General State of Design 2022

Wizards just release their annual State of Design.

https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/state-design-2022-2022-08-01

This time it had a look back on the following sets
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
Innistrad: Crimson Vow
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
Streets of New Capenna
Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate

Here are some key sentences I've found interesting for us cubers.
I'm just hand picking the few most interesting ones in my opinion.


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Overall

We experimented with how to properly readjust the color pie.
This is about them experimenting with white just like they last year experimented with black.

We need to be more conscious about backwards compatibility.
They are now designing for 'Eternal World' which means they must be better about understanding how current designs play with older designs.

We need to be careful with complexity.
Wizards: "As a side effect of moving toward an "eternal world," we've upped the amount of complexity we're allowing in each set. While I understand why we're doing it, I know we need to be vigilant to make sure we don't fall into old mistakes. A new player is always going to start the game from the same place. We must be careful not to leave them behind."


Innistrad sets

Day/night wasn't backwards compatible.
They regret not having their new Werewolves play smoothly with the old ones.

Blood was appreciated mechanically.
Obviously.

Training, Cleave, and Exploit were more miss than hit.
Obviously with cleave. A bit surprised with training.


Kamigawa

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty was the homerun set of the year.
Have read the same on https://riptidelab.com/forum/forums/cube-talk.5/

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty was a super-fun draft set.
Wizards: "Players enjoyed all the archetypes woven into the design, from Ninjas and mechs to Shrines and the harmony theme that allowed players to play a little of everything. There was a lot to explore, and players loved how each draft let you venture down a new path."

It wasn't always clear when a creature was an enchantment or artifact.
Wizards: "While there were frames to help with this issue, many players reported being sometimes confused about the card types of certain creatures. I think this stems from the fact that the definitions of why something counted as an enchantment, or to a lesser extent an artifact, was a little fuzzy."

I personally feel like it was because some creatures didn't do anything that enchantments normally did. They were just creatures with an added type.


New Capenna

Players were excited to see the return of a three-color set.

There were issues with Draft.

Wizards: "There were some monocolor commons that were too strong, which led to the set getting a bit aggressive, making two-color decks more viable than three-color decks, which is disappointing in a three-color set. There were also some issues with color balance and swingy rares. I was also told it was a little too "samey" draft to draft."

The tri-colored lands should have been called "Triomes."
Wizards: "This is more a naming issue than a design one, but I heard it a lot."

I personally feel like they shouldn't have been in the set. Or the set should have had cycling as a mechanic. Adding a mechanic into a set where only five cards have them just to complete a cycle is too much of a fan service for me and it actually hurts the game in the long run. I am happy I have the five remaining Triomes but I could have waited for the right set.


Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate

The set had a lot of flavorful top-down D&D designs.
The draft was a lot of fun.



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Above was just a tiny bit of the lengthy state of design from 2022. You can read it all including their arguments here:

https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/making-magic/state-design-2022-2022-08-01

I feel like there is a lot to learn from these articles because Wizards try to design sets just like we try to design cube sets. And these marketing researches are free information for us to leech onto.
 
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As much as I wasn't a fan of the flavor, Kamigawa Neon Dynasty was definitely a hit in terms of gameplay. Far and away the best set they've released in the last calendar year. Unfortunately Capenna was garbage and the Innistrad sets were lackluster for the most part. I heard Commander Legends was alright to play, but premium prices for a mediocre product wasn't something that I was willing to pay and neither was much of my playgroup beyond a single draft it seems like. And this is coming from someone who plays EDH for hours every other week with a group of friends; aside from a handful of singles that set was a pretty big miss across the board. The first set introduced some cool cards and interesting commanders along with some great reprints, this one mostly missed on all three fronts.

In retrospect it feels like it was a pretty mediocre year overall with the only standout set being Kamigawa, here's to hoping that they can clean it up a bit. I am kind of annoyed with Rosewater really burying the lede with with Day/Night in this article:

There was a little criticism that day/night was harder to track in tabletop and some discussion around whether it was supposed to go away if no cards on the table cared about it. (It was something we spent a lot of time discussing in design.)

A little criticism? Really? Maybe play the actual game some more Mark. Day/Night one of the most abysmal paper mechanics I've ever played with in real life and I'd imagine it's the same for many others. Having to keep track of it throughout the game is mind-numbingly bad design for paper. It was so bad during MID prerelease that after those 3 rounds I just didn't draft the set like I usually do for a new release and completely ignored all of VOW aside from picking up singles once I read that the mechanic was coming back. None of these issues really exist online where the mechanic is track-able otherwise, but dear god is it complete ass to play in paper. So much so that aside from Tovolar, Dire Overlord I haven't seen a single Day/Night card in the wild and that's only because he's a commander Toski, Bearer of Secrets for Werewolf EDH decks. I get that this is all anecdotal on my end, but I've literally not met a single person that didn't complain about the mechanic after playing with it.
 
Yeah he can't just throw "marketing" and "PR" out the window LMAO. Did we expect him to come out and say "man we really fcked that one up.... sheesh".
 
On the mothership, it's Mark's job to undersell the shortcomings, and oversell the strong points of anything. I'ld take his written report of their evaluation with a grain of salt, and you can be sure they know they messed this up.

I guess I'm just not a fan of his writing or blog posts nowadays. Maybe I've just gotten jaded over the years with how overtly dismissive he's been with certain concerns or questions brought up. I don't go out of my way to check them out, but the snippets I've seen over the last couple of years via reddit and the like make me think he really doesn't play the game much with how out of touch some takes are. Like wildly bad.

I remember how they refused to acknowledge the issues with Energy for like a whole year until KLD block was no longer being printed and then reversed course almost immediately with yeah, we definitely fucked that up, as soon as it wasn't in stores. That's some peeing on my leg and telling me that it's raining type cut. I get it from a corporate perspective, and it's folly to expect anything more from someone in that role (especially as Maro is their only competent PR person), but I don't really like it.
 
The themes in those articles keep getting recycled. I don't know what else I should expect, because there's always going to be a tension between conflicting goals, and they'll swing one way and then swing the other way.

He often talks about making good connections between the sets over the course of the year, and I wish they'd do a better job of that. To that end, I'd love it if they had an overall philosophical shift toward reusing and evolving mechanics more often instead of constantly creating three or so new ones for every set.

Kamigawa was easily the set of the year for me, same as a lot of people. I really like the draft experience, and I'm going to try to get a few more quick drafts in when they come around on the schedule. And if I was going to design a cube based on a set, that's the set I would pick. That's in spite of the fact that I generally hate double sided cards, but I think the environment is good enough to justify them.
 
Midnight Hunt was quite fun to draft on arena. I didn't play with day/night in paper so I can't join the complains, but I can imagine. Outside of this issur, it was a cool format where good gameplay makes you oversight the slight color imbalances.

Crimson Vow was pretty decent too as long as nobody played a rare or mythic. Really frustrating experiences here.

Still not in love with Kamigawas Cyberpunk flavor, but boy was it fun to draft. And balamced. And with so many cool, individual designs. I'll join the choire, best set of the year.

Capenna is a contender for my all time worst set. I disliked the asthetics, it was the most boring and color imbalanced draft format I ever drafted, felt too theme park-y and also got absolutely nothing for my cube. Missing on every front.

Baldurs Gate had some cool designs. I only drafted the alchemy version and hated specialize, like everyone, and it sucked that blue wasn't a factor.
 
On the mothership, it's Mark's job to undersell the shortcomings, and oversell the strong points of anything. I'ld take his written report of their evaluation with a grain of salt, and you can be sure they know they messed this up.

Maybe I'm just being a snob, but Maro is an actively boring writer. I refuse to accept that the Magic playerbase that reads these design articles is still stuck in grade school. Emotionally, maybe, but surely not professionally or academically. Maro's writing is still more competent than the rest of the Wizards employees who call themselves writers (for whom the zenith of good writing is some interminable fantasy novel for children), but as Jesse "killgoldfish" Mason wrote seven years ago,
Rosewater has promoted every Magic set on DailyMTG since Torment. He has told us how the first Ravnica, Future Sight, and Innistrad are wonderful and worth our money. He has similarly written about design and design philosophy in ways that praise Scourge, Saviors of Kamigawa, and Avacyn Restored. I don’t know whether he thought to himself, as he wrote about Avacyn Restored, that the set is actually a pile of shit. But I do know that, if at any point he had reservations about the quality of the design or the set in general, he was contractually obligated to not tell readers about this.
[...]
The big contradiction in Rosewater’s writing about design is that he wants people to look at the game’s design from a holistic perspective. Then, if the holistic analysis of it comes back as “this is banal,” he just shoots back with “who cares, it sold packs.” He only wants a holistic analysis that tells him it’s wonderful.
The obvious rebuttal to this point - and one Mason received - is, 'oh, you're just bitter you don't work for Wizards'. As seen in the comments on Mr. Mason's set review:
And I doubt the restriction on Rosewater affects him much. He reminds of Stan Lee...I think he's always very excited about the latest set, even when it's bad. He falls in love with it while working on it, and that makes it easy for him to promote it.
I know that I'm a better writer and theorist than Mark Rosewater is. I don't need to prove that to myself or anyone else; his career has proven it for me. Nor am I jealous of those Great Designer Search wannabes who signed up to one of the worst employers in the area, per Glassdoor reviews. We can "be sure [Wizards] know they messed this up" as much as we want, and God knows it's easy enough to do, but if even the annual State Of Design articles, meant to scourge and castigate failure, aren't immune to hagiography, then what's the point in ever reading Maro?

In this year's State of Design article, piddling 'Highlights' are balanced against serious design flaws, euphemistically termed 'Lessons'. Maro wants to trick the passive reader into thinking that "Players enjoyed seeing flashback return to Innistrad (it had been there the first visit but not the second) and liked the tweak of there being multicolor flashback cards" is somehow just as good news as the following is bad:
The fact that the old Werewolves and the new Werewolves don't play smoothly together was seen as a big mistake.[...]The colors weren't evenly balanced, with white, blue, and black being stronger than red and green (sadly, the main Werewolf colors). That led to certain archetypes, especially blue-black Zombies, being dominant[...]
On one hand, we returned to one of the best mechanics Magic has ever designed. On the other hand, the Werewolf set ended up with Werewolves being largely unplayable. "So it goes."

And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. People aren't supposed to look back. I'm certainly not going to do it anymore.
 

Onderzeeboot

Ecstatic Orb
In this year's State of Design article, piddling 'Highlights' are balanced against serious design flaws, euphemistically termed 'Lessons'. Maro wants to trick the passive reader into thinking that "Players enjoyed seeing flashback return to Innistrad (it had been there the first visit but not the second) and liked the tweak of there being multicolor flashback cards" is somehow just as good news as the following is bad: The fact that the old Werewolves and the new Werewolves don't play smoothly together was seen as a big mistake.[...]The colors weren't evenly balanced, with white, blue, and black being stronger than red and green (sadly, the main Werewolf colors). That led to certain archetypes, especially blue-black Zombies, being dominant[...]
Yeah, you're completely right, but I don't like being cynical, so I just recognize it for what it is, understand why it is what it is, shrug, and move on. I'm not playing MtG because of MaRo or his articles, I'm playing it because it's a cool game. I'll ignore what doesn't work and embrace what does :)
 
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