Magic: The Gathering To Introduce Arena-Exclusive Cards and Mechanics

Magic: The Gathering Arena is about to enter a new age. For years, the digital version of the popular card game has been home to the exclusive Historic format, comprising every card available in the game (minus a few banned cards) and adding classic cards specifically for the format with Historic Anthology sets. Now Wizards of the Coast is taking Historic a step further with the Jumpstart: Historic Horizons set. The bulk of the 782-card set comes from previous Magic: The Gathering releases, including many cards from Modern Horizons and Modern Horizons II. However, Historic Horizons will also include 31 new cards that will not exist in Magic's print formats. That's because they use brand new mechanics that take advantage of Magic: The Gathering Arena's digital nature in ways that couldn't work using physical cards.

"We didn't want to overwhelm people," Magic: The Gathering's Vice President of Design Aaron Forsythe tells IGN. He notes that Arena is heading into "uncharted waters" with this release. "We could have easily come out with a dozen wacky digital mechanics, but we felt like the way to make this feel like a card set is to pick a small number and show the breadth that that small number of mechanics can execute on."

Historic Horizons introduces three Arena-exclusive keywords to Magic: The Gathering: Seek, Perpetually, and Conjure. Here's how they work:

  • Seek: This keyword has a tutor effect, allowing players to grab a particular card from their deck. The mechanic takes advantage of the digital format by not requiring players to reshuffle their decks after it. It makes sense since players won't acquire any unearned knowledge of what cards they have coming up as they would in a physical matchup. It also means players can Scry cards and then Seek out a card based on what they know is on top of their deck. Using Seek means they won't remove those known cards from their subsequent draws.
  • Perpetually: This is a new way to apply buffs to cards. Where enchantments, instants, and sorceries could always boost permanents on the battlefield, Perpetually allows players to buff or debuff cards still in hand or even in a graveyard. Additionally, as the name implies, these bonuses do not disappear under any circumstances. Suppose you give a creature a perpetual bonus on the battlefield only to see it killed. In that case, you can deploy a means of returning it to the battlefield from your graveyard, and it will still have the previously applied perpetual bonuses. These effects can also include changing a card's casting cost or giving a creature additional keywords.
  • Conjure: Where Seek and other such tutors find cards in decks, and Learn and similar card effects and pull cards from sideboards into the game, Conjure creates a new card out of nothing. These cards are not tokens or copies but act like a regular card would, meaning they can be kept in hand and won't disappear if bounced. Wizards of the Coast will complement this ability by introducing some cards to Arena that are not legal in any format or obtainable in packs. That means players can only bring them into a game through Conjure. These cards include Tropical Island, Stormfront Pegasus, and Ponder.
Davriel Soul Broker
(Photo: Wizards of the Coast, IGN)

Historic Horizons will also introduce some cards that are singular in their uniqueness to the digital format. One example is the new Planeswalker card Davriel, Soul Broker. Davriel's card uses the new Perpetually mechanic with one of his powers. Another employs the use of randomly chosen Offers and Conditions, with eight possibilities each. This kind of design would be impractical at best in physical formats.

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As a Jumpstart set, Historic Horizons won't be available in booster packs but instead through drafts where players select two themed packets to create a deck. Wizards of the Coast is taking advantage of the digital format here as well. The designers are adding additional variance to each pack so that there's always a chance that certain cards could swap with certain other cards. The result is that players are less likely to be given twin packs on multiple occasions.

Though not available in boosters, players can craft Historic Horizons cards using wild cards. The cards in the set will only be legal in the Historic Format, thus keeping the Standard format identical to its physical counterpart.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Jumpstart: Historic Horizons comes to Magic: The Gathering Arena on August 12th.