How I Write About Magic: The Gathering

nissa writing

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of previewing some cards from Oath of the Gatewatch for Paste (if you haven’t seen that, it’s here).

If you read the short blurbs I wrote about each card, you’ll notice that they don’t really look much like other previews for Magic cards. I don’t do much analysis of the cards in the context of competitive play, or deckbuilding, or its viability in a fun commander deck. I don’t talk about the upcoming meta or if these cards are even worth looking at.

Instead, I look to see if they’re interesting to me. Being “interesting” is kind of a floating signifier to me, but it has such a distinct feeling that it is unbelievably clear when it exists (as my Paste Interesting Cards” lists might show). The Magic psychographic profiles” might put me somewhere in the Vorthos range, and Tessitore’s extrapolation of the term that blows it out to all possible meanings certainly places me there.

The reason I write about Magic in this particular way is twofold. First, I was doing it anyway and someone suggested that I lean into it rather than replicating the hivemind work that Magic‘s online community is known for. Second, I think that there’s an ethic to it.

The Creative Team for Magic: The Gathering does an immense amount of work to create these amazing and strange worlds that Magic takes place in, and it is such a weird thing to me that 90% of the analysis that I read functionally ignores all of that. If Mark Rosewater’s podcast is to be believed, the Design and Development Teams follow the patterns that Creative lays out, and that leads to this awesome world of conceptual and design coherence that just drops out of so much play (this could be a channel problem on my part, so if you have suggestions on where to see this work, let me know!)

I want to focus on what Magic cards are, not what they do, and I think that makes for a more interesting take on the entire world of Magic.

[I also like dipping my toes into what they do sometimes. Uh oh!]

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