Paying off years of build-up, Phyrexia: All Will Be One is undoubtedly the most impactful story-focused MTG sets in years. As the beginning of the end for the Phyrexian Arc, we’re witnessing Elesh Norn’s attempt to conquer the multiverse. Worryingly, thanks to March of the Machine’s box art, it looks like she actually succeeds! This is expected to cause considerable changes to MTG as we know it. Despite the importance of Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s story, however, MTG players haven’t been entirely happy with it. So much so that, across social media, Wizards has been inundated with complaints from disgruntled players rather than praise.
As you might expect, this article will include major Phyrexia: All Will Be One story spoilers. Subsequently, if you haven’t read the ten chapters of the story and wish to do so, we’d recommend you do that now.
Speed Over Substance
Throughout the ten chapters of Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s story, it’s safe to say that MTG players have been taken on a wild ride. After all, the prediction that Elesh Norn would win during the set’s story turned out to be true. As you might expect, this means things didn’t go well for Magic’s heroes, with five more iconic Planeswalkers getting Compleated. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the chaotic Tibalt also managed to get Compleated, presumably to just be a nuisance. Worse than Tibalt being up to no good. However, Elspeth took The Filigree Sylex, sacrificed herself, and vanished. Following years of build-up, MTG’s story has finally hit its all-is-lost moment.
While Phyrexia: All Will Be One has dramatic revelations aplenty to make the story interesting, that hasn’t appeased MTG fans. In fact, due to how much happens in the action-packed story, the opposite is true. Only comprised of 10 (roughly 5000 words) chapters, MTG players have ultimately been left feeling that the story was rushed. Throughout recent sets, this problem has been a growing concern. However, it has now reached its breaking point. Subsequently, MTG players have been voicing their frustrations about the bungled story across social media. Some players, such as Snugz on Tumblr, have even voiced their complaints to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater.
“If you could pass on a message to the Creative Team, the stories are good. That said, the pacing is awful. Not the release cadence, but the actual flow of the events and narrative. They feel incredibly rushed and have felt that way for the last several sets. Even just increasing the number of stories from five to six would help. I know there is a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff that dictates aspects of the process, but even making one of the side story slots into a full narrative chapter would probably help a lot.”Snuz
Unfortunately for MTG players looking for a resolution to this issue, Mark Rosewater didn’t offer fans much of a solution. Instead, as Rosewater often does, the question was turned back around on the community. Hoping to gauge the wider community’s feelings, Rosewater simply asked, “how do others feel about the pacing of the story?” As usual, following this request for comment, Mark Rosewater was swiftly inundated with responses from eager and disgruntled players.
Immediately replying to Mark Rosewater’s question on Tumblr, many players voiced their dismay at how Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s story was handled. Tumblr user Mapperofthemultiverse, for instance, complained that since the abolition of blocks in 2018, Magic’s story has suffered. “The pacing not only feels rushed but often feels without any creative direction. With all due respect, sets like the Tarkir block and the original Urza/Phyrexia saga were only successful because they took the time to actually flesh out the story.” Similarly, Ebonstone on Tumblr highlighted that the crowded release calendar had dampened the story’s impact. “With the increase of released product, the story feels like it flies by. Particularly when the story doesn’t take three sets to tell what is done with one set now.”
Unfortunately for Wizards, it wasn’t just one or two players pointing out the faults in the current content release strategy. Throughout the Tumblr post and an accompanying Reddit post, literally hundreds of players voiced their concerns and complaints. While players obviously expressed a range of opinions, the vast majority of players felt the same way. Phyrexia: All Will Be One’s story, and many before it, for that matter, feel rushed. This has seriously squandered the impact of several sets’ stories, as they’re too condensed and too quickly forgotten.
“I doubt much can be done about it from the Creative side of things, but I feel like the stories are way too fast because of the one set structure. New Capenna is a great example. With characters dead or defeated before we even got to play with them once, I didn’t feel any reason to get invested in new characters.”Jartis94
“MOM is a nightmare of a story in my opinion. Not for the reasons I’ve been looking forward to… Pacing terrible. Story arcs feel missing. No explanation for story beats… and so on. This should be a really heart-wrenching story with the loss of some of our fav walkers. Instead, it feels rushed and soulless. Feels like they threw a bunch of walkers in a hat drew names and put them into the story without rhyme or reason. Why is Lukka there, like seriously?”Nemesis-cat
“Most of the stories in sets for the past couple of years could have REALLY used a 6th or 7th chapter. The story might say X time has passed, but the way it feels is as if it’s all literally done in a day or two. That’s also why the entire Bolas arc felt rushed as well. And now the current Phyrexian arc suffers too. The stories themselves are good, but wow does the whole thing feel like it’s only been about a week total.”Shadowstar91
“The pacing does feel pretty rushed in places, especially in the denser stories. (Pacing has seemed much more rushed in the ONE story than in the NEO story, for example). Having said that, the side stories have by and large been the best magic fiction that gets released. Getting perspectives on the plane that don’t come from ‘walkers is a great way to allow us to connect with and love the characters and plane featured”Tf1wayfarer
What Can Wizards Do?
Thankfully, while several recent stories have left some players wanting, Wizards can fix this issue. The easiest solution, which many MTG players were quick to suggest, is that Wizards should release more story chapters. While this would require more work from Wizards’ writers, it could allow the story to flourish. After all, as Tumblr user Nyquilforthechildren pointed out, there’s definitely more story to be told.
“I feel like there’s definitely room for more stories, plot points seem to hit every other paragraph in the current stories. Going more in-depth into the feelings of the characters, and exploring more than one perspective would add more tension in the plot. Right now major characters are having things happen to them and it doesn’t feel impactful in the slightest.”Nyquilforthechildren
Alongside increasing the number of chapters, several players stated that how Wizards releases story chapters also need improving. Offering up a potential solution, some players called for the return of books. “I miss having a full book to flesh things out,” Ghostlygideon commented on Tumblr. “The more the better.” While this would require substantial effort, it would provide a digestible alternative to reading an assortment of blog posts. At the right price, lore-filled MTG books could even be a supplemental revenue stream for Wizards.
While more chapters and books were the most obvious solutions, some players suggested a more dramatic approach. For instance, u/mariustargaryen on Reddit suggested that Wizards should completely overhaul a set’s story structure. Proposing a model that releases chapters in the lull between sets, u/mariustargaryen’s model could give MTG’s story the space it deserves.
“We should have some stories between sets as well. One per week, let’s say, between ONE and MOM. Let’s see what other people on other planes do to prepare for the Phyrexian invasion. One story on Innistrad, another on Zendikar, another on Arcavios, and so on. Also, show us how the Phyrexians are preparing.”u/mariustargaryen
While releasing story chapters after a set’s launch may seem like a death sentence, recent leaks have proved that might not be the case. Following Phyrexia: All Will Be One being excessively leaked, many major story moments, such as Jace’s Compleation, were prematurely spoiled. Despite this, players were still deeply excited about the story chapters, as they told the entire story, not just the plot points. Subsequently, overhauling the story release strategy might not be such an outlandish idea after all.