Dark Ascension Live Chat with Tom LaPille & Zac Hill TODAY at 4pm PST!

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Hey everyone! We're going to have a live chat with some of the development team from Dark Ascension! Tom LaPille & Zac Hill will be taking your questions here community.wizards.com/go/chat/3 starting at 4pm PST!

Can't make the chat? Ask your questions here!

*DO NOT* ask for more previews or cards we haven't seen yet. This will be on the development of Dark Ascension!

See you at 4pm! 
Michael Robles Community Manager Wizards of the Coast Twitter: @michaelrobles
Looking at some of the previews, I've noticed a number of lord-type creatures being issued as uncommons (as opposed to rares). Besides being awesome, is this indicative of a shift in rarity to make cards that are more casual-oriented easier to obtain?
what is behind the development of grafdigger's cage? for a lot of people the card looks very format-breaking specially in eternal ones.
i was about to ask the same question as Geleroff2......i mainly play eternal formats and mostly legacy but i don't like the thought of having this card kill certain archetypes :/
Since I probably won't be able to make it to the chat, my question is, what was the inspiration behind the Undying mechanic? Did it just seem simple enough to make an opposite to Persist in a horror/graveyard-based block?
Has the proliferation of Commander format (EDH) affected at all the way you design legendary creatures?
I'll ask my two questions from the Innistrad open chat that got passed over and a new one:

Q: With so many great group-type creatures in this block (Mobs of humans, packs of wolves, cults of worshippers, covens of vampires, and hordes of zombies), why was Banding not considered for this block?  I miss PikemenSmile

Banding seems like a perfect fit, as there could be heroic martyrs, those left for (un)dead, thinning of the packs, and dutiful initiates that would add to the fun and interaction of the game... It seems especially important that the humans "Band" together if they are to have a chance against so many perils.

Q: Also, what's up with Morbid? Almost every other mechanic's action is a constant (Flashback, Rebound, Trample, Banding, First Strike, Bloodthirst, Intimidate, Suspend, Hexproof, etc.), we get that Morbid means when something dies, but each card's Morbid ability is completely different. Some activate upon casting (Brimstone Volley) or when entering the battlefield (Morkrut Banshee), others activate at end steps Reaper from the Abyss or any old time they please (Skirsdag High Priest).  With so many different variations, why waste the space on the card with a Mechanic name? I.e. Lumberknot seems like it should say Morbid, but doesn't, and looks/works just fine (Could have said Morbid - Place a +1/+1 counter on Lumberknot for each creature that died this turn).

The new question:
Q: WOW! Grafdigger's Cage really shuts down this block's mechanics... What was the thought behind adding it to this particular set (as opposed to waiting until the next, or until M2013)? 

Thanks for your time! I hope they all get answered. 
GRAFDIGGERS CAGE.This card has major implications on Vintage , it assists massively currently already broken decks, we get abused constantly in eternal why continue with another ridiculous hoser?
I'll fourth the Crafdigger's Cage. It seems to kill so many decks that the Inn block seemed to try and encourage. And just locks them out of competitive formats even further.
Question(s) towards the state of the standard meta:

Is R&D happy about the current state of the meta?

When the environment is healthy, are they ever nervous about the introduction of new variables to the environment?

What positive quality does Tom/Zac hope to introduce to the standard meta with Dark Ascension? What negative quality do they hope to diminish?

<a href="http://www.wizards.com/Magic/PlaneswalkerPoints/1206663433"><img src="http://pwp.wizards.com/1206663433/Scorecards/Landscape.png" border="0" /></a>

Since I probably won't be able to make it to the chat, my question is, what was the inspiration behind the Undying mechanic? Did it just seem simple enough to make an opposite to Persist in a horror/graveyard-based block?

wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?...
Why did you decide to hold off on Human tokens until Dark Ascension rather than Innistrad?

Let me guess: Mark Rosewater was behind the Increasing cycle, yes?

What made you decide to start including printed Emblems in booster packs?

What's the difference between Demons and Devils, and why did you decide to use the latter in this block rather than just Demons?

If someone from Creative is within shouting distance to answer this: Is the Avacynian Church aware of Avacyn's artificial nature? Was Avacyn herself aware of it? If so, do they know she was created by Sorin? If so, what do they think of that?

Q: Also, what's up with Morbid? Almost every other mechanic's action is a constant (Flashback, Rebound, Trample, Banding, First Strike, Bloodthirst, Intimidate, Suspend, Hexproof, etc.), we get that Morbid means when something dies, but each card's Morbid ability is completely different. Some activate upon casting (Brimstone Volley) or when entering the battlefield (Morkrut Banshee), others activate at end steps Reaper from the Abyss or any old time they please (Skirsdag High Priest).  With so many different variations, why waste the space on the card with a Mechanic name? I.e. Lumberknot seems like it should say Morbid, but doesn't, and looks/works just fine (Could have said Morbid - Place a +1/+1 counter on Lumberknot for each creature that died this turn).

Here's your answer for you.

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

One of the things we saw with Scars block was the fact that it always seemed inevitable that the Phyrexians would win from Besieged onward and that Phyrexians seemed to get the better and "cooler" cards. With Dark Ascension being the set where things "get worse" for the Humans, how did the team go about emphasising the peril the Humans were in, without it seeming utterly hopeless, alongside balancing things to make the Humans the side in trouble, without giving the more powerful cards, both mechanical and flavourwise, to the non-Human populace of Innistrad?
Could the development team take shortcuts with Undying because of what they already knew about Persist, or was Undying its own beast?  How much of that kind of knowledge persists from one set to the next?
What was your perception of the Innistrad draft format when you started developing Dark Ascension, and in what direction did you want to change it? (Speed it up? Slow it down?)

How long has Tarmogoyf been in the Dark Ascension file? 

When you started playing Standard with Dark Ascension in the Future Future League, what Scars block card suddenly made a splash?  

 


Here's your answer for you.



Thanks, I'm guessing you're referring to the "Chroma" section with regards to my question.
While it answers the bulk of my question, it still doesn't explain why they didn't add Morbid to Lumberknot... 
So Morbid is essentially there for making it easy to identify cards that have abilities based on creatures dying.

If that's the case I'd like to see Affinity and Lord to make it easier to identify cards that have */* and +1/+1 to tribe. Smile
Erm... is that chat link working correctly?  'cause I get a pretty misrendered page...
Magic Judge Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Rules Theory and Templating: "They may be crazy, but they're good." --Matt Tabak, Rules Manager*
What's with the library bit on Grafdigger's Cage? I mean seriously.
blah blah metal lyrics
Erm... is that chat link working correctly?  'cause I get a pretty misrendered page...



Not for me, anyone that can paste a link would be awesome.
This is where the chat is happening: http://community.wizards.com/go/chat/3
Michael Robles Community Manager Wizards of the Coast Twitter: @michaelrobles
This is where the chat is happening: http://community.wizards.com/go/chat/3

The link does not work.
www.community.wizards.com/go/chat/3

See if that works. Sometimes the www can make a difference. 
Michael Robles Community Manager Wizards of the Coast Twitter: @michaelrobles
I'm still not able to view the chat.
At the top of your screen there should be a bar with "Home", "Profile", "Inbox", etc.  "Chat" is near the right-hand side.  The links posted didn't work, but the "Chat" link at the top did (after taking a few seconds to load).

"Go, then. There are other worlds than these." -- Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Please feel free to copy this message into your sig.

At the top of your screen there should be a bar with "Home", "Profile", "Inbox", etc.  "Chat" is near the right-hand side.  The links posted didn't work, but the "Chat" link at the top did (after taking a few seconds to load).



Whether I use the link or click it on the top navigation I get the same error: "You have been disconnected for inactivity."
My page simply fails to load properly.  It says "Chat", but there's graphic glitches, most of the page is blank, and the two buttons "Disconnect" and "Show Rooms" are greyed out.

EDIT: Regardless of which link I use.  (At least it's consistent )
Magic Judge Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Rules Theory and Templating: "They may be crazy, but they're good." --Matt Tabak, Rules Manager*
My page simply fails to load properly.  It says "Chat", but there's graphic glitches, most of the page is blank, and the two buttons "Disconnect" and "Show Rooms" are greyed out.

EDIT: Regardless of which link I use.  (At least it's consistent )



That's what happened for me; after several seconds the actual chat room appeared.  Weird (but not unrepresentative of the fora as a whole).

"Go, then. There are other worlds than these." -- Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Please feel free to copy this message into your sig.

Still not working for me... Any other suggestions?
Out of curiousity since I missed most of the chat session, did they field any questions about Grafdigger's Cage?  If so, what did they have to say about it?
Out of curiousity since I missed most of the chat session, did they field any questions about Grafdigger's Cage?  If so, what did they have to say about it?

Official Speaker of the Expanded Multiverse Project, Step into Dominia-Embrace the infinite Magic of the Planes. This -> is my favorite smiley, I will use it often and without reason. You have been warned.
The Story of My Love
79035425 wrote:
BURSTING WITH VIGOR!
Trolljuju wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued his slow trudge up the snowy mountain. The wind was strong and fiercely cold, but he pressed against it. Juju knew Beast Engine was somewhere at the peak, waiting for him. But this was not a matter of confronting the forces of nature themselves; that had been accomplished long before, and was now too easy to maintain the manly man's interest. Today, Beast Engine was here waiting for a friend. Trolljuju's mind drifted from his appointment to thoughts of Beast Engine's manliness. The only man in history to punch the fossilized remains of a dinosaur back to life just to punch it to death again. The man who deflected bullets with his pectoral muscles during his daily assassination attempts. The man who cured cancer with a serum made from pure crystalized virility. The man who burst with vigor. Not just a man but a Man- the manliest of all men. A god of masculinity in physical form. Trolljuju's heart fluttered at the memory of him and lightened his steps as he pressed on. Suddenly, he was shaken from his reverie by a deep, powerful rumble in the mountain that shook him to his core. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground just before the slope ahead of him exploded in a fiery wall of light and heat. So great was the force that the entire upper section of the mountain was vaproized. It scorched Juju's coat, then rose on the air to drift far away, a plume of white-hot ash. When Trolljuju lifted his head to see what was left behind, he beheld a wide, perfectly flat stone plateau, and in the distance he could see a muscular figure, his foot still held up from the kick. There was no doubt it was Beast Engine. As soon as the ground beneath him cooled, Juju cast his heavy pack aside and ran. As the figure grew with closeness, he could see Beast Engine was nude, as was expected. The snow that fell near him turned to a thin wall of steam, looking to Trolljuju's eyes like a barrier. Engine was too strong, too manly to occupy the same space as the ordinary universe. He lived in a world all his own. But fortunately for Juju, it was only an illusion. He ran at full speed into Engine, who caught him with both arms and effortlessly twirled with him, resting with Juju dipped low to the ground in Engine's arms. "Beast Engine, my love," Trolljuju breathed, sturck with awe at Engine's masculine beauty despite the familiarity of his face. Engine just smiled, radiating from every inch of him with incredible strength, yet gentle warmth. "It's been so long, Juju. I've missed you." "Forgive me. I lost contact with you while you were boxing with Death to win back and consume the soul of Theodore Roosevelt. But now I'm here..." Juju lifted one tentative hand to Engine's face, but he pulled away. "You know I cannot give you what you seek. Were we to make love, your body would be destroyed by the force." "I know, of course I would," Juju responded, tears in his eyes. "May I have, at least, one kiss?" "Very well. For you, my friend." Slowly, gingerly, they came closer. But the moment their lips met, a flood of unbridled manliness rushed into Trolljuju, body and soul, and every cell in his body exploded. Beast Engine fell to his knees, and in his grief, he wept. The tears that fell from his face burned deep into the rock beneath him. But slowly, his sorrow turned to conviction. He beat the crap out of Death once. He could do it again.
I am not sure if they will be publishing the transcript. I captured it 
justpaste.it/om9
I am not sure if they will be publishing the transcript. I captured it 
justpaste.it/om9



Thank you, here's their answer for the Cage

[8:04:41] WotC_Microbless:
We're getting A LOT of questions about one card in particular.


[8:04:44] WotC_Microbless:
From mtgcolorpie: Grafdigger's Cage was clearly made by Development. Is is the second block in a row where you printed
a "safety plug" in the 2nd set of the block. Is this something we're going to see regularly now after not seeing it?
2nd part: Was it printed to change up older formats?


[8:04:56] Chats:
Can I nab this one?


[8:04:58] WotC_TomLaPille:
sure!


[8:05:09] WotC_Microbless:
(you can also share the spotlight guys)


[8:05:18] Chats:
yay spotlights!


[8:05:20] Chats:
::basks::


[8:05:23] WotC_TomLaPille:
I blame Birthing Pod.


[8:05:52] WotC_TomLaPille:
We had some Birthing Pod decks we thought were really strong, and we wanted something pretty reasonable against them.


[8:05:56] Chats:
So I'm actually writing a Latest Developments about this right now. The short answer re: Cage is that, with the
increasing virtual 'speed' of Standard formats due to independent tournament circuits and more GPs, we can't afford to
wait around a year to print cards like Great Sable Stag


[8:06:36] Chats:
What this means is that we have to 'hate' pre-emptively on more archetypes that are doing well in testing, which means
the nature of our target is going to be a little harder to hit


[8:06:54] Chats:
Pod and Reanimator were both *very* strong in testing, as was Snapcaster, so we wanted a card that hit all of them.


[8:06:58] WotC_TomLaPille:
What Zac just said is also true. I think three years ago putting the Titans into M12 would have been unambiguously
correct, but now that there are so many more tournaments things need to change faster. Grafdigger's Cage is paart of
that.


[8:07:11] WotC_TomLaPille:
I'm done.


[8:07:26] Chats:
We were obviously aware of the tremendous implications of the card for older formats, but to us that was viewed as
upside, mostly. Because these formats don't rotate, you have to work a lot harder to shake them up.


[8:07:36] Chats:
That needs to happen periodically.


[8:07:50] Chats:
(done--until next Friday's column, anyway )


Official Speaker of the Expanded Multiverse Project, Step into Dominia-Embrace the infinite Magic of the Planes. This -> is my favorite smiley, I will use it often and without reason. You have been warned.
The Story of My Love
79035425 wrote:
BURSTING WITH VIGOR!
Trolljuju wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued his slow trudge up the snowy mountain. The wind was strong and fiercely cold, but he pressed against it. Juju knew Beast Engine was somewhere at the peak, waiting for him. But this was not a matter of confronting the forces of nature themselves; that had been accomplished long before, and was now too easy to maintain the manly man's interest. Today, Beast Engine was here waiting for a friend. Trolljuju's mind drifted from his appointment to thoughts of Beast Engine's manliness. The only man in history to punch the fossilized remains of a dinosaur back to life just to punch it to death again. The man who deflected bullets with his pectoral muscles during his daily assassination attempts. The man who cured cancer with a serum made from pure crystalized virility. The man who burst with vigor. Not just a man but a Man- the manliest of all men. A god of masculinity in physical form. Trolljuju's heart fluttered at the memory of him and lightened his steps as he pressed on. Suddenly, he was shaken from his reverie by a deep, powerful rumble in the mountain that shook him to his core. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground just before the slope ahead of him exploded in a fiery wall of light and heat. So great was the force that the entire upper section of the mountain was vaproized. It scorched Juju's coat, then rose on the air to drift far away, a plume of white-hot ash. When Trolljuju lifted his head to see what was left behind, he beheld a wide, perfectly flat stone plateau, and in the distance he could see a muscular figure, his foot still held up from the kick. There was no doubt it was Beast Engine. As soon as the ground beneath him cooled, Juju cast his heavy pack aside and ran. As the figure grew with closeness, he could see Beast Engine was nude, as was expected. The snow that fell near him turned to a thin wall of steam, looking to Trolljuju's eyes like a barrier. Engine was too strong, too manly to occupy the same space as the ordinary universe. He lived in a world all his own. But fortunately for Juju, it was only an illusion. He ran at full speed into Engine, who caught him with both arms and effortlessly twirled with him, resting with Juju dipped low to the ground in Engine's arms. "Beast Engine, my love," Trolljuju breathed, sturck with awe at Engine's masculine beauty despite the familiarity of his face. Engine just smiled, radiating from every inch of him with incredible strength, yet gentle warmth. "It's been so long, Juju. I've missed you." "Forgive me. I lost contact with you while you were boxing with Death to win back and consume the soul of Theodore Roosevelt. But now I'm here..." Juju lifted one tentative hand to Engine's face, but he pulled away. "You know I cannot give you what you seek. Were we to make love, your body would be destroyed by the force." "I know, of course I would," Juju responded, tears in his eyes. "May I have, at least, one kiss?" "Very well. For you, my friend." Slowly, gingerly, they came closer. But the moment their lips met, a flood of unbridled manliness rushed into Trolljuju, body and soul, and every cell in his body exploded. Beast Engine fell to his knees, and in his grief, he wept. The tears that fell from his face burned deep into the rock beneath him. But slowly, his sorrow turned to conviction. He beat the crap out of Death once. He could do it again.
It came up again later;

[8:18:03] WotC_Microbless:
Going back to Grafdigger's Cage (because EVERYONE is asking about it)


[8:18:04] WotC_Microbless:
From Polendino: When Grafdigger's Cage was handed to Development, what did it look like? What changes were made?
Thanks for making DKA <span class='status-icon status-happy'></span>


[8:18:25] WotC_TomLaPille:
It was never handed to development. We made it late in the process to solve a problem, right down to late-
commissioning new art.


[8:18:26] Chats:
It wasn't handed to Development. It was made *during* development to solve problems!


[8:18:45] WotC_TomLaPille:
That's the sort of thing we only get to do once or twice per set, and only to solve FFL problems. Grafdigger's Cage
was mine.


[8:18:51] WotC_TomLaPille:
I'm done.


[8:18:55] Chats:
donesies


Official Speaker of the Expanded Multiverse Project, Step into Dominia-Embrace the infinite Magic of the Planes. This -> is my favorite smiley, I will use it often and without reason. You have been warned.
The Story of My Love
79035425 wrote:
BURSTING WITH VIGOR!
Trolljuju wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued his slow trudge up the snowy mountain. The wind was strong and fiercely cold, but he pressed against it. Juju knew Beast Engine was somewhere at the peak, waiting for him. But this was not a matter of confronting the forces of nature themselves; that had been accomplished long before, and was now too easy to maintain the manly man's interest. Today, Beast Engine was here waiting for a friend. Trolljuju's mind drifted from his appointment to thoughts of Beast Engine's manliness. The only man in history to punch the fossilized remains of a dinosaur back to life just to punch it to death again. The man who deflected bullets with his pectoral muscles during his daily assassination attempts. The man who cured cancer with a serum made from pure crystalized virility. The man who burst with vigor. Not just a man but a Man- the manliest of all men. A god of masculinity in physical form. Trolljuju's heart fluttered at the memory of him and lightened his steps as he pressed on. Suddenly, he was shaken from his reverie by a deep, powerful rumble in the mountain that shook him to his core. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground just before the slope ahead of him exploded in a fiery wall of light and heat. So great was the force that the entire upper section of the mountain was vaproized. It scorched Juju's coat, then rose on the air to drift far away, a plume of white-hot ash. When Trolljuju lifted his head to see what was left behind, he beheld a wide, perfectly flat stone plateau, and in the distance he could see a muscular figure, his foot still held up from the kick. There was no doubt it was Beast Engine. As soon as the ground beneath him cooled, Juju cast his heavy pack aside and ran. As the figure grew with closeness, he could see Beast Engine was nude, as was expected. The snow that fell near him turned to a thin wall of steam, looking to Trolljuju's eyes like a barrier. Engine was too strong, too manly to occupy the same space as the ordinary universe. He lived in a world all his own. But fortunately for Juju, it was only an illusion. He ran at full speed into Engine, who caught him with both arms and effortlessly twirled with him, resting with Juju dipped low to the ground in Engine's arms. "Beast Engine, my love," Trolljuju breathed, sturck with awe at Engine's masculine beauty despite the familiarity of his face. Engine just smiled, radiating from every inch of him with incredible strength, yet gentle warmth. "It's been so long, Juju. I've missed you." "Forgive me. I lost contact with you while you were boxing with Death to win back and consume the soul of Theodore Roosevelt. But now I'm here..." Juju lifted one tentative hand to Engine's face, but he pulled away. "You know I cannot give you what you seek. Were we to make love, your body would be destroyed by the force." "I know, of course I would," Juju responded, tears in his eyes. "May I have, at least, one kiss?" "Very well. For you, my friend." Slowly, gingerly, they came closer. But the moment their lips met, a flood of unbridled manliness rushed into Trolljuju, body and soul, and every cell in his body exploded. Beast Engine fell to his knees, and in his grief, he wept. The tears that fell from his face burned deep into the rock beneath him. But slowly, his sorrow turned to conviction. He beat the crap out of Death once. He could do it again.
I am not sure if they will be publishing the transcript. I captured it 
justpaste.it/om9

Thanks a bunch!!!

& Thank you to Mike, Zac, and Tom (and anyone else) for doing the chat.  Even when I can't join in live, I always enjoy reading what you all had to say
Magic Judge Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Rules Theory and Templating: "They may be crazy, but they're good." --Matt Tabak, Rules Manager*
Who is "Chats" in the transcripts?
 
Who is "Chats" in the transcripts?
 



Zac Hill
Official Speaker of the Expanded Multiverse Project, Step into Dominia-Embrace the infinite Magic of the Planes. This -> is my favorite smiley, I will use it often and without reason. You have been warned.
The Story of My Love
79035425 wrote:
BURSTING WITH VIGOR!
Trolljuju wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued his slow trudge up the snowy mountain. The wind was strong and fiercely cold, but he pressed against it. Juju knew Beast Engine was somewhere at the peak, waiting for him. But this was not a matter of confronting the forces of nature themselves; that had been accomplished long before, and was now too easy to maintain the manly man's interest. Today, Beast Engine was here waiting for a friend. Trolljuju's mind drifted from his appointment to thoughts of Beast Engine's manliness. The only man in history to punch the fossilized remains of a dinosaur back to life just to punch it to death again. The man who deflected bullets with his pectoral muscles during his daily assassination attempts. The man who cured cancer with a serum made from pure crystalized virility. The man who burst with vigor. Not just a man but a Man- the manliest of all men. A god of masculinity in physical form. Trolljuju's heart fluttered at the memory of him and lightened his steps as he pressed on. Suddenly, he was shaken from his reverie by a deep, powerful rumble in the mountain that shook him to his core. Instinctively, he threw himself to the ground just before the slope ahead of him exploded in a fiery wall of light and heat. So great was the force that the entire upper section of the mountain was vaproized. It scorched Juju's coat, then rose on the air to drift far away, a plume of white-hot ash. When Trolljuju lifted his head to see what was left behind, he beheld a wide, perfectly flat stone plateau, and in the distance he could see a muscular figure, his foot still held up from the kick. There was no doubt it was Beast Engine. As soon as the ground beneath him cooled, Juju cast his heavy pack aside and ran. As the figure grew with closeness, he could see Beast Engine was nude, as was expected. The snow that fell near him turned to a thin wall of steam, looking to Trolljuju's eyes like a barrier. Engine was too strong, too manly to occupy the same space as the ordinary universe. He lived in a world all his own. But fortunately for Juju, it was only an illusion. He ran at full speed into Engine, who caught him with both arms and effortlessly twirled with him, resting with Juju dipped low to the ground in Engine's arms. "Beast Engine, my love," Trolljuju breathed, sturck with awe at Engine's masculine beauty despite the familiarity of his face. Engine just smiled, radiating from every inch of him with incredible strength, yet gentle warmth. "It's been so long, Juju. I've missed you." "Forgive me. I lost contact with you while you were boxing with Death to win back and consume the soul of Theodore Roosevelt. But now I'm here..." Juju lifted one tentative hand to Engine's face, but he pulled away. "You know I cannot give you what you seek. Were we to make love, your body would be destroyed by the force." "I know, of course I would," Juju responded, tears in his eyes. "May I have, at least, one kiss?" "Very well. For you, my friend." Slowly, gingerly, they came closer. But the moment their lips met, a flood of unbridled manliness rushed into Trolljuju, body and soul, and every cell in his body exploded. Beast Engine fell to his knees, and in his grief, he wept. The tears that fell from his face burned deep into the rock beneath him. But slowly, his sorrow turned to conviction. He beat the crap out of Death once. He could do it again.
The beginning of the transcript is a bunch of bad Magic/Snow jokes.
Dark Ascension Chat Transcript

Zac Hill: Hi all! ::waves:: This is Magic Developer Zac Hill. Howdy. I was on both the DKA design and development teams. For the most part, that meant helping Tom and Lead Designer Mark Rosewater do their jobs.

Tom LaPille: I am Tom LaPille. I led Dark Ascension development.

Mike Robles: Ok welcome everyone! Looks like Zac & Tom have done their intros! I'm your friendly neighborhood Community Manager Mike Robles! Let's get started.



From the forums: Looking at some of the previews, I've noticed a number of lord-type creatures being issued as uncommons (as opposed to rares). Besides being awesome, is this indicative of a shift in rarity to make cards that are more casual-oriented easier to obtain?

Tom LaPille: I wouldn't call it a permanent shift in rarity. The lords were my idea. Innistrad has lots of tribal stuff in it at low volumes, and horror has many iconic tribes of monsters. Dark Ascension is all about monsters, so I thought it was important for the tribes to get cool lords. I took inspiration from the Onslaught Warchiefs, although I chose to make them gold because our tribes were cross-colored. They are at low rarities so you can draft around them, and because we push things down in rarity when they are more important to a set's identity.



From mtgcolorpie: Grafdigger's Cage was clearly made by Development. This is the second block in a row where you printed a "safety plug" in the 2nd set of the block. Is this something we're going to see regularly now after not seeing it? 2nd part: Was it printed to change up older formats?

Tom LaPille: I blame Birthing Pod. We had some Birthing Pod decks we thought were really strong, and we wanted something pretty reasonable against them.

Zac Hill: So I'm actually writing a Latest Developments about this right now. The short answer re: Cage is that, with the increasing virtual 'speed' of Standard formats due to independent tournament circuits and more GPs, we can't afford to wait around a year to print cards like Great Sable Stag. What this means is that we have to 'hate' pre-emptively on more archetypes that are doing well in testing, which means the nature of our target is going to be a little harder to hit. Pod and Reanimator were both *very* strong in testing, as was Snapcaster, so we wanted a card that hit all of them.

Tom LaPille: What Zac just said is also true. I think three years ago putting the Titans into M12 would have been unambiguously correct, but now that there are so many more tournaments things need to change faster. Grafdigger's Cage is part of that.

Zac Hill: We were obviously aware of the tremendous implications of the card for older formats, but to us that was viewed as upside, mostly. Because these formats don't rotate, you have to work a lot harder to shake them up. That needs to happen periodically.



From Cubey42:  Zombies felt underwhelming for the most part in Innistrad. When developing Dark Ascension, did the team felt this way as well, what were some of the ways the team thought about making zombies more exciting to play?

Tom LaPille: For Constructed, often all a tribe needs is a few sweet cards to push it enough. Dark Ascension has two Zombies that I think have a shot, and you've only seen one of them so far.

Zac Hill: Printing more sweet Zombies! I designed Gravecrawler, which I think you guys have seen already, and I think it's safe to say there's another pretty sweet one (courtesy of Tom) that Zombie lovers will enjoy.

Tom LaPille: I didn't actually make that second one. I think that came from a combination of Erik Lauer and Steve Warner.

Zac Hill: Oh really! I stand corrected.

Tom LaPille: In Limited, I tried to make the new zombie cards play into the same grind-you-out kind of thing that Innistrad had. The uncommon lord in particular helps with that kind of thing, as do a few of the commons. We'll see if that's enough to push it over the top.

Zac Hill: Zombies excel at resilience, so the more of a problem having all your guys killed becomes--the more, for example, removal-based control decks tend to dominate--the more a zombie strategy is going to be well-positioned for an environment.



From Ffancrzy: I have heard many questions about Zombie Apocalypse. Why wasn't this card a Mythic Rare when it certainly feels like one, and why does it return the Zombies to play before killing the Humans instead of Vice Versa? Flavor-wise the Zombies have to come from somewhere!

Tom LaPille: But something has to kill the humans too! As to why it wasn't mythic rare, that never occurred to me. The card is actually a combination of two cards that were once rare. The first card was 2BB Sorcery Destroy All Humans, full stop. The second was the "return all zombies" card. The day I realized that was supposed to be in one text box was a happy one. We only have so many mythic rare slots in each set, and I think the black mythic rare in the set deserved the status more.



From the forums:  One of the things we saw with Scars block was the fact that it always seemed inevitable that the Phyrexians would win from Besieged onward and that Phyrexians seemed to get the better and "cooler" cards. With Dark Ascension being the set where things "get worse" for the Humans, how did the team go about emphasising the peril the Humans were in, without it seeming utterly hopeless, alongside balancing things to make the Humans the side in trouble, without giving the more powerful cards, both mechanical and flavourwise, to the non-Human populace of Innistrad?

Tom LaPille: We have a certain amount of "power points" to spend in each set. Mark Rosewater talked this week about what he thought the set was about--that being how screwed humans were--but all I really did was just spend more of my power points on sweet monsters.

Zac Hill: Regarding the 'peril' part, we tried to do that with one of our mechanics. "Fateful Hour" was originally called Desperation, and I came up with it in response to a Rosewater assignment that involved making a mechanic where humanity seemed 'Desperate'. The idea was that a) You understood that they were in danger, because you were on the verge of death, but b) that was *precisely* how that power you refer to came about. We humans are good at that--'showing up' when situations demand the most of us. So it's not just an issue of a power--it's the circumstances by which that power comes about.

Tom LaPille: Fateful Hour was much louder at the design handoff, and it kept shrinking in size as the set developed further. I think the "roar monsters" feel is more satisfying than angsty negative space tragedy, so I just made cool monsters.



From Sikyanakotik: For the "Fateful Hour" mechanic, how did you build the environment to prevent cards like Lava Axe from making the mechanic irrelevant?

Tom LaPille: As far as I know, Brimstone Volley and Devil's Play are the only cards that can just kill you for doing that. I certainly didn't put any five damage spells in my own set. Many of the Fateful Hour cards let you do a ton of damage, though, so probably the best way to not worry about that is to just kill your opponent soon after they activate.

Zac Hill: (But right, you just have to be diligent in playtesting that the situation where you get to five only to die immediately just doesn't come up a lot. A lot of development isn't like coming from the top-down and saying, 'this environment shalt not kill thine opponents'. It's playtesting iteratively and making sure situations don't occur)



Mike Robles: Going back to Grafdigger's Cage (because EVERYONE is asking about it)

From Polendino: When Grafdigger's Cage was handed to Development, what did it look like? What changes were made?

Tom LaPille: It was never handed to development. We made it late in the process to solve a problem, right down to late-commissioning new art. That's the sort of thing we only get to do once or twice per set, and only to solve FFL problems. Grafdigger's Cage was mine.

Zac Hill: It wasn't handed to Development. It was made *during* development to solve problems!



From Smoofer: Without spoiling any specific cards, is Undying as important a theme in this block as it was in Lorwyn/Shadowmoor?

Tom LaPille: In terms of sheer numbers, not at all. Undying cards are difficult to develop, because they often lead to natural card advantage. We started with high number and high power of Undying cards, and that quickly showed to be a terrible idea. You can see what my team tried to use to solve this problem soon by looking at the set. That made the idea of extending Undying as a theme any significant amount further less and less appealing over time.

Zac Hill: It's hard to say. I wonder what 'important' means? Do we expect it to do work in Limited *and* Constructed? Of course! But right, numerically there isn't nearly as much of it. We wanted it to be something that we could judiciously apply, not something that defined every game you played with the set. Tom's right--any mechanic that just says "Card advantage! Yay!" is hard to make. So we tried to be conservative. Plus there are some tricks of the trade that make it trickier to, um, trade. You'll see what those are soon.



From Nich: Could you comment on the blue Zombies. I loved the idea that they were Frankenstein's Monster in concept, but was bummed that they don't talk or feel or any of the other tropes of Shelly's book. Was there any conversation about them being intelligent or having flavor text attributed to them?

Tom LaPille: With regard to flavor text, that doesn't happen in development. I'd say that the creative team went more with "constructed zombie" than "intelligent zombie", which is why we have things like a 6/9 trampler running around. The secret thing about Magic cards is that most players prefer things that are awesome and badass to things that are subtle and narrative. It's easier to make a badass enormous 6/9 trampler than a badass self-aware angsty humanoid zombie.

Zac Hill: As you can see from things like Jenna's article this past week, there is a certain 'elitism' ascribed to the blue zombies--the 'Skaabs' are far more heavy-hitting than Gisa's generic corpse-balls. But inside the horror genre, it's difficult to stray too far from one another without raising cognitive dissonance. Grimgrin is kind of a 'general' and he's a Skaab, so there's clearly some degree of intelligence there. But no, there wasn't much desire to produce erudite Frankenstein-like corpses from our end. From creative's? Well, I don't know. We only have so much real-estate to tell the story, and the Zombies had to be mostly congruent. The point Tom just made is very salient, yes.



From Ownedu369: What was the "BIG" problem you had that you needed to correct it with Grafdiggers Cage?

Tom LaPille: From my perspective, it was Birthing Pod. Some of you may have noted that Birthing Pod and Undying are kind of good together.

Zac Hill: Birthing Pod mostly. Secondarily the 4B/3W Sorcery that reanimates things from Innistrad.



From Lysithix: What was the focus mechanics-wise on giving cards opposite colored flashback costs? Was this because the flavor of the cards fit both colors of the cost, or was it to encourage its use in creative ways?

Tom LaPille: That idea came from Ken Nagle in Innistrad development very early on. Off-color flashback cards make you do cool things like splash black into a blue-red deck, which we saw in Time Spiral block. Ken suggested we do that again with Flashback here, and I suggested that we also add Lorwyn's mana fixers (Wanderer's Twig and Shimmering Grotto) to help that.  I just indulged my pattern-completion instinct and went the other direction with mine.

Zac Hill: More the latter I'd say. Yeah, it was Ken. We try to have cards in environments that enable you to play the ten different color combinations. The off-color FB costs were an elegant way to do this, while also taking flashback in a different direction



From ffang: Is there a particular role you wanted for Curiosity and Fling to play?

Tom LaPille: Magic has a lot of cards that do simple things that have great names. It's often better to reuse a card that has a great name than it is to come up with "Fling But More Complicated And With Worse Name." Curiosity has a great name because curiosity often gets people in trouble in horror movies. I reused Fling because Dave Humpherys asked me for "a card like Fling I can play with Undying cards", so I just put Fling in the set because I was a bit low on reprints. Expect to see us do that more often in the near future. If we have a card that we need to be a workhorse, we've already done it, and it has a good name, we aren't afraid to just reprint. Well, I assume they still aren't.



From JonHearn: Did you notice the flavour error of having a one-eyed scarecrow die on a board with a jar of eyeballs when you designed it?

Zac Hill: Actually yes. Also happens outside of the block with Cyclopes. (which I hope is the correct plural?)

Tom LaPille: One-eyed scarecrow? There are so many worse offenders! Spiders have tons of eyes, and god knows how many eyes there are on something that has an Ocular Halo. Xantid Swarm also has like, hundreds of eyes. We can't cover every base when it comes to that kind of thing, so we try to make the card make sense in a vacuum.

Zac Hill: We design cards to work most of the time in most situations, mostly. But yeah. There are always exceptions and because we are insanely OCD about our sets, we almost always notice them, and almost always get at least somewhat irritated. But when you have a hit, you have a hit, and it's worth it most of the time to deal with the weirdos.

Tom LaPille: I can't count the number of games I won with a Birds of Paradise equipped with Sword of Fire and Ice. What is the Birds doing, swinging it with its beak? You just have to accept some of these things.



From Playerhurp: I'm wondering about the theme of 13. It's clear over these two sets 13 is an important number. How did that come up, if there will be 13 mythics this time around, and how it might play into the set later.

Tom LaPille: Thirteen is an unlucky number. Innistrad used it in several places. I just found even more. There's a card that has two instances of 13 in the text box that I don't think has been revealed yet.

Zac Hill: It sort of induces a queasy feeling among people raised in (largely) the Western world, and a lot of Innistrad is about a general feeling of uneasiness. It turns out you can design a lot of cool 13-themed cards, and so we thought it was a neat feature to keep returning to.

Tom LaPille: The -13/-0 card originally just set power to zero, but why do that when you can write another 13 somewhere?

Zac Hill: Especially when -13/-0 ACTUALLY succeeds at reducing the creature's power to 0 more often!



From Kirblar: There are 666 cards in this block. Coincidence, or intentional?

Tom LaPille: Coincidence, unless there's someone really clever running around somewhere.

Zac Hill: It won't let me make a winky-face. But um… Winky-face.

Mike Robles: WHA?!?! *mind blown*

Tom LaPille: Maybe Zac is the clever one! I thought I was just making the amount of cards I could make given our printing technology, but I appear to have been manipulated!



From Lysithix: I've noticed that there are quite a few high cost creatures in Dark Ascension as opposed to Innistrad, did you come across this in testing, or did it seem natural to place these cards at higher costs?

Tom LaPille: Big scary badass monsters sometimes need to cost a lot of mana to do their jobs believably. I find that cards work best when you let them do what they want to do, and many of my cards just drifted up in price over time. There are plenty of low-cost creatures in the set that you will learn to fear just as much as the ones that look huge and scary now. (ominous music)



[b]From Ownedu369: So I've noticed with DKA there is a large push with tokens specially W/B tokens is there a specific reason why?

Tom LaPille: Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is why. Creative asked for a black-white planeswalker. This challenged us, because there wasn't any black-white deck to build before Dark Ascension. Erik suggested that I think about what deck I wanted Sorin to push people toward. I had fond memories of the Pro Tour Paris black-white token deck, so I decided that this was a natural place to look. Also, planeswalkers that make tokens tend to be stronger. We needed enough motivation for people to build Sorin decks, so we made some cool token cards.



From Lysithix: Are there any mechanics that, while they seemed great, didn't fit the set flavor-wise? Or in relation, are there any mechanics that we've been currently introduced to that had to undergo changes in order to fit the set more appropriately?

Tom LaPille: Fateful Hour changed significantly if you think about it in terms of where it lives in the set and how much of it there is. There were once nonwhite cards that had it, but that is no longer true.

Zac Hill: Right. There are lots of ways to change a mechanic. We didn't change around very much what any of the mechanics did in terms of their game-text, but we changed a lot about where they lived, how much real-estate they occupied, and what their role in the set was.

Tom LaPille: There was also once a weird variant on flashback in the set, but we ended up deciding that flashback's big twist should live at rare, not at common.

Zac Hill: Morbid used to live in all five colors, for example, in high densities, but was pushed to black and green for archetypal and to a lesser extent flavor reasons

Tom LaPille: Yeah, that too. Small sets don't give you as much room to spread mechanics around. I had to think carefully about where to spend each mechanic.



[b]From Kaoss: Do You Think, Considering How Powerful His Final Ability Is, That The New Sorin Will Become Banned In Competitive Play?

Tom LaPille: I hope you can trust that because I chose to print it that way, my answer is no. :P We don't make cards that we think will get banned. We push boundaries occasionally to keep things interesting, but in a perfect world we never have to ban anything in Standard.

Zac Hill: I Like Writing Like This. It Lends Gravitas To Every Claim.

Tom LaPille: William Shatner Would Approve.

Zac Hill: BRB Climbing A Mountain. No seriously. We think it's at a suitable, but exciting, power level. We usually intend for PW ultimates to be very, very powerful, so usually we assume that when you use them you for all practical purposes win the game. So I doubt there will be too many PWs who are too powerful in Standard because of the power level of their ultimate.

Tom LaPille: Realistically, maybe something banned every 10 years is a happy medium. Not having to do so means we probably aren't making exciting cards. The first ability on Sorin is the one that scares me, not the ultimate. And by scares me, I only mean a little bit. I did play it an awful lot!

Zac Hill: Agree with Tom. Yes, I have created many an emblem in my day. The *real* fun game is: what will you use as your emblem? Drink cups? Rubber dinosaurs?? The possibilities are endless!

Tom LaPille: I suggest the physical token emblem card!



From JqlGirl: How is developing a very top-down set like Dark Ascension different from developing a "normal" set?

Tom LaPille: If I had my way, every set would be top-down and flavor driven, and "normal" sets wouldn't be normal. While I was in Magic R&D, I would claim that I was the most flavor-sensative developer. For me, there was no difference between Dark Ascension and any set. If I saw something that struck me as dumb in flavor, I usually made a comment about it. When I'm the lead, though, I just get to change the card instead. I can't say that I know what developing a "normal" set is like. My only other leads are Magic 2012, which on a card-by-card basis was top-down, and Masters Edition 3 and 4, which were top-down hilarious and bizarre nostalgia. Making a set in which Rolling Earthquake can take down Nicol Bolas (not the planeswalker) is definitely a top-down statement, it's just a weird one.

Zac Hill: That's an interesting question, because increasingly we're trying to make 'very top-down' and 'normal' become the same thing! To me, Magic existed for a long time with its 'creative' layer applied to justify a level of inherent abstraction and render it coherent. We now feel like all of a card's available 'rhetorical devices'--name, cost, mechanics, creature type, function, etc.--are in service of crafting an overall experience. So creative concerns carry a lot more weight than they used to, and top-down coherence is a primary goal. What Innistrad block represented to me was in many ways an 'excuse' to jump over the hurdle for good; by forcing us to consider the top-down sensibility of every card, it let us know that we really could succeed at making a set that way.



From Serialrobinson: The mythic rares we've seen are all very powerful, but also need to have specific strategies built around them and have more subtle applications than some of the other mythics we've seen in the past. Has there been a concerted effort in R&D to move away from the "hit you over the head strong" mythics we have seen in the past?

Tom LaPille: We need different mythic rares for different people. I've heard people tell me that Vorapede and Mikeus the Unhallowed are hit-you-over-the-head strong, and I think they likely are in different contexts. I may have gone further to show range than we did in Innistrad, but I wouldn't consider Dark Ascension to be a major change or anything.

Zac Hill: Agree with Tom. I think the INN/DKA mythics are templates for how we intend to make Mythics generally-speaking. To me, there's not that much of a substantive difference between the two sets.



[b]From Ffancrzy: I know Mark Rosewater has stated in the past that Zombie have never "felt" like Zombies before and that I'd agree with that. However, he went on to say the last time there was a Zombie deck it was a fast Black deck using lots of cheap zombies in an aggro deck. While I DO think that you guys have done a lot to change this, why did you literally do the exact same thing in printing cards like Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawler?

Tom LaPille: I wouldn't say that we did the exact same thing. Gravecrawler may be a fast creature, but it is also a fast creature who keeps coming back in a very zombie-like way. That was the key for me. Rotlung Reanimator fits well into a fast creature deck, but also behaves like a zombie. The zombie I had in mind that you have yet to see behaves somewhat like that, but in an even more aggressive way. Fast creatures can still feel as relentless as proper horror movie zombies.

Zac Hill: Yeah. First of all, there are different environmental considerations. In casual Constructed and Limited, the Zombies of onslaught were all about killing you with cards like Shepherd of Rot and Undead Warchief. In Limited in INN/DKA, however, it's a lot more about Gravecrawlers and their ilk. In Constructed--right, it's a matter of degrees. Gravecrawler is fast, but he's not principally good because he's a Savannah Lion with a drawback. The resilience is key.



From JqlGirl: Why are all the powerful green creatures in the set so color-intensive? Did you want to not make them splashable in Limited or were you afraid of them overpowering Standard or what?

Tom LaPille: I think that happened on a card-by-card basis. They're all also very green-feeling, and just felt right to me with more green mana in them. I wanted Strangleroot Geist to be two mana, and the only way we could do that was GG. I also wanted Vorapede to be a reward for being pretty green, so I did what I did there.

Zac Hill: We were also very conscious of having Birds of Paradise, Avacyn's Pilgrim, and Llanowar Elves in the one-drop accelerator slot. Adding green-intensivity made Avacyn's Pilgrim harder to use outside of GW, which is something I think we were concerned about at the time.

Tom LaPille: I played plenty of Strangleroot Geists and Vorapedes in decks that weren't monogreen, but they all had significant green components. Avacyn's Pilgrim was definitely part of it.

Zac Hill: Right. Green tends to be the best at fixing its mana, so correspondingly there will be times where you have to make more of a commitment to green to get paid off.



From the forums: With so many great group-type creatures in this block (Mobs of humans, packs of wolves, cults of worshippers, covens of vampires, and hordes of zombies), why was Banding not considered for this block?

Tom LaPille: Oh my god Banding.

Zac Hill: Do you remember Turian's reminder text for Banding, Tom?

Tom LaPille: No, but I'm about to go get the oracle text.

Zac Hill: It was something like (all my guys live, all your guys die)

Tom LaPille: (Any creatures with banding, and up to one without, can attack in a band. Bands are blocked as a group. If any creatures with banding you control are blocking or being blocked by a creature, you divide that creature's combat damage, not its controller, among any of the creatures it's being blocked by or is blocking.)

Tom LaPille: We can't print that on ten cards, and definitely not at common. I cut banding from ME3 and ME4 because I didn't think the Magic Online user interface for it was good enough. I can't imagine making people figure that out in paper.

Matt Tabak: It is incorrect that we couldn't print banding on ten cards. One card. We couldn't print it on one.

Zac Hill: Seriously it's nightmarish to comprehend and deceptively powerful in all the wrong ways. A terrible, terrible feeling is when your opponent informs you of rules that you don't understand, and then you have to pick up your board and place it into the graveyard. As you can see from what Tom posted, that happens a lot with Banding.



From Noctisincendia: Why does Sorin, Lord of Innistrad's ultimate destroy things, then bring them back? That seems more zombie than vampire to me.

Tom LaPille: There's plenty of Vampire fiction out there in which to create a vampire, another vampire must actually kill a mortal before beginning the transformation process. Also, killing stuff and then bringing it back feels white and black, while gaining control feels blue. I pitched "gain control" on that card, but everyone reacted poorly to it not being a blue card. I was sad until I realized that plenty of other IP's require the vampire to drain a victim dry before they become a vampire. So Sorin does that instead.



From kujabuja: How restrictive has having Snapcaster already be in existence been as far as testing DKA/future cards to be released in standard?

Zac Hill: Yes, Snapcaster is very restrictive. We have made a conscious effort to avoid empowering Snapcaster more than he already is across the block, and multiple sets have changed because of him. We're keenly aware of how powerful he is, and while of course he's going to have more tools to work with with every set release, we're trying to ratchet down the power level of those tools dramatically.



Mike Robles: I'd like to thank Tom & Zac for taking time out of their days to come hang out and answer questions. Guys, anything parting words? Anything you want to plug? Twitter? Tumblr? Etc?

Zac Hill: Any more question you have, please let me know @zdch on Twitter! Your feedback is essential to ensuring that we do a good job! Thanks so much for your questions! Take care, y'all!

Tom LaPille: Rock on guys! I hope you like Dark Ascension! I also hope you like the game I'm working on now when it comes out in forever! Have fun everybody!

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

What's the difference between Demons and Devils, and why did you decide to use the latter in this block rather than just Demons?



The second part was answered on Tumblr, without having access to Goblins, they wanted a small red race. 
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