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The three-set block structure has been a mainstay of Magic: the Gathering since the late 1990s. In an important article, Magic’s head designer Mark Rosewater lays out the persistent problems of this structure. The problem, in essence, is the third set of each block.
A number of solutions has been tried, but few are considered to have worked. This discussion made me consider what third sets I have liked since starting Magic. I began playing with Odyssey block, and I can nominate Judgment, Dissension, and New Phyrexia as third sets I have liked. That’s not a promising hit rate.
The solution to the ‘third set problem’ is Gordian; get rid of the third set.
From the block after Khans of Tarkir (as yet unnamed) there will be two changes. First, blocks will now consist of two sets rather than three. Second, the Core Set is no more. From 2016 forward, there will still be four set releases each year for Magic, but these will be block sets only.
Blocks will now start in October and end in February, then start in April and finish in June. The uneven spacing echoes today’s schedule and avoid releasing during the Christmas break or (northern hemisphere) summer holiday period.
It’s early days, but I like the idea of these changes. There’s nothing I liked about Core Sets that couldn’t also be done by an expert set – mainly connecting with the block to come (t will now be part of it) and showing us the updated planeswalkers following previous events. Magic 2015’s Ajani Steadfast and Jace the Living Guildpact show those planeswalkers after the events of Theros and Dragon’s Maze, respectively.
I’m especially looking forward to the creative side of this – two blocks per years means different settings and artwork, including new basic lands. I may not mirror the typical Magic players response when I say I’m happy that two blocks means two different sets of basic lands per year.
There is one aspect of the changes that may form a caveat for some. In competitive play, Standard rotation (cards moving in and out of format legality) will happen twice per year rather than once. Right now rotation happens on the release of a new block and that won’t change, however there will now be two new block releases per year.
This won’t take full effect until 2016.
Well done Wizards of the Coast for giving us such advance notice. The reason given for this is that the new rotation schedule will affect the third set of the forthcoming Khans of Tarkir block. They want us to know what the changes mean for this final three-set block before we buy into it.
I hope other companies are watching and learning from this example.
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