The internet was created for the free exchange of information and ideas.
Now it’s a graveyard of whimsy, run by cats and racists.
However, if I’m using the internet correctly, I’m going to espouse some half-baked ideas. If you’re familiar with my previous columns, you’ll know what I mean.
Today I’m dialing that up a notch.
6 THINGS THAT I THINK WILL HAPPEN IN MAGIC’S NEAR FUTURE
We're talking in the next five years or so.
I’m using a combination of my experience, snark, cynicism, and genuine love of the game to come up with this list. While some of my observations are a little out there (no, really), I truly believe these things are likely to happen, or a reasonable attempt will be made to make them happen.
CUTS TO SHUFFLING/MULLIGAN RULE OVERHAUL
Two entries in one because there’s so much overlap.
Shuffling is a real problem for Magic. From the IRL shenanigans, to the shuffling algorithm that MODO uses, players complain about shuffling being a pain in the ass, and judges see it as the major choke point for cheatyfacing.
First off would be to address the largest area of shuffling outside of Fetch Lands: Mulligans.
They’ve already made one major tweak to the Mulligan rule with the adding of the Scry, but I really don’t think they’re done. Within the next 5 years, I think they will remove shuffling from the Mulligan process entirely. If you don’t like your 7, set them aside and draw 6 etc. Once you agree on your starting hand, shuffle all mulliganed cards into your deck.
There’s also the possibility that they might move to the partial mulligan that’s popular with the Commander crew. If they did this, I can imagine that you would have to pay Life in order to keep certain cards in your hand (since this rule would make control decks drool)
I doubt that shuffling will be eliminated entirely, but I think card design will reflect a swerve away from shuffling so much, so that if it happens, it’ll be maybe once per game after the initial opening procedure.
NO MORE HAND SIZE LIMIT
Since it’s actually been discussed by WotC already, this one is cheap (but you got two entries in one last time, so shut up).
Much like Mana Burn, the Hand Size Limit punished players for excelling in a specific area of the game. But here’s the twist: I think discarding will be there, but become optional.
During Cleanup, if they have over 7 cards in their hand, the Active Player may discard until they have 7 cards.
You want to draw 12 cards, then discard some Madness burn at EOT? Sure. If your deck relies on the mass discarding, go nuts.
This would kind-of invalidate cards like Spellbook, as well as cards that reduce hand size by X, but a minor rewrite of these would solve those problems.
While this would be an answer to a question that was not asked, it’s the kind of thing that WotC would do in order for the game to remain fresh.
BANNED CARDS IN LIMITED
Yep. You heard me.
It’s not much of a secret that WotC doesn’t playtest Magic as much as they used to.
You really think they knew they were putting two infinite combos into Standard?
I almost got whiplash reading their damage control.
Limited bombs are a thing, but WotC is not only trying to create sexier cards for Limited (in order to drive the one format that pays not only their rent, but the rent of many a game store), but they're also trying to outdo themselves.
Power creep is a thing. It’s not long before there’ll be a huge misstep, and we’ll see a common that’s an auto-win.
They’ll have two options at that point:
1: Errata. Not to clarify a broken wording, but to actually change what the card does. This is not unprecedented, but it hasn’t happened for a LONG time.
2: Ban the card in Limited. They may opt to just ban a card in Sealed but not Draft, though the crossover of power levels is similar enough in those formats that I can’t see that happening. Logistically it would suck, but there are ways you can get around it in tournament play.
THE ELIMINATION OF JUDGES
I’ve been a Magic Judge for 22 years. Let me tell you a badly-kept secret:
WotC doesn’t like Judges.
It has nothing to do with the ongoing lawsuit either. (Well, the lawsuit doesn’t help…)
We judges are necessary to the process, and while they may enjoy us personally, the fact that we are NEEDED for tournaments really gravies their biscuits.
(That’s an expression, right? I was told to “America this shit up!”)
Anyway, I’m sure that WotC’s dream was that Magic Online would do most of the heavy lifting, and it’s done a lot, but it will not replace cardboard rectangles until they physically stop printing them.
There’s a chance that WotC will attempt a model where judges aren’t the ones that decide what happens when a player messes up. Players are more knowledgeable than ever, and the rules were in great shape for a while (though they’ve since gone a bit Konami).
Even without the lawsuit, they would be looking for a way to eliminate the Brothers (and SIsters) of the Watch. I think within 5 years they’ll make the attempt to convert us to tournament managers (to deal with tournament logistics) but rules questions and rulings will be handled by the players themselves. TOs may have people cover the traditional judge position, but on the whole, we’ll be retired and repurposed.
MAGIC ONLINE SWITCHES MODELS
Magic Online works really well for what it is, but it suffers from one major problem: If MODO goes away, so does your entire collection.
It also suffers from the same issue that cardboard rectangles does: If you are just starting out, it’s a lot of money and time to get the stuff you need to just play reasonably well.
I think Magic Online will convert to a weird hybrid of the current Steam version (which is Freemium like Hearthstone) and a subscription-based model like World of Warcraft. For example, you pay $15 a month to just play, but you get some packs for it.
They’ll probably find a way to sell you some goddamn crystals or something. Like maybe you get 2x every card, but to unlock additional copies, you have to spend fake purple glass things that cost $0.99 to buy.
You also have access to all the cards. Constructed haven.
Obviously that’s a huge deal, especially to those that have cultivated an extensive collection of photons. There may be a compromise, there may be a huge buyback, or they might just rip that bandaid off and say “Check the TOS” when people invariably complain.
Something like this might be good for the online growth of the game (and signal a potential permanent move to online), but the blowback might also bury Magic. Sorry…”Destroy Magic. It may not Regenerate”
NEW CARD TYPE
Let’s finish on an upbeat one.
Planeswalkers worked really well for Magic. So did Equipment. It won’t be very long before we’ll have another new card type.
There’s a games industry term called “The Planeswalker Problem” where WotC wanted Planeswalkers to take spell damage, but spells printed for 10+ years only target creatures or players. So they made a rule about redirecting damage.
It was obviously done as a patch, and it more or less works, but it’s also a reminder to include design space in your game.
So keeping that in mind, I think a new card type will probably be closer to a new subtype (much like equipment was). If I was to take a guess, I’d say it would be land-based.
Tower of the Thing or Whatever.
LAND - Location
(Play this card only when you play a non-location land)
(Blablabla some effect)
(Blablabla some flavour text)
Please note that I have no inside information, and this idea is probably terrible.
There you have it. Six things that might happen. Given the nature of variance and free will, they probably won't, but if they do, I expect everybody to give me a dollar.