Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Card Core Design #0: Undying

Like a creature card in a graveyard targeted by Breath of Life, I've returned to the battlefield of Magic: The Gathering design!

Up until now, I stopped designing and writing for my Daily Card Redesign series on this blog after the first half of 2013. I dropped off the radar of Magic: The Gathering design and continued to do so during 2014. I no longer kept up on Goblin Artisans' Cool Card Design of the Days, Weekend Art Challenges, and other updates. I didn't stay current with Mad Olaf's daily card designs. Finally, I disappeared from the #mtgdesign Twitter scene. That changes this year.

Chandra's Phoenix art by Steve Argyle

While you'll be seeing my active participation within the Magic: The Gathering design community this year, you won't be seeing a return of the Daily Card Redesign. While it's awesomely fun to re-imagine the design of a randomly-selected card from among Magic's decades of past cards, I have other plans in mind for this year; which includes designing to completion a full Magic set.

Ever since I began the (ambitious) project of designing an expert-level Magic: The Gathering set that coincided with regular writings on Red Site Wins supported by reader feedback, I had the growing notion that I had made the mistake of not starting with a more simpler concept for a set. Granted, I was pursuing "four-color matters" as a theme, but something like a Core Set (besides the weird restrictions it has for being a set that serves multiple purposes/roles) would have been a better choice. I still want to accomplish the milestone of completing my first Magic set design, so this is what I'm going to do: I'll be designing a Core Set.

I wrestled with the decision to do a Core Set because of the announcement that Core Sets as we know them now will be no more, per Mark Rosewater's article, "Metamorphosis." What use would there be for practicing the art of Core Set design when Core Sets will disappear? Not only that, but what about those extra restrictions placed upon them, like how it should have fifty-percent reprints or how there should be cards that play nicely with the block preceding the set as well as the set that comes after it?

Ultimately, I decided that I still wanted to design a Core Set, deciding to not strictly adhere to those extra rules Core Sets have as well as despite the fact that Core Sets disappearing. The reason is because of one card I desire to make a reality: a red Phoenix card that has the mechanic undying.

From the moment I had seen the pattern of bringing back one mechanic for each year's Core Set, like with bloodthirst or convoke, I had kept in mind a particular mechanic that I knew would be a great candidate for resurrecting - undying.

Undying first appeared during the Innistrad block, and those sets took place in a world that didn't have Phoenixes. And it being a gothic horror set, the undying mechanic only appeared on creatures that were appropriate for that world, even though there are a host of other possible creatures that could exist as Magic: The Gathering card that have undying. And one way to get this cards to exist without needing to expand upon the keyword would be to bring the mechanic back in a Core Set. Thus, I had my mission - design a Core Set with undying as the returned mechanic.

For each year that passed after determining I was going to design a Core Set featuring undying, I sweated as I watched the unveiling of information and previews of that year's Core Set occur, hoping that undying wasn't a mechanic that was chosen for that year. That way, that design space will be "unmined," leaving me to explore possible card designs utilizing undying. And then Core Sets were announced to be ending.

Because of the last Core Set releasing this year, this is my last year to create an undying Core Set project. And thus begins my return to Magic: The Gathering design. The improbable goal of finishing designing this set I've established for myself is "before official previews for Magic 2016 begin." We'll see how this goes!

This is a solo endeavor I'll be taking, with weekly blog updates on my current status of the project. I welcome feedback and comments, of course, which may impact my decision-making, but I'm not holding myself or others to any kind of collaboration.

Once Core Set: Undying (that's what I'm calling this project for now) is completed, my next project will be pursuing the four-color set design I had attempted once before. I've got some new ideas for that kind of set, and I'm excited to explore those ideas. For now, I'll be working on designing this Core Set.

That's it for today's blog post, which I intentionally left devoid of any sort of design work for Core Set: Undying. I'm revving up and re-acclimating myself to the Magic: The Gathering design lifestyle, which includes getting back into the groove of blogging, posting to social media, utilizing, and etc.

Catch me on Twitter at @bradleyrose! Let me know of any cool Magic: The Gathering design news I've missed over the past year, whether they're some awesome articles are interesting updates to the community.

See ya next week!

Flashback: You're a Designer, Harry! #8 - Go for the Gold (or Hybrid)

This flashback post was originally published on Note: some links and images may be outdated or broken.

Hola, world-weavers! Last time, we talked about how we tweaked the design skeleton yet again. And we're probably about to do it again. Does it seem like we just keep shuffling things around in a little rut in this grand scheme of a design process? That's not how I see it. I imagine these articles I write to be like me, as the lead designer of the four-color set, holding a design meeting every week to discuss the set. However, members of the design team attending these meetings are in a constant flux! It's a different number of people present at every meeting, which means some things don't come into light until later when "Designer X" comes out and makes an observation that changes everything (not really everything)! Then we (gladly) take a step back to focus on a vital part of the set or go back to the drawing board completely.
I wouldn't say that, today, we're going back to erase the metaphorical whiteboard containing scribbles of everything we've done, but I would say that we're going to, once again, adjust the design skeleton. But, we're at a major junction, and I don't know which route we should take. What's happening for sure is we're going to simplify, once more, the kinds of multicolor cards in the set.

Conjunction Junction...

Presently, we have a mix of hybrid, gold, and hybrid-gold cards. The plan was to have two-color gold and hybrid, four-color hybrid-gold and gold, and four-color anti-mana cards. These are what make up the multicolor cards, and that might be too complex right now. We need to trim some fat and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). So, there's two possible routes: We stick with traditional gold cards, or we go for all-hybrid. Both possibilities would take the set into different directions.
If we go gold, we're going to lose the flexibility of hybrid. There will need to be heavy mana-fix support (but also making sure that the mana-fixers don't accidentally encourage going five colors). We shouldn't do anti-mana since that's more of a "super hybrid" mechanic. We could do hybrid for one small part, and that's to make four-color cards with three mana symbols (a la Esper Stormblade, except with one more traditional colored mana). Obviously, Alara Reborn did it.
And then if we go hybrid, we won't need mana-fixers. In fact, we might need the four-color mechanic to do some support in discouraging players from going completely five color! Well, this didn't really happen as much in Shadowmoor because there was both an encouragement of going monocolor or two-color, and there were only two-color cards. This set would probably have to feature more-than-two color hybrids. You know, like, four-color hybrids. Except, done better than what was proposed with that one card in the first article of this series (Don't know what I'm talking about? Good). Also, anti-mana would be a superbly natural fit!

...What's Your Function?

You know, there's also another consideration. This mysterious four-color mechanic that I keep saying will be in the set could influence whichever one we decide to choose. I'm going to list a bunch of possible four-color mechanics and go over what's so great and not-so-great about them. The ones listed here, I believe, are just the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. Here we go.
(You'll see that I list mechanics in almost identical form. This is because the wording needs to be different depending on the type of effect. It's a templating thing. See the difference between Auriok Sunchaser and Concussive Bolt. There's even more variation when you look at Galvanic Blast.)

If four nonCOLOR colors are among permanents you control and cards in your graveyard, EFFECT

As long as four nonCOLOR colors are among permanents you control and cards in your graveyard, EFFECT

The advantage of this mechanic is that it hoses the strategies of splashing a fifth color in your deck for instants/sorceries (removal). The disadvantage of this mechanic is that it's way too easy to activate and keep activated while it's way too hard for your opponent to disrupt this mechanic from being active. The effect this has on hybrid is that it restricts your hybrid choices from even flirting with the fifth color, even if you were going totally honest and straight four colors. This type of effect seems to marry well with gold.

If four nonCOLOR colors are among permanents you control, EFFECT

As long as four nonCOLOR colors are among permanents you control, EFFECT

Ah, much simpler. I like it. However, it allows splashes for fifth colors. Perhaps if the set is designed to make it really hard to go five colors. This includes how mana-fixing is designed. Also, it's easier for your opponent to disrupt, which is good. This turns hybrid from being too good from the previous mechanic to being a valuable commodity for keeping this mechanic activated while not straining your mana base. Especially when you're going through the trouble of achieving four colors and somebody goes for one of your crucial creatures' throats.

If COLOR is not a color among permanents you control and cards in your graveyard, EFFECT

As long as COLOR is not a color among permanents you control and cards in your graveyard, EFFECT

This isn't cool. The set then becomes more about swearing off a color than about four colors. It even rewards monocolored decks for being monocolored. The counting of cards in the graveyard keeps you swearing off that color, but it's too easy to just not include in your deck. No bueno. This goes for the other two parallel iterations, so I won't even go into those.

Imbue (Whenever you cast a spell, for each of its colors, if this has no charge counters on it with the same color, put a charge counter with the same color on this.)

EFFECT as long as exactly four colors are among counters on it (CARDNAME).

EFFECT if there are exactly four colors among counters on CARDNAME (it).

Whoa, lots of stuff going on here. First of all, colored counters. Jay and Jules last week had played around with ideas for using colored counters for mana-fixer designs. Since that was limited in the amount of cards that would be appearing in the set, it was more O.K. than the usual amount of blasphemy. But this is for a major mechanic permeating throughout a whole block. Colored counters?! Are we crazy? There could be potential difficulties with keeping track of the colors, which would lead to memory issues and probably cheating, accidental or on purpose. Then again, every single one of these cards could use Jay's idea of separating the counters by having art that separated the colors for you, so you'd simply place a counter where the appropriate color was. But what if somebody bumped the table? Or you attack with a creature with this too excitedly?
Anyway, that's the first thing. The second thing is that it's separating the mechanic into two abilities. One for keywording (so cards such as rares could just include one word instead of the whole mumbo-jumbo) and one for the ability that makes he mechanic actually work as something useful. It's kinda weird. This hoses permanents with this mechanic in the late-game because you'll be short on spells. That's where hybrid comes in (and anti-mana, of course) to save the day. At least double the color in the same amount of cards as multicolor! There are the same benefits for gold, too; except, it's harder to pull off because it's just not hybrid. Fear not, gold. Mana-fixing has your back.

...Connecting Words, Phrases, and Clauses

It's a short article this week. I'll have to further discuss this next week! However, this could be a good thing. Perhaps; you, reader, would make an excellent case for why we should go gold or hybrid, or vice versa. Or maybe we should just stick with gold and hybrid, the way we've been doing it all along. Then you'll have saved us all from a whole heap of figuring, and we move on to figuring out other things based off that decision. Something like that. Anyway, I'll see you next week!

Flashback: You're a Designer, Harry! #21 - Not of This Worlds

This flashback post was originally published on Note: some links and images may be outdated or broken.

O.K., so somehow, I had ended up arm-wrestling Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic: The Gathering. To explain how I got here, let’s go back in time further than necessary – because more than just that happened when I attended the 2011 Magic World Championships in San Francisco.
Normally, I wouldn’t go to a Magic: The Gathering event larger than a Friday Night Magic at a local game store, so attending Grand Prixes, Pro Tours, PTQs, and all that jazz is foreign to me. However, this year, Worlds just so happened to be held in San Francisco – right where I work every weekday. I just had to jump on this opportunity. Especially when, considering the announcement Wizards made regarding Worlds, this is the end of the Worlds as we know it.


I just got off work, and Worlds was having its super-awesomely cheap drafts open to the public. …And I wasn’t going to be there.
Instead, I went to Kennedy’s Irish Pub. You might have seen Luis Scott-Vargas retweet on Twitter that there’s Magic drafting and beer held at this place. It’s true. That and there’s Indian food (Yes, it’s an Indian restaurant called Kennedy’s Irish Pub). Anyway, every Wednesday night, twenty to thirty Magic players gather in the back of this place and do Swiss draft in pods with a rare redraft at the end.
Fast forward some. I went 0-3 with a Mikaeus and Snapcaster Mage in my deck. Oh, boy.
While waiting for the last match before our pod drafted rares, I took a peek out the windowed door and see a couple, Sam Black, some other guys playing foosball, and - Wait. Sam Black? I head out to that main room. It IS Sam Black! I chat it up with him and the three other gentleman he was with. One worked for Wizards, another was in the World Championships, and the last one was local – and had only just learned about this Wednesday night drafting at Kennedy’s. Knowledge was dropped among us.


Went to work then went home. Read tweets about Worlds.


My work week was over, and it was zoom-time to Worlds. Once I got there, happiness was had.
The first thing you’re greeted with is a man asking to trade a bracelet for a glance at your ID. A strange trade, but I obliged. He seemed like one of those fabled bridge trolls that wouldn’t let you pass unless you fulfill certain criteria, and considering this was the best Magic event there is and perhaps ever will be, I decided not to put up a fuss.
Past the strange man, the hallway leading to Worlds was adorned with Magic art-plastered columns and large banner-iffic portraits of pro players. In the center, there was either a statue of the ever-lovin’ blue-aligned Jace Beleren, or a real-life planeswalker standing perfectly still. Once you get past this point, you’ve made it. Welcome to Worlds.
Quick run-down of what was there: Duels of the Planeswalkers demo station; an area with many seats facing a small stage with a large TV screen on the wall behind it showing either footage from around Worlds or promotional video; the Spell Slinger area with (currently) Aaron Forsythe and Mark Globus throwing down; Marketplace with Channel Fireball and some other vendors I forget, an artist-signing and/or print-purchasing area; that guy that makes amazing 3D cards with his assortment of crafted awesomeness not for sale; Magic Online booths; much tables and chairs for public events and whatnot; a central hub where judges work from; and the Worlds Feature Match Area in the back.
Outside of Worlds, you can find many food trucks. There was even a festival of some sorts within walking distance of Worlds that had food and music going on.
After scoping out the place, around one of those many tables and chairs, I ran into a generally-happy-looking dude with light-ish hair and a height that definitely wasn’t within the tall end of the height spectrum.
Why, this guy was Mark Rosewater! And that’s when I challenged him to an arm-wrestling match to which he obliged.
…O.K., that didn’t really happen. I actually stumbled out a greeting of some sort. I, admittedly, was affected a little bit by that “star-struck” phenomenon whenever somebody meets his or her hero for the first time. I think I played it off pretty much cool, though. Well, the first thing I asked for was a signature. Nice move, right?
To paraphrase, it went a little like this:
Me: “Will you sign my trophy?”
Mark: “Sure! Your what?”
Me: “My trophy.”
Mark: “Oh, a trophy!”
I take out a giant Magic card trophy that looks like this:
Mark: “Oh, it’s a Magic card!”
Me: “Yeah. You ever seen this before?”
Mark: “No, I haven’t. What is it?”
Me: “You haven’t? That’s strange. Well, this website and Wizards held a cross-promotion where there were several contests, called ‘dares,’ and one of which was the ‘Design Your Own Magic Card’ contest. Out of 300 entries, I won, and they made a trophy out of my card.”
(I also happened to do the art for the card, to boot. I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t do any art. Just a blank white space where a planeswalker should be?)
Mark: “Nice card. …Bradley Rose. – Oh! You’re Bradley Rose!”
Me: “Er, yes, I am!”
Mark: “Yeah, I’ve read your stuff.”
Me: “Really? Well, I was wondering whether or not you have since I mention ‘design,’ and I don’t know if you just immediately stop reading then.”
Mark: “Well, you’re active on Twitter.”
So, Mark Rosewater knows of my name. And now my face. Amazing.
Then he signed my trophy.
After that, I entered an 8-man pick-up draft with new white sleeves bought (inconvenient decision considering double-faced cards), drafted terribly, and lost. During that time, I run into my buddy Jules Robins (of Quiet Speculation fame). We discussed something that would now be foreshadowing for this article.
Lastly, spotted Ken Nagle. Got him to sign my trophy. Apparently, Ken also had not heard of this Bragster card design competition. By this time, I’m wondering who the heck judged the entries that eventually decided me as having the best-designed Magic card! That’s when Ken reminded me about how R&D peeps can’t view unsolicited design submissions to avoid lawsuits. Of course!


I get to Worlds on Saturday with my partner to the 2-Headed Giant Sealed public event for a foil uncut sheet of Innistrad. Good thing I practiced with my company’s internal 2-Headed Giant Sealed Innistrad tournament!
We open a foil Garruk Relentless. Yatta!
During the tournament, I ran into Jules again. This time, I lent him 4 Twincasts and 3 copies of [CENSORED] to use for the next day.
After going 4-2, we dropped from the tournament – and just in time – and headed over to the Question Mark trivia event with Mark Rosewater. After waiting for a while with all the other people either sitting in those chairs in that area with the small stage I described earlier or were crowding around it, Mark finally appeared. He asked for us Magic peeps to form teams of three. A guy named Josh – and, Josh, if you’re reading this: you know who you are – sitting next to us asked if he could join us. I was just about to ask of him the same thing. So, naturally, we assembled.
We needed to name our team the name of a Magic card. After deliberation, we decided upon Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental.
Mark was going through the crowd of teams, recording them in his iPad. The team before us then told him their team name: Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental. He then named them Team Smart Ass. Thank goodness they went before us.
So, we went with our second choice: Squirrel Mob.
It was a swiss-style tournament with a cut to Top 8, where we had to answer the trivia questions in each round better than our paired opposing team. Of course, without using any sort of reference material. Here’s what the trivia questions were, for those who want to play at home. Mind you, each one had a time limit:
1. For each letter of the alphabet, except for J,Q,X,Y,Z: Name a card in Innistrad that starts with this letter.
2. For each piece of flavor text in Innistrad named off by Mark, name the card associated with it.
3. A series of “Which is greater?” questions. For example: The combined power of all the Vampires in Innistrad, or the combined toughness of all the Zombies in the toughness?
4. Name creature types in Innistrad besides Human, Spirit, Zombie, Vampire, Werewolf.
5. Order a given set of cards from none to eight in terms of the amount of rules text on the card. Zero was Rotting Fensnake and eight was Mirror-Mad Phantasm
6. Name all the cards in Innistrad that have two words in the name, both starting with the same letter. For example: Gutter Grime
Top 8
Quarterfinals: From the eight pieces of clues Mark gives, name the province associated with it: Gavony, Kessig, Nephalia, or Stensia
Semifinals: For each double-faced card, what was the difference in power increase and toughness increase from front side to the back side? For example: Reckless Waif’s answer would be “+2/+1.”
Finals: Each team takes turns, hot-potato-style, naming an artifact card in Innistrad that wasn’t already named before during the round. If you take 15 seconds or more to answer, you lose.
We made Top 8 and lost the tie-breaker question after the quarterfinals, which was: How many cards in Innistrad reference Kessig by name? The answer is: Three.
During the Question Mark event, I noticed a familiar maroon shirt. It said: Great Designer Search 2. Holy moly! Only a select few people have this shirt! I ask him,
Me: “Excuse me. What’s your name?”
MYSTERIOUS MAN: “I’m Jonathan Woodward.”
Me: “Hey! I’m Bradley Rose!”
And from there Jonathan Woodward and I talked about who was met up with, etc. that were also on Twitter involved in #mtgdesign.
Lastly, another face I recognize hanging around Mark caught my attention, too. Turns out it was Mark Gottlieb. Naturally, I have him sign my trophy, too; except, in the spirit of being Rosewater's nemesis (at least in the past), I had him sign upside down and on the other end of the trophy. I told him that I recognized his face. He says that he usually takes his face with him wherever he goes. Helpful!
At the end of Question Mark, we got a box, and another Garruk Relentless was opened. Woo!


Arrived at the event for the final time on Sunday, and the first thing I do is stand in line for the Spell Slingers table, which currently had Erik Lauer, Mark Rosewater, and Alan Comer. I look around for Jules and give him a call. He was playing Magic Online. Awesome. I wait a bit more.
I call Jules again. I see him at the Magic Online booths talking to what looked like Gavin Verhey. It was. Gavin and I waved to each other. Pretty surreal experience.
Jules finally joins me in line (I decided let people pass me up in line and wait for Jules, so we can be playing against these peeps around the same time. We wanted it to be a shared experience, you know?). We finally get to playing. I played against Mark Rosewater. Jules went ahead and played Erik Laeur.
I stood before Mark. The convo went a little like this:
Mark: “What format?”
Me: “Erm, casual.”
Mark: “Casual?”
Me: “Well, do you have…” I hesitate a bit. “A silver-bordered deck?”
Mark: “No, I don’t have a silver-bordered deck.”
Me: “Well, the next best thing would be a Squirrel deck. You got one of those?”
Mark: “No, I don’t. When I go to events, I normally make some decks, but not this time.”
Me: “Well, then, whatever casual deck you got. You mind me playing a silver-bordered deck?”
Mark: “I don’t mind.”
And so we played.
Mark begun the match with a Diregraf Ghoul. Zombies. I should’ve known!
I follow with Land Aid ’04 and sang the Plants Vs. Zombies theme song.
Pretty soon, he’s got an Undead Alchemist on the board, and a zombie or two. Gulp.
Anway... I play another Land Aid ’04 and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I followed by casting…
Side to Side. Mark then readied himself for arm wrestling and lamented that while this card was in development, he should have known what he was in for. I needed a 3/3 Ape token to fight the zombies, so we arm wrestle.
And we were at a standstill, holding each of our grounds for the longest time. Finally, while we were still arm wrestling, someone said,
“Mark, I destroy your Undead Alchemist.”
…But I didn’t say that. And neither did Mark.
Catch the conclusion next week in Jules Robins’ article on Quiet Speculation! If you’re reading this before Jules' next article next week (December 7th/8th), then the following link probably won’t work for you. Otherwise:

Flashback: You're a Designer, Harry! #20 - Other Worlds-ly Journey

This flashback post was originally published on Note: some links and images may be outdated or broken.

Welcome to another installment of You're a Designer, Harry! #20! Yay! ...And it just so happens that this is the 200th Red Site Wins post! Woohoo!
If you're new here, read the following two blocks of text!
This is the column where you follow the process of designing a Magic: The Gathering set from, at least, my perspective. While I'm the "lead designer," YOU get to help out by leaving your feedback either by commenting here on this column or by tweeting me (I'm @bradleyrose)! Really, we're all on the same level here, and some of you may clearly be "better" at designing than I am. But, that shouldn't, and doesn't, shy me away from doing what I'm doing. So, let's collaborate!
The set we're working on is a four-color themed set. This has ramifications! There are five different possible combinations for four colors, and we've so far tied that toward a flavor of five different "civilizations" (I'll call them factions for now.) that each have sworn off that fifth color. Based on this, we've come up with mechanical identities (gameplay, like new keywords or a central gameplay component, etc.). Some mechanics are dead now. Some have been focused on more recently, like the adventuring party mechanic. Speaking of which...
The adventuring party mechanic will be for the nonblack faction. Their central two colors are green and white, so the idea of the classic role-playing adventuring party was brought into mechanical implementation because of the fact that they're all working together as a team. Top it off that they're doing it to defend the kingdom from which they hail, and we've got something that's quite green/white (if not also a bit of red and blue, which is exactly what we want). This is also quite not black, which is all about the selfish-ness. Flavorwise. SO!
NOTE: I've decided that, by now, I'm going to embrace my ability to be the "final decision-maker." And I need to make decisions despite the great back-and-forth created by feedback from you guys. We're never going to get anywhere if I'm not going to make some decisions. Also, it would be nice if I actually got down to the playtesting.
The classes that the mechanic will care about and the colors associated with each class are:
Warrior (Red, Green, White)
Cleric (Green, White, Blue)
Wizard (White, Blue, Red)
Rogue (Blue, Red, Green)
Here's why spreading the classes to three colors was decided upon:
Having one color per class is redundant. Color is already separated into fours, one-by-one. Therefore, this was lame.
Having two colors per class is good, but it made for a more awkward fit for the classes. Also, it made cleric the "central class" for this faction, which felt weird. This is variety in its most basic form.
Having four colors per class is silly. Then, only the best creatures for each class would be used. There would be no forcing the player into different colors to try to encourage multi-color play, let alone four-color play.
Now, here's the mechanic using Warrior and Wizard, as an example:
And here's another one for power/toughness boosting:
Oh, yeah, and only the creatures that have this adventuring party mechanic would have the "Ally" creature type. Which is flavorful and makes them awesomely backwards-compatible with the Allies from Zendikar.
Here's how the classes will have equal implementation: Because each class being assigned to three colors brings the total number of commons that would have this adventuring party mechanic to 12, only two creatures for each color will actually have this mechanic. However, there will be three relevant creatures per color.
For example, red:
Warrior - Vanilla or another ability
Wizard - Adventuring party mechanic - Haste - Rogues
Rogue - Adventuring party mechanic - +1/+1 - Warriors
And so on. Note that the above isn't set in stone as to how the mechanic will be divied up for red.
And here's how the bonuses granted by these adventurers will be divied up by color for common AND uncommon:
RED - Haste, +1/+1
GREEN - Trample, +1/+1
WHITE - Vigilance, +1/+1
BLUE - Flying, +1/+1
RED - First strike OR +2/+0
GREEN - Deathtouch OR +0/+2 OR +2/+0 OR +2/+2
WHITE - Lifelink OR +0/+2 OR +2/+0
BLUE - Hexproof OR +0/+2
The uncommons are little bit more of a toss-up. May need to cut back on the number creatures having the adventuring party mechanic. 8 in uncommon is probably too much. For example, in Shards of Alara, the number of creatures that had exalted at uncommon was four. One for each color plus an extra in the central color. For Zendikar, since it wasn't a keyworded or ability worded mechanic, it seems more was fine. Well, Allies also were something for all five colors. So, they had one uncommon Ally for each color.
We can mirror the Bant shard from Shards of Alara or the Zendikar set up by either going four creatures (one for each color), five creatures (one for each color, plus one for the green/white multicolor card), or six creatures (one for each color, plus one extra for green and white). Seven seems to be too much, just like with eight. We also should keep in mind how the multicolor cards are done between commons and uncommons. There may be a multicolor card in common that has this adventuring party mechanic.
Tangent, kind-of: Let's talk land! Here's how they'll be for each faction, but with different land types referenced:
Why care about the land types as a way to mana-fix? Well, here's something tricky about doing a four-color set:
With a four-color set theme, you really want to design your set to make sure that players play four colors. But, if you provide enough mana fixers and in a certain fashion, you'll enable five-color play really easily. And that's not going to say, "I'm a four-color set!" That's going to say domain (five colors), which has been done before. And only providing enough mana-fixing to support less than four colors means that the theme would, again, not be supported. It wouldn't be feasible to go four colors, and, therefore, it would never show up. So, how do we make sure that people go four colors without going too far? The answer lies in the lands they use.
There's a limited number of deck slots devoted toward land. For Limited, usually 17 lands is played. For this format, people will probably go with 18 lands. To get a reliable amount of mana available in a color, you'd go with six land of that color, provided you don't have a mana-fixer. Since this is a multi-color set, you're rarely, if not ever, going to see double white, double blue, etc. in a mana cost. So, let's say you want to have enough lands in your deck to support four colors. Six mountains, six forests, six plains, and six islands yields 24 lands. That's a whole six more than you need! So, what if we then provide the Nonblack Manafixer land? Just one of those will cut down four (and add one) cards. 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 1 = 21. O.K., let's try another one: 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 2 = 18 Ta-da! 18.
But, that's in a perfect, theoretical world. And there will be another cycle of cards at common that will help with mana-fixing and whatnot.
Anyway, here's another topic:
I'm going to set the goal down: Create at least two "Intro Decks" for two separate factions. Why? For Worlds in San Francisco that's coming up in about two weeks. Ideally, we'll have five separate decks all prettied up and printed and sleeved, but I don't think I'll make it that far, considering how busy I'll probably get with my other obligations. So, let's go for two to have at least some real-live feedback from people at Worlds.
I don't expect those reading this that will be going to Worlds to set aside part of their precious Worlds time to deal with any of this set stuff. I totally understand that. But, I'll have the decks on me. Just in case.
With that said, I'll quickly wrap up and get to work. For those of you this is relevant for: See ya at Worlds!

Flashback: You're a Designer, Harry! #19 - The Classifieds

This flashback post was originally published on Note: some links and images may be outdated or broken.

Welcome, once again, to the You're a Designer, Harry!, the column where I write about the process of designing a Magic: The Gathering set where you feedback makes an impact on how the set evolves. Undoubtedly, we'll run into blunders as well as breakthroughs, and the whole journey is documented here.
With that said, last time, I talked about what one of the four-color factions in the set would do in executing its "adventuring party" theme. Each of these creatures with the "adventuring party" mechanic would follow this template:
"CARDNAME and CLASS-TYPE you control have and/or get (ABILITY and/or +POWER/+TOUGHNESS)"
Such as:
"CARDNAME and Warriors you control have flying."
We also went over what classes would this mechanic care about that forms this adventuring party theme. There's also determining what abilities and power/toughness boosting should appear on the commons/uncommons. Lastly, how to decide what creatures will grant bonuses to what class types.
Since last time, here's where we are now on our classes: Warrior, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue. Here's why:
The most resonant class type across the different fantasy mediums that an "adventuring party" appear in (Dungeons & DragonsFinal FantasyWorld of Warcraft) is the Wizard. Considering the flavor of Magic to be one of traditional medieval fantasy, forming an adventuring party without a Wizard would be a mistake.
Next up is the "fighter." Every adventuring party needs the melee counterpart of the Wizard. The thing is, while "Mage," "Sorcerer," and "Warlock" may all be lumped with the same "Wizard" type; melee fighters have some more diversity to them. There's Soldiers, Knights, Barbarians, and Berserkers! Oh, my! ...However, there's also the type "Warrior." Warriors seem best since that's the type that is most closely resembling being able the fighting. Soldiers feels to much like being a part of a large army, Knights feel too much like they're carrying out noble service and are often depicted on mounts, and those Barbarians/Berserkers are just too red. So in goes Warriors.
Now, the remaining two slots are less obvious to fill. I've had suggestions ranging from Druid to Artificer. So, here's why I chose Cleric and Rogue:
Cleric - Every good adventuring party has a member for support and healing. A healer. Final Fantasy has the white mage, Dungeons & Dragons has the Cleric, and World of Warcraft has the Priest (forgive me if there's a better support class as I have never played World of Warcraft). Cleric seems to fit the bill greatly. There's Druids, but it's not as resonant or traditional as Cleric. The same for "Monk," though they seem to be more off-beat, being fighters as well.
Rogue - With two "magic types" of members in the party, it's good to have another "physical" type of character. There's a myriad of options, and the strong ones to consider besides Rogue is Archer and Ranger. Archers are awesome, and we've seen Legolas of Lord of the Rings be awesome with the bow. However, they're always carrying around a bow. That has ramifications! That would mean abilities like first strike and reach.
Now, Rangers is not actually an existing creature type. If there are any of you that had been caught by surprise by this fact (those of you with non-meticulous knowledge of Magic: The Gathering such as Aaron Forsythe), then that only reinforces what I want to happen for Magic: make Ranger a creature type.
Why? Well, Magic really has wanted to have Rangers this whole time up until now. Without the type, it's been a crazy journey to try to define creatures that are, clearly stated, Rangers; by using creature types that is not the Ranger type. Here's the list of cards with "Ranger" in its name that contain creatures of creature types of all sorts.
However, with making Ranger a creature type, all the older Rangers would need to be errata'd. Then, with that, if a mechanic is made that cares about the Ranger type, this would be a not-so-cool thing when trying to play a deck with Rangers in it.
Because of this, Ranger is not going to be a part of this faction. And, because there's a class-caring mechanic, Rangers won't show up in this block. It would just be confusing.
I do say that Rangers need to happen, though. And fast. For the sake of all potential future Ranger cards to be printed, so they can have the Ranger creature type!
So, Archer and Ranger - nay.
Besides, I hear Rogues are kinda a "thing" in World of Warcraft.
O.K., Wizard, Warrior, Cleric, and Rogue. Classic. Now, the colors for the classes. This might be tough considering the 2-color model. However, Jules Robins recommended that we shouldn't necessarily do away with having 3-colors per class; and, if it didn't work, we could go down to 2. Incidentally, going to three colors could help us out with the particular classes we've chosen. Here's why:
Warrior: Obviously, red and green. We've also seen Warrior in white when it needs to be. And we need it to be in white. Check!
Wizard: Red and blue seem quite fitting for Wizard. Green... not so much. That's more Druid and Shaman territory. Thus, white!
Cleric: White, yes. Green... a couple times before, so we can do that. Between blue and red: Blue's protective-type of style can be harnessed by the Cleric.
Rogue: Mostly they're in black. However, we've seen many rogues in blue. Also, a few in red. Between green and white, green has had more Rogues. Besides, green is more likely than white to "go rogue" considering white's structure-heavy mojo. There's been a bard in green that's a Rogue.
Speaking of which... This may just be my personal preference, but: Make Bard a creature type, too, Wizards of the Coast! There haven't been that many bards so far, but it would be awesome, especially for the bard fans.
With that, I'm concluding this week's article. I've been majorly busy within the past two weeks; but, fret not, I'm mulling over nailing this faction down. It's a pretty fun theme.
Thanks for reading, guys! Catch me on the tweeterz!
Bradley Rose
Twitter: @bradleyrose

Flashback: You're a Designer, Harry! #18 - Keepin' It Classy

This flashback post was originally published on Note: some links and images may be outdated or broken.

A Warrior and a Wizard walk into a bar. They're here to recruit; and, apparently, this is the best place to do it. They have enough coin for two more members to be added to their party to embark with on their upcoming adventure. However, the pair were faced with a problem.
The problem wasn't that there weren't enough eligible persons from among the rowdy crowd; it's choosing which two would-be teammates where the difficulty lies. Do they pick up the reliable Soldier? They've already got a melee type. How about the Cleric? Always good to have some wounds cured. That Rogue in the corner might have a special set of skills the party could use. How about the Ranger? The Monk? What about that guy entertaining the wenches, the Bard? And, still, there's more possibilities, but who do they choose? Today, we'll explore what that answer will be.
Welcome to another installment of a collaborative Magic: The Gathering set design column! Today, we're going to discuss more in detail regarding one of the four-color factions in the set, the nonblack faction. Specifically, the classes to go along with the faction's identity: the classic adventuring party found in video game and tabletop RPGs. Let's dive in!
Last time, I pondered what direction we should go with the nonblack faction. One of the major choices was going with a mechanic that cared about basic permanents and introducing nonland basic cards. Since then, given the mostly positive feedback on another direction, the adventuring party, I've decided to go with that one. It's a more simple impact on the set's overall complexity than would be introducing a new type of venture with basic nonland cards. Really, that's what we would want when we're talking about one of FIVE factions.
So, first things first. What exactly are we talking about with an adventuring party? What do we want to experience in playing this faction that represents that? Since this is supposed to be the faction that shuns black and all that entails (parasitism, the self over the group), I was thinking of the Dungeons & Dragons and Final Fantasy I team of usually four all having their roles for working together as a team. Each person (creature) would play an instrumental part in their adventure. A warrior is good at melee combat while a wizard excels in terms of spellslinging. How do we represent that on a card?
It started out with a design that had a creature card care about whether you had another creature around with the creature type specified on the card.
"CARDNAME has flying as long as your control a Wizard."
However, as Jay Treat pointed out, this seems to be backwards. Instead of having a creature gain abilities if another creature you control has the appropriate creature type, just make it so that the creature flavorfully associated with the ability grant that instead of the other way around. Here's an example.
"Warriors you control have flying."
But, then I thought, "Wait. A Wizard granting flying doesn't fly himself/herself?" I suppose it can be flavorfully represented as a Wizard only having enough power to either focus on himself/herself or focus on a specific class type. Or... it could just have the ability itself as well:
Warriors you control have flying."
Wait, scratch that.
"CARDNAME and Warriors you control have flying." OR
O.K. So, now that we have our template, it's time to figure out a few things:
1) What abilities and power/toughness boosting will appear on the common and/or uncommon creatures?
2) What classes are we using?
3) How are we going to decide on what creatures will grant what bonuses to which class type?
First off, I looked at how there are going to be four class types to care about in this adventuring party. I chose four because it was both the standard number for RPGs and because there are four colors in the faction. Next, I decide on how to spread the classes among the colors. Here are some scenarios:
Red = Class 1
Green = Class 2
White = Class 3
Blue = Class 4
Doing it like the above meant this: The four-color set's design is built around you basing your four colors upon the central two colors of the faction. In nonblack's case, this would be green/white. If green and white would be the central colors, that would mean there would be a greater emphasis on half of the party's classes. It also means that playing a certain class basically was the same thing as playing a certain color. You want Class 3? Play white. No exceptions.
Red = Class 1, Class 4
Green = Class 1, Class 2
White = Class 2, Class 3
Blue = Class 3, Class 4
This way, going with the two central colors, you would have access to three different classes. It also meant that if you really needed a Class 2, you had a couple colors as options. Lastly, it means that you would need to stretch to have Class 4 be a part of your deck, which is kind of like how playing a four-color faction meant you had to stretch beyond your central two colors. Though, this would mean you could achieve all four classes with just three colors.
Red = Class 1, Class 2, Class 3
Green = Class 2, Class 3, Class 4
White = Class 3, Class 4, Class 1
Blue = Class 4, Class 1, Class 2
If we go with this approach, then the two central colors is all you need to get all four classes. In a set that's encouraging you to try to go for four-colors, this design of three-colors-per-class doesn't help that initiative at all. Sure, it's not hurting anybody, but it's not helping anybody at all. Also, you could get away with building a red/blue deck, with none of the central colors in the deck, and have all four classes.
Each color = All Classes
This is madness. Not only would it be difficult to fit the flavor of certain classes across all four colors, but there would be no rhyme or reason to the creatures and who they granted their abilities to. It's more, like, "find the best of each class, then those are your colors."
I ended up deciding upon the two-colors per class route. I like how this forced you to play with at least one of the central colors and that solely playing the central two colors of the faction meant you couldn't stretch out to the fourth class.
And, yes, I decided that having the color pairs of RG, GW, WU, and UR exist instead of using RW and UG would be the best way to go. First, it's a nice, linked circle if you imagine that black was nonexistent and red and blue were right next to each other and connected. Secondly, setting it up this way reinforces the "stretching" that we want players to do with their colors.
With this decided upon, I was at a fork in the road. Flavor or function first? The flavor part would be deciding upon which classes would appear in this adventuring party as well as where they would fit into their pair of colors. The function part would be determining what each creature would be granting in addition to whom they would be granting their bonus to.
I decided to prioritize fitting the mechanics in, first, before the other way around.
The first thing was to come up with a list of the abilities I would want granted by each color. I knew I wanted each color to have an adventurer that granted an evergreen keyword ability of some kind. This meant four cards at common. Given the "more narrowness" than other mechanical identities of other "faction types" (Shards of Alara shards), I decided that another four cards for each color that delved into power/toughness boosting would also be good. It also meant that each color, at common, can have their two classes represented.
Since this "adventuring mechanic" has the card and all creatures of a certain class type have a certain ability, I wanted to make sure the keyword abilities I chose were the lowest it could be on the power scale. Besides, common cards don't often give a bonus to multiple permanents (or grant a bonus repeatedly).
Here are the keywords I was choosing from:
Double strike
First strike
Fifteen keywords. I only need four at common and four at uncommon.
Now, defender is just silly without some kind of bonus to accompany it. I'm trying to go for as simple as possible (hence the evergreen keywords). Fourteen left.
Protection is hard to do without having the quality being granted be not arbitrary, especially across the colors. Or, even, too powerful, since it's a four-color set, and the most basic protection to grant is against a certain color. Thirteen left.
Double strike seems like it would just be too ridiculous at common/uncommon. Twelve left.
Flash doesn't actually work with the way the ability is templated. I could tweak it to mention those CARDS have flash. But, then, I feel like we're in rare territory when we do that. Shelved. Eleven left. Three to eliminate.
This is where the flavor would intertwine with the mechanical decisions. Certain types of classes only do certain things. For example, a Cleric would, in most cases, not have trample. I'm interrupting now because of landwalk. Landwalk seems not as cool to include, but there's a certain class type that feels just perfect for it that I may want to have as one of the four adventuring classes: Ranger. (Thanks to @luminumcan for the strong leaning for Rangers.)
Here's an aside: Interestingly enough, there are multiple Ranger cards in Magic: The Gathering. However, none of them are of the creature type Ranger. Instead, they have creature types that include: Druid, Scout, Warrior, Archer, Knight, and Soldier. Seems like Magic has trouble defining what creature type a Ranger is exactly. Seems like the best thing to do to define what creature type a Ranger would fit into is: Ranger! You hear me, Wizards? Do it! It's a Dungeons & Dragons class already. You've got the Berserker class in MTG that differentiates itself from Warrior. Anyway...
Rangers would make a lot of sense to grant it and another class type forestwalk. And, it would be more relevant than usual, since, in this set, the opponent is most likely going to have a forest. It'd have to be uncommon, then, at the very least! One more thing: Rangers tend to have bows. That means one Ranger creature can be a reaching Ranger.
However, if we have Reach, it'd probably be on a common green Ranger. This would clash with flying, which we would probably want to fit onto a blue common creature. Most likely a Wizard. Bumping up flying-granting to uncommon to fit in reach at common to hopefully make reach relevant more of the time would be a lame move. Well, that's my opinion.
O.K., back to where we were. Besides the two aforementioned keywords, the next one to chop off is deathtouch. Firstly, it's lame to have multiple creatures you control to have deathtouch. The opponent would have a difficult time playing around it without having to just suck it up and lose creatures in fights with you. Ten left.
Let's see what colors each keyword can fit into to help us make decisions:
First strike: Red, White
Flying: White, Blue
Haste: Red
Hexproof: Green, Blue
Intimidate: Red
Landwalk: Green, Blue, Red
Lifelink: White
Reach: Green
Trample: Green, Red
Vigilance: White, Green
Here's how many options each color has, where a particular color need two keywords:
Red: 5
Green: 5
Blue: 3
White: 4
Looks like blue has the short end of the stick here. Even moreso, when we consider that one of its options is landwalk. Islandwalk is... something else.
In this case, we'll make decisions based off of what we have with blue: flying and hexproof. Now, one of these has to be on an uncommon and the other on a common. It's obvious that hexproof is pretty powerful and should be placed at uncommon, considering it's giving more than one creature hexproof. That gives us flying at common.
Normally, I'd say that white is the next least flexible one, but red and green having one more option is because of landwalk (which white rarely ever does, which is why white didn't get landwalk included in its tally). So, they're all on kinda equal footing. This is where I try to spot the next most-restricted part of the design: The keywords fit for uncommon adventurer cards. These would possibly be:
First strike
Lifelink, Hexproof, Intimidate, and Landwalk should definitely be uncommon-only. As stated before, hexproof would be in blue. Next up, lifelink is in white. Intimidate can only be in red. Landwalk is left for green, but what else could we use? We could use trample. That could also be for red, though. First strike can be in white or red, but if it's used in white, then we would lose lifelink. Lifelink seems to be such a boon to have, so first strike seems more appealing to replace intimidate. If we wanted to.
Aha, let's step back a moment and examine our decisions within the context of the entire set. Intimidate would normally be pretty awesome and considered "unblockable," for the most part. However, in this four-color set, intimidate is less effective. It would be so hard to get your guy through.
To this end, I say we don't use intimidate. Instead, we use first strike, trample, or... landwalk!
Oh! Looks like I'm all out of words for today. This article has become a two-parter! Catch me next time when I finish going over the decisions made in the designing of the four-color nonblack facion in regards to abilities defined and how the classes are intertwined. Also, the selection of the four classes. Which reminds me:
You may have seen this prompt on Twitter before: I believe Wizard to be the most important class to have in the adventuring party. Warrior is another one I feel strongly about. So, as such, I'm looking to keep Warrior and Wizard as options for the four-person adventuring party. Now, fill in the rest of the two roles: Which two class types are going to walk out of that bar with the Warrior and the Wizard and form an adventuring party?
Thanks for reading, guys!
Bradley Rose
Twitter: @bradleyrose