#655: War of the Spark Cards, Part 5
This is part five of a five-part series on card-by-card design stories from War of the Spark.
Posted in Making Magic on July 21, 2019
You know how I have the occasional article chockful of new information about Magic that everyone's going to be talking about? Well, today's article is one of those. I'm going to be covering a lot of information, so I'd like to start by walking you through what this article is going to contain.
Part 1: This article is all about all the products that are going to accompany the October set. (There's a bunch of new stuff, which is why I have a whole article about it.) Before I can talk about that, I first have to reveal the October set. I'm not going into great detail—no cards or mechanics are getting previewed—but I will introduce you all to the new world, including telling you its name, and giving you a taste of its theme with some art from the set. This section won't be very long as it's not really the crux of today's article, but it's important you know what the October set is before I continue on.
Part 2: Whenever we make changes (and note that today's changes are mostly additive changes, in that we're giving you all more options and opportunities), I like to walk you through the philosophy of why we chose to do what we did. This section will explain the reasons we're making the changes we are. Within this section, I will introduce a bunch of new things. As I want to cover the overall essence of what we're introducing, I will not be going into detail about them in this section. That will come in Part 3. If you catch yourself thinking, "But I want to know more," just know it's coming later in the article.
Part 3: This is the part where I will go in depth and walk through all the nitty-gritty of the changes. This is the section where I'm going to do my best to explain as many things as I can. For those of you who don't care about the minutiae, you can stop reading when you get here. For those who live for that kind of thing, I'll be sharing all sorts of information.
Sound good? Okay, well, let's jump in.
For those who follow me through any of my social media accounts, you'll know I've been pretty pumped about this set. It's something I've been trying to do for over a decade, so I'm quite excited to finally announce it.
The October set is . . . (Drum roll, please.)
While I can only give you a tiny taste of the set today, I'm hoping these images capture the tone of the world as Magic's twist on beloved fairy tales. The set began with a very bold vision design, and everyone has stepped up to make a truly memorable Magic set that I can't wait for you all to experience and play with in its entirety.
Last year, Wizards of the Coast went through a reorganization. We shifted to what is known as a studio model, where teams are built around supporting a particular product. The team you all know of as R&D along with a few other sections of the company (including art, design, and production folks) were combined to become the studio for tabletop Magic (aka the game played with the physical cards).
There are different studios associated with other aspects of Magic, such as Digital Games and Franchise (the people overseeing our new Netflix series, for instance), and we work closely with them, but our studio's primary focus is making the tabletop game.
The reason I bring this up is because one of the first things we did when our studio got created was ask the following question: how can we make tabletop Magic even better? After much brainstorming and discussion, we came up with the following goal: let's improve the experience of opening a Magic booster pack. Yes, it's currently pretty fun to do. That doesn't mean, though, that we can't improve upon it.
After a lot of thinking and talking and meetings, we decided that there were two main ways to accomplish our goal: surprise and agency.
This solution came about because of feedback we were getting from all of you. Whenever we'd show off a cool new treatment of a card as a promo or as part of a limited release, I'd get comments from players asking why these cool cards weren't in booster packs. This came up in one of our meetings and really resonated with the room.
How do we make opening booster packs more exciting? Put more cool and beautiful versions of cards in them.
We formed a project team to figure out what amazing things we could do with card treatments. This investigation was called Project Booster Fun.
The team spent a lot of time experimenting with different frame and art options, some of which you might already be aware of because we've used them in various ways—although, never in booster packs. I'm going to get to three new card treatments that we're going to be introducing with Throne of Eldraine, but before I get to that, there was one other discovery the team made.
It turns out there was a surprise element we were already doing that was exciting some players and making opening booster packs fun—foil cards. As part of the Project Booster Fun initiative, we decided to raise the frequency of foils. Previously, the foil drop rate (this is counting all foils of all rarities) was 1 in 67 cards (which results in a 22.5% chance of opening one in any one booster). The new drop rate is 1 in 45 cards (or a 33.4% chance of opening one in any one booster). This means the chance of getting a foil has increased from less than one in four boosters to one in three. As this was a change we could make within the existing system, we didn't bother waiting for Throne of Eldraine. You'll find this new foil drop rate starting with Core Set 2020. (Core Set 2020 also premieres a new token frame.)
Beginning with Throne of Eldraine, there are going to be three new treatments of cards you'll be able to open in booster packs. Let me walk you through them.
This is a planeswalker card where the art goes all the way to the border. We used this treatment in the three Mythic Editions. Starting with Throne of Eldraine, certain booster packs (I'm getting to the concept of different kinds of booster packs next) will include borderless planeswalkers. The set will still have the normal planeswalkers, as you're used to them, at the same frequency they've always been, but there are also these cool borderless versions. Note, that while the rules text is identical, the borderless planeswalkers have different art from the normal planeswalker cards.
Next up, the extended-art frame. This is where we take the art on a card and run it all the way to the edge of the card on the left and right side. This was the treatment we used on the box toppers for Ultimate Masters. Starting with Throne of Eldraine, some rares and mythic rares in certain boosters will have the extended-art frame. (The third section is going to go in depth about all the details.) The art on the extended-art frames is the same as on the normal versions of the cards, just with a different aspect ratio. The rules text is identical.
This last treatment is not actually one treatment but a catch-all term to cover a variety of different treatments. Here's what a showcase card will be. For each set, we're going to come up with one or more cool treatments that embody the spirit of the set. For example, let's discuss Throne of Eldraine. The set has a new mechanic in it that I can't reveal to yet, but I'm going to show you the new frame that will accompany the mechanic.
This isn't the showcase frame, this the normal frame. Cards with this new mechanic will have this frame. Then, for every card in the set that has this mechanic (I'll go into numbers in the Part 3), there will exist a showcase version of the card that appears less frequently.
On showcase cards, the art and frame will be a new stylized version that plays into the set's theme. Each set will have its own unique showcase cards. Which cards get the treatment (and usually, it will just be cards from that set), and at what rarity, will vary from set to set, but it's our goal that you'll get a least a handful of showcase cards in every box. Throne of Eldraine, specifically, has showcase cards in common, uncommon, rare, and mythic rare. (Again, I give more details on this in Part 3.)
All three treatments I mention above will exist in foil versions as well. I'll get to the nitty-gritty in section three, but the shorthand is this: if a kind of booster pack has the possibility of the non-foil version of a card, it will also have a possibility of the foil version.
The other solution we found came from approaching the problem from a completely different direction. How do you make someone happier opening a booster? Make sure the booster has in it the things they want to open. How do we do that? By taking a step back and rethinking our booster packs. Since Limited Edition (Alpha), Magic has only ever offered one type of booster pack. While that booster pack might serve many players' needs, it doesn't necessarily serve them all. What if we gave players an option for the kind of booster pack they could choose? Starting with Throne of Eldraine, players are going to have three choices:
This is the booster you know, the one Magic has had for 26 years. The only change we're making to it is giving it a name. We're now referring to it as the Draft Booster. It's the booster intended for drafting. If you like Magic as-is and want to continue buying the same thing, you can. The card make-up for it is not changing (although, it will have the borderless planeswalkers and showcase cards).
This is a booster aimed at players who either prioritize getting lots of cards or prefer to have more control on the kind of cards they're opening. Each Theme Booster comes with 35 cards. Also, the Theme Boosters are each focused on a theme, so the buyer has a better sense of what they're going to get. Each set can handle its Theme Boosters differently, but Throne of Eldraine will offer color-themed boosters in which all the cards in the booster can go into a monocolor deck of that color.
For example, let's say you have a mono-red deck. A Draft Booster will have somewhere between two to five cards that could fit into your deck. A red Theme Booster, in contrast, will have 35 cards that can go into your deck. You're getting a lot more playable cards.
Theme Boosters officially premiered in Guilds of Ravnica, so they aren't new with Throne of Eldraine. They are, however, part of this larger strategy, so it felt important to mention them here. I can also tell you that Theme Boosters have been a big hit and are doing a better job of serving this subset of players than Draft Boosters.
The Collector Booster is aimed at the player who values collecting the cards. Our expectation is that these Collector Boosters will range between $20 to $25 per booster, but that will depend on your region and where you shop. It's designed to be the best value if you're prioritizing collecting hard-to-find cards. You'll have more access to foil cards as well as to the various treatments I talked about above. In addition, it will also be the only booster where you can get extended-art cards. I'll go into much more detail in the third section about what you can expect in the Collector Booster.
Like the Theme Booster, the Collector Booster came about because we realized that the Draft Booster was serving a certain segment poorly. For this audience, the joy of opening a booster is the thrill of seeing cards they haven't seen before, of getting to open something beautiful and exciting. Because the Draft Boosters optimize the Draft experience, there's a lot of repetition with a huge number of commons in every booster. What if we made a booster that maximized opening new and different things each time? It would also be a place where you had the best chance of opening foils and all the new variants, including one type (the extended-art frame) that could only be found in this product. That's what the Collector Booster was designed to do—make the act of opening a booster pack as exciting as possible.
The Collector Booster is currently only being printed in English and Japanese. Unlike Draft Boosters and Theme Boosters, which can be reprinted, the Collector Boosters will be a limited print run. To celebrate the introduction of Collector Boosters, the Throne of Eldraine Buy-a-Box promotion will include a Collector Booster in addition to the normal mechanically unique promo card (supplies are limited and stores will have fewer Collector Boosters than Buy-a-Box promos for this promotion; check with your local store for details and preorder early for your best chance at a pack).
Throne of Eldraine will have a Draft Booster, five Theme Boosters, and a Collector Booster.
Let's begin with what you can expect from each of the three booster types I listed above.
Number of Cards: 15 and 1 ad card/token card
Number of Versions: 1
The booster contents are as you would expect. The Draft Booster has the possibility of containing borderless planeswalkers or showcase cards. In Throne of Eldraine specifically, there are no non-foil common showcase cards in booster packs. Those appear only in the Collector Booster.
Number of Cards: 35 cards and 1 reference card
Number of Versions: Varies (Throne of Eldraine has 5, one of each color)
Nine out of ten Theme Boosters will have one rare, but one out of ten will have two rares. That's what "1.1 rares" means. The number of commons and uncommons in theme boosters varies between boosters, unlike Draft Boosters where the number of each rarity mostly remains constant. You'll always get more commons than uncommons, however. The reference card is new-player information on a card to help expose newer players to different aspects of the game.
Number of Cards: 15 cards and 1 foil token card
Number of Versions: 1
This booster is a little more complex, so I'm going to walk through each slot:
This slot is a rare or mythic rare with extended art. Every rare or mythic rare from the set that doesn't already have a variant frame (meaning that it doesn't exist as a borderless planeswalker card or showcase card) will be available as extended-art cards. The extended-art cards are all rares and mythic rares and are only found in the Collector Booster.
This slot is a foil of any rare or mythic rare from the set, including variant versions such as borderless planeswalker, extended-art, or showcase cards.
These slots are for foils of any common or uncommon from the set, including variant versions such as showcase cards. (Commons and uncommons don't have borderless planeswalker or extended-art cards.)
These three slots will be non-foil variant cards, but not extended art. They'll be borderless planeswalker or showcase cards. These cards will all be non-foil. For Throne of Eldraine specifically, the non-foil common showcase cards will only be found in the Collector Boosters in one of these slots.
This slot is for new cards that are connected to the set but don't appear in Draft Boosters. The card pool for this slot can vary from set to set. For Throne of Eldraine, this will be the Buy-a-Box card, the new cards from the Planeswalker Decks, and the new cards from the Brawl Decks (more on this in a moment). This slot is going to be the catch-all for mechanically unique cards associated with the set, allowing collectors to get them here without having to purchase other products or participate in other promotions. These cards will be in non-foil.
This slot is a foil version of a token card found in the Draft Booster. The Collector Booster is the only place these token cards will appear in foil in boosters. Note that this slot is only tokens and not any other type of card, such as emblems, that also shows up in the token slot in Draft Boosters.
Those aren't all the products that are going to be associated with Throne of Eldraine, though. Let me walk you through some more.
Number of Cards: 60 cards
Number of Versions: 2
Contents: A playable deck with the following mechanically unique content
Nothing has changed about the Planeswalker Decks other than the mechanically unique content can now also be found in the Collector Booster.
Number of Cards: 60 cards
Number of Versions: 4
Gavin Verhey is going to talk more about Brawl as a format and why we made these decks specifically next week. But, basically, as a means to provide more Brawl support, Throne of Eldraine will have four preconstructed Brawl decks. All the mechanically unique cards can also be found in the Collector Booster. The life wheel is a new game object; it's a card with a wheel embedded into it to help you keep score.
This is the latest version of the Bundle. This new incarnation started with Core Set 2020. The bundle promo is a card from the set with alternate art in a normal frame. This alternate-art card will be unique to the bundle (meaning it's not found in any other product, including the Collector Booster).
Number of Cards: 4
The promo packs started with Core Set 2020. They are a new form of prize support that Wizards is giving to local game stores. The store will get one foil Promo Pack for every three non-foil ones. Shop owners have the discretion to use the Promo Packs however they see fit to best enable in-store play for their store. This flexibility is intended to allow stores to maximize the use of the Promo Packs to create the best customized play environment possible. Some players prefer foils and some prefer non-foils, for example, so store owners will be able to tailor their prizes to best match the needs of their players.
Each set will have its own Promo Pack. Let me walk through each slot.
This slot is a foil rare or mythic rare from the set the Promo Pack is based on. It will also have a special planeswalker foil stamp to signify that this card came specifically from a Promo Pack. Note that the Throne of Eldraine variant treatments don't show up in the promo packs.
For each promo pack, we've selected 121 cards from previous sets that we feel players would be excited to see. This slot gives you a foil version of one of those cards. The curated group of cards can change from one set's promo pack to the next, but there will be some overlap between promo packs.
This continues a frame treatment that's been used in Friday Night Magic for a while and is unique to the promo pack. Each promo pack will have a pool, usually of five cards, that this slot will pull from.
This slot is for a promo card good for a booster pack on Magic: The Gathering Arena. It was a promo basic land in Core Set 2020 but will be an MTG Arena promo card starting with Throne of Eldraine. This card will not be available in all regions.
Buy-a-Box Promotion (for Throne of Eldraine)
As a special celebration of the start of Collector Boosters, the Throne of Eldraine Buy-a-Box promotion will include a Collector Booster in addition to the normal mechanically unique foil promo card. (Supplies are limited; check with your local game store for details.)
Player Spotlight Card
Okay, this isn't exactly a product, but it is a cool thing that's returning to Magic with Throne of Eldraine. For many years, we ran the Magic Invitational, and the winner was allowed to design a Magic card that they were then pictured on. Starting with Throne of Eldraine, we will be involving the current World Champion in a new player spotlight card. While they won't design it, they will consult with R&D on its selection and will appear pictured in the art. 2018 World Champion Javier Dominguez will be featured on a Throne of Eldraine card.
One final thing before we wrap this up. Here's what we're planning to do with Booster Fun in Throne of Eldraine:
I hope today's column has demonstrated that we've taken our goal of making opening booster packs more fun quite seriously. Not only is Throne of Eldraine an awesome set (I can't wait until you see what we do with "Camelot meets Grimms' Fairy Tales"), but it's going to allow you to interact with it in a number of new ways, from opening exciting variant cards in packs to having more options to choose from when purchasing it.
I'm normally interested in your feedback, but today more so than usual. What do you think about all the information I've revealed today? Email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram), and let me hear your thoughts. I hope you all are as excited about Project Booster Fun as we are.
Join me next week when I return with more colorful replies.
Until then, may you share my excitement of things to come.
This is part five of a five-part series on card-by-card design stories from War of the Spark.
This podcast is all about the design of Modern Horizons.