2024: A Year Of Milestones And Magic

2024 marks several key milestones for Bennie Smith and Magic. He looks back on three major anniversaries with the game and forward to an exciting 2024 release schedule.

Chatterfang, Squirrel General
Chatterfang, Squirrel General, illustrated by Milivoj Ćeran

Happy New Year, everyone!  2023 was definitely a roller-coaster ride with lots of ups and downs. For me, personally, I closed out the year with a lingering cold that has been an incredibly annoying disruption to my holiday plans. On the plus side, I think all the coughing has given my abdominals a long-overdue workout!

2024 is a pretty cool milestone year for me and Magic: The Gathering.  Here are the bullet points:

  • January 2024 will mark my own personal 30 years of playing Magic.
  • August 2024 will mark 25 years since I started writing for StarCityGames.com, and 17 of those years I’ve been writing about EDH and Commander.
  • January 2024 will also mark ten years since my team and I published The Complete Commander, the first book on the Commander format.

After expanding on these milestone moments below, I’ll go into my thoughts on the coming year in terms of Commander, so buckle up!

30 Years of Playing Magic

In January 1994, I was leafing through an issue of White Wolf magazine, a publication that mostly serviced The World of Darkness tabletop role-playing games.  At the time, I was running a Vampire: The Masquerade campaign, but I’d also bought the books for Werewolf: The Apocalypse and Mage: The Ascension. So, I bought White Wolf mostly to help with my campaign, but White Wolf also had reviews of other games, and as a consummate gamer, I loved to read about other games, especially new ones.  This is where I first heard about Magic: The Gathering, which was this issue’s feature review.

Greg Gorden opened his review:

An innovative game idea sometimes seems obvious once someone else has thought of it and put forth the effort to create it. Such a game strikes a chord that makes one say, ‘But of course, anyone can see that; it should have been done a long time ago.’ I believe Magic: The Gathering is that kind of game.

He goes on:

Magic is billed as a fantasy trading card game. The game is sold in 60-card packs, with 15-card ‘booster packs’ also available.  To play the game requires a deck of at least 40 cards for each player, so each player needs to purchase his own deck.  The rules encourage players to treat the cards like baseball trading cards.  Trade them, sell them, and cover the really rare cards (yes, certain cards are rarer than others) as you assemble your playing deck.

The cards themselves are attractive. They are playing-card sized and printed in full color. Each card has a title, game symbols and explanatory text, and a full-color illustration that fills approximately half the card.  The players of my local game club were immediately intrigued by all the cards. Onlookers had a strong desire to peruse the decks and had to be discouraged from picking up the cards in play just to take a look.

Gordon gives Magic a 4 out of 5-star rating. In the “Other Opinions” sidebars, there’s a 5-star review (“You need to try Magic. One duel later, you’ll be hooked and doomed to roam the stores looking for booster packs just like the rest of us misbegotten Magic-addicted fools”), a 3-star (“Magic is a fun game… easily learned and a good time-filler. Unfortunately, the very randomness that makes each game different and exciting also produces very frustrating experiences”), and another 5-star (“Pick this one up. Your only regret may be how much time you spend playing Magic”).

Aspect of Wolf

30 years later, I don’t think there have been any regrets about the time I’ve spent playing Magic. Yes, there’s been frustration about the random nature of the game, but I’ve loved what these decades of Magic have brought me—a creative outlet, a competitive outlet, countless friends, and gathering experiences. And it all began by reading this article and heading down to the local hobby shop to buy an Unlimited starter deck for me, and another one for any of my role-playing friends who might be willing to buy it from me and give the game a try.

25 Years of Writing for StarCityGames.com

With Magic, I started out as a casual player; my friends and I built giant decks and battled at large multiplayer tables, throwing ante, drinking beer, and talking trash. But it didn’t take long before the tournament scene got its hooks in me, and as I strove to improve my skills at 1v1 Magic, I turned to the nascent Internet for competitive advice.

I found a home on the Magic Usenet bulletin boards, where early Magic writers posted insightful strategy and entertaining tournament reports. As a writer myself, it inspired me to write and post my own thoughts on Magic and tournament recaps, and in 1999, Pete Hoefling scooped me up along with a handful of other Magic writers to provide content for his store’s new website, StarCityGames.com.  Unfortunately, that first year’s content no longer exists due to a server malfunction, but most of my content from 2000 until now is still right here.

Time Warp

Magic has changed a lot over the years since then, so I don’t know how much of that early stuff is relevant to players today, but if you played back then and are feeling a bit nostalgic, or if you’re a fan of Magic and interested in taking a peek into the past, there’s a lot to read in my archives. Seventeen years ago, I started writing about EDH (which later became Commander). At first, it was just randomly sprinkled in with my other musings, but over time, as it grew in popularity, I spent more and more of my time and attention devoted to what became my – and many others’ – favorite format.

To celebrate all that content, I’ll feature highlights from my Magic content under the #25YearsSCG hashtag on my Twitter account each Wednesday of 2024, and highlights from my EDH/Commander content under the #CMDRthrowback each Thursday.

Ten Years of The Complete Commander Book

As I focused on EDH and Commander more and more in those early days, I got a lot of feedback from people who wanted me to follow up and update some of those early strategy articles. It occurred to me that there might be a market for a book focused exclusively on Commander strategy, with an aim towards helping players new to the format get up to speed. We also included Commander-related “fan fiction” in the book so that even expert Commander players could have something fun to read. 


With the monumental help of my editor and producer MJ Scott, and the incredible graphic design help from James Arnold (who went on to do amazing design work for Wizards of the Coast), The Complete Commander was published as an eBook right here on SCG in early 2014. While I am the credited author, this was definitely a group effort, with a host of contributors, Commander fans who sent in “Spirit of Commander” vignettes from their own play experiences, beta readers, and Magic luminaries who helped with the hype when we rolled it out.

Special thanks to these awesome book contributors:

  • Elliot Scott
  • Sheldon Menery
  • John Dale Beety
  • Renee Hupp and Trevor Gulley
  • A.E. Marling
  • Andy Rogers
  • Robby Rothe
  • Adam Styborski
  • Ant Tessitore
  • Natahlia Lysse Zaring

And a great group of beta readers who gave us valuable feedback on the early book text:

  • Telmo Pinto
  • Robby Rothe
  • Angela Brown
  • Calvin Russell
  • Adam Morrison
  • Luke Southworth
  • Debbie Moynihan

And thanks to Thomas “HobbesQ” for the early hype on the book!


The book was a monumental effort and a labor of love, and it got a fair amount of attention in the years following its release. I thought about trying to rework the book for a second edition, and perhaps a version available in paper, but there just never seemed to be enough time to make it happen. It still makes for a fun read, though, and I think it’s a great testament to this wonderful format that we all love.

Lightning Round – 2024 Magic Thoughts

Ravnica Remastered (January 12, 2024)

Ravnica Remastered is right around the corner. I almost never play Limited formats these days, so this release isn’t for me directly, but I am quite happy that we’re getting shockland reprints. New art and frame treatments offer up some sweet bling for your favorite decks.

Murders at Karlov Manor (February 9, 2024)

We’re getting a new Ravnica set not focused on guild stuff, instead juicing up Clue synergies like Wilds of Eldraine juiced up Food themes. Murders at Karlov Manor is also where Play Boosters debut, replacing the Set and Draft boosters and making things much easier for local game stores to circulate inventory.

I was a huge fan of Set Boosters and they were my primary engagement with buying packs, so this works for me. The apparent end of the Magic Minigames, which I found a really fun bonus, makes me a bit sad, though I expect ideas for them are running low.

What really has me hyped up is Ravnica: Clue Edition!  The Clue game was a huge part of my childhood gaming life playing with my cousins during family gatherings, and when the Clue movie came out, I totally geeked out about it. I’m very curious to see how this game plays, and I’m excited about building a Commander deck with Colonel Mustard, Miss Scarlett, and the rest of the gang.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be some sort of Universes Beyond tie-in here with the Clue movie, perhaps a Secret Lair.

Universes Beyond: Fallout (March 8, 2024) / Universes Beyond: Assassin’s Creed (July 2024)

I don’t really play PC or console video games outside of Magic Arena, so I don’t have a personal connection to the source material. But I’m hoping for a quality Commander product on par with Warhammer 40,000 Commander and am looking forward to picking up a bunch of cool new singles to build around or put into decks.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction (April 2024)

A fantasy Wild West-style Magic set sounds super-fun, and the key art suggests that we’ll have at least six sweet new legends to build decks around. It looks pretty clear we’ve got Rakdos, Oko, and Vraska, and possibly Tinybones. I’m guessing, since we’ve got Vraska, we’ll also have Jace, but it’s possible that Jace has been captured or lost and this Dirty Half-Dozen is here to chew bubble gum and find him.

Modern Horizons 3 (June 2024)

The exciting part for me is the possibility of new cards that might be sweet in Commander!  Modern Horizons 2 brought us Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth; Liquimetal Torque; and Chatterfang, Squirrel General.

Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth Liquimetal Torque Chatterfang, Squirrel General

Bloomburrow (Q3 2024)

A Magic set based on a world without Humans and filled with woodland creatures sounds adorable and super-fun.  I’m really, really looking forward to this set and what it’ll bring for Commander!

Duskmourn: House of Horror (Q4 2024)

I’ve been a fan of horror fiction for nearly as long as fantasy fiction, so a Magic expansion inspired by classic 1970s horror leaves me cautiously optimistic. I’m very curious how Duskmourn’s Magic horror will distinguish itself from the horror of the Phyrexians, Eldrazi (cosmic horror), and Innistrad’s Gothic horror. The key art by Antonio Jose Manzanedo adds the “cautious” in my optimism because it totally gives me Elesh Norn vibes. And I’m pretty much over Elesh Norn.

“This spell can’t be countered.”

I’ll end with a 2024 wish for more maindeckable cards that say these sweet, sweet words.  Cards like Toski, Bearer of Secrets; Cavern of Souls; Last March of the Ents; Chandra, Awakened Inferno; and Thrun, Breaker of Silence.

Toski, Bearer of Secrets Cavern of Souls Last March of the Ents

What cards or sets are you looking forward to in 2024?  What do you have on your Magic Wish List?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews. 

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy.


Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!