Magic is a complex, complicated game. No matter how much any one argues to the contrary, there are few games where the length of the rule book continually gets longer and undergoes changes on such a regular basis. Every set adds new twists, new mechanics, and adds another log onto the fire of endless deckbuilding possibilities. You may hear from players that Magic in recent years is somehow being dumbed down or overly simplified, but that’s usually coming from the mindset of an enfranchised person – someone who has been invested in the game for a long time. I’m sometimes just as guilty of this as the next veteran.
What’s often missed is that we long-time players have the benefit of experience. We have spent time accumulating the rules in bite-sized chunks over months and years to a point where adding in a single new mechanic to the fold – especially one that feels like a variation on a previously done one – is incredibly minor to our understanding of the game. Just as a car mechanic can incorporate new engine builds into his repair acumen or a football coach can add a new call to his play book, it’s much easier to learn changes to a subject if you’re already vested in the topic to begin with.
So, yes, while the core fundamentals of the game have only changed a few times in the games nearly 25 year existence, learning this game from scratch is often a huge barrier to new players. The perception of Magic’s complexity alone is enough to scare some people off.
This has been an issue since the game’s inception. Garfield & Co. realized early on that they needed to make the game as accessible as possible if they wanted the whole CCG model to pan out. Which is why we had core sets. These were sets designed to be simpler and easier to grasp than normal expansions by focusing on straightforward cards, reprints, and the most commonly used mechanics in the game. Magic released 17 core set expansions in its time – providing us with a new one at an average of about every 18 months.
Core sets have been problematic from a business standpoint, however. Namely that they rarely sold particularly well. Until Magic 2010, every core set consisted of reprinted cards. While this process offered up more copies of occasionally sought after singles, there was otherwise little need for existing players to buy packs of those cards. Though they were helpful getting new faces into the game, new players usually didn’t make core sets incredibly profitable.
Over time, Wizards started experimenting with other ways to get people into the game, such as intro decks, digital versions of the game with Magic Online and Duels of the Planeswalkers, and introducing unique cards into the core sets themselves. Each of which helped create new learning avenues, but they too have had varying degrees of success.
Banking on that multi-pronged approach for new players, and wanting to make other reprint sets that were likely to make them much more money (hello Modern Masters), Wizards decided to end core sets with Magic Origins. It was the last ride of a staple concept that had existed since Alpha.
As it turns out, the lack of core sets has indeed left a large gap for burgeoning Magic players, and so once again Wizards is actively experimenting with new ways to rectify this acknowledged new barrier to entry without necessarily bringing back the core set approach. What sticks exactly will remain to be seen.
That said, at least they made Magic Origins a fun core set to go out on. With lots of callbacks, planeswalker-centric storyline flavor, and plenty of new cards to experiment with, Origins showcased a number of cards that have proven popular in multiple formats, including EDH.
And so this week we tip our hat to the legacy of the core set by taking a look at a Commander-worthy card from the final installation.
Today we have: Chandra’s Ignition
Name: Chandra’s Ignition
Edition: Magic Origins
Focus: Damage Dealing
Highlights: Some cards are all about nuance, trickery, and political intrigue. Others are as straightforward as they come. Here’s a giant creature that wants to eat you. Here’s a life drain spell that wants to siphon your life away. Or in the case of Chandra’s Ignition, here’s a card that just wants to blow everything up.
Just like the Jaya character before her, Chandra the fire mage does exactly what you’d expect a fire mage to do. In this case, she goes and turns one of your creatures into a giant Exploding Fireball of Doom. For five mana, this card allows you to do damage to every other creature on the board equal to its power. Not only does this card scale well damage-wise, which is a perennial issue for Red in EDH where creatures are generally on the larger side, but it also allows you to potentially clear the board of most – or all – other creatures, giving you the opportunity to do additional damage.
What’s more, unlike many of Red’s better damage cards of the last few years, this Inferno-style callback also deals that much damage to each opponent, thereby giving you some nice one-sided damage dealing potential. Potentially lethal even.
Hey, if you’re already not going to make friends by torching the board, you might as well hit your opponents too…
The only caveat to Chandra’s Ignition, aside from the fact that you’ll hit all but one of your own creatures too, is that casting it requires that you have a creature to actually do anything, and usually a sizable one at that. As a result, although it works well as a creature wipe in Red, it will likely only be useful in the middle to later stages of the game. It’s unlikely under most circumstances that using it on your 2/2 will be particularly effective. If, on the other hand, you wait to use it with, say, a dragon or giant, then it can pack the heavy punch you’d be expecting.
Which ultimately is what Red wants to do anyway. Core set or no, some things in Magic will never change.
Keep an eye out for us to be regularly featuring other more accessible-but-worth-it Commander cards going forward. In the meantime, we’ll keep the light on for you.
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Do you have a particular Commander card to suggest for us to shine a future Spotlight on? You can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org