Another year, and that means another Magic the Gathering Core set. Each year around this time Wizards of the Coast releases a set that acts as a starting point for new players and a foundation for the Standard environment. It used to be that the Core set was comprised solely of reprints, and in that way Magic the Gathering recycled itself at the same time it provided a little history. Since Magic 2010 Wizards has moved from reprinting old cards to developing new ones, and in 2015 they have really outdone themselves.
In this latest set Wizards has enlisted the help of 15 guest designers to invigorate their brand and offer some alternative perspectives to the very insular design world of Magic. These aren’t just any old folks though, these 14 (excluding the community designed card) are all veterans of the video game industry, and they have cooked up some truly weird, memorable, and flavorful cards. This move of including guest designers of this caliber shows where Magic the Gathering is heading as a brand, and where they want to place themselves in the year(s) to come: at the intersection of digital and paper gaming.
Another move that cements this is the recent launch of Magic Online Version 4, and the closing of the previous client. This new version, while still not perfect, is a much sturdier and more stable platform that can be adjusted and improved as time goes on – in other words, Wizards is all about longevity.
With multiple sets coming out every year it seems there is no end to the innovation and influx of new cards and in-game mechanics, establishing Magic as one of the most complex and multi-faceted games available. The Core set walks a very fine line between alienation and introduction: if it is too ‘dumbed-down’ more experienced players will hate it, and if it is too complex, newer players won’t get it. Magic 2015 artfully rides this line and I think both newer and experienced players will be happy with it. The set has flashy cards, some extremely powerful cards, and then some cards that make you wonder, “Why did they print this?” But, the greatest achievement in the set is balance. Nothing feels outrageously overpowered and there is a fine mix of wacky build-around-me’s as well as strong cards that can be slotted into existing competitive decks.
One last thing is that the new set has also changed the look of the cards. At this point in the game they are kind of like Google arguing over the right shade of blue. In the end though the subtle changes to the card frame (and the custom made typography) are further refinements to an already finely tuned product.
Favorite Card: Necromancers Stockpile
I can’t help it, I love cards like this. There may not be enough zombie cards in Standard for this to be excellent, but even so, a way to cycle through cards for two mana off a two mana down-payment is not unplayable. Where this has much more potential is a format like Modern where the number of zombies available grows exponentially. Still, love this – reminds me of my Ghoulraiser, Gray Merchant of Asphodel pauper deck.
Best Art: Nightmare
I so wish this card was awesome – and it is, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t see any play. Lush artwork though.
Most Hopeful Card: Nissa, Worldwaker
It’s nice to see Nissa get a solid treatment here. In her former incarnation she was niche playable, here though I think she has a solid chance of seeing wider play. She’s able to defend herself, ticking up her loyalty all the while, and then she allows you to ramp from five mana into nine mana!
What?: Aggressive Mining
Designed by Minecraft’s Markus Persson Aggressive Mining begs for you to play the game in a totally different way. How do you use it? When is it good? When is it bad? We’ll have to wait and see.