18, Sep, 23

MTG Joke Product Playability May Be in Danger

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Ever since Unglued launched in 1998, Un-Sets have occupied an unusual space within the vast world of MTG. On the one hand, each comedy-focused Un-Set has been a delight for MTG players, filled with novelty and fun galore. On the other hand, however, these unique and interesting cards are totally unplayable outside of a Limited or casual environment.

For better or worse, this was all thanks to the series’ silver border which clearly communicated its legality. Throughout three sets and almost twenty years, this feature remained a constant up until the release of Unfinity. Reviving Un-Sets after a five-year hiatus, Unfinity hoped to reinvent the genre with eternal legal black-bordered cards. One year on, however, this revelatory feature isn’t exactly beloved.

The End of an Era?

Last Voyage of the _____ | Unfinity

Even before Unfinity launched in late 2022, the set was already being lambasted by skeptical players. Doubting the eternal legal and Acorn card concept, as well as the set’s mechanics, it was no surprise many players were put off by change. Once the set was released, however, Unfinity seemed like any other Un-Set, just a momentary flash in the pan.

While a few Unfinity cards did make the rounds in Legacy, Unfinity had a rather dismal reception. Rather than heralding the end of MTG as we know it, the set simply faded into obscurity remarkably quickly. This may have had something to do with the set’s incredibly poor sales performance, which didn’t match the hype.

Disappointingly for Un-Set fans, Unfinity’s lackluster reception seemingly killed the franchise’s future. Demoting the series from a “When” to an “If 🙁“ there’s now no telling if we’ll get another set. Looking at future release calendars, we’re not getting one until post-2025 at the earliest. Despite this, however, it seems not all MTG players have given up on Un-Sets entirely.

Acorn Card Animosity

Katerina of Myra's Marvels | Unfinity

Over the weekend, MTG player and Tumblr user Mustangmagician took to Blogatog to ask Mark Rosewater about future Un-Sets. Keeping hope for the series alive, Mustangmagician questioned if Acorn cards were a success, about about their ratio in Un-Sets going forward. If we are to get another Un-Set, this is surely to be a hugely divisive factor in their reception and success.

Unfortunately, Rosewater didn’t exactly answer either of these questions. Instead, they turned the question around on their community, asking “What ratio would fans of Un-sets like?” Responding to this call to action, as Question Marks often do, players flocked to share their opinions. From this, it’s clear there’s still a lot of resentment toward the feature.

While far from the only opinion being voiced, several players had a very strong reaction to the possibility of more eternal legal Un-cards. Tescrin, for instance, stated they want “0%” to be eternal legal going forward. “Seeing ‘borky the space dog’ in Legacy with dice rolling deciding competitive tables is lame.”

As a frustration heard time and time again, it was no surprise to see this sentiment repeated throughout the comments. That being said, however, not everyone was so negative toward the idea of more eternal legal cards existing. In the comments, numerous players such as Ledlighton suggested a 50/50 ratio being agreeable. Others, meanwhile, stated that Wizards should just design a fun set, and see what works.

Ultimately, it’s tough to draw conclusions from the responses to Rosewater’s question. Not only are opinions mixed on Acorn cards, but there were only so many responses. While these do reveal some player sentiment, the 30 comments from players hardly represent the entire MTG community. Nevertheless, it seems Wizards isn’t dead set on the future of Acorn cards.

The Buffet’s Fun Course

A Good Day to Pie | Unfinity

While the comments to Rosewater’s latest reverse question might not be conclusive, there is an easy answer. Of course, Acorn cards and eternal legal Un-Set cards should exist in tandem in future sets. As much as it may sound like it, this isn’t just propaganda from an Un-Set enjoyer. Instead, this follows Wizards of the Coast’s recent design philosophy.

Typically described as the buffet model, this design philosophy aims to please as many different players as possible. To achieve this, Wizards is happy to create cards, features, and formats that some players hate, as others love them. Whether you love or hate Alchemy, Acorn Cards, or Universes Beyond there’s no denying that this approach works.

To see proof of this, you only need to look at EDHREC’s set breakdown. Here, you can see that thousands of players have built enjoyable decks using Unfinity cards. While players could still and do, do this with non-eternal legal cards, it’s nonetheless a barrier to entry. As much as it may exist in Commander, not everyone wants every game they play to be dramatically Rule Zero-ed.

Alongside this clear positive for keeping eternal legal Un-Set cards around, there’s not really any downside. Sure, some MTG players may not like seeing Space Beleren or Captain Rex Nebula on the battlefield, but the same is true about countless cards. I might not like seeing my opponent play Counterspell but that doesn’t mean the card shouldn’t exist.

With this in mind, just as with the rest of the buffet metaphor, eternal legal Un-Set cards are just another option. If you want to eat and play with them, you’re more than welcome to. Should you not be a fan, however, you simply don’t have to play with these cards yourself.

The Wait Continues

"Lifetime" Pass Holder | Unfinity

Ultimately, as much as it may be for the better that Un-Sets keep getting eternal legal MTG cards, there has to be another one first. At the moment, this is no sure thing thanks to the sales disappointment of Unfinity. Hopefully, in the future, player demand can increase to a point that Wizards can safely greenlight another. When that will be, however, remains to be seen.

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