What are some of the greatest stories of all time. Let me hedge that, they have to be epics. That generally boils down to 3-4 choices.
Let’s (for the sake of argument) agree that these will suffice.

Lord of the Rings

Homer’s Odyssey

1001 Arabian Nights


Of course, we can certainly add Game of Thrones in there as well and there are several other fantasy epics that fit this description. I’m not here to help folk pic a summer reading list. I’m actually trying to bring up a point: Magic: The Gathering one of the greatest games of all time has a kind of terrible story.

OK OK it’s not terrible it’s just not that interesting.

What is my proof for this? Seriously ask your average grinder about Jace is doing or Lilianna. How about Tamiyo, where do you think she is? They (I) couldn’t begin to answer those questions. I don’t read the novels. And to play the game I don’t really think reading the novels is that important. But as a marketing entity wouldn’t you think that Wizards would have a better Continuity for this iconic characters or it’s world at large?

What happened? I suppose to start we should take a look at the beginnings of the game’s story.

Dominaria: It was just a generic fantasy setting. Flavor text gave you some idea about the world you play the game in but it wasn’t much more than vignettes into some much larger world.

Arabian Nights: It was a simple step in the right. They co opted a very strong mythos into the game and allowed for a much broader story base to unfold by using the Multiverse concept. It was a stroke of genius to put the player in the driver’s seat of this Planeswalking … mechanic, I guess is the best way describe it.

Antiquities: Here was the first glimpse into the world of Dominia. The Story of Urza and Mishra, The Brother’s War, takes place. Some amazing ideas come forth. Artificers, a quest for power, corruption, treachery and ultimately (much later on death of a main character). Any time I talk to folks about what the story of the game is lacking they often point out the Brother War as being one of the coolest stories of the game. The introduced two important characters and built a world around them so much the this set had untold flavor. These artifacts are some of the game’s most iconic, with some of the game’s most well known characters.

Legends: An overload of names and spells that for the most part are relatively forgotten by most players from that era. Nicol Bolas and Umezawa come from here. Stories were later fleshed out in novels and it’s a Vorthos’ paradise for random game knowlegde.

Let’s skip a bit for brevity’s sake.

Rath Cycle: Gerard and his crew, spend three sets trying to recover a kidnapped Captain Sisay. The Ship’s rag tag crew is a full monster’s ball of classic Magic Creature types. Some characters and their motivations become fleshed out. Crovax in particular was a very interesting character that was haunted by a dark angel. He later becomes a vampire. The story is pretty neat and begins to put us into the current era of Magic storylines.

After Time Spiral: Mainstay characters like Teferi and Venser become cards and have their stories made real.

Planeswalker Era: After Alara, new cardtypes, Planeswalkers, were introduced and the story of the game became focus around them. Jace, Lilianna, Ajani, Chandra, and Garruk have become the central characters of the game with a host of secondary world warping wizards as supplemental characters.

This is where things could have gotten very interesting. Sadly, players just never really cared to find out. Sure if a Jace is printed in a new Ravnica block, people know thats where he is. But even my eyes glaze over once I hear someone that read one of the ebooks tell me what he’s doing. I just can’t be bothered.


That’s crazy. The day to day dealings of the game’s main characters have become so mundane in my eyes that I can’t be bothered to find out what the current story is.

What’s missing? Is it me?

I have a few ideas.

What’s missing? 

Do you remember L5r? If not I’ll give you a quick run down: One of the earliest CCGs. It was based in a China/Japan/Korea mythical world called Rokugan. SUPER HUGE on flavor. Most importantly it had an amazing storyline, supercomplex, but everyone that played was uniquely involved in the game’s story.

What do I mean?

Well the Major tournaments in the game defined the story in the game. If your faction won or there was a very large representation of a certain faction it would mold the way the coming sets were storied. Most Notably the Day of Thunder Tournament. This was the final tournament in the plot that would chose the game’s new emperor. So much was at stake. And as a result over half of the tournament field was comprised of Yugo Junzo’s Army (Zombies and Demons) decks. As the torunament wen ton a very large, as you might expect, number of these deck were at the top tables. Would this spell the end for the civilized Empire? Would The Shadowlands armies hang a Black cloud of Death over the empire? No! As it turns out the Lion Clan took the Grand Prize and it’s Dishonored old Damiyo (who had raised an army of ronin) claimed the Jade Throne.

Imagine if that sort of thing was at stake at a Grand Prix? At a Pro Tour? Plenty of folks watch the Pro Tour, but certainly not enough. I’d watch the Pro Tour if something epic came from it instead of just seeing someone that’s way better at Magic than I am play his favorite deck. It raises the stakes a little and gives the announcers something to work with during coverage.

Much of this games story was delivered in letters that each clan wrote to its members. You read them on a monthly based. Imagine if Return to Ravnica had a system like this. There were novels but there was also a huge amount of story right on the cards themselves.

Is it me? 

I can’t lie, Magic is super important to me. So many friendships and good times. Not to mention I just feel younger when I’m playing. The weigh of the world seems to lighten a little bit. For a moment bills, rent, my credit score they all fade into the background. That said, it’s not as important to me as when I was 14. It was basically the center of my world. I had a group of friends that played. I didn’t much like school, socially. Much of the world and especially other worlds of fantasy were completely new and very interesting to me. I find things now intriguing that I would never have cared about in my youth. So maybe I’m just too old and jaded to care about what Elspeth in doing in the Underworld. I don’t see it though. I just think it’s presented in a way that’s total boring. The writing might be amazing, but I’m not really that interested.

Why is that?!

I read all the Drizzt novels (well most of them) Game of Thrones, Dune novels (even the bad ones), Wheel of Time. It’s not my attention span.

I think we just can’t connect with these characters. They seem hollow and distant. Not to mention contrived. The brooding wizard, the fiery redhead, the chick with a dark past, the hunter, and the High school football hero er… Stoic animal guy. It’s like a Breakfast Club of fantasy characters. Just add water and you have your very generic characters for your D&D party.

The motivations of these characters are pretty boring as well. Most of them are just looking for more power and even the most altruistic ones fight each other like the gods of Greek mythology.

Also each set, some horrible cataclysm is narrowly averted my that sets planeswalker making some kind of sacrifice to save the world. It’s getting sort of old. Now don’t get me wrong there needs to be some kind of power struggle or something bad going on. Jace on the Beach or Chandra takes her firecat for a walk won’t really cut it, but why not take a queue from some other type of fiction. Maybe a story arc that doesn’t come to a tidy conclusion at the end of the block.

Also, writing about planeswalkers also has the tragic flaw of falling into the Superman conundrum. Kal-El is invincible, nothing really bad can happen to him. They attempt to mess with Jimmy Olson and Luis Lane and you just couldn’t really care, Superman is boring, he always gonna come out on top. I liked when they wrote about some Caliph or what the royal assassin was upto. You knew they had a chance of failing, there were stakes (sort of).

Even in L5R some main Characters died. They didn’t come back. Some of them had children, and I realize that’s kind of a weird subject. But wouldn’t that add a little intrigue if the time between sets, storywise, was like 50-100 years. Planeswalkers seem to age. what if the Fab 5 were replaced with their progeny or we went back in time and Umezawa had ignited his own spark. There’s so much to work with and what I’m saying is that with such a giant amount of story that could be told, why is the plot to these sets so utterly boring?

Hopefully someone as Wizards sees this and reaches out to me, I’ve got a ton of great ideas, it would be great to actually care about the story again.

Zac Clark, @DurdleMagus

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