Magic: the Gathering
Analyzing the Magic Showcase 2021 and MTG's future
Here we'll discuss each of the 15 products featured in Magic Showcase 2021, what we can expect from each one, and also highlight what wasn't featured but should be.
Magic Showcase 2021took place live, an online event where Wizards announced its entire release schedule for the end of 2021 and for 2022. Several news were announced, with a return to Kamigawa, a retelling of the Brothers War, announcing a partnership with Fortnite and Street Fighter, among other very relevant points for the Magic and its community and what we can expect in the future. In this article, I plan to take an initial look at what has been announced, as well as a critical look at Universes Beyond products and comment on the absence of any announcements regarding the future of competitive Magic.
Pioneer Challenger Decks
exactlythe ideal product to introduce players to Pioneer, as these decks mean they can simply buy them, sleeve them up and play, while they can also later invest and improve them. Great move by Wizards, great opportunity to make Pioneer have more space in stores, and great way to spark players' interest in entering an eternal format in an accessible way. That said, I'll do a brief analysis of the lists (which can be checked out here).
Azorius Spiritsis probably the most interesting deck (at least for me, a regular Tempo player), but the one that seems to require the highest amount of investment to get an optimized version. The deck has great cards, but its manabase is weak compared to other decks (2 Glacial Fortress is disappointing, and a Temple of Enlightenment playset makes me wonder if Wizards understands the concept of Tempo), it has all the staples needed for the Azorius version of the deck, but the main cards are found in small numbers like 1 Selfless Spirit and 1 Brazen Borrower, plus 2 Spell Queller. Of course, we can't expect Challenger Decks to get the full list, but of all decks, Azorius Spirits seems to be the one that would require the most investment to make it the ideal and competitive version.
Mono-Red Aggrois very well-built and probably the best pick and play list in the bundle, as its game plan appears to be pretty straightforward and opens up many opportunities against unprepared players. The deck has essentially everything you need to have the opportunity to win games, and the only significant omission is Eidolon of the Great Revel, a card that would naturally be awkward for a new player to use as it requires a certain understanding of how/when to cast it. To improve the deck, it is necessary to include the Eidolons and Den of the Bugbear. And if you want to invest even more in the deck, you can always choose to upgrade it to Boros Burn, which would require cards like Shocklands, Inspiring Vantage, Battlefield Forge and spells like Boros Charm, in addition to Lurrus.
Orzhov Aurasis extremely well-built and the only questionable part of it is that it only has two copies of Stonecoil Serpent (we could talk about the Thoughtseize singleton on the Sideboard, but I didn't expect more than that, and this will definitely reduce its price tag as this product will be widely distributed and open). It comes with the inclusion of eight duals and the ones not on the list are just the ones you don't expect to be (Godless Shrine and Brightclimb Pathway), but the deck even includes a copy of Lurrus and I believe this is the first Challenger Deck to ever come with a Companion.
Lotus Combolist seems to be the most well-constructed of the lists and seems quite complete, even with the obvious exclusion of some alternative winconditions like Ugin or Jace. The deck even has two copies of Dig Through Time! The list, however, like Orzhov Auras, seems outdated and hasn't been updated for the latest versions of the deck that closes the combo using Emergent Ultimatum, but these products tend to be produced months in advance, and It's unusual to see “outdated” versions of decks appearing on Challenger Decks. As a final consideration, this product is very well-made, very welcome and will likely be a great gateway for players to get to know Pioneer. My advice is that the Pioneer community itself promote the product or even buy for the archetypes you don't have, precisely to motivate Wizards to create more Pioneer-dedicated products, expanding the format's popularity while also helping to make the format accessible.
Commander Collection: Black
Signature Spellbooks, I believe we will see a decrease in price in its Staples.
Innistrad: Double Feature
Kamigawa: Neon Dinasty
Arcane, possibly both with new interactions and new ways to use them. We'll probably also see the return of
Samuraisand perhaps decent tribal support for them. I particularly welcome the idea of revisiting planes that seemed “forgotten” by Wizards in recent years, when we've revisited places like Innistrad, Zendikar and Ravnica so many times, and I hope that this trend will repeat itself in the coming years in planes that remain in the community's heart such as Lorwyn, Alara and Tarkir.
Streets of New Capenna
Streets of New Capennais a set inspired by gangster movies and based on existing 20th century mafias, but with an extra touch of magic and fantasy. New Capenna is a city created by angels, but it was taken over by demons of three colors, who now fight each other for domination of the city. This is an important location for the planeswalker
Elspeth Tireland where we will also find the planeswalker
Ob-Nixilis. Obviously, I assume we'll have Planeswalkers cards from both and Streets of New Capenna could be next year's multicolored set, probably in the Shard Colors (Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund and Naya) and it wouldn't surprise me if we see the cycle of Triomes to be completed in this set, as it seems to me the perfect opportunity to close a cycle that was so important in Standard and will continue to be important in eternal formats. As a private note, I've long wanted to see a plane that's a little closer to the industrial age or the modern age. Streets of Capenna seems to bring some of this setting if it is, in fact, based on 20th century mafias, and it will be fascinating to see a more “contemporary” world than we are used to seeing, with a dose of the unique elements that will make it a plane of the Magic universe.
Dominaria Reunitedwill be our third return to Dominaria, and we'll likely see what happened in the plane after our last visit in 2017. Dominaria is a place with many stories and a lot of potential for where we can go, what characters we can see and what unfolds we can expect in the story, and particularly the name “Dominaria Reunited” makes me believe that we will see much more of the 'habitat' of plane, of how their people are living and their cultures than necessarily a plot like the ones we used to see in previous sets. Obviously, there will be Planeswalkers, and I believe one of them will be Teferi, as his family is on the plane, but it's possible he went with Karn to resolve the Phyrexian threat in the plane formerly known as Mirrodin (we'll talk more about this later). Likely, just like in Kamigawa, we will see characters that are iconic or have some connection with characters from the Dominarian story appearing in the lore or on cards.
The Brothers War
What can we expect from the Lore?
Shocklandswith a special border in the set seems like a way to try to revitalize players' interest in a new Un-Set, in addition to making it more profitable to buy and more interesting to draft.
Double Masters 2022 / JumpStart 2022
Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate
Secret Lair: The Walking Deadpresented more downsides rather than upsides in bringing, if misapplied, other universes into the world of Magic: The Gathering. That said, dear Wizards, could you bring the
Final Fantasyuniverse into a non-Secret Lair Universes Beyond product? I would really love to use my Cloud commander against my opponent's Sephiroth, or maybe cast Grand Cross to destroy all creatures, or equip a creature with the Ring of the Lucii? Or maybe a reprint set of Fire // Ice portraying magics that has been in the series since the first game (Fire/Blizzard)? There is plenty of potential for where we could go with Final Fantasy, and it would definitely hit a very significant fanbase in the gaming world. With this request made, let's evaluate the distinct directions Universes Beyond project will take for the coming year.
Secret Lair: Street Fighter
Secret Lair: The Walking Dead. The product that will be made to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Street Fighter franchise will have exclusive cards for some characters of the game, with new mechanics that will only exist on these cards. Wizards had already mentioned that this possibility existed and that, to increase the availability of these cards later, mechanically identical versions of them (that is, with the same cost, abilities, color, power and toughness, but in another name) can be found in “The List” of a Set Booster after the product's launch.
Secret Lair: Fortnite
four Commander Decksthat will be sent to stores in the same proportion as any other Commander deck and following the same scheme of a mixture of reprints and exclusive cards. It is not difficult to understand why this is an infinitely better and more viable option: the product is a partnership, it has a collectible value for that reason, but it does not prevent any player from having the products in their hands, in addition to having no impediment that could negatively affect availability. It has everything that a standard Magic product (in this case, Commander decks that are released together with each set) has, without any detriment that makes it only available to a few players for a limited time, which means your cards will have the same availability as any other from a Commander Deck. And should a non-legendary card become highly sought after within this product, you can always reprint it in another Commander Deck with an artwork that doesn't necessarily portray the Warhammer 40k franchise if the partnership ends later, or it would even be possible to create a closure in the exclusive card reprint policy that includes that functional reprints of Commander Deck cards are the same card, as will be done in the case of Secret Lair: Street Fighter.
Lord of the Rings: Tales of the Middle Earth
will be Modern legal, and the product will also be released in Magic Arena, making it legal in Historic. We've noticed a trend at Wizards to release a set geared towards Modern every two years (Modern Horizons in 2019, Modern Horizons II in 2021 and possibly Lord of the Rings in 2023), and despite Wizards mentioning that this set will not necessarily be designed exclusively for Modern, I believe that the need to turn it into a non-Standard set comes from the fact that they intend to raise the power level of its cards and, in this way, make the product attractive to more players of more formats, without necessarily harming development or the planned release window for Standard (it's worth remembering that Standard sets are usually planned two years in advance).
Is it bad for Magic to have so many crossovers?
What About the Organized Play?
huge disappointmentto watch the entire Showcase without seeing even a mention of the game's competitive future, let alone the tiniest preview of what we could expect. The Showcase was entirely commercial, it was made under the same logic that we have seen Wizards use over and over again in the last two years to keep the hype about the products while neglecting other points that make up a card game, such as improvements in the digital platform and in the local and global competitive landscape. It was only mentioned at the event that the Store Championships, seasonal events that took place between 2017 and 2018, will return with promos for the participants, for the Top 8 and for the winner, a sign that they are at least investing in the competitive landscape in stores, which is a great first step, and it would be interesting to see the Store Championships become the basis for a strong competitive scene, passing through regionals and nationals, as it used to be before... Well, before, it was this weird package that came with Magic Arena. That said, there is an important point to ponder about the absence of an Organized Play announcement: we are still in a pandemic, and even with a significant portion of the world starting to reopen and in-store games being allowed in most countries, the Delta variant continues to be a challenge for the world and its impact is being felt in different regions of different countries. Promoting the return of Magic Fest, Pro Tours and other similar events in a time when the pandemic is still too risky even in countries where vaccination is at an advanced stage, and it would be very harmful for the company to promise to return certain events and then need to postpone or cancel them due to the pandemic.