02/21/2011 MM: "Pick a Side, Any Side"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
This is a revamp of something I originally posted in the Arcana thread:

Top Six Reasons It'll Obviously Be New Phyrexia

MaRo loves aesthetics - Scars was 80/20 Mirran/Phyrexian. Besieged was 50/50. New Phyrexia will be 20/80. (The No-Torment-Without-Judgment Magic design rule.)

Happy endings are fluff - In the boring world where Mirrodin Pure is released, the nature of the protagonists having already triumphed would make the set as narratively pointless as the last 30-45 minutes of Peter Jackson's "The Return of the King".

They wouldn't waste the Phyrexians - If anyone is going to defeat the Phyrexians, it isn't going to be the first guys that happen to be hanging around the vats.

The Mirrans are the guest stars - The Phyrexians are an interdimensional force steeped in Magic history. The Mirrans are the less-cool version of Esper. One side is an indispensable nostalgic device tapping into deep villain tropes like the Ancient Enemy and the Devouring Swarm. The other is a yawnfest of disposable plane-of-the-week tribes no one remembered from 2003.

The Empire Strikes Back was the best one - Let no one mistake "Action" for Return of the Jedi. It's TESB. The bad guys are winning this one.

They've built this up for YEARS - The grand reintroduction of Magic's most famous villains, set up in the original Mirrodin block, led by the best-loved, lone-remaining Weatherlight character Karn (who was set up for this twist in the Time Spiral block) cannot possibly go any other way than a victory for the forces of evil. Expect future blocks to feature the Phyrexians attacking everywhere and everyone we've ever heard of. The Phyrexians are still going to be Magic villains in 2050, let alone 2012.

My logic boils down to: building up villains requires that they finish this chapter in a stronger position than they started it, so they will be sufficiently intimidating next time. Hence, New Phyrexia.
I got a warm fuzzy from seeing the old Tempest storyboard again; back in the day I thought that was one of the coolest ideas Magic had in its arsenal, and I was sad when they abandoned it.  I'd like to recommend that Wizards consider doing a sequential ("vertical") plot again - all you need to do to make it work is to number the cards clearly in their storyboard order, so that players can plug the cards they receive into a jigsaw puzzle and reconstruct the storyline.  Another tool that could help with this would be to take a page from Legend of the Five Rings, one of the few CCGs whose longevity approaches that of Magic - when they did their storyline "The Hidden Emperor", they published six small card sets over the course of a year in order to show the story developing bit by bit.  Magic could do the same - imagine if the Phyrexian war was broken down into six chapters instead of three, so we could see the contagion appear from the black lacuna in chapter 1, conquer the whole Dross and begin to infect the Tangle in chapter 2, conquer the whole Tangle and begin to crop up in Lumengrid in chapter 3, thoroughly pollute blue and start affecting white in chapter 4, and after that we would either see red fighting back in chapter 5 and winning in chapter 6, or red starting to fall in chapter 5 and failing completely in chapter 6.  It could totally work, and it'd even be possible (though difficult) to make it work in a way that suits Limited.

In my opinion, Metalcraft is a bad mechanic.  Every card that's made with metalcraft has its entire point be about hitting metalcraft, which leaves you with no fallback plan.  It's not hard to get three artifacts, but it is easy to fail to get three artifacts due to bad luck or enemy interference - and then all your cards are lame.  Affinity may have been borken six ways to sunday, but at least it had the right idea; every affinity card immediately helped you play other affinity cards, ensuring that you never lost momentum.  A "threshold" mechanic like metalcraft is so all-or-nothing as to make for a very bad divide between "everything is okay" and "everything is ruined forever".  Metalcraft doesn't feel like an extra bonus for having the artifacts, it feels like the only possible reason to play the card at all, and that means you don't really appreciate its good side, you just notice when it goes wrong.

Why doesn't Maro address battle cry and living weapon in this article?
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
I agree about Metalcraft. They seem to have been very afraid of making it too good so they settled for not making it good at all. If those are really the only two choices they had, they were better off moving in another direction. That said, a few rares and mythics are seeing some competitive play, which is par for the course these days.

I can't share the love for the Tempest storyboard. My stomach dropped to my feet when I saw it in the Duellist and I am very, very glad they stopped doing it. It's probably the difference between me coming back and me saying "forget it." I do not, under any circumstances, like my imagination being shut off at that extreme a level. This is why I don't often like to make linear decks.  You give me cards, and I will figure out the most interesting way to get to a stack of 60. LIkewise, you give me the environment, hint at the backstory, and I will do the rest.

I am definitely glad MaRo pointed out that his comments on Infect were purely subjective, especially when he gets into "alternate win conditions." This is the one big difference between Infect and other poison variants: it's not actually much of an alternate win condition as compared to the original poison creatures that he liked so much. In fact it is pretty much the same thing as dealing 20 damage, except you deal 10 instead. Not quite the same as putting 100 counters on a card, controlling one of each land type and a creature of each color, having 50 life, or only one permanent in play with no cards in hand.

Proliferate is nice, nice enough for Steady Progress to be the only post-M11 card I own. It is a fun mechanic with a zillion applications, many of which coexist in my card binders. I would have preferred a little more tension in the mechanic but I understand the importance of multiplayer politics and it is not an important enough element. My one proliferate card will regularly remind me that 2010 was an okay year for Magic.

As a pure spectator, I too would prefer Phyrexia to win the war.
He did fail to address the biggest weakness in Magic storytelling: their stories have no endings.

This block is going to have it easy. It's a war, and we're going to see immediately which side wins. A lot of sets, though, show you the climax without the resolution. We get a big final battle and no victor.

Where did the Eldrazi go? Did they die? Did they trample Zendikar under their noodly appendages? Buy a book. Et cetera.

For years I thought Dominaria had been completely destroyed. The last set was called Apocalypse, and then the setting changed, and...we knew nothing, except for the people who read a bunch of books that, frankly, look like cheap cash-ins with no literary merit. I haven't read any of them but I certainly don't want to, and it's their job to make me. They failed.

Some blocks don't convey a narrative at all. The Masques block was three unconnected stories with no throughline and one setting we never heard from again. And Ravnica seemed like a block about a place where nothing ever happens. They spend the entire time setting up the factions and the only hint I see of what's actually going on is the names of the sets, which tell me that at some point the guilds balkanize and then make peace. Hell, with the focuses on the different guilds in each set they look like they take place at the same time. The Ravnica block could take place over three hours for all I know.
I'm firmly a Mirran supporter, but at the same time I completely understand this article. The Phyrexians are great villains, no doubt about it. A part of me wants to see them win simply because it means they'll be around for a while.
blah blah metal lyrics
Some blocks don't convey a narrative at all. The Masques block was three unconnected stories with no throughline and one setting we never heard from again. And Ravnica seemed like a block about a place where nothing ever happens. They spend the entire time setting up the factions and the only hint I see of what's actually going on is the names of the sets, which tell me that at some point the guilds balkanize and then make peace. Hell, with the focuses on the different guilds in each set they look like they take place at the same time. The Ravnica block could take place over three hours for all I know.



To me that was the beauty of Ravnica. My mind could create any story I wanted it to. I certainly didn't expect what I read in the books (hey, they were better than the Lorwyn novels anyway) and even after I read the storyline the majority of the cards still existed for me to place any way I wanted.
To me that was the beauty of Ravnica. My mind could create any story I wanted it to. I certainly didn't expect what I read in the books (hey, they were better than the Lorwyn novels anyway) and even after I read the storyline the majority of the cards still existed for me to place any way I wanted.



Oh, it's an ideal setting for a card game. It's a few hundreds cards worth of things in places with no narrative to interact in odd ways with the events of the actual game.

But as interesting as that is it's clearly not the way they're trying to do things. 

Where did the Eldrazi go? Did they die? Did they trample Zendikar under their noodly appendages? Buy a book. Et cetera.



Yeah wtf happened there? I haven't read the book, but my understanding is that they don't actually resolve it either.....


But yeah, I agree with the Phyrexians being great villains, and I want them to win this one so they'll be major players in the story for a long time. I started playing when Odyssey came out, so the Phyrexians have always been a cool idea that loomed in the past, and yet never present.

And the Phyrexians fit well between the mindless destruction of the Eldrazi and the 24/7 planeswalker politics Nicol Bolas show.
I don't get the notion that Phyrexia is so unique of Magic.

For me, they always were more like "The Borg 1.5".

So, for me they were just the thing MtG blatantly copied for all the wrong reasons and stood out as the one thing (robots) that fitted worst into the fantasy setting of the rest.
This is a revamp of something I originally posted in the Arcana thread:

Top Six Reasons It'll Obviously Be New Phyrexia

MaRo loves aesthetics - Scars was 80/20 Mirran/Phyrexian. Besieged was 50/50. New Phyrexia will be 20/80. (The No-Torment-Without-Judgment Magic design rule.)

Happy endings are fluff - In the boring world where Mirrodin Pure is released, the nature of the protagonists having already triumphed would make the set as narratively pointless as the last 30-45 minutes of Peter Jackson's "The Return of the King".

They wouldn't waste the Phyrexians - If anyone is going to defeat the Phyrexians, it isn't going to be the first guys that happen to be hanging around the vats.

The Mirrans are the guest stars - The Phyrexians are an interdimensional force steeped in Magic history. The Mirrans are the less-cool version of Esper. One side is an indispensable nostalgic device tapping into deep villain tropes like the Ancient Enemy and the Devouring Swarm. The other is a yawnfest of disposable plane-of-the-week tribes no one remembered from 2003.

The Empire Strikes Back was the best one - Let no one mistake "Action" for Return of the Jedi. It's TESB. The bad guys are winning this one.

They've built this up for YEARS - The grand reintroduction of Magic's most famous villains, set up in the original Mirrodin block, led by the best-loved, lone-remaining Weatherlight character Karn (who was set up for this twist in the Time Spiral block) cannot possibly go any other way than a victory for the forces of evil. Expect future blocks to feature the Phyrexians attacking everywhere and everyone we've ever heard of. The Phyrexians are still going to be Magic villains in 2050, let alone 2012.

My logic boils down to: building up villains requires that they finish this chapter in a stronger position than they started it, so they will be sufficiently intimidating next time. Hence, New Phyrexia.

Agreed DrSylvan. 
To me that was the beauty of Ravnica. My mind could create any story I wanted it to. I certainly didn't expect what I read in the books (hey, they were better than the Lorwyn novels anyway) and even after I read the storyline the majority of the cards still existed for me to place any way I wanted.



Oh, it's an ideal setting for a card game. It's a few hundreds cards worth of things in places with no narrative to interact in odd ways with the events of the actual game.

But as interesting as that is it's clearly not the way they're trying to do things. 



Well the problem with the Weatherlight story is that they went too far in that direction. I agree if there is a good way to show the story without shoving down players' throats they should probably try to find that sweet spot. Me, I prefer as little of it as possible, but there is room between that and Weatherlight 2.0, certainly.
To me that was the beauty of Ravnica. My mind could create any story I wanted it to. I certainly didn't expect what I read in the books (hey, they were better than the Lorwyn novels anyway) and even after I read the storyline the majority of the cards still existed for me to place any way I wanted.



Oh, it's an ideal setting for a card game. It's a few hundreds cards worth of things in places with no narrative to interact in odd ways with the events of the actual game.

But as interesting as that is it's clearly not the way they're trying to do things. 



Well the problem with the Weatherlight story is that they went too far in that direction. I agree if there is a good way to show the story without shoving down players' throats they should probably try to find that sweet spot. Me, I prefer as little of it as possible, but there is room between that and Weatherlight 2.0, certainly.



Like I said, Scars is a good way of doing it. The arc ends with a new world order and the third set shows us what it is, thus we get a resolution.
I got a warm fuzzy from seeing the old Tempest storyboard again; back in the day I thought that was one of the coolest ideas Magic had in its arsenal, and I was sad when they abandoned it.  I'd like to recommend that Wizards consider doing a sequential ("vertical") plot again - all you need to do to make it work is to number the cards clearly in their storyboard order, so that players can plug the cards they receive into a jigsaw puzzle and reconstruct the storyline.  Another tool that could help with this would be to take a page from Legend of the Five Rings, one of the few CCGs whose longevity approaches that of Magic - when they did their storyline "The Hidden Emperor", they published six small card sets over the course of a year in order to show the story developing bit by bit.  Magic could do the same - imagine if the Phyrexian war was broken down into six chapters instead of three, so we could see the contagion appear from the black lacuna in chapter 1, conquer the whole Dross and begin to infect the Tangle in chapter 2, conquer the whole Tangle and begin to crop up in Lumengrid in chapter 3, thoroughly pollute blue and start affecting white in chapter 4, and after that we would either see red fighting back in chapter 5 and winning in chapter 6, or red starting to fall in chapter 5 and failing completely in chapter 6.  It could totally work, and it'd even be possible (though difficult) to make it work in a way that suits Limited.

In my opinion, Metalcraft is a bad mechanic.  Every card that's made with metalcraft has its entire point be about hitting metalcraft, which leaves you with no fallback plan.  It's not hard to get three artifacts, but it is easy to fail to get three artifacts due to bad luck or enemy interference - and then all your cards are lame.  Affinity may have been borken six ways to sunday, but at least it had the right idea; every affinity card immediately helped you play other affinity cards, ensuring that you never lost momentum.  A "threshold" mechanic like metalcraft is so all-or-nothing as to make for a very bad divide between "everything is okay" and "everything is ruined forever".  Metalcraft doesn't feel like an extra bonus for having the artifacts, it feels like the only possible reason to play the card at all, and that means you don't really appreciate its good side, you just notice when it goes wrong.

Why doesn't Maro address battle cry and living weapon in this article?

I like the idea of the storyboard order, and I think it is a good counterpoint to MaRo's idea of environmental stories. Perhaps they could try something like this first on a small scale within a set -like a small subplot as part of a cycle of cards? Maybe start out as something hidden for Vorthos to find?

Top Six Reasons It'll Obviously Be New Phyrexia


Your points are pretty much right on, but you might as well add point number seven: MaRo basically just admitted it.  (Not that it wasn't obvious before, but still.)  "The last few years have been about Magic starting to rebuild its rogues' gallery, and for me the Phyrexians play an important role."

Oh, sure, he goes on to say, "Let me also stress that if the Phyrexians don't win the war, it doesn't mean it's the last we'll ever see of them. Remember: all you need to start a Phyrexian invasion is a tiny drop of oil." This, however, ignores the fact that it would be terrible narrative storytelling to repeat the same "Phyrexians sneakily invade new plane, much to inhabitants' surprise" story that they just told.  There's no way that they can retell the same exact story by just changing the name of the plane and expect it to go over well.

I got a warm fuzzy from seeing the old Tempest storyboard again



So did I, actually.  Another way they could tell a story would be to have the collector numbers be in chronological order, rather than by color, then name.  That'd give more motivation for players to collect and display complete sets.

Metalcraft doesn't feel like an extra bonus for having the artifacts, it feels like the only possible reason to play the card at all, and that means you don't really appreciate its good side, you just notice when it goes wrong.



That's actually a really good point, and in fact sort of mirrors Affinity's anti-fun-ness.  When the cards are good, they're stupidly good.  When the cards are bad, they're stupidly bad.  Either way, at any time one of the two players feels that the metalcraft deck is not fun to play.

He did fail to address the biggest weakness in Magic storytelling: their stories have no endings.

Where did the Eldrazi go? Did they die? Did they trample Zendikar under their noodly appendages? Buy a book. Et cetera.



Another good point.  I think the Eldrazi got beaten/banished, but I couldn't tell you how I know that (probably read it somewhere on this website), or how it happened.  There is a card named Momentous Fall, though, so at least one Eldrazi must have been beaten at some point.  (Or maybe it just tripped and fell.  The card has you sacrifice a creature, not kill an opposing one, so I guess it's not really clear.)

Like I said, Scars is a good way of doing it. The arc ends with a new world order and the third set shows us what it is, thus we get a resolution.



I wouldn't know. You could be right. I was commenting specifically on what you said about Ravnica. But not all storylines can be summarized in set titles anyway.
What makes Phyrexia different from the borg is that they're not a mindless collective, except for the low-level minions.  The more intelligent Phyrexians love what they're doing.  They honestly believe that they're doing the right thing, and for fairly reasonable reasons given their perspective.  They have absolutely no imagination, no sense of spirituality - they believe the material universe is all that matters, and death is the great equalizer.  From that perspective, immortality is the only desireable goal, and they're very committed to making it happen.  Even if you die, you die for the benefit of your society, and you know your society will endure no matter what.  The religious aspects hinted at by the white phyrexian cards are all about reminding Phyrexian's minions why they obey, even if they never had a choice.  Everything they do is geared toward an ultimate goal of utterly dominating the natural world and forging Phyrexia into a machine which will never run down, and that is why they occasionally win willing converts.  (Granted, it'd be easier if they made more of an effort to look pretty.)

@ Hacimen:  It's interesting to note that we have such diametrically opposed ideas on the Tempest storyline, yet for comparable reasons.  I love it because it engaged my imagination, you didn't love it because it restricted your imagination.  I definitely agree about Ravnica, though; these many years on, I still regard it as the ideal Magic setting.

It has been said explicitly somewhere in recent articles that the Eldrazi are out there somewhere and will be coming back.  But yes, it's a bit sad that there was no way to point this out in the game.  (Actually the card Near-Death Experience makes it look as though they were wiped out at great cost, so that was a bit of a goof.)

What's sad about this is that if (as Dr. Sylvan points out is very likely) the Phyrexians do win the war, Mirrodin is gone entirely - but if Mirrodin stamps out its Phyrexian invasion, Phyrexia will just rise anew on one of the other worlds where Karn wiped his feet.  So either MP or NP would give us Phyrexia as a player in multiversal politics, but only MP also preserves Mirrodin as one.  For that reason and my general fondness for shiny metal things, I would love to see Mirrodin win the war, even though I much prefer Phyrexia's mechanics.  This is why if I had made it to the prerelease, or the release, or if I manage to get to Game Day, I will be taking Mirran all the way even though metalcraft and battle cry bore me to tears while proliferate and living weapon bring me joy.  Not that my choice actually changes the outcome, but I hope at least to be a data point on a Brand curve proving that Mirrodin is popular enough to revisit someday, ensuring that perhaps some silly deus ex machina will drive out the Phyrexians at the last moment.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
What's sad about this is that if (as Dr. Sylvan points out is very likely) the Phyrexians do win the war, Mirrodin is gone entirely - but if Mirrodin stamps out its Phyrexian invasion, Phyrexia will just rise anew on one of the other worlds where Karn wiped his feet.  So either MP or NP would give us Phyrexia as a player in multiversal politics, but only MP also preserves Mirrodin as one.



It's not neccesarily true that Mirrodin is completely gone - if you'll recall, Venser was working on a planeship, so he could theoretically bring a large number of Mirrans with him as he escapes from the Phyrexians. Then, a few years from now, the Mirrans and Venser, now at the head of a Multiplanar alliance, invade New Phyrexia, this time able to take advantage of the civil war that has inevitably taken place due to the fractious nature of the new Phyrexians to purge them from the plane, truly creating pure Mirrodin for the first time since its creation.

I don't know if this is particularily likely, though a fleet of planeships carrying the surviving Mirran army, the combined forces of Bant, Esper and Naya, and whatever other Planes the storyline visits between now and then would be awesome. Just for fun have Nicol Bolas lead the Eldrazi to New Phyrexia so we can have a true monster mash battle royale.

Micorku's World Bits - A Vorthos writing about various creative topics. Updates sporadically Iroas - The world needs heroes - will you answer the call? There is also an RPG that is in Pre-Alpha stage.
Well the problem with the Weatherlight story is that they went too far in that direction. I agree if there is a good way to show the story without shoving down players' throats they should probably try to find that sweet spot.

I don't recall that happening.
All they did, to my memory, was include a tiny storybook in Starter and Preconstructed decks, with the closest to "shoving down players' throats" being silly cardnames like Tahngarth's Rage.

At no point in the Weatherlight Saga, was there a time where Wizards did everything but force us to play "Weatherlight or Rath", nor pick one of the Invasion 'schools' (Ana, Necra, whatever, etc.) and pretend the other colors did not exist.

There is a world of difference between "here's the story guys, when you get around to reading it" and "HERE IS STORY!!  YOU MAKE DECK FOR STORY!!!"
It wasn't through deck construction. It was the story shoved down our throats via the cards themselves. Although I am sure there are plenty of Weatherlight story decks that were made, my issue was that thwe same six or seven people rotated through just about every card that was pronted for four years, almost every bit of flavor text referred to specific parts of the story, and there was even a Duellist article in Tempest telling players how to lay out their cards. That was far and beyond what I found acceptable. I don't mind vague flavor references and as I mentioned before I thought Ravnica was perfect. There's a story if you want to go get it (I actually went ahead and did that). Not "this is the story, piece by piece."
Not "this is the story, piece by piece."

The pieces, arranged in one specific way, told a story.  When arranged in any other way, they were just Magic cards.

If anything, the lesson of Weatherlight is that trying to be like Star Wars didn't work out.
I think Hacimen got to the core of why the Weatherlight saga failed for me (mostly). The fact that every card had to be directly related to the story (and they were, even if it wasn't obvious) was a bad decision that needlessly hampered Creative. The one exception to this in my mind was the three card story of Vhati il-dal.

I think the best they've gotten at displaying a story was in Alara block. Shards of Alara established the fact that the five shards were completely seperate. Conflux showed some of the early consequences of them rejoining - the massive wars of xenophobia and the beginnings of individuals adapting other shards' strengths for themselves. Alara Reborn showed exactly that - Alara Reborn, with all the colors finally joining together. This leads to more fighting, but more at skirmish level than the massive wars that had been occurring. The only thing that is missing from the story as I just described it is Nicol Bolas' involvement, and that's not super important for the inhabitants of Alara.
Micorku's World Bits - A Vorthos writing about various creative topics. Updates sporadically Iroas - The world needs heroes - will you answer the call? There is also an RPG that is in Pre-Alpha stage.
At no point did having Gerrard's goofy bearded face all over the art prevent good cards from being good or bad cards from being bad, nor tell me what cards not to mix with what cards to get this month's promo card. 
Does anyone really care about exactly what was happening in the story at the time when playing Orim's Chant, Fact or Fiction, or Intuition?
No, but I cared that every fifth card had Gerrard on it. Or a quote from Gerrard in the flavor text. that was far too intrusive for my liking.

And for that matter, it was as obvious in the packs as it was in the Duellist article. They have never taken the story to the cards like they did with that story again, and with good reason. I am far from the only person that had an issue with it.
Every Magic card, in a nutshell:

These words are important.
Stop reading now.


It's true that it never harmed the gameplay, but it hurt the flavor of specific cards - and honestly, I think the problems mostly stopped after Exodus. Intuition is a good example - the art makes it seem like she is studying those three papers, figuring out which is accurate. There is nothing in the art that suggests that she's using her intuition, and the only relation to the mechanic is the number of papers. This is beside the fact that Orim wouldn't use that spell because she's a White mage, not Blue, so even that makes no sense. Ertai would have made more sense in color terms, but the story said he wasn't available for this art, and it had to be Orim.
Micorku's World Bits - A Vorthos writing about various creative topics. Updates sporadically Iroas - The world needs heroes - will you answer the call? There is also an RPG that is in Pre-Alpha stage.
The simple truth is: this is all silly.

Wizards somehow expects us to care about fictional sides of a fictional war - the result of which was already decided upwards of six or eight months ago, with the printing layouts likely already in the hands of Carta Mundi.

Anything suggesting we can "wish" a side to win just by putting specific watermarks (and none of the other) in our decks two weeks from now, and this would have anything to do with anything, is just as believable as Coldsnap being "found" behind a filing cabinet, if not less so.
I saw Goblin Wardriver and Flayer Husk crying together in a corner coming into this thread. I'm pretty sure MaRo's blatant ignoring of them has done more to bring Mirrans and Phyrexians together than any of us ever did.

This block is going to have it easy. It's a war, and we're going to see immediately which side wins. A lot of sets, though, show you the climax without the resolution. We get a big final battle and no victor.

Where did the Eldrazi go? Did they die? Did they trample Zendikar under their noodly appendages? Buy a book. Et cetera.



I agree so much with this. I like the way they laid out the last blocks (Alara and Zendikar) but I really hate that they spent a lot of time setting up a conflict and a final battle, yet there is no way of knowing what actually happened during that battle and afterwards. The comics actually imply that Bant lost the war (or was at least fighting a losing war) against Grixis, which was completely new to me (I thought Alara Reborn implied that the good guys won). I like that they're doing that here. I also like that Go for the Throat is basically the only card in the two sets so far which seems out of place. I was really miffed when half of Rise of the Eldrazi was showing random creatures fighting random creatures.

For years I thought Dominaria had been completely destroyed. The last set was called Apocalypse, and then the setting changed, and...we knew nothing, except for the people who read a bunch of books that, frankly, look like cheap cash-ins with no literary merit. I haven't read any of them but I certainly don't want to, and it's their job to make me. They failed.

Some blocks don't convey a narrative at all. The Masques block was three unconnected stories with no throughline and one setting we never heard from again. And Ravnica seemed like a block about a place where nothing ever happens. They spend the entire time setting up the factions and the only hint I see of what's actually going on is the names of the sets, which tell me that at some point the guilds balkanize and then make peace. Hell, with the focuses on the different guilds in each set they look like they take place at the same time. The Ravnica block could take place over three hours for all I know.



I actually think that was a great strength of the Ravnica block, because it didn't force you to do anything with the story. This also really opened up possibilities for the writers: I think Ravnica was one of the better book trilogies in the later days. Overall, by the way, a lot of the books are pretty okay. I was especially a great fan of the earlier cycles. The early books like The Thran and the Ice Age cycle are really good, while the second Legend cycle (Champion's Trial, Emperor's Fist and Assassin's Blade) is some of the best stuff that was written about Magic. Hell, I doubt that Nicol Bolas would've become a major villain without that particular trilogy. Because those books did not really have to follow the storyline as they were written retroactively, they were overall better than the later books, though I have fond memories of the Weatherlight Saga and the Onslaught and Ravnica cycles as well. For me, it turned crap with the Time Spiral cycle, which I couldn't even finish because they were so annoying. I also have Lorwyn but from the stories I've heard I should be happy I haven't opened it.


Top Six Reasons It'll Obviously Be New Phyrexia


Your points are pretty much right on, but you might as well add point number seven: MaRo basically just admitted it.  (Not that it wasn't obvious before, but still.)  "The last few years have been about Magic starting to rebuild its rogues' gallery, and for me the Phyrexians play an important role."

Oh, sure, he goes on to say, "Let me also stress that if the Phyrexians don't win the war, it doesn't mean it's the last we'll ever see of them. Remember: all you need to start a Phyrexian invasion is a tiny drop of oil." This, however, ignores the fact that it would be terrible narrative storytelling to repeat the same "Phyrexians sneakily invade new plane, much to inhabitants' surprise" story that they just told.  There's no way that they can retell the same exact story by just changing the name of the plane and expect it to go over well.

He did fail to address the biggest weakness in Magic storytelling: their stories have no endings.

Where did the Eldrazi go? Did they die? Did they trample Zendikar under their noodly appendages? Buy a book. Et cetera.



Another good point.  I think the Eldrazi got beaten/banished, but I couldn't tell you how I know that (probably read it somewhere on this website), or how it happened.  There is a card named Momentous Fall, though, so at least one Eldrazi must have been beaten at some point.  (Or maybe it just tripped and fell.  The card has you sacrifice a creature, not kill an opposing one, so I guess it's not really clear.)




Just killing a single major Eldrazi would cause a Momentous Fall. I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure all three of the major Eldrazi survived and are trying to get out there.


What I'm personally hoping for is a good white villain. We haven't really seen any of those since Akroma. I always felt it had potential (Radiant was pretty good as villain). The rogues' gallery of Magic also needs villains of every colour. You can't just keep on casting white as the good guys and black as the bad guys (Nicol Bolas is RBU, Eldrazi are RBG, Phyrexians are BGU). I actually think they're already sowing the seeds for it. Elspeth has already taken a hit after seeing her home plane fall to Phyrexia and then Bant to Nicol Bolas. If Mirrodin falls as well, she could just snap and go crazy.

On the other hand, their seeming desire to never cast humans as evil people would probably stop that from happening.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
Every Magic card, in a nutshell:

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Stop reading now.





If this is true, why would they bother getting all the art? Why would they bother spending so much time designing the settings? Why would they spend so much time on anything that isn't directly related to the mechanics?

The simple truth is: this is all silly.

Wizards somehow expects us to care about fictional sides of a fictional war - the result of which was already decided upwards of six or eight months ago, with the printing layouts likely already in the hands of Carta Mundi.

Anything suggesting we can "wish" a side to win just by putting specific watermarks (and none of the other) in our decks two weeks from now, and this would have anything to do with anything, is just as believable as Coldsnap being "found" behind a filing cabinet, if not less so.



Of course it's silly. That doesn't stop it from being fun. And expecting us to care about the sides of this fictional war is no different than caring about the sides in Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter, or Star Trek, or Star Wars, or any other piece of fiction. Just because something is fictional doesn't mean it doesn't matter. And they've never suggested that we could change the outcome - they've been very clear from the start that the outcome was decided before design work had truly begun.
Micorku's World Bits - A Vorthos writing about various creative topics. Updates sporadically Iroas - The world needs heroes - will you answer the call? There is also an RPG that is in Pre-Alpha stage.
Every Magic card, in a nutshell:

These words are important.
Stop reading now.





You know I came darn close to just using this line:

FLAVOR DOESN'T MATTER!

Good thing I didn't because you used the other one. ALways one step ahead of me 

But I only agree with that to an extent. I agree with it to the extent of "why didn;t Jhoira do something with artifacts in Future Sight? It says right here, on page 322, that she..." And actually, even with that example Vorthos has a pretty good point. I just don't think you avoid making that UR card that grants suspend over it.

But I didn't get drawn into the game because it was words on a card. I never did D&D, I never played any other RPG's. I was dragged into the game Jim Ignatowski-style when I wanted to actually go to a park on an uncharacteristically nice day, ate the hash brownie, and ended up a taxi-driving junkie.  

I got into Magic because I was summoning demons, angels, elves, goblins, without all those character sheets and endless book referencing. I was sold on the concept of flavor to the extent that my decks could themsevles tell stories. Any stories I wanted, actually. Weatherlight changed that. Now I was collecting pieces of some other story. The more cards I bought, the more cards I bought with Gerrard. Or Hanna. Or Sisay. Or that minotaur going RAWR. Or that cat going RAWR. It got old extrmely quickly, and was worsened by the "hey look at our storyboard" article.

They're doing it right now, although they do need to be careful. Forced flavor is creeping back into the game with the "pick a side" concept but at least Koth isn't showing up on cards over and over. If they ever get back to the storyboard layout there's no way I would bother coming back. Flavor isn't everything to me, and I am no Vorthos, but it does matter to an extent. It's not much different than the art; the more the viewer has to interpret it, the more his imagination is involved. The less the viewer has to interpret, the more likely it will atrophy entirely. And then you end up with this scenario:


These words are important.
Stop reading now.


The simple truth is: this is all silly.

Wizards somehow expects us to care about fictional sides of a fictional war - the result of which was already decided upwards of six or eight months ago, with the printing layouts likely already in the hands of Carta Mundi.

Anything suggesting we can "wish" a side to win just by putting specific watermarks (and none of the other) in our decks two weeks from now, and this would have anything to do with anything, is just as believable as Coldsnap being "found" behind a filing cabinet, if not less so.



Why should that stop us from hoping a particular side would win? They're basically trying to up the stakes everywhere and trying to force some identity on the players by offering incentives if they choose (nothing stops you from just playing the deck you want, it's just an option you have). I actually think it worked out pretty well. I greatly enjoyed the Phyrexian-Mirran differences at the Mirrodin Besieged prerelease. They don't say it will help your side if you play a deck filled with their cards, they only say that you could get extras if you do. And, well, some players enjoy that kind of flavour and that kind of role-playing.
76125763 wrote:
Zindaras' meta is like a fossil, ancient and its secrets yet to be uncovered. Only men of yore, long dead, knew of it.
It's not much different than the art; the more the viewer has to interpret it, the more his imagination is involved. The less the viewer has to interpret, the more likely it will atrophy entirely. And then you end up with this scenario:

Did you just suggest that too much flavor is the same as no flavor at all?
Something to that effect. The more Weatherlight-Tempest cards were in my deck, the more I shut it down and stopped telling stories with my gameplay. Seriously, ignoring the story completely was how I dealt with it. Once even that stopped working I quit for a while. Came back just in time to find out the rules were about to change and that the core set was now being called "Classic."

And every fifth card still had Gerrard on it.
It's just me or it is VERY boring this whole "pick your side!" and "join the fight!", when the winning side is already been chosen and it's pretty obvious who will win.

This kind of treatment is really killing my enthusiasm for Mirrodin and Scars in general.
This is a revamp of something I originally posted in the Arcana thread:

Top Six Reasons It'll Obviously Be New Phyrexia

MaRo loves aesthetics - Scars was 80/20 Mirran/Phyrexian. Besieged was 50/50. New Phyrexia will be 20/80. (The No-Torment-Without-Judgment Magic design rule.)

Happy endings are fluff - In the boring world where Mirrodin Pure is released, the nature of the protagonists having already triumphed would make the set as narratively pointless as the last 30-45 minutes of Peter Jackson's "The Return of the King".

They wouldn't waste the Phyrexians - If anyone is going to defeat the Phyrexians, it isn't going to be the first guys that happen to be hanging around the vats.

The Mirrans are the guest stars - The Phyrexians are an interdimensional force steeped in Magic history. The Mirrans are the less-cool version of Esper. One side is an indispensable nostalgic device tapping into deep villain tropes like the Ancient Enemy and the Devouring Swarm. The other is a yawnfest of disposable plane-of-the-week tribes no one remembered from 2003.

The Empire Strikes Back was the best one - Let no one mistake "Action" for Return of the Jedi. It's TESB. The bad guys are winning this one.

They've built this up for YEARS - The grand reintroduction of Magic's most famous villains, set up in the original Mirrodin block, led by the best-loved, lone-remaining Weatherlight character Karn (who was set up for this twist in the Time Spiral block) cannot possibly go any other way than a victory for the forces of evil. Expect future blocks to feature the Phyrexians attacking everywhere and everyone we've ever heard of. The Phyrexians are still going to be Magic villains in 2050, let alone 2012.

My logic boils down to: building up villains requires that they finish this chapter in a stronger position than they started it, so they will be sufficiently intimidating next time. Hence, New Phyrexia.



Actually the ending of Return of the King is really really good, but it took a while for me to appreciate it too. Tolkien was very much influenced by his experiences in the world war and that shows itself in the story.

You have this scene with the 4 'veteran' hobbits, being somewhat jealous how the normal hobbits can still be cheerful about something simple like the biggest pumpkin, while they have been scarred by the biggest spider/army/elephaunt/etc.

In the end, its too much for Frodo. The Nazgul's scar is just symbolic for the psychological scar of war. He can't go back to the simple life. He leaves. The war has won. The protagonists actually haven't triumphed.

But then in the final scene, we see Sam, who has actually conquered the war. Not Frodo but Sam is the true victor, the true hero in the end. He has been able to live after the war, he has started a family. He has been able to overcome and enjoy what's life truly about once more.

And I think that's what Tolkien wanted to convey.
It's a really good point about the stories having no endings - I would love to see MaRo write an article about how he sees this as a designer from a storytelling perspective, particularly since he doesn't drive the creative or the book publishing aspects.

Every once in a while I get energetic and try to figure out what happened at the end of a given block, but I'm not willing to buy the books just to figure it out.  (Sci-fi) conflict tends to have a clear-cut binary result at the end, and Magic cards are good at painting the backdrop rather than providing that definitive answer.

Regarding MaRo's choice:  I think the Mirrans were set up to fail.  Ignoring mechanics, it's clear that a lot more creative and design work went into the Phyrexians.  MaRo points out that the Phyrexians had a singularly unifying vibe, and while part of that is the culmination of years of design, I also believe that current R&D could have made the Mirrans look that good if they wanted to.

At this point, the players can tell where R&D have invested, and the players' choice is a bygone conclusion.  And I think that's OK - it's no different than any other block, really.  The only weird part is the continued push to make it feel like a real choice - it seems at once naive and over-calculating, somehow.
Oh, sure, he goes on to say, "Let me also stress that if the Phyrexians don't win the war, it doesn't mean it's the last we'll ever see of them. Remember: all you need to start a Phyrexian invasion is a tiny drop of oil." This, however, ignores the fact that it would be terrible narrative storytelling to repeat the same "Phyrexians sneakily invade new plane, much to inhabitants' surprise" story that they just told.  There's no way that they can retell the same exact story by just changing the name of the plane and expect it to go over well.



I would expect it to play out different, the beginning would be "The same fate befell New Plane VII as Mirrodin, only this time the Phyrexians won the war" and pick up from the end of the war rather than pick up from the beginning of it. So you could still have New Phyrexia, just a few years later as a big set on not-Mirrodin.

I chose my side long, long ago. Mirrans all the way!

Come join me at No Goblins Allowed


Because frankly, being here depresses me these days.

Have they actually hinted at all about where Elspeth is from? Because Dominaria has certainly encountered Phyrexia. Maybe she's just Benalish.
Probably. She has that benalish "hugnh?" attitude that most benalish heroes have.
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Dr Sylvan has it pretty much right on.  I had the exact same reasoning when they said the last set might either be new phyrexia or mirrodin whatever, and reading stuff here and there on the board, I think the majority of the community came to the exact same conclusion. 

Hence why I think this whole deal was executed terribly poorly.  Picking a side is totally pointless when you know who's gonna win.  I mean, I certainly prefer the mirrans mechanically.  I find infect completely boring and stupid.  I don't care how much work they spent trying to make poison NOT feel like a second life total, they failed terribly.  That said, I'm not gonna root for them in the story, because I know they'll lose.  It's one thing to root for the underdogs, but this is way passed that.  Rooting for the mirrans right now is like rooting for the Steelers while watching a replay of this year's superbowl.  Nothing exciting or fun about it.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad storyline.  I'm glad phyrexia is getting reborn (even though I really hate infect as a mechanic and hope with all my heart that it is NOT gonna be phyrexia's mechanic next time we see them) and mirrodin was certainly the right place for this to happen.  I just really don't think this was the best setting to have a polarizing war and have player choose sides.  If you want people to choose a side, you can't have such an obvious winner.  An underdog is fine, but you can't make the winner THIS obvious.

So the pre-release was a fail, infect was a fail, the choosing sides thing was a fail, the surprise finally is gonna be one huge fail because everyone can see it coming from miles away.  Frankly, this block is on the bottom of the scale for recent blocks.  All gimmick, no execution.
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