Throughout the 30 years of MTG’s development, it’s safe to say Wizards of the Coast has created a lot of mechanics. From vanilla creatures to the remarkably problematic Hexproof, and even Stickers, there has been no end of innovations. For better or worse, however, it seems Wizards of the Coast is still keeping a lid on things somewhat.
Rather than just letting the genie out of the bottle, some mechanics are just a step too far for Magic. This seems to be the case for MTG mechanics that introduce extra decks, such as Attractions and Contraptions. Despite their immense potential, and support from MTG’s lead designer, these novel mechanics won’t be returning anytime soon. Well, not to a premier MTG set at least.
Playable, But Not Really
To date, technically, extra deck mechanics have never made their way into a premier MTG set. The closest we’ve come to that was Steamflogger Boss from Future Sight back in 2007. As one of the timeshifted cards, Steamflogger Boss included a reference to a mechanic not yet printed in MTG: Contraptions.
Ten years later, in Unstable, Contraptions would finally be realized by Wizards of the Coast. Appearing in an Un-Set, Contraptions aren’t playable in any format, however, they have every right to be. Unlike other Un-Set mechanics which utilize information from outside of the game or push boundaries, Contraptions are entirely playable.
Admittedly, Contraptions are a rather confusing mechanic that takes a good deal of time to get used to. That being said, however, the design space Contraptions open up is well worth the five minutes of confusion they create. Allowing for an extra 15-card deck of somewhat random options, this mechanic is both rewarding and interesting.
Despite the potential for being a great time all around, Contraptions have yet to be made black-bordered. The same is not true, however, for Attractions. Arriving in Unfinity, Attractions played into a similar design space by potentially providing decks with novel value. Thanks to the use of dice rolling, Attractions admittedly feel more like an Un-Set mechanic, however, they’re nonetheless playable.
Despite the playability of these mechanics, however, Wizards of the Coast has steered clear of them in premier sets. For better or worse, it seems that past precedent will continue. According to Mark Rosewater, extra deck mechanics are as high as they could be on the Storm Scale.
Disappointing, but Probably for the Better
In case you don’t read the Storm Scale like gospel every night, the Storm Scale is a ranking of how likely mechanics are to appear in Premier Sets. Made by Mark Rosewater, this list doesn’t take into account future information and is only their opinion, however, it’s nonetheless a useful barometer. Thanks to this, it’s rather disappointing to hear that extra deck mechanics are now ranked at a ten on the Storm Scale.
Up there with Storm, Voting, Fear, and Cumulative Upkeep, these mechanics are practically destined to never return. In fact, by Mark Rosewater’s own explanation, “I never say never, but this would require a major miracle.” With this in mind, we can consider these mechanics, as well as extra decks, pretty much off-limits for Premier Sets.
Considering the immense potential that extra decks have, this is definitely a disappointing development. Judging by a follow-up Blogatog response, it seems Rosewater feels the same way. Stating that “it’s “a space that I think Magic should explore,” it’s clear there are untapped design ideas just waiting to be explored.
Despite the potential for fun and interesting gameplay, it’s probably for the better that extra decks don’t become commonplace within MTG. As Rosewater went on to note, extra decks are “not a great fit for premier sets/tournament play.” While Rosewater didn’t elaborate, this is likely due to the massive jump in logistical complexity.
Not only do extra deck mechanics require a lot of learning, but carrying, shuffling, and dealing with an extra deck is a lot of faff. Thanks to this, it’s probably for the better that they’re connected to Un-Sets, where logistical complexity is part of the charm.
Wizards Should Make Them Anyway
While there are definitely good reasons why Wizards shouldn’t make premier set extra deck mechanics, I kind of want them to. As mentioned before, extra decks have an immense amount of potential within MTG. As Attractions have proved, they can even be viable in competitive formats, regardless of if that’s a good thing.
At the end of the day, one of the greatest things about MTG is that you can choose what you want to play. If you want to play control, aggro, or any other archetype, you’re welcome to do that. Should a premier Set extra deck mechanic be printed, this would simply become another archetype to play and interact with.
While competitive formats will always trend toward the best decks, unlike Commander, there are still choices to make. Subsequently, if you don’t want to play with a hypothetical extra deck deck, then you don’t have to. Sure, you might still have to play against it, but the same is true for all mechanics in MTG. You might hate your spells being countered, for instance, but that doesn’t mean that blue shouldn’t exist.
Beyond extra decks being another tool within Wizards’ design arsenal, they needn’t be unfathomably confusing. In fact, should these mechanics appear digitally, there needn’t be any confusion at all. On MTG Arena, for instance, the digital client would be able to handle all the shuffling, randomization, and busy work. In theory, this would allow a mechanic like Contraption to simply be a mechanic.
Ultimately, it’s not up to us whether or not extra decks become part of any premier set in the future. That honor, instead, falls upon Wizards, and they’ve seemingly made up their mind already.
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