This week, Kate and Rich debate the pros and cons of the newly-revealed Amonkhet Invocations.

Point: The Invocations don’t accomplish Wizards’ goals.

Kate: In Wizards’ original announcement they outlined several goals for the Masterpiece Series which included making standard more accessible (affordable), giving players access to more high-end foils, and increasing access to older cards. Wizards knew they were taking a risk when they choose the border and font for the new Invocations. There was a very high chance that a majority of players would not appreciate the style. If they print Masterpieces that are not widely appreciated by players, they don’t accomplish those three goals.  I don’t think the Invocations are desirable cards. Thus they will not encourage players to open additional product, which in turn will not bring down the prices of Standard cards.  While it will increase the supply of older cards, the number of people so far who have found them desirable has been next to zero.  I haven’t seen something this widely panned in a long time.

Rich: First impressions don’t always last, especially when we’re talking about the first impressions of the Magic community. When the Modern card frame was introduced there was a vocal outcry. When the Future Sight frame was introduced, same story. From the Vault’s foiling process? Check. Flip cards? Check. Double-faced cards? Check. The immediate outcry is as predictable as the sunrise. Maybe we haven’t seen something this widely panned since the Modern card frame or the Sixth Edition rules change, but Wizards’ track record is surprisingly successful. Besides, the aesthetic isn’t the only thing that will drive the value of the cards. Packs of Standard will move because people want to open [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven] no matter what it looks like.

Counterpoint: The chosen reprints will drive the demand for Invocations.

Rich: The card selection is amazing. [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven] alone should make these highly sought after, but throwing in [casthaven]Vindicate[/casthaven], [casthaven]Loyal Retainers[/casthaven], [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven], [casthaven]Diabolic Intent[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Mind Twist[/casthaven] should cause the demand for Invocations to be sky high. Even if the frame goes down as the worst design in the history of graphic design, there will still be plenty of demand for these cards in people’s cubes and Commander decks.

Kate: While the card choices are great, what difference do they make if they are copies that no one really wants? Sure people will take them if they open them, but long term they won’t hold much value because a majority of players do not like them.  As most of you know I work in a game store, and I’ve found even the Inventions and Expeditions aren’t very popular—and people at least found those to be beautiful. I can’t imagine how hard it will be to get people to buy the invocations when everyone finds these so ugly. As nice as it is to have another printing of [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven], what is the point of having it if nobody wants to put this version in their deck?

Point: They skirt rules regarding requirements for cards to be tournament legal.

Kate: Remember when gold bordered cards were fake? (Wizards used to print non-tournament-legal copies of World Championship decks, as well as the Collectors’ Edition of the original card set.) I remember when that was a thing, but apparently it isn’t anymore. They also purposely made the text hard to read, but last I checked tournament legal cards were required to have the name and mana cost be easily legible. I guess that is no longer true either. With cards as wordy as [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven], it doesn’t seem friendly to have this type of design going on. What about the new kids who will inevitably be at prerelease? It’s a real problem that I see happening.

Rich: This one is definitely a big concern, but I think the volume is going to be low enough that they won’t show up frequently in pre-releases. Okay sure, there will be a few people opening [casthaven]Cryptic Command[/casthaven]s and [casthaven]Attrition[/casthaven]s who have no idea what’s going on. But I think for the most part people will be excited to open something that looks very different and very cool. Ignoring the unreadable name and type, the art is great and the foiling looks pretty amazing. The tournament rules can be amended, and at this point in Magic’s existence there aren’t a whole lot of people familiar with the existing gold-bordered cards. Besides, tournament play only accounts for 1% of all Magic played, at most, so I wouldn’t get too hung up on tournament rules.

Counterpoint: The new card art is amazing.

Rich: The artistic design is incredibly unique and flavorful. There are going to be fans of ancient Egyptian culture and fans of “cards that look different” who decide that they want these masterpieces in their Cubes and their EDH decks just because it’s something that makes you pause and look.

Kate: I have an art background, so I can definitely appreciate a unique look. But this isn’t the MOMA. This is game that is being produced for the masses. There were plenty of ways they could have strongly kept the Egyptian theme without it being such a turnoff to players.  There have already been several fan-made versions that not only are beautiful but still are distinctly egyptian. In a five-minute search I found these three fan-made invocations that I think are beautiful, two of which really focus on keeping true to Wizards’ vision while making them something Magic players would enjoy more.

Final Point: They blatantly ignore player wishes.

Kate: Players have lusted for high-end promos since Wizards started making them. Magic is a collectible card game after all—the more rare and beautiful the better. So why did they make something so aescetically displeasing? They had to have done focus groups and had internal dissent about the design of the Invocations, and yet they went aheadand made these eyesores the chase cards of Amonkhet. Wizards has made so many huge improvements for players recently—the Masterpiece Series is an example—so to create such an obnoxious border with bad font on top of it is shocking. Many of the cards themselves have great art, but it either clashes or is hidden by the borders.

Rich: Experimentation is important and Wizards of the Coast has shown themselves to be a company that values community feedback. Even if they decide to never go down this path again, we’re all better off that they try to push the envelope. Sure, it can lead to bad format metagames, but I’d rather see them swing for the fences and miss a few than just make safe plays.

Kate: While I agree that it’s important for them to try new things, I think this is something they could have avoided with some basic market research. I used to work in that field, and this is something most companies would test first, and it isn’t hard for them to do. They know that border changes lead to big reactions, so this should have been something they tested thoroughly. It’s hard for me to believe they got positive feedback from whatever market research they did for the Invocations.  At the end of the day they are a company that should want to make money and to keep the game healthy. If they want the Masterpiece Series to be truly successful, they need to make beautiful, unique promos that will be appreciated by a majority of players.

Kate hails from Worcester MA and also does a bit of Card Altering. Check her Stuff out on Facebook! She mainly plays legacy and modern though will occasionally find herself playing EDH.

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