16, Aug, 21

MTG Lead Designer Reveals Biggest Failures in 2021

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Article at a Glance

Every year, Magic the Gathering lead designer Mark Rosewater publishes a “State of Design” article. In this article, he discusses each set released in the last year, and successes and failures of the design in each set. While there definitely were some hits through out the year, MaRo identifies many of the failures in overall design that have been felt heavily by the community. We’ll break down the successes and the failures (and lessons) of the past year and what it could mean going forward for Magic the Gathering.

The Successes

The successes of the year can be boiled down to 2 main themes: Mechanics and Flavor. Across sets such as Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, and Modern Horizons 2, the mechanics of the sets were a big success amongst the player base. Landfall, a fan favorite, made a return in Zendikar Rising on some great cards. Kaldheim brought in Foretell, Multicolored Sagas, and Snow support, which were fresh mechanics for the set, and felt on theme with the flavor of the set as well. Modern Horizons 2 brought nailed it’s mechanics by bringing back a bunch of old favorites, but on new and interesting cards.

On Flavor, the big win was with Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. The way the team executed bringing Dungeons & Dragons into the world of Magic was masterful from flavor. The translation of iconic D&D items and spells was done really well, the addition of “Flavor works” for abilities on cards was tasteful, and I would even say that the mechanics of the set (Dungeons and Dice Rolling)were also done very well.

The Failures

Ten Most Expensive MTG Cards From Throne of Eldraine in 2021
Wizards of the Coast

The failures that MaRo talk about in the article ultimately stem from one key sources, Throne of Eldraine. MaRo mentions in the overall design lessons that Eldraine was so powerful, that other sets were unable to really shine. With that in mind, the main themes of the failures were there was a lot going on in the sets, to a detriment, and there was a lack of cohesion of mechanics between sets. Across many of the sets discussed, there seemed to be a thread of hasty or misinformed decisions made that caused aspects of the sets to miss the mark. Whether it was potentially missed opportunities at certain returning mechanics, the sheer amount of content within the set that could have been broken up into 2 sets, or trying to push Modal Dual Faced Cards as a thread of cohesion, the aura of the year was to bludgeon the community with dysfunctional sets that had some redeeming qualities about them.

My thoughts are that it felt like these sets, at least the standard ones, were looking to try and solve the problem of a far too powerful Throne of Eldraine in the current standard environment. It feels that Wizards wanted to throw a lot of what felt like powerful cards at the wall in hopes to bring the power level of Eldraine down, but ultimately fell flat.

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What’s Next For Magic

Wizards of the Coast

While MaRo didn’t say what is going to be coming next for Magic design, here’s what I’d like to see. I’d like to see Wizards capitalize on the flavor of the world of future sets. I think that they did great job with Forgotten Realms, and with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow on the horizons, I think that this shouldn’t be a problem. I think that the team learned a lot from Throne of Eldraine‘s failings for the Standard format, but also the successes of Modern Horizons 2. Hopefully, we’re in an era of sound mechanics and decreased power creep, such that we won’t have another Throne of Eldraine again. The one thing that I hope that we see past new Innistrad, is the return of multiset blocks. I think that even if the same number of cards and sets are printed next year, if there’s some amount of cohesion between the two sets in them being in the same plane and sharing mechanics, the fatigue will not be nearly as great.

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The future of Magic: the Gathering is definitely uncertain, but hopefully this past year has given the team a lot of great insight into how to proceed. What things do you think that Wizards of the Coast did well with Magic this year, and what could they have done better? What are you hoping for in the next year of Magic? Let us know in the comments.

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