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Magic: The Gathering’s 15-year-old ‘remastered’ cards are a franchise first

Time Spiral Remastered could be a sign of things to come for Magic: The Gathering

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A planeswalker casts a spell with a yellow glow in key art for Angel’s Grace, a card from Time Spiral Remastered. Image: Zoltan Boros/Wizards of the Coast
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Wizards of the Coast is launching an entirely new type of card set for Magic: The Gathering on March 19 called Time Spiral Remastered. It’s a reprint of selected cards from three related sets that came out 15 years ago. The reasons why Wizards is publishing this set are as complex as the game itself, but it’s a sign of things to come for the original collectible card game — and a good indication of the continued health of its community.

Magic is constantly evolving. Step out of the stream of new releases for just a month or two and it’s easy for the latest fads and strategies to pass you by. The game’s momentum comes from the multiple sets of cards released each year. They help to shape the overall meta-narrative of the game’s universe, but most importantly they help to sow new mechanical seeds within the gameplay itself.

Every new set of cards that comes out is, in its own way, a subtly different game than the last. Plop down a box of boosters from the latest set, the Viking-themed Kaldheim, and you’ll have a very different narrative and mechanical experience than if you were drafting cards from the steampunk-ish Kaladesh. But certain strategies and cards tend to fall in and out of favor with the community. At the same time, certain sets and even individual cards get banned from Magic’s various formats of play.

What you end up with is a fluid and active marketplace — both for the cards themselves, and for the strategies surrounding how to play them — that occasionally needs to be refreshed. To go back to the sowing seeds analogy, every once in a while Wizards needs to fertilize that soil with specific types of cards.

Time Spiral Remastered is a curated set of cards that intends to do just that. It’s drawn from a single “block” of cards — three sets that date back to 2006 titled Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, and Future Sight. As Wizards’ Mark Rosewater explains, a total of 626 cards were whittled down to just 289 cards. But the set also contains an additional 121 “timeshifted” cards pulled in from across the history of Magic: The Gathering. You’ll find one in each pack, marked with a special purple icon.

Together, these 410 cards have been assembled to create a single, satisfying experience when drafted (played using fresh cards randomly pulled from new packs) — and to put a little nitrogen back into the soil of the Magic community. Time Spiral Remastered has the potential to help fill gaps in popular or emerging strategies across multiple formats.

What has diehard Magic fans so excited is that this won’t be the last set of remastered cards reprinted. According to Rosewater, there are at least five other candidates on the drawing board. It’s a sign that Wizards of the Coast is willing to slow down and listen to its biggest fans, adjusting the game’s meta layer by reprinting older cards and getting them back into circulation. But Wizards is also interested in having some fun, letting players new and old get a chance to play with a streamlined set of cards from Magic’s heyday.

The first opportunity to play with Time Spiral Remastered cards will come next week, where they’ll be available at retail. Unfortunately, in-store play is still off the table due to the global pandemic. Instead, fans will need to pick up booster packs (ideally at their friendly local game store) and bring them home. Wizards will then be hosting a launch party using SpellTable, a new platform for playing with physical cards remotely.

After the launch weekend, collectors and serious players will want to keep an eye out for guidance from Wizards on which cards from Time Spiral Remastered will be “legal” across Magic’s many formats of play. After that, the next mainline set of cards, titled Strixhaven, will come out in late April.

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