Before I get into my thoughts on Unstable —a note on my absence. Several projects kicked into high gear towards the end of 2017, leaving me little time to write about our favourite brand of wizard poker, and for my silence here I truly apologize. Brian and Scotia have been kind enough to keep the lights on for me, and I appreciate them greatly.
Thanks to you, too, for sticking around. It’s not nothing, and I appreciate it.
Now, let’s see how long it takes me to shake this rust off. I have Thoughts™!
FIRST, GO PLAY UNSTABLE
Quickly! Before Rivals of Ixalan season begins!
A story: at the Un-Spiracy draft event (which was 2 packs of Unstable, 1 pack of Conspiracy for the ultimate multiplayer mayhem) here at A Muse N Games (wherein I drafted this mad Frankensteinian monster of value, Brago Contraptions Control), I cast a simple card, Gimme Five, and got ready to run around the store giving high-fives.
In a moment that beautifully illustrates the joy of Unstable, everybody in the store high-fives me—Brian, Scotia, Dorian, the players in the other Un-Spiracy pod, the lovely family trying out a new board game at the front tables, and even the players in my own game.
Thirty seconds later, I’ve got an 11-life lead that I would later ride to victory, and everybody in the store got a little bit closer and got to share in the joy of gaming with each other. What more could you ask for?
(Speaking of asking—I do recommend asking people you are about to high-five if they’re okay with it. Some people prefer to avoid physical contact, and it’s on each of us as players to make sure game stores are safe spaces for everyone. This means avoiding not just unwanted physical contact, but the implicit social pressures surrounding it as well.)
((But once you’ve asked, man is it sweet that Unstable created a moment like that!))
A CHALLENGER APPEARS
Late last year, Wizards of the Coast announced that the Duel Decks line would be coming to an end, and in their place would come “Challenger Decks”—a new line of more competitive (and by corollary, more expensive) pre-constructed decks.
Designed largely by former professional players now working for Wizards, and resembling largely the Event Decks of old, Challenger Decks will take into account the current Standard meta and provide a 75-card list that can hold its own much more effectively at Friday Night Magic and Standard Showdowns.
In order to make space in their product line for Challenger Decks, Wizards is ending the Duel Decks line of products. These were two opposed 60-card decks designed for casual kitchen-table play, independent of Standard legality. Over the years, they were a great way of reprinting much-needed cards for Modern and Legacy with sweet new art, and—crucially—a great way to try out Magic with a buddy for under $30.
Arguably, there is less need for Duel Decks now. The Masters series and Conspiracy series allow Wizards to reprint cards in great volume. Various other sealed products let you try Magic in a less structured way. You can come to a Magic Open House here at AMNG and get your sorceries on without paying a cent.
But there was really something to be said for taking two Duel Decks and bashing them together. They were a curated experience designed with great care, and I’ll miss them to pieces.
As for which product I think should have been retired in their place… well.
I spent some time last year discussing Planeswalker Decks, which you can read in the links above. They’re good for new players—an excellent learning tool—but in my personal opinion, they’re not quite consistent enough to be truly great.
Rather than ending Duel Decks, here’s what I’d do instead: repackage Planeswalker Decks as the new Duel Decks. Market and price a matched pair of budget Standard decks from the latest set with custom Planeswalkers on the front, and sell it for $30.
By selling them as a matched pair, you send the implicit message that these decks are meant for play against each other, and not necessarily at FNM. You get the curated experience of Duel Decks with the marketing power of Planeswalker Decks, and by the time new players are tired of bashing Huatli into Angrath and looking for something more, Challenger Decks are right there to take them to the next level.
Wizards listened (no they didn’t, it was parallel development) the last time. Let’s see if they listen (read: continue doing their own market research because they’re a big corporation and I’m just a columnist) again.
RIVALS OF IXALAN IS COMING
If hype was a sound, I’d be making it.
THINGS ARE HAPPENING
AMNG has thrown open the doors to a shiny new 2018! On top of our usual weekly events, here’s what’s going down:
See you at the store!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He was exiled during your previous attack step and has now returned to the battlefield under your control tapped and attacking. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!