Here are ten things I like and don’t like from this week in Magic: The Gathering:
1. History Retwisted Indeed
Time Spiral Remastered preview season has come and gone and as someone who played a ton during that time, my feelings are mixed. On one hand, taking a trip down memory lane is (generally) a fun exercise and I have fond memories of playing a lot of Magic during that time. On the other hand, there’s really no incentive for me to get these cards so their existence, while cool, just doesn’t really hit me in the same way as it did the first time.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. As I write this, I’m looking at a picture of Firemaw Kavu and the memories I have of casting that card. The same can be said about Sudden Death, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, and Tromp the Domains. And all of those memories are positive, not negative. But there’s a part of me that sits here and is thinking “Now what?”. I don’t get to play with Time Spiral Remastered in the same way that I did when I was in my twenties at a local FNM or PTQ. The fun of figuring out just how high to take Stonecloaker, Sulfur Elemental, or Shaper Parasite isn’t really a puzzle worth solving this time around. And with Block Constructed no longer existing, people don’t really get to enjoy one of the best Block Constructed formats of all time.
So besides the nostalgia factor, which, admittedly, is really awesome, what’s the point of doing this?
If the answer is simply nostalgia, that works for me. The answer could also be that people who weren’t playing Magic then get the chance to experience Time Spiral block now, which also makes plenty of sense. But for an old dinosaur like me, I’m missing the incentive to go from “wow does this bring back awesome memories” to “I’m going to pick up a box right now”. Maybe I feel that way because we’re in the midst of a pandemic, so I can’t grab some packs and draft with friends or maybe I’d feel this way if life were normal — I’m not entirely sure. But I’m having problems fully connecting to this set in the way I did with the original Time Spiral block and I’m curious if people who were around during that time are feeling the same way.
2. Cash Grabs Are Fine Or They Aren’t?
When I hear that people hate the Secret Lair series, they often times say something like “It’s a cash grab and I hate cash grabs.” Which, if you think about it, is a really stupid thought because products are generally designed to make money, not lose it. Products can also be made to make people happy, impact the world in a positive way, etc, but more often than not, a product is generated with the idea of making a profit first and other things second (I’m sure Ross Merriam has an opinion or two on that).
If we take Magic Twitter and Magic Reddit seriously (LOL at doing either of those two things), it’s extremely strange to me that people have disdain for the Secret Lair series but absolutely love Time Spiral Remastered. Because if you want to talk about a cash grab, Time Spiral Remastered is the definition of a cash grab. Cards have been reprinted with upshifts in rarity (Damnation and Tarmogoyf) while others have been timeshifted with the sole purpose of getting people to hunt them down (Thoughtseize and True-Name Nemesis are the first two that come to mind). The set isn’t Standard legal, is simply pulling on nostalgia strings, and if you think you have any idea how expensive foil versions of the timeshifted cards are going to be, you’re going to want to guess again (or read Ben Bleiweiss’ article on it because he explains it perfectly).
This set is built to do one thing — make money — and it’s going to be extremely effective at doing that. And, for what it’s worth, I have no problem with that. If that’s what WotC wants to do with Time Spiral Remastered and other future remastered sets (I promise you this won’t be the last one), by all means.
But if you’re going to be furious at Secret Lair for existing and then happy as hell about Time Spiral Remastered existing, I don’t think you have a problem with cash grabs. I think you like a certain thing and dislike a different thing, which is totally fine, but lets call a spade a spade k?
3. Oh Sweet Summer Child…
I’ll take “Things that aren’t going to happen for $2,000, Kyle.”
Tea leaves. Lets read em. Almost five years ago, #paythepros was trending in the Magic community once WotC tried to rip the benefits away from professional Magic players seemingly out of nowhere. There was (justified) outrage, so they did a 180 on that decision and things kinda went back to normal. It was at that time where I knew change was coming to professional Magic monetarily in a meaningful way, some of which I expected and others I did not.
One I absolutely expected was the removal of Bronze, Silver, and Gold, as their existence didn’t really make a lot of sense from a dollars and cents perspective and would actually be hard to explain/justify to someone(s) who only cares about what a balance sheet looks like. Which, if you listen to any shareholder call in any industry ever, is a primary focus.
One I didn’t expect was the creation of the Magic Pro League and a huge injection of money into trying to legitimize Magic as an esport. It’s still shocking to me that the Mythic Invitational is a thing that happened and that Mengucci walked out of there with $250,000, but a quick Google search shows that I was, in fact, not dreaming.
However, as you’ve probably noticed, WotC’s attempts to make Magic an esport have not been as successful as they probably hoped. Organized Play is confusing to say the least, qualifying regularly for top level events is seen as either too difficult and/or extremely random, viewership of top level events isn’t anything to write home about, and prizes aren’t terribly appealing when compared to other successes in the esports landscape. Worst of all, the mere idea of going from an outsider to someone in the Rivals League or the MPL feels like an unobtainable goal for even the most seasoned veterans (so I can only imagine what someone new to the game thinks).
And yet, despite all of that, Magic was more successful than ever in 2020 even, and I do not say this lightly, in the midst of a pandemic. So, I ask you, fan of competitive/tournament Magic — why on earth would WotC inject a ton of money back into Organized Play when 2020, a year with very little Organized Play whatsoever after March, was so successful for them that they’re now their own operating division within Hasbro?
And to be clear, nothing about this bring me some immense level of joy. I’ve dedicated the past eight years of my life professionally into making Magic something one could proudly play or watch on the weekends with their friends and loved ones. It was important to me then and it’s important to me now. But this is just me facing the reality of the situation. Because when it comes down to it, WotC can choose to spend its dollar in becoming a legitimate esport or they can make more Secret Lairs, do more crossover products, and make more sweet trailers/videos for their upcoming products (among many other things that are not focusing on Magic being an esport).
Is this the death of competitive Magic? Nah because there’s always going to be an audience for competitive Magic which means there will always be someone around to run competitive Magic tournaments. But when life goes back to normal, do I think competitive Magic is going to look a lot different than it did when the pandemic hit? Absolutely and I think the powers that be at WotC would be foolish to behave otherwise.
4. Imagine PVDDR Losing Ever
I’ve known Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa for a really long time. I wouldn’t say we’re close friends or anything like that, but I have an immense amount of respect for him and what he’s accomplished in the game of Magic. It’s even more of a joy to work alongside him here at SCG, as getting to read his articles before you do to ensure they’re presented in the best way possible is something I don’t take lightly.
Back when I was actually good at playing the game of Magic, PV was one of the few people I felt like I could never get a read on when playing against. The way he approaches the game of Magic is one I’ve always described as “thoughtful”, as he’s never in too much of a rush to do anything and it feels like he has always thought of everything when playing a game. Calling his matches this past year at Worlds in Honolulu was an experience I’ll never forget and I hope I’ll be in attendance in some form or fashion when he gets the opportunity to defend his crown down the road.
I say all that to say this — PV played Mono-White Aggro❄ this past weekend in the February Kaldheim League Weekend. This is something I still cannot believe happened because when I think of PV, I think of anything but Mono-White Aggro❄. And not only did he play it, but he won with it. A lot. So much, in fact, that he’s still on the top of the MPL standings.
What does this all mean? Nothing really. I just wanted to wax poetic about PV crushing people with Mono-White Aggro❄ for a few minutes because it made me super happy.
5. Historic Got That New New
Kaldheim into Time Spiral Remastered into Historic Anthology 4? Sure, why not! I mean, it’s only 25 new cards so who really cares right?
Props to Thraben Inspector, Declaration in Stone, and Sword of Body and Mind for joining the Historic fray. I’d be shocked if Death’s Shadow had an impact but stranger things have happened. You can find all 25 cards via Nick Miller below.
6. Let The Shameless Promotion Begin
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that we here at SCG have been doing a bunch of new types of content in 2021. I’m gonna touch on a few of those now because I think they’re great products and I want to be successful.
Also, all things being honest, I don’t have four more bulletpoints in me today and the column isn’t called Six Things I Like And Don’t Like, ya know? And, if we’re being technical, I do like these next four things, so this just kinda counts by my metrics.
7. The 540
‘The 540’, a Magic: The Gathering podcast from Star City Games, features Justin Parnell and Ryan Overturf discussing their favorite Magic of all time — Cube!
8. The Resleevables
‘The Resleevables’, a Magic: The Gathering podcast from Star City Games, features me and Patrick Sullivan discussing Magic sets both past and present from top to bottom before giving them a final grade
9. Recurring Insight
Curious about Magic: The Gathering’s best and worst card designs and why? Patrick Sullivan shares his thoughts as only he can on some of MTG’s most iconic cards.
10. Split Second
Miss out on recent Magic news? Split Second is here just for you! Stay up-to-date on every minute of the Multiverse with the official daily news program of StarCityGames.com!