Rosewater Details The Vision Design Of Ikoria

Ever wonder what it’s like to design a Magic: The Gathering set? Well Mark Rosewater just gave us the most in-depth look at the process yet!

Earlier today, Magic: The Gathering Head Designer Mark Rosewater released the Vision Design Handoff Document for Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, giving fans an exclusive look into the world of designing Magic sets.

According to Rosewater, the planning of Ikoria, code named “Cricket”, began two years ago, with the goal of creating a set based around “…making monsters, playing with monsters, bonding with monsters—[and] mayhem with Monsters.” The Vision Team for Ikoria was comprised of the following individuals:

  • Mark Rosewater
  • Andrew Veen
  • Corey Bowen
  • Dave Humpherys
  • Peter Lee

Early Companions

First introduced in Ikoria, companions have already made a huge impact — taking over nearly every format in Magic — but according to Rosewater, they were even more overpowered during the first testing stages.

Initially, companions underwent numerous changes during the design process. At conception, companions were all mono-colored, however this was changed in order to “up their flexibility to fit into more different decks.” Additionally, players could designate one companion at the start of the game, however any number of that companion could be slotted as such into the deck.


Another mechanic introduced in Ikoria, mutate began with the criteria that to mutate, the creature must share a “creature type or keyword”, however Design found that “tracking what you could and couldn’t mutate made playing, drafting, and deck building with mutate too difficult”, and was changed to the current “non-Human” requirement.

The second change, was allowing the player to choose where the mutating creature ended up — either being placed on the top or bottom. This change was made during testing, when the Design team found that this option “opened up a lot of play value”.

Keyword Counters

The final new addition to Magic, courtesy of Ikoria, were Keyword Counters. Rosewater states that the inspiration for including these came from the punch-out cards from Amonkhet, and after scouring the keyword library, settled on the following:

  • Deathtouch
  • First strike
  • Flying
  • Lifelink
  • Menace
  • Reach
  • Trample
  • Vigilance

In the Vision Design, Rosewater also detailed why some notable keywords, such as double strike, haste, hexproof, indestructible, and more weren’t selected. You can read the criteria for their exclusion below:

Double strike – “We didn’t think we wanted to use it enough to justify the counter.”

Haste – “It wasn’t synergistic with our mutate mechanic, which I’ll get to in a minute.”

Hexproof – “We were worried that granting hexproof too much would make for unfair gameplay.”

Indestructible – “We didn’t think we wanted to use it enough to justify the counter.”


Making a triumphant return to Standard, cycling in Ikoria was initially included on four types of card:

Twobrid cycling – “At rare, we have a cycle of powerful enchantments (this year’s two themes that cross all the sets are monocolor and enchantments) that each cycle for twobrid mana (2 or M).”

Uncommon cycling enchantments – “Uncommon also has a cycle of cycling global enchantments, things that are good in Limited.”

Keyword counters – “There is an uncommon cycle of creatures with a keyword that puts that keyword counter on target creature when they cycle.”

Cycling matters – “In red and white, we have several cards that care about when cards are cycled. This was designed as a Draft theme for these two colors.”

Rosewater remarked that only half of these made the cut, stating that “twobrid costs were considered unnecessary” due to how packed the rest of the set was, and the uncommon cycling cards “went away for space.”

Ikoria Lair of Behemoths is currently scheduled for tabletop release in North America on May 15.

Read the original article from Wizards of the Coast.

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