Magic: the Gathering
The purpose of JumpStart: Historic Horizons
An analysis of exclusive cards, JumpStart, the future of Historic, and Magic Arena's competition with other digital card games.
JumpStart: Historic Horizonshas just been officially announced, but the fuss over the set has been around since Wizards accidentally posted an article about it last Friday. Since then, the community has discussed the decisions regarding it and the fact it will have exclusive cards available only for the Magic Arena. In case you're not up-to-date, JumpStart: Historic Horizons is a new product that will only be available for the Magic Arena from August 12th to September 9th, using essentially the same theme of “joining two decks together to create one” featured in the original JumpStart.
Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons IIadditions, as well as
31 of cards with new mechanics that will be exclusive to the digital game. I believe the best way to start talking about this product, which brings me a mixture of excitement and pessimism about the future of Historic, is the point that led the community to the new buzz, complaints and other regrettable scenes of the Magic community:
Magic Arena exclusive, which implies that we may one day see their reprint in some physical product, such as a Core Set or Commander deck. 2) These cards work mechanically like any other Magic card, they don't have any effect that we haven't seen the same or similar on another card already printed on paper, so they don't add a unique aspect to the game. When we talk about cards that will be present in Historic Horizons, we're talking about cards that will be explicitly available only in Magic Arena because
they have mechanics who are technically impractical or too difficult to follow within an in-person game. Let's use the latest Planeswalker, Davriel. He has an ability which uses a new mechanic named Offer & Condition. When using Davriel's -2 ability, you must accept an offer out of three, chosen at random from eight possibilities: Draw three cards. Conjure a Manor Guardian card into your hand. Return two random creature cards from your graveyard to your hand. They perpetually gain +1/+1. Return a random creature card with the highest mana value from among cards in your graveyard to the battlefield. You get an emblem with "Creatures you control get +2/+0." You get an emblem with "Spells you cast cost B less to cast." You get an emblem with "Davriel planeswalkers you control have “+2: Draw a card.” You get an emblem with “Whenever you draw a card, you gain 2 life.” And then, you need to do the same with the conditions, accepting one out of three, chosen at random from eight possibilities: You lose 6 life. Exile two cards from your hand. If fewer than two cards were exiled this way, each opponent draws cards equal to the difference. Sacrifice two permanents. Each creature you don't control perpetually gains +1/+1. You get an emblem with "Creatures you control get -1/-0." You get an emblem with "Spells you cast cost B more to cast." You get an emblem with "Whenever you draw a card, exile the top two cards of your library." You get an emblem with "At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 1 life for each creature you control." For this effect to be minimally functional in a real-world Magic game, you would need:
Seekability would also be another very problematic mechanic for in-store play, or even impractical, since you
randomlysearch for a card under the conditions specified by the card, and the deck is
not shuffled. Therefore, it is not possible for players to search for the card without having visual access to the deck's cards, while even if it was shuffled at the end, it would be necessary to have the help of a third person (a judge, for example) to search randomly among all the cards of that specific condition for a card and then shuffle the deck. Can you imagine the amount of work that would apply in a competitive situation, where players have 50 minutes to finish a game, and in a MagicFest or other large event, where it is impossible, if a card with this mechanic were to become a staple, to have enough judges to perform this effect for all players? That said, the question that would likely be asked at this point is:
Why are they making cards so complicated for in-person games, so they will only exist on digital platforms? Wouldn't it be better to keep the game “unified” in the same pool of cards and effects?For the second question, the answer I think is: Maybe, probably. But we're not the ones who defined this and people will be excited about this product one way or another, as the set also has new cards that will definitely impact Historic, while many players sees JumpStart as a fun way to play Magic. “Because they can” is probably the correct answer to the first question. But I'll try to elaborate it better: Magic Arena
is Wizards' proposal to enter the world of eSports, especially in the Card Games branch, where it competes with other games like Hearthstone and Legends of Runeterra. Therefore, the game needs to conquer players of these platforms, just as it conquers the physical platform players of other in-person card games like Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, and creating random effects that would be impractical in real life is still an uncharted realm for the company and the design team. In games like Hearthstone or Legends of Runeterra, effects that create cards, as is done with the Conjure mechanics in JumpStart, are quite common effects in the game. Such as effects that bet on some RNG to create specific effects (in both cases, the Profiteer card from Legends of Runeterra is the perfect example) and even cards that add cards to their own deck or that add cards to the opponent's deck.
“We’re just adding new stuff for the players that live in this environment and have experience playing other digital card games out there that do things like this.”This does not mean, at the moment, any intention to create fewer and fewer products for Paper Magic and give greater relevance to the digital product. On the contrary, we've seen more and more paper-only products coming out in the past two years (Time Spiral Remastered, Modern Horizons II, Commander Decks, Commander Legends, etc). The idea, also mentioned in the article, is not to divide spaces, but to add them up and create more ways to play Magic: The Gathering on the most different platforms and in the most diverse ways as possible, while making more room for bolder decisions that can be taken only at Magic Arena. And frankly, with Hasbro having a 33% increase in product sales in the second quarter of 2021, Magic is definitely not dying and not even close. If you believe Magic is going to die with this new proposal, you're being naive; just think how many times they said Magic would die for a new mechanic or changes and the game is still standing: the game survived Companions, survived dice rolls, survived Planeswalkers in 2007, survived the end of damage on stack in 2009, Standard's shortened rotation in 2014, the FIRE philosophy, exclusive sets for specific formats (such as Modern Horizons), among other countless moments when we read people say that “Magic is going to die because of this”. Magic is almost thirty years old, at this point it's a veritable machine composed of the most diverse gears that make it work the way it works today, and it's not going to be a change to create a unique look for its digital platform and attract players from other card games that will destroy the game now. You might not like the idea, but unless you play Historic and these new cards really impact the format significantly, you'll continue to play the game normally, without having to worry about digital releases and what happens in Magic Arena. Also, if you play Standard, you also don't need to worry because it was made clear that Standard in Magic Arena, such as booster draft, sealed, and other options will not undergo any significant changes compared to their physical products and will not have exclusive cards in Magic Arena for them. I admit, however, that this may make room for slightly more dangerous precedents on the platform, such as nerfs (as seen in the Mirror Mirror event) and other points that are unique to digital games, but as long as these points don't affect physical products and cards from the real-world Magic, I don't see a problem with making Historic the “Arena format”, with its own mechanics and its appeal to the community, while still having competitive value for the most traditional players.
the worst digital card game economy system I've ever seen. Compare it to Hearthstone's Dust system, where you can turn your useless cards into resources to craft the cards you want or need, or to Legends of Runeterra's direct card purchase system with several resources that can be used to buy the cards you want. The Magic Arena's system for acquiring new cards works based on how many boosters you open/how many drafts you get a good result. Trying to earn resources to get the rewards in the game takes so long that it discourages anyone who has just joined and/or is unwilling to invest their money in the game or their time in Draft matches because many players simply don't have fun playing sealed formats. Within these boosters, you get the cards from the set, while earning 1 Rare Wildcard for every 6 Boosters opened and 1 Mythic Rare Wildcard for every 24 Boosters opened. Essentially, the game's economy forces you to be good at drafting or to invest a lot of money in it every three months, while not rewarding you enough for moving up in the ladder if you don't make the Mythic's Top 1200, which creates a scenario that is not player-friendly and takes too much of your time or money to give you very little return, especially in a game where many decks are defined by their various rare or mythic cards. And speaking of economics, it's impossible not to comment on an important topic when talking about Historic.
JumpStart's impact on Historic's economy
Magic Arenaformat, with unique mechanics of the digital platform and which aims to attract players from other digital card games, it needs to learn first to better manage its economy like these card games do. Otherwise, these players may even find these cards interesting, these new abilities relevant, but they will never be able to use these cards in ranked games of the format
which only exists in Magic Arenabecause the accessibility price for Historic is sky-high today, and it demonstrates almost directly how predatory the game's economy is in terms of time and money.
Analysing the new mechanics
Search your library at random for a card in the specified conditions and put it into your hand. It is essentially a randomized “tutor”. Of all the mechanics in the new set, Seek is probably the most powerful and the most likely to be abused in some way in competitive matches, as long as they fit the parameters defined by the card. Consider Manor Guardian, for example. Its ability tells you to look for a card with a mana value of 2 or less. If, for example, cards arise that generate a lot of value, create combos or win the game on their own within that cost, you can make your deck operate only at cost 3 or higher, using cards like creatures with Adventures for early game interaction, while Manor Guardian allows the deck to look for exactly the card you want, as it will be the only one with a mana cost of 2 or less. This effect, depending on the cards that comes out, has a very high potential to be abused with the most diverse mechanics and abilities, similar to how players try to do by reducing the randomness of cards with Cascade, among other random mechanics.
PerpetuallyPerpetually gives a card a permanent condition, regardless of what zone the card is in. For example, Lumbering Lightshield will make the selected card to permanently cost one more mana. Regardless of whether it's in your hand, in play, in exile or in your graveyard. Any cost you use to cast it will cost one more mana. Depending on the effects we receive, Perpetually can impact many games by creating immutable conditions in the game, which can significantly disrupt the game plan of any given deck or strategy. A card like Davriel's Withering, for example, can permanently affect a Cauldron Familiar, giving it -1/-2 and making it impossible to use it later with Witch's Oven.
ConjureConjure is a mechanic where a card has some effect that can create a card and put it into your hand. Conjure is a difficult mechanic to evaluate and will depend exclusively on the quality of the cards that create their respective effects. One of the cards that will be created is Ponder, for example.
Offer & ConditionUnless any of these cards has very significant effects for a reasonable or low cost, I can't see cards that create random effects being competitively viable in Historic because it reduces the consistency of decks, as it does in any competitive format. Cards like Davriel, with this kind of ability, simply don't make up for in cost or versatility when making a “Russian Roulette” effect. Obviously, the fact that the ability gives you three options, and you can choose the best offer and the least bad condition makes the card more versatile than rolling dices, for example, but I don't see this ability having a competitive impact in a format so focused on cost and efficiency like Historic today. On the other hand, Davriel would make a great Historic Brawl commander, a format that I hope Wizards will choose to invest more time soon to make better use of mechanics that are not competitively viable for constructed formats.