Wizards of the Coast has had a year and a half ripe with mistakes, from bannings, unbalanced formats, and lack of accountability. However, even with all of these disappointments (which have been well-covered) Wizards is showing a willingness to take preemptive steps to make sure these oversights do not happen again.
From Smuggler’s Copter to Emrakul, the Promised End to the manner in which Felidar Guardian was banned, Wizards has faced great struggle with predicting the Standard environment. This has always been something that I was sure was a very very difficult task, in large part because the designers and playtesters at Wizards playing in the FFL (Future Future League) aren’t nearly as good as the pro teams that innovate Standard formats in an attempt to win tens of thousands of dollars and are going to find strong and divergent strategies that lesser players (or playtesters) might skip over.
This week, Mark Rosewater announced the implementation of the “Play Design” group within R&D, which will have the goal of further testing future environments of cards that are going to be released, so that cards with obvious oversights like Felidar Guardian are caught. Because while FFL members may have a good grasp on the idea that a card like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is going to be very good, they might have a harder time realizing that there is a legal backdoor infinite combo legal in the format, or they may never see it if it’s implemented late in development.
Dan Burdock will be heading up the team, along with former professional players Melissa DeTora and Andrew Brown who both have had smaller gigs with Wizards before. Rosewater also notes that this Play Design team is going to have more influence in regards to what design decisions are made, and which specific design of an individual mechanic will end up getting through the design and development process.
This Play Design team seems very compelling to me, and I am excited and optimistic that Wizards is taking their failures in the last year very seriously and that more mistakes like this will not happen, due in large part to this dedicated task force that focuses solely on catching balance mistakes. I’m excited to see the impact that this change will have and in terms of a pragmatic, reasonable, and measured response from Wizards, as it both fills the needs of the community as well the listed criterion.
With good news has to come bad, as there is a big change in personnel in Magic’s Organized Play. This past week Helene Bergeot announced that her time as Director of Global Organized Play is coming to an end.
This is not only important because of the changing of the guard that is imminent, but it also opens a lot of doors in regards to the directions that Organized Play can go. A lot of the concepts that we have in the professional Magic community are due in large part to Helene Bergeot’s time as Director of Global Organized Play, and that is in large part a very good thing. She created the base for which the competitive game stands on today, however the person who will take her place will inevitably try to make their mark and begin something new, and perhaps institute a new direction for Organized Play.
This could be an opportunity for Organized Play to takes risks with things such as new event types, or maybe something in between the Grand Prix and the PPTQ circuit due to the decrease in FNM attendance. Furthermore, it could be as simple as exploring new locations for Pro Tours and Grand Prix that had been previously overlooked. However, what will come of the changing of the guard in Organized Play is hopeless speculation for now, although I hope that Wizards will iterate and innovate in order to make Organized Play a better and more cohesive experience for its players. Magic has the ability to grow with the times and with the advent of Magic Digital Next as well as future changes to Organized Play and preemptive measures taken against some of Wizards’ previous costly mistakes to ensure they don’t happen again, my pride and expectations for the growth of Magic are through the roof.
Thanks for reading,