Back in March I reported live from PAX East when Theros was first announced. It was an incredibly exciting presentation highlighted by the Dragon’s Maze pre-release format being announced. This weekend at San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) and PAX Australia (PAXAus) Wizards revealed even more exciting information that we could have ever imagined. Spoiler cards which will be part of From the Vault: Twenty, the announcement of two fall products, a plethora of spoiled artwork from Theros, the overall block structure of Theros and the pre-release format were all covered and give Magic fans and players alike a lot to look forward to over the next 12 months.

From the Vault: Twenty

Things kicked off with about as big a bang as anything when it was revealed that Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be one of the cards included in the limited-print-run issue of From the Vault (FTV) 20. For those unfamiliar, FTV is an annual all-premium box set that features 15 cards along a theme. The first set was FTV: Dragons followed by Exiled (cards that were once banned), Relics (artifacts), Legends, Realms (lands) and now “Twenty” which features a tournament-winning card from each year of Magic’s 20-year history.

JTMS will be joined by Gilded Lotus, Impulse, Akroma’s Vengeance, Hymn to Tourach, Venser, Shaper Savant, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, and Cruel Ultimatum. All of these cards will be foil, meaning it’s the first opportunity ever on paper to own a foil Hymn to Tourach, though obviously new foil JTMS is going to drive the price sky-high. Right now you can pre-order your copy of FTV20 on eBay for just north of $400. There are still 12 more cards to spoil. What are the odds another big money card ends up in this set?

The question now is how much does Wizards intend to charge MSRP for FTV20? Can they reasonably only ask retailers for $50 when they know they’ve put a $500 card in the box? How can store owners manage the insane demand for this product? One has to really question how much thought was put into this decision and it will be very interesting to hear from the developers about it this week.

Duel Decks: Heroes vs Monsters

Whatever. Oh yeah, Sun Titan will be in it. Since we needed another variant of Sun Titan I guess.

Commander II

It isn’t officially called Commander II. Maybe it will be Commander 2013. Either way it will be five new decks along the three-color shards instead of the wedges like the last time we did this dance. There will be ~50 new cards. I’m sure one of them will be tournament playable, one of them will make people think it’s tournament playable, and everything else will be rubbish. What are the odds they still put Sol Ring in every deck? My guess is 1:1.

Theros Artwork

There was a ton of art shown for Theros this weekend and all of it was on a pretty massive scale. This is supposed to be set in Greek Mythology, but with how big everything seems it’s possible that it’s a Greek-Mythology themed amusement park in Texas. Everyone is either a mountain-sized god, or minotaur, or a big dude killing a minotaur, or… well you get the idea. Everything’s bigger in Theros, or something. Except Elspeth, who is probably the smallest character we’ve seen depicted on a piece of Theros art so far. My guess is your EDH goblins deck isn’t going to get much love from this block.

The art for the three major cities, Meletis the port-city, Akros the mountain-city, and Setessa, the forest-city, was gorgeous but reminded me of Final Fantasy. In the Final Fantasy MMORPGs there are three starting cities. One city is in a forest (Windurst in XI, Griadnia in XIV). Another city is in a desert (Bastok in XI, Ul’Dah in XIV). The last city is on the water (San d’Oria in XI, Limsa Limosa in XIV). In Theros it looks like we have the exact same setup. I hope this means there will be a Theros MMORPG, since apparently I haven’t given all of my money to Wizards of the Coast yet.

Also Elspeth will fight a hydra. That’s a big deal because…

Theros Events

We’re all going to fight a hydra! You get to fight a hydra! And you get to fight a hydra! And you! And you! And you! Honestly, will parodying Oprah ever get old? I think not. Anyways, everyone gets a hero vanguard card at the pre-release. Then everyone gets another hero vanguard at the release. Then on game day there’s going to be a challenge deck, kinda like Archenemy, and we’re gonna fight a hydra. This will continue through the entire block.

I want you to know that I am being 100% non-cynical when I say this is awesome. For twenty years the vast majority of sanctioned Magic has been about head-to-head (or two-heads-to-two-heads) conflict. The fact that Wizards is finally expanding into a new realm, even just for the wide-audience set-highlighting events, is fantastic. One of the most complicated problems for competitive Magic players is how to tone things back at casual events like this. Now, Wizards is making the effort to really emphasize the fun and casual aspects of these events, so players will naturally feel comfortable doing so.

Kudos to Wizards.

The New Frame for Gods

I mentioned to my girlfriend that some cards would have a new frame and she gave me a look that said ‘what does that matter?’ I told her that there have only ever been three frame changes/modifications. I showed her some basic lands from pre-eighth edition and some post and she asked me what the difference was. They were so similar she honestly couldn’t care less about the minor changes. Then I showed her a planeswalker and a future-shifted card and again, it was ‘whatever.’

Now, I agree with this approach, because I like the changes, but the fact is that each of these changes was met with some level of resistance from groups of players for no good reason. I’m glad now that Wizards feels comfortable expanding on what they can do with the card front. As Mark Rosewater said, they’re ‘not afraid to slay sacred cows.’ While this may be offensive to the Hindi audience, the meaning is still appreciated. Though he should probably apologize for suggesting they would kill sacred cows, and think of better wording in the future.

Geek and Sundry

Perhaps though the best thing to happen to the wider Magic branding will have nothing to do with the future of the product, but the fact that Felicia Day now likes Magic. She likes it so much she’s going to produce a new web-show about Magic similar to Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop. This is great. If, one day, Felicia Day’s Magic Show discusses my Top 100 Pro Magic Player list, it will replace beating Darwin Kastle at GP New Jersey in 2005 as the greatest moment in my MTG career.

The Future of Magic

As they say, things are looking up. Theros is shaping up to be amazing. The branding is improving. Coverage will be improving. Everything is coming up roses.

Will something give eventually? I sure hope not!

The Top 100

This is basically a repeat from last week. With the pre-release and release going on, the Pro Tour has been on a two week break. But never fear, we’ll be back next week with an updated look at the Top 100 professional Magic players in the world, just in time for the World Championship the following weekend. In the meantime we have the Pro Tour Hall of Fame voting to keep us entertained. Here is a round-up of this week’s PTHOF discussions.

The Quick Hits

  • Tim Aten reviews the state of the American dominance of Magic. #merica [StarCity Games]
  • Matt Jones and Magic are going through a rough time right now. [Power & Toughness]
  • You should listen to Ted Dibiase’s music while reading this one. [Gathering Magic]
  • This week Heather Lafferty wrote a mini-bio of Caleb Durward. [Gamer Boy. Gamer Girl.]
  • A friendly update that the MTGO Beta Client is garbage, but they’re working on it. [DailyMTG]
  • Magic. Trivia. Drinking. Game. [Circle of Death]
  • Bennie Smith has written 1.5 million words on Magic, so statistically some of them should be good. [StarCity Games]

Wallpaper of the Week

The best. We may have to just stop running this bit every week since I may never change my desktop wallpaper again.

Grade: A++

The Week Ahead

The tour returns next weekend with a Standard GP in Calgary, AB and the first Magic 2014 limited GP in Rimini, Italy. Check in next week for updates to the Top 100 rankings!

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

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