Thursday, March 29, 2018

Meet the Top 8: Scott Wilson

Next up in our series of interviews with the GDS Top 8, we have Scott Wilson. Click through to read a little bit about him and some of his thoughts on Magic design.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I work as a Japanese translator and a writer/author. I've been a writer/editor for the Asian news-entertainment website SoraNews24 for four years, and I worked as an interpreter at a city hall in Japan for several years before that.

I've been playing Magic since Mercadian Masques, mostly playing Draft, Legacy, Modern, and Commander. I love forcing control in every format, no matter how bad it may be in the meta. I will also draft Rise of the Eldrazi at any given opportunity because levelers and spawn tokens are amazing.

How long have you been designing Magic cards?

I think like a lot of others, I've been making custom Magic cards since I first started playing. But it wasn't until a few years ago that I started creating entire sets. My favorite so far is my Pokémon Red/Blue set which I've printed out and drafted many times with friends and family. There's really no better feeling than having other people enjoy something you've created.

What do you think the biggest mistake amateur designers make when they're starting out?

My wife and I ran a YouTube series for a while called MTG Meow (Magic Enjoyed Other Ways) where we played and reviewed custom Magic sets. The issue that came up the most often was that designers would put mechanics or cards in their sets that seemed cool and unique, but were either too complicated, didn't really work well, or just weren't fun. There is a world of difference between a card that reads awesome and a card that plays awesome.

What keeps you interested in Magic as a player? As a designer?

I love Magic because it gives you the most freedom as a deck builder. Magic doesn't force any unnecessary limitations on players (ie: you can only play with one creature type, or you can only play up to two colors, etc.).

As long as you follow the deck size and four-of/one-of rules, you can literally throw together any cards that you want. You can make a deck with no lands, all mythics, five colors, no colors, cards from every set; it doesn't matter. Sure, some strategies will work better than others, but that's for you to decide as the player, not for the rule-makers to force upon you.

What's your favorite thing that Magic R&D has done in the last five years?

The Modern Masters sets. Even though some of the Masters sets have had their problems, I think at their heart they're still such a good idea. Aside from the benefit of reprints, I love being able to see cards and mechanics from different sets be drafted together for the first time. Just a few examples: Proliferate with Bloodthirst/Graft/Wither in MM2015, Populate with the Splicers in MM2017, and of course Horseshoe Crab plus Heavy Arbalest in Masters 25. I'm excited to see more!

Outside of Magic, what game do you think is the best designed out there?

I'd have to say Dance Dance Revolution (especially its lesser-known and in my opinion better-designed cousin In the Groove), since I was hardcore into it for over a decade of my life. I not only played the game, but I made my own custom songs and played hundreds of other custom songs.

Rhythm games may seem distant from Magic, but at their core they're very similar. When creating a Magic card, you have translate an idea into mechanics that bring out its flavor; when creating a step chart for a DDR song, you have to translate the rhythms into arrow patterns that bring out its unique musical flow. The difference between a well-designed step chart and a poorly designed step chart is the same difference as between Innistrad and Homelands.

What do you do when you're not playing and designing Magic cards?

I write in my free time, and my debut novel "Metl: The ANGEL Weapon" is coming out this November (#ShamelessPlug).

I also run a writing workshop on Twitch where I do writing exercises with chat, on-the-spot writing prompts, and give feedback to anyone who wants to submit their work. It's great fun being forced to input chat's troll suggestions into my stories. Come say hi at


  1. A fellow DDR lover in the top 8! That’s fantastic. I played lots of ITG & custom songs via Stepmania during college.

    What are some of your favorite songs/stepcharts & why?

  2. "I love forcing control in every format, no matter how bad it may be in the meta."

    Oh God, lol. So when I was in the closed beta for Arena it was all Ixalan block constructed, which was not made with a traditional control deck in mind. (U/W was designed around mid-range flyers/ascend)

    But I played somebody who most certainly did their best to force it with a whole bunch of U/W control spells and three Spires of Orazca (which I didn't realize were NOT legendary lands). The only win conditions were an Azor and the blue legendary dinosaur. I was able to lock down Azor but gave up with the dino came down and saw they had a full hand of cards. It was exhausting to try to play against and reminded me of the GDS multiple choice question about making sure counterspell decks have a way to win.

  3. MTG Meow is pretty rad! It really clarifies the difference between mechanics that sound cool and mechanics that play well.

    1. Yeah, I loved MTG Meow! How cool that Scott's in the top 8!