Disclaimer: This article was written before GP Denver first published in the GP Denver Gazette and before the announcement of the new From the Vault: Legends product.
Hello everyone! My name is Ben Bleiweiss and I'm the Director of Sales for StarCityGames.com. I'm usually the guy who writes the financial articles for the Premium end of the website but I also love discussing community issues on Star City Select (the free side) as well! This article contains my best guesses about some of the upcoming trends products and themes that will be showing up in Magic over the next year. I have no advance knowledge of anything below beyond what's already been made public information. Five of my predictions will be in this article and you can tune in next week on StarCityGames.com for the second half of this article!
Prediction #1) Commander will have some awesome Legacy and Vintage cards!
When Wizards of the Coast announced the Commander product (the artist formerly known as EDH) it was one of the most positively received product announcements I'd ever seen made. The community wholeheartedly embraced that Wizards was going to full-on support Commander as a format while leaving the “fun” part of Commander alone – namely not making it a tournament-type format and leaving control of the banned lists in the hands of the players.
The biggest part of the announcement was the 51 brand-new cards that were going to debut among the five Commander decks – and that all 51 of these cards were going to be tournament-legal in Legacy and Vintage. The cards debuted so far looked pretty cool (check out Karador Ghost Chieftain) but what I'm most excited about is that this product allows Wizards to print cards that would normally be too powerful for Standard play but are at-home in older formats.
Since each of the decks is a wedge deck (two allied colors and their mutual enemy color) I expect to see enters-the-battlefield tapped tri-lands (like Arcane Sanctum from Shards of Alara but with wedge colors). However I wouldn't be surprised to see Wizards push the power level of these lands even harder – so we might see lands that are more at the power level of Murmuring Bosk or even those that challenge the Ravnica Dual Lands. These lands won't warp Standard and this gives Wizards a way to fill the gap between “Revised Dual Land” and “too good to see print in modern Magic” so why not dual-market this product to both Legacy/Vintage players and to Commander players?
Prediction #2) We're not going to see OverExtended – at least this year.
Last year Wizards of the Coast announced a tightening of the Reserve List – a list of cards that will never be reprinted in a tournament-legal form. Previously there had been a loophole that allowed for foil versions of these cards to see print (Mox Diamond was one such card reprinted last year under this rule in the From the Vault: Relics box set) but that loophole is now gone. This led to a huge rumor online that Wizards of the Coast was going to create a new format which would be known as “OverExtended” – and it would allow all cards printed from Mercadian Masques forward since Mercadian Masques was the set at which the idea of the Reserve List was abolished.
Wizards of the Coast has already announced their Grand Prix schedule for 2011 and there are two Legacy Grand Prix on the schedule – one in Europe and one in the United States. If OverExtended were to exist as a format its goal would be to supplant Legacy. The main argument against Legacy is that over time the price of cards will go up and up and since many of these cards are on the Reserve List Wizards can't reprint them so demand will always outstrip supply.
I think Wizards has found a way to cater to the Legacy crowd (see Commander above!). Legacy is the second-most-popular Constructed format in Magic (behind Standard) and there's no reason for Wizards to try to replace a homegrown popular format with one that many will feel is imposed on them (OverExtended) when they have started finding ways to make money off of Legacy. So in my opinion Legacy will continue to thrive and Wizards will concentrate more on helping it thrive not trying to kill it and replace it with OverExtended.
Prediction #3) Did I mention that 2011 is going to be the year of Multiplayer?
Wizards announced the Commander back in December and then released the tagline for M12 in January: “Gather Your Allies!” In recent years Wizards has grouped support together for the main set releases with a lot of their auxiliary products. For instance in this past year we saw From the Vault: Relics and Duel Deck: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret as precursors of the new Mirrodin block.
It only makes sense to me that if there's a big push towards Commander right now (and believe me Commander is ridiculously popular if the articles on our website and the orders we get through our shopping cart are any indicators!) this push would be as a whole product line and not just as one release (unlike the Planechase and Archenemy products released the past two years). When I see the “Gather Your Allies” tagline I think of three possible things:
1) A set focused around planeswalkers
2) A set focused around tribes (like Elves Goblins or literally the Ally creature type from Zendikar)
3) A set focused around multiplayer Magic
I think there is a possibility that we'll see a push for Commander not just in the Commander product but in Magic 2012 in the fall block and in the From the Vaults set this year (which I believe will be popular expensive foil versions of Commanders from the past such as Jhoira of the Ghitu). Which leads me to…
Prediction #4) The 2012 Fall set (20 months from now!) will be a return to Ravnica!
I truly believe that Wizards planned their set releases around a seven-year cycle based on the Extended format – and while Extended is now only four years' worth of sets Wizards still has some time to go before this seven-year plan has run its course.
Onslaught rotated out of Extended only to see new fetchlands in Zendikar.
Mirrodin was going to rotate out of Extended to be replaced by Scars of Mirrodin.
The next block up would be Kamigawa block which was about the most unpopular block made by Wizards in the past decade. I think that Wizards will absolutely go in a different direction with the 2011 release (which would mirror Kamigawa) which is why I brought up the idea of a multiplayer-based block.
If this pattern holds true we'll be seeing a return to Ravnica in the 2012 fall set. I think this one is a no-brainer – Ravnica is by far the most popular block that Wizards has ever done. In a survey done by Wizards more people wanted Ravnica revisited than every other block put together! If Wizards truly has a seven-year plan it seems like a no-brainer that we'll be revisiting the ten guilds of Ravnica in both the Fall set and in product like Duel Decks come 2012.
Prediction #5) We will finally see a foil Force of Will this year.
Force of Will is the holy grail of cards that are not on the reserve list but haven't had a foil version made yet. Wizards of the Coast has started releasing yearly Premium decks – all-foil decks that center around a certain theme. In 2009 this set was Slivers and it wasn't received that well. In 2010 Fire and Lightning (featuring Chain Lightning and Price of Progress in foil for the first time) heated things up (pun intended!) and showed that Wizards was willing to debut first-time high-demand foil Uncommons and Commons in this product line.
To ensure great sales and to continue along these trends I think there is a chance that we'll see Premium Deck: Counterspells (probably named something a lot better than that) as the 2011 Premium deck. And to make sure this deck is a blockbuster I think that we'll see Force of Will as the marquee card used to sell this deck. What better way to sell a product that could use a little push than using the card that people would buy if it were packed on its own for $29.99?
I hope you've enjoyed these five predictions I've made for Magic in 2011 and beyond! If you want to read the rest of this article (for free!) and see my other five predictions tune in next week and I'll see you there!
-Director of Sales StarCityGames.com