Welcome to Wizards Week! This week we’ll be taking a look at a very old and popular creature type. I wasn’t sure what part of wizards I wanted to write about, but then, while working on this week’s installment of The Great Designer Search, I got an idea.
You see, what few people know is that each card has to audition to get into a set. The designers will hold open auditions and let whoever is interested try their hand at getting into the file. Because different creature types require different temperaments, the design team tends to divide up who gets what. I, for example, try to avoid interviewing zombies. (I’ve had some zombie issues in the past; click here to see what I’m talking about.)
As luck would have it, I was the guy who interviewed all the wizards for Time Spiral, both the normal set and the “timeshifted” cards. What follows are the transcripts of some actual interviews I had with the cards. We’ll start with the normal set:
Magus of the Disk
Me: So it says here that you’re mass removal.
Magus of the Disk (MOTD): I am.
Me: And why do you feel you’re right for Time Spiral?
MOTD: It’s a set about nostalgia, and I’m an animated and colored version of one of the most iconic artifacts of all time.
Me: Right. So, why white? Why did you choose white to represent the Disk?
MOTD: Mr. Rosewater, sir. I don’t believe you’re allowed to ask me about my color. Magic color is a protected class.
Me: Fine. There’s a lot of banned and restricted artifacts. What makes Nevinyrral’s Disk the right choice for this set?
MOTD: R&D did pull it from the basic set for power concerns. I believe had I, that is the Disk, been left in the base set I very well might have gotten banned. And not just for power reasons. I had color pie issues. I did allow certain colors to get rid of permanents that were supposed to be problematic for them.
Me: I’m not sure you make sense in this set. Time Spiral’s about the past. You’re shifting an artifact into a color. That’s not the past. Look, why don’t you come back later in the block when we start deviating a little more?
MOTD: This is an expert-level expansion. You have to do something new. That’s why I’m perfect. I’m a new tweak on an old card. And if you like me, I‘ve got friends. I know other magi.
Me: Magi? That’s the plural?
MOTD: Yeah, like “Gift of the Magi”, the O. Henry story.
Me: I don’t know. Any of your friends banned or restricted?
MOTD: A lot of them.
Me: Have them come in. We can talk.
Me: What rarity are you here for?
Pit Keeper (PK): Common.
Me: But you’re throwback card is a rare?
PK: Yes, sir. I’m a nod to the Onslaught rare Oversold Cemetery.
Me: I know. Why repeat a rare effect at common?
PK: I’m just a one-time effect. Oversold Cemetery was every turn.
Me: But why common?
PK: I believe I have a lot to offer Limited, sir.
Me: You can drop the sir. You think you’re going to see Limited play?
PK: Limited revolves around creature combat, so I should be at my most relevant. Besides I am a two-drop 2/1 in black.
Me: Your effect just isn’t going to come up a good portion of the time.
PK: I was told that you had a discriminator quota.
Me: You do seem Johnny-friendly.
PK: I’m very Johnny-friendly, sir, and if I don’t overstep my bounds, I think Timmy might even like me. Timmy likes raising the dead.
Me: Why put this effect on a 2/1?
PK: Don’t you see? That’s the cool part. Early game, I’m a 2/1. Late game, I’m a Gravedigger for two mana.
Me: You got spunk, kid.
Me: I hate spunk. (Although I apparently like making references to classic 70’s sitcoms.)
PK: So do you have a spot for me?
Me: We’ll see, kid. We’ll see.
Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
Me: You’re here for a legendary creature spot.
Endrek Sahr (ES): I’m Endrek Sahr.
Me: I’ll take that as a yes.
ES: Creator of the thrulls.
Me: I’m aware of who you are. I’ve read the Fallen Empires flavor text.
ES: You do understand that a lot of that is very biased. I don’t come across all that well. I seem a little crazy.
Me: Are you crazy?
ES: I’m a black mage. Of course, I’m crazy.
Me: So why exactly am I suppose to hire a crazy wizard?
ES: Because I make thrulls, and everyone loves thrulls. They’re so cuddly.
Me: Cuddly in an “eat your hand” kind of way?
ES: Is there any other?
Me: Your mechanic seems to imply that you’re not that reliable.
ES: I’m only sacrificed if I have seven thrulls. Seven! When’s that going to happen? I mean, yeah, I don’t like seeing Akroma flying my way. Well, I do for other reasons, but for the sake of not being sacrificed, she’s not exactly my first choice of teammate.
Me: So you’re crazy and you self-destruct. Any reason you left both of these things off your resume?
ES: No, it’s there. Under hobbies, I put dementia.
Me: You’re right, sorry. Well I think I’ve heard everything I need to.
Me: We’ll be in contact.
Me: You’re an Aven?
Crookclaw Transmuter (CT): The law says you can’t ask questions about racial creature types.
Me: Sorry. That’s the problem with interviewing wizards. You guys know all the rules better than I do. So, mind if I ask why you want to be in Time Spiral?
CT: You can play me as an instant. I hear you have a whole keyword for this.
Me: Do you have any throwbacks?
CT: Other than I’m an aven?
Me: I meant a mechanical tie.
CT: Not to one particular card. But it is a throwback to a certain style of card that Magic used to make all the time.
CT: So is it true?
Me: Is what true?
CT: I belong to a power/toughness support group, and word is that you’re the man behind the recent influx of p/t switching.
Me: Call it a soft spot. During Legends, I played Transmutation a little too much.
CT: Oh my goodness. Transmutation’s my godcard. I’m named after him.
Me: It’s gotten so bad that now every time a p/t switching card gets put into a set, everyone assumes I put it there.
CT: So what does that mean for me?
(I look around.)
Me: Okay, you’re in.
Magus of the Jar
Me: So you’re a friend of Disk?
Magus of the Jar (MOTJ): Yes.
Me: I complained to him that he might not be powerful enough, as he harkened back to an artifact that, while good, was never banned or restricted. You, on the other hand, are a throwback to an artifact so powerful it basically was banned before it was even released.
MOTJ: Uh, yeah. Is that a problem?
Me: I don’t know. Time Spiral really wants to be nostalgic of popular cards from the past, but I don’t know if it makes sense to make a nod to every broken card we’ve ever done. I mean, what are we supposed to do, put a Lotus and a Recall in?
MOTJ: I would. Personally, I’m a big fan of Ancestral Recall. He’s kind of my idol. He really inspired me to want to draw extra cards.
Me: You draw seven, correct? Can you tell me about a time where you drew a really bad hand of seven? I’m curious to hear how you handled it.
MOTJ: It’s hard to get seven bad cards. I mean how many inappropriate cards does a person even put in their deck?
Me: Okay, how about this? If we put you into the set, do you have any expectation that you’d get banned?
MOTJ: That’s not the kind of thing a card thinks about. I mean sure, once you start skewing the metagame it crosses your mind, but I don’t think any card wants to think about its own mortality.
Me: So why do you want to be in the set?
MOTJ: I’m really just here to help out my pal Disk. He said you needed a blue magus and well, I think I’m a good choice. I mean, I’m blue and I’m a magus.
Me: Based on a horribly, horribly broken card.
MOTJ: Yeah. Wait a minute, Mr. Rosewater, didn’t you design Memory Jar?
Me: Sure, technically, but I submitted it as a Winds of Change variant, not a Wheel of Fortune variant.
MOTJ: You don’t design broken cards?
Me: I wouldn’t say that. I’m only a few back from Richard on the all-time banned and restricted list. And I don’t have the “hey, it was Alpha” excuse. Wait a minute. Aren’t I the one interviewing you?
MOTJ: I was just saying that you seem more willing than most to hire a card that might have risks. Not that I’m such a card. (Pause.) Darn it.
Me: il-Dal, that’s an interesting name,
Drifter il-Dal (DiD): It means “out of favor with the tribe of Dal.” If I was in favor, I would be en-Dal.
Me: Like Oracle en-Vec?
DiD: Exactly. The Vec still like her.
Me: But they don’t like Greven il-Vec.
DiD: He sort of burned a few bridges when he left. He had some antisocial issues.
Me: I notice that il is italicized.
DiD: It was back in Tempest block. Except for the card titles, because the technology didn’t exist then to italicize titles.
Me: So if I put you in, you’d be the first card with an italicized word in its title?
DiD: I think Paladin en-Vec had that honor in Ninth Edition. But we’re few and far between. Does that matter?
Me: Not really. I just have a strange obsession with Magic trivia.
DiD: Does having strange trivia help?
Me: To quote an old Jewish joke: “It couldn’t hurt.”
DiD: You don’t hear a lot of Jewish humor in Dominaria.
Me: Try reading my column.
Me: Nothing. So, you have shadow.
DiD: Yes. Is that a problem?
Me: Randy Buehler, the Director of Magic R&D, said – let me get this quote correct: “The Tempest set includes what I think is the worst Magic mechanic ever: shadow.”
DiD: The worst ever? Has he played with bands with other? Of course not, because no one has.
Me: I once got out two 1/1 creatures that had bands with other Wolves of the Hunt.
DiD: Or how about rhystic? Ever spell comes with a built-in Counterspell for 1. For the opponent.
Me: My point is that Time Spiral is the greatest hits set. Why should we bring back a mechanic that removes creature interaction?
DiD: For starters, I believe shadow is a little misunderstood. Maybe Tempest was just too aggressive with its shadow creatures.
Me: How would you fix that?
DiD: Just keep the shadow creatures pretty vulnerable. For example, you could only put in shadow creatures that have a toughness of 1. Like me. That way any combat between shadow creatures would result in them both being destroyed. And it would allow just about any creature removal to get rid of them.
Me: But players liked the higher toughness ones in Tempest.
DiD: They also liked Black Lotus. My point is that shadow can be done better. Just don’t do anything stupid like make a 5/5 shadow guy.
Me: Ooh, like a demon.
DiD: Uh… right. Like a demon. Don’t do that.
Me: What if he could fly? Imagine a giant demon with shadow and flying.
DiD: Why would he need shadow and flying? Isn’t that repetitive?
DiD: When you’re done scribbling, can we talk about why I should be in the set?
Me: Sure. Why should you be in the set?
DiD: Because I’ve got lots of nostalgia.
Me: I guess shadow’s nostalgic to some portion of the audience.
DiD: No, not my shadow. My upkeep cost. Remember Alpha? Upkeep was all over Alpha. Most of it was written in capital letters rather than mana symbols, but it was there.
Me: But wouldn’t an upkeep cost make you significantly worse?
DiD: I’m a Savannah Lion with shadow. I’ll manage.
Me: Can I ask about your art?
DiD: You aren’t even supposed to be looking at my art.
Me: I know. I know. I just don’t get the dreadlocks.
DiD: I’m Dal. We all have dreadlocks. il-Dal, en-Dal, it don’t matter.
Me: Leave me your resume and I’ll be in touch.
But the fun didn’t stop with the new guys. In fact, the interviews with the timeshifted cards were even more interesting:
Prodigal Sorcerer (Tim): Maro!
Me: Hey, Tim.
Tim: So, I hear you guys are doing something nutty.
Me: Aren’t we always?
Tim: No, I mean nuttier than normal.
Tim: Maro, do you know what my dream is?
Tim: I’ve been in a lot of base sets. Heck, I was even in Alpha. But my dream was to make it to an expansion. Yeah, yeah, there were a lot of pretenders, a bunch of knockoffs of me that made it, but I’ve never had the pleasure. And I never thought I would. That is until I heard a little gossip among the old crew.
Me: What kind of gossip?
Tim: I heard you’ve had a couple of meetings with some recluse cards.
Tim: This one does six damage. In blue. Sure, a third of it’s to you, but it’s blue direct damage, baby.
Me: I cannot confirm nor deny any meetings with any Psionic spells. What’s it matter?
Tim: What’s it matter? It means you guys are having a little fun with the pie. You know that thing that’s been shutting all my doors. For years I’m a crowd favorite and the next day, R&D doesn’t return my calls.
Me: Things change.
Tim: Yeah, tell that to Disenchant or Fog.
Me: You’re here for a spot in Time Spiral?
Tim: You bet. I was made for a nostalgia set. And if Psionic Blast is having interviews, I know I have to be fair game.
Me: You do know I’ve met with Pirate Ship.
Tim: That loser? Come on. He’s a ship. How exciting can a ship be?
Me: Rumor is he’s not a ship any longer.
Tim: Whatever. Who cares if a 4/3 creature can ping you for one? Besides, he has islandhome. What kind of a loser has islandhome? Come on, the players love me. You know you have to put me in.
Me: Looks like Lord of Atlantis is going to get an invite. Maybe we should ask Rootwater Hunter.
Tim: Don’t mess with a member of the Institute of Arcane Study.
Me: So it’s true you never have a problem finding employment?
Me: Hey, Kai.
Voidmage Prodigy (VP): My name’s not Kai.
Me: Okay. What would you like me to call you?
VP: Voidmage Prodigy.
Me: Great. I’m guessing you want to know why I asked you here.
Me: Look, um, Voidmage Prodigy, R&D feels bad. We kind of threw you under a bus in Onslaught. You see, Patron Wizard got us a little spooked, and we were worried that wizards was going to become this dominant, do-nothing-but-make-games-real-unfun tribe. So we dialed back. Way back. You were really the only good wizard card in the whole set. I mean in constructed. We put you in and gave you no support. So, R&D wants to make it up to you. We’re going to give you a second go. I mean, if you’re interested. I hope you are. Because you’re much better than the original environment let on. Is that okay with you? Are you willing to come back?
VP: On one condition.
Me: Anything. You name it.
VP: Use the second picture.
Me: You asked for two minutes.
Shadow Guildmage (SM): Thank you. I’ve heard all about Time Spiral and I believe that I would be a perfect fit for this timeshifted sheet.
Me: Why is that?
SM: I’m a beloved Mirage card.
Me: I’m not sure the Mirage love has stood the test of time as well as some other sets.
SM: I’m like a Prodigal Sorcerer but in black.
Me: Well, we already have Prodigal Sorcerer. And Pirate Ship.
SM: Pirate Ship? Really? I thought you guys didn’t support “ship” anymore.
Me: He’s not… look I don’t mean to be blunt, but you have a few issues.
SM: Like what?
Me: For starters, you’re Shadow Guildmage. Time Spiral is a set with shadow.
Me: You don’t have shadow.
SM: Hey, I came before shadow.
Me: Second, you’re in a set following a popular multicolor set with guildmages. And you look nothing like them. So basically, you’re a Shadow Guildmage that is neither Shadow nor Guildmage. See the issue?
SM: Just push the whole “black Tim” thing. People love pinging things.
Me: The ability’s not even black. You have to have red mana to use it.
SM: The source is black. Take that, protection from red.
Me: I think I’m going to have to pass.
SM: No, no, no. I’m a classic.
Me: If you’re a classic, why haven’t you been in a base set?
SM: Don’t get me started on the off-color activation bias of R&D.
Me: What are you talking about? We just did an entire multicolor block and it had plenty of off-color activations.
SM: Yeah, but no guildmages.
Me: No, it had guildmages. They were just better than you.
SM: Everyone’s so enraptured with new-fangled hybrid cards. They’re just weak artifacts.
Me: I’m not sure dissing R&D’s work is the best strategy here.
SM: You’re right. I’m sorry. I just really want in. What’s it going to take? How much?
Me: Are you attempting to bribe me?
Me: You do understand that this is being recorded?
SM: I’m a wizard who deals in black magic, what do I care?
Me: Because we have strict rules about things like this. If someone was to get caught taking a bribe… well, R&D doesn’t look kindly on that.
SM: Sure, but this recorder has an off button, right?
SM: Where is it?
Me: Remind me again what you do.
Ovinomancer (Ovino): I turn creatures into sheep. “Ovino” means “sheep,” and “mancer” means “maker.” I’m a sheep maker.
Me: Is that supposed to be impressive? I mean, do you find people lean in when you tell them this?
Ovino: It’s nothing to sneeze at.
Me: Suppose you’re at a bar and you see a pretty lady. She asks what you do. Do you say you make sheep?
Ovino: I perform transformations. That’s not easy magic.
Me: I admit that you get some points for changing things shape. But you have to lose most of them for your choice of subject.
Ovino: You do know I’m based on the game Warcraft.
Me: World of Warcraft?
Ovino: No, Warcraft, the original. The one WoW is based on. R&D used to play it religiously. You were there.
Me: Actually, I spent most that time flirting with my future wife, but now that you bring it up, I remember Bill Rose making you after being inspired by a spell in Warcraft.
Ovino: That’s nostalgia though.
Me: For R&D. I don’t think most the world even knows that’s what you were based on.
Ovino: It doesn’t matter. Turning things into sheep is good times. Even if it doesn’t get me girls’ phone numbers.
Me: Why should I put you in Time Spiral?
Ovino: Come on, you used to write comedy. You have to see the humor in turning things into sheep.
Me: I see your point.
Ovino: And Bill Rose is the VP of R&D now, right. He’s your boss’s boss. Maybe he’d enjoy seeing his old card.
Me: For a sheep maker, you make a compelling argument. One that might be even more compelling with a little extra grease.
Ovino: Grease? I don’t understand.
Me: You scratch my back. I scratch yours. The off button’s right here.
Ovino: How about this? You put me in and I don’t turn you into a sheep.
Me: You expect me to believe that you’d actually turn me into a sheep if I don’t let you in?
Me: I’m calling your bluff. Go ahead. Sheep me. See, I didn’t… baa. Baa. Baa. Baa.
(FOLLOW-UP NOTE: I got better.)
That’s all the time we have for today. I hope my little jaunt into wizard interviews was fun. I’d be happy to hear what you thought of it. If you want to see me interviewing people a little more aggressively, please check out The Great Designer Search. We are days away from seeing the results of the first design challenge.
Join me next week when I open up class for the third time.
Until then, may you not act so sheepish.