Tomik, Distinguished Advokist
1, Aug, 22

MTG Is Getting Its Most Ambitious Set In 2023

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Article at a Glance

Thanks to new mechanics and the confusing state of Alchemy, there’s no denying MTG has been growing steadily more complex. With Wizards of the Coast releasing a deluge of products each year, keeping up with the complexity isn’t easy. Unfortunately for those already struggling, things may be getting worse in 2023.

The Complexity Creep Continues

The Brothers' War
The Brothers’ War | Wizards of the Coast

Much about MTG 2023’s catalog of premier sets remains a mystery. None of the premier sets have been named, so we only have their development codenames to go off. These names are “Lacrosse,” “Marathon,” Netball, and Offroading. Unfortunately, these names do not tell us much about the contents of the sets. However, we know one detail about Lacrosse and Marathon, as they will continue the four-part story saga that starts with Dominaria United. According to Wizards, this “epic story arc” is where “the fate of Dominaria—and the Multiverse—is set to unravel.”

While Wizards of the Coast is typically coy with details for now, likely until “Wizards Presents” later this month, we have been teased with a new detail from Magic’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater. Speaking on their Tumblr blog, Blogatog, Rosewater answered a fan’s request for a “very vague factoid about a premiere set releasing in 2023” by confirming he thinks that “2023 has the most ambitious design for a premier set I’ve ever done”. 

Since revealing this tidbit, Rosewater hasn’t confirmed which of 2023’s premier sets will be “the most ambitious” of all time. Due to the story significance of the set, we’re guessing that “Marathon” or its companion “Marathon Epilogue” will be the extra ambitious set. While our immediate thought is that Marathon will feature new and unique designs that’ll introduce mechanical complexities, it’s equally possible that “the most ambitious design” is from a top-down sense. As the end of an “epic story arc spanning four sets,” this may not be the most significant revelation.

Past Ambitions

Storm the Citadel | War of the Spark

In a follow-up question, Mark Rosewater revealed that the most ambitious design for a recent premier set was “probably War of the Spark.” As the culmination of a three-set arc that started with Guilds of Ravnica, War of the Spark had similarly ambitious story ramifications. Alongside this, War of the Spark featured an excessive number of Planeswalkers and hybrid mana, Proliferate, and Amass. If a set featuring 39 planeswalkers doesn’t make it memorable, we don’t know what does.

Thanks to Rosewater initially misreading the question, this assessment of the most ambitious set caused quite a stir. Thankfully, Rosewater soon put things right by confirming that, for all-time most boundary-pushing sets, Future Sight wears the crown. Considering that Future Sight featured  “futureshifted” cards that were designed to be premonitions for future sets, creature types, and mechanics, it’s hardly a surprise that this is the most ambitious set of all time. For instance, Steamflogger Boss from Future Sight references Contraptions, which have only since appeared in Unstable. 

Continuing in their line of question answering, Rosewater confirmed that Unglued was “probably” the set that pushed the most boundaries. As the first comedy-focused Un- set, this is hardly the biggest surprise, as Wizards had free reign to experiment. This led WotC to create utterly wild cards such as B.F.M. (Big Furry Monster), Look at Me, I’m the DCI, and Prismatic Wardrobe. Additionally, Unglued was the first time dice rolling was used as a mechanic.

Can Ambition Be Stopped? 

Tezzeret’s Ambition
Tezzeret’s Ambition | Kaladesh

For better or worse, it’s only a matter of time before we see another set deemed as the “most ambitious.” Mark Rosewater has previously stated that part of Magic’s charm is its ability to evolve and reinvent itself. This has led to the slow, unavoidable march of complexity creep throughout past sets. ”As the game continues to grow (now thirty years in), we start exploring more and different resources to find new design veins to tap,” Rosewater stated. 

While this may cause problems in Magic’s Eternal formats, Rosewater says that “Magic’s going to keep inventing new things and pushing out to new spaces.” Whether we like it or not, this almost guarantees another ‘most ambitious set’ will be in our hands after 2023. Thankfully, WotC is at least “conscious about rotating things,” so only so much will be in Standard at once. This should hopefully help mitigate some confusion these ambitious sets promise to players. 

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