The title of this article might be “The Story of Magic”, but I’m not here to discuss the actual plot of the books or the card sets put out by Magic: the Gathering. Instead, I’m going to talk about the idea of playing Magic as both a card game and a way to create unique and interesting situations through the “flavor” of the cards we all choose to shovel into our decks. It isn’t something that a lot of us think about - not in my playgroup, at least - but I definitely believe that it’s a huge and interesting aspect to the game that most people don’t consider. It can make the game more vivid, more dynamic, and oftentimes incredibly hilarious.
When creating a deck, I like to think that I’m actually hand-crafting a Planeswalker, since each player who begins a game of magic is actually representing one. For the sake of the argument, let’s say I’m making a deck based around -1/-1 counters, Wither, and Infect. To me, that concept would transfer into pain and torture, since all three involve weakening creatures. I would choose what my Planeswalker would look like based on the concept of pain (say, in this case, a beastly Prince in black spiked armor who uses
mana to twist his enemies). Sure, it’s a bit cliche, but who’s going to argue with spike-man? You? I didn’t think so. Then, once I’m satisfied that it fits my idea of the deck, I would go find cards that match the theme. Scar
would be a card that came to mind. The picture, the text, the colors, and the ability all fit with the idea behind the deck. Other cards I might choose would be Terminate
, Soul Snuffers
, and the like. Each card I would pick has to do with the theme of the Planeswalker and the deck, so it makes sense in the context of a story.
While playing under the idea that you are, in fact, a Planeswalker, things can get interesting if you imagine how cards would function. For example, I used to run a
deck chocked full of Swerve
, Reins of Power
, and that kind of stuff. My Planeswalker was called Pognosh the Backwards - an obese man in clown makeup with his head on... well... backwards. The deck concept was that Pognosh was a Planeswalker so powerful that he had gone loopy, making him unable to use his vast collection of pants-wetting spells. Instead, he just messes with everyone else, causing things to backfire and explode as he laughs and jumps around like a lunatic. Whenever someone would play a threatening spell they would always look at me, waiting for me (Pognosh the Backwards) to mess things up. I usually did.
Unfortunately this kind of visualization creates inconsistencies with a lot of decks. Combo-based decks, in particular, are hard to visualize a lot of the time. Let’s take the recent High Tide (1)
Legacy deck, which uses Candelabra of Tawnos
to ramp until they get enough mana to make you draw out with Blue Sun’s Zenith. It’s a unique and solid deck. Unfortunately it doesn’t make any sense if you tell it like a story. The Planeswalker would be sitting on an island, causing the tide to rise while lighting a bunch of candles over and over again. They would then call upon a blue sun to make you so aware of everything that you go insane (insanity is what happens when you draw out your deck).