*Kim, aka my awesome wife, would like me to post a disclaimer here stating that the only reason she is wearing a fanny pack is because we were on a long bike ride. That’s also why we are wearing helmets. I can’t really account for my pose. That shit’s on me.

Yet again—and I promise this is the last time for a while—I haven’t been playing a lot of Magic lately, due to part two of my getting-married adventure: the honeymoon! Last week Kim and I were on Hawaii’s Big Island for an awesome eight nights at the Four Seasons Hualalai. We had a great time hanging out by the pools (the Big Island is too young, geologically speaking, to have true beaches), eating delicious food, and driving all over in our rental car to see waterfalls, ride ATVs, see volcanoes, look at the stars, and more.


If you’ve never been to the Big Island, you should definitely go. The landscape and climate are both incredibly varied and amazing. In a half hour’s drive you go from virtual desert down by the ocean, with cracked black a’a lava stretching as far as the eye can see, before turning up toward Waikoloa Village, where the landscape turns green and verdant, with cloud mist beading on your windshield. Later you make your way up the almost high plains–looking hills of Saddle Road, studded with endangered nene goose–crossing signs, and 9,000 feet up the slopes of Mauna Kea, where (in near-freezing temperatures) you can view Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars through telescopes, and see countless stars, including the Southern Cross, very clearly.


On our last full day on the island, we went on a bike tour around the sprawling Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Before we set out, we stopped at the visitor center, outside of which overlooks an awesome smoking crater, which if you go back at night glows orange. This is it:


Pretty amazing, huh? That crater started out 50 feet wide, and has since grown to become larger than a football field, closing a road and basically rerouting the entire park around it. Crazy.


Back inside the visitor center, they had some artistic representations of the legends of Hawaii, mostly surrounding the volcano. And of course my mind jumped to Magic. They look like they could be Magic cards, don’t they? I Instagrammed one of these photos, and asked, “Honeymoon or next Magic set?”


Anthony Lebron hit the nail on the head when he commented, “Why can’t it be both?” (Hugh Kramer, Grade 9, also rightly pointed out that we were literally honeymooning on a Volcanic Island.)

It got me thinking about Magic, and why it appeals to me. I really did like the paintings in the visitor center, amateurish though they may be. They conjured exactly what they were supposed to conjure: familiar landscapes or phenomena made strange, ancient times and people, beliefs that gods walked the earth—all in all, a far more magical time than the adult world of trains and watches and pay stubs in which we live today (I realize I probably sound like I just described the 1930s, but whatever, I like watches and I take the subway every day).


I don’t personally care at all about the “story” of Theros, what character kills who or etc., but I really do like the world that R&D (or is it another department?) builds into its sets. But some have more resonance for me than others. Scars of Mirrodin, for example, while really cool, didn’t really emotionally affect me, as it’s so far away from real-world landscapes and environments. Innistrad was closer. I’ve been in Eastern European villages, and that’s what the set felt like. Lorwyn did a little bit, because of the Old England feel.

I wonder, though, whether Wizards couldn’t get more resonance by using real-world locales and people for inspiration in its sets. I realize they aren’t likely to do this, given how much of a flop Kamigawa is remembered to be, but I honestly really would love to see a Magic set inspired by the lore and legends of the South Pacific, including Hawaii. You’ve got it all: fire, water, (volcanic) earth, wind, gods, native peoples, ships and canoes, incredible flora and fauna (Birds of Paradise, anyone?)—everything a Magic set needs!


That brings up a question, though: Several years ago I got into what unbelievably (in my mind, anyway) turned out to be a really contentious and offensive argument, at least to a couple of the parties involved. Basically, I mused that it would be cool if Wizards did a Magic set inspired by Native Americans, and a couple of the guys in the conversation evidently got very offended by this, thinking that it was inherently wrong even to consider.

I really don’t see how that’s true. I wasn’t thinking, like, Cleveland Indians Big Wahoo–style racism. I was thinking a respectful, pre-Columbian setting—and just inspired by this setting, too, not like having literal Native Americans in a Magic set. But I think that the art and architecture and legends and stories of the Native Americans are just so rich and cool and unique that it would be a shame never to tap into that deep wellspring of culture.


Unfortunately, though, like I said, it doesn’t seem like Wizards is inclined to do an Arabian Nights–style set again in the near future. They seem a little too married to always having zombies and dragons in the set, and I guess that’s fine, but those fantasy stereotypes get played out pretty quickly. I want to see new creature types! (That said, I do like how they concepted The Returned—which are zombies—on Theros. But are we really so married to creature types that it has to say “zombie” on the type line? I guess it does.)

At any rate, that’s all I’ve got for this week. What real-world settings would you like to see inspire a Magic set? And do you think that using native peoples, like the American Indians or the Aborigines in Australia, is inherently offensive and no-go territory? I’d honestly like to hear everyone’s thoughts on the matter.


In the meantime, I’m headed to GP Atlanta this weekend to take my PTQ-won three byes out for a spin, alongside Carrie “8-1” O’Hara. Wish us luck! And if you don’t wish us luck, wish us a good time on Saturday night at this pub that Carrie keeps telling me about that we have to go to. (I’m sure we don’t actually need luck for that.)

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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