Throughout its nearly 30 years of history, it’s safe to say that MTG has been through a lot of changes. Despite players’ love for the good ol’ days, these changes aren’t exclusively a bad thing, however. New formats, mechanics, and cards are required to keep a game alive and evolving throughout its decades-long lifespan, after all. While vital to the game’s overall health, each new MTG mechanic isn’t always positively received by MTG’s opinionated player base.
One such MTG mechanic from Unfinity, for instance, Stickers, was widely condemned by the community due to its bold design. While they facilitate a lot of fun, many past Un-Set mechanics have similarly seen a hostile reaction from players. Despite this, however, some Un-Set mechanics have risen beyond their station to become actual MTG premier set mechanics. Following a recent reveal by MTG’s Lead Designer, it appears another Un-Set mechanic might be the promotion to a real mechanic soon enough.
Exile B’ Gone
As pointed out by Tumblr user Dailynator, MTG’s exile zone is being used for a lot more than it was initially intended for these days. First introduced in 1994’s The Dark set, the Exile mechanic was originally fairly self-explanatory. Written as “remove it from the game,” this mechanic did just that, removing cards from the game so they couldn’t be interacted with. Since the graveyard can be a recourse for many decks, this ability allowed for a more permanent removal solution. This effect has remained a constant, even following the mechanics renaming to Exile in the Magic 2010 rules update.
Long before being renamed in 2010, being removed from the game didn’t just mean removal. First introduced in 2002’s Torment set, the Madness mechanic allowed cards to be cast from the Exile zone. Rather than being traditionally discarded, Madness cards would instead be removed from the game before a triggered ability allowed you to play the card again. As Wizards states, this happened “the next time you get a chance to play an instant.” Subsequently, Madness cards were only removed from the game very briefly. However, the zone was nevertheless used as a holding zone.
After first testing the waters with Madness, Wizards steadily made the Exile zone more of a temporary holding zone. 2003’s Mirrodin, for instance, introduced the Imprint mechanic, which cared about cards that’d been removed from the game. Death-Mask Duplicant, for instance, gained keyword abilities from cards that were Exiled by Imprint. While technically still removed from the game in the Exile zone, Imprint ensured players couldn’t forget about removed cards entirely. Subsequently, as well as being steadfast removal, Exile became a ubiquitous holding zone that would come to be used by mechanics such as Fortell, Adventure, and Suspend.
Exile 2 Electric Boogaloo
As a zone effectively outside of the game, Exile is a handy tool for players are Wizards alike. As Wizards highlighted themselves, it keeps cards “safe from your opponent’s tricks.” This ensures that the cards you Suspend stay Suspended until the time is right. While this introduces the threat of an unstoppable ticking clock, this effect ultimately isn’t too fun to play against since you can’t interact with it. This has been a feature of the Exile zone since it was first introduced, however, that may be changing.
Taking to Blogatog, Tumblr user Dailynator highlighted how “the exile zone [is] being used more these days.” Subsequently, due to its rising prevalence, Dailynator asked, “is there any chance that we will see something similar to ‘this card can’t be put in the exile zone’ on a card in the next five years?” Responding to this question, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, revealed that Wizards has already thought about this idea. “We’ve had the ability in design files, but it’s yet to make it to print. I assume we’ll do it eventually,” Rosewater stated.
As an idea for a single card, the “this card can’t be put in the exile zone” isn’t too revolutionary. New mechanics, however, are rarely implemented for just one card. Subsequently, “this card can’t be put in the Exile zone” could be the start of a slippery slope that results in cards being taken out of Exile at any point. This hypothetical mechanic would obviously mark a huge change in the fundamentals of the Exile zone. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being able to interact with your opponent is fun, after all. However, if this Exile B Gone mechanic was introduced, the question remains; where would exiled Exiled cards go?
To try and understand how this could work, Tumblr user Harbingerofsorrow raised the question to Mark Rosewater. Asking, “any chance we could see, […] ‘Exile target card in Exile,’” Harbingerofsorrow tapped into the root of the problem. Earning the response “what does this mean?” from Rosewater, it’s clear this hypothetical new mechanic isn’t without its eccentricities. After all, as Rosewater highlighted, it doesn’t make sense to “put a card in the zone that it’s already in.” Instead, to facilitate this potential mechanic, MTG would likely need a new removed from the game Exile zone. Thankfully, Magic already has one.
Introduced in 2004’s Unhinged, AWOL ushered in the “absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever zone.” While its name is obviously a little bit silly, this extra Exile zone could provide a lot of utility. It would be a place to put cards that have been removed from Exile, for instance, or the home of mechanics Wizards really doesn’t want players interacting with. While the absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever zone would open up the Exile zone, it wouldn’t necessarily be safe from the same fate. It may take another 20 years, however, should the absolutely-removed-from-the-freaking-game-forever zone become another holding zone, players may understandably want to interact with it. Should Wizards give the players what they want, this may require another even more Exiled zone to be created, starting the cycle anew.
Only Time Will Tell
Ultimately, while un-Exileable cards have been considered, there’s no telling what Wizards will actually implement into MTG in the future. Similarly to countless past scrapped mechanics, interacting with the Exile zone may be too troublesome for its own good. Subsequently, while interesting, the concept may never exist beyond its limited appearance in AWOL. Whether or not that’s the case, however, we’ll just have to wait and see, as there’s no telling what the future will hold.