elcome to Puzzle Week! This week we've decided to try something way, way off the beaten path and try a very untraditional theme. (Puzzles if you didn't catch the subtle hint in the title.) So I thought long and hard about what kind of puzzle would allow me to interweave Magic design stories. And then Mark Gottlieb suggested doing an acrostic. You see, Mark has a bit of a past with puzzle-making (way too extensive for me to summarize here, but if it involves puzzles, Mark's probably done it).
For those unfamiliar with acrostics, here's how they work. The goal of the puzzle is to figure out a quotation. (This one is by me as there's not a lot of historical quotes about Magic design as it relates to puzzles.) Each letter of the quotation is assigned a chronological number. The letters from the quotation are then broken up and rearranged to spell a number of words (twenty-three for this puzzle). Each word is then given a clue. Solve the clues and you can start piecing together the quotation. Sound simple enough?
To try to provide the weekly dosage of Magic design material, I've tried to choose as many words as possible that pertain to Magic design. (I was shocked by how many I was able to get. – Hey, maybe that Gottlieb does know a thing or two about puzzles.) If you need some extra help (or just want to double-check your answer) the solution has been posted in the message board for this article.
Note that for most systems you should be able to actually enter your answers in for each question and the acrostic will automatically populate with the letters in their correct spaces. However, some system configurations may not work this way, in which case you can usually just enter the answer and then transfer the letters to the acrostic by typing them into the puzzle yourself. (Here at the office we found this was the case with Macs running Internet Explorer, but Macs seemed fine with Firefox or Safari.) In a real pinch, you can also just print the puzzle out and have at it with good old pencil and paper. But enough of my non-puzzle yapping. Let's do some acrostic!
A) This is an artifact that I really liked and always wanted to bring back in a revamped form. The trick to solving this design puzzle was to recreate it as a multi-colored enchantment.
B) This marquee artifact's original card power inspired a white enchantment in Unhinged.
C) This reprint in Mirrodin spent its entire time in design as a strictly inferior version of the reprint. And design still believes to this day that the strictly inferior version would have seen constructed play.
D) The key to solving a Sliver design problem in Tempest was to simply obsolete this card.
E) If a Magic designer wishes for enlightenment, he could turn to this school of Mahayana Buddhism.
F) This black instant gives -1/-1 to target creature.
G) The inspiration for this mechanic was the Unglued card B.F.M.
H) The 2004 Magic World Champion, for example.
I) In its cycle, this card could best be called "the red artifact boon".
J) Slang term for a small creature.
K) Word that comes after "splice".
L) The key to solving the design puzzle that this mechanic presented was to realize that these creatures needed to be able to use their ability on any creature, not just on each other.
M) This artifact was tweaked years later by adding three to its mana cost and subtracting two from its activation cost.
N) This card's art was not commissioned for a Magic set. The current art director saw the piece at an art show and bought the rights to the image.
O) A mathematical term, a breakfast cereal, and a word used in Magic (although most often following another word).
P) This card (which was first almost printed in a black-bordered set, then almost printed in a silver-bordered set, and then finally was printed – in a black-bordered set) was the answer to the design puzzle of how to capture the essence of a popular but rules-troubling rare instant from Alpha.
Q) The enthusiastic devotion that a good Magic designer should have.
R) This group of cards was the result of trying to solve the puzzle of making connected cards that didn't reference one another by name in their text boxes.
S) It believes that humans are born as a blank slate with the potential to do anything.
T) This mechanic was the result of solving the puzzle of "how can an instant not be an instant?"
U) Slang term for something you have to deliver if you hope to win.
V) This nonbasic land was created to solve an age-old puzzle of Magic design: What penalties can nonbasic lands have other than “comes into play tapped”? Incredibly, this card ended up appearing in a set released before the set it was originally designed for! (When the card was designed the development team at the time stole it away from the design team to fill a hole in the set they were finishing up.)
W) This mechanic was created when the designers solved the puzzle of how to make a number of seemingly different cards into one mechanic.
And that, my faithful readers, is my column for today. A little different, I know. I'm curious to hear any feedback on what you thought of it.
Join me January 3rd when I get into the mindset of an ass, and next week when the first of the two Best of 2004 weeks begins on magicthegathering.com.
Until then, may you enjoy the puzzles in your life.