Magic: The Gathering‘s lore is hugely expansive, and it spans not just years but millennia. Many different factions, legendary characters, planes and conflicts appear in this anthology-style setting, and while new storylines like March of the Machine and War of the Spark are exciting, countless MTG players have serious nostalgia for older sets.
Longtime MTG players look back fondly on the storylines of years past, and while Wizards of the Coast makes substantial effort to cater to new players, veteran players are more interested in what came before — meaning there’s a profitable market for “flashback” sets that focus on a period of time in MTG‘s history. WotC has printed excellent flashback sets before, like The Brothers’ War, and now is the perfect time for another one.
Magic: The Gathering’s Flashback Sets Are Fan-Favorites
In general, Wizards of the Coast looks to the future for MTG‘s new products and storylines, by creating new and unusual planes and introducing new Planeswalkers and legendary creatures. That said, MTG regularly benefits from nostalgia-based sets or blocks, with returns to fan-favorite planes like Ravnica, MTG‘s gothic horror plane, Innistrad, and the largest plane by far, Dominaria.
Revisiting these planes is usually a sure bet, but sometimes WotC takes players back in time instead. The Brothers’ War is MTG‘s most recent flashback set, and it fully tapped into the community’s nostalgic love for Dominaria’s deep lore and the epic war between Urza and his villainous brother Mishra with their fascinating steampunk war machines.
Other flashback sets saw great success, though in different ways. In 2006, WotC launched the Time Spiral block, which was heavily nostalgic with modern reprints of dozens of 1990s-era cards. The set focused on the past, present and future, which led to complicated but rewarding MTG gameplay for veteran players.
In hindsight, this was too much of a good thing, as many casual and rookie players felt left out. WotC later printed the Time Spiral Remastered draft set, which struck a perfect balance between flashback nostalgia, managable complexity beginner friendliness. If WotC can pull off excellent flashback sets like The Brothers’ War and Time Spiral Remastered, then it makes sense that more will follow.
Magic: The Gathering Has So Much Potential For Future Flashback Stories
Wizards of the Coast has great potential to revitalize and refresh MTG‘s ongoing lore with flashback and nostalgia sets. Developer Mark Rosewater reached out to the MTG community on Tumblr, and ideas came flooding in. Among many suggestions, MTG players asked for a flashback set for Ravnica to explore the founding of the Guildpact 10,000 years ago, or a set on Dominaria to explore the ancient Thran empire in its golden age.
MTG‘s lore may focus mostly on present-day events for characters like Jace and Chandra, but the novels, flavor text and storylines all give players exciting glimpses at what happened in the past, so it’s not surprising players are keen to see more in future expansion sets. Going forward, WotC should focus more efforts on tapping into MTG nostalgia, albeit with some caution.
Some aspects of MTG lore have more material to work with than others, so a Guildpact flashback set may work, while a flashback for Shards of Alara might be too obscure to garner much interest. Most likely, WotC will pick the ripest fruits for interesting storylines, and create flashback sets (or perhaps Secret Lair Drops) for surefire hits like the Thran Empire, the Guildpact, Sorin Markov’s early days as an Innistrad vampire, and more.
This could be balanced with sets that focus on modern planes and storylines, such as Wilds of Eldraine, so the story feels interwoven with flashbacks for a refreshing change of pace. The designers should be cautious though, as focusing too much on nostalgia can distract players from the current storyline. Eventually, WotC should release another Time Spiral Remastered-style set — a draft set that goes back in time on planes like Tarkir, Kamigawa, Ikoria and Ravnica to explore the last decade’s worth of lore in one convenient package.
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