Interview: Meris Mullaley - Design Manager

Interview: Meris Mullaley - Design Manager


Magic: The Gathering - Adventures in the Forgotten Realms D&D

A match made in heaven (or a dungeon)

Wizards of the Coast is a name synonymous with tabletop gamers, with their two main products being the ever-popular Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game and Magic: The Gathering card game.

And they both have now come together in the latest deck of Magic: The Gathering, with the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set. The developers have painstakingly blended the Dungeons & Dragons world of the Forgotten Realms into a Magic: The Gathering set, which has allowed the team at Wizards of the Coast to implement a few new features into the popular card game.

We at Hooked Gamers were lucky enough to get the opportunity to sit down and pose a few questions to Meris Mullaley, the Design Manager for the D&D collaboration.

HG: Will there actually be dungeons and dragons contained in the set?
Meris Mullaley: Absolutely! There are quite a few dragons in the set, including a cycle of five Legendary dragons based on popular D&D characters. Each colour also gets its own uncommon dragon that has a unique breath attack.
As for the dungeons, these are a big theme of the set with unique dungeon cards that are activated by any card that says ‘venture into the dungeon’. These are a flavourful way to evoke the feeling of exploring a new area and feature iconic locations from D&D’s past.

How will the characters/creatures and spells differ from the usual MTG sets?
The most obvious is the flavour words that are featured across creatures and spells and add context and an extra bit of a D&D feel to their effects. There are a few new creature types introduced to Magic as well, including, but not limited to, the iconic Beholders of D&D legend. Lastly, the Legendary creatures of the set are all based off popular D&D characters that many fans will recognise and love playing with.

Interview: Meris Mullaley - Design Manager

We’ve seen some new mechanics recently in Magic: The Gathering (in Strixhaven)…will there be any new gameplay mechanics in the Adventure in the Forgotten Realms set?
There are a few exciting new mechanics in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms! As mentioned, Dungeons are the first new mechanic and are activated by any card that says ‘venture into the dungeon’. As players venture further into each Dungeon, they unlock additional effects to help themselves or hinder their opponents. Next is dice rolling: D&D wouldn’t be D&D without rolling a few dice! A number of cards from the new set focus on rolling a 20-sided dice to change the outcome of the card’s effect. Lastly, class enchantments allow players to become their favourite D&D class and level up to gain additional effects.

Card art is a feature that many players enjoy…how has the D&D world been incorporated into the art style for the set?
For this project we created a full style guide for the cardset, consulting with our D&D partners, to provide the visual references for the 100% new Magic art.

There are some creatures and items that have been depicted in rulebooks for years, and we used those source materials as the starting point. We formed an art team – Zack Stella, Tyler Jacobson, and Richard Whitters – to discuss what visuals were unchangeable and where we had space to create something new. A beholder has to have ten eyestalks, a red dragon’s horns are very different from a black dragon. But there were also plenty of Forgotten Realms landscapes that have never been illustrated – only described in words. Our concept art team had the chance to create those visual references for the style guide. Members of the D&D team reviewed the new concept art and style guide to help us ensure continuity.

There are a few subsets of cards – the rulebook and module cards – that bring some of the older D&D art and graphic design to Magic cards.

Interview: Meris Mullaley - Design Manager

How have the five different colours of Magic been integrated into the D&D world?
The colours of Magic have different personalities. Mark Rosewater has some wonderful articles about the nuance of the colour pie. The team designing cards went through the D&D creatures, spells, and landscapes and mapped them to the colour pie. Some creature types and spell effects are the same between Magic and D&D and it was easy to see zombies in black, wizards in blue, and goblins in red.

It was not always a direct translation. A Red Dragon that breathes fire is consistent with red in the Magic colour pie. But a Blue Dragon that breathes lightning, or a White Dragon that breathes ice are not as easily translated. Ice is usually a blue spell in Magic and lightning is red. In those cases, the dragons were assigned by their chromatic colour, not the effects of their breath weapons.

Interview: Meris Mullaley - Design Manager

And with that, we ended our short discussion. But the fun was only just beginning.
With a host of new features, particularly the use of a 20-sided dice and exploration of dungeons during a match, the Adventure in the Forgotten Realms deck may be one of the most unique Magic: The Gathering sets. The alternate land cards have been given the full retro D&D look, adding to the nostalgia for Dungeons & Dragons players who may be getting into Magic: The Gathering for the first time. The new gameplay features mentioned previously, as well as the addition of Class Enchantments for each of the colours, give the gameplay a fresh feel, allowing experienced Magic: The Gathering players to develop new strategies.
For now, I'm looking forward to getting myself deeper into a few fight a few legendary dragons...all on a Magic: The Gathering battlefield.

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