Bring the Ending
6, Feb, 23

MTG Players Desperately Want More Flavor Text

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Article at a Glance

Typically, as enticing as it is to some, the story in MTG can take a back seat to Magic’s gameplay. Recently, however, thanks to the ongoing Phyrexian Arc, MTG’s story is more important than it has been in years. In the past four sets alone, many iconic Planeswalkers have died, been Compleated, and disappeared beyond the blind eternities. While this has been terribly exciting, it has exposed some shortcomings with Wizards of the Coast’s storytelling. Each set’s story chapters, for one, have left much to be desired for many MTG players. Unfortunately, things aren’t much better within the set itself, as flavor text has slowly been falling by the wayside. Thankfully, this worrying trend might not be set to continue, as MTG players are campaigning for more flavor text. 

Fading Flavor

Bruna, the Fading Light
Bruna, the Fading Light | Eldrich Moon

In recent years, flavor text has been seriously at risk of being pushed off MTG cards altogether. Thanks to the increasing complexity of MTG, cards are steadily becoming more and more verbose. For example, Mercurial Spelldancer, from Phyrexia: All Will Be One, is absolutely chockablock with text. Featuring 60 words of pure rules text jargon, Mercurial Spelldancer barely has any room for flavor text. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some MTG Arena cards are even more overwhelmingly wordy. Calim, Djinn Emperor, for instance, has so much text that a scroll bar is required to read it!

While a growing number of cards are too wordy to support flavor text, this beloved text hasn’t been eradicated entirely. In fact, recent sets have had a relatively good showing, with ONE, BRO, and DMU having 157, 170, and 146 new pieces of flavor text, respectively. For comparison, Streets of New Capenna and Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty only had 133 and 135 pieces of flavor text each. Despite this recent supply of flavor thanks to the Phyrexian Arc, concerns about MTG’s fading flavor have still been prevalent. Thankfully, if Wizards listen to the community, flavor text won’t go anywhere. 

Utilizing Tumblr’s poll feature, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, has been turning the tables on their devoted community. Being the one asking the questions for a change, Rosewater recently asked which novelty plane players might want next. Following this, Rosewater has gone on to tackle the question of flavor, giving players a chance to voice their concerns. In responding to the question, “do you think flavor text plays an important role in the game?” it certainly seems that MTG players are concerned, to say the least. 

Rapturous Response

Guttural Response
Guttural Response | Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might

Without a clear indication of why Rosewater asked this question, MTG players came out in droves to voice their support. In one of the most one-sided polls we’ve seen in years, a staggering 94% of players voted in favor of flavor text’s importance. While only 1513 players participated in this poll, the results still speak for themselves; flavor text is most definitely important. Further highlighting this point beyond their simple yes vote, many players, like Walvens, commented on Tumblr to emphasize their support. “Given that I only started playing because of flavor text, it’s essential to each and every match I play, being the indirect reason I’m even there.” 

Alongside the players who echoed Walvens’ reasoning, others, including 1for3ban, posited Wizards needs to do more. “I think flavor text is honestly underutilized, especially on showcase cards.” Thankfully, while this has been a concern of the past, Magic’s most recent set has rebuked this trend. Putting other sets to shame, Phyrexia: All Will Be One recently showed how good showcase card flavor text can be. Utilizing the striking Borderless Ichor showcase frames, Wizards turned the already stellar flavor up to 11. Writing new flavor text from the point of view of the Phyrexians, Wizards effortlessly made New Phyerxia’s world substantially deeper. 

Unfortunately, while fourteen of Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s 40 showcase cards received this new flavor text, many cards simply didn’t have the space. This issue even occasionally affects Magic’s Story Showcase cards, ruining some of the flavorful potential of these cards. As Thomler commented on Tumblr, this is “another downside of the increased text/rules in text boxes. Interesting cards missing flavor text.” Thankfully, while this has been a growing concern, recent changes should help mitigate cards missing flavor text. 

Consolidated Complexity

Flavor Judge
Flavor Judge | Unsanctioned

With so many MTG players highlighting the importance of flavor, it seems highly likely that Wizards will work to appease these story-hungry players. This, however, isn’t as easy as just commissioning writers to fill in the missing flavor. While MTG Arena may support flavor text outside of the card itself, paper players don’t have this digital luxury. Subsequently, as Mark Rosewater recently explained, flavor text is one of the last elements to be added when making cards. “Flavor text is written after the cards are templated as we don’t need to do work that will just be thrown out.” 

Initially, this sensible focus on mechanics first may seem to spell the end of flavor text, thanks to complexity creep. In reality, however, Wizards has recently been simplifying the text on many cards by making several mechanics deciduous. Removing the need to write out rules text every time, this decision should free up some space for flavor text. For now, it’s too early to tell if Wizards will actually capitalize on the extra space they create. From the results of Rosewater’s poll, however, it seems that Wizards should do this to appease the community. 

Read More: New MTG Foils Are Almost Unplayable

*MTG Rocks is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more