Magic product has gone through many iterations, which has led to a lot of change, especially in recent years. More product has been released in the past few years than the rest of Magic’s history. With plenty of change, however, comes some older formulas lost to time. The Core Set has been a part of Magic’s release schedule for years, yet the last MTG Core Set we received was back in 2020. Recent chatter from MTG Designer Mark Rosewater suggests that this is very likely to be the last Core Set MTG ever sees.
No More MTG Core Sets
MTG designer Mark Rosewater is asked, potentially, hundreds of questions by MTG fanatics daily on his Blogatog over on Tumblr. Of the many questions asked daily, a user by the name of moonsliceman inquired about the fate of the Core Set, which has not seen a release in almost three years:
“I miss Core sets a lot more than the block model. Is there any issue with doing them once every other year? I’m imagining a Magic: Origins that basically does housekeeping; you wrap up or expand on the stories of each of the past Standard’s sets and re-imagine the last two years of mechanics to look forward into the following two years. You’d get a consistent entry point to the Magic brand without making too many entry sets and do some wish fulfillment in Commander or multicolor legends ahead of a return.”moonsliceman
Core Sets, basically, were sets that focused on a lot of simplified keywords instead of introducing new, complicated abilities. These sets aimed to create an easily accessible entry point for new MTG players where they could learn the rules and basic keywords like Lifelink and Haste without running into more complicated non-evergreen keywords like Phasing. This may lead to more bland gameplay for established players, but Core sets didn’t sleep in the power level department either.
Core Set 2020 introduced some incredible new playable cards like Field of the Dead, Aether Gust, and the infamous Veil of Summer. These shook various formats to their core, causing some of these offenders to be banned in Modern and Pioneer. A Redditor lists off some other valuable cards that can be found in MTG’s most recent Core Sets:
“Core set 2021 was FIRE.
So many good reprints and new cards.
Terror of the peaks pushing $50, $15 on release
Chromatic orrey pushing $30 , $12 on release
Heroic intervention was $6 on release back to $15
Grim tutor reprint brought the price down.
Elder gargaroth $15 , $5 on release
Fiery emancipation $30 , $15 on release
Asuza reprint $10
Just a few of the big hits”Neatnifty
This is strong proof that Core Sets can still introduce incredibly powerful cards while creating an environment tailored to helping new players learn the game. With that in mind, what’s the issue?
No One Wants To Buy Core Sets
According to Mark Rosewater, Wizards of the Coast no longer creating Core Sets are not doing the best in the sales department. Players don’t seem interested in purchasing Core Sets:
“The core problem of core sets is not enough Magic players want to buy them.” – Mark Rosewater
One of the most common phrases we’ve heard and repeated, from Mark Rosewater over the years is that “success breeds repetition.” With that in mind, Core Sets being less successful financially is a pretty big reason for why they won’t return.
When discussing this point on Reddit, players were quick to point out that Core Set 2021 came out at the peak of the Covid lockdown, which would have had disastrous implications for paper MTG sales:
“It came out in the summer of 2020 when much of the world was in lockdown, so sales could have been low for reasons unrelated to its quality as a Magic set.”bbbsssjjj
As has been mentioned repetitively by Wizards of the Coast, the remnants of the Pandemic affected their supply chains for years afterwards. Many of the delays with MTG products this past year had problems allocated to that cause.
Notably, MTG players weren’t playing a lot of paper Magic during the lockdown because they couldn’t. Any gathering points for people outside their families were shut down, so players had nowhere to play Magic outside their own households. While friends and family in the same circle could still play Commander amongst themselves, no paper events were happening – making it so there were fewer elements driving card sales.
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According to Redditors discussing Rosewater’s recent quote, Core Sets also had a pretty underwhelming Limited experience attached to their names:
“I remember this set well and it was terribly unbalanced. I completely dominated a couple of FNMs with blue-white artifacts because it was kind of bad but was always wide open while everyone fought over boros aggro. The artifacts were only playable because of the artifacts matters cards.
At common Gearsmith prodigy Aviation Pioneer Gearsmith Guardian Manalith Skyscanner Marauder’s Axe
At uncommon Skilled animator Meteor Golem Rogue’s gloves Aerial engineer
At rare One with the Machine Sai, Master Thopterist
At mythic Tezzeret, Artifice Master
I just used all the common blue and white auras/removal/unblockable to tempo the win. I remember this specifically because I was taking care of my dad after he had gotten out of the hospital. I drafted damn near the same deck or 3 weeks in a row to a 1st, 1st and 2nd place finish. What a generally bad but good-for-me set.”getsthepplgoing
While some do not remember the Limited formats from Core sets with much enthusiasm, others loved how easily accessible the formats were due to a lack of technical abilities to make things more complicated:
“i REALLY hope core sets come back. For me, Core sets are like fundamental for magic. All the super highly anticipated sets are complex, and “hard” to draft and play.
To be honest, i enjoy drafting and playing core sets alot. They are fun, easy and of course easy to learn for beginners.
the best entry was always and will always be a core set! Jumpstart is amazing, but there is no real draft experience to .. join the gathering it should be!” – OnikumaAT
Another point brought up by Redditors is a lack of a setting. Most Standard-legal MTG sets will have some setting attached with a story, but the Core Sets never really had that going for them:
“People* don’t want to buy them because sets without settings aren’t as good as sets with settings. Having some kind of lore helps the designers come up with compelling designs, and it makes each card just a little bit more interesting.
That’s why the best core set was Origins. If core sets ever come back, I hope they follow the ORI model for them.
If you’re reading this and you’re not sure what I mean, head over to Scryfall and compare the cards in ORI to the cards in MXX. The set where a generic Man-o-War is Separatist Voidmage is just more appealing than the set where it’s Exclusion Mage.
*I’m talking about myself here”sanctaphrax
Magic Origins introduced the novel Flip-walkers that dominated an era of competitive MTG. This mechanic, which may be returning soon, added an element of lore to what is usually a set void of any. While no particular plane was being explored, the background of central MTG characters like Liliana, Jace, and Chandra was explored instead. This allowed for a lore that many of the other Core Sets did not have, including the two most recent Core Sets released 3-4 years ago before that product was discontinued.
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Are Core Sets Just Boring, Or Are They Underestimated?
The penultimate feedback against Core Sets for many MTG players is simply that it’s boring. This is juxtaposed by how easily accessible the set is combined with how valuable many of the cards included in recent Core Sets have become.
For whatever reason, whether it was the boring gameplay, the lack of a setting, or unfortunate timing, Core Sets weren’t meeting their quota, so they got cut. Jumpstart remains a product tailored to introduce newcomers to MTG in a way that is, perhaps, even more, friendly to new players than the Core Sets were. If Limited were the ideal format to introduce players to, Jumpstart constructed is an even easier environment to learn in since you don’t need to build a deck. Limited can be the next step up.
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