The Wizards decided to discontinue the age-old practice of putting out “intro decks.” They seem to want new players to be able to learn the game, become competitive, and eventually successful in local area tournaments. The intro deck was the beginning of this ramp, but it had some problems. First of all, virtually every intro deck ever put out is weak…They are generally missing mana-fixing, and generally have only one or two copies of cards that would be essential, but are often easily replaced with better options.
I, the SpartanNerd, have reviewed several intro decks. And in virtually every case, the booster packs that came with the deck had more usefulness.
Not that no intro deck ever came with useful and valuable cards. The intro-deck with Spear of Heliod comes to mind. That card saw legitimate play in Theros block. And I famously picked up a Dark Ascencion deck that came with two Inkmoth Nexus, and Hellrider to boot. But most of them…have been lackluster offerings. Decks that frustrate new players, especially kids, when they try and play them in constructed tournments and get their face re-arranged by someone who built their deck to work against a metagame. Throw in that other sealed products, like Duel Decks and Commander contain cards that aren’t Standard or sometimes even Modern legal, and new players can hit a brick wall of confusion and frustration.
This is why the Planeswalker Pack is already destined to be a failure. And I haven’t even seen the contents!
I want to talk about what we have been shown from the “Kaledesh” block Planeswalker packs.
These two cards are pretty. They are flashy. They WILL capture the young player’s attention. When I started playing, you couldn’t find Planeswalker cards anywhere. Now you get fresh new ones that come with a deck. Fresh new FOIL ones at that.
But these two cards are instantly nerfed. They both cost six…so say for instance on turn six you play Chandra, Pyrogenius, and you get to “shock” an opponent.
The problem with this of course is this…
You are getting a six drop, sorcery speed “Shock.” And while Shock isn’t in the Standard game right now, there are better burn spells than Chandra.
But SpartanNerd, She will be at 7 loyalty.
This is true. And this is why Chandra, Pyrogenius will work as an intro product. She will be fun against the Nissa, Nature’s Artisan deck. You can even bump her down and she will be at 2 loyalty…she lives for another turn at least. She might be fun in a duel deck type of situation. But not against a metagame of Battle for Zendikar block, Shadows Over Innistrad block, and Kaladesh block.
Nissa, Natures Artisan suffers from the same problem. How many better ways in all of MTG are there to gain three life? Filtering for land?
Chandra becomes a sweeper with additional burn if she ultimates, and Nissa becomes “Overrun”. But you have to get to ten loyalty counters. Not going to happen in a real tournament environment.
Now we haven’t seen the rest of the decks. But we are promised at least five more cards designed to go with these planeswalkers specifically. Those cards might make it possible to play these in a tournament successfully. We’ll just have to see.
But I say the Wizards are going about getting new players ALL WRONG. I am a teacher, and I love teaching kids new skills. I love it when the light comes on and they “get” a new concept. MTG is a FUN game, worthy of brainpower and thinking through strategies like deckbuilding, etc. I like playing against new players, and helping them to see their triggers, phase changes, combat tactics, etc. New players are LUCKY if they play against me. I remember when I started, too many players were cut-throat, and beat me on what I thought were technicalities. Problems that I didn’t see, and wasn’t sure they were even playing fair. I just loved the game, so kept on playing with determination.
But news flash. Kids don’t like to lose. And you pay, say $5.00 of your allowance to play in a tournament for 4-6 hours on a Friday night, only to get smashed in every game, and it becomes clear why new players don’t feel successful. All this is WORSE if you happen to be running illegal cards that you JUST PURCHASED in a Commander deck. A deck that costed $35, and took your birthday money.
I propose a completely different approach than just putting out new eye-catching product.
The Wizards should go back to the CORE SET. But this time, structure tournaments around it for NEW PLAYERS. A product like Planeswalker Packs (and intro decks) could fit right in with what I propose. Core Set tournaments would LOCK OUT anyone who has a DCI number oder than say, two years old. This would have to be policed by the TO. But I believe this to be the best way for the Wizards to help the new players learn the game and find some success. Such a tournament would be independent of the Standard environment. I remember seeing the words “expert set” on some MTG expansions. (Dragon’s Maze comes to mind.) Standard would be made of “Expert Sets.” The Core Set beginner tournaments would play like Magic in its purest form. Just use the evergreen keywords, and examples of each card type. Use basic lands and Evolving Wilds. Or maybe tap lands. The most successful Core Set in my opinion was M13. This set reprinted the Titans. It had Legendary creatures. It had staples. It was great fun! This set captured my kids’ imaginations. But when we played decks make from this set against Innistrad block cards, we would lose. I think we would have had a good shot in a closed off, core set only environment.
So when the Planeswalker Pack bites the big one, and the Wizards try a different plan, just point them to the SpartanNerd Blog!