"What leader/faction do you play, and why?"
TM - Right now I have a Roy Mustang deck and an Alphonse Elric deck built. I typically have a Maes Hughes deck built also but I recently took it apart, I'll probably put a different, hopefully better, version of it back together before too long. I've actually never lost a Gunslinging game with my Roy deck, it is 13-0 and my new Alphonse deck is 4-2. I built the Roy deck before Gen Con SoCal (in November) to see if I could build a good Master Manipulator deck, I guess I could. The Alphonse deck was built because I wanted something fun to play, not something overly good but something interacts a lot. I really like Edward Elric, Self Righteous so I need an Alphonse leader for that to work.
"I see you use Maes as your Staff Card. Did you get to pick the image for that?"
TM - Ed Bolme actually does almost every single image selection. He does pass the images around once they're ready to be placed in the frames for feedback but he does most of the hard work. Sometimes we veto something but typically it is a great choice and we leave it alone. Plus I'm in marketing so I don't have a huge amount to do with production stuff like that.
The staff to staff card selection process was actually pretty clear cut. Roy is the highest ranking of the staff card choices, Bob Bove is the RC2 VP in charge of JoyRide Entertainment; Edward just fit Ed Bolme; if you've ever met Ian Ryan then you know Alex Louis Armstrong fits him perfectly; Terri Rehkop, RC2 Marketing Director, is the only woman in the group and Winry has the most SD pictures. That left Scar, Maes, and Alphonse to be picked. Kevin O'Neil, RC2 Sales Manager, wanted to be Scar and I have a beautiful little girl so Maes fit me pretty well. Plus I'm a huge fan of Maes. Jason Winter was picked as Alphonse because at the time we had to print the cards he wasn't even hired so he didn't get a vote J
"Your bio on FMA-TCG.com says that you help with 'set conception', including things like flavor text. Any personal favorites?"
TM - I'm real proud of the flavor text on Bob's Staff Card, Roy Mustang Pragmatist. Alphonse Elric, Honest and Honorable and Improvised Weapon are great for the humor. Cards that really fit the card like Envy, Voice of Reason or Edward Elric, Prodigy are probably the best though.
"We've noted that some cards, like 'Evil Portents', don't see much play. You see and play through a lot of sample decks at your job - is there any card in particular is underused?"
TM - I'm actually not involved with development now as like I used to be, Ian is the full time designer and Jason devotes 50% of his time to design, so they do most of the development. Them and the dozens of remote playtesters. As for cards I'm surprised that don't get played, By Order of the Furor is one that really suprises me. I guess that or any meta-specific cards that would dominate most other TCGs. Some of that I guess comes with FMA TCG not really having a top-level meta yet. Once that happens I'm sure more meta-specific cards will be played.
"Any strategies/combos out there that never came up during playtesting that you are surprised to see?"
TM - I'm really shocked to see a Maes deck take the top two places at the recent East City Regional. As for combos, we see just about everything before it comes up in the environment, in some cases it is after the point of no return when we can change the cards but still before the cards are released to the public. Burning the Past and the Woohoo! decks were both found before the public had them yet after we could change them. When something like that happens it is disappointing yet not something that is entirely unavoidable with a TCG. Hopefully we catch everything we can fix it from now on.
"So far, we've seen two expansions - Blood and Water, and Artificial Human. What would you consider to be the 'theme' of each set from a players' point of view, and what do you think of the upcoming "A Hero's Passing"?"
TM - I'm not really sure what the theme's are for players, most of the themes are based on the show's material not gameplay driven. We want to make sure to expand on previously introduced strategies yet introduce entirely new ones as well. We want to try and make sure that a current deck won't work as well without change when a new set is released, basically to keep things fresh. I guess Blood & Water focused around giving the Rebels some love, giving some Alchemy to every faction, the introduction of location control, and the Red Water. Artificial Human is a true third set for a TCG, it has cards to react to the current meta and hopefully shift the meta in a different direction. It does shake up the norm with cards like Prison Guards, Plan B, or Infiltration.
A Hero's Passing focuses on the struggle between the Heroes and the Villains. There will be a good bit of cards that key off being a Hero or a Villain. The introduction of Stealth also makes certain key staple allies Edward Elric, Researcher far more vulnerable. Speaking of Researcher, wait until you see the new Edward! A Hero's Passing also deals with the death of Maes and there are plenty of cards that focus on that.
TM - It was a great year to be a Steelers fan. I was at the game when they lost to the Bengals to put them at 7-5 and their whole season in jeopardy. They didn't lose a game from that point on, what a great year!