The (In)Congruity Of Magic

If Urza wants to draw black and green mana from the same source, why should he take it from the painful Llanowar Wastes? Are there no more bayous in all of Dominaria?

It all started this week when I got my very fist dual land. I couldn’t help myself; I really wanted to trade with this guy online, but he had very little that I wanted. So I offered him some stuff for a Suffocating Blast (it’s for a theme deck!) and a Bayou. Flash forward a few days and I have the black/green dual land.

This got me to thinking: Back in the day, if you wanted to play a B/G deck, you played with Bayou. These days, if you want to play with a B/G deck, you play with Llanowar Wastes. My initial thought was probably what most people’s is: All right.

But I went further: Why?

If Urza wants to draw black and green mana from the same source, why should he take it from the painful Llanowar Wastes? Are there no more bayous in all of Dominaria? But, eerily, most cards dealing with Urza have appeared in the last three years, while dual lands haven’t been legal in Standard in much more than that. How is it that bayous and Urza can’t coexist?

Well, it would appear to be simple: Bayou hadn’t been reprinted in the base set when Urza’s Saga was printed. End of story. But, the story never ends – at least, it hasn’t yet. Urza’s about four-friggin-thousand years old – you’d think he’d have come in contact with a bayou. But according to the game, he hasn’t.

**Warning spoilers ahead**

Furthermore, Urza’s not even alive after Apocalypse. Yet we can still play Urza’s Rage and Kamahl, Pit Warrior in the same deck. In Extended, you can play with Ertai, the Corrupted and Ertai, Wizard Adept – as well as Crovax the Cursed and Ascendant Evincar. Selenia exists as Selenia, Dark Angel and Desolation Angel. And what about such interactions as the Skyshaper, pictured on the Exodus card as being held by Karn, which is an internal part of Weatherlight, and Skyship Weatherlight, complete with Skyshaper? It just doesn’t work. Using Ascendant Evincar to pump your Crovax the Cursed just doesn’t seem right.

**Spoilers should be over by now**

So, the problem is that the storyline and the game are in direct conflict. The rules of the game say that two people from two points in time can coexist. However, the story strictly lays out who can and cannot interact with other characters by determining who is and is not alive. It’s very difficult to find any harmony between the game and the storyline…

…Until you consider that the cards are only reflections of the story. Each Magic card is like a page in the Book of Magic. If you were to pick up a copy of Random Book and read the first chapter and immediately read the last chapter, you might notice that some characters were no longer there. Somewhere in between they died or left somehow. Imagine if you could read the entire book at the same time! That’s how I look at Magic – being able to look at the whole tapestry of Magic’s story at the same time.

For instance, at any one time, you can look at any number of cards. You might have before you Mishra’s Workshop, Urza’s Power Plant, Bravado, Urza’s Rage, and Tomb of the Martyr. The first two cards portray a time when Urza and Mishra were fighting amongst themselves; Bravado shows Urza bargaining with the inhabitants of Shiv to allow the use of the mana rig; Urza’s Rage shows Urza’s titan suit and Urza turning himself sideways against the Phyrexians; Tomb of the Martyr is a statue erected partly in his honor. All of these cards depict different times of Urza’s life, yet you can view them all instantaneously.

But what if you could only look at them a piece at a time?

What if tournaments were run based not upon legal cards, but a time period in the storyline. Wouldn’t that be something? It’d be almost like Block Constructed, except that Darigaaz, the Igniter couldn’t be played with anything from Apocalypse (since she died in Planeshift) and other such examples. Personally, I would advocate an Invitational format based upon the storyline credibility rather than a collection of cards, something like Bring Your Own Chapter or something. You could decide to take cards from the before the Ice Age (Antiquities), just before the Ice Age (The Dark), during the Ice Age (Ice Age), or right after the Ice Age (5th edition).

Of course, this sort of thing could never work in the tournament structure as a whole, but it might make for some very interesting casual games. Imagine a multiplayer variant where each player chooses a character from Magic and builds a deck using only resources available to that character. Urza would have a potentially great amount of cards, but the fact that anything that didn’t work for him was discarded from his mind would have to be taken into account. Teferi would be able to use cards from the Artifact Cycle, Weatherlight, and Prophecy. Although Gerrard would probably have the greatest access to good cards, no one would want to be him, so that makes that brokenness fairly nonexistent.

All in all, I think that storyline-based decks/tournaments is a pretty interesting idea. I would love to see someone crack open an Ertai deck, though the person who decides to use the Sliver Queen as his character of choice should be prepared for a several-faceted onslaught. Now, Tahngarth.dec… That’s another story altogether!

Hmm… I think I’ve convinced myself to create some new decks. That is, if I can convince my friends to do the same. Knowing them, probably not. But if anyone out there decides to give this format a try, let me know. I’d love to see the normally inconsistent sides of Magic come together in a well-orchestrated format.

Until then, however, we’ll have to be content with Standard’s relatively effective manner of keeping multiple personalities on cards two expansions away.

Daniel Crane

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