Ten Things I Like And Don’t Like, Including Jace Beleren’s New Kicks

Cedric Phillips shares his thoughts on the Jace’s new shoes, Happy Yargle Day, and Historic post-Field of the Dead.

Here are ten things I like and don’t like from this week in Magic: The Gathering:

1. New Sets, Who Dis?

On Tuesday, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) unveiled their release schedule for 2021 during their Zendikar Rising preview show. To say it was well received is an understatement because when two of the best to ever do it are pumped by your plans for 2021 in a very authentic way, you know you’re doing something right:

But I actually think this undersells how monumental this announcement is. For me, this may be the biggest announcement in the history of Magic. Because if WotC nails these sets, which all appear to be very different worlds with very different flavor (which means there are limitless possibilities), the explosion we could see for Magic would make what happened in the 2010s with Zendikar and Innistrad look like chump change.

A quick breakdown with the caveat that I do not have inside information whatsoever:

Kaldheim. Magic’s viking world could illicit a Game of Thrones type feel, (which, for the record, isn’t a show I watched past Season 1 because every episode felt like a homework assignment — how many characters does a television show need to introduce?!) But even though I didn’t watch it (I can feel you judging me), a lot of people did and they loved it. Piggybacking on that world feels smart and don’t be surprised to see a Secret Lair: Game of Thrones (or something similar) alongside it.

Strixhaven: School of Mages. I’m getting some real Harry Potter vibes here. Not because I’ve seen Harry Potter (because I haven’t… ever) but because PVDDR told me so in Fact or Fiction this week:

Then there’s Strixhaven: School of MagicHarry Potter is my favorite book series so I don’t have to tell you how excited I am for a School of Magic set.

How haven’t I seen Harry Potter before? Because I’m 34 and it came after me I guess? Look, it goes like this. Everyone tells me to just watch the movies. Well the thing is… there are eight (!) of them. That’s a real commitment. If there were 2-3 of them, that’s an easy thing to knock out. Eight isn’t. And while I fly a lot (or at least did #COVID), I prefer to listen to podcasts than read books while in transit. And no, listening to an audio book isn’t the same as listening to a podcast. It’s also not the same as reading a book.

I can feel my nerd cred slipping soooooooooooo…

Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Reals. Before you ask, no, I have never played a game of D&D. Do I want to? Yes, I do. Will I ever do it? Yes, I will. But isn’t that kind of the point? I’ve never played a game of D&D and I know that this is a monumental portion of this announcement.

I’m sure there’s a lot of overlap between D&D fans and MTG fans, but this only stands to increase that, which is very smart business. Of all the sets, this is the one that’s most important to nail and I have trouble believing they won’t do that since all the people (presumably) work in the same building.

Innistrad Werewolves & Innistrad Vampires. The original trip to Innistrad? Dope as hell. The follow up via Shadows over Innistrad? Like most sequels or sophomore albums, expectations were too high and I was left wanting more (The Dark Knight and Meteora by Linkin Park being rare exceptions). Is the third time the charm?

I think it will be because they get to correct some of their past mistakes. Will it be as good as original Innistrad? Almost assuredly no, but it doesn’t need to be. Guilds of Ravnica wasn’t as great as our first visit to the City of Guilds but it was still plenty of fun.

Toss in Time Spiral Remastered (I *loved* Time Spiral during my college years so a revisit sounds fun to me) and Modern Horizons 2 (I *loved* kicking people’s ass with Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis so a reprint sounds fun to me) and the only thing left to say is…

2. Name A More Iconic Duo

Than Jace Beleren and K-Swiss

Or Magic: the Gathering and The Walking Dead

Or Magic: the Gathering and the New York Times

This is how you pull Magic into the mainstream folks. Remember the days of Magic collaborating with Jones Soda Co? That’s small time stuff that doesn’t raise the floor on your reach in a meaningful way. You wanna know how you raise the floor on your reach?

  • You start working with K-Swiss, the same company that did Gary Vaynerchuk’s shoes, to make limited edition shoes (we have years of history that this model just works).
  • You start working with AMC and The Walking Dead (which is a show I have seen plenty of, so ship the nerd cred back this way) and make a limited edition product (we have years of history that this model works as well).
  • You have Mashable, a Twitter account with 9.6M Twitter followers, preview one of your Mythic Double-Faced cards.

I almost decided to move on from Magic in 2016. I was a combination of sad, depressed, frustrated, disinterested, and didn’t like where the game was going. But the reason I never left was because I felt (and have always felt!) that if Magic could just get it right, it could do amazing things and I didn’t want to be gone if it did that after being in the industry for fifteen years.

Have they printed some bad cards over the past two years? They absolutely have. How Oko, Thief of Crowns goes out the door that way is something I will never understand. How anyone could deem Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath a good experience for its controller or its opponent is beyond me. And don’t even get me started on Emrakul, the Promised End (the worst card I’ve ever had to cover in my 8+ years of covering Magic for you fine folks).

But guess what? None of that matters if you get this stuff right. The mistakes will be a footnote in the lengthy history of the best card game ever made that we’ll look back on and say “LOL remember Oko back in 2019. That sure was something wasn’t it?” while wearing our limited edition Jace kicks in a stadium full of people (who paid a ticket to be there!) preparing to watch LSV vs PVDDR in the finals of who knows what tournament (because obviously they’ll still be crushing it well into their 40s).

That’s the ceiling if they nail it. And I’m here for it.

3. Ogle The Bogle Or Google the Boggle?

Magic: The Gathering, as you know, is an incredible difficult, complicated game where players make extremely thoughtful plays every single turn of every single game.

Except when it isn’t any of those things!

Nothing makes me happier to watch someone win a tournament with Selesnya Hexproof. Dylan Donegan is someone I’ve been watching play Magic for almost a decade and while he loves a blue tempo deck with a lot of decisions more than most, sometimes it’s correct to put down the cantrips and pick up the auras. Knowing when that time is is a skill in and of itself but when you get it right, the rewards are plentiful.

Kudos to you Dylan on the perfect timing. Good luck in Magic Online Championships!

4. Pathways Are Two-Color Lands Done Right

You want me to say something negative about Pathways? Take it away (recently returning to NXT!) Wade Barrett…

Kudos to WotC for nailing it with these. I’m blown away at just how perfect these are and ignoring learning their names for coverage, these are the most excited I’ve been for two-color lands in a very long time.


5. Rip The Bandaid Off

Look. It’s time. Let’s stop acting like it isn’t:

I’m about as anti cancel culture as they come, but if there’s upside to having Uro legal in major formats, I don’t see it. I have no interest in having the arrival of Zendikar Rising coming with any negatives attached, so here’s my best impression of John Oliver on Last Week Tonight trying to get a few hashtags trending.

  • #DefundUro
  • #CancelUro
  • #UnprintUro

And before you ask, no, Confounding Conundrum isn’t going to help any. I don’t care what Shaheen Soorani says.

6. Stop Trying To Make Fetch Happen

Few things frustrate me more than someone saying “That’s the new ________!” or “______ is the new ______” because if it were, they would have reprinted the previous card. My (least) favorite example of this is “Oath of Nissa is the green Ponder.”

But now people have really decided to up the ante by calling Sea Gate Stormcaller the new Snapcaster Mage

This is Sea Gate Stormcaller:

Sea Gate Stormcaller

And this is Snapcaster Mage:

Snapcaster Mage

Here’s what these cards have in common:

  • They’re both a 2/1
  • They both cost 1U
  • They’re both a Human Wizard
  • They both like to play with instants and sorceries

That’s it.

These two cards play remarkably different. So much, in fact, that the kind of deck that you put Sea Gate Stormcaller in is, almost assuredly, entirely different than the type of deck you would put Snapcaster Mage in. To act like these are similar cards at all is utter nonsense and people (hopefully not you) need to stop being lazy when analyzing new cards.

7. Historic Is Dope

With the next SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier being Historic, as well as the Mythic Invitational next weekend, I decided to put Mono-Green Aggro down in Core Set 2021 Standard (I can only cast Barkhide Troll so many times before I lose my mind…) and give the other format on Magic Arena a try.

Simply put, the format is awesome, has a lot of depth, and while no one really knows what’s legal in the format, it’s still a ton of fun. Muxus, Goblin Grandee and Phyrexian Tower may be too powerful to last a long time (only time will tell) but with Field of the Dead banned, life looks good for Historic fans.

And if you’re looking for deck diversity? Look no further than yesterday’s episode of What We’d Play where eight (!) different decks were submitted across eleven (!) different people.

8. Happy Yargle Day Indeed

There are few cards I care less about in Magic’s history than Yargle, Glutton of Urborg. So when WotC announced Happy Yargle Day…

I loved it!

Yeah, this product isn’t for me. Not every product needs to be for me. Not every product needs to be for everyone. But for the people this is for? This is awesome!

I, and I imagine many of you, started playing Magic because it was fun. The game is fun to play. The flavor is fun to look at. The people you meet are fun to be around. Everything about Happy Yargle Day! clears the fun bar for me, and if this product brought smiles to faces upon its unveiling, that’s all that matters.

And yeah, if I ever cast an Opt in my life again (extremelyt unlikely), it’ll be a Yargle Opt.

9. Listen

10. Laugh