The things that lead me to make mistakes in my design are the same impulses that lead me to make mistakes in other parts of my life with, let's say, women as an example.For my column today I thought I'd take a look at some of my classic design blunders through a very different lens. I'm going to start each section by relaying a story that involves my interaction with women in which I made a fundamental blunder.
Not just because they were colossal mistakes but avoiding the mistake would have been so easy if I had just taken the time to look at the obvious thing staring me in the face. If a block wasn't scheduled for cantrips then it just didn't get any. Here's how the logic went: I noticed that net decks had become more and more popular.
After college but before Wizards, I lived in Los Angeles. I chose Cloud of Faeries but I could have chosen any card with the “free” mechanic (for those unaware of what I'm talking about, the “free” mechanic was a series of spells that all untapped X basic lands where X was the converted mana cost of the spell when the spell resolved or came into play; the idea was that the spells cost a net of 0 mana provided you had enough mana to play them). Normally when development wants to weaken a card they add a mana to the spell. And Tempest block just had them so no cantrips for Urza's Saga block. This meant that more and more players of all skill levels were starting to play with a greater number of four-of's in their deck.
This second one is actually one of the more recent. It was comfortable, Claire and I got along wonderfully, and it was actually very fun. This meant that even I could get a date if I just asked enough women. Which leads us to our card: So how does a man ask forty-two women out in the course of a year and get forty-two nos? You see, my masterful Bullsye Theory was covering up an ugly truth – I was scared to death of rejection.
Shortly after arriving at Wizards I made an important realization. As I was dropping her off, I got the following conversation. Then and there I vowed to ask out at least one woman a week. So by asking women that were essentially all long shots I could protect my ego.
I was spending every waking moment hanging around with all the R&D guys (check out “R&D R&R” to get a sense of these early days). She could be from my classes, my dorm, any extracurricular activity. And every week for my entire freshman year, I asked a girl out. I never asked women in my life that might actually say yes. I asked women who I knew going into it would almost certainly say no.
While I enjoyed the camaraderie, I was a little lonely. (Remember, just as with Magic, if you blame luck on all your failures, you're never going to learn how to get better.) So what does this have to do with Magnify? The problem was that I was so busy searching for a date that I never bothered to look under my nose.When you don't, you find yourself solving mini-problems that don't actually tie into your mega-problem. It's my sophomore year at college (year two of the Bullseye Plan). And the truth is that you can miss just about anything if you aren't looking for it. I decided for some insane reason to make a “fixed” Necropotence.Thanks to a series of Advanced Placement courses in my high school (while I may not have gotten dates in high school I did manage to accomplish something) I was a year ahead in college. (A lot of my design failures start with me making a “fixed” card. Greed and Intolerance are two famous silent movies.I will then show you the card whose design I believe I messed up on. This little song and dance went on for a period of time that goes beyond embarrassing. Unlike the last example where Cathy was also partially at fault, this screw-up rests firmly on my shoulders.Your job is to then figure out the one mistake I made in both circumstances. An interactive exercise where you can both learn about Magic design and laugh at my dating foibles. I've been happily married for six and a half years and I have three kids. Somehow the morning, or sometimes the night before, each date, something would come up. But I kept thinking to myself that she's so nice, she wouldn't purposely keep accepting the dates if she never intended to go out on one. Claire was kind enough and honest enough to let me in on her feelings from very early on. The first date went so well that I was already imaging a relationship. And my self-delusion hoped that having more of part of what I wanted would lead me to getting it all. Ghost Town started out as a very elegant and cool card: I was a huge fan of Ice Age's Blinking Spirit and I knew how much the majority of players hated land destruction. I started playtesting the card and all sorts of cool and neat things happened. As is often the case, it proved to work best in a deck that destroyed land.And the until-end-of-turn waiting was a crucial part of the design. There was no attraction but we were both okay going as friends. Sometimes you get the pie-in-the-sky romance and sometimes you don't.