Rationalizing Secret Lair X The Walking Dead
TL;DR: I don’t support Secret Lair X The Walking Dead.
Here’s what I think about Secret Lair X The Walking Dead.
What follows are individual points regarding aspects of Secret Lair X The Walking Dead. The sources of these points are:
I share my thoughts and give a “GOOD” or “NO GOOD” rating for each point. If any aspect has at least one “GOOD” point, it’s given a “GOOD” rating.
Let’s take a walk.
Not Silver Border: GOOD
The Walking Dead cards could have been silver border, but Wizards gave two reasons for why they’re not:
“It seemed very easy and natural for us to make cards that did work well within the Magic rules.”
It’s very easy and natural to make cards that work within the silver-bordered world as well, though.
Bad Ass, a Zombie, requires you to growl as a cost. You can imagine Michonne requiring you to imitate a Walker in some fashion before you can create those tokens.
Easy and natural.
RATING: NO GOOD
“We wanted these cards to be…like more normal black-bordered cards.”
In a vacuum, this arbitrary reason is fine. With context of other aspects of this product, though, this decision doesn’t hold water.
RATING: NO GOOD
“Silver-bordered cards are treated by some Magic players as being less than black bordered cards…”
This makes sense. It’s unfortunately true.
If Secret Lair X The Walking Dead must be released, it will draw a new audience. I want the early experiences of Magic to be awesome.
Because of the Godzilla cards, there’s currently a good way to do black-bordered cards that feature a different IP.
Therefore, this product should be black-bordered.
No Godzilla Treatment: GOOD
The Walking Dead could have been given Ikoria’s Godzilla treatment. However:
“Putting extra names on them was aesthetically unattractive.”
This was already done for the Godzilla cards. Is there data that shows existing Magic players don’t like the extra names?
But making game design decisions to alter the visual of five game pieces as they would be viewed by potential new players? Weak reasoning for compromising an existing solution.
RATING: NOT GOOD
“Why can’t the game…peel itself away from the intellectual property…?”
This is the smoking gun. A paradigm shift (I don’t count Arabian Nights) that makes a lot of sense. Consider that Monopoly has endless skins:
This is what we should expect for Magic going forward. Some of us are excited. This product is “Magic: The Walking Dead”, compatible with Magic: The Gathering. They share the same Magic game system and so can be played together.
This reminds me of Vs. System, a card game with two major IP skins: Marvel Comics and DC Comics.
While Vs. System was intended to have more than one IP skinned to it, it doesn’t mean Magic can’t embrace doing this now.
To continue to play Magic now is to accept other-IP Magic cards.
You can’t continue to play Magic and reject other-IP Magic cards played by your opponents. Otherwise, you’re gatekeeping.
But it’s OK if you can’t accept other-IP Magic cards and conclude you must “break up” with Magic. We’ll miss each other and support each other.
Sold Only in Secret Lair at Launch: NO GOOD
I already currently don’t support the Secret Lair Drop Series. But that’s besides the point. You, dear reader, for example, may be fine with Secret Lair.
So, let’s examine assuming Secret Lair is good:
“A lot of those customers don’t go to gaming stores…They still want to be a part of Magic…We want to make those people happy.”
I want those players to be happy, too. But Secret Lair is not the only method of delivering Magic to those players.
Some people buy from online retailers like Card Kingdom. But let’s say they don’t know where to buy Magic online, like maybe new The Walking Dead fans. Here’s the Wizards website pointing out where to buy Magic online, an Amazon link:
But let’s say an enfranchised player who only buys online to play Magic at their kitchen table already knows about this Amazon link. Let’s see what’s available:
The Set Booster Box is great for someone who isn’t drafting their packs. Just opening at home, for example. $150.
The Collector Booster Box is already targeting players with deep pockets. $250.
And then there’s Commander, a great stay-at-home activity. $20 decks.
There are already means to deliver products to stay-at-home-and-buy-online audiences.
RATING: NO GOOD
“If you’re a Godzilla fan who heard that Magic is doing something with Godzilla, that particular approach didn’t make it really easy for you to…get what you wanted. You’d have to open Ikoria boosters until you found the card you wanted.”
Great point for Godzilla. Some just want those Godzilla cards.
We need products that sell a few cards that are exactly what a player is looking for. If only there was a way besides the limited-time-only Secret Lair drops…
Ah, yes. Commander Collection & Signature Spellbook series! But these series are their own thing, with premium reprints, that’s fine.
We can still have something like “When Worlds Collide: The Walking Dead.” Or a Steven Universe draft set.
There are ways to deliver cards in the way you want without the shortcomings of Secret Lair.
RATING: NO GOOD
“We are trying to open up Secret Lair to as many regions as possible…but yes, I openly admit, we have a way to go. I do want to point out that many of the supplemental products we make with unique mechanical cards in black border aren’t on sale either in every market or in every language.”
Then why choose Secret Lair to experiment with? If other supplemental products that are distributed in limited fashion do so better than or equal to Secret Lair, why not choose the style of those products, especially with unique game pieces, where there’s not this one-week FOMO-inducing time window?
One answer is that this makes the most business sense. I know it’s a company goal to make more money than they currently do, so failing on a larger scale is riskier.
…Maximizing the accessibility to these unique game pieces be damned.
Accessibility already diminishes naturally over time. There’s a certain standard of accessibility already in place with current non-Secret Lair products sold.
Don’t make new game pieces artificially more difficult. There are current means to distribute these even wider than you are doing now.
RATING: NO GOOD
No Current Magic Equivalent: GOOD
“If needed, we can print a Magic IP version of these cards with a Magic name and creative concept/art.”
Due to Point #5 earlier, I’m convinced not every non-Magic IP Magic card needs a Magic equivalent name printed. We’re in a new era now.
With that said, there have been foil and non-foil versions of Secret Lair. There can be a Doctor Who IP and a Magic IP version of a future product with the same mechanically-unique cards, for example.
Using The Walking Dead IP: NO GOOD
The worst aspect. *heavy sigh*
“The Walking Dead has…been a phenomenon…It’s very appealing for us to consider…all those people who we think might make great Magic customers.”
The Walking Dead fans should be a mature audience. The problem is that the game pieces can be exposed to thirteen-year-olds.
If I were a parent that saw the following booster pack, I’d think that all game pieces will be safe for thirteen-year-olds.
Currently, at MagicFests, we don’t allow for imagery that isn’t appropriate for thirteen-year-olds. The following art is famous for being an offender, found on playmats, which judges ask players to put away:
Someone might try to argue this specific art is OK and will point out that this isn’t explicit.
But imagery is powerful and can represent what’s not explicitly shown. In this case, Liliana probably didn’t just accidentally fall over on top of Chandra, anime-style. The appeal to fans of this art is in what this represents.
Another example of what’s super not OK is this card alter:
“BRAZZERS” gives a different context to what this official Magic art is portraying. But even if you can say it’s “just a logo” there, you know that logo represents something that is not acceptable for a game to show thirteen-year-olds.
Brazzers is for mature audiences. So is The Walking Dead.
RATING: NO GOOD
“Negan…forces one of your opponents to play this sick mind game where they have to choose and sacrifice one of their own creatures, but you can also get into their head and trick them into sacrificing more than they had to! It…feels exactly like something the real Negan would do.”
With the context of Negan, this disgusts me.
Yeah, Bolas also tortures. Torment of Hailfire is a good example of making someone choose the lesser evil multiple times. Then there’s Slave of Bolas depicting losing your will to the dragon:
This is a sad scene and the thought of losing your free will is scary. Certainly, mature audiences can imagine awful things that might be scary about that.
The difference here is that we’ve seen what Negan does do when he traps people. We get to see how he gory his killing is. We get to see the harem of wives he coerces into what fits the definition of rape.
Magic doesn’t show in detail these acts.
The imagery of what Negan does is realistic. People have been coerced into sex before. People can relate to the danger of barbed bat being swung at their head.
Consider this murderer:
This is something that’s OK for thirteen-year-olds.
Negan represents intimate experiences that are not OK to have a Magic card for that young teens and survivors of assault would play with or against.
Throw Negan into the group of cards that include Invoke Prejudice.
RATING: NO GOOD
I don’t support Secret Lair X The Walking Dead for two reasons:
- Secret Lair is not a good vehicle for experimenting with new, unique cards
- The Walking Dead IP isn’t appropriate for Magic
I look forward, though, to Magic: The Legend of Zelda. And while I’ve watched all of the mature-themed Game of Thrones, please don’t do Conspiracy: Game of Thrones.
Wizards does make mistakes even while they’re trying to evolve Magic for the better. So continue to give that constructive criticism.
“Bear with us. We’re gonna make a few missteps along the way.”
— Weekly MTG | Secret Lair: The Walking Dead