Hello everyone, and welcome back to Strictly Average MTG. I hope your holidays were great, and filled with hope for this new year. In a way one of the good things about going into a new year is the feeling of a clean slate. A sense of hope for what is yet to come. That’s kind of the theme for today as I provide you predictions for Magic in 2019.
Why even Predict?
Why? It’s fun. It’s also a form of Magic discussion that isn’t “tiers” or “best decks” or anything involved with playing the game. We can let our imagination run wild, and maybe have a few laughs too.
1. Changes to Commander
The player created EDH format was provided a level of support by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) in the form of preconstructed decks. They started out by issuing 5 decks until 2017 when they reduced it to 4. Most games do involved 4 players so that made some sense, however the game itself involved FIVE colors. So here’s what I predict.
- The pre-constructed decks will be taken back to a November release.
- There will be 5 decks instead of 4 going forward.
- We get more reprints.
- The 2019 version will have Commanders of the 5 Allied colors (White-Blue, Blue-Black, Black-Red, Red-Green, Green-White) with 2020 giving us enemy colored.
As far as the last one perhaps they can showcase the aftermath of the events in the third Ravnica set (coming this Spring) through the focus on the guild colors. This may not come to pass as there are a lot of Legendary creatures in Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica: Allegiance already. I do hope these sets get some quality reprints though as some cards, even for this format, are starting to become problematic at this point.
2. Jace dies
WotC has always wanted to make the story of the characters in Magic: the Gathering important beyond the card game. The story is meant to provide an immersive experience, and has even lead to providing content for Dungeons and Dragons players to be able to play in these worlds we see in the game. There was a time that the Bundles (which used to be called Fat Packs) had an actual novel so you can read the story as you crack the new packs. However since they left Ixalan the story has…not been great. I feel we should have stayed on Dominaria to flesh out that story more, but we’re in Ravnica now and Guilds of Ravnica appears to be building up to a climatic (final?) battle with Nicol Bolas. The story has to have some memorable conclusion to make all the time and effort to reach this point stick in the minds of everyone, and one way to do that is to kill a character. The one you kill: Jace.
Let’s take a look at a classic tale where a beloved hero was killed off. The X-Men are perhaps one of the most beloved fictional characters in comic book history, and in the 80’s there was a very important (and impactful) storyline. During The Dark Phoenix series Jean Grey, who was (then) possessed by The Phoenix Force, killed herself as she was being pursued by those (the Shi’ar) who felt she was too dangerous to be kept alive. From being controlled by The Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle, to destroying an entire planet, Phoenix was often times out of control unlike it’s host Jean Grey. In a way Phoenix was her antithesis which made the character quite popular with readers. The purpose of killing her off, from what I understand, was to force the X-Men (especially the originals) through a growing up moment. It was meant to cycle out X-Men as they aged allowing to either introduce new characters or put the focus on others.
This was a ground breaking event, and not only caused the uproar of many readers but it did one thing very important: It got their attention.
How many of you have said that you are “sick of The Gatewatch” in the last 3 or so years? Ok you can all put your hands down. So we get new versions of characters as planeswalkers and take the focus away from The Gatewatch on cards, and yet people want Teferi banned? So you don’t want more cards with members of The Gatewatch, but don’t want powerful new planerswalkers like Teferi??? We can’t do both so they (WotC) may have to force the discussion and kill Jace (as well as Nicol Bolas). Imagine the after effects of this! Gideon may feel like he failed his friend. Liliana would retreat to Innistrad in sorrow. Nissa may come to turns with her leaving and understand why Jace did what he did. Chandra would become enraged (and perhaps go wild). Ajani would honor him as a fallen hero. …and so on.
Unlike Jean I wouldn’t bring Jace back any time soon, and this would allow a focus to be placed on perhaps a new character. I would want to read about the impact of this for years, and for a brand to “kill off” it’s “Mickey Mouse” would really make waves among the community.
3. Return to New Phyrexia
There is a dangling plot thread that will be addressed in 2019. We will return to New Phyrexia (formerly known as Mirrodin) so Karn could destroy the Phyrexians. Will the heroes allow the obliteration of a spieces, even if they are evil? Will the heroes want to stop Karn, who fought with them against Bolas? This would be very interesting, but more importantly there are cards we will see again (finally!).
In Kaladesh we received the enemy color versions of these lands so it would be time to bring these back. After having a year of 3 (or more) color decks in Standard bringing these back would focus the builds back to 2 color decks, and perhaps speed up Standard as well. Their reprint will also signal the last set of lands we need to have a proper non-rotating new Modern format without fetchlands. Having fact lands, check lands, and shocklands will provide enough for us to build anything we want in…
4. “Standard Plus” will be Origins forward
I have been predicting this for awhile now (such as my last article here), and with the full on push for Magic Arena there was a reveal that a format currently labeled “Standard Plus” will come out soon. They do not want the cards people own from Ixaland through Core Set 2019 to fall victim to a Thanos snap when Standard rotation happens in the fall this year. I wish we could just get this format confirmed now, but alas there has been nothing new on this as of yet.
Why would it be Origins forward?
- They (WotC) already have Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon programmed into Arena. There were in the program before offering Closed Beta to us late in 2017. They would only have to program 3 sets (Magic: Origins, Battle For Zendikar, Oath of The Gatewatch) to get it ready. With how paper sets are designed way ahead of time it seems like time can be made (if it hasn’t already) to do this.
- Magic Origins was the starting point for the focus on the current story. Things I thought I knew about Jace felt different, perhaps even more flushed out, than they were when he first appeared in Lorwyn. If the story is so important then why name a set “Origins” and spend as much money as they have to make the story important? There has to be a reason, and this is it. Having someone care about a character can also help them be interested in that character’s card, and thus other cards that would lead to a fun (if not good) deck.
- Magic Origins is the first set after fetchlands left Standard. It is said people do not like formats with Fetchlands (so why do we have Evolving Wilds again?), and the overall design of Origins feels like a true beginner set. Perfect for Arena.
I’m hopeful we’ll hear about this soon so we can prepare, but as we look at the current schedule of MagicFests it may be awhile before we hear anything.
5. More quality reprints in Standard
If you would have told me that Crucible of Worlds, or Scapeshift were going to be in Core Set 2019 I would have thought you were wishfully thinking. However that became a reality last summer, along with reprints of Icy Manipulator, Guilded Lotus, and Siege-Gang Commander. Sadly none of these cards have impacted Standard, or perhaps that’s a good thing?
Having these reprints that are at their strongest in another format that have zero impact on Standard is exactly where the aim should be for reprints that are no have a Masters quality. Let’s say if we have a set where there are no 1-mana plays. The impact of a card like Chalice of the Void would be minimal at best especially if there is artifact hate in the format. Now that might not be a great example, but more reprints like this will definitely help not only those of us who primarily play older formats but also the prices of these cards.
Personally I would like to see Thoughtseize make a return to Standard, but this time without a Mono Black Devotion deck for it to go into. I think it could happen as not only is the card bad when there are graveyard based decks (see Arclight Phoenix in Standard), but it can be bad late if the opponent has no worthy targets let alone a hand. It also sells packs. A lot.
There’s a lot yet to unfold, and the future is always unwritten, however perhaps some of these will come to pass. Only time will tell.
The Ravnica: Allegiance spoilers are starting to roll in, and I’ll have a multi-week series on Modern coming really soon so stay tuned.
Until next week…
TAP MORE MANA
Scott Campbell, better known as MTGPackFoils, has been playing Magic since he was 17 (which was in 1993). He’s known for loving decks such as Azorius Control, Jund, and others (especially in Modern). He is a husband, father, and a former nightclub DJ.