With the release of Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered on MTG Arena, players have gotten a whole host of exciting reprints to play with. One of the most popular cards from the set is Emrakul, the Promised End a giant Eldrazi Titan that allows players to control their opponent’s next turn. Although Emrakul is one of the most popular cards in the set, and was the main antagonist of its storyline, staff at Wizards of the Coast have revealed that they were almost unable to add the iconic Eldrazi to MTG Arena due to the immense technical challenge implementing its effect onto the Arena client posed.
Why Emrakul Was Problematic
Emrakul, The Promised End is a 13/13 Eldrazi with Flying, Trample, and Protection From Instants that costs one less to cast for each card type among cards in its controller’s graveyard. These stats certainly place Emrakul amongst the biggest creatures in the game, however, Impervious Greatwurm, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, and other colossally huge creatures have all been implemented into MTG Arena without major difficulty. What makes Emrakul uniquely tricky to program into MTG Arena is its second ability.
When Emrakul is cast, its controller gains control of target opponent during their next turn. Emrakul’s controller will make all of their decisions, have access to their hand and be able to control whether or not their creatures attack. This ability first appeared on the card Mindslaver which was printed in Mirrodin in 2003. Implementing this effect onto MTG Arena was incredibly difficult. Emrakul, The Promised End was in the words of one Wizards of the Coast staff member: “by far the single most time and resource intensive card we’ve done for MTG Arena”.
How Emrakul Was Implemented
In an article entitled “Why I Decided Not To Do Emrakul, And How We Shipped It Anyway” Ian Adams discusses the difficulties MTG Arena’s staff encountered implementing the card into the game. Adams’ job role is “product owner of Card Set on Magic: The Gathering Arena”. In his article, Adams defines his role thusly: “A product owner is the person who defines the priorities and direction of a given product or team. I usually translate that as “I’m in charge of the part of MTG Arena where you actually play Magic.””
Adams writes that initially he decided to cut Emrakul and it was only after his team convinced him to reimplement the card, and spent weeks ironing out all of the issues it created, that Emrakul, The Promised End could be brought onto MTG Arena.
Implementing Emrakul was incredibly laborious, a fact that Adams makes clear in his piece. He writes that the “Emrakul touches every other part of the game” and that new coding had to be written, “for every action you can take in the game, from casting spells with kicker to sacrificing creatures, and making sure you can pass priority back and forth between yourself during combat.”
Ultimately, after a huge amount of effort by Adams and his team, Emrakul made it onto MTG Arena.
MTG players have been filled with praise for Arena’s engineers after hearing about the difficulties they encountered in order to bring Emrakul into the game.
In a post on Reddit discussing Ian Adams’ article, the user AuntGentleman wrote: “This article blew my mind. I work with software PMs and devs every day, and this team sounds incredible to work with.
The fact that this dude basically said “I wanna tackle this insane problem in my discretionary time” AND THEY DID IT is so impressive.”
TempAccount28523800 wrote: “My respect for this team increased 3000 fold”.
LC_From_TheHills wrote: “I maintain and build a testing framework for an app that is on your phone right now. So this was a very cool read for me.
A lot of people really underestimate the amount of work it takes to build, test, and ship an app to millions of customers worldwide.
This shows the importance of experimentation. My team has a hack-day coming up next month and we are all very excited to work on some cool stuff that we don’t normally have time for. I’m gonna share this article with them.”
There are a few players who have been encountering difficulties with the card.
One Redditor made a post, announcing that they encountered a glitch when their opponent conceded whilst under Emrakul’s control. The game didn’t end, and the player controlling Emrakul eventually got a game loss when the timer ran out. Wizards of the Coast staff were quick to respond to this post, however, and are already working on a fix. This issue only seems to effect best two out of three matches, and there have currently been no reports of any errors caused by players under Emrakul’s control conceding in best of one games.
It is strangely thematically appropriate that an Eldrazi monstrosity capable of driving mortals to madness required a mend bending amount of effort and dedication to bring into the game. The work required to implement Emrakul, the Promised End on MTG Arena was colossal. It’s a credit to the dedication of the MTG Arena Team that they were willing to put themselves through such an exhausting amount of work in the name of ensuring players had access to one of the game’s most iconic cards.
Read more: MTG Designer Reveals The Future of MTG Arena