Monday, December 10, 2018

The 6th Sin, the degrading and 'casualization' of MtG (Part 1: art and flavor)

"Degradation of a Fanbase/Hobby" by Anonymous

"Stage 0: Hobby is started with close friends and is typically kept within that circle. There are guidelines withing the games and everyone involved is happy to follow them

Stage 1: A friend or acquaintance of an original member joins the hobby and begins to play regularly. Since he's a minority in this already small group, he has to acclimate to the groups guidelines quickly so he may stay in.

Stage 2: Here is the typical tipping point. People who the original members aren't familiar with begin to join, mostly due to 'greens' talking about it IRL or on social media. Because non-original members are becoming a larger part of the group 'browns' don't feel as pressured to learn the strict guidelines of the group and game. 

Stage 3: At this point, the hobby is mostly unrecoverable. Females join the vast majority/totally male hobby in an effort to not play the game, but to attract attention largely uncontested from boys. Because she's not there to play the game for the game's sake, she gives a half assed and annoying attempt at playing the game, and largely impedes the whole process. She distracts the non-core members.

Stage 4: Finally, the near end. 'Dudebro's and "Alpha's"' see's the typical kind of guy that plays the game, thinks he's better than them, and feels that he could attract the girls who are there for the attention. He is ALSO not there to largely play the game, but even worse than the girl, will likely chide and berate those who try to take the game seriously as 'nerds' and 'tryhards', even though it's their community he's entering in.

Stage 5: At this point, the founding and core audience is so small to the mainstream later entries, they feel the only way to keep the game alive, is to casualize it and make it easier to understand. This generally does nothing but make the game less fun for people actually playing it for fun, and does nothing for the people who don't care about it. The game has largely become an excuse for people to hang out and smoke/drink/flirt, whatever.

Stage 6 (Terminal):  Now, the founders are so disenfranchised with the state of their community that they've invested so much time into, they leave all together. Either to abandon it, or start their own (which may repeat itself). What's left of the game will either collapse on itself due to a lack of interest, or the game will continue to be casualized without the founders to the point that it hardly resembles the original game at all, and continue to grow in popularity until it gets media attention, forever ruining the hobby."

The following passage is from the image above, since I couldn't get a big enough version to fit without looking terrible. While I certainly don't agree with everything listed above, it does paint a comparison to the picture of Magic over the years. Magic certainly doesn't resemble the game it was, or became, for that matter. 

Beta Print
Portal 2 print

Dominaria Print (most recent)

As we can tell through this general evolution of the iconic card Air Elemental, the game has certainly changed, not just in mechanic, but in style, in simplicity, and in direction. So what exactly is 'casualization?' The definition of casualization according to oxford is "the altering of working practices so that regular workers are re-employed on a casual or short-term basis." We obviously aren't talking about that. However, their is often another use for the the term, often when something is simplified, streamlined, or otherwise changed to hit a larger market.

When the game launched in 1993, it was, well a hot mess. While the cards were fine, the mechanics weren't, the rules were a mess 'being polite'. I largely consider this something of an open Beta, with the Revised rules being the finalized version of the rules, released a year later. It's art was simplistic, but effective, almost archaic, which was part of the charm. Tournaments were pretty complicated, and I'd dare say even more cutthroat. Worlds 94 at Gen Con was infamously a single elimination after a best of 3 match.

In reality, to discuss the casualization of Magic, we must break it into two parts. 

  • Art and Flavor: The simplification of the art itself, the flavor text, and other meta aspects of the cards themselves.
  • Rules: The rules of the game, of design philosophy behind these decisions, and the simplification of these aspects. 

As you can see, this is going to be a long, written article, which will probably be the longest article I've ever written. I hope to get this together, in a intelligent manner, now if we can, let's begin.

Art & Flavor

"If art isn't important, try selling the rules on a t-shirt"
--Attributed to Anson Maddocks

"Explore the shores of Imagination..."
-Early MtG Tagline 

When M:tG was first launched, as many of you know, it had no story. In fact, it's lack of story was part of it's design. Instead it was suppose to be used a generic pieces of fantasy archtypes and tropes. Instead, these pieces were suppose to be like toys, to feed the imagination of the players playing it. 

"Before I get to winded here, thank you for breathing life into these cards. The nostalgia brought me back to 93/94, your blog is showing me how to imagine myself a Planeswalker in Dominaria once more"--Russell Strawsine, Gunnarson's Bag, What does it mean to be Warrior?

If anyone says in some way, those words don't resonate with them, particularly among those who can say they played in the 90's, either had no imagination, or are lying. This was one of the strongest aspect's of it's early halcyon days. The Magic cards infamously designed like Tomes, pages (or Books) of powerful spells, complete with simple art, flavorful but simplistic borders, flavortext, and even things like Ad's and paraphernalia like deck boxes and binders. I'm sure if the modern concept of playmats existed, they would feature large art of cryptic runes, satanic symbols, and even abstract concepts to fit with the mystic theme.
Revised Deck box designed to look like a spellbook.
Legends Advertisement, promising many powerful spells and characters while revealing very little.
However, this doesn't do justice. Each set had it's own theme, for instance, Antiquities and Fallen Empire had a sort of 'archeology' theme, with the story being unrevealed with each pack. I've gushed way to much on how The Dark is an amazing mosaic of an art piece, capturing the Dark Ages of Dominaria, from flavor text, card art and color, even mechanics. Legends is a bit of a mess, but is a great sequel to limited edition. Even Ice Age cards 'feel' cold, with it's washed out, bland colors. Many art pieces feature breath around creatures, prominence of white, blue, and black in card art. While the ice age didn't translate well into rule mechanics, it did have a new type of Basic land, the infamous and ever popular 'Snow-Covered' land. 

However, this also translated into Flavor Text. While Fallen Empires and Ice Age didn't feature real world Quotes, ever expansion before it did. Most notable, Legends, which is the one expansion (until 9th) that featured quotes from the 'Modern Era'. The reason for this removal was initially for world cohesiveness, but would become another reason. 

So when did the art and Flavor start to change? Roughly about 95. Jesper Myrfors infamously left over disagreements (the reasons for vary from story to story, but it's known him like many early employees weren't happy with the direction Wizards of the Coast was taking with it's sudden success and wealth. This left an opening for the art Direction, and this allowed for one of Magic's most infamous art directors: Sue Ann-Harkey. 

Portrait of Sue-Ann Harkey, by Geof Darrow

Sue wanted an increased art quality with MtG, something flashier. Unfortunately she was also the person responsible with informing artists in the contract change between the old royalty model, to the new(er) model of a single fee for rights to the art.  Christopher Rush once commented, many years later: 

"There was also mention of some of the original artists being hard to work with and emotional. I take offense to this, when we were first creating the game, there were many artists (“Big Name artists”) that didn’t want to have anything to do with this. That left a handful of artists that BUSTED THIER ASSES to create artwork for the game, under a tight deadline. For transparency’s sake, I will be honest. We did the paintings for this game for $50 a painting. As an incentive, we were also given a royalty on sales as well as stock in the company. Since this was still a tiny company, based out of a basement with no guarantee of success that could not afford to pay that much for the art. For every one of us that did do art for the game, we did it out of joy and passion for a project we believed in."--In Response to 'an interview with Sue Ann Harkey Magic's greatest art director.

However, with the old guard gone, and between her scouting numerous cons, and Maria Cabardo (who was creative director at the time) having numerous connections to the world of Comics, it was a new time for Magic art.

For flavor, she's often credited with the 'feel' of Mirage block, with it's strong African/Arabian theme, however Pete Venters has claimed this to himself. While not quiet as cohesive or strict as what would come after it, it had a certain theme to it, that worked well. I often wonder how 'Meanderings' would have turned out under Myrfors, but I'm certain it wouldn't have become the expansion it did. She also did an improvement of boxes and magazine advertisements, but at the cost of the gritty old world flavor that came with Myrfors.
A side by side comparison of the two boxes.

While their was certainly more world building in this setting then previous, I've defended it numerous times, calling it 'the last old school expansion'. I mean, it even has a large, multi-card poem, called the 'Love song of Night and Day', which is an actual poem. ( 

While Harxley's days are rife with controversy, you can't understate how much she changed M:tG, for better or for worse.

This however, also marked the change in MtG story telling, and with it art. WotC had decided that MtG needed to exist not as an imaginative game, but as an Intellectual Property. One of the often cited and long compared IPs is Star Wars, which numerous times WotC had tried to emulate. 

"The Tempest expansion, for example, was loaded with "plot shots." Many people thought that the Weatherlight crew appeared too often—accordingly, the number of "crew shots" was reduced for the rest of the Rath cycle. Instead, later sets favored more depictions of the world beyond Gerrard and friends."--Pete Venters, What you see, is what you get. 6/1/09

Besides this, numerous changes in design philosophy had happened to the game. Depictions of Demons were removed after 4th, and the policy stayed until Onslaught in 2001. Sandra Evingham infamously removed the burning Pentagram from the back of Unholy Strength, turning it into 'Unholy Stretch' as I've always referred to it. Real world Flavortext was also slowly but surely filtered out of the game. By the half way point of the last decade, flavor text featuring the immortal words of Edgar Allen Poe, Lord Byron, and William Shakespear. Replaced with bad puns, tired jokes, character quotes, and the occasional actual exposition. Although as of written this, I can't find the exact article, I do know Mark Rosewater had called real world quotes 'edutainment', and wanted to see their removal from the game personally. 

The infamous change.

However, if I had to draw a cut off point, I think it would be Urza Block. Urza block introduced non-promo foil cards, with promo Lightning Dragon being a pre-release promo, and Urza's Legacy having them become a random card in a pack. I remember, one old neckbeard saying:

'I can't believe this game is still going on! I stopped playing when they introduced foil cards, I'm surprised that cards don't come with packs of gum'.

This was actually something of a revelation, because before this, I never really thought of foils as being a ploy to get more players into the game. During the years, different types of foils have been introduced, but you can read the basics of that in 'Losing Ones Identity'. I guess the succession of Pokemon Fever in the late 90's inspired them to copy the idea, and also make foil cards (though foil testprints of older cards due exist).

However, the change wasn't just here, in a few years (03), they changed the entire border of the card. I'm just repeating myself on discussing it, but it was no secret they changed it to make the game 'more accessible', but in turn, turned it pretty generic to other TCG's out at the time. Ironically, one of the big praises to it has been how much bigger the art box is, but we will get to why that's funny in a second.

As mentioned, the story went to be a character drama, but then a miracle happened, it went to a 'story of the week' setting, with each new block showing a new plane, and it's issues at hand. This is where Ravnica, Kamigawa, and Lorwyn came from. All Unique settings, that leave a mark of memory.  Sure it wasn't the mysterious settings of Myrfors, nor the grandiose world of Dominaria, but it was an honest attempt at making a good world to lose one's imagination in.

Planeswalkers were changed from being more akin to gods or forces of nature, to well, mage's. Once again, I'd be repeating myself if I went into details to steady, but the fact still stands this was the point where the change in story happened. Then on top of that, a simplification of these characters were made, to make them even more marketable, but that is just me repeating myself. We are currently in this, with the last several years being WotC trying to establish a 'rogue' gallery.

This brings us to the art. Magic art, for a very long time, was pretty memorable, and I dare say, pretty amazing. Sure, some of it was very simple, and some of it was questionable, but all of it was memorable to some right. Even later, when they switched to Carl Critchlow, the art didn't suffer much. 

In fact, one of the big controversies of the early 2000's was when Jeremy Cranford told fan favorite artist Rebecca Guay that her art was to feminine for MtG. This created a shit storm so big, that it eventually got referenced on a card.

'Sadly, the new art director, Jeremy Cranford, thinks my work is too feminine for the vision he has for the game. I would love to continue with Magic but it is not in my hands.'--Rebecca Guay, in an email to Rancored_Elf (source)

While the art direction of MtG is complicated, with focus not only on quality, but budget and direction as well.

While it's hard to pin point when exactly the art direction took a nose dive, I'd say it started with... what was that again:

Yes, the controversy that got a man fired. The sudden change in art direction, and numerous other issues can be attributed to this one moment. This literally marked a change in Magic art, and while most of the art for Return to Ravnica was already commissioned, Theros was not. Theros had a controversy over, how to put this lightly... diversity quota's. Something that's continued to this day, however, that isn't it.

The art, has gotten pretty damned bad.


In all fairness, it's still art, but this looks like a rough sketch at best, an unfinished product, and this isn't alone. Most of the arts biggest crime is, well it's generic and forgettable. An article on coolstuffinc. has said that this is due to nostalgia, we now all play with high functioning mythic rares, all whom have digitally imposed art. We simply know this isn't true. He (or anyone else) can claim confirmation bias, but in the same article he talks about digital artists cutting corners. However, for the ultimate premium rare, we got this great piece:

Crucible or Worlds

 as well as this

Hangarback Walker

 Just for a comparison, this is what the back coreset version of Hangarback Walker looks like:

While working on this article, I mentioned I was researching Sue-Ann, and how there was so much I didn't know about Mirage block. A local store owner, and competitive player mentioned he agree'd with Mark Rosewater that Mirage is a 'hot mess' and he agree's with him. This started an interesting conversation about design direction, and art. Which came to Impulse. I stated the original look was iconic, in it, a mage looks upon an irrational and off screen mistake, while the modern art could literally fit on any blue instant or sorcery.

Bryan Talbot's artistic masterpiece.

Izzy's fine, but generic piece.

Anyway the owner then says 'playing with Mirage cards makes me feel like I'm playing the Magic School Bus TCG' and then, this gem, 'the art is very dated, and although it's unique, most of it has aged very poorly'. Naturally, the only response I had was 'the Mona Lisa is very dated, and while it's unique, it has aged very poorly'. He responded with a 'are you going to compare Magic art with art art', I responded 'yes', and he left the argument, later saying 'we will agree to disagree'.

In simple, the art direction isn't distinct, it isn't memorable, I'd bet my last dollar its overanalyzed by the 'suits' Myrfors mentioned, made to be as cheap and inoffensive as possible, and then put onto the shelves, to be throw away cards for booster drafts. We will get to that aspect in the next part. (Chris's rebuttle)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Gaint Turtle: 'the most obscure card in old school'.

“See the TURTLE of enormous girth! On his shell he holds the earth. His thought is slow but always kind; He holds us all within his mind. On his back all vows are made; He sees the truth but may not said. He loves the land and loves the sea, And even loves a child like me--Stephen King, The Dark Tower

 "I feel this is the most obscure card in old school mtg. I have never even seen one in person and old school magic is my main hobby."--Joseph Freshwater


Today's card is a suprisingly obscure common from Legends. Giant Turtle. Early magic has it's fair share of 'giant' creatures: Spiders, badgers, albatross, and not one, but two turtles (well one is a tortoise). While I was a kid, I was a big fan of his blue cousin, the green one never really caught my eye, until Joseph up there made a comment about it.I guess in some ways, 'giant X' is an easy fantasy trope, that is versatile, but somewhat realistic, and it works. This one has a flavor different from it's cousin however.


Art: First we have to start with the art. Jeff A. Menges always pleases, and this is of no exception. The only difference here is, the look of American Legends cards. I always said, the faded technique on them just didn't do the art justice. 


Here is an example: 


On the left, we have the Italian print. While it does lack flavortext, which is a shame, it shows the art better, thanks to a generic bright hue. It's an honest issue I have with all American Legends cards. However, I also enjoy being able to read my cards, which in itself is pretty good. It makes it difficult in choosing which to play, because of the clear differences in color.

Just take the full art for example:

Image may contain: outdoor
Nom nom nom.
It's certainly more memorable with it's full color. Plus the 'oh shit' look is amazing.

The art itself is memorable, showing a humous seen of two vagabonds running as a giant turtle comes from submergement. It's actually a really well done piece, and I feel it didn't get it's just due from Legends.

Art 4/5

Yes I know this is already here.

Playability. Honestly, in a time where a 2/2 for 3 is actually considered decent, a 2/4 for 3 is good. The 4 toughness keeps at bay a large number of weenies, the color green makes it not worry about protection. It can survive most damage based removal, being immune to bolts. X would cost a minimum of 5. While it's two power makes it a weak option again other midrange creatures, it's toughness plays it more like a wall that can occasionally attack. Its drawback is actually fairly minor, with it only being able to attack every other turn. While it can hurt a beat down strategy, it's still not as bad as other drawbacks in the format.

 However, he's not the best midranger out their, since for one more you get Erhnam. However, that's not a fair comparison. I feel they ultimately serve better goals. Instead, it's better to look at the turtle that can occasionally attack.

 Playability 3/5. It gets the job done.

Flavor: The idea is simple, a turtle that's giant should be as strong as an elephant, but much tougher. The shell however, is very straining to carry, and it must take a turn to rest before it can attack again. With this, the card makes complete flavor sense. Simple but efficient, what we love about old school.

Flavor 5/5.

Overall: An easy overlooked card, probably worthy to be experimented in. I can't honestly say it's good, but it's worth a try. 


I wanted to talk about the flavor text. This card has one of only three flavor texts from the modern era (post WW1). 

 "The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks/ Which practically conceal its sex./ I think it clever of the turtle/ In such a fix to be so fertile."--Ogdan Nash, "The Turtle".


Ogdan Nash was a comedic poet, famous for his light and distinct rhyming style. He wrote over 500 poems, and died in 1971. Numerous poetry compilations of his work exists, and in his heyday, his name was known far and wide. He also appeared on numerous talk shows and radio shows in his day.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Sunglasses of Urza: More then just cool face wear?

"For the eye altering alters all"
--William Blake, The Mental Traveller, line 62.

 Sunglasses of Urza is one of the strangest cards in limited edition beta. It's effect, for all points and purpose, is unique entirely to itself (an amazing accomplishment in 2018), and while limited, it's effect is powerful. It has had a strange history of errata, a story spotlight, and has remained something of an oddball.

Earlier today, Xanadude Boston posted this in his daily 'card of the day' post, which not only reminded me of this little gem, but also created a small discussion about it. I won't lie, I've certainly played this card before. I once had it in a pink deck with conversion and Blood Moon in the main. My older brother has run this in numerous decks as well, when the colors are appropriate naturally, and once, I mind bent and opponents, so it said 'You may spend white mana as though it was white mana'. 

This (and Urza's Glasses) are the only eye wear available to the sight impaired planeswalker. Sure their are plenty of lenses, Scopes, and assorted scrying devices, but if you want a cool summer accessory, the glasses are your only place to go.

"Groovy Shades man"--Urza

Art: The art in itself, is exactly what it needs to be, a pair of John Lennon's, sitting on what could be a table or counter. The lenses seem to be made of a gem, which doesn't seem like they would function well for seeing with the naked eye. Say what you want about Dan Frazier but most of the time, he draws amazing artifacts, and this one is no exception. The red from the lenses make for a good mental image, but the most impressive part is the small detail of the lenses casting a red shadow behind them, with an off screen light source shining down on them. The shadow also follows the frame of the glasses in an equal manner. It's honestly, a simple touch, but a good one. If the only thing wrong with the piece, it's boring.

Art: 4/5

Flavor: When Xenadude posted this, he said he was glad they weren't an Un-card. He also said this could work as a cycle. I agree, but only with white. White, as an actual color, is light without hue (or color without hue), thus making it the base form of color. If I may argue, the reason this turns white mana into red, is the red lenses, since the lenses add hue to white. If I had to argue flavor, trying to use glasses to turn green mana into red mana, it would make yellow mana, and so forth. Instead, it only works for white mana, since white lacks a hue. It would seem Urza is also the only one who's perfected this, since he's the only one who has this invented. 

I do wish WotC hadn't forgotten this. It would have been cool to see Urza walking around with a pair of Victorian-esque John Lennon's while plotting against the Phyrexians. However, that might be to rule of cool for late 90's WotC (though Planeswalkers piloting Giant Mech's prove that I might be wrong).

Flavor 5/5 (with my theory)

Playability: While cool, both in terms of what it does, and how unique it is, it's usefulness is rather, subpar.

Sure, I think everyone has combo'd this with conversion at least once, killing your opponents mountains, while maintaining yours.  I can't imagine someone didn't try this in a mono-white deck just to use lightning bolts, fireballs, and ball lightning. However it's still limited to one deck type, and does nothing on it's own. However, I also doubt anyone is going to disenchant it. I'd say its limited in scope gives it a 2/5. However, in Pink (or even mono white) it could be bumped to a three.

(Fact: At  one time, this card red W: Add R to your mana pool).

Total: 11/15. Like many cards out of limited, this card has the idea right, but the execution wrong, which is part of the charm. If we wanted well polished cards, we'd be playing Dominaria right now. I do recommend everyone to experiment with this one, if for nothing else, than to run it w/ Sleigh of Mind in u/r burn. Plus, bonus points if you show up w/ red tinted glasses.

Until next time!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Urza's Avenger: The cost of versatility.

"The difficulty in life is the choice"
--George Moore, Bending of the Bough, Act IV.

Which will you choose?

Versatility is one of the most underappreciated, and often overlooked attributes in MtG. While common wisdom will tell you that being able to do one thing good and consistently will always be better than being able to do two good things situational. However, when the times strikes for one of those things to be solid, it really works out better. 

This is where I'm coming to with this. Urza's Avenger is a versatile, hard hitting machine, with a modest base 4/4 for 6. Sure, it's not as good as a number of other cards in the format, with that range, but versatility.

Art: Honestly, the art on this is easily it's best part. With magic still trying to have it's 'tome look', and with Amy Weber's literal blue print picture, it works amazing, like something out of the workshop of Da Vinci. The indecipherable writing and the banner on the side also make for the illusion, not to mention the various markers and sphere. Personally the art gets a 5/5.

Look at that detail

I found this cool comparison on (Source below)

Mechanics: The nitty gritty of why I wrote this article. Urza's Avenger comes from the old school thought that versatility should equal cost. A 4/4 for 6, even in 1994 was subpar (if not terrible), however few creatures have the possibility of so many abilities on them. With three being outright good mechanics, and banding being the O.K. mechanic. I've longely wondered about using it w/ equipment's and enchantments. A mere Giant Strength can turn this from a curiosity into a powerhouse, being able to be a 4/4 with first strike and trample, or banding and trample, or simply a 5/5 flyer (which is pretty nice).

Another interesting take is to utilize it in a Banding centric build as the champion creature, even if it's to just give him trample.

All and all, it's best to let dreams lie. It's playability is sadly 2.5/5. Even as an artifact, on it's own, their is a better cards to pick. Still, you should experiment with it, like I'm going to, and maybe I'll bump this a point. Stay tuned.

Flavor: While the idea of it being versatile at the cost of power is perfect, it's the meta-design of it I like. Mainly on how it compares to it's brother's counterpart, Shapeshifter. Both are creatures designed by each brother with versatility in mind, but they do it different. I will write an entire article about this, don't want to waste anything now.

It's flavor is a solid 4/5.

11.5/15. While the art and flavor of the card are certainly memorable, the card itself leaves much to be desired. Perfect for the occasional kitchen game, but not so perfect in a more competitive setting. I however, still love it.

If you have any stories to share about this bad boy, please do.

As Promised


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The 5th Sin: The Jacetice League

Sadly the image in the middle of this card is lost to time, so I need to stick with this.

As you might remember, in my previous article, (sorry for the delay btw, life happens), I had an amazing quote by none other than Jesper Myrfors who talked about IP's, and it versus art. I won't re-post the quote here, instead it made a point about Magic, and the story around it.

In the beginning, there was literally no story, none at all, involving MtG. Names were given vague definitions, idea's were simply thrown around, combined with vague flavor texts, it was literally a large part up to the player to fill in the Holes. What is Serra? Is Samite Healers doctors without borders? Does Urza have two heads, or two sets of eyes, or is he simply wise enough to change his glasses as needed? What's the rest of Benalish society like? In fact, it's first Expansion 'Arabian Nights' didn't have a story attached to it at all, instead borrowing from familiar sources, Garfield's wedding party, and 1001 Arabian Nights. Legends almost went the same route, with real world legends being the cards you'd summon (that was scrapped relatively early though). In fact, the first expansions with a story was Antiquities, The Dark, and Fallen Empires, each having a 'archeological' feel to them, with elaborate flavor text in the past tense, as if you were reading and seeing a piece of time.

By the mid-90's this had largely changed. It was decided that money was in, well, Intellectual Properties, and while the Magic Comics were varied in both quality and interest, the story behind them were scrapped for the Weatherlight crew.

The Weatherlight Crew is largely a deconstruction of established archetype's (Gerrard being an anti-hero, the goblin is actually smart) or cliche's (Minotaur is an asshole brute, cat girl is cat girl, boastful wizard, ect), however, they are memorable in their own right, and should be credited where credit is due.

According to sources, Mark Rosewater, and Michael Ryan, wrote the initial concept for the crew, as well as helped flesh out their personalities and backstories. Then 'something' happened, what exactly that was is a mystery, and remains so, since he has largely been tight lipped about it.

However some changes from the main story that have been leaked over the years include:

  • The rathi Portal was suppose to time travel, with an Ancient Ertai sitting there, instead of getting the badass Phyrexian Opportunist Ertai.

  • Mirri was going to eventually win over Gerrard, and they'd have a half breed child (rumor), Mirri wasn't suppose to die.

  • Crovax was going to get a redemption arch (as depicted in Planar Chaos), instead of becoming one of the biggest badass's in the Weatherlight Saga, and pre-teen's self favorite token sweeper.
  • Phyrexia and Urza had nothing to do w/ Gerrard and the over-arching story of the Weatherlight. Infact, Gerrard was the 'Korvecdal', the uniter of the three human tribes on Rath against Volrath.
  • Volrath would turn into Tahngarth, leaving him tortured in Rath
  • Gerrard's often forgotten Hourglass Pendant played a more important role in his story.

There is an unconfirmed rumor that's sat in the back of the Internet for well over a decade now that The Weatherlight is a ripoff of 'Pirates of the Dark Sea', a old TRS cartoon. 

I also found this interesting piece of trivia: 
"The first times the name Weatherlight appeared in flavor text in Mirage, it was translated as "Brise légère" (Light breeze). When the ship became the main focus of the story in the Weatherlight expansion, the translators found this name was too joyful for the dark mood of the plotline and chose to rename it "Aquilon" (Boreal wind). They justified the change by adding a special flavor text to the french version of Jabari's Banner in which Gerrard explain he made the change when he became captain."

Ironically according to nautical superstition, changing the name of a ship is bad luck, which might explain alot.

However, after several years, this story finally raps up, with an apocalyptic war between two (and a half) planes, Urza vs Yawgmoth, and in my humble opinion, as far as stories go, it was awesome. Then Planeswalkers in stories took a back seat.

You had a setting of post-apocalyptic Barbarians, sci-fi metal plane, tribal race wars, fantasy Courasant, and not-Japan. These were better or worse, depending on opinions. Then came Time Spiral. In a goal to win back older players, it was the 'nostalgia' expansion, and Planeswalkers came back. The mechanic concept was simple, make a lot of throw backs to fan favorite old cards from yesteryear, include legends of loved characters who didn't get love in their own time (I was delighted to finally get a Kaervek and Tivadar card). However, they made the Planeswalkers, each and everyone of them, over powered Mary Sue's, each as powerful as Urza Planeswalker (who in the old lore was suppose to be the most powerful Planeswalker), as well as bring back Nicol Bolas. Then they had the 'Mending' an act that would  change the nature of the 'spark' bringing them back to the powerlevel they had as of the Invasion block.

This was done to introduce what commonly was called the Brady Bunch, named for the creator of them, Brady Dummermuth. Planescrawlers were another common name thrown. They were extremely unpopular, first for their uninteresting and stereotypical designs, but also because this introduced with it, a new card type, Planeswalker cards.

The 'Lorwyn 5'.

For the first time, since the games creation, Planeswalkers were represented clearly in cardboard, sure their was that cycle of Enchantments, and Dakkon Blackblade, but these were, more like mini-players then enchantments and creatures, and for a few years, even a 'bad' planeswalker could win you the game over sheer attrition.

With little being printed to deal with them directly (the two common ones being O-Ring and Hexmage), the only way was to swing, or burn directly at them, or if you were in blue, counter them, they disrupted the frail balance of the game between control, aggro, and combo, shattering the base entirely. It's hard to overstate how powerful these cards are, especially if you never played with them before. Basically, imagine them as enchantments that can take combat damage for you, guarantee you small free spells each turn, and generate card advantage each turn simply by existing.

This spicy boi destroyed an entire format.

However, they also removed the player, the 'planeswalker' from the equation entirely, granted not right away, that came later.

The Jacetice League didn't even exist under Brady, instead they were scheming and conflicting characters, each with flaws, ambition, and  goals unique to themselves. However, after a certain incident, Dummermouth was fired, and umm.... I'll just post the image.

"Rid me of this curse, witch, or die with me."
—Garruk Wildspeaker

You see, Garruk had a back story, where he encountered the black planeswalker Liliana (she originally wasn't associated as a necromancer, but a generic power at any cost black planeswalker). She on her own mission to get out of a contract with numerous demons for eternal youth, found a powerful artifact called 'the chain veil', and in their encounter, curses Garruk, so he relentlessly hunts her through the plane, assuming that if he kills her, the curse will be lifted.

This even had a companion piece:

"I've seen corpses prettier than you, beastmage."
—Liliana Vess
However, at this time (2012) there was a strange influx of new players, as a series of video games and focused marketing managed to make ground among a new generation of gamers who might have overlooked it. The above image of Garruk choking Liliana 'triggered' certain games, and they complained.

"Regarding Triumph of Ferocity: Wizards and I apologize for the upsetting situation related to card imagery. In light of the community conversation it can clearly be viewed in a way that is in direct opposition the brand image we strive to maintain. This was absolutely not our intent, but intentions don’t override the real emotional reactions our fans have. While the bigger story provides context, individual cards are seen in isolation. That is the standard each card needs to live up to. In hindsight this story point could have been depicted in a less real-world related and emotionally charged way. We will take this as a learning opportunity and strive to do better in the future."--Elaine Chase, Brand Director for Magic: the Gathering.

This controversy would sadly get Dummermuths 'position terminated', as well as a major retcon of the characters and backstories known as 'Magic Origins'. Although all the characters had major retcon's, the most sited and controversial is none other than Nissa. 

Originally, Nissa was an elf-supremist, who had a 'my shit don't stink attitude', who simply allied with a vampire because the alternative was death. In the Zendikar book, she largely berates him, and flaunts how much better she is, which brings another point, about Nahiri, and stolen IP, but I'll leave that for another time. 

Now Nissa is a generic elf druid, who hugs trees and loves life.