At times, Magic can seem a rather paradoxical game. Take the much-derided mana screw, for instance. A source of eternal criticism and feel-bad moments for players from novice to professional, it is by turns also credited with assuring the longevity of the game. This unpleasant, frustrating experience has been looked at as a design problem to be overcome in other games, offering more stable and consistent resource development- and yet many of those games are consigned to the halls of history while Magic flourishes still.
Life- not unlike guild warfare in Gatecrash- is about the survival of the fittest, and the Simic have a new trick in their quest for biological perfection. Can they evolve past Sam’s Gruul Goliaths, or will the Gruul show who the real apex predator is?
In the Autumn of 2010, Wizards of the Coast kicked off the Great Designer Search 2. The first one, held four years prior, had proved a tremendous success, and had resulted in the hiring of some tremendous creative talent. It had been won by Alexis Janson, who’s first lead design (Dragon’s Maze) is the third set in Return to Ravnica block. In addition, Wizards also scooped up the runners-up Ken Nagle (who we’ve covered before), Graeme Hopkins, and Mark Globus (who has led design for Magic 2012 as well as the most recent Planechase release). As we touched on in our review of Boros Battalion, this was the “Fourth Age” of Magic design.
It’s our opening tilt for Gatecrash, and we’re excited to begin tearing into the set’s precons. Joining me at the table is the lovely Jimi, and she’s selected a deck close to her own heart. Can Boros Battalion impose order onto the chaotic battlefield, or will it fall prey to Orzhov Oppression?
Mark Rosewater notably once wrote that 1998’s Urza’s Saga was “the only time in the eight years that I’ve been working at Wizards that R&D as an entirity got pulled into the president’s office and was yelled at.” As we covered in our review of The Plague, the set suffered from some very serious shortcomings in terms of mechanics and power level, and is likely uncontested in claiming the dubious honour of most broken block of all time. To those of a more optimistic mindset, however, crises can be regarded as an opportunity in waiting, as often one has the opportunity to address the problem head-on. For Wizards, this meant acknowledging the core problem and fixing it.