MTG Sets To Feature Fewer Legendary Creatures Moving Forward
I've written at length about how WOTC abandoned other MTG formats to support Commander and some of its impacts on things like Standard. You might have noticed this switch if you played Magic before 2019. Once upon a time, every set didn't come with commander precons, for example. We also went from having around eight legendary creatures per set to upwards of 30 in more recent sets. That said, it seems future MTG sets will have fewer legendary creatures.
Future MTG Sets Will Have Fewer Legendary Creatures
The design team for MTG plans to scale back the number of legendary creatures in traditional sets. Mark Rosewater said, “We’ve been talking about lowering the average of legendary creatures in Magic: The Gathering IP sets.” As the intro mentions, the number of legends per set has quadrupled over the last few years.
Given that Commander (which builds decks around legendary creatures) is the game's most popular format, it's not exactly hard to see the reason behind the increase. Again, to quote the man himself, Rosewater once said, "We create so many legendary creatures because the player base is constantly asking for new commanders to support the specific and niche archetypes they enjoy playing."
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It's worth noting that this change won't apply to Universes Beyond sets, “as the named characters of an IP are a big draw”. This makes sense when you consider the recent LOTR: Tales of Middle-Earth set as an example - So, many characters demanded to be legendary.
Back to the topic at hand, from a strictly commander point of view, the high number of legendary creatures makes a lot of sense. So, what are the benefits of cutting back? Here's my take.
Better For Non-Commander Formats
Commander is the game's most popular format, so Wizards will allocate some cards to the format, and that's good. I think the issues arise when such a high number (geared explicitly toward EDH cards) starts to appear in sets built for Standard, Pioneer, or Modern. In non-singleton formats, a legendary creature can be a big downside and will almost always reduce the number of a given legend you'll want in your deck.
Back in the day, cards weren't really printed for Commander. That may come as a shock to newer players, but it's true. Once upon a time, sets were made mainly with Standard in mind, and EDH and even Modern cherry-picked what cards were relevant to them. That may seem a bit boring compared to how things are done today. However, with more Commander precons and the creation of specialty sets like Commander Masters, there is plenty of space for EDH-specific cards.
To be clear, I don't think printing cards specifically for EDH is bad. They will continue to do so, and they should. However, it's very common these days to have spoilers drop, and players say, "Yeah, this feels like it's mostly for Commander." Look at the card list for Double Masters, and you'll see what I mean.
In my experience, the same is true for Limited formats like Draft and Sealed. More recent sets are guilty of including legends that don't reasonably contribute to any of the archetypes for the set. Overall, I think you could print Commander stuff in EDH-specific places without hurting the format a bit and help many other formats in the process.
Legendary Creatures Will Mean More
This doesn't have as have a huge impact on gameplay, but it's still valid. A character being legendary used to denote some importance to the plane, set, or storyline in which they exist, which is cool. It distinguished them from other characters and cards as "a more unique, heroic kind of creature that would have a sense of depth and strength."
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With so many more being printed, its lost much of the importance that it was designed to create for players. That said, maybe I'm just holding onto an old-school feel for the game. Comment below and let me know if this concept is something you care about.
I think it makes sense for future MTG sets to have fewer legendary creatures. And I'm not alone in that; Rosswater's original post got a lot of support (and some backlash) in the comments. Love it, hate it, or anything in between; it seems to be what's happening. That said, "less" doesn't necessarily mean "few." We're set to scale back, but that doesn't mean we'll go from 30 per premier set back down to 10.