I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I play Magic the Gathering. Let’s allow that to marinate for a moment.
Most of you probably have never even heard of MTG. It’s a trading card game, the first of its kind, and was first introduced in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast (WotC), a sci-fi/fantasy game publisher. To give you some perspective on the type of audience WotC caters to, they’ve also published Dungeons and Dragons and the Pokemon Trading Card Game.
Now that you all know a little more about the game, you’re probably thinking - NERD! If by “nerd” you mean only smart people can play it, well then you are exactly right! The game is really really hard to learn and practically impossible to master. I’ve been playing now for about five years (I don’t really play very often - maybe once every three to four weeks or so) and when it comes to game mechanics, I still make rookie mistakes. i’m telling you, the game is tough!
I think the game is challenging because all of its elements are very detailed and precise...but I don’t want to waste time discussing the game specifics...I want to get down to the real meat of this article.
Like I mentioned before, I have been playing MTG for a little over five years. In that time, I have played more than 20 different sets and they have all been fantasy themed. Which isn't surprising. The title of the game includes the word ‘magic’ and magic, as a story element, is more commonly associated with fantasy than with sci-fi.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I sat down to play the newest MTG set, Kaladash. It dropped September 30th, contains 264 cards, and is part one of a two set block of the same name. “What’s so special about this particular set?” you might ask. Since I started playing the game, this is the first set I’ve seen that focuses on science and technology. Even with the presence of magic, powered by a natural element on in the world called aether, I would have to say that Kaladesh has a science fiction storyline. Sci-fi in Magic! YES!!
When I first figured that out, I NERDED OUT BIG TIME. Finally, a theme I was genuinely interested in! Don’t get me wrong, I like fantasy, but obviously not as much as science fiction! If you buy an entire block set (on the website they're called bundles or fat packs), you get a booklet that not only lists out each of the different cards available in the set, but it also outlines that set’s storyline. So I’m sure you can imagine that I couldn’t wait to start reading the thing! In the past, I would usually just skim the booklets...if I looked at them at all. This time, I read every single word. Cover to cover.
MTG is set in a Multiverse, a “universe” with an infinite amount of parallel universes or planes. Kaladash is the name of one of those planes, and just happens to be the home of one of the game’s star characters, Chandra Nalaar. (Because of this important fact, we fans know this is a set the creators must be very fond of...meaning it’s gonna be good!)Chandra’s home is a world of innovation. Invention and inventors are encouraged and celebrated!
In Ghirapur, the capital city of Kaladesh, there’s even an annual Inventor’s Fair with demonstrations and competitions, drawing in large crowds from all over Kaladesh. What kinds of inventions you might ask? We’re talking about vehicles and nanomachines, weapons and animal constructs, all created by harnessing the immense power of aether. IMO, this set has Steampunk written all over it!
You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the game. Weeeeeellllll, the answer to that question is confusing. MTG’s rules can be played against any storyline. Kaladesh happens to throw in a few new game mechanics (Energy Counters, Vehicles, and Fabricate), but MTG’s basic rules are the same. However, the cards, their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, are crafted around the storyline. (The artwork and the writing on the face of the cards match the theme too.) So, in a way, it has both nothing and EVERYTHING to do with the storyline. When playing with the Kaladesh set, I am immersed in this technology focused world of innovation, and I LOVE it.
I also love it because of the theme’s overall message. Aether is located throughout the Multiverse, but on Kaladesh, it's tangible, meaning you can see it and touch it. The intelligent creatures of the world have figured out how to harness it and...you guessed it. They use it to power their inventions. It’s a land of invention, right? The best part, is that the aether is available to everyone! That also makes it a land of opportunity. It is a land of hope, of promise, of discovery and innovation. Anyone can become an inventor if they can harness the aether. Kinda reminds me of good old America...especially now. We are currently in a space exploration age, an era of astronomical possibility. How apropos that the US is currently witnessing two tech giants compete to see who can get to Mars first (I’m talking about Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos)! Kaladesh is a deck that inspires. It's a "follow your dreams and anything is possible" message.
Yeah, it’s pretty obvious that I’m into this set. I played a couple of matches last night and it is FUN! For all you sci-fi lovers out there...if you have any inkling to take the plunge and learn MTG, Kaladesh is the set for you. Even if you never play another game, learning, just to play Kaladesh, would be worth it.
PS - Magic has been around since 1993 which got me to thinking...They have released more than 85 sets in the past 13 years. Kaladesh can’t be the FIRST sci-fi themed set! Well I did a little research and...it sure isn’t. For your viewing pleasure below, I have put together a quick slideshow of the sets that I consider to be sci-fi themed. If you think there’s one I missed, LMK! I would love to include it!
Sources: Magic the Gathering, Wizards of the Coast, Wikipedia