Magic the Gathering Panel with Mark Rosewater San Diego Comic@Home 2020

Mark Rosewater started the panel with lots of enthusiasm, saying that he would be doing this one alone. To that end, he promised to be very enthusiastic throughout the whole panel. Having a new set to talk about helps a lot.


To begin, Rosewater starts talking about his history with Zendikar. He sets the time around, 2003, when he is becoming the head designer. His boss, Randy Beuler, comes to him and asks him to put together a 5 year plan for the upcoming set blocks, what the themes are etc. He steps off the history briefly to say that in modern times, there are more people involve, since it is done with a committee. Rosewater then explained that to do this, he would look at themes and mechanics that he liked and build sets around them. One area he felt had a lot of potential was with the Land Mechanics. These Land Mechanics cared about Lands, would focus on, or check states of the card. One of these ideas was this land centric set. It was something he enjoyed and this got Randy onboard over the time they were talking about. It effectively became the 6th part of this 5 year plan. People did not always understand just what he meant by the land mechanics, but could see his plain passion. When it came time, he was given 3 months to develop the mechanics themselves and see if it was something good. With the clock running, he put together a design team and they made easily 40-50 different mechanics focused on land. It was in this time that the mechanic: “Landfall,” was developed. The set's basics got approved and this lead to the proper development of the set.


Doug Beyer was part of the design and creative team. He came up with the concept of an “Adventure World” while Rosewater was pitching a crazy weather world. The concept of a very dangerous world that has a lot of things that people would want. The mechanics and the story melded very well. It came out to be a very wonderful set. From here, the full block was built. The first block was “Zendikar,”, “Worldwake,” and “Rise of the Eldrazi.” The first two were simply fun, and some of the strange things were passed off as Zendikar just being a dangerous world. They wanted the third set of the block to really change things up for the block, to introduce a lot of new mechanics. From this, the creative team came up with the Eldarzi, extradimensional beings that had come to Zendikar and were eating it. To stop them, lorewise, 3 Planeswalkers teamed up Ugin, Sorrin Markov and Nahiri to bind them within Zendikar itself. Another set of Planewalkers who visit Zendikar manage to accidentally release the Eldarzi from captivity. Years later, the team brought the story back to Zendikar, for the sets: “Battle for Zendikar,” and “Oath of the Gatewatch.”The mechanics were fairly different and this is where the in-universe group, the Gatewatch was formed. This group managed to defeat 2 of the 3 Eldarzi, while 1 managed to reach a different plane, Innistrad. From there, he moved onto talking about what it was that they wanted to do with “Zendikar Rising.” More than anything, this set is meant to return to the “Adventure World” that Zendikar initially was.


Next Rosewater started talking about what we might expect from the forthcoming “Zendikar Rising.” First, very enthusiastically proclaimed (pull your headphones back a little here), is that Zendikar Risinig is a Land Set. There will be some very cool lands coming with it. While he was not giving any specific details, he could tell us 2 things: 1) Full art basics return. This was an amazing piece of the Zendikar sets. 2) It started many year ago, with Rosewater making 6 dual lands that he's been trying to get them into a set. And the home they found was in “Zendikar Rising.” From there, he starting talking vaguely about a popular mechanic that has been brought to Zendikar and has been giving a twist to match the theme of the plane itself. There will also be 2 returning mechanics from the previous Zendikar sets. Lots of the Legendary creatures are returning. One, he called out specifically, will be getting another Color. Finally, there will be 3 Planewalkers in this set, all of which are known, all have 3 previous planeswalker cards. Finally, he revealed that he had art to show from the cards. He showed off 14 different card illustrations. They looked to be a mix of different card types.


Rosewater also announced that with “Zendikar Rising,” there would be a new product. This is a new kind of booster pack of cards, a “Set Booster.” He then clarified that the Magic team was not changing anything in terms of what is offered, just adding another option. Before explaining the specifics of the Set Booster, he started explaining what the thought process was behind them. Most of the time it has been the audience finding what they want within the product that has been made. In the last 5 years they started focusing more on making products to match the players' desires. A good example Rosewater gave was the format Commander (also known as Elder Dragon Highlander or EDH). It was this mindset that led them to thinking about how things can change from their given form and possibly be reshaped it. He explained that for years the way into Magic was through the “Draft Booster,” a pack of random cards of scaling rarity. He explained that there was a lot that went into the design of how the draft booster packs were assembled to ensure that they could serve their function properly. This meant there were choices made within the construction (color, power, and rarity) of the pack that might not fit the desires of the person purchasing it. From here was born the “Theme Booster,” a bigger booster with a constant idea going through it. This could be mechanical, favorful or a combination of the two. It could just be 1 or 2 colors within the cards. From there, people could be inspired to build around the idea or incorporate it into something. Next were the “Collector Packs,” which began with “Throne of Eldraine.” These had fun inserts into the packs with Borderless Planeswalker cards, extended art cards, and many other things. This pack was designed to help collectors get some of those rare cards. They thought they were good with just 3 kinds of boosters. Then some new data came along and changed that. That data was that half of the booster packs were simply opened and then added to the player's collection. This gave them the idea to build a booster pack that maximizes the experience of simply opening a Booster pack. This meant that the booster pack got its own set of rules part from the Collection and the Draft Boosters. This got them to ask people what the most exciting part of the pack was, and the overwhelming response was the Rare, Mythic Rare slot in the booster. This made what they came to call the “Excitement Point.” This became the seed of the Set booster, to create multiple excitement points throughout it. This led Rosewater to start talking about how the new Set Booster Pack was going to work.


At its core, the Set Booster breaks down to a pack of 14 cards, 12 of which are Magic cards, 2 of which are Magic related. It would break down into 4 chapters throughout it: Welcome, Fireworks, Big Finish, and Epilogue. The first Card Slot he referenced was what is apparently called the “Art Card Slot,” this card is a full card illustration of a Magic Card's art. On the back of this card is information about the art of the card or the artist themselves. There will be 81 Art Cards for “Zendikar Rising.” From here they questioned how to make this card special. This gave rise to the Signature version of the card which appears 1:20. These cards have the signature of the artist embossed on the card in gold. All 81 art cards exist as Normal and Signature editions. Next in order of the Booster is the Land Slot. This is meant to help bring people into the world that the booster pack is from. The default will be the Basic Land, but it can change based on the set. For “Zendikar Rising,” this is where you will find the full art Basic Land. The rare chance here (15%) is the Foil version of the land. Rosewater explained here that this is not the only opportunity to get a foil within a set booster pack. Slots 3-8 are, “Connected Commons and Uncommons.” Much like the name implies, this is a set of cards that share something. They could play well together, share related or similar mechanics, or it could be a creature type or simply story related. Within these 6 cards, you will get 5 commons and 1 uncommon. The excitement chance here is that for each of these slots, the common can upgrade into an uncommon.


Next is the Fireworks Chapter in the Set Booster. This leads to Card Slot 9, the Headturner slot. This card will always be a Common or Uncommon. This will either be a showcase card or something yet to be revealed. After that, Card Slots 10 and 11 are Wildcard Rarity Slots. These cards can be anything from Common to Mythic Rare. This is something different and will not count against the Mythic Rare Slot in the pack itself, so 2 are possible to get within a single pack.


Now we reach the Big Finish Chapter with 2 Card Slots. These slots have more of a guarantee after the randomness of the Fireworks chapter. Card Slot 12 is the Rare/Mythic Rare. Card Slot 13 is the Foil Card. This card can be any rarity, so it possible to get 3 Mythic Rare Cards in a single pack.


Finally is the Big Finish Chapter with the final Card Slot. Unchanged here, you will get either a Token Card or an Ad card. There's a big surprise with this final slot. There's a 25% chance of getting a card from “The List.” This is a list of 300 cards from Magic: The Gathering's past. They have the same frame, looking like they were lifted straight from their era. These cards will have the Planeswalker Symbol in the lower left corner. From that list of 300 cards, we got to see 3 of them in this presentation.


First: Muscle Silver. This was part of the first set that Rosewater worked on. He remarked it was his baby. He then talked about the mechanics that have appeared throughout the history of Magic.

Second was Cloudgoat Ranger. This is a card showing the creativity. It hails from Lorwyn, which was a different color-focused set.

The final card was Pact of Negation. This is meant to show just the shock and surprise that the pack can offer.

The Set Booster is going to be a bit more expensive. The value of the cards is still equal. You spend the same amount of money, you will get the same amount of Rares and Mythic Rares. The box for Set Boosters will be a bit different, having 30 packs in it. It will give the opportunity for a lot of surprises throughout the whole of the pack.



From there, he turned to do his Q&A. This showed him talking with Funko Pops of a few Planeswalkers (Jace, Ajani, Chandra, Lilliana, and Nicol Bolas). Chandra got the first question, asking if there were going to be any Eldarzi during this visit to Zendikar. Rosewater responded that, No, there will not be any Eldarzi (thanks to you guys), but the consequences of them being there are still being felt. The camera panned over enough to show another Planeswalker here, Nissa, as Rosewater took a question from Jace. The question from Jace was about the percentages for the remaining slots in the Set Booster Pack. Rosewater responded that he wrote an article to fill out the remaining details. The final question went to Nicol Bolas. He asked if there were plans to set an expansion within the Meditation Realm. Rosewater was coy, saying that he doesn't talk about the future, but to never say never. It is unlikely at present.