Almost every American grows up playing, watching, or being inconvenienced by baseball. It’s just one of those staples that, like it or not, you end up familiar with. Ask any sport-hating nerd and he’ll be able to rattle off the basic rules of the game quickly. He may not enjoy baseball, but it don’t matter.
As far as Magic 2014 is concerned, Wizards of the Coast believed if they built it, players would come. And though the stadium’s not particularly glamorous, fans of the 20-year pastime will be returning this season, albeit with less excitement than in seasons past.
When new Magic: the Gathering sets come out, it’s not uncommon for gamers to pore over each card, singling out bombs that will redefine Standard, or old favorites that’ve finally been reprinted. Things like Thragtusk in Magic 2013 or every dual-type land in every core set ever. They’re usually chase rare/mythic cards that players unilaterally (and often rightly) believe their decks need in order to compete. You know… home runs.
Magic 2014 doesn’t really have a lot of that kind of wow factor. Where previous sets had Lightning Bolt or even Searing Spear, M14 gets Shock. Sure, there’s a new Chandra, but she kind of sucks, and most of her planeswalker buddies are uninspired reprints of yesteryear. This year’s nonbasic lands (all three of them) are okay, I guess.
But that’s basically the problem. Throughout Magic 2014, the majority of the cards, especially when compared to last year’s crop, just don’t have that “gotta open another pack” allure. It feels as though many of the card designs were intentional walks by Wizards’ pitching lineup. “I’m kind of tired of making cards… how about we just print some color-hate and leave at the bottom of the sixth?”
The occasional double play
There are certainly interesting cards in Magic 2014, don’t get me wrong. Spellslingers are creaming themselves over Young Pyromancer, and everyone who secretly wept at Baneslayer Angel’s funeral is jumping for joy at the prospect of piloting an Archangel of Thune. Slivers are back, too, and while they’re not exactly as you remember them, there’s enough nostalgia present to make up for the fact that their uniforms look a little different than last time.
Something that stands out in M14 for me is the huge reliance on Johnny-style “build around me” cards. These are tricky, not-particularly-competitive singletons with strange effects that practically beg eccentric players to use them.
Blue landed Dismiss Into Dream, a card that could theoretically make your opponents’ creatures (and other stuff, if you’re inventive) disappear at the next sneeze. Angelic Accord laughs at people who laugh at lifegain, and Bogbrew Witch tutors a hilarious little combo directly into play. These cute bonuses are kind of like going to the stadium on bobblehead day. Even if you don’t like baseball, hey… free bobblehead!
Shelling out season tickets?
Whether or not a free bobblehead is enough to entice you, I can’t say. For me, Magic 2014 is going to have value, but primarily in the form of buying or trading singles. Purchasing whole packs doesn’t seem like a good return on investment (especially with so many reprints), and a limited scene that includes slivers doesn’t really strike my fancy.
The rest of the cards, minus chase rares, are just too plentiful to drool over. Sure, I’d love to get a few Young Pyromancers, but I already have hundreds of Shocks, Giant Growths, and Spell Blasts.
Seriously, I could build a tree fort out of Spell Blasts.
As such, Magic 2014 is probably best for new players who need to stock up on gameplay staples. They’ll find plenty of burn, weenies, and other color-aligned shenanigans in this year’s set. As for me, I think I’ll get more value by grabbing the one-to-four cards I need as I need them, and leave the pack-opening to fans who decide to stick it out for all nine innings.