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MTG Legendary Rule Changes and Flavor

Before I get into this week’s post some administrative stuff. I am switching over to a biweekly schedule in order to give myself more time to come up with better posts instead of the rush that I sometimes felt in order to just get something done. Secondly in between a death in the family and the general chaos of moving out of an apartment I’ve been too busy/ distracted to come up with anything to write about.

When M14 comes out there will be some rule changes along with it; some of them will be minor while others are very important. The biggest one of them is that the way legendary permanents will work is that each player will now be able to control legendary permanent with the same name and that when there is more than one you choose which one stays in play. The ramifications of this are quite large in terms of gameplay, especially in Eternal formats. There has also been a great deal of discussion about the flavor implications of the rule change. I don’t have much of an opinion on the gameplay changes since it doesn’t really affect what I play* but the flavor objections I find strange. Magic is a very flavorful game, except for the actual game.

Before I continue I just want to make it clear I really like the flavor of Magic. When it comes to player pyschographs I’m a Spike/Johnny/Vorthos. The flavor of Innistrad was one of the hooks that got me into the game. But at a certain point in actual gameplay you have to recognize the fact that mechanics are mechanics and there’s no amount of handwaving you can do to change that fact.

What do I mean by this? That the basic premise of a game, that each player is a planeswalker who is able to use their magic to fight their opponent breaks down when you look at it too closely. Decks often have creatures that flavorwise are mortal enemies working together. For example Avaycn’s Pilgrim and Huntmaster of the Fells being in the same deck might be a good gameplan, but flavorwise the two should be trying to kill each other. In this case the bigger the cardpool the less of an issue this is as the planeswalker aka player is able to use the full power of the multiverse. There are also some abilities that only make so much sense but there’s an abstraction road block. The one that immediately comes to mind for me is lifelink, how am I as a player getting more life from this creature. Extort is similarly weird in this regard.  Under the current rules Clone effects also worked very strangely in that creating a clone somehow caused all of them to blink out of existence/quit/however you want to look at it. With the new rules, clones actually work like clones are supposed to. If more than one player has a legendary creature then you can rationalize it as a clone. By and large when it comes to the new rules the game is actually more flavorful with one glaring exception.

Legendary lands under the current rules are a bit weird in that if both players try to tap into the power of it then no one can for some reason. Now its a matter of everyone can use it. This can be seen as more flavorful in that land/area/location is the focal point of the duel. So while not the primary stated reason for this change, it can be seen as more flavorful this way.

The flavor kinda breaks down with legendary artifacts. These things are one of kind and have unique properties to them that make them what they are. Counterfeiting them  cheapens that idea but in theory will make gameplay itself more interesting.**

Now where the current legend rules makes the most sense and where changing them makes the least sense is with planeswalker. Planeswalkers are supposed to be your allies in battle and if two them appear then they both vanish cause they aren’t going to help both of you. There really isn’t anyway to rationalize this and sometimes you have to just know when to give up.

All in all, I find that the new rules make the game more flavorful but also acknowledge that actual games of Magic really aren’t that flavorful. If they were then the game would be vastly different then what it is today and probably worse for it.

*Of course there is much speculation that Theros will be heavy on legends in which case it will affect what I play for the next two years in some form.

**This I’m really never going to deal with since I don’t play on playing Legacy/Vintage anytime soon.

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