Las Vegas – When Magic: The Gathering was released, at GenCon in Milwaukee on August 19, 1993, Gavin Verhey could not even read, he was just over three years old. Today, he works on the development of the new expansions and mechanics of the game. But this designer’s contribution to Magic started even before he was a Wizards of the Coast employee. In 2010, a year before he joined the company and started the development of Return to Ravnica block, Gavin, then a StarCity Games writer and host of the Monday Night Magic PodCast, created a new format for the game, which he called “Overextended”.
This format is nothing more than what we know today as Modern. After Modern’s debut on the Philadelphia Pro Tour, Wizards of the Coast recognized the value of Gavin’s contributions to this ever-new Magic format. “Yes, I have a special place in my heart for Modern, since it was the format I created,” says the designer, who is already, along with his team, working on expansions of the game that will only be released in two years .
“I’m part of the design team. We create the mechanics, we define the top level of the block, and then the development team begins its work, which is to move, change, test, balance… to make everything work, in the end”, explains Gavin. To create a set from scratch is a long process, and Wizards, for the execution of all this work, has four teams involved for mechanics and balancing. Design, Development, Play Design and Creative
Gavin says a block takes about nine months to be conceived by his team. “Then there’s another nine months, sometimes up to a year, with the development and play design teams, when the material goes to the editing area, so the cards have the appropriate text, so that they make sense”. The designer uses Obzedat, Ghost Council as an example. “We created a temporary card for it. We idealized the mechanics, then we moved forward. During its development, it had its mana cost altered and gained + 1/+ 1. But when it comes to play design it is when it gains its final form. Because their work is a lot of repetition, a lot of tests, a lot of standard decks being assembled and played with it. The development staff understands a lot about Magic, but it’s during the playtest that things happen”, he tells us in detail, revealing that his team, the design, has the last word on power level, fun factor and mechanics.
“When we started to develop a set, we were in that expectation… I can’t wait to see this being released. And, finally, the product comes to the streets”, he says excitedly, referring to Archenemy Nicol Bolas, which was released on the eve of GP Las Vegas, where our special envoy Fausto de Souza had this conversation with Gavin. He also ensures that Hour of Devastation will be a very interesting set. “There’s some cards that are going to affect Amonkhet’s cards, and I’m looking forward to see how this will transform Standard”. This week we released the preview of Nicol Bolas, which is very strong. It will settle his spot for Standard. And some cards on the set are as strong as he is”.
Thousand and one uses
For Gavin, the secret of Magic’s success is its versatility. “It’s more than 100 games in one! If you want to play the ‘flavor game’, read the stories, find out about the characters, you can. Want to be competitive, play championships? You can. Play at the kitchen table? Ok. There’s also drafts, sealed, Standard… everything is available”.
The designer followed the GP Legacy, and thinks that the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top was healthy for the format. “The format is wonderful, there are new decks, there’s even Miracles without Top! But of course, the banning of any card is always a delicate moment, and in the case of Top, which is such a wonderful card, it was even more difficult”. For him, the support from Wizards for so many different formats is important so that the game continues to go high. “It doesn’t matter if you play since 1993 and have Vintage decks or if you started last week. We have something for you”, he says.
Everyone knows that the company is focused on Standard. It is the golden egg of Wizards, but Design also has to take into account the other formats. From this multifocal position arise cards like Abrupt Decay. “We made Decay thinking about Legacy. It’s an ok card for Standard but very strong in Legacy”.
Gavin still doesn’t know Brazil, but he was at Buenos Aires GP in 2016. “It was incredible, the passion that Brazil and all of South America have for the game is something we should always take into account. I’m not from the Marketing and Events area, but I’m sure we plan very good things for you”, he promises.