July 17, 2015

What a Limited Playtest Looks Like

0 comments

For a booster release, the team tends to meet for about six hours a week during development, spread out over three days, for several months. Usually, one to two of those meetings are playtests, and the others are about reacting to that feedback. Someone asked me for more information on what a playtest looks like, so I thought I'd give you an idea.

First, it starts off with the decision to play Sealed or Draft. Draft is the more common form of the set in the real world—and where a lot of the most fun synergies show up—but Sealed is better at identifying major problems in color balance, since you can't end up in one color just because it is underdrafted. If one color is stronger or weaker than the others, it's very hard for random variance in Sealed pools to make up for that fact. Original Zendikar was a set where there were a lot of options for color in Draft, but Sealed tended to be dominated by black-red.

Early playtests can be hit or miss. Sometimes, you're trying out something radical and new, and it fails miserably. Other times, the things you are experimenting work pretty well, and you get to make changes elsewhere in the set.

Below is the feedback data we received on the sixth Magic Origins development playtest, which was a Sealed deck about two months into the set's development cycle. I left in the playtest names, because using the real names would often be misleading—many of these cards bare very little resemblance to the final cards that saw print, although we did try to keep the set as a whole doing the same things.


Thank you for playing in the Magic Origins playtest! Please leave your feedback below.

What we are looking for:

  • Did you have fun?
  • How did the color balance seem to you?
  • How did you feel the color pairs were working?
  • Did you feel you were given enough direction in terms of deck building?
  • Where there any cards that seemed too strong?
  • Were there cards that felt too weak, but would be fun if they were stronger?
NAME W U B R G A L Rare

Tim A.

11

10

1

2

4

Adam P.

8

13

2

4

Dan E.

2

10

1

1

8

2

Gerry T.

10/1

12/1

1

1

1

Allison M.

7

11

4

2

Sam S.

8/1

12/1

3

4

4

Shawn M.

10/1

12/1

2

Ari L.

10

13

4

Scott V.

11

12

2

2

Tom

12

10

3

Total

21

42/1

42

55

54

11

9

28

These numbers weren't bad. The amount of white played was low, and red and green were a bit high, but nothing huge stands out. No one color was skipped entirely (which does happen sometimes). From here, the set's Lead sends an email out to all the people who were in the playtest, asking them to comment on the wiki. The responses are given below. Please note that many cards changed from this point, so some of these comments may appear puzzling at first.

Artificer's Epiphany | Art by Kieran Yanner

Tim Aten

  • I had fun. A lot of the cards are quite powerful.
  • My direction in deck building came mostly from my rares. I played white-green because I got Angelic Skirmisher, Recovery Angel, and Dwynen, as well as Cycle of Reincarnation to help find them. Other draws in these colors included Enlarge, some common white removal, two Wall of Swords, and just a good curve of creatures.
  • I'm worried about Wall of Swords. Are there enough ways around it?
  • Jagged Lightning is, obviously, a huge blowout; as is Enlarge, which feels nearly as good as Overrun.
  • I think the common white tapper is in a good place.
  • Goblin Trailblazer also seems to be doing good work.

Gerry Thompson

  • I had two Jagged Lightnings and Ms. Nalaar, so I was playing red. Blue had some reasonable cards, but blue-red was lacking in two-drops and creatures in general. Green had things that filled my curve, so I played red-green.
  • I had some crowd control issues between Elvish Best Friend and Goblin Basher. Jagged Lightning and Generic Burn gave me a lot of five-drops.
  • Like Tim said, lots of strong cards. It felt like the space between the As and Bs was huge.
  • The black-red creatures could not compete with the green creatures.
  • I saw one card for the green-blue archetype (the uncommon Undo+), which made it stand out. I could see people asking "Why does this exist?" because it wasn't very clear that the green-blue archetype existed.

Allison Medwin

  • I continue to enjoy playing with veteran[1], but it feels like a huge slog to play catch-up if my opponent's guys get veteraned.
  • Stable seems ridiculously good. Possibly too good. Fires was a real card. It could probably just be an Equipment, have a mana cost on the trigger, not give vigilance, etc. I'd want to play it, even then.
  • This was my favorite of my Origins playtests by far. My deck felt cohesive, I had enough creatures, and so on. The rares could have been completely absent and I'd still probably have ended up in red-green midrange.
  • Thopters with flying instead of high flying[2] seem awesome, and I want to play with them. Playing Cogminster decks sounds like being in a wonderful world where everything is Seller of Songbirds.
  • Generic Burn and Jagged Lightning having the same mana cost seems weird to me, since I want both in the same deck, but then I almost don't.
  • Woodrager was exciting to cast, even though I was never able to get a counter onto it. It's doing appropriate things for a rare.

Thopter Engineer | Art by Steve Prescott

Shawn Main

  • Gold cards did fantastic work. I stared at my colors, my rares, and they were all really close. Gold cards and synergies with the gold cards gave me my signposts in deck building.
  • My options included a red-white veteran deck and a green-blue midrange deck. I played blue-black with a hefty dose of graveyard stuff. I suspect red-white was very close in terms of power.
  • The Elf gold uncommon looked a lot lamer than the others. I wasn't interested in deathtouch, especially when my elves mostly looked like value creatures (Shaman of Spring, Scarblade Trainee).
  • I was really happy not to see any colorless mana fixing. I would have splashed all kinds of gold cards off it gratuitously.
  • I had two Jace's Cleverness, Painful Loss, and Frostblast. I had one Armored Skaab and only once got off a mastery bonus.
  • Frostblast and Wall of Frost both lock a guy during the opponent's turn, which makes it really tricky to remember one cycle later (people rarely remembered). Sorcery-speed lockdown is a lot more palatable because there's less memory involved.
  • In one long game, I got to loop Ghoulish Assistant and March of the Returned. It was lame and super grindy. The combo exists in Theros with Mnemonic Wall, but Wall is less fragile and can't trade with a creature while looping.
  • That said, I loved Ghoulish Assistant.
  • I didn't see an overabundance of stalling with the Thopters, perhaps because my Scarblade Trainees were good at killing Thopters.
  • I had good sideboard options between games—trading out Syphon Mages for things like Frostblast and Guardians of Meletis or Negate and Duress depending on the matchup.
  • I'm generally not a fan of Wall of Swords and Wall of Frost. So much stalling. I suspect there are better options, especially for Wall of Swords.
  • The games were really good. I had a blast.

Adam Prosak

  • After looking at my pool, it was quite obvious that I should be green. I had four Leaf Gilders and plenty of large green creatures. I also had a Kitesail and Nissa's Stem Sword that work well with lots of mana. After that, white beat out blue as the second color. I had some veteran stuff and ways to push it through in white, in addition to a bomb mythic rare.
  • My deck ended up with a very coherent theme. I had some ramp, some large veterans, and a few ways to get them through. I was pleasantly surprised by how coherent my Sealed deck was. This is not typical of Sealed decks, where you are generally trying to string together small combinations.
  • My deck played out very well, as I expected. The games were relatively quick and fast moving. Creatures I played mattered, games had the potential to actually be decided quickly. I felt like every card I played impacted the game, and games were not drawn out. There was real tension each turn, which I enjoyed.
  • This certainly ties into my previous point, but playing with efficient removal was fun. I lost a game where my opponent curved out with a few 2/1s and played a cheap removal spell on my first guy. I'm not used to 2/1s for two mana actually being relevant.
  • While combat was not boring, there was a distinct lack of combat tricks. I saw one combat trick played in four matches, and it was black. There are plenty of Equipment and sorcery speed things in combat, but once I was able to block with the right sized creature, I felt safe.
  • Games were very enjoyable.

Scott Van Essen

  • I had Young Chandra in my pool, so I knew I wanted to play red. With her flipped +1 ability and also having several prowess and spell mastery cards, I knew I wanted to try a spell-based deck. Unfortunately, blue had no spell mastery or prowess creatures, and few interesting spells. I was close between black and white for my second color, and ended up choosing black. This was mostly because I had three reanimation spells to make up for my low creature count (twelve).
  • I had fun; both of my matches were close.
  • Veteran can be awkward because of how hard it is to get it to go off. Because of that, I really liked how enchantments like Undying Rage made it much easier to get through and pick up the veteran bonus, while also not costing me card advantage.
  • I continue to be bothered by the disconnect between spell mastery counting only instants and sorceries, and prowess counting all noncreature spells. I think it would be much better to make spell mastery count all noncreatures and either revalue the bonus effects or raise the threshold to three.
  • It may have just been my pool, but my red had very few ways to big creatures. I only had two creatures with 4 or more power, and only one combat trick. I had very little long game against big green creatures.
  • I got to flip Chandra once, which was cool, but her back side is kind of underwhelming in Sealed. The +1 gain RR ability was never relevant (even though I built my deck to take advantage of it), so she was just a shock-monster (which isn't terrible). Considering how hard I worked to flip her, it was a bit of a letdown. I'm sure she's bonkers in Standard, so I'm not too worried about it, but it would be cool if she could have some Sealed love. Also, adding mana doesn't really feel like a Chandra ability (though limiting it to instants and sorceries brings it back a bit).
  • In addition to my own lack of combat tricks, I also felt like the environment as a whole was lacking in tricks. I was able to double-block big creatures with confidence, and had no worries crashing my bigger guys into untapped creatures and mana.
  • I like Rogue's Passage in this set.

So, during the next team meeting, my team took those notes and notes from another playtest—as well as some limited pointing numbers from various members of the development team—and set about making improvements to the set.

Sword of the Animist | Art by Daniel Ljunggren

All of the data we had showed that white had too little power and red had a bit too much. We needed to fix that.

The most obvious solution was that white was a little underplayed, so we wanted to rejigger it a bit to have more attractive cards. We looked at the comments around that point as well, and came up with the following changes:

  • Thornbow Archer went from

Thornbow Archer
2B
Creature - Elf Rogue
Whenever another Elf creature enters the battlefield under your control, each opponent loses 1 life.
3/1

to

Thornbow Archer
2B
Creature - Elf Rogue
Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, each opponent loses 1 life.
3/2

  • Rabid Bloodsucker was an uncommon:

Rabid Bloodsucker
Creature - Vampire
Flying
Veteran 1 (When this creature deals combat damage to a player, if it is not a veteran, put a +1/+1 counter on it and it becomes a veteran.)
1B: Regenerate CARDNAME. Activate this ability only if CARDNAME is a veteran.
3/2

The regeneration cost was moved to 2B.

We also added some new cards:

  • A blue rare called Guildpact of Ravnica was added, and later killed.
  • Collectible Armor was added, and later killed.

Collectible Armor
2W
Enchantment - Aura
Enchant Creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 for each other enchantment in play. When CARDNAME enters the battlefield, you may search your library for any number of cards named CARDNAME, and put them in your hand.

Kytheon's Irregulars
2WW
Creature - Human
Whenever CARDNAME attacks, it gets +2/0 and first strike until end of turn
3/3

  • Artifact-Loving Dragon was added, and later killed.

Artifact-Loving Dragon
3RR
Creature - Dragon
Flying
When you control no artifacts, sacrifice CARDNAME.
7/5

Reprints added:

That looks like a lot of changes, but it's about par for the amount of changes that happen on a weekly basis during early development. We want to try stuff out and we need to do a lot of tweaking to get things right. After all of those changes, we ran another playtest the following week which resulted in a similar number of further changes. That goes on, week after week, until the changes become fewer and fewer. Then we get to focus on being more granular, just making a few tweaks to things like power and toughness.

This was a pretty successful playtest, but others were less so. For example, before this I had tried all of the Thopters as high fliers to see if we could eliminate the board stalls. But that was just much less fun. They had become a tool for racing and not for interacting with the opponent. The feedback from that playtest led the team to make different changes in order to remove the board stalls, and those changes appeared to work. We also look over multiple weeks of various playtesting numbers to figure out which color pairs aren't working, and make tweaks to get people more willing to play any combination.

The important thing is not to attempt to make every playtest be the ideal final version of the set. At the point that I ran this one, I had several months left to finish everything—so there was as much here that was about experimentation as there was about trying to fix things. We run experiments, we get data, we improve things, and we repeat. This goes on until we get to the end of the line, when we ship the set off for you all.

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll be back with the M-Files: Magic Origins.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)


[1] The “veteran” keyword is now known as renown.

[2] ”High Fliers” are fliers who can only block other fliers.



from rss http://ift.tt/1Jn52Kp

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

 
 
 

Spikey Bits' Videos

 
 
Welcome to our site. Contact us if you have any question

Powered by : Blogger