Tribal Thriftiness #57 – Magic 2010… or Portal 4?

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Tuesday, February 24th – The announcement of Magic 2010 on Monday probably surprised everyone. What does it mean for budget players? And is it Portal 4?

So. I’m running a bit behind with my column this week, and it is… shall we say… a fortuitous occasion, on this rare day. Monday morning broke and we were all greeted with Wizards’ new imagining of the Core Set.

Personally, I think this is a pretty big announcement. As noted in Aaron Forsythe article, this is potentially a fantastic way to get back to the introduction sets of old. As you may or may not know, I am a huge fan of Portal – it was how I learned to play Magic, and I still bust out most of the set when faced with teaching a new player the ropes of the game. It elegantly taught most of the mechanics of the game (and remember, this was the pre-Stack era): how the turn works, how to pay for your cards, how to do creature combat. But it also gave advanced players something to be interested in as well: alternate art versions of some of the bigger, more recognizable cards in the game, like Wrath of God and Armageddon.

After reading Aaron’s article, Magic 2010 was really giving off that “Portal” vibe.

And I like it.

And I think it’s going to be good for budget players and for new players.

Smaller Set Size Means Higher Concentration

Due to Wizards’ “downsizing” of Magic sets after the gargantuan size of the Time Spiral and Lorwyn blocks, Magic 2010 is only going to be 229 non-basic-land cards. Compare this to Tenth Edition, which was 363 – more than a time-and-a-half the size. The smaller set size will mean that it will take fewer packs to find complete sets of the commons and uncommons of the set. Sure, due to the “half-new” aspect of the set, it becomes necessary to pick up commons and uncommons – you can’t rely on having playsets from older sets, like you could with Tenth Edition. But everyone will be in that boat, so you can expect your buddies and the people at your local game shop to be opening up packs of Magic 2010 looking for new cards as well.

The number of rares (and mythics) also has shrunk, which again means fewer packs you’ll need to crack to pick up the rares you want. Tenth Edition had 121 rares. Magic 2010 will have about half that: 53 rares and 15 mythics. Your chances of opening a specific rare have about doubled.

Smaller Set Also Means Lower Prices

As we’ve seen with Shards of Alara (a comparably-sized set), prices have dropped considerably compared to Lorwyn. And not just the price of an average rare, either – prices on uncommons and commons are at an all-time low. I credit the presence of the Mythic Rare. Now, in order for stores to be able to sell these rarer-than-rare cards in the bulk of which they are accustomed, they have to open more packs, giving those of us who are willing to buy commons and uncommons (and even the odd junk rare) a discount due to the sheer inventory that this process generates.

Magic 2010 will benefit doubly from this. Not only will there be more commons, uncommons, and cheap rares available from this set, but the half (or so) of the cards that are reprints will also find the price adjusted for the older version. A great example of this is from Tenth Edition is the Apocalypse painlands, which sold for $10-12 when Apocalypse was in Standard, and now both versions go for $5-7.

New Cards Means More Trades

No longer will the core set merely be a way for new players to find playsets of cards that saw print before they were born. (I’m looking at you, Stampeding Wildebeests.) Due to the fact that new players, budget players, and pros alike will have to be either buying singles or opening packs of Magic 2010, there will be a large number of these cards available in trade binders.

This goes doubly since they will be new, never-before-seen cards in this set. Go down to your local card shop once Magic 2010 comes out and I bet there will be tons of players with trades – especially the reprints, which they may already have sets of.

Prereleases Give Opportunity

I remember the Eighth Edition “Prerelease” event that they tried to do in stores across America. Very similar to the Release Parties that they have now, and very nice if you’re looking for a smaller atmosphere to get into the new cards. It was really the only way they could do Release-style events for the core sets, seeing as to how they were all reprinted cards.

Now, with the all-new content comes the announcement that Wizards will be doing a whole-scale, full-two-day-weekend (where applicable) Prerelease. It’s another huge chance for budget players to get into new cards, get their hands on commons and uncommons that they are searching for, and possibly trade for older, reprinted rares that they might be interested in. The power of trading is doubled or tripled at bigger events, and with the fact that half the set is reprints, it adds up to a lot of players looking to trade reprinted cards for the new stuff. Budget players should look at this as a great chance to pick up sets of staples, like Birds of Paradise, which we already know is going to be reprinted.

A Brief Moment With: What I Think

I’ve been processing this almost non-stop since I read the announcement. I think my initial thought is that it’s essentially a money grab for Wizards. None of the core sets have sold really well, since they’re all reprints. They may have a little uptake with Tenth Edition because of the black borders, but really, the money is in the expansion sets. So I think this is a way to sell the core set.

Will it sell? I think it probably will. If the new cards are half as interesting or cool as they claim they are, I think it has a good chance. I’m thinking of it as… a mini Time Spiral. That is, essentially, what it is. A set of cards with a large subset of reprints. And if they can pull some interesting cards to reprint, then that might help push it. But I think a lot will rely on how good those new cards are.

Of the new cards that they’ve shown us, they’re very Portal. Silence is half-an-Orim’s-Chant, and the fact that it’s an instant will push it to be used the same way: as a preventive measure by combo decks before attempting to go off. It will be interesting to see if Scepter-Silence makes any breakthroughs in Extended. Wall of Frost is a decent uncommon. And Capricious Efreet makes me think I would probably always choose him as my “nonland permanent” to be destroyed, although there are plenty of good red weenie creatures around to target as well. But I think that we should look at this as potentially the “cream of the crop” – the cards that Wizards wanted us to see and ooh and ah over without seeing the rest of the set. The rest could be rubbish.

As for the reprints, they aren’t overwhelmingly surprising. Serra Angel is an iconic card and, even though it doesn’t see much play, it still is grossly popular. Birds of Paradise is another great flagship card of the base set. The one that stands out as interesting to me is Black Knight. He hasn’t been around since, what, Fifth Edition? He’s a great Black weenie that has anchored a number of aggro decks in the history of Magic. His return could herald a new, dark time for Standard.

The planeswalkers have been so prevalent in the marketing of Magic, even this year with Shards of Alara out, that it should have been expected that they would reprint all of them with the new Mythic rarity. It means that Fellowship of the Ring or Planeswalker Control or whatever you want to call that deck will still be viable once Lorwyn rotates out, which is interesting.

The New Rotation

So they’re going to do base sets every summer now? And have two of them in Standard? That will be a little hard to get a handle on. It makes me wonder how they will treat some of the staple cards that you expect in just about every base set. Is it worth it to print, say, Wrath of God in Magic 2010 and leave it out of 2011? Or would you print it in both editions?

I guess we’ll have to wait until Magic 2011 to see.

The Bottom Line

If Magic 2010 can capture the “pure Magic” that Aaron Forsythe seems to think, then we could be looking at the first in a long line of great core sets to come. And that is pretty exciting. The new cards, the new art, it’s certainly giving me that Portal vibe.

And I love it.

Until next week…


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