Danitha, New Benalia's Light
28, Nov, 23

MTG Designer Addresses 2023’s Controversial Design Decisions

Article at a Glance

To put it lightly, 2023 has been one hell of a year for MTG. Loaded with an insane number of sets, announcements, reprints, and crossovers galore, this year has had it all. Unfortunately, however, as much as 2023 has had some incredible highs, it has also had a few shocking lows.

Between art theft, story problems, and the most lackluster set ever, there have definitely been some missteps in 2023. Miraculously, however, Wizards of the Coast isn’t sweeping those under the rug. Instead, Lead MTG Designer, Mark Rosewater, has recently been addressing the communities biggest questions and concerns.

Considering the troubles that players have experienced throughout 2023, Rosewater’s surprisingly forthcoming answers are definitely a welcome treat. More than just being interesting, however, during the recent articles, Rosewater also hinted at what the future holds.

More Creature Types Could Be Renamed

Viashino Branchrider

To kick things off with controversy, it seems that more MTG creature types might be getting renamed in the future. Thankfully, these potential changes shouldn’t be as controversial as the ones made to Tribal throughout 2023. That being said, however, they’re nevertheless a big deal that’s well worth highlighting.

Previously, Mark Rosewater has stated their desire to change the creature type Viashino. Currently seen on 58 cards, this creature type is WotC shorthand for humanoid lizards. While this terminology is used in D&D too, Mark Rosewater ideally wants to make the change to just using Lizard.

Within the recent Odds & Ends article, Rosewater revealed this wasn’t just a pipe dream idea they had. Instead, Rosewater states “It’s a conversation we’ve been having [at Wizards].” Curiously, these conversations aren’t rooted in weeding out problematic language, but rather in cleaning up confusion. 

Currently, MTG isn’t exactly consistent with how it uses animal terminology. As Rosewater points out, for instance, “Leonin are cat people with subtype Cat. Loxodons are elephant people with subtype Elephant. But cephalids are octopus people with subtype Cephalid.” Without a clear and consistent system, understanding MTG creature types is harder than it should be. Subsequently, it’s no wonder Wizards wants to clear things up.

For better or worse, it’s not exactly clear how or when Wizards is going to enact the conversations they’ve been having. All that Rosewater had to say on the matter was that “it’s a discussion that comes up from time to time. Will we ever act on it? Maybe.” Dispute this lack of commitment, however, it’s likely something may happen in 2024.

Thanks to 2024’s Bloomburrow being absolutely chockablock with animal critters, it seems sensible for Wizards to sort things by then. Whether or not that will happen, however, remains to be seen.

No More Micro Sets (For Now)

Nahiri, Forged in Fury

Continuing on with the theme of controversy, during the latest Odds & Ends article, Rosewater also addressed 2023’s strangest set. Launching in mid-May, March of the Machine: The Aftermath was MTG’s first 50-card Micro Set. For better or worse, it may also be MTG’s last-ever Micro Set, as Rosewater has revealed the set did absolutely terribly.

Rather than just doing poorly, March of the Machine: The Aftermath, is reportedly one of the worst MTG sets ever. That’s according to the data collected by Wizards of the Coast following the set’s release. Here, March of the Machine: The Aftermath received the lowest “top-two-box score” ever. In 25 years of Wizards collecting data, no set has ever been this poorly received.

Considering Wizards wants to build on their successes, not follow mistakes, this essentially spells the end of Micro Sets. Putting it lightly, Rosewater stated that they’re “not super optimistic about its future.” Despite this dismissal, however, another Aftermath-esque set wasn’t completely ruled out.

Acknowledging that Wizards has made mistakes in the past, Rosewater highlighted how Wizards can learn and evolve. This clearly happened with Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, which revived an absolute flop from the past. With this in mind, Micro Sets could see a revival in the far future, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the meantime, before we see another Micro Set, it seems Beyond Boosters may bridge the gap. While these new packs will be exclusive to Universes Beyond sets, for now, in theory, these could lay the groundwork for a future return. Whether or not we should actually get a return, however, is definitely the more important question.

Word Creep Is Being Addressed

Calim, Djinn Emperor

Last but not least on the list of controversies being tackled, Rosewater discussed the ever-growing plight of Word Creep. As exemplified by the cards on MTG Arena with literal scroll bars, many cards have been getting too wordy recently. More problematically than just a bad one-off, however, is the growing trend of every card getting more complex.

Thankfully, according to Rosewater, Wizards of the Coast is definitely aware of this trend we’ve been seeing recently. So much so, in fact, that Rosewater acknowledges that “It’s important to stop and take account from time to time.” Hopefully, this should limit Word Creep from running rampant in the future, however, there is still a problem.

As Rosewater admits, “Inertia tends to push us toward complexity.” With this in mind, it’s no wonder that MTG has gotten more complex and verbose over 30 years. Couple this fundamental problem with the shift to the Eternal World philosophy, and the complexity creep has an obvious root. Unfortunately, it may not be an easy problem to solve. 

Despite the difficulties with making MTG cards simple again, Wizards is nevertheless aware of the issue. Hopefully, this will cause complexity and Word Creep to subside in the future. Unfortunately, however, it may take a few sets for this change to materialize, as Wizards works so far in advance. 

Hope for the Far Future

Sword of Once and Future | March of the Machine
Sword of Once and Future | March of the Machine

While Wizards of the Coast may take upwards of 2 years to make important changes, the future nevertheless looks bright. Should the above trio of controversial issues be solved, MTG will definitely be in better shape. As if that wasn’t enough, Rosewater also highlighted a number of other problem areas that should hopefully be getting fixed. 

For one, the pace of sets and the story release should be improved following the end of the Phyexian Arc. After complaints of this monumental story being rushed, Wizards has been “taking all that feedback into account for our next large storyline.” Alongside this, Rosewater also highlighted how future sets may contain more guaranteed cards in order to show themes clearly. 

Ultimately, across the two Odds & Ends posts, a lot of issues, requests, and concerns were highlighted and addressed by Rosewater. Hopefully, since these are being talked about so publicly, Wizards is actually actioning plans to fix the problems. As we mentioned before, however, it’ll be a long while until we see many of the changes materialize. That being said, however, we’re still optimistic about the direction MTG is headed in the future. 

Read More: Wizards Has Revealed the First Spoiler for 2023’s Next Set

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