Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New Player Perspectives: Meet Freyja

Designers often have a specific idea of how their cards will be received by players. Naturally, the accuracy of these predictions is far from guaranteed.

Here at Goblin Artisans, we give and receive frequent feedback on designs. I suspect all of us are getting good at predicting how other designers will view our cards. However, I don't think this feedback is a valid substitute for the perspective of an inexperienced player. It's one thing to pontificate on how cleanly a card reads, how intuitive a mechanic feels, et cetera; it's quite another to actually hand a deck to somebody who's never played Magic before and see what they do with it. Sure, I've read Mark Rosewater's explanations of what new players do and don't understand, but I haven't experienced it firsthand since 1994.

I was a low-skill player for the first decade or so of my Magic career, so I felt qualified to write about that. However, I can't put myself into the mindset of 15-year-old HavelockV and comprehend what it was like to be a completely green player experiencing Magic for the first time. The game is much too heavily engrained in my brain. I don't have that capacity.

But I do have a girlfriend.

Enter Freyja. (Not her real name.)

Freyja comes to Magic with a different background from that of the typical player. She likes some board and card games, but has nowhere near the experience of an average gamer geek. She grew up with few computer games, including Civilization and Carmen Sandiego. Her exposure to genre fiction is limited: Doctor Who, but no Star Wars; Lud-in-the-Mist, but no Harry Potter. She has never played any sort of RPG. Although her logical and analytical skills are strong, her educational background is in the arts, not science.

In short, Freyja is exactly the kind of person who might enjoy Magic, but typically does not play. This makes her perspective valuable; she represents a chunk of potential audience that WotC has largely failed to woo. 

I proposed the following experiment to her: she would learn to play Magic, and I would take copious notes and blog about her experience. As you have probably guessed by now, she agreed!

I headed to my local game store and picked up a box of bulk commons, then brewed a pair of relatively balanced forty-card decks. I avoided non-evergreen keywords and included a fair number of french and virtual vanillas. However, I did put in some instants to keep combat spicy. Here are the decklists:

W/U Aggro B/G Control
8 Island
9 Plains

1 Abbey Griffin
1 Benthic Giant
1 Haazda Snare Squad
1 Leonin Snarecaster
1 Moon Heron
1 Runewing
1 Sanctuary Cat
1 Seller of Songbirds
1 Silent Artisan
1 Soulmender
1 Stealer of Secrets
1 Sunspire Griffin
2 Traveling Philosopher
2 Vaporkin
1 Voidwielder

1 Divination
1 Divine Verdict
1 Griptide
1 Inspiration
1 Paralyzing Grasp
1 Rebuke
8 Forest
9 Swamp

1 Axebane Stag
Bane Alley Blackguard
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Child of Night
1 Daggerdrome Imp
1 Deadly Recluse
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Giant Spider
1 Gravedigger
1 Insatiable Harpy
1 Moriok Reaver
1 Nessian Courser
1 Pheres-Band Centaurs
1 Rootwalla
1 Sedge Scorpion
1 Slum Reaper

1 Assassin's Strike
1 Giant Growth
1 Mind Rot
Pharika's Cure
1 Phytoburst
1 Savage Surge
1 Sip of Hemlock

Both decks have removal and tricks to break up stalled boards. U/W brings evasion, tapping, and bounce, whereas B/G has beefier bodies and life gain. Blue has card draw with DivinationInspiration, and Stealer of Secrets, while black has 2-for-1s in Gravedigger and Mind Rot.

Tune in next week to read about Freyja's first game!


  1. Oh yes, I'm fascinated to see how it goes.

  2. I imagine this will be an eye-opening experience for lots of us. Give your girlfriend our thanks!

  3. Doctor Who, but no... Star Wars?

    1. Yeah, we should really get around to that sometime.

    2. Sounds like one of those "Behind the Green Glass Door" type of games.

  4. I really like this idea. I've taught a number of people how to play, ranging in age from 10 to 25, but I never really think about teaching players from the designer perspective. I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes.