What We Learned—Wizards Needs Focus Groups

Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here folks. “Dragon’s Maze” is an awful name for a Magic expansion. It might actually be the worst name for a Magic set ever. I think there are some strong candidates for this award, and had you asked me to pick three finalists prior to 11:59PM EST on the 11th of November 2012, I would have came up with (in chronological order) The Dark, Nemesis, and Return to Ravnica. Maybe you think some of those are good names. You would be wrong of course, but that doesn’t matter anymore, since Dragon’s Maze is now the clear winner for crappiest expansion name in Magic’s 19 year history.

How did we get to this point? Things had been steadily improving in the set-naming department since roughly nine years ago with the release of Mirrodin. For the first ten years of the game’s existence sets were most commonly named with words describing places (Stronghold) or things (Weatherlight) or actions (Onslaught). For the most part they were exciting words, but not always indicative of what the hell was going on. From 1993 to 2003, the height of set-name flavor was Urza’s Block and/or Invasion Block.

 

Then Mirrodin came along and every fall set afterwards was descriptive and flavorful related to the plane we would be spending the next year of our Magic lives on. Mirrodin was followed by Champions of Kamigawa which was followed by Ravnica. Time Spiral is a bit out of place but it’s better than Return to Dominaria (keep this in mind). Then we were treated to Lorwyn, Shards of Alara, Zendikar, Scars of Mirrodin and Innistrad. Maybe using the word treated is a stretch, especially in the case of Lorwyn, but regardless you probably have very strong reactions, emotional ones even, to that list of names.

And here we are, at Return to Ravnica. No one is going to come out and say this is an awful name because we’re all infatuated with the City of Guilds, but the truth is that this name is 100% fan-service. But the name didn’t have to be so unimaginative. They could have gone with anything remotely related to Ravnica and players would have eaten it up. Scars of Mirrodin is a great example. Could you imagine if that set was called Return to Mirrodin? Rubbish. Gatecrash is not an awful name by any means. It’s no worse than Dark Ascension or Worldwake or Conflux. It’s a stepping stone really and is meant to get from the place we arrived at, Ravnica, to where we are going, which is apparently a maze, perhaps even a labyrinth, owned or at least inhabited by a dragon.

This happened because Wizards didn’t bother to think about what the players would be able to accept. If we ate up something as unimaginative and boring as Return to Ravnica, then what other uninspired crap would we put up with so long as it was glittering in glorious multicolored regalia. Wizards has hit a disturbing streak of not caring about what the players are going to think before doing something dumb. The most egregious of these slights was the original Planeswalker Point System, but Dragon’s Maze is just another example of putting the cart in front of the horse.

One of the counterpoints I’ve heard is that Magic Online has limited the number of available names for sets since WotC now has to compete with Video Games for names. Well, as Mark Rosewater says, restriction breeds creativity, so I’ll be having none of that crap.

Maybe it’s time WotC looked into focus groups before making these decisions. I wouldn’t be surprised if they almost named this one “Jace Beleren and the Dracogenius’ Labyrinth.” Then again, if Disney buys Hasbro I’m sure that isn’t too far off.

The Quick Hits

On Competitive Play: There were seven archetypes in the top-eight of Grand Prix Chicago which is great news if you play modern and even greater news if you are a dealer. If the format remains this diverse then every card can cost a fortune instead of just a handful of format staples. The 9th-16th decks only introduce two more archetypes, so you have eight decks to choose from!

On Veterans Day: StarCity Games celebrated Veteran’s day by announcing that if you are on military deployment during an event you have an invitation to, that you can defer that invitation until you return. I wonder if they’ll transfer the invitation to your next of kin if you don’t make it back.

On Morality: In the wake of the Jackie Lee suspension, Darwin Kastle has written a piece for Gathering Magic on ethical play at a competitive level. I have a feeling Pete Rose will get into Cooperstown well before Mike Long gets into… Renton, I guess?

On Twitter: Everyone and their mother has an opinion on Robots vs Affinity. All I know is that if I ever hear anyone call the deck YOLOBots they’re getting a face-punching.

On Appeasing the Masses: It looks like the illustrious MTG community at Reddit is happy with the new set name, which is basically all the confirmation I need to assure you it sucks.

On Mathematics: In the wake of Nate Silver correctly predicting the entire election, Will Spaniel takes a look back on what we can learn from statistical analysis of the MTG metagame.

More On Twitter: Apparently the #MTGDGM hashtag produced mixed feelings on the new set name. It’s kind of awkward to see Wizards employees trumpeting the return of RGD since it’s going to be drafted in reverse-order and should be called DGR.

On Fans: Wizards is providing fan-site kits for each guild. In case you weren’t around the internet a decade ago, fan-site kit is a fancy way of saying they put a ton of images in a zip file.

The Week Ahead

If you’re planning on getting a puppy or a kitten (or any animal) this week, don’t let anyone from Wizards of the Coast name it. This goes double for naming children as well.

Signoff

That’s it for the first installment of What We Learned (WWL) here at Hipsters of the Coast (HotC). Special thanks to Zac for giving me a place to speak my mind and Matt for encouraging me to go through with it and putting together the amazing Photoshop job of Niv-Mizzit overlooking the Maze of Ith.

Feel free to argue with me in the comments or tell me you don’t like me or think I dress funny. Just leave my mother out of it.

 

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Comments
One Response to “What We Learned—Wizards Needs Focus Groups”
  1. Zac Clark says:

    I have a feeling that Pete Rose has a better chance of getting into RENTON than Mike Long. and sadly, vice versa.

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