Changes are being made all over the place with MTG. Ever since Covid, there's been a huge development shift focused on quickly pumping out new products to sell as many products as fast as possible. Just this past week I was wondering if Doctor Who had come out, and now this week I learned of two more crossover products that are coming out. Fallout, a game franchise I adore, and the Marvel multiverse are both coming to MTG.
I recently talked about this with my uncle, a casual MTG enjoyer who hits the target audience for all of these products. His level-headed take was that people always complain about the pace of releases as either too fast or too slow, and of course, there’s no pleasing everyone.
While I kind of enjoy the novelty of crossover products, they’re becoming increasingly less novel and turning the game I fell in love with into something different. There are many people who will say it’s good for the game because it will bring more players. While true, I’m not sure these types of players will be here for the long haul. They’ll come back to Magic for a bit because of the product and shortly thereafter find the off-ramp. This will make WotC money in the short term, but there’s a lasting, long-term impact on the game's identity.
While I was talking about this briefly with my uncle, whose only engagement with the game is occasional Commander battles at his local game store, I explained to him that I noticed the impact most in Vintage Cube, a format we’ve all grown to love over the past decade.
Cube used to be a way to touch base with cards I loved from the past, and playing in similar ways, and to use my newer favorite cards to see which ones could hang. I described it to him now as cards from 2020 and beyond with fast mana, which is a great one-sentence description of what Cube has become because of power creep and faster-set releases.
While I would love to have my two favorite Marvel characters Venom and Wolverine come to life in a game I’ve made a living on for a decade now, I’m worried that the game itself will lose its identity. If the well were to run dry on WotC in printing these, I’ll be one of the people left still playing the game, and it would look like a mashup of 20 failed card games left on a hotel floor after a gaming convention.
My uncle admitted it’s a bit much. He’s a huge LOTR and Doctor Who fan, and he isn’t interested in anything else coming out “for him” any time soon. He’s still enjoying those sets, but he’s barely even gotten to experience them yet.
If you’re reading this, you’re an avid MTG player and these sets likely aren’t meant for you. Rather, they're for people like my uncle who will get drawn in and spend $100 or $200 on some packs and play with his family for a week before moving on to another hobby.
I understand the company has to make money, and they’re doing well, though predictably less so since the world has opened back up after Covid.
While I’m excited to play Wolverine Zoo vs. Magneto Control in the short term, I can’t help but imagine what the game will look like in 10 years if this pace of release keeps up.
Now on to another change, which affects us in the short term, the new Play Boosters announced in the recent B and R announcement. Play Boosters are a combination of Set Boosters and Draft Boosters designed with the purpose of doing both. Mark Rosewater panicked me with a jarring Tweet implying that Draft as a format was on death’s door and this change was a form of CPR to save it. He later backtracked and said that it was never in danger of being removed entirely, just the packs, but it worried me nonetheless.
The most important question is what change will impact how drafting feels?
Sealed deck at times will feel worse because people will have more rares, but this change minimally changes Booster Draft because a lot of these changes will add less variance, or rather less predictability, than the Bonus Sheet we’ve all grown accustomed. The List cards appearing are rare, about 10% if I recall correctly, and it’s a much lower percentage than even that for that slot to be a rare.
I think what will happen is you’ll occasionally see a cool card and wonder how to work it into your deck or potentially a lot of the list cards that will be curated for Limited might not be meaningfully different than already-available cards. This will depend on how the list is curated. If it's 40 copies of Jitte, that’s one thing, but it doesn't change the format if it’s random stuff like a Reclamation Sage.
Sealed will probably be similar to those sealed formats with Juiced Bonus Sheets. Think formats like March of Machines and Brother’s War and not sets like we just had in Wilds of Eldraine.
I have also seen that one less card in the pack will make a big difference. I don’t think that’s the case, as cards have been carefully designed with Limited in mind these days, and we get far too many playables. In fact, this will ultimately be a good thing and reward better drafters who are better at navigating drafts. You may need to minimally adjust how much you spend picks on speculation rather than filler, but that will be simple to adjust.
I’m happy to see Magic grow. While an influx of players could lead to a brighter competitive future, I’m worried that that won’t be the case. “We pivoted away from the competitive scene and more towards becoming a collectible game first and it worked” is not what I want the decision-makers to see. I want them to look at Booster Draft like I do, an integral part of the game that will be the end of the game entirely if not treated with care. I'd be done playing MTG if Booster Draft or Limited play ever went away. It might be hard, but it is the game mode that keeps me in the game through burnout and real-life stuff. There's no need to worry, as I don't think that can or will ever happen.
Ultimately, Magic will be fine, and the sky isn’t falling. I’m excited to try Play Boosters for drafting, and I think it will lead to some interesting drafts and screenshots in the future.