A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
I am a bit behind on getting this article up here on the site. I will posting the follow-up to this shortly afterward. I won’t spoil the outcome for you….
I am conducting an interesting experiment. If you haven’t already seen Kaldheim spoilers, then I invite you to not look at any. I have kept myself spoiler free for this set. I wanted to do this in order to share with you all what it is like to approach a set with no knowledge other than second-hand accounts, hearsay, and general hints from the Wizard’s marketing department. If you’ve already been devouring every spoiler and leak the minute it comes out, then I suggest you consider my notes on this and I would strongly recommend that you try it with the next standard set instead.
If you collected in the 90’s or even the early 2000’s, then you could easily have gone to a release tournament with almost zero knowledge of what cards were in the set. Those that were very ready for the limited format were usually studying lists and spoilers prior to event day, but the average player, which I assure you I was and still am, would end up being delighted by opening each pack and pouring over commons and uncommons while slowly getting to that sweet new rare. I still remember going through my Mercadian Masks sealed pool and coming across Two-Headed Dragon. That was a beast of a beauty in those days. I had a dragon deck of sorts with Shivan Dragons, Volcanic Dragons, a Crimson Hellkite, and Dragon Welps, but this Two-Headed Dragon was super exciting. Also, it was a bomb in limited. I easily flew into second place that day, but I assure you I was riding the wings of my never-before-seen Two-Headed Dragon. That experience was all the more memorable because I had never seen that card before. Years later I attended the Shards of Alara pre-release, and I had only the knowledge that it was a set with new mechanics. I didn’t even know what those mechanics were, but I opened another fiery bomb of a dragon—Predator Dragon. I proceeded to live the dream and flew on fiery wings all the way to the winner’s circle. It was a grand day, but it was so much more special to me, because the cards were all so surprising and fun. I mean I can picture exactly where I was when I opened that dragon. Local gaming stores are such wonderful memory makers! Anyway, my point is that sometimes it is great to leave a little mystery in your packs. I think that is part of the reason those Mystery booster packs were so much fun to open…it was mostly a mystery.
Collecting in the times of full spoilers and reveals is fun, but it does come at a cost. We lose the mystique and wonder of what is inside each pack. Sure, we know that we are getting big monsters when we open Ikoria packs. We know those packs come with some mechanics about mutating creatures into larger (or just more keyword heavy) monstrosities. Yet, once we know the set and the cards, then when we rip open a pack we never have that reveal or that moment when we stumble across something new. We don’t have that chance to pass the card to our friends and watch them read it in disbelief that such a thing exists. We often don’t have the opportunity to squabble over how exactly these new rules work (though that’s perhaps not a bad thing). As a collector in the 90’s this happened almost every time we sat down to play, and I assure you there were far fewer cards in those days. I remember reading a passage out of Johnny Magic and the Card Shark Kids that discussed one of Richard Garfield’s ideas for the game when he was first creating it. He wanted people to be able to stumble across new cards while playing each other, and have to figure out how to deal with unknowns in the context of the game. He thought it would be a good thing for everyone involved to be able to have new cards that no one knew about and be able to sling them back and forth with another. This is truly an amazing aspect of the game.
The surprise factor of the getting new cards, and being exposed to new cards is something that has virtually disappeared for me. There are a few sets that I’m not wholly familiar with, and so I do get to have these moments from time to time, and they are great! This is what has inspired me to try and recapture that surprise feeling. I love when I get destroyed by something new, and then I promptly put it on my acquisitions list to go buy or trade for it later on. I love seeing new cards and watching them work in action and then deciding to either combat them or pick them up myself. That is something that just doesn’t happen when you study every spoiler as it releases. I know, because I’ve been doing that for several sets now. The surprise factor disappears when you know each and every rare and mythic before you crack a single pack. Sure, the excitement of each card is enjoyed in the moment of its reveal. That surprise factor still happens, but the moment of discovery is removed from the pack, play, and overall collecting experience associated with Magic’s traditional distribution of packs. Buying a card as a single has always been possible, and so going to your LGS and finding the newest cards on sale and looking through the glass case at wild new cards is another way to harness the joy of discovery. Nothing replaces that nostalgic feeling of unearthing what you didn’t know you needed in the display areas of your LGS.
I don’t have anything against searching out spoilers. As I stated earlier, I have routinely reviewed, studied, and even speculated on spoilers in the past. I was living and breathing the spoilers for Commander Legends. My point and purpose is more that I want those of you that haven’t tried to experience a set without internet spoilers to try it out. It is really quite interesting. I think if there is no pre-release tournament scheduled, or release date events, then what have you got to lose? You can try experiencing something that just doesn’t happen anymore. You can discover new cards, play with them, build with them, and keep the whole experience as an in-person moment. Building memories and joy with your collection is an important aspect of acquisition. I am very much looking forward to sharing my experience with you, and I hope you are able to join me. Now, to be perfectly transparent, I’m still planning on preordering at least a booster box of this set. I mean, I love Norse mythology, and I loved that Theros plane both times. How can a Magic possibly disappoint me to a degree that I regret picking up some product? Exactly, I don’t think I’ll be regretting a blind purchase. However, if you’re tighter on budget you might find it interesting to note that most cards are actually cheapest a week or so after the release. So, all that spoiler speculation…well, it really is just speculation.
I’ll be sure to let everyone know how I feel about the experience afterwards, and give you the run down on the positives and negatives of the overall experiment. Spoiler season is a thing, and the very concept of that has waxed and waned over the years. In the past, I have embraced spoilers, but now I’m curious how things might be different if I choose not to hop on the hype train. The New Year is a time for reflecting and looking forward, and I feel that this little experiment is just one way in which I plan to do exactly that. Ironically, I’d like to close with a hint or spoiler for my next article. I am currently embarking on a new collector’s quest, and it’s a doozy. I’ll be a week or so into it by the time you read about it and the article is published, but I think you’ll all find it to be a little crazy and is totally worth watching.
-A Magictation by Mikeal Basile
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.