Q: "Dear Wizards,
"In Duelist #8, published just after Homelands hit shelves, it says:
"'The next expansion for Magic: The Gathering is well underway. The final names of the cards are being chosen, replacing the series of whimsical 'monkey names' left over from the designer's initial card list (Any bets on what 'Great Grape Ape Strength' will turn out to be called? Or 'Monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey monkey -- hey stop that!'?) Created by the designers of Ice Age, this expansion is specifically designed to complement that set but is, of course, fully compatible with other card sets. At press time, no official release date for the expansion had been set.'
"But in his Coldsnap announcement, Randy Buehler claimed, 'Homelands was forced upon R&D to be included in the block. This forced R&D to shelve the third set of the block as there wasn't going to be room for it before Mirage was released.' That doesn't make sense, does it? I mean, if Alliances wasn't even finished before Homelands came out, how could there have been a whole third set that got shelved?
"Plus, if Ice Age and Alliances were designed by the same people, didn't Skaff Elias say that the team was Dave Pettey, Jim Lin, and himself? Why would it even have been in Richard Garfield's office in the first place? And surely it wouldn't be codenamed 'Rock & Roll' -- not just because that name implies a three-set mentality that didn't exist at the time (and, based on the timing of Alliances, just wouldn't work anyway), but because Mark Rosewater told us that 'Sex/Drugs/Rock&Roll' couldn't be used as a block's codename because of the 'HR Test'. For that matter, Mark told us that the code name for Alliances was 'Quack'. 'Sex, Quack, and Rock & Roll' doesn't even make sense!
"In fact, Randy says that 'According to the legend, the design was filed away never to be seen again. And rumor had it, it was the best set of the block.' But I've never heard this so-called 'legend', and I know all the stories: I know about Summer Magic and the Blue Hurricane. I know about the 1996 World Champion and Splendid Genesis. I even know the truth about Throat Wolf. But I've never heard any hint that there was some 'legendary Lost Third Set'.
"So here's my question: This Coldsnap thing isn't really 'from the vaults' at all, is it? Isn't this just because R&D wanted to make cards for an interesting Magic world from the past, and thought it would be more fun to justify the use of things like snow-covered lands by telling us a cute, imaginary tale?"
-- Fabian Rockwell
San Diego, CA
A: From Randy Buehler, Director of Magic R&D:
"You make some very interesting points in your letter. Let me put it this way: would you prefer it if this were 'just another cardset'? Or do you think you'd like to see more stuff 'from the vaults of R&D', like mismatched Richard Garfield socks or Alpha playtest cards or something? Because if 'the vaults' don't exist, we can't very well come up with cool stuff from them, can we?
"Thanks for writing!"