I don't actually want to talk about Magic The Gathering The Game
...but can I talk about how incredible Magic's story
has been this block?
(For those who don't know, each year the official 'block' of Magic is themed to a world and tells a particularly story. The stories both expressed through the cards and mechanics and outside sources, with an assemble of recurring characters who connect the story through worlds. Just as Magic is one of the most impressive examples of pure game design and expressing ideas through mechanics, it rocks at establishing worlds through mechanics too)
You can find all the stories for the most recent block here
. under 'Tarkir'. But in particular I want to highlight the story about Alesha
The basic underlying mechanics is that the block is transitioning a set using three colour card combinations to a set using two colour card combinations... but they've turned it into an actually really beautiful tragedy about trying to hold on to who you are in the face of disaster and it just lines up with the colour identity and philosophy in Magic so perfectly. They've only got 1.5 short stories to establish who the Khans are and what happens to them, but using that and their actual cards in the game they've created really compelling characters.
In particular Alesha has a really amazing youthful passion and joy for life, that you don't normally see represented in the leader of horde. She's also Magic's first transgender character, but the story only lightly uses that in combination with a story about how people define themselves (as healers and warriors and friends and allies) and then they combine all that character development with a really cool card and it ties itself together perfectly.
Khanfall is all about how the clans have to give up the parts of their cultural identity represented by the third colour being dropped in the set transition. The warrior monks have to give up their (red) warriors, the hardy desert folk give up their (black) ancestor worship, the horde no longer waits (white) for the weak and the slow to keep up, the shamanistic tribe gives up examining the future (blue) and lives in the hunt and the hedonistic necromancers give up their... well okay people are struggling to figure that one out.
It's the really rare example of a story that's better
because it's tied to a game. Not because it's told through the medium of the game, but because the games mechanics and history and colour philosophy lend so much weight and importance and cause-and-effect to the story...
Wizards of the Coast have been adjusting the way they deliver their stories and the types of story they tell, and I think this proves those changes have been an incredible success. By getting the story across through short stories published on line, the whole community has access to them and talks about them and gets excited about them, which helps the cards seem more fun and the blocks seem like a bigger deal.