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MTG head designer shares lessons learned from War of the Spark

We spoke to Magic: The Gathering head designer Mark Rosewater about making March of the Machine, with lessons carried over from War of the Spark.

Magic The Gathering: Artwork of Nicol Bolas Dragon God from War of the Spark.

March of the Machine is probably the biggest story Magic: The Gathering has ever attempted to tell, a multiverse war story full of unlikely team ups and cameos, which easily rivals anything Marvel’s managed thus far.

According to Mark Rosewater, “March of the Machine was a daunting project to start.” He says: “I truly didn’t know if we could pull off a conflict this big and far reaching, but I’m proud to say we did, and we made something truly awe-inspiring.”

Of course, while the set breaks new ground, Wizards is building on what it’s done before. “March of the Machine borrows from just about every Magic set we’ve ever made.” In particular, Rosewater and the design team were able to take lessons forward from War of the Spark. This 2019 MTG set was the TCG’s last big story finale – a showdown on Ravnica featuring (almost) every planeswalker under the (eternal) sun.

Magic The Gathering: Artwork of Phyrexian Rona from War of the Spark

The second time you do anything, you have all the lessons from the first time you did it,” says Rosewater. “I didn’t really understand the lens War of the Spark needed to be seen through until halfway through the vision design of the set. I spent a lot of time focusing on the ‘war’ part of ‘Planeswalker war’ rather than the ‘Planeswalker’ part.”

He adds that for March, he already had a clear lens from the get go, and was able to start the process planning to focus on planes the same way WAR focused on planeswalkers. 

War of the Spark also taught me how to think bigger when trying to capture a grandiose storyline,” Rosewater reveals. “I started War assuming I got three to five planeswalkers and ended up with thirty-six. I approached March of the Machine prepared to push boundaries when needed.”

Rosewater says: “One of the reasons I enjoy my job so much is that I like a good challenge. I like being presented with something we’ve never done before and then figuring out how to do it.”

Check out more insights from Rosewater, including how Battles were designed and his favourite card from the set. And stay tuned for our full Q&A coming up shortly.