Friday, February 24, 2012

It's the Magic: The First 20 Years

2013 marks the 20th year of the existence of Magic: The Gathering. While the celebration for Magic's 10th anniversary was pretty quiet, Magic's never been bigger, it's been a moneymaker for Hasbro lately, and we live in a world where they're making a Battleship movie.

Ignoring the larger implications of that last fact (mainly that anything is now possible, including cookie-based nuclear weapons, invisible strippers, and me dating), there are plenty of reasons to think about what kind of duo-decennal event might happen. I checked the internet for some clues, but aside from something about a MTG "initiative" that Hasbro is announcing at Toy Fair, all I turned up were masturbatory Spike fantasies about the power nine:

I) Make something powerful, also my tangentally-related Spike crusade. because everyone agrees with me.

II) Remake a little bit of old powerful stuff and dole it out randomly. (It's understood that I'll get one because my mom says I'm special.)

Luckily, I'm not the only guy to notice and ridicule this trend.
Some actual, good suggestions:

Change the card backs - I'm not saying it' s a good suggestion because I want it to happen, but because he makes a good point about Double Faced Cards and the datedness of the current back art.

Gold borders - Alpha is unreprintable, but the gold bordered, 20th anniversary edition of cards would be kind of cool, as irrelevant and superficial as it is.

An UN-Set - Which would be nice. I'm not into it, but I can appreciate the Un-Sets.

Full thread here.

A twentieth anniversary release would have to meet several criteria:
It Has to Be Different
That is, it can't just be Ravnica 2: The Guildening. It has to be something specific to the 20th anniversary. Whether that's a very special set like Time Spiral or a From The Vault: All the Best Shit, it has to be offered with an awareness that it's a 20th anniversary product. The gold-bordered set suggested earlier is a good direction, as are the Future Sight card designs. Granted with double-faced cards having just come out, the bar for "being different" is currently pretty high.

It Has to Reference Magic's Past
...without rehashing Time Spiral

I mean, it could be a Time Spiral/Planar Chaos reprint/color shifted/what might have been fest. That would be cool. That said, if you read anything Mark Rosewater's written in the past X years, where X is "all of the", then simply doing what's been done before isn't an option. Whatever the implementation, the player's who've been with Magic for 20 years should be able to see it and nod knowingly at the familiar notes.

It Has to be Forward Looking
Just as it has to reference the past and the things that players are familiar with, I think that an anniversary set also has to tantalize players with all of the places Magic can go. Maybe I'm leaning too heavily on Time Spiral for this. Even if I am, kicking off a permanent change like a new format, new card type, (gods forbid) a new card back, or the elimination of a card type (enchantments) would also be a 20th Anniversary 'event' that would have a large impact on the game going forward.

It Has to be Accessible
Not mythics. Not a cruise line or a sweepstakes. Not a ridiculous all-foil 15 card pack. It has to be, "in the commons," so the average player in a podunk city with no local game stores can pick up product from Wal-Mart and have a part of it. While I'm sure that limiting the effects to Friday Night Magics would be off the table, there have been more twists added to those events lately, possibly as test cases to fine tune something more.

-Doing a Magic/DnD crossover. This has been a long time coming. There is a lot of overlap between the two fantasy worlds owned by the same company. I say "worlds," when both are actually greater multiverses which contain innumerable worlds within them. There isn't much reason that a Magic Dragonlance/Forgotten Realms/Dark Sun set wouldn't work. Indeed, the reverse may also happen, with the success of Magic being diverted to the struggling DnD via a Ravnica, Dominaria, or Innistrad setting for DnD.

-Magic: the Gathering movie & corresponding set. After all, we now live in a world where Battleship has a movie. If anyone talented was working on this though, we would've already heard about it.

-Massive external stakes for tournaments. For example, determining the outcome of an event, character, or location based on certain tournament performances. While sets are created in advance, I'm sure there could be some wiggle room here. I don't know enough about the tournament scene to understand the ramifications for adding additional weight to them, it's something to consider. The narrative laden, high-level tourney games certainly aren't accessible from a participation end, but they're becoming moreso for spectators.

-Something beyond imagining. Introducing planeswalkers. An entire multi-color set. Phyrexian mana. Double-faced cards. Magic has done a lot of things that haven't been seen coming. Bold things that have changed aspects of the game previously thought to be immutable. This one accedes to the simple fact that I have no idea what they're planning because the drive to the peak of innovation means that all of these things may well be the preludes for the crazy ideas in the next two sets.

No comments: