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The Magic is gone
By Martti Nurmikari
Hello there.

My name is Martti Nurmikari, I'm 18 years old at the moment and since I'm not sleepy even though it's very late, I'll write this rant I've been thinking of now. To put it short: I'm disgusted about Magic: The Gathering in it's current state.

I started playing roughly between Alliances and Mirage, but was raised with a steady diet of older cards like Braingeysers, Clones and the like that most of you have already forgotten. The first cards I ever bought was a Fourth Edition starter when my friend promised to teach me play. I remember going through the every single card I got in a booster, looking at it and wondering if I should put it into my deck (yes, a 5-color monster). I remember making a theme deck with a complete story in it, in the cards. I remember marvelling the art and the endless arguments about who is the best artist. I remember playing 10-player multiplayer games.

Fast forward almost five years. I open up my first five Mercadian Masques boosters. What do I see? I see useless commons, lousy reprints of older cards (Meekstone/Crackdown, Stasis/Embargo, Diamond Valley/High Market) and the completely useless things that no one uses even in Limited. Then I turn around and try to trade cards with a bit younger player. He hands me his binder and I quickly find the cards I'm looking for: two Replenish. He quickly goes through my binder (over 40 pages) and says: "There's nothing I can use in type 2 tournaments. Please trade elsewhere". After this has happened three times in a row, I gather my things and go home.

Sure, there are good cards in later sets. Personally I loved Prophecy for the cards like Avatars, Heightened Awareness and Elephant Resurgence. But still, the cards lack the appeal and creativity of the older cards like Lich and Celestial Dawn, that actually demand "Build a deck around me".

To me Magic has lost the Magic it once had. Here in Finland, as elsewhere, Magic has become an international sport, with the best decks from the Net and zero creativity. Almost no one here plays for fun anymore. There are of course some isolated play groups, and I'm a happy member of one. Almost no one here ever wants any cards that are not type 2 legal. Almost no one ever makes theme decks or rogue for that matter, because copying decks from the Net is easier. No one ever organizes anything but Type 2 tournaments, because that's the only thing people are interested in. And more players quit every day.

Looking at cards that have come out after the Mirage Block makes me sad. The first reason I stuck to Magic was the fantasy element (I'm one of those people who play role playing games and are interested in other forms of fantasy and science fiction too) and the card art. Where is the room for my own imagination, if there's a Gerrard or Urza or some other cartoonish hero in every second card? Why should I want to play with those characters in a preset story instead of making up my own stories, heroes and villains? Just look at sets before Ice Age and see for yourself. No real story, but still interesting details and fragments of bigger story in the flavor texts. No Gerrard there, except in Eye for an Eye, but that's a good thing. I promise to buy at least 3 boxes of the expansion where he gets his head chopped off.

"Why does that guy complain about the story? After all, the only important fact about *Insert the latest set here* is that now my wwwthedojodotcomdeck beats wwwstarcityccgdotcomdeck by a marginal of 31,12%". True, sadly most people won't care and the the majority of the ones that do are going to or have already quit Magic. I've always wondered if the (wannabe) pro tour players ever look at the card art, the flavor text and the overall card "feeling" before they wonder if it will fit in their latest combo deck.

It's the exactly same thing with the art. I almost leaped out of joy when I first saw the Prophecy card Glittering Lion. It really stands out from the dull mass that they call modern card art. For you people who don't know what I'm talking about, point your web browsers to http://www.yavapaiopen.com and take a look at Arabian Nights, Antiquities, Legends and The Dark card art. There are no two similar pieces there, and no recurring characters in the card. Most of the card art there is ART, which is creative and expresses the artists' feelings, not yet another painting of Gerrard or Metathran or Volrath or Weatherlight in a storm. The homogenizing of the art started in Mirage block and since then it has only gotten much worse. There are just so many Gerrards you can see, but how about truly different pieces like Stasis, Time Walk, Word of Command, Drop of Honey, The Abyss and Silhouette? Quinton Hoover complained about this in the newsgroup rec.games.trading-cards.magic.misc, and I don't blame the artists for their lack of creativity, I blame Wizards. Their Art Director should be fed to a Juzam and the new one should let the artists do what they can do best, create, and not just paint another copy of a lame "hero".

Well, after all this, I still can say that I enjoy playing Magic. But if it keeps on going this way, I don't think I'll play much longer. We'll see, maybe after five years I'll write another rant about how it sucks nowadays and just look at the good times we had around the Masques block..
But probably not

marttin@mail.htk.fi

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