…And If You Made The Sets Right, Spoilers Wouldn’t Bother You

Wizards shouldn’t write articles how they’re vexed with the fact that I’m allowed to judge a set on its own merits – and not as it is presented in their carefully-presented propaganda induced visions. Strangely enough, they weren’t featuring Skittish Valesk as one of their preview cards.

The whole idea behind capitalism is that people are more willing to give their money to people who they like. You might argue with this theory at first glance… But think about it for a moment. Say you go into a restaurant, and the waiter spits on you. Are you going to go into the restaurant after that?

What if the waiter is polite, quick, and even a little funny? As long as he doesn’t hit on your wife, you’re probably doing all right. Wizards indirectly gets our money, and most of us live in vaguely capitalist countries.

I don’t have unrealistic expectations on Wizards, though; they’re a company, and they’re out to make money. So let’s not get on a high horse now. Whether we like to admit it or not, the company that does it’s job the best generally gets our money. If they screw around or screw us over, we stop giving them our money. There is a limit to this; Wizards can deal with threats from other sources with more complex means than just making the product better.

Better product means they make more money. More money means they can hire more and better testers, do more interesting promotions, pay out more for tournaments, and just generally make us happy… While becoming fabulously rich in the process.

But if you’re enjoying Magic, you shouldn’t mind that. You’ve made them rich and hopefully happy, and they’ve made you happy. The money in your wallet doesn’t have the innate property of making you happy, unless you’re some kind of weirdo.

You following me so far? Basically, Wizards makes us happy, and we make them happy. It’s good that way.

Wizards has a crutch, though.

Let’s look at the article I’m replying to first, though. I like Mark Rosewater. I don’t know if it’s the innate skill of the man at being persuasive or if he simply writes things I prefer to read. Here is the article: Give it a read, or what I’m going to say next won’t make as much sense afterwards.

Prereleases are one of my favourite tournaments to go to. I’ve only been to two, but I’ve always looked forward to them. But lately, I haven’t been very good about going; I just can’t find the will to go.

Why? Well, let’s get back to his article for a second.

"Part of what we sell is the mystery of the new set. We consider the adrenaline rush of opening a booster pack and discovering new cards part of what you get when you buy Magic cards." –Mark Rosewater

I haven’t been sold on the”mystery” of a set since before Mirage, and I believe many players like me aren’t sold on the mystery of the sets being released, either. It becomes defined as simply as this:

Is Magic a game where I play with a set once – or do I buy thousands of cards and build hundreds of decks in a year?

For the player wants to be professional, a spoiler list represents a wealth of information that will be studied, pried into, and torn apart before the set is released. People will write articles, build decks, define whole metagames before the set rotates in – or even manages to be released. The spoiler isn’t bad to a professional player; it’s a necessity.

We’re not there for the mystery of the set; we’re there for the long run. We want to play the game, not oooh and awe at the cards when they hit the table, or miscast Firestorm because judges can’t figure out the rules at the pre-releases.

It’s not "What does this card do?" It’s "How can I break this card?"

And you don’t break cards the first time you see them.

"We purposely pick ones that demonstrate the new elements of the set without showing what we believe to be all the best cards. And we release the information at a rate that allows the players time to savor each nugget."

There are two points to this quote, which I’ll look at individually. First, let’s list the cards they previewed from Onslaught on www.magicthegathering.com and the Sideboard.

Cards previewed at The Sideboard:

Alright, looking over these, how many of these cards are bad? Show off a new mechanic or give us something new to look at? And how many are just good cards?

Whipcorder is perhaps the first aggresively-costed tapper, but it’s abilities are pretty standard fare. It is to morph as Nomad Decoy is to threshold, and that’s fine. Grinning Demon, Naturalize, and Blastminer are essentially reprints. Wretched Anurid is a very simple, suicide black like card. Ravenous Baloth is like a bigger, more boring Spike Feeder. And so on.

So which of these cards are "good"? Well, all of them. The Sideboard is meant to appeal to pro-wannabe players, and it shows quite clearly. They’re clearly using this as a way to hype the set, aren’t they? So a leak of good cards is fine…

But bad cards aren’t. Right?

Cards previewed at Magic the Gathering.com:

They preview a lot of cards on mtg.com, as you may have noticed. The sideboard cards are basically all good cards – because making pros write about stuff like Mudhole or Mistform Skyreaver would be an investigation on how someone can write a thousand words about a card no one wants to hear about.

I could write a thousand word about Mudhole – but I swear to you, Wizards doesn’t want that many fecal references up on the sideboard in my lifetime, let alone in one article. Maybe Ferrett does. Someone ask him.

Alright, we’ve got two defining points about them previewing cards; first, they preview a lot of the good ones. Second, they preview a lot of cards in general. But not all of them. So, like a good teaser, people are meant to be excited about a set but not know just how much is going to be in the set. In other words, Wizards wants to tell you to be excited, and not give you the chance to decide for yourself whether or not a set is going to be good until after you’ve pre-ordered six boxes.


It’s all about good hype – not bad hype. A full spoiler produces results based on the quality of the set, and not what Wizards wants you to believe. While this is a perfectly understandable concept, it kind of clashes with later points that Mark makes.

"To me, this is an issue of pride. Wizards does have a plan to earn a lot of money long term. Our plan is to make our consumers as happy as we can for as long as we can. We’re in this for the long game. To accomplish this, we focus a great deal of our energy on product quality. If we make a great product then you’ll be happy to buy it. But we go beyond this: We don’t just want to create a great product; we want to create a great environment." –Mark Rosewater

I agree with the man and I understand what he means: Making good Magic cards has got to be one of the hardest creative jobs out there. I’ve been in a lot of card creation forms, I’ve made my own cards, and yet I’m constantly impressed with the interesting work R&D puts out. I’ll say that they make a lot of mistakes… But at the same time, it’s hard work. And for the people within R&D, coming out with a good set that they’re satisfied with must be one of the greatest accomplishments a creative person could manage.

But I don’t understand how the issue of pride effects leaks. If the set is leaked, people see your work earlier. And that’s about it. It might affect sales, and it might affect the metagame, and it might even give people an unfair advantage in early tournaments…

But it doesn’t affect the quality of the work. If it’s a good set – and Onslaught is certainly a good set – then they’ve done a good job.

I know it’s a bit basic… But if people like it, where’s the problem? You’ve done good work; rest on your laurels and be proud of it.

In the long run, a well-developed set, no matter the spoilage, will sell well. It’s unavoidable that if a set appeals to both casual and professional players, the only thing a spoiler will really effect is people’s initial tournaments, initial pre-orders, and so on. It only effects the very beginning of the process… And for some it might even aid them. If people believe the set is good, they’ll feel better about pre-ordering a big pile of boxes. If the set is good, and they open those boxes to find cards they like, they’ll remain happy and buy more. I know I’m happy to have just opened a starter deck with three rares I wanted and that great-looking Onslaught land.

"Set x sucks!!!!"

– A whole lot of people

I wanted to make a point about this in some article one day, and I think I’ll do it now. I hate listening to the naysayers of Magic who consistently say every set sucks. I’ve heard it about Onslaught, I’ve said it myself about Odyssey as other people have. I’ve been told people complained about Invasion, and obviously a lot of people disliked Mercadian Masques.

It’s like listening to a broken record: Every time around, I seem to hear the same thing from the same sorts of people. Just squealing on and on about how terrible the newest set is, fearing the rotation and just generally complaining about things in general.

I’d just like to say I really hope R&D tunes out those people. There are problems in R&D’s work at times, but I don’t think a set has sucked since … Well, I hear Prophecy was really bad, and Planeshift was below the curve of the two sets besides it. But nothing has come up to the raw Suckitude of the Fallen Empires/Homelands combo of doom.

I bought packs of both of those sets. You’re not allowed to talk about how bad a set is until you open Hazduuuuuhr the Abbot in a pack*.

But the issue really does come down to this: R&D should just make the best products they can with the best mechanics and the best artwork and formatting** they can. I don’t see why they should worry about leaks when ultimately no one remembers if a set was leaked, they remember if a set was good. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to remember Onslaught was a good set, not that I learned of Voidmage Prodigy before I saw that awful artwork. Probably a good thing, really, that one…

They shouldn’t write articles how they’re vexed with the fact that I’m allowed to judge a set on its own merits – and not as it is presented in their carefully-presented propaganda induced visions.

Listen up, it’s not a movie. Movies have one plot line and tell one story: Magic tells millions, and it’s a different one for every player.

Iain Telfer (Taeme)

Move like you mean it.

* – Actually, I think people should voice their opinion. I’d just like to remind them that they shouldn’t be expect to be respected, and that includes myself, until they’ve really gotten some depth of perception.

** – Where’s my tombstone? I WANT MY DAMN TOMBSTONE BACK, YOU HEAR ME?