Big Changes Coming for Magic’s Core Set

<i>"Those who choose to take the black/Bid farewell to comforts great and small."</i>

"Those who choose to take the black/Bid farewell to comforts great and small."

Magic: the Gathering’s numbered bi-annual core sets are a thing of the past, and that’s just one of the many changes coming to the world’s most popular CCG. Are you ready for Magic 2010?

The current core set system has been in place for quite a few years now. Every two years, a numbered core set comes out (the set in print at the moment is Tenth Edition), made up of reprints from old sets. Mostly, the core set simply defines a base group of cards that will be legal in Standard format for the next two years, in addition to the new sets that rotate in and out. Long-time players usually have little reason to buy anything from the core set, since they collected those cards when they first came out.

No more. Starting this July, a new core set will be released every year, and each set will be named for the year after the year it comes out. Therefore, the July set will be called Magic 2010. Each core set will be tournament legal the day it comes out, but it will remain legal for 15 months. This means there will be a few months during which two different core sets will be tournament legal at the same time.

The whole overlap thing seems a little confusing, but Standard format rotations will be easier to understand. Every year will see the publication of four new Magic sets: that year’s core set, plus the three sets that make up the new block. Blocks and core sets will rotate out of Standard together. On the other hand, this comment from Magic R&D chief Aaron Forsythe makes it sound as though only one block will be Standard legal at a time: “There will be only one rotation date per year, when the large Fall set is released. When the set codenamed ‘Lights’ is released late in 2010, it will knock the Shards of Alara block and Magic 2010 out of Standard at the same time.” Am I misinterpreting that?

A lot of casual Magic players are looking at the tournament changes and saying, “Yeah? So?” A lot of tournament players are looking at annual core set releases and saying, “Yeah? So?” Well, Wizards has an answer for both. New cards. Half of each new core set will be made up of totally new cards, like the Wall of Frost up there. That will keep both groups interested (new cards to play with and new cards to build tournament decks out of!), and more importantly, keep the core set on game store shelves, where potential new players can see it. And that is really the point of the core set, after all. Plus, they’ll be holding prerelease events, which are always fun.

Wizards’ goal with the core set design is to include a lot of fun cards that capture the flavor of a fantasy game without getting too far into the intricate MtG backstory. Black Knight and Serra Angel will be returning, but Magic 2010 will have fewer old standbys than any other set – only eight cards that have been in every core set. Planeswalkers will be showing up among the 15 mythic rares in Magic 2010, and they’ll be selling 6-card booster packs in addition to the usual 15-card packs. Will those be some kind of introductory pack? Or perhaps a slightly cheaper pack with fewer commons for players who don’t need to collect 50 copies of Distress, but still want to buy packs for the rares?

I’d have to say I’m pretty enthusiastic about the new direction Magic is taking. New cards in a core set will make for very fun limited play (when was the last time someone held a Tenth Edition booster draft?), and if the art Wizards has leaked so far is any indication, I’ll be buying some packs just to collect the amazing looking cards. You can read the full official explanation from Aaron Forsythe at the official MtG site.

6 Responses to Big Changes Coming for Magic’s Core Set

  1. well, that’s interesting, I don’t buy many cards now. the only MtG player at my university is tournament caliber death and I’m not even a practice game for him. If there were more casual players, I’d be buying cards.

  2. Go to a prerelease tournament. Lots of fun, fairly casual atmosphere, no worries about ridiculous killer decks (they’re all sealed deck events). Worst case scenario, you lose all your matches but still get a pile of new cards and the rare foil you get just for showing up.

  3. Anything to keep the customers happy… I mean buying. I smell “Magic isn’t making us enough money anymore.” Which is probably true.

  4. I’m also very enthusiastic about this change, my friends and I have been clamoring for Magic to return to its fantasy roots for years. The only downside of this whole affair is that we will no longer be having the fun little fourth sets that we’ve had on the non-core set years. I was in the minority that enjoyed Coldsnap and I was really looking forward to the next Un set.

    Perhaps most amazing about this whole affair is that Wizards is making a game-altering change and the usual chorus of “Wizards is Doomed!!/Magic is Dead!!” has been replace with cautious optimism and support.

  5. The 6-card boosters are designed for mass market stores, and only one in three will have a rare in them.

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