(Editor’s Note: Against my better judgement, we are going to run yet another “Magic just hasn’t got the same appeal anymore”, but this one feels different. It just might be the last for a while as I explore other games.)
At this point, I’m not even sure that I can call it a lull anymore. I am simply not interested in Magic: the Gathering right now. i have bought over 200 dollars worth of product over the past three sets and haven’t opened any of it. Furthermore, I don’t have any plans to do so any time, soon. I think that is the most telling indicator that something is different this time.
It’s no secret that Chris and I go through phases. We are often excited about a set and what it can offer us during our monthly game nights. That excitement can last two months and has carried us into the next set. Theros got us back into the game on a regular basis. Khans had us playing Magic in some for or another right through until the end. There was the brief lull around the time of Fate Reforged. More on that later as is might be helpful in explaining the current malaise regarding Magic.
It started in a big way during the Origins spoiler. Neither of us found much promise in the explanation from Wizards that it “wasn’t an ordinary core set.” Hell, as card released, it was the coriest (is that a word?) of core sets. Sure, you got the flipwalkers, but other than that, what about Origins wasn’t a normal core set? Another Wizards promo screamed form the (basic) mountaintops, “This will usher in a new era for Magic: the Gathering!” How exactly has it done that?
All of the underwhelming reprints? No, that’s absolutely par for the core set course. Scry is a permanent fixture? Cool idea, but who cares that it happened during this set. Scry was already a big part of the game thanks to Theros. Renown? Oh, please, don’t even get me started. I will sound too much like a jilted lover left at the alter on my wedding day. Before I knew you, I loved you so, renown. Let’s just leave it at that. Every single one of these represents a common complaint about core sets. Heck, even the aforementioned flipwalkers represent unrealized potential. God, do I sound like a teacher or what? Maybe I just sound like my old teachers. Either way, all they really gave us was another overpriced Jace to add to my list of cards I’ll most likely never get to play.
What about the story? You are probably asking at this point. Wizards made a big deal about that, too. Is that just a huge disappointment, too? Is there nothing to redeem this dumpster fire of a set? Also, weren’t you one of the ones that actually liked Origins? Let me answer those questions in the opposite order in which they were asked. First, I don’t think I ever said that I liked Origins. I had fun drafting a bunch (at absolutely no cost) and doing one sealed match with a play group that never materialized into anything more. But, I never bought anything more than those six packs and one fat pack. I freely admit to being one of the only players that enjoys BFZ, but I was never impressed by Origins.
In regards to the first question, you have a point. Out of all of the promise attached to Origins, the story is actually good and lives up to that promise. Story has never been central to the enjoyment of Magic and it still lags way behind as a reason to play the game, but I’m glad that they have made an effort to make it more central and consistent. Even so, I do have one complaint about the story.
Heck, it might not even be a complaint. It might just be an observation. I suppose it all depends on your point of view. You may consider it a complaint. Whatever it is, I find it odd that the only way to fully experience this renewed commitment to story is by playing the Magic Duels Origins game. Otherwise, you only get bits and pieces through the usual method of reading flavor text on select cards. As a gamer who prefers games with a good story, I’m glad that they expanded the story’s role, no matter how platform specific they made that story.
I suspect that the decision was not a mistake. Even though they tried to make Duels more noob friendly and they mostly succeeded, the game was plagued by release bugs that broke the game to an unplayable state. By offering the carrot of a story in addition to the simplified game play, they hoped to pull in gamers like me who play games for those secondary reasons. Hopefully, if they find new players, they will be able to sell the other Magic: the Gathering properties to these players and increase their fan base even more. By all accounts, it seems to be working.
Now, finally, the explanation as to why things seem to be different this time around and why I may not come crawling back so readily unless it is to play the offshoot games like duels once BFZ releases or Magic Puzzle Quest when it comes out. I said earlier that our lull during Fate Reforged, which is the longest time we went between playing Magic before now, might have something to contribute when attempting to explain what might end up being our swan song from the game.
Neither Chris nor I found Fate Reforged overly exciting when it came to spoilers. We even had a conversation during one of the episodes of the podcast about how we crapped all over the set and it actually ended up being one of the best sets for competitive play in quite a while. Therein lies the problem for me and Chris. Neither of us has any illusion of playing Magic competitively and even actively despise the competitive Standard scene especially during the recent run of Abzan dominating everything. Competitive cards usually mean a high price tag and therefore I won’t be able to collect them.
While pros almost universally hate the new set, it still feels like Wizards is catering more to the competitive crowd with the new set. The inclusion of chase rare lands drove the price of boxes and fat packs to 125% to 200% of their MSRP. Thankfully, Wizards seems to have issued a reprint and I was able to get a fat pack over at the local Wal*Mart for regular price, but I did slightly overpay for my initial box and fat pack to start my collection set. Look, don’t get me wrong. I understand the economics of scarcity (barely), but paying so much for a piece of cardboard seems like the ultimate exercise in futility.
I guess the logical conclusion is that Wizards has whiffed, big time, on the last two sets. Pros have been not impressed with the quality of cards and only a few of them have been able to crack into competitive decks. Filthy casuals like me and Chris just don’t see enough here to keep playing or watching for the foreseeable future. As I end all of these articles, maybe I’ll find something about the game that will keep me connected and spending money, but right now I’m content with Duels every now and then and I’m sure Magic Puzzle Quest once it gets released. For now, there are many other games to spend time and money.