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Holiday Wish List

The holiday season is a special time of year—a time to reflect on the year that just flew past and to get excited about the endless possibilities of the new year to come. Considering this article will be coming out on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, depending on where you are in the world, in celebration of the holidays, we're going to take some time to look ahead at 2018 and discuss our holiday wishes for Magic. Although 2017 has been an interesting year in the Magic world, with some good (like Modern) and some bad (like Standard, at least for most of the year), I have high hopes that 2018 is going to blow 2017 out of the water. We've got Modern and Team Pro Tours on the horizon, a return to perhaps the most popular plane in Magic's history in Dominaria, and the comeback of core sets, all in just the first six or seven months of the year. This being said, there are some things that I'd really like to see happen in 2018, so today we're going to start with the five things on my holiday wish list for Magic, before wrapping up with some wishes from the community from Twitter. Then, make sure to share your wishes for Magic in 2018 in the comments! Anyway, here are my five biggest wishes for Magic in 2018.

My Wishes

1. Wizards Fixes the Card Stock Issue

Magic is a funny game. The entire premise of its economy is based on people's belief that pieces of cardboard have real value, which in turn makes these people comfortable spending a rather large amount of money buying booster boxes and booster packs (which actually isn't that much different from the real economy, which is based on a similar belief). Since selling or trading Magic cards is heavily dependent on the condition of the cards, keeping your collection in good shape is a big part of being a Magic player, especially if you're someone who switches decks or is even a little bit interested in the financial side of the game. Because of this, having cards regularly come out of booster packs damaged and warped is a very big deal.

While there are a ton of different ways to segment the Magic community, perhaps the simplest way to break down the community is into "casual" and "competitive" groups. Unfortunately, the card-stock issue impacts both groups. Imagine you are just getting started in Magic and walk down the aisle at your local Wal-Mart, where you see a big wall full of card games. Amid the Pokemon and Yugioh and whatever else, you grab some Magic cards, and a couple of days after opening your booster packs or preconstructed deck, you find your cards are bent and warping. What are the odds that you choose Magic from that big wall of other options next time you're at Wal-Mart? Probably at least somewhat lower, because even if you don't know much about cards specifically, you know enough about new items in general to expect them not to break themselves within days of coming out of the box.

From the perspective of more competitive players, the card-stock issues reduce the odds of these players buying sealed product and those of the finance community, because both of these groups need their cards to be in good shape, not because they especially care about what their cards look like but because a warped and bent card is going to fetch a lower price when it comes time to sell the card, either to buy more cards or for profit. While these players will likely keep playing Magic because Magic is an amazing and addictive game, it's likely that this group of players will simply move away from sealed product and buy more singles, where the condition has been guaranteed by someone else (like a vendor) and someone else took the risk of opening a box of slightly to moderately played cards.

People throw around phrases like "the game is dying" or "this will kill Magic" way too frequently—there have been a ton of things over the years that were going to kill Magic, yet we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the game with no end in sight—but if anything from 2017 deserves the "this could kill Magic" label, it's probably the card-stock issue. The game itself is only as good as the cardboard it is printed on, and right now, that cardboard isn't very good. 

Thankfully, there are positive signs, with Wizards hiring for positions related to card quality, so even though Wizards hasn't acknowledged the issue directly, it does seem clear it is aware of the issue at the very least, although it's confusing how Wizards could spend approximately 23 years making high-quality cards with no issues and suddenly have such a major problem. Simply going back to how cards were made in 2014, 2008, or even 1999 seems like a fine plan from the outside, but regardless of how Wizards fixes the problem, solving the card-stock issue is at the top of my holiday wish list. Hopefully, it's at the top of Wizards' to-do list as well. 

2. Wizards Affinity-Style Bans Energy in Standard

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While banning an energy card (like Attune with Aether) is probably a more likely outcome (if any action is taken at all, which is a very real possibility, with chances of a banning and no bans being somewhere around 50/50), this is my holiday wish list, which means I can let my personal biases seep in a little bit. 

There's no denying that 2017 was a rough year for Standard in general, and even though our current Standard is the healthiest the format has been for the past year, it's still not as healthy as it could or should be. If you look back over the past year of Standard, every problem comes back to one mechanic: energy. Felidar Guardian wasn't even very good when people were trying to play Splinter Twin-esque control decks featuring the combo but then became bannable when it wound up in an energy shell. Emrakul, the Promised End was perhaps bannable on its own, but coming down on Turn 4 with Aetherworks Marvel certainly made it even more dominant and forced the ban hammer. Finally, Aetherworks Marvel itself—the most competitive energy mythic from Kaladesh block—ended up being banned as well. Even with three bannings somewhat or primarily targeting the energy archetype, Temur / Four-Color Energy is still far and away the best deck in the Standard format, with some recent tournaments being more than 65% Temur / Four-Color Energy on day two.

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While in theory we could just wait for rotation next fall, remember that under the old rotation schedule, we'd be gearing up for the rotation of energy along with the release of Dominaria in just a few months, which means when Wizards was designing the energy mechanic, it wasn't expecting Energy to be in Standard for so long. It's really sad to see all of the cool tribes from Ixalan be essentially unplayable, not because they are bad but because energy was so pushed. While banning Attune with Aether is probably the correct move, personally I'm just tired of energy, so rather than just hurting it a little bit, my holiday wish is that Wizards just goes Affinity on the archetype and bans enough cards that energy in general is unplayable, essentially forcing the deck to rotate when it would have rotated under the quicker rotation schedule the mechanic was designed for. 

With energy out of the way, Standard would suddenly be a very exciting place. Not only would all of the Ixalan tribes suddenly be on the table as potentially viable options (especially with more support coming in Rivals of Ixalan), but a lot of older decks (like Tokens, for example) might actually have a chance at being top tier. Sure, Ramunap Red would be the default best deck, but if everyone is building their Dinosaur and Pirate decks to beat up on Ramunap Red, the answers are available. Right now, Ramunap Red holds onto its Standard runner-up slot not so much because the deck is too strong (although it is a good deck) but because the primary focus of every deck in Standard is to beat energy, since it makes up such a huge percentage of the field. With a target on its back, Ramunap Red is very beatable. 

Basically, energy might not be too good, but it's been very good for too long, and it's keeping tons of sweet cards (and at this point, entire sets) out of Standard thanks to its power and flexibility. As such, my wish is that Wizards gives the sweet tribes of Ixalan a chance to shine in Standard by forcing energy as a whole into an early retirement.

#3: Wizards Ends the Reserved List

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While technically third on our list of holiday wishes, if I could pick one Magic-related thing and have it magically come true, it would be the end of the Reserved List. One of the big stories of 2017 was endless Reserved List buyouts, and as we move into 2018, one thing we know for sure is that Reserved List cards as a whole are much more expensive today than they were a year ago. It is true that, outside of opening up Legacy and some Commander implications, the gameplay impact of the Reserved List is fairly minimal (when it comes right down to it, most of the card on the Reserved List are unplayable in every format). Yet, the current state of the Reserved List and the buyouts it allows are bad from an optics perspective, which is the biggest reason Wizards should take action. 

The primary problem with the Reserved List is that it reinforces a Magic stereotype that Wizards has worked hard (through reprints and Masters sets) to diminish in recent years: that the game is too expensive. Seeing random, old, unplayable cards spike thousands of percent and cost hundreds of dollars undoes a lot of the good work Wizards has been doing in making the game cheaper. Imagine some casual players—or even worse, a potential player—stumbling across articles and Reddit posts about cards costing hundreds of dollars. This doesn't encourage people to keep playing the game; instead, it fuels the "Magic is too expensive, I'll just buy a Nintendo Switch instead" argument, which likely does keep some number of players from taking the plunge and really delving into Magic

The other problem with the Reserved List is that it fuels the darker side of MTG finance. And here, I'm not talking about Brainstorm Brewery, James from MTGPrice, or DJ from TCGPlayer, who are looking to help make the game cheaper for finance-minded players and also make a little extra money along the way, but the type of people who look to buy out a low-supply Reserved List card, jack up the price, and sell to some number of uninformed players at this new, higher price point. Without the Reserved List, people have to play fairly because the potential for a reprinting equals risk, and if there's a chance—even a small chance—that Bazaar of Baghdad is the next Judge Promo or shows up in Masters 25, then people will have to think twice before buying every available copy at $1,000 and relisting them at $2,500 (a move that doesn't really benefit anyone outside of the person doing the buyout).

Whether it be a full repeal of the Reserved List or something smaller (like the return of the foil loophole, which wasn't part of the original Reserved List and would allow for reprints in From the Vault products and for foil promos), doing something about the Reserved List would benefit the huge majority of Magic players and only hurt a very small number (some of whom have already made a ton of money off the existence of the Reserved List, so it's hard to really feel to bad for them), which pushes it near the top of my holiday wish list. 

#4: We (The Community) Yell Less

It feels like we spent much of 2017 caught in a less-than-healthy feedback loop. In part because of the endless Standard bannings (and the addition of more banned-and-restricted announcements), 2017 went something like this: Wizards bans cards in Standard, the community yells about banning more cards in Standard, Wizards bans more cards in Standard, the community yells about banning more cards in Standard, Wizards bans more cards in Standard and also takes away deck list data (possibly to try to keep the community from yelling so much, because data is essential to making a reasonable argument about the health of the format), and the community finds something else to yell about. 

The good news about this situation is that it does show that Wizards listens to the community, which is great and very important. The bad news is this pattern has reinforced the idea that the community can only gets Wizards' attention (and facilitate change) when there is a huge uproar with lots of yelling, often sustained for weeks or even months. This isn't healthy for anyone involved. I'm sure Wizards doesn't like getting yelled at constantly, and being in a constant state of uproar isn't all that much fun either, so here's my holiday wish for 2018. 

For the community, we should yell less and be slower to pick up pitchforks. This doesn't mean we don't talk about things or bring up important issues—most of the things the community yelled about this past year were worth discussing—just that the way we communicate the problems we see and our desires for the game be more adaptive. Meanwhile, I wish Wizards would show the community it will respond to this new, healthier style of communication. Imagine if the community would feel like Wizards listens when we use our inside voices and not just when we are yelling with our pitchforks. The community wins because yelling gets tiresome after a while (plus, it will make the community a friendlier place for new players, judging by the ton of confused posts on Reddit this year from people who didn't really understand what was going on and just wanted to learn more about Magic), and Wizards wins because no one likes to get yelled at all of the time. 

Of course, there will probably be some situations where yelling is required, but hopefully these instances will be few and far between and most of the communication between the community and Wizards can be handled in a less outraged manner. 

#5: Magic Arena Will Be Great

I feel like some people think I'm anti-Magic Arena, when really I'm just pro-Magic Online, and the thought of Wizards giving up on Magic Online for something new and Hearthstonian is scary (especially since apart from the gameplay screen—which may or may not translate to Magic, where you can have 100 creatures on the battlefield instead of just 7—I dislike many aspects of Hearthstone in comparison to Magic Online). This being said, one of my holiday wishes is that Wizards absolutely nails it with Magic Arena.

The benefits of Magic Arena being amazing are immense for everyone. Wizards gets a new game and hopefully a bunch of new players, some of whom will trickle over to the paper world or Magic Online to explore formats not supported on Magic Arena. Players get a shiny new way to play Standard in digital form with a faster, sleeker animated client. Streamers and content producers get a new game to show off. Local game stores (hopefully) get an influx of new players who learn about Magic based on the success of Magic Arena. Magic Arena revenues allow for Magic to really enter the e-sports arena and push enough money into the game that being a professional Magic player becomes a more realistic career path for the best players in the world. Basically, the best case for Magic Arena is that we enter a new golden age of Magic, with tons of new players, money, and possibilities based on the huge group of new players it brings into the game. 

As much as I love Magic Online, if Magic Arena truly does hit it out of the park and makes Magic Online unnecessary, that's a great thing for all of us who love Magic. Of course, my fear is that Magic Arena is more medium than great but Wizards ends up shutting down Magic Online anyway in an effort to force more players to play a buggy, over-animated, and super-expensive Magic Arena, but my holiday wish is that Magic Arena be everything it could be, even if that means that Magic Online has to eventually die as a result. 

Your Wishes

Now that we've talked about my holiday wishes for Magic in 2018, let's take a look at some of yours! I asked on Twitter for people to share their holiday wishes for Magic. Here are some of my favorites (along with some commentary). 

#1: Cheaper GPs

Grands Prix are likely to be a big focus of 2018, with Channel Fireball taking over all of the events worldwide. The price has been rising year by year, but along with the price increase comes a convention-like feel with lots going on outside of the main event. How Channel Fireball handles the transition to being the official, exclusive providers of Grands Prix will be interesting to watch, as will the community's response to the high price point. Do we want a cheaper Grand Prix experience with less extras that is just focused on the main event or more expensive Grands Prix with tons of extras? This is one of the big questions that will be answered in 2018. 

#2: Dominaria 

Dominaria was a popular wish topic, mostly that the set will be amazing. Personally, I can't remember the community being this excited for a set this far in advance in years, which means a lot is riding on Dominaria. Standard was admittedly rough in 2017, and with Rivals of Ixalan being the last of the small sets (and not having a Standard Pro Tour), it will be Dominaria that really sets the tone of Standard in 2018. If Wizards can meet or exceed the community's high expectations for the return to one of the most historic and beloved planes in Magic, the stage will be set for 2018 to be a great year in Magic, and the pain and problems of 2017 will quickly fade. On the other hand, if Dominaria ends up more like Battle for Zendikar—a return-of set that doesn't really feel like a return to a popular plane—then 2018 could get off to a rough start that might taint the rest of the year. I have faith that Wizards will hit it out of the park with Dominaria, having learned from the mistakes of Battle for Zendikar, but let's add it to our wish list anyway, just to make sure.

#3: More Powerful Cards in Standard

I love unfun, unfair "you don't get to play Magic" Magic more than just about anyone I know, but even I'm not crazy enough to wish for this style of Magic in Standard. This being said, if there were ever a set for Wizards to pull out all of the stops and reprint Doom Blade, Llanowar Elves, Counterspell, and Lightning Bolt in Standard, Dominaria would be the one! 

#4: Even More Jank

Remember Squanchy from Rick and Morty? Where every other word is "squanch" but "squanch" means a bunch of different things based on context? I'm starting to wonder if that's me and jank. Regardless, since it's within my jank to answer this jank, I'll jank right on it. 

#5: Storm Banning

This is one of my wishes for Modern too, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it come true after Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. There's a group of pro players, headlined by Jon Finkel, who will play Storm even when it's horrible and usually put up good results, which means it wouldn't be a bit surprising to see Storm as one of the breakout decks of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, considering it's already one of the best decks in Modern. Plus, Wizards loves banning Storm, so I wouldn't be surprised if Past in Flames or a ritual is near the top of its internal watch list for a potential Modern banning after the Pro Tour in February.

#6: Make Cards Look Nice Again

There's a lot to unpack in Rich Shay's wish (which is actually several wishes), but making Magic cards look nice again is especially interesting. Lost in the shuffle of Standard bannings and other more pressing topics, it's easy to forget that 2017 marked the printing of the Amonkhet Invocations, which were met with a very mixed review, with their nigh-unreadable font and gaudy border, along with the asymmetrical frame of the borderless lands from Unstable. The good news is that Wizards, for the first time, has shown a willingness to really experiment with things like card frames and borders, which had mostly been off limits through Magic's 25-year history. The bad news is that not all of these experiments have hit the mark aesthetically. While fixing the quality of the cards is important, having some really good looking cards in 2018 would be a great way to draw people further into the game. Here's wishing that the Dominaria edition of Masterpieces are beautiful and beloved.

#7: The Return of FNM Promos

Getting rid of FNM promos for tokens was a fine experiment, but considering that the tokens have been super boring (just foil versions of pack tokens) rather than exciting and new (like the tokens in Unstable), it might already be time to call the experiment a failure. One easy fix would be to just go back to FNM promos, while making fun, exciting new-art tokens is another possibility. Regardless, I haven't seen many people excited for the FNM tokens, and it's hard to blame them. As such, a good wish for 2018 is that Wizards will improve the FNM promo program, either by giving us better tokens or, better yet, by bringing back real cards (preferably playable ones) as FNM promos.

#8: The Holiday Spirit Carries over throughout the Year

In the spirit of the holiday season, let's wrap up with a wish that I have not just for the Magic community but for everyone: in 2018, let's be nice to each other and, when given the choice between tearing someone down and lifting them up, choose the latter. Beneath everything else—Standard bannings, Magic Arena, card stock quality, Dominaria, Modern Pro Tours—Magic is a game, and the reason we are part of the Magic community is to have fun. With this is mind, my biggest wish for 2018 (even above getting rid of the Reserved List) is that in 2018, we as the Magic community will double down on not just having as much fun as possible ourselves but on making sure all of those around us—at our local game stores, on Magic Online, on social media, on Reddit—are having fun as well. If we do these, all of the other pieces of the puzzle we've been talking about with naturally fall into place, and 2018 will be a great year for Magic the game and for the Magic community.


Anyway, that's all for today. What are your holiday wishes for Magic in 2018? Let me know in the comments. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at Happy holidays!

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