By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
The numbering system may seem odd to newcomers to the Magic the Gathering game, but for others, the nineteen signifies the number of editions of the core set it has gone through since this game’s release 25 years ago. Ideally, I would have liked to see an M25 reference. It’s shiny since it’s a silver year, and to make the foil collectables released this year would have made this returning player happy.
At least the pre-release weekend showed players of all types are hyped for this product. Plenty of boxes were opened and the range of early release cards included a shiny Liliana planeswalker card and a Nicol Bolas. I did not get that box. I played against another who did, and he was beaming. Sadly, my pulls sucked. I got nothing spectacular to brag about during pre-release. However, since one favourite was Tezzeret, Artifice Master (which nobody got at the store I went to play at), I found my fortune after the event. I acquired the said Necromancer and one of the Elder Dragons (see below for picture).
I was tempted to take part in another game on the following day but had to weigh in on cost and if I wanted more cards than I know what to do with. I am more active with (playing the Beta version of) Magic Arena. I suspect this set will appear online very soon, in both this platform and Magic Online, with very little fanfare. Bugs still exist within this game and they are minor. I would rather get more cards to use there. The booster box was bought on a whim since I wanted to get the promotional card that came along. My den does not have a dedicated filming studio space, otherwise, I would have recorded a box openings to post on YouTube.
At least I can report the weekend had some hilarious moments. To witness reactions is why I attend gaming store functions over playing online, at home. With this set, players can get ground to death with a mill deck, a concept I fondly love using back in the early days of this game.
The Millstone (I find the artwork in this version far more intimidating than the original) helped me win. My six pack draw was light on the creature cards, so the balance was not there to keep me alive in other games. I needed more discard and denial spells to prevent artifact destruction to make this deck work. I do believe this meta will make a comeback.
Added to the game are more Horses. The Vine Mare is perhaps the best. Although rotation is coming soon, at the end of September, I will have to try my hand at a horse tribal deck with Crested Sunmare at its core. I’m sure other players will be experimenting with this too, and the box opening netted me half the cards (I needed multiples). As many deck tech experts have said, players are better off buying the singles needed for the decks than a booster box or two. Those folks who like the lottery system are there to experience the joy of pulling a $40 card from a pile than just shelling out for a pay-to-win experience. Given the trending values of these cards at the time of writing, opening a $90 USD box will not always net a return on investment. In Canadian dollars (paid $138 after taxes), I definitely did not get a return. I lucked out in Dominaria pre-release when I found Karn, Scion of Urza in my packs!
As for whether the horses will become big in tournament play, that’s hard to say. The Goblin Chainwhirler from the last set was huge and leapt in value because of its abilities in the metagame. The big question on some player’s minds will be what will be the defining card(s) for M19?
With at least half the cards reprints from the previous sets, I am not seeing anything standing out. The horses may have a slight impact. However, I’m not playing to find those killers. I enjoyed pre-release for the social camaraderie than to learn what cards are good. Friday Night Magic is one method to test decks, but I wish my store did not run them tournament style.
I believe this set serves as an entry point for anyone wishing to come back to playing, either at a local game store or at the kitchen table level even more than prior sets. Cards from the past five sets have been put in M19, making the final value (for those who bought them) ultimately not worth it. These core sets also get revisited every few years so new folks can hop on board with specific sets instead of buying every release that comes every few months. With the new goblins in this set and the return of the Death Baron, I think I have everything I need to further develop fun tribes to go battling with. I did not get any with my booster box purchase so they will have to be bought individually.
Sorry Lily and Tez; For now, you two are just there to look pretty in my binder.