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.
So, I’m in a weird place, and I don’t think I’m alone on this. This Stranger Things Secret Lair is just strange. I’m not incensed or riled up over, but oddly concerned. To be things in context, I didn’t care all that much back when The Walking Dead was getting a secret lair. Likewise, I don’t care that Stranger Things is getting one either. I recall everyone getting all bent out of shape over the “mechanically unique cards” that Walking Dead would bring. It was an uproar that was, like most Magic community uproars, mostly loud complainers making smoke over things the rest of us didn’t much worry about. Or, maybe it did matter? I’m not 100% sure. Well, Wizards listened and they have promised to print these “mechanically unique cards” in the Stranger Things Secret Lair with new names that are otherwise mechanically the same. I guess that fine with me. I don’t mind, but I see a couple issues with doing this, so let’s get into it.
When The Walking Dead secret lair came out I wasn’t horrified by the concept. I didn’t really mind it. This was also very close to the same time that the Godzilla skinned cards came out. I distinctly remember many people screaming about how that Godzilla treatment was the way to go, and that this Walking Dead thing was an utter disgrace. I didn’t feel quite as strongly about it, but I see a clear point there. Having a “skin” on the card that also makes it functionally the same as the Magic name for it allows people to feel like they can play the same thing, but also have access to a premium version. That’s pretty cool. I personally loved the Godzilla cards—I’ve seen all the movies…yes, even that one…twice! I personally figured Wizards was throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. Well, The Walking Dead cards stuck in everyone’s craw, and that’s about it. Meanwhile, the Godzilla cards seemed to a perfect blend of an original non-magic intellectual property being represented by a Magic card. One would think this should lead to a series of events with future Secret Lairs. Basically, future secret lairs would most likely adopt the skin method. Well, logic has failed to worm its way into the most secret of lairs yet again.
Let’s look at the fix. The Stranger Things cards will be printed as Magic-verse cards as well. The Magic versions will have different names, and so one might think that these cards are just like the Godzilla cards. The title bar treatment is not going to happen, so it won’t be seen as easily in front of you either. This seems like a clear miss. However, I have another issue with whole thing. They say you can play up to copies of these card in a normal deck, but these aren’t built for competitive play. Now that we have seen the actual cards I have to wonder why on earth these aren’t receiving a special treatment akin to the Godzilla skinned cards.
The plan is to have these Magic versions show up on “The List” reprints to help people gain access to them, but how does that exactly fix this issue? From my understanding this is all going to fix the issue of people getting mechanically unique cards from an exclusive Secret Lair Drop by making them an extremely rare drop in very few packs? Huh, interesting choice…apparently printing another card, with a new name, but the same abilities will allow for this to all be smoothed over in several months when the actual set that these cards are releasing in is printed and distributed. Well, I can wait like others, so I guess it’s not horrible. However, it’s just not great. I honestly expected better from Wizards. I really think it’s the best game ever made, and I am surprised when gaffs like this are made twice.
Furthermore, how does it work if we have two legends with different names that are mechanically identical, have friends forever, and somehow enact the legendary rule!? There have been tweaks to the legend rules in the past, but I’m fairly certain that this literally breaks the legend rule. It doesn’t set up a state that ignores it like Mirror Gallery, but instead makes the rule void. I’m curious to see if this issue is somehow going to be addressed, but when I look at the templates of these cards I don’t see how there’s literally enough space to address this issue. I hope that I’m wrong, and that there will somehow be a clear way to show these as being obvious duplicates of the Stranger Things versions. I just wish I didn’t have to hope.
When I think about this future solution I am surprised, again, that cards that are geared towards Commander players and collectors will be duplicated later on. The duplication with alternative names and functionally identical parts is something that I imagine collectors and tournament players having no issues with. In the case of collectors they get what they want, and tournament players, by nature, are familiar with many of the nuisances associated with the rules. Casual players, which are most Commander crowds, tend to rely on reading the cards and interpreting them based on their knowledge of the rules. Talk about being slapped in the face for knowing rules, but being denied the ability to intelligently affect said rules. This is akin to damage stacking with Morphling, using counters on Time Vault, or even pinning up your cards whenever someone plays a Chaos Orb. Hopefully, this is all for naught as Wizards has a clever, as yet unseen, trick to fix this without confusing rules additions and such. Hopefully, my faith in their ability to make the greatest products is rewarded…hopefully.
When I look at the cards as they are now, and I consider that they are actually pretty neat, then I can’t help but wonder why Eleven, the Mage can’t be BFF’s with the Magic version of itself. I can totally see people doing something like this as we can certainly include copies of cards like Master of the Pearl Trident and Lord of Atlantis in the same deck. Granted, those are not legendary, but when we consider planeswalkers—we can run multiple Nicol Bolas planeswalkers as long as they have different names. So, again, names matter. Names matter for Magic as a fundamental rules concept, and those names matter a ton for flavor concepts as well. The Ultimate Nightmare of Wizards of the Coast Customer Service may actually be coming true—cards that have names that break the rules of the game. I hate to be so doomy and gloomy, because I’m usually such a company man. Seriously, I hope this shakes out well in the end, and until then, may the cards be ever in your favor my friends forever!