Friendly Rivalry | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth
9, Jun, 23

Lord of the Rings MTG Set Is Putting Other Sets to Shame

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Throughout recent years, Magic: the Gathering cards have steadily been getting increasingly verbose. Partly due to the influence of Commander, and the format’s lust for interesting mechanics, MTG cards have been getting progressively more complex. While this has arguably been a great thing for gameplay, it has had some negative effects. Namely, since all the new text has to go somewhere, it seemed flavor text was being pushed out of MTG.

While there’s no denying that modern MTG cards are rather wordy, the presumption flavor text is dead isn’t entirely accurate. As we discovered recently, this feature has apparently just been hiding in plain sight. Rather than completely disappearing from flavor text has simply been drowned out by myriad art treatments in MTG. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely Wizards will ever stop with all the art treatments, however, that doesn’t mean flavor is done for. 

Proving that flavor text can still be absolutely fantastic is The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. While spoiler season for this set hasn’t finished quite yet, already, MTG players are absolutely loving the set’s flavor text. Providing a deeper look into the story, characters, and world of Middle-earth, it’s easy to see why this flavor is loved. Unfortunately, however, there is one problem. Wizards of the Coast didn’t write any of it. 

Fantastic Fantasy Flavor

MTG Flavor Text
Friendly Rivalry | The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth

Instead of Wizards writing the flavor as usual, Tales of Middle-earth uses quotes from The Lord of the Rings books. Considering J. R. R. Tolkien is widely regarded as one of the best and most influential fantasy writers of all time, it’s no wonder the set’s flavor text is so good. To give them credit, Wizards did still have to pick and choose the right quotes to use. That being said, however, Tolkien’s writing is undeniably the star here. 

Thankfully, while it’s hard to compete with Tolkien, Wizards of the Coast has still written plenty of fantastic flavor text. Similarly expanding the story and the world, there’s a reason that players miss flavor text so much. It’s thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable to read. As good as Wizards’ flavor text is, however, there’s a major difference compared to Tolkien’s work. Unlike Wizards, Tolkien is predominantly serious. 

For better or worse, throughout recent years, Wizards’ flavor text has steadily become more whimsical and fun. Since fun is… well, fun, it’s hard to argue that this is a bad thing. As much as it is enjoyable, however, the flavor text on Aerial Boost doesn’t really tell us anything. On its own, this comical flavor text is hardly a problem, however, if used in abundance, these jokes quickly lose their luster.

Once again proving this point is Tolkien and Tales of Middle-earth. While the set does have some funny flavor text, as seen on Friendly Rivalry. This whimsy, however, is hardly the norm. Instead, as can be seen on Flowering of the White Tree or most of the set’s cards, Tolkien’s quotes literally tell a story. As you might expect, this provides more lore and detail than a funny quip ever could. 

Wizards’ Writing Woes

MTG Flavor Text

Picking up on this detail, many MTG players have recently been piling on praise for Tolkien’s work. In turn, this has also resulted in plenty of criticisms against Wizards of the Coast and their writing style. Kicking off this discussion on Reddit was user u/randomnate who stated “LTR is reminding me of how much fun it is when most Magic cards have evocative flavor text that isn’t just a joke” 

Within their post, Randomnate criticized Wizards’ flavor text for not only being funny but also too descriptive. Since describing events is how stories get told, this might not seem like a bad thing. While this is true for the written word, MTG also has art to tell its story. As a result of this, the descriptive flavor text, especially on Story Spotlight cards, can often be quite redundant. All the more so for readers of MTG’s dedicated story chapters. 

Considering this flavor text is effectively wasted, several MTG players were quick to support Randomnate’s criticisms. “I like it when the flavored text helps to tell the story,” u/MarcheMuldDerevi commented. “Story spotlight cards that just showed big events on a broad scale aren’t my favorite.” Additionally, players like u/Imnimo, for instance, joined in pushing back against the overabundance of a comedic tone. 

“I feel like Wizards mistook the fact that people find the occasional [[Root Greevil]] memorable and fun for the idea that what people want is more and more jokes and puns. Wizards often has trouble recognizing when things are good in moderation.” 

u/Imnimo

While these complaints are certainly valid, it’s important to note that Wizards isn’t entirely awful. In fact, as we mentioned before, a lot of their flavor text is absolutely fantastic. For cards such as Need for Speed and Mirrodin Avenged Wizards has produced incredibly evocative flavor text. Subsequently, the issue at hand is more about getting the balance right, rather than resurrecting Tolkein to take over writing flavor. 

Valuable Varianty

MTG Flavor Text

At the end of the day, complaints and debates around flavor text in MTG are nothing new. Beloved MTG content creator Rhystic Studies, for instance, made a video all about the topic back in 2017. Within this video, Rhystic Studies identified five different forms of flavor that have been used for years. These distinct flavor categories are Quotes from literature, World-building, Dialogue, Whimsy, and Stand-alones.

Like most things in life, each of these categories has plenty of good and bad examples. Some of these, such as cheezy dialogue, can feel much worse than others. That, however, is the crux of the issue. Flavor text is all about feeling. At the end of the day, everyone has their own opinions about what’s good and bad. 

Ultimately, this means that there’s no right answer about which line or style of flavor text is best. While there are some absolute corkers, people enjoy different things, so it’s impossible to define a universal favorite. Subsequently, it’s for the better, not worse, that MTG has such a wide range of flavor text. 

Read More: MTG Food and Fellowship Commanders May be a Trap!

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