If you’ve enjoyed fantasy and science fiction, you’ve probably come across Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” (also known as the “monomyth“). In studying a number of world mythologies and legends, Campbell found that there was a template that came up in a large number of them. A simple summary might go as follows: a hero goes on a journey or adventure, overcomes adversity, and emerges transformed by the experience. (This is a superb illustration of the principle). This was in fact the template quite deliberately used for The Weatherlight Saga, Magic’s multi-block story arc that kicked off with Tempst (after having the table set with Weatherlight itself).
Today’s deck, Swarming Instinct, is in some ways a symbol of failure. It’s not the deck itself- we’d hardly make that kind of a judgment without looking through the deck first- but rather, it’s a failure that wasn’t at first apparent when Wizards released Battle for Zendikar. Indeed, only with the perspective granted by the passage of time (and good data collection) can we see just where things went wrong.
Back in 2010, while reviewing The Adventurers from Zendikar, I wrote, “[Allies are] a solid and delightfully fun mechanic, one that I hope is revisited in future sets down the road.” Although it somehow feels like less time has elapsed somehow, it was just a six-year wait.
As initially designed, however, the Allies were a bit different than what we know to be their final form.
We’ve arrived at the last of the five Intro Pack decks for Shadows over Innistrad, the Boros-colored Angelic Fury. Thus far, we’ve seen three mechanic-centered decks, with Unearthed Secrets (Clue tokens and investigate), Vampiric Thirst (madness), and Horrific Visions (delirium). The fourth deck, Ghostly Tide, was tribal Spirits, which leaves Angelic Fury as a bit of a conundrum.
Long considered a secondary tribe in the game, 2009’s Zendikar was a renaissance for the Vampire. Not only were they made one of the major tribes in the lore of the game- with the deluge of cards to follow- but they were also awarded an Intro Pack deck all their own. Rise of the Vampires was one of the better decks of the set, reflecting the speed that every Limited player knows was bound up in the Zendikar environment.
One of the things I often liken preconstructed decks to is “museum pieces.” This is mainly true for decks that are from a particular set as opposed to standalone products like Duel Decks. Theme Decks- and their modern counterparts, the Intro Pack- are a great way to explore and experience the themes and mechanics of a set without investing a lot of money in boosters or individual cards.
The original Innistrad released in September of 2011, and for the first time since Lorwyn/Shadowmoor in 2007-08 we had a fully tribal Magic set. Lorwyn’s tribes were sunnier, more whimsical in nature: Elves, Goblins, Giants, Kithkin and more painted an idyllic portrait of a world where the sun always shined; a world which took a turn for the dark once Shadowmoor arrived. Even then, however, it was more ‘dark faerie world’ rather than ‘Tales from the Darkside.’ It would take the arrival of Innistrad to bring a feeling of horror to Magic.
In the Autumn of 2010, Wizards of the Coast held a second talent search for new designers called, naturally enough, the Great Designer Search 2. Whereas the inaugural Search in 2006 was more mechanical in nature, there was a very deliberate emphasis on world-building for the second time around.
Contestants were instructed to form Wiki pages, and collaboration was an important aspect of the assignments. Although your humble author had no deep-rooted ambitions to go into game design, nevertheless as a longtime player of the game I gave it a shot.
Departing the benighted plane of Innistrad for a moment, we’re back at the besieged one of Zendikar. When we last looked at Vicious Cycle, we found a sacrifice-style deck with some intriguing synergies. Of course, what looks good on paper doesn’t always play well, so we’re put it to the test. Joining me is Phil, piloting Concerted Effort, the White/Green support deck. Read more
“May you know the joy of finding an untapped design vein.”
So Mark Rosewater, head designer of Magic: the Gathering, concluded his column of 21 July, 2014. Entitled “At All Costs,” the feature looked at all of the different cost-reduction mechanics available in the game of Magic. In many cases, such as using life as a currency for mana, much of the design space has already been mined, from Snuff out to Dismember. That isn’t to say it won’t be used again, but it’s not entirely new.