Unglued and Ravnica: How two specific "Un-" cards inspired Dissension's mechanics

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game full of inspirations.  Seriously.

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game full of inspirations.  Seriously.

The game has been drawing inspiration from outside sourced since the beginning.  And, as the game has gotten more and more of its own history and back catalog, it has drawn inspiration from itself.  For the set Dissension, which came out as the final set in the original Ravnica block all the way back in May of 2006, inspiration came from a somewhat unexpected source: Magic's original "Un-" set, Unglued.

In specific, this would concern the Azorius guild's "forecast" ability -- one that drew its inspiration from the Unglued card Infernal Spawn of Evil.

WATCH: Mark Rosewater talks about how Unglued inspired cards in Dissension

"When I made Infernal Spawn of Evil, I wanted to play up how scary it was," says Magic: The Gathering senior designer Mark Rosewater who worked on both sets.  "And so it has this ability where you can pay mana and reveal it from your hand and just knowing it was coming was so scary that the opponent would lose life."

Rosewater took this one-off ability from silver bordered (non-sanctioned Magic) and bring it into black bordered (sanctioned) play by way of Dissension's white/blue Azorius guild.

"Normally, in a vacuum, white/blue wants to be a control deck but we were trying to make sure too many tools in a time when white/blue control was really good," he explains.  "We wanted to give them some control feel without being too control-ly and we ended up with the idea that I have cards in my hand that have an ability, but then I can play them."

Something else in Dissension that owes its origin to Unglued are the set's split cards.  While split cards didn't make their debut in Dissension (they were introduced a few years earlier in Magic's Invasion block), this would be the first time such cards would be fully multicolor and also the first time they've been since since their initial debut.

The split cards' concept comes from the Unglued card B.F.M. (Big Furry Monster), but not quite in the same way in which Infernal Spawn of Evil inspired forecast.  And (more directly), they come directly from the set Unglued 2: The Obligatory Sequel -- a set that, ultimately, never saw print.

"People loved B.F.M. in original Unglued, which was two cards that, put together, represent one card.  And, so, I was trying to figure out how to make another B.F.M., so I just made the opposite -- rather than one card so big it takes two cards, how about one card so small that two of them fit on one card," Rosewater explains."

He created these ultra small, two-fits-on-one cards for Unglued 2.  And, once that set was canned, he never forgot about them.  Eventually, Rosewater (with help from then-senior designer Bill Rose) found space for it in Invasion.

As for how split cards found their way into Dissension?

"We had the following pressure...we kind of want to make a nod to the other seven guilds, but we didn't want to undercut the three guilds that were in [Dissension]," tells Rosewater.

What they came up with were bringing the split cards back, but in guild-colored pairs.

"By doing that, we could give you cards from all ten guilds," says Rosewater.  "It was its own special thing, but it allowed us to give a few final cards for the first seven guilds."

Magic Untapped will be wrapping up our retrospective coverage with Mark Rosewater on the original Ravnica block over the next two weeks.  Be sure to keep an eye out for more cool behind-the-scenes and vorthos stories and videos throughout the rest of January.

Barry White

Barry White is a longtime Magic: The Gathering player, having started in 1994 shortly before the release of 'Fallen Empires.' After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, he went on to a 15-year journalism career as a writer, reporter, and videographer for three different ABC affiliate newsrooms.