ith Magic 2014 releasing today, this is the perfect time to take a look through the Multiverse and see what comments Magic's R&D left during the making of this set. As always, comments were chosen due to their insightfulness, ability to let me make a salient point, or humor. Sometimes entwined.
As always, our cast of players
Experience designer, M14 lead developer. Karaoke master.
developer. Noted carnivore.
Duel Masters and Kaijudo designer. M14 development team member.
designer, lover of fatties.
Duel Masters developer and Magic playtester. Goblin progenitor.
developer, curernt digital Magic
producer. Beatdown aficionado.
developer and M14 design team member. Part-time samurai.
developer, M14 development team member.
The first thing I want to talk about today is the color-hoser cycle in M14. These were added into the file around halfway through the development process, with the goal of creating some cards that would be able to shake up the metagame a bit, and would be better in a field dominated by three+-color decks (what we expected coming out of Return to Ravnica Standard) as opposed to one- to two-color decks.
DG 4/26: Updating based on discussion with ZH and EVL; was WW 2/2 flying propaganda.
MJG 8/14/12: Cool.
SPS 9/14/12: Would like to find something for this to do other than simply beat black and red decks. Something a little less severe than the current ability would be preferred.
DG 9/6: Protection → prevent damage.
AF 9/10: What role does protection have in this set? Right now it is just on Brave the Elements, which is odd to me.
Tabak 10/11: Now has first strike. Prevent damage from b/r sources becomes can't be the target of b/r spells.
The Paladin went through several variations, trying to find the right combination. It began as 2/2 pro black, pro red, lifelink, first strike, and tried various other combinations of powers in configurations such as lifelink, vigilance.
One of the things that we have struggled with as a team over the years is finding the right place for hate cards, specifically protection. The problem is that protection is far from equal for each color. Protection from white, for instance, still lets the creature die to mass removal like Planar Cleansing or Day of Judgment. Protection from black just means that the player who wants to kill it needs to do something like Infest or Diabolic Edict. Protection from red or green, however... that creature is staying there forever, and the deck will have few ways around that. Red is the only color that generally gets mass removal where that removal is negated by protection. I have to imagine that, in an alternative timeline where protection prevents Day of Judgment from killing a pro-white creature, things are much different.
Breaking up protection on this into one of its subsets of abilities lets it just prevent the most common black and red removal spells from killing it, while still letting it die to either black's or red's mass removal. It also can shut down a lot of red's and black's attacks but doesn't lock the color out. Overall, I am very happy with how this card ended up.
TML 1/30/2011: I like where these turned out.
KD 2/7/12: Me too. This one reads weaker to me than the other ones.
DG 2/8: Test.
DG 4/26: Updated based on conversation with ZH and EVL; was BB 2/2 DT drain for 1 on opp's guys dying.
Tabak 10/18: BB 2/2 → 1BB 3/1, ability changes from opp g/w creature ETB = lose 1 life to ETB exile g/w creature card from hand
For a good portion of its life, Lifebane Zombie was a BB 2/2, having either deathtouch and intimidate or intimidate with "whenever a green or white creature enters the battlefield under an opponent's control, that player loses 1 life."
The problem with this text was that it was very good at hosing Lingering Souls, but not much else. The majority of green or white decks in our FFL were just casting larger threats, or casting threats fast enough that a Lifebane Zombie on anything other than turn two on the play just wasn't fast enough to do anything. Add in the fact that against the turbo-green-white decks like Naya Blitz, the life loss was rarely relevant. The card had another problem, though. The body, a BB intimidator Zombie, was just about good enough to main deck in the Zombie deck. Ideally, we didn't want any of these creatures to be good enough in the main deck that you would run them if you didn't expect to play against a lot of decks they were good against. BB 2/2 intimidate is just about as good, or better, than other two-drop options in Zombies (which were a little sparse), so finding another spot on the curve was ideal.
The current design was put together to better fight creatures that generated extra value, like Thragtusk or Angel of Serenity, but we also increased the cost to three so you would have to think pretty hard when including them in your main deck. If the metagame shifts so far that it is better than Geralf's Messenger or Liliana of the Veil in the main deck, then it is probably good that the card exists.
KD 7/18: Saucy. I approve of the direction of "do a bad thing to you once" rather than "you can't play Magic until you kill this 2/2."
SPS 7/26: Card seems too good to me, and not really very fun. Does it need Flash?
DH 8/8: Does seem more generous/frustrating than it needs to be.
DG 8/9: Lost flash.
>GSV 8/30: Reads kind of lame to my player eyes. Restrictive Æther Adept at rare... but I guess I get it for a mana less? Blah.
DG 9/5: Bounce a guy → dungeon geist a guy.
DG 9/6: Folk in FFL say they would play as freeze (over dungeon), so dungeon geist → frost breath a guy.
Tabak 9/27: 2/2, freeze for a turn → 2/1, Dungeon Geists ability
Tabak 11/2: Back to 2/2.
Tidebinder Mage ran into a lot of problems early on, largely due to concerns with producing another blue two-drop, particularly one with flash. It started out as UU 2/2 ETB bounce a red or green creature, but that flash clause was pretty punishing and certainly allowed for the blue decks to really swing combat around pretty impressively. From there, he vacillated between freezing or locking a creature, and ended up with locking it. In the end, it was decided that freezing for a turn, while it had some upsides, just wasn't as exciting as locking the creature down, so that is where it ended. Take that, Thragtusk.
DG 11/21: Strongly desire keeping this as is.
Tabak 9/6: So do I, given that it's a reprint and all.
Good point. Actually, Dave was speaking of the desire to keep the version of Ajani as Caller of the Pride (this does sometimes change in development).
DG 7/22: Promoted to unc, replaced by Child of Night at com. 1/2 → 1/3.
Tabak 8/1: Sacrifice a creature or another creature?
DG 9/6: B, Sac → 1B, Sac (FFL). @Tabak—Sac a creature. We felt like this guy makes reasonable sense sac'ing himself for effect (unlike vampires).
This is a recent debate that Mark Rosewater has mentioned in his column—whether creatures can sac themselves or others. Historically, pretty much every creature that could sacrifice a creature could do it to themselves, which led to both epic misclicks on Magic Online, and some new players being confused as to why they didn't get an effect when they sacrificed their creature.
The general rule we try and go by now comes down to flavor and feel. Does it make sense that this creature would sacrifice itself for this effect? Vampires may be bloodthirsty, but they tend to have a strong self-preservation instinct that goes along with being nigh-immortal. Zombies, however... well, Zombies are generally not very bright, and if there is anyone who would end up sacrificing themselves, it would be them. Other creature types really end up coming down to the individual cards.
The only major power-level concern with this card was moving from B to 1B to sac, because the card was getting a little crazy in Zombie decks with Gravecrawler. It's very possible that leaving it at that stat would've been fine, but we work about a year out and decided to play it safe after seeing all of the Blood Artist/Killing Wave–style decks in the real world.
TML 2/8/2012: MUST ATTACK
DH 3/9: Very cool!
DG 3/23: Note to self—keep an eye on this in Limited; is it doing what we want?
AF 3/29: Do we want "attacking for 5?" 'Cause that's what he's doing!
Excellent. Everything is going to plan.
DG 1/13/2012: Replaced Looming Shade with new high-tough doof (needed vanilla).
TML 1/30/2011: I support this doofy doof.
EVL 7/15: And the art matches. I wonder what a Binotaur Porterhouse tastes like :)
KEN 7/24/2012: Concept is very WTF! ;)
A lot of very interesting cards come out through the development file. This isn't one of them. At least in terms of card text. One of the things we are actively doing with black to try and separate it from red is making black more into a high-toughness color and keeping red more about high power and low toughness. We have given black both the typical vanilla 2/3 in this set, as well as the unusual vanilla 4/6. I don't think you've seen the last 2R 2/3, but you can expect that to be more often in black from now on.
ZH 10/20: YEEEEAH.
MT 11/17: Would love this guy at 4 mana.
DG 11/21: Sold, to MT, for 4 mana. (3RR 4/4→2RR 3/3)
AF 3/9: Probably fair with Lingering Souls.
Hata 3/15: As a fan of face beatings, this continues to be one of my favorites in the set.
Mike Turian is always a fan of aggressive decks, and the move to four mana definitely helped this guy out a lot. While he is a little more vulnerable to removal, you haven't lived until you have cast him, then a Lingering Souls with flashback the next turn. It's a thing of beauty.
I hope you enjoyed another trip through the Multiverse. I look forward to bringing you the comments from Theros, but that is still a few months away. But, if you are itching to know more, make sure to check out the Magic Panel at SDCC this weekend if you are in town, and if not, we will be posting a video of it later in the week.
Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May, 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.