2023,2024, and Magic the Gathering

2023 has been a mixed bag for fans of Magic the Gathering and Wizards of the Coast. On one hand, most of the product line was well received and the players were generally happy. Lord of the Ring was the major release of the year and it did so much to expand the influence of the game. It honestly should have been the best year for Magic the Gathering, and yet Wizards, Hasbro, whoever is in charge, somehow managed to screw everything up and ruin their 15 mins of good PR. This was a constant concern as every time something good happened, it was shortly followed by something bad. 

The Good

The sets that were released this year were objectively good when you ignore the prices. Every set had genuinely interesting cards and mechanics that really got the mind churning. Lost Caverns of Ixalan, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Lord of the Rings all contained multiple cards and mechanics that reshaped the non rotating. They brought us the now banned Geological Appraiser, The One Ring, Orcish Bowmaster, Etali, Primal Conqueror, and Atraxa, Grand Unifier, all of which have become instant staples in various formats or have warped formats around them. Atraxa in particular has dethroned Griselbrand as the prime reanimator staple. He held this position for over a decade and he had a really good run during this time. 

Limited was also really good this year. The overall design of each of the sets for limited play has greatly improved when compared to the sets from 2021-2022 (Dominaria United was a godly set to draft though, everything else felt awful). Of this year's releases, March of the Machines was the best set for limited. I don't think any of the other sets even come close, though Lord of the Rings and Wilds of Eldraine were fun. March of the Machine was so smooth to play with every color being able to make some impressive plays, which convinced me that this would make a solid foundation for a starting cube if one was looking.

Magic Cons were an overall mess this year, however each event kept improving over the last event. Magic Con Vegas 2022 was an absolute clusterluck. By the time, Magic Con Vegas 2023 came around, I was expecting much the same. Much to my dismay, this event ran smoothly like the events pre Covid and if they keep this up I am looking forward to the conventions of 2024.

Brook Trafton who pulled the card and Post Malone who bought it

One of the best moments this year though was the Hunt for the One Ring. Though the idea of a one of one was and still is controversial in Magic, I think WotC handled this one well. It unified the whole community with everyone anticipating the opening of the card and became a focal point for several different conversations in the game. The big hunt for the One Ring entranced the TCG world for a couple of months with everyone making some form of media around it. It spawned numerous box opening videos, articles, and memes.

The Bad

Now the bad since this is what everyone really cares because self loathing I guess.

The conversation around Magic 30 somehow managed to carry on into the early parts of 2023 and was constantly brought up as a point of frustration for players. This is a theme that will keep showing itself through this section, but the community felt that the product was way overpriced for what you were actually getting. This is just the tip of what was coming in 2023.

Not Magic related, but following this was the proposed changes to Dungeons and Dragon's Open Game License. There is a huge overlap between the MTG and DnD community that allowed this conversation to crossover. For both communities, there has been a growing concern of WotC's monetization practices. D&D's OGL has been a staple of the game for years that allowed the community and playerbase to express their entrepreneurial creativity to create and sell content derivatives of D&D. WotC was rumored with wanting to change it and this caused an uproar in the community.

Then we had a quiet few months until the release of March of the Machines, when somehow Pinkerton Detective Agency got involved. This event revolved around a small Youtuber, who was accidentally sold a Collector's Box of March of the Machines: Aftermath from his friend. At the time, very little was announced from the set including lore details and cards. The person did a box opening and within the cards contained story spoilers. Instead of handling this via email, WotC sent in the Pinkertons to harass this poor man.

This was then followed by the pricing of Commander Masters. The prices were way out there to what players were used to paying for their sealed product.  For context, previous master set boxes were running from 250-300USD, but these boxes were going for 300-400 USD. This soured a lot of players from the product as many felt that they were priced out and the contents of the product were nothing that special to begin with since many of the cards were printed soon after or within the previous year. This ultimately culminated in the market price of the sealed product reaching 180 for collector's boxes before release, making anyone who preordered look dumb for doing so.    

Then the year was peaceful up until the holiday season, when Hasbro decided to layoff a chunk of their staff, which bled down to WotC laying off parts of their staff. This decision looked even worse when the head of the companies gave themselves a holiday bonus, while their ex-employees are facing unemployment. These were the same employees that were responsible for the record shattering sales of Magic the Gathering this year.  

The End Step of the Year

This wraps up the ups and down of WotC and with all these problems, I'm starting to wonder what an independent WotC would look like and do. Many of the decisions that players hate seems to be stemming from Hasbro telling WotC to generate more money. These decisions are starting to backfire and I'm earnestly hoping WotC can learn from these mistakes of 2023 and fix them in 2024 or at least start too. There was a lot to enjoy for Magic during this year, but the constant controversy will always outweigh any good. Enjoy your holidays everyone and I wish the Hasbro/WotC employees the best of luck for their futures.

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