Ask Wizards - September, 2005

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Do you have a question about Magic: The Gathering or Wizards of the Coast? Send it, along with your name and location, to us via this email form. We'll post a new question and answer each day.

 September 30, 2005  

Q: "Some friends and I have argued that the speed of decks in Magic has increased considerably since Odyssey and that this speed increase (most notable in Onslaught with Goblins and then Mirrodin with Affinity) is unsustainable. Will Ravnica see that speed getting dialed back?"
--Ryan Trinidad, W.I.

A: From Henry Stern, Magic R&D:

"Very astute observation, Ryan. The 'speed' of magic play is one of the many pendulums that R&D likes to play with. Yes, Onslaught was fast paced, and Mirrodin was even faster. However, while we may vary the speed of play, we strive to keep the overall power level roughly balanced from set to set. Ravnica will be interesting in that each guild has its own pace of play. A properly constructed Boros Legion deck will be very fast indeed, followed by Selesnyai, Golgari, and Dimir. However, I would characterize Ravnica in general as being slower than Mirodin, and closer to Onslaught in speed."


 September 29, 2005  

Q: "Can you give us some more information on the Vedalken? They appeared in Mirrodin and now again in Ravnica. They all seem to have four arms, wear helmets, and tend to be blue wizards. More information about them and their race would be appreciated..."
--Josh
Stuart, FL

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"I think you'll be a little surprised by what vedalken look like without generations of magic and blinkmoth serum shaping their physiognomy, Josh. The vedalken of Lumengrid were quite different when they first arrived on Mirrodin. Only after a century of arcane manipulations and serum use did they come to look as you saw them. As for vedalken elsewhere, they are defined by their political nature, their aloofness, their air of superiority, and their mysteriousness. A vedalken sage always knows more than s/he's willing to tell."


 September 28, 2005  

Q: "Why is spell redirection red, while spell copying is blue? Targeted redirection seems 'tricky' in a calculated way; isn't that exactly what blue is about?"
--Michael
Brookfield, WI, USA

A: From Randy Buehler, Director of Magic R&D:

"One of the big conclusions we came to when we were reevaluating the color pie is that blue shouldn't be the only 'tricky' color. Five years ago, any card that was seen as tricky was automatically given to blue and blue had way more than its fair share of the cool and powerful mechanics. Nowadays we give the 'prankster' cards to red. Blue gets the cold, calculating, and permanent tricks whereas red loves to just pull the rug out from underneath your feet and then laugh at you when you fall on your ass. So Control Magic is still blue, but Ray of Command is now (philosophically) a red card. Similarly, copying is blue while redirection is red."


 September 27, 2005  

Q: "I am just wondering why it is that certain block mechanics never jump the rift into the core set, like my personal favorite, storm."
--Jason
Port Charlotte, FL, USA

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Magic R&D:

"Most 'expert' mechanics are just too complicated for the Core Set. We want sets like Ninth Edition to be good introductory tools--we like to call it 'nuts and bolts' Magic. Stuff like storm is better left to expansions where players can stumble on them as they get better and learn just how deep the game really is.

"That said, there is probably room in the Core Set for another keyword or two, and I could imagine using a simple 'block-specific' one like cycling at some point in the future. We just recently 'promoted' equipment, so we are clearly willing to complicate the set a bit. As for storm itself, just because we won't bring it back in the Core Set doesn't mean we won't bring it back at all."


 September 26, 2005  

Q: "How do you decide which cards get new art when a new Core Set is released?"
--David
Washington, USA

A: From Jeremy Cranford, Magic Art Director:

"Hi David,

"There are many reasons why we might want to give a card new art in a core set. A particular piece might have to do with old story line that is no longer relevant, we might feel that the old art was misleading, we might want to redo a piece for quality reasons, or we might just want to allow another artist to have a chance at a classic. That last reason is especially true with something iconic like Serra Angel, which we know is going to be a featured image."


 September 23, 2005  

Q: "What is with Serendib Efreet? In Arabian Nights it's a blue card, but in Revised it's a green card, but still has the same mana cost. Why is that?"
--Matt
Baltimore, Maryland

A: From Matt Place, Magic R&D:

"Hi Matt,

"In Revised the Serendib Efreet is a misprint. It stole the art from a different card in Arabian Nights, the Ifh-Biff Efreet. It has the same casting cost because it is still the same blue Serendib Efreet that was in Arabian Nights, just with the wrong border and art.

Efreet Comparisons

"On a personal note, when I first started playing, Revised was on the shelves. Alpha, Beta, Unlimited and Arabian Nights were long gone. I had seen hundreds of 'green' Serendibs before I ever saw the blue version from Arabian Nights. For me, the misprint will always be the 'real' Serendib and the Arabian Nights version some crazy imposter."


 September 22, 2005  

Q: "What was the decision behind making the Pro Player cards? What is your reaction to as to their acceptance on your Message Boards? When I heard the Fat Pack would contain a 'juicy' new card I was pretty excited. Now that I know it's a Pro Player card, I am pretty disappointed."
--Filip
Zagreb, Croatia

A: From Randy Buehler, Director of Magic R&D:

"First I would like to clear up a couple of misconceptions: 1) Pro Cards do not appear in booster packs and 2) Nothing was removed from the products these do appear in. You still get the same number of rares, uncommons, commons, and lands for the same price. (Note that since they only appear in tournament packs, theme decks, and the Fat Pack we think it will be hard enough to collect a set that they will have some decent trade value even for players who don't care about them.) Now on with the actual answer to your question …

"The thinking behind the Pro Player cards was that we really wanted a way to communicate the strength of Magic's Organized Play programs to players and potential players. We believe we have the best strategy game in the world and the most compelling tournament programs as well, but traditional forms of advertising (like magazine ads or website banners) can only go so far in delivering that message. In particular, lots of potential new Magic customers have trouble telling the difference between Magic and much more juvenile games like Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon. Any 15-year old who gets his hands on one of these is going to see two things right off the bat: 1) Adults play this game, not 4th graders. 2) Holy *&^% they give away a lot of money at Magic tournaments.

Kai Budde's player card

"Obviously we know that Magic has a lot more going on for it than the Pro Tour, and lots of players enjoy the game without ever even playing a single tournament. We use the Pro Tour to help market the game because of its symbolic value – it’s much easier to show that Magic is a game where creativity and intelligence are rewarded when the rewards are measured in dollars. The Pro Tour lifestyle also shows off how much fun Magic can be, how many friendships it creates, etc. None of that means we're ignoring the legions of casual players. We know that 'casual' players make up the majority of our audience and we care more about pleasing that segment of our audience than any other.

"At the end of the day, we are in the business of selling Magic cards and we thought this was a more useful way to spend our time and money than yet another ad in Inquest. For me personally, I care more about the game than I do about the company, but I still want Wizards to sell more cards because a) that means more people are playing the game that is such an important part of my life and b) more money coming in to Wizards means I can get more designers and developers into R&D to help make the game even better.

"Now I will admit that I was surprised by the size and volume of the reaction in the forums. On the one hand, I think we clearly led with the wrong card. We should have shown off one of the more normal cards (like Kai or Nassif) instead of Antonino's characteristically goofy pose. On the other hand, the feedback was loud enough that we’re not just chalking it up to a bad first impression – we’re actively reading and debating the points that have been raised. Our e-mail isn't nearly as negative as the forums, and we have talked to a number of players who do think these cards are cool, so for now we are taking a wait and see attitude. Hopefully this answer will help people understand what these cards are intended to do and why we think they’re good for the game. Meanwhile, this will definitely be one of the issues we'll be watching for at the prerelease this weekend."


 September 21, 2005  

Q: "I would like to know more about the drawback of letting opponents draw cards (as seen on, for example, Indentured Djinn). On what kinds of cards can it appear? Are there any effects that just can't be balanced by having them also allow opponents to draw some number of cards? I feel that a lot of simple cards with this drawback remain unprinted."
--Mark   Woodbury Hts., NJ

A: From Nate Heiss, R&D Associate Developer:

"Some aspects of Magic can be balanced with this drawback, but there is one big area that can’t: tempo cards. How many cards would I have to give my opponent to get a 20/20 for 1 mana? The answer is 'There is no right number.' Of course, that is a very extreme circumstance, but it illustrates the heart of the problem. Also, many cards would require some fraction of a card as a drawback, and we can’t just say that people should start drawing 2.5 cards. Indentured Djinn is a nice case where it worked out, but the space in which this drawback is reasonable to use is smaller than it might seem at first. Keep in mind that this sort of drawback can secretly live in other places, like 'when this comes into play, discard a card' or 'sacrifice a permanent when this comes into play' which are in some aspects very similar to letting your opponent draw a card. However, certain cards like Vex or Trade Secrets can reasonably use this drawback, and we will continue to support it where it is appropriate."


 September 20, 2005  

Q: "Why are the formats for the 2005-06 Pro Tour events different from the format of the Pro Tours themselves? For example, Honolulu is Standard format but qualifiers are Legacy and Extended. Wouldn't it make more sense to have the formats in sync, so that the players being showcased are the true elite in that format at that time?"
--Kevin   Chicago, IL

A: From Scott M. Larabee, DCI Program Manager:

"Thank you for your question, Kevin. Since Pro Tours are the ultimate in Magic competitive play, we want to challenge the Pro Tour competitors to come up with new and original deck designs rather than use decks that already exist from a qualifier round. For this reason, we use 'fresh' formats for Pro Tours rather than using the same format as the qualifiers."


 September 19, 2005  

Q: "When I saw a Ravnica preconstructed deck in your recent Magic Arcana, I noticed in the lower corner a 13+ age rating. Is this the first time that Wizards has done this? Is Ravnica so disturbing that it's been rated PG-13? Why the new age rating?"
--Brian, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

A: From Wendy Wallace, Magic Brand Manager:

"Hey Brian-,

"While we're not held to a system like the Motion Picture Association of America (www.mpaa.org) rating system, it can be very handy for communicating things about a brand to people because it is so well known. We have always considered Magic a "PG-13" brand. We like to push the top edge of that, but we avoid going over it.

"So when and why did it start appearing on packaging? First the when: it actually first appeared on Unhinged, but it's on the back, at the bottom of the legal text. Ravnica is the first time it has moved to the front. Why? As I'm sure you know, Wizards of the Coast was purchased by Hasbro in late 1999. While we generally still do most things on our own, there are some things that just make sense for us to do the Hasbro way. One of those things is age grading on all of our games (not just Magic). The original plan had been to add the ages by the beginning of this year, but the timing worked out that we could add it on with Unhinged at the end of 2004. There was some concern both internally here at Wizards and from folks at Hasbro that it wasn't clear enough on the back of the product, so that's why it's been moved to the front.


 September 16, 2005  

Q: "I noticed that Ninth Edition appears to have real world flavor text in it (for example: Inspirit and Cruel Edict). At one point I recall that it was decided that there should no longer be real world references in flavor text. Is this a new change or a mistake?"
--Nate, Baltimore, MD

A: From Matt Cavotta, Magic Creative Writer

"Nate,

"The real world flavor text in 9th Edition is not a change or a mistake. Core sets have had real world quotations since way back at the beginning. What you may be recalling is that we no longer use real world flavor text in expert sets. Expert sets try to create a rich, unique world with their own characters, and these are the people whose words and philosophies find their way into flavor text. Core sets pull cards from all over the Magic spectrum. With no single world vision to preserve, Core Sets are a fine place for flavor text references to the real world."


 September 15, 2005  

Q: "How precisely do you pronounce Ravnica?"
--Stewart, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director

"RAV-nih-kuh. We're told that "ravnica" is a Croatian word pronouned "rav-NEETS-uh," but in Magic's case, "Ravnica" is "RAV-nih-kuh." In fact, you can hear Michael Dorn's mellifluous voice pronounce "Ravnica" in the animated teaser for the set, available here. "


 September 14, 2005  

Q: "Why not put the guild mana symbol (the tree with sun around it) in the upper corner as the mana cost, rather than the ugly half and half symbol you have on the Selesnya Guildmage preview card? It would have looked so much better! "
--Chris, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director

"I agree that it would've looked pretty cool to use the guild symbols as hybrid mana symbols, Chris, but that would have doomed hybrid cards to exist only in Ravnica! The hybrid symbols were designed to be "setting-neutral" so we won't have to go back to Ravnica if and when we want to do more hybrid cards some day. As for "ugly," I'll just ask you to reserve judgment until you have the cards in hand, because seeing things onscreen can give you a skewed perception."


 September 13, 2005  

Q: "Why does Magic always seems to be making weaker cards? I know there are some really good ones now, but they're no match to the ones found in older blocks."
--Temok, Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico

A: From Zvi Mowshowitz, R&D Intern:

"For the first few years of Magic, super-powerful cards were printed because no one knew how good they were. If we had known the true power of cards like Necropotence and Mana Drain, the cards would have looked quite different. The earliest and strongest cards like Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus were created under the assumption that no one would be buying more than a few boosters. (Whoops.) However, the power level of cards has not dropped off once you go past that initial burst. The cards out there now are not weaker than those that were out there five years ago. If you don’t believe me, check out Ravnica over the coming weeks. It’s hard to deny that the set is not just super cool, it’s also super strong. "


 September 12, 2005  

Q: "I have been wondering if Two-Headed Giant in Magic Online will ever follow the new sanctioned rules that have been created for the physical world. It seems odd to me that there should be two different formats of Two-Headed Giant, and it would be really fun to have online team events as well. So, will the new rules be implemented sometime soon (maybe with the release of version 3.0) or is it simply too much of a programming nightmare to ever bring to Magic Online?
--Chris, Columbus, Ohio"

A: From Justin Ziran, Magic Online Content Manager:

"Initially, we thought there was no way to implement the new simultaneous turns version of Two-Headed Giant on the 2.x code base (the current version of Magic Online). That belief was predicated on an assumption that if we could not have all new 2HG functions we would opt for none.

"However, a few weeks ago, the Magic Online team got together and decided to break 2HG into smaller pieces. Some of those pieces are high priority features and some are not so high. The development team is in the process of investigating what is feasible in 2.x and what will have to wait until 3.0. If at the end of this process we have enough functionality to support the spirit of the format and enough time to test those enhancements, then we'll then try to slot 2HG in before Magic Online v3.

"Long answer short; the new 2HG will be supported in Magic Online v3 and if we have a window of opportunity to get it into v2, we’ll take it. No guarantees, but a promise to try."


 September 9, 2005  

Q: "Is there a reason why sometimes the Ask Wizards question of the day is a repeat?"
--Andrew
Brenham, Texas

A: From Scott Johns, magicthegathering.com Content Manager:

"It's a rare occurrence Andrew, but when it does happen there are normally three possible explanations. Most often, it's because that particular question is getting asked so much at Ask Wizards that it's worth reprinting every once in a great while. For example, we get asked about the different corners on Alpha and Beta cards on almost a daily basis. An answer by Richard Garfield was posted back on September 25, 2002. Because we were getting the question so often I felt it was reasonable to repeat the answer on July 19th, 2005, nearly three years later.

Another possibility is that it's around the end of the calendar year. Magicthegathering.com closes down for the last two weeks of each December to give everyone a break around the holidays, but we run 'best of' content each weekday on the site during that time. So any time you visit the site during that period it's likely that all the daily Ask Wizards you see were run sometime previously that year.

"The last reason is usually because I was sick or otherwise unexpectedly out of the office. When things are running well I'm usually able to send Ask Wizards answers to Doug Beyer in one-week batches so that we've got some stored up. Sometimes we don't have that many in the can, or I'm unexpectedly gone longer than that, or who knows what else. Normally in that case I'm able to do them from home (as I am with this one) but in rare cases that doesn't work out and either someone else in the office has to scramble to get one in time or we just pick an old Ask Wizards that's still applicable."


 September 8, 2005  

Q: "One of the main reasons that my friends and I play Magic is because the art on the cards is often incredible. The pictures on the Ravnica lands are amazing! I was wondering is Wizards has ever considered selling posters of card art? I know many people who would love to get some of the best card art on their walls!"
--Paul
Campbellton, New Brunswick

A: From Alexandra Tinsman, Magic Brand:

"Hi Paul,

"Posters? This is Magic... we can do better than that.

"Beginning this October, we will begin selling limited-edition, high-quality collector's series Magic art prints and canvasses featuring the artwork of paint-masters such as Greg Staples, Scott Fisher and Donato Giancola.

"The first batch of art pieces includes:

"The art pieces will be available in two different forms:

  • 18”x24” prints with mattes and a Certificate of Authenticity for $49 each

  • 18”x24” canvases with black wood frames and a Certificate of Authenticity for $299 each

"Make sure that you act fast. There are only 1,000 limited edition prints and 250 limited edition canvasses. The prints are sequentially numbered and signed by the artists; the canvasses are hand-signed and also hand-numbered.

"Check out the Shivan Dragon and Viridian Shaman. We'll have more images up soon, so keep checking back!"


 September 7, 2005  

Q: "In his Ravnica preview article, Mark Rosewater wrote that new mana symbols on hybrid cards could be played with one color or another. Does this mean that if you used only one mana color to cast a hybrid spell it becomes only that color? For example, if I were to pay Green ManaGreen Mana for Selesnya Guildmage, would that mean it would come into play as only a green creature and not a green and white creature? If I only paid green mana, would a Crusade work on it?"
--John
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

A: From Mark Gottlieb, Magic Rules Manager:

"Just like any other card, the color of a hybrid card is determined by the symbols in its mana cost. Take this example: If you put a Lightning Angel into play via Myojin of Life's Web's ability, what color is it? Lightning Angel is, of course, still red, white, and blue -- even though you didn't actually spend red, white, or blue mana to play it -- because it has all those colors in its mana cost.

"In the same way, a hybrid card is each color that appears in its mana cost. It doesn't matter what zone it's in (your hand, your library, in play, etc.), and it doesn't matter what color or colors were paid to play it. Selesnya Guildmage, which costs Green or White ManaGreen or White Mana, is both green and white. For purposes of color, it's exactly the same as a card that costs Green ManaWhite Mana. Furthermore, a hybrid card is a multicolored card, even if you spent mana of only one color to play it. All the usual multicolored interactions apply: Crusade will pump up your Selesnya Guildmage, and Terror can't target your Dimir Guildmage."


 September 6, 2005  

Q: "Given your stance against early leaked info, it surprised (and delighted) me when you guys revealed Temple Garden way ahead of schedule. What was the reasoning behind this, and is there a possibility of early 'special previews' for future sets after Ravnica?"
--Roland, New York

A: From Scott Johns, magicthegathering.com Content Manager:

"Roland, anything is possible. We have a very structured preview schedule whenever new sets arrive, and those preview articles are extraordinarily popular. But, because they are so scheduled out, they get most of their impact just from being preview articles, since the audience is expecting them anyway. Because of that, we've been looking for other ways to give all of you unexpected chances to be pleasantly surprised (and, sometimes, completely blown away), so I think you're going to see more of this kind of thing from time to time. (If we did it always, you'd just start expecting it!)"


 September 2, 2005  

Q: "For the week of August 15, it seemed as though the theme common to all the cards on Card of the Day was the word 'Gift' in their name. However, Friday's card was 'Presence of the Master' and I cannot, for the life of me, see how it is relevant to the rest of the cards that week. What's the connection?"
--Sean
Jacksonville, FL

A: From Scott Johns, magicthegathering.com Content Manager:

"First off, for those that aren't aware, when I put together the Cards of the Day I often do them in five-card cycles so that each card shown that week has some common thread with the other four. I've never been sure how many people actually play the game of trying to find the connection, but it's an amusing thing to put together and helps Mark Rosewater and me narrow the enormous field of Magic cards down to something manageable each week.

"How those cards connect varies pretty wildly (though card name is often a good place to start), and while some tend to be trivially easy once you know to look for them (such as how Arcane Week only features Arcane spells), others can be a lot more challenging. (A good place to start, however, is always to check if there was a theme week on the site at the time, or if we were previewing a new set.)

"One thing I should point out, however, is that not all weeks have a theme across the Cards of the Day. Sometimes I'm out covering a Pro Tour, on vacation, sick, or who knows what else. Sometimes that means a theme gets interrupted, or not done at all depending on circumstances. For example, last week was Equipment Week, but I was out early in the week, which is why Scathe Zombies seems so out of place when compared to the other four cards I used for Equipment Week. Also, for 2005 I was out for quite a bit of time around the birth of my daughter. So, while 2005 is a bit hit and miss for these, those who have fun with this kind of thing will probably be able to find many as they work their way through 2004. (Anything before 2004 and you're before when I got hired at Wizards…)

"So, enough background, how about I actually answer your question? The answer is that this week revolves around 'gifts' just as you guessed. (That was National Thanks For All The Gifts Week, which I couldn't pass up mirroring in Card of the Day.) The part you missed was that Presence of the Master was included Friday because of the pun with 'presents'. (You can thank Managing Producer Monty Ashley for all the groaning you're hearing, as he came up with Presence of the Master as soon as I mentioned the 'gifts' theme.)

"So, what are some of the others we've done? Here are a few weeks to get you started.

2005

July 25 (Core Set Week)
June 27 (Beatdown Week)
Tuesday, May 31 (Monday was an off day for Memorial Day)
May 16 (during Saviors of Kamigawa previews)
May 9 (the other week of Saviors previews)
January 10 (Betrayers of Kamigawa previews)

2004

December 6 (This one revolves around a common number. The embarrassing thing is that I can't remember why that number was relevant at the time for the site! If anyone figures it out please post to the message boards!)
November 23 (The week leading in to Thanksgiving)
November 15 (One of my (silly) favorites, this was during Unhinged previews)
November 8 (also Unhinged previews)
November 1 (Monty Ashley did this one while I was away. It's tough but also pretty cool.)
October 4 (a fun one)

"Once you get past there you start getting into the period where I was doing the Card of the Day cycles a lot more often, so for those so-inclined I'll leave the rest of the finding to you.

"If you think these are fun please take a moment to let me know in the message boards. I've been letting them slip a bit lately but I'm more than willing to start them back up if people are interested.

"Have fun!"


 September 1, 2005  

Q: "I love the new Ninth Edition fat pack. Will Ravinca be offering up the same goodies? (The card boxes, divider cards, even the land pack...wonderful value. Thank you Wizards.)"
--Matthew, Ohio, USA

A: From Jake Theis, Assistant Brand Manager for Magic: The Gathering:

"Howdy Matthew,

"I'm glad that you like the new fat pack. Its redesign was a huge undertaking at Wizards, and the responses that we have received have been outstanding. I am actually contemplating building a miniature fort out of them, if I can manage not to crack them open for the booster packs.

"As for your question, the Ravnica fat pack will be even juicier than the already amazing Ninth Edition fat pack. Like the Ninth Edition fat pack, the Ravnica fat pack will feature a player's guide, two card boxes with original artwork, a fat pack sleeve that converts into a mini-poster, six plastic dividers, six booster packs, a 40-card land pack, and a special Ravnica-themed lifecounter.

"Now, here comes the sauce. Matt Cavotta readers rejoice! Magic novels return with the Ravnica fat pack. Go Vorthos!

"In addition to the novel, the fat pack will have a super secret promo card in it. I could tell you all about it, but all will be revealed soon..."


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