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Questions About Playtest Cards After Gamma

Posted: Wed Apr 29, 2020 6:09 pm
by dairencs
Is there any information available on the card lists from the playtest sets after Gamma? And does the community know if the later sets created playtest cards for things that were reprints?

For some background on why I'm asking, I'm trying to compile a list of the different Counterspell playtest cards that should exist within a global set and running into a roadblock when looking for information beyond the Alpha,Beta,Gamma, and 2nd iteration Ice Age play test cards (the ones that actually say Ice Age on them).

Re: Questions About Playtest Cards After Gamma

Posted: Mon May 18, 2020 12:29 am
by cataclysm80
This is a good start. ... hp?t=10106

There is a lot of data on the playtest sets created during and after Gamma, but it isn't complete or very well organized...yet.
A handful of people have been researching this. It requires networking with the playtesters themselves and other collectors to compile the data and see what's out there.

There are a lot of playtest cards created after Gamma which are still prior to Alpha being released. I'm not sure if these fit your definition of reprints or not, since no regular cards had actually been printed yet.

Early sets such as Ice Age, Menagerie, Legends, Power Lunch, & Spectral Chaos, have a lot in common because they share the same source material, which is the previous playtest cards.
It's not unusual for playtest cards from these sets to share the same card name, but have different rules text. Just for an example, the early Legends playtest cards might include a card named Counterspell, but it will function slightly differently. After playtesting when card names and artwork were finalized, that card might be named Mana Drain for the official printing.

Re: Questions About Playtest Cards After Gamma

Posted: Mon May 18, 2020 1:14 am
by cataclysm80
It's important to know that Gamma is not a set of cards, it's a phase of playtesting.
Alpha is false starts and concept development
Beta is working the bugs out and trying various ideas to make it a good game (most games would end playtesting here)
Gamma is exploring more of how the collectible aspect and trading affects the meta game, and different play formats such as sealed or league.

It wasn't just making a Magic card set, because they didn't know what a Magic card set was yet. It was creating something from nothing, and they had to invent their own ways to measure progress or success. There wasn't anything to compare with.

The cards that everyone calls Gamma, seem to be the beginning of Gamma.
When you compare it to the regular print run of Limited Edition Alpha, you'll see that they don't quite match up. There's a lot of printed cards that don't have playtest versions. Many of those cards were taken from two other sets of playtest cards. During Gamma, Richard had asked each of his two playtest teams to create their own set of cards to represent what they envisioned the game should be. They did, and Richard took the ideas he liked.
I like to think of those two additional sets of cards as being Gamma because they were created during Gamma at Richards request for the purpose of Gamma playtesting, and they affected Limited Edition Alpha in important ways.
Later, each of these two teams was asked to create a set of cards to be published. They started with these two sets that they'd already created, and developed them further into Ice Age & Menagerie. Some people like to refer to those early sets as the first version of Ice age & Menagerie, but that's a little misleading because when those two sets were created for Gamma, Ice Age & Menagerie didn't exist as names or projects yet.
There's still some debate on what names we're going to use to call things.

Anyway, there is a Counterspell in the set I'm currently calling orange Gamma. It's the missing link between grey Gamma and Limited Edition Alpha. It changes the casting cost to UU, and removes the rules text about being able to affect previously cast enchantments.

There's also an orange Power Lunch Counterspell playtest card. The rules text says "Spell being cast fizzles."

Much later, Portal had a playtest card called Fizzle, which was Portal's version of Counterspell. Casting cost and functionality were identical to Counterspell, but because Portal didn't have any Instant card types, it was a Sorcery with rules text that said you could play it on your opponents turn. Like most sets, Portal has multiple generations of playtesting, and I suspect the first generation of Portal playtest cards would still have the original Counterspell name, but I haven't seen a surviving copy of the actual card yet.

Re: Questions About Playtest Cards After Gamma

Posted: Tue May 19, 2020 11:30 pm
by dairencs
Thank you for the added context and specific mentions of Power Lunch and Orange Gamma. The information is appreciated. Extending beyond those two specifically, it seems that is possible but not confirmed that counterspell playtest cards exist for Ice Age, Menagerie, Legends, & Spectral Chaos as well? This was the sticking point I was running into since the card photos available for Gamma are pretty extensive but are much more limited for the others.

With regard to the sticker based later playtest cards, do you know if they made playtest copies for cards that already existed in significant quantities? For example, would you expect a sticker based Tempest playtest card to exist for counterspell?

Re: Questions About Playtest Cards After Gamma

Posted: Wed May 20, 2020 9:39 pm
by cataclysm80
Little is known about Alpha playtest cards.
I have some unsorted pictures of Beta playtest cards, but at the moment I don't recall seeing a beta Counterspell.
Counterspell definitely exists in grey Gamma.
Counterspell definitely exists in orange Gamma. (people refer to these cards by different names as explained above)
Not sure whether Counterpell exists in Legends. Mana Drain might have evolved from Power Sink instead of Counterspell, or it could be a mix of both. Legends has 3 different generations of playtest cards. There's two different little white ones, and then a bigger card sized white ones with the "Legends" name on it.
I expect that Counterspell probably exists in every generation of Ice Age playtesting, but I don't recall seeing it yet. There's grey ones which should probably be labeled is Gamma, for similar reasons to why the early orange ones are called Gamma. The early Ice Age team has been more difficult to contact for info. There's little pale blue ones. Then later there's the bigger card sized white ones with the "Ice Age" name.
I expect that Menagerie will probably also have counterspell for the same reasons. Counterspell is an important part of blue's identity, and these early sets were all based on Gamma, along with knowing that Counterspell was printed in the final version we received. I don't recall seeing it yet though. There's some little textured white ones in between orange Gamma and little pink blank back Menagerie, and we're still trying to figure out whether those were Gamma like the orange cards, or the actual start of the Menagerie project. Then there's little pink blank back Menagerie and little pink Menagerie backed cards. There's the bigger card sized white ones with the "Menagerie" name on them, and a few handwritten big ones too. Then there's some computer printed ones that look more like cards, which is probably around the time the name changed to Mirage. This set was playtested forever, from pre-Alpha until it was finally released in 1996.
Counterspell exists in orange Power Lunch. It probably exists in dark blue Power Lunch, but I haven't seen it yet.
I think Spectral Chaos is fully known. It has 4 generations, little grey, little blue, big white, and stickers. I don't recall seeing a counterspell there, but I don't have everything in front of me at the moment. It has counter cards with different card names.

For the sticker playtest cards, if you search this forum for Portal Playtest cards, there's several to look at. Hill Giant is one that comes to mind. It received a stickered playtest version in Portal even though there were no changes to the card. I think they even kept the flavor text. :-D This was despite it having been printed in every previous core set, and the sticker is applied to a Hill Giant card.
Basic lands usually aren't playtested though, except for pre-Alpha, Portal because of the missing rules text, and eventually Wastes the colorless basic land.

I only recall seeing one Tempest playtest card. R&D says it's a playtest card, but it's not like most playtest cards. It's something special made in house for presentation to people outside the company. They went out of their way to make it look more like an actual card. It's more like a prototype than a playtest card, but R&D still calls it a playtest card. (It's a big red creature, not a Counterspell.)

Mark Rosewater told me they started a more strict policy of not releasing playtest cards to the public around 2008.
I know I've seen Urza's black playtest cards.