The first Magic: The Gathering set of 2022, arriving on January 28th, Innistrad: Double Feature is a mash-up of all but ten cards from last year’s Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow. It's meant to be a special Draft format; the aim here is to try and get people back into stores to not only do the draft itself, but also support the local game stores which have been struggling for the last couple of years.
Each card in the set has a special black-and-white treatment to it to mimic old-school monster movies. There are even special "silver screen” foil cards, which are cards with black-and-white artwork using a slightly fancier foiling process as you’ll already have seen in the two Innistrad sets.
On paper, it all sounds like a great idea. But that isn't the case. Instead of a proper celebration of all things Innistrad - a hugely popular MTG plane - it feels as though we've got the most blatant attempt at profiteering yet, which is saying something in the wake of Secret Lairs and the sheer volume of new MTG sets and cards we have to keep up with now.
Both Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow had 277 cards each. Double Feature includes 267 of those cards from each of those sets, meaning it contains a whopping 534 cards in total. That's a truly monstrous set. It's also one that's had no thought put into it.
Innistrad: Double Feature is a monstrous set that's had no thought put into it.
Rather than creating a set full of cards that complement each other to make for a truly unique and interesting draft experience, it's simply everything. There's no gameplay balance - and if the two sets were designed to be played like this anyway, then the act of splitting them up makes little to no sense. It means that the sets were always meant to be played together, in which case Magic: The Gathering’s old block format of drafts, where you'd take two from one set and one from the other, would have been more logical.
Either way, what we have is either a product as it was initially designed before being split into two for some reason, or one that wasn't meant to be smashed together and isn't going to be all that fun to play with.
However, it's not the fun of the Double Feature format that’s the biggest problem. Instead, the issues with this set lie in its execution.
The selection of cards doesn't feel like an exciting twist on things. Instead, it feels as though it's the simplest way to repackage something that was only recently released. After all, both of the sets Double Feature combines only came out a few months ago. It's one of the more blatant instances of all gain for the company, not for the players.
Each card looks more like something produced by a printer that's run out of coloured ink, instead of something designed to be in monochrome.
It's not just the selection of cards that feels lacklustre. Every card in the set is black-and-white. There's a way of doing this where it looks incredible. Fans had envisioned something akin to the box art for the set, with cards having new artwork that suits the monochrome look. The balance of contrast and new images would allow this to be a true collector's set, one worth playing for the chance to pick up your favourite card with new artwork and a stunning finish.
That isn't the case. Instead, each card has simply had the colour stripped out by applying a black-and-white filter to the original artwork. There appears to have been no rebalancing of lights and darks, nor anything more dedicated to allow the cards to look good. Each one, at least from what we've seen, looks more like something produced by a printer that's run out of coloured ink, instead of a card that's been designed to be in monochrome.
When looking at any product, it's important to consider what it could have been, but also judge it based on what it is. However, in the case of Double Feature, we've been given something that inherently invokes other ideas about what it could, and possibly should, have been released as. Perhaps it's because the marketing for the product was mixed - as evidenced by the fact that head designer Mark Rosewater had to clarify a few issues after seeing the backlash.
This could have been a curated product from the most recent Innistrad sets. One that was tighter, with a cohesive mix of cards that genuinely complemented each other. It could have also been something that reached further back, reprinting older cards from the plane in order to help lower the cost of them in the secondary market. Cards like Emrakul, the Promised End sit at over $44 (£30) each; a reprinting, especially in this style, would help lower the cost.
It could have been a true celebration of the horrors of Innistrad, with new artwork representing the most famous beasts and heroes of the world. We could have had werewolves with claws dripping, vampires with teeth wet with blood and humans posted on missing posters. We could have had so many other things that would have justified the existence of this product, but we got none of them.
Between the lack of curation, the shoddy card treatment, and the fact that we literally only got Crimson Vow two months ago, Double Feature has all of the hallmarks of being a cash grab. The disappointment is immeasurable and, for the first time in a long time, there's really nothing good that can be said about the latest Magic: The Gathering set. Well, aside from the fact that it's meant to be aimed at helping at local game stores.
But even that rings hollow. The last year or so has seen a push for more products in big supermarkets and online at sites like Amazon. If Wizards truly wanted to help out stores, it would lower the cost of its products for local stores, giving people more incentives to buy from them. There are plenty of ways that Wizards could support stores in a more obvious financial way, but that's not what's happening.
Innistrad: Double Feature represents an intensely underwhelming start to 2022 for Magic: The Gathering. While we don't believe for a second that this is what'll be the norm for 2022, it's still a disconcerting sell from a company that's making money like never before in a game with constantly elevating costs and a worrying trend towards oversaturation and power creep. Frankly, this is Wizards of the Coast and Magic: The Gathering at the lowest we've seen them.