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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.

(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]

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]

Play design interacts with digital Magic — including MTG Arena and Magic Online — and how it affects the design and development of cards.[8]

Current members[]

Former members[]

Casual Play Design[]

Casual Play Design was created in the last weeks of 2021, under the lead of Melissa DeTora.[15][16] The team is responsible for making Commander and other casual formats fun and balanced. 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 rates and play patterns that makes the format most fun for everyone. Some things they consider as they playtest and balance cards: - How likely is the card to show up? Is it fun if it does shows 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?

Competitive Play Design focuses on the highest level of play. Cards that effect tournaments. They are focusing on getting the rates and power level right for cards the cards that will see the most amount of play in Standard, whether that’s FNM, the Magic: The Gathering Arena ladder, or the World Championship. The cards that don’t fit that criteria, and sets that don’t effect Standard, such as Commander Legends, Commander preconstructed decks, Universes Beyond, etc, are the sets that Casual Play Design works on.

Current members[]


In June 2017, the column named Play Design replaced Latest Developments on It was started by Melissa DeTora,[17] but other members also contributed. By 2019, that column had largely been replaced by Weekly MTG on the Magic: The Gathering Twitch channel.


  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. Melissa DeTora (December 15, 2017). "Play Design and Digital Magic". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Jadine Klomparens (December 31, 2018), "How I Wrote Magic Strategy".
  10. a b Melissa DeTora on Twitter
  11. Blake Rasmussen (December 11, 2020). "2020-21 Season Magic Rivals League Roster Changes".
  12. Oliver Tiu on Twitter
  13. Tom Ross (December 1, 2017). "From Player to Play Designer". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Tom Ross. (November 9, 2018). ""I'll be playing in #SCGVEGAS next weekend."". Twitter.
  15. Melissa DeTora (October 21, 2021). "I am leading the new MTG Casual Play Design team at Wizards". Twitter.
  16. Melissa DeTora (October 21, 2021.) "AMA". Magic: The Gathering Discord.
  17. Melissa DeTora (June 23, 2017). "Cycle of Torment". Wizards of the Coast.

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