Mark Rosewater, the fantastic and most common mouthpiece for our game, kicked off Announcement Week over on DailyMTG with an article outlining changes to Standard's design and development approaches for the future. These are my summations and reactions to each of them:
All Big Sets to Draft, No Small Ones
Quick! Think about your favorite Draft set! Got an answer? Good. Does it begin with the word "triple"?
Almost every discussion I've had over the years for great Draft sets involves a big set being drafted three times. People rarely say "Dark Ascension/Innistrad." They say "tripleInnistrad." The exceptions to this are probably the Ravnica sets, as that's just how they were designed. By the time most second sets came out, they had the original set's Limited format on life support. The usual idea was that they "injected life into the format," but that's not really been most players' experience. In my experience. With me? Good.
Note that this doesn't mean every Draft format will be a winner. Avacyn Restored Limited is punishment for stealing in many countries. I didn't play it much, but I saw a pro didn't like it on Twitter at the time and someone else retweeted it, so I'm pretty sure it's bad. You can read more about my expert set analysis in my objective study of all of Magic's sets . Plug count: one.
Revamped Core Sets
This is great. Read that again. I cannot emphasize it enough.
Look, Magic is hard. It's hard to get invested in, it's hard to learn, it's hard to drive to FNM every week. It's great once you're in, but getting in is hard. I've played Magic since 1996 or so, and there are rules of Magic I don't know or understand. It's not a game you learn the way you learn Chess or Baseball. It's a game you continuously discover. That means players need to be invested in it before they even know exactly what it is or how it works.
I don't know what a lot of recent cards do. I saw the back of the Voice of Nightmares Angel for the first time in a Cube Draft last week. Weird and awesome; however, the reality is that if it doesn't see competitive play these days, my job doesn't allow me to read a card enough to internalize it. Apparently, 21 years is the limit on my Magic card brain storage capacity.
But man, once in a while? I loved walking into a shop in the summer, throwing down ten or fifteen dollars, and then playing with a set that I knew I wouldn't have to strain my brain over.
Core Sets are awesome. If we're sitting down for a complex Draft format, we're all quiet. We read and we study. We try to outmaneuver and outthink. We try to solve and experiment. And you know what? That's great.
But here's something else that's great: when an eight-year old kid casts an Inferno Titan and beats the hell out of me.
Magic needs that kid. Because once upon a time, we were that kid.
Reducing the Presence of The Gatewatch
Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
It isn't that The Gatewatch sucks, because they don't. I get it. The kids love superheroes. Everybody loves characters!
Rosewater cited diminishing returns on the "cool" factor when talking about the Masterpiece series, but I think this Gatewatch business is the single biggest example of this effect in Magic right now. And it isn't just Jace and Chandra or whoever; It's Emrakul, it's Kiran, it's Felidar Guardian (I presume it was also a member of The Gatewatch based on what happened to Standard).
To ensure good set development, I will keep watch.
The feeling of opening one of these amazing story cards is awesome when you bust up the pack that contains them. But when you see it every game, every match, and then you don't see diverse and interesting gameplay? Then the format is solved almost immediately? I can't imagine that's good for the long-term health of things.
They have the data. I don't. However, it seems the change they're making here points to this being what most of us suspected: bad, old, enough already. In 2017, everybody gets sick of things a little faster. Magic has to adapt to that.
I don't think Rosewater says anything I disagree with entirely on this, but I will say that I think Amonkhet was its own issue. I'm not sure honestly. I get that the more common something is, the less neat it is. There's a reason certain versions of cards are "sweet" and other versions of the same card aren't. Many times it has nothing to do with its presentation and everything to do with how often you see it. I don't really buy into that philosophy, but I know that a lot of players do.
It seems to me that maybe the Amonkhet version of this was so poorly received on presentation that they're overadjusting, but we'll have to wait and see. I don't know the timelines of their decision-making, but I do understand this change. Less is more, I suppose.
Changes Behind the Scenes
I can't see these yet. They're behind the scenes.
I will say it's wonderful to see Andrew Brown, a former SCG content creator, joining the likes of Glenn Jones, Adam Prosak, David McDarby, and others as SCG authors who turned their work with us into work with Wizards of the Coast. I'm never bitter when Renton steals members of my staff.
Because they'll be back. They always come back...