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Play Design is the name of several Magic R&D teams that are tasked to make sure that playing Magic in structured settings is as enjoyable as possible. It is the successor to the Future Future League.

(Competitive) Play Design was introduced in 2017, while Casual Play Design was created at the end of 2021.

Competitive Play Design[ | ]

Competitive Play Design is solely dedicated to the health of tournament environments.[1][2][3] It focuses on the highest level of play: cards that effect tournaments, and getting the card distributions (the rate/probability at which cards appear in draft boosters) and power level right for cards that will see the most play in Standard, whether that’s at Friday Night Magic events, on the Magic: The Gathering Arena ladder, or at the World Championship.

The team was introduced in 2017 after R&D had missed the copy cat combo. Play Design is primarily focused on Standard, Booster Draft, and Sealed.[4][5][6][7]

Play Design does the bulk of its work roughly one year before a set is released. The team has four three-month segments in the Design process, one for each play environment (with four Standard-legal sets released each year there are four distinct play environments). Each one lines up with Set Design such that the first two months are the last two months of Set Design and the last month is the set after Set Design hands-off (but when there's still time to tweak numbers if necessary).[3]

A major upheaval in the state of Standard was the movement towards a three-year rotation lifetime instead of two. One of the notable issues was that with two years, Play Design never gets to see any real-life data of what cards are being played in time to change any cards, at most putting some cards in the seventh or eighth set in response to data from the first set. The change in rotation was to lighten this load, while also giving them the chance to power up some synergies that were unsuccessful.[8]

Play Design interacts with digital Magic — including MTG Arena and Magic Online — and how it affects the design and development of cards.[9]

Current members[ | ]

Former members[ | ]

Casual Play Design[ | ]

Casual Play Design was created in the last weeks of 2021, under the lead of Melissa DeTora.[18][19] The team is responsible for making Commander and other casual formats fun and balanced, testing cards that don’t fit the criteria of being tested by Competitive Play Design or that don’t effect Standard (e.g. Commander Legends, Commander preconstructed decks, Universes Beyond, etc.). Balance means something different for casual play than competitive play because of how much more diverse the experience is from player to player, so the team will not focus on balance in the same way that Competitive Play Design does. Their primary focus will be finding card distributions (the rate/probability at which cards appear in all products) and play patterns that make the format most fun for everyone. Some things they consider as they playtest and balance cards include:

  • How likely is the card to show up? Is it fun if it does show up in high quantities?
  • How much fun is this for the table (net fun)?
  • How easy or difficult is it to include this in your deck?
  • Does the card have enough interaction points and counterplay?

Current members[ | ]

Former members[ | ]

Column[ | ]

In June 2017, the column named Play Design replaced Latest Developments on It was started by Melissa DeTora,[20] but other members also contributed. By 2019, that column had largely been replaced by Weekly MTG on the Magic: The Gathering Twitch channel.

Stream[ | ]

For community engagement and visibility, Play Designers (most often Paul Cheon and Melissa DeTora, but also others) streamed on the Magic Twitch page starting from July 16, 2018. The stream ran relatively consistently for about a year, ending slightly before the general release of Magic: The Gathering Arena.

References[ | ]

  1. Mark Rosewater (May 17, 2017). "Play Design". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  2. Dan Burdick (June 16, 2017). "On the Shoulders of Giants". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. a b author(s) (Mark Rosewater). "Vision Design, Set Design, and Play Design". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mark Rosewater (May 20, 2017). "Are there plans for the Play Design team to work on Legacy and Vintage as well as standard?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  5. Mark Rosewater (May 20, 2017). "What exactly is the difference between Play Design and what the Future Future League does?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  6. Mark Rosewater (June 16, 2017). "The difference between Development and Play Design?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  7. Mark Rosewater (June 1 7, 2017). "Play Design?". Blogatog. Tumblr.
  8. Aaron Forsythe and Billy Jensen (May 7, 2023). "Revitalizing Standard". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Melissa DeTora (December 15, 2017). "Play Design and Digital Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Jadine Klomparens (December 31, 2018), "How I Wrote Magic Strategy".
  11. a b Melissa DeTora on Twitter
  12. Blake Rasmussen (December 11, 2020). "2020-21 Season Magic Rivals League Roster Changes".
  13. Oliver Tiu on Twitter
  14. Arya Karamchandani on Twitter
  15. Abe Corrigan (October 13, 2023). "I’m ecstatic to share that I’ve been hired by Wizards to be on the Play Design team.". Twitter.
  16. Tom Ross (December 1, 2017). "From Player to Play Designer". Wizards of the Coast.
  17. Tom Ross. (November 9, 2018). ""I'll be playing in #SCGVEGAS next weekend."". Twitter.
  18. Melissa DeTora (October 21, 2021). "I am leading the new MTG Casual Play Design team at Wizards". Twitter.
  19. Melissa DeTora (October 21, 2021.) "AMA". Magic: The Gathering Discord.
  20. Melissa DeTora (June 23, 2017). "Cycle of Torment". Wizards of the Coast.

External links[ | ]