Wizards of the Coast kicked off the new Magic: The Gathering set release with a preview of the Core 2021 set. The set features a new Teferi planeswalker, reprints of powerful cards, and the return of phasing—a mechanic not seen in Standard decks for over 20 years. While the official stream revealed only a handful of cards, Teferi, Master of Time, stood out. The art is amazing, with four different art versions that when put together show his spell bending and warping time. More than that, a Black man is the current face of Magic: The Gathering. That kind of representation is powerful.
A 4 mana blue planeswalker, Teferi enters the battlefield with 3 loyalty counters and can activate his abilities at instant speed—as opposed to normal sorcery speed—essentially giving all his abilities Flash. Dedicated to the theme of ‘any card with Teferi on it is going to give you a bad time’ his ultimate ability allows the player to take two extra turns. That may sound alarming—not one but two free turns—but in a one-on-one matchup it’s extremely slow. An opponent will have plenty of opportunities to remove him by the time you can accumulate 10 loyalty counters. But imagine this card during a multiplayer battle: the card can activate abilities at any time and on anyone’s turn. The more opponents you have, the greater your chance of pulling off his ultimate before someone can get rid of him.
Returning in Core 2021 and featured on Teferi, Master of Time, is phasing. Phasing hasn’t been seen in a while, outside of appearing only once on another Teferi card in the Commander 2017 set. The ability is a bit tricky to understand, but think of it like flickering. In flickering, a card is exiled from the battlefield, losing counters, equipment, auras, and triggering the ‘leaves the battlefield’ effect, then returns, similarly triggering ‘enters the battlefield’ effects. In phasing, the card just disappears, but it gets to keep equipment, auras, and counters while not triggering enter and leaving effects. One of Teferi, Master of Time’s abilities phases an opponent’s creature out, a useful trick for preventing combat damage.
The Core 2021 set has cards that are not Teferi, Master of Time. Ugin, The Spirit Dragon, is a 8 mana colourless Planeswalker players should be terrified to face. It can deal a nice bit of direct damage, can exile almost anything, and, with some help from proliferation, can unleash his ‘I win the game’ button by his second turn on the board. Check out Wizards of the Coast schedule to see when and where more 2021 cards will be revealed.
I’m excited about Core 2021 in ways I wasn’t for Theros or Ikoria. Both were cool sets that I’ve enjoyed, but Teferi’s presence in Core 2021 moves me in a way the other sets didn’t. Beyond featuring beautiful art and a reprint of a green ramp card that nicely fits my penchant for big, dumb creatures, the fact that this set is centered on a powerful Black mage speaks to me. Remember the Netflix show Luke Cage and how it was nice to see a Black man on TV who couldn’t be shot? Teferi is like Magic’s Luke Cage. The focus on him at a time when we’re fighting to stop the murder of black people at the hands of police is likely coincidental (Kotaku has reached out to Wizards for more information). But right now the image of a Black man—one of the most powerful beings in Magic’s lore—who can bend time and disappear threats sends a powerful and hopeful message. His power is something we need right now, one I wish I had, and one I look forward to weilding when Core 2021 releases later this month.