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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:46 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
The thing is, of course, the fantasy-punk aesthetic was Magic's hallmark. It was the look and feel that nobody else had. It was their IDENTITY. So, moving away from that is moving away from a core aesthetic of what made Magic distinct.
It's kinda funny when you consider that "identity" is arguably the favourite buzzword of Maro and many others at WotC. I've been arguing for years that, by focusing on plane hopping so much, they've lost sight of one of the main elements of Magic's core identity, and that, to me, will always be Dominaria.

I absolutely agree with what you guys are saying about the old aesthetic, but at least to me, it even goes beyond that. I think the mere fact that Magic used to have a clearly defined "home" on Dominaria was a major factor in giving the game an identity, something familiar yet deep and exciting at its core that still makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside and that I maybe didn't truly appreciate until I had to wait to go back there for ELEVEN YEARS.

They say you haven't truly travelled somewhere until you return home, and I feel the same about visiting different planes in Magic. Visiting new planes is cool and should be a regular feature of Magic, but I don't think doing some regular plane hopping while also having a primary setting where your game and your players are truly at home are mutually exclusive, those things could actually enhance each other. I've suggested it before, but I'll say it again: Magic should adopt a three-pillar model instead of the current two-pillar model (with 50% new planes, 50% returns to established planes). Regular trips to planes new and old would prevent Dominaria from going stale (especially since it doesn't have the benefit of big time jumps to shake things up anymore), and focusing more on Dominaria would help to keep the plane hopping parts special and exciting while mitigating the disconnect between sets that people have mentioned. Add that to the fact that this huge plane that has 10+ years of wordbuilding under its belt would actually be used that way rather than simply being wasted.

I seriously wonder whether the current way of plane hopping is even sustainable, or for how much longer it will be. Rushing through new planes with mostly one set per visit is not only tiresome, it also puts a lot of stress on the worldbuilding team while also leading to more shallow worlds. And I don't think the solution to that last problem is as simple as saying "Yeah, whatever, we'll just save some things for the second visit and add more depth when we return there". No, no you won't. Or maybe you will, but what you add is probably going to feel really tacked on like it's coming out of the blue. You have to lay the groundwork properly with each first visit, because you need a foundaiton on which to expand the worldbuilding, and you also have to make it exciting enough the first time around so that players will even want to go back there. Plus, the faster you eat through through new planes, the faster you're going to run out of ideas, and the faster your pool of new planes grows, the harder it will be to balance new planes with returns to established ones.

So, Ikoria, huh. I look at the worldbuilding, and I see... nothing. No substance whatsoever. Like, at all. They somehow managed to create a setting where everything looks the same, and yet nothing fits together. This is hands down the blandest and most embarrassing plane we've ever seen in a Standard legal set by a long shot. They probably wrote the entire worldguide in an hour and then just told the artists to draw whatver they want. The mechanics are complete rubbish, too. Really, I don't know what this mess is, but it isn't a Magic set. The fact that Ikoria even provokes a response in me (as in, commenting on it in this thread) speaks volumes, because I usually tend to just ignore new sets.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:05 pm 
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just told the artists to draw whatver they want.

Magic would actually probably benefit from more of that.
Style guides are homogenized to within an inch of their lives these days.

I do hate to say it to you, but the general response to Ikoria has been mostly positive. Of course, there's nothing wrong with having an opinion, but your statements really feel hyperbolic my friend.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:23 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
I do hate to say it to you, but the general response to Ikoria has been mostly positive. Of course, there's nothing wrong with having an opinion, but your statements really feel hyperbolic my friend.
I know there have been a lot of positive responses around the internet, but on the whole, I would probably call it "polarising". But yeah, I'll be the first person to admit that the last paragraph was obviusoly pretty hyberbolic. Then again, maybe that's at least somewhat appropriate to express my genuine shock that this abomination of a set ever saw the light of day. Part of my brain is still waiting for Maro to jump out of a bush and yell "Ha! April fool's! Gotcha!" (Don't even get me started on the Godzilla stuff, though...)

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:27 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
I do hate to say it to you, but the general response to Ikoria has been mostly positive. Of course, there's nothing wrong with having an opinion, but your statements really feel hyperbolic my friend.
I know there have been a lot of positive responses around the internet, but on the whole, I would probably call it "polarising". But yeah, I'll be the first person to admit that the last paragraph was obviusoly pretty hyberbolic. Then again, maybe that's at least somewhat appropriate to express my genuine shock that this abomination of a set ever saw the light of day. Part of my brain is still waiting for Maro to jump out of a bush and yell "Ha! April fool's! Gotcha!" (Don't even get me started on the Godzilla stuff, though...)

Eh, I'll still totally take this over basically any of the returns we've seen from the majority of second visits.
Except Innistrad.
But oh good lords Zendikar is going to be bland.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:32 pm 
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I mean, I'd only take Ikoria over Kaladesh or Tarkir (mostly for what they did to the canon), but on the whole, I agree. Especially about Zendikar, I can't believe they won't let that dead horse rest already.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:37 pm 
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I mean, I'd only take Ikoria over Kaladesh or Tarkir (mostly for what they did to the canon), but on the whole, I agree. Especially about Zendikar, I can't believe they won't let that dead horse rest already.

It's the nasty correlation of chase rares to sales and associating the success with inaccurate factors.

The majority of anecdotal evidence I've seen tends to agree BfZ sucked, but it had money in the packs.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:46 pm 
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I... honestly don't understand what's supposed to be so wrong about Ikoria. I made my statements on the world last time, which has the takeaway that it is basically in the same spectrum as a lot of other releases. Not my favorites, but a number of them, and I'll take it over Zendikar ever, OG Mirrodin, Ravnica yet again, DtK, Theros, the squandered potential of Kaladesh (which could have been among the best)... that's not a few settings. Is it Mutate? Honestly Mutate seems like just another mechanic. It's not exactly innovative, but it's staggeringly inoffensive. They've done this before with the Hecatomb TCG, the Bestow mechanic... really a lot of Graft creatures wanted to work like this, and the Spikes before them, but the tech wasn't ready the same way as Kamigawa flips were the infant form of the DFCs introduced with Innistrad.

I might completely check out of the upcoming Zen set though. I didn't like that stuff the first time and it's never gotten better (unlike Mirrodin which redeemed itself by becoming New Phyrexia, leaving the abomination of QFK aside). But I've gone to the prerelease for every set since Coldsnap and it would be a shame to break that pattern.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:06 pm 
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I... honestly don't understand what's supposed to be so wrong about Ikoria.

For me, it's because it feels like an Un-set but isn't. Reading through the spoilers just makes me feel like they're not taking any of this seriously anymore. There's a Whale Hound in there because WHY NOT? There's a Sharknado because WE CAN! I understand that everything's mutated and that's the premise, but it feels silly and disconnected to me.

I also dislike this setting for the precise reason that I disliked Eldraine and Theros, things people have already talked about. It just feels to me like Wizards has lost the ability to put together coherent, creative, self-contained worlds anymore. I like the Kaiju films and IPs like Godzilla, King Kong, and Gamera, but I don't need to see them in my Magic cards. With every reference to other stories that Wizards didn't create, be it the specific fairy tales in Eldraine, the Greek myths in Theros, or Mothra here, I just can't help but picture some fictional MTG card designer with some ****-eating grin on their face, proud of themselves that they've made a reference. It makes me feel like they have lost both the ability and the desire to create unique content. Magic is no longer a unique cultural phenomenon, it seems, but rather a game system that reskins other people's ideas into a fleet of (often extremely) thinly veiled references.

If I can't feel like Wizards of the Coast takes it's own worlds seriously, how am I supposed to do so?

That's why I'm not a fan of Ikoria, anyway. As always, to each their own, but nothing I have seen about this set or this world makes me happy.


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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 7:08 pm 
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Okay, let me give my two cents in a non-hyperbolic way. I'll try to break it down as good as I can...

Ikoria feels like there simply aren't enough different elements that make up the world. It's just shallow and incredibly symmetrical across all five Wedges. The triomes look and feel way too similar to me, and what good is establishing a dominant clade of monsters or an apex predator for each triome when you're just randomly mixing an matching creature types anyway? There are just way too many creatures that just look like random amalgamations that you can't identify without looking at the type line, and even then, what kind of identity does a monster with three random creature types even have? I already didn't like the direction they were going in with the Simic the last time we saw Ravnica, but Ikoria takes it to an extreme. Creative combinations of creature types can be cool, but they are cool when they stand out, not when the whole plane looks like that.

I would have preferred it if more of the monsters had had a clearly identifiable and visually appealing species. And maybe they could have done more with known Magic monsters that already feel like hybrids or could have a more modular anatomy, like hydras with different kinds of heads, chimaeras, cockatrices, basilisks that have been merged with other reptilian creatures, pegasus-unicorns, that sort of thing. The beast in Vivien's artwork looks pretty cool actually, something along those lines would have been way more appealing to me than sharks with arms or Dinosaur Hippos. Speaking of that Dinosaur Hippo, what is it with the tone and artstyle of this set? Between Battlebond, Eldraine and Ikoria, why are there so many products in Magic that look like they were made for children? Not everything has to be dark and gritty, not at all, but they keep moving the aesthetics of the game in a direction that sometimes feels closer to an Un-set than to regular Magic. I mean, the genre or source material that inspired Ikoria just isn't something I believe works well in Magic, especially not as a basis for worldbuilding.

The fact that there are basically ONLY monsters and humans adds to the blandness. Sure, Zendikar does the "characters vs environment" thing too, but at least Zendikar has a variety of different races that feel disitnct and interesting in their own right. Ikoria only has humans, which is clearly an unfortunate side effect of the Mutate mechanic. And no, I don't care that they live in different cities and wear different coloured crystals on their costumes, they're all human, and they all have a generic "adventure" look (and even that was done better on Zendikar). The fact that some humans stay at home while others venture out to kill monsters (only to be magligned as "the worst kind of humans" by a planeswalker protagonist I can't stand) isn't exactly grounbreaking either, and neither is the fact that some of them are Pokémon trainers. Like, seriously, this "bonding with beasts" thing has been done a million times, both in Magic and elsewhere. The most generic of them all in every way imaginable is Lukka, which is perhaps fitting because like many planeswalkers, he is supposed to be a perfect representation of his homeplane. Just wait until they establish he can actually planeswalk with his pet cat, because I'm telling you now, it's going to happen...

The Companion mechanic feels super cheesy and out of place in a regular Magic set. Seriously, we have Commander, Brawl, Tiny Leaders and Oathbreaker, why the heck do we need this random mechanic to blurr the line between the feel of different formats even more? If they wanted to make use of deckbuilding restrictions, why didn't they reserve that for the Commanders in the decks and word it like "If [cardname] is your commander, your starting deck [insert restriciton]". Muate is just kinda messy and unimaginative at the same time. I think there are going to be a ton of corner cases with cards that interact with it in ways that make it hard to decide what is going to happen. And I think a pile of Mutate cards on top of each other with a random assortment of keyword counters is going to create more memory issues than it's worth in terms of fun gameplay. I realise that "build your own monsters" is the selling point of the set, but to me that sounds like a giant mess.

And boy, do I hate those Godzilla series cards. It's just sad that Magic has arrived at a point where it has to pretend to be something else in order to sell packs. That's not even mentioning all the other issues that I have with special collectors bling alternate versions of cards and the way they are getting out of hand...


Edit: Raven ninja'd me, but yeah, basically what he said.

WAIT, Raven is back??? Wooooh, I really missed you around here Raven, great to see you! :party:

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 8:25 pm 
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OK, I can kind of see that objection, especially taking it as a sign that Magic is kind of trying to be a western Weiss Schwarz sort of affair, which I do agree is not what M:tG should be. And I would very much like to see a more purely original new plane, which was arguably last seen in Kaladesh and won't next be seen until after we visit Zendikar again for some reason.

Seriously, I thought Zendikar's story was kind of done as of BFZ. What more remains to be written?

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 10:12 pm 
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OK, I can kind of see that objection, especially taking it as a sign that Magic is kind of trying to be a western Weiss Schwarz sort of affair, which I do agree is not what M:tG should be. And I would very much like to see a more purely original new plane, which was arguably last seen in Kaladesh and won't next be seen until after we visit Zendikar again for some reason.

Seriously, I thought Zendikar's story was kind of done as of BFZ. What more remains to be written?

Personally, I'm hoping Nahiri is going on an insane tear to reformat the world like she remembers and is planning to murder anything that disagrees.
Which will hopefully be Nissa.
Kiora will probably pop up too.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:44 am 
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Zendikar is basically nothing at this point. Nahiri could try and remake it on her own image and only Nissa would protest.

Actually, a Nissa vs Nahiri battle is welcome. Hopefully one where Nahiri burns her with lava.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2020 8:07 am 
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If they actually ended up killing off Nissa, this entire pointless return would suddenly be worth it for that alone.

But while I'm back now that it's not 2 p.m. in my timezone, I want to expand a little on why Ikoria feels so bland and out of place to me: The central themes of the source material are completely absent.

Now, while I'll enjoy watching a monster movie from time to time as much as the next person, I'm not an expert on all the ins and outs of the Godzilla franchise for example. But I'd argue that the big kaiju flicks as well as the old sci-fi monster movies all revolve around a theme of science and technology. They show the results of human hubris and carelessness. Godzilla in particular is very much a product of post-WWII Japan and the collective trauma of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The monster is the embodiment of the Nuclear Holocaust. American monster movies, too, deal with the fear of radioactivity, pollution, genetic manipulation or threats from outer space and project them onto mutated bears, giant ants or spiders, or a 50 Foot Woman. King Kong is an odd fit here, since the original movie came out in 1933 and deals with an exotic primeval creature rather than a mutant or an alien. You could argue that King Kong has underlying themes of racism and colonialism, but especially the modern reboots put a bigger emphasis on Skull Island and paint Kong as a more sympathetic creature that is ripped from its natural environment and abducted to New York (which ends badly for everyone involved). So at least you could still find a theme of human hubris and carelessness in King Kong, even though science and technology aren't really the focus. Then there are films like Pacific Rim that put a more modern spin on its metaphors. I would read the main theme of Pacific Rim as the power and necessity of human co-operation (and the positive impact technology can have if used properly) in the face of a global threat. While that's a subversion of some of the original themes of kaiju movies, at least there are sill meaningful themes, and if you read the kaiju in Pacific Rim as a metaphor for climate change, you even get back to the original themes about the dangers of technology.

Ikoria... has none of that. The monsters are just kinda there, and always have been. Yeah, I think there were some hints that the mutations have intensified lately, and I expect we'll learn more about what causes them in the full set and/or the story (I mean beyond "the crystals did it, duh"), but there's no way they can save the whole thing thematically.

Ironically, I think the concept of the plane could have worked if they had embraced the fantasy-punk aspect that people have mentioned. You can't implement the themes I mentioned above when your plane looks like a blend of Zendikar and Tarkir, but you could do it on a plane that is closer to Kaladesh, Vryn, Rath or even Ravnica. That way, the monsters could have been the result of some form of technology (or a magitech stand-in for our real-world technology). The humans could have had a fleshed out culture and aesthetic, and you could have implemented a mechanical theme like energy counters to tie them and the monsters together. The whole thing would have felt less derivative, less silly and less disjointed, and it would have added a lot of depth to the world and the story (and probably the mechanics as well).

I hope that was constructive enough to make up for the previous hyperbole.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:42 pm 
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I'll wait for the novel, but I do think that nature vs civilisation is already a very clear theme.

Ikoria is basically a lovecraftian horror setting. It is dominated by monsters beyond your control that are constantly mutating like The Thing (yes, they outright mix and match and change creature types) and your only hope is to corner yourself into small corners of the world... or expand your mind and become friends with these things. To see them as individuals that just happen to be cosmic forces.

Its probably way more shallower than I'm projecting, but to me its a pretty well illustrated metaphor for humanity's own relationship with nature. Destructive and ultimately beyond our control, but full of beauty and love once you get past all predatory instincts and parasites and diseases.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2020 10:30 am 
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You know, the aesthetic variation in planes could be reconciled fairly easily. It would require tighter planar geography on WOTC's behalf, though. You could have planes like Dominaria, Vryn and Kaladesh being fairly close to one another, along with Ravnica, and have these as kinda the center of the multiverse - the epitome of technological and sorcerous development. Then you could have planes like Theros, Amonkhet, and Innistrad a little further out. And at the far edges of the multiverse, in the 'here there be dragons' section of the planar map you would have planes like Tarkir, Kamigawa, and Ikoria where the planes' aesthetic is really weird or wild.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2020 4:24 pm 
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You know, the aesthetic variation in planes could be reconciled fairly easily. It would require tighter planar geography on WOTC's behalf, though. You could have planes like Dominaria, Vryn and Kaladesh being fairly close to one another, along with Ravnica, and have these as kinda the center of the multiverse - the epitome of technological and sorcerous development. Then you could have planes like Theros, Amonkhet, and Innistrad a little further out. And at the far edges of the multiverse, in the 'here there be dragons' section of the planar map you would have planes like Tarkir, Kamigawa, and Ikoria where the planes' aesthetic is really weird or wild.

I mean, that's inherently equating factors that have nothing to do with each other.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2020 7:35 pm 
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The novel came out today. Just looking at spoilers, the story definitely went in a direction I did not expect.

Also this article about the worldbuilding.


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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2020 8:52 pm 
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I liked the article

But then again, all the art books pissed me off because they spent too damn much time explaining the world* and not nearly enough showing concept art.
Y'know, like an ART book!

I will admit, it does highlight a disappointment for the set. It looks like they were originally going to have Leotau and now they don't.

*Seriously, the market for those were so weird. If they'd been really really in depth, that'd be one thing, but it was all surface level stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 4:20 am 
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Speaking of the book, Vivien's character there is pretty different from the side materials. She thinks that the monsters are unnatural due to the crystals' interference and decides to protect Drannith against a monster attack. She's still a nut, but more tolerable at least, which goes to show that WOTC needs to rethink its marketing.

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 Post subject: Re: Ikoria Flavor Thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2020 1:42 pm 
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That's a consistent reaction. From what I've seen, people seem to be pleased rather than mad that Vivien is portrayed noticeably differently in the book.

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