed the use of Time Travel as a theme to hold together an otherwise mix-and-match of how M12 came to be. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at designing a core set, something we don't see too often. All in all an amazing article.

I wonder, though, why Sorin's reprint was a given as soon as it was decided to not print five new planeswalkers. Black is the color most sorely in need of a new mono-colored planeswalker; it seems like it'd be an obvious pick for one of the two or three new ones you were planning to have. I remember a previous article saying that it was because the black planeswalker design that was turned in was one of the weaker ones, but that would seem to run contrary to what's said here about Jace, since it looks like you didn't come up with his design until much later. Another theory that makes a lot of sense is that we're getting a new Liliana in Innistrad (and it looks like a new Sorin in Dark Ascension, according to today's Arcana) so to reprint a new version of either would be weird with Innistrad coming up. If that's the case, I'm going to love this upcoming year of Magic.

That aside, I like the three new planeswalkers (especially the new Jace design, good work guys), and I like Gideon as a reprint (though, to be honest, I would have preferred Elspeth if only to spare Chandra being the only female in the core). And I'm definitely looking forward to seeing a new copy of my favorite planeswalker in Dark Ascension.
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)
I wonder, though, why Sorin's reprint was a given as soon as it was decided to not print five new planeswalkers. Black is the color most sorely in need of a new mono-colored planeswalker; it seems like it'd be an obvious pick for one of the two or three new ones you were planning to have. I remember a previous article saying that it was because the black planeswalker design that was turned in was one of the weaker ones, but that would seem to run contrary to what's said here about Jace, since it looks like you didn't come up with his design until much later. Another theory that makes a lot of sense is that we're getting a new Liliana in Innistrad (and it looks like a new Sorin in Dark Ascension, according to today's Arcana) so to reprint a new version of either would be weird with Innistrad coming up. If that's the case, I'm going to love this upcoming year of Magic.



That article you remember (by Tom Lapille) says the following:

Two of them were totally awesome, and I basically wanted to print them as is. One of them was all right. Two of them were pretty rough, and although I could see the effort behind them, they weren't cards I was interested in making.



He later says that the awesome ones were new Chandra and Garruk and the all right one was the new Jace.
There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, those who don't and those that didn't expect this joke to be in base 3.

The story begins like this: You crack open a pack at the Magic 2012 Core Set Prerelease. You thumb past Wring Flesh and Rampant Growth, nod happily at Incinerate, chuckle a bit at Thran Golem, and finally see the stern but compassionate face of Gideon Jura staring up at you from the back of the pack.

[...]

M12 development hasn't started yet. None of the cards I mentioned from your booster are actually in the set. Over the coming months, Tom and I and the rest of the team will put them there.



I'm actually most interested in the Rampant Growth story! It seems like such a core staple, what was in its place or why did the design team left it out?


And indeed, the part implying M12 being finished before M11 is released is bewildering.
The Doctor Who quote was awesome, but I also loved the Bill & Ted reference. ;)

Great article!

~ Tim
I am Blue/White Reached DCI Rating 1800 on 28/10/11. :D
Sig
56287226 wrote:
190106923 wrote:
Not bad. But what happens flavor wise when one kamahl kills the other one?
Zis iz a sign uf deep psychological troma, buried in zer subconscious mind. By keelink himzelf, Kamahl iz physically expressink hiz feelinks uf self-disgust ova hiz desire for hiz muzzer. [/GermanPsychologistVoice]
56957928 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
That makes no sense to me. If they spelled the ability out on the card in full then it would not be allowed in a mono-black Commander deck, but because they used a keyword to save space it is allowed? ~ Tim
Yup, just like you can have Birds of paradise in a mono green deck but not Noble Hierarch. YAY COLOR IDENTITY
56287226 wrote:
56888618 wrote:
Is algebra really that difficult?
Survey says yes.
56883218 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
You want to make a milky drink. You squeeze a cow.
I love this description. Like the cows are sponges filled with milk. I can see it all Nick Parks claymation-style with the cow's eyes bugging out momentarily as a giant farmer squeezes it like a squeaky dog toy, and milk shoots out of it.
56287226 wrote:
56735468 wrote:
And no judge will ever give you a game loss for playing snow covered lands.
I now have a new goal in life. ;)
From your perspective, Jace was banned, then Oblivion Ring was in M12. From our perspective, Oblivion Ring was in M12, then Jace was banned. These are both valid frames of reference; it all depends on where you're sitting.



Nothing has quite brought the weirdness of Magic R&D home to me better than this quote.  Nice job!
Ah yes, my 10th regeneration! I remember him fondly. Bit of a skinny fellow though, wasn't he? Puts you in mind of a string bean! Heh.

...anyway. Come along Digges, that pool isn't going to clean itself! Well, I mean, the one in the library does but I'm not talking about that one...
You'll forget you ever read this the minute you look away.
Veslfen's House of Bone-Dry Sarcasm
88318561 wrote:
76783093 wrote:
there is nothing "epic" about a turn one victory. ever. or really any magic game, for that matter.
So this one time, I wanted to play a game of Magic with my friend, but he was in another country and neither of us had Magic Online. I hitchhiked my way to the coast, barely fending off hungry wildlife when I couldn't get a ride, nearly dying of thirst crossing deserts, and posoning myself half to death foraging for food. At one point, I was taken hostage by a group of kidnappers, only managing to escape after a week of careful planning thanks to careful application of a rusty spoon. Once I reached the coast, I had no money to buy a ticket across the ocean, so I built a boat using my own two hands, and spent months sailing across the waves, nearly losing my deck as I swam to the shore of a desert island in a storm after being capsized by an enormous wave. Nearly delusional after so long with no human contact (the notches I cut in the single tree to tell time had long since felled the thing) I was eventually rescued by a passing ship, where I was taken aboard as a crew member. We sailed around the world, seeing many exotic places and having great adventures, before we finally arrived at my friend's country. Once more I stumbled across a desolate landscape, riding on train or car when I could, and going on foot when I could not. Eventually, weary to the bone, seven years after I started my journey, I arrived at my friend's house, clutching my well-worn and weathered deck to my chest. We shuffled up our decks, I won the roll. Gleefully, I laid down my cards. Black Lotus. My friend looked quizzically at me, wondering what I was about to do. After so long, he no longer knew what deck I had brought with me to this game. Flash. A knowing smile appears on my friend's face as the knowledge slowly returns to him. Protean Hulk. My friend extends his hand, knowing the game is over before it even started. And finally, after so many trials, the sweet taste of victory is mine.
56866178 wrote:
108166749 wrote:
So no one else is upset with the stunt Wizards just pulled to drive sales?
Drive sales of what? Non-Jace, non-Mystic cards? I'm pretty sure people already own more than eight Magic cards. If you don't, I feel for you. Maybe you can trade those Stoneforge Mystics, which are still quite valuable, for some.
I'm profoundly disturbed by the fact that each core set is being finished before the last one has even been released. What do they base the changes on? What if they make some kind of horrific mistake that's completely unforseen by R&D? What's the point of doing another set if you've had literally no time to learn anything from the last one?
As annoyed as I am that the Titans are back, I'm really glad you chose not to bring back just the red and blue ones. Unless you make equally overpowered cards in the other three colours, you end up with the most overpowered fatties in Standard being in the two worst fatty colours, and that's just no good.
blah blah metal lyrics
Wait, so M12 was pencils down before the M11 pre-release? We hadn't yet cracked any packs of M11 before they were done making M12?



Let me clarify this, because I think it's important.

I said that we had to make a decision on the Titans before you'd seen M11, not that we were completely done with M12 by then. I was a little vague about the production timeline, for a number of reasons, but I don't want to give the impression that each core set is constructed with no idea how the previous one was received.

The Titans are important Constructed cards, so we needed to decide early whether or not it was worth the FFL's time to start testing with them. If the Titans had flopped in the real world, there probably would have been time to take them back out. But the longer we waited, the less time there would be for design, playtesting, art commissioning, localization, etc. for whatever we replaced them with.

So it's not that there's a single moment when we're "done," with the whole set in flux until then; it's that there are dozens of moments when one or another part of the process is "done," and any changes get successively harder after each of those moments.

Told you it was timey-wimey.
The Titans are important Constructed cards, so we needed to decide early whether or not it was worth the FFL's time to start testing with them. If the Titans had flopped in the real world, there probably would have been time to take them back out. But the longer we waited, the less time there would be for design, playtesting, art commissioning, localization, etc. for whatever we replaced them with.

Seems to me like "backup plan" cards should be part of the development process.  Design the set with a dozen or so extra cards, so there's always a completed card ready to drop in when something needs taken out.
Then, if they aren't used in that set, there's a dozen or cards that are already ready for arbitrary inclusion into some other set.

That process makes substantially more sense.
Told you it was timey-wimey.



Yes, but does anyone ever resort to using fezzes to help keep things straight?

...And does anyone murder the poor, innocent, red hats if someone does?

...And is it always wibbley-wobbley, or only when developement adds back something design removes as several articles have indicated sometimes happens?

(More seriously - Very enjoyable article.)
Great article and thanks for clarifying the timeline misunderstanding. My only problem is that you guys forgot to put my Gideon in its pack! Unless you did...but it slipped through a wormhole and came out into an alternate reality? Hmm. I was wondering why Maro would write a two page column about his top twenty MtG miniskirts..ewww! This also explains why my copy of Gideon Jura, rulebreaker is wearing highheels. NVM. Kudos to you for being in a better less scary place. Laughing
I have to start by saying I'm incredibly disappointed with the 2012 Core set. We have the handful of "Lottery Bait" Mythics, a ton of junk rares, comparing uncommons between 2011 and 2012 makes me want to moan and the number of useful commons plummeted as well. The salt in the wound was the number of cards across rarities that provide decidedly less bang for the CMC buck than cards they took inspiration from. When a set has numerous cards that, due to the CMC, aren't even viable for casual play, you know you have some problems.

That out of the way, although I appreciate that there has to be solid lead time between design and launch, I'm just dumbfounded at how little flexibility your design process seems to allow for sets to be adjusted based on how recently released sets play out in the real world. Looking to the titans example, just what about Titans made them require a decision for inclusion of exclusion in 2012, before 2011 even launched? The Titans may cause the exclusion of certain cards from the core, to prevent serious combo abuse, but it's hard to see any cards that are in the core set that would only be there if Titans also coexisted with them.

There should be the flexibility to pull them from the set even up until six months before launch. If you pulled them, then what would go in their place? You should have alternate Mythics (and cards of every other rarity level) in testing so that late cancellation is at least viable if the real world meta highlights things you weren't expecting.

Beyond greater flexibility to alter a set's load out closer to launch, there is another issue that seems to be brought into focus by this article and others we have seen on the design process. It's seems pretty clear that your internal beta testing Future League is not sufficient to test your product. You probably should quadruple the number of teams doing this work and have structured testing procedures in place to evaluate variations on the set to find what works best. Testing four different possible "realities" for a future set in parallel would give more flexibility to the design process.

(Cards that get extensive testing, but have to be pared down or tabled for adjustment can always make it into future sets. In this case, developing and testing replacements for all five Titans would have given the option of replacing any or all of them once results from the real world meta started to roll in).

Using huge lead times as excuses for set decisions that leave the player base confused, angry or underwhelmed is really bad form. It just highlights the need for more robust testing and development procedures with in Wizards.

P.S. I can't end with out returning to a few pet peeves. IMO:

  1. The current implementation of Mythic Rarity is very detrimental to the game. Standard, by offering a limited card pool and including sets that are still readily available, should provide an easy access point to new players, budget players and non-experts. However, the price and power curve between Mythics and Rares creates a meta where people with out experience, expertise and tons of cash just can't compete. This is creating a barrier to entry and is even turning off many long term players. It also exponentially increases the role of speculators in the market, driving up the prices of "pay to win" cards and driving down the prices of everything else.

  2. Stop printing so many cards that are complete and obvious junk, due to outrageous CMC to power ratios. Waste of art work, development time, ink and a horrible waste of the trees that were harvested to make the paper stock. It's bad enough that experts can go through a 250+ card set and only identify a couple dozen, at most, that even have a snowball's chance in hell of showing up in Standard Tourney decks. Things just become sickeningly worse when a large portion of the set isn't even worth playing in a casual deck.

  3. Green needs a serious overhaul to it's design criteria. A few very powerful greens do not make up for the general lacking of the color. The days of excusing Greens lack of "oomph" because it "makes up for it" by having the "biggest, meanest creatures" is a thing of the past. The other colors all have creatures just as big, or bigger, which are much nastier because of the powers and abilities those colors possess, but which Green does not. Looking back at the first six years of MTG, when I first played (started with Beta), it seems like green's breadth of design has narrowed considerably in recent years, while all the other colors have greatly expanded. In the 2012 set, Elves, which had finally reached a point where a few elf decks could sneak into the pool of viable Standard builds, received three cards in the 2012 core set; at the same time Vampires and Goblins received a lot of cards and a boost of power. WTH? Also, Bloodthirst and Battlecry. Both mechanics seem that they should have been staples for green. Both fit perfectly the concept of green. Bloodthirst for the beasts of the forest and Battlecry for the Elves. Well, we have no Battlecry for green and the two instances of bloodthirst are rendered pointless by the CMC. When the color that is supposed to be all about "creatures, creatures, creatures" doesn't gain these two mechanics that seem the perfect fit for the color and the concept, there is something seriously wrong with the design process that may speak to an unintended bias on the part of the designers.

I have to start by saying I'm incredibly disappointed with the 2012 Core set. We have the handful of "Lottery Bait" Mythics, a ton of junk rares, comparing uncommons between 2011 and 2012 makes me want to moan and the number of useful commons plummeted as well. The salt in the wound was the number of cards across rarities that provide decidedly less bang for the CMC buck than cards they took inspiration from. When a set has numerous cards that, due to the CMC, aren't even viable for casual play, you know you have some problems.


I must say I am also somewhat disappointed with M12, but mostly because of a few cards that got cut, not because I think the set is junk. I'm sad they took out Terramorphic Expanse, Sign in Blood, Captivating Vampire, and I'm sad the two Sorin's signature spell suite cards are so boringly similar and don't add anything to his character.
However, I have a question. I've seen a lot of people saying that "the uncommons and commons in M12 are crap compared to M11" but the only examples I've ever seen anyone give are the two equipment, the sword and the shield. Shock as well, I guess. Why is everyone so upset? The Azure Mage cycle looks neat, Bloodthirst is a pretty awesome change-up, giving aggro fuel instead of control's scry. What, specifically, is everyone angry about? I admit, I haven't played with M12 yet and haven't studied it, but my thoughts certainly weren't "there's nothing good in this set".

Beyond greater flexibility to alter a set's load out closer to launch, there is another issue that seems to be brought into focus by this article and others we have seen on the design process. It's seems pretty clear that your internal beta testing Future League is not sufficient to test your product. You probably should quadruple the number of teams doing this work and have structured testing procedures in place to evaluate variations on the set to find what works best. Testing four different possible "realities" for a future set in parallel would give more flexibility to the design process.


That would cost money. Making the process of design and development more expensive means they have to raise prices, which would get an even greater response of hatred and rage from customers than the Titans, I'm sure. And other suggestions about having extra cards ready to drop in has the same problem: that means more art, more playtesting, more work from all three teams (design, development, creative). At the end of the day the question isn't "how to make the game better" but "how to make the game better for a reasonable cost".

Stop printing so many cards that are complete and obvious junk, due to outrageous CMC to power ratios. Waste of art work, development time, ink and a horrible waste of the trees that were harvested to make the paper stock. It's bad enough that experts can go through a 250+ card set and only identify a couple dozen, at most, that even have a snowball's chance in hell of showing up in Standard Tourney decks. Things just become sickeningly worse when a large portion of the set isn't even worth playing in a casual deck.


A lot of those cards are probably good in Limited. I can't say I'm entirely happy with so many of the cards I look for, as a budget player who avoids rares and mythics above $1, being made solely for Limited, but this is a necessity since Limited is such a large part of the game now.

Green needs a serious overhaul to it's design criteria. A few very powerful greens do not make up for the general lacking of the color. The days of excusing Greens lack of "oomph" because it "makes up for it" by having the "biggest, meanest creatures" is a thing of the past. The other colors all have creatures just as big, or bigger, which are much nastier because of the powers and abilities those colors possess, but which Green does not.


I mostly agree here, though. Green does need a new identity, because it is certainly not the "creature color" any more. White and Red are both much better at small, fast, efficient creatures than Green, and even Black has become so with Zendikar's vampires and M12's bloodthirst. As for large creatures: giving Green "the best large creatures" doesn't work because:
1.) The Titans are just about the best large creatures printable at the current power level (I'd say even above the power level a tad) so Green can't outshine the other colors without breaking the power curve into tiny pieces;
2.) Green. Lacks. Evasion. That is the biggest problem with Green. It gets big creatures, but those creatures are USELESS if they can't connect to an opponent. The best Green gets for evasion is Trample, which it has to share with all colors. As long as Green is the only color without flying, it's going to be the weakest. Flying is just too essential to the game, and Reach is strictly inferior. This could be remedied if Green got some other types of evasion, but we're at the upper limit of evergreen abilities and Green's not got any now so we're pretty much trapped. The only solution, thus, is to give Green something more than "the best creatures", because it's not actually getting those. Sure, it has ramp, but what good is ramp without something to ramp TO?
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)


  1. The current implementation of Mythic Rarity is very detrimental to the game.

  2. Stop printing so many cards that are complete and obvious junk, due to outrageous CMC to power ratios.

  3. Green needs a serious overhaul to it's design criteria.




I agree with those suggestions. I want do comment, and add:

1. Titans, the Planeswalkers other than the original 5, Lotus Cobra, Baneslayer Angel... I can't see them as anything other than shameless power creep, money-grabbing tactics. Get done with the Mithics already!

2. And please no "why bad cards are good"!

3. Maybe they will tell you Bloodthirst is tertiary in green. But I'd say both black and red have an easier time dealing damage early in the game, so I think Bloodthirst could have been pushed in green safely.

4. Get done with the mandatory cycle of monocolor Planeswalkers in the Core Sets as well. A Core Set has no specific setting or storyline, so introducing a new Planeswalker or Legendary card feels wrong. I'd be okay if the cycle was only reprints though.

5. Magic is like a pendulum? Cool, but some things must remain untouched... We don't need variants on Shock (or Shock itself -_-), we like our Lightning Bolts.

6. I'd also suggest that 10 duals at uncommom should be the norm in Magic Standard. Being able to build whatever deck hits our fancy would be nice and would keep the environment diverse (see Ravnica or Legacy).

 
Thank you very much Kelley for the clarification. It's always nice to see these discussions are actually read

Overall an enjoyable article.
Like some of the other posters, I find M12 a step backwards from M11, well, several steps backwards.  M12 just does not interest me as much.  Illusions are casual jank and probably be abandoned in M13.  Bloodthirst isn't very interesting.  Cards reach the point of just junk left much sooner than they do in M11 when drafting.  New Jace should have cost 4, not 5, and milled less cards with 0 power, so he'd be playable in something other than mill decks.  And so on.  Also, the enchantment subtheme failed to impress.  While I like the improvement that Divine Favor is over Holy Strength, I miss the good for limited enchantments from M11, like Shiv's Embrace and Armored Ascension.  And for that matter, Volcanic Strength is better than its M12 replacement.  Replacing the lackluster green auras though, that is good.

Reprinting Gideon was a bad idea, not as much as reprinting Jace 2.0 would have been, but still bad.  That card hasn't even left standard yet.  A mythic that isn't a reprint, isn't from a core set should be given a year or two break before being brought back, barring special circumstances.  And you don't even need to time travel to know if to apply that or not.  If the card sees/saw play, a bit of a break from it changes things up.  And if it wasn't popular, then it can safely not be reprinted, unless there's a good reason to.  Basically, there should be a darn good reason to reprint a non-core mythic (and, to a lesser degree, rare) that is still in standard.

The decision to leave the Titans in was the right one.  New mythics and rares should stay in the core set for at least 2 years.  Give people some time to play with them in standard before rotating them out.  Instead of doing what M12 did, where an ungodly high percent of rares got swapped, as well as a decent chunk of mythics (but sadly not Time Reversal).
I actually like the illusion tribe from a gameplay and variety standpoint (god knows Legacy Merfolk don't need more tools), but I hate them from a color pie standpoint. As others have pointed out, green is losing it's identity as a ramp color and giving the worst creature color a tribe of undercosted dudes, on top of a Titan that's better than greens once a certain land is gone, is not the way to fix it (they're drawback really isn't that large since most playable spells that target them would kill them anyway).
I actually like the illusion tribe from a gameplay and variety standpoint (god knows Legacy Merfolk don't need more tools), but I hate them from a color pie standpoint. As others have pointed out, green is losing it's identity as a ramp color and giving the worst creature color a tribe of undercosted dudes, on top of a Titan that's better than greens once a certain land is gone, is not the way to fix it (they're drawback really isn't that large since most playable spells that target them would kill them anyway).


Agreed. Whose idea was it to give Blue hyper-efficient aggro creatures? That was (supposedly) Blue's one weakness, but it seems Blue isn't allowed to have a weakness. It's great that Wizards is pushing creatures, as they've been laughably weak in the past, but in doing so they're taking away everything Green has, and making Blue even more of a monster.

As a side note, I thought Blue was supposed to only get straight Shroud and Green could have Hexproof? What led them to take even that away from Green? I believe Mark said that they did it because they didn't want to support two evergreen keywords that were so similar. If that's the case, might I point you to Flying and the strictly-inferior Reach? Flying is such a large part of the game that having a color that doesn't have it is a handicap, and since Green is already struggling for an identity it's a handicap that Green doesn't need. In fact, it's almost as bad as not giving a color any way to deal with creatures outside combat... Oh. Laughing
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)
I point you to Flying and the strictly-inferior Reach?


Windstorm, Raking Canopy, Skywinder Drake etc dispute that claim.

~ Tim

I am Blue/White Reached DCI Rating 1800 on 28/10/11. :D
Sig
56287226 wrote:
190106923 wrote:
Not bad. But what happens flavor wise when one kamahl kills the other one?
Zis iz a sign uf deep psychological troma, buried in zer subconscious mind. By keelink himzelf, Kamahl iz physically expressink hiz feelinks uf self-disgust ova hiz desire for hiz muzzer. [/GermanPsychologistVoice]
56957928 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
That makes no sense to me. If they spelled the ability out on the card in full then it would not be allowed in a mono-black Commander deck, but because they used a keyword to save space it is allowed? ~ Tim
Yup, just like you can have Birds of paradise in a mono green deck but not Noble Hierarch. YAY COLOR IDENTITY
56287226 wrote:
56888618 wrote:
Is algebra really that difficult?
Survey says yes.
56883218 wrote:
57799958 wrote:
You want to make a milky drink. You squeeze a cow.
I love this description. Like the cows are sponges filled with milk. I can see it all Nick Parks claymation-style with the cow's eyes bugging out momentarily as a giant farmer squeezes it like a squeaky dog toy, and milk shoots out of it.
56287226 wrote:
56735468 wrote:
And no judge will ever give you a game loss for playing snow covered lands.
I now have a new goal in life. ;)

I point you to Flying and the strictly-inferior Reach?

Windstorm, Raking Canopy, Skywinder Drake etc dispute that claim.

Kind of, although by that logic, Mindslaver makes Hexproof not strictly better than Shroud.

A better argument is that Flying is a much more common mechanic than Hexproof, so that there is a lot more room for an inferior version in the same set.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the design of the plane of Golamo in the Great Designer Search 2!
My Decks
These are the decks I have assembled at the moment:
Tournament Decks (4)
Kicker Aggro (Invasion Block) Sunforger/Izzet Guildmage Midrange (Ravnica/Time Spiral/Xth Standard) Dragonstorm Combo (Time Spiral/Lorwyn/Xth Standard) Bant Midrange (Lorwyn/Shards/M10 Standard)
Casual Multiplayer Decks (50)
Angel Resurrection Casual Soul Sisters Sindbad's Adventures with Djinn of Wishes Sphinx-Bone Wand Buyback Morph (No Instants or Sorceries) Cabal Coffers Control Zombie Aggro Hungry, Hungry Greater Gargadon/War Elemental Flashfires/Boil/Ruination - Boom! Call of the Wild Teysa, Orzhov Scion with Twilight Drover, Sun Titan, and Hivestone Slivers Rebels Cairn Wanderer Knights Only Gold and () Spells Captain Sisay Toolbox Spellweaver Helix Combo Merfolk Wizards Izzet Guildmage/The Unspeakable Arcane Combo Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and his Wizards Creatureless Wild Research/Reins of Power Madness Creatureless Pyromancer Ascension Anarchist Living Death Anvil of Bogardan Madness Shamen with Goblin Game/Wound Reflection Combo Mass damage Quest for Pure Flame Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle/Clear the Land with 40+ Lands Doubling Season Thallids Juniper Order Ranger Graft/Tokens Elf Archer Druids Equilibrium/Aluren Combo Experiment Kraj Combo Reap Combo False Cure/Kavu Predator Combo Savra, Queen of the Golgari Sacrifice/Dredge Elf Warriors Eight-Post Sneak Attack Where Ancients Tread Zur the Enchanter with Opal creatures Tamanoa/Kavu Predator/Collapsing Borders Esper Aggro Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and his Darksteel Reactor Theft and Control Unearth Aggro Soul's Fire Vampires Devour Tokens Phytohydra with Powerstone Minefield Treefolk Friendly? Questing Phelddagrif Slivers Dragon Arch Fun I'm probably forgetting a few...
I point you to Flying and the strictly-inferior Reach?

Windstorm, Raking Canopy, Skywinder Drake etc dispute that claim.

Sure, and Runeclaw Bear isn't strictly worse than Fauna Shaman because of Muraganda Petroglyphs.


A better argument is that Flying is a much more common mechanic than Hexproof, so that there is a lot more room for an inferior version in the same set.


Yes, Flying is much more common. In fact, it's so common it's in all colors save one. Which is the real problem, Reach is just the most obvious symptom of that problem. They invented (I know it existed before it was called Reach but that doesn't mean it wasn't invented at some point) a strictly inferior version of Flying for the sole purpose of making sure Green couldn't have Flying. It may have made sense back when creatures weren't pushed so much, and thus Green actually did have the best creatures. But now, since Green is in a really sad position, would it kill them to let it have Flying tertiary, like Red? Or more likely, SOME form of useful evasion to put on its big creatures: Trample just doesn't cut it compared to Flying, Unblockable, Intimidate... Maybe they could keyword the old deal damage as though not blocked ability, make it evergreen.

I know Green will never grow wings. Green is too solidly the "anti-flying" color. It's just a shame, because being the worst color at the best creature ability is in direct opposition to being the best creature color, which is (aside from mana ramp) the only thing Green has going for it.
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)
Green needs some sort of evasion. The color no longer leads the power curve in big creatures. No evasion, serious lack of combat enhancement and general lack of rule text specials leave very little in the way of viable strategies for the color. Green is now about Ramp or winning by giving all your creatures trample for a single win or lose alpha strike. Not much else and not very fun. Even Elves mostly rely on the trample to win approach.

Making hexproof a Green hallmark would have been great. Too bad 2 of the 3 that actually have hexproof are pretty pointless. Hexproof alone just protects a card that probably wouldn't draw the fire of enemy spells or abilities. Now, if Hexproof were on creatures with actual value or utility, it might restore some luster to green. Why couldn't Gladecover Scout have been a 1/1 mana producer with Hexproof, or a 1/1 Hexproof with Battlecry? How about nice, large trampling creature with Hexproof?

Looking at the flavor of Green, why not more cards that can subvert an enemy's land? Thorny Overgrowth to enchant enemy land to cause 1 damage when that land is tapped? A Green version of Spreading Seas maybe makes even more sense than Spreading Seas itself does. What happened to Ice Storm? Why did Red get to steal away Land Destruction? Green was the color to debut doing damage to an opponent equal to the number of cards in that player's hand, why did Red also get to steal that away from Green? (Red, in general, seems to also get creature boosting mechanics that would have made as much sense, if not more sense, for Green, the "color of creatures".  Bloodthirst makes a lot of sense for Green's beasties and Battlecray makes a lot of sense for Green's Humanoids). Occassionally a block seems to throw Green some nice tools, but if those tools actually make the color viable, those tools tend to vanish with out something worthy to replace them.

What the heck guys?
Wait, so M12 was pencils down before the M11 pre-release? We hadn't yet cracked any packs of M11 before they were done making M12?



Let me clarify this, because I think it's important.

I said that we had to make a decision on the Titans before you'd seen M11, not that we were completely done with M12 by then. I was a little vague about the production timeline, for a number of reasons, but I don't want to give the impression that each core set is constructed with no idea how the previous one was received.

The Titans are important Constructed cards, so we needed to decide early whether or not it was worth the FFL's time to start testing with them. If the Titans had flopped in the real world, there probably would have been time to take them back out. But the longer we waited, the less time there would be for design, playtesting, art commissioning, localization, etc. for whatever we replaced them with.

So it's not that there's a single moment when we're "done," with the whole set in flux until then; it's that there are dozens of moments when one or another part of the process is "done," and any changes get successively harder after each of those moments.

Told you it was timey-wimey.



Thanks for the update, but it still doesn't sit well with me. I've known for a while you guys work way out in advance, and I still think it really makes it unnecessarily hard for you guys to react to problem cards in a timely manner. 

I have to agree with Fiontar here: 

I

That out of the way, although I appreciate that there has to be solid lead time between design and launch, I'm just dumbfounded at how little flexibility your design process seems to allow for sets to be adjusted based on how recently released sets play out in the real world. Looking to the titans example, just what about Titans made them require a decision for inclusion of exclusion in 2012, before 2011 even launched? The Titans may cause the exclusion of certain cards from the core, to prevent serious combo abuse, but it's hard to see any cards that are in the core set that would only be there if Titans also coexisted with them.

There should be the flexibility to pull them from the set even up until six months before launch. If you pulled them, then what would go in their place? You should have alternate Mythics (and cards of every other rarity level) in testing so that late cancellation is at least viable if the real world meta highlights things you weren't expecting.

Beyond greater flexibility to alter a set's load out closer to launch, there is another issue that seems to be brought into focus by this article and others we have seen on the design process. It's seems pretty clear that your internal beta testing Future League is not sufficient to test your product. You probably should quadruple the number of teams doing this work and have structured testing procedures in place to evaluate variations on the set to find what works best. Testing four different possible "realities" for a future set in parallel would give more flexibility to the design process.

(Cards that get extensive testing, but have to be pared down or tabled for adjustment can always make it into future sets. In this case, developing and testing replacements for all five Titans would have given the option of replacing any or all of them once results from the real world meta started to roll in).

Using huge lead times as excuses for set decisions that leave the player base confused, angry or underwhelmed is really bad form. It just highlights the need for more robust testing and development procedures with in Wizards.




I realize the difficulty in designing alternate cards and also in hiring more FFL staff, but the easiest solution would be to use reprints in those cases where you would need to pull a card late in the development cycle. Like I just said in another thread (regarding the reprinting of the core set duals): there's no need to keep reinventing the wheel. Too often it seems WOTC will bash it's brains out trying to fix something, when they could just use an older card and move on to the next problem. Mark talks about card designs being shelved all the time to be revisited later, so it shouldn't be that out of place. 




Also wanted to chime in on this point: 

I


P.S. I can't end with out returning to a few pet peeves. IMO:

  1. Stop printing so many cards that are complete and obvious junk, due to outrageous CMC to power ratios. Waste of art work, development time, ink and a horrible waste of the trees that were harvested to make the paper stock. It's bad enough that experts can go through a 250+ card set and only identify a couple dozen, at most, that even have a snowball's chance in hell of showing up in Standard Tourney decks. Things just become sickeningly worse when a large portion of the set isn't even worth playing in a casual deck.





You know, I can't draw worth a spit, and I've always been jealous of folks that can turn out amazing art just with a pencil and a piece of scrap paper. If I could do the really fantastic art that Magic showcases, and I turned in an amazing piece, and it got used on limited filler that was relegated to the nickel card box after its set rotated... sure I'd be glad that it got seen and I got paid for it and all that... but still....it's gotta be a little hearbreaking. 

You know, I haven't trotted out my "points" argument against bad cards in a while, and there's always new people joining these boards so here goes:


Despite the best arguments from WOTC, I have never been, and never will be convinced that truly bad cards need to exist. 

"But surely not every card can be great!" The counter argument goes, "not every card can be equal in power!"

While I technically disagree, and feel that a game could be created that had all equally powerful (though different) cards, a game that would be won on who played the best instead of who drew (or paid for) their more powerful card first, I will accept that conceit for the purpose of this argument. 

Now, here's how to get rid of the truly bad cards: 

Wizards has admitted that they use some sort of "points" system when designing sets. The better the card, the more points it's worth. Now they've never explained the scale (to my knowledge), or how exactly they award the points, so I'll just use a 10 point scale (0-bad, 10-uber strong). So WOTC is making a set, they get to the point of awarding points, and lets say the points range from 8.5 at the top to 2.5 at the bottom. So here's what you do, you get rid of that 2.5. Either fix it or replace it. 

"But milo, doesn't that just make the next lowest card the "worst" card in the set?" 

Yes, but! That next lower card usually a score in the 5's or 6's. So now you're range is between 5 and 8. Doesn't that sound a lot better? You no longer have that one outlier bad card, stinking up the average points of the set. 5's and 6's I can accept as "basic building blocks" or even "limited filler". 2's, 3's or 4's (especially when they're done just because somebody thought they were funny ... is simply unacceptable. 


Also, I wish I could say I enjoyed this article, cause I mostly did but when it brings up sore spots, it's not as enjoyable
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
Now, here's how to get rid of the truly bad cards: 

Wizards has admitted that they use some sort of "points" system when designing sets. The better the card, the more points it's worth. Now they've never explained the scale (to my knowledge), or how exactly they award the points, so I'll just use a 10 point scale (0-bad, 10-uber strong). So WOTC is making a set, they get to the point of awarding points, and lets say the points range from 8.5 at the top to 2.5 at the bottom. So here's what you do, you get rid of that 2.5. Either fix it or replace it. 

"But milo, doesn't that just make the next lowest card the "worst" card in the set?" 

Yes, but! That next lower card usually a score in the 5's or 6's. So now you're range is between 5 and 8. Doesn't that sound a lot better? You no longer have that one outlier bad card, stinking up the average points of the set. 5's and 6's I can accept as "basic building blocks" or even "limited filler". 2's, 3's or 4's (especially when they're done just because somebody thought they were funny ... is simply unacceptable.


First of all I'm going to say I agree wholeheartedly with you on Mindless Null. When printing a card that everyone knows is going to be absolute junk, "it's funny" should hold absolutely no weight, the card should just not be printed. Period.

However, In regards to your point about their points system. I think what you're referring to is the "complexity points" system, which doesn't mean anything at all for power level. They only allow themselves to make a certain number of really complex designs, in order to keep the brain-melting aspect of the game to a minimum.

The reason they print "bad cards" is because there is some type of player out there that likes those cards, or some format where those cards shine. They (hopefully) very rarely sit down to actually make a card they know from the start will be unplayable. Some cards are made strictly for Limited, some cards are made strictly as answers to keep certain strategies in check, some cards are made for Johnnies to play as a "take that" to everyone who says the card is junk... The reason there appear to be so many bad cards in the game is a testament to how popular it is: so many different types of people play this game, and each type favors something different.

Finally, the power level of the game on a card-by-card level has to ebb and flow. If all cards are equally powerful (which is impossible to pull off, because R&D is only human) then the only way to get people excited enough to buy more cards is to up the power level of the next set. Without the ability to step back down in power level, this will lead to horrible power creep. So, while some cards may be weaker than others (Shock compared to Lightning Bolt) that doesn't mean the weaker card is bad. It can still see play as the power level shifts.

In conclusion:
They don't point cards based on power level but on complexity.
"Bad" cards are just not meant for you, or are for a different format (like Limited).
There is no realistic way to make all cards equally "good", so some cards will always be comparatively "bad".
"Bad" cards are required to keep power level in check over an extended period of time.
IMAGE(http://images.community.wizards.com/community.wizards.com/user/blitzschnell/c6f9e416e5e0e1f0a1e5c42b0c7b3e88.jpg?v=90000)
I love Mindless Null! One of my favorite commons of the last so many years =)
The snicker it gave me is more of an impression than 100 inconspicuous commons together provide.  
Now, here's how to get rid of the truly bad cards: 

Wizards has admitted that they use some sort of "points" system when designing sets. The better the card, the more points it's worth. Now they've never explained the scale (to my knowledge), or how exactly they award the points, so I'll just use a 10 point scale (0-bad, 10-uber strong). So WOTC is making a set, they get to the point of awarding points, and lets say the points range from 8.5 at the top to 2.5 at the bottom. So here's what you do, you get rid of that 2.5. Either fix it or replace it. 

"But milo, doesn't that just make the next lowest card the "worst" card in the set?" 

Yes, but! That next lower card usually a score in the 5's or 6's. So now you're range is between 5 and 8. Doesn't that sound a lot better? You no longer have that one outlier bad card, stinking up the average points of the set. 5's and 6's I can accept as "basic building blocks" or even "limited filler". 2's, 3's or 4's (especially when they're done just because somebody thought they were funny ... is simply unacceptable.


First of all I'm going to say I agree wholeheartedly with you on Mindless Null. When printing a card that everyone knows is going to be absolute junk, "it's funny" should hold absolutely no weight, the card should just not be printed. Period.

However, In regards to your point about their points system. I think what you're referring to is the "complexity points" system, which doesn't mean anything at all for power level. They only allow themselves to make a certain number of really complex designs, in order to keep the brain-melting aspect of the game to a minimum.

The reason they print "bad cards" is because there is some type of player out there that likes those cards, or some format where those cards shine. They (hopefully) very rarely sit down to actually make a card they know from the start will be unplayable. Some cards are made strictly for Limited, some cards are made strictly as answers to keep certain strategies in check, some cards are made for Johnnies to play as a "take that" to everyone who says the card is junk... The reason there appear to be so many bad cards in the game is a testament to how popular it is: so many different types of people play this game, and each type favors something different.

Finally, the power level of the game on a card-by-card level has to ebb and flow. If all cards are equally powerful (which is impossible to pull off, because R&D is only human) then the only way to get people excited enough to buy more cards is to up the power level of the next set. Without the ability to step back down in power level, this will lead to horrible power creep. So, while some cards may be weaker than others (Shock compared to Lightning Bolt) that doesn't mean the weaker card is bad. It can still see play as the power level shifts.

In conclusion:
They don't point cards based on power level but on complexity.
"Bad" cards are just not meant for you, or are for a different format (like Limited).
There is no realistic way to make all cards equally "good", so some cards will always be comparatively "bad".
"Bad" cards are required to keep power level in check over an extended period of time.



Cards should never be "made just for limited". By default, that would mean "play and toss", which is a bad thing. Unfortunately, there are many cards in 2012 that are so poor, they don't even have value for the casual player. Even if some of those might have a small chance in showing up in the limited deck of someone who drew a poor pool, that doesn't make it worth the paper it was printed on.

I'd like to see Magic design move back towards allowing numerous viable decks that don't need a single Mythic and maybe a smattering of Rares. Any deck theme that requires Mythics should give a slight edge, but only be a reasonable improvement on a theme that can also be achieved with Rares. In fact, after thinking about this a lot lately, I think that all Mythics should be printed as Legendary. Where viable, I would also like to see rare "imitations" of Mythics that can serve the same role in a theme or combo, but not quite as well. (e.g. Lesser Titans with more limited versions of the Titan abilities or with additional activation costs).

So,  please Wizards, no more junk cards that aren't even worth play in casual decks and often don't even make a limited cut; Also, do something about Mythics. Making all Mythics Legendary, or even limiting them to one of each Mythic per deck (Restricted by Design) would be something to consider, as well as designing slightly poorer "imitations" that can serve the same role in a theme or combo, while being less efficient at it.

I love Mindless Null! One of my favorite commons of the last so many years =)
The snicker it gave me is more of an impression than 100 inconspicuous commons together provide.  


I am really glad I am not the only one who thinks that way and absolutely loves Mindless Null. I would add Scythe Tiger to that general sentiment as another example, but clearly Scythe Tiger is the greatest card ever and everyone should be splashing green to play it before it rotates.
I hope that isn't meant to be sarcasm. Rogue Elephant used to be pretty l33t, and the Tiger is just as good. Standard is not exactly friendly to attempts at playing Stompy, but the card itself is hardly awful.
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I hope that isn't meant to be sarcasm. Rogue Elephant used to be pretty l33t, and the Tiger is just as good. Standard is not exactly friendly to attempts at playing Stompy, but the card itself is hardly awful.


Honestly, I have mixed feeling on the subject. I was exagerating, but... I'd be lieing if I didn't find Scythe Tiget awesome. Hell, I even ran a Standard Stompy deck for a while with it at the head. It was surprisingly good, between all the pump at the time and the inclusion of Garuuk's Companion and Leatherback Baloth (the baloth being the only three mana or higher card in the entire deck) it actually ran surprisingly well. I loved getting to go Forest, Tiger, Forest, Tiger XD Unfortunately it got hurt once Alara rotated and I lost a few super strong cards for it like Tukatongue Thallid (which was the only thing that made it even half way resilient to wrath effects).

So yeah, I loves me some Scythe Tiger, and though Rogue Elephant is by far the better card, it's a very good card regardless.
I hope that isn't meant to be sarcasm. Rogue Elephant used to be pretty l33t, and the Tiger is just as good. Standard is not exactly friendly to attempts at playing Stompy, but the card itself is hardly awful.



I do think the 2 toughness is a major drawback as many decks play a number of 2/x creatures. The shroud can hurt to as I remember casual decks that paired the Elephant with Rancor and the like =)
Shroud? The Tiger needed Hexproof instead.