If it’s felt to you like preview season for Hour of Devastation has been wholly different than other preview seasons, well there’s a good reason for that. I’ll have more in-depth discussions about this later this week in an interview I did with Wizards of the Coast Brand Manager Adam Colby, but suffice to say Wizards wanted this preview season, like the upcoming expansion, to have a darker tone.

Fans have been voicing negative views of the Gatewatch pretty much since the name of the expansion Oath of the Gatewatch was announced. Since then we’ve seen the team of Gideon Jura, Jace Beleren, Nissa Revane, and Chandra Nalaar take on Ulamog and Kozilek on Zendikar, Emrakul on Innistrad, and Tezzeret on Kaladesh. Along the way they picked up Liliana Vess and Ajani Goldmane as team members.

If you include Magic Origins, then we’ve been following the story primarily of the Gatewatch for exactly two years now (Origins released in July of 2015). It’s simply too much spotlight shared by too few a number of characters and the story has somewhat suffered for it. Now, lessons learned, Wizards is ready to right the ship by bringing back the multiverse’s most feared dragon: Nicol Bolas.

So where did things go wrong? The Gatewatch is modeled on super hero teams like the Avengers and the Justice League. Super-groups like that are fine, but they have a time and place. Look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe for inspiration. Not every film is about the Avengers. The majority of films focus on other characters and give plenty of screen-time to the supporting cast. If every story was about the Avengers fighting global catastrophe it would get old pretty quickly.

The formation of the Gatewatch felt forced. The last story that primarily featured a member of the Gatewatch before the team formed was Return to Ravnica, which was all about Jace Beleren and concluded in May of 2013. The Gatewatch was formed two years later. Wizards felt the need to sell us on the idea of the Gatewatch because other than Jace, who had been the main character of the story?

Gideon had arguably never been the headline act and the same can be said of Chandra and Liliana. Nissa had been a primary character on Zendikar’s original story but in the entire post-mending era the characters who’ve been most the spotlight have been Ajani Goldmane (Alara), Nissa Revane (Zendikar), Elspeth Tirel (New Phyrexia), Liliana Vess (Innistrad), Jace Beleren (Return to Ravnica), Elspeth again (Theros), Sarkhan Vol (Tarkir), and now the Gatewatch for the past four blocks.

So now Nicol Bolas is going to tear the whole thing down and let us start anew and that’s for the best because it will allow the creative team to rebuild the Gatewatch in a more believable and organic way that the audience will buy into wholeheartedly. It will allow real conflict to permeate the multiverse as Bolas grows in power. It will force the focus onto supporting characters.

Hour of Devastation has shown us that Wizards is willing to admit their mistake and work to improve upon themselves and honestly what more can you ask of them? Here are ten more thoughts on this and other topics:


1. The cycle of cards that depict the defeat of the Gatewatch was previewed early and for good reason. Wizards wanted the fans to know that without a doubt the team wasn’t winning this battle. It’s important, especially in this community, not to leave that sort of ambiguity open.

2. Building on that was the cycle of cards that depict the defeat of Amonkhet’s gods. Wizards really wanted to drive the message home that Nicol Bolas was going to win a battle he had been planning for a very, very long time. The story and reveal of Rhonas’s Last Stand was heartbreaking, just as planned, because while we were happy to see the Gatewatch fail, we wanted Amonkhet to win.

3. But then cards like Overcome, Life Goes On, and Hazoret’s Undying Fury showed up and gave us the hope that perhaps Amonkhet somehow makes it out of this story still intact. Bolas gets what he wants and moves on, leaving devastation in his wake but not completely destroying the world we’ve all come to enjoy.

4. This is why leaked cards kill preview season. Through the timing and order of preview cards Wizards was able to paint for us the story of the Gatewatch’s defeat, crush our spirits with the deaths of the gods, and then raise us back up with the cards depicting Amonkhet’s survival and hope for the future. That’s how you hype a set.

5. Last thought on previews, I’m wondering when Samut’s spark will ignite and if she’ll be the one to save the day. I suspect that she is still a major plot device but not entirely sure how. I suspect that her card being leaked early may have shifted some things around but I could be wrong and I can’t get anyone to confirm that obviously.

6. The Star City Games invitational was this past weekend and early reactions are pretty positive. Modern was featured heavily in this event and while Death’s Shadow made two appearances in the top eight it probably isn’t getting banned. The final tables of this event were dominated by some of the top names on the SCG tour and you can look at that list here.

7. Shaheen Soorani sent out an interesting tweet on Sunday evening which caught my attention enough that I felt it needed to be addressed here. My opinion is that no, it is not outrageous, and if anything, the old system was outrageous. Here’s Shaheen’s question:

8. If I were a pro player I would be 100% opposed to the defending champion getting an automatic seat at the World Championship. Why? There are more than 400 pro players and only 24 seats at that tournament. The old system reduced that number to 23. I’d rather have another seat to compete for every season.

9. Magic is not Boxing or UFC or Pro Wrestling. The title of World Champion is not something that gets defended. The first match at a Grand Prix that Brian Braun-Duin lost after winning worlds did not result in him having to hand over the title belt. The World Championship is the end of the Magic season, much like most other sports. Once it’s over and the champion is crowned it’s time to start preparing for next season, and everyone starts from zero points.

10. I love Independence Day but please make sure you celebrate responsibly. More car accidents involving alcohol take place on July 4th weekend than New Year’s. If you’re traveling make sure you plan accordingly. Don’t let your friends drive drunk. Don’t let anyone drive drunk. You can save a life by being responsible and safe and avoiding your own Hour of Devastation (I couldn’t resist).

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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