Wizards of the Coast has announced a new casual play format called Planechasers. If you like multiplayer versions of Magic, unpredictable shifts in mid-game, or just have fond memories of the old Vanguard cards, then this could be just the thing you’ve been waiting for.
The Planechasers announcement was a little short on details in terms of how the new cards and rules will actually work, but we do know what you’ll get with each Planechasers set: a 60-card deck (with 8 rares) made of cards from all Magic sets, a “planar d6,” a strategy guide and rules insert, plus ten oversized plane cards. It looks like the ten card planar deck will cause the player to shift through different planes as the game progresses, adding new effects and altering the game’s conditions. The plane cards will have brand new art, and the cards in the play deck will be tournament legal (with their own expansion symbol) as long as a particular card is otherwise legal in a given format. The whole deal will set you back $19.99.
It certainly sounds reminsicent of the oversized Vanguard cards. Each Vanguard card represented a well-known planeswalker and modified the game in a variety of ways, including altering starting hand size, life totals, damage dealt by creatures or cards drawn per turn. It was a fun way to play, although if you used a random Vanguard draw, it was easy to get a card that didn’t benefit your deck at all. The later Vangaurd editions were hard to find and are now pretty pricey on the secondary market.
I’m all for officially supported casual formats. This sounds like a fun way to jazz up those, “Hey, you want to play a few games of Magic?” evenings. I think the planar deck concept will work better than the Vanguard cards did, assuming the different effects change throughout the game. That way, no one is stuck with an effect that makes the game one-sided for the entire match. Pulling the Karn Vanguard card (which only affected artifacts) with an artifact-light deck wasn’t terribly awesome.