Thoughts and Reflections on Magic: The Gathering From Die Hard Casuals
Casual magic makes up the largest player base for Magic: The Gathering — that is at least what they say. We can all assume that casual unsanctioned play makes up the largest consumer base for a tabletop game since there is little data to prove it. Competitive magic has tournement numbers, large scale event registrations, and even DCI numbers. One could take these numbers and compare it with quarterly sales numbers and get a rawer than rough estimate how many non serious players exist. Added with marketing surveys, one could get a glimmer of the foggy and arcane number which supposedly makes up the largest spending base for Magic the Gathering. What makes this even more complicated is the fact formats like Commander, Cube, unsanctioned drafting and the other unique formats fall into the world of Casual magic. Add to this the level of seriousness, variety of venues, and years of experience and one has a frontier of varied experiences. This is why finding things which unite all of these varied experiences is special and even important. Something that obviously unites all of the varied expediences in Magic the Gathering is the release of a new set as everything from competitive magic to kitchen table magic will be changed by the release of new cards to various degrees. Something less obvious that seems to be a bonding expeirence acrssoos formats is the exctiment surrounding the release of a new set. Despite Wizards schedule of new sets every few months. the days and weeks leading up to a set comes with excited discussions, wild speculations, and goofy predictions how the new set will change the nature of the game. While I am sure there are some who do not feel the exctiment of a new set, it is difficult not to get cought up in the whirlwind of change which brings us to a new place or even back home once again.
The Story of Dominaria
Dominaria was the setting for many Magic the Gathering storylines. Actually, for about 10 years, the writers and designers used this world to tell stories and craft narratives. All of the original story-lines, aside from things like Arabian Nights and Homelands, took place in Dominaria. Well, sort of. Everything up until the Weatherlight Saga was sort of loose stories that took place around the same time and around the same world. The Weatherlight Saga streamlined the world and retro fit past history into a more understandable narrative. Well, sort of. When the designers wanted to up the ante in terms of narrative, they invented time riffs and inter planar travel. Since 2003, Magic the Gathering has traveled to different planes exploring a new place each card set. Dominaria was revisited in the Time Spiral block but has since been apart of Magic’s ancient history. with the game’s 25th anniversary, Dominaria sees a return of popular characters like Karn, Jhoira, and Teferi. To continue with the ongoing opera of magic storylines, characters like Lilliana and Gideon return from recent story-lines to provide continuity.
I am going to be honest with you and tell you that summing up everything that has happened in the past 25 years, in terms of story, would require a person with more knowledge of the Vorthos (lore) aspect of the game plus a person that is pateient enough to sit through revisions in continuity. Suffice to say, Dominaria is the the forging ground for many of Magic: The Gathering’s most memorable strylines. The Thran, Brothers War, and the Wetherlight Saga all are mentioned by fans as being the pinnicle of narrative. Even though a summary would be near impossible without leaving out many details, starting at this set, in terms of narrative, might be a good entry point for anyone interested. The published story, written by Martha Wells, sees a bunch of old and new characters coming together to tell a grand story. This combined with some fantastic art by luminaries such as Noah Bradley gives splayers, everywhere, something to get excited over.
Being die hard casuals, my playgroup and I started a kitchen table league based around building 60 card decks with only Ixalan card. this was fun if a little slow and stale being that Ixalan was flavorful but not particularly strong. For Dominaria, we will be making Brawl decks. Brawl is Wizard’s wacky new format that is like a cross between Standard and Commander. A rotating 60 card Singleton format with a legendary creature or Planeswalker as a commander played with multiple people at 30 life. More info can be found HERE but it sounds either super fun or super terrible and will most likely be long lasting like Pauper / Cube or a blip on the internet radar like Tiny Leaders / Frontier. While there has been some criticism for this format that sounds like bringing a casual format into the financial dependence of rotation, the novelty is still enticing and will thus be the primary way we explore this set. While the aspect of adding the previous 2 sets into a Brawl deck diminishes the flavor of Dominaria, the power level will be stronger and thus more engaging. Brawl is also played with multiple people and proposes to be quicker than a 2 hour game of Commander. With all of that said, this is where my group and I will be headed and with the continual narrative that is released in sections on the Wizard’s website, I am sure this Spring will be something to be enthusiastic for.