Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome Sam and his amazing podcast, Kitchen Table Magic, to the Hipsters family! 


Kitchen Table Magic is the storytelling podcast featuring the amazing people of the Magic: the Gathering community. This week, Sam Tang talks to Dan Burdick, the lead of Play Design in new division of R&D for Magic: the Gathering.


You can find Kitchen Table Magic wherever you get your podcasts.

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Read Dan’s article On the Shoulders of Giants.

Go say hi to the Play Design team on Twitter:

Melissa DeTora: @Melissa DeTora

Paul Cheon: @HAUMPH

Ian Duke: @mtg_ianduke


Hey everyone! Great news—Kitchen Table Magic is now on Hipsters of the Coast. They’re the mages with the curly beards and the vegan potion options. Hipsters of the Coast is the premier news and strategy blog for the Magic: the Gathering community they have a unique perspective on things and Kitchen Table Magic is honored to be joining their lineup. If you are listening to me right now from Hipsters of the Coast I’m pleased to meet you. You’re going to love all of the guests I have lined up for season three. And be sure to check out past episodes at kitchentableMagic.org. If you’re new to the HOTC blog, head on over to hipstersofthecoast.com to get strategy and content for all of your favorite formats.

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Welcome to Kitchen Table Magic, the storytelling podcast featuring the amazing people of the Magic: the Gathering community. I’m your host Sam Tang. Join me and my guests as we share stories about what MTG means to us, how we got started playing Magic, the ups, the downs, the hilarious stories, and everything in between. In this episode I’m talking to Dan Burdick the lead of Play Design in new division of R&D for Magic: the Gathering. While Mark Rosewater is trying to break the game, Dan and his crazy team of wizards is making sure Magic stays functional and playable. Dan considers all the cards available in the game of Magic to make up of physics engine that governs the MTG universe. He uses this unique way of thinking to balance the play environment for players. Dan has a motley crew of spell slinging professionals to help him make sure Kitty Combo doesn’t happen again. Melissa deTora, Paul Cheon, Andrew Brown, Ian Duke, Brian Hawley, Adam Prozac, and Andrew Veen are the members of the new Play Design team. Stick around to the end and you can find out how to get a special signed card from Dan Burdick himself. I hope you enjoy my interview with Dan Burdick.

Sam Tang: Hi everyone, thanks for joining me on Kitchen Table Magic. I’m your host and today I am with the head of the Play Design team at Wizards of the Coast Dan Burdick. Dan, how are you?

Dan Burdick: Hey I’m well thank you for having me.

Sam: Well thank you for having me that’s the most important thing. Let’s jump right in. Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself, like where did you grow up and how did you find Magic?

Dan: I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri so I was at a Comic Con in Kansas City and someone introduced me to Magic. I immediately took it home and showed my brother Matt Place, former Magic designer, and he was incredibly excited about it. I described it as D&D mixed with cards and it was the best summer of our lives and we continued to be super excited about it for the next 23 years.

Sam: And the million dollar question that everyone in the Magic community is excited about is what is Play Design, what does it do, who are you all, and you are the head of Play Design, so how did you join the Play Design team?

Dan: So I was approached by Ken Troop, who was one of the co-directors of R&D along with Aaron Forsythe, about this new position that they were looking for somebody to manage the team. The team was already coalescing around a lot of the R&D members that had previously been in development and been the major participants in FFL, the Future Future League. So, they realized the need to formalize the play testing process and to really work on format development, rather than just having it be everybody who works on set teams, and realized to do that they would need someone actually in charge of of developing and turning it into a real division. I was recommended by a couple people who knew me from the game design field, came out. and everything happened really quickly. I think I was might of been the first person they interviewed—

Sam: Really!

Dan: Yeah, and we had such an amazing rapport and clearly we were on the same page in terms of what we felt that Magic was capable of. And, you know, what it had achieved in the past but then sometimes oscillated depending on, you know, the year or the resources that were devoted to things like play testing. I had only recently gotten into management and I had a style that clearly resonated with Ken and the rest of the team so it was kind of a perfect storm of all good things that ended up with me leading Play Design.

Sam: And who is on the Play Design team?

Dan: So Play Design is composed Ian Duke, who is acting as our technical lead. Ian is a veteran of R&D who has led sets. His game design acumen is fantastic, he’s a spectacular leader, really good at leading the meetings and coming away with the deliverables that are Play Design’s mandate. Also, Adam Prosek, Brian Holley, Andrew Brown, and Melissa deTora. And we’ve recently hired Michael Majors as a contractor—

Sam: Hm, wow!

Dan: Yeah, so often cited as one of if not the best deckbuilder in the world by his peers, and so really exciting to have him on board as a contractor. And then we’ve hired Paul Cheon full time starting as of yesterday—

Sam: Wow!

Dan: So I just left a meeting with Paul to join this interview with you.

Sam: Wow, that’s amazing! The Haumph is here in the building.

Dan: Right.

Sam: That’s amazing. OK, so why these people? I mean, what do you think about this team, collectively or individually, makes this group of people qualify for Play Design as opposed to someone like John Finkel or LSV or Patrick Chapin or Reid, Owen, or Huey?

Dan: I think all the people that you just mentioned would be fantastic members of Play Design. Our recruitment efforts have really gone wide where we’re speaking to everybody we can if for no other reason to inform them of the going ons and forge a relationship like we’ve always wanted to have fantastic relationships with pros and continue to engender that through attending events and communicating. But that said, any of those people would make fantastic members of Play Design. I see no reason why a couple of those people after they leave their playing career that we couldn’t see a way to have them on the team.

Sam: Very cool.

Dan: That’s my subtle way of saying that I’ve reached out to those people already.

Sam: OK, that’s wonderful! And what does a normal day in Play Design look like?

Dan: There’s a significant amount of brewing decks starting in the morning. Another one of our contractors, Pete Ingram, and the Play Design panel that we had in Grand Prix Las Vegas talked about how his day starts in the shower when he starts building a deck in his head. So wake up in the morning, think about, you know, what would be the most interesting thing to explore today, you know, what would be the most broken, or how did these two archetypes interact, or test the limits of this new card. All those types of considerations—that’s how he starts his day. And in the morning putting, that deck together, grabbing a playtest partner, and starting to battle. And then we have multiple meetings throughout the week where we vet the results of all this play testing, then talk about process, philosophy.

Play Design’s most significant role is as a resource to others. As people create content, how can we determine what the best paths forwards are for that content to serve the needs of whatever that product is. Most relevantly, Standard and major sets, but yeah, to circle back to what exactly the day is like: a lot of battling, a lot of discussion, planning to figure out what the next steps are.

Sam: Fascinating. And Mark Rosewater said on Blogatog that Play Design is about the health of tournament environments. Could you give us a context of why that need arose?

Dan: So that need has always been there and that responsibility has always been shared by a lot of different members of R&D. Some more play-minded than others. Rosewater himself, of course, is more of a visionary and thought leader, whereas some people have always been more, you know, what is the end product, how does this play, and how does this affect health of tournament Magic. So that need has always been there. It’s been a shared responsibilitym but it always hasn’t had a clear leader or a clear process to determine what the deliverable is, in terms of what is a healthy format, are all players being served at all levels. And so now we’ve just formalized the process by which we measure the success of delivering healthy formats.

Sam: Yeah, totally, I totally hear that. I think that was indicated before in an article that you wrote that the purpose of the team is to make sure that Standard and Limited are healthy, but because of all the new cards that are being printed the community is very concerned about how that will affect Modern, Legacy, as well as EDH and Commander. Do you have any plans to also make sure that Play Design also tests for those other formats?

Dan: So those formats are always kept in mind. Sometimes there are designs that are specifically intended for them, in particular Commander products often serve Commander, but certainly we consider whether a card would be too good in Modern or even if it would be a fantastic addition to Modern. So all those are considered, but from a research standpoint it’s simply too hard to test, OK, what is the legacy environment now that, you know, we’ve added you know these three cards that could become Legacy staples. Because those formats naturally have built in safety levers, they’re high power in general, as long as we can keep the truly broken things out of the formats they will tend to adapt in really healthy ways whereas Standard doesn’t necessarily always have those tools. Making sure that Standard is robust is a more challenging task that uses a significant amount of our resources and our time. But certainly our eyes are always on will this be healthy for older formats.

Sam: Got it, got it. You know, one of the key questions also gets asked is what is the problem the Play Design is trying to solve? Is it a ban-free in Standard environment ,is it creating balance while maintaining fun?

Dan: Yeah all three things that you just mentioned are absolutely our mandate. How do we create a format that is not only balanced but also has a lot of really fun interesting things to do. I mention in the article you can have balance without fun but you can’t have fun without balance. What I meant by that is that you can put all kinds of really cool stuff, and games throughout history where people were able to identify this is a really neat thing to do but weren’t necessarily able to balance it such that once once the game hit the real world the players didn’t figure out something, you know, exploits or something that made the game play not in the way the designers intended. Then you can just end up having designed eighty things to do but there’s really only two.

Sam: Yeah.

Dan: Which is the tragedy of a lot of game design. So our philosophy is that we have to find that balance and we have to be good enough at power level and have the right process and philosophy and game balance-minded team members and enough time simply to play test to be able to find the balance while simultaneously fighting promoting the things that are really fun while reigning in some of the things that, you know, once they reach a certain power level, aren’t very fun for example. You know, combos are oft-cited an example of that in that it’s really fun to do an infinite combo but if it’s too easy then that becomes unfun.

Sam: In the context of the Play Design team and it’s goals, how would you define balance? Like, when would you determine something is to pushed?

Dan: I think that what you’re asking is there’s the strict definition of balance, which is that all these pieces interact in ways where you end up, you know, that they feel even and fair, but then there’s also the question of what is the right rate for various tools that a player can use that makes it fun for everybody involved without one side feeling too oppressive or feeling too weak. A lot of various types of effects in Magic have waxed and waned and our philosophy of where they should land at least and in a given format. Counterspells, card draw, creature removal, creatures themselves, creature stats, have have all taken dramatic shifts over the years. That question about balance really comes down to philosophy. What do we think is the most fun way for these cards to interact and what are the rates that we should put them at so that those interactions happen in dynamic, interesting ways, but ones that you know feel balanced and have some give and take in terms of what we push in what formats depending on the needs of a particular set, theme, or just right now Standard should feel a little faster or should feel a little slower, should be a little more about big creatures, you know, whenever you have a theme like Eldrazi and dragons, those types of things tend to require that cards be at certain rates. You wouldn’t want to make Terminate, you know, something that kills a huge guy at a fantastic rate, in a set where you’re also trying to push six-cost dragons that don’t necessarily all have come into play at least for example.

Sam: Yeah, I totally understand that. Dan how would you help the team, as well as R&D, evaluate success in a format?

Dan: That’s a great question. I think that the number one way that you have evaluate success is: are people having fun? And then, how do you gather that information? Like, that is the metric, but then how do you gather the data to, you know, support whether or not that’s happening? So, we have a great BI team that collects a lot of different data and one of the questions in front of us is, what is the data that we need to determine, you know, are people enjoying this, are people having fun, is this the type of thing that is sustainably fun, do I want to do this, you know, the thirtieth time instead of just the first four times.

Sam: And BI, you say, you mean like business intelligence?

Dan: Right.

Sam: OK. And how would you be able to collect data on that?

Dan: So we can get results from Magic Online and then we’re in the process of getting results from live tournaments as well, we have some resources for live tournaments. And then, of course, there’s sales data and, you know, various trends, how our products are doing, you know, and among who they’re doing the best with. And then, of course we have lots of surveys and various ways of interacting with people. But one of the things that I find personally to be the most valuable is to just go to an event, go to a prerelease, go somewhere where you’re really interacting with people outside of your circle, and speak with them and ask them, you know, what are you enjoying, you know, what are you finding fun? To try to get a more holistic sense of, is the serving all different types of players, are are people inspired by this.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely, that’s exactly what came to mind when you were saying just go to the event really talk to people—that was the word, holistic, it really came to mind. Does some of this data gathering and business intelligence—did that factor into the recent decision about limiting the amount of information about 5-0 decks lists being published from Magic Online?

Dan: I can’t speak to that specific decision but I do believe that it’s important that the information that we share with everybody is inspiring and makes you want to go and do new fun things. Not everything that we communicate about what’s happening in Magic needs to just be raw data for players to crunch or for anything coming from us to be like, here’s what’s actually going on in the world of Magic. The purpose of everything that we, you know, put out on the websites or released publicly should be, here’s a whole bunch of really cool stuff about this cool game that you love. You know, that’s what will serve the people. Of course, there are people who are really into data, you know, into raw data and trying to extrapolate what that means exactly. But that’s not the common audience for, you know, all of our media and content. The audience is, here’s here the happenings in Magic right now, is any of this cool to you? If yes here’s more and then and then figuring out what what people are inspired by.

Sam: Yeah, you said in your article that you wrote, “A metagame that hasn’t been played isn’t solvable because there’s no way to predict which of the many paths the real world will start with and what events will trigger the next evolution of the format.” You were talking about, you know, someone is going to go to a tournament and make a significant result with that deck and that’s really going to shift the way the players look at the game. And what you were saying earlier I thought was very refreshing, I haven’t heard this often, is, you know, you said, Wizards is not there to give all of the information about it we just want to highlight what people are doing.

Dan: Right, yeah. I’m not part of the media and marketing team so that I don’t I don’t try to speak for them specifically but certainly the content that we’re trying to create is supposed to be about the fun game of Magic not about the, you know, math problem of metagames, for example, or, you know, like, are things fundamentally broken. You know, like, it’s less about restricting narratives and more about what type of information is really interesting to read about for the majority of our audience because we can we can only really so much stuff, you know. There are only so many things that can be part of our you know media strategy.

Sam: Yeah, I understand that. You know, one thing about Play Design that has really excited the Magic community is that it’s just a new team that’s being introduced that allows the community to look inside of R&D. And we know that R&D is a combination of design and development. Could you tell us a little bit about how Play Design sits in to design and development.

Dan: Absolutely. So the set design process starts even much earlier than that. The world building team gets involved and plans the story arcs and then there’s multiple exploratory teams that are working on the themes and you know what the sets are going to feel like, you know, emotionally or story-wise. So we start to get involved even from that point. Like one of the things that we might try to avoid, for example, is doing Eldrazi and Dragons back to back, you know. There are going to be some mechanical challenges by having multiple years in a row that revolve around huge guys. So that’s the type of feedback that we might give early on, though we’re not there to restrict ideas, usually. We’re mostly there to provide guidance and think through, OK, what will this play like, ultimately. What are some of the ways in which these ideas that are being germinated could eventually play out in terms of formats or sets or limited environments.

Sam: So how many sets ahead does Play Design work?

Dan: Depends on your definition. Because there’s the sets that are in FFL—

Sam: And the FFL is the Future Future League.

Dan: Future Future League. So every set that will be legal at any given time, from when a set is late enough in set design that it gets handed off to the FFL to start playing serious constructed with, those sets are being worked on as an active play test with an active play testing component for constructed. And then, but before that point, for example, a set that is very early on and still deciding on some mechanics there will be a Play Designer on that set team brewing up some playtest decks to kind of vet the fun and viability of a mechanic. So we’re touching every step of the way with the goal of getting things ready for play as early as possible and really helping set leads to get their sets, you know, more and more in shape and more towards constructed viability early on in the process so that it isn’t just a late handoff to FFL with, you know, a matter of months to figure out how the we can balance all the cards in such a way that they’ll be fun in environments. So the word that we touched on earlier holistic is it’s a big driver for this process.

Sam: So you really are potentially that third F the Future Future Future League?

Dan: Right.

Sam: OK.

Dan: Yeah, how many Fs can we add to Future Future League? A lot before, you know, it wouldn’t make any sense.

Sam: Got it, got it. OK, OK. The one thing that a lot of the Magic community is very excited about is to ask, what would be the first set that the Play Design team would have an active role in?

Dan: So we’ve been active in several sets, some of which are already starting to come out, but the first one that you could declaratively say the Play Design team was formed and we were there from the beginning would be Milk.

Sam: OK, that’s the code set name, Milk?

Dan: Right.

Sam: OK.

Dan: That’s all the information I have for you.

Sam: What were the sets before? I can’t remember the order of the code names.

Dan: So it goes: Ham, Egg, Soup, Salad, Spaghetti, Meatballs, Milk, just like a natural nine course dinner.

Sam: —going Milk and then Cookies—

Dan: Oh yes—

Sam: So you’re quite a ways off.

Dan: Right, that is a normal gourmet, 8-course a course meal.

Sam: So nevermind about the third F, we could probably add a fourth or fifth F, like, you’re very far into the future here.

Dan: Right.

Sam: Wow, so looking at those code names and the recent revisions to the release schedule, that seems like it’s about two years out.

Dan: Yeah, something like that. You’ll have Ham and Eggs is Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan, Soup/Salad is Dominaria and Core 2019, and we haven’t announced Spaghetti and Meatballs, and of course haven’t announced Milk’s theme or the world that it lives in, but something like early 2019.

Sam: OK, that’s a really cool. Dan also in your introductory article to the Play Design team, you say that the scope of possibilities in what Play Design aims to do is incredibly vast, and so you also coined the term, “the finite universe.” Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Dan: Sure, so one of the things that makes Magic in my opinion the greatest game ever made is that it feels like you can literally do anything. The number of combinations and the ways in which you can break the rules or take what is presented as the physics engine of the game and turn it on its head to do things that no one has thought of before, or certainly the creator, Richard back in 1992, didn’t imagine that people would be doing these insane combos or, you know, even some of the more simple interactions they feel infinite, and in many ways they are. The number of combinations of ways in which decks can interplay and play out, you know, is equal to the atoms in the universe, perhaps, you know, there there are many, I think like one of the there’s a massive open math question of what is the largest number that is actually useful in the real world, and one of the contenders I believe it is there are Precursor Golem combos that utilize a number that is something like you know close to the number of atoms in the universe and that has a pseudo-real world application in that you can do that and get that many precursor Golems, you know, if it wouldn’t just crash Magic Online.

Sam: Interesting.

Dan: So I think that’s kind of illustrative of how exciting it is to have a game where it feels like there are any number of combinations. So the idea of the “finite universe” is to take that seemingly limitless physics engine and constrain it by, you know, saying OK, the the outer limits of some of these things that you could do aren’t appropriate for this particular format, so we’ll put in some safeguards to make sure that, you know, we have things like gravity and we don’t just fly off into space, you know.

Sam: Interesting. So you touch on this concept of safeguards in this physics engine of the finite universe. What kind of safeguards and safety measures are the Play Design team kind of putting together and putting into place?

Dan: So one of the goals is that anything that you can do that is really cool and powerful, if somebody tries hard enough they can find a commensurate counter strategy that will, you know, have have a reasonable win rate against you. One of the disaster scenarios is if there’s something incredibly powerful and you search high and low and none of the things that are supposedly good against it are actually, can actually get you a win rate over fifty percent even if you go all in on opposing that strategy. So that’s kind of the yin and yang that we’re looking for where there is nothing you can do that there can’t be some type of metagame shift where things could become hostile to you.

Sam: Interesting. You know, the recent controversy in the Magic community has really been over the bannings in Standard, especially with Felidar Guardian. And, you know, it’s not the banning itself, it’s a combination of factors. It’s the fact that it was banned, it was the fact that somehow R&D allowed the cat to be in the set with Saheeli Rai, it was also maybe how long it took for it to be banned, it’s also, you know, there’s lots and lots and lots of reasons that kind of culminate into that kind of this feeling that the community has about Standard. You know, Felidar Guardian was banned on April 27th and then Mark Rosewater announced the Play Design team on May 17th and so kind of, on a scale of one to Chernobyl, how emergency was it for the R&D team to say we really need this Play Design team.

Dan: The conception of the Play Design team actually happened before a lot of the banning and some of the challenges that we place faced in the past year. Ken Troop, my boss, and other stakeholders within R&D and the company realized that the testing is crucial, it being, you know, one of the things that ends up falling off whenever you get busy with a lot of other responsibilities. Is the type of thing that needs to be course corrected and we need to make sure that we have scaffolding in place to ensure that, you know, testing and the health of formats is always respected and that there’s no chance that, you know, it hits a low point that could get into that type of, you know, OK, we’re in the red right now, we’ve we’ve shipped without sufficiently vetting a lot of these things that we’re trying to do. So there was already awareness around that and the timing as, while not coincidental, really just emblematic of the fact that, you know, we realize that we’re always taking risks and that investing in protecting against those risks while also investing and making the game as fun as possible. Because it’s not just about stopping Felidar Guardians, it’s also about. you know, making sure that the things that there are to do are super fun and interesting.

Sam: Right. And, you know, the community up until this point is very concerned with how R&D shares information publicly. There was a question that was asked from the community is that, would Play Design ever consider creating like the Tumblr blog, just like Mark Rosewater has for the community to directly interact with Play Design?

Dan: That’s a really interesting question. So right away we’ve hired some people who have player-facing personas, you know, Paul Cheon being certainly one of the more beloved members of the community. The idea that Paul Cheon would, you know, you wouldn’t be able to interact with Paul Cheon anymore because now he’s at Wizards, you know, of course what we actually have to do is figure out what the strategy is for players like Cheon and, you know, making ourselves available, like, you know I am in this interview and how we’re showing up at a lot of events and really wanting to interact and field questions and discuss Magic with players. That is our plan moving forward. What form that takes is definitely TBD but we’re really excited about having a team that is involved in the community.

Sam: Yeah.

Dan: Hiring Paul Cheon, and of course converting Melissa deTora to a full time employee and having her take over the Play Design column, of which we’re all participating and planning on showing off some of our personalities and making ourselves more accessible through that column and potentially in other ways in the future, is definitely on our plate. Melissa is a really exciting person to have on the team. She’s starting to do some more coverage—she’ll be at Grand Prix Minneapolis and Paul Cheon will be taking Ian Duke’s place at the Pro Tour in Kyoto.

Sam: Wow, OK!

Dan: So Ian’s taking a little bit a bit of a break to be the technical lead for Play Design, so there’s a lot of opportunities in that space.

Sam: That’s very cool, And, you know, I really appreciate everything that you’ve done, Dan, I think that this is a very courageous step for Wizards and for Magic and for R&D as a whole. You know, things don’t seem to go smoothly but it is appropriate in its timing that Play Design was announced and Play Design has come together and there’s such a need for it, so I think that you have a great team, I am very much looking forward to and the community is incredibly excited and very much looking forward to it. Because I think that you’re taking a step and it’s like you said it’s a vast challenge.

Dan: Right. Yes, the support of the community thus far has been overwhelming and, you know, we know that there’s tough times can happen in Magic and of course that can be incredibly frustrating, particularly if you love the game as much as we dom but we are really looking to the future and the type of fantastic experiences that we can create. We truly believe the Magic of the greatest game ever and that this is a great step to, you know, making it even even greater.

Sam: Great. OK everyone, we will have more from Dan coming up, but first we’re going to take a quick break for a word from our sponsors.

This episode of Kitchen Table Magic was brought to you by Paragon City Games. The Kitchen Table Magic podcast has been all about the origins of the game and members of the community, and as a community we’ve come a long way since the game first started. Apart from the kitchen table, the only other places in your local community to play Magic are at local game stores, and that’s why places like Paragon City Games is so important for our community. At Paragon City Games you’ll find a spacious and clean show room, with lots of elbow room for Magic events. You’ll find thoughtful accessories like die hard metal dice and hand-crafted wooden boxes. You’ll find a huge supply of Legacy, Modern, and Standard staples, sealed product, and tabletop games. It’s places like Paragon City Games that allow local communities to gather, and if you can’t make it there in person, please be sure to watch their weekly stream at twitch.tv/ParagonCityGames. Remember to spread the love with a like on Facebook and follow on Twitter for Paragon City Games. They also have great online reviews and that shows their commitment to excellent customer service for their player community.

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Hey listeners, I’m excited for a special Patreon supporters gift from Dan Burdick. I have copies of Felidar Guardian, signed by Dan Burdick. It’s a little funny, it’s a little troll, and it’s Dan’s way of telling the Magic community that R&D owns up to its mistakes and is looking forward to the bright future with Play Design. Supporters at the $6 level and higher get gifts like this from my guests. Head on over the patreon.com/KitchenTableMagic and become a supporter. Hurry, because quantities are limited.

OK, and we’re back. Dan, I have some rapid fire questions for you. Are you ready?

Dan: All right.

Sam: OK. Dan, of the five colors of Magic, white, blue, black, red, and green, which is your favorite color and why?

Dan: Definitely green. I grew up on a lake in the forest so I have kind of a connection with, you know, some of the themes of green and also I just love ramping into huge monsters.

Sam: OK, great, I love it. Ramping into giant monsters. Wonderful. And if you compare green with another color identity, what would you pair it with?

Dan: Great question.

Sam: A guild or a shard or a clan?

Dan: I think that black, Golgari, is this definitely me. Kind of suggests a dark side that, until I got that question, I didn’t realize I had.

Sam: I love it! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Dan, question number two: if you could change something about Magic: the Gathering, what would it be?

Dan: That’s an awesome question. So of course, I’ve thought about that type of thing a lot, you know, as a player—

Sam: And as your position!

Dan: —for the past twenty years and, yeah, and now I’m in a position to answer that question. I think the thing that I would change is making Magic serve more people in an organized way. I think the Pro Tour and our Organized Play system is truly great and has turned Magic into, you know, a worldwide cultural phenomenon, but I’m really excited about potentially reaching out to more types of players with the types of things that we offer from an Organized Play perspective. But that isn’t necessarily my department, to be clear, but just speaking personally I love the idea of, you know, bringing more old school people back or new people that can get into the game in ways that are based around competitive tournaments.

Sam: OK, very cool. Question number three: if you could give something every Magic player, what would it be?

Dan: Oh my gosh, probably, this is kind of like a sideways way of answering it, but that joy of making a deck that is truly your own and then taking it and pulling off the, you know, the exact thing that you built the deck to do. That satisfaction, you know, of course a lot of Magic players have experienced that but that’s one of the best feelings in the world and, you know, what got me hooked from from age 14 was, you know, I think I built back with Time Elemental and Nether Void. So that’s sort of like a trolly way, for people who aren’t familiar with those cards from 1995, here it’s a way of locking out your opponent so they can’t possibly do anything.

Sam: Tons of fun!

Dan: So even though that was a bit of a trolly deck, just the feeling of like oh my gosh I did something and it actually worked is just something that I hope every Magic player gets to experience.

Sam: Yeah, cool. Dan, question number four: What do you see in the future of Magic: the Gathering?

Dan: I see us being a huge force in the digital space. I see Magic being something that is enjoyed by people who aren’t as heavily invested in the actual play of it from an eSports perspective. I see Magic becoming more of a household name in terms of people’s familiarity with it as a game, rather than it being, you know, while of course it has a huge worldwide audience most people aren’t necessarily clued into you know exactly how it’s played or what the culture is around it. I see that changing in a positive way.

Sam: OK, and last, Dan: do you have anything to say to the Magic community, any asks or requests of listening audience?

Dan: Great question. What do I want to say to the Magic community, the entire Magic community? My biggest ask is, what are the things that bring you the most joy about Magic? Trying to figure out how to articulate what it is that will inspire people and, you know, bring them the joy that got them into Magic in the first place. While, you know, all feedback that we receive is super valuable, you know, frustration as is just as useful to know about as, you know, things things that people like. Really trying to drill down into what can we do that is going to, you know, give you that awesome feeling that you had the first time you saw a Shivan Dragon or a Nightmare or, like, these are obviously showing my old school roots but, you know, that type of feeling where you saw Baneslayer Angel or some combo card that you’re like, oh my gosh, can this game do this? You know, what are the things that inspire you as a player, what is it that you feel is missing, not just what are the mistakes we are making. Though of course we want to correct for those as well, but, you know, what is missing from your experience and those are the things that are truly crave to know.

Sam: Dan, thanks so much I really appreciate your time sitting down with me, answering all of these questions. The community is incredibly excited. I polled a lot of people from the Magic subreddit as well as Magic Facebook groups and things like that, and so I got a lot of great feedback. So I just wanted to thank you and also acknowledge you. What you have is job right now is incredibly challenging and I recognize that and I really hope the community also understands that. This is a complete incredibly complex game, there’s a lot of new things being done and from what sounds like, Dan, you in your Play Design team. what you’re trying to make everyone happy, and so I know that there’s going to be bumps, you know, that’s normal and that’s natural of the process, but I just wanted to acknowledge you and I wanted to thank you for your contributions and I wanted to thank you for your intellect and courage and also persistence in helping us refine this game that we all incredibly love. So thank you for that.

Dan: That’s really wonderful of you to say. We really appreciate the encouragement and we’re going to work very hard to achieve these lofty goals that we put in front of us. That said, we of course want to be held accountable for all of the decisions that we make. It means a lot to hear you say that, thanks so much.

Sam: Great, and I will have links in the show notes to Dan’s articles about the Play Design team, on KitchenTableMagic.org, and also new Patreon supporters might have access to a signed Felidar Guardian from Dan.

Dan: Yes we own our mistakes here. All right, thanks so much, Sam.

Sam: Well there you have it! My conversation with Dan Burdick of Play Design. Many prominent members of Play Design can be found on Twitter, so tweet at Melissa deTora, Paul Cheon, Michael Majors and Andrew Brown if you want to get in touch with them and give them your feedback. You can also connect with the Play Design team at events. Play Design is eager to make Magic better, so they’re doing a lot to keep an eye on the Magic community. I’ll have all the links in the show notes at KitchenTableMagic.org.

Thanks everyone for listening to this week’s show. I would like to thank all of my Patreon supporters. Listeners, if you like to get special gifts from my guests, become a supporter at patreon.com/KitchenTableMagic. Supporters at the $6 level or higher are getting a signed copy of Felidar Guardian from Dan Burdick. If you’re a new listener to the show, welcome, and I hope you’ve had a chance to listen to past interviews in Season 1 and 2. Season 3 is amazing, with all the guest I have lined up over the past year. I am so grateful for how many listeners have found the show and I will continue to make content that is high quality and and meaningful for the community. Your financial contribution goes to making the show better and keeping it running by paying for audio equipment, software, and server costs.

Now that’s I’ve partnered with Card Kingdom, there’s new way to support the show. When you shop at Card Kingdom, just use my affiliate link, CardKingdom.com/ktm.

A big thank you again to all of my Patreon supporters. Your support of Kitchen Table Magic allows me to share stories about the amazing people in the Magic: the Gathering community with the world.

If you like the Kitchen Table Magic podcast by Sam Tang, you’re going to love the new YouTube channel, Play MTG by Sam Tang. Play MTG is an upbeat, fast-paced YouTube channel, featuring deck techs from the pros, learn to play tutorials, level-up advice, card discussion, MTG community news, and more. You’ll find links to the Play MTG YouTube channel on facebook.com/playmtg, and be sure to follow the show on Twitter, @play_mtg. I’m looking forward to creating new video content and I’ve got some cool collaborations in the works.

Be sure to subscribe to Kitchen Table Magic on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Hipsters of the Coast, and MTGCast.com. Follow the show on Twitter, @KTMpodcast. The show is on facebook.com/KitchenTableMagicPodcast. All of the show notes are at KitchenTableMagic.org. Remember to listen to past episodes and share KTM with a friend.

Coming up in the next episode of Kitchen Table Magic:

Everything’s sort of not necessarily planned out to disagree that I want it to be. I’m famously disorganized, you know. I was that kid that did the science project on the day before it was due, and I think I’ve carried that over that attitude into the way I do my YouTube channel. But, you know, like I said, I wing it, but, yeah, more or less, that’s what I try to do is two or three, you know, sometimes I’ll throw a video in there, like an opinion or a Top 10 or something like that. When I’m trying to work the kinks out of a deck, but three deck techs a week is what I try to get at and, you know, I think we’ve hit the mark so far, you know, I just try to make sure it doesn’t feel like I’m never rushing anything out. I do a lot of work on these decks before they actually get out, just, you know, when you see a deck I release on the channel, know that it’s been in the works for at least two weeks at that point. But these decks do they have a lot of work to go into them so there’s always one or two weeks at least of production that goes into a video before you actually see the finished product.

I’m talking to YouTuber Dev of Strictly Better MTG. Dev specializes in deck techs and set reviews, all from the comfort of his couch. His videos also feature his cuddly feline friends, Higby, Julie, and Ziggy. Whether it’s budget or competitive, Dev’s got you covered with easy to understand yet in-depth strategy. Dev’s videos are a great resource for new, casual, and competitive players. Dev joins me live from his couch all on the next episode of Kitchen Table Magic.


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