8, Sep, 21

Can We Reconsider Blocks In Magic: The Gathering?

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Article at a Glance

If you’ve only started playing Magic: The Gathering in the last three years or so, then you might not know that the double-feature of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow, used to be how MTG was released.

It used to be that we got to spend a bit of time with each plane before moving elsewhere, and that both Draft and Sealed would evolve into new but familiar versions of themselves every time the follow-up sets were released into a block. The loss of blocks has had a profound effect on MTG, and we’re not sure it’s all good.

What is a Block in Magic: The Gathering?

Blocks are how things used to be done. In the olden days, sets were released in groups of three. The first set would establish the lore, mechanics, and flavor, but then the next two would bolster those things. This meant that you’d effectively spend a full year on any given plane, and then one set each year would be a core set.

This changed in 2015 when things moved over to a two-set system with the likes of Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch. This was then changed again at the end of 2017, with the final block in MTG being the Ixalan one. This was because the second set being smaller led to some issues that Wizards didn’t like.

Things then moved onto what we have now, with one set per plane, or that would be the case were it not for Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, and War of the Spark. However, mechanically, the sets all differ greatly now, and that brings us to the new Innistrad unofficial block.

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Welcome back to a block, but just one

Now, we’re spending a bit more time on Innistrad, although the sets are coming out two months apart instead of three, but we’re also seeing Innistrad: Double Feature, which “combines select cards from two separate sets—Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow—into one unique draft experience featuring special art treatment on every card.”

Now, this is a very cool idea, undoubtedly, but is there any real reason this couldn’t have just been a normal block, in that case? Also, if we’re capable of having sets on the same plane without them having to be in a block, as per Guilds of Ravnica and friends, then could we not have spent more time on some of these planes?

While it’s nice to have a mix of flavors and mechanics that keep coming, it’s also left us with some mechanics that don’t feel fully explored, and planes that are interesting, but probably not going to be seen again. We can’t help but wonder if it’s something we should be going back to.

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Should we go back?

Now, we’re not saying we should go back to the block structure as such, but we really do miss spending a bit longer on each of the planes. You don’t even have to make the sets that necessarily can be drafted together, although this Innistrad: Double Feature idea is incredibly cool. Instead, it would just be nice to get to spend more time on the pretty wonderful new planes we’ve been exploring since leaving Ixalan in 2017.

One of the reasons that Magic feels so hectic is because there are so many new products all of the time, but part of that is also because each new product is separate. Tying some of them together using the block format helps make things feel a bit slower, and it also offers a chance to continue exploring some of the more interesting mechanics like mutate, learn, and foretell.

It feels a lot like Wizards of the Coast is still experimenting with whether or not blocks are worthwhile, and if they can be done in an interesting way. While we already know that the sets next year aren’t on the same planes, it would be interesting to see whether or not the reception to our return to Innistrad informs things over the coming years, and maybe we’ll see a return to blocks in some form. Sure, it would have been nice to spend a little longer on Kaldheim and Strixhaven, but we’re already excited about next year’s bunch too, so knowing we’ll get more from each would be wonderful.

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