Let’s blow some minds around here.
In 1995, the Legend of the Five Rings card game was created and it broke new ground despite it being just another collectable card game that flooded the mid ’90s. Each deck represented a clan from a fictitious group or family from a fantasy orient type setting. Granted, compared to Magic: The Gathering’s fan base it was just a drop in the bucket but it had something very original that no other card game had.
Before each major tournament, the game’s creators would hold multiple potential story lines in designated envelopes. As the matches progressed and all of a clans entrant’s decks fell by the wayside, these potential stories would be ripped and destroyed, never again to be seen. Finals matches were tense affairs as the entire world’s lore hung in the balance of the two participant’s decks.
In 2003 Games Workshop, a titan in miniature war gaming, hosted the Warhammer 40k Eye of Terror Campaign. This campaign featured players all over the world sending the company match results via website. These matches played over months of real time and represented a galaxy’s worth of worlds all under siege from the forces of futuristic chaos. These battles changed the galaxy forever and even resulted in the destruction of entire planets in the game’s lore. Games Workshop hosted many of these worldwide campaigns over the years and they were all highly successful.
What if Magic games really mattered? What if tournaments changed the landscape of the story behind the cards?
From day one, a major part of Magic: The Gathering has been a story. It’s characters have become legends over the years. Even the newest players have heard at least a mentioning of Urza. Players invest themselves in the conflicts found in each new set, Phyrexia vs Mirrodin, Zendikar vs Eldrazi, Theros vs Xenagos. What if your deck had a hand in who won these conflicts? Would you feel more invested in your hobby knowing your deck can change the lore? The characters? The setting? The plane? The game in general?
Let’s take a past example and improve upon it. Years ago, Wizards hosted the Dragon’s Maze pre-release event. The guilds have been at war with one another and The Dracogenius, Niv-Mizzet has found a maze and a race through said maze grants the winner control of plane of Ravnica. Players choose their favorite guild to sponsor in this maze and build a deck from the available cards in each represented guild’s event packs. The tournament takes place and the winning guild deck’s results are sent to Wizards. The company then processes all results and posts the winner of the maze race and the newest ruling guild in Ravnica. Years later, if Wizards decides to revisit the city plane, the story would pick back up with the ruling guild in control.
Instead we got what I consider a lame ending to what could had been a very memorable block. As if Return to Ravnica was an episode of Sesame Street, all the guilds worked together to win the race as a group, friendship all around and the planeswalker Jace became a living Guildpact. Not one match of Magic had any bearing on the story and lore of the game.
That’s a lost opportunity that can never be taken back.
Let’s take another example. Lately Wizards’ marketing slogan has been “ignite your spark.” My response is “Give us the chance.” Shahar Shenhar has went on to win two consecutive World Championships. Along with a trophy and a massive novelty check, how about the creators of Magic immortalize him as a planeswalker and a major character in an upcoming set. His planeswalker card could represent not only the colors of his winning deck but the deck’s contents as well. Wizards has done this type of thing before but for whatever reason they stopped despite how popular it was for players not even involved in any such card creating tournament. It’s a shame and should be re-instituted.
What would Wizards have to gain from such an idea? At the very most casual level, I believe that players would be much more invested in the story of the game. Currently, many players have no idea and don’t care about what’s going on in Magic lore. Casual players would invest time into building decks around colors or factions they care about in hopes of being involved in storyline event tournaments. More lore involved casual players would enter events at their local game stores and that means more money not only for the store but Wizards as well. New players would hear the buzz and excitement of these events and want to join, creating even more card purchases. Expert players would be tempted to create the best deck they could from a certain cardbase, not from all available cards. This would create a much more diverse tournament scene and a less toxic environment for newer players and casuals to enter.
Of course there will be those that have no interest in the lore, but why ruin what this game could be for the small minority that plays Magic professionally? Most of us enjoy the occasional win at our local game stores and kitchen tables. let’s make those games mean something for Magic’s future. Oh the potential for what the Battle of Zendikar could be! You would have the chance to fight for one side or another for the fate of the plane!
This should not be the response of Mark Rosewater to the result of who won between Phyrexia and Mirrodin. Your matches should matter more than they do. You as a player and consumer deserve this magical opportunity.
EDIT: I contacted Mark Rosewater in regards to this post via Twitter. He did respond to me and mentioned that the logistics of doing this was impossible since the set is done well before the player base sees it. The time between Fifth Dawn and Scars of Mirrodin was over five years. Rise of the Eldrazi was almost the same amount of time till the future Battle of Zendikar. The Ravnica Blocks were nearly six years apart. I feel this is ample time for the writers behind Magic: The Gathering to create story dependent on event and tournament feedback, especially in regard to only two possible outcomes such as Zendikar vs Eldrazi and especially if Wizards has no immediate interest to revisit the plane.
Mark Rosewater did also mention a valid point. Since a storyline for a future set would come in 5+ years, the payoff would perhaps be forgotten or disregarded by the player base. Five years is a long time between the sister sets and interest may wane. However, immediate storyline results such in the case of Legend of the Five Rings were planned well before the event began and players were a part of the ever changing story.
I still hope that this is something players could support and Wizards would change regardless of any amount of time between sets and kudos to Mark Rosewater for answering my questions.
Aiokii has hosted his own Magic: The Gathering campaigns with his gaming group with enjoyable success. Contact him at https://twitter.com/TheAiokii , Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thepaperchampionblog or post in the comments below. Check out http://www.reddit.com/r/budgetdecks/, for Magic: The Gathering on a budget discussion.