“To create the story we were interested in telling, the first thing we needed was a world in turmoil.”—Mark Rosewater (here)

Is there a block in Magic: The Gathering history where a world in turmoil is not required to tell a story?

Magic sets over the last forever have mostly been about good vs. evil. I’m not convinced of “good” or “evil” permanent things we all understand to be true. (I’m also not convinced that “true” is a real thing.)

I know that when MaRo talks about the world building of Tarkir I think, “Why does a plane based on Mongolian mythology have anything do to with dragons?” Aren’t dragons Arthurian, Chinese, and Japanese mythological characters? I’m pretty sure Jesus slays one in the bible. Did Genghis Khan slay any? A quick view of his wikipedia page and a search for the word “dragon” leads me to believe he wasn’t known as a dragonslayer. An equally quick view of the Mongol Mythology wikipedia page turns up similar dragonless results.

Why are there dragons on Tarkir? How tied to actual historical Mongolia is Tarkir? The R&D meeting probably went like this, “Hey, let’s rename Mongseng (from Planechase 2012) “Tarkir” and say it’s Sarkhan’s home plane. Sarkhan is the dragon planeswalker so Tarkir must have or have had dragons on it. We need some turmoil though so let’s have the dragons be gone, erradicated by the Khans and then some way to go back in time, because time travel to undo something is a new thing that people won’t see coming, and then in the future there can maybe be dragons again because people love dragons. For even more turmoil let’s have there be some serious opposition between the human khans and the dragons. So there’s Sarkhan’s turmoil, Ugin the super dragon’s turmoil, dragons vs. khans turmoil, it’ll be great with all this turmoil!”

Goddamn it just gets so boring and redundant. I get that people like things that are easily understood. Everything on Tarkir has its flavor and style. The art is very streamlined and consistent. The mechanics have something to do with the storyline. I just, … I just miss the days when I thought Magic was two planeswalkers squaring off against each other. We didn’t even realize we were planeswalkers, I think. We thought we were powerful wizards casting spells against one another. It was dueling in a Dungeons and Dragons meets Mortal Kombat kind of way.

Yeah! Like this! Two sorcerers battling. “It is 2000 years after the end of the Brothers’ war. A brutal ice age has descended over the land,” sounds so much better than anything I’ve heard story-wise in recent world describing Wizards blog posts. This Ice-Age promo video is amazing. I’ve watched it through several times since it was posted to Zac “The Founder” Clark’s wall. I miss this kind of Magic attitude. It’s creative and totally rough around the edges. The technology used to render the video seems so awkward, like a Ralph Bakshi cartoon. It’s inspiring. I want to borrow from its visuals and apply it to my paintings.

From Ralph Bakshi’s “Fire and Ice”

Today’s Magic is so accessible and polished that there’s little to no room for my imagination to play. Everything is expertly figured out. The narrative is brutally hammered into us.

I want the flavor of a world made obvious. “We’re in a medieval gothic horror world with all kinds of supernatural shit going down.” And then I want it not ruined by the specifics of some dumb planeswalker making an angel who then locks herself and all the other angels inside some bullshit called the Helvault with Grisseldaddy and a bunch of demons to save the humans from demonic torment. Holy shit is that uninteresting and heavy handed.

What I remember demons looking like.

I’d rather imagine what Geralf is up to (shitty that we now know who Geralf is, thanks Commander) by way of his messengers and mindcrushers appearing in the game and hinting at him. The odd bit of flavor text referring to his work, Geralf himself remaining a mystery. It’s like the abominable snowman scene in the unfucked with version of The Empire Strikes Back vs. the fucked with version. Not seeing the monster makes the scene more interesting, our disbelief is suspended, and our creative minds go wild. Our minds are at their best when creating.

So, I guess I’m saying I want Magic’s flavor to be more authentic and less stylistically thematic. The Dark had a great style/theme and it wasn’t ruined by some second rate recycled story.

It’s hard for me to gear up for a corporate hitting of all the bases that goes on in Khans. “We got your dragons! We got your Kung Fu! We got your Chinese Mysticism! What more could you ask for?!”

Well, you could stop the generic people-pleasing and reengage your authentic creative selves. Build a world. Populate that world. Leave the story open enough for us to be creative within it.

Thanks for reading,

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