Mark Rosewater – Head Designer for Magic: The Gathering

As the Head Designer for Magic: The Gathering at Wizards of the Coast Mark Rosewater is a (hallowed) fountain of knowledge that he dispenses in his weekly column, podcast, Tumblrcomic, and Twitter feed. We managed to grab some time with Mark to ask him a few questions.

We’ve noticed a huge crossover between videogame players and those showing an interest in Magic during recent years- would you put that down to the success of the Planeswalker games?

Mark: I feel Duels of the Planeswalkers is a big part of it. It’s definitely the best way to introduce people to the world and game of Magic. I believe another big factor has to do with the fact that our players are great ambassadors to the game. We’ve seen a big rise in players over the last five years and as most of them are gamers that means there is a natural overlap with video games. All it takes is one member of a play group to experience Magic to expose that whole play group to it. So, I feel Duels has done an excellent job of introducing Magic to a subset of players that have then gone on to spread the introduction of the game.

As a player returning to Magic after 16 years I found the 2014 Core Set very easy to step back into, do you deliberately focus core sets towards new and returning players?

Mark: Very much so. The Core Set, which is free from introducing new worlds the way that our fall block sets do, has the space to show off the basics of what makes Magic such a great game. Over the last few years, we’ve definitely been working to make every set as inviting to new players as possible, but the Core Set definitely has a leg up when it comes to creating an easy introduction.

Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014
Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014

When considering new players do you aim to ease them in with simple mechanics or to get them hooked on the more complex, and addictive, aspects of the game?

Mark: It took us many years to finally figure out the secret to introducing new players to the game. Make the first game fun and memorable. It’s not important that the player understand everything the first time they play, but it’s crucial that they enjoy it. If they have fun, they’ll play again and, with time, they’ll learn what they need to know. Trying to force feed too much information in the first game just takes away from Magic’s true strength which is at its core, it’s a really fun game. The key to doing this has been playing up what we call resonance. That is, we want players to recognize things they already know when they start playing so the game has elements that are familiar to them. This is why the Core Set focuses on staple tropes of fantasy. When you come to Magic, you’ll get dragons and elves and goblins, but you’ll get our take on them.

Where did the idea for the Deckbuilders Toolkit come from? It’s quite a unique product.

Mark: Magic is a very customizable game allowing players to create their own decks and make it into the kind of game they want to play. This meant that we had to create something that gave players enough cards to be able to customize their deck with. The Deckbuilder’s Toolkit was created as the perfect tool to accomplish this task.

We recently published an introduction to card combos for new players, with the Theros expansion just about to launch do you have a favorite combo that you look forward to seeing in play?

Mark: My favorite is a limited combo (aka something you play when you crack open packs and play directly out of them). I enjoy Staunch-Hearted Warrior with any of the Ordeals. Enchant him, attack once and even before your opponent can block it, bam, you get the effect of the Ordeal.


If you could give three pieces of advice to a new player what would they be?

Mark: The game, at its core, is actually not that complicated. Don’t worry about all the cards and all the rules. Focus on the basics. Magic is actually many different games with a shared set of rules. Look around and figure out which version is the best one for you.

The key to doing this is to talk to existing Magic players. They are a great resource to help you learn and can guide you to figure out which part of Magic is best for you.

Find players to play with that want the same thing you want. If you and your opponent want radically different things out of the game, it can lead to disappointing experiences.

Given the choice from the full catalogue of Magic cards which one card do you wish you could have designed?

Mark: I’ve designed thousands of cards so obviously I have the great advantage of making the cards I want to play with. If I could pick any one card that I didn’t design that I wish I had? I’ll say the five basic lands. They are flavorful and elegant and make the whole game work.


And finally a stock question, Sonic or Mario?

Mark: While I appreciate Sonic, I have to give it to the man that has given me more hours of video game fun – Mario.

Our thanks to Mark for taking the time to talk to us, keep an eye on our front page over the next few days as we have a very special Magic: The Gathering competition coming up very soon!







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