These past two weeks have been packed with Magic reveals – SDCC, Magic Con, and GenCon. Most recently at GenCon Wizards of the Coast unveiled its Magic at 30: Past, Present & Future of the World’s Best Trading Card Game presentation, giving us a look at the company’s roadmap over the next three years. In this round table we’ll be talking about everything revealed these past two weeks and offering our thoughts on it all. If you missed the Magic at 30 presentation, you can catch the video here. Or if you just want a recap with commentary, keep scrolling.
As we do this, we’ll also double back a bit to talk about the stuff revealed at San Diego Comic Con and MagicCon Barcelona because now seems like a good opportunity to cover all of it.
An Adjusted Story Focus
In their preamble for the presentation, Wizards outlined their three themes for the future and while two of them were largely just standard stuff (innovate while honoring the past, create something for everyone), they did drop some interesting notes in the third point – Commitment to Magic Lore and Story. Magic’s story is changing substantially with Omenpaths, and moving forward they’ll be doing both larger, multi-year arcs and smaller single-year arcs for the Magic story, each with their own names.
As part of this, they announced that the entirety of the Phyrexian Arc is now available for download into a free epub – which you can find here.
TheChirurgeon: I think it’s ultimately a good idea to take more of a seasonal approach to the story, but as it’s going to become clear, we’re pretty much stuck with the three-year treadmill approach for the next three years. I’m less enthusiastic about having a big Avengers-sized crossover set every three years; each of these crossover events only serves to make the universe feel smaller.
BPhillipYork: I don’t think the problem is necessarily the length of the arcs so much as the dropped balls and the lack of good interplay between arcs and the mechanics of the games. The old formula of big set with new mechanics, then 2 smaller follow up sets with more of those same mechanics and some additional mechanics worked well, the block system, in my opinion. I never cared much about the mini-stories because everytime I try to actually read it it’s worse than just having generative AI write it – but the bigger arcs are kind of interesting.
TheChirurgeon: They’re real hit-or-miss. Sometimes they hire real authors for them and they’re quite good, but that’s definitely not an all-the-time thing and you can only do so much with some of these stories and characters. That said, I miss the days when Magic literature was more expansive and allowed to just tell weird stories in different planes without having to namecheck major events and planeswalkers. And while I like the Planeswalkers, there’s something exhausting about having them always being involved in a massive metaplot.
FromTheShire: Agreed. As a greybeard I was pretty disappointed with how War of the Spark ended, and I don’t feel like they have done a very good job getting me to buy back in to the story mattering. It’s exacerbated by Universes Beyond as well – as much as these sets are ‘non-cannon’, they are still increasingly played in every format they are legal in, including actual competitive formats. For me at least it’s harder to care about the overall story when actual games have Gandalf fighting Abaddon.
Wilds of Eldraine
Wilds of Eldraine kicks off Magic’s new three-year storyline with a return to the plane of Eldraine, called “the Omenpath Arc.” This story covers the aftermath of the Phyrexian Invasion – the king and queen are dead, most of the plane is asleep (in Sleeping Beauty fashion), and the now-desparked Will and Rowan have to face whatever new danger is threatening the plane they call home. Also back is Ashiok, who is not desparked and ready to mess everything up since their whole thing is feeding on and messing with dreams, making an entire plane of sleeping people pretty tempting.
We’re sure to see Food return to the set, and we’ve already seen the return of Adventures in the previews. Nightmares are also going to be a big part of the set as a tribe. And this set will feature a bonus sheet of cards called Enchanting Tales, special non-Standard Legal treatments of older cards featuring fairy tale artwork. Previews for all this starts this week.
TheChirurgeon: We’re basically a day or two out from getting previews on this one and we’ve already got a lot of the relevant info. There are some things I’m interested to see that haven’t been revealed yet, but the biggest of those is admittedly just “will knights be in the set in large numbers?” because I’m a big fan of running Mardu knights in Commander.
Loxi: Eldraine was a notoriously powerful set previously, so it’s got some big footsteps to fill. It also introduced food as a mechanic, which has now gained a lot more support than it had in the initial release. I think between the popular archetypes and the well-known and easily relatable storybook fantasy setting, it’s a surefire hit. I’m curious how they’ll handle adventures, since some of them were previously a weird mix of powerhouses or sideline limited cards.
BPhillipyork: Eldraine was a strong set, but it had neat, interesting mechanics and was decent callbacks to Grimms fairytales. It would be nice if WotC would also do some sets on non-European fairytales, but even so I really like how adventure worked as a mechanic, it opened up on a nice design space that helps solve one of the big problems of magic which is the unluckiness of drawing too many of a card or a card for early game late game or late game early game.
FromTheShire: For all of the problems Eldraine had with power level, it was still an interesting and wildly popular set, and I’m happy to return there. To me this was one of the recent success stories, introducing a new plane that still fit within the feel of Magic as a whole.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan
Lost Caverns of Ixalan is what Mark Rosewater has referred to as “a background set,” or a set that introduces some new, interesting mechanic, but on a familiar plane. And while the tribes of Ixalan (vampires, dinosaurs, merfolk, pirates) return, the mechanics will be wholly different. This set also introduces “Special Guests,” highly desirable reprints which show up in The List and Collector Boosters which fit the theme, presumably in the same vein as expeditions.
This time around we’re focusing more on the underground world below Ixalan, and looking at the aftermath of the Phyrexian Invasion. Turns out Ixalan is hollow and the setting’s factions are racing to find some new mysterious font of power beneath the surface.
Loxi: Ixalan has the opposite situation to Eldraine entirely: a less revered, and less popular (from a Wizards sales perspective, at least) set. It was known to have a few bombs, but generally was lower power than a lot of its surrounding sets. I think all of these tribes are interesting in that, barring vampires, many of them could use some more up-to-date support pieces, so this might be a great set for Commander and other eternal formats on that aspect alone. Art wise, this one also might really knock it out of the park from what we’ve seen.
TheChirurgeon: I definitely think Ixalan had some strong concepts – and one of the best stories they’ve ever written – but suffered a bit from a mediocre draft format and being relatively weak mechanically. It’s also a setting that probably would have done better as a single set instead of a two-set block. Hopefully this time around the mechanics make more of a splash.
BPhillipYork: It seems like people really love typal things, typal decks and such, so it seems strange to de-emphasize merfolk or vampires or what not, but assuming the new mechanics are interesting enough, it should make up for it, and even if type matters cards aren’t all over the set, they’ll still be printing cards with types to run in your decks.
Universes Beyond: Jurassic World
Lost Caverns of Ixalan will feature some tie-ins to Jurassic World, with new mechanical cards and a bunch of treatments featuring movie tie-ins. These will be Booster Inserts for the set.
TheChirurgeon: I’m kind of at a loss on this one – who was asking for this? After the last movie was bad and got garbage reviews I thought we’d be in a holding pattern for a while. Then I went and looked up the box office totals and got to see the depressing fact that Jurassic World Dominion somehow still grossed over a billion dollars. That said, the next movie hasn’t been greenlit yet and isn’t likely to get started filming any time soon thanks to the strikes so it feels like this is disconnected from the kind of release it needs to make sense as a cross-promotional thing.
But whatever, dinosaurs I guess.
BPhillipYork: This made me throw up in my mouth a little. Jurassic Park’s origin is hard Sci-Fi and it’s become increasingly stupid Sci-Fi, but it’s very much non-magical in any way science fiction, and there’s already dinosaurs in the damn game from Ixalan. Also Wizards getting to the punch super late here, like Jurassic Park was a huge cultural phenomenon but that was 30 years ago. Yes, 1993. The Jurassic world extended universe is uh, fine, and they make a lot of money because they are tentpole movies but does anyone care? Are there Jurassic Park conventions? Who is going to buy this set that would not buy any random magic set? Oh well I have a dinosaur deck so it’ll be some new dumb fatties for it. Oh maybe they’ll have that invisible one from 5, or 6 or whatever. Or 4.
FromTheShire: Depending on if they minimize the hell out of the humans, this is actually one of the Universes Beyond I think could fit better than most. We have Dinosaurs already from Ixalan, and if this just introduced a bunch of cool new dinos to add to your Commander decks, it would be pretty neat. I’m definitely afraid it’s actually going to be heavy on Chris Pratt and crew though.
Universes Beyond: Doctor Who
At Magic Con Barcelona we got our first full glimpse of the upcoming Doctor Who Commander decks. This includes new cards and art from the upcoming sets and a reveal of the mechanical and narrative identity of the four Commander decks to be released. Specifically, we’ve got:
- Blast from the Past, a Bant (green-white-blue) deck featuring characters from the first eight incarnations of the Doctor, or all the stuff that happened before 2000. If you remember the Doctor as a goofball in a long scarf doing low-budget Star Trek adventures, this is going to be familiar to you. This deck has a Historic theme, focusing on playing and keying off historic spells and permanents.
- Timey-Wimey, a Jeskai (red-white-blue) deck focusing on the ninth, tenth, and eleventh doctors, or the first three guys from the show’s big revival in the early 2000s. If you’re a fan of those Russel T Davies/Steven Moffat years, these will be your jam. This deck focuses on time counters and will have cards with Suspend.
- Paradox Power, a Temur (red-green-blue) deck which focuses more on the twelfth and thirteenth doctors, i.e. the most recent ones – Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker. This deck’s theme is Paradox, a mechanic which rewards you for casting spells from places other than your hand. This also means it incorporates ways of doing that, such as Fortell.
- Masters of Evil, a Grixis (blue-black-red) deck which focuses on the villains of Doctor Who, including the Daleks. The big new mechanic here is Villanous Choice, which forces opponents to choose between two shitty outcomes. And also it makes a lot of tokens.
Mechanically, these also introduce a mechanic called Doctor’s Companion, which lets you have a second Commander if one is the Doctor.
TheChirurgeon: Doctor Who is a series I like but don’t love and a big part of that is just that any series which has to run over 90 years is going to be wildly uneven. Anyways the new cards look interesting and I’m at least on board for having more mechanics that focus on Suspend and Time Counters. There’s still plenty to do with those and I think there’s also some fun synergy between Suspend and Paradox as mechanics.
Loxi: While the subject matter is hit or miss, the design they’ve shown and support for Suspend as a mechanic has me pretty hyped. Not a huge whovian, but I’ve met some people who seem beyond excited for this one, so I’m here to support it.
BPhillipYok: It seems like they put a fair amount of work into making the mechanics in some way reflect the intellectual property they are adding into magic, so this should be a fun set. Universes Beyond: Warhammer 40k was well received because they did a lot of work, making magic mechanics match up with things in the world. The Lord of the Rings set is mostly baffling. Doctor’s Companion is another iteration of limited Partner, which is what I predict we’ll continue to see more of. The original Partner (with anything) caused a lot of balance issues, and much like backgrounds and friends forever, this is another way to actually balance having two commanders. So far the cards look fun and decent and well thought out, which is really all you can ask.
Magic is revisiting Lord of the Rings again this November with a set that brings new treatments, new cards, and new collector boosters in a holiday set designed to wring more out of the popularity of this year’s Tales of Middle Earth release.
TheChirurgeon: This one isn’t a huge shock given how big the response to the current Lord of the Rings set was. Likewise I won’t be shocked if we return to Middle-Earth for more elf- and hobbit-driven gameplay. It’s a bit surprising that this is happening so soon, mostly since that suggests it was planned before the release of the current Lord of the Rings set.
RagnarokAngel: They had alluded to more stuff for November already, though were a bit mum on the details. Lord of the Rings did very well for them so might as well strike while the iron’s hot. I’m definitely interested in hitting it up again.
Loxi: Why not? They have the rights for the IP and it’s popular. Ball out, wizards.
BPhillipYork: Hopefully this will be less bad than the poorly balanced original LotR set, with thoughtless mechanics and cards ruining various formats… but I doubt it. Also LotR is so popular, it seems like it doesn’t really matter how badly they screw it up.
FromTheShire: LotR is one of the better fitting sets thematically so I’m okay with this one too. That new Sauron art fucking slaps as well.
The 2024 Roadmap
The 30th Anniversary Panel gave us a longer look at the road ahead, with previews of upcoming sets for the next year.
Similar to Time Spiral Remastered, this Q1 2024 set takes cards from all three Ravnica blocks to create a new draft format using cards from each. The set will also feature retro frame treatments for cards, and the set’s going to include shocklands, so get ready for that.
TheChirurgeon: Remastered sets are a bit of a mixed bag. They’re not quite as exciting but man do I love drafting Time Spiral Remastered. I suspect I’ll love Ravnica Remastered as well since the mechanics of the three blocks for guilds just match up so incredibly well. That said, putting all ten guilds into one set seems like a massive undertaking so I’m interested to see how they reconcile that – just how big is this set going to be, exactly?
RagnarokAngel: As Rob said that is…a lot of cards to add so they could really hit this one out of the park or stumble hard. Especially since Ravnica is such a fan favorite. I’m a sicko for retro frames though so if I can get some usable stuff out of it I’ll be happy.
Loxi: Return to Ravnica is when I started playing magic, so I’m personally stoked for this set. I think it’s ambitious given the drastically different tiers of power across the sets, but I’m sure it’ll be popular as both a draft format and for eternal players regardless. It’s a timelessly popular plane for good reason.
While it’s unlikely, I also want to add a note that this is the perfect chance for ‘zards of the coast to make those whacky 4 color nephilim legendary if they want to, which has been requested for longer than I’ve been paying taxes. Am I hopeful they will? No, but I’m calling my shots early.
BPhillipYork: Just really glad to see shocklands re-released to drive prices down so more people will play them and there will be fewer excruciating games of Commander played where someone can’t do anything.
FromTheShire: Ravnica is wildly popular so this makes sense, more old border cards are always something I like to see, and sets like Dragon’s Maze only had like 2 playable cards so rolling them into a masters set is a bit easier.
Murders of Karlov Manor
On that note, we’re going back to Ravnica with the set Murders at Karlov Manor. This is another backdrop set similar to Ixalan, this time giving us a top-down murder mystery set placed in the plane of Ravnica. So expect some familiar faces – Massacre Girl features prominently in the set’s artwork – but not so much guild-based mechanics. Expect some kind of “mystery” mechanic where players can solve mysteries during the game.
As part of this, Magic is doing a big tie-in with Clue to celebrate its 75th anniversary. This includes Ravnica Clue Edition, a new Magic-themed version of the board game.
TheChirurgeon: The concept is fine, but the Clue tie-in is probably the most cynical crossover they’ve done. It smacks of “we’re doing this because of brand synergy” moreso than “we’ve always wanted to do a murder mystery set” and that part sucks. Otherwise, sure – always a fan of Ravnica, but I’m less enthusiastic about using it as part of a backdrop set. Seems like there are lots of other worlds that work better for the backdrop in a murder mystery.
RagnarokAngel: I end up reading most any Habsro tie-in as cynical. Wonder when the Monopoly set is coming?
Loxi: In regards to the set itself, it’s an…interesting choice. On one hand, using characters from a familiar and popular plane to tie into a new unique design is a pretty clever idea and has worked well for them in the past. On the other, I think a lot of people will be bummed to see Ravnica and not have the traditionally popular appeal with the guilds. It almost seems that Ravnica Remastered is trying to navigate that situation by providing the old school guild format at around a similar time.
That being said, the mechanics of a murder mystery set sound interesting and fun, and I think it could prove to be a pretty cool limited format depending on how it shapes out.
BPhillipYork: This is going to have some horrifying crossover with the Universes Beyond: Clue and hopefully will tease the Universes Beyond: Poirot set as well as include a new 5 color gate commander (free Golos).
TheChirurgeon: Ok actually I’m on board for Universes Beyond: Poirot. Make the Agatha Christie set happen, Wizards.
FromTheShire: Yeah I was actually pretty on board for this until they started talking about Clue and then this instantly became ew.
Universes Beyond: Fallout
March 2024 sees the release of Commander Decks based on the Fallout video game franchise, featuring mutants, irradiated wastelands, and vaults. Each deck will represent one of the franchise’s factions.
TheChirurgeon: This one’s a bit of a stretch for me. This may be the first Universe Beyond we’re visiting in a proper release that doesn’t actually have magic in it as a concept. And yeah before you get at me about Doctor Who being sci-fi or whatever, come off it – that show’s chock full of stuff that’s essentially magic, right down to the Doctor waving around a magic wand and calling it a screwdriver. Fallout is much more grounded in a way that’s going to be jarring to see on cards.
RagnarokAngel: Even though they weren’t proper universes beyond we’ve already done Walking Dead and Stranger Things. I dunno, this isn’t the most outlandish thing they’ve done. I’m glad it’s just commander though and not a full set. I’m not wild on crossovers (Even though it ends up drawing me in anyway when it’s a franchise I care about) and I’d like to minimize it when possible. It’s a lot of mixed feelings.
Loxi: I confess, I’m biased in being excited for this as a huge long-time fan of Fallout as a franchise. I agree that this one is a bit weird in general, but I feel like I’m personally at the point where I just have accepted UB is gonna have some wild crossovers. I won’t get any products if I don’t think I’ll use the cards, and I don’t see this as an exception to that, however I do at the least think these have the potential to be as cool as the Warhammer 40,000 precons if they don’t pull their punches too much.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah, fair enough. I just see Fallout as in a different bucket and I’ve mostly pretended that Walking Dead and Stranger Things didn’t exist/count because they were only a few cards.
BPhillipYork: This sucks. I mean whatever, but Fallout is so not magic. I like Fallout a lot, and this feels like a nearly pointless tie-in that is just a cynical cash grab. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Fallout 5 announced in some way in conjunction with this (okay maybe that is just me hoping something good comes out of this). Truly Fallout just does not belong in Magic, and “I equip a pip boy to my Ghalta and Mavren” just feels so intellectually bankrupt.
FromTheShire: Yeah….. This is firmly in the realm of I don’t think this belongs in a Magic card frame. Wildly tonally different, and I might be more accepting of these if it was only turning Commander into Super Smash and not Legacy and now Modern as well.
Outlaws of Thunder Junction
Our next new world gives us a Wild West theme, and in the process takes us to Thunder Junction, a world where villains traverse the Omen Paths to meet up in a lawless hellscape. Expect a ton of Magic villains, dusters, and cowboy hats.
TheChirurgeon: This set is going to be dumb as hell and I’m here for it. Get ready for Jace and Vraska as Bonnie and Clyde.
RagnarokAngel: Hell yeah. Love cowboy shit. I’m so on board.
Loxi: This is my big one of the year. I adore anything western. I grew up with Eastwood blasting in the living room all the time on cable TV. Tombstone still is one of my favorite movies to this day. The fantasy-stylized cowboy thematic is really a neat one (see: High Noon skins in League of Legends), and I think it has the potential to be really rad. Mechanically, this one is a mystery to me, but horses I’m sure will play a hand.
TheChirurgeon: The big question is how much of this is going to be like John Wayne style Westerns vs. Cormac McCarthy style westerns. I’m gonna guess the former, given how goofy all the promo images look. Also it’s hilarious to see Rakdos up there just hanging out with the rest.
BPhillipYork: The weird west is a cool concept, and sadly has been mostly ignored by Hollywood or been very unsuccessful when it has been greenlighted (Jonah Hex, The Wild Wild West, Adventures of Brisco County Junior). I’d love to see Deadlands resurrected in magic since the card game is long gone. Actually, poker hands is kind of a cool concept, mechanically, players could reveal cards from hand and tie them to numbers based on mana costs and colors for straights and pairs and things. Also guns were a big part of the west so maybe we’ll see some more guns in magic; I still like to whip out rocket launcher as an infinite mana dump from time to time.
FromTheShire: Historically I have thought it was dumb that there was demand for this in the community, but at this point we have Vehicles and tons of other non-traditional fantasy stuff, so whatever. Make the guns shoot spells and I’m in, I’m sure it will be dumb and fun.
Modern Horizons 3
Modern Horizons I and II sold more than well enough to ensure we’d get a third one and hopefully this one doesn’t wreak quite so much havoc on the Modern Environment. This time around the big change is that the set will have access to double-faced cards, meaning both reprints of popular transform cards and all new cards featuring the mechanic, likely mixed with a bunch of older mechanics. It’s a much more complex drafting environment and will also be coming to Arena – though this doesn’t mean that Modern is coming to Arena. Expect the Eldrazi to come back in the set, since they’re prominently featured in some of the artwork.
TheChirurgeon: What’s the over/under on banned cards to come out of this set? I’m gonna set the bar at 2.5.
RagnarokAngel: After Modern Horizons 2 what can I say? I do appreciate that we’re going to have another grab bag set that will be all over the place which means a bit of something for everyone.
Loxi: Enjoy your bi-yearly standard rotation, modern players.
Mockery aside, I’m hoping this set is at least accessible enough and has some solid reprints to do something besides crack open an eternal format yet again.
BPhillipYork: I really like DFCS and particularly MDFCS since they help resolve the “Oh I drew 2 land and am stuck” vs “Oh I drew 5 lands in a row and am stuck” problems magic has. I like Eldrazi too, and hopefully they’ll be some good lands reprinted, maybe fetches.
FromTheShire: I’m taking the over. Still excited for this set though.
Arena: Pioneer Masters
Pioneer gets more support in Arena through this upcoming release, which will feature a number of cards which help fill in the gaps in Arena’s Pioneer format, filling in some missing archetypes.
In July 2024 Wizards will release their next Universes Beyond product, this time for Assassin’s Creed, featuring content from every game in the series. These are going to be released in a new product type called “Beyond Boosters,” draftable boosters filled with cards from the featured universe, both new and reprints. This seems like a full booster set release, but is somehow different in ways that aren’t completely clear at the moment.
RagnarokAngel: Maybe I’m just out of the loop but this really feels like it missed its window. I haven’t kept up but I feel like the series dropped out of the limelight but that could just be the long gap between Valhalla and the next one rather than actual loss of fans. I’m baffled by what exactly this is if it’s not considered a true set though.
Loxi: I’m going to withhold some of my opinions on this until we get more about these Beyond Boosters, since I think those will shape a lot of how this will be received less so than the IP itself.
TheChirurgeon: I don’t have a strong take on this one but I agree with RagnarokAngel that this feels like it missed its window even worse than Jurassic World did. The Beyond Booster setup is also super weird and half exhausting in a way that has me asking why we needed yet another booster type to keep track of. Better than Fallout, though.
A new story arc kicks off, this time called The Dragonstorm Arc. And it kicks off in a new world called Bloomburrow, a world of anthropomorphic animals who wield magic and adorable little swords. Expect it to look like a mix between Mouseguard and Watership Down, but with lots more squirrels, since those are a popular tribe in all the joke sets. The setting itself is reportedly more charming than any Magic world up to this point.
RagnarokAngel: Hard pass here. I’m a grump and don’t usually go in for this sort of Mouseguard stuff, but glad for people who do.
Loxi: I’ve seen a lot of hype on social media for this one, and I’m pretty interested. I’d say I feel similarly to Eldraine as a setting: it’s grounded enough in Western folklore from the look of it that it will be popular by nature of being relatable, and that’s usually a big boon for a game like magic where you’re constantly looking at card art. Another one that mechanically has me clueless (they’re saving those for the Ravnica set, ba-dum-tss!), but I like what this is going for from a flavor perspective.
TheChirurgeon: I’m all for more lighthearted Magic sets that don’t venture fully into goofy Un-set jokes (the majority of which I find to be gratingly unfunny), so I’m tentatively on board here, but there’s a very real chance this could go too far and end up twee.
BPhillipYork: Okay Watership Down is like horrifying. Have you watched it in the last 20 years? It’s not really a kids movie. I think this is a cool sounding set, I’ve heard bears will be like big, like this is a reverse of what’s going on in Segovia, which is a neat concept, if it pans out.
TheChirurgeon: Sure I have. You know there’s going to be weird dark shit hidden in here somewhere. Hey, do you think the mice will have creature type Rat?
FromTheShire: I’m tentatively on board for Redwall: The Magic Set. Again it at least feels like it should be able to fit withing the overall feel of Magic.
Duskmourn: House of Horror
The final set release previewed for 2024 is a top-down modern Horror set taking us to a new world with a focus on horror with a more modern sensibility. So instead of the Gothic Horror Innistrad, expect something more like 70s/80s body horror and an evolution of the Lovecraftian/Decadence Horror we saw glimpses of in Eldritch Moon. This new world/set takes place inside a giant mansion filled with all kinds of creepy stuff.
TheChirurgeon: I’m on board for more horror stuff, though I’m not entirely sure where they’re going to go with this. I’m kind of surprised this isn’t part of some massive tie-in with Betrayal at the House on the Hill. Maybe because it’s an Avalon Hill game.
EDIT: I have now been informed that Hasbro owns Avalon Hill. I now 10000% expect this crossover to happen.
RagnarokAngel: The description is frustratingly vague but for a set that likely won’t come out till like October next year at the earliest, that’s fair.
Loxi: I enjoy the balance between whimsical and dark they’re pushing, it really seems like they’re nailing sets for a lot of audiences across the year. I’m hoping they take the time to build out the plane and really flesh it out…well…ok maybe not that much flesh wizards but you know, write it well. I think they have to really make it distinct from the phyrexian-type design to send it home.
TheChirurgeon: As a horror fan, I’m interested to see what they explore here. The haunted mansion concept is interesting, but a big spooky house is hardly going to set this apart from Innistrad, where they also covered a lot of body horror and Lovecraftian influence already in Eldritch Moon. Likewise, zombies weren’t really Gothic Horror either and that leaves… what? Slasher moves? Hellraiser? Eraserhead? Interested to see what they pick.
BPhillipYork: I don’t know how well horror maps onto Magic, I thought they did some decent stuff with the horror type and nightmare type, and that was fun. The Eldrazi are so obviously Cthulu-esque, and there have been “horror-esque” cards all over magic for a long long time, so it’s curious to see how they will fit it in, if you go back to Alpha/Beta and look at cards there is obviously horror at play there. The Phyrexians had a lot of horror elements, Giger mixed with Hellraiser, though things like David Cronenberg monsters would fit okay into magic (I could imagine something like a mutate variant where you suck up cards out of your opponents graveyards and morph a creature together). I think of modern horror as like slasher films and serial killer films, Silence of the Lambs and Scream, how do you turn that into Magic?
The 2025-26 Roadmap
Going further than ever before, Wizards dropped some info for the 2025 Roadmap. These were more suggestive than the 2024 roadmap, with preview art and content that’s more likely to be subject to change over the next year.
Similar to Ravnica Remastered, this set takes all of the pre-existing Innistrad sets and mashes them into one big draft environment filled with what will presumably be a lot of werewolf, zombie, vampire, and angel decks.
RagnarokAngel: Hell yeah Innistrad. Not shocking they wanna dip into that well again, people love that setting and why not? It’s great. Same as Ravnica Remastered though that’s so many sets so trying to remaster it is gonna be tough.
Loxi: I’m interested to see how they handle this one since they’ve changed the mechanics of things like werewolves across the various sets for Innistrad. A great plane though, so I think it will at the least be a set that will probably have some bangin’ art and chase cards for people to open regardless of how they balance limited.
TheChirurgeon: There’s a lot less to cram in here than with Ravnica Remastered, and I think this one will just lean harder on mechanical identity, and probably jettison most of Avacyn Restored and Eldritch Moon, which take things in directions that won’t mesh super well with the rest of the set.
BPhillipYork: Innistrad: the Crimson separation sounds like a great set. Draft is fun and good, they’ll probably print 4 commander decks with 10-20 new cards at a minimum. Maybe some more blood tokens?
This is some kind of DEATH RACE set, but the big concept is that the Death Race takes place across three different worlds, two of which are going to be worlds we’ve been to before in premiere sets, but haven’t yet returned to in other premiere sets. The third world has been shown on cards but hasn’t been the star in a set yet. This makes the pool of sets for the first two pretty small, and Kaladesh is probably the most solid bet you could make on these, given it’s the set that introduced us to Vehicles.
The remaining options include Amonkhet, Vryn, Mercadia, Kaldheim, and New Capenna. Tarkir is also an option but well, it’s not likely because it’ll be featured in Ultimate.
TheChirurgeon: Look I’m not the first person to make a “Wacky Racers” joke but I will absolutely go to bat for that concept anyways because I love Wacky Racers. Every property should do a big stupid race arc with dumb, themed dragsters. Anyways, Kaladesh feels like a no-brainer for these and I’m privately rooting for New Capenna because it’d be cool to have some insane art deco-looking racers. Gimme the Magic version of the Batmobile from The Animated Series, but driven by Ob Nixilis and his evil, snickering dog.
Loxi: Vehicles.dec inbound. There’s no way this set isn’t just craaazy vehicles all day, and that might not be a bad thing.
TheChirurgeon: You know what I want for this? Commanders who come with roadsters. Like you have a commander, and their partner is a car. Partner with Car. You could do a big stupid brand tie-in with Knight Rider and finally give everyone that Haslehoff Commander they’ve been asking for. They have been asking for that, right?
BPhillipYork: Yeah I’m down, I’m not sure how you build race mechanics into magic, I guess something like you complete a lap and get something or something? Anyway I like the idea of multiple planes interacting, that’s something that it seems like weirdly Wizards has mostly avoided, hopefully there’s some kind of interplay between the places the death race is taking place.
FromTheShire: We’ve established Vehicles are a thing in multiple places now, so of course there’s going to be death racing. Should be fun if nothing else.
Magic returns to Tarkir for this expansion, finding a way to split the difference between Khans and Dragons somehow. It’ll absolutely have dragons, but it’s not clear yet whether it will feature the clans and their shard color identities, something which largely disappeared after Sarkhan Vol changed the timeline in Fate Reforged.
RagnarokAngel: I loved Tarkir block, the whole plot is so convoluted and weird in a way you don’t usually see. I absolutely love the Mongolian theme and timeline fuckery.
TheChirurgeon: Same, but I also really loved the wedge set concept and mechanics, so a big part of the return is wanting to see more of that. I wasn’t super in love with the implementation in Ikoria so going back to a set with a stronger implementation of wedge mechanics is a plus. Though again, they kind of did away with that in Dragons, so I’m interested to see if they can thread the needle here, or just make stuff up in a way that’s satisfying.
FromTheShire: Tarkir was great, and they damn well better print fetches again. Time for the return of Siege Rhino.
Universes Beyond: Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy gets the next Universes Beyond tentpole booster release in early 2025, giving us a release on the same scale as we saw this year for Tales from Middle Earth. That makes sense, as the franchise as a ton of games and content to showcase. The current plan is for the set to “encompass each main Final Fantasy game that has been released to date,” going up through Final Fantasy XVI. On that same note, expect a set of Commander Decks to release along with the set as well.
It’ll also be available on Arena.
TheChirurgeon: I’m actually incredibly excited for this one. While Final Fantasy already has what I’m told is a very solid card game (one which I own cards for but haven’t played), I’m a much bigger fan of playing a FF Magic set. Just give me cards for the Final Fantasy IV crew and we’re set.
RagnarokAngel: Remember my feelings on hating all the crossovers and having it feel very mixed? This kinda shit is why. Because I love Final Fantasy, it may in fact be my favorite fictional franchise of all time. As such I know I will spend an irresponsible amount of money on this for Commander and probably walk away with multiple deck ideas for it. Still think the crossovers are a bit gouache.
TheChirurgeon: Yeah but you will empty every bank account you own if they do a Kingdom Hearts crossover.
BPhillipYork: What does this even mean, isn’t every final fantasy game totally separate from every other game?
TheChirurgeon: Yes but they’re all connected by a large number of things in the same way DnD worlds are – they all share character classes, magic spells, monsters, summoned beasts, etc. You can expect to see things like crystals and chocobos and airships and Bahamut in the set.
FromTheShire: I haven’t played a FF since I believe 7 but I’m not surprised we’re getting this. Sepiroth punching Marneus Calgar, sure why not? Oh because this is supposed to be Magic, right right.
Arena: Plans for 2025 and Beyond
The big focus is on how to bring in new players, and so solving the problem of “asking players to jump into a F2P, player-v-player environment” is a big focus, along with finding areas where existing tabletop experiences are missing. One of these is building larger games with more than two players.
There’s also a focus on collectability, for whatever that’s worth. Wizards sees that as a major aspect of the game and is looking for ways to do more collector experiences in Arena.
BPhillipYork: Arena sucks. It’s an incredibly manipulative skinner box. Delete it, email wizards and have them delete your account so you don’t get involved again.
TheChirurgeon: Alright, settle down, grandpa.
FromTheShire: Depending on what they’re planning to implement, there are definitely some big areas for improvement in Arena. Better duplicate protection sounds great, they’re finally getting better pioneer support and it sounds like adding multiplayer as well which would both be big boosts. Putting in Modern Horizons 3 from the start is also good if they ever pivot to actually having Modern down the road.
After the Omenpath and Dragonstorm arcs conclude, we kick off another arc with a redacted name. Volleyball kicks this off by taking us back in the direction of science fiction in Magic, this time taking us into space for the next setting. Described as “a space opera set,” expect Volleyball to have lots of aliens, planets, and probably spaceships.
Loxi: Kamigawa’s return had its critics, but ended up being pretty solid and was quite popular. I’m hopeful of this one and very hyped to hear more.
TheChirurgeon: I’m not a big Spelljammer guy but I can be brought around… I did love Treasure Planet. I’m not really sure what going into space actually buys Wizards for a Magic set – worlds can already be as weird and wild as they want, and they already struggle to show more than one or two settings per plane as-is. I’m interested to see if they do this without running into the Tatooine problem Star Wars has.
BPhillipYork: What even is this. Is it real sci-fi or just … yeah Spellmjammer, which would be kind of fine, and could even be interesting if it’s a way of overcoming the de-sparking thing or avoiding omen paths.
FromTheShire: I’m sure this will be fine as a set and the art will be incredible, but at first glance I’m hard pressed to think of something that feels like it diverges from regular Magic’s feel being included in a regular set.
After Volleyball is Wrestling, which sees us revisit a world we haven’t been back to in a long, long time – Llorwyn. Similar to Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, expect an entirely new twist on the world to help update things and make it more appealing to a larger audience after Llorwyn largely bombed.
TheChirurgeon: Interested to see what they do here. I liked Llorwyn OK but man was that block transition from Shadowmoor into Shards of Alara rough. I remember playing standard and thinking it absolutely did not matter what lands I drew in a given game. Wild times.
BPhillipYork: I’m assuming it’s also called Wrestling because this is when Universes Beyond: WWE will come out.
Yachting is currently in vision design and doesn’t have a mechanical identity yet, but sees us return to Arkavios, the home of the magical college of Strixhaven.
TheChirurgeon: Going back to Strixhaven seemed pretty certain given the set’s reception. Though for what it’s worth I think that’s less because people absolutely loved the school concept (though I think people generally liked it), and more because I think people just really love multicolor sets and guildlike mechanics.
The final set revealed on the roadmap is Ziplining, which is going to be the big giant finale of the current three-year arc, and will be a big event set similar to War of the Spark and March of the Machines. It will conclude the story kicking off in Wilds of Eldraine.
Loxi: I hope they hype this set up a lot, these story arcs should be a big deal and I love seeing the hype around when they start to unfold the universe with unique new things.
BPhillipYork: Given how badly they handled the end of a long Phyrexian invasion arc, it’ll be hilarious to see if they can actually close the deal this time or if every major character dies off-screen again.
FromTheShire: They haven’t handled one of these well yet in recent history but maybe third time’s the charm?
RagnarokAngel: It feels like a real mixed bag here but I suspect that’s the point: point out so many sets that you’ll hit a little something for everyone, if someone doesn’t like a set they can just come back around for the next one. I’m very excited for Final Fantasy most of all and need to start budgeting. At least I know I have like 2 years.
Loxi: Wizards hasn’t really stopped the product flood, but I think they’ve chosen a design route that makes sense. Each release seems to target a very different audience in tone and theme, so I think there will be a little something for everyone and players who are more casual might not feel as bad skipping some sets. It’s a diverse set of themes, but I am personally on board with magic branching out more from just classic high-fantasy. I have mixed feelings about dropping to a single planeswalker per set, but overall I think most of these releases have me itching to hear more, and that’s just the reaction they want from someone like me reading this news.
TheChirurgeon: Oh my god there’s so much content. And you know there’s going to be more weird bullshit in the middle of these. Some of these I’m very hype for, others I could leave, but yeah – that’s probably the point. I’m also not big on the reduction in Planeswalkers, but I also get that they need to step back after overdoing them for a couple of years now. I’m most excited for Final Fantasy, but having read Loxi’s and York’s comments I”m now wondering if Commander Deck releases are the “sweet spot” for these – it helps them focus a lot more than trying to build a full set that has to cover everything, and in the case of Final Fantasy, most of these worlds aren’t connected to begin with.
BPhillipYork: This release vision reeks of being written by people who don’t like Fantasy or Science Fiction or Horror but do have MBAs (disclosure: I have an MBA). To drive revenue they are dumping product on people non-stop, and trying to do cross-promotions with every IP they can sign a deal with, regardless of what this situation creates for long-term players of Magic (I think it will increasingly drive them to proxies). There’s a baffling variety of Universes Beyond properties, some of which fit well into magic and others which don’t, and the rapid pace of production means they can’t take the time to always create interesting new mechanics or tie-ins that actually create some kind of synergy between the IP and Magic. But as long as people keep buying out secret lairs the moment they are posted and mtgfinance bros keep treating cards as assets, I think Hasbro will just keep pumping stuff out. Outlaws of Thunder Junction is the only one of these sets I find really intriguing. I cast “number go up”, does it resolve?
That wraps up our look at the upcoming Magic releases for the next three years, sure to keep our authors on a grueling review cycle. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.