One of the secrets of Magic: the Gathering’s success is the amazing range of worlds designed by its creative team. From the cyberpunk cityscapes of Kamigawa to the crystalline crevices of Ikoria, every plane visited offers something new. As well as offering new landscapes, different planes shift the game’s aesthetic into new genres. Innistrad sets are horror-themed, whilst Theros and Kaldheim borrow heavily from Greek and Nordic mythology respectively. Over the years, many fans have been clamoring for one specific genre to make its MTG debut: The Western. A recent poll run by Mark Rosewater, Magic’s chief designer, has provided them with an opportunity to have their voices heard.
Interest in the Wild West
Magic: the Gathering players have been discussing the idea of visiting a wild west themed plane for a long time now. Sometimes ironically and sometimes seriously and analytically. An article written in 2016 by Rosewater mentions fans asking for a Western set, demonstrating that this has been going on for at least seven years.
Yesterday, Mark Rosewater took several potential plane ideas and listed them all as options in a poll. He invited the community to vote for their favorite. At the time of writing, the poll has just closed, and the option “Wild West-Inspired World” came out ahead. 1884 people voted In the poll, which had seven options. 30% of respondents (roughly 565 people) replied they would like to see a “Wild West-Inspired World”. The next two highest options “Water World” and “Prehistoric World” each received less than half as much support with 14% of the votes each (about 264 people per option). The least popular option “Roman World” received only 9% of the votes (about 170 people). The other available options were a “Murder Mystery/Noir World”, a “Prehistoric World”, a “Prison World” and a “Sky World”.
The Challenges of a Western-Inspired World
Presenting a Wild West Themed World would open up several challenges for Magic’s designers, to overcome. In response to a fan question in 2017, about whether “Gunslinger” was a viable creature type, Rosewater said:”As we’re not interested in portraying guns, it’s not a problem we have to solve. Gun-slingers would probably just be Rogues.” There may have been a change in stance since 2017, however, as several guns have been depicted in the game in the years since. Many Universes Beyond cards such as Megatron, Tyrant and Space Marine Scout are shown wielding guns. There are even a handful of cards with guns in New Capenna like Brokers Veteren and Freelance Muscle. Whether a Western-inspired plane would omit or include guns remains to be seen.
Another challenge would come in depicting interactions between frontier settlers and indigenous cultures. This is a topic that Magic has delved into before. Notably, Ixalan block portrayed a conflict between the Spanish-inspired Vicious Conquistadors of the Legion of Dusk and the Mesoamerican-inspired soldiers of the Sun Empire. Hopefully, Wizards of the Coast would be able to handle the genre of the Western sensitively without alienating anybody.
The comments beneath the poll offer some insight into the fanbases’ views of having a Western-themed set…
darkforge23 wondered about whether the Wild West Idea was popular internationally, or merely in the US, writing: “I think the wild west popularity is mostly coming from the USA, from experience its not as popular in other parts of the world.”
tiwaztyrsfist suggested merging two of the ideas: “Combo Set, Cowboys, and Dinosaurs. Cowboys, except their riding Dinosaurs and herding Stegasuaruses and Brontos and such.”
Finally, juuuuuuuush was split between the wild west and a water world: “I’m torn because Wild West has a massive trope space and would probably lead to some really resonant designs, whereas Water World I can imagine leading to the most stunning artwork. Voted Water World because I like pretty things I guess.”
This has also sparked a discussion on Reddit about worlds that players would like to see…
Aestboi noted that there are already several Magic cards which imply the existence of a Rome-inspired plane: “Roman World has already been hinted at with Prava, Licia, and Saskia and could be an interesting “realistic” set in terms of the politicking and backstabbing.”
MisterEdJS suggested turning the water world into an undersea world: “If by “Water World” they mean, UNDERwater world, I’m all for that. Endless stretches of ocean traversed by boats or floating cities isn’t as interesting to me as exploring the world beneath the waves.”
Imnimo voiced their concerns with using this as a method to design new planes: “Honestly, I’m not a big fan of these super reductive one-trick-pony world concepts. “All of the wild west tropes we can think of” isn’t a good foundation for a compelling setting. I’d like to see less of this approach to world building.”
Overall, this poll is probably just a fun project being undertaken by the game’s chief designer. There’s nothing binding about it. Nevertheless, Magic’s designers have been shown to be receptive to player feedback in the past. Is a Western set on its way? Are any of these concepts in development? We will have to wait and see.