Sometimes, people have strong feelings about things that ultimately make very little difference. When it comes to internet chatter, there’s a disconnect between when somebody says they “hate” something, and when they meant to say they “would have preferred something slightly different.”
The truth is, there are billions of people, and it is basically impossible for anybody to please everybody all of the time. Well, unless you are Radiohead, because I feel like Radiohead consistently pleases 99% of the people 99% of the time.
When it comes to Magic, there are so many people who enjoy so many different aspects of the gaming or collecting experience that designing cards that will make as many people happy as possible is a tricky business.
I’m pretty open minded about where the Magical journey takes me. I’m not really looking for anything specific, and I don’t feel let down when the game throws me a curveball. More than anything I hope to be surprised and want my gaming experience to be fun and interesting. The reason I’ve stuck with Magic since elementary school is that the game puts out a quality product that I like to spend my time playing.
I’ve always been a big fan of ancient Egyptian mythology and art, and I’m really excited to see Magic explore this landscape in the upcoming Amonkhet expansion. I’m a sucker for Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy. I’m hoping the flavor will ring true in the way that the 1994 Arabian Nights expansion did.
With that being said, let’s take a quick look at the new Masterpiece series that goes along with Amonket. Here’s a spicy example of what they are going to look and feel like:
Aside from the obvious, which is that I really hope to crack one of these in a pack, let’s talk about the aesthetics.
Wizards of the Coast has already said that Masterpieces are here to stay and that they want these premium cards to reflect the overall flavor of the block. In my opinion, the Amonkhet Masterpieces capture that flavor well. The hieroglyphics are a nice touch and re-imagining the artwork of these iconic cards into an Egyptian setting is distinctive.
The biggest complaint about these cards is that the font is difficult to read or that they don’t look like Magic cards. I can identify with these criticisms, but I’m not going to let them spoil my fun.
If I had to pick one thing I would improve about Masterpieces it would be to make them more easily identifiable as the kind of card they are. Zendikar Expeditions and Kaladesh Inventions sort of fall into a strange gold/brown area where they don’t particularly strike me as being lands or artifacts, but rather have a “different promo” quality that defines the overall aesthetic.
On the other hand, I understand that Wizards also wants to make these promos distinctive. They are the flagship promos from a new set and they need to stand out.
I really appreciate that the Amonkhet Invocations have the color stripes along the side of the card to signify their color affiliation. This is a big step forward from the previous two series. While the cards are still overwhelmingly brown and grey, the splash of color is a nice touch.
I also appreciate the subtle rainbow color fade stripe that runs across the top of the card. It’s a sharp choice and makes the card face pop. Each different color spell has a different three-layered stripe that corresponds to the color affiliation. I think that finding a balance between maintaining the overall “Masterpiece” theme and bringing in color identity is a home run on these cards.
I particularly like the look of the black cards. The trio of black, grey, and white stripe across the top creates a striking effect.
I also kind of wonder if Mind Twist getting a reprint signifies that it might be getting unbanned in Legacy. They could have brought this card back a long time ago, and I would love to see it in the mix.
The other major complaint, the difficult font mixed with hieroglyphs, is something that people are either going to love or hate. I’m not sure there is much room for common ground here. Personally, I love that these promos look so different than other promos that we’ve seen before.
Wizards is obviously taking a risk and doing something outside the box here. My snap reaction was that it was kind of annoying that it was a little difficult to figure out exactly what the new cards were and had to spend a few seconds deciphering them. But I don’t think this will be much of an issue when it comes to actual game play.
For starters, lots of players (myself included) like to personalize their decks with foreign language cards. I think they look cool. I had a friend explain to me that when the brain can’t process the symbols (as is the case with an unknown language), it sort of disregards the characters on the cards and focuses more on the artwork. Which really makes the pictures pop out more than if it were an English card where I can read the text. I don’t know if that is true, but I do enjoy my foreign language cards.
With that in mind, I think the card name and type being slightly more difficult to read probably won’t make much difference one way or the other. I mean, I assume that my opponent is going to announce that Force of Will is being cast and I’ll understand what it going on. I don’t expect that my opponent is going to place a FOW on the table without saying anything and I’m going to be like, “these hieroglyphs are so confusing and I can’t figure out what is going on! JUDGE!”
“Judge, my opponent’s card is just a bunch of emojis. What do I do now?”
The thing I like about these unique and outside-the-box fonts and presentations is that it shows Wizards of the Coast is willing to take some risks and chances to create a more unique gaming experience.
All things considered, these Masterpieces could have looked exactly like the previous two cycles and nobody would have batted an eye. They could have played it safe and people might have complained a little less. With great risk comes great reward. I enjoy when Wizards does something unexpected. I’ve been playing for 20+ years and I’m always happy to be surprised. It says a lot that after all these years that Wizards still finds ways to explore new territory.
With that being said, I’m most excited about:
“So many choices, including: which one to play in Danger Room! Wish I had the luxury to choose two!”
Since these cards are so distinctive I’m excited to add at least one to my Danger Room stack. I’m more of a fan of the old versions of cards like Counterspell and Chain Lightning (not going to replace old-card face Beta with a Masterpiece, #oldschool) but I’m pretty stoked about Austere Command. I like the new art and will be excited to add it to the mix.
I play a little bit of Danger Room with friends who don’t keep up with Magic anymore, and I’m excited to see the expression on their face when they draw this Egyptian Masterpiece and say, “What in the world is up with this card!”
Any time you can create a moment like that in gaming, it means you’re on the right track.
I’m really enjoying these cards. How about you? Thumbs up or thumbs down on Amonkhet Invocations?