16, Jun, 23

MTG Players Up in Arms with Massive Pacing Problems!

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Article at a Glance

Without a doubt, March of the Machine was a controversial set. While many MTG players appreciated the gameplay of MTG’s most recent core set, others felt the story wasn’t fully developed. What is clear, though, is that most of the negative feedback for the set was based on lore, not mechanics. There seems to be a clear consensus amongst players about what the story was missing and what needed to be done to improve it. Here is, more or less, the feedback collected by MTG Designer Mark Rosewater in an attempt to write his final notes on the March of the Machine set.

The Good

Invasion of Amonkhet

“March of the Machine would have done well to be stretched into two sets, featuring the middle and end of the war, instead of one set trying to do both. Battles were an awesome idea, and they’ve been a blast to play with, and the Praetor’s new card designs were fascinating. The story, mainly because of how truncated the invasion became, felt rushed and somewhat anticlimactic.”

iamthespineofmybook

“Battles are great! Love ’em, especially the fact that you cast the backside rather than them just transforming. I was initially sceptical about Incubator tokens but they’re actually surprisingly fun to play with. I absolutely ADORE the GU and UR limited archetypes. Well, I adore the transform GU archetype. For UR, it’s just a nice breath of fresh air seeing something that isn’t spellslinger or artifacts. Also, the creatures transforming into Phyrexians were perfect!”

violant-apologia

As mentioned, players made very clear that March of the Machine got its gameplay right. This may also have been the hardest part for Wizards of the Coast to get right, especially when detailing the new Battle card type.

From a design perspective, it is difficult to make a new card type that won’t break Constructed formats wide open, but is also powerful enough to see play and keep people interested. If Companions were any indication, creating something entirely new can be hard to balance.

Not only did Battles do a great job balancing playability and power level, but they clearly were also enjoyable to play with, especially in Limited. In addition to Battles, there were other card types that could transform as well. Incubate was a relatively well-received mechanic, as many people enjoyed the value it added to games of Limited. The Praetors were also a hit. Being able to work towards sinking mana into one to transform it into something game-breaking was an exciting proposition.

Another thing that won over many players who engaged with March of the Machine was the Multiverse Legends bonus sheet. Not only did this add a unique dynamic to drafting, but the opportunity for collectors to obtain valuable Legendary reprints in packs was exciting for many.

As you may notice, none of these points mention the story at all, and almost everyone that gave feedback had gripes with the lore.

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The Bad

Elesh Norn

“The story felt cheap. The entire invasion felt like it lasted maybe a day and half, during which phyresis somehow transformed half the population of every plane and somehow shut down entirely as though Norn was a glorified router. Praetors were killed with no sense of significance, phyresis was reversed for key characters, characters like Koma didn’t get a card but there was always space for yet another Glissa.”

anamelessdemon

The lack of detail in the story seemed like a unanimous complaint from the MTG community. A lot of hype surrounded the Phyrexian Invasion at the beginning, yet players were left wondering why the end of it felt so abrupt and soulless. Words like rushed, anticlimactic, crammed, and uninspired were all used to describe the invasion specifically. As pointed out by The Professor, while ads for March of the Machine were still featuring the Phyrexian Invasion itself, players already knew how the story ended, drastically altering how impactful the ad was.

These feelings seemed to carry over into March of the Machine: The Aftermath as well. Much of the story was meant to focus on Planeswalkers losing their spark, yet even this appeared to be lacking in substance. Players wanted a more thorough explanation of what was happening throughout the invasion and its aftermath rather than feeling like the invasion began, then abruptly ended without a sense of meaning.

As bad as March of the Machine was received for its lore, March of the Machine: the Aftermath had almost no positive reviews in any aspect.

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The Ugly

Ob Nixilis, Captive Kingpin

“March of the Machine would have done well to be stretched into two sets, featuring the middle and end of the war, instead of one set trying to do both. Battles were an awesome idea, and they’ve been a blast to play with, and the Praetor’s new card designs were fascinating. The story, mainly because of how truncated the invasion became, felt rushed and somewhat anticlimactic.”

iamthespineofmybook

“Stories matter. Closure matters. A multiverse changing event like the majority of Planeswalkers losing the thing that made them Planeswalkers matter. Aftermath seemed more like an afterthought. A whole set could have been made about the repercussions of the March of the Machine. But instead we get 5 card boosters, no draft or sealed, and very little story. I know part of the idea is to tell the story through the cards, but I feel that WOTC has done less and less meaningful storytelling since you all made the choice to get away from the three set blocks. Stories should have a Beginning, a middle, and an end. I haven’t felt that for quite some time in the Multiverse.”

talesofetherian

March of the Machine: The Aftermath was ridiculed in player feedback for a number of reasons. The first had to do, again, with the Planeswalkers losing their spark. Rather than going in depth about how this happened and why it was important, most people felt like the story simply transitioned to this stage with no added context. Stories are generally supposed to flow from one topic to the next.

Even though this transition was received poorly, complaints with the story in March of the Machine not only carried over to March of the Machine: the Aftermath, they got even more critical.

Product Qualms

These critiques weren’t just directed at the story, however. Many people were willing to give March of the Machine a pass as the gameplay was so good. That was not the case with March of the Machine: the Aftermath – since there was, more or less, a lack of any gameplay. Cards that impacted various metagames saw their chance to shine but, aside from the odd Commander game, the rest of Aftermath’s cards may simply end up lost to time.

Importantly, the story goes deeper than just Planeswalkers losing their spark, yet over a third of the cards in the set had to do with these Planeswalkers. This left little room to showcase any other consequences of the invasion and the following events. This meant that the appearance of the Omenpaths, which may be the most dire of the consequences of the Phyrexian Invasion, were mostly ignored in the context of Aftermath’s physical content.

Perhaps the biggest gripe that players had was with the product itself. Boosters containing only five cards felt like a gut punch to players that enjoyed opening product, playing with cards in a Limited environment, and even collecting the set.

Even worse, the product was not on the cheaper side as many players expected. This left customers feeling betrayed for having invested their time into March of the Machine, only to have it and the storyline feel unfinished. The feedback showcased a large amount of frustration within the community, yet people all seemed to believe there was an easy solution.

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The Solution

“It was decent. I liked the various individual parts. But the whole was less than the sum of the parts; as I said about Aftermath, it really wanted to be a two-set block. Given more room to breathe, it could’ve been great.”

philippesaner

“I loved the set and as mostly a collector I especially loved the team-up cards and much of multiverse legends. But as already mentioned it should have been done as two full sets. The story definitely suffered from being crammed into one set despite the extra story articles. It should have been two sets with the expanded amount of story.”

rotesheinrich

Over and over, the comments made it evident that players wanted this to be spread out into multiple sets. The invasion, rather than being thought of as one simple event, could have been expanded in greater detail. Rather than go over the Phyrexian invasion in one set, actually dive into how the tides turned against the Praetors and why that mattered.

As mentioned by talesofetherian’s feedback, stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. This just was not realistic to accomplish in March of the Machine alone compared to a potential three-set block structure. Maybe this will trigger a change in set structure moving forward, only time will tell.

Hopefully this feedback has a decent influence on sets moving forward. If anything, it showcases how much people care about the lore and how troublesome it is to be lazy in storytelling.

It may be hard to design a set and check all the boxes, but many players felt like March of the Machine: the Aftermath, in particular, didn’t check any boxes, period. Hopefully, Wizards of the Coast will pay more attention to doing a potentially powerful story like this one its due diligence in the future.

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