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Magic: The Gathering introduces a new format with its own 20-card booster packs

The pick-up-and-play mode wants to make decks collectible, not just cards

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A depiction of a Planeswalker in Magic: The Gathering, shown wielding purple spells in a dimly lit room. An astrolabe moves in the background. Image: Tommy Arnold/Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering introduced a brand-new format on Thursday called Jumpstart. The pick-up-and-play system uses existing cards, plus a smattering of new ones, for a collectible deck experience that’s aimed squarely at competitors like KeyForge.

Traditionally, fans of Magic fuel their hobby by purchasing prebuilt 60-card Planeswalker decks and 15-card blind booster packs. Jumpstart is being sold 20 cards at a time, but there’s a catch: All the cards inside each pack align with a specific theme.

“Jumpstart is a new way to play Magic that mashes together themes from throughout the history of the game and lets you skip the deckbuilding part,” said Wizards of the Coast in a news release. “If you can’t wait to have Pirates head into battle with Unicorns, smash two boosters together and ride on. If you absolutely must merge the greatest evils in the multiverse together, Cats and Phyrexian packs are waiting for you.”

Packs of Jumpstart cards will feature dogs and orcs on the pack art. The graphic design, which splits the two factions with the Jumpstart name, emphasizes that you need 2 packs to play. Image: Wizards of the Coast

The mashup style of play has always been a popular way for fans to build stunt decks, but the new Jumpstart mode seems squarely aimed at upstart KeyForge. Fantasy Flight Games’ “unique card game” relies on procedural generation, automating the process of design and generating a potential 104 quadrillion different decks. Each one is unique, and can be registered online. KeyForge fundamentally changes the calculus of the hobby, transitioning it from a collectible card game to a collectible deck game, and clearly Wizards wants in on that action.

Jumpstart works very much the same way as far as collectibility is concerned, but limits the possible number of combinations in favor of a more curated selection of cards.

“What theme each booster contains is randomized, but each themed 20 cards will be sealed inside the pack and labled,” Wizards said. At launch, Jumpstart includes nearly 500 reprints, configured into 121 different 20-card decks. There are even brand-new cards that have been created for the Jumpstart format, all of which are legal in other modes of play.

Jumpstart also include 37 new cards, but they won’t be legal for play in Standard, Pioneer, or Modern. Instead they’ll be limited to Legacy, Vintage, and Commander. Pre-release weekend is scheduled for June 20-21, with regular sales to follow.

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