If you're interested in working for Wizards of the Coast, make sure you check out the end of this column.
ast week was my five hundredth week writing Making Magic (feels weird for me to write that) so that means it's time for another "X Hundred and Counting" article. In these articles I review the last hundred weeks of columns by grading them and talking about each one. This is obviously the fifth such column. Here are the first four:
I write these columns for two reasons. For older readers, it's a chance to look back over the last two years' worth of columns and get some insight into what went into making them and how they were received. For newer readers, these columns are a resource to help them get a better sense of which old columns they might want to read.
As always, I will use this scale to grade my columns:
This is as good as it gets. One of my crème de la crème. If you're going to catch up on any old articles, these are the ones to read.
While not my absolute best, this article is one of my better pieces.
One of my bread-and-butter columns. Nothing spectacular, but nothing too shabby either.
At best, a ho-hum read. At worst, a failed experiment.
The only real reason to read this is to say you've read every column. Not my finest hour.
Week #401 (August 31, 2009) – "Planechasing Your Dream"
This is the first and only week of Planechase previews. As always, I introduce the design team and explain how the product came to be. The most interesting thing about this article is that it includes a spec document, something we make to try and explain to others in the company what the set we want to create will basically do. Because this preexists the design there is always some difference between the design spec and the finished product. If you like that kind of behind the scenes, this might be an article for you. The article also ends with my Duelist-style teasers about Zendikar.
Week #402 (September 7, 2009) – "Achieving Zendikar, Part I"
This was the first week of Zendikar previews (you know there's a lot going on when you have back-to-back preview weeks of different products). Most of my preview week articles tend to be three stars as I have to go through the normal paces of laying out a new set. The exceptions are generally for sets that I ran as I always have a lot more to say. After introducing my design team I spend most of the article explaining how we created landfall. It's a very get-your-hands-dirty kind of article, as it explains how we went from a land focus to actually getting our key mechanic.
Week #403 (September 14, 2009) – "Achieving Zendikar, Part II"
In week two of Zendikar previews, I explain the start of the fight to get the land block made and talk about how that led to the creation of the "adventure world" theme. If you are interested, I strongly urge you to read all three Zendikar articles together, because they are written essentially as one long article.
Week #404 (September 21, 2009) – "Achieving Zendikar, Part III"
In the third and final week of Zendikar previews, I explain how kicker got into the set and how we made the "spell" lands. Also, I finish my story of the trials and tribulations of getting a "land block" to print.
Week #405 (September 28, 2009) – "Four Hundred and Counting"
Due to Planechase and Zendikar previews, my fourth recap of my last hundred columns got pushed back a bit. If you like today's column, odds are you'll like this one too.
Week #406 (October 5, 2009) – "Leading a Horse to Water"
It was Landfall Week, but I had just written an article about the creation of landfall a few weeks earlier, so instead I went off and talked about something I don't talk about all that much: one of my greatest failures. This column talks about the lessons I learned leading the design for Odyssey and how I applied those lessons to Zendikar's design. If you come to this column to learn about design, this is a must-read.
Week #407 (October 12, 2009) – "Zendikar Talk""
One of my traditions is that after each set's release I write an article where I walk through it telling interesting stories about individual cards. I particularly like this column as Zendikar design had a lot of fun stories to share.
Week #408 (October 19, 2009) – "Care for a Bite?"
It was Vampire Week (again!). This article is about how Vampires went from being one or two strong in a set to being a staple race of black. This is one of those columns where I define terms and then explain why they're important to design.
Week #409 (October 26, 2009) – "Land of the Lost"
Most of the time in my column I talk about the designs we used. This column was all about the designs we didn't. In designing Zendikar, we came up with a lot of land mechanics we didn't use. This column walks through many of the rejects and explains why they didn't make it into the set. I spend a lot of time talking in the article about why elements weren't used. This information is equally important to understanding what does get used. As I talk a lot about the latter but very little of the former, this article hits important design tips that I don't often talk about.
Week #410 (November 2, 2009) – "True Allies"
It was Ally Week, so I talked about the design of Allies. I also explain the importance of linear mechanics. Allies went through quite a few changes through design and development, so this column has some interesting twists and turns.
Week #411 (November 9, 2009) – "Maro on Maro, Part I"
In October of 1995, I did a column where I interviewed myself. I really liked how it turned out, so four years later I did another interview. The biggest advantage of interviewing yourself is you get to make sure you get the kinds of questions you want to answer. I'm very happy with how this second interview turned out.
Week #412 (November 16, 2009) – "Around the Worlds in Fifteen Years"
It was Worlds Week, so I recapped the fifteen previous World Championships that I had attended. This is one of my Magic history columns, so if you come here for design insight only, this is a week to skip.
Week #413 (November 23, 2009) – "Maro on Maro, Part II"
This is the second part of my interview with myself.
Week #414 (November 30, 2009) – "Designing for Spike"
This is the third in the series of "Designing for [insert psychographic]. I had previously done Designing for Timmy and Designing for Johnny. I think this article is important, as I believe a lot of players don't understand that Spike is interested in more than just power level. There are things that Spike likes more than other players, and it is design's job to make sure each set has some of those things.
Week #415 (December 7, 2009) – "Playing With Blocks"
The main purpose of this column was to explain what was going on with Rise of the Eldrazi. Why were we doing a large set then small set then large set in the block? To answer this question I dove into the history of block structure. This column is a little more technical and dry than others, but it has numerous important design lessons about how modern blocks are put together.
Week #416 (December 14, 2009) – "The Revenge of Mons"
It was Goblin Week (again!). While I love writing about goblins, my problem was that one of my favorite columns of all time was the one I wrote for the first Goblin Week (Mons Made Me Do It). I was very happy that I came up with a column that could live in the shadow of the first goblin column. I still feel the original was slightly better, but this article definitely holds its own. This article is probably most famous for a teaser I did for Rise of the Eldrazi in which I turned every noun in the teaser into the word goblin.
Week #417 (December 21, 2009) – "Kind Acts of Randomness"
It was the first week of the holiday break so I picked my favorite design article from 2009: this article about the importance of randomness in design. If you haven't read this yet and care anything about design, I urge you to read it. This column also has my yearly family holiday card on it.
Week #418 (December 28, 2009) – "Resolutions"
For the second week of the holiday break, I chose my favorite personal column of 2009. This one explained how I tried to apply lessons I've learned from design to my life.
Week #419 (January 4, 2010) – "Disney Magic"
My family went on a Disney Cruise. I was so impressed by them that it inspired an article about what I could learn from them to make my designs better. Besides some good insights, you also get to see vacation photos of my family.
Week #420 (January 11, 2010) – "Milling, About"
It was Milling Week, so I wrote about the history of the design of milling. (If you don't know what "milling" is, read the article.) I also spend some time at the end of the article talking about the design of some specific milling cards.
Week #421 (January 18, 2010) – "And the Land Played On"
It was the first week of Worldwake previews. I introduce the design team and talk about what role Worldwake had to fill.
Week #422 (January 25, 2010) – "A Multikick in the Seat of the Pants"
It was week two of Worldwake previews, so I explained the design of multikicker, a new twist on kicker debuting in the set. (It started out in Zendikar design... Just read the article.)
Week #423 (February 1, 2010) – "Worldwake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
This was my Worldwake card-by-card column. My favorite behind-the-scenes story of this article is that I wrote what I thought was the design story of Bestial Menace, only to have Kelly Digges (my editor and a member of the Worldwake design team) write back to me saying, "No, I made it." This made it an even better story, so I rewrote the section.
Week #424 (February 8, 2010) – "All Together Now"
It was When Lands Attack Week so I, of course, talked about the iPad. The core of the discussion was about how technology tends to push together multiple functions into one device. This connected into the idea of lands that were also creatures. (It flows a little better in the article.) While I liked this article, I got a pretty strong backlash from it. It turns out that a portion of my audience is very anti-Apple and got quite mad that I talked about an Apple product in a positive light. (This wasn't the first time I did so.) My contention is that whether you like or dislike their business practices, they are amazing at design. To ignore that is to miss great learning opportunities. Anyway, if you can stomach me saying nice things about Apple, there's a lot of good design info to be had.
Week #425 (February 15, 2010) – "Nuts & Bolts: Design Skeleton"
Once a year I do a Nuts & Bolts column where I dig into the nitty-gritty of actually making a card design file. I often talk philosophically about design. This column though is about the actual how-to of creating a design set. If you've ever wanted to design Magic sets, this is a must-read. The article will link you to the first Nuts & Bolts article, and there's a third one coming up later in this column. This series of articles, by the way, has gone over very well with its intended audience. (They keep bugging me to do more than one Nuts & Bolts per year.)
Week #426 (February 22, 2010) – "Spin-Off to See the Wizards"
It was Multikicker Week. As I had already done the article about its design (this happens a lot), I dedicated this column to talking about how we make spin-off mechanics.
Week #427 (March 1, 2010) – "Fun-Off, Part 1"
I wanted to talk about fun in design, so I decided to do it in as fun a way as possible. I asked my tweeps (my followers on Twitter) to tell me what they consider to be the most fun card in Magic. I took the first 32 answers I got and put them into a 32-card single elimination bracket. For each match-up I picked a winner and explained why I believed that card was more fun than the other. Along the way I talked a lot about what made things fun and how that impacts design. The only flaw of the article came about because I wanted to have the players vote so we could compare what all of you thought to what I thought. Unfortunately, in Part 1 I asked the question after I told you my answer, which warped every poll to go the same way I did. This problem got fixed in Part 2.
Week #428 (March 8, 2010) – "Raiders of the Lost Cabinet"
It was Adventure Week, so I decided to go on a little adventure. That adventure ended up being searching through the top drawer in my cabinet. You'll be surprised at some of the things I found. There's a small segment of readers who really liked this column and have been begging me to do one on the bottom drawer.
Week #429 (March 15, 2010) – "Fun-Off, Part 2"
Part 2 began with the Sweet Sixteen match-up. I fixed how the voting worked, and all in all, I was happy with how this column turned out.
Week #430 (March 22, 2010) – "Working Draft"
It was Draft Week, so I broke up my article into two parts. The first half talks about the history of drafting in Magic. The second half talks about what we can do in design to improve drafting.
Week #431 (March 29, 2010) – "On the Rise, Part I"
It was the first week of Rise of Eldrazi previews. I introduced the team (one of a few large set designs that I haven't been on) and explained how they went about designing creatures as foreboding as the Eldrazi. Plus you get to see Brian Tinsman's Cthulhu tattoo.
Week #432 (April 5, 2010) – "On the Rise, Part II"
It was the second Preview Week for Rise of the Eldrazi. I talk about what the design team had to do to make a Limited environment where the Eldrazi could be played. I also talk a bit about how the levelers got designed.
Week #433 (April 12, 2010) – "On the Rise, Part III"
This third and final week of Rise of Eldrazi previews is probably the most important of the three if you're looking for design info. In it I talk about something called layering and how important it is to make a set play well. Most of the column talks about what had to be done to the rest of the set to make Eldrazi work, which is how I get to layering in the first place.
Week #434 (April 19, 2010) – "To Eldrazi and Back"
This is my Rise of Eldrazi card-by-card column. This column has more development stories than normal, as I was on the development team for Rise of the Eldrazi but not the design team.
Week #435 (April 26, 2010) – "You Had Me at Eldrazi"
It was Eldrazi Week, but I had spent the last month talking all about the design of the Eldrazi, so instead I talked about a meta-design issue that we had to deal with while designing the Eldrazi, something I call the bio-dome. If you like learning R&D slang and the reasoning behind why the concept needs a name, I'd take a peek at this article.
Week #436 (May 3, 2010) – "The Ten Principles for Good Design, Part 1"
The designers in R&D all get together every other week to talk design. At each meeting, one person makes a presentation. This column, along with its follow-up, was my first presentation. The article is all about the universality of design. In it I talk about the ten design lessons from a man famous for making lamps and radios. Another must-read for design fans.
Week #437 (May 10, 2010) – "Level Headed"
It was Level Up Week so I talked about all the nitty-gritty design decisions that went into making the level up mechanic. This article does a real good job of showing how doing design is about solving a lot of small problems to make a singular mechanic.
Week #438 (May 17, 2010) – "The Ten Principles for Good Design, Part 2"
Part 2 of my Dieter Rams column. We had gotten some complaints from Part 1 because my graphic designer used a lot of Apple imagery in the graphics. (Dieter Rams was a huge influence on Jonathan Ives, Apple's main industrial designer). To avoid the issue, this column uses mostly work by Dieter Rams himself (specifically Braun items, as that is who he primarily designed for.)
Week #439 (May 24, 2010) – "On the Rebound"
It was Rebound Week, so I explained how the rebound mechanic got designed. Yes, somehow I hadn't already told the story. Besides talking about the rebound mechanic in particular, the article also talks about the methods a design team goes through when they're trying to find the final mechanic to round out a set.
Week #440 (May 31, 2010) – "On the Rebound"(REPEAT)
It was Memorial Day (an American holiday remembering the dead) and it wasn't a preview week, so I had the Monday off. Ironically, this meant my rebound article from the previous week "went off" again.
Week #441 (June 7, 2010) – "Disadvantaged"
It was Aura Week, so I wrote my entire column as if Aura, personified, had written a tell-all book. If you enjoy my "take some aspect of Magic and personify it" articles, I think you're going to enjoy this column.
Week #442 (June 14, 2010) – "From the Heart"
It was Archenemy Week, so I introduced the design team and explained how the product came to be. Vorthos and Melvin get pulled into the discussion, so definitely check this one out if you like hearing about those two.
Week #443 (June 21, 2010) – "My Rogue's Gallery"
This was one of those articles were the inability to get the creative execution I wanted dropped my column down a full star. The idea of this week was that I talked about the biggest archenemies of the Head Designer. For fun, and, well, because I'm a comic fan, I matched up each enemy with a famous supervillain. Each one was supposed to be represented by an actual person at Wizards that would then be switched to look like the supervillain I was parodying. Unfortunately, what I wanted would have required a lot more lead time than I was able to give my graphic designer, so I only got one such picture, turning Mark Gottlieb into a parody of The Riddler. The one I was saddest to see go was turning Erik Lauer into a parody of Superman villain Mr. Mxyzptlk. You need to know what both look like to understand how funny this picture could have been. Oh well.
Week #444 (June 28, 2010) – "Magic Goes To Eleven"
It was the first week of Magic 2011 previews, so I introduced the team and explained what challenges we faced in designing a new-style core set.
Week #445 (July 5, 2010) – "Eleven Sent""
This is week two of Magic 2011 previews. Instead of sticking to a single topic, the article jumps around to different Magic 2011 themes. The article does include a "Core Set Survivor" segment where we watch the final eight drop down to the final two.
Week #446 (July 12, 2010) – "Know How, Part 1"
This was a mailbag column with two small twists. One, all my questions came from my Twitter account (@maro254) and two, each question had to start with the word "How." I'm a big fan of feedback columns and I enjoyed that I finally did one with a theme for the questions.
Week #447 (July 19, 2010) – "The Multiplay's The Thing"
It was Multiplayer Week, and I did something a little more interactive. The article was made up of cards that I asked you, the audience, to see if you could improve to make them better for multiplayer play. I really enjoyed the reader interactivity, and rereading it for this column has made me want to do another one like it.
Week #448 (July 26, 2010) – "Know How, Part 2"
This was Part 2 of my feedback column. The reason it went to two parts is that my tweeps asked so many good questions that I wanted to answer as many as I could.
Week #449 (August 2, 2010) – "Feedback To Basics"
It was Feedback Week. As I had just done a two-parter feedback column, I decided to make my article about how to give feedback. One of the most useful parts of this article is that it listed the Twitter accounts of every Wizards employee at the time who worked on Magic.
Week #450 (August 9, 2010) – "Playing With Memories"
Due to a personal issue, I missed my first Magic column ever and had to fill in with an old favorite that very few people had ever seen.
Week #451 (August 16, 2010) – "Gimme a Hand"
It was Opening Hand Week, so I wrote seven mini articles about the opening hand. (The seven articles represented the seven draws I could take with my opening hand. It sounded better in my head.) The most interesting thing the column addresses is why Magic has an opening hand of specifically seven.
Week #452 (August 23, 2010) – "Making Memories"
The article two back. I lied to you. Why? Well, I did it to make a point about memory. Some players loved the idea and didn't mind the manipulation on my part, as I was doing it for an important reason. Other readers were incensed that I lied to them. This goes down as one of my most controversial columns of all time. I like it a lot and feel like they are both full of very important information. One of the funniest parts of this column is that I got as many of my tweeps as possible to admit to remembering the completely made-up column from eight years earlier and then included all their tweets in the column.
Week #453 (August 30, 2010) – "Thank You Sir, May I Have Another"
This article announces the return of The Great Designer Search. Editor Kelly Digges picked the Sequel Week theme specifically to set me up for this column. I start talking about all the sequels in Magic, and I end with the big reveal of GDS2. This is one of those articles that was much more exciting in the moment than it is looking back a year later.
Week #454 (September 6, 2010) – "Something Wicked This Way Comes, Part 1"
It's the first week of Scars of Mirrodin previews, but it might as well have been Poison Week, as I use this column to talk about my fifteen-year plight trying to make poison a major component of a block. Some of the readers took my tongue-in-cheek approach a little too seriously, and I got some odd mail from people who were offended that I got a job at Wizards only to advance my poison agenda.
Week #455 (September 13, 2010) – "Something Wicked This Way Comes, Part 2""
Part 2 of my Scars of Mirrodin preview talks about all the things we had to do to build up the Mirrodin side of the design, including the design of metalcraft.
Week #456 (September 20, 2010) – "Something Wicked This Way Comes, Part 3"
Part three talks about creating the rest of the Phyrexian side including the design of the proliferate mechanic.
Week #457 (September 27, 2010) – "State of Design 2010"
Normally I do my annual State of Design before the previews begin for the fall set, but the release of Archenemy combined with my need to announce the Great Designer Search 2 pushed it back until after previews.
Week #458 (October 4, 2010) – "Proliferate Crazy Nights"
It was Proliferate Week, so I spent the column talking about the mechanic's design.
Week #459 (October 11, 2010) – "A Different World"
The Great Designer Search 2 required candidates to create their own world. This column talks about the two most common approaches design takes when designing worlds.
Week #460 (October 18, 2010) – "I Want to Threshold Your Hand (Or Possibly My Artifacts)"
It was Metalcraft Week, so I told the design story of metalcraft. Be warned—parts of this column are a little more mind-bendy than normal.
Week #461 (October 25, 2010) – "A Few Multiple-Choice Words"
One of the tests candidates had to pass to advance in The Great Designer Search 2 was a fifty-question multiple-choice test. This column gave the readers a chance to take the test and have it graded. Then for each question I gave what we considered the right answer and explained why. If you've never taken the test and are curious to test your design knowledge, I suggest giving it a try!
Week #462 (November 1, 2010) – "The Power of Passion"
It was Infect Week. As I had already written almost everything there was to say about infect's design, I chose to use this column to talk about the importance of having passion in your design (and in your life).
Week #463 (November 8, 2010) – "Essay What"
Two weeks earlier I walked everyone through the GDS2 multiple-choice test. This week was a walkthrough of the essay test. I asked some hard questions, so it was fun to let everyone see my answers.
Week #464 (November 15, 2010) – "Feel the Burn"
It was Burn Week, so I talked about the various designs for direct damage. Most of what I said could be easily figured out, and I don't feel I added enough content beyond the obvious.
Week #465 (November 22, 2010) – "That's Going To Leave Scars, Part I"
Every set I do a column where I walk through the set and tell stories card-by-card. For Scars of Mirrodin, I dragged this column out into multiple columns. Why did I do this? I could tell you that the reason was that I had a lot to say about Scars, as I'd led the design. The truth, though, was that running The Great Designer Search 2 was killing me and I needed some easy columns to write as the GDS2 was sucking up all my spare time. The fact that I was going alphabetically and only got up to "D" should have been a sign that this was going to last a few columns.
Week #466 (November 29, 2010) – "Imprints Charming"
It was Imprint Week, and once again I was in a bind as I had already written a column about its design. Instead I chose to talk about why some mechanics don't exist at common. The column is a little Nuts & Bolts-y but has a lot of important bigger-picture design information.
Week #467 (December 6, 2010) – "That's Going To Leave Scars, Part 2"
This second card-by-card column gets us up to the letter L.
Week #468 (December 13, 2010) – "The Darksteel Returns"
It was Darksteel Week (as opposed to Darksteel Week), so I explained how exactly the indestructible mechanic came about.
Week #469 (December 20, 2010) – "The Ten Principles of Good Design, Parts 1 and 2" (REPEAT)
It was the first week of our winter break, which meant it was time for the "Best Of" reprints. I chose my two-parter about the design lessons of Dieter Rams as my favorite design column of 2010.
Week #470 (December 27, 2010) – "Making Memories" (REPEAT)
For the second "Best Of" column I chose my follow-up to my memories column. Note that the column lists the name of the initial article, "Playing with Memories," but actually prints the follow-up "Making Memories".
Week #471 (January 3, 2011) – "That's Going To Leave Scars, Part 3"
I stretched this column as far as I could and it got me three columns. This is the last part that gets us from M to W (there was no X, Y or Z).
Week #472 (January 10, 2011) – "Let's See What Develops"
Mirrodin Besieged previews create a weird quirk where we had two non-theme weeks in a row. I used my column to do something I'm ashamed I hadn't thought to do earlier: give some big-time props to development. I often give them a hard time in my column (they tend to be the ones trying to stop me from doing whatever awesome thing I want to do), so I felt it was important to have a column that explains why they're so important for design and for Magic. This column also has my yearly family holiday card. It was late as, well, we had gotten it out a little later than normal (and I forgot to bring it in to the office a week earlier).
Week #473 (January 17, 2011) – "Under Besiege, Part 1"
It was week one of Mirrodin Besieged previews, so I introduced the design team and explained how exactly one designs a set to reflect a war.
Week #474 (January 24, 2011) – "Under Besiege, Part II"
Mirrodin Besieged Preview Week 2 had me delving a little deeper into what it meant for design to have the Phyrexians further their corruption and for the Mirrans to finally get a clue what was going on.
Week #475 (January 31, 2011) – "War Stories"
This is my card-by-card column for Mirrodin Besieged. The biggest issue I talk about is the controversy surrounding the card Blightsteel Colossus.
Week #476 (February 7, 2011) – "Fight Club, Part 1"
It was Battle Cry Week, so I decided to dig in deep and explore all the design space of combat mechanics. This column and its follow-up are very nitty-gritty but they do show all the nuances that design has to be aware of. This column wasn't created to be a two-parter. It just turned out that when I wrote everything down it was too long for just one column.
Week #477 (February 14, 2011) – "Fight Club, Part 2"
I rated Part 2 two stars because this column was not interesting enough to take up two full columns. As I doubt I could fit it into one column, odds are I was supposed to write a different column last week and this week.
Week #478 (February 21, 2011) – "Pick a Side, Any Side"
It was Pick a Side Week, and each columnist was asked to pick a side in the Mirran/Phyrexian War. I had long ago publically picked my side (Phyrexia—it had my two favorite mechanics from the block), but this column was a chance for me to walk through in detail my reasons for choosing Phyrexia over Mirrodin.
Week #479 (February 28, 2011) – "Nuts & Bolts: Filling In the Design Skeleton"
When I started the Nuts & Bolts columns three years ago I thought I was going to be writing to a very narrow group of readers. It turns out that more people than I thought are designing their own sets in their spare time. Also, the Nuts & Bolts have been a good way to demonstrate a lot of the craft that goes into design.
Week #480 (March 7, 2011) – "What Do You Do for a Living Weapon?"
It was Living Weapon Week, but instead of a normal design rundown, I went to Twitter and let my tweeps ask the questions they had about the design of living weapon.
Week #481 (March 14, 2011) – "A Roseanne By Any Other Name, Part 1"
My time on the writing staff of the television show Roseanne has long been a running joke in my column. I always knew I was going to dedicate a column or two or three to it. This is that column. I always try to put a little extra into my personal columns, and this one was no different. I especially like the advice in this column on how to pitch an idea.
Week #482 (March 21, 2011) – "Looking in the Mirrodin"
It was Mirrodin Week, but instead of talking about the set Mirrodin, I talked about the plane Mirrodin and how it got created. I liked the structure of this column (mimicking a technique used a lot in film), but it wasn't as well received as I had hoped. This column is one of the few times, though, where I talk about how a plane is created creatively.
Week #483 (March 28, 2011) – "A Roseanne By Any Other Name, Part 2"
Of this three-part column, this middle one was the weakest link. I felt it was important to spend some time answering the question people always ask ("What were the stars like?"), but to do so I had to kind of force the connection to the design lessons. Overall I'm very happy with my Roseanne three-parter, but I wish this middle part could have been as good as the first and third parts.
Week #484 (April 4, 2011) – "The Untold Story (Well, Until Today)"
One of the problems I have with my column is that I often can't tell the story of a set when it first comes out. The design of Scars of Mirrodin had a compelling story, but I had to hold back because I didn't want to give away the ending to the block. Once the ending was known, though, I was able to write this story that explained the big shift in the block's design.
Week #485 (April 11, 2011) – "A Roseanne By Any Other Name, Part 3"
I saved the best for last in this three-parter. When I set out to write a personal column, this is exactly the kind of article I want to write. This article is me coming clean with what was a very difficult time in my life and explaining a key life lesson that I believe led me to this very job.
Week #486 (April 18, 2011) – "Common Knowledge"
It was Common Week (again!), so I wrote a very thorough article about designing commons and what they mean to the set. This is a very meaty design article, one that might not seem like one at first glance.
Week #487 (April 25, 2011) – "Phyrexian Powers: International Mana Mystery"
It was the first week of New Phyrexia previews, so I introduced the design team and explained the design of Phyrexian mana. This title is in my all-time top 5 for "Making Magic" column titles.
Week #488 (May 2, 2011) – "Touch of Evil"
For the second week of New Phyrexia previews I talked about how Ken and his design team captured the feel of New Phyrexia. The block's whole set-up built to the payout of this set and it required a lot of work by the design and development teams to supply a proper payout.
Week #489 (May 9, 2011) – "This Issue Is Legen – Wait for It – Dary"
It was Praetor Week, but I decided to take the theme in a slightly different direction than normal. In this article I talked about what I perceived as an opportunity for R&D to improve the game. The issue at hand was the legendary supertype. I talked about the history of the supertype and walked through what I felt the issues were. This column produced more mail than any of the other ninety-nine columns I'm reviewing today. Most of the mail was from players giving suggested fixes. A lot of people seemed upset that I even suggested the need for a change, but as I explained in the article, one of R&D's jobs is to constantly look for places to improve the game. One of the jokes of the column was that the title and the headers were all quotes by the character Barney Stinson on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Barney is played by Neil Patrick Harris. Neil goes by the initials NPH, which was also the three letter code for New Phyrexia.
Week #490 (May 16, 2011) – "Cards Up My Sleeve"
This was my card-by-card article for New Phyrexia. It was a pretty run of-the-mill article with a few cool stories.
Week #491 (May 23, 2011) – "Mana Action"
There is little more misunderstood than the importance of Magic's mana to its design. I keep writing articles like this extolling its virtues, and people keep arguing with me about it. Ah, tradition.
Week #491 (May 30, 2011) – "Mana Action" (REPEAT)
It was once again the American holiday Memorial Day and, as the previous year, I didn't have a new column. Luckily the one we repeated had a five-star rating.
Week #492 (June 6, 2011) – "On Wedge"
It was Magic: The Gathering – Commander Preview Week so I introduced the design team and explained why we made the decision to create original content in a non-expansion product for the first time in sixteen years.
Week #493 (June 13, 2011) – "The Bleed Story"
Phyrexian mana upset numerous players because it messed with the color pie. This article gave me a chance to explain why exactly it's important for design to occasionally mess with it. The column also does a much better job of explaining some concepts I introduced years earlier in one of my Planar Chaos preview articles.
Week #494 (June 20, 2011) – "Word of Commander"
It was Commander Week so I gave my designer-eye thoughts on the Commander format. Part of my audience agreed with many of my observations, while others felt I "didn't get it."
Week #495 (June 27, 2011) – "Putting on a Core Set"
It was the first week of Magic 2012 previews. I introduce the design team and explain the many issues that they had to address while making a new core set in the mold of the revolutionary Magic 2010.
Week #496 (July 4, 2011) – "Please Sir, I Want Some Core"
It was the second preview week of Magic 2012. I didn't have a lot to say on its design, so instead I told some stories from core set teams I had been on. If you enjoy stories of R&D from back in the day then this is the article for you.
Week #497 (July 11, 2011) – "Out of the Closet, Part 1"
This column was imagined as a light-hearted Magic history column with a cutesy framing device (my Magic T-shirt collection). What I wasn't expecting was an article that was as divisive as some of my most controversial articles. The article's opening section upset some people, and I want to take a moment to apologize and state that it was not my intent to demean any group. I was simply trying to be funny and I obviously failed in that goal with numerous readers. This article proved very valuable for me as a writer as I tapped into some discontent I had not encountered before. Believe it or not, I feel this is a very good thing, because making mistakes you've never made before is one of the best ways to learn.
Week #498 (July 18, 2011) – "The Mighty Core"
It was Core Set Week so I examined what exactly a core set is supposed to do. Hopefully this column helped explain the complicated role that core sets currently have.
Week #499 (July 25, 2011) – "Out of the Closet, Part 2"
Part 1 didn't go as I expected, so I audibled and made a significant change for Part 2. Reader response was very positive, with about 90% liking the changes I made. Part 2 connects my T-shirts to design lessons, so if you read part 1 but skipped part 2, you might want to give it a look.
Week #500 (August 1, 2011) – "Resource of Income"
It was Bloodthirst Week, but I opted to not write the obvious article. Instead of explaining the design of the bloodthirst mechanic, I wrote about the evolution of how design has thought about mechanic resources over the years. This is definitely one of those articles that has a lot to say about game design in general.
Gimme Five Hundred
I still can't believe that I've been doing this for five hundred weeks. Next January will be the ten year anniversary for not only Making Magic, but the daily Magic website. These recap columns take a lot of extra resources to put together, so I want to give a shout-out to everyone behind the scenes who gave it extra time and extra love. I feel it's very important to help newer readers have a resource to examine what has become a true volume of work.
As always, I'm interested to hear your review of my reviews. Did I overgrade any article? Undergrade? Did I value something you could care less about or vice versa? What's your opinion of the last one hundred weeks of Making Magic? You can let me know in my email, on my Twitter (@maro254) or in the thread to this column.
Speaking of feedback, join me next week when I answer your questions.
Until then, may you have the joy of doing something you love for a long, long time.
So You Want to Work at Wizards...
Going by past experience, you all really like hearing about job openings at Wizards, so I thought I'd pass this one along. It's not in R&D, but rather on the Magic Brand Team. We need someone with professional marketing experience who plays Magic. We're not looking for Pro Tour skills—just someone who plays enough to understand what other Magic players might like about the game.
The open position is that of assistant brand manager. This is a role that will help guide Magic's marketing strategy as part of the Magic Brand Team. If that sounds like you, feel free to click here for all the info.