Hindsight is 20-22

Ben Fischer • January 2, 2023

Let’s look back at the highs and lows of Limited Magic in the past year as we rank the main set releases from worst to best!

Before we dive into it, I should mention that this list is in no way absolute. You might really enjoy a set that others dislike, or vice-versa, and that’s all right! The whole point of this game is to have fun, and hopefully this list helps you think about some fun moments throughout the year. Across the 4 main set releases, we had a pretty solid year.

The look says it all.

#5 (Dishonorable Mention) - Innistrad Double Feature

I love Innistrad. It’s my favorite plane. I have drafted more Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow than anyone else I know. Despite all this, you couldn’t pay me to touch this mess of a set. The original idea was fantastic! The execution? Yikes. It feels like just a bit more thought and effort were needed, which shouldn’t have been too hard, given that this set required exactly zero thought and effort besides visual incorporation of what I can only assume started as a printing error. Imagine this same product, but with a curated card list and spooky artwork in the style of classic horror movies.

Oh well.

This set is sleeping with the fishes.

#4- Streets of New Capenna

Thinking back to New Capenna, one word comes to mind: “Huh?” One of the most unbalanced sets in recent memory, this wedge format already cut down the potential number of playable vectors. This can work (see Ikoria or Khans Block), but New Capenna in particular was dominated by the Broken Brokers wedge, and really just Blue-White and Green-White within that wedge. The gameplay of the set was interesting and the Brokers mirrors could be genuinely fun to navigate, but you could usually just count the number of Inspiring Overseers in your decks and figure out the winner from there. Lack of replayability combined with a 4-month gap before the next set was a brutal combo, don't even get me started on the story (is Giada made of Halo? Are the angels back? Did they turn into Halo? Huh???)

Investigating what went wrong.

#3- The Brother’s War

Our current limited set is not bad! It’s just not that great. See my last article for some detailed thoughts, but in short, The Brother’s War doesn’t deliver on its promises. Truly great limited environments should check a few boxes: there are a variety of valid vectors, just about all vectors are balanced, and most of these vectors are fun and replayable. There are certainly fun and things to do in BRO, but it misses on a big one- balance.

If you’re not playing Scrapwork Mutt and Scrapwork Cohort, you’re probably losing. The idea of the set was to give players a chance to play with legendary artifacts from the game’s history, and you certainly can do that- you’ll just die after tapping out to cast them. This set is painfully close to being what it says it is, and that lands it at the #3 spot.

Just... So... Cool...

#2- Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty

The #2 and #1 spots on this list are very close. Many players will probably agree with the overall ranking, but disagree on the top 2 spots based on personal preference. One thing we can all agree on is that NEO is a fantastic set! We should take a minute to mention the aesthetics- from the behind-the-scenes work with cultural consultants to the anime-inspired music video, everything was flawless. The alternate arts by world-renowned manga artists are one of the coolest uses of special printings we’ve ever seen! Oh, and the gameplay was great too.

We’ve seen artifact sets like Mirrodin, or enchantment sets like Theros, but pulling off a set themed around both is no small task. Incorporating the themes of technology vs tradition with these gameplay mechanics is a fantastic and creative choice, and we will probably never see something quite like it again. There were some great vectors in this set, including a sweet graveyard-looping value deck and fan-favorite ninjas. The thing that keeps this from the top spot for me is the failure of the red-white samurai vector, a small mark against an otherwise excellent set.

DMU reached out and saved us from the dredges of New Capenna.

#1- Dominaria United

If you told me I could only draft one Magic set from this year for the rest of my life, it would be this one. A variety of interesting vectors, all playable, and all fun? Sets like this are rare! Domain is one of the most unique limited vectors possible, and somehow, it actually worked. The designers were careful to make sure it wouldn’t suffer from the Kaldheim 5-color snow vector issue of having the ability to raredraft and win games via raw card value, thanks to the cycle of rares that reward only a single color of spell. The aggressive enlist vector could punch through the ramp cards, and the blue spells vector could have you casting 1-mana Tolarian Terrors. Did I mention you could win with defenders?

Hot take: I think Wingmantle Chaplain and Shield-Wall Sentinel were good for the format. These are excellent but beatable cards, and gave the format a very unique texture. Dominaria United will remain in my memory as some of the best limited Magic of all time, and the highlight of 2022.

For more limited nonsense, check out the most recent episode of the Draft Chaff Podcast. Happy New Year!