Throughout recent years, under the ever-watchful eye of Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast has steadily been increasing the collectability of MTG. As you might expect, this shift in product strategy has delighted collectors, however, not everyone is so happy. MTG’s original creator, for instance, has spoken out about the worrying trend following the announcement of 30th Anniversary Edition. Unfortunately for players, it’s not just dedicated ultra-collectible products that are part of the problem. Thanks to Magic’s myriad of different art treatments and new promotions, collectibility is also getting pushed in Magic’s premier sets. While this isn’t inherently a problem, in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, Wizards pushed a little too far. So much so, in fact, that the Lead Designer of MTG, Mark Rosewater, has had to apologize for Wizards’ mistakes!
In order to make MTG’s return trip to New Phyrexia that much more special, Wizards of the Coast went all out with art treatments. Creating six unique versions of chase cards, not including foil variants, collectors were spoilt for choice! For better or worse, however, these unique art variants and card styles weren’t just for collectors to enjoy. Instead, to make sure everyone could savor the sights of New Phyrexia, Draft Boosters received some of the fun. Unfortunately for players, however, the art treatments Draft Boosters received didn’t actually make the game better. Instead, they had the opposite effect, making the game significantly harder to play.
Alongside Phyrexianized land, Ichor Showcase cards, and Borderless cards, Phyrexia: All Will Be One Draft Boosters also had a chance to include Phyrexian Language cards. Having been used for several promos and Secret Lair drops, players are undoubtedly fond of this art style. For better or worse, however, unless you’re fluent in Phyrexian, these cards are completely illegible. Thankfully, since they feature the same art as their English counterparts, it’s easy to recognize the card at a glance. That only works, however, so long as you’re familiar with the original card. For players opening Draft Boosters, that’s not always the case, as not everyone keeps up to date with the deluge of spoilers.
Due to the potential problems that Phyrexian Language cards were expected to cause, MTG players were immediately outraged following Wizards announcing this daft Draft detail. Criticising Wizards across social media, players lamented needing to use phones, or call a judge, to use a card. Unfortunately for these frustrated players, however, it was too late for Wizards to make the change by mid-January.
Thankfully, when Phyrexia: All Will Be One finally launched in early February, only a smattering of cards actually received the Phyrexian Language treatment. While this mitigated the Phyrexian Language cards’ problematic potential, Wizards nevertheless still received plenty of complaints from confused fans. A month after the set’s launch, these complaints still persist, with MTG’s Lead Designer, often being on the receiving end. One such complaint was recently shared by Tumblr user Lizardwizard100, who shared their concerns on Mark Rosewater’s blog, Blogatog.
“Draft boosters should not include non-readable card styles (for example, Phyrexian text). As draft boosters are targeted specifically towards gameplay (draft/sealed) it does not make sense to include cards that by design, make gameplay more tedious. I’m not proposing that these types of card designs should be stopped compleatly, rather that they should be reserved for non-draft products (set, collector, Secret Lair, etc.)”Lizardwizard100
Responding to this complaint, Mark Rosewater simply explained why Wizards made the controversial decision that they did. Noting “some players only buy Draft Boosters,” Wizards wanted “to make sure they still have access to the cool variants.” After hearing this explanation, many players on Tumblr weren’t exactly happy with Wizards and Rosewater’s reasoning. Alongside several players reiterating Lizardwizard100’s complaints, others highlighted how this explanation doesn’t make perfect sense. After all, as users Danielscholes and Mrsquishy point out, Draft Boosters don’t include all the unique card variants on offer. Furthermore, as Tumblr users like Steelwingedsavagereaper pointed out, this decision seemingly flies in the face of Wizards’ deliberate and controversial product segmentation strategy.
Ultimately, following several more public complaints from MTG players highlighting Wizards’ mistakes, Rosewater admitted fault on behalf of Wizards. “Putting the Phyrexian language cards in Draft Boosters was probably a mistake. We’ve gotten plenty of complaints about it.” Following this, however, Rosewater explained that the issue isn’t perhaps as clear cut as players would expect. After all, even within Wizards’ aggressive segmentation strategy, “there are different drafters that prioritize different things.”
“It wasn’t that long ago that I created an uproar here when I asked if we should leave Booster Fun treatments out of Draft Boosters, so it’s a more gray topic than I think most players realize.”Mark Rosewater
A Lesson Learnt
Thankfully, despite the topic of Booster Fun treatments in MTG being complicated and contentious, Wizards will hopefully learn from their mistakes. Should they do so, players shouldn’t be subjected to any more illegible cards in Draft Boosters in the future. While some collectors may be disappointed by this change, it’s clear many players feel there’s a better place for them. While this change arguably should happen, currently, there’s no telling if it actually will happen. With March of the Machine already locked in and being printed, it’s possible, for instance, players will be subject to another round of Phyrexian Language cards before Wizards can make any changes. Hopefully, it’ll be for the last time if this does happen.