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Magic: The Gathering in 2022: Excellent sets and cards continue to be let down by relentless releases and baffling decisions

A joy as players, a nightmare as fans.

Magic: The Gathering Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty artwork
Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering has had a busy year in 2022. If you were to look back to try and recount the sets released in the last 12 months, we’d wager that you’d miss at least one. Between the sets themselves and the constant preview cycle, it’s been unending. If you stare into the abyss it’ll stare back, but keep your eyes on the MTG set preview pages and you’ll be visually assaulted by constant updates.

This year has seen us going through the iffy Innistrad: Double Feature, the brightly-lit Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, the mob-filled Streets of New Capenna, another D&D crossover set in Battle for Baldur’s Gate, a lot of enticing reprints with Double Masters 2022, the excellent Dominaria United, the unrestrained Unfinity, some mighty Warhammer 40,000 decks, the cinematic The Brothers’ War and Jumpstart 2022. There have also been a few Secret Lairs, Commander Collection: Black all the way back in January and some MTG Arena-specific bits and bobs as well.

Magic: The Gathering in 2022 continued the overwhelming trend of last year by constantly assaulting players with new cards and new things to buy.

Put simply: it’s been a lot. Magic: The Gathering in 2022 continued the overwhelming trend of 2021 by constantly assaulting players with new cards and new things to buy. It’s making money, even if some more established players have started to lose steam.

Even at the time of writing this, we’re currently going through previews for both Dominaria Remastered and Phyrexia: All Will Be One, both of which are coming early next year. We understand the need for preview seasons, but it’s felt worse than ever this year with sets overlapping in uncomfortable ways. Even if you write about this stuff for a living, it’s hard to keep which set is coming next straight in your head.

From Dominaria United onwards, every set will include Jumpstart boosters - which is good in concept, but potentially confusing for new players. Image: Wizards of the Coast

That’s not the only point of confusion this year either. Shall we talk about Jumpstart? You’ll likely remember Jumpstart as being one of the most fascinating sets we’ve had in recent years. It’s a perfect introduction to the game for newer players, because it lets you smash two packs together and instantly have a deck. Both the original Jumpstart and Jumpstart 2022 are filled with cool themes, and a nice mix of reprints and powerful new cards.

However, they’re not the only thing with the Jumpstart name now. As of Dominaria United, MTG’s underwhelming theme boosters are no more. Instead, each set now has its own Jumpstart boosters. Each of these contains one of a handful of decks, basically one for each mana colour, which are set - meaning each pack will have specific cards in it, although there can be tiny variations.

While this is theoretically good because Jumpstart is great, it’s intensely confusing when we still have actual Jumpstart sets. Imagine sending someone who doesn’t know about MTG to grab you a box of Jumpstart 2022, only to have them return with Jumpstart The Brothers’ War. It feels as though someone decided to take advantage of the goodwill generated by the excellent set and just spend it on making MTG more confusing. Please, stop!

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Then you’ve still got the wealth of different collector’s editions, and the truly god-awful 30th Anniversary Edition packs that contain incredibly expensive copies of classic cards that can’t be played in tournaments. These packs cost $999 and have a randomised set of cards, which means you can’t even guarantee you’ll get the proxies you want. We say proxies because if you can’t play these cards in tournaments, they’re no different from you making your own MTG cards. If there was a specific low point for the game this year, it’d be this.

The actual card designs and the individual sets, at least in a vacuum, are all pretty wonderful.

It’s not like 2022 has all been bad for Magic: The Gathering, but it’s mostly in spite of these weird decisions. The actual card designs and the individual sets, at least in a vacuum, are all pretty wonderful. Nearly every set this year was filled with excellent cards, incredible lore, and a fun Draft and Sealed environment.

Magic: The Gathering's 30th Anniversary Edition lets you pick up rare cards such as Black Lotus, at the incredibly steep cost of a thousand dollars. Yes, you read that right. Image: Wizards of the Coast

The only truly weak set this year was Innistrad: Double Feature, and that’s mostly because it was a weird Frankenstein’s monster of a set that should never have existed. It’s an accomplishment to keep every set feeling good despite the sheer volume of releases, even as a lot of us feel increasingly burned out by the never-ending preview cycle, with sets bleeding together into one unfathomable mass; when you sit down and play the game, it’s still fun.

We’d love for that to be an “at the end of the day, the game is still good” kind of thing, but we were worried about the increasing number of products and blatant capitalism going on at the end of 2021, and things have become even more severe on that front this year. It’s hard to be excited about a set when you know that previews will be going up for the set after that in a handful of days.

Innistrad: Double Feature was a notable low in an otherwise strong line-up of new MTG sets during 2022. | Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

This isn’t going to stop; there are seven sets planned for next year that we know of at the moment. There’s no Masters set in that lot, and there’s nothing like Unfinity either, so it could well be that those will also be announced at some point. We’re looking at another year of more and more Magic: The Gathering in 2023, so if you’re struggling to keep your enthusiasm up for the game, that’s not going to get any easier.

We’re looking at another year of more and more Magic: The Gathering in 2023.

Magic: The Gathering in 2022 is still a truly incredible game with some of the best designs out there in terms of playability, lore and aesthetics, but if this game is a cash cow, it’s being milked dry at an alarming rate. There’s simply no way this is sustainable. If Wizards of the Coast, or whoever is demanding this production life of preview hype doesn’t change things, MTG could genuinely be in trouble - or at least at risk of turning into a game that many of us won’t recognise.

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