We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

What if we ban every MTG card except Foundations?

With Magic: The Gathering's new Foundations set, WotC could do a hard reset and piss off its fanbase to please me - they won't, the cowards.

MTG artwork showing a leonin character dissolving to dust

I’m pretty happy about the upcoming November 2024 release, Magic: The Gathering Foundations. The idea of a back-to-basics set of simple but effective cards has a tidiness to it that appeals. It should be a great way for new players to learn the game, and I’m rooting for its success.

However, as an established player, I doubt I’ll see all that much of MTG Foundations when it comes out. It’s too early to tell, but I suspect just a couple of the most impactful Foundations cards will see play in MTG formats like Standard or Commander, and the rest will only be used by beginners. There are likely to be too many other strong cards that will get in the way.

Hankering for this 200-card set, supposedly containing about 100 reprints of famous cards and 100 new creations, has me wondering. Do we really need the other 27,000 or so playing pieces Magic: The Gathering has put out over the decades? It sounds unlikely, right?

MTG Foundations art showing Liliana and Ajani

Come with me for a second, here. What if we scrapped the lot, drew a line in the sand, chucked our collections in the bin, and asked Wizards to put every other card on the MTG banlist? Then the designers could start again, with a fresh slate, and many years of hands-on TCG-making experience to draw from. What a weight off everyone’s shoulders!

Obviously, I know that this is a terrible idea. There are all sorts of reasons why a hard reset for Magic: The Gathering would be an unworkable, unfeasible idea, but a man can dream. It’s going to be so refreshing to get a simple set, with cards that only have a couple of sentences of rules text, that it makes me wish all of Magic was like that.

The first time I remember having a serious problem with complexity in Magic was with the double-faced Strixhaven deans in 2021, which, fittingly, for the MTG set based in a magical school, had an entire college essay printed across them. It’s only gotten worse since then.

The MTG dean cards

Players have run the numbers and shown that Magic cards are far wordier now than they used to be. Rules text seems to be getting denser too, with shortcuts like mill and enters making more room to cram in even more keywords and concepts. Vanilla creatures have been kicked out of the game, and non-card objects are getting more complex and common too – Dungeons, Day/Night, Rads, and new types of artifact token, just to name a few examples off the top of my head.

Last year Mark Rosewater said on his Blogatog blog that Magic had used “a decent amount” of the simple design space available for the game, but probably less than 10% of the total design space. To me that reads: lots more complexity to come.

I’ve seen plenty of fans comment on it, but I’ve never heard a solution to this growing problem. Short of completely starting the game over with a ‘new Alpha’, which might look a little like Foundations, how can we deal with this complexity creep, which makes understanding board states on Commander night an exercise in futility, and causes my eyes to glaze over a few days into each spoiler season?

MTG artwork showing lots of creatures being destroyed

Safe in the knowledge that it’s not something Wizards of the Coast would ever entertain, I say ban all Magic cards! Start again from Foundations! Bring back vanilla! (It’s the best ice cream flavor too, and you shouldn’t be afraid to say that.)

I suppose we have to count our blessings when it comes to Magic: The Gathering’s complexity woes. Reading the card may explain nothing and give you a headache, but it could be worse; it could be Yugioh.

For more articles, take a look at our guide to the best Commander precons, and our MTG release schedule guide.