It’s time to get up on my rarely-used soapbox. This week, instead of offering Limited puzzles or telling Commander stories, I’m going to offer my opinion on one of Magic’s latest developments.
Recently, in his Making Magic column, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater told us about “Planeswalker Decks”, the product that will replace both Core Sets and Intro Decks and help introduce new players to the game.
I highly recommend reading Rosewater’s full article, but for context, here’s the short version. Each new Magic set will have two preconstructed Planeswalker Decks associated with it, featuring the following cards:
- a new mythic rare planeswalker card balanced for casual play,
- two rares that tutor for the planeswalker and have a specific effect,
- three uncommons that get better when you have the planeswalker on the battlefield,
- four planeswalker-flavoured commons,
- and a mix of other cards from the current block.
Planeswalker decks will also include two boosters from their associated set, and will retail at current Intro Deck prices. All of these cards will be Standard-legal upon release.
First things first: I think this is a super-exciting product and I can’t wait to see what Wizards does with it.
On top of pushing planeswalkers further forward in the game’s marketing — helping Magic stay relevant in today’s character-driven pop culture landscape — I like that Wizards will be designing cards not pushed for tournament play. Cool, splashy planeswalkers (and planeswalker tutors!) that won’t have their prices inflated by Standard demand is good for the game.
However, it’s definitely not what I was expecting.
Rather than following the Intro Deck form factor, I thought they were going to release a boxed product a lot more like Duel Decks Anthologies or the Deck Builder’s Toolkit. And honestly, it’s a product I’d still like to see.
Picture this: a $35 “Battle Box” that contains ten pre-constructed 60-card decks, one for each colour pair. The decks are balanced against each other, and contain the “default”-costed and -flavoured effects and creatures you see in Core Sets and Welcome Decks — your Cancels, your Mind Rots, your Grizzly Bears and Serra Angels and Shivan Dragons — along with a single copy each of Gideon, Jace, Liliana, Chandra, and Nissa, in new cards not pushed for tournament play.
Wizards would define the cards within the Battle Box as always Standard-legal, and would include a couple of inserts that explain the rules and guide new players on remixing the Battle Box cards to create new decks.
This would accomplish a few things:
- introduce new players to the game with a variety of preconstructed decks and the freedom to remix them;
- provide a solid, self-contained, boardgame-sized experience for people who are interested in Magic but worry about the prices;
- divide the game’s “default” effects into their own product, pushing Wizards to create more interesting/flavourful effects in the expansions (hat-tip to a friend for pointing this one out); and
- have enough non-basic-land cards to function as a cube.
Essentially, an official Battle Box would mimic the Netrunner Core Set (or Hearthstone’s Core cards) in terms of function and pricing, and would provide more direction for new players on how decks work and interact with each other.
There are two problems with a Battle Box as outlined above: they don’t encourage new players to buy more Magic product, and they aren’t as Planeswalker-focused as Wizards would like introductory Magic products to be.
We can solve the first problem by including booster packs, like in the Deck Builder’s Toolkit. The Planeswalker problem is a little harder, but with a particular focus on art direction and branding (naming the decks “Nissa’s Hunters”, “Chandra’s Inferno”, etc.), we can solve that problem as well.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on how he’s definitely still going to buy those Planeswalker Decks, they sound really cool.