Magical Magic

The island was concentric with a central mountain. Surrounding the mountain was a forest with a swampy floor. The plains on the rim of the island swayed with yellow grass. The land was charged with all five colors of magic. On the summit of the mountain, four figures stood. Xanathar, Dark Lord of the Realm…

The island was concentric with a central mountain. Surrounding the mountain was a forest with a swampy floor. The plains on the rim of the island swayed with yellow grass. The land was charged with all five colors of magic.

On the summit of the mountain, four figures stood. Xanathar, Dark Lord of the Realm of Wastes glared icily at his hated older brother, Gerrathon, the Champion of Light. Gerrathon could not meet the gaze of his discorporate nemesis, but he could sense the dark rage seeping out of the air before him. Zorox, the Magistrate of Order, also glared at a hated rival. His target was the murderer of his wife and lifetime antagonist, Policastro, Master of Chaos.

This was the Final Battle. For uncounted millennia, the four Realmswalkers had battled for justice, revenge, glory, and hatred. Billions had lost their lives in the wake of their personal battle. After all of this time, the four of them had finally agreed to duel it out. No one knew who the victor would be, but each planned to survive. Xanathar’s eyes burned so furiously that they were visible in a red haze; Policastro’s muscles rippled; Zorox’s artificial casing softly hissed as it processed his breath and charged his body with power; the sword in Gerrathon’s hand glowed with a righteous aura. Instantaneously, the four of them knew the battle was to begin…

Are you interested? If you play Magic, you probably are. And this brings me to my point: What Magic is really about.

When Richard Garfield was designing Magic, what was he thinking about? Was he worrying about how to fix broken cards like Time Spiral and Memory Jar? Was he worrying about bizarre rules interactions and "the stack?" Of course not. He was thinking about bringing fantasy to life in a way never before experienced. There were books and role playing and the like, but something like Magic had never been done before. At least, not to the degree of exponential success that Magic experienced.

I’ve talked about it before, so I’ll only mention the two parts of Magic briefly. One part is the mechanics that make up the game. You know, draw a card during your draw step, tap creatures to attack, the card’s text overrules the rules, etc. The other part of Magic is the magic, the setting and characters of the story. To me, the magic part of Magic is what makes the game great for me.

Okay, tell me which of these cards is more fun to play with:

Unique Animal
If #12-084# is in play when #12-129# is in play, #12-129# can tap to remove an animal, vegetable, or mineral from play.

Policastro, Master of Chaos
Creature – Realmswalker Legend
If Xanathar, Dark Lord of the Realm of Wastes is in play when Policastro is, Policastro gains,“T: Destroy target permanent. If a creature is destroyed in this way, it cannot be regenerated.”

When teamed with his partner, Policastro is a force not to be reckoned with.

So, which is more intriguing? The number that, when paired with another number, can remove any of the three basic parts of life from play, or the Chaos Lord who, when paired with the Denizen of Evil, can use chaos to tear any thing from the fabric of existence? Naturally, your vote is for Policastro. (I say“vote,” but I’m forcing the answer on you, so is that truly a vote?)

The fantastic quality of Magic is what makes it appealing to the people it appeals. Fantasy-lovers are few and far between, but with Magic, they can be brought together with a common interest. Even those players who are immersed in the rules and look only at card text instead of the pictures and quotes were probably drawn into the game at least a little by its unreal qualities.

Some of you may be thinking, “All of this is well and good, but why are you telling us this?” Well, my main reason is to make you realize why you love Magic so much.

Often, we get carried away with our decks. We look online for good decks, put them into Apprentice, and play them without ever knowing what a Tooth of Ramos looks like. For instance, the little known card Hyalopterous Lemure actually has a picture of a lemur on it. (For those of you who don’t know your myths (or didn’t read this issue of InQuest), a lemure is a type of ghost or demon and a lemur is a mammal). The artist made a picture of the wrong thing. If you saw a deck with Hyalopterous Lemure in it (and that’s a big “if!”), you might think to yourself,“Hm, a lemure. I remember reading about that in my monster book as a kid,” and you’d never know that a lemur was on that card.

I’m digressing, so I’m going to try to get myself back on track.

Anyway, my point is that we all too often lose sight of the magical part of Magic. We forget that a demon is giving Yawgmoth(?) an eyeball in exchange for some contract(?) in Yawgmoth’s Bargain. All we think is, “Mmmmm… cards for life…” or, “the white Wind from Prophecy might fit in my Bargain deck. Let’s see… If I remove a Renounce, and…” Do you get my drift?

Recently, I was enduring a very slow game against an Enchantress decks. It was one of those older ones with super card-drawing and a Blaze to finish you off. As my opponent was“going off,” I had time to actually look at my artwork. Does anyone out there know how many treefolk are on the card Weatherseed Treefolk? The answer is three. They actually look AWESOME, and they’re even kind of spooky. Go find your copy and take a look. And, has anyone ever thought about how BIG a Phyrexian Colossus is? Well, it’s not bigger than a Phyrexian Dreadnought. That thing stretches to the horizon line, and the man who’s shooting at it is as big as the tip of one of its numerous appendages! The only picture anyone seems to look at is Masticore, and it’s actually rather drab in comparison to others.

And the quotes are pretty cool, too. The flavor text on a card gives an insight to its importance to the storyline. Or, if not, it gives another glimpse of the only-dreamed-about Dominaria/Dominia. (For those of you who know the difference between Dominaria and Dominia, award yourself ten bonus points!) “He craves only one commodity.” Eyes? Life? What is it, exactly, that Yawgmoth’s bargaining for? “To make peace with the forest, make peace with me.” –Multani, Maro Sorcerer. Someone’s talking like this to Urza? In the book, you find that Multani encases Urza within a big tree for several years while he absorbs the harmony of Yavimaya.

So, for all of you rules specialists and deckbuilders, try to remember the foundation of Magic once in a while. Look at the artwork of new cards (especially now because it’s getting SO much better!). Check out the flavor text and see what our heroes are up to. Or, if you don’t want to now, at least check it out during Invasion because the Phyrexian’s immigration to Dominaria is going to be SO cool!

Daniel Crane