Invocations, The End is Nigh...
I have no real good ways to start this article off. I tried a few different ways and I have not gotten much past the first paragraph. There is just this awful feeling inside of me due to the reaction people have had recently due to the recent Masterpiece series. Maybe it goes deeper than just people disagreeing with how a card looks, but I was moderately embarrassed with how everyone reacted to the reveals. We are representing the game to rest of the world and the childish response have not done us any favors.
Let me first give an overview of the Masterpieces history and then explain what the Masterpiece series is meant to do since in reality it is pretty simple yet people really want to over-complicate it. The initial series was a test run during Battle for Zendikar with the Expeditions. They printed sought after Fetchlands and interesting Eternal and Commander staples in a special foiling, with each card coming roughly 1.5 per case. This draws a parallel to various rarities in Pokemon, even though they have several more than Magic. A reconfiguring of the Expedition foiling process and we were given the Inventions of Kaladesh which were universally loved. It really fit the flavor of Kaladesh as well as just being very playable cards. Fast forward to today and we have had the reveal of the new Invocations from Amonkhet. The theme for this was showing the Gods, their magic and their servants.
Masterpieces were created to accomplish 3 main goals in my mind. The first goal and arguably the most important was to find a way to lower the barrier of entry into Standard. Magic is not a cheap hobby. A $60 Video Game gets you exactly what you want where $60 in Magic packs could be anything and is sometimes barely 10% of an entire deck. Cheap singles mean more people are going to afford to play or start playing which is a good thing. The second goal was to reprint some cards that were much needed demand. Now, these didn’t have an overwhelming impact on the secondary market, but it was a way to help people that maybe just needed a little bit of luck to get into a new format. They might have a budget deck in Modern, but that Expedition Scalding Tarn they opened just got them a playset of Tarns to play in their deck. The third and final reason is one I think is overlooked and that is to stir up excitement and create a talking point. Each time the Masterpiece series has been there has been a ton of dialogue, and mostly good up until recently. The discussion it creates lets Magic maybe reach new ears that have not heard about the game yet or drum up interest that might not have been there.
That brings us to the new Invocation Masterpieces. I have seen people say they are quitting the game because the cards that were made to add value “don’t look pretty.” Others have said this is a major screw up or that Wizards is trying to kill magic. Some have tried to give Mark Rosewater grief over the fact that these might not be playable because they are not black bordered, although to be honest these people are just trolling. If you are aware enough of the rules for what cards are legal to ask that question than you are aware that there will be an update to the rules guidelines to account for these cards.
People are looking to others that are either “Financial Experts” or Youtube personalities or really don’t understand what is going on and taking their opinions from people that have something to gain from mass upheaval. There is an argument that these don’t add value because the extra value from the Masterpieces reduce the expected value that you can open from a pact but I call BS on that point. Yes the expected value goes down, but at the same time these Masterpieces add so much that it more than makes up for that.
I am in the camp that I like these Invocations and I generally think they look neat. To me they have this Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics feel yet there is something in the writing that feels familiar (the name of the card). There is a bigger issue here though and that is community entitlement and reacting before thinking. For those that do not know, Wizards of the Coast is a subsidiary of Hasbro. Hasbro sets the budgets and yearly goals and Wizards has to meet these due to expectations of stockholders. Design and R&D continually need to find new ways to freshen up a game that has been around for over 20 years. If every set was the same for a long period of time you would see growth stagnate or just start to drop. I love, LOVE that Wizards will continually try new things to keep the game fresh while keeping the core game the same. The Masterpiece series is one of them, adjusting the Masterpiece series to match a set’s theme and becoming more aggressive with the Standard Ban and Restrict announcement are some examples of some recent attempts but it goes back further than that. Look at the new border during Mirrodin. Everyone said that would kill the game and all it did was precede the biggest gain in popularity the game has ever seen. The only attempt I remember that was maybe a “failure” was the color shifted sets of Torment and Judgment. It created a pretty big imbalance of power between Black, Green and White while Red and Blue were an afterthought usually.
I can completely understand the complaints that people have. Sure, the name of the card is a bit hard to read and the border can be a bit cleaner, but in the end these are just cards that the majority of players will never open or have to deal with. In reality, a lot of the people who are complaining were never going to use these in decks even if they looked nice. In Legacy for example, my opponent could return an Island to their hand and play a blank card to counter my spell and I would know it is a Daze. These cards are not for newer players and that was done on purpose.
I really enjoy wizards exploring what they can do not just from the actual playing of the game but to include the experience of the product. There are changes I would like to see eventually. I think Non-Foil promos would be a huge success if Wizards decided to go this way. The thought is that foils add a bit more collectability which is true, but playability is also a factor for players. A lot of players would jump at the chance to play with non-foil promos in their decks. Imagine the Zombie Planeswalkers from Comic Con being non-foil. You would see zombie Gideons everywhere! Full-art cards with the text like the Game Day promos would also be sweet in foil and non-foil versions of standard cards that you could get in packs. I know that idea is a “Pokemon-ish” but it leads to some pretty cool artwork and gives players ways to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
At this point I am 1200 words deep and growing so I need to wrap this up. I want to thank you all for reading this article. It has felt pretty good to get all these thoughts down in writing. Now it is your turn to jump into the comments and let me know what you all think. Please keep this civil too, we are representing the game to the rest of the world, hostility is the last thing we need amongst players.
Thanks for reading!
-Stu Somers@Ssomers55 on Twitter
Stu is a former M:TG Pro Tour competitor and avid comic book fan. He wants to know what you think about his article, so leave a comment below or hit him up on twitter
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