Last week I was invited to a press event to find out more about the Doctor Who Commander Magic: The Gathering decks coming out next week. On Zoom, I and others listened to certifiable Whoovian and main designer for the Doctor Who Commander decks Gavin Verhey speak about the four upcoming decks, along with his coworker Laura Bond, and BBC Doctor Who brand manager James Page.
Doctor Who Commander - Make Your Own Episode
That’s the tagline that Wizards of the Coast used internally while working on the Doctor Who Commander decks, as the mix-and-match process that happens in deckbuilding and gameplay creates unique situations. Much like how you make your own fairy tale takes with roles in Wilds of Eldraine, mechanics like Doctor’s Companion let you mix different aspects of Doctor Who together. If you thought Donna Noble should adventure with the Fourth Doctor, you can make that come true in a minor fashion at least.
Companions were generally made to be synergistic with all the doctors they traveled with. For example, Sarah Jane Smith’s card works well with both the Third and Fourth Doctors. The Third Doctor grows with each token she makes, and the Fourth Doctor benefits from the clue tokens by letting you manipulate the top of the deck.
All the Doctors also have a triggered ability, which works well with Clara Oswald. Representing the Impossible Girl story she had, Clara fits a bit of a role like Faceless One and The Prismatic Piper have in past Commander draft products. She is able to take any color, and her ability is designed to work with all of the Doctors.
Doctor Who Commander – Showcasing 60 Years of History
People who don’t know Doctor Who may not realize how much of it there is. Sure, it’s easy to say there have been thirteen doctors, it’s another to grasp just how many episodes have been produced. Since the show started in 1963 there have been over 870 episodes of Doctor Who, telling 300 stories between the classic and revival runs. They are focusing just on that and the one canonical TV movie (and possibly TV show spinoffs), leaving aside the tons of audio plays, books, and other productions that have come out over 60 years.
To showcase as much of that extensive history as possible, Wizards decided to favor showing a new episode or element before doing a second card focusing on one aspect (with iconic elements exempted). To accomplish this mission, there are fifty new cards in each of the decks, with only a few overlaps – like the TARDIS card - between them. Together this means there will be upwards of 200 new cards, or more than some small sets have had in the past.
This will hopefully let players find their favorite Doctor Who moments in the decks. Iconic and Fan-favorite episodes like Girl in the Fireplace, The Caves of Androzani, and The Day of the Doctor will be depicted as sagas. Each doctor gets at least one episode shown, with four more episodes in the villain deck, and they teased there are a few bonus sagas around as well representing moments across 60 years of history.
Major characters are a key part of the focus of representation with a number of companions getting cards, and some Time Lords getting multiple cards showing different regenerations. The Doctor has all the main incarnations represented, along with the War Doctor, and Fugitive Doctor in the set, as well as the Valeyard.
It’s not just the Doctor getting in on this though, as his foe The Master will also have multiple cards. While we have seen Missy, who generally opposed Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor, we should expect to see other regenerations of The Master represented in the villain deck.
Doctor Who Commander Across Time and Space
Gavin Verhey spoke about how this was a dream project for him, and his experience as a Doctor Who fan including doing things like sleeping on a sidewalk for a convention. The love shows through with many of the elements showing things from the very beginning of the show, to promises of some sort of future content representing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors. There is even going to be a depiction in some form of at least one missing episode among the cards.
There are a number of other cards that we can share with you as well, and will here below, with some captions and some extra questions we got answered. Stay tuned for more about that future release which be a secret lair or might be like the Tales of Middle-Earth November release we learned more about last month.
Question: Most Commander decks have only a couple of main commander options, but with these decks containing multiple doctors and companions, there are a lot more ways that even staying with the list they could be led. What design problems did that create, and how did you solve them?
Answer (WOTC): We’re very careful with where we deploy our partner-style Commanders these days. There are just so many possibilities, and it takes a ton of time to test them all and vet them out! The combinatorics are huge. There’s always such a high chance something will break away as an incredibly powerful combination.
But with Doctor Who, it really made sense for Doctors and Companions to be in the command zone side by side. So, we helped safeguard it by having the Doctors in these decks all be two colors and the companions all be one color, to create a three-color maximum, and also you have to pair doctor with companion – not doctor with doctor, or companion with companion. That also reduces the amount of search space. But it still took a lot of iteration and playtesting on these! I’m excited to see what combinations people gravitate toward.
Question: Was it decided to bring back Planechase for March of the Machines or Doctor Who first?
Answer (WOTC): It was decided to do Planechase for March of the Machine first. So when I was handed the Doctor Who project and I wanted to pitch Planechase – since it really was the PERFECT fit – I was a bit nervous about getting people to buy off on it. Fortunately, everybody I told immediately felt it made sense too and I’m so glad we could include it here.