ast week was my six-hundredth week of writing Making Magic (I started back in January of 2002). As is my tradition, every hundred weeks I look back at the previous hundred weeks and grade each article on a scale from one to five, with five being the best. I do this for two reasons. One, for established readers, it's a chance to look back at the last two years' worth of columns, and it gives me a chance to say a few things about each one. Two, for my newer readers, the "Hundred and Counting" series is a tool to help them see which articles they might want to read.
This is the sixth in the series. Here are the first five.
As always, here is my five-star scale:
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 articles. 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 article. Not my finest hour.
Because this comes up every time I write this column, I want to stress that I use the same scale I have every "Hundred and Counting" column. I have not readjusted the scale. Also, the reason there are so few lower-rated articles is because if I realize that it's below three stars, I rewrite it (and I often rewrite it even if it's a four-star column if I believe I can make a five-star column out of it).
That said, let's get on to the columns.
Week #501 (August 8, 2011) – "Five Hundred and Counting"
If you like today's column, you should like this one as well as this was my last recap article.
Week #502 (August 15, 2011) – "Why? Because We Like You"
This column is number two in a mega-cycle of mailbag columns where I have the players ask me questions, each starting off with a different question word. The first year was "How" (Part 1 & Part 2) and this column was "Why."
I am a big fan of mailbag columns, as I love having the input from my readers on what they want to know. I also started using Twitter to get my questions as it makes sure they are all short and to the point. The article is all over the board on topics, but that's exactly the kind of article it wants to be.
Week #503 (August 22, 2011) – "State of Design 2011"
When I became head designer, I decided that I would write a yearly column before the start of each block, modeled after the annual speech given by the US president, where I look over the last year's worth of design and talk about how I felt it went. It is a very honest look into the successes and failures of each year. This was my seventh "State of Design" article and I take a look at Scars of Mirrodin block.
Week #504 (August 29, 2011) – "Every Two Sides Has a Story"
So, Innistrad previews began and this article talks about the creation of the most controversial part of the design—double-faced cards. If you like down-and-dirty behind-the-scenes articles, this is for you. I go into great detail how Innistrad ended up making the double-faced cards. For extra fun, you can read the twenty-six-page thread responding to the article and the existence of the double-faced cards. Let's just say some players weren't so happy in the beginning. (Most of them came around, for what it is worth.)
I also want to point out that this is one of my favorite article titles of all time.
Week #505 (September 5, 2011) – " C'mon Innistrad, Part 1 "
This was week two of Innistrad previews, where I started explaining how we chose the monsters to populate our Gothic horror world.
Week #506 (September 12, 2011) – " C'mon Innistrad, Part 2 "
This was the third Preview Week, but Part 2. In it, I talk about how we chose all the mechanics for the block (save double-faced cards and tribal, which I had talked about the two weeks prior).
Week #507 (September 19, 2011) – " Scary Stories, Part 1 "
One of the big advantages of top-down design is you get a lot of awesome card-by-card design stories. My card articles are usually popular, but I feel this one (and Part 2) are a cut above my normal card articles, as Innistrad design just had so many fun stories to tell.
Week #508 (September 26, 2011) – " Scary Stories, Part 2 "
I had so many great stories to tell about Innistrad card design that I couldn't stop with just one article's worth.
Week #509 (October 3, 2011) – "Were the Wild Things Are"
The key to a truly great behind-the-scene design story is having had enough happen that it can fill up an entire article. The design of Werewolves was a lengthy and complex endeavor that led to a compelling article.
Week #510 (October 10, 2011) – " Unanswered Questions: Innistrad"
This article started a new sub-article where I answered unanswered questions about Innistrad. Reading this article again, I really like it and it reminds me that I haven't really branded this sub-article, even though I've done other articles in a similar vein. Hmm, something I'm probably going to have to fix. One of the neat things about this article is I go into a lot of specific detail about why certain seemingly obvious choices weren't chosen.
Week #511 (October 17, 2011) – "The Walking Undead"
I don't want to say too much about this article if you've never read it, because I don't want to ruin the fun. I'll just tell you the two things you need to know: One, it was Undead Week, and two, it's a narrative short story. I'm very proud of this article; thus the five stars.
Week #512 (October 24, 2011) – "Ten Things Every Game Needs, Part 1"
This two-parter is probably the best intro to game design article I have ever written. It came about because I gave a talk to my eldest daughter's fifth-grade class, which was assigned to make a game about the American Revolution. I boiled down everything to the basics for the kids, and it turned out so well, I wrote a two-part article about it.
Week #513 (October 31, 2011) – "A Modern Sensibility"
Looking back at this stretch, I was on fire. It was Modern Week and I decided to talk about how modern Magic design (as opposed to design for the Modern format) differed from Magic design of the past. This is a good insight into much of the lessons design had learned and explains many of the facets we care about when designing today.
Week #514 (November 7, 2011) – "Ten Things Every Game Needs, Part 2"
This is the second part of my article on my talk to my daughter's class. It and the first part is one of the most-read articles I have ever written. ("Timmy, Johnny, Spike" and the revisit of that article are still #1 and #2.)
Week #515 (November 14, 2011) – "Grave Consequences, Part 1"
It was Graveyard Week, so I told a bunch of stories about graveyard-related cards I'd designed. As I'm a huge fan of the graveyard, that means a number of high-profile cards get talked about.
Week #516 (November 21, 2011) – "Grave Consequences, Part 2"
I had designed so many graveyard-relevant cards that I needed a second article to tell all the stories. (Well, not all the stories—I've made a lot of graveyard-relevant cards.)
Week #517 (November 28, 2011) – "Eighteen Years"
It was Transformation Week, so I talked about the transformation of Magic R&D and walked everyone through what I felt were, so far, the five dynasties of Magic R&D.
Week #518 (December 5, 2011) – "New World Order"
There are few things that have had a bigger impact on Magic design and development than something we call New World Order. If you've never heard of it, or have but don't quite understand what it is, here's the article where I introduced the idea to the world and spelled it all out. If you care one iota about Magic design, this is a must read.
Week #519 (December 12, 2011) – "Flashback to the Future"
I tell the history of the design of flashback through flashbacks. Yeah, it was a little high-concept, but I felt it worked well.
Week #520 (December 19, 2011) – "Ten Things Every Game Needs, Parts 1 & 2"
Every winter, I get two weeks off while we run two best-of weeks. My two-parter on the essentials of game design were my choice for the first Best-Of Week.
Week #521 (December 26, 2011) – " A Roseanne By Any Other Name" Parts 1, 2, & 3
My other pick is an article from earlier in the year (meaning it showed up in "Five Hundred and Counting") about my time as a writer on Roseanne. This is one of my most personal articles and the first and third parts are some of my best writing. The second part is okay for me and it tells a lot of behind-the-scenes Roseanne stuff, but it doesn't match up to the other two parts.
Week #522 (January 2, 2012) – "Turning Ten"
It was the website's 10th anniversary so I finally got around to telling the story behind how the website got together. It includes the hiring of Aaron Forsythe and many other juicy tidbits.
Week #523 (January 9, 2012) – " Dancing in the Dark Ascension, Part 1 "
I had quite a run of four- and five-star articles but the run ends here. It was the first Dark Ascension Preview Week, and I explained how the set came together, but Dark Ascension just didn't have the stories of Innistrad.
Week #524 (January 16, 2012) – " Dancing in the Dark Ascension, Part 2 "
Part 2 is a little more gripping than Part 1, mostly because I was able to start showing Dark Ascension cards to make my point, but I'd still say it's firmly in the three-star camp. If you like Dark Ascension, the article does a good job of mapping out what the parameters were of the design. My favorite part of the article is the story where I explain how my wife helped create undying.
Week #525 (January 23, 2012) – "Dark Shadows, Part 1"
The card-by-card stories of Dark Ascension are a bit more compelling than the larger-set design stories. Usually, in the sets I lead, I have a lot more card-by-card stories to tell and thus my overall quality level of stories is a touch higher.
Week #526 (January 30, 2012) – "Dark Shadows, Part 2"
The card-by-card stories of Dark Ascension are a bit more compelling than the larger set design stories. Usually, the sets I lead, I have a lot more card-by-card stories to tell and thus my overall quality level of stories is a touch higher.
Week #527 (February 6, 2012) – "Dark Shadows, Part 3"
I had a lot of stories to tell because, as I explained above, top-down design leads to a lot of fun card-design stories.
Week #528 (February 13, 2012) – "Old vs. New"
This article was about how to take things that have been done a lot and find a way to make new cards. If you are very into design, I would read this, but it's not up to par with many of my other design-centric articles.
Week #529 (February 20, 2012) – "Support Group"
If you like my offbeat articles then this one's for you. It's written as a play where mechanics come to a support group for mechanics that are always compared to other mechanics. ("Aren't you just kicker?") Don't be fooled by the light treatment, there's a lot of actual content hidden inside.
Week #530 (February 27, 2012) – "Nuts & Bolts: High Rarities"
Once a year, I do a sub-article called "Nuts & Bolts" where I walk readers through how to make their own set. It's very technical and detail-oriented, but if you care about Magic design, it's got the goods.
Week #531 (March 5, 2012) – "Topical Blend #4: Avoiding Peanuts, Part 1"
This is another sub-branded article I do called "Topical Blend," where I take two topics chosen by the readers, one Magic-related and one non-Magic-related, and then I write an article interweaving the two. This idea led to my all-time favorite article ("Topical Blend #1: To Err Is Human") and it always leads to an interesting read. This article combines "The Best-Designed Card of Each Set" with "magic" (not the game but prestidigitation). In it, you'll learn that in my youth I was a magician.
Week #532 (March 12, 2012) – "Topical Blend #4: Avoiding Peanuts, Part 2"
I had never done a two-part Topical Blend before, but I just had too much to say to fit it into one article. This two-parter does an interesting job of mixing my past, insights from years of a career, and Magic design, all into one article (well, technically two articles).
Week #533 (March 19, 2012) – "Lord of the Things"
It was Lord Week, so I took the three lords from Alpha and traced the different lords of those creature types (Goblins, Merfolk and Zombies) through the ages.
Week #534 (March 26, 2012) – "Point/Counterpoint: Targeted Draw"
This was the start of another sub-article called "Point/Counterpoint." The idea behind it was that I would take one side of a popular R&D debate and the developer from the development article (at the time Zac Hill) would take the other side. The topic we chose was "Should Draw Be Targeted As a Default?" (i.e., "Target player draws two cards" versus" Draw two cards"). This is my argument and here is Zac's.
I haven't done another "Point/Counterpoint" since. but that's not because it didn't go well or it wasn't appreciated by the audience. I'm sure Sam Stoddard (the new writer of Latest Developments) and I will do one of these sometime before the year's out. We just have to come up with a good topic.
Week #535 (April 2, 2012) – " You Had Me At Helvault "
It was Helvault Week, so I decided to talk about how we used cards like Helvault to tease the future. The article was a glance through the history of Magic, looking at the numerous times we used cards to hint at upcoming mechanics or story points.
Week #536 (April 9, 2012) – " Avacyn City, Part 1 "
It was the first week of Avacyn Restored previews and I was showing off the new miracle mechanic. The article explained the origin of my preview card and the miracle mechanic, but in Pulp Fiction-style, the story wasn't told chronologically. I think this article gets a four in concept but a three in execution, as I don't know if my offbeat style was a perfect fit for a preview week explaining the sexy new mechanic.
Week #537 (April 16, 2012) – " Avacyn City, Part 2 "
It's the second week of Avacyn Restored previews and I talk about the rest of the mechanics in the set. I also explain how the May set of 2012 originally wasn't Avacyn Restored but Innistrad. What? Well, go read the article.
Week #538 (April 23, 2012) – " Avacyn–gle Ladies, Part 1 "
After the preview weeks come the card-by-card stories. This and the next two weeks were the card stories about Avacyn Restored.
Week #539 (April 30, 2012) – " Avacyn–gle Ladies, Part 2 "
Apparently there were a lot of stories.
Week #540 (May 7, 2012) – " Avacyn–gle Ladies, Part 3 "
A lot of stories.
Week #541 (May 14, 2012) – "The Name's Bond, Soulbond"
It was Soulbond Week, so I spent my article telling the origin of soulbond. The story has a lot of technical twists and turns if you're a big fan of seeing how mechanics evolve during design and development.
Week #542 (May 21, 2012) – "Changing Planes"
It was Planechase 2012 Preview Week so I talked about why the concept of planes are so important to the game of Magic.
Week #543 (May 28, 2012) – "Planechasing Your Dream"
It was Memorial Day, so there was no new content. Instead, they reran my preview article from the release of the original Planechase.
Week #544 (June 4, 2012) – "How to Get Your Dream Job"
My talk to my daughter's fifth-grade class ended up with a very popular article. Well, I was asked to speak at her Career Day a year later, so I decided to turn that into an article as well. The topic was "finding your dream job" and it turned into an excellent article. It made me realize that I have to speak to my daughter's class more often.
Week #545 (June 11, 2012) – "Duel's Paradise"
It was Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 Preview Week (whew, there's a lot of things to preview in the summer), so I talked all about the design of the latest version of Magic's video game.
Week #546 (June 18, 2012) – "To Teach Their Own"
This article, inspired by the release of the newest Duels of the Planeswalkers, explains the best way to teach a new player how to play Magic. I'm very happy with how it came out and I feel it gives a lot of tactical advice for teaching the game.
Week #547 (June 25, 2012) – "Core, the Merrier"
It was Magic 2013 Preview Week (I said it was busy), so I talked about the goals of making the latest core set. The article is a good insight about how something that might seem simple is anything but.
Week #548 (July 2, 2012) – "Old Timers"
For my card-by-card stories of the core set, instead of talking about the new cards (as I wasn't on the design team and thus didn't know the stories), I focused instead of some of the old cards.
Week #549 (July 9, 2012) – "Core Design, Part 1"
This is a mailbag article all about Magic 2013 . It's basically my "Unanswered Questions" idea from above without the branding.
Week #550 (July 16, 2012) – "Core Design, Part 2"
This is a mailbag article all about Magic 2013 . It's basically my "Unanswered Questions" idea from above without the branding.
Week #551 (July 23, 2012) – "First Impressions"
It was Exalted Week, so I talked about first impressions and how some mechanics that play wonderfully are unimpressive when they are first previewed and what a designer has to do about it.
Week #552 (July 30, 2012) – "Celebrity"
This article might be the most popular article I wrote of this batch of hundred. In it, I compare my brush with celebrities while working in Hollywood with my own experiences being a celebrity in Magic circles.
Week #553 (August 6, 2012) – "Setting the Standard"
It was Standard Week, so I wrote a long article about the nature of Magic and trading card games, where I explained why Standard exists.
Week #554 (August 13, 2012) – "Numbers on a White Board"
The first World Magic Cup was happening, so I told a little story about the first Magic team event at the 1994 World Championships.
Week #555 (August 20, 2012) – "Piggybacking"
A visit from George Fan, the creator of Plants vs. Zombies, led me to write an article about an important game-design concept called piggybacking. This is another must-read for anyone interested in game design.
Week #556 (August 27, 2012) – "State of Design 2012"
It was time for another State of Design article. This one talks about the Innistrad block.
Week #557 (September 3, 2012) – "Return on Investment, Part 1"
It was the first week of Return to Ravnica previews, so I started to explain how we put the block together.
Week #558 (September 10, 2012) – "Return on Investment, Part 2"
For the second week of Return to Ravnica previews, I talked about how we put together each of the five guilds in the set.
Week #559 (September 17, 2012) – "Return on Investment, Part 3"
For the third week of Return to Ravnica previews, I talked about all the various cycles in the set and the things in Magic that preceded them.
Week #560 (September 24, 2012) – "Card Day's Night"
This is my Return to Ravnica card-by-card story article.
Week #561 (October 1, 2012) – "Designing for Selesnya"
This was the first article of a ten-article series talking about the needs that each guild/color pair have in design. First up: green-white.
Week #562 (October 8, 2012) – "City Mail"
This is my mailbag article about the design of Return to Ravnica.
Week #563 (October 15, 2012) – "Nostalgia vs. Innovation"
This is another crunchy design article that also talks theory. The key conflict the article discusses is how to meet the needs of both nostalgia and innovation when they often fight one another.
Week #564 (October 22, 2012) – "When Cards Go Bad Revisited"
One of my most famous articles is called "When Cards Go Bad," which talks about why R&D bothers to print bad cards. This article looks back at that article and presents the argument through a completely different vantage point—design principles.
Week #565 (October 29, 2012) – "Designing for Azorius"
This is Part 2 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: white-blue.
Week #566 (November 5, 2012) – "Kids Play, Part 1"
Usually, once a year, I write something that intermingles my personal life with my design. This is that article for the year. In it, I talk about being a parent and how that has taught me many lessons that impact how I design.
Week #567 (November 12, 2012) – "Designing for Izzet"
This is Part 3 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: blue-red.
Week #568 (November 19, 2012) – "Kids Play, Part 2"
Part 2 also has cute pictures of my kids.
Week #569 (November 26, 2012) – "Designing for Golgari"
This is Part 4 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: black-green.
Week #570 (December 3, 2012) – "The Six-Year Plan"
Here I look back with 20/20 hindsight at the very first Six-Year plan I drew up for the future of Magic.
Week #571 (December 10, 2012) – "Designing for Rakdos"
This is Part 5 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: black-red.
Week #571a (December 17, 2012)—NOTHING
For the first time since the website started up, there is not a Making Magic article on Monday (not even a repeat). The website used one of the two down weeks (what would normally be a Best-Of Week, to have a theme week dedicated to Magic Online.
Because there wasn't a Making Magic article I have chosen not to count it.
Week #572 (December 24, 2012) – "Celebrity"
This year there was only one Best-Of Week and my choice for best article of the year was my article on celebrity.
Week #573 (December 31, 2012) – "Gatecrashing the Party, Part 1 "
For the first time ever, my first article after the winter break starts before the new year begins. It's the first Gatecrash preview week, so I begin by explaining the design of Simic's new mechanic, evolve.
Week #574 (January 7, 2013) – "Gatecrashing the Party, Part 2 "
It's the second week of Gatecrash previews, as I talk about the design of Boros and Dimir.
Week #575 (January 14, 2013) – "Gatecrashing the Party, Part 3 "
It's the third week of Gatecrash previews, as I talk about the design of Orzhov and Gruul.
Week #576 (January 21, 2013) – " Storming the Gatecrash, Part 1 "
Time for the Gatecrash card-by-card stories.
Week #577 (January 28, 2013) – " Storming the Gatecrash, Part 2 "
Time for more Gatecrash card-by-card stories.
Week #578 (February 4, 2013) – "Designing for Boros"
This is Part 6 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: red-white.
Week #579 (February 11, 2013) – "Nuts & Bolts: Initial Playtesting"
In this year's "Nuts & Bolts" article, I walked through the importance of playtesting and then explained some important dos and don'ts.
Week #580 (February 18, 2013) – "Designing for Simic"
This is Part 7 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: green-blue.
Week #581 (February 25, 2013) – "Living in Synergy"
This is another in my series of top-level game design concepts. In it, I talk all about the importance of synergy in game design.
Week #582 (March 4, 2013) – "Designing for Gruul"
This is Part 8 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: red-green.
Week #583 (March 11, 2013) – "The Rosewater Rumble"
To celebrate the release of Gatecrash, my sixteenth design lead, I held a tournament on Twitter where I pitted each of my sets against one another in a single-elimination bracket. This article is me revealing what the public chose and then explaining what I would have picked. Did we end up choosing the same winner? You'll have to read the article.
Week #584 (March 18, 2013) – "Designing for Dimir"
This is Part 9 in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: blue-black.
Week #585 (March 25, 2013) – "Designing for Orzhov"
This is Part 10, and the final part, in my "Designing for the Guilds" series. This time: white-black.
Week #586 (April 1, 2013) – "New New World Order"
It was April Fools' Day (on a Monday—finally, it hadn't happened for ten years!) so I had some fun playing around with how some players think about New World Order. The responses to this article were quite entertaining.
Week #587 (April 8, 2013) – " A Maze-ing Grace, Part 1 "
It was the first week of Dragon's Maze previews so I spent the article explaining the corner that the Dragon's Maze team found itself painted into before its design even began.
Week #588 (April 15, 2013) – " A Maze-ing Grace, Part 2 "
For the second week of Dragon's Maze previews, I talked about the creation of the one new mechanic in the set—fuse.
Week #589 (April 22, 2013) – "Dragon Along"
This was my Dragon's Maze card-by-card story article.
Week #590 (April 29, 2013) – "Third Time's the Charm"
In this article, I examined Dragon's Maze through the lens of third-set design. The article looks at all the other thirds sets of blocks to see how they were designed.
Week #591 (May 5, 2013) – "New & Improved"
It was Fuse Week, so I wrote two separate mini-articles that could be fused together. I was very happy with my execution of the gimmick (it was very hard to do) but reactions were mixed.
Week #592 (May 12, 2013) – "Absence"
This week, I talked about not what was in Dragon's Maze, but what wasn't and why. I tackled a list of things that players had said they expected to be in the set.
Week #593 (May 19, 2013) – "Gates Foundation"
It was Gate Week, so I talked about the creation of Gates and the design problem they solved.
Week #594 (May 26, 2013) – "Token of Appreciation"
It was Modern Masters Preview Week, so I talked about one of my favorite themes from the set—tokens.
Week #595 (June 3, 2013) – "Communications Theory"
This article is all about something I learned in college that I have applied time and time again during my years at Wizards, something known as Communications Theory. It's a very important set of concepts to understand and one of my best articles of the year.
Week #596 (June 10, 2013) – "A Few More Words from R&D"
This article is a follow-up to an article from eight years earlier, where I explained a lot of the vocabulary R&D uses.
Week #597 (June 17, 2013) – "Modern Tales, Part 1"
It was Modern Week, so I chose to tell a previously untold behind-the-scenes story for each block in Modern.
Week #598 (June 24, 2013) – "Modern Tales, Part 2"
This was the second part of my stories about the blocks of Modern.
Week #599 (July 1, 2013) – "Sliver Pâté"
It was Magic 2014 Preview Week, and my preview card was one of the new Slivers, which led me to an answer-bag article where I answered the audience's many questions about the new design of Slivers.
Week #600 (July 8, 2013) – "Working Your Core"
I did a card-by-card article, but instead of explaining how the cards were designed, I explained why a certain choice was made in their design.
In The Six Hundred
Whew! Every time I write one of these recap articles I still can't believe another hundred weeks has gone by. I figured out that I have written more than two million words in Making Magic. I'm not sure how many people write two million words in their life, let alone about one topic.
I want to thank everyone behind the scenes who put this article together. It's a bear to do so I thank everyone who helped make it happen. I also want to thank all of you, my readers, who keep showing up week after week. It's an honor to continue to do this column after more than eleven years.
I'm curious if any of you have opinions on my rankings today. Did I overvalue something? Undervalue something? I would love to hear your opinion on any of the last hundred articles. You can email me, respond in the thread to this article or contact me through any of my social media (Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+).
Join me next week when I talk about the man behind the Magic.
Until then, may you find something you love that you get to do six hundred times.
Drive to Work #42—Mirage, Part 2
This is Part 2 of my podcast examining one of the very first sets I ever worked on, Mirage.
Working for Magic R&D since October, 1995, Mark Rosewater is currently the head designer. His hobbies include spending time with his family, talking about Magic on every known medium (including a daily blog and a weekly podcast), and writing about himself in the third person.