Insider: Breaking Down Everything from Announcement Week: News, Spoilers, and Leaks

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This has been quite an eventful week in Magic, and that’s ignoring the massive three-Grand-Prix-in-a-week experiment occurring in Las Vegas, which has transformed the typical Grand Prix weekend into a full-fledged convention. On June 9, Wizards issued a statement that each day of the next week would have an important announcement or other item of news about the game.

No More Blocks

On Monday, Mark Rosewater announced that the set “block” concept that has been around through most of Magic’s history – usually three sets to a block but more recently two sets – is being eliminated. Future sets will each be standalone blocks with their own mechanics. The reason given is that the block system put too much strain on the storytelling of Magic worlds, and now they will have the freedom to visit a world for just one set or stretch it to multiple sets when it makes sense. This change also means that future Limited formats will all be self-contained in one set, which will make it much easier for Wizards to design fun and interesting Draft and Sealed environments. There’s a precedent for the best Limited formats being one set, so it has been widely lauded as a positive change.

It was also announced that the three standalone sets each year will be supplemented by a new core set. Its vision has changed to that of a friendly set for new players, which was the original intent of core sets but was lost over the years, which reached a fever pitch during Magic Origins and cards like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound that were anything but simple. The intent of the core set is to offer greater integration with supplemental and introductory products like sample decks, planeswalker decks, and the Deckbuilder’s Toolkit. Sets will be half new cards and half reprints, and there will be cards designed for Standard play, but it’s clear the set will be treated very differently than the typical expert-level expansion. It’s not clear what this means for finance, but if history is any indication, Standard staples that do make it into these sets will demand a premium due to the set being under-opened and under-drafted, especially given that MaRo explicitly said that they are designed to be mastered more quickly and aren’t designed to be intensively drafted by the expert player.

MaRo also announced that the Masterpiece cards will no longer be included in every set, and instead saved for special occasions when they can make a big impact. The next block, Ixalan, for example, will contain no Masterpieces. When they were first released there was finance discussion that these cards were good for players because they took up a large percentage of value in the set relative to the purchase cost of packs, and thus pushed down the price of Standard staples, so we are likely to see an increase in the price of new Standard cards in sets without them.

Aetherworks Marvel Banned

On Tuesday we saw the banned list update, which dropped the bombshell that Aetherworks Marvel was being banned. Waiting a few months until the rotation of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger would help fix the problem, but it wouldn’t solve the problem of Marvel being legal for another year, so they nipped it in the bud. Now the current Standard has been many possibilities, and the future is promising. Initial reports from those playing Standard online is that the metagame has been opened up and the format looks very interesting, so it seems the change was positive at least in the short term and will prevent metagames warping around Marvel in the future.

As far as the current metagame, the online price of staples in non-Marvel decks shot up, like Torrential Gearhulk, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Relentless Dead, and even Walking Ballista. A very interesting increase was the nearly doubling in price of Bristling Hydra, which is being used as a staple in the non-Marvel Temur Energy deck. This was a player in the metagame even with Marvel around, and it has certainly been elevated to a higher status now without that competition. Playing many of the same core staples as the Marvel deck, this deck also represents a place for Marvel players to go after the banning, which further increases demand.

Magic Digital Next

Wizards also made made an announcement about Magic Digital Next. From the sound of it, the program will be an umbrella for all online Magic games – think Blizzard’s, rather than the next generation of Magic: The Gathering Online, which seems likely to remain as-is.

What was real news, and what helps to cement the theory, is the announcement of a new massive-multiplayer-online game, or MMO, set in the Magic universe. This is being designed in partnership with a digital firm responsible for other MMOs, and going further, Wizards will partner with other digital groups for other products.

Given the very troubled history of Magic Online, which was designed by the studio Leaping Lizards before Wizards took the helm, this seems like a doomed approach that ignored the lessons learned almost 20 years ago with MTGO, but hopefully time has changed the industry landscape and made this sort of collaboration more feasible. Wizards is also terminating support for Magic Duels, which drawn the ire of fans due to its abrupt nature, but hopefully this represents a shift in resources to Magic Online.

New Releases

On Wednesday, a ton of new product releases were announced, including the release date for Ixalan on September 29 and Rivals of Ixalan on January 19. There will be a Duel Decks: Merfolk vs Goblins release in November, as well as a new From the Vault set called Transform, which is expected to be filled with double-faced cards.

There are some potential reprints of note in the Duel Deck and box set, but the real reprint news is the announcement of a 25th Anniversary Masters set, which is likely to be a mix of Eternal Masters and Modern Masters with some strong flavor added.

And last, but certainly not least, there will be a return to Un-sets with Unstable! I expect we’ll see the same cool basic lands these sets are known for, and that the foils will see an especially high demand. This isn’t a normal set and will thus be opened far less than normal, so it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

Hour of Devastation Spoilers

These official announcements have been completely dwarfed by the spoilers followed by leaks that occurred this week. A few Hour of Devastation cards were accidentally spoiled late last week when shown in promotional video on their French-language page. These were followed by a leak this week of images of two more cards, followed by images of what look like Game Day promos.

There’s not a whole lot of information to glean from these, but we do have confirmation of two new mechanics, afflict, which punishes blocking, and eternalize, which was spoiled via a full-art Game Day promo which offered no reminder text. There has been a lot of speculation on what it does, but assume that the ability functions like Embalm, except that it instead acts as an aura that gives a creature a bonus – in the case of Adorned Pouncer, +1/+1 and double strike.

There have also been spoilers of new color hosers, a Gainsay reprint which punishes Jace planeswalkers a little extra, and Nissa’s Defeat, which can destroy a Forest, a green enchantment or a green planeswalker. We can almost certainly look forward to one more in each color, and potentially a planeswalker to go with it.

Ixalan Leaks

No announcement this week compared to the massive Ixalan leaks, which started with a trickle and a partial image of an uncut sheet of cards, but quickly escalated with the image of the full rare sheet of the set , which is an absolutely massive spoiler, especially for a pirates- and dinosaur-themed block that had a lot of potential to build hype and grow the fan base.

Wizards is undoubtedly furious, and there will be action taken. This is a real wake-up call about the security of the printing process, and there will be steps taken to prevent this in the future. It’s difficult, given that printing is contracted out, so a solution could mean purchasing their own printing operation, or more drastically, stop printing cards altogether and focus on digitizing the game. While this would still not prevent internal leaks, it seems that these leaks are occurring from outside parties acting opportunistically.

I was going to delve deep into the implications of these leaked cards, but there’s so much to talk about and that discussion could fill multiple articles by itself. What we do know is that the revealed planeswalkers have the subtype legendary, which is being theorized to represent a change in the rules surrounding planeswalkers, of which each player can currently only control one of each planeswalker name type. This may change to the legend rule that applies to other permanents, including retroactively errata-ing each existing planeswalker to this legend type, which will allow for plays like Jace Beleren into Jace, the Mind Sculptor – without having to choose one to keep.

If this is true, there could be massive financial implications, with one example being an increase in value for a card like Reki, the History of Kamigawa, which would trigger for every planeswalker.

What do you make of these leaks and the announcements this week?


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