As I look over the card lists for the October 2011 large Magic: The Gathering (MTG) expansion, the first of the Innistrad block, and I find myself increasingly underwhelmed. I understand that the design of this set has been driven purely from a top-down, flavour over all perspective (classic gothic horror), but yet again I still cannot help the feeling that they have lost the feel in the mechanics. This set’s spiritual ancestor is the almost globally reviled Homelands expansion, but while that set was clumsy and the fact that it was one of the last one sold in 8 card booster did not help, it still had more of a genuine flavour than the Innistrad I have seen so far.
I have a favourite term; ‘rarified air’. It is an attempt to define any environment where a small group of people spend their time immersed in a particular thing. To the point where they make assumptions as to other people’s understanding and appreciation of the finer points of their discipline that many people who have a casual interest or average enthusiasm tempered by having to live just cannot appreciate unless they are pointed out. Even then they may not be properly understood in the way that the creators intended. For the last decade, I believe that the entirety of the MTG core teams have been moving in that area.
In that time, MTG has generally increased its player base and popularity. Which is a good thing for the business behind it. But while I see that and smile, wishing them the best of luck, I cannot help but feel that some essential part of the game has been lost.
As an addenda to this; I have been designing a purely story/flavour driven Magic the Gathering expansion for several years now. It is a monumental task and from it I acknowledge that the teams who do this professionally, year in and year out, may not have the luxury of time to include the ‘feel’ that I consider to be lacking.