Deicide | Journey into Nyx
4, Jul, 23

MTG Lead Designer Defends Gorgeous Unplayable Cards

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Article at a Glance

Since first launching all the way back in 1993, Wizards has produced an immense amount of art for MTG. This is partly thanks to the sheer number of cards that have been printed over the years. To date, just under 26,000 physical MTG cards have been printed, each sporting with own unique art. As if that wasn’t more than enough already, many MTG cards have been reprinted, on numerous occasions, with even more spectacular art. 

For better or worse, while MTG does have a huge amount of cards and art, it’s not all good. Thankfully, this problem can be fixed with the aforementioned reprints, however, subjectively ugly cards aren’t the only problem. Sometimes, it appears MTG cards can actually look too good sometimes! Considering art is always nice to look at, this may seem like a nonissue. When good art is used on unplayable cards, however, apparently that is not the case. 

Dubiously Disconnected Designs

Storm the Seedcore | Jason Rainville | March of the Machine
Storm the Seedcore | Jason Rainville | March of the Machine

While undoubtedly a fundamental component in what makes MTG great, it’s a rather under-discussed topic within Magic: the Gathering communities. Typically discussions about art only flare up when a stunning new reprint gets announced, or Wizards messes something up. Outside of these occasions, MTG’s art rarely gets the time of day, unless a content creator kicks off the discussion. 

Thankfully for art-loving MTG fans, that has just happened. Following on from past discussions about the absolutely stunning Storm the Seedcore, Commander’s Herald recently put out a very tongue-in-cheek article. Here, beneath a layer of humor, Commander’s Herald pointed out how MTG’s art doesn’t always match the card. Instead, it can often feel like Wizards has a big dart board or art they’re just throwing cards at. 

Highlighting discordant examples such as Fatal Push and Blistering Barrier, MTG undeniably has some strange art. This, however, isn’t anything new in MTG. Since its inception, MTG has always had some art that stands out, for better or worse. Natural Selection is just one of the many examples of that. 

While examples of artistic oddities are nothing new, more recently another artistic disconnect has appeared. Demonstrated by Storm the Seedcore, sometimes stunning art ends up on downright disappointing cards. For many players such as Cordiallupine on Tumblr players, this is incredibly frustrating. After all, in an ideal world, it would be great to play with these gorgeous cards.

In order to try and make that happen, Cordiallupine recently raised their concerns to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater. Highlighting the issue of gorgeous “made for draft” cards, Cordiallupine asked if anything could be done. Unfortunately for MTG players who would very much like this, Mark Rosewater didn’t have good news.

The Way Things Are 

Open the Way | March of the Machine: The Aftermath
Open the Way | March of the Machine: The Aftermath

In responding to Cordiallupine, Mark Rosewater revealed that, for better or worse, “there’s a cap of how many cards can be constructed relevant.” While this does explain the disappointing made for Draft cards, on the surface, this seems like an incredibly odd decision. After all, by limiting the number of constructed playable cards, Wizards is handicapping the evolution of formats like Standard. 

Since Wizards is currently trying to save Standard, there’s certainly a strong disconnect here. Despite this, however, it’s definitely for the better that Wizards doesn’t make every card constructed playable. After all, doing that would invite the incredibly problematic trend of power creep. If this were to run rampant, Standard may be condemned, rather than saved. 

While it’s sensible that not every card can be a constructed staple, this still doesn’t solve the disconnect between art and card quality. Thankfully, however, Mark Rosewater has an explanation for that too. It may sound obvious, but at the end of the day, Wizards wants “every card to have great art.”

As a result of this, sometimes there will unavoidably be a disconnect between art quality and a card’s power. While it can be frustrating for some players, this is hardly the end of the world. In fact, it may be a compelling opportunity for some fun. 

Not Entirely Unplayable

Otrimi, the Ever-Playful | Commander 2020
Otrimi, the Ever-Playful | Commander 2020

Regardless of how strong any card is, MTG players have the remarkable ability to make it playable. This has even been done for Wood Elemental, one of the worst MTG cards of all time. If players can fix this monstrosity of a card, the same can certainly be done for Storm the Seedcore. Sure, these cards may never be true format-breaking staples, however, they can still be a fun addition in the 99. 

For those who don’t want to build a niche deck around an unfortunately underpowered card, thankfully, there is another option. After all, by Cordiallupine’s own admission, these cards are designed for Limited, rather than constructed formats. Subsequently, if you want to play these cards in a way where they shine, you’re always able to do that in Limited games. Provided that you get lucky when creating your pool, that is.

Read More: Common LOTR Cycle Elevates Mana Fixing Across Formats!

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