Jester’s ReCap Episode 6: Card Quality, Extra Characters, and Explorers of Ixalan

Greetings Magic Community,

Hello again! Welcome to the Jester’s ReCap, where I go off the top of my head and try to cover the last couple weeks of Magic News as best I can without having to read or research anything. Sometimes, in a game as cool and fun as Magic, that gives me a lot of positive stuff to talk about. Not this week. This week is we’re going to run down the greatest hits of WOTC screw-ups: card stock problems, story structure issues, and incredibly narrow product releases. But before we get to all that, let’s start with the gold standard.

MTGO Sucks

Look, last time I came to terms with some stuff. In a moment of self-realization I recognized that MTGO’s sucking is something that I have my small part in. I love MTGO, and enable it, even though it seems to hate me with every line of code in its being. So, today let’s not play the blame game. Let’s just bask in the sucking of MTGO. MTGO’s suckage is like a natural wonder of the modern world. It’s the kind of Sucking that people should always see at least once before they die, like a great landmark. In the same way that the Grand Canyon is deep and vast and incredible, MTGO is a bottomless chasm that I pitch all my money into. Niagara Falls dumps over 3,000 tons of water a second. That’s over 2.5 million litres a second, or 700,000 gallons for those of you stuck using Freedom Units.  Magic drowns a player in bullshit, bugs, and salt at a vastly superior rate. Mount Everest still stands as a mighty challenge for any adventurer seeking the ultimate thrill.  MTGO challenges players with lag so bad it borders on a relativistic effect. In place a of a mighty thrill, MTGO players have the daunting challenge of an experience so boring you could previously only find it watching paint dry, watching an Eggs deck resolve, or reading one of my articles. George Mallory famously once said, “Because it’s there”. Magic players, no less heroic, often shrug and say “Because Hearthstone is full of RNG bullshit”.

 

Card Stock and Stock Options

Look guys, this has come up a lot lately as people grow well and truly fed up, but I warned you. In my very first ReCap post, before these articles had a host site or a name, I told you Wizards was going to pretend like the Card Stock Problem didn’t exist until after they’d already fixed it. For those of you unaware, Wizards of the Coast had decided printing cards on silly putty was more cost effective than cardboard. They were shocked to find out that this was a bad strategy, but don’t expect a solution any time soon. This is corporate ass-covering 101, guys: You don’t address any problem until you’re the guy with the solution, because people in big business do shoot the messenger, they do place blame and they rarely give credit evenly for a team effort. It’s stupid, it keeps problems around longer than they should be, it screws up communication with your customers and it helps absolutely no one, but that’s how it is. Consider the following illustration of the problem:

Earnest Employee: “Boss! Big problem, the card stock on all the new American printings is cheap and flimsy. Cards roll up in a matter of hours. The colour is fading out of all the art. The internet is going nuts. Some people are pissed, some people are confused, and because the internet runs on conspiracy theories, a few people think it’s all a plot to sell more card sleeves!”

WOTC Executive currently snorting cocaine through a rolled-up foil Mythic: “Woooo! Sorry. What? Card stock problems? Has it affected sales?”

Earnest Employee: “Well, not yet. I’m sure it-”

Executive: “Perfect – ok – still time to get out in front of this. Fire every person in Quality Assurance born in the months of May and December. Slaughter a chicken and get a prophecy from the bones. Have Facebook block every account posting pictures of the cards warping. Book me an appointment at my Phrenologist for my lobe measurement. Announce a new set, “Warpbend” and create “#MTGWarpbend” to confuse the issue on Twitter. Find a solution to the stock problem that doesn’t increase our costs and then write a 500 page report I can present to the board showing how I solved the problem. If we play this right I can take the wife AND the mistress to Honolulu this year.”

Scene

The problem isn’t that WOTC doesn’t care, or is stupid. The problem is that addressing the problem is going to be seen as an opportunity for some, a risk of getting fired for others, and bunch of terrible extra work for most. Well, actually that’s just the set up. The real problem is that WOTC is a company full of human people. And people suck massive dong.

Story Update: Who ARE those guys?

One of my favourite old movies is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It’s essentially a chase story, where Butch and Sundance are being relentlessly pursued by a “super posse” of mysterious individuals. Butch and Sundance both remark, multiple times, that they have no idea who those trudging figures in the distance—always just behind them—are. And the film never shows us, because it isn’t important in the least. The movie is about Butch and Sundance, and we know they’re likely being chased because they’re criminals. Right now, I wish the Magic Story team was a bigger fan of Butch and Sundance.

Jace and Vraska are our “protagonists” and like my favourite cowboys, they are definitely complicated figures. The romantic angle was being teased a little hard, and Jace being amensia’d into a more likable character is annoying only because it’s clear they have no intention of keeping him that way. (Side note: I have more fondness for Jace over his recent “Dinosaur Forestry” joke than I do for any useless mental magic, toothless strategy meeting, or pining for the hot dead girl he’s ever done.) Still, these star-crossed pirate not-quite-lovers are clearly the emotional center of our story. We care about what they care about. We know what they want. We know what’s at stake for them. Despite an enormous amount of text being wasted on Huatli, and Tishana…and uh, Minotaur and also Vampire Lady, all of whom I’m 90% sure have names and backstories and their own reasons for chasing the Golden City, I could not care less. My caring capacity is at an all time low. I may have cared less for something in the past, but I have no way of recalling something so insignificant. Butch Cassidy… never cut away to show us the internal diplomacy or leadership of the posse chasing them. It never exhaustively showed what every person chasing them hoped to gain, or wanted out of catching them. They were just there to add tension and urgency to the story we actually cared about. Instead, Wizard’s is trying to do “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Plane” only without making me laugh at any point—which is bold: It takes a lot of courage to do an homage to a comedy with almost no jokes.

But that’s just my opinion. If one of you would like to write an impassioned, carefully cited, incredibly detailed defense of these extraneous characters and why they mean so much to you, please feel free to do so. I value the opinions of my audience, and want you to feel you can write as much as you want, as exhaustively as you can. You can email me at making.magic@hotmail.com.

Explorers of Market Diversity

Explorers of Ixalan has been revealed, and some of you might be expecting a tirade about how repackaging Magic into a board game is something they’ve tried before and it didn’t work, or how this product requires 4 people who want to play Magic but have no interest in building decks or collecting cards. But you know what? For the second time in as many months, I’m genuinely pretty excited about a new Magic auxiliary product. Explorers of Ixalan looks like a fun twist on the game that can be played in a very casual, very low-key way. It also seems like it would be a great way introduce people to the game. True, the complicated nature of Magic has always been intimidating for new players, but people already expect to be confused and intimidated learning a new board game. Board games already have 500 little pieces and clunky design space and tons of abstract systems. This is a genre where Monopoly is considered insultingly simplistic, and yet no one ever seems to play it right. It’s a hobby that gleefully turns friends into bitter enemies and turns enemies into frantic blood-soaked 911 calls. Is Magic that much harder to learn than Betrayal at the House on the Hill, Lords of Waterdeep, or Agricola? This is just smart demographic targeting. Magic is hard to learn, so target people who already are accustomed to taking on that level of learning curve.   If your favourite game already has a “reassignment phase” or a “sow” action, Magic is probably right in your wheelhouse. Also, we’d probably get along, what are you doing later?

That’s it for me this week, folks. As always, my fragile sense of self-worth lives and dies based on the last comment I received so feel free to make my day // crush my spirit. If you liked the article, maybe show a friend on Facebook or Twitter. If you hated it, maybe show it to someone awful so they’ll abuse me. Whatever works for you, I’m flexible.

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