Core Set Variety

Aaaaaaand we’re back!

Only this time, we have the mothership beaming official flavor directly into our collective orifice.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned the issue of a holistic storyline versus disparate planes in the modern core sets. It garnered some great comments about what you prefer to see in a core set, and it led to some good bits on Twitter as well.

This week, I’m going to talk about why a variety of stories and settings in the core set is good for Magic and you, and I’ll attempt to prove that doesn’t prevent an overarching storyline from appearing in a core set in the future.

Little Bit of Everything

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Core sets have a variety of stories and characters so Wizards can appeal to everyone. Sure, they rotate blocks and block themes so everyone has a day in the sun, but the core sets are an annual time for Vorthoses to know they’ll be seeing some piece of Magic they appreciate.

Didn’t get to see any references to Ajani or his home plane of Alara? Magic 2013 has a whole boatload (thanks, exalted!). Want to see more references to Dominaria? No problemo. How about the obscure Shandalar? Yea, there’s some of that in Magic 2013 as well.

There are a lot of Vorthos out there, and each one wants to see something a little different. Wizards of the Coast needs to satisfy all of them—and more frequently than every four or five years. The core sets allow WotC to give each Vorthos a taste of what he or she wants, and a core set keeps Vorthoses interested while they wait for a whole block of mind-blowing flavor.

New Players Get to “See” the Game

From a Vorthos standpoint, what happens when a new player starts playing Magic during Innistrad block? Either the player likes the horror/1600s European theme or he doesn’t. If he does, great!

If the player doesn’t like the current theme, he might play the game anyway. He’ll be taken in via non-Vorthos content—enjoying flashback and graveyard mechanics or loving how aggressive and difficult to play Delver is.

It can turn away some potential Magic fans, but it’s not a death knell for a new player if he doesn’t enjoy the flavor. It might not even affect his outlook on future sets. If the right theme or story comes along, that now-experienced player might be swallowed whole, like a python’s prey. Then, we have ourselves a new Vorthos brother or sister.

But why wait? Why take the chance that a new player will be turned away or invest less of a connection to the game? That’s where the core set comes in.

Not only does the annual core set provide a glimpse of very wide variety of Magic flavor, but it is the introductory product for the game. The core set has (almost) always been WotC’s product for new players, but thanks to the recent Duels of the Planeswalkers iterations—among other things—it is better aligned to draw in new players than ever before.

Why do you think Duels is released a few weeks before the core set? Sure, there are development cycles and timelines the production company—it’s not solely controlled by WotC—has to meet, but that’s not it.

Duels hooks someone who has never played Magic before. The player thinks it’s a great game and wants to try it in person with friends. What does he do? He looks up how to buy actual cards and what those cards actually are.

This scenario could play out anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months after he found Duels, but I think we can agree a new player wouldn’t start looking for cards until he’s played the game for a week or two . . . just in time for the prerelease of the latest core set.

The point of all my babbling is that Wizards has gone to a lot of effort to make sure the core sets are the first cards new players see. Getting in as many planes and storylines as possible allows a larger chance people will be hooked on some character or setting and join the ranks of Vorthos. Once they’re ensnared, they’ll keep playing, wanting to learn more about their respective topics.

Revisiting the Oldies

I have a couple articles on the old storylines and planes in the pipeline, but that won’t stop me from sharing a few bits relevant to today’s topic. I stated earlier that Wizards needs to satisfy a wide variety of Vorthoses, but not all of those are areas you might know.

There are Vorthoses from every era of Magic out there and others who have fallen in love with stories from before they began playing. (Are there any Vorthoses out there younger than their favorite storylines? I’d love to hear from you!) Even for those who think they know all there ever was, it’s quite easy to miss some of the smaller storylines from the past.

All of this means Wizards needs to revisit older Vorthos content, stories that may never see another full block. That content needs a home without requirements or setting. The core set provides such a place.

This goes back to my first point, but from a different angle. In addition to providing a wide array of content to satisfy expectations, WotC is seeking to introduce old bits and pieces Vorthos may not know about or may have forgotten.

Tamiyo and Overarching Themes

Time for a switch-up.

I’ve heard a number of complaints about Tamiyo, the Moon Sage on Innistrad since she was spoiled in Avacyn Restored. I’m not quite sure what all the fuss is about. Her reasons for being there made a lot of sense once you think about.

Let’s talk about the overall idea.

Spatial Merging

Planeswalkers can travel between worlds (planes) similar to how adventurous persons traveled between continents/countries as recently as a hundred fifty years ago. Cultures, dress, language, and everything else differed so greatly that it was quite easy to point out a foreigner.

Yet, those who came into contact with said foreigner didn’t always immediately assume he was the devil or some horrible being. Often, they exchanged culture, language, and ultimately, knowledge.

So why couldn’t this happen in the Magic multiverse? There are certainly some differences—planeswalkers not wanting themselves to be known probably the being major sticking point—but there are solutions.

Sure, she looks out of place, but that’s just an appearance. It’s not as though a Soratami dressing in local garb is going to attract any less attention. Again, there are solutions.

Bringing it All Together

So, what does Tamiyo have to do with core set variety? She’s an example of how to get cards from multiple blocks working together. She’s also the tip of the iceberg.

While a very large majority of you stated last week that you were happy with the diversity present in core sets, some of you couldn’t see how that would remain if a storyline was added. The key, quite simply, is planeswalkers.

Each block has a setting because the story is about that place. Planeswalkers are present—and they certainly play important roles—but they are not what’s driving the plot. Put them in the driver’s seat, and you open up a host of new options (and some might say, can of worms).

It’s been done before. Take a look at Urza’s block. There are cards related to various parts of Dominaria, such as Tolarian Academy, Shiv, Argoth, and so on, alongside Serra’s realm, Rath, and more.

Does that mean it should be done? No. It’s a lot harder to tell the story without additional sources (Urza’s block helps prove this), and even then, it might not come out clearly. There might not be an optimal way of arranging disparate pieces and a storyline all together, but there are certainly possibilities.

I really want to see an overarching story in a core set, but if that means sacrificing the variety built in, I’ll pass. Does that mean there never will be? Who knows, but I hope Wizards hasn’t taken the option completely off the table.