Core Sets used to be the set every couple of years that allowed the game to do a few things: reset the story, help with the metagame, reprint cards from years past and offer an easier entry point for newer players. The frequency then ramped up to once a year in the summer when WotC wanted to print four sets a year with their three set blocks, then disappeared when the decision was made to make two set blocks.
I have this habit of calling Unstable, Unhinged. As I wrote the title of this piece, I did just that. I always thought that Unhinged would be the last Un-set unless something drastic happened. Well, no matter how much people try, the world hasn’t ended and we received a new Un-set.
I always believed that the Un-sets were a great way for Magic to poke for at themselves and do things that couldn’t be done in “normal” Magic. Some of the favorite “non-traditional” things have come out of Un-sets: Full art lands, split cards, tokens, ability words (think “Gotcha to Landfall”), etc. And Mark Rosewater has said that besides the printing technology, one of the reasons to push Unhinged was to explore possible future space.
All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.
– Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 2
I’ve been to PAX West eight out of the past nine years, venturing specifically for Magic: The Gathering (the only one I’ve missed when my daughter had surgery). I feel like I have some expertise when I say this: This year was by far the worst effort put forth by Wizards of the Coast to do anything Magic related at PAX West. The only major event they produced was one panel about the worldbuilding of Ixalan for an hour. And that was it. How you found it was a blurb in the main schedule, not even a mention on DailyMTG.com.
It was embarrassing.
Let me amend that:
I was embarrassed for Wizards of the Coast.
When I’ve written these After PAX pieces, I was trying to give you a little bit of the atmosphere of Magic-related PAX. They aren’t really reviews as it’s not something that one can experience again. I tried to examine what was WotC doing to promote their latest set and their actions at the convention itself.
For years the draw was the Magic Party where they would debut cards with music, food, drinks and a bunch of people including WotC employees. Over the past few years the party was toned down but the increased presence of Magic was there. Two years ago there was a huge Eldrazi arm crushing a police car on the street. Last year, they took over a whole theater for Kaladesh and the huge street wide banner hanging on the skybridge displaying Saheeli Rai for all of the PAX attendees to see.
This year, an hour long panel with two preview cards.
And as much as it would be easy to blame WotC for this, it’s not their fault.
There’s one clear reason for this complete drop off, but I have a feeling that there were to other factors that contributed to this choice that made it a bit easier. The elephant in the room:
Editor’s Note: I wanted to get this in before the Magic panel at SDCC, where hopefully they will talk about some of this stuff.
My three-year-old daughter doesn’t know who Chandra is.
She knows Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Iceman, Spider-Man, Firestar, Captain America, and Hulk are. She knows R2-D2 (whom she affectionately calls “Buddy”) and anyone in the Star Wars universe with a hood is called “Doom” (Yes, after Dr. Doom). There’s Red Doom (Darth Maul) and White Doom (Darth Sidious).
Nicol Bolas and Ajani are a mystery to her.
She rummages through my extra Dice Masters cards because she knows the characters. “Who’s this?” She asks, holding up Hawkman. I mention his name and she just shrugs. “Ok,” she uncaringly remarks while shoving the card into her pumpkin basket that she carries with her along with the Batman, Wonder Woman and Hulk cards.
She doesn’t play Magic, so she can’t just appreciate the game or the characters just yet. There’s been very little exposure to the game aside from the Pop Funko figures above my computer while we play LEGO Star Wars. Is it my fault?
Day 1 (This didn’t get posted late last night thanks to a funky error)
If you read the links in the previous post, you would see they’re all about Development and not about Design. If there’s one thing I know I’m weak at it’s judging power level. I can gauge things alright but it’s all contingent on what the environment allows. Spiritmonger is a fantastic card in a vacuum: a 6/6 regenerator for 3BG that grows when it kills things. If you showed that card to someone just learning about Magic, they can see how powerful it is.
And it was powerful in the environment that it debuted in. Spiritmonger passed the “Flametongue Kavu Test” (doesn’t die to four damage) and it was helped that Pernicious Deed was in the same colors and worked rather well together. Back then, the spells were more powerful and the creatures weaker compared to today so Spiritmonger could reign supreme back then. When the creature was reprinted in Conspiracy, I asked some friends if it would even make a dent if it was legal in Modern.
No one said yes.
But with Cube, and any closed limited environment, we can create a situation where any card is powerful. Want to make Spiritmonger the most powerful card that can be drafted? Done. That’s part of the appeal for people who build Cubes: they can become an all-powerful being if they want.