Hello all! I hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy. Given that the New Year has begun, and Historic and Standard haven’t been changing much, I thought it would be fun to write a wish list of sorts for 2021. I understand what people want in competitive Magic is subjective, so please don’t take this list too seriously!
No matter what path Magic takes in the future, I’m confident it will continue being the best game in the world. Without further ado, here are some things I wouldn’t mind seeing in 2021 and beyond:
1. More Limited Events That Matter
Limited is how a lot of us got into Magic, myself included. I remember first starting out, playing Core Set sealed after Core Set sealed with my brothers, and falling in love with the game. I consider it to be one of the purest forms of Magic.
Attacking and blocking has always been enjoyable to me, and it’s not something we’ve gotten to do in constructed these past couple of years. Drafting doesn’t require a collection, and there is honestly nothing like cracking open a booster pack to see what’s waiting for you and attempting to navigate your way to a solid conglomerate of cards.
Additionally, drafting and playing sealed is super skill intensive. Not only does a player have to pilot their deck optimally, but they have to build it well too. Lately, tournament Magic has almost exclusively been constructed. While I think constructed is generally much better for viewership and growing the game (it’s easier to watch, explain, and follow), I’d still like it if Limited could be included – even if to a lesser extent than years past!
2. Abolition of the London Mulligan Rule (in Constructed)
I think the London Mulligan Rule is generally bad for constructed. It increases the number of Magic people get to play a match to match (i.e., situations where both players have lands and spells), but comes at cost of dynamic gameplay. Before the London Mulligan Rule, players could come back from disadvantaged positions more frequently, which created greater levels of excitement, depth, and strategy in games.
Now, with the new rule, games often feel overly deterministic. With the London Mulligan Rule players can find the cards they are looking for more easily, meaning increased redundancy as players see more of the same cards and play patterns game to game. The rule has indirectly amplified the vitalness of selecting a good deck for a tournament, as decks are more consistent now and matchups play out like they should more often.
In the past, you’d have an OK shot at beating a bad matchup by fading some key cards and playing well, but now that’s much more difficult. Being on the play and mulliganing aggressively is better than ever. And when you win the die roll, it’s simply much easier to get a great hand that is hard for the opponent to beat. Hands on the draw are better too, but this added consistency is more valuable to the player executing a plan, not the one trying to stop one.
Additionally, being on the draw is now just meaningfully worse than it was before. Previously, the extra card you got mattered more because your opponent was less likely to be doing something streamlined on five or six cards. They’d be more likely to falter and the game could devolve into an attrition war or any number of things. But now, the chances of games taking those different paths have been hampered and being up that extra card isn’t as relevant. Decks are more likely to do what they are designed to do – for better or worse.
I should note, I think the London mulligan rule has been fantastic for Limited. You don’t have to worry as much about repetitive gameplay issues and an opponent running you over or comboing you off too consistently. You’re pretty much going to get dynamic gameplay no matter what – so here I’d favor keeping the rule.
3. Fewer Cards That Win Games by Themselves
Cards like 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》, 《Wilderness Reclamation》, 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》, 《Fires of Invention》, 《Embercleave》, and 《The Great Henge》 are super cool, but they’ve been utterly dominate in Standard. These cards bend formats around them, eliminating the playability of large swaths of cards in the process. Some cards will always be better than others in competitive Magic, but it seems recently that this sentiment has been pushed to the max. I’ve always favored more combat, more 1 for 1 removal, and more decisions, so naturally I hope for more of that in the future.
Flashy, game-breaking cards have their place in Magic, but they must be examined with a higher level of scrutiny before being printed. I don’t envy play design’s job – it’s incredibly difficult – even adding something as small as one extra loyalty or one additional word can be the thing that makes a card too good for a format.
I don’t know how such a small group of people can even begin to account for so many formats and possibilities between cards, but they are comprised of an amazingly talented group of people, and if anyone can do it it’s them. They’ve steered us favorably thus far over a twenty-year time period – and I have faith they will continue to do so, pushing Magic forward to even greater heights.
4. Fewer Cards That are Inherent 2 for 1s
Like cards that win the game by themselves, cards that are inherent 2 for 1s like 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》, 《Bonecrusher Giant》, and 《Lovestruck Beast》 are great. Still, they severely limit what is viable in the format they exist in.
I think the game is more fun when you have to work for your 2 for 1s. Any card that automatically grants a 2 for 1 and has efficient stats is just very likely going to be played by most decks with that color. As a result, formats will become stale more quickly. I wouldn’t mind synergy mattering more or working for interactions instead of just slapping them onto one card.
5. More Modal Double-Faced Cards
I have only good things to say about these types of cards. I think WotC nailed it here, and I hope they continue to print more of them. Major credit to whoever designed them as I feel they are genuinely excellent and fix a lot of the problems the London Mulligan Rule attempted to address.
These cards are great at combating mana flood and mana screw, as players can now afford to play more lands in their decks without getting punished. Unlike the adventure cards like 《Bonecrusher Giant》 and 《Lovestruck Beast》, the modal ones are more interesting, as you strategically have to pick one side to play instead of always getting 《Shock》 and a 4/3 body.
I think it’s probably beneficial to watch their power level closely, however, as being modal makes them inherently powerful already – but other than that, I don’t see any potential pitfalls with them.
6. Arena Improvements
What’s nice about a program like Arena is that it can always be improved upon. In this vein, one thing I’d like to see is a time bank to account for players disconnecting, as disconnections for one reason or another are going to inevitably happen. Nothing feels worse than disconnecting and returning two or three turns later and finding yourself entirely out of the game.
A time bank would solve this issue. When the client notices you’ve been disconnected, the game will pause, and the time bank will automatically start running, allowing you time to return before anything happens further. I wouldn’t be opposed to having players build up and “earn” their time bank throughout the game by playing fast or just having one right from the start.
Another thing I’ve seen people advocating for is a Spectator Mode, and I think this would be great too as it would make it easier for coverage to stream feature matches or for someone to follow their favorite player in a tournament. GP Reid Duke was a fantastic experience, as viewers got to watch one of the very best pros in the game play an entire tournament round by round. A spectator mode would make that possible for any fan and any pro they want to follow.
One other Arena addition I’d be in favor of is a ladder reward point system, where players could spend the points earned in the store (to redeem gems, wildcards, or Arena gear like t-shirts, hats, etc.). I think that would be unique and add a little more incentive to the ladder grind.
7. More High-Stakes Arena Tournaments
Speaking of Arena, I think it’s reasonable to have more Arena Opens and similar events in the client. These events are wildly popular, and it would be nice if they happened more frequently to fulfill competitive players’ itch to battle. If it were up to me, I’d only slightly increase their frequency because I think there are diminishing returns.
Overloading on them might take away from how special they are – so it would be beneficial to find a balance. Additionally, it’s essential to avoid player burnout and people feeling pressured to play in them, as they require a decent amount of time and gems to play.
Nevertheless, these events have been so well received that it would be great to see more of them, perhaps even with formats like Singleton Standard, Singleton Historic, or Sealed Deck.
8. Less Ramp That Draws Cards
Cards like 《Growth Spiral》, 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, and 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 replacing themselves is problematic. These cards are naturally going to create issues in all but the most powerful of formats in Magic. I think the problem with them (and other cards recently) is just too many keywords being added onto cards. I’d like to see “draw a card” thrown onto cards less aggressively.
Additionally, I’d like to see fewer cards that double a player’s mana easily. Cards like 《Wilderness Reclamation》, 《Fires of Invention》, and 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》 are just too good and will almost certainly be problematic. Cheating on mana has always been an issue in Magic’s competitive formats (i.e. Phyrexian Mana/Affinity). I’m confident that if these doubling effects and ramp are looked at more closely, less banning’s will need to occur in the future.
9. Better Early Drop Creatures in Standard
OK, I’ll admit I’m biased on this one, as I love attacking, so take what I say with an extra grain of salt, but the aggressive creatures have been subpar nowadays, notably one drops. When 《Wayward Guide-Beast》 is the rare red one-drop creature in the set, you know something has gone wrong.
Cards like 《Akoum Hellhound》, 《Tin Street Dodger》, and 《Scorch Spitter》 are not good either – but these are the only cards Red has access to, so people are forced to play them. I understand 《Runaway Steam-Kin》 likely handcuffed some of the one drops that could be printed, but those days are over, and I’d like to see some better creatures not only in Red, but across the color spectrum.
Solid early drop creatures help keep powerful Planeswalkers and Enchantments in check. Increasing the strength of creatures to be on par with other permanents will help encourage more interaction in Magic games and make it revolve less around a handful of hard to interact with permanents.
That being said, I do think one drops should be examined closely because they can be particularly good since the London Mulligan Rule streamlines hands. They shouldn’t be busted or anything, just slightly better than they are now. This seems reasonable to me, especially when cards like 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 and 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 are being printed. Nowadays, “gain life”, just like “draw a card”, has been thrown onto plenty of cards, which should help mitigate beatdowns.
10. Paper Events
I saved the best for last. I can’t wait to see friends, battle opponents, and even listen to some bad beat stories in person once it’s safe to do so. Because what’s Magic without the Gathering?
John Rolf (Twitter)