Secret Lair New Cards

Lore forum

Posted on Oct. 4, 2023, 10:40 a.m. by Tsukimi

I saw on Rosewater's blog someone mention that they really don't like the Princess Bride reskins of cards in the Secret Lair (I.e. Samut being used as the actual card for Inigo, etc.) Maro's response was to ask what people would prefer, and I am curious what you all think - between new secret lair cards being made or secret lair only being reskins of existing cards where does your preference fall?

I have to say I would strictly prefer reskins, no question. I am always scouring every new set and small release for new fun cards for my EDH decks and I found quite a few that would be perfect for some of my favorite decks but... I don't really enjoy the flavor of having Warhammer or Doctor Who in my MTG decks. Having space marines, Doctors, etc. just really doesn't align with the vibe of magic to me, and makes the game feel disjointed. It's a huge bummer to have a fun new perfect card for your deck but the flavor is so out of place or so referential that you don't really want to play it. (Not to mention the costs of small release cards like this which I also don't like) For example, The Doctor Who set is releasing all of these new interesting cards that I just... don't feel inclined to use because they're so out of place even if the design/gameplay of the card is very appealing...

I fully recognize that this might just me though, and am curious to see what other people think.

Crow_Umbra says... #2

I think my stance on re-skins vs mechanically unique & exclusive cards has changed a bit since the debut of Universes Beyond with The Walking Dead. I was initially very against the mechanically unique and SL exclusive cards, and still am to a lesser degree than I was at first. I think Universes Beyond should have debuted with either the D&D or LotR sets instead.

I think one of the things that I enjoyed most about Ikoria is that we got the In-Universe designs, as well as the Godzilla re-skins to pay homage to the Kaiju that inspired their MtG counterparts. I wish that most Universes Beyond sets could have a similar approach as Ikoria, in that some cards get an immediate In-Universe printing in parallel with the rest of the set. I understand that for larger UB sets like WH40K, LotR, and Dr.Who, this isn't feasible for every card. A select handful of the most notable characters could get those parallel In-Universe printings or something. I just wish we could have a more expected timeframe for when we will get In-Universe printings, instead of anticipating that it will be "sometime in the next few months to a year or more in Set/Collectors boosters"

All that being said, after seeing the UB sets released so far, I do appreciate that they are a vehicle to explore design spaces that might not be as feasible in main-line/premier sets. I also appreciate that it gives players an opportunity to get more challenging mechanics that might not return as frequently in premier sets for whatever reason. Although I didn't initially like mechanically unique designs in Secret Lairs, I do appreciate them from a design space exploration perspective.

Of all the UB sets so far, I think Dr. Who is my least favorite, mostly because I never got into it, and also because it has very heavy usage of character art that looks a lot like the characters' real-world actors. I think that it's most jarring when UB designs use very identical likeness of real-world actors, and liked that the LotR set used much more stylized and unique depictions of the characters. For me, the inconsistent usage of "real world likeness" is more disjointed than some of the other flavor elements. I wish they would use stylized and unique designs of characters that make them feel more like MtG characters than say Jeff Goldblum and Chris Pine. I do look forward to the eventual In-Universe printings of Jeff Goldblum and Chris Pine hahaha.

October 4, 2023 11:52 a.m.

Tsukimi says... #3

Crow_Umbra Always nice to hear from ya! I agree with pretty much everything you said - I love any cards/sets that can explore interesting or new aspects of game designs, especially when they give support to mechanics and play styles that don't get enough love.

I was fine with DnD and LoTR (actually really enjoyed them) because they looked if not FELT like MTG sets. In the case of LoTR, it didn't even necessarily feel like an mtg set but they made it uniquely it's own thing with the art instead of putting Elijah Wood and friends on cards. That made it feel new and different- unlike the Doctor Who cards. I think if the Doctor Who set, like you said, didn't just have art of real world actors etc. for card art I would find them a lot less egregious. I get that some people will love having Jeff Goldblum, and I want them to have that option! I would just prefer that people who don't want to use Jeff Goldblum just to have access to a fun unique card also have that option.

October 4, 2023 12:36 p.m.

legendofa says... #4

I'm okay with the Universes Beyond cards, mostly because I usually know way more about M:tG than whatever franchise they're pulling in. To me, it's just another plane with a different tone or technology level.

The biggest sticking point for me right now is the Doctor Who Planechase planes. Most of them are okay, but a couple of them are set on actual, non-fictional places on Earth, the worst offender right now being Prime Minister's Cabinet Room. I know early sets like Portal Three Kingdoms and Arabian Nights have historical references, but those are heavily adjusted by folklore and the passage of time. Maybe it's just my cultural shortsightedness, but Capture of Jingzhou feels about as real-world Earth-y as Fiery Cannonade or Sizzling Soloist. Putting a card, even one specifically for a variant format, at 10 Downing Street is just a little too specific for me.

I've been wanting more planes that aren't direct copies of Earth cultures for a long time now. They're my favorite type of plane. Now, we're getting cards on contemporary Earth itself. This annoys me, both aesthetically and philosophically. (If we get a Wizards of the Coast HQ plane, I'll be happy.)

October 4, 2023 12:47 p.m.

Tsukimi says... #5

legendofa I wouldn't say it is cultural short sightedness at all, I agree that historical references from so far back are shrouded in a bit more mystery, folklore, etc. than the PM's cabinet room. I would take any of the cards you listed over the Doctor Who cards we received because at least they feel slightly magical/otherworldly. I think New Capenna really pushed that boundary, and it was on the cusp of going too far for me. I agree with you that I would really prefer to see strange and otherwordly planes- places like Lorwyn, the upcoming Bloomburrow, etc. Kaladesh is a great example of a technologically advanced plane that really built its own identity and flavor to the point where nothing resembled our own world. Less planes based on human cultures would not only make the game more fun IMO, but help mtg retain its own separate identity.

October 4, 2023 1:06 p.m.

Crow_Umbra says... #6

When I was first getting into MtG, I was surprised to learn about the Portal Three Kingdoms set. I played quite a bit of Dynasty Warriors 4-6 when I was a kid, so a lot of that history already had the mystical feeling that you mentioned Tsukimi. The Dynasty Warriors franchise definitely piqued my interest in the Han Dynasty and the Era of the Three Kingdoms, since the games did have brief historical descriptions of the people the characters were based on.

To your point earlier, I'm definitely someone that thinks it is kinda great that Jeff Goldblum can be my commander, but I also wish they had stylized him a bit more.

On the topic of "original" planes, I'm super excited for Bloomburrow, but am intrigued how Wild West tropes will be translated into MtG stylization for Thunder Junction. As someone who is of Mexican descent, I do appreciate Ixalan, and the upcoming art direction for the special art treatments in Lost Caverns. That's my roundabout way of saying I do like some real-world influences with some stylization that makes it feel like MtG, but making fun homages to the cultures, mythologies, and source materials that they draw from.

October 4, 2023 1:46 p.m.

Tsukimi says... #7

I am also curious about how they're going to do a Wild West set considering how Rosewater has mentioned a kind of "no guns" rule because they don't feel like MtG. I hope they keep that rule.

I also loved Ixalan at first but am not of Mexican descent as you are Crow_Umbra. My close friend who is said he had initially been very excited for Ixalan, but when he saw the vampire colonizers who are literally referred to as conquistadors he said it put a really bad taste in his mouth and made him pretty uncomfortable, and I couldn't agree more. Yea they're vampires, but they are directly representative of a very real and violent history of colonialism. I thought it was not a great decision on WOTC's part. And this is another reason why I agree with legendofa's point that I wish there were less sets that were analogs/direct copies of real earth cultures- or at least if they're going to do that they need to do it more thoughtfully with those cultures and their histories in mind.

As I type this however, I think of a really well written and beautiful letter written in response to Kaladesh that I read. It was a long time ago so I'm going to paraphrase but it was an open letter to WOTC from an Indian American person who was so excited to see their culture represented in one of their favorite games. But when Kaladesh came out, they said it felt like Indian culture was an afterthought. There were gremlins and elves and vehicles and all of these things that borrowed from Indian aesthetics but the actual cards based on Indian culture or mythology were either non existent or close to. The rakshasas for example were one of the few things they said she recognized. They said it felt like a display window, where they made an effort to dress the mannequin in a sari, but otherwise surrounded it with so many things that had nothing to do with their culture, to the point that they felt it was a hollow disappointment. They said it more beautifully than I ever could, but the letter has always stuck with me. I actually stopped typing this to do some sleuthing and find the post, because it was so beautifully written - The Post

These are the kinda of things I think about when WOTC takes real world cultures and builds analogous planes out of them. I feel that 1. they can and should do it better with more consideration to these peoples and cultures or 2. Should start moving away from this practice and just build fantasy worlds that can incorporate aspects of culture without necessarily being an "X culture themed plane"

October 4, 2023 3:40 p.m.

Crow_Umbra says... #8

Seeing how they handled "guns" in New Capenna, I imagine they could go a similar route for Outlaws of Thunder Junction, but I guess we will wait to see. Given the key art of the Oko and the other Outlaws, I wonder if this will end up being a Magnificent Seven type set instead.

Honestly, I always thought it was kinda funny that the conquistadors were made into vampires. I can see how people might feel that turning conquistadors into vampires trivializes the real world atrocities they committed. They essentially leeched all types of resources from the cultures they colonized, my ancestors included, but I do see it as more parody-lite than as some intentional social/historical commentary. I personally never saw it as malicious or offensive, but I'm just one person.

I do have some agreements with the person that made that commentary on Kaladesh, but I think for me and Ixalan, I'm not really expecting a deep representation of my culture or anyone else's. For me I am expecting a MtG plane with elements and tributes of the cultures that they're borrowing from, but not for it to be anything close to its cultural source material.

I think these "culturally inspired" planes have been mostly fine so far, and WotC should continue to partner with cultural consultants to ensure that the elements utilized are not insensitive. But yeah I do want to see more conceptually original planes moving forward, and more infrequent use of "real world inspirations"

October 4, 2023 4:05 p.m.

Tsukimi says... #9

Crow_Umbra Ooooo I didn't even realize that was Oko! Very excited to see him again!!

I initially had a similar take on the vampire conquistadors but it's closer to my friend's heart and family history and I felt different after hearing from him. He also said its very much just his opinion and something he didn't like but he didn't expect it to be the same for everyone.

I agree they've otherwise been fine so far, but I'd just like to see more unique/fantasy worlds. I thought Kaldheim was a good example of a real world culture that was handled in a very different/fantasy and folklore centric way.

October 4, 2023 4:24 p.m.

legendofa says... #10

For Kaladesh, I don't really see it as "Indian/South Asian world." It's more like "inventor world" with a South Asian veneer. For Alara, Bant used Arabic and Middle Eastern theming and linguistics for major characters (Rafiq of the Many, Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, Asha (who doesn't get a card)), and Naya had a Mesoamerican linguistic theme (Matca Rioters, Nacatl Outlander, Winged Coatl). They are not especially representative of Arabic or Mesoamerican culture. I see Kaladesh as an expanded version of that: the South Asian theme isn't a key part of the world, it's simply how it's presented. You could have an inventor world themed after the central Mediterranean (Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi, Allesandro Volta) and a heavily South Asian-inspired world, pulling from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and assorted sutras (although that gets into the concerns of real-world religious texts). I've also never directly talked to anyone from South Asia about it, so my insight isn't especially deep.

As for guns, Alaborn Zealot's got a pretty nice one, and Vengeance goes into the flavor text, but maybe Portal 2 isn't the best precedent.

October 4, 2023 4:42 p.m.

Tsukimi I’m 100% in your camp (or maybe moreso). I like that more people will have more magic cards to play with, as a general stance, but I don’t want to see any of them... like, kinda ever. I was excited to see the Jurassic Park cards, as my kids are bonkers for that set of movies, but I was going to buy them and have them in a separate box like it was a completely different game; stacked between Rummikub and Monopoly. Then I heard they weren’t proper commander decks (I guess they’re mixed in like the transformers were?) and now I’m likely not going to seek them out. I do love the idea of utilizing the mechanics of magic for other universes (I’m a firm believer that they are as good a structure for a card game as you can get) but I desperately want them to be their own game. I never want to see someone tap Rome to produce a Senator token, then sacrifice it to “L.A. Plastic Surgeon” to return John Wick to the battlefield, then tap John and their copy of “2023 Audi R8” to sneak a nuke past my Breeding Pit of 0/1 thrulls. I can’t come up with a sufficient statement of how that would make me feel.

October 5, 2023 7:22 p.m.

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