Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater says the Battle for Baldur’s Gate set should not have been called ‘Commander Legends’. In his State of Design 2022 article from Monday, he says the label gave MTG fans expectations that the set did not meet. The name tied the D&D crossover set to 2020’s Commander Legends product, which was full of valuable reprints highly sought after by Commander players, as well as references to old Magic lore.
Commander Legends 2020 was a well-loved set because it was stocked with valuable MTG cards. It included one of the best tutors in Vampiric Tutor, for instance, as well as the premium counterspell Mana Drain. The June 2022 Commander Legends set had plenty of neat Dungeons and Dragons references – like the ability to give your commander a D&D background – but Rosewater says “the lack of Commander reprints… irritated players”.
Double Masters 2022, which Rosewater admits contained “many of the reprints players hoped to see in Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate” threw fuel on the fire, leaving some players disillusioned with the D&D crossover set. Cards like Dockside Extortionist, seemingly a perfect fit for the coastal merchant DnD city of Baldur’s Gate, were mysteriously absent from the Commander Legends set, only to show up one month later, in the reprint-stuffed Double Masters 2022.
In his design article, Rosewater suggests that while the branding was ill-judged, other aspects of the set were successful. He lists the mechanical execution, with thematic mechanics like adventures, backgrounds, and initiative, as a plus point – and says it provided a fun draft experience.
The mixed reception of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is reflected in Rosewater’s lessons for the year. “A lot of the mistakes of this last year were not about what we designed but in how we communicated to the audience what to expect,” he writes.
“Any design, even a strong one, can be led astray if the audience isn’t properly prepared for what it is. We need to be better in understanding how to communicate what we’ve made such that the audience is expecting what we designed.”
D&D isn’t the only IP Magic: The Gathering is dabbling into in 2022. Here’s everything we know so far about the MTG Warhammer 40k crossover decks, slated for October.