Wizards Ties Its Products in New Expansion
Wizards of the Coast released it’s quarterly Magic the Gathering set with a theme that should have been obvious a long ago, Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards acquired TSR, the company that published Dungeons & Dragons, back in 1997. In the 24 years since that, dozens of fantasy themed expansions have come out with none specifically tied to the product. The most recently set finally brings concepts specifically from the world of Dungeons & Dragons and actually takes the place of the core set which had recently made its return in set rotation.
A couple weeks ago, I attended the pre-release event for the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms expansion for Magic the Gathering. Opening the pre-release box, the first card I saw was the pre-release promo card I got, Dancing Sword. This card reminded me of the magic item from the days back in high school when I played Dungeons & Dragons. Opening packs, I saw cards like Blink Dog, Mind Flayer Displacer Beast, Owlbear, Gelatinous Cube, and Magic Missile which I remembered specifically from the role playing game. Beholders, ropers, and of course, dragons (even though dragons have technically been there from the start) all fleshed out the world. Even the dragon Tiamat (which I can remember even from the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon) makes an appearance in the set. This is the good side. Nostalgia is not enough to make a game good though. Although people enjoyed some specific cards for their references, the over all play during the limited construction event wasn’t as well received. A lot of people didn’t really enjoy the set as much as others and said the whole thing felt forced. It didn’t play together as smoothly as previous expansions.
Visually, Wizards did some odd things with the variant art cards. Some creatures were given visuals that looked like pages from a book. (See Mind Flayer above) While the concept is interesting, it makes it hard to tell the card color just from the look. While gold cards always made you look at the mana cost to see the card color, single color cards always stood out on their own. Full art variants look cool but these are more just “different”. Variant lands from the rare ones down to Evolving Wilds, have alternative art looking like old school D&D modules. This concept is also interesting visually (see the image above again) but it’s hard to see it as an actual card because of the layout. I’d have to really need to use these cards to want to put them in my deck.
As with any Magic expansion, new concepts, keywords, and such are brought into play. The big one this time is adventuring through a dungeon. Three different dungeons cards were created and included on the back of tokens. Each time a card that says that you adventure into the dungeon, you either start at the top of a dungeon card of your choice or you move through one you already started, following one of the arrows down from the room you left yourself in and triggering whatever effect is linked to that room. There are also cards that gain effects if you complete one of these dungeons. This is an interesting yet awkward mechanic that I don’t see (or at least hope not to see) again. The phasing ability also made a return but is described very awkwardly so that anyone who didn’t play during the Mirage block seemed confused by it at the pre-release.
Thankfully, Wizards switched away from the definitive 2-3 expansion blocks it did years ago and this one is just a standalone set. The next 2 sets will return to Innistrad, an area that is actually popular with players. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is expected to have a focus on werewolves with the return of the flip mechanic. While a bit awkward because of the way sleeves cover the backs of cards, but it’s still a fun idea that people liked. It’ll be good to see what they do with it and we won’t have to wait long because it comes out next month, only 2 months after the current set’s launch.