Spring is in the air and there’s a lot to be excited for Planeswalkers! Wizards has flooded us with announcements this week concerning upcoming sets, events, and products for both newcomers and veterans alike. So, let’s not waste any time and jump right in.
Come One, Come All:
In order to understand the nature of some new products, we’re going to jump back in time a bit to 2014 when Mark Rosewater, Magic’s head designer, announced there would be no more core sets. For anybody who doesn’t know, core sets used to come out once a year containing reprints of popular and common cards from Standard thought to be the, “core,” cards needed to build a deck. They were meant for beginners to collect a solid base of useful and pragmatic creatures and spells to use when constructing decks. When these core sets were done away with, many people complained that it would be harder for newcomers to get into the game and collect the cards needed to build decks, and rightly so.
Well, this week, Mr. Rosewater unveiled his efforts for attracting new players to Magic and help them learn and get excited about the game. He has a tiered approach of products, starting from very simple pre-made decks that eventually get more complicated until the player is given tools to build their own deck.
Let’s take a look at what will be there to help new players along. If you have a friend who wants to get into the game, but is intimidated by all there is to learn, this will be a good guide on where to start. First up are sample decks:
These are basic 30 card decks built around (but not including) a specific Planeswalker. These decks contain very simple mechanics and are meant to be given out free to new players at events like FNM. Two can be combined to make a basic 60-card Standard deck ready for play at any tournament. They contain one rare which is fun to play with, but not so powerful that non-beginners would want them and abuse the system to hoard them.
Next, we’ve got the online Magic game for Steam, iOS, and Xbox (still no PS4 version) called Magic duels:
Started back in the Magic Origins set, this online game is free-to-play with a built-in tutorial and simple campaign to teach new players and help them learn the ins-and-outs of basic play. New players can go at their own pace against AI opponents (and then move on to playing against other players if they want) with pre-made decks that you can alter yourself as you collect new cards from winning matches. It’s a nice way to learn the game without being under the pressure of a tournament or being intimidated by advanced players.
Now, I’ll talk about the new product, the one supposed to fill the gap left by the core sets and bridge the gap between the simple pre-made decks and the Deckbuilder’s Toolkits. Introducing, the Planeswalker Decks:
Going forward, each set will have two Planeswalker decks, each built around a Planeswalker key to that set and including cards that work with the key mechanics in the same set. Each deck will be two-colors and contain a single Planeswalker card as well as two boosters to help customize the deck as you see fit. Essentially, they are more complicated pre-made decks meant to catch newcomers up to what is used in the current Standard and allow for players to start adding little personal touches and learn how to construct decks. Hopefully, these will be better than the previous starter decks which served a similar purpose, but only contained one mediocre rare and cards that weren’t exactly powerful enough for tournament play.
“Does this mean Chandra will play a major ole in the next set?” I hear you ask. Well, my perceptive friend, that leads right into the next big announcement-
A Whole New World:
We finally got news on the fall sets and they will feature a whole new plane, unlike recent Zendikar and Innistrad which were revisits from older sets. Planeswalkers, welcome to Kaladesh!
We got a little taste of Kaladesh back in Magic Origins, but we only saw cards based around Chandra’s origin story (since Kaladesh is her home plane). Now, we’ll get to see the plane as a whole as well as its driving forces, figures and creatures.
Going off of the new announcement and what has been gathered from Origins, here is what we know about Kaladesh so far:
- Unlike most other planes, mages and magic users are rare on Kaladesh. The work normally done by magic is instead done through artifacts and constructs. These metal machines, devices, and creatures are powered by a substance known as aether which is heavily regulated and trafficked.
- Metallic constructs aren’t just used for work, but also seen as a thing of beauty. They are included in much of Kaldesh’s art and architecture.
- Kaladesh is ruled by a corrupt set of religious leaders known as the Consuls. The Consuls were willing to burn an entire village to the ground and blame it on Chandra’s pyromancy just to turn public opinion against her and justify their ban on fire magic, a crime punishable by execution. Can you really blame them though? With a society as heavily reliant on metal as Kaladesh is, you want as little fire being thrown around as possible.
- The woman in the announcement artwork isn’t just for show by the way. Her name is Saheeli Rai, a new Planeswalker native to the plane of Kaladesh. What exactly her powers entail (and by extension what colors of mana she represents) and what her role in the story will be has yet to be seen. Seeing as Kaladesh is a plane thick with artifacts, I’m hoping for the first colorless Planeswalker since Ugin.
So, what can we expect to see in the Kaladesh block come this fall? Well, if the preview Planeswalker deck is any indication, Chandra will play a huge role in the story and we will most definitely see a new Planeswalker card for her. Secondly, we’ll most likely see a huge return in artifacts, artifact creatures and equipments in a big way as well as the return of colored artifacts. Perhaps we’ll see the new Wastes land play a role, but seeing as artifacts are fundamentally different than the colorless Eldrazi, I’m not entirely convinced.
That Aladdin pun in the title isn’t just for fun either. Kaladesh already seems to have a heavy Central Asian influence, and this wouldn’t be the first time a block has been based around a culture or mythology. And whether it was intentional or not, the name Kaladesh is vaguely reminiscent of a combination of Kali, the Hindu Goddess of destruction, and Ganesh, Hindu God of wisdom. Seeing cards and creatures based around Hinduism would be both interesting and awesome. Here’s hoping for mythic rares based off Kali and Ganesh.
Now, I’ll head off into some wild speculation territory. The only other two Planeswalkers with a heavy artifact influence are Karn who hasn’t been seen since the New Phyrexia block back in 2011 and Tezzeret, who hasn’t been seen since the Ravnica block in 2013. Both are long overdue from some plot development as to what they’ve been up to, and I would especially look forward to the return of Karn, one of the oldest creatures in Magic history (the actual card game, not the lore). Last we saw of him, he was trying to find a way to combat the contagion that had taken hold of his personally built metal world of Mirrodin. Maybe aether will be the long sought after answer to his question.
Next bit of speculation will take us back to the Future Sight set from 2007. During this set, the plane of Dominaria was being torn apart by temporal rifts. Through this rifts, came creatures from all planes past, present and future. Several of the, “future,” cards were cards that had yet to be printed with abilities and mechanics yet to be seen. Now, 9 years later, only half of the cards from that set have shown up, but one of the ones still missing is Steamflogger Boss:
The funny thing about this guy is, there is only one other Rigger creature in Future Sight and the set had nothing to do with contraptions. No other creature in all of Magic has anything to do with the contraptions mechanic and therefore, it has always been a mystery. Many years later, Wizards stated our Goblin friend was more of a joke card and never intended to be reprinted. Eventually, it turned into the Magic version of The Last Guardian, something only ever talked about as a joke for never coming out. However, Mr. Rosewater has stated several times on Twitter and other social media that he was determined to bring the mechanic back and make it work. Well, with Kaladesh being known for having machines powered by aether maybe we’ll finally see the Contraption mechanic long hinted at and a reprint of Steamflogger.
Even with all the announcements I’ve gone over, it’s still only a small part of what Wizards announced for this summer and fall. For the full list of announcements, check out the official article. If you want more information on the beginner’s products I mentioned earlier as well as the purpose for these changes, check out the article from the head designer himself.
Hopefully, you’re all as excited about this news as I am. Do you have your own speculations on what Kaladesh has in store for us? Let me know! Thanks for reading, see you next week.