Planeswalkers, before they were famous
During the break at the Pro Tour, Wizards of the Coast took the time to announce the summer core set. They revealed it was not going to be called Magic 16, which was not too much of a surprise. Instead it will be called Magic Origins. Ooooh. Indeed, this is pretty exciting news. And, for the people in the trying-to-predict-the-future business, this meagre bit of information is enough for them (me) to make wild predictions of what this set might be.
WARNING, Several Geek culture references below
Let’s just have a look at the known facts about the set. Well there’s the name: Origins. That’s popped up a few times in geek culture in the last few years. It’s sometimes associated with a prequel or reboot and, sure enough, Magic brand manager Mark Purvis went on to explain that Origins would take us back to a time before some of the most loved Planeswalkers (and Jace*) got their sparks. He then said it would be a multiple story set that would tell the stories of Jace, Liliana, Gideon, Chadra and Nissa, and who they were before we came to meet them in the world of Magic the Gathering.
To demonstrate this, they showed off some artwork for yet unknown cards. Both bits of art featured Liliana. The first one depicts her in white with crows around her in a sort of darker version of a Disney princess. In the background is what I can only assume is Downton Abbey. We were told that Lils was a healer before she became a necromancer, so the classic Babyface to Heel flip is to come for her in this set’s story. This thought was reinforced by the second picture, showing everyone’s favourite monoblack walker in more familiar territory, stood atop a pile of burning debris with the undead clawing at her, being necromancy and that.
So what might be in store for the other planeswalkers?
Jace might be a mild-mannered janitor who then suddenly realises he has the power to make people forget things. Gideon could run a cat orphanage that is burnt down, forcing him to go on a journey of revenge then forgiveness. Nissa seems like the sort who could start off as someone fairly insignificant but then go on to be the John Connor of the elf world, leading them on a rebellion that would recover their land and powers from evil, awakening her spark in the process. And then there is Chandra; I’m going to go for a Selena Kyle parallel here. Meek timid undertrodden young woman gets sick off it and burns the world down.
Now the details were a little bit sketchy, which is to be expected when they were only just announcing the set. Initially we were told the set had 277 cards but then WotC explained that the true number of cards in the set was 272. Quite a few people suggested this could be because they had counted the new legendary creature card of the planeswalkers and that they might be double-faced cards that actually flip into their planewalker form. Perhaps a little too complicated for a core set but, still, it’s a great theory.
Another thing we were told was that the set will contain more new cards that previous core sets. This news seems at odds with the line that Wizards took earlier this year when they told us, because the core set was no longer going to be an ongoing set, they would have to increase the number of reprints in the blocks. Surely the last core set would be the ideal way to keep quite a few staple cards in Standard for the next year?
Ah, but what if these new cards are actually old cards that are functionally reprinted to give them more generic names? Like the Llanowar Elves coming back as Elvish Mystic, or the Zendika refuge lands coming back as the lifegain lands in Tarkir but with a name less tied to that particular plane. It’s an interesting thing to mull over. It could be that we see some cards retconned into the Origins story so that they aren’t tied to any particular past plane. Serum Visions was not in Theros, even though it fitted in with the scry theme. Some suggested it was because its name was linked too heavily to another plane but it is more likely a power level thing.
Wizards have shown us with the latest storyline developments in Fate Reforged that they are not afraid to go back and change things. With Sarkhan probably saving Ugin so that he will be alive into the future, it’s possible that the effects of those changes brought about by altering the Elder Dragon’s timeline could be felt outside of the plane or Tarkir. Anyone familiar with comic books will know that they occasionally have a huge summer event which is supposed to clean up the world and make the storyline simpler again. They also use it to restart all their comic issue numbers so that new people find it less intimidating to get into the world of comics. No one wants to start at issue number 667.
Having said that, I could also see Wizards doing a lot of subtle in jokes with the cards. Nothing that would affect newer players too much but maybe have a few famous flavour texts make their way onto new cards. Perhaps even a few nods to classic cards in the art work. But with Modern Master 2015 coming out a few months before, don’t expect to see lots of staples appear in this set.
Which reminds me…
I should imagine we will see a big push by Wizards of the Coast to get new players to start with Magic Origins. Seasoned players have not always enjoyed core sets because they feel overly simple and a little bit reduced in power to accommodate newer players who need a slightly cleaner version of the game to learn. But we were told that for the first time this core set will feature new mechanics. Two to be exact. It means that the complexity in this set will probably be a little higher than other core sets. Whatever this set does contain, I can’t help thinking that this, along with the change in block structure, will have a massive impact on the both the fantasy and real worlds of Magic.
More facts: The Magic Origins Pre-release is on the 11-12 of July, with the release date being 17th of July. If things follow the usual pattern, spoilers will hit sometime in early June, so keep an eye on Manaleak.com for your Magic Origins spoilers and pre-orders.
Community Question: What do you think we could be seeing in Magic Origins?
Let’s have your wildest and most out-there suggestions for what could be in this set.
Last week’s article Alesha, who Smiles at Death was very well received by the community. I had quite a few people message me with nice things to say. It is good to know that my scribblings are well received. I also had a few people share some stories about how the Magic community has done something great for them personally. I’d like to do a follow up article telling a few of those stories. I’d also love you guys to tell me even more times when Magic helped you out. Please drop me an email with your story and I hope I can use it in the article. firstname.lastname@example.org
(*I like Jace as a character it just makes me laugh that he gets such a hard time from a lot of players.)
Thanks for reading, and as always, I look forward to reading your comments.