Core Sets generally have a minor tribal element. It’s usually a given that there will be a “lord” in each colour; white will get something that buffs Soldiers or Knights, black gets Zombie and Vampires, and so on. This was something that M14 fell down on; sure we had Slivers (the tribe of lords), but we didn’t have the usual traditional tribal lords, a major weakness I felt.
Tribal is by far and away the easiest kind of deck for a new player to build, aside from the standard red burn, green fatties, and white weenie. It’s simple; they see a bunch of Zombies, see some cards that work well with Zombies, and think “hmm, I’m going to build a deck that has a lot of Zombies!” Perfect inclusions for a Core set, in my opinion.
We’ve had some really good “lords” in previous Core Sets, though in M15 I’d like to see each colour get two lords; white can have Captain of the Watch and Knight Exemplar, blue can have Lord of the Unreal and Master of the Pearl Trident, and black can have Captivating Vampire and Cemetary Reaper. However, red and green have only had one lord each; one for Goblins, and one for Elves. Saying that though, M12 did give us the awesome Arachnus Spinner, which will have to do for Spidery goodness until we get a Lady of Videns…
Green can have a Beast lord, and red could have an Elemental lord. Yes, I suppose Dragons seems like the first thing you think when you think “red tribe” after Goblins, but Dragons are red’s big iconic rare/mythic creature, just like Angels for white, Demons for black, Sphinxes for blue, and Hydras for green; tribes work better when those creatures are spread amongst all rarity levels, and we’ve seen Elementals show up in common, uncommon, and rare in red.
Or, you know; dwarfs. I’d be fine with dwarfs.
I find nothing more satisfying in Magic than a complete cycle of themed cards; for those of you unsure what I mean, I mean stuff like the guildmages from Return to Ravnica, or the nymphs from Theros; a set of cards linked thematically and mechanically appearing in each colour. Players generally love cycles, and get pissy when a cycle is left incomplete. Seriously, don’t ask where the legendary red-green Werewolf from Innistrad is.
Core Sets traditionally have a few cycles; M14 had the planeswalkers and planeswalker’s “pets” like Garruk’s Horde and Liliana’s Reaver, the Staffs of the Magi, the rare “hater creatures” like Fiendslayer Paladin and Mindsparker, and a rare Sliver in each colour; not a bad showing really, though out of those five cycles, four of them are at rare or mythic.
One of my favourite cycles from a Core Set were the “colour-perk” creatures of M12; Prized Elephant, Harbour Bandit, and the rest. I’d throw them into M15 in a heartbeat, because not only were they great creatures, but they helped to promote the concept of multi-coloured decks to players who were brand new to the game. Plus, as I’ve previously established, I’d want to see a slight multicolour theme in M15, and the “colour-perk” creatures help out with that theme. But I think we need something more; I think we need a second cycle of “colour-perk” creatures too.
Looking back at the kicker cards I made for green, we have a white kicker and a blue kicker. Throw in M12’s Flinthoof boar, and we have a red “ally-colour” creature. So that means the “enemy colour” creature is…
So, with all those card combinations taken into consideration, each colour has at least one card that is designed to be built around another colour, and there’s two cards for each colour pair. Balance is achieved, and I love balance.
You know what else I love? Charms! Charms are generally cheap, flexible spells; you cast them, and pick one of three small effects, whichever is most helpful for you at the time.
I’d love to see a cycle of five common charms, one in each colour, in M15. The nice thing about charms is that you can effectively cram three spells into one card, meaning you don’t have to take up set space by reprinting three separate lacklustre spells. Observe!
And finally, on the subject of reprinting…
Reprints and Art
This is probably the hardest one; reprints are important in a Core Set, because they’re normally the cards that help define a colour’s strategy. Pacifism has been in every Core Set since 6th Edition, which is fine, as it’s a perfect card for showing white’s philosophy; it wants you to be at peace, so it doesn’t have to kill you. The problem I have with Pacifism is that it’s used the same art and the same flavour text since 8th Edition, when there’s the perfectly gorgeous Onslaught/Divine vs. Demonic version available. Or, failing that, how about new art similar to the 7th Edition art, where a guy has abandoned his weapons and armour, and is walking away from battle?
Same goes for other staples like Act of Treason, Mind Rot, Cancel, and Negate; same art for nearly five years. I get that commissioning new art for an existing card must be a pain when you’re already asking artists to churn out stuff for 500-plus cards a year, but come on! Act of Treason and Cancel at least have alternative art from other sets, could they not be used for once?
I’m not saying don’t have reprints; just that if we have reprints, make them a bit more exciting! Remember how psyched everyone was for M10 because, holy hell, they were reprinting Lightning Bolt? What if in M15, we got Lightning Bolt back, and oh, I don’t know…
Admit it, you would rush out and buy a box tomorrow if they announced they’d be reprinting that bad boy (I concede though that it would probably have its rarity shifted to uncommon at least).
So, that’s my thoughts on what I’d do with Magic 2015. A bit long and rambly I admit, and my ideas would probably result in a depraved, schizophrenic set, but hey, it could be worse. It could be 9th Edition.