Making_Magic

Topical Blend #3: Sessions

  • Boards
  • Print
Author Image

Apathy Mark?

Yes.

Do you want to talk about what's bothering you?

Why do you think something's bothering me?

You've been lying on my couch for five minutes and you haven't said anything.

So?

So, I'm using my finely tuned professional skills. That and the fact that I know you. You're not exactly the quiet type.

I guess not.

Want to talk about it?

It's my column this week. I've kind of set myself up.

What do you mean?

It's the third in a series and I really knocked the first two out of the park. I feel like I've set a standard for myself that I can't keep. And since I don't pick the topic I have little control over what I'm forced to write about.

That was your doing though, correct?

Yeah. It's the thrill-seeking part of me. You know, the one that did improvisation. There's something exhilarating about not working with a net. But then there's this other part of me that can't help but look down and go, "Hey, there's no net!"

What's your topic?

The Top Ten Coolest Creatures in Magic.

That doesn't sound too difficult.

It's just so open-ended. I mean, what makes a creature cool? I've spent eleven years designing Magic and I'm still trying to figure it out. I do have some idea but the topic is murky at best. And cool to who? Cool to the average player? Cool to a new player? Cool to me? I don't even know what vantage point I'm supposed to be taking. What makes a monster cool? Is it the mechanic? The art? The name? Some combination thereof? It's just an intimidating topic.

You used the word "monster." Is that a common term in the game?

No. Usually we say creature.

So why did you use the term "monster"?

I don't know. D&D I guess.

D&D?

Dungeons & Dragons. The role-playing game.

You play Dungeons & Dragons?

Not anymore. I just don't have the time. I played it a lot growing up, in college, after college in L.A. It was fun. Some of the guys in R&D still play. I mean besides the ones who spend every day making it.

We've talked a lot about your gaming before, but we've never really discussed Dungeons & Dragons. Any reason for that?

Just didn't come up. Role-playing has never been at the center of my gaming but I enjoy it when I'm doing it.

What's the coolest creature in Dungeons & Dragons?

To me?

Yes.

I guess there's a couple. Um, hell hound. (laughs)

Why are you laughing?

It's just a little joke between Dan and me.

Dan was your best friend growing up?

Right. You're good. Yeah, hell hound was kind of a joke between us. See, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons right after my bar mitzvah. I got the original beginner game box set as a gift from, of all people, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Melman. She lived on my street and I really thought she was a great teacher so my parents invited her to my bar mitzvah. Anyway, her gift was the intro box to D&D. It had an early form of the Players Handbook. I'm not talking about a bound book. It has staples in it. I remember that the cover was blue. I think there was also an adventure. And dice I assume. Must have been some stat sheets and a few other random things.

Anyway, I ate it up. I asked for the books for Chanukah. I got the Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual. And from there I was off. I started making dungeons. Every other room was a trap and every third room had treasure. If you remember I didn't have a lot of friends then, so I drafted Dan. He played the entire party. Which was good because my traps usually took out about half his team.

This went on for a year or two. The only person I played with was Dan. I made a few dungeons with some multiple-choice options so he could customize an adventure for me. We goofed around a lot. We'd roll up characters and then take on random creatures from the Monster Manual. Once I picked up Deities and Demigods we started sparring with low-level gods. But during the entire time it was just me and Dan.

Then one day my Mom showed me something in the paper. The local library was hosting an all-day D&D session. Everyone would roll up characters onsite and then play a day-long adventure. I was so stoked. I really liked playing with Dan but I had never really had the chance to play as a character where I didn't know most of what was going on.

So I get to the library and roll up a fighter. And I'm pumped. There's like twelve guys all playing plus two Dungeon Masters running the campaign. We have this giant party with everything—fighters, wizards, thieves, clerics. We're raring to go. The first room of the dungeon, the first room, we're attacked by hell hounds, which kill half of our party including me. I remember looking at my watch. My all-day D&D adventure ended after fifteen minutes.

I was so pissed. The next time Dan's over he asks about how the day went and I just go off. I complain about every facet of the adventure. Who makes an introductory campaign where you kill off the party in the first room? At one point I start going off on the hell hounds! So Dan's like, "What's a hell hound?"

I pull out my Monster Manual and show him the picture.

And Dan's like, "It's a dog. You were killed by a dog."

So I'm like, "It's not just a dog. It's a hound. From hell!"

Dan starts laughing. He says, "It's a dog. You got taken down by Cujo. You made it sound like this thing was something scary."

So I say, "It was scary. See his mouth? That's fire."

He's like, "Lassie kicked your ass."

Anyway, Dan thought this was the funniest thing he ever heard. Whenever we were out somewhere and we'd see an animal, he'd go, "Look out. It's a squirrel... FROM HELL."

Then one day Dan is running an adventure and I'm playing the party and in the middle of some dark dungeon hallway we run across a hamster. I say, "Come on, Dan."

He's like, "It could be from hell."

When I play multiple characters I always try to make sure that I play each one differently, so I have my cleric say something like, "You know, I've always wanted a pet hamster."

The cleric approaches and the hamster breathes fire. Suffice to say the cleric dies and the rest of the party barely makes it away. This obviously becomes a running joke in all our adventures. Flash forward to college. I made a friend named Joel who played D&D and liked to Dungeon Master. So, I share the hell hound story. The next adventure, we—and by we I mean a number of people as by this point I'm not playing the entire party—run across a raccoon. Imagine the hamster scenario all over again except it was someone else playing the part of the doomed adventurer.

It's like six months later and the school is shut down because a hurricane is coming. We tape up our windows and everyone is told to stay inside. Meanwhile, there's this girl that I liked named Melanie. For some reason—trust me, it seemed like a brilliant idea at the time—I invite her to play D&D with us. We're in the middle of the adventure when we run a cross a cat. A plain, ordinary alley cat. I turn to my party and I say, "Back up."

Melanie says, "I don't understand. It's just a cat."

And I'm like, "No, it looks like a cat. But it's actually a hell cat."

And she's like, "What's a hell cat?"

And I'm like, "A cat from hell. It breathes fire and, it's... it's deadly."

So she turns back to the cat and it meows. Melanie's character starts walking toward the cat. I'm trying to stop her but she's just giving me looks. She reaches the cat, she bends down to pet it and it... purrs. And Joel starts laughing like nobody's business. I think soda came out of his nose. And I give him this glare, sort of a "Dude, not cool" glare.

For the rest of my freshman year I was "the guy who was afraid of the cat."

This makes hell hounds cool because...?

They meant something. For a good portion of my D&D playing days they represented something that made the game what it was to me. It was a foundation that we kept building upon.

What in Magic does that?

For me personally?

Yes.

A couple different creatures.

What was the first?

I think the first creature I really bonded with was Atog. It was in Antiquities. I liked it right off the bat. I'm not quite sure why. It had great flavor. This little creature with a giant mouth that liked to eat artifacts. I thought it was cute and I liked the mechanic. I'm a Johnny at heart, and Atog seemed like a cool card to build around.

But there are plenty of other cards that fall into the same category. What really made Atog stand out for me was that I liked him and at the time he was hated. People would write long scathing rants about the card. I was just starting out writing for The Duelist and I found myself constantly defending him. I wrote an article about the Top Ten Most Underestimated Cards and he was my pick for #1. He was a strong card and everyone, at least it felt like everyone, was just bashing him. He became my first pet card. In fact, up until I changed all my logins to maro, my original name on boards was atog.

Then during Mirage development, I found this green creature that was in the set and I'm like, "This is an Atog." It ate things and got temporarily bigger. Exactly +2/+2. So I'm like, we have to change the card to an Atog. We can make it a 1/2 and change the creature type. And somehow I got everyone else to agree. That's where Foratog came from.

Meanwhile I start going on a tear and begin making Atogs for every set. Chronatog, Necratog, Auratog. Sometime during that. Mirage comes out and people flip over the Atog. It went over like gangbusters. You have to understand that I didn't put the Atog in because I thought it would be beloved. I just did it because I thought it was cool. So when I start realizing how many Atog lovers there are out there, I was ecstatic. It made me realize that the very thing that struck me about the card hit a chord with a lot of other players.

So the Atog is cool?

To me. And obviously to a lot of other people too. I guess to make my list, the creatures have to transcend just a single card. Magic has a lot of cool cards. Cards like Atog tap into something much deeper. I've had a lot of favorite cards over the years but few that I felt as emotionally attached to as Atog.

You say "a few." That means there's others?

There's others. Probably the next one for me was Lhurgoyf. I'm not sure what it was about the original card. The mechanic was awesome and the art was cool. And it had the best flavor text of all time. Lhurhoyf had the total package. Like Atog, there was something about it that just connected with me emotionally.

I keep talking about how the card affected me as a player, but you have to understand it also affected me as a designer. Just like Atog, I keep wanting to remake Lhurgoyf. I remember in Stronghold when I designed Revenant. I'm like, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a flying Lhurgoyf?"

Plus, it always made sense to me that Lhurgoyf should also be in black. I actually wrote the flavor text for the card in design. There's not a lot of cards that can claim to have flavor text written in design that ended up on the printed card. I had to fight for it, too. To be fair, it didn't make a lot of sense. Stronghold was in another plane like thousands of years after Ice Age. The creative team at the time was like, "Mark, it doesn't make any sense."

And I'm like, "Maybe Hans isn't what he seems."

And they're like, "Give me a break."

So I'm like, "Come on, it's funny. Can't 'it's funny' just win once in a while?"

And apparently it did. Either that or someone overruled the creative team. It's odd, because years later I was in charge of the creative team and the topic of Revenant came up, and I said if I had been the head of the creative team during Stronghold that I never would have put up with me.

So Lhurgoyf makes the Top Ten?

Definitely. Here's the best example I can think of. During Odyssey, I was put in charge of names and flavor text which at the time meant I was responsible for creature types. And Odyssey had a Lhurgoyf cycle. So the big question was what was their creature type? Most of R&D wanted Lhurgoyf because that's the creature type of Lhurgoyf. But I had my creative team hat on and I'm like, "Guys, it's a norse word that no one can pronounce. Why would five creatures in the middle of a completely different continent have that creature type?"

The argument basically came down to the fact that these five creatures would just be cooler if they were Lhurgoyfs. In the end I decided that yeah, they would, and I let them be Lhurgoyfs.

Okay, you got Atog and Lhurgoyf. Any others?

So both of the creatures were ones that had a cool ability. They had a neat name, great art, and cool flavor text. Both cards were put into a base set for some time. Both have led to the design of numerous other cards with the same mechanic. In fact, both cards inspired a cycle of creatures in a later set. There's one more creature that fits this description.

What is it?

Maro.

The card named after you?

Yes. Do you want to read anything into my choosing it?

Should I?

I'm sure my audience will. But then I don't want to blow my whole image as an egotistical blowhard.

Is that how you feel your audience sees you?

It's one facet of me. I remember there was a thread once where someone called me "arrogant." Not that it's only happened once, mind you. Anyway this one time, I turned to Henry Stern. His desk is two away from mine and he was the nearest person to me at the time. And I say, "Henry, am I arrogant?"

I wasn't asking to hear a certain answer. I just honestly wanted to know. He replies, "Yeah." Then he adds, "But in a good way."

I ended up looking up the definition. It's "having or showing feelings of unwarranted importance out of overbearing pride," if you care.

And does that description fit you?

Not always, but at times, yeah. It's the double-edged sword of my creativity. I have to commit to my ideas to make them work. If I don't care about my ideas passionately I could never fight for them the way I have to in order to get them made. But I know it does cause people to question my judgment. Am I too in love with my own ideas?

Like Maro.

Here's the thing about Maro. I feel lucky to be associated with it. I'm not sure how I got blessed by being forever linked with one of the cards I'm most proud of having designed. In my mind it's up there with Atog and Lhurgoyf. It really is a card that has created a lot of good will among players. Obviously I'm emotionally attached to it, but I honestly believe I would have many of these feelings without the whole name thing.

And as a designer I know that it is one of the wells that we keep revisiting. We don't make a cycle out of a card unless we know that it taps into some primal part of the players' subconscious. And for the record, I was not responsible for the Maro cycle in Saviors. I had nothing to do with it. In fact, I fought against Adamaro, the red one, because I didn't like that it worked differently than the rest of the cycle. I was fine with having it in the set. I just wanted a red Maro for the cycle that worked the same.

So, Atog, Lhurgoyf and Maro. Any others?

No, those are the three that hit the emotional chord in both my player side and designer side. You think they'd be okay with Top Three Coolest Creatures?

Probably not.

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope.

You do seem to enjoy your pop culture allusions.

Why is that?

You tell me.

Is that like your "break glass in case of fire" line? If I knew, why would I be asking?

Trust me, you know the answer to the vast majority of questions you ask me.

Okay, what are the other seven coolest creatures in Magic?

You tell me.

Remind me again why I pay you.

How about this? You said that you felt hell hounds were one of coolest creatures in Dungeons & Dragons. What would be another?

Beholders.

What's a beholder?

It's a big floating ball with lots of eyes. Okay, I know I'm not exactly selling it. It's just one of D&D's most iconic creatures.

But you feel it's cool?

Probably the happiest I've ever been in any D&D game I've ever played was the time I killed a beholder. Hold on a second. I have to set this up. Okay, the last weekly D&D campaign I played in was when I lived in Los Angeles. My roommate Charles and I hosted it. Every odd week he'd run a D&D campaign and every even one I'd run a Gamma World campaign.

Gamma World?

It's a role-playing game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was also put out by TSR, the company that did D&D before Wizards bought them. It has a strong science fiction feel. I used to joke that it was the game where radiation was your friend. I had always wanted to run a Gamma World campaign, and Charles had wanted to run a D&D one, but we figured out that alternating them allowed us each the chance to play and cut down the amount of work we had to do per month.

Our party had five players. I was the party's wizard and its only human. I was an ambidextrous human named Gemini. But we started at first level so I was the weakest of the party. Wizards tend to grow into one of the strongest characters but they're kind of weak at the beginning. Though that wasn't my biggest problem. Charles and I had very different philosophies about how to run a role-playing session. He wanted to immerse everyone in the world, which meant that he didn't like "outside talk." "Outside talk" is when people speak as themselves rather than as their character.

I, on the other hand, saw role-playing as a way to hang out with my friends and have some fun. If making asides about the game made people laugh and enjoy themselves then I had no problem with it. But Charles did. And he felt that the D&D campaign was his so he was going to run it the way that he wanted. How Gamma World was run, he said was up to me. Here's how Charles chose to enforce his rules. If a player acted out of character, which was what he felt "outside talk" was, he would punish them as the Dungeon Master. Essentially, "God" would mess with them. Maybe you see where this is going.

I agreed that Charles as the DM was free to enforce his rules as he saw fit, but I also felt that I should play the game the way I wanted and just suffer the consequences. So it was me against God. And if you think fighting the law is an uphill battle, let me tell you weak little human wizard versus an omnipotent being—not a fair fight.

Let's see. I was paralyzed for a while. I got turned into a fish. I had this earring that told everybody when I was lying. Basically I was a slightly more aware Job. Anyway, we're in the middle of the campaign. At this point I'm blind because... I have no idea why. I made one too many puns for God's taste.

We come to a castle. For the last several weeks we'd be following up on a prophecy that we'd heard about that said that a right- and left-handed human would save the kingdom. As I said, I was ambidextrous, so we were all sure that somehow, for once, I was going to save the day. Be aware that at this point I had been nothing but a liability to the group. It became a running joke that my friends would beg me to stop messing with Charles. Even though the punishment was always directed at me, it often would cause problems for our party. They were like, "Will you stop messing with God? Have you not figured out that he's a vengeful god?"

And I was always like, "Bring it on, God!"

The fact that for once I was supposedly going to be the solution rather than a problem made everyone happy. So we finally get to the castle. Think Sleeping Beauty's castle except a little more dangerous with more dragons. Because my character is the key to the problem in the castle, my team had to keep my alive. Which wasn't easy, as a blind low-level wizard is a bit of a liability. But eventually we make it into the castle where we meet the princess.

She was human. And we discover that the prophecy says that her heir will bring an end to the great evil that has enslaved their land. The problem is that the wizard that was causing this problem had made all the men of the land sterile. Now remember, I was the only human in the group. And I was male. I remember turning to Charles and saying, "So for the first time ever in the history of this party I am being called upon to save the day, and all that's being asked of me is to sleep with a princess?"

I had a big smile on my face. I said, "I can do that!"

There's a bunch more to it. We had to get married. And there were some tests. But anyway, we finally get to the point where I'm supposed to sleep with the princess and I'm like, "Now what?"

Charles is like, "You sleep with her."

And I'm like, "But what do I do?"

Arthur—he played the gnome—says, "We were hoping you already knew that."

I'm like, "No, I mean in the game. Do I need to roll a die?"

Charles is like, "I'm pretty sure you can impregnate the princess."

"No, no, no," I say, "I want to see how I do."

Charles looks at me. I say, "We roll dice to see if we can open a door successfully. I can't check if I make the princess happy? She is my wife after all."

"Fine," Charles says, "Roll a twenty-sider."

Remember that in D&D you want to roll high. Twenty is the best score and one is the worst. I crack my knuckles and roll my die. Twenty! I start dancing.

"So," I say to Charles, "I take it she's happy."

"Yes," he says, "So happy, in fact, that she has a gift for you."

Wand_of_Ith She gives me an item called a Wand of Wonder. Basically it's a magical wand that has a random magical effect each time it's used. It's very powerful but highly unpredictable.

Cut to a month or so later. We'd decided to pursue the wizard that had been plaguing the kingdom and we're in his lair when we're attacked by a beholder. It's a pretty tough monster, but this one was like the evil wizard's pet and he had enhanced it. So our party is fighting it. Now remember, during the entire course of events I've been talking about, I'm blind. My party keeps me back because basically I'm useless in a fight and the chance of me hitting one of my party is high.

But one by one, the beholder starts taking out members of the party. No one's killed, but most are unconscious or paralyzed. The only one that's even able to talk is Arthur and he's bleeding badly. He's like, "Gemini, it's up to you."

I yell back, "I don't even have a spell that can really hurt this beholder—and that was if I could even hit it, which I can't because I'm blind."

Arthur screams, "Use the Wand of Wonder!"

I yell back, "Did you forget about the blind part?"

Arthur says, "I'll tell you where to aim."

So I get the wand out. Arthur guides my aim. I fire and... a stream of butterflies come out. This gets the beholder's attention and he fires something at me. I roll and it turns out I'm hit but just barely. Enough, though, that it knocks me back and I lose the wand. Arthur is yelling at me where the wand is when Charles announces that Arthur's character had lost enough blood that he falls unconscious. So I'm crawling around, desperately trying to find the wand. Meanwhile I can hear the beholder getting closer.

At the last second I find the wand, I turn and when I say I blindly fire I mean it quite literally. Now, at this point I have a bunch of dice to roll. First I have to see what effect the wand has and then whether or not I hit the beholder. Note that the wand's effects are all down in a chart. Charles has no control over what effect the wand creates. For suspense purposes, Charles decides that I'm going to roll first to see if I hit the beholder. I needed something like a nineteen or better on a twenty-sided die to hit it. Remember I'm firing blind from a laying position at a flying creature whose moving. All the other players have gathered around me. I roll. Nineteen. I hit it.

Now we have to see what effect the wand has. Remember that the wand could hurt the situation by doing something like making the beholder even bigger or do something harmful to me like make a toxic cloud. I roll. The beholder turns to stone. Everyone screams. I'm so excited, I pump my fist and yell out, "It's always fun until someone loses an eye!"

Charles looks at me and tells me the stone beholder falls to the ground, crushing my legs.

So is the point of your story that beholders are cool or that you're just really stubborn?

Um, that beholders are cool. I mean I am really stubborn. That just wasn't the point of the story.

So what makes the beholder so cool?

It's two things, I think. One, just how it works is neat. The creature is very innovative. And two, it's definitely a creature that's unique to D&D. It's synonymous with the game.

What's the equivalent in Magic?

I guess Serra Angel. While angels have existed obviously long before Magic, I do believe Serra really carved out a niche for angels that belongs to Magic.

Which is?

The female battle angel. It has a strong feminine quality yet in a way that's assertive and powerful. A common trap in fantasy is having females portrayed as very weak and in need of rescue. One of the things that I'm proud of is that Magic, by and large, has avoided this fantasy cliché.

If ever there was one card that was the poster child for Magic it would have to be Serra Angel. I know we take vigilance for granted now, but in Alpha it was definitely one of the more compelling special abilities. Obviously so much so that it's become a staple evergreen keyword ability. Serra Angel's design is very clean yet evocative and compelling. I remember in the early days the card was an uncommon but sold like it was a rare.

It's funny because in the early days, long before I was at Wizards, the company tried to make Hurloon Minotaur the face of the game, but no matter what they did, Serra kept taking away the minotaur's crown. Okay, being a vanilla 2/3 wasn't helping out "Hurly" any.

I was here when R&D decided to take Serra out of the base set because we felt at the time she was too powerful. Then in Seventh Edition, Brand demanded that we put her back. She was too iconic not to have in the base set. In fact, I think Serra Angel is the only card that Brand has ever demanded R&D put into the base set.

Okay, Serra Angel joins your list. Anything else iconic?

Yes, some call him "Tim."

Am I supposed to get every allusion you make?

Come on, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Just remember whenever I say a line with a bad English accent that nine times out of ten it's Monty Python.

What does Monty Python have to do with Magic?

It's the nickname for a card called Prodigal Sorcerer. It's another Alpha card with a strong emotional connection for the audience, one of Richard's spot-on designs. So much so that it's become almost a staple for large sets. Yes, we've moved the ability into red, but still just about every block has a Tim variant if not more than one.

Why did the card connect so well with the players?

I guess it was another card that just hit on all cylinders. The effect was useful yet simple. The flavor of a wizard shooting off little damage spells felt right. It's interesting that it was the first card to get an almost universal nickname.

So who is Tim?

He's a wizard in Holy Grail. At one point he shoots out spells from his fingertips that cause damage.

Did the audience take a while to warm up to him like Atog?

No, not at all. Prodigal Sorcerer was a favorite from the very beginning. I actually remember when I opened my first Prodigal Sorcerer. It was in one of the first packs I ever opened. I thought it was really strong. Well, not as strong as my Craw Wurm, but still it seemed like the kind of card that just won games—funny enough, not because it could hit creatures. I just used it to hit my opponent every turn.

So Serra Angel and Prodigal Sorcerer are iconics for the game. Anything else?

I'll lump one more card with them, although this one definitely was iconic in a slightly different way.

What's the card?

Juzam Djinn. It appeared in Arabian Nights, the first Magic expansion.

Like Atog, it had a bit of a rocky start. Players at the time really didn't get why you'd want to have a creature that hurt the caster. People kind of got Lord of the Pit and Force of Nature because they were so big, but Juzam was merely medium sized. The idea that it was a very efficient body for its cost took a while for the general populace to see. But eventually it became the poster child for big cheap creatures with a built-in negative. Like lots of the other cards I've named it's definitely inspired numerous designs trying to capture its general flavor.

It's funny that there are so many other cards that hit a similar design space but it was Juzam Djinn that stole the spotlight.

Why do you think that is?

For starters, the art is just stellar. Mark Tedin hit it out of the park. It's both beautiful and iconic. I really feel the art is a big part of what made the card so popular. From a design sense, Juzam Djinn was the first card to successfully marry a big body and cheap cost with a drawback. Alpha had its big creatures, but none of them were really worth what you were being asked to pay for them. Juzam Djinn put the idea of drawbacks in a whole new light. In fact, I feel like my understanding of why Juzam Djinn was good enough to play was one of the first big steps I had in understanding the strategy of the game.

Any other iconics?

Those are the three that come to mind.

Well, Mark looking at my watch, I think it's time we wrapped this week up.

No, no, no. I still need four more cards.

Let's do this the quick way. Say the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Dungeons & Dragons.

Dragons.

If I ask for a second, do you say dungeons?

No. Dragons are just, I don't know, the heart and soul of D&D.

What's the heart and soul of Magic?

The color wheel.

What's the heart and soul of the creatures?

I guess there are certain archetypes that we keep coming back to.

Like what?

We always have Goblins and Elves.

Is there an iconic Goblin or an iconic Elf?

Yeah, I guess. But as I look back at the creatures I've already picked, it seems that I lean towards the creatures that sort of paved the way for all that followed them.

What's another example of that?

What do you mean?

Name a creature that once it was created the designers keep feeling a need to return to it.

Um, Hypnotic Specter.

What's that?

It's a black creature that causes your opponent to discard a spell when it hits them.

And it inspired others?

Yeah. It created an archetype that we do every block. In fact, it so warped the perception of the archetype that we almost always make them Specters.

Do Specters do anything else in the game?

No, they're isolated to this one role.

That's pretty definitive. Anything else?

Ball Lightning.

What's that?

It's a creature that shows up, hits for a lot of damage, and then goes away.

That created its own archetype as well?

Yeah. And just like the Specter, we keep going back to the same flavor to represent it.

Anything else?

There's a bunch of different cards.

But is there another one that was so compelling that it forced all cards that followed it to mimic it?

I'd have to say Black Knight.

The card was created originally because Richard liked having mirrored pairs. Yet we keep making Black Knight variants even though neither protection nor first strike are inherently black abilities. In fact, we granted black tertiary status on first strike solely because we like to keep making Black Knight variants. There's just something about an evil, dark knight that really speaks to players.

We're up to nine.

Yeah, but I'm tapped and the session is almost over.

Okay, let's try a Hail Mary. Name a cool D&D creature.

Gelatinous Cube.

Why is it cool?

Because it's strange. It's not what you expect, yet it's surprising how much fun it is to play with.

Name a Magic card that is strange yet not what you expect and is surprising how much fun it is to play with.

Triskelion.

Is it cool?

Yeah. I was so happy when it got put into Fourth Edition.

Has it inspired the design of numerous other cards?

Definitely yes.

Is it well designed?

Yes.

Is the flavor of it cool?

Yes.

There you go, ten cool creatures.

Atog, Lhurgoyf, Maro, Serra Angel, Prodigal Sorcerer, Juzam Djinn, Hypnotic Specter, Ball Lightning, Black Knight and Triskelion. Thanks doc.

Next week we can work on the following week's column.

No need. The Monday after this column appears is Labor Day.

Is that a holiday your non-American audience will know?

No, but I'm sure I'll find some way to let them know about it. I'll make some joke about how we honor work in America by taking the day off.

How about the following week?

The next three weeks are Lorwyn previews. Lorwyn is so awesome that those columns should write themselves.

Sounds like things shouldn't be too stressful until our next session?

Well, I do have three kids at home.

Until then, may you see how the loves of your past influence the loves of your present.

Um, have I mentioned yet how I might have started using your catchphrase?

We're out of time. That'll have to be a topic for next time.

  • Planeswalker Points
  • Facebook Twitter
  • Gatherer: The Magic Card Database
  • Forums: Connect with the Magic Community
  • Magic Locator