Magic: The Gathering Head Designer Talks About Ikoria Complexity

Wizards of the Coast's Head Designer for their acclaimed trading card game, Magic: The Gathering, has made a statement regarding the complexity of their newest set, Ikoria: Lair of BehemothsMark Rosewater, head of design for Magic's Research and Development team, has openly admitted that Ikoria has been an experiment on determining just how high of a capacity players, both new and old, have when tolerating set complexity (among other concepts).

The artwork for Luminous Broodmoth, a card from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, a set for Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Lie Setiawan.
The artwork for Luminous Broodmoth, a card from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, a set for Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Lie Setiawan.

In his Monday article, Rosewater makes a point to state that the question of why Ikoria was so complex was at the forefront of most peoples' minds when he opened up his inbox for questions on the set. He explains that his "Grand Experiment", as his article is named, revolves around keeping things fresh for experienced players while maintaining an easier barrier of entry for new players, at least in terms of Magic: The Gathering's overall learning curve. Rosewater speaks of the pitfalls of attempting to change a perfect complexity paradigm: "Make the floor too high, and the game becomes too challenging to learn. Make the ceiling too low, and the game becomes too boring for the experienced players."

The artwork for Lurrus of the Dream-Den, a card from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths for Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Slawomir Maniak.
The artwork for Lurrus of the Dream-Den, a card from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths for Magic: The Gathering. Illustrated by Slawomir Maniak.

Rosewater also speaks quite a bit in his article on the topic of the best immediate mentors when it comes to new players learning Magic.  In his opinion, it seems that friends and computers are the two best teachers for those looking to learn how to play this game – friends of the new player because they are familiar with their student, and computers because machines are impersonal and not judgmental.

Mark Rosewater's grasp on the concept of complexity is sound; you can find his article on DailyMTG's news hub here. What do you think about this approach to the complexity that Wizards of the Coast's Research and Development teams have taken for Magic: The Gathering? Let us know in the comments!

About Joshua Nelson

Josh Nelson is a Magic: The Gathering deckbuilding savant, a self-proclaimed scholar of all things Sweeney Todd, and, of course, a writer for Bleeding Cool. In their downtime, Josh can be found painting models, playing Magic, or possibly preaching about the horrors and merits of anthropophagy. You can find them on Twitter at @Burning_Inquiry for all your burning inquiries.

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