What is happening to our world? This question is on the tip of the tongue of every picket-fencer to ever own a bit of Native land right now. The rich don’t know if the government is on their side anymore. The poor don’t know if they’ve taken the halls of power or not. And the bourgeois just want a new Marvel movie to distract them from the storm clouds. But the true artist knows that the world hasn’t changed.
Mark Rosewater is the single greatest living artist of our time. His world in Magic: THE Gathering has been an illuminating tent-pole for the outsider community, from tackling queer identity in Apocalypse (Jilt, Dead Ringers, Cromat), mass media control in Innistrad (Cloistered Youth, Feeling of Dread, Furor of the Bitten), or Theros’s takedown of fitness and health culture (Time to Feed, Messenger’s Speed, Pharika’s Cure), Rosewater has always known how to take the pulp and make it high art. And his latest “masterpiece” is beyond Modern.
The Modern Masters series has historically been one of the most popular of Magic’s pieces. The idea is relatively ingenious: buy the stuff that you already have. The buyer doesn’t have to be confronted with anything new; to purchase Modern Masters is to purchase your comfort zone with worse art. This grip on nostalgia is being pushed even farther with the new exhibition: Post-Modern Masters.
Perhaps you’ll recognize this card. From the past. From the present. Even from the future. We were excited about (Grizzly Bears) as a child. We are excited about (Grizzly Bears) now. Cards like these are called “skill testers” as they allow us to reflect on our failings and how we might overcome them. The new-age self-help hogwash reeks on this one.
Speaking of self-help, what deconstruction would be complete without a bit of shop therapy? Black is the color that most accurately reflects the atheistic, consumption based world of the Magic player, where meaningful communion with God has been replaced with opening a fetchland. When we crack a pack we crack our soul; our excitement fades into stacks of miniature commercials saying, “Try burn!” and “Save me cause I might be pauper-relevant!” Black can’t do anything but lose.
But now for a bit of contradictions. How do you show that each persons’ experience is unique while frankly pointing out how homogenized we are. First there was the Neopets shop. Now there is Eager Cadet. You can’t play it in tournaments, but you wouldn’t anyway. Because it does what it does, no more, no less. Not to mention a wonderful example of the ‘flavor-text within a flavor-text’ motif started back in Alpha.
The number of games of Magic you have played is countless. Yet the number must be higher. Is this freedom? How can a human feel (let’s face it, there’s no such thing as being) free when they can only evaluate things against one another. This one is big. This one is small. This one is strictly better. This one is strictly worse. Strip out the parts and get to the heart. The treadmill is all you know.
A total miss at every level. What’s this Bob Ross clusterwhoops? I get it. It’s named like a painting. Ohohoho nostalgia blah blah blah. Mark Rosewater has totally lost his touch and as far as I’m concerned has forfeited the title of artist. So easy.
Rosewater often references how lands are a design feature and not a flaw. There are things that you say in public which you could never believe in private. More than any other card, this highlights how trapped he must feel in his daily life. Untap. Upkeep. Draw. First main. Go to declare attackers. Block. Maybe combat damage. Second main. Clean up. And his opponent, that shadowy alien, takes its turn seemingly in tandem. Soulbound, Rosewater passes priority to death.
If the world is driving off a cliff, I’m glad Mark Rosewater is in charge of the radio. I love REM.
MSRP: About $12.99, depending on the day