Universes Beyond – Who?
The classic sci-fi series Doctor Who is gearing up for its 60th anniversary and Wizards of the Coast are taking us on the journey with a blast of nostalgia, courtesy of their latest offering – Magic: The Gathering Doctor Who.
Similar to last year’s Warhammer 40K set, this release is comprised of 4 commander decks, each with 50 brand new cards and 50 existing cards featuring fresh art. Rather than releasing two versions of the decks (one non-foil and one in surge foil), this time around you can only purchase the decks in their usual format – 98 non-foil cards and the 2 traditional foil commanders.
For those who love a bit of extra bling, you’ll need to look at the collector’s boosters where you can get new card frames and traditional/surge foil treatments.
The commander decks cover the gamut of all 60 years of Doctor Who. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the decks:
- Blast from the Past (G/W/U) – featuring the first 8 doctors and companions of so-called “Classic Who”, this deck centers around the Historic keyword, gaining bonuses from playing artifacts, sagas and legendary creatures.
- Timey-Wimey (U/R/W) – here you can find Doctors 9, 10 and 11 and their companions; this deck features a new mechanic “Time Travel“, that allows you to add/remove time counters from cards in a similar way to Proliferate.
- Paradox Power (G/U/R) – Doctors 12 and 13. Uses the “Paradox” keyword, which provides bonuses when you play cards from locations other than your hand.
- Masters of Evil (U/B/R) – While some villains from the series are one-offs, most of the important ones like the Daleks, Cybermen and the Master recur throughout the show’s 60 year history. They’re all found here. The key theme for this deck is “Villainous Choice”, which gives your opponents a choice of two detrimental actions.
In addition to the cards themselves, the commander decks also feature the Planechase mechanic, with different locations and events that will be familiar to viewers.
Round 1 – Fight!
I was invited along to a Double Jump media promotional event where we got a chance to play the new set for the first time. I chose the Masters of Evil deck, while the two other players in my 3-player pod both ended up picking the deck that is likely to be the best-seller out of the 4, Timey Wimey. Doctor 11 (David Tennant) is rated as one of the show’s most popular Doctors by a fairly wide margin, and Doctors 9 (Christopher Eccleston) and 10 (Matt Smith) are also quite popular.
When playing, my deck was a bit slow off the mark. I hit most of my early land drops, though a lot of them were coming into play tapped and I didn’t draw any acceleration to speed things up. Once I started being able to play creatures, one of my opponents started tossing them into a Crack in Time (pictured). Vanishing wasn’t a problem as he had sufficient time-travel effects (adding or removing time counters) to be able to keep a lot of my creatures locked down for most of the game.
Opponent #1 had had a really good start and was using his time-travel effects each turn, throwing more creatures into the Crack in Time and accelerating his suspend cards. That put a target on his back, so I was able to work with my other opponent and together we finally managed to take him down, releasing my creatures from the Crack in Time. I suddenly had a full board of Daleks and cybermen ready to exterminate.
Unfortunately for me, my remaining opponent was prepared and quickly came in swinging with sufficient flying damage to finish me off too.
As mentioned above, this time around Wizards are selling collector boosters where you can find the fancier, rarer versions of the cards
The showcase frame for the set should be the immediately familiar blue phone box – the Tardis. All of the doctors, most of the major villains, and a smaller selection of the doctor’s companions can be found in the showcase frame.
The cards also can be found in extended art frames, and in non-foil, traditional foil and surge foil finishes. As is fairly standard these days, there are some serialised cards as well.
I talked about WotC’s expansion into what they term “Universes Beyond” in a previous article about Magic: The Gathering: Tales of the Middle Earth. Expanding the audience by tapping into other IP’s appears to be a successful strategy for Wizards – based on 2nd quarter sales data for 2023 their Lord of the Rings’ based set has already hit #2 in terms of raw sales volumes, and is set to overtake Modern Horizons 2 as the best selling MTG set of all time.
While Dr Who’s fan base is probably not quite as broad, it’s still significant. It remains to be seen if Wizards are able to capitalise on the new fan base to expand their market share… It will be interesting to see how the game continues to evolve in the coming years.
I’m still slightly skeptical of the whole idea of Universes Beyond. Having been interested in MTG for so long, I actually like the mythology and storylines that Magic has been grounded in, probably a bit more than some of the more casual or newer players, and I’ve been resistant to the idea of having that diluted by other intellectual property.
So I’ll have to admit, I was surprised at how much fun it all was. I’m not a hardcore Whovian, though I’ve watched most of the newer Who series (from the 9th onwards). It must have been difficult to capture and distill the essence of the series down into a bunch of individual cards.
Magic’s lead designer – Gaven Verhey – who headed this project, and all the team who worked on it are apparently all huge fans of the show. It really shows through in the card designs, the art, and the way the whole set hangs together. The flavour text and the card references all contribute to conveying the essence of the show really well.
By keeping the products fairly streamlined with almost all the cards being available in the commander decks, it is also quite accessible. If you enjoy the show, and if you enjoy the game… it’s worth a look.
Magic: The Gathering: Doctor Who is available in stores now.