2013 was a great year for Magic with a variety of new products released for one of the world’s premiere card games. Many of these products were nice to the community giving us plenty of joy and providing goodwill. But, some products were not so kind and will not be getting that XBox one they’ve been asking us for. Let’s find out which is which…

The 2013 Naughty & Nice List

Gatecrash (February)

gatecrashThe year began with my latest departure from playing Magic competitively. Gatecrash was a large expansion set which focused on half of Ravnica’s ten guilds. Specifically, the Orzhov, Dimir, Gruul, Boros, and Simic were featured in this expansion, which was the second in the Return to Ravnica block. Each guild brought a new mechanic to the game, so let’s look at them individually and then give Gatecrash it’s final judgment. Extort was nice. It was great for limited and I had a lot of fun with it in a white-weenie deck in Zach Barash’s standard pauper tournament. Cipher is not nice. It’s a pain to keep track of and it’s one of those win-more effects that’s painful to play against. Bloodrush… existed? I don’t really remember this one very well. Batallion was a very strong limited effect, and certainly saw a lot of use in casual Boros constructed play. Finally we have Evolve. This is easily the nicest of the mechanics and sees play today in constructed in the form of Cloudfin Raptor. That’s three-to-two in favor of Nice.

We’ll put Gatecrash on the Nice List. As a present, Gatecrash will be receiving a Reinforced Bulwark to prevent any more gates from crashing.

Sorin vs. Tibalt (March)

Sorin vs TibaltThere was a time when Sorin, Lord of Innistrad was a highly sought-after planeswalker. That time did not last long. It never existed for Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. From the get-go, neither of these ‘walkers was attracting fans to this boxed set on the merit of their playable value. Furthermore, the alternate artwork for both cards is nothing to write home about. Tibalt’s black/red deck featured Hellrider, Breaking Point, Devil’s Play, and Sulfuric Vortex. Two of these, Vortex and Breaking Point, were nice additions since they were printed a long time ago. However, it’s not an impressive collection. Sorin’s deck featured some splashier rares including Butcher of Malakir, Twilight Drover, Ancient Craving (last seen in Portal), and Death Grasp (last seen in Apocalypse). Death Grasp even had new art, but that’s likely because it was scheduled to appear in Commander 2013 (see below).

Access to older cards like Sulfuric Vortex and Death Grasp is really nice, but ultimately there wasn’t a lot to draw fans to this set. Sorin and Tibalt will both be getting Coal Stoker‘s in their stockings as we put them on the Naughty List.

Dragon’s Maze (May)

dragons mazeWhen Dragon’s Maze was first announced late in 2012 it prompted me to start writing this very column. This expansion will always hold a special place in my heart because of this fact. However, is this really enough to put it on the 2013 Nice List? To begin, Ral Zarek was incredibly disappointing as a planeswalker. His card is unimpressive and even in the books he’s kind of just a complaining wizard who continues to be put in his place by Niv-Mizzet. On the other hand, Dragon’s Maze introduced us to the fuse mechanic, which appeared on split cards. Fuse is an improved and/or multicolored version of the entwine mechanic. This was a really clever design and deserves some recognition. But, going back to the other side of the coin, Dragon’s Maze printed a metric-ton more shock lands, resulting in everyone and their mother now owning a full forty. Finally, the set brought it’s namesake card, Dragon’s Maze, into the world, creating one of the Johnny-est combo decks that ever Johnny’d. It’s hard to argue with that.

It looks like a wash for Dragon’s Maze, so we’ll need something to break the tie. Going back to my original argument, I was adamant that the name of the set was horrendous and would go down as one of the worst set names in the history of the game. However, since then we’ve had the announcement of Journey into Nyx, and the apparent direction is that Magic sets will be named like Hollywood films. It will likely get way worse, so we’re going to put Dragon’s Maze on the Nice List and give it an Explorer’s Scope for the holidays so it can find it’s way through itself.

Modern Masters (June)

modern mastersWhere to begin with Modern Masters? The financial value? The incredible draft experience? The reprints of format staples? The gorgeous new art for some cards? The buzz? The glamor? Grand Prix Las Vegas? Good grief, Charlie Brown. It’s likely that 2013 will be defined by Modern Masters. With the amazing success and relatively light impact to the secondary market, the window has begun to crack open towards the inevitable path of eliminating the Wizards of the Coast Reprint Policy. This policy, for those unfamiliar, is a written promise Wizards made to never ever ever reprint certain cards so that their financial value would not be threatened. Many years later the strength of the game is rooted more firmly in the ability to play the game than in the ability to collect the cards. As the player-base grows, availability of cards for Vintage and Legacy becomes a real obstacle for people who want to play those formats. If Wizards (and outlets like StarCity Games) want to continue supporting Legacy as a format, then one day they’re going to have to reprint Force of Will. This is a fact of life. Modern Masters has opened many opportunities for Wizards to do exactly this.

There was never any question that Modern Masters would be on the Nice List. But, what do you get as a gift for the set that has everything? A couple packs of 2014 Core Set of course…

2014 Core Set (July)

2014You may now be wondering why I would buy packs of the core set as a gift for Modern Masters. Well, there were three very notable absences from the summer spectacular. They were Mutavault, Scavenging Ooze,  and Thoughtseize. Once it was confirmed that these cards were absent from MM, it was widely speculated that they would be reprinted in either Magic 2014 or Theros. We soon had the answer and in July two of Modern’s staple cards returned to Standard for the first time since Zendikar was legal. This core set also brought the world the first ever constructed competitive version of Chandra in the form of Chandra, Pyromaster. This was long overdue. Unfortunately the rest of the core set, as expected, was quite lackluster. To be honest, we should be used to this by now. While I am thrilled that the core set is no longer the heaping pile of manure that it was from 5th through 10th editions, it would be nice to have a fourth legitimate expansion every year. There are better ways to get new players into the game without making everyone else suffer annually in July.

There was never any question that the core set would be on the Naughty List. I would get the core set some coal, but I don’t think it would learn any valuable lesson.

From the Vault: 20 (August)

20I really expected this box to have Force of Will in it and was sorely disappointed to find out that instead it would feature Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Still, it’s easy to evaluate this set by simply grading the twenty included cards and going from there.

  • 1993: Dark Ritual – Nice (The nicest card ever, right?)
  • 1994: Swords to Plowshares – Naughty (Should have been the Ice Age artwork)
  • 1995: Hymn to Tourach – Nice (About time we got foils of this)
  • 1996: Fyndhorn Elves – Naughty (Really, this is the best 1996 could do?)
  • 1997: Impulse – Naughty (Should have been Vampiric Tutor)
  • 1998: Wall of Blossoms – Nice (This is a card no one ever says anything bad about)
  • 1999: Thran Dynamo – Naughty (Because Grim Monolith is on the reprint list)
  • 2000: Tangle Wire – Nice (Because I’m a sick person and love Stax decks)
  • 2001: Fact or Fiction – Nice (I once won an EDH game when my opponent revealed FoF to FoF)
  • 2002: Chainer’s Edict – Naughty (Should have been Psychatog)
  • 2003: Akroma’s Vengeance – Naughty (Was Akroma herself too busy to show up in this set?)
  • 2004: Gilded Lotus – Naughty (Amazing what we’ll print to avoid violating that reprint policy)
  • 2005: Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni – Nice (It was either this or Sensei’s Divining Top)
  • 2006: Char – Naughty (Craig Jones top-decked Lightning Helix. ’nuff said)
  • 2007: Venser, Shaper Savant – Nice (This card is still one of the best tempo cards ever)
  • 2008: Chameleon Colossus – Nice (Glad they didn’t pick Llanowar Elves)
  • 2009: Cruel Ultimatum – Nice (What a beating this card is)
  • 2010: Jace, the Mind Sculptor – Naughty (Was this really necessary?)
  • 2011: Green Sun’s Zenith – Naughty (Banned in every relevant format now)
  • 2012: Kessig Wolf-Run – Naughty (This deck had approx. 50 better cards in it)

The final tally is 11-9 in favor of the Naughty List. My gift to FTV:20 is a torn-up copy of the promo foil Force of Will that Wizards is going to print in Legacy Masters in the not-too-distant future.

Heroes vs. Monsters (September)

heroes monstersThe tribal box sets tend to be a little hit-or-miss. The problem is likely that the bar was set too high with the original Elves vs Goblins back in 2007. Since then we’ve been privy to Divine vs Demonic (2009), Knights vs Dragons (2011), and now Heroes vs Monsters. They’ve consistently gotten worse, and worse, and worse. The latest of the bunch is easily the least enjoyable. To start, the Boros-aligned Heroes deck contains such amazing heroic characters as Armory Guard, Auramancer, and Thraben Valiant. The highlight heroes are Kamahl, Pit Fighter, and Anax and Cymede which was a Theros spoiler. That’s a whole lot of meh for a “heroes” deck. The monster deck isn’t even chock full of deadly monsters. Skarrgan  Firebird? Orcish Lumberjack? Deadly Recluse? Who do they think they’re fooling. Polukranos is a great monster, but Troll Ascetic falls a little short on the flavor scale.

This box set is definitely slated for the Naughty List. For the holidays we’ll be getting it a real hero and monster all in one: Nicol Bolas.

Theros (September)

TherosIt’s hard to evaluate a large expansion that’s only been available for a few months. There are two angles we can look at, the competitive and the casual. From a competitive perspective Theros has been largely successful. For a while it looked quite possible that Theros may have created a two-deck format where we’d be watching week after week of blue vs black decks. Luckily the metagame has evolved and we’re now seeing a healthy and vibrant standard environment. On the competitive front, Theros has been quite nice. Casually, we can look at the lore and the mythology for the Vorthos crowd and we can look at the fun cards for the non-Spike crowd. On both fronts, again, Theros is nice. The story and flavor of the setting is very deep. The prerelease experience tied into the story has been an innovative way to tie the Vorthos and non-Spike and even some Spikes together as one happy family. There are plenty of big monsters for Timmy and lots of fun combos for Johnny. Honestly there isn’t much to complain about.

Theros goes to the top of the Nice List and for the holidays will be receiving one free pass for either of the next two sets in its block to be a bit of a let-down.

Commander (November) & 2013 Holiday Gift Box (November)

commanderI’ve lumped these two together because there honestly isn’t a whole lot to talk about. Commander 2013 and the Holiday Gift Box both make great products and are a positive note to end the year on. What’s that? You think I’m just avoiding reading all 500 cards that make up the Commander decklists? For shame. I assure you that we only do the finest most robust research here at Hipsters of the Coast and accept nothing less than first-rate material. Anyways, I’m sure that you all really enjoyed that one card, you know, with the new artwork? And then there was that reprint from an old set that we never thought we’d see again. Finally, who can forget that overpowered Commander that everyone immediately built decks around and then forgot about two weeks later? That was a great time.

Plus, the Holiday Gift Box is super sweet. Buy one for your friends. In fact, I’m putting both these sets on the Nice List and buying them both 2013 Holiday Gift boxes.

Pro Tour Update

November Player of the Month

With back-to-back GP championships, Owen Turtenwald is your November 2013 Player of the Month

With back-to-back GP championships, Owen Turtenwald is your November 2013 Player of the Month

This should really surprise no one at all. Congrats to Owen for his amazing performance in November and back-to-back Grand Prix victories.

Top 25 Update


Two very interesting things happened this week in the WotC Top-25 rankings. First, Sam Black climbed into fifth place. When the rankings were premiered back in October, Black was ranked 25th in the world with 35.10 points. That was on October 3rd. Over two months later he has risen to 5th place in the world, with 61.13 points. This is a very impressive run by Black over the past few months in which he has performed incredibly well at the highest levels of the game.

One fascinating note though is the way points drop off for players. One of the reasons that Black was able to finally crack the top-five is because Yuuya Watanabe has been dropping more points than he’s been claiming. Watanabe had 69.19 points two months ago, but has slipped to 60.39 dropping him to 7th in the world. In fact, the gap in points from top-to-bottom has been closing. Back in October, 1st place had 79.82 points and 25th had 35.10. Now, the top spot is held with only 71.09 points and the final spot with 37.28, closing the gap by almost 11 points.

The other thing that happened this week is that Luis-Scott Vargas fell off the rankings. It’s been a while since LSV put up an exciting tournament finish, so this shouldn’t be too exciting, but it begs the question is he still one of the world’s best Magic players? Obviously, the answer is yes. These rankings don’t actually tell us who the best Magic players in the world are, they tell us who the best performing players on the Pro Tour over the past 12 months are. Those two things are close, but not identical.

The Quick Hits

  • MJ Scott has some last-minute gift ideas for Magic players/fans [Gathering Magic]
  • Magic players in the Philippines held a charity event for victims of Typhoon Haiyan [Daily MTG]
  • Mark Rosewater gives some valuable advice about living like a gamer [Making Magic]
  • Daily & Premier events return to MTGO without daily Pauper/Momir events [MTG Online]
  • Heather Lafferty interviews Real Evil Genius (TM) Jason Clark [Gamer Boy, Gamer Girl]
  • Mike Linnemann wants you to help him make a coffee-table book of MTG art [Gathering Magic]
  • Adam Barnello introduces a structured Fantasy MTG Pro Tour game [Recurring Nightmares]
  • Hunter Slaton recaps the Hipsters of the Coast 1-Year Anniversary Party [23/17]
  • Tony Mei presents the Top Ten gifts for MTG Scrubs [Scrub Report]
  • Ryan Bushard discusses getting into MTGO and building a Standard collection [Gathering Magic]
  • Andrew Rogers builds a Chaos Deck for one of the funnest casual formats [Gathering Magic]
  • Titus Chalk shares an excerpt from his new book about MTG, SO DO YOU WEAR A CAPE? [Gathering Magic]
  • Zac Clark has some gift ideas for people in your life who *gasp* don’t play Magic [Developments in Durdling]

Wallpaper of the Week

If only they defended your computer from the internet.

If only they defended your computer from the internet.

The way that Defend the Hearth jumps out at you from the screen is very impressive. The effect, which is not very pronounced in the small space of a Magic card, creates a very different feeling than the majority of MTG wallpapers we’re used to. The art is centered, but it doesn’t feel focused on the center, because the soldiers are preparing for an assault from all directions. Not to mention the way the lead soldier seems to be staring right at you.

This was a great selection for a desktop wallpaper, and possibly the best we’ve had from Theros so far.

Grade: A

The Week Ahead

Season #1 of the 2014 Magic Pro Tour calendar kicked off a couple weeks ago in Dallas/Fort-Worth with a Grand Prix event. This coming weekend the season continues with a Standard constructed GP in Shizuoka, Japan. It’s been nearly a month since the Team Limited GP in Kyoto and four months since the last constructed tournament in the Asia region (GP Kitakyushu in August). It’s always exciting to see what the metagame is like on the other side of the world, so it’s a tragedy that it doesn’t look like there will be video coverage of GP Shizuoka.

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. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.