Raise Your Standards – Thoughts on Iconic Masters

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Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards.  This week I’ll be taking a break from Standard to discuss the release of Iconic Masters.  I’ll let you know my thoughts on the set, and whether I think Wizards of the Coast hit a home run with the set or whether they struck out (that’s a sports reference, in case you were wondering).

The Build-Up

For those of you that might not be aware, this past Friday was the release of Iconic MastersIconic Masters is the latest in the line of purely reprint sets, which helps increase card availability for players that want to play formats that use cards that were printed in the past and are no longer Standard legal (like Modern or Legacy).  It was created as a set to be debuted at HasCon, likely in an attempt to draw Magic fans to this new convention.

Wizards did an amazing job building this set up, and somehow managed the impossible by having zero cards leaked prior to the day of the tournament.  Knowing how much of a problem leaks have been recently, this was a monumental feat.  With any luck, they’ll be able to figure out whatever magic formula they used and will be able to repeat the process for upcoming sets so that leaks are a thing of the past.

Now, first off, let me say that I commend WotC for their attempt at recreating the feeling of going to a prerelease from days of yore.  I wasn’t playing during the time when players would attend the massive prerelease events with no prior knowledge of the cards in the set.  It sounds like a magical time, and while I happen to love the way things are currently, it’s something I know a lot of people look back fondly on.

As I was not able to attend HasCon, I was glued to my computer screen the entire day when the event was happening at HasCon, eagerly awaiting the spoilers to begin.  And when they did, I was champing at the bit for more.  I made a list as the cards were spoiled so I could figure out which of these reprints I needed, and which I already had.  If memory serves me right, the complete list of cards wasn’t complied for a day or two, simply because of the nature of compiling the information from various individual social media posts.

From what I could see, the list of cards was pretty sweet.  There were somewhere around 30 cards in total that I needed, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them.  And that’s where the problem began…

Let the Waiting Begin

HasCon took place from September 8th – 10th, 2017.  When Iconic Masters was announced the release date given was November 17th.  That meant there would be 10 weeks between the full drop of spoilers and when the set would release.  That’s where the problems began.

The weekend that the massive spoiler drop happened, I was so excited about the prospect of this new set.  I couldn’t wait to throw my money at WotC ten dollars at a time for the chance to open up some of these sweet cards.  This set had my full interest.  But as time went on, it dropped off of my radar.  Spoilers for Ixalan had begun and my mind began to think about the possibilities of Dinosaurs and Pirates.  I thought less and less of the reprint set Iconic Masters as more and more Standard legal cards were spoiled.  While I still needed some of the cards from Iconic Masters for my Modern decks, Standard is the format I play the most and with a new Standard set being released on September 29th, all of the momentum that WotC had from releasing Iconic Masters at HasCon had stopped for me.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one that felt this way.

Zero Forward Momentum, All Stop

Flash forward to this past weekend.  November 17th was the release of Iconic Masters.  Earlier in the week, my excitement for the set began to grow once again, because I remembered all of the sweet cards that I needed from it.  I checked the event listings for my local shops within an hour but was hard-pressed to find anyone holding a draft.  I sent out a few emails and eventually two of the shops responded with their plans, but it seemed that there wasn’t as much excitement for these events as there had been in the past (like there was when Modern Masters 2017 was released, for example).  It almost seemed like these events were an afterthought.

To be fair to the shops involved, I’m not blaming them for the lack of excitement surrounding the release of Iconic Masters.  That blame falls squarely on the shoulders of Wizards of the Coast.  As a visitor to the mothership (the Wizards of the Coast Magic website), there was scarcely any announcement at all regarding the release of Iconic Masters.  They are currently smack-dab in the middle of Unstable spoiler season and are hyping that set for all it’s worth.  Yet over the past 10 weeks, there hasn’t been any substantial hype for Iconic Masters.  I’m not sure why that is, but it’s a shame.

I think a lot of the problem is the glut of products that WotC is producing currently.  There’s simply not enough time to properly promote each new item before moving on to the next big thing.  As I mentioned last week, we have five different products releasing between November 10th and December 8th.  That’s simply too many things for such a short period of time, and doesn’t allow each product the chance to shine before the next thing releases and it’s a thing of the past.  A similar thing happened in 2016 when Conspiracy 2: Take the Crown was released, but on a much smaller scale.

Retailers are the ones who will ultimately suffer the most by this botched release of Iconic Masters.  I’ve heard of a few retailers that had ordered a decent amount of Iconic Masters from their distributor when it was announced, only to call and reduce their order just a week or two prior to release.  They were afraid of ordering product that they feared would not be purchased relatively quickly.  Having owned my own comic & game store in the past, it’s a fear I understand all too well.  The secret to being successful in business is to always have revolving merchandise, so ordering a product that will sit on your shelves for possibly months (or longer) is a recipe for disaster.  Wizards of the Coast need to do a better job of understanding this and schedule their products in such a way that each product has at least a few weeks to be in the spotlight before the next hot item is released.  Give the retailers a chance to recoup their expenses so they can in turn order the next big thing.  That way, it’s a win-win for both the retailer and WotC.

Wrapping Up

At this point, there’s not much to do about the overabundance of new products being released in the next few weeks other than try to make the best of a bad situation.  The schedule of releases can’t be changed, and that means that some things will probably appear to be a bust as far as releases go.  Hopefully that’s not the case and Wizards will continue trying new things like Explorers of Ixalan.  I sincerely hope Wizards can see that releasing so many things in such a short period of time is a problem.  I’m also hopeful that each product that is released in the future can have its moment in the sun.  Magic is a great game and there’s a ton of different ways to play it.  As such, Wizards should allow each product to get the attention it deserves so the game can continue to grow.

To answer the questions from my opening paragraph, I think that Iconic Masters is a great set as it reprints a bunch of cards that I need, so for me the product is a home run.  With that being said, I do think that the 10-week delay from when the product was originally spoiled to when it was released to the masses was a bad idea and one I hope Wizards never repeats again.  Hopefully they will learn from this experience that you should always strike while the iron is hot.  Or at the very least, try to hype people up for the actual release if the product is spoiled extra early.

What do you think of Iconic Masters?  Do you agree with me that every new product should get a few weeks to shine, or do you like the rapid pace of these releases?  Let me know your thoughts.  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com.  Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MTGDeckTechs/) to be sure to be notified when a new article is posted.

Be sure to join me again next week for another installment of Raise Your Standards.  I’ll see you then!

Mike Likes

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Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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