Off Topic: Enchanted by Design

All opinions and speculation in this article are my own. The following material has not been endorsed by Wizards of the Coast, Master’s of the Universe, The Justice League, or by the Smurfs. No animals or Magic cards were harmed during the writing of this article. The following material contains hyperbolic arguments, fart jokes, and the wonders of imagination. Reader discretion is advised.

Why do we love things we do?

It sounds like a question one can hear inebriated freshmen talk about at parties. Oh, I am not knocking the freshmen. I find it cute like the way some people look at kittens or babies. Sophomores may find it annoying because that one-year of college has made them like oh so mature. The reason I enjoy freshmen… I mean, umm, how do I say this without accidentally stepping into an innuendo? Let me explain. When I first left college, I turned and gave the institution the middle finger and swore of any more higher education. After some time in the cruel, cruel world, I returned to college to spruce up my degree. It wasn’t dramatic. I already had a B.A. in psychology and B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology. I returned to get a B.S. in Medical Technology. To get the additional degree was simply a matter of enrolling in a couple of classes and taking an internship. Being old at the age of 25, I was a little worried about returning to college. By comparison, I was going to be the old guy in class. What I found on my return is that it was exhilarating being back at campus. The young minds yearned to learn and full of ambition. Every biology student was pre-med and going to cure some devastating disease, psychology students were going to help the insane become sane, and all the business majors were going to be the next Donald Trumps. Sure, some of it was naïve, but being around that energy again was uplifting. I never realized any of this in college because I had no context. Out in the cruel world, people grow older, concrete and lose a lot of their original spark. Not always, but a good rule of thumb.

Youth has many advantages such as a wealth of creativity, plasticity and questioning nature. The government recently conducted a large study analyzing the contributions of scientists. The focus of the study primarily was looking at young versus old. The government panel gives out billions of dollars in grants for research every year. Currently, the oldest and most distinguished of scientist get the brunt of the money. Findings of the study revealed the majority of innovation and breakthroughs came from the younger scientist. Einstein is an example. The majority of Einstein’s contributions were from before he was 35. Even when older scientists inspire the world with their innovation, the ideas were created or inspired before the age of 35. It just took them awhile to get into a position or around to capitalizing on those ideas. The major push from the study was to start allocating more money to the younger scientists. This isn’t to say the older scientists’ studies lacked worthiness. The findings simply stated the older scientists’ research was more about refinement. Basically, the seniors got on one train of thought and never got off. Whether more money will go to the younger group of researchers has yet to be seen. Older researchers have a lot more clout.

Returning to the original question, the question is a lot more complex. When a person dives deep into the philosophical abyss, the answer to the question continuously eludes the seeker. The question is similar to the origins of the universe. The answer to the origins of the universe continuously retreats to another question. We are made of organs, molded by tissues, created by cells, constructed by DNA, laced by atoms, strung together by quarks, and originating from energy. We hit a roadblock. Where did energy come from? The same line of thought can translate into the things we enjoy. I’m a born again chocaholic. My favorite is mint chocolate. If a person asked me why I love mint chocolate, I could give all kinds of characteristics and reasons. However, once I retreat to the basics of why I love chocolate I will run into a roadblock. I can’t explain why. Why do I think it is funny to fart on my cats? In the end, I just do. I didn’t make the decision by choice. I didn’t make the choice to hate beets. Ugh, but who does? Loving certain things without reasons can cause problems especially when it comes to Magic. If I had to pick my three favorite things in Magic, the first would be land, followed by life gain, and enchantments. My land fetish rarely causes much strife. My infatuation for life gain causes deck building strife. I know, I know, life gain is horrible. I keep telling myself to stop loving life gain, but I just can’t help it. Cards like Kavu Predator make me giddy as a kid on Christmas morning. If it was still a legitimate deck, I would oh so be playing Soul Sisters at the next PTQ. Enchantments are a little different story. Even though I have come to accept I am an enchanted lover, I am very confused.

Am I the only one who hopes a fart mechanic is designed for the next Unhinged set? Farter – You may fart when casting this. If you do, deal two damage to target player. New necessary items to play Magic now includes an extra pair of underpants.

What the Heck are Enchantments?

Enchantments have evolved into an odd duck. The poor, ugly and misunderstood platypus on the Magic continent. What are enchantments anyway? My gut tells me enchantments were designed as a way to give each color a permanent effect. The science behind the creation of enchantments feels like a natural stepping-stone. A thing I find peculiar about Magic is the natural feel of it. Here is what I mean. Let’s say Magic is erased from existence by Q. If humans began to recreate Magic, would it turn out the same? I believe the answer would be frack yeah. Red would be the most obvious. Red equals volcanoes, fire and the group is angry; very complicated stuff. Green is growth, trees, and jungles. Yeah, that sounds about right. Blue has oceans, water, change, and washes away annoyances. Red, green and blue are the most environmental of colors. Black and white is like night and day, duh. The continual battle between good and evil. Also, the elements and mythos in Magic is predated by the countless legends from various cultures, books, and comics. The ecosystem inspired colors of Blue, Red, and Green is what pushed White and Black into the landscape theme. If Magic was recreated, I think White and Black would have the most flexibility to change. Would the two colors have turned out different? White could have been the sky, or hmm… or plains? Yeah, it always seemed a little bit of a stretch to me, but what other eco-friendly environment could have been picked? Black maybe could have been ever so slightly been caverns or tunnels, but those are hardly ecosystems or a major land mass.

It is one of things that bug me about the idea of purple being added to Magic. I’ve heard lots of theories over the years and none of them feel as natural as the original five colors. Purple as cities? Yeah, that’s what I think automatically when I think of New York. Maybe honking horns, pizza, or the very helpful, but not purple. How about caverns? Seriously, the last time I was spelunking with the wife, I wasn’t thinking about purple. Oh, I love thinking about adding purple to the color pie as much as the next fanatic, but it needs to feel natural. How about this, try teaching Magic to someone completely new and try explaining how the color purple signifies caves. Yeah, good luck with that one. I guess if they can make six Saw movies adding a sixth color Magic isn’t too much of a stretch. I think if we gaze towards the night sky in some future world where vampires are a plague with the CDC ruling the world: it could happen. At least adding Yellow urine stains to the color pie at least makes sense. Yellow has deserts, sand, desolate, sand worms, isolated, and a perfect place to raise Jedi. I think eventually if the creative minds of the world came together: their genius could create a sixth color. Key word: could, but should we? Adding a sixth dilutes packs, potentially hurts drafting, instantly creates a shortage in the basic mana source supply chain, and creates the little brother in a family who has already grown up. Lets pretend we figure out all those problems. Who wants to be responsible to push the button on the machine that could possibly destroy Magic? I know I wouldn’t.

Other games like Wheel of Fortune create puzzles based on places, persons, things, and phrases. Magic translates into lands, creatures, artifacts, and instants or sorceries. We can visual them. I can imagine being in Dominaria riding a Trained Armodon carrying my moxes to the pawn store while I shoot a Lightning Bolt at the guy driving slowly in front of me. My gut informs me enchantments formed out of necessity. Creature enchantments evolved due to memory issues like trying to give a creature +1/+2 for the remainder of the game with a spell. Players would forget all the time which of the creatures got the bonus. Creating a permanent reminder would help resolve those memory issues. Ah, enchantments. A natural move that would turn into a Blessing in disguise. It solved many those memory problems and provided a Vanguard feel to the game. I am writing and trying to figure this all out as I go. Can you tell? Fortunately, the chain of thought has brought me to the root of the problem. Enchantments were created for functionality rather than by inspiration. The color Red gets inspiration from mountains and volcanoes. Artifacts are forged into swords. We can imagine it.
Try to imagine a Blessing. What did it look like? How about a harder one like Instill Energy? I empathize with the poor artists who were given such tasks. Creating a painting for card that is to embody instilling energy had to be difficult. How does one draw it? Well, they did, but stay with me. As I scanned through all the Alpha enchantments, I have to laugh at White Ward. Seriously, click on the White Ward… or look over to the right. Let’s pretend the picture was part of a teaser going into spoiler season. If all I showed you was the picture, what would you speculate on the functionality of the card? I can imagine how frustrated the artist must have been for that piece. We have a picture of land with white clouds. I think those white stripes are clouds? It makes me wonder if a random piece of art was utilized for the card or the original was unusable.

The Creative Revolution

I started down this chain of thought as an amateur card designer. Creating enchantments has proven difficult to design. The problem I have acknowledged above is that enchantments are about functionality. Enchantments are about events or actions: not persons, places or things. The next step is to figure out how to solve the issue. Before we dive in deep, history is always important. The most significant changes over time has been Magic’s creatures and artifacts. Creatures have changed immensely. In Legacy, a person commonly plays with creatures post-Invasion and spells pre-Invasion. Well, the creatures of old suck. Old spells are insanely powerful. I don’t know how much inspiration can be gained from creatures. Basically, the motto has been to make them bigger, cheaper with more abilities. The important aspect of creatures is abilities. Creatures get lifelink, double strike, or whatever. The only enchantments with exclusive abilities have been with the recent addition of totem armors. Enchantments are made cookie cutter style. It is a trap. I think our ideas of enchantments have locked us in this box by or predetermined definitions. Moving on. Artifacts are more inspirational. Artifacts have gotten many abilities and diverged into the popular equipment subtype. The popular Imprint ability originated in Mirrodin and the new Living Weapon ability being unleashed in Mirrodin Besieged. With all this in mind, I believe enchantments should get their own keywords: abilities only enchantments get.

I don’t think Wizards can be faulted in the enchantment department. They have said they are trying because of smucks like me who love enchantments. If I recall, auras are popular. Enchantments are a tough nut to crack even if you are a Deranged Hermit. How do we make better enchantments? The solution I believe is in creation. If you don’t have a solution, create it. Totem armors aren’t a bad example, but I’d rather use leylines for this argument. The come into play free enchantments have real world roots in ley lines. The great thing about leylines is a Magic fan can actually visualize it. If I asked a player to close their eyes and imagine a leyline, I bet the player could accomplish such a request. It doesn’t hurt that an artist can actually paint a leyline. To improve enchantments, we need to blast some cardboard with radiation to increase the mutation rate. Or, we could be creative and follow equipment with the living weapon ability as a concept. I am not saying to make equipment enchantments. What I am saying is enchantments need to diversify. Since I’m a big flavor guy, I believe life and creation inspire cards. If you can’t imagine it: you can’t create it. To drive my point home, slivers are what I am talking about. The creation of the creature subtype inspired artist and designers alike. Imagine it, mold it and then create it. Also, I think the fish flying around spirits, much like the totem armors, would have been a great idea for enchantments.

During the first Great Designer Search, one of the questions asked about getting rid of a permanent type. A popular response was either enchantments or artifacts. The argument could be made either way. Essentially, both could be designed to accomplish the tasks of the other. I’m a big fan of the enchantments in the Zendikar block so much so I recently took Pryomancer Ascenssion deck with a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle plan b to FNM. It was one the first times I felt like enchantments were doing their own thing and broke out of the box. I felt very enchanted. They didn’t feel like artifacts. Machines turn on and off like Mimic Vat. Pyromancer Ascenssion changes the game. One last thing before I go, why do we give innate creature abilities within their own piece of the color pie on enchantments? It makes sense for artifacts. It’s fun to give a creature ability not found in that particular color. Take Serra's Embrace for example. Why make a white enchantment that grants abilities already in that color’s section of the color pie? To me, it is like giving shades the shade mechanic. Let’s paint the red barn red or the kettle black. Whoop dee doo. I’d much rather see a card like Celestial Mantle. It has an ability with a white feel while not granting vigilance, flying, lifelink or first strike. Sorry, just a pet-peeve of mine.

Stay young by being ambitious, creative and question everything.

Current Writing Tunes: Miwa – chAngE


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