This one will be a little off the rails. A couple weeks ago, I highlighted an opportunity I saw for Wizards to do something risky but with the potential to change Modern forever. The feedback I received was… voluminous, and well appreciated, even though most everyone disagreed with me. Regardless, I learned something through the process, or at least I think I did, which brings us to my article today. I’ve noticed, as you probably have too, a general level of stagnation when it comes to the Modern discourse, on this site and others. I remember fondly a time around a year ago when Eldrazi played two Sol Rings, every article I wrote generated comments galore, and anonymous individuals from across the globe could shout whatever they pleased at me with no fear of repercussions. It truly was the wild west.
Times have changed. I’m over two years into my position as content writer here at Nexus, and while I love having a platform to talk about whatever I want week after week, I’ve found myself growing tired. Sunday nights, scrolling through tournament results, wondering what I’m going to write about this week. I’ve grown… less interested, and judging by your engagement, less interesting. I still love writing, and I enjoy the feedback I do receive, but I can’t help but reminisce on the glory days, when my words had more impact, generated emotion, stirred controversy. It’s this memory that led me to branch out a few weeks ago, in search of a topic that could be called fresh. It’s this memory that leads me to my topic today.
Part 1: Another Lover
I have a confession to make. I’ve been seeing someone on the side. It’s not you, it’s me. When I said I had been testing Grixis Death’s Shadow, what I was really doing was playing some Star Wars: Destiny on the side. I can explain. Grixis is great, but things have just gotten so routine between us. Matches are predictable; the fire is gone. I just don’t feel the energy anymore, you know? Star Wars: Destiny, on the other hand, it’s dangerous. I feel like I get it, and it gets me. There’s violence in it, it’s real. I can’t explain it; when I play it, I just feel so alive. And I think I can fly.
Magic players are notorious for playing one game. Magic: The Gathering is a jealous lover—it requires all of your time, doesn’t like it when you talk to others, watches you when you think it isn’t looking. I know; I’ve been there, and it wasn’t healthy. It’s because I know this that I can feel you getting uncomfortable as I’m sitting here, talking about another option. But there is life outside of Magic, whether you want to admit it or not.
Star Wars: Destiny, like any individual on the side, has its flaws. It’s goldfishy and non-interactive at times, and downright broken at others. For all of that, though, the game has identity. Every deck feels unique, as every deck is unique, thanks to character pairings that change how each archetype plays and feels. Playing Poe Dameron and Maz Kanata feels like your playing a different game compared to Darth Vader and Royal Guard. Emperor Palpatine and Bala-Tik/Tie Pilot/Stormtrooper/Stormtrooper are both villain decks, but they couldn’t be less alike. Each deck is 30 cards, and you see all 30 cards just about every game. Players are allowed up to two copies of any card, and the tuning… it’s incredible. I know it hurts to hear me say this to you, but I’m telling you. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
I know Star Wars: Destiny is bad for me. Fantasy Flight Games’s Organized Play is, for the most part, nonexistent, and the title of World Champion means nothing, and is worth even less. High-level tournament prizes reward players with trophies and playmats. “Cash” is a dirty word, not even whispered in secret. But the games, man. 48 different characters after two sets, with more on the way. Infinite possibilities; creativity to satisfy all desires. It’s bad for me, but I just can’t stop. I’ve considered drastic changes. Quitting Magic. Devoting myself to a non-existent, unreliable tournament circuit. Writing strategy articles (wait, I actually am doing that one). It has me in its clutches, and I don’t know why.
Part 2: What She Has That You Don’t
Actually, I do know why. I’m telling you all of this, confessing my sins to you, because I’ve looked deep down inside myself, found something that scared me, and am baring it all. Magic: The Gathering has lost my interest recently, and Star Wars: Destiny has enticed me, because while deep down I know that Magic: The Gathering is right for me, I just can’t help but imagine life differently. See, Magic: The Gathering is reliable. I know what I’m getting when I lock myself down; I know what time she’ll be home at night. The games are fun, but I’m imagining our future and it feels the same. I’ve been playing for six years, but it feels like sixty.
Part of this comes from best-of-three matches. I’m not advocating for Magic to remove this feature, as the game probably wouldn’t survive. It’s just… winning doesn’t really feel like winning. Take down game one, and you don’t feel “happiness” or “victory.” I feel relief most of the time—relief as I dodged the game-one loss and avoided the feeling of dread that comes with having to claw back two victories to take the match. Games of Magic often feel like work, but the work I’m doing is minesweeping explosives out of a desert of cancer. Every step is a wince as my life flashes before my eyes. Phew, avoided the mull to five. Phew, avoided the nut draw. Phew, avoided the mana screw. Phew, avoided the unwinnable matchup. Phew, actually saw my sideboard card! Magic is addicting, because it delivers its drug in continuous drips. The constant drip of relief as disaster is dodged.
See, I bought into a lie. Red decks feel different then green decks! Black decks feel evil, while white decks feel heroic! This might be true in Limited, to an extent, but we don’t really experience Magic this way ever, especially in Modern. Affinity decks are fast, Jund decks are grindy, Living End is crazy. That’s true on a macro level, but in-game things feel similar. Hope you get a good mix of lands and spells, hope the top of your deck delivers, hope your opponent doesn’t run you over. Decisions are fairly straightforward, and there are maybe a handful of things you can do to influence a match one way or another.
It’s hard to communicate this to you without you actually playing the game, but Star Wars: Destiny just feels different. It’s powerful, in a way that Magic aspires to be. You draw five cards a turn if you want. The decisions are literally endless. There is no tether to lands to play things; you gain set resources each turn, and can gain extras through cards and dice rolls. The dice rolls, which made me skeptical at first, provide that variance that Magic does, without the crazy highs and lows that accompany it. Even though the game in its current state is actually kind of broken, you can still win with anything. That’s something that is hard to explain, even though I’ve been in the middle of it for weeks now.
Part 3: The Point
This isn’t an article about getting you to dump Magic and play Destiny. This article, these 1250 words I’ve written up to this point, are my way of voicing what I’ve been feeling for a long time; Magic, for all its charms, isn’t perfect, and it’s missing things. Infect, that old archetype that once existed, had a palpable identity. Splinter Twin brought fear to the table. Dredge carried with it a certain feeling of doom. Magic’s game design is perfect, I know that now. But the cost of perfection is soul. Given enough time, Modern has turned from a format that could claim unique experiences to a grind-fest of value and percentages. Elves used to feel so on the edge. They knew they were playing garbage cards, and you knew it too. The goal for them was to be as fast as possible, and for us to stop them at all costs. Now, there’s the primary game, and the Collected Company value subgame. Eldrazi used to feel broken (well, it was broken, but it felt broken too). Now it’s just gigantic things packed with game text after another until you collapse. Control used to feel unique; ugly and slow and plodding and hopeless, but nevertheless, unique. Now it feels like Jund with a different skin on it. The well has been poisoned.
I’m not sure what can be done. The rules shouldn’t change, but Magic is missing that pull, that allure of a unique experience that keeps me coming back. The system is perfect, as it always was. But I need something more than perfection. This is what draws me to shake-up bans. This is what has me smiling at the thought of broken things like Treasure Cruise getting printed. I feel, deep down, that at this point it’s difficult to create something unique and fresh from the vast number of cards already printed without breaking the game wide open. I know I’m in the minority, and Magic is growing, but I find myself growing away from it. I still love it, I know we are right for each other, but my eye is wandering. I don’t plan on leaving, but I feel guilty for thinking about it.
Thanks for reading,
Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!