This week, Fearless Leader wrote about the five dynasties of Magic Design (actually, it was kinda of a rehash of his State of Design of this year, but it makes sense in Transformation Week). If you didn’t click the link, nor read the article, don’t worry, here’s the info “that will be on the test” version:
- First Stage (Alpha through Alliances): This stage was about the focus on individual card design. Design decisions tended to be made on a card-by-card basis.
- Second Stage (Mirage through Prophecy): This stage was the introduction of the block and the focus of design in thinking of Magic in terms of a year.
- Third Stage (Invasion through Saviors of Kamigawa): This stage was the introduction of block themes. Blocks were no longer just a collection of mechanics, but contained specific things chosen to highlight the block’s theme.
- Fourth Stage (Ravnica through Rise of the Eldrazi): This stage was the introduction of block planning. Instead of picking a theme and continuing it through the block, design now planned out how exactly the block was going to evolve. This planning allowed for themes to be better set up and paid off.
- Fifth Stage (Scars of Mirrodin through ???): Now we get to last year. What I believe Scars of Mirrodin block has done that shifts design into the next age is to radically change how mechanical themes are looked at and used. For the last two stages, themes have been used as the foundation to build the block on. Starting with Scars of Mirrodin, mechanical themes are now thought of as tools used to put a block together. Metaphorically, themes are no longer the canvas, but the paint.
All of this is great. You really see the evolution of Magic when it gets separated into these categories. In fact, this isn’t the first time that MaRo has brought to us these dynasties (as highlighted in his State of Design right before Ravnica, the fourth stage). Here it is broken down:
- First Stage (Alpha through Alliances): Design on a card by card basis.
- Second Stage (Mirage through Prophecy): Blocks are created and keywords are enforced.
- Third Stage (Invasion through Saviors of Kamigawa): Creation of the Block Theme (Multicolor being Invasion, and so on).
- Fourth Stage (Ravnica through Rise of the Eldrazi): Tying the block closer together by having the sets in the block interconnect better.
- Fifth Stage (Scars of Mirrodin through ???): Design a world that encompasses and design for that plane.
That fifth stage is a little card to pin down since we’ve only seen 4 sets (plus a Core Set), of this new design philosophy. As fellow GDS2 participate, and eventual winner, Ethan Fleisher said:
During the Designer Search, I was working based on some obsolete assumptions. Not only could I not see the next eight to twelve sets worth of innovation that were in the works, but I had to look back several years in order to get a clear picture of what sorts of standards existed in common between sets.
And he’s right. We’re in a total lag of trying to stay on top of what Wizards considers “proper” design. For people not working at Wizards, we’re trying to decipher what is not laughable when it comes to designing cards of our own. Everyone started making Planeswalkers when they first were announced, but we didn’t know exactly how they worked and what their impact would be. Wizards did.
So for today, I give you the four dynasties of amateur Magic design. It’s because of this constant catch up, and the way people design cards, that I believe that this is how people create cards. Of course, this is just one man’s opinion and everyone else is a little different.
Continue reading “Design Class – The Four Dynasties of Amateur Magic Design”