Birgi, God of Storytelling
15, Mar, 24

MTG Designer Discusses Potentially Returning Blocks Feature

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Article at a Glance

While mostly unremarkable while they were around, since their disappearance, Blocks have become a beloved past feature to many MTG fans. Looking at their strong suits, it’s entirely unsurprising why players have been so eager to see them return. At their best, blocks provided incredible flavor, storytelling, and thematic consistency that MTG players loved!

Unfortunately, as much as there were highlights, there were a fair few bad blocks too. Unlike an unremarkable modern MTG set, these bad blocks would drag on, hurting MTG and selling poorly. Due to this, it was no wonder that Wizards decided to change things. At first, three-set blocks became two, and now blocks are gone altogether.

Despite the problems with blocks not being ancient history, the petitions and calls for their return are loud and practically constant. Even after being told no time and time again, players are still determined to will their wish into existence. While it’s unlikely this manifested reality is going to materialize anytime soon, it seems blocks may not be entirely dead.

Thanks to new comments from MTG’s Lead Designer, it appears that one of the best bits of blocks could return. Provided that there’s enough genuine support behind this movement, at least.

Act One: The Best Bit of Blocks

Heartwood Storyteller
Heartwood Storyteller | Future Sight

Thanks to opinions existing, there’s no one right answer to which bit of blocks was best. That being said, throughout recent years, there have been consistent complaints about MTG’s storytelling. While there have been some absolutely cracking sets, and the writing is almost always fantastic, stories can nonetheless feel rushed.

With stories only being allocated five or ten chapters to explore the world, characters, and plot, everything happens incredibly quickly. To exacerbate this problem, MTG sets are now jumping from one plane to the next with very little connective tissue. This makes every story self-contained, requiring all the setup, action, and consequences in one.

Unfortunately, while this condensed storytelling hasn’t gone down well for the majority of sets, Streets of New Capenna was an especially egregious example of this as a supposedly major death fell completely flat. Without enough setup to establish the world and characters, no one cared when Xander got murdered.

Sadly for fans of meaningful deaths and extended stories, it seems Wizards doesn’t have many in store. Looking ahead at the 2024 and 2025 release calendars, every set is a one-off adventure. Technically all these sets are part of the Omenpath, Dragonstorm, and REDACTED story arcs, but they’re nonetheless on different planes.

As if the upcoming release calendar wasn’t worrying enough, the one saving grace for storytelling crashed and burned hard. Released in 2023, March of the Machine: The Aftermath had great storytelling potential. Positioned to deliver actual consequences to MTG’s biggest story, this micro-set could have fixed some of the major story problems.

For better or worse, March of the Machine: The Aftermath was a tremendous failure and almost universally hated by fans. As a result, Wizards isn’t going to make any more micro-sets anytime soon. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean the hope for story improvements is over.

Act Two: Electric Boogaloo

Wedding Announcement | Innistrad: Crimson Vow
Wedding Announcement | Innistrad: Crimson Vow

In theory, simply returning to the three or even two-set block structure would fix MTG’s current story woes. Sadly, that theory isn’t going to happen, but that doesn’t mean the story couldn’t learn a lesson or two. As Tumblr user Andalon-historian notes, blocks really did nail MTG stories, however, they needn’t necessarily return in their entirety.

In a question to Mark Rosewater, Andalon-historian highlighted how blocks essentially had a two or three-act structure. Theoretically, post-block sets could still do this with minimal effort, especially if set on the same plane. Curiously, post-block sets such as Innistrad Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow have already proved themselves to be remarkably bad at this.

Despite this past precedent, Rosewater seemed to be receptive to the idea of massively overhauling MTG’s storytelling. Turning the questions back to Blogatog readers, Rosewater asked “Do others share this desire? Would a continued story, but on a different world satisfy some of the ‘block feel’?”

Unsurprisingly, in the comments, a lot of keen MTG players shared their support for this story structure. With some users going as far as to say “That’d be pretty neat,” it certainly seems the idea has merit. As usual, not everyone was fully supportive, however, the vast majority of comments endorsed this change.

Beyond wanting a more connected story, many players highlighted the demand for simply more stories. Whether it be via books or additional story chapters, more words should result in better storytelling. While this seems like another surefire success, unfortunately, story chapters do cost money that Wizards is unlikely to allocate despite record successes.

Act Three: What Comes Next

Once and Future
Once and Future | Throne of Eldraine

Ultimately, even if they sound good, there’s no telling if any plans to fix MTG’s story problems would work. Sure, having interconnected stories sounds great in theory, but it can’t work everywhere. Looking ahead, each 2024 and 2025 set has not only a unique plane but also a seriously unique theme. Fusing these together to tell the same story in a different place would likely feel seriously unnatural.

For better or worse, while linked sets could have their problem, we likely wouldn’t see them until 2026. Thanks to Wizards of the Coast working over two years in advance, anything Rosewater implements would take a long time to materialize. Since these are rather grand story changes, players may even be waiting until 2027 or beyond.

At the end of the day, while it’s possible the reaction to Rosewater’s question could facilitate a change at Wizards, nothing is guaranteed. Since only a tiny minority of players are commenting here, it’s admittedly unlikely to overhaul the story design. As if this wasn’t disappointing enough, one thing we do know is that the chances of blocks returning are seriously slim. 

While MTG players may miss them, Wizards moved from blocks in the past for good reason. “The message that we got loud and clear during the block era was that players generally don’t like staying on the same plane,” Rosewater states. Even if the opposite seems true now, it’s worth remembering that Wizards has all the data, allowing them to see the big picture.

For better or worse, this abundance of data means Wizards should always follow what works best. Sadly, these decisions and innovations aren’t always going to be to everyone’s tastes, but they are for the game’s good.

Read More: MTG Bans May Have Failed to Kill Problematic Archetype

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