The Magical Future

Shaun McLaren experienced a strange MTGO bug last night. It talked about the end of Magic and what the world will be like once Magic has gone away. The Pro Tour Champion tries to make sense of it all in his latest column.

Magic: The Gathering Online

Event #123456789 Game #43243643

December 31, 2015 11:59 PM

ArsenalMunch joined the game

RashCamelNun joined the game

ArsenalMunch rolled a 3.

RashCamelNun rolled a 5.

RashCamelNun chooses to play first.

RashCamelNun mulligans to 8 cards.

RashCamelNun put a card on top of RashCamelNun’s library.

RashCamelNun put a card on top of RashCamelNun’s library.

ArsenalMunch mulligans to 6 cards.

ArsenalMunch put a card on top of ArsenalMunch’s library.

RashCamelNun skips their draw step.

RashCamelNun plays Urza’s Non-Objective Fragmentorium.

RashCamelNun casts Chromatic Kajigger.

ArsenalMunch: …

ArsenalMunch: What? Those aren’t real cards. Did I accidentally join a Commander queue or something?

RashCamelNun: No you didn’t. You are confused as you should be, for you see, I am playing from the future.

ArsenalMunch: You don’t really expect me to believe this, do you?

RashCamelNun: But it’s true. The funding and resources put into Magic Online were secretly allocated towards developing a time machine that could communicate with the past. Do you really think they were just devoting all their resources to improving the user experience?

RashCamelNun: People still just mostly use it to play Magic though since using the interface really isn’t worth the hassle just to travel back in time.

ArsenalMunch: Riiiight.

RashCamelNun: Can you just suspend your disbelief for three *** seconds and listen to me? I’m here to tell you something important. I come to you this New Years Eve ten years in the future to tell you what destroyed Magic: the Gathering.

ArsenalMunch: Couldn’t you just give me some stock tips or something useful?

RashCamelNun: No, I can’t give you information that would alter the future. I can only tell you a sad tale that won’t be useful to you and you probably won’t believe anyways.

ArsenalMunch: Well, what went wrong? Go ahead and talk, but my clock is running out so I need to make a play.

Turn 1: ArsenalMunch

ArsenalMunch plays Celestial Colonnade.

Turn 2: RashCamelNun.

RashCamelNun puts triggered ability from Triggered ability from Chromatic Kajigger onto the stack (Assemble target contraption.).

No legal targets to choose for Chromatic Kajigger‘s triggered ability.

RashCamelNun: These terribly complicated cards are what went wrong. Complexity Creep. It started with Wastes mana and completely spiraled out of control for there. All the cards got so complicated the text boxes couldn’t contain all the rules and reminder text.

ArsenalMunch: That doesn’t sound all that bad. Isn’t that what makes Magic special? It’s an intricate and complicated game, often to the point of frustration when you miss an interaction. It’s fun when cards are new, dangerous, and there are hidden edges to be gained. Sure not every idea is going to be elegant or even very good, but risks have to be taken sometimes. The game has to keep introducing fresh ideas or it will rot from the inside out.

RashCamelNun plays BadUndergroundVolcanicLand.

RashCamelNun casts Boltseize Targeting ArsenalMunch and ArsenalMunch.

ArsenalMunch reveals their hand to Boltseize, containing Scalding Tarn, Scalding Tarn, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Bolt, and Electrolyze.

RashCamelNun: It wasn’t just Complexity Creep. There was also Power Creep. Just like frogs in a pot of water that is warmed up to a boiling temperature so slowly they never notice, the power increase was slow and unnoticeable to players until it was too late.

ArsenalMunch: You know I think that frog thing is an urban legend. The frogs will just hop out the pot if the water gets too hot.

RashCamelNun: Oh, have you tried melting frogs yourself?

ArsenalMunch: Well, no but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Either way the frog metaphor sucks. Just think of the poor frog. :(

RashCamelNun: Anyways, the power creep was subtle but steady. New sets had to keep up with the last and cards became more and more powerful. Soon the new cards were so powerful that Standard cards were seeing heavy play in Vintage and Legacy. All formats became so indistinguishable from Standard that they had to be merged into one.

ArsenalMunch: Well that’s no good. Still looks kind of fun for a high-powered format. Sort of. Is that all that went wrong?

Turn 2: ArsenalMunch

ArsenalMunch plays Scalding Tarn.

RashCamelNun reveals MechanicalCheatyFacedNinja hidden under Urza’s Non-Objective Fragmentorium.

Turn 3: RashCamelNun.

RashCamelNun puts triggered ability from Triggered ability from Chromatic Kajigger onto the stack targeting MechanicalCheatyFacedNinja (Assemble target contraption.).

RashCamelNun assembles MechanicalCheatyFacedNinja.

RashCamelNun wins the game.

Begin sideboarding.

ArsenalMunch: Okay, you’re saying that a Cheatyface style card got printed in Standard? That is more than a little weird.

RashCamelNun: You see what happened to our beloved game? During the great Judge Purge of 2017 all judges were banned and replaced with The Honor System. Now you might be worried that type of system might not work so well. You’d be right. To compensate, they simply added cards that encouraged cheating directly into the game. It became common practice to give your opponent a pat down at the beginning of each upkeep during high level play.

ArsenalMunch joined the game.

RashCamelNun joined the game.

ArsenalMunch chooses to play first.

ArsenalMunch keeps this hand.

RashCamelNun keeps this hand.

ArsenalMunch skips their draw step.

12:05 AM: ArsenalMunch plays Celestial Colonnade.

ArsenalMunch: Okay, I guess I can sort of see how Magic, or at least competitive Magic, was in trouble at this point. But surely even all that wouldn’t have killed Magic completely.

RashCamelNun: Haha, I haven’t even gotten started. Next there was the blockbuster Magic: the Gathering: the Movie. It was a zany romantic comedy that followed the interpersonal relationships of young planeswalkers Jace, Liliana, Elspeth, Garruk, Gideon, Nissa, and Nicol Bolas.

ArsenalMunch: That sounds terrible.

RashCamelNun: It was terrible. But it was so terrible that it was good, like The Room or Troll 2. It became a huge cult hit and made Magic explode in popularity.

ArsenalMunch: I suppose that’s good.

RashCamelNun: It was for a time. Magic went completely mainstream. Everyone wanted to play it and boosters couldn’t stay on shelves. Pros turned into famous rock stars. Wizards hired Jack Black to do Pro Tour commentary, which was totally not as cool as it sounds.

RashCamelNun: But then the popularity of Magic became too much. The fervor and love for the game spread so quickly that it was unquenchable. World Peace was deemed a positive expected value play so people could play more Magic. Who’d have thought Donald Trump would help usher in World Peace during his illegal third term as President?

RashCamelNun: Everything revolves around Magic. All politics and disputes are settled by playing Magic now. Magic consumed the world and when it fell, it dragged the world down with it.

RashCamelNun: The demand for cards was too high. Wizards of the Coast just couldn’t keep up. Sets were spoiled before they went to print. Card prices skyrocketed. Tournament pre-registrations filled up in seconds despite entry fees paying out less than first place. Magic Online was down for months on end due to millions constantly trying to log in every second. Wizards started pumping out sets faster and faster. Quality plummeted. The problems with power and vomplexity that were already consuming the game couldn’t be fixed on such a tight schedule.

RashCamelNun: All cards became valuable, didn’t matter what they were, they were the universal currency now. People traded cards for food and water. Last count, was there are only 27 Force of Wills total and everyone who owns one lives like a post-apocalyptic king. There was nothing beyond Magic cards being produced in the world.

RashCamelNun: Every set was a revisiting an old plane, and not just one. They smooshed multiple planes together into a single set like Time Spiral. They ran out of good sets quickly.

RashCamelNun: The latest set was an attempt to squeeze out every last good idea in a last ditch effort to keep everyone satisfied.

RashCamelNun: Every land is an expedition. Every non-land is a planeswalker. Non-foils are as common as foils. Kamigawa Restored: Homelands was the biggest bomb in Magic history.

RashCamelNun: Things became pure pandemonium as the world rioted.

Turn 1: RashCamelNun.

RashCamelNun casts White Red Blue and Green Lotus.

RashCamelNun casts Volrath’s Greater Manamorphose.

RashCamelNun casts Dark Ritual.

Tendrils of Agony Cubed targeting ArsenalMunch. (64 copies)

RashCamelNun: That is my story. Or should I say, our story.

RashCamelNun: In fact I am YOU from the future Shaun McLaren. Or should I say, ArsenalMunch. Or should I say, RashCamelNun. At least it was our name before we legally changed it to Hugh Jazz in 2019.

ArsenalMunch: I know our own name, I mean my own name.

RashCamelNun: So you see what destruction Magic will bring to the world? What fate awaits humanity?

ArsenalMunch: You’re wrong. Magic is great and it’s going to stay great. Mistakes happen, not everything can be perfect all the time. The game gets better, the community gets better, the world gets better.

ArsenalMunch: Maybe the future is already predetermined and maybe it isn’t. I don’t believe things will turn out the way you say they will.

ArsenalMunch: No, that can’t be the future. Magic teaches us to learn, be creative, and solve problems. It teaches us by flexing our brains with complex riddles and how to play together. If anything, Magic will save the world.

ArsenalMunch: Magic is a force of good. Bringing people together playing the game grows our bond outside of it.

ArsenalMunch: Whatever comes, Magic can’t be taken away from us. Even if the game died tomorrow, we’d still have thousands and thousands of cards. Even if Magic turns into something too fast or too slow or too powerful or too weak. Maybe Magic will disappear someday and maybe it isn’t necessary to save the world, but nothing will erase the memories or cheapen the moments shared playing the game.

RashCamelNun: …

RashCamelNun: Perhaps you’re right. It was a wild ride, and perhaps the world is still salvageable if I pass on this message.

ArsenalMunch: You are forgetting one important thing though.

RashCamelNun: What’s that?

ArsenalMunch: Always keep one eye on the clock. It’s your priority and you’re about to time out.

ArsenalMunch: Glad my speech distracted you, sucker! Enjoy the apocalypse, nerd! Oh, and Happy New Year. Later.

RashCamelNun has timed out and lost the match.

ArsenalMunch wins the match.

ArsenalMunch has disconnected.

RashCamelNun: dammit.