17, Mar, 23

MTG is Finally Fixing Its Story Problems!

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Article at a Glance

Having almost 30 years of history behind it, it’s safe to say Magic: the Gathering has an incredibly rich story. With gorgeous art, entertaining flavor text, as well as dedicated story chapters, the game certainly has no shortage of world-building. Thanks to all this, even the game’s planes can sometimes feel like their own intricately designed characters. While this rich tapestry of lore has always been part of MTG, more recently, story content has become increasingly important. Spicing things up by putting the fate of the multiverse in jeopardy, Wizards has recently been embracing major story arcs. Within these climactic multi-set epics, the story is obviously front and center. Unfortunately, however, while often profoundly entertaining, these major story events haven’t exactly been perfect in the eyes of many players.

Suspect Storytelling

Story Seeker
Story Seeker | Kaldheim

In case you’ve somehow missed all the story spotlight cards, and climactic reveals throughout the past half dozen sets, Magic: the Gathering is currently in the midst of the Phyrexian Arc. Similarly to the Bolas Arc before it, this major story event has the fate of the multiverse hanging in the balance once again. This time around, as the name suggests, the main antagonists are the Phyrexians, led by Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. Curiously, within this story arc, the Phyrexians are actually winning, turning the established order on its head. This has made following the story incredibly compelling, as it’s full of twists and turns that have players on the edge of their seats.

Unfortunately, however, as entertaining as the story chapters have been during Phyrexian Arc, it has exposed some major storytelling faults. Thankfully, these faults aren’t by the talented writers Wizards employs, but instead, they stem from how the story is managed. Rather than freely being able to tell the story in all its glory, Wizards writers only have so much space. The most recent set, Phyrexia: All Will Be One, this was roughly 50,000 words. In theory, this may seem like a lot, especially considering this word count is equivalent to a roughly 128-page novel. In reality, however, as the penultimate set in the Phyrexian Arc, Phyrexia: All Will Be One had a lot more story to tell. 

Unfortunately, due to space constraints, important moments ended up happening off-screen during Phyrexia: All Will Be One. This understandably frustrated many MTG players, who lamented WotC rushing the pacing of this otherwise entertaining story. Thankfully, following the repeated complaints to MTG’s Lead Designer, it seems Wizards has taken notice. For March of the Machine, at least, MTG’s story is finally getting better.

Story Solutions

Birgi, God of Storytelling
Birgi, God of Storytelling | Kaldheim

Given its position as the final set in the Phyrexian Arc, March of the Machine’s story is finally getting the space it deserves. Revealed by Wizards during a recent Livestream, this upcoming set is mercifully getting additional story chapters. Instead of the usual ten, March of the Machine is getting eighteen story episodes. Out of these, ten will be dedicated to telling the set’s main story, while eight are supplemental side stories. With the set’s story having only just begun yesterday, sadly, it’s too early to tell if these additional story chapters will make a difference. That being said, the story so far is already entertaining, especially thanks to Lukka, so it’s well worth a read. 

Thankfully, for March of the Machine, Wizards of the Coast isn’t only increasing the number of story chapters being produced. As for the first time, WotC is now creating “Story Preview” videos on the Magic: the Gathering Arena YouTube channel. Within these videos, the opening quarter of each story chapter is narrated, creating a more accessible experience for fans. So far, even with only two story previews having been released, they’re already a celebrated addition to MTG’s storytelling roster. “Awesome to see an official audio version! I hope you keep it up,” YouTube user Slam T. Jams commented. 

Unfortunately, while the story preview videos have been incredibly well received, sadly, they’re are some complaints. Namely around the fact that only a quarter of each story chapter is retold with this compelling narration. As YouTube user Thanhtacles points out “a lot more people would be interested in the story if there were more of these in [a] slightly longer format.” Thankfully, for fans, after longer format story content, Wizards of the Coast is also bringing back the Magic Story Podcast!

“The Magic Story Podcast is a podcast dedicated to the lore of Magic: The Gathering and its Multiverse. Whether you have been playing Magic for years or just discovered it yesterday, the podcast is intended to be a fun, easy-to-grok entry point to dive deeper into the various characters, settings, and stories that make up Magic: The Gathering.

Tune in to join Wizards of the Coast hosts Harless Snyder (product marketing manager) and Natalie Kreider (game producer) as they take you through the Multiverse like never before. Discover new interplanar secrets, learn more about your favorite Planeswalkers, and explore a new side of the various planes we’ve visited.”

Wizards of the Coast

Future Frustrations

Once and Future
Once and Future | Throne of Eldraine

Unfortunately, as compelling and well-received as all the increased storytelling has been already, there’s no telling if it will stick. Without an official comment from Wizards, it’s hard to say for certain, however, sadly, the future doesn’t look good. Not for the Magic Story Podcast, at least, which is only returning for “four seasons.” With two of these seasons having releasing already, it seems the podcast’s days are numbered following the Phyrexian Arc. Hopefully, considering success breeds repetition, the podcast may return in the future, however, currently, that’s just a hopeful pipe dream. 

For better or worse, Wizards hasn’t commented on the future of story preview videos or the increased number of chapters. Considering they help boost the story’s reach while fixing pacing problems, we hope they stick around. Should Wizards want to go all in on story content once again, they could even revive the shortlived MTG soundtracks. Only released for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and Streets of New Capenna, these soundtracks were surprisingly good, and very welcome releases. Sadly, having disappeared since Streets of New Capenna, the future of this flavorful venture is unclear. As with the story preview videos and additional chapters, we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds for MTG.

Read More: Wizards of the Coast Officially Recognizes New MTG Format!

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