I didn't have the heart to read all the disparaging comments on mtgnews.com about the new layout. Most of it is fairly childish; people are saying they're going to quit the game because of the new design. Their rallying cries include "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and "it looks like Yu Gi Oh!"
...it IS broke, and it DOESN'T look like Yu Gi Oh! any more than the old design did. Whoever thinks this looks like Yu Gi Oh! has been sitting around the peace pipe and smoking the ganja again. You know what it looks like?
It looks like something Magic has had a long time coming. I thought the last suggested redesign was a good idea, but it was something that should have been implemented at the game's inception instead of this far in. The changes were too drastic and also, from a design standpoint, there was too much wasted space. Believe it or not, real estate is limited on a Magic card.
Most people probably haven't taken the time to save one of the cards Wizards posted on the site to their hard drive and actually get a closer look at it. Zoom in some, get nice and cozy with it. You'll see the little differences and changes that are really quite worthwhile. I've compiled a little list of reasons why, aesthetically, this is such a good idea:
1. The elements of the actual card are finally totally unified and blended together, and they all have their own space. They also blend in with the border, and they put the important parts of the card in much, much sharper relief: the art and all the text.
2. The extra box for power and toughness is a doubly-wise idea, because it's much more aesthetically potent than just having numbers in the corner was on the old design. It looks nicer, contrasts better, and is just easier.
3. What this does for white is incredible. White's always been plagued with bad contrast problems in the card title and card text. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Now it doesn't, and they've managed to reach a halfway point that still makes things easier for black too. Everything's better.
4. The text for the card title and for the card type are both much neater, much cleaner, and best of all: much narrower. The card title will take up a lot less real estate than it used to, and that gives the designers more leeway. And for once, a capital H will look like a capital H.
5. The artist's name is back where it should be: the bottom left corner.
6. The art is now more than ever the central focus of the card. It no longer competes with color contrast issues (artifacts, black, green, and lands - I'm talking to you) that make the card's face just too busy. It's more simple and it's more appealing.
7. And because the art is now the true centerpiece of the card, it helps the game recapture a lot of that "fantasy" feel that I personally think has been really lost on it since the Mirage facelift. It's not "this is a kind of magical card bogged down with rules text" anymore so much as "look at how freaking cool this thing is; by the way, here's what it does." And I like that.
Now, for the complaints about the new templating, specifically for the lands...
This is a change that needed to be made, and it's a smart one. I've been playing for eight years now and the idea that the word "basic" never appeared on "basic land" just seemed counterintuitive to me. It really will make things simpler for new players and makes it easier to differentiate between a basic land and a nonbasic land, really for everyone. It's a visual cue that was a long time coming.
Also, people are upset because now basic lands are going to say "Basic Land - Island" or whatever the type is. This is fine. This is perfect. This is adopting the same kind of nomenclature and rules reasoning that's kept the creatures in such good shape. This is more logical AND this gives R&D a lot more leeway to screw with lands overall. Now lands can have types and it won't seem as awkward as the Lairs were. Nobody really complained when Artifact Creatures finally scored creature types, and nobody should complain about this either. This is a good idea whose time has finally come.
I haven't played Magic for about a half year now. The last set I played was Torment. And in the face of what I think are some bad decisions on R&D's part lately (Akroma and Phage both reek of laziness in design), this is a breath of fresh air and a great idea. They've listened to us this far on Eighth Edition and have dared to try something new for it now. I say it's welcome.
Feels like a new era to me, and a great way to kick off the game's tenth anniversary. I'll be there, happily playing Eighth and enjoying the new card faces, what about you?