Here’s my script for an editorial I want to get out the door ASAP. Friday is the most likely day. And oh yeah, I am doing regular releases of Ancestral Recall on Thursdays from here on out. I’ll post the compendiums here when time permits.
Note that I write editorial scripts in a conversational tone. I do not want to sound like a Solemn Simulacrum in front of the camera, folks.
Magic Editorial: What’s Missing? Feb. 10, 2015
Hey guys, Eli here for Ancestral Recall. Guess what? It’s editorial time. This summer we’re getting a release of the last ever core set, Magic: Origins. We have heard very little about the set, except for the fact that the set has two new keywords and is supposed to tell us about how Jace, Liliana, Chandra, Nissa, and Gideon got their spark.
That’s it. Wizards employee Dave Marsee, who has been working in R&D, Digital, and in other projects behind the scenes, posted on Facebook saying that he was super excited but couldn’t say anything about it. And yeah, I can’t blame him. This set is a big goddamn deal. Dave and I talk a lot on Facebook, he’s a great guy to talk to, though I know better not to discuss his job, and I know that it is eating him up because he’s pumped. He also was a big person behind Duels of the Planeswalkers 2015, and I trust that he will help steer Duels 2016’s direction away from the critical problems that Duels 2015 had.
So anyway, the file for Origins is probably set in stone, and I want to tell you what the core sets mean for me historically, and what I’d do if I was helping call the shots for Origins. Essentially, Magic’s been missing something for a few years, and I want to call out the hole that I wish Wizards would fill. I’m talking about a Magic release that’s about celebrating Magic.
There are many functions that core sets have fulfilled throughout Magic’s 20 years. Fifth Edition was supposed to be the quintessential set, including all the cards that were supposed to represent the platonic ideal of Magic’s early years. Necropotence? It’s in there. Hell, there’s a good chance that if it’s not on the reserved list and it was printed in the early days and was a good card, it was in Fifth Edition, because Fifth Edition was TITANIC in scope. It’s the largest set ever at 449 cards. Fifth Edition wasn’t really that good a Limited set, it had some significant game balance issues, it had the classic case of green sucking as all early Magic sets do, it still had banding, it had the totally broken mistake Necropotence and the hideously unfun Armageddon, but it came in in order to replace both Fourth Edition and Chronicles, and it was an early statement of what was ideal in Magic.
Then we get to Magic’s 10th anniversary, 8th Edition in 2003. This set rolled out the new frames that lasted for over a decade. But 8th Edition was also designed to celebrate the whole of Magic’s history to that point, featuring a reprint from every set of Magic. From Arabians to Urza’s Destiny, no set was ignored. The mechanics were simple and clean. While the set wasn’t really exciting to draft, the Limited games were simple, tactical, and we had a bunch of cool cards to add to the Standard format. While Fifth Edition tried to be the definitive, authoritative Magic set, Eighth Edition was a pageant of fun and history, showcasing some of the game’s best cards. And so I want to salute the set for that.
I should also briefly mention that from Sixth Edition on, core sets were sold to consumers as the jumping on point for Magic, the place where new players could get the hang of the game without fear of drowning in complexity. These were Advanced Products, while the blocks proper were Expert Level, with deeper strategy and complexity. That’s held true all the way up to 2015.
Core sets also are when Magic gets its rules tweaks, such as tapped blockers getting to deal combat damage, or the stack, or mana burn going away, but that’s a minor footnote.
Anyway, the next set I want to talk about is Time Spiral. Time Spiral is one of those sets I want to give a loving review, I want to give it a full comprehensive review like I did for Alpha/Beta/Unlimited. Why? Because Time Spiral is the comprehensive celebration of Magic. It documents so many of the cool and great cards of 1993 through 2003 and even includes them in the Timeshifted sheet, or gives them homages. Riftmarked Knight gives us both a White Knight AND a Black Knight! The Dark’s Preacher? Here’s Evangelize, to give us the same simulation. How about getting to play Akroma, the most badass legend in the game’s history? And then giving us an alternate universe Akroma in the next set? Time Spiral is the set that celebrates Magic for its own sake, and that’s why I will repeat myself, it’s my favorite set of all time. It may not be the best, but it’s definitely my favorite.
And so why did I bring up these sets? Because I want Magic to have a set that goes back through the game’s history and celebrates it. Magic Origins may be about the roots of iconic Planeswalkers, but we could go and have flashbacks of the game’s history. Much like 8th Edition, having a theme of reprints from years and many sets past would be amazing. But I don’t think it’s going to happen, to be honest. Modern design principles want players to get a chance to play with the new mechanics. And remember, this set has two of them, and they’re new. If we go and do a nostalgia perspective, there’s a good chance that the attention will overshadow the new mechanics. There’s a competition for mindspace, and I suspect that with the orientation of Wizards really carving out a focus on new things, I don’t know when we’re going to get a real historical celebration like Eighth or Time Spiral. Modern Masters was a greatest Limited hits and draft format, and it was wild and let the limits on complexity go. That’s not what I’m asking for.
So anyway, Magic Origins will almost certainly be about character origins, not the game origins. I respect that, it’s a marketing decision. But when will we get a set that celebrates Magic for being Magic again? I have to wonder, and I suspect that I’m going to be waiting a while. If I were able to sit down with Mark Rosewater and make one demand, that’s what I’d tell him I wanted, a cool set that focuses less on innovation and new mechanics and instead provides an engaging, exciting retrospective on Magic 20 plus years on. It’s been almost a decade since Time Spiral. We can go back to the past, which will make going back to the future even sweeter.
Thanks for listening. It’s a bit of a ramble, but I wanted to get it out there while the news is fresh. And I will totally keep my eyes peeled for updates about the set. I trust Roxaboxen and Wedge to spend more time telling you guys what they think is going on, I’m just going to be plugging away at my show. Because no one else does what I do the way I do it, and I want to be the best on Youtube at what I do, historical analysis.
Stay tuned, and stay gold. This is Eli Kaplan, for Ancestral Recall, signing off. Good games, and good luck.