At the end of 2023, Wizards of the Coast released a new kind of reprint set on MTG Arena. Unlike its former Remastered sets and almost Modern sets, Khans of Tarkir did things differently. For better or worse, the MTG Arena re-release of Khans of Tarkir didn’t add, remove, or rebalance a single card.
As a deeply enjoyable, albeit surprisingly unpopular, Draft experience, this one-for-one release was rather well received. Sure, we may have labeled it as one of the worst sets of 2023, but last year was absolutely stacked. Overall, Khans of Tarkir on Arena was a great time. So much so, in fact, that it might just determine how reprint sets are made in MTG Arena’s future.
That will be the case, at least, provided that a new opinion poll gets followed religiously.
Less Remasters, More Reprints
Thanks in part to the lack of new sets, over the holiday period, MTG’s Lead Designer has been fielding a lot of feedback. Delivered via their blog, Blogatog, Mark Rosewater has seen no end of requests, complaints, and high-fives in recent weeks. Often hoping to shape the direction of MTG moving forward, ideally, Wizards will learn from every mistake and success.
One such success some MTG Arena players are hoping will become a trendsetter is Khans of Tarkir. As Calathan1 comments, this re-released set hit all the points that Remastered sets have been going for, just better. Thanks to not changing anything, the nostalgia is more effective, and the set itself is simply more enjoyable.
After receiving this opinionated feedback, Mark Rosewater went in search of more. Turning the question around to their community, Rosewater asked “What do others think? Which do you prefer on Arena drafts?” Alongside this question, Rosewater also set up a poll to make things as clear as possible.
Even with only 400 votes cast in the poll so far, the results are nonetheless clear. At the time of writing, the “Exact reprint drafts” option is winning by a landslide. Commanding an impressive 77.1% of the vote, it seems players really want more reprinted, not remastered, sets. Whether or not this will happen, however, remains to be seen.
Beyond simply being a question on Blogatog, we should, of course, mention the size of this poll. MTG is a game played by millions, and this poll has only been voted on by a few hundred players. Despite this minimal sample size, this poll may nonetheless be important. After all, it’s clear from recent comments that Mark Rosewater values and respects player feedback.
No Right Answer
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, getting sets on MTG Arena is no small feat. Right now, the main point of adding an old set to MTG Arena is to beef up the Explorer format. While giving players a new Draft environment is also important, this is more of an added benefit. First and foremost, Explorer’s path to Pioneer is the main talking point for each new set.
In theory, this clear goal kind of defeats the purpose of the poll, since Wizards has a clear goal to achieve. Unfortunately, however, the opposite is true, as reprinted and remastered sets each have their strengths. Sitting on opposite ends of the speed and coverage spectrum, there’s no right answer Wizards can implement.
On one hand, Remastered sets are the speedier choice for getting Pioneer on MTG Arena. Able to condense an entire block, Remastered releases ensure that all the needed cards are on Arena to play with. Considering how many sets still need to be added to Arena, this speed is a major selling point. Unfortunately, however, they’re not perfect.
By missing out on cards, even boring old commons, Remastered sets shake the trust players have in Explorer. While the chances are low, it would cause havoc if a niche unincluded common suddenly became a Pioneer staple. Should this happen, players could easily flock elsewhere, as Pioneer is a widely supported format.
Thankfully, fully reprinted sets completely mitigate this concern, as nothing at all is missed. In theory, this makes them the ideal choice, however, they take a long time to develop. Not only can mechanics require a lot of work, but Explorer still needs 10 sets. If we predict one re-release per year, this would take a literal decade.
The Future Is Bright and Uncertain
With pros and cons on either side of the fence, Wizards doesn’t have an easy task ahead. As a result, this poll may well prove invaluable in deciding what to do in the long-term future. That being said, however, part of the future has already been mapped out, and it changes the game entirely.
Later in 2024, Wizards is releasing Pioneer Masters on MTG Arena. Designed to be the silver bullet players have been craving, this single set should introduce a “Tournament-Playable” version of Pioneer. Hopefully, this should include the 24 missing staples that Explorer sorely needs alongside other staples and fun Draft picks.
While it’s unclear how effective this set will be at the moment, Pioneer Masters nonetheless changes the equation. Rather than needing all ten missing sets, Explorer could potentially get away with Remastered sets or even none at all. Hell, a Pauper Masters for MTG Arena could even be an option to fill in all the missing gaps.
Unfortunately, following the release of Pioneer Masters, the future of MTG Arena is unclear. Not only do we not know what state Explorer/Pioneer will be in, but the release Calendar is changing too. In 2024, Modern Horizons 3 is launching on MTG Arena which is a massive step forward. Potentially setting a trend of its own, this could foretell more Modern and supplemental sets arriving on Arena.
Even if Arena doesn’t get Commander decks, although multiplayer should be coming soon, Universes Beyond sets are a given. With a Draftable Final Fantasy set and multiple Marvel sets on the horizon, there are plenty of these in the future. For better or worse, this is going to take up a lot of Arena’s development time, limiting what can be done for Pioneer.
The Wait Begins
Ultimately, while the future is bright for MTG Arena, with a lot of sets and features to look forward to, Pioneer is in a strange place. In theory, the format could excel on Arena, however, it feels like it needs to be complete for that to happen. Between Pioneer Masters and all the Modern legal sets coming to Arena, however, it’s unclear how that will happen.
At the end of the day, while we’re concerned about the future, hopefully, Wizards will nail Pioneer’s landing this year. Following this, we also hope to see more rereleased sets arrive on the platform since that’s seemingly what players want. Whether or not that will happen, however, remains to be seen. Sadly, we’re just going to have to wait to see what the future brings in 2025 and beyond…