This article will cover the changes that Wizards of the Coast are bringing about to Magic tournaments. We’ll also talk about new products which are due to be released in late 2017 and early 2018.
On Monday the 12th of June, Mark Rosewater, the head designer for Magic, posted an article on the Magic homepage called ‘metamorphosis 2.0’. This is a continuation of an article which covered the new standard rotation and the removal of core sets from Magic. There are several things that Rosewater covers in this article which I will summarise for the sake of time.
The first thing was covering the successes of the two-block structure. Including the fact that more worlds are being visited per year because each new block introduces a new world or travels to an older one. This also enables Wizards of the Coast to ramp up the storytelling element of the game. There are also some large failings of the two-block model, the main being the removal of core sets. Another issue was that small sets still retained the problems the third sets had in the old block structure. This caused problems with drafts, as the smaller set tended to dilute the draft instead of adding to it.
The first change being made is that blocks, as we know them, will cease to exist. Sets will still travel to planes but can stay there for as long as the story requires. This means that we could be getting ‘blocks’ of 1, 2 or 3 sets. This will cover the Autumn/ Fall set, winter set and spring set. The summer set will become an improved version of the core sets. These new core sets will be heavily dedicated to ensuring that newer players get the most possible out of them. This new set structure will be put into action the set after Rivals of Ixalan.
Another change is that Wizards’ have decided to dial back the amount that the Gatewatch appear within the sets. They will remain the main focus of the Magic story but will receive fewer planeswalker cards within the sets.
The third main change is that the masterpiece series is being dialled back for future sets. Hour of Devastation will still contain the Amonkhet Invocation, though. The reason for this is that masterpieces have been dropping heavily in quality. As a result, the Ixalan block will not contain a masterpiece series.
Good or Bad?
Personally, I am over the moon with these changes. I think that it will make Standard Magic the best it can be. It also means that Wizards doesn’t have to stick too strictly to keeping cards thematic to the set. Nor will they have to stretch out the story if needed. I am also very happy with the return of core sets into Magic. Core sets provided a perfect environment to print cards that didn’t fit into the theme of the surrounding planes. Cards such as Elves or Merfolk that don’t appear on every plane, or cards that would be too powerful within a limited environment alongside other cards in a block, but are needed for the standard environment.
On the 14th of June Wizards of the Coast released an article announcing a number of exciting new products for the late 2017 and 2018. To start with was some information about Ixalan, the set after Hour of Devastation will release on September 29th. We have very little information about Ixalan. However, we do know is that the plane will be made up of vast oceans and deep forests. We will also see the return of the green/ black gorgon planeswalker Vraska. Vraska debuted in Return to Ravnica, as a pirate. Plus there are dinosaurs in the plane. Dinosaurs! The second set of Ixalan block is called Rivals of Ixalan and will release on January 19th.
Exploring the unknown
On November 24th a product called Explorers of Ixalan will be released. All we know about this is that it will contain 4 preconstructed 60 card decks and 20 double-sided tokens, as well as a mysterious amount of ‘game tiles’ (50) and ‘counter pieces’ (40). We will have to wait to see what these will be used for.
The art book for Ixalan will release on January 2nd with a description alluding to a prize forgotten by history, as well as the incredible exciting phrase ‘Saddle up your Dinosaur Mount’.
November 10th sees the release of Duel Deck: Merfolk vs Goblins, which will contain two 60 card decks build around the two creature types designed to battle against each other, perhaps hinting to possible tribal themes within Ixalan.
From the Vault: Transformation releases on 24th November, and will contain 15 popular flip cards, each of which will apparently tell its own story. I’d be willing to put money on Delver of Secrets, Huntmaster of the Fells and Archangel Avacyn, as they all convey stories about the sets they were in. What the other 12 cards end up being will be the real question.
We’re also treated to some information about the set after Rivals of Ixalan. This set will be a return to the plane of Dominaria, where some of the original Magic expansions were set. This will be the first set influenced by the new set structure that was mentioned above. How long we stay on Dominaria we shall have to wait to see.
2018 marks 25 years of Magic the Gathering. To celebrate Magic’s 25th anniversary, a Masters set will be released on March 16th. This will contain 249 cards from the whole of Magic’s history. It promises to provide a drafting experience similar to the previous Masters sets that we have been given in the past.
On the subject of Masters sets, Iconic masters will have its prerelease during HASON on September 8-10. It will be the very first and only time anyone apart from the design team gets to look at the set. There will not be an official spoiler season for it.
Warning: Unstable substance
July 20th, 2018 marks the release of the first of the new core sets, we only have this date so far and more information will be release in the future.
Finally, the third Un-set is announced as Unstable and will release on December 8th. Un-sets have proven very popular in the past as they contain cards which are not legal for tournament play as they are designed to mess with the rules of the game. The release of this will be eagerly anticipated by many, many players around the world, myself included.
The products from this list that I’m most excited for are Unstable, as the previous two sets contain cards that make me laugh every time I see them. And Explorers of Ixalan, which offers an intriguing way to play multiplayer magic straight out of the box which I can’t wait to try.