What a week it has been for Magic fans, an overdue Standard Banning and a massive slew of announcements to celebrate Magic’s 25th Birthday. So lets dive right into it and start looking at how the game we know and love (or love to hate) is going to change.
We all knew it was coming, some hoped it wasn’t, some prayed it would, but we must now say farewell to that massive value engine. It’s not likely Emrakul, the Promised End gets unbanned before SOI Block rotates out in November, so we won’t get to see Mummy Gribbles in action in Standard, but it also means we get to have cool big things like new Nicol Bolas without a near-zero effort method of lucksacking for game. Some of you may have watched Pro Tour coverage that also shows Marvel activations going awry, but the players still banking enough energy off that ‘miss’ to go again next turn. So all in all, I feel we’re in a healthier place without the unholy hybrid of Collected Company and Sneak Attack in the format. As for what rises to the top of the heap, only time will tell, but I’m gambling on some sort of BW Zombie build.
A New Un-Set (Unstable) on December 8th
For those of you who haven’t played the older Un-Sets (Unhinged & Unglued) let me tell you right now that these are an absolute riot to draft. The spirit of these drafts is all about meta-shenanigans and cute references to other Magic cards. I was lucky enough to play a draft and witnessed in one round alone: An under-the-table subgame of Magic being played (Enter the Dungeon), a player shriek like a banshee (Red-Hot Hottie) and a player apologising profusely to keep her spells on the stack (Sorry). In addition to a fun drafting experience, Un-sets traditionally have sweet new borders for basic lands and tokens, so we’re all very eager to see what they produce this time. Let’s hope they bring Mr John Avon back for the art on these.
Un-Sets are also typically a gold mine for investors as it’s a guarantee that the cards won’t be printed again, barring some sort of Un-Masters (or Un-Cube or any number of permutations) product release.
Elimination of ‘Block’ structure
This news has been one of the more controversial pieces in Mark Rosewater’s Metamorphosis 2.0 article, with players alternatively praising it as the best thing ever or claiming it ruins any chance of a well set-out story. The essence of this change is that each Magic ‘set’ will stand alone, with storylines potentially carrying over between sets, but with no guarantee that a story arc will span multiple sets. Mark Rosewater (correctly) uses Theros block as a measure of how players react to mediocre storylines and Ravnica as how players react to compelling ones (though I’d also like to note that card-power was also weak in Theros and strong in RTR). With this new system, we no longer have to remain mired in unengrossing Theros storylines for two sets (it was then three). A member of my team put it best: “This just means that stories only last as long as they are required to tell”. Let’s hope that this means better depth of story in the long run.
The Return to Dominaria
Oh boy, did this one get me excited. In late April 2018 we go back to where it all started, Dominaria, plane of Merfolk and Knights and Dragons and Liches. The big kahuna himself Richard Garfield has been rumoured to be participating in the design of this set, and while his design philosophy has been met with criticism from players, its hard to dispute that his world building is on a level similar to great fantasy writers such as Tolkien and Feist. What does this mean for the cards themselves? The simple answer is that we’ll have to wait and see. Last we saw Dominaria, it was getting ruined six ways to Sunday by Time Rifts, Phyrexians, inter-planar collisions (thanks Yawgmoth) and insanely powerful Planeswalkers. Will we see a land of desolate wastelands, or has the time since allowed its inhabitants to rebuild and develop technology refined from the uber-powerful artifacts left there? This is going to be an adventure alright. The Legacy player in me is hoping to see some of my favourite cards which are iconic of our time on Dominaria reprints, but since that won’t happen, I’m eager to see how the flavour is addressed. Will there be a monastery containing a damaged Candelabra of Tawnos? Has the Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale been rebuilt? I would like that very much.
The Reinstating of Core Sets
Many older players were disheartened when Core Sets were phased out as part of the rotation and block size shakeup some time ago, myself among them. Core sets were where we saw format staples get reprints and keywords resurface with new and interesting implications. For Standard players, this meant a chance to experience Magic just for the cards and occasionally a chance to pick up valuable reprints to trade for more Standard cards, or maybe even branch out into another format. With the lack of block structure described above, Core Sets may now function as reprint-heavy asides from major story arcs (eg What’s New with Tarkir?) and not featuring our intrepid Gatewatch giving us a much needed break from the cast we’ve been bombarded with for so long. While I don’t hate the returning cast of characters, too much of anything isn’t healthy for player engagement.
Masterpieces Now Not In Every Set
Thank goodness. Get those terribly-bordered, themeless Amonkhet Invocations out of my face and let’s get back to playing Magic rather than cringing at FTV-Foiled messes. I seriously couldn’t have disliked that idea more and I’m glad it’s gone. When we do get these again, please listen to the players when we say “FTV Foiling Looks Terrible.” Less is more, people. I also found that much of the spoiler season hype was surrounding these cards, which is problematic when Standard confidence is at an all time low. Inspiring players to create and build and tinker with new cards is what sells boxes and gets more players into FNM, not a reprint of Entomb.
New Set Information
Ixilan (September 29) features Pirate Vraska battling Dinosaurs and a lost city (El Dorado reference therefore South American inspiration?), and that the following set is called Rivals of Ixilan (January 19 2018). I really hope this doesn’t get too cliche, I already have no idea how a shadowy Golgari Denizen becomes a pirate, and I’m not sold on why a pirate would fight a dinosaur, but I’ll keep an open mind.
New supplementary products
- Explorers of Ixilan – appears to operate like Planechase only across a single plane, hunting for the city.
- Duel Deck: Merfolk vs Goblins – True-Name Nemesis, Cursecatcher, Goblin Settler and Goblin Lackey reprint please.
- FTV: Transform – 15 Flip-Cards, we expect Delver of Secrets and Akroma at the very least.
- Masters 25 – A draft-oriented set with cards across Magic’s History. The hopeful Legacy player in me wants this to be where they make the announcement that the Reserved List is abolished, but the cynic in me says it won’t. Still, a trip through the best of the best is going to be a good time and worth the estimated AU$50-60 per draft.
That’s a lot of information to digest, and if you’re like me, you’ll have just made a few very important marks on your calendar. We’re in for a heck of a six month period. My wallet hurts already. We’ll be bringing you release news as it becomes available, including set evaluations, pre-pre-releases and up-to-date spoilers, so stay tuned.
Until next time.