Ask Wizards - August, 2004

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Ask Wizards

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

 August 31, 2004  

Q: "What are some of the card cycles from Magic’s first set?"
- Jim, Indiana

A: From Mike Elliott, Magic R&D:

"We do a ton of cycles in every set, and Alpha was no exception. The most notable ones from Alpha are the Moxes (and there was a cycle of basic lands also), and the ones we would most like to forget are the Laces. I still have a binder with a couple hundred of each Lace. A couple years ago, Ben Bleiweiss compiled a very nice list of the cycles we had done covering all sets out at the time. Any extended answer I could give you would pale in comparison to the comprehensiveness of his work, so here are the links to his article: Part 1, Part 2."

 August 30, 2004  

Q: "I was wondering how Rorix Bladewing died. A friend of mine told me that Phage killed him. Is it true?"
--Mike
California, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic R&D:

"Sometimes a cool concept generates a cool card design, but sometimes it's the card design that drives the concept. In the case of Bladewing the Risen, the card design came first. To reinforce the dragon theme of the Scourge set, the card designers had included a black/red 'dracolich' who could strengthen other dragons. Then the developers discovered that the dracolich's comes-into-play ability was too strong, because you could play Buried Alive to put three dracoliches in your graveyard, then play a fourth to get all four of them into play. The solution? Make the dracolich a legendary creature. "From there, it's pretty easy to see how things led to Rorix Bladewing. Given a choice between a new legendary Dragon that no one had heard of and a revisitation of Rorix, we went for the latter. How did Rorix die? How was he reanimated, by whom, and why? Since Rorix doesn't appear in the Onslaught-block novels, that's up to you to imagine."

 August 27, 2004  

Q: "Was there ever a black legend planned for Mirrodin block? Artifacts have Bosh, Red had Slobad, Green has Glissa, White has Raksha, Blue has Memnarch. Black was left without a legend. Was there a legend planned like Geth himself for black or is this just a coincidence?"
--Skyler
Bismarck, North Dakota, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Directory:

"Just coincidence, Skyler. We knew we would try to give Glissa, Memnarch, and Bosh their own cards when we started, but Slobad and Raksha both got cards based on how important and interesting they proved to be in the Magic novels, which aren't completed until after the corresponding card set is pretty much done. As for Geth . . . well, if you haven't read the novels, Geth's card wouldn't really make a lot of sense. (I don't want to spoil anything, but those of you who have read the novels know what I'm talking about.)"

 August 26, 2004  

Q: "What is the latest printed expansion that can still make it into Ninth Edition?"
--Daniel

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Magic R&D:

"There is no hard-and-fast rule about what sets can and cannot be included, but it should be obvious from the past that we like to use every resource available to us. Seventh Edition contained cards from Invasion, which was released just a few months prior. Eighth Edition had cards from Scourge, the latest expasion at the time. Suffice it to say that there will be cards in Ninth Edition that you haven't seen yet."

 August 25, 2004  

Q: "What's taking so long with You Make the Card 3? Both the previous ones started in January, but it's the middle of August and 3 hasn't started yet. You haven't chickened out and decided not do another one, have you?"
--Nathan, Pennsylvania, USA

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

"Nathan, we're still going to be running You Make the Card 3, we just didn't want it to overlap with Selecting Ninth Edition. As Mark Rosewater states in his column this week, you can expect YMTC3 this fall. It's starting a bit later this time around, but we've got a great twist that we're sure will make it worth the wait.

 August 24, 2004  

Q: "When will previews of Champions of Kamigawa cards be released on the website?"
-- Mark, Mount Pleasant, USA

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

"Card previews for Champions of Kamigawa will run three weeks, beginning Monday, August 30th. Also, don't miss the art and story previews already running on the Champions of Kamigawa microsite."

   

Q: "What is the 'metagame?'"
--Johnathon
Union City, IN

A: From Robert Gutschera, Magic R&D:

"Originally, 'metagame' was a term we used at Wizards for everything surrounding the game (Magic, or any game): collecting and trading cards, thinking about decks, having a rating that you improved over time, attending tournaments... everything a person might do to enjoy Magic besides the act of sitting down and playing the game itself.

"The term was adopted by the Magic-playing community, but in a narrower meaning: for everyone outside of Wizards, 'metagame' means the card environment -- which cards are good, which decks you are likely to see, what specific counters there might be to certain deck types, and so on. People might say things like 'Putting CoP: Red in your deck is a metagame choice,' which just means that if the environment you're playing in has lots of people playing red, you play it, and otherwise you don't. Another common thing you hear is 'the metagame right now is...' followed by a list of deck types.

"Here in R&D, we often use the word 'metagame' in this sense, but sometimes we use it in the broader sense as well. Occasionally it gets confusing, but usually we can tell by context."


 August 20, 2004  

Q: "What sort of tournaments are there going to be when Unhinged comes out this fall?"

A: From Damon Edmondson, Program Development Manager, Organized Play:

"There will be Unhinged Release Events held at retail stores around the world on Saturday, November 20th. The format will be Unhinged 'sealed deck' and the first 32 participants at each location will get a special commemorative foil release card. The top 3 finalists at each location will win a unique Unhinged life counter. (There aren't any tournament packs for Unhinged so 'sealed deck' really means 5 booster packs of Unhinged and as many basic lands as you want.) We are expecting over 1000 stores to participate in this program and we'll post a list of them all on magicthegathering.com once we are closer to that date.

"In addition there will be an Unhinged Arena season (where the format is 3 booster packs of Unhinged plus any one tournament pack of your choice) and there will be Unhinged tournaments at GenCon SoCal with Mark Rosewater as master of ceremonies. All of these offerings will be unsanctioned, of course, since Unhinged is not legal for DCI-sanctioned tournament play."


 August 19, 2004  

Q: "I remember a question a while ago asking which cards represent the crews of the Weatherlight and Predator. Similarily, which cards represent the pieces of The Legacy?"
--Aaron
London, Ontario, Canada

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"Considering how much people claimed to hate the Weatherlight Saga at the time, I sure get a lot of questions about it. ;) Anyway, the following artifact cards represent the known pieces of the Legacy: Chimeric Sphere; Juju Bubble; Karn, Silver Golem; Mind Stone; Null Rod; Skyshaper; Skyship Weatherlight; Squee's Toy; Thran Forge; Thran Tome; Touchstone; and the Tooth, Eye, Skull, Heart, and Horn of Ramos. There are other Legacy artifacts identified in books we've published that never made it onto cards."


 August 18, 2004  

Q: "Why did you decide to make Spinal Parasite a -1/-1? Wouldn't it have worked just as well as a 0/0?"
--Jim, Cincinnati, Ohio

A: From Brian Schneider, Magic R&D:

"We hadn't done a -1/-1 before and with Sunburst it just felt like it was the right time. We were looking for a way to make Spinal Parasite more unique, and Mike Elliott half-jokingly submitted 'make it a -1/-1.' The development team liked the idea, and thus, Spinal Parasite is a -1/-1. It could have been a 0/0 and been more powerful... but sometimes being more powerful isn't more interesting."


 August 17, 2004  

Q: "Has the Future Future League ever had some very powerful deck that the 'real world' tournament scene didn’t find?"
- David, Paris, France

A: From Devin Low, Magic R&D:

"We find a lot of powerful decks and degenerate combos that the real world never finds. . . .mostly because developers change the cards first to make them more fair. In Mirrodin development, Vedalken Archmage proved to be quite saucy when it cost 1 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana AND drew cards off of artifact lands. Soul Foundry’s activation cost used to be 4 mana regardless of the creature. . .leading to far more turn 4, 5, and 6 Darksteel Colossus tokens than we wanted to inflict on the public. And if you think Tooth and Nail for Triskelion and Mephidross Vampire is hot stuff now, let me tell you this: the vampire lord used to let its vampire minions also gain +1/+1 counters when they damaged a player. Whenever we got bored of pinging all the opponent’s creatures to death, we would ping the opponent a dozen or two times. It could almost be a new motto: 'We endure these shenanigans so you don’t have to.'"


 August 16, 2004  

Q: "I was looking at my Atog Deck and I was wondering, is Atog an anagram of 'Goat'? Since goats are known for eating almost anything, and there's an Atog for everything (even an Atog for Atogs!) is it coincidence?"
--Robert
Houston, TX, USA

A: From Devin Low, Magic R&D:

“Hi Robert,
You have hit the nail on the head. When Atog was first designed for Antiquities, Magic’s second expansion, the creative team was trying to think of a card concept for a living creature that ate metal. As you say, goats are known to eat anything, and they are especially infamous for eating tin cans. A little playing around with the letters, and an adorable little creature was born. Adorable and deadly that is - Osyp Lebedowicz just took home the trophy for Grand Prix Orlando partially due to the explosive killing power of this toothy, goatish monster.”


 August 13, 2004  

Q: "A few years back, you could see Magic played on ESPN. Are there any plans to put more Magic events on TV anytime soon?"
--Andrew
Cary, North Carolina, USA

A: From Chris Galvin, Magic Organized Play:

"Hi, Andrew. Thanks for asking. We don't currently have plans to put Magic events back on broadcast or cable TV. While ESPN2, which aired the Pro Tour for about a year in 1999-2000, was happy with the ratings, the production costs of the show wound up being more than we were willing to spend.

"However, since last August we have been been pursuing a strategy that I personally think is even cooler. Wizards now does a live video webcast of the final day of each Pro Tour event plus the World Championships. In addition to showing you all the game action, the webcast includes great commentary on the play; interaction with the online audience; interviews with pro players, artists, and other notables; and lots more. This past webcast, from Pro Tour Seattle, was our best one yet. Each one seems to be better than the one before.

"If you haven't checked it out yet, tune in to watch the next webcast. We'll be live from the World Championship in San Francisco, CA on Sunday, September 5, starting at 9 am Pacific time."


 August 12, 2004  

Q: "The August 5 Ask Wizards asked for the expansion codes of all the expansions, but Wendy Wallace only answered with the codes for Kamigawa block. What gives?"

A: From Wendy Wallace, Magic Brand Manager:
It is possible that I'm rude and didn't answer Goran's question intentionally. It's also possible that I misread the question. I'm going with the second one. Thanks to all the fine folks on the board who pointed out the error of my ways. Here’s the complete list.

Product Product code
Limited Edition Alpha LEA
Limited Edition Beta LEB
Unlimited Edition 2ED
Arabian Nights ARN
Antiquities ATQ
Revised Edition 3ED
Legends LEG
The Dark DRK
Fallen Empires FEM
Fourth Edition 4ED
Chronicles CHR
Homelands HML
Ice Age ICE
Alliances ALL
Mirage MIR
Visions VIS
Fifth Edition 5ED
Portal POR
Weatherlight WTH
Tempest TMP
Stronghold STH
Exodus EXO
Portal: Second Age P02
Unglued UGL
Urza's Saga USG
Anthologies Box Set ATH
Urza's Legacy ULG
Portal Three Kingdoms PTK
Classic Sixth Edition 6ED
Urza's Destiny UDS
Starter 1999 Edition S99
Mercadian Masques MMQ
Battle Royale Box Set BRB
Nemesis NEM
Starter 2000 Edition S00
Prophecy PCY
Invasion INV
Beatdown Box Set BTD
Planeshift PLS
Seventh Edition 7ED
Apocalypse APC
Odyssey ODY
Deck Masters box set DKM
Torment TOR
Judgment JUD
Onslaught ONS
Legions LGN
Scourge SCG
Eighth Edition 8ED
Mirrodin MRD
Darksteel DST
Fifth Dawn 5DN
Champions of Kamigawa CHK
Unhinged UNH
Betrayers of Kamigawa BOK
Saviors of Kamigawa SOK
Ninth Edition 9ED

 August 11, 2004  

Q: "I know R&D has had it out for blue as of late, to try and weaken the overall color. With blue out of the limelight it's nice to see all the other colors become high level colors. But, at heart I am a blue fan. So my question is will blue ever come back to be being a strong color in Magic?"
--Patrick
Kansas City, MO

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

"Yes."


 August 10, 2004  

Q: "I was wondering why the Trample mechanic didn't show up on any card in Seventh and Eighth Edition. It seems to be a pretty common green ability. What's more, the ability '~ may deal its combat damage to defending play as though it weren't blocked' on creatures like Thorn Elemental and Rhox does appear, while it seems to me to be a more complex and less 'typically green' ability."
- Thomas

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Magic R&D:

"The 'new trample' (what we've taken to calling the ability on Thorn Elemental and Lone Wolf) is a green ability, mostly because we've assigned it to green. When we decided that we'd eventually stop supporting trample in the Core Sets (some time around the Urza block), we needed a new form of 'evasion' for green, meaning an ability that let it deal damage in lieu of blockers. So we came up with 'new trample' and have used it in the Core Set ever since.

"We're finding out now that the ability isn't as easy to understand as we thought. A popular rules question from players is, 'What happens when my opponent blocks my Thorn Elemental with his Voracious Cobra?' The real answer is that the Cobra deals two first strike damage to the Elemental and then kills it with its triggered ability long before the Elemental gets to deal its combat damage. But many players believe the defending player should take seven, since the attacker can have the Elemental deal its combat damage to the defending player as though it weren't blocked. I've heard of other minor rules mix-ups involving 'new trample,' which have convinced me that the ability is more complicated than we once believed.

"That complication, combined with the fact that regular old-fashioned War Mammoth-style trample is such a big part of expert level expansions, has us looking into reintroducing trample to the Core Set with Ninth Edition. The rules team is working on several different reminder text variations, and if we can find one we like that is simple enough and conveys all the necessary information, you might see the 'trample' keyword on white bordered cards in the near future."


 August 9, 2004  

Q: "Why is it that abilities have changed from happening during your upkeep to happening at the start of your upkeep? An example of this is the old version of Karma it said during your upkeep but now in Eighth Edition Karma says at the beginning."
--Kye
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

A: From Paul Barclay, Magic Rules Manager:

"This was due to the Sixth Edition rules changes. When we were cleaning up the rules, we removed the old 'upkeep abilities,' which were a special class of ability. We could do exactly the same thing with a simple triggered ability. So, any cards that used to say 'During your upkeep, sacrifice a Squirrel,' will now say 'At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice a Squirrel.'"

 August 6, 2004  

Q: "What does the expansion symbol for Onslaught represent?"
--Anastasia
Miami, Florida USA

A: From Jeremy Cranford, Magic Art Director:

Onslaught expansion symbol

"The expansion symbol for Onslaught is a small graphic which represents one of the 'Morph' mechanics in the Onslaught expansion.

"The idea was that you could summon a 2/2 generic colorless creature by playing that card face down, then at the right moment you could turn your card over and turn it into a 'normal' creature. The creative team had to find a way to show what a 'morph' creature would look like and how different creatures would burst out of this 2/2 colorless shell when activated. Below are some of the early concepts we came up with. The Onslaught expansion symbol is a stylized version of this key mechanic.

Click to enlarge

"Expansion symbols are always a challenge. I hoped you liked them."


 August 5, 2004  

Q: "In a recent 'Ask Wizards' you revealed that the expansion code for Champions of Kamigawa will be CHK. Is there a list of expansion codes available for all editions? I have been scouring both the Wizards site and the WWW in vain!"
- Goran, Australia

A: From Wendy Wallace, Magic Brand Manager:

"Goran, the codes for the rest of the Kamigawa block are BOK for Betrayers of Kamigawa and SOK for Saviors of Kamigawa."


 August 4, 2004  

Q: "In light of Aaron’s recent article about creature type Human, did anyone at R&D argue to make Raise the Alarm produce 1/1 white Human Soldier tokens?"
--Reuben Barrientes
San Marcos, CA, USA

A: From Brady Dommermuth, Magic Creative Director:

"If I recall correctly, Reuben, no one did, because everybody likes the idea (for now) of normally keeping our token creatures to a single type. In addition to the appeal of simplicity, we like token creatures to have as little gameplay-relevant 'text' as possible so you don't get totally lost keeping track of stuff, especially when there's more than one kind of token in play. "There was a little discussion about making the tokens Human instead of Soldier, but (a) Soldier is more mechanically interesting, especially after the Onslaught block, and (b) making them Soldiers enables us to reprint the card down the line with nonhuman creatures in the illustration. As it stands, the spell summons two soldiers of an unspecific kind to fight for you—the current illustration just happens to show human ones."

 August 3, 2004  

Q: "Why not just restrict Skullclamp in Standard? With just one, you have much less chance of drawing it. Is only one really that dangerous?"
--Howard
Philadelphia, PA

A: From Aaron Forsythe, Magic R&D:

"The canned answer is that we don't restrict cards in Standard (or Block, or Extended, or Type 1.5). The only format that uses a Restricted List is Type 1, and that's because if we ban cards there, there'd be no place to play many of them at all.

"So why don't we restrict cards in Standard? In general, we don't want to add more randomness to the game than there already is. There were complaints that certain matches were coming down to 'whoever drew Skullclamp won,' and by only allowing one copy per deck there would be more of a feeling of 'random unfairness.'

"Plus, in the case of Skullclamp, would restriction really make it show up less? With cards like Trinket Mage, Steelshaper's Gift, and Taj-Nar Swordsmith in the format, even one Skullclamp is not difficult to get on the table. And we don't want it showing up at all."


 August 2, 2004  

Q: "Is there any recommended method for cleaning cards?"
--Clifford S.
Abbeville, Louisiana

A: From Devin Low, Magic R&D:

"Your question left it a little unclear exactly what you wanted to clean off your cards, so I took my best guess. When white-bordered cards get played for a long time without sleeves, they can sometimes pick up some little black flecks of gunk around the border. I asked around, and local Professor of Magic Anthropology Dr. Worth Wollpert had the answer. If you take a half-used pencil eraser and gently wipe away the flecks, they will come right off. Some brave souls even say you can use diluted Windex to do the same thing, but be sure to master this on lands before you try it on expensive cards. Using sleeves will also prevent the flecks from appearing."

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