In case you’ve somehow missed all the fanfare, 2023 is the 30th anniversary of Magic: the Gathering. Technically, the exact date of the anniversary is August 5th, 2023. However, that small detail hasn’t stopped Wizards from celebrating early. In fact, Wizards seems intent to throw a year-long rager of a party for MTG players to enjoy. While this might be a touch excessive and mired by controversy, we can’t really blame Wizards for doing this. After all, as Wizards stated in October of 2022, “it’s our birthday, and we’ll party if we want to.”
To celebrate its anniversary, Wizards of the Coast has been releasing all manner of products. This includes the incredibly controversial 30th Anniversary Edition and the much better-received Dominaria Remastered set. Alongside these products, Wizards has also been hosting in-person gatherings aptly named MagicCon. Hosted around the world, these events offer tremendous in-person play opportunities, such as Beta and Unfinity Limited Draft events. For the latest MagicCon, Wizards took things one step further, creating brand new ultra-exclusive MTG cards just for MagicCon attendants.
The MagicCon: Philadelphia Unknown Event
Alongside a smorgasbord of traditional on-demand events, artists to meet, and panels, MagicCon: Philadelphia featured a few choice additions. The most tantalizing of these was a mysterious event titled UnKnown. Unlike regular Sealed Events at MagicCon: Philadelphia, this event split players into two teams; Mirrans and Phyrexians. As you might expect, after being assigned a team, players would compete to earn points by winning games. According to MTG’s Principal Designer, Gavin Verhey, who orchestrated the event, “it was awesome. But that wasn’t quite enough.”
To make the unusual event even more special, Gavin Verhey created brand new, never before seen cards for the event. These new cards were given out to players alongside their sealed pool, which consisted of Mystery Boosters and Phyrexia: All Will Be One Boosters. Designed in the vein of the original Mystery Booster Playtest cards, Verhey’s creations played into the event’s unique themes. This manifested in unique mechanics such as the Corrupted Metalcraft mechanic, found on Incisor Steed. As the name suggests, this mechanic fused the effects of both the Corrupted and Metalcraft mechanics.
In total, Gavin Verhey created 62 brand new Playtest cards specifically for the UnKnown event during MagicCon: Philadelphia. Thankfully, despite this event only being run for two days, the brand-new cards haven’t been lost to time already. Alongside players sharing their cards across social media, Verhey recently showcased all 62 cards they created during a recent video. Within this Good Morning Magic episode, Verhey highlighted how some cards, such as Rosewater’s Nemesis, pinched scrapped mechanics from Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s vision design process. This card, specifically, featured the Poison Tolerance ability, which increased the number of Poison counters you could endure.
Ultra Enjoyable, Ultra Exclusive
Beyond being an exciting insight into the mind of a Magic designer, the UnKnown Playtest cards were reportedly seriously enjoyable. Highlighting this point, several players from the event praised Verhey for their creations in the comments to their recent video. YouTube user im_Tsu, for instance, stated the UnKnown event was “definitely the highlight of the event for me. Instant speed Emrakul the Promised End is one of the wackiest things I have ever seen in Limited!” Similarly, Spellbreaker Unbound claimed, “this was one of the most fun and interesting limited events I’ve had the chance to play in!”
Unfortunately for MTG players who want to join in on this fun, Verhey’s Playtest cards aren’t exactly playable. Not because they’re bad, far from it, in fact, as Verhey specifically designed the cards to be stronger than usual. Instead, as you might have gathered from the cards’ looks alone, these unique cards simply aren’t legal in any format. Subsequently, outside of casual kitchen table MTG games, these cards will likely never see play in another event. For better or worse, it also appears these unique cards will never be reprinted. As not only were they designed explicitly for the UnKnown event, but they were hand created by Verhey themselves. Subsequently, players attending this event likely have the only copies of these Playtest cards that’ll ever be created.
In theory, due to their exceedingly limited supply, Veryhey’s playtest cards may theoretically be exceptionally valuable to the right collector. Since these cards and handmade and completely unplayable, however, we expect the market for these cards to be incredibly niche. Nevertheless, there is a certain appeal to owning an ultra-exclusive slice of Magic’s illustrious history that some will find interesting. How much these cards will actually sell for, however, remains to be seen.
Bring on the Con
While Gavin Verhey’s UnKnown event cards may never be reprinted, it’s unlikely the last wacky event Wizards will ever do. After all, during 2023, Wizards is scheduled to host three more MagicCon events in Minneapolis, Barcelona, and Las Vegas. While the event schedules haven’t been confirmed yet, we’d certainly hope each one will feature its own novelty event. Not only because they seem incredibly fun but because Magic has been missing its novelty flare for some time.
Previously, this unique novelty was found within Prerelease gimmicks, such as the one for Magic 2015. For this gimmick, MTG players were tasked with defeating an oversized Garruk the Slayer alongside playing their regular games. In the past, Wizards has even run an official Mirrans vs. Phyrexians Prerelease gimmick for the Mirrodin Besieged set. Offering “Faction Packs,” MTG players were able to pick a side and receive watermarked cards based on their choice.
Unfortunately, as fun as these events were, they’ve slowly been phased out by Wizards of the Coast. Replaced with new collectible proportions such as chase dice instead, Prerelease events have steadily been becoming less and less unique. Thankfully, it doesn’t always need to be this way. After all, there’s technically nothing stopping Wizards from creating gimmicks to make Prereleases more varied. Subsequently, we’re certainly hoping that following the success of MagicCon’s gimmick events, Wizards will take notice and create more than just Commander Fun events for each set.