The Fallacy of the 'Mythic' Rare
Just over a year ago Mark Rosewater, the Head Designer of Magic the Gathering wrote this lengthy article on some upcoming changes to the game we love. While so-called Change #1 is very important to MTG fans, especially the standard format loving ones, Change #2 is the focus here. It has been one year since Mythic rarity was introduced to the Magic playing public and the result has been lackluster. The intended purpose of a new rarity was two-fold: make an impact in how players collected cards, and highlight very special cards. The results have been mixed, and looking at the list of Mythic rares released so far I am wondering if WotC should have bothered at all. Players and collectors are growing more jaded each set as Mythic cards like Sphinx Ambassador and Dragon Broodmother continue to lower our expectations. When Zendikar is released in October players will probably care less about the possible Mythics than possible dual-lands. Probably not what Mark Rosewater had in mind. The following is a look at what has gone wrong, and some easy solutions to the 'Mythic problem'.
One type of Mythic rare more than deserves the title. As detailed here Planeswalkers are the soul of Magic the Gathering now and for the foreseeable future. Each passing day WotC releases a tiny bit more about Sorin Markov and we all swoon. There is an excitement around these cards that makes them desirable and 'epic' to use the term Rosewater wrote in his piece. Disparities have always existed between rares, some cards are better than others and it is an accepted part of MTG. But it is obvious Ajani Goldmane in every facet is superior when compared to say, Howling Mine. More powerful, more alluring, and most importantly (at least to Wizards) more flavorful. I have no issues with making these valued above other MTG offerings, even the card style is unique. Planeswalkers meet all the criteria involved, and were probably the reason for a new level of rarity in the first place. Perhaps WotC should have kept the Mythic rarity right here instead of forcing it upon cards it doesn't fit.
Huge creatures have always been a part of Magic and that is fine. Actually I love it. Giant green nasties grabbed my interest in the game and held it long enough to develop it into something slightly deeper. Only slightly mind you, because creatures like Baneslayer Angel still bring a joyous single tear to my eye. But do creatures ever deserve to be Mythic? Maybe, but WotC has a funny way of making the decisions regarding which earn the tag. The stated criteria of Mythic rarity per Rosewater: . . . "most legendary creatures, and epic-feeling creatures . . . They will not just be a list of each set's most powerful tournament-level cards." Sounds admirable, but how accurate are these guidelines in practice. Some legendary creatures like Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer and Rakka Mar were left off the Mythic bandwagon. Apparently in favor of more flavorful cards like Thornling, and Defiler of Souls. Stoic Angel does not have that ambiguous epic feel, but Jenara, Asura of War does? I can't tell. Also, how was it decided that the Xathrid Demon is any more epic, or powerful than a card like Captain of the Watch that puts nine power on the table? Because allegedly this is not a list of each set's most powerful tournament cards. That must explain why Noble Hierarch and Broodmate Dragon aren't Mythic. Of course that doesn't begin to tell us why Baneslayer Angel is. The seeming purpose of BA as to be simply the best creature in M10, tournament of otherwise. As long as Mythic exists, then obviously Baneslayer should be Mythic. However it barely hits one (epic feeling) of the three targets Mark Rosewater outlined. How is that possible? Because the stated criteria are clearly not how they decide Mythic status. At least not for creatures. So what about other spells?
Non-creature spells are held to the same lofty expectations that creatures are in relation to Mythic status. And for the most part these outrageous spells hit their marks much more accurately. They are almost always epic, both in feel and mana cost (I'm looking right at you Conflux). And they absolutely aren't 'only the most powerful tournament-level cards'. For the most part they are what WotC said they would be, and there are relatively few of of them (only four so far). However a new set of issues pop up here. Instead of the cards they made Mythic, the beef is with the ones they should have made Mythic. The best example of this would be the cycle of ultimatums. Awesome, game-changing spells full of flavor and large enough (seven colored mana) to meet any Mythic standard. Cruel Ultimatum is considered by some to be the most powerful non-creature spell ever printed. Perfect, Mythic rarity to the lot of them and everything is fine. Nope instead we are stuck with Lichs Mirror the only non-creature/non-planeswalker Mythic in Shards of Alara. A card that I have never seen played. Online or otherwise. This lack of action does not stem from the rarity either. My two closest MTG buddies each own at least one copy. If you suggest they include it in a deck you get laughed at. Literally. To conlude, the best non-creature spell in Alara or standard or maybe ever is regular old Rare, and the one Mythic in the set is laughable. This cannot be what Wizards imagined when the idea of Mythic rarity was born.
The way Mythic rarity has been used thus far has been, excluding planewalkers, a tragedy. Mythic creatures seem to be arbitrary and Mythic spells feel like missed opportunity. This wayward ship needs to be righted. And the options are not nearly as difficult as one might imagine. First option, Mythic rarity is reserved for the only cards that truly fit: planeswalkers. This would serve as a way to further separate and highlight them, and maintain the collectible aspect WotC desires. The second option is to do away with it entirely. The list of failed gimmicks related to MTG is actually rather short so one misstep can easily be forgiven. Finally, if Mythic is the path you want to walk WotC then walk it all the way. To clarify, if there is now a level of cards above Rare make them the best cards in Magic. Don't hold back from making cards like Wrath of God, Cruel Ultimatum and Maelstrom Pulse Mythic. Especially not out of some pseudo-noble attempt to keep the really good cards accessible to everyone (the purpose of rarity in the first place was to make certain cards harder to get). Fans should be clamoring to find out about all the Mythics in each new set , not simply the new planeswalkers and lands. The Mythic tag should be a glowing showcase of a card's over-all coolness. As of now all it represents is opportunity missed.