Feature Article from Raphael Levy

Changes to Set Releases

Raphael Levy

8/25/2014 8:00:00 PM

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Today, Wizards announced they would change the way the Magic sets are going to be released and the way Standard is going to be played.

Before you go on and read about what I have to say about the changes, you can go ahead and read the article by Mark Rosewater on the mothership.

If you're too lazy to read the whole thing (I can already hear the “tl;dr” from some of you guys), here are the changes coming for you 12 months from now:

- Change #1: Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Magic Blocks Will Be Two Sets Each
- Change #2: Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Magic Will Have Two Blocks Per Year
- Change #3: Beginning in 2016, the Core Sets Are No More
- Change #4: Beginning in 2016, the First Set of Each Block (the Fall and Spring Sets) Will Cause a Rotation
- Change #5: Beginning in 2016, Standard Will Be Three Blocks Rather Than Two Blocks

In the main article, Mark explains the reasons why these changes are taking place and why they were needed. While I can't argue with why they made them, I can tell you how I feel about them, as a competitive player.

Let's go over each of the changes.


Change #1: Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Magic Blocks Will Be Two Sets Each

That means no more third set in a block. The problem I had with the way things were was - and I'm talking about limited here, draft got seriously boring after a while - as much as I liked some of the first sets in the latest blocks, opening the same packs over and over again, all year long, became kind of old.

I liked opening Theros packs back in September 2013, but by July 2014, it had lost all its charm. The new sets change the pick orders a little bit but overall it's the same cards. At the time the third set comes out, I always feel like: “alright, it's the last stretch with this set, and then we're finally moving on to something new,” no matter how good the set actually is.

A couple years ago, they changed the order the packs were drafted, from the latest (small) set to the oldest (big set). They haven't made any announcement regarding this yet but I can only imply that they aren't going to change it. It was made to value the latest set more.

The big set has more cards (by definition) and it feels that you're building your strategy from the larger pool. There are more strategies available from a larger set, and when you start with the small set, you're going to pick some good cards from it and hope to find what you need in the last two packs to adapt. I don't like to hope for things to happen in draft. I like to have a few strategies in mind, see what's opened, and make the most out of it. Maybe it's just me, but I've been having very little success with formats with only two sets (Innistrad + Dark Ascension, Theros + Born of the Gods). So is there a problem with the pack orders, or should I Rethink my draft strategy?

The release of the third set kinda evens things out, as you're then drafting from two small sets, and therefore you won't rely on the big set too much. Except for Khans of Tarkir, this is not something we'll have to worry too much about until Fall 2015.


Change #2: Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Magic Will Have Two Blocks Per Year

I have been playing for a very long time and what keeps me playing now is more the thrill of the competition, the excitement of preparing for it, than the game itself. I get excited when the new sets come out but it only lasts for a little while before it gets purely professional. I enjoy tournaments much more when I have fun preparing for them; knowing that we'll get more mechanisms, more things to learn and to explore every time. That is good news. That announcement goes hand in hand with the next one.


Change #3: Beginning in 2016, the Core Sets Are No More

The release of Core Sets isn't something I was really looking forward to very much. We expect a couple of reprints (which dual lands are coming back?), maybe two or three new cards (oooh, Goblin Rabblemaster...), and that's it; nothing to really shift the Standard format and that's too bad. A season of Magic is pretty much three and a half months of fun and discovery, and the rest of the year is just playing the same cards over and over again.

As for limited, drafting with Core Sets has been more interesting than I thought it would be (except for Magic 2012 which really sucked!). Not exciting, but fine. Not something I will be missing more than that.


Change #4: Beginning in 2016, the First Set of Each Block (the Fall and Spring Sets) Will Cause a Rotation

and

Change #5: Beginning in 2016, Standard Will Be Three Blocks Rather Than Two Blocks

Having a set around for two whole years is a lot of time. How often have you heard the word “devotion” in the last 11 months? It is likely to still be around for 12 more months. Or maybe “Sphinx's Revelation” is a card you'd like to see again? Two years for each first set of each block is just too long. They're changing it to 18 months, which will see the metagame change a little bit faster. Having three blocks, even though there will be less cards for each keyword, makes the environment shift more quickly and playtesting for tournaments more interesting.

There's nothing more frustrating than playtesting for a tournament, knowing there's almost nothing to be found. With the information going around so fast, with hundreds of tournaments being held only days after the release of each set, there is a need for more depth in the card pool. For PT Portland, we managed to find a deck that very few other players had, but honestly, the standard format barely even changed for the last...six months?

More mechanics and more depth mean more room for innovation. Innovation makes the best teams come out on top. And as a competitive player, that's what I want to see, not the same tournaments being played over and over again with the exact same decks.

As far as limited is concerned, I'm happy we won't have to play with the first set of the year for nine months, and not too happy that for six months we'll have to draft “backwards” with two sets.

I believe the changes are good overall. When I read that something HUGE would change the way we see the game, I thought they were bringing back “damage on the stack” or something like that. This is more a tweak of something we've been eager to see: more cards, more mechanics, more toys.

My dream would be to have the players of the Pro Tour, and only the players, have access to an entire new Standard format, with two weeks to figure it out. Team work would be at its best right there: much to explore, discipline required, deckbuilding skills needed.

While it's not something we can ask from Wizards (yeah, yeah, it's just a dream), they will be providing extra work for us with this whole second block (or I believe it's extra work). In any case, I couldn't be more grateful.

While I would play with just anything they throw at me (Avacyn Restored, huh?) - Magic is one of my jobs after all, that I obviously enjoy - I'm glad it will be more fun for the years to come!

What about you? What do you think of the changes?

Take care !

Raph

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