February 29th. A day that only comes by every four years. To think back on it now, four years is a very long time. Katy Perry was at the top of the Billboard charts. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was a flop at the box office. Gas still cost over $3 a gallon. Treyvon Martin had been fatally shot three days prior. It was a different world back then, and that holds true for the Magic community as well.

Four Years of Magic

Today is Monday, February 29th, 2016, but with the magic of Ugin we’re going to take a trip back to Wednesday, February 29th, 2012. You see, Leap Year is a special occasion and only comes once every four years, like the World Cup, or the Olympics, or a thoroughly enjoyable limited environment. So let’s travel back and see how the world of Magic has changed in these four short years.


On leap day in 2012 we were just over three weeks removed from the release of Dark Ascension, the second set in the Innistrad block. This new top-down design idea is amazing. Let’s take a look at some predictions for what the best cards in the set will be. Drogskol Captain? Alright, they can’t all be winners. The clear winners in the set are Huntmaster of the Fells, Geralf’s Messenger, Gravecrawler, Faithless Looting, Hellrider, Strangleroot Geist, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Of course, the most well-remembered card from this set might be a little card known as Zombie Apocalypse… no I’m kidding, it’s Lingering Souls.

So we were in the thick of Innistrad block four years ago and now we’re getting ready for our (first) return to the home of Sorin Markov to possibly learn more about Jace, Liliana, and the mysterious Nahiri. But last leap day we were anxiously awaiting Avacyn Restored. Innistrad ultimately became one of many of Wizards’s experiments for solving the three-block problem. Innistrad and Dark Ascension formed a cohesive environment, but Avacyn Restored was a new world with its own mechanics and its own limited environment. As we know, this problem wouldn’t be fixed for another four years, which means we were still two years from R&D figuring out the solution themselves.

So what else changed in the past four years? Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane…

The 2012 PAX East Magic Panel – April 2012

I think its fair to say that some of the biggest Magic news of the past four years came out in April 2012 in the Boston Convention Center when the Magic panel concluded with “Oh we have one more thing to show you” followed by the iconic image of Jace Beleren, Niv-Mizzit, and the now-infamous words “Return to Ravnica coming this fall.” I’ve never been in a more emotional room of Magic players. I think Wizards has actually spent the past four years of conventions chasing that very moment.

A New Challenger Enters the Arena – September 2012

I would be remiss if I did not mention that three-and-a-half years ago marks when Original Hipster Zac Clark wrote about the upcoming Return to Ravnica and what it meant for the Standard format rotation. A month later Matt Jones came on-board and Hipsters of the Coast went from being Zac’s pet project to a community blog. By the end of 2012 Matt and Zac were joined by Li Xu, Giaco Furino, Jess Stirba, Hunter Slaton, and yours truly and here we are, celebrating our first leap year as a blog, and later this year our fourth anniversary.

A New Era – October 2012

The Magic community was forever changed with a single announcement: Modern Masters. Those of us who dared to install Magic Online were familiar with the Masters Set concept as it was used to reprint older cards into the online card pool for the now-defunct Classic format. But the world changed with the creation of a set whose sole purpose was to reprint cards like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. Just a few weeks ago Wizards announced the third paper Masters set and it looks like the concept is here to stay.

Modern Bannings, Part I – February 2013

Before Splinter Twin, before Birthing Pod, and before Deathrite Shaman, there was Seething Song. You may have thought that overreacting to the now-annual Modern rotation banned list update is a recent development, but it’s always been around. Gatecrash had just come out, and with it Deathrite Shaman, so we’d soon have something to take our minds off the over-exaggerated death of Storm in Modern.

Boston – April 2013

It’s been almost three years since the Boston Marathon bombing. As a New Yorker it’s easy to antagonize Bostonians but it was heartwarming to see people coming together with so much compassion in the wake of the terrorist attack. There’s nothing Magic-related about this part of our four-year journey. It isn’t all shiny toys and sharp wit. The Magic community is bigger than the sum of its parts. As the world continues to be mired in violence and hate we need compassion more than ever. Don’t forget that.

Coverage – June 2013

In hindsight it’s actually really incredible to look back on the past four years at the events that influenced Magic the Gathering. Two related things happened in June that have had lasting impacts through today. First, John Butler penned his impressive manifesto on improving coverage within the Magic community. While not every change has been implemented it opened a wider discussion and forever changed the way the community thinks about coverage. It had such an impact that we here at Hipsters of the Coast created a list of the Top 100 players in the world at the time based on Butler’s proposed equation. Wizards followed suit by creating the Top 25 list that still gets updated every Wednesday almost three years later.

Magic Offline – November 2013

You all remember this one vividly I’m sure. Brian Kibler was playing in a tournament that awarded cash prizes online. It crashed sometime in the later rounds. Players were told the event would resume the following weekend. Kibler couldn’t play the following weekend and took to his blog to rant. The rest, as they say, is history. Premiere and Daily events were taken offline almost immediately. Magic Online has never been the same since and continues to evolve for the better with improved transparency and the return of league play.

Crackgate – March 2014

Did you know it’s been almost two years since Sidney Blair became synonymous with butt-cracks and Magic the Gathering’s perceived hygeine problems became the top post of all time (at the time) on Reddit? For better or for worse, Crackgate would have long-lasting effects on the competitive community setting a major precedent in how far the DCI’s power extends when it comes to making tournament venues a safe space. This precedent would be tested and the power expanded upon later in our journey.

Two-Block Paradigm – September 2014

When we started this look back in February of 2012, Wizards was finishing up the development of Tarkir block and working on the Design of Battle for Zendikar block. They had struggled for years to figure out how to craft three-set blocks and they had perhaps finally figured it out with Tarkir, which was a phenomenal three-set block. Back in September of 2014, 17 months ago now, we all learned that the fate of the third set was decided and Battle for Zendikar would be the first two-set block.

It’s worth noting that this is perhaps the most interesting moment in the history of Magic because almost no one complained. We all collectively read the announcement and went, “oh, that makes a lot of sense.”

The past 17 months have been amazing as well, but their influence may not be fully felt for some time. It truly is incredible though to look back on the events stretching from Innistrad Block to the announcement of the Two-Block Paradigm and see how much of Magic has changed from one leap year to the next. I look forward fondly to February 29th, 2020 when we can talk about the influence of Oath of the Gatewatch and the (emergency?) banning of Eye of Ugin in Modern, and how crazy that was four years prior.

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.

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