Howdy, folks! I've decided to claim Thursday in the name of Vorthos! (Actually, my project with Wizards of the Coast delayed me a day. More on that in part two.) Today I have two fun topics to cover: love in the Multiverse and speculation about the Dragon's Maze. Let's go!
Love in This Multiverse
Half a lifetime ago, when I was a high school sophomore tackling Academic Decathlon, I had a teammate named Alex Dexter who had a rare combination for his age: smart and genuinely funny. If you did or are doing Academic Decathlon, maybe it's not this way anymore, but when I was in the program, humor was a huge no-no in the Speech event. Too risky. Too uneven. One sourpuss judge and your tournament was sunk.
Well, Alex Dexter did humor for his speech and pulled it off. It didn't just work once, either. I watched him practice over and over, and I chuckled every time in all the right places. I wouldn't have minded bottling a little of that for my own use.
Even more impressive: as a high school student, he did a humorous speech...about love. Different kinds of love. He called them "A" love, "B" love, and "C" love, which aren't the technical terms, of course, but it got the point across.
"A" love was like loving pizza, what Wikipedia calls impersonal love. When goblins love rocks on Akki Coalflinger or a kithkin smith would love to capture the namesake-burning insect of Blistering Dieflyn, "A" love is in play. Ditto with a Hurloon Minotaur loving battle or "everyone" loving a good sale on Festival of Trokin. Someday I might make an Ishi-Ishi, Akki Crackshot deck and stuff it full of fun red cards and goats. (I'm just going to assume Ishi-Ishi's goat love was on the "A" level and leave it at that.)
Surprise! It tastes like pizza.
"B" love was familial love between siblings or parents and children. Now, this sort of love shows up on way more Magic cards than just the ones with "love" in the flavor text box. It's not hard to imagine the art on Show of Valor, for instance, being a mother rescuing her child. Bear Cub references the don't-mess-with-mama side of "B" love even more clearly. "B" love (twisted to "B" hate) is stamped all over the Brothers' War between old-style planeswalker Urza and his brother Mishra, while Murderous Betrayal displays the most common use of familial love in Magic (and most other!) storytelling: an effective way to make protagonists suffer.
Bonus points for afterlife misery.
"C" love is romantic or erotic love, which is in surprisingly short supply as far as Magic's flavor text goes. Magic depicts its characters as conjuring fireballs and swinging huge weapons, not reenacting scenes from Usher's "Love in This Club" music video. That's not what Magic chooses to highlight, and thank goodness. (Four words: "Goblin procreation. You're welcome.") Of course, love does play a role in many of Magic's greatest storylines; I've mentioned previously Myc Zunich, the Ravnican three-quarters-elf child of a Golgari guildmaster who I'm still desperately hoping to see as a card in Dragon's Maze—he would not exist, after all, if not for the love between Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord and a Selesnyan bodyguard.
Interestingly enough, the most prominent use of "C" love in Magic is metaphorical—that of Night and Day. Their "Love Song," written by Jenny Scott, is among the most famous works to come out of Magic Creative and one of the most beloved. Other noteworthy metaphorical "C" loves appear on Wall of Essence, which has one of my favorite flavor quotes of all time, and Crash of Rhinos.
If flavor text could drop a microphone, these two would.
There's a fourth type of love that Alex Dexter didn't cover but is important, not only in Magic's world but to many in our world as well: "D" love, where "D" stands for "Divine." It's an undercurrent to every sheltering force in the Multiverse who takes prayers, from the Ancestor of the nomads in Odyssey block to Innistrad's angel-guardian Avacyn. By use of the word "love," though, the champion is Serra, namesake of Serra Angel. Her version of divine love is referenced positively (from the view of one of Serra's worshippers, at least) on Congregate and more sinisterly on False Prophet.
Without a deep dive into love in this Multiverse, it may seem foolish to search for it in a game like Magic that's so focused on supernatural combat that its motto might as well be Make War, Not Love. Yet the sapient creatures—the humans and kor and elves and dwarves—why do they fight? Love of family, love of nation, love of battle.
And as for us, the players of the game, if we did not love the imaginative thrill of doing big and splashy things, love showing off our cleverness with novel deck ideas and designs, or love winning—in short, if we were neither Timmy nor Johnny nor Spike—we would not love the game of Magic, and we would not play.
Speculating About Dragon's Maze
At PAX East 2013, Wizards released a number of juicy details about the upcoming conclusion to Return to Ravnica block, Dragon's Maze. Now, Wizards also announced the next block as Theros block and named its sets as "Theros," "Born of the Gods," and "Journey Into Nyx." That Wizards project I've been talking about for the past month, though, involves Theros block, so I'm on NDA lockdown; if Wizards doesn't formally announce something about that world, I don't talk about it. On the other hand, I know stone nothing about Dragon's Maze except what Wizards has told me, so let the rampant speculation begin!
First off, if you haven't, watch the trailer. Next, if you haven't yet, buy The Secretist, Part 2 and start reading. The short version with none of the enjoyability of Doug Beyer's prose: Jace is still mind-wrecked, guilds go to war, and Niv-Mizzet puts the brakes on with an announcement.
That maze that Jace was trying to uncover? Well, the Izzet—more specifically Ral Zarek, his goblin assistant Skreeg, and guildmaster dracogenius Niv-Mizzet—have uncovered the secret of the maze: it was set up as a failsafe for the Guildpact, and the running of the maze (called the Implicit Maze) would determine the next ruler of Ravnica. Each guild sends one "champion" to run the maze, and whoever finishes first—with all the other guilds standing in the champion's way, of course—scores great power. As the trailer says: "One being...will rule the guilds of Ravnica."
On the face of it there's not much else to digest, but knowing who the players are makes things much more complicated. Niv-Mizzet actually knew the person who created the Implicit Maze: Azor I, founder of the Azorius Senate. The Izzet also are the ones who rediscovered the maze, and the information asymmetry is staggering. My bottom line: I don't think there's any way Niv-Mizzet is playing fair here.
It'd be a typically Niv-Mizzet plan to have the running of the Implicit Maze be the key to opening up a great power—which his fiery mind then harvests for his own use. Remember: "One being...will rule the guilds of Ravnica." There's nothing in there that says it'll be the champion who finishes first or the guildmaster of the guild whose champion does the same. Of course, if Niv-Mizzet is thinking along those lines, surely at least one other guild is as well. Or maybe I'm overthinking things. I hope I'm not. Only Wizards knows, though.
In structural terms, the "champions" in Dragon's Maze are a fascinating flip from the structure of the original Ravnica block, where each guild had its guildmaster and champion in the same set. (Ravnica block had a 4-3-3 structure with four guilds covered in Ravnica, three in Guildpact, and three in Dissension.) I was curious about the lack of champions in Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, and now I have my answer. Remember, the people inside Wizards love patterns, whether it's in design cycles or creative text, and watching with satisfaction as others complete them. We are Jace and Ral Zarek and all the guild champions, and every Magic block is its own Implicit Maze. That's why we keep coming back for more.
Oh, one last thing before I go: have some opera. I did promise, didn't I?
As always, thanks for reading.
@jdbeety on Twitter