Barely a week goes by in the world of Magic without something happening. The week of February 12, 2018 was no exception. The big news this week centered around two different aspects of the game: the Modern format and upcoming releases.
It’s impossible to talk about last week without talking about the changes in Modern. On Monday, February 12, both Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf were removed from the Modern Banned list. While both cards were legal for Modern through Magic Online on Wednesday, February 15, the tangible realm had to wait until February 19th to experience the new face of Modern. Why? Grand Prix Lyon featured Modern and rather than forcing players to try and learn a new format in a few short days, Wizards decided to let the change take effect after Lyon concluded.
In the article describing the decision, Ian Duke cites the diversity of Modern as a point in favor. Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan had seven distinct archetypes in the Top 8, as did Grand Prix Toronto a week later. Only one deck—Traverse the Ulvenwald Death’s Shadow—appeared in the Top 8 of both events. Duke also cites the relative speed of Modern as a reason to allow these cards again. Both cost 4 mana and the format has gotten faster since they were exiled to the ban list. Duke does leave the door open to banning these two cards again in the future.
Some decried the change, saying that the two cards would easily become Modern’s new overlords. Other corners of the community were upset that the change did not go into effect until February 19th, leading to a week of lame duck Modern events including Grand Prix Lyon.
I know people are unhappy that this weekend’s Modern events won’t feature the unbans, but sticking to dates is good policy. When we announced the dates initially, we weren’t sure if we’d be banning, unbanning, nothing, or both. #PTRIX broke well for unbans. #WotCStaff
— Aaron Forsythe (@mtgaaron) February 14, 2018
Nevertheless, a Modern Grand Prix took place in Lyon, France. While the format is not the Modern of tomorrow, it still showcased the wide array of possible strategies available to the format. The biggest surprise was a Soulflayer deck that went undefeated for the first seven rounds of Day 1. Andreas Schulte used Grisly Salvage to dump keyword loaded creatures like Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, into his bin and then get a quick Soulflayer out to end the game. Schulte finished 9-6 with a deck that may or may not be a major player moving forward.
The Top 8 was not nearly as diverse as the elimination rounds of the past two weeks. Only four archetypes were represented, as Mono-Green Tron took four spots on Sunday night. Abzan took two, with Jeskai Control and Red-Green Eldrazi rounding out the bunch. In the end it was Abzan and Red-Green Eldrazi, in the hands of Márcio Carvalho and Grzegorz Kowalski respectively, that met in the finals. Kowalski emerged triumphant with his red, green, and colorless deck.
The other big headlines from this week were about upcoming releases. Wednesday, February 14th, saw the release of a mini-Announcement Day article. Announcement Day is a twice-yearly event that has taken the place of regular product information drops. The Wednesday announcement included information on the following products:
- An official Magic: The Gathering smartphone app. This app will have up-to-date Oracle rulings, a life counter, and a way to run unsanctioned, in-home tournaments.
- Signature Spellbook: Jace—A premium product in a similar vein as From the Vault.
- Battlebond—a new release focusing on Two-Headed Giant Limited play. Battlebond is 2018’s Innovator product in the mold of Conspiracy.
- Commander Anthology Volume II and Commander 2018 Edition were given release dates. It is heavily implied that Commander 2018 Edition will feature planeswalker Commanders.
- A pair of Chinese-market-specific planeswalker decks will be released under the title of Global Series. There will be a corresponding English language release. These decks were “designed by a team of Chinese artists, writers, and folklorists to explore a new branch of Magic lore rooted in Chinese aesthetics and mythology.”
Signature Spellbook will be taking the place of From the Vault. Instead of focusing on a specific theme, the new release will focus on a planeswalker character from Magic and spells from their repertoire.
FTV is no longer on our regular list of offerings, is the way I would put it. Could it come back? Maybe. But we wanted to try something new and we're here with Sig. Spellbook.#wotcstaff https://t.co/J0Wz0EP0RN
— Trick (@TrickMTG) February 14, 2018
Product Images from Dominaria and Core Set 2019 were both seen at the New York Toy Fair. Teferi and Chandra appear to get planeswalker decks in Dominaria while Tezzeret gets a planeswalker deck in Core 2019. This, coupled with an image of Nicol Bolas on the Core Set 2019 product page, has led many to believe the latest Core Set will be villain-based.
Seeing some people thinking #MTGM19 is a villains set. I get it. We've shown some art that is all baddies. But… it's not all about villains. Just wanting to let people know.#wotcstaff
— Trick (@TrickMTG) February 15, 2018
- Decorated author Martha Wells will be taking the lead for five stories for the set of Dominaria. You can hear an interview with Wells here. The creative team will still be involved in crafting the story while Wells will be the one putting words to the digital page. The story will still be available on the Magic website. Martha wells is known for her series The Murderbot Diaries as well as her novel The Death of the Necromancer.
- Viz Media announced the art book for Dominaria. The book will be released in the summer of 2018.
- Magic Online will no longer post League decks from every format daily. Instead, different formats will see undefeated League decks posted once a week (twice a week for Standard and Modern). Every unique deck that went 5-0 will be posted, provided it is at least 20 cards different from another undefeated deck.