Tasty Leftovers: Q&A with Mark Rosewater

I did an interview with Mark Rosewater in Scrye #50 (on sale now!). But when I was done, I had some questions (and answers) left over… Which were too good to toss into the bin. So here they are!

Some of you may know that I’m a contributing editor for Scrye magazine. For Issue #50 (on sale now!) I did an interview with Mark Rosewater. Due to space constraints, some of the questions didn’t make it to print, but I thought Mark’s replies too interesting to vanish into obscurity. Luckily, Star City gives me a venue to present these tasty leftovers to the Magic Community. Don’t forget to pick up issue #50 of Scrye for the rest of the interview! (Apologies for the shameless plug.)

Special thanks to our own naked hairy guy John F. Rizzo for pitching me some question ideas!

Q. Were you any good at Magic before you joined up with Wizards? Did you have any noteworthy finishes in any big tournaments?

Mark Rosewater: While R&D has its share of top-notch players, I am not one of them. While I am by no means a horrible player (I did win a number of tournaments back when I was just another LA player), I don’t think Kai Budde or Jon Finkel needs to lay awake at night fearing the moment I quit R&D and join the Pro Tour.

Q. Which color in Magic is your favorite?

MR: Let me answer this question with a little story. Last year a number of us in R&D spent a great deal of time trying to better identify the flavor of each color. As an exercise in one of the meetings, we decided to figure our what color best reflected each person in the room. It was unanimously agreed that I was red due to my impulsive,”speak up in the heat of the moment” style of working. As I appear to be red at heart, I guess I have to say red.

Q. Which Magic expansion do you consider to be the best ever?

MR: This is sort of like answering”Which child is your favorite?” Obviously beta is the best”set” ever created (it’s like Alpha, but with an extra Circle of Protection and a dual land). My favorite set before I came to work for Wizards (right after Homelands was released) was Antiquities. My favorite expansion since working here is Unglued.

Q. What is your favorite Magic card of all time?

MR: Maro (from Mirage) with Look at Me, I’m the DCI (from Unglued) a close second. For those that do not know, Maro was a card I created that ended up being named after me (MArk ROsewater). It was the joy with having my own signature card that led me to create the make-a-card prize for the Magic Invitational. Look at Me, I’m the DCI has a warm place in my heart, as I managed to create the card mechanic, draw the art, name the card and write the flavor text. This feat had only been accomplished once before (by Jesper Myrfors on the card Elves of Deep Shadow in The Dark).

Q. When developing new Magic sets, what percentage do you try and aim towards the casual player versus the percentage you aim towards the tournament players?

MR: It’s not that much of an exact science. During design and development we are always conscious of the many different groups we know exist (the casual and tournament players break into many sub-groups). We make sure that every set has a little bit of something for each type of player. It’s important players realize that we do this because it means that players will occasionally open cards that were designed for someone other than them.

Q. Can you give our readers any sneak preview information or hints regarding Judgement? Is Erhnam Djinn going to make a reappearance?

MR: It’s a little early to be giving out clues about Judgment , but I can say that it had a kick-ass design team (myself, Richard Garfield, Bill Rose and Brian Tinsman). It was one of the most creative teams I’ve ever worked on.

Q. How has R&D changed from the way it was when you joined to the way it is now? Anything you miss about the”good ol’ days?”

MR: Quite a bit, actually. When I started, we were all single twentysomethings who worked around the clock and did things like play chair hockey at midnight. (Chair hockey, for those unfamiliar, is a sport with hockey sticks, a rubber ball, and wheeled office chairs.) Now, a majority of R&D is married and a number of us have kids. I think we’ve learned a lot over the years and have become a more talented group, but I do miss the chair hockey.

Q. Are there any cards you can tell us about that are currently powerful in the FFL (ie. cards in 7th and current sets)?

MR: Unfortunately, no, but I can say that we do have a few decks being played that haven’t seen the light of day for many years.

Q. Kai Budde won the Invitational and submitted a card idea that is an enchantment. Since all the previous Invitational winner’s cards were creatures, will the card be changed into a creature or will it remain an enchantment?

MR: With Kai’s permission, his card was morphed into a creature. It’s been seeing quite a bit of FFL play, so I think Kai will be happy with it.

Q. Before joining Wizards you wrote for the Roseanne show. What was it like writing for Roseanne? Do you miss anything about Hollywood?

MR: It was a very cool experience with many highs and a number of lows. The stories behind the scenes were as interesting as the ones that appeared on the show. The whole experience was a real roller coaster ride, but I’m glad I had it. The thing I miss most about Hollywood is the creative process that goes into making a show. Creating a television show seen by millions of people is quite a rush. I also miss my LA friends and the good weather.

Q. What does your family think of your job, and are they still hoping it’s a phase you’ll grow out of?

MR: My family is fully behind me. What more can you wish for a loved one than they do something they love and enjoy?

Q. Do you play Magic when you’re not working?

MR: A little, but not as much as I used to. Chalk it up to having a young toddler. I did teach my father to play many years ago so we always tend to play when we he visits. And when my daughter gets a little older…

Q. What’s your favorite non-Magic hobbies?

MR: Playing with my daughter. I also love puzzles (especially cryptic crosswords) and television (this has a lot to do with my former occupation as a writer for the Roseanna show).

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions, Mark!

Oh, and speaking of Scrye #50, we’re pleased to announce that Star City’s own Sheldon Menery is on board to make sure I don’t screw up any more Tapping the Knowledge Vault rulings, as well as doing some other things for the magazine. Welcome aboard, Sheldon!