Interview with Mark Rosewater

Hello, dear Magic friends,
welcome to another issue of MUDRC interviews with interesting people belonging to the world of Magic. Today, we prepared for you a talk with a very special guest. It is our great pleasure to present nobody else than Mark Rosewater, the Head of Magic: The Gathering Research and Development.






Magic is a phenomenon, twenty years and no signs of decline. What do you think is the reason why Magic appealed and still appeals to many players, without any dwindling in intensity?

I think Magic’s success is due to several factors. First and foremost it’s just an awesome game. I’m a lifelong game player and for me Magic is my favorite game I’ve ever played bar none. Second, the game is always in flux meaning that it’s hard to grow tired of it because it keeps changing. Third, the game allows the user to craft what kind of game it is. This allows the gamer to become a game designer. Fourth, there are lots of pretty pictures. All of those combine to make a truly awesome experience.


What do you perceive as your greatest contribution to Magic?

I actually get asked this a lot. My first answer is the player psychographics (Timmy, Johnny & Spike). I feel the creation of them fundamentally shifted how R&D designs and develops cards. I guess my second answer (to give you guys an answer I don’t normally give) has been the evolution of block design. When I took over as Head Designer one of my biggest goals was to change how we think of blocks. I wanted us to consider the whole block as a single entity and allow ourselves to play with all the resources of a block. That shift has taken Magic in a very different direction in the last ten years.


If you could go back in time and reverse any decision (a set, a card, a mechanic, others), what would it be?

I’ve learned from time travel movies that it’s a very bad idea to change the past. Assuming I had to change one thing, I guess I’d make instant a supertype rather than a card type. All nonpermanent spells would be sorceries and what are now instants would be “instant sorceries” and creatures with flash would be “instant creatures”. I think this would make things cleaner and would allow us to do some things that are trickier and wordier to do now.


Concerning design:


How long in advance do you plan?

I am currently designing the fall set of 2014 and am doing pre-design on the fall set of 2015. I have crafted a seven-year plan that runs out to 2017 so I know the themes of the following two blocks after the ones I’m working on.


What exactly is your role in designing set and cards? What role does the development department play? Or else: what is the process of designing and developing a set from an idea to a printed set?

I am the Head Designer for Magic which means I oversee a design team of six people dedicated to doing Magic design. I also am often a lead designer of sets (usually the large fall set) which means that I am responsible for running the design team for that set and it is my responsibility to turn over a complete design file to development.

The development team is then a second set of eyes to get the set from that point to completion. Design’s focus is more on coming up with the vision and structure for the set as well as creating mechanics and cards to fill it with. Development is responsible for making the vision a reality as well as balancing the set and making sure that it is doing what design wants in a way that leads to fun and compelling gameplay.

The set then goes through many other hands – creative team (who does names, art, flavor text and world building), editing, translation, layout, graphic design and eventually printing. I’m actually simplifying things as many of the sections I’m mentioning include various sub-sections. It takes a lot of people to make a Magic expansion.


What exactly is the Future and Future Future League, and how far it reaches?

The Future Future League (we abandoned the Future League years ago) is run by development and it is a playtest group that tries to play the future of the game so that we can catch mistakes before they happen. The future of the Future Future League is roughly a year ahead.


If you could take any historic person into your team, who it would be?

I’ll choose Leonardo Da Vinci because he has a background in both math and art. I bet he could both design cards and do their illustrations.


How do you perceive the role of lands in Magic? Do you consider them one of the defining things for Magic, or can you imagine Magic working without them (e.g. using any card of a certain color to „tutor“ an appropriate land, etc.?)

I believe that when Richard Garfield created Magic he joined together three great ideas. I call this the Golden Trifecta. These three ideas are the concept of a trading card game, the color wheel and the mana system. So yes, I very much believe that lands and the mana system are a fundamental part of what makes Magic shine. I do not think the game would work as well without them.


What do you think of power creep? While I recognize well the effort of R&D to keep the power of new cards in check to an extent, the power creep is still there, which a form of inflation. From a designer’s point of view, can you imagine a creative sidestep for a future block that would promote a new set of mechanics and strategies without making the new cards more powerful than older cards in general? In fact, the Kamigawa block seems to be a good example of this approach with Spiritcraft and Arcane, even though in hindsight, this particular block isn’t perceived as hugely popular.

Our development team has a process that I call the Escher Stairwell (named after a classic painting by the famous artist). Each set has things that go up in power while other things are brought down in power. This creates the illusion that the power is always going up because the focus is where we are pushing the power. This technique helps to create the illusion of the power increasing when, in fact, it actually stays pretty even.


With the new and old Plane cards, we can see that you’ve got a lot of new worlds in store for us. Can we expect to visit some of the exotic ones on the list (such as Iquatana, Belenon, or Equilor) anytime soon? Also, are there plans to revisit Dominaria again? Are there some vore more Vorthos dreams to come true in years to come?

We will definitely be visiting some of the worlds we’ve teased. We will also revisit some popular planes from the past. Our goal is to make sure that we mix it up and always keep the audience guessing where we’re going next. Revisiting Dominaria is not happening anytime soon but I’m sure one day we’ll return.


Will there be a Great Designer Search 3 and/or You Make the Card?

I do believe there will be a third Great Designer Search but I do not think it is going to happen for a few years still. The design team is full right now and I don’t want to offer someone an internship (the prize for winning the Great Designer Search) without the possibility of it becoming something more permanent.

As for You Make The Card, yes I do believe we will do this again. It’s just a matter of finding the right time and place for it.


Would you say that Magic changed your life? Do you believe that it can happen?

Magic gave me my dream job, allowed me to meet my wife (she also worked at Wizards), clothes and feeds my family and is still my favorite game to play. So yes, I would say it’s changed my life for the better.

I get a lot of mail and I’ve had heard stories from all over the world from people who have had their life fundamentally changed for the better by Magic.


Can you imagine that you leave Magic altogether, e.g. when you retire?

I assume one day I will retire (provided I don’t keel over one day at my desk) but that day is far away from now. I love what I do so I plan to keep doing it as long as I can.


Thank you, Mr. Rosewater, for your time! We wish you the best luck in all your future endeavors!

– Jan Adam and the MUDRC team

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2 komentáře k “Interview with Mark Rosewater”

  1. Flamberg napsal:


  2. GrizzlyFate napsal:

    „I assume one day I will retire (provided I don’t keel over one day at my desk)“
    MaRo confirms assassination attempt against himself!

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