Collector’s Cache: The New Magic Block Structure

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago, an article caught my attention. The headline mentioned the changing block structure of Magic: the Gathering. At the time, I only perused the article and, as I often do against my better judgment, skipped to the comment section. Therefore, I didn’t really understand the ramifications of the change. I thought (as the comments said) that it was mostly in response to a stale and slow to change competitive format. That doesn’t affect me because I’m just not into the competitive gaming scene.

Chris sent me a message saying that he finally got around to reading about the change and inspired me to consider it as a subject on the podcast. There, we discuss the potential changes to friendly games like the ones that we play where the rules might not always match the book, but at least we always agree.

Researching for the podcast led me to a very informative article by Mark Rosewater (link) so I won’t spend much time on teaching you about the changes, either. That just leaves the first C in CCG and I am very interested in the collecting aspect of the game, so I will concentrate on that in this article. Every time a new set is released, I pick up a box of boosters and a fat pack. I put the cards in order, with the visual checklist preceding the set in a binder representative of the yearly block. I have never finished a set, but I think I’ve figured out a way, with an idea from Chris, to fill in the missing cards.

So, what does this change mean for this style of collecting? Well, the current block is unchanged of course. I will get boxes of cards for Magic 2015, Khans, and then the two sets that follow. I will put them into a binder, probably one that has Garruk on the cover because he’s one of my favorite characters in the Magic multiverse and I’m glad that he’s prominently featured this year.

As far as I can tell, that will continue going forward. Though, instead of there being three sets per block, there will be only two. All that means for my collection is that I will buy two smaller binders instead of one large binder each year. The big change coming is that there will be no more core set after next year.

Initially, I resisted this change. I often think of myself as flexible, but as I get older, change becomes scarier. As Abe Simpson said, “I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you…” I considered the change, though, and reflected back to another recent change. When I saw the M15 spoilers online, I thought that there was something different. A conversation with Chris and opening the packs from my Fat Pack confirmed that they changed the design of the cards. As a collector, it was a welcome change. Trying to read the numbers of the old color bordered cards was very difficult on the green and nearly impossible on red. Since the bottom border is now all black, that problem is solved.

I think that doing away with the core set can have a similar positive effect on collections. The article above mentions that the change will help to keep the game fresh through more changes more quickly. Another thing that stood out to me as I opened the M15 packs was the number of reprints. At first, it was (somewhat) nostalgic to see the old cards with the new borders and I reasoned that reprints are inevitable. Certain cards are just staples for their color and useful in nearly any deck. Think Cancel or Pacifism.

However, I found myself becoming less excited and more “Meh” as I opened pack after pack and saw the same cards with the same artwork over and over. Reprints are inevitable and they won’t end with the new block structure, but there is a potential silver lining to the situation. As I sorted through my boxes of cards in the hopes of unloading some of the extras, I was reminded that reprinted cards from expansion sets were often given different artwork that reflected the style of the expansion. I can live with those reprints because they give another interpretation of the card and that is interesting to see.

Overall, while initially scary to hear (no third set! no more core set!) and easy to misinterpret their intentions behind them, the changes are welcome. They promise to keep competitive play fresh through more rapid changes. Any reprints will, hopefully, reflect the style of the expansion in which they appear and not feel quite so stale, either. As always, thanks for reading. What do you think about the changes in competitive, friendly, or collecting?

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