Ah, Magic the Gathering summer core sets; they used to be disappointing cavalcades of reprints and rehashes, until Magic 2010 was released in (oddly enough) 2009. Suddenly, core sets were cool and awesome, with brand new cards so that players had fresh weapons for their decks.
I love core sets; to me, they’re Magic in their purest form; no new mechanics or groan-worthy storylines, just a lot of solid, staple cards and usually some reprints of past gems, all invoking classic sword-and-sorcery tropes, with Magic’s trademark magepunk spin. It was therefore depressing that Magic 2014 felt like such a flop to me, especially after the back-to-back knockouts of M12 and M13.
This got me thinking; what if Mark Rosewater and the other R&D guys from Wizards came to me and said “okay smarty-pants, you design a Core set!” Well, if they did, and I accepted, it would probably look something like this…
This was the biggest downer for me in M14; no returning mechanics! We’ve seen scry, bloodthirst and exalted all reappear in previous Core sets, whereas M14 had nothing, because as far as I’m concerned, Slivers are a tribe, not a “returning mechanic”. So what mechanic would I put into Magic 2015? Glad you asked…
Yep, I cheated by putting in two; champion and kicker. To me, these seem like ideal Core set mechanics. Remember, a Core set is mostly aimed at new players, so the level of complexity is generally lower than that of a main “story” block. Both these mechanics are simple to understand and convey to a new player; for example, with kicker you either cast it for a cheap, small effect, or wait and pay more for a bigger effect. With champion, you’re “upgrading” one of your guys to a bigger, better version.
They’re both good skill-testing mechanics as well; kicker teaches a new player patience and how to know when to hold off using a spell for maximum effect, whilst champion rewards players who can see interactions with “enters-the-battlefield” and “leaves-the-battlefield” triggers.
In my hypothetical Magic 2015 set, I’d have 10 champion cards (2 in each colour, 1 rare and 1 uncommon)…
Something like that. Champion also lends itself well to tribal, which I’ll be discussing later…
As for kicker spells, there’d be a whopping 6 kicker spells in each colour, a mix of creatures and spells, for a total of 30; 10 common, 15 uncommon, and 5 rare. The commons and uncommons would be a mix of reprints/rehashes (Burst Lightning, Into the Roil, Mold Shambler) and new cards, whereas the rares would all be new. Amongst the uncommons of each colour would be two cards with off-colour kickers (one ally colour and one enemy colour), such as the following home-made examples;
Why the off-colour kicker costs? Well, that leads into…
Typically, multicolour tends to stay well clear of Core sets. I’m not sure why, though I think it’s worry on R&D’s part that new players won’t understand multicolour cards, which is of course ridiculous. If you’re expecting new players to understand stuff that still occasionally gives some experienced players pause, like timing on the stack or priority, then I’m sure they’ll understand that a card that takes two different colours of mana to cast.
Multicolour wouldn’t be a big focus in M15; rather, it’d be a little bonus on the side, a bit of variety and spice. Also, with new players in mind, having some multicolour (along with pseudo-multicolour stuff like the kicker spells mentioned above) gives them a greater inspiration for deckbuilding, and a better insight into what two colours can do when working together; white-red is good for fast, aggressive weenies, blue-white is all about flyers and control, black-green loves messing around with the graveyard, and so on.
There’d be three cards in each two-colour combination in M15; two common and one uncommon. This is a great place to reprint some Ravnica (original and return) Limited gems like Centaur Healer and Coiling Oracle, and make some new stuff that isn’t limited to the background of a specific set. Cue some more fan-made stuff…
As a sidenote; GODDAMMIT WIZARDS, BRING BACK DWARFS.
And how to help facilitate all this multicolour? I don’t know about you, but I hate seeing dual lands taking up lots of precious rare slots (with the exception of the Eventide/Shadowmoor hybrid lands, I’m a massive fan of those) that could be used for things that are, you know, actually fun and cool, like big creatures and awesome spells. With that in mind, really, how wrong would it be to have this card printed in a Core Set?
Me? Bitter against the rich boys with full dual land playsets? Perish the thought… but seriously, would this be such a bad thing to exist? At uncommon, it would be easier to obtain, and hopefully that would put a stop to £15 price tag madness for dual lands. One of the major quibbles I have with Magic is how much it can cost to assemble a solid manabase, the very thing required to play the game! Basic land is absolutely fine for casual games, but basic land didn’t win Pro Tours. It’s not like the above would obsolete existing dual lands; some people will look at the above and sneer because of those four words “enters the battlefield tapped.” They’ll moan and gripe about a loss of tempo and scream WORST LAND EVAH, while the rest of us normal players would just be happy not to have to choose between food for the week and four bits of cardboard.
Join me in part 2, where I’ll talk about planeswalkers, keywords, tribes, and cycles.