You’re a Designer, Harry! #21 – Not of This Worlds

O.K., so somehow, I had ended up arm-wrestling Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic: The Gathering. To explain how I got here, let’s go back in time further than necessary – because more than just that happened when I attended the 2011 Magic World Championships in San Francisco.

Normally, I wouldn’t go to a Magic: The Gathering event larger than a Friday Night Magic at a local game store, so attending Grand Prixes, Pro Tours, PTQs, and all that jazz is foreign to me. However, this year, Worlds just so happened to be held in San Francisco – right where I work every weekday. I just had to jump on this opportunity. Especially when, considering the announcement Wizards made regarding Worlds, this is the end of the Worlds as we know it.


I just got off work, and Worlds was having its super-awesomely cheap drafts open to the public. …And I wasn’t going to be there.

Instead, I went to Kennedy’s Irish Pub. You might have seen Luis Scott-Vargas retweet on Twitter that there’s Magic drafting and beer held at this place. It’s true. That and there’s Indian food (Yes, it’s an Indian restaurant called Kennedy’s Irish Pub). Anyway, every Wednesday night, twenty to thirty Magic players gather in the back of this place and do Swiss draft in pods with a rare redraft at the end.

Fast forward some. I went 0-3 with a Mikaeus and Snapcaster Mage in my deck. Oh, boy.

While waiting for the last match before our pod drafted rares, I took a peek out the windowed door and see a couple, Sam Black, some other guys playing foosball, and – Wait. Sam Black? I head out to that main room. It IS Sam Black! I chat it up with him and the three other gentleman he was with. One worked for Wizards, another was in the World Championships, and the last one was local – and had only just learned about this Wednesday night drafting at Kennedy’s. Knowledge was dropped among us.


Went to work then went home. Read tweets about Worlds.


My work week was over, and it was zoom-time to Worlds. Once I got there, happiness was had.
The first thing you’re greeted with is a man asking to trade a bracelet for a glance at your ID. A strange trade, but I obliged. He seemed like one of those fabled bridge trolls that wouldn’t let you pass unless you fulfill certain criteria, and considering this was the best Magic event there is and perhaps ever will be, I decided not to put up a fuss.

Past the strange man, the hallway leading to Worlds was adorned with Magic art-plastered columns and large banner-iffic portraits of pro players. In the center, there was either a statue of the ever-lovin’ blue-aligned Jace Beleren, or a real-life planeswalker standing perfectly still. Once you get past this point, you’ve made it. Welcome to Worlds.

Quick run-down of what was there: Duels of the Planeswalkers demo station; an area with many seats facing a small stage with a large TV screen on the wall behind it showing either footage from around Worlds or promotional video; the Spell Slinger area with (currently) Aaron Forsythe and Mark Globus throwing down; Marketplace with Channel Fireball and some other vendors I forget, an artist-signing and/or print-purchasing area; that guy that makes amazing 3D cards with his assortment of crafted awesomeness not for sale; Magic Online booths; much tables and chairs for public events and whatnot; a central hub where judges work from; and the Worlds Feature Match Area in the back.

Outside of Worlds, you can find many food trucks. There was even a festival of some sorts within walking distance of Worlds that had food and music going on.

After scoping out the place, around one of those many tables and chairs, I ran into a generally-happy-looking dude with light-ish hair and a height that definitely wasn’t within the tall end of the height spectrum.

Why, this guy was Mark Rosewater! And that’s when I challenged him to an arm-wrestling match to which he obliged.

…O.K., that didn’t really happen. I actually stumbled out a greeting of some sort. I, admittedly, was affected a little bit by that “star-struck” phenomenon whenever somebody meets his or her hero for the first time. I think I played it off pretty much cool, though. Well, the first thing I asked for was a signature. Nice move, right?

To paraphrase, it went a little like this:

Me: “Will you sign my trophy?”
Mark: “Sure! Your what?”
Me: “My trophy.”
Mark: “Oh, a trophy!”
I take out a giant Magic card trophy that looks like this:

Mark: “Oh, it’s a Magic card!”
Me: “Yeah. You ever seen this before?”
Mark: “No, I haven’t. What is it?”
Me: “You haven’t? That’s strange. Well, this website and Wizards held a cross-promotion where there were several contests, called ‘dares,’ and one of which was the ‘Design Your Own Magic Card’ contest. Out of 300 entries, I won, and they made a trophy out of my card.”
(I also happened to do the art for the card, to boot. I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t do any art. Just a blank white space where a planeswalker should be?)
Mark: “Nice card. …Bradley Rose. – Oh! You’re Bradley Rose!”
Me: “Er, yes, I am!”
Mark: “Yeah, I’ve read your stuff.”
Me: “Really? Well, I was wondering whether or not you have since I mention ‘design,’ and I don’t know if you just immediately stop reading then.”
Mark: “Well, you’re active on Twitter.”

So, Mark Rosewater knows of my name. And now my face. Amazing.

Then he signed my trophy.

After that, I entered an 8-man pick-up draft with new white sleeves bought (inconvenient decision considering double-faced cards), drafted terribly, and lost. During that time, I run into my buddy Jules Robins (of Quiet Speculation fame). We discussed something that would now be foreshadowing for this article.

Lastly, spotted Ken Nagle. Got him to sign my trophy. Apparently, Ken also had not heard of this Bragster card design competition. By this time, I’m wondering who the heck judged the entries that eventually decided me as having the best-designed Magic card! That’s when Ken reminded me about how R&D peeps can’t view unsolicited design submissions to avoid lawsuits. Of course!


I get to Worlds on Saturday with my partner to the 2-Headed Giant Sealed public event for a foil uncut sheet of Innistrad. Good thing I practiced with my company’s internal 2-Headed Giant Sealed Innistrad tournament!

We open a foil Garruk Relentless. Yatta!
During the tournament, I ran into Jules again. This time, I lent him 4 Twincasts and 3 copies of [CENSORED] to use for the next day.

After going 4-2, we dropped from the tournament – and just in time – and headed over to the Question Mark trivia event with Mark Rosewater. After waiting for a while with all the other people either sitting in those chairs in that area with the small stage I described earlier or were crowding around it, Mark finally appeared. He asked for us Magic peeps to form teams of three. A guy named Josh – and, Josh, if you’re reading this: you know who you are – sitting next to us asked if he could join us. I was just about to ask of him the same thing. So, naturally, we assembled.

We needed to name our team the name of a Magic card. After deliberation, we decided upon Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental.

Mark was going through the crowd of teams, recording them in his iPad. The team before us then told him their team name: Our Market Research Shows That Players Like Really Long Card Names So We Made this Card to Have the Absolute Longest Card Name Ever Elemental. He then named them Team Smart Ass. Thank goodness they went before us.

So, we went with our second choice: Squirrel Mob.
It was a swiss-style tournament with a cut to Top 8, where we had to answer the trivia questions in each round better than our paired opposing team. Of course, without using any sort of reference material. Here’s what the trivia questions were, for those who want to play at home. Mind you, each one had a time limit:

1. For each letter of the alphabet, except for J,Q,X,Y,Z: Name a card in Innistrad that starts with this letter.
2. For each piece of flavor text in Innistrad named off by Mark, name the card associated with it.
3. A series of “Which is greater?” questions. For example: The combined power of all the Vampires in Innistrad, or the combined toughness of all the Zombies in the toughness?
4. Name creature types in Innistrad besides Human, Spirit, Zombie, Vampire, Werewolf.
5. Order a given set of cards from none to eight in terms of the amount of rules text on the card. Zero was Rotting Fensnake and eight was Mirror-Mad Phantasm
6. Name all the cards in Innistrad that have two words in the name, both starting with the same letter. For example: Gutter Grime

Top 8

Quarterfinals: From the eight pieces of clues Mark gives, name the province associated with it: Gavony, Kessig, Nephalia, or Stensia

Semifinals: For each double-faced card, what was the difference in power increase and toughness increase from front side to the back side? For example: Reckless Waif’s answer would be “+2/+1.”

Finals: Each team takes turns, hot-potato-style, naming an artifact card in Innistrad that wasn’t already named before during the round. If you take 15 seconds or more to answer, you lose.

We made Top 8 and lost the tie-breaker question after the quarterfinals, which was: How many cards in Innistrad reference Kessig by name? The answer is: Three.

During the Question Mark event, I noticed a familiar maroon shirt. It said: Great Designer Search 2. Holy moly! Only a select few people have this shirt! I ask him,

Me: “Excuse me. What’s your name?”
MYSTERIOUS MAN: “I’m Jonathan Woodward.”
Me: “Hey! I’m Bradley Rose!”

And from there Jonathan Woodward and I talked about who was met up with, etc. that were also on Twitter involved in #mtgdesign.

Lastly, another face I recognize hanging around Mark caught my attention, too. Turns out it was Mark Gottlieb. Naturally, I have him sign my trophy, too; except, in the spirit of being Rosewater’s nemesis (at least in the past), I had him sign upside down and on the other end of the trophy. I told him that I recognized his face. He says that he usually takes his face with him wherever he goes. Helpful!

At the end of Question Mark, we got a box, and another Garruk Relentless was opened. Woo!


Arrived at the event for the final time on Sunday, and the first thing I do is stand in line for the Spell Slingers table, which currently had Erik Lauer, Mark Rosewater, and Alan Comer. I look around for Jules and give him a call. He was playing Magic Online. Awesome. I wait a bit more.
I call Jules again. I see him at the Magic Online booths talking to what looked like Gavin Verhey. It was. Gavin and I waved to each other. Pretty surreal experience.

Jules finally joins me in line (I decided let people pass me up in line and wait for Jules, so we can be playing against these peeps around the same time. We wanted it to be a shared experience, you know?). We finally get to playing. I played against Mark Rosewater. Jules went ahead and played Erik Laeur.
I stood before Mark. The convo went a little like this:

Mark: “What format?”
Me: “Erm, casual.”
Mark: “Casual?”
Me: “Well, do you have…” I hesitate a bit. “A silver-bordered deck?”
Mark: “No, I don’t have a silver-bordered deck.”
Me: “Well, the next best thing would be a Squirrel deck. You got one of those?”
Mark: “No, I don’t. When I go to events, I normally make some decks, but not this time.”
Me: “Well, then, whatever casual deck you got. You mind me playing a silver-bordered deck?”
Mark: “I don’t mind.”

And so we played.

Mark begun the match with a Diregraf Ghoul. Zombies. I should’ve known!

I follow with Land Aid ’04 and sang the Plants Vs. Zombies theme song.

Pretty soon, he’s got an Undead Alchemist on the board, and a zombie or two. Gulp.

Anway… I play another Land Aid ’04 and sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” I followed by casting…

Side to Side. Mark then readied himself for arm wrestling and lamented that while this card was in development, he should have known what he was in for. I needed a 3/3 Ape token to fight the zombies, so we arm wrestle.

And we were at a standstill, holding each of our grounds for the longest time. Finally, while we were still arm wrestling, someone said,

“Mark, I destroy your Undead Alchemist.”

…But I didn’t say that. And neither did Mark.

Catch the conclusion next week in Jules Robins’ article on Quiet Speculation! If you’re reading this before Jules’ next article next week (December 7th/8th), then the following link probably won’t work for you. Otherwise:




About Bradley Rose

I'm a Timmy/Johnny Melthos red/white/blue kind of guy. And, no, that combination doesn't have anything to do with an affinity for the United States. Here's how I got into Magic: Once upon a time (let's say the year 2000), I bought my first Magic: The Gathering product in the form of a starter of ...Starter 2000. And that's when Trained Orgg's eyes and mine met for the first time. It was true love. Until I traded most of my Magic cards away for Pokemon ones. Whoops. O.K, so once upon a time (This time, 2001), I got into Magic: The Gathering with a shiny new One-Two Punch theme deck of the Odyssey set. And, surprisingly enough, I didn't trade away my ol' Trained Orgg, so in the deck it went, and we fell in love all over again. Flash-forward nearly a decade, and I've won the / Wizards of the Coast "Design Your Own Card" contest. That was neat, but then, a few months later, the Great Designer Search 2 happened. I managed to make it to the top 101 of the 1000 applicants. So, after years of reading Mark Rosewater's Making Magic column along with a rising interest in game design, I managed to prove that (while not the best) I'm more of a Magic designer than the average bear. I'll keep working on putting more ranks in my Magic design skill, and the design articles I write here will help me do just that. Hopefully, any of my readers with a serious interest in Magic design would feel inclined to pursue their interest as well, either by participating in my collaborative design articles or working on making Magic on their own. This effort toward improving my Magic design capabilities correlates somewhat with a single goal I would like to accomplish before I die: Have lunch with Mark Rosewater. Also, I still have that Trained Orgg, and we're still madly in love with each other.

Posted on December 1, 2011, in Articles, You're a Designer Harry!. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. That is an amazing experience!

  2. Haha it sounds like you had an awesome time! Sounds like the sort of things I would have been doing if I’d been there 🙂 What were your impressions of the Wizards guys? Generally very friendly?

    By the way the link at the end to Jules’ article doesn’t seem to be working 😦 Is it just not up yet?

  3. It was fun seeing you at the Question Mark competition! I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to talk more than we did. Let me know if you’re ever up here in Oregon.

    A minor note – there were only five rounds in the swiss; what you list as challenge 6 (the alliterative titles) was actually the semi-final challenge in the top 8 (my team lost to Stony Silence for the second time in a row). Then power and toughness on double-faced cards was the final round, and naming artifacts was the tie-breaker, when both of the teams in the finals got all of those correct.

    I played against Maro’s zombie deck too, and it turned out to be a terrible matchup for my Mistborn-themed Necrotic Ooze/Cairn Wanderer deck. Undead Alchemist single-handedly shut down the Buried Alives I needed to power my Crypt of Agadeem (which I needed in turn to cast my other spells, since I kept a mana-light hand). Apparently Mark reached a personal record number of zombies that game, as Undead Alchemist milled through my entire creature-heavy deck, backed up by his Endless Ranks of the Dead.

  4. @Alex: Yeah, it should be up on Friday (Thursday night), but something’s screwy with the interface. If that link still isn’t working when the article goes up, you’ll be able to get to it at:

    @Bradley: Great writeup! I had a great time hanging out, and it was pretty awesome when [REDACTED] during spellslinging. I’m looking forward to being back in SF for the holidays, and we could definitely get in another playtest session if you have time.

  5. That is amazing. Armwrestling with Rosenwater because the magic cards made you. I wish I was there to try out my Artifact deck against him.

    Also, I am not the Josh referenced in this article.

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