Magic: Speculating on 2022's releases

Magic: the Gathering

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Magic: Speculating on 2022's releases

A speculative analysis of the main sets that will be released throughout 2022, and a personal criticism about the amount of products released throughout the last two years.

By Humberto, 01/15/22, translated by Humberto - Comment regular icon0 comments

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Aren't spoilers and announcements coming out too quickly?

So far, we have for 2022, excluding Secret Lair releases, as these are released with virtually no warning until a week or two before pre-sales open, a total of at least eight products between Booster Sets and Pre-constructed decks that are not on the calendar of major releases, not to mention the possibility of other products being announced throughout the year, as has already occurred on other occasions during the past two years. Before we talk about speculations, I would like to comment a bit on a recurring feeling that I have seen on social media and whose topic reappears occasionally with each new announcement: I call it 'product exhaustion', but I know there is a better name for it. That is, when a publisher offer so many things that it becomes tiring or even impossible to keep track of everything.

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Overall, I believe that the way Wizards has come to advertise its products has great pros and cons. For example, the Magic Showcase was a great way for us to know what to expect during this year, giving us information, so we could keep the hype going for any particular release slated for 2022, without specifically neglecting that each of them has its own merits and cater to a different portion of players. For example, many players may be excited for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, whether for the nostalgia of returning to one of the game's most famous planes, or the "reboot" that the new set brings to its lore, with an oriental cyberpunk theme. Other players may be more interested in Streets of New Capenna because it's the only new plane we'll be visiting during 2022, or because the multicolored demon mafia theme draws attention, and the planeswalker Elspeth Tirel brings with her a legion of fans that follows her story since Theros first came out. There's also a huge share of players that could be much more in the hype for The Brothers' War, the set that will only be released at the end of the year, promising to be a retelling of one of the greatest events in the entire Magic: The Gathering's lore. In short, there is a product for every audience. The problem is how they are practically bumping into each other: It's taken less than a month since Innistrad: Crimson Vow's release for us to have the first news about... Unfinity (???), and only one or two weeks before we have the first previews of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. It's too much information and too many previews for the average player to be able to follow everything and, above all, enjoy and digest each new release. Of course, it is an efficient strategy to always keep players on the hype for the next release, but this also creates a strong feeling of exhaustion for both players and content creators who faithfully follow every news announced because there is not even time to explore and what work with the latest sets have to offer as the community is already hyped for the next product. As a whole, I feel that this strategy is harmful in the long run: players feel less interested in knowing about the newly released product or even knowing about the new announcement because it starts to lack meaning for them. Small local stores suffer as they can't capitalize on the latest release because while they're talking about Innistrad, Wizards is already talking about Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty or, even worse, Unfinity. And, last but not least: This excess of announcements and products makes Magic seem so absurdly commercial that it is impossible for some players not to feel almost offended by the constant attempt to take a little more of their money., which creates a wear on the game's image. Most people play Magic because they enjoy the game, not because they are always offering new products each month to a different audience, and if we don't have time to process and enjoy the cards we've just received and purchased, how can we feel satisfied when there will be another product coming out in about three weeks or a month?

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But honestly, I don't think this is a

Wizards of the Coast

thing, this is a

Hasbro

business methodology for many years. Which has been done with Transformers, My Little Pony, and with pretty much every other brand that's part of the company these days. I'm just worried that, despite this absurdly boosting the game's sales and attracting even more players' attention, it could erode Magic: The Gathering's image because there's nothing more exhausting in buy and sell relationships than having someone trying to throw new products into your lap all the time, especially when we can barely prepare for the next release, as was the case with

Alchemy

, a format that was suddenly announced and an entire set for it was released the following week, or when JumpStart first came out on MTGArena out of nowhere. In general, I really liked that feeling of calm before the first previews, of players exploring the new cards and interactions during the first few weeks because there would be a Pro Tour after a new release that would make the most assiduous players want to follow the games to see what crazy ideas the pros came up with for the tournament. But times have changed, we're not even sure yet how Organized Play will work (it's strange to think that we've entered 2022 without any mention of it, but given the circumstances that the new Covid variant has created, it's understandable to postpone it), and the releases, and their previews are being made so quickly and frequently that it's a little difficult to speculate so much about them because, when you least expect it, new cards from the next set have already come out (or worse, are leaked). Still, I can't help but look forward to this year's releases, and like every good fan of the game, I have my own assumptions and speculations as to what, I believe, might come up or take place in the next sets, and today, I'm going to share some of those ideas of and speculations with you. I chose to focus only on the main releases for this year's Standard, leaving out supplemental products like Secret Lair because they are unpredictable, and I won't be mentioning any reprint sets like Double Masters or JumpStart 2022 either, as it becomes impossible to speculate around what can be reprinted or not, or what new mechanics might emerge in specific sets like Unfinity or Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, which I also prefer to abstain from, as my knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons lore is not so broad that I can speculate about it from an RPG player's perspective.

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

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Starting with the products that already have spoilers and information (official or leaked, I won't go into too much detail about leaks because it's against our policy and I want to avoid spoiling the season for anyone), I'll just be giving a brief explanation of my speculations about both products, since we have some idea of ​​what we can or cannot expect from them based on the information released so far.

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I'm listing these speculations based on what I had in mind when I planned this article, by the end of the last year.

Ninjutsu Returns

(Confirmed with Satoru Umezawa)
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It was further announced in the Magic Showcase that Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty would feature fan-acclaimed mechanics while the rest would be made from the scratch, and Kamigawa's most popular mechanic, undoubtedly, is

Ninjutsu

. Ninjutsu is commonly played on Pauper, but it is also the centerpiece of decks involving Ninjas, have been regularly used in other formats over the years in the past decade. Today, it is the centerpiece of one of MTG's most famous commanders, Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow. Thus, it was already expected that Ninjutsu would be one of the mechanics to return in Kamigawa.

Samurai returns with tribal support

One tribe that has many fans in pop culture, but has little room for appearing in Magic: The Gathering are the Samurai. Outside of specific sets like Modern Horizons or Commander Legends, it's very difficult to create more Samurai cards or the support needed for this tribe to gain recognition, as it is, essentially, an iconic point of Kamigawa. Our return to Kamigawa will definitely bring new Samurai and, like Wizards did with Tovolar, Dire Overlord for Werewolves, I believe we will have more cards with powerful tribal support to give this tribe its well-deserved space in games and especially in Commander.

There will be no dual land cycle

Standard sets have a certain recurrence recently that for each dual lands cycle closed, a monocolored rare land cycle is released in the next set The War of the Spark block brought in Shocklands, while Throne of Eldraine brought in Castles. Theros Beyond Death and the Core Set had the Temples, while M21 did not bring any rare land cycle, adding Fabled Passage instead. Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim had Pathways, while Adventures in the Forgotten Realms introduced the monocolored Manlands. The cycle has its flaws, like Strixhaven with the Reveal Lands or Ikoria with Triomes, but the tendency is that one set never brings Dual lands when another closes a cycle like Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow closed and, with Streets of New Capenna being a multicolored themed set, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is likely to be the one to have no dual lands.

Tezzeret is in Kamigawa

We know that the new Planeswalker, Kaito Shizuki, is after a metal-armed man who attempted to attack the Emperor. Given the technological advancement that has taken place on Kamigawa and the way they seem to be far more advanced in this regard than the vast majority of planes, it makes sense that Tezzeret, a Planeswalker fascinated by artifice, would be after something on Kamigawa. We also know that Tezzeret has a bond or tendency to align with Phyrexians, which would fit in with the fact that a certain character is present in some recently revealed miniature collections.

Ninja of the Deep Hours reprint as uncommon

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One of Kamigawa's most iconic cards is Ninja of the Deep Hours, a creature that has seen extensive play on Pauper, as well as having appeared decades earlier in Extended and Legacy decks. We know how Wizards tends to reprint iconic cards from a plane after revisiting it, so it won't surprise me if Kamigawa's iconic card is nothing short of the most famous blue ninja the plane has ever had.

Challenger Decks 2022

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I expected an Izzet deck

As revealed by the WPN website, Challenger Deck 2022's archetypes will be

Mono White Aggro, Gruul Stompy, Rakdos Vampires and Dimir Control

and will be released on April 1st. Basically, all decks were as expected, with Mono White Aggro being the most competitively viable deck, while Gruul Stompy and Rakdos Vampires are ways to promote Innistrad products released later in the year, but the choice of a Dimir Control instead of an Izzet deck doesn't make much sense to me. We've seen a major tournament-winning Challenger Deck appearing since the product's launch: Hazoret Aggro in 2018, Mono White Aggro in 2019, Jeskai Fires in 2020 (although the boxed version was very different from the optimized one), and Azorius Control in 2021, and it seems strange that an Izzet deck was not present when it was the World Championship winning deck. Now, I didn't expect them to bring Izzet Epiphany straight out of the box, especially when Alrund's Epiphany is a potentially broken card with some probability of being banned from Standard, but there were other viable options, like an Izzet Dragons running Smoldering Egg and, if they wanted to avoid adding Goldspan Dragon because it is also a card with a ban warning, other creatures like Galazeth Prismari or Iymrith, Desert Doom would be viable and very interesting options, which combine very well with cards like Dragon's Fire and with the dragon tribal theme that, undoubtedly, would draw a lot of attention from new players and also from the more experienced ones who would like to be able to play with World Championship-winning deck. Another option would be to include an Izzet Control running Lier, Disciple of the Drowned and Hullbreaker Horror as finishers, in addition to the well-known interaction between Burn Down the House and Galvanic Iteration. And speaking of iterations, Expressive Iteration could really get a reprint since it's a multi-format staple. Unfortunately, we will have a Dimir Control, and I won't mention the list before it is revealed, as it might positively surprise us, but Hullbreaker Horror is a much better finisher than Iymrith, Desert Doom ever dreamed to be.

Streets of New Capenna

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There will be off-color demons.

Unless the set design is extremely black-based, with all the demon families being geared towards the color combinations that include black (Abzan, Sultai, Mardu, Grixis, Jund), I think we will have demons in the other colors, something which would be entirely new to the game, as the only other color that also has demon-type creatures in the game currently is red.

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Given the likelihood that this set will be geared towards Shard Colors (Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund, Naya) and Wizards' tendency to try to innovate, I believe we may have demons appearing in Green and Blue, and perhaps even in White.

New Tri-Lands cycle. I don't think it will be the Triomes (but it should be)

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The Triomes are currently part of one of the most powerful land cycle ever created in Magic: The Gathering, and it would make absolute sense if, approaching a three-color theme, Wizards chose to close it. However, these lands have an additional effect,

Cycling

, which essentially symbolizes that for these lands to come back in a non-premium product, New Capenna would need to have the keyword as one of its mechanics

unless Wizards take the decision to make Cycling an evergreen mechanic

, that is, an ability that might appear in any set, as happened with Scry or Prowess. Particularly, I think Cycling would be a great evergreen mechanic, as it essentially gives utility to cards that are conditionally useful, such as an artifact removal against decks that don't run them, or a sweeper against control decks.

There will be a Graveyard-based mechanic

It's possible that it was just to create a healthy Limited environment, but I think Wizards has really pushed the graveyard hate cycle in Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow, which leads me to believe that the company has plans to create a set or graveyard mechanics later in this Standard cycle, and to that end, they wanted to ensure that there were enough answers to deal with potential cards that threatens the format. As for the mechanics that could be in New Capenna, if we consider how necessary certain cards are to fight them, I could consider

Delve

as a viable option and that, technically, can fit thematically with one of the demon mafias. Another viable, but far less exciting option is

Unearth

's return, but with Disturb being extremely similar to it in general terms, I'm not sure Wizards would try to reuse both in the same Standard cycle (but they often do so with Kicker and its variants).

Dominaria United

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Domain and other Dominaria-related keywords returns*

As Magic: The Gathering's 30th anniversary celebration set, and with a return to a Dominaria that no longer appears to be under interplanar or Phyrexian threats, I believe

Dominaria United

will feature innovations to some of the game's most classic mechanics, many of them iconic of the plane. Among them, the one that seems to make the most sense in terms of popularity and because it's not complicated to always keep track (as is the case with Threshold), is

Domain

, a keyword which considers the types of basic lands you control, something that can be further explored in this return to the foreground of the game, as it was initially introduced in Apocalypse and whose last revisit (in a Standard release) took place a long time ago, in

Conflux

, released in 2009.

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A tribal-focused set

Going even further into the speculative zone, I think we can expect tribal support for some of Dominaria's most well-known creature types like Elves, Goblins, Merfolks or Mages, Zombies or Vampires, and Humans or Soldiers. What brings me to this possibility is that, with this set being a "celebration" and a revisiting of Dominaria, we know that one of the most famous themes that the plane had in several sets has been the tribal synergies that essentially gave rise to these archetypes as we know it today, and which persist to the present as decks that appear in eternal formats like Modern. This, coupled with the fact that we often revisit these more "classic" tribes with occasional support at least once a year, makes me believe that Dominaria United is the perfect space for a block geared towards new tribal interactions.

A good opportunity for a Painlands reprint

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I don't put this as a speculation because I don't know if Painlands fit the Design Team's current philosophy, or if they would be too efficient for Standard, but the

Painlands

are a difficult cycle to reprint without Core Sets because the vast majority of them refer to some specific location on Dominaria. So, both in Dominaria United and in The Brothers War, there is a perfect opportunity to reprint the Painlands, especially the allied colors cycle, which have not been reprinted since Tenth Edition, and could serve as another land cycle to increase the consistency of allied color combinations on Pioneer.

The Brothers' War

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Urza and Mishra as factions

According to the description on the official Magic Showcase 2021 page, the last set of the year will tell, in detail, one of the most remarkable stories of the game from the perspective of its characters, locations and victims of the event that changed the entire course of Dominaria and the Multiverse. Here, there are two possibilities: The first is that it is built based on the conflict between Urza and Mishra, which would essentially bring a specific mechanic for each of them and a system similar to Factions, as we saw during the Scars of Mirrodin block, where Mirrans and Phyrexians had their own mechanics and means of "fighting" each other.

A set focused on the catastrophe of the War

The other possibility that might not hold the same hype, but which I also consider to be a valid approach, is the retelling of the story according to all Dominaria, without the central focus on the brothers. Putting them in the background and letting the catastrophe caused by the conflict be the narrator of the lore. In this case, we would see more secondary characters in the story, and an almost apocalyptic atmosphere in the narrative and illustrations. We'd see a devastated, frightened Dominaria trying to survive a war that many have nothing to do with, and eventually, we'd see the entire plane condemned into a long, merciless Ice Age.

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I don't believe that this is the theme that Wizards intends to give to a release that carries such historical weight, but I confess that it would be very interesting to see such an abrupt, desolating and devastating setting, as what a fruitless war between two brothers, armed with the most powerful artifacts on the plane did to an entire world.

Urza as Planeswalker? (Unlikely, but who knows?)

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The events of The Brothers' War end when Urza activates the Golgothian Sylex, obliterating all of Argoth and turning Urborg into a huge swamp, sending all of Dominaria into the Ice Age. In the explosion, both Urza and Mishra are disintegrated, but the Mightstone and Weakstone merge, reviving Urza and igniting his Spark. As this event only occurs at the end of The Brothers' War, I don't know if Wizards really intends to finally give Urza an official Planeswalker card, as we already have the creature version of him, from this time in Urza, Lord High Artificer (which I believe Wizards would probably consider too strong for Standard, Pioneer or Historic).

A mechanic geared towards crafting artifacts and building your army

The Brothers' War was an artificer war, where Urza and Mishra used the most brutal machines and relics to fight a deadly battle across Dominaria. Therefore, it is impossible not to consider that the set might have some focus on artifacts, or on their construction. I suppose that we will probably have a new mechanic to exemplify the power of both sides, and my bet is for a new mechanic which exemplifies the construction of these artifices or the construction of your own machine army, but it is also possible to reuse a keyword that is already well-known in Pauper and Modern, as it represents the concept of creating your own machine arsenal:

Metalcraft

.

Revisiting the Borthers' War is preparing for the continuation of the New Phyrexia arc

Unless it's part of Wizards' plans to return and retell in greater detail some of MTG's most iconic stories, it sounds a little strange that we have to travel back in time to understand a plot like The Brothers' War. While, of course, there are numerous commercial reasons for us to revisit this event, I suppose the most important point of this Lore episode for the current story is to situate new players in two key elements: The first is to explain what the Golgothian Sylex is, which may or may not be the "Cylix" that Karn found backin Dominaria the last time we revisited the plane, aiming to take it to New Phyrexia to, as far as is known, destroy the plane he created entirely. The second is to give these same new players have a better understanding of what Phyrexia is since, by all indications, we will be seeing small Phyrexian activities in future sets as we saw in Kaldheim with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. These two points lead me to believe that between 2023 and 2024, we'll be heading back to the New Phyrexia arc, where we'll learn what happened to Mirrodin after the

compleat

Phyrexian domination, and maybe we'll also learn how they're expanding and returning and appearing in other planes.

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Conclusion

These are my speculations for this year's releases. Some of them, I confess, can be somewhat geared towards my personal preferences or expectations for the game, like returning to Phyrexia or wishing for a Painland reprint, while others are geared towards what little information we have about the sets currently and, others, focused purely on imagination. In particular, I'm looking forward to seeing which of these assumptions will be right or wrong as the year goes on, and especially with the surprises that each of these new releases will bring (for better or for worse), and what impact they will have on competitive and casual formats. Please have no hesitation to leave your speculations in the comments. After all, one of the most fun parts that existed for me when I started researching and reading about Magic was the old MTGSalvation rumors and speculation forums, and it brought me a huge air of nostalgia to share my opinions and expectations of what to expect in new releases, as I used to read back at the time. Thanks for reading!
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Humberto

Writer and translator for Cards Realm and journalism student. Plays virtually every Magic: The Gathering competitive format.

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