It is currently Mon Apr 06, 2020 8:21 pm

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 8:52 pm 
Offline
Member

Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 10804
Something that has been on my mind for a while, approximately halfway through the Gatewatch junk and the fifth Nissa, is that there's an undeniable problem that needs to be addressed with the planeswalkers, and it's not one that can be satisfactorily handled in any way I can see.

Chiefly, the cast has gotten too large.

While we crave variety, and diversity makes the game stronger as a whole, the cast has really grown far out of control. This was exacerbated terribly by the new faces introduced in war of the spark, but I'd actually step in to defend a lot of their inclusion. The problem really narrows down to the follies of slavishly following an over-centralized cast during the Gatewatch era and the problems inherent in their previous, unaligned story telling method as well.

I'll start with the latter. In setting up characters to have continuing stories, an inherently good thing, they unfortunately shot their foot clean off by just opening too many plot threads at once, dragging literally any progress on any front to an absolute standstill. How the hell long was Garruk cursed, for example? And how perfunctory did the cure finally feel when it came?

The sad matter is that in reaction to try to address that, they swerved so hard in the opposite direction that it destroyed a good portion of goodwill people were willing to offer. I'm talking about the Gatewatch (duh) in which we myopically followed a group that never felt cohesive so that every block could smear their brand on the face of the product. Naturally, this had the adverse reaction to trivialize anybody not directly attached at the hip to the group.

The biggest flaw was that there never seemed a real, natural reason for the Gatewatch to involve themselves in a lot of the matters, diminishing the story space available for characters whose involvement made sense.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is because I genuinely don't feel like War of the Spark did enough damage to the ranks of walkers we have. Gideon is the only long term walker that died. His death did not free up nearly enough space to let someone else move into his niche, but that particular matter is made all the worse by Elspeth's return.

All this is a long winded way of saying that there needs to be a balance between new characters and old. There needs to be CONCLUSIONS to walker's stories so we can get fresh faces in, but there should also be genuine reasons for walkers to even be in places. We can't take too many Tibalt and Tamiyo appearances (That is to say "we're also here for reasons!" kind of appearances, akin to the original Innistrad)

The closest thing to any sort of balance they've ever struck with characters being relevant was with Alara.

_________________
At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed / a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 5:58 am 
Offline
YMtC Champ '11
YMtC Pro Tour Champion
YMtC Idol Winner
User avatar

Joined: Sep 23, 2013
Posts: 9648
Preferred Pronoun Set: he/him/my/mine/himself
Hire Ryogo Narita, the author of Baccano and Durarara.

I'm not really sure what sort of story structure suits a game like magic. I imagine having some form of macro-narrative that creates a narrative thread between the planes we visit, and each plane having its own micro-narrative, or several if you'd want to commit the resources. I think what is currently most lacking is a sense of scale and events being organic. I'd like planes to have their own problems, propagated and solved in large parts by its own inhabitants, and not have everything revolve around planeswalkers, whether existing or to come. And then you have planeswalkers journey to planes for their own reasons, and shape, but not define, the story that transpires, but ultimately pursue a different goal.

Ixalan is a decent example in this respect. Sure it all happens because Bolas and Azor and Ugin and whatever contrived 1000 year schemes, but for the most part the story is people in Ixalan doing things that relate to Ixalan, and then Jace, while being a part of it, has a story that primarily revolves around different things. It lets Jace have a story arc and Ixalan have a story arc, which intersect without swallowing one another. I don't love Ixalan since it has an unnecessarily large cast of planeswalkers and I would maybe like to see more motivations that didn't tie directly in with the Immortal Sun, I'd like settings to feel more like interactive ecosystems, but it's probably the closest exmaple that I know of. I wouldn't really mind magic having a large cast of characters and a messy web of interconnected events, as long as the individual stories contained in that web had proper build-up and payoff, and made causal sense within it.

The Gatewatch's story doesn't work because they swallow the narrative with "save the day" scenarios wherever they go. They don't really have a motivation as much as they have a plot, and it's not really a good one. Eldraine doesn't work because Garruk shows up years after he got cursed, not having it used for anything, only for him to briefly become Oko's boytoy and then being cleansed. You can't just toss Chekov's gun into the water without shooting someone with it, when you reintroduce the guy that upticks to kill planeswalkers the first thing that happens isn't him being elked no matter how high you area on Oko memes.

I think THB is mostly fine as a self-contained story given how it was set up with the original set, although I'm not sure where Elspeth is going from here. It works in a micro-scale, I don't know how it fits on the macro-scale, and I don't think Ikoria or Zendikar will tie it together. The story is presumably building up to something, but between ELD and THB I can't discern what.

_________________
In the custody of febb since 12.05.16
[Warchief] Custom EDH Project

you're like the kind of person who would cast Necropotence irl


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:23 pm 
Offline
Member

Joined: Jan 13, 2014
Posts: 135
Quote:
"Depressing fact: Our characters (and most characters in TV and film) are created using corporate resources, and thereafter become corporate revenue streams. Ending a revenue stream requires permission from the corporate entity to do so. Not impossible but not easy. Think of how casual and reversible death has become in comics, for example." -Brady Dommermuth, Ask Brady thread


I agree with some of the points brought up and disagree with others so I guess I'll comb them over while I parse how I feel about the subject.

Quote:
I'll start with the latter. In setting up characters to have continuing stories, an inherently good thing, they unfortunately shot their foot clean off by just opening too many plot threads at once, dragging literally any progress on any front to an absolute standstill. How the hell long was Garruk cursed, for example? And how perfunctory did the cure finally feel when it came?


Garruk's curse and the Chain Veil plotline were apparently supposed to be wrapped up in Dominaria back when it was still two sets but had to be axed when the block structure changed. It felt perfunctory in The Wildered Quest and Forsaken because it was...future storylines relied on cut story beats so they got shoehorned in elsewhere. Not a satisfying solution, but one we unfortunately have to accept when Magic is a card game first and a story second.

Quote:
The sad matter is that in reaction to try to address that, they swerved so hard in the opposite direction that it destroyed a good portion of goodwill people were willing to offer. I'm talking about the Gatewatch (duh) in which we myopically followed a group that never felt cohesive so that every block could smear their brand on the face of the product. Naturally, this had the adverse reaction to trivialize anybody not directly attached at the hip to the group.


On the one hand, it frustrated me greatly during Kaladesh block to have Saheeli Rai, the face of the set, do almost nothing as far as the story was concerned. To offer a counterpoint, however, having a regular cast of characters that people could follow week to week lead to a large increase in investment in Magic story among a larger group of people. While the Origins retcons (among other things) may have destroyed goodwill among the old guard, it also created greater goodwill for the story for new Vorthos (which was subsequently squandered with Wots: Ravnica and Forsaken but I guess time is a flat circle).

Quote:
The biggest flaw was that there never seemed a real, natural reason for the Gatewatch to involve themselves in a lot of the matters, diminishing the story space available for characters whose involvement made sense.


They said more or less the same thing in Metamorphosis 2.0, which is why they've dialed back their presence since Hour and we appear to be having a whole year breather from them after War of the Spark.

Quote:
The reason I'm bringing this up now is because I genuinely don't feel like War of the Spark did enough damage to the ranks of walkers we have. Gideon is the only long term walker that died. His death did not free up nearly enough space to let someone else move into his niche, but that particular matter is made all the worse by Elspeth's return.


I've seen this sentiment here and there, and it's fair, but according to blogatog, more people complained about who they did end up killing than not killing enough characters.

Quote:
All this is a long winded way of saying that there needs to be a balance between new characters and old. There needs to be CONCLUSIONS to walker's stories so we can get fresh faces in, but there should also be genuine reasons for walkers to even be in places.
I agree that a balnce would be a nice, but seeing how I (and many others) hated HOW Gideon, Dack, and Dovin's stories got concluded, I don't really have much faith in their ability to satisfyingly end other walker's stories (although, fingers crossed Nissa pulls a Windgrace and infuses herself into Zendikar to save it in Zendikar Rising).

I also want to draw your attention back to Brady's quote at the top of the post; as far as corporate is concerned, characters are revenue streams first and foremost. As long as Jace and company keep making money, they aren't going anywhere fast.

Quote:
I think THB is mostly fine as a self-contained story given how it was set up with the original set, although I'm not sure where Elspeth is going from here. It works in a micro-scale, I don't know how it fits on the macro-scale, and I don't think Ikoria or Zendikar will tie it together. The story is presumably building up to something, but between ELD and THB I can't discern what.

I think these are supposed to be breather one-shots to wrap up loose ends (Garruk, Elspeth) with maybe some vague ties to Phyrexia on the horizon. Ashiok went off to find New Phyrexia after learning about it from Elspeth's nightmares and with Elspeth out of the Underworld, dealing with NP once and for all is really the only thing she still has going for her.


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:12 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Nov 15, 2013
Posts: 2044
Location: Roaming Dominaria
I think the root of the problem goes back to when the planeswalker card type was introduced into the game, or shortly after that. Remember those innocent times when WotC said 'walker cards would be deciduous rather than evergreen, i.e. not every set would have them, and that they wouldn't necessarily force colour balance among existing 'walker cards? Yeah, things escalated pretty quickly from there, didn't they? And now it's way too late to walk that back and reduce them to a deciduous element, because people have come to expect them in every set and would probably set something on fire if you dialed back the number of 'walkers. I agree with Barinellos that the 'walkers we saw on Alara fit pretty organically, but in retrospect, that was precisely when WotC started setting up those expectations.

Another problem of the sheer number of planeswalkers is that every single one of them needs a laser-focused and clear-cut identity, both mechanically and creatively. Which is precisely why most of them are one-trick ponies that feel more like X-Men characters with one specific (and often inborn) "superpower" rather than the planeswalkers of old, or even "proper" MtG wizards that interact with the established magic system in a meaningful way. That's more grating with some characters than with others, but it's a general issue that bothers the heck out of me. Liliana couldn't even slow down her own aging after the Mending without selling her soul, despite the insights she must have gained as an Oldwalker, despite her access to other planes, and despite the fact that Barrin, Jolrael, Mangara, Kaervek and many others managed to live for hundreds of years without issue. Or take Vivien, a character so pathetic she needs a magical bow to even summon creatures. Which is supposed to be a really widespread ability among 'walkers, considering it's what we're all doing when we sit down to play this game called Magic: the Gathering. But nope, Vivien needed a gimmick to make her stand out, and the Arkbow is exactly that. I could go on about why the heck they gave her a really big, Bolas-related backstory and introduced her right before War of the Spark, only to do absolutely nothing with it (as far as I can tell anyway), not even turn her into cannon-fodder, but that's another issue (and one she shares with Samut)...

Those narrow identities can even lead to glaring inconsistencies when they take away powers from characters to trim them down to a more narrow identity. Jace summoned real sphinxes and drakes in Agents of Artifice you say? Nope, can't have that, he's a mindmage after all. Karn still commands "world-shaking power"? Yeeeaaah, maybe he does, except when that power would be needed to blow up a dastardly demonlord and his hideous henchmen. (Seriously, what can Karn still do, except for building constructs to help him dig stuff up? Not very world-shaking by most standards.) I realise a throwaway line in a piece of flavour text isn't the best ground on which to build my criticism, but it's simply frustrating how little Karn in particular actually accomplished on Dominaria. He even needed Chandra to deal with Multani, but that's perhaps more of a narrative issue than one of power. Don't even get me started on Bolas, though...

Teferi at least didn't seem too limited in the stories he was in (although I would argue he has no business being a planeswalker again in the first place), and there are a few good examples of well-written 'walker magic, like that story by Kelly Gigges in which Kiora Bests the Sea God. (Seriously, Kiora is one of very few characters that still feel like planeswalkers.) Or take those who technically have a fairly limited premise to their magic but end up doing a whole lot of different and interesting things with it, like Tamiyo or Davriel. But by and large, the X-Men syndrome creates too much of a gap between clear-cut identities and the way in which characters should work to not only earn their powers, but to grow them beyond their current limit. Not everyone needs to follow Mairsil's advice of becoming a five-colour "rainbow mage", but could they at least encounter thematically apropriate creatures and add them to their repertoire of summon spells? Something like that? Anything to make them feel magical again?

When we complained about the Mending, we were promised it would lead to better stories. Funny how that worked out. Also funny how they weren't afraid to kill off beloved planeswalker characters left and right back in the day, and when War of the Spark is finally upon is, they instantly turn it into a joke and destroy its entire premise by killing off three people. Even the big bad survived. Don't introduce large-scale events into your story that are specifically designed to kill as many 'walkers as possible if you don't have the balls to follow it through, is what I'm saying. By the same token, don't introduce a cursed, planeswalking axe-murderer into your story whose sole motivation it is to kill as many planeswalkers as possible, only to have him kill absolutely nobody (who wasn't specifically introduced to be killed by said axe-murderer in the very same story) in all those years he was cursed.

_________________
"Enchant me with your tale-telling. Tell about Tree, Grass, River, and Wind.
Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
—Love Song of Night and Day


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Tue Mar 31, 2020 2:50 am 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 2981
I don't really see this as a problem. The multiverse is vast so they can just put characters on hold if they don't know what to do with them. Honestly MTG actually has it made compared to superhero comics, where the earth feels overpopulated with gods.

_________________
Matahouroa
Planeswalker's Guide
The Story

My Patreon:
https://www.patreon.com/Carliro
Image


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2020 11:11 am 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Mar 27, 2015
Posts: 1646
My issue is that back in the beginning with Agents of Artifice and The Purifying Fire it seemed like WOTC was setting a solid foundation for the new planeswalkers. This applies, to a lesser extent, to the original lore covering Liliana Vess and Garruk as well. But then it feels like they went wild with the story in an attempt to force it into becoming something it was never meant to become.

_________________
Mordred: Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru

Flagg: Nani?


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Apr 05, 2020 3:40 pm 
Offline
Member
User avatar

Joined: Nov 15, 2013
Posts: 2044
Location: Roaming Dominaria
My issue is that back in the beginning with Agents of Artifice and The Purifying Fire it seemed like WOTC was setting a solid foundation for the new planeswalkers. This applies, to a lesser extent, to the original lore covering Liliana Vess and Garruk as well. But then it feels like they went wild with the story in an attempt to force it into becoming something it was never meant to become.
Very much this. Look no further than Magic Origins... I find the retcons and the change in direction especially infuriating because the original lore behind the characters featured in Origins was what got me back into the storyline again and made me care about the new characters enough to give them a chance after the Mending (which I found very upsetting). We could have had a lot more good stories if they hadn't discontinued the planeswalker novels and brought Laura Resnick and Ari Marmell back to write them. Of course that would have required them to do some actual quality control so that Test of Metal wouldn't have happened...

_________________
"Enchant me with your tale-telling. Tell about Tree, Grass, River, and Wind.
Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
—Love Song of Night and Day


Like this post
Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 7 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group