How the Set was Made

The process of creating our original Magic the Gathering set started in October, 2004. However, our first attempt at Magic set-building occurred over two years earlier. Wizards made several poor choices when they put together Eighth Edition. After Randy Buehler wrote an article for the Wizards website defending why Eager Cadet (1/1 vanilla creature for one white mana) was an excellent choice for the core set, we convinced Scott Johns to feature our exhaustive seven-part series "If We Worked For Wizards." Scott was at that time editor of the Magic strategy site Brainburst (now Our 7 articles, which discussed in detail how Eighth Edition should have been built, were well-received when they were published in June and July, 2002. Scott went on to be in charge of

In 2004, Wizards released Champions of Kamigawa. Champions focused on flavor, but had mechanics and game-play that weren't as interesting. Coming on the heels of the 2003 Mirrodin block, which degenerated quickly into affinity and anti-affinity decks, it appeared to us that Wizards may have lost its touch for building Magic sets at their earlier high quality. We decided to determine whether we could create an original set that would be balanced and interesting, and we had the specific goal of recapturing the "magic" of older MTG sets. As we worked on our set over the next 10 months, the rest of the Kamigawa block (Betrayers and Saviors) confirmed our suspicion that Wizards was struggling.

On the other hand, we were overconfident and did not understand how hard it would be to create an original Magic set that is balanced and yet exciting, or that it would take us nearly four years to finish Prevenience.

The Four Bases

Our first major decision was that our set would be a tribute to the best of the early Magic sets. To express this tribute, we settled on these four (4) initial design areas that would evoke memories of the best of Magic: the Gathering:

1. Although Eighth Edition ended up much different than we proposed in our Brainburst articles, we liked the way that a card had been selected from each past Magic set. Therefore, we would include at least one repeat from each of the older sets (up to Mirage), and perhaps some repeats from later sets. This task was complicated by Wizards' Reserve List, which unnecessarily put most good Magic cards off-limits.

2. Landwalk was an interesting mechanic that was a significant theme in early sets (like Legends, The Dark, and Ice Age), but it had not been explored much thereafter.

3. The most original design idea we had was transformation. A limiting factor in Magic cards is that they sometimes don't give you what you need for the particular situation. What if certain cards were flexible enough to do so? (Remember, this was in 2004, several years before the evoke mechanic in the Lorwyn block.) We initially focused on creatures and transformation spells for these cards that would remind players of existing Magic cards.

4. We also had another twist on our transformation theme. In 2004, there were few creatures with abilities that were the same as previous Magic enchantments. We listed enchantments for all three rarities in each color that might become good creature abilities.

We also decided to bring back the 350-card sets (with 110 each of commons, uncommons, and rares) that had been the size of every large set from Mirage block (1996) to Onslaught block (2002).

First Draft - December, 2004

During Christmas break, we put together an initial set. Most cards didn't have names - they were the "Master Decoy/Soothing Balm" creature, or the "Rhystic Deluge" creature. We decided that all of the Transformation creatures would combine a creature with an instant or sorcery of the same converted mana cost (including colored mana). There were landwalk dragons and generals of each color. We also created new "dual lands." This was when we agreed on the name "Prevenience" - its dictionary definition is the perfect balance of being part of the past and yet also being anticipation of the future.

Two (2) additional design areas were incorporated in the first draft. Artifact characters, which cost 0 mana, were not creatures and had the abilities of certain Vanguard cards. Artifact characters could only be played during your first two turns and they couldn't be the target of spells or abilities. In addition, the tension in limited play was accentuated between really good gold cards that used up to three different types of colored mana and other equally good cards that used up to three of the same type of colored mana.

Second Draft - April, 2004

Prevenience changed in many ways. A new theme was created - the use of a color's strengths as a color hoser against that color. It was reverse-engineering that enabled enemy colors originally affected by the hosers to turn the tables. This was the start of determining a story line for the Prevenience world.

Prevenience needed one more big idea - we thought of rabies. What if squirrels were rabid, and each creature that came into contact with them would become rabid, too? The newly-rabid creatures would themselves infect other creatures before they were destroyed, and the destructive cycle would go on and on. The progression of the condition could be marked with rabies counters, and destruction would be required once the creature had a certain number of counters. (Wizards didn't come up with deathtouch until its Future Sight set two years later.)

We dropped the idea of artifact characters. They were better than Moxes when you got them in your opening hand, but they were worthless when you didn't. The landwalk dragons and generals were replaced by non-flying spirits that were a creative twist on the cycle of legendary dragons in Champions. We started naming cards, and included in some fashion the name of every Magic set. The cards of the second draft were put into a software program called Magic Set Editor to make cards for playtesting.

We organized the commons into print runs and randomly inserted uncommons and rares into 110 sleeved packs. The cards were coded so that they could be resorted after drafts and other testing. Several constructed decks were built and a natural metagame developed.

Third Draft - August, 2005

Testing over the summer revealed several flaws in the second draft. A cycle of common combat tricks could be used and then put on top of your library. However, the green one (Hidden Strength, which cost 1G and gave target creature +3/+3) and the black one (Grotesque Result, which cost 1B and gave target creature +3/-1) started dominating limited games.

We liked the reusable nature of these cards and developed the idea of "Chain Spells" (similar to Chain Lightning from Legends and Chain Stasis from Homelands). When the initial effect was received from a Chain Spell, its controller could pay the required cost (some combination of mana, discard, or sacrifices), and then immediately get another effect of the same type. The Chain Spells worked so well that they were expanded beyond the five combat tricks.

Rabies turned out to be too complicated. We left a small reminder of it in the rare green enchantment Rabid Squirrels. The idea to replace rabies was found in the mechanic of prediction - if you predict correctly (or your opponent predicts wrongly), you will get an oversized benefit; if not, you wasted cards or mana. We created cycles of prediction creatures and spells that became an integral part of Prevenience.

In addition to these changes on a macro level, many of the specific cards had to be altered or replaced during this summer. Out of the 295 Prevenience cards that were not basic lands or repeats, 148 were substantively changed and 39 others were replaced during testing and development.

David sent this third draft in August, 2005 (between Saviors of Kamigawa and Ravnica) to certain R&D members of Wizards and asked them for a recommendation that he could include as part of his college applications.

Final Drafts - September, 2006 to September, 2008

After a two-year drought, Wizards got back on track with their excellent Ravnica and Time Spiral blocks. We tweaked our set again and again, and made additional changes during the next two summers while David was home from college for our fifth draft (August, 2007) and our sixth draft (September, 2008).

We are satisfied with the balance and excitement in Prevenience, and hope that you are, too! You can let us know your thoughts in the forums for Prevenience, or by e-mailing us at