A recent interview by Design Manager Ian Adams and Sr. Game Designer Jiachen "JC" Tao from the Arena Development team provided important details regarding the future of Arena. The questions were sent over by community members on Magic: The Gathering’s main Discord.
Why is Arena being backfilled with remastered sets instead of just including the full sets?
”There are a lot of reasons for this, but the big ones are flexibility, and impact. Our first remaster was Amonkhet block, which has some fun cards, but is, frankly, not exactly a powerhouse. In a world where we'd recently released sets like Eldraine and Theros: Beyond Death in Standard, we needed to make sure this set had some kind of impact on the Historic format. Remastering let us do that.” - I. Adams.
”In the case of Kaladesh, it let us avoid some cards we knew would likely be banned out of the gate. Originally, it meant that SIR wouldn't have to include Emrakul (obviously, that wound up happening anyway).” - I. Adams.
What's the inclusion plan for the many playable cards that have been cut from the remasters so far, given how small and slowly-paced anthologies are?
”We definitely have ways to include those cards, especially in places like Anthologies or other similar releases.” - I. Adams.
”We definitely aimed to include as much constructed cards as we could fit into SIR knowing that some fringe cards or otherwise omitted ones can always show up later in Anthologies - the process involved looking up cards played in major tournaments as well as checking our inhouse experts on the format to determine which cards are crucial to bring Explorer up to Pioneer” - I. Adams.
Behold the Beyond, specifically, is an odd omission from this set, given it did see play at the Pro Tour. Why was that one left out?
”A variety of factors contributed - we worked on this well in advance of the PT and at the time, Behold was just starting to show up. The card was not doing much for limited while the other three black mythics definitely all more impactful. We'd need time to secure new art. The Anthologies series is also there to serve for this purpose of filling out constructed needs without impacting limited.” - JC
Which of the cards added will be playable in Explorer and are any cards getting preemptive bans?
”All of the cards in SIR will be legal in Explorer. No pre-bans (again, one of the goals of remasters is to make sure you're not drafting banned cards). The bonus sheet SIS cards will not be legal in Explorer.” - I. Adams.
Why do some cards have new art?
”Cards get new art for a variety of reasons! It ranges from changes in our standards (especially around gore), changes in our relationships with artists, or just cases where we have a piece of art the AD working on the set prefers.” - I. Adams.
”I'm extremely grateful that we were able to commission new art pieces in time to fill in crucial reprints for limited gameplay - sometimes it's really hard to make an entire archetype function if even one common is omitted!” - JC
”Beyond that, Bonds of Faith required some decent work to add hot/cold indicators around that kind of varied effect on an Aura.” - I. Adams.
Follow up to this, was there any mention of why you all went away with animations? I miss seeing animations like Uro.
”Calls like that ultimately fall to the Art Director on Arena (a different AD from the one mentioned before, I know). We started prioritizing things a little differently. I'd certainly like to see some fun enter the battlefield VFX return. I like them too. (I originally typed "ETBs" because that's what we call them internally).” - I. Adams.
Which card, other than Emrakul, was the most difficult to program into Arena?
”This was Gutter Grime, for sure. The fact that the tokens refer back to the specific instance of Gutter Grime that created them is very unique, and wasn't supported by the rules engine.” - I. Adams.
When can we expect a remaster of Khans or other sets?
”That's not in this schedule, but it's certainly a fun idea to do some Alchemy cards themed around planes and mechanics from the past.” - I. Adams.
”SOI is the last block where we had partial implementation from early beta. That's relevant largely because it now means the next thing we work on doesn't have "partially done" impacting the decision making, and opens a lot of options.” - I. Adams.
With the recent introduction of a few powerful cards not in explorer to historic with this set, can we expect fetchlands to be added to historic?
”I expect to see Fetch Lands on Arena eventually. Fetchlands are something we talk about, especially in regards to Historic. They're really a sea change in terms of power level and stability of mana bases, so we're taking our time on that decision.” - I. Adams.
Fetch lands are the defining lands of modern, is it too soon to talk about "road to modern"?
”Give me a little more time on the road to Pioneer, but I can see it happening on a long enough timeline.” - I. Adams.
How frequently is the realistic expectation to have remastered sets released? could you realistically see Pioneer coming to Arena in the next 5 years? 10 years?
”I don't know if we have a great way right now to get out like, the random Worse Than Opt or Serum Visions cantrips from various draft formats, but I think "All the Pioneer cards people want to play" is a realistic goal.” - I. Adams.
”The schedule of remastered sets is heavily impacted by the schedule of tabletop releases that we take on Arena. I'd like to hit two a year, but it depends on making sure we hit our obligations to Standard. As for hitting Pioneer: With the release of SIR, we have 95% of the cards used in the recent Pro Tour championship. I realize missing a single card can break a deck (I know, Bring to Light, we want Bring to Light) and that there's a lot more to a format than just the tournament decks, but I feel really good about the progress we've made so far, and I definitely want to keep moving in that direction.” - I. Adams.
Following up on the frequency of remasters, what would be your desired frequency of Anthologies for the coming year?Can we expect 2, 3 more this year?
”Desired frequency is not always the same as what's possible, but I'd love to do 2 or 3 a year. But again, what I want to do, and what I can do realistically are not always the same.” - I. Adams.
What are some of the greatest challenges when curating and compiling cards into Remastered-style sets?
”From a limited perspective, it can sometimes be frustrating to realize a card could be vastly improved by changing a single numerical value, yet be unable to do just that. We've been quite aggressive in rarity swaps and utilizing the Shadows of the Past bonus sheet to help players identify and gravitate naturally towards what is fun.” - I. Adams.
How do you focus multicolor archetypes with different mechanical themes across sets?
”UG investigate and UG emerge was arguably one of the biggest differences in deck archetypes across sets - while we wanted to call out the cool, iconic cards representing each mechanic, there wasn't enough cross-synergy cards in the two colors to make both strategies viable. We eventually ended up on investigate while including a handful of emerge cards since they also worked well enough on their own.” - JC.
Was creating and balancing the limited formats similar to other masters sets?
”Honestly I'm not sure! This is my first time leading a remastered set, so I don't have direct comparisons. All I can say is that I have a special fondness for SOI limited and went to great lengths to improve the limited experience as much as possible. Look forward to the feedback from our players on how it turns out!” - JC.
”Roughly speaking, much of the limited work can be done concurrent to constructed. Figuring out what each color pairing does, then trimming all the weak cards goes a long way in identifying what work remains.” - JC.
What was the rationale about leaving out common payoffs for limited like Moldgraf Scavenger, Twins of Mauer Estate, and Just the Wind?
”A lot of it comes down to presence of other payoffs - for example, Scavengers is not in there as a common, but we downshifted two stronger (imo) delirium payoffs in green to replace it.” - JC
”As for Twins - let's just say that the madness deck can come together a lot more coherently, making the threat of flashing out a 3/5 blocker by turn 3 a bit frustrating to run into.” - JC
How much flexibility was there in selecting cards from the bonus sheet and what were the reasons behind those selections?
”I've always been a huge proponent of bonus sheets as a fun way of embedding additional depth and replayability to limited environments, so coming in as the lead for this I knew I wanted one. I also have a digital background and wanted to do something paper magic could not replicate - hence this rotating scheme. Getting to add a lot of the OG Innistrad cards for both limited nostalgia and hitting our Historic playerbase is very much cherry on top.” - JC.
”Of course, it's our first time trying something like this out, so please give us your feedback on what works and what doesn't.” - JC.
”I'll add that another thing this smaller, rotating bonus sheet enables is putting actual commons with the same drop rate as regular set commons - giving us a lot more control over the limited archetypes than, say, Strixhaven.” - JC.
How important was it to you that Emrakul, the Promised End was in the set?
”Originally, I wasn't going to include it. I was very disappointed, but I knew the card would take months, and we had
March of the Machine coming, which was a very heavy set. I'm really glad we were able to make it happen (though I was right, it DID take months).” - I. Adams.
How are you going to implement the cards left out by remastered sets to fully incorporate pioneer as a format into arena?
”To capture some things I've said elsewhere: Yes, I'd expect some of the SOI block cards that weren't kept in draft to show up in Anthologies or other methods of distributing cards. I don't know that we'll decide to reprint every single draft common in Pioneer in that process though.” - I. Adams.
When you say, “other methods of distributing cards,” can you give us some examples of what that might look like?
”I know I did somewhere, but there’s room for things like bonus sheets or jumpstart or something in that space.” - I. Adams.
Why were the DFC symbol changed? MID/VOW already use the sun/moon DFC icon that SOI cards (and Ulrich) would use. Some of them just feel weird with these icons.
”We're actually following the new standard set in some of the cards we've previewed for March of the Machine. It's just that digital timelines are much shorter, so even though that set defined this new standard, SIR is coming out first.” - I. Adams.
Will Shadows Over Innistrad Remastered be available in Traditional Draft (best of three)? If not, why?
”Yes!” - I. Adams.
Are we going to have cool visual effects and sounds for some key cards? I know lately this has been less frequent probably for performance, but I really liked it! I wish there was more of that.
”There aren't a ton of VFX for this set (MOM kept the VFX team very busy) but we did make a point to get some special artwork done for Emrakul.” - I. Adams.
Can we expect to see the same type of remastered sets for previous blocks?
”We still have plans to do more Remastered sets, though we've also discussed other options. Masters sets are an obvious option, or even doing a given set as printed.” - I. Adams.
Is there any concrete plan for the future addition of the many mechanically unique cards shaved from the block?
”Usually we try to get cards that see play but weren't working out in limited into an Anthology as soon as we can.” - I. Adams.
Was this the case for Open the Armory?
”I don't define the contents of Anthologies beyond saying "no" sometimes, but that seems like a solid candidate for it to me.” - I. Adams.
What is the reason Sorin Lord of Innistrad did not get a remake for this set?. but instead we are getting Sorin, Grim Nemesis ?
”We went with a smaller bonus sheet and spots for higher rarity ended up very competitive” - JC
What are the chances we get a masters set in Arena?
”I would call them "pretty good"” - I. Adams.
Related question: Could we eventually see more paper-only sets, such as Masters sets, come to Arena around the same time as the paper releases? Jump/Start: Historic Horizons somewhat played with this idea for Modern Horizons 2, but we haven't seen a repeat.
”If we have bandwidth for them and they make sense, I always like to get sets like that. We managed to get (almost all of) the original Jumpstart on Arena, and I'm really glad we did, since the pandemic made Arena one of the best places to play it.” - I. Adams.
Why did Arena end up skipping Jump/Start 2022, by the way?
”Bandwidth. It came out, with some pretty challenging cards, at a time when we weren't able to devote time to get it done right. I would be lying if I said I didn't try to convince people we desperately need an anthology with the borderless bounce lands.” - I. Adams.
How likely is it for Arena to ever get a set like J22? Did it miss its window because it couldn’t be done in time, or is it something y’all would want to add in future?
”Not impossible, but not great odds? I love Jumpstart, but my guess is we’ll be more likely to tackle a newer set than go backwards.” - I. Adams.
Is explorer being too close to pioneer on arena a concern for tabletop pioneer popularity?
”I don't think so? Pioneer is seeing very healthy play in paper, and I think being able to practice and experiment on Arena is likely to support that, not detract from it. Largely, if communities and LGSs like the paper play, and keep engaging, there's no reason both can't thrive together.” - I. Adams.
Be the first to comment