Revealing Secret Lair

Posted in Feature on November 25, 2019

By Mark Heggen

I was in fifth grade in 1993 when Beta released. My friends and I bought as many Starter Decks as our allowances would permit, but to actually get enough cards to make playable decks, we each picked a color and blindly traded everything else to each other, so I ended up with all the green cards, my buddy Paul got all the blue cards, etc. One night at a sleepover, we each had our entire collections carefully sorted and spread out on the floor, and as I stood up, I accidentally kicked over a full . . . pitcher . . . of lemonade. In a horrifying moment that I can still see in slow motion when I close my eyes, the yellow wave rolled over each and every card that Paul owned.

In what we all agreed felt like justice, it was decided that I would give Paul all the green cards and take over as the new blue player among us. The next day, as I worked to peel apart and flatten my very new and very sticky collection of cards (pro tip: no matter how long you aim your big sister's hairdryer at a crinkled Phantom Monster, it will not go back to normal), I came across a card that stopped me in my tracks . . .

Stasis.

What even was this card? What was happening in that art? Who painted this? I was not prepared for Stasis.

I already knew I loved the classic fantasy art on cards like Lord of the Pit and the more stylized pieces like Circle of Protection: Red. But when I saw the Stasis art for the first time it spoke to me—this game was bigger, and weirder, and deeper than I had realized. Any game that had a place for the Stasis art had a place for me.

I tell you all this to make two points. First, there is a really important role in Magic for a few cards that take creative and artistic swings that most cards wouldn't or shouldn't. Second, please watch out where you set your lemonade.

A HOME FOR EXPERIMENTS

Every day here at Wizards HQ, folks have ideas for fun new versions of old cards we could create. Art gags, pop culture references, creative themes, puns, wild art styles, on and on and on. Some of these ideas are terrible (have I pitched you on my Photorealistic Wall series?), but some are amazing. And whenever we get to an amazing one, the next question is usually: yeah but where would we put it?

Most Magic cards are created and released as part of a set. In a set, many cards work together to paint a picture of a cohesive, rich, handcrafted world, and creating those expansive worlds and the visuals that express them is one of the most important creative efforts that happens here at Wizards of the Coast. Creatively consistent worlds are the heartbeat of Magic. But there exists a category of cards that we think some players would love having but simply don't fit into our sets: they're more creatively divisive than we'd want to force on everyone, they're not a mechanical match for what else is going on in the set, they use an art style that would feel jarring if dropped into an otherwise immersive world, or they don't align with goals of those sets, like format legality.

We also have non-set products like Signature Spellbook, the upcoming Commander Collection, or the promo cards we create for special events and programs. In some cases, these are great homes for the more out-there creative swings we'd like to take, but they also each have pretty specific product goals and creative themes, and often aren't quite a match.

And so, because we love making things that some Magic players might love, we have created a whole new kind of product to be better able to bring into existence some of the strange and unexpected cards that we wouldn't normally have a home for.

Welcome to the Secret Lair.

Secret Lair logo

Secret Lair is our new Magic "sub-brand" built from the ground up to let us experiment and explore. It'll be the home for new styles of art that sit way outside what you'd normally expect to ever see on a Magic card. (To be clear, some of this stuff gets real weird; you're probably going to love some of it and hate some of it—that's okay.) As a product line, it's going to work different from anything we've done before.

And we're kicking it all off December 2 with a wild week of Secret Lair Drops.

Secret Lair Drop Series logo

THE SECRET LAIR DROP SERIES

The Secret Lair Drop Series is our first product line in the Secret Lair family. The Drop Series consists of different "drops"—each of which is a standalone product that takes a small group of cards (usually three to five) selected around a particular theme, gives them new art (sometimes really wild new art), and then wraps them together in a customized collectable box.

The Drop Series was designed from the ground up to take advantage of some very exciting things we can only do in a "direct to consumer" environment, so it will be sold from our website.

To celebrate the launch of the Drop Series, we're clustering the first seven drops together in a rapid-fire release sequence that runs December 2–9.

Get more info about the details of that and the individual drops here.

A NEW APPROACH TO LIMITED AVAILABILITY

It's important to us that Secret Lair cards feel particularly special and collectable for the people that want them. With many products, the best way to accomplish this would be to limit the print runs and let them sell out quickly. But as we worked on the Secret Lair Drop Series, that approach just didn't feel right for this product. These drops are love letters to you—our fans—and we hated the idea that someone might see a drop that spoke to them, show up on the day it released, and then often be turned away because they just weren't fast enough.

So, we're releasing the Secret Lair Drop Series under a new approach we're calling "Timeboxed to Demand." Here's how it'll work during the December launch:

Each drop will be available for a 24-hour window, starting at 9 a.m. PST. During that window, you can visit the site and purchase the drop that's currently up for sale. If you really love the cards, you can buy multiples (up to a cap of ten). This will be true for the entire 24 hours, no matter how many or how few other people are buying them—if you show up that day, we've got you.

Until the clock runs out! Once the 24 hours are up, the door closes and the cards are no longer available to anyone—that's it, they're gone.

We like how this approach keeps the drops feeling special and rewards the true fans who make an effort to get their hands on them, while also being a bit more accommodating to realities of life, like time zones, sleep patterns, and the speed of your internet connection. (To be clear: we will continue to occasionally have other Magic products with limited print runs that we expect to sell out quickly—this "timeboxed" approach is something we were able to pull off specifically with the Secret Lair Drop Series that doesn't necessarily make sense with our other products.)

PRICING

Over time we may try out some different approaches to pricing and components, but for 2019, each release in the Secret Lair Drop Series will cost either $29.99 or $39.99.

THE FUTURE OF SECRET LAIR

We don't know exactly how this whole thing is going to go, but we're excited. So, while we've been focused on making the launch a success, we're already working on plans for how this continues into 2020 and beyond.

More Drops

We're hard at work on some new Drop Series releases that we think we'll release in 2020. These start with the same spirit you see in these first seven drops and push it out into some fun, new creative directions. We expect the 2020 drops to be more scattered throughout the year rather than all bunched into a single event like we're doing to start.

In addition to the new creative approaches that you'll see in the 2020 drops, we'll also start experimenting with some of the nuance around announcing, releasing, and selling these. For example, I'd expect at least one drop next year to be previewed at the exact same moment that it goes on sale, surprise-party style.

When it comes to the 2020 cards themselves, I can't give you any satisfying details right now, so instead I'll describe some of what I'm looking at as I flip through the early art sketches . . .

  • A brave figure stands in front of an exploding rock
  • A very good boy
  • A famous bird tears through a dramatic sky
  • A warm meal shared between friends
  • A beret

We'll have more details next year, but for now just trust that there's more drops coming.

Different Products?

There's nothing locked in yet, but we're also working on some ideas for new products that align with the Secret Lair spirit and vibe but do some different things with aspects like price points, creative, packaging, or release approach. To help keep things clear, if we decide to move forward with any of these other ideas we'd probably split them out and release them as a new product line within the sub-brand, so something like "Secret Lair [something something]." We'll see how this plays out. Stay tuned in 2020 for more updates here.

More Fun

At the end of the day, the whole point of Secret Lair is to be a fun and joyful celebration of this amazing game we all love so much. To that end, believe me when I say what we've got some fun twists and surprises planned for you all next year. Some will shock you, some will confuse you, and hopefully one or two of them will speak to you on a level that no piece of cardboard has any business doing.

Thank you for being part of Magic, and thank you for taking a look at this new experiment we're running.

Buckle up, things are about to get weird.

Welcome to the Secret Lair.

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