Blake Rasmussen was joined by Mark Rosewater and Mike Turian on today’s Weekly MTG stream to answer questions about the upcoming shift to Play Boosters, touching on the price increase, set design challenges for the new product, and confirming Limited play isn’t going away.
Rosewater, the head designer for Magic: The Gathering, and Turian, a product architect for the game, started things off by reviewing the announcement and articles about the merging of Set and Draft Boosters into the singular Play Booster starting with the 2024 release of Murders at Karlov Manor.
Rosewater then addressed a couple of posts he made on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday to clarify that while Draft Boosters were going to eventually go away, drafting was not.
Rosewater reiterated on stream that there is no one inside Wizards of the Coast (WotC) that wants to get rid of Limited and that they know how important Limited is to Magic — he even cited data that shows that the longer someone plays Magic: The Gathering, the more likely it is they play Limited. The posts were only saying that the Draft Booster would go away, leading R&D to have to solve the problem of making a booster pack similar to the Set Booster that could support Limited play.
Rasmussen followed up the sentiment that Limited play was here to stay, pointing out data that states Limited play has been steadily going up the past three years despite the sale of Draft Boosters going down. Turian also mentioned how Arena limited play is through the roof and another reason why the Play Booster will be adapted over to both, Arena and Magic Online. While Magic Online’s Play Booster will be an exact copy of the tabletop version, Arena will have slight modifications when it comes to certain cards that might appear on The List in the future that wouldn’t be fit for Historic. Another potential positive for the Play Booster according to Turian is the likelihood that players, who in the past only bought Set Boosters to open, would try out more Limited events as their packs would be fun to open and lend themselves to be used for a day of play.
As for the changes to the makeup of a Play Booster from a Draft Booster, Rosewater and Turian referenced the ever-changing shape of Limited formats. Rosewater noted that the 15-card booster pack with 11 commons that started with Alpha had that count long before Limited play was ever a consideration. He also said that the trimming of a pack to 10 commons when the basic land slot was introduced also didn’t negatively impact Limited play. The Play Booster will have always have six commons, and seven out of eight times will have a seventh common in the slot that could be a card from The List. The two wild card slots in a Play Booster can be anything, and so they will sometimes round the commons up to nine, which will hardly make a difference for Limited play in modern-day Magic.
Rosewater also mentioned that Murders at Karlov Manor, along with Standard sets going forward, will have 81 commons and 100 uncommons. This is a shift from current sets having 101 commons and 80 uncommons. These changes will lead to a larger variety of uncommons that can be build-around or archetype-specific pieces in Limited. The reduction in commons will also trim down on the number of “sideboard commons” and other unnecessary commons, which used to be referred to as “discriminator cards” which referred to cards that basically separated skilled players from weaker players, as the former knew to avoid playing them.
Rosewater said that Play Design isn’t raising the power level of commons and that setting power level between cards meant for Limited and constructed isn’t something new. They are not worried about Limited power level commons seeping into constructed player or overpowering Pauper. More so, they want to make sure the commons that do exist will be cards players are happy to include in their Limited decks rather than just raising the floor on the power of commons across the board.
But the bigger concern for many Limited players will be the chance for more rares in Sealed and Draft games. Rosewater and Turian said the uptick in rares in games isn’t exactly new territory, as recent sets with bonus sheets have shown Limited formats can survive and even be more fun with slightly more rares, particularly those that lead to more niche archetypes. And while some pools or decks will have a handful of more rares and higher variance, Rosewater added that a skill strong players have is knowing how to prepare and handle variance. In terms of Sealed, 95 percent of Sealed play is at prerelease events, so some pools having more rares isn’t really a concern for competitive play. Ultimately, the larger number of rares being a strong positive of the opening experience of boosters mandated that Play Boosters sport that feature. With that knowledge going into set design, the sets (starting with Murders at Karlov Manor) were designed with more answers to “bombs” at common.
Naturally, the Play Booster having a chance at more rares put the pack at a closer price to Set Boosters than Draft Boosters. The trio acknowledged that the price of Limited events would increase due to this change, but it was a necessity as the packs contained more value, which the WotC members chose to refer to as “fun” and “excitement.” One question asked how the price increase would impact the new player experience and Rasmussen mentioned that there is a new project the works that has the new player experience at the “top of mind.” All three didn’t touch on the price specifics outside of the fact that players would get more bang for their buck with the Play Booster, with Rosewater stating that the most important aspect of the Set Booster to carry over to the Play Booster was the chance at opening multiple rares.
For players that still have questions, there will be another Q&A session on the official Magic: The Gathering Discord channel tomorrow. Rosewater and Turian will be back to answer questions along with Aaron Forsythe. Players can access the Discord channel here.