1800 or Bust! What Is 7th For?

Is the upcoming 7th edition of Magic intended to be a support set? If so, why don’t they put better cards in?

Over the last two weeks, I’ve seen more and more people speculating about the contents of 7th Edition, culminating in a complete spoiler. I personally don’t believe the spoiler is accurate for many reasons, but that’s not what I’m going to write about today. What I want to discuss is the concept of a basic set and what it’s for.

Back in the midst of time, there was only one set, Alpha – and it soon became Beta. That was all there was to Magic; that was the complete card pool. With cards like Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, Icy Manipulator and the moxen and dual lands, Magic existed because that set was there and the set was good enough that people wanted to play with it.

Around December 1993, Unlimited was released; an updated reprint of Beta, with white borders and, in the same month, Arabian Nights hit the shelves. For the first time, the basic set wasn’t all there was.

From then on Wizards started releasing new expansions pretty regularly. In 1994 alone, Antiquities, Legends, and The Dark gave Magic players new cards to play with and brought new strategies and decktypes to the fore.

Since then we’ve had Ice Age, Mirage, Tempest, Urza’s Saga, Mercadian Masques, and Invasion, each with their attendant minor expansions. As each release has come out, more and more people have used less and less cards from the basic set, until it has become what Classic is today: Support.

That’s all the set is now: Support for the other Type II expansions. It gives us some good land to play with and a few reprints of our favourite creatures, and that’s it.

Wizards says that, as an Advanced set, it can’t have complex mechanics, because otherwise beginners wouldn’t be able to play it. One question comes to mind when they say this, though: Are beginners playing it at all?

All the beginners I know started because their friends were playing. Their friends are all playing with what they can buy in the shops and, right now, that’s Invasion and Planeshift. No one sells Classic as far as I can tell; no one sold Fifth, either. All the vendors always sell the latest expansions, and that’s what the kids want.

There was a time when this was different. I used to tell people that they could pick up the White Knights I was playing with from the basic set. When playing Necro, you could tell them to pick up the Black Knights or Drain Life from the basic set.

Now there are ten to twenty non-land cards in Classic in each colour that people play with in Type II right now, and most of those fit into rogue decks or are currently out of favour – which leaves a massive two hundred cards that no-one is using. In a set like Invasion or Masques you can kind of excuse this, as sets are designed with Limited in mind – but who plays Limited with Classic right now? VERY FEW PEOPLE.

The Pros don’t; they want to get Limited practice in with sets they’ll have to play. I don’t see a 7th edition pre-release on the event list for March or April, either. I also don’t see anyone saying they’re going to play with it much. People are only interested in whether the current cards in Type II that are in Classic will be staying in, and which type II cards from the Tempest Block and Urza’s Block will be moved into 7th.

In my view, 7th Edition can go two ways:

It Can Remain A Support Set.
If that’s the case, then we need to see a higher quality of card included in it. When Classic came out, I was happy that Wizards seemed to have tidied it up so much, including good Type II cards like River Boa, Hammer of Bogarden and Chill. It wasn’t perfect by a long stretch, but it seemed like they were on the right track and I hoped (and still do) that 7th Edition will continue along the same lines.

It Can Become Another Major Expansion That People Can Play With.
An expansion that people can Draft with and build Sealed decks from. To do this they’ll have to radically change some of the cards, probably removing some of the better Type II staples at the same time they remove some of the much weaker cards.

If the spoiler that’s currently available is correct (and I really hope it’s not), then 7th Edition is stuck in a rut. It’s neither a repository of good Type II staples, or an excellent expansion.

We’ll know in a month, and to end here’s a little quote from the official reprint policy:

"In accordance with the commitment made in our prior reprint policy, rare cards from Urza’s Saga(tm), Urza’s Legacy(tm), and Urza’s Destiny(tm) that aren’t reprinted in Classic Seventh Edition will be added to the reserved-card list. Additionally, we won’t reprint more than 25% of the rare cards in these sets."
So it looks like we’ll be getting quite a few Artifact Cycle cards back, at the very least.
Cheers, Jim.
Team PhatBeats.