Behind the Scenes at R&D

4 min read

You’re in for another very special treat.

Through the bravery and patriotism of strictly anonymous sources, I’ve been given a copy of the notes and videos taken at the research and development meeting for the next Magic: the Gathering expansion, Ixalan. These notes show us the process Wizards of the Coast went through to create this new world and a harrowing look into the inner workings of the R&D department. In the continued interest of high quality content, I’ve decided to share this information with you.

Names have been changed to protect identities, sources, and methods used. We unfortunately couldn’t share any video but we’re able to share select sound bites to provide additional context when necessary.

Jack: Alright, everyone. Welcome to the meeting about Ixalan. You’ve all been tasked with coming up with ideas to put into the set, so let’s share what we’ve got. What do you have for us Lenny?

Lenny: Well, pirates are a pretty popular genre we haven’t ripped off for Magic yet. So that seems like a good place to start.

Jack: Yeah, I like the sound of that. It’s an underappreciated tribe, and players love it when we flesh out the lesser tribes. Just look at what we did for Myr – they loved it!

Mike: I was talking to Lenny, and I pointed out we could simply reuse the Vehicle mechanic from Kaladesh to represent their ships instead of something original.

Carl: That’s a great idea. Especially since pirates like to steal things. The flavor is off the charts on this one.

Jack: Great! So Pirates crewing ships and stealing treasure. What else do we need to add some filler to the story?

Lenny: Well, pirates are often linked with treasure. We could simply reuse the “Gold” tokens that King Macar made in Theros block.

Jen: Good idea! Pirates and treasure go together like Splinter Twin and competitive diversity in the Modern format.

Mike: Plus, for spoiler season, we can hide preview cards in different places and have people hunt them down, like a treasure hunt. I’ve heard geocaching is popular with nerds.

Carl: Sounds like this “Pokemon Go” game all the kids are raving about. I know it’s only the year 2015 but this is the hottest thing since The Harlem Shake.

Jack: This meeting has been very pleasing to me. Very pleasing. What else can we possibly add in?

Bob: I’ve got a couple ideas…

Jack: Bob, we all love, well, listen to your ideas in these meetings. But you have to admit, they kinda suck. You kinda suck.

Bob: Just hear me out. We’re going to need planeswalkers, right?

Jen: Of course. The community has come to expect some in every set. In fact, at the end of Amonkhet block, Jace gets mind-wiped by Bolas. I thought we could have him as a stowaway or something.

Carl: I don’t know, can’t we have one block without Jace in it?

Lenny: Good one, Carl.

Jack: Ok, so Jace is in. We’ll make one or two new ones to keep the masses entertained. Any other suggestions?

Bob: Well, when I think Pirates, there is only one character that immediately pops into my head. Vraska!

Jack: Vraska? The Gorgon from Ravnica, a plane that is literally nothing but a giant city?

Bob: Yeah! Vraska running around in a Captain’s hat, swinging a sword. “Avast, ye hearties! I’ll make ye walk the plank”

vraska, the unseen mtg card

Jen: I think “Walk the Plank” would be a good name for a card…

Jack: But.. she doesn’t fit in! She’s not piratey at all!

Bob: Of course she is! Gorgons were very well known for their plundering!

Lenny: I have actually heard that.

Carl: Don’t take his side!

Jack: Look, we’ll table that discussion for now. What else were people thinking for this set?

Jen: Merfolk seem an obvious fit. Water based, plenty of lore involving pirates and mermaids.

Jack: That’s deece.

Mike: Vampires are always popular. They fit in on pretty much any setting.

Jack: Sure, more Vampires I guess.

Bob: And Dinosaurs!

Mike: Dino…saurs…

Bob: Yeah!

Carl: On a pirate plane?

Bob: Yeah! It’ll be awesome! Pirates fighting them, riding them. It’ll be great! And the community has been clamoring for a legendary dinosaur for their Commander decks!

Jen: What.. what community?

Bob: The Magic community! That’s all they talk about! Dinosaur this and dinosaur that!

Jack: This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You’re just taking two things that are popular and just smashing them together! There’s no connection, no synergy. They don’t even occupy the same space in pop culture! No, we are not going to have pirates and dinosaurs in the same set!

(silent pause)

Bob: Hey, Jack?

Jack: What?

Bob: Do you remember when we were working on Return to Ravnica, and you had too much to drink at that party? You insisted that the best mechanic to link with the Izzet was Storm? You demanded it be added to the file?

Jack: Um…well, maybe…I can’t recall…

Bob: I wound up taking it out before we sent it for approval. When you realized what you had almost done, you told me, “I owe you one”, right?

Jack: (quietly) Robert, please…

Bob: I’m calling in that favor.

Jack: (exasperated sigh) Fine. Pirates and Dinosaurs in Ixalan-

Bob: -and Vraska!

[Author note: Unfortunately we have to stop it here to keep our sources safe.]

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