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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 4:52 pm 
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I'm sitting at home hiding from that Karona-virus everyone is talking about, so what better time is there to talk about Otaria? (Shut up, that joke was great.:wizard:) Besides, #AllTheDominaria has basically become my trademark catchphrase, since I won't rest until we've seen all of modern-day Dominaria in cardform at some point.

Just like with New Argive, I think it's likely we might not see a straight up return to Otaria that only covers that particular continent, but if/when we get a strong focus on Otaria again, it'll probably include some other stuff from around Dominaria, at least if the Dominaria set is any indication. However, I think it's still useful (and fun) to figure out what a return to Otaria at its purest could look like in a post-Dominaria world, even if it's going to be mixed with other parts of the plane in a finished product.

So with that out of the way, which previously established gameplay and worldbuilding elements of Otaria would you keep? What kind of look and feel would you go for? What could be done to make it work with Dominaria's new "history plane" identity? What might be some challenges and advantages in returning there?

Like we did with New Argive a while ago, let's start by taking stock of what is already there. From what I can tell, the Dominaria set only gave us four cards that are explicitly tied to Otaria (not counting glimpses into the past like Sagas and legendary sorceries): Memorial to War, Pardic Wanderer, Skirk Prospector and Krosan Druid.
Those four cards paint a picture of their own, namely one of ruin and devastation on the one hand and of regrowth, rebirth and rediscovery on the other hand. Considering what we saw of Otaria at the end of Future Sight, I'd say that fits perfectly. Modern-day Otaria could be the post-apocalyptic setting it was always meant to be but never quite delivered on. Pardic Wanderer is perhaps the most interesting of the bunch. It tells us that Tolarian archaeologists are doing their thing in Otaria, and when you look at the golem's right arm, you can see a piece of an old Thran structure (smooth stone surface, characteristic golden circle). That's an odd detail for the Pardic mountains, but then again, Dominaria also had huge Thran monoliths in Benalia that we'd never seen before, so I'm not really surprised. I guess there might be more of them in Otaria when/if we return there. I don't really have a problem with that, I just hope they are a little bit more subtle about it next time.

Mechanically, the two original Otaria blocks featured the following themes and keywords:

Odyssey block:

Mostly a graveyard theme with
- Flashback
- Madness
- Threshold

Onslaught block:

Mostly a tribal theme (Goblins, Birds, Wizards, Clerics, Elves, Beasts, Slivers, Soldiers, Zombies) with
- Amplify
- Morph
- Provoke
- Storm
- Typecycling
- Cycling

Possible challenges:

Spoiler



Possible advantages:

Spoiler


___________________________________________________


So, what would I do with all of this? As I said above, I'd use the impact the Rift Era had on the continent to make it feel a tiny little bit more post-apocalyptic and worn than it was the first time around, while trying to preserve the optimistic tone of Dominaria. Nothing grimdark and depressing and not too on the nose post-apocalyptic, just with some more ruins here and there and people using all sorts of improvised or scavenged gear, and with some formerly civilised areas that have been reclaimed by nature. Most of that was already present in the original setting, just not as prominent. You could even include nods to some of the stuff we saw in Time Spiral, both in terms of landscape and costumes/gear. For instance, I always thought those gasmasks with the filterstones that some people on the red cards in Time Spiral had looked really cool. They probably aren't needed anymore, but they might make for great armour pieces or wall decorations. The ground down look of the mountains would be perfectly at home in the Skirk ridge for goblins to build cute rope brifges between the spires etc.
I'd also definitely try to find room for the five Pit Fighter legends from Onslaught and bring them all back in some shape or form. Rorix could be around as an animated skeleton, Arcanis is probably immortal anyway, and the rest of the cycle are a gorgon, an elemental and a living statue respectively.
I'd bring back the original Cabal, perhaps even under the leadership of Visara the Dreadful. Besides, I kind of have this headcanon for her backstory according to which she was imprisoned in a dungeon in Suderbod and then got out and eventually turned to pit fighting when the nation collapsed after The Prodigal Sorcerer. Anyway, I'd definitely include a fair share of old school Dementia creatures, and maybe even consider a minor Nightmare or Horror tribal theme, although all the tribal options are really competing for space...
Also, remember those mutants? Because I'd totally bring back mutants. Yeah, the Mirari is long gone, but I like the idea that Otaria basically has Magic's equivalent of the X-gene now, and that every once in a while, someone with a magical mutation is born. Would be another great way to call back to a historic event and make the past feel relevant to the present.


Mechanically, a graveyard theme seems like a good fit, especially since they actually considered Flashback for Dominaria, so I'd most likely want to bring that keyword back. I guess Richard Garfield was right when he said that the graveyard represents the more recent past rather than proper history, but then again it doesn't feel entirely off either, especially if the setting has a bit of a scavenger feel to it. Personally, I love Madness. It's one of my favourite mechanics ever, and if you centered it mostly in black, it might be a cool signature mechanic for the Cabal. Not sure how far you could go with the graveyard theme if you also want to bring in some tribal, but Typecycling could help to connect the two. And speaking of tribal, I think people would riot if we returned to Otaria and didn't get any Slivers. Personally, I've never been their biggest fan, and their insistence on using the new "Slivers you control" template makes me super aggressive, but looking at the bigger picture, I just think they should be included. If you aren't doing Slivers in Otaria, then where else? Besides, they fit perfectly with the look and feel I have in mind.

The thing with Slivers is, you need a certain number of them in your set to make them work, which means there's less space for other stuff. I'd really want a return to Otaria to also deliver on as many of the cool things I remember from last time AND to show us Tamingazin, so I'm just going to say what I always say: One set simply won't do, you just need a proper block for this! Like, really, Wizards, give us more Dominaria! I know you want it too! :bigeyes:

And that's enough of my ramblings for now. I look forward to hearing you guys' thoughts!


#AllTheDominaria

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 23, 2020 8:06 pm 
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I go on record saying, for the millionth time, that Otaria was a godawful time for Magic.
That out of the way, the strongest possibility to start anew in my book would be to either just double down on Tamingazin since it was folded into the continent, or focus on really leaning into the Primeval/Numema stuff.
There's nothing else left worth salvaging.

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At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed / a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:01 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
focus on really leaning into the Primeval/Numema stuff.
Wait, what? Aren't those the exact things that made Otaria such a godawful time for Magic? I know I'm the one who started this thread with a lame joke about Karona, but why would you want to touch any of the Numena stuff again? Other than a few superficial references here and there, that is. Because the Numena were closely tied to that whole Karona debacle* the last time around, and I'm pretty sure that's what the enfranchised people hated the most. There was also that sense that all the major players in the story were basicaly just agents of fate/destiny/prophecy/whatever and only did what the plot demanded to revive the Numena. I could maybe get behind leaning into the Primevals again and telling a story about them that doesn't compete for space with the climax of the Phyrexian invasion, but I don't think you'd need Otaria to do that.

*In fairness to the Karona story, at least the most egregious retcons and canon-destryoing brainfarts have since been erased, so it's less destructive overall than it used to be.


But in terms of setting (or gameplay, for that matter), why do you think there's nothing else woth salvaging? Is Otaria's setting really that much worse than most other parts of Dominaria? Because I don't really see why it would be.


I'd be 100% game for more Tamingazin any day, though. Give me aaaall the Tamingazin. Especially since the Institute of Arcane Studies lends itself really well to the historic mechanic we saw in Dominaria. After all, they were mostly occupied with collecting and cataloguing ancient artefacts. Very appropriate thematically, and would make for an interesting rivalry with the Tolarians who are digging around in Otaria these days. I guess it's no coincidence after all there were so many wizards hanging out near Balshan Bay back in the day, they all might have been Prodigal Sorcerers in a sense that were drawn there by the Riptide Project (see also: the Legions version of Fugitive Wizard). You could certainly draw quite a few retroactive connections between Tamingazin and the rest of the continent, like Ethan did in the podcast, or I did above with my idea for Visara's backstory. Also, what if Arcanis the Omnipotent was in charge of the Institute now? Something like that.

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
—Love Song of Night and Day


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:37 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
focus on really leaning into the Primeval/Numema stuff.
Wait, what? Aren't those the exact things that made Otaria such a godawful time for Magic? I know I'm the one who started this thread with a lame joke about Karona, but why would you want to touch any of the Numena stuff again? Other than a few superficial references here and there, that is. Because the Numena were closely tied to that whole Karona debacle* the last time around, and I'm pretty sure that's what the enfranchised people hated the most. There was also that sense that all the major players in the story were basicaly just agents of fate/destiny/prophecy/whatever and only did what the plot demanded to revive the Numena. I could maybe get behind leaning into the Primevals again and telling a story about them that doesn't compete for space with the climax of the Phyrexian invasion, but I don't think you'd need Otaria to do that.

*In fairness to the Karona story, at least the most egregious retcons and canon-destryoing brainfarts have since been erased, so it's less destructive overall than it used to be.

The idea of Magic god-kings or the actual ancient dragon civilization was not inherently flawed.*
Karona was REALLY awful, no arguments, but the problems predated her. Kamahl was a SS-tier trash character, the mirari was one of the most macguffin macguffins to ever ex machina, and the general total garbage of the characters with an extreeeeemely thin exception of the Cabal were what set the stage for it all to come tumbling down. There's a reason the only decent story in any of those two blocks were chainer, but the potential of the Numena, outside of the foulness of Karona, does have some okay potential.

*One of the stories from Dragons of Magic touched on it. Admittedly, it'd be competing for space with Tarkir now, but I'll take any excuse to really dig into non-red intelligent dragons.


Quote:
But in terms of setting (or gameplay, for that matter), why do you think there's nothing else woth salvaging? Is Otaria's setting really that much worse than most other parts of Dominaria? Because I don't really see why it would be.

It suffered the same issue as Mirrodin.
The Color Wheel. There was no nuance whatsoever and the stiffly and artificially segmented nature of the setting made it scream how stilted it all was. The setting just isn't large enough to present it all as being so close and so radically ideologically different, and even then, every culture was moronically paper thin.

Quote:
Also, what if Arcanis the Omnipotent was in charge of the Institute now? Something like that.
I think nods to the past are largely fine, but some things need to stay buried.

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At twilight's end, the shadow's crossed / a new world birthed, the elder lost.
Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 6:37 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
The idea of Magic god-kings or the actual ancient dragon civilization was not inherently flawed.*
Karona was REALLY awful, no arguments, but the problems predated her. Kamahl was a SS-tier trash character, the mirari was one of the most macguffin macguffins to ever ex machina, and the general total garbage of the characters with an extreeeeemely thin exception of the Cabal were what set the stage for it all to come tumbling down. There's a reason the only decent story in any of those two blocks were chainer, but the potential of the Numena, outside of the foulness of Karona, does have some okay potential.

*One of the stories from Dragons of Magic touched on it. Admittedly, it'd be competing for space with Tarkir now, but I'll take any excuse to really dig into non-red intelligent dragons.
I can by and large agree to all of that. The idea of the Numena by itself was far from the worst thing in those books, but I think for the intents and purposes of discussing Otaria, the Numena and the Primevals are barely related in my head, so maybe we aren't quite on the same page there. If I was inolved with making more sets about Dominaria/Otaria and I decided to revisit the Primevals, I probably wouldn't drag the Numena or anything specifically related to Otaria into it. I certainly don't feel like literally resurrecting the Numena again. To me, "leaning heavily into the Primevals" in a new Magic set would mean getting Darigaaz and his gang from Invasion back together and having them take back their godlike power (for whatever reason Darigaaz Reincarnated would agree to that), which would be very different from resurrecting those three wizard dudes from the Onslaught cycle. I feel like the modern-day dragon nations we saw in the Invasion novels would be a lot more relevant to the Primevals today than the ancient dragon civilisation that ruled 20.000 or so years ago. I wouldn't say no to getting some flashback stories about King Themeus, his wizards and their confrontation with the Primevals, the rise of the Numena etc., but right now I don't see how the Numena could become relevant again for Dominaria in the present. Though now that I think about it, maybe a villain who knows about the Numena could bring the Primevals back together only to try and steal their powers or something along those lines.

That said, I wonder if we'll ever get a confirmation that the wedge-dragons from Planar Chaos were in fact from an alternate timeline, or what else was up with them. I kinda hope they were, because I don't think anything good would come from integrating them into the storyline...



Barinellos wrote:
It suffered the same issue as Mirrodin.
The Color Wheel. There was no nuance whatsoever and the stiffly and artificially segmented nature of the setting made it scream how stilted it all was. The setting just isn't large enough to present it all as being so close and so radically ideologically different, and even then, every culture was moronically paper thin.
I see your point, but I think most of that could be taken care of in a return. The inclusion of Tamingazin alone might work wonders for that, and some of the anthology stories might help, too. And I think for some of Otaria's cultures, it might have been less that they were actually paper thin and more that we just didn't see that much of them. The Pardic barbarians were pretty shallow, I'll give you that, but those are extinct now anyway. But we barely know anything about the Daru nomads for instance, the Kamahlite druids that are mentioned on cards in Time Spiral block are completely new, there are barbarian raiders on the northern plains that have only appeared in The Dragons of Magic so far and that are basically like the Mardu from Tarkir, then there's the rest of Dominaria and how it might interact with Otaria and its cultures (Tolarian archaeologists, Keldon traders etc.)... Add that to the fact that a lot of time has passed and everyone had to suffer through the Rift Era, so that might have helped to shake things up. The dwarves have been pretty underrepresented as well, and they still have some interesting lore about Fiers to tap into (I hope that guy is just straight up confirmed to be an ancient dwarven planeswalker and shows up in person at some point). You could also add some internal conflict to the colours instead of just reying on the old enemy-colour stuff. So yeah, I think there are nigh-infinite possibilities to do better next time.

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
—Love Song of Night and Day


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:13 pm 
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The Numena part of the Otaria books is what took the rather generic fantasy novels, for me, to schlock.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2020 7:53 pm 
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To me, "leaning heavily into the Primevals" in a new Magic set would mean getting Darigaaz and his gang from Invasion back together and having them take back their godlike power (for whatever reason Darigaaz Reincarnated would agree to that). I feel like the modern-day dragon nations we saw in the Invasion novels would be a lot more relevant to the Primevals today than the ancient dragon civilisation that ruled 20.000 or so years ago.

As a sizable aside, can I just say how profoundly annoyed I am that Dromar is the only one of them to never get a reprint?
Also, Daarigaz is apparently a bit of a psycho in his newest incarnation, so the Bladewings are keeping him happy while actually running things.
Quote:
That said, I wonder if we'll ever get a confirmation that the wedge-dragons from Planar Chaos were in fact from an alternate timeline, or what else was up with them. I kinda hope they were, because I don't think anything good would come from integrating them into the storyline...

We got that confirmation years and years ago. Matt Cavota said something regarding that, but the long of the short is, no, they aren't from an alternate timeline. They aren't actually Primevals in the way the originals were.



Quote:
I see your point, but I think most of that could be taken care of in a return. The inclusion of Tamingazin alone might work wonders for that, and some of the anthology stories might help, too. And I think for some of Otaria's cultures, it might have been less that they were actually paper thin and more that we just didn't see that much of them. The Pardic barbarians were pretty shallow, I'll give you that, but those are extinct now anyway. But we barely know anything about the Daru nomads for instance, the Kamahlite druids that are mentioned on cards in Time Spiral block are completely new, there are barbarian raiders on the northern plains that have only appeared in The Dragons of Magic so far and that are basically like the Mardu from Tarkir, then there's the rest of Dominaria and how it might interact with Otaria and its cultures (Tolarian archaeologists, Keldon traders etc.)... Add that to the fact that a lot of time has passed and everyone had to suffer through the Rift Era, so that might have helped to shake things up. The dwarves have been pretty underrepresented as well, and they still have some interesting lore about Fiers to tap into (I hope that guy is just straight up confirmed to be an ancient dwarven planeswalker and shows up in person at some point). You could also add some internal conflict to the colours instead of just reying on the old enemy-colour stuff. So yeah, I think there are nigh-infinite possibilities to do better next time.

Maybe, but effectively, you aren't doing anything that is actually relevant to old Otaria in the first place. All the old cultures were wiped off the map, so anything you introduce is effectively completely new, and at that point, why bother making allusions to the old if there's genuinely no connective tissue.

neru wrote:
The Numena part of the Otaria books is what took the rather generic fantasy novels, for me, to schlock.
They were already schlock to me when Kamahl used his sword as a helicopter blade to slow his fall.
Ye gods those were bad books.

There's a reason the fan nickname for Kamahl was Mr. Smash.

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Yet on the morn we wake to find / that mem'ry left so far behind.
To deafened ears we ask, unseen / "Which is life and which the dream?"


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2020 5:04 pm 
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Huh, I've never thought about "Return to Otaria." On the other hand, "Remake of Otaria" in some other medium than MtG has crossed my mind. There's a bunch of story elements of Otaria that I really want to love, but the story itself ruined everything.

The Mirari would've been so much better if it were treated as the main antagonist of the story that happens to be an inanimate, unthinking object. There are a lot of great characters as well: Ixidor, Chainer, Braids, Skellum... Some are honestly destroyed by execution. How about a character who sold out his own race for personal gain? And we end up with Laquatus.

A return would be rough, because what we can return to storywise is a bit too generic. Other than the Cabal, the societies weren't really developed enough to be non-generic. Dementia summoning is basically the only interesting observed skill set that wasn't unique to a person. With the time jump, you could drag out one or two to become new schools, but too much more and it gets extra tacky.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:18 pm 
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Barinellos wrote:
As a sizable aside, can I just say how profoundly annoyed I am that Dromar is the only one of them to never get a reprint?
Also, Daarigaz is apparently a bit of a psycho in his newest incarnation, so the Bladewings are keeping him happy while actually running things.
Wait, what, where did you get that from? Because the artbook and the lore info card you could get in booster packs both suggest Darigaaz is pretty much the opposite of a psycho, as in, really reasonable and co-operative, and not relying on the Bladewings to run anything at all. In fact, it's actually the Bladewings you should keep an eye on.

The Dromar thing is really weird, yeah. It doesn't affect me because I'd run the original printing for personal nostalgia anyway, but I think Dromar deserves a reprint to complete the cycle.


Barinellos wrote:
Quote:
That said, I wonder if we'll ever get a confirmation that the wedge-dragons from Planar Chaos were in fact from an alternate timeline, or what else was up with them. I kinda hope they were, because I don't think anything good would come from integrating them into the storyline...

We got that confirmation years and years ago. Matt Cavota said something regarding that, but the long of the short is, no, they aren't from an alternate timeline. They aren't actually Primevals in the way the originals were.
Huh, okay, looks like I missed and/or forgot that one completely. That makes me curious how the heck they fit into the bigger picture, between the real Primevals, The Ur-Dragon, Scion of the Ur-Dragon and whatnot, but on the other hand, the answer might end up involving the Elder Dragons as well somehow, and considering how Core Set 19 irredeemably ruined those forever, I guess I'd rather not ask for an explanation too loudly...


Barinellos wrote:
Maybe, but effectively, you aren't doing anything that is actually relevant to old Otaria in the first place. All the old cultures were wiped off the map, so anything you introduce is effectively completely new, and at that point, why bother making allusions to the old if there's genuinely no connective tissue.
Wait a second, I think you're getting ahead of yourself there. The only culture that was expicitly wiped out completely were the Pardic barbarians. I actually re-read the Time Spiral trilogy a few months ago, and there's nothing to suggest everyone else was dead and gone, too. And the ideas for new approaches I listed were just meant to fill some gaps or give a different spin to things here and there, not to completely replace old Otaria.

I went through the cards in Time Spiral block to see what references there might be relevant for modern Otaria. Here are the cards that caught my attention: Skirk Ridge Exhumer, Tectonic Fiend, Akroma's Memorial, Crookclaw Transmuter, Firefright Mage, Ixidron, Magus of the Coffers, Reiterate

The last two cards in particular suggest that the Mirari might have left a lingering influence for people to tap into. There is a lot of stuff you could use as mechanical callbacks to the Mirari, e.g. doubling/copying things (spells, mana, counters) or maybe even Proliferate if it just so happened to be in the set. And then you have factions like the Kamahlite druids or the Order of Akroma that we know is a part of the Church of Serra and might be connected to that memorial (and Sword of Vengeance for that matter). The Crookclaws were aven who were mutated by the Mirari, so it seems like some of the mutations were either passed down or re-appear spontaneously within the population.


Huh, I've never thought about "Return to Otaria." On the other hand, "Remake of Otaria" in some other medium than MtG has crossed my mind. There's a bunch of story elements of Otaria that I really want to love, but the story itself ruined everything.

The Mirari would've been so much better if it were treated as the main antagonist of the story that happens to be an inanimate, unthinking object. There are a lot of great characters as well: Ixidor, Chainer, Braids, Skellum... Some are honestly destroyed by execution. How about a character who sold out his own race for personal gain? And we end up with Laquatus.

A return would be rough, because what we can return to storywise is a bit too generic. Other than the Cabal, the societies weren't really developed enough to be non-generic. Dementia summoning is basically the only interesting observed skill set that wasn't unique to a person. With the time jump, you could drag out one or two to become new schools, but too much more and it gets extra tacky.
I don't think actually remaking old stories in any way, shape or form would be a good idea though, or at least nothing I would be interested in. In my book, canon is canon, and I'd rather have new stories and let old mistakes rest instead of starting all over (with the possible exception of getting actual novels for sets/blocks that didn't have them originally).

I definitely want the real Cabal with real Dementia summoning back, that would be my number one inclusion. If I had to make a set that is only partly about Otaria and had to focus on some major aspects, I'd most likely pick (from the top of my head) the old Cabal with all that entails (Dementia magic! Pit fighting!), dwarves (and ideally an appearance of Fiers), various mutants, the Institute of Arcane Studies along with some minor glimpses of Tamingazin (Viashino!) and a rivaly between the Institute and the Tolarians (might as well bring back wizard tribal), and, last but not least, Cephalids and Nantuko.


You guys raise an interesting question, though: What does a fantasy culture need to not feel too generic?

For instance, I honestly can't tell what someone who is completely unfamiliar with the plane and looked at the Dominaria set would actually see. Would it all look and feel "generic" to them? I hope not, but I can't know for sure. All I know is that, through my own Vorthos goggles, "generic" is probably one of the last adjectives that I would use to describe Dominaria. The artbook in particular added some additional depth here and there, not just by compiling existing information but also by making up new stuff as well as releasing previously unknown information from dusty old documents. Not to mention the new connections they made, e.g. between worship of the Ancestor and the Church of Serra. I'm pretty confident something similar could be achieved for Otaria if/when they choose to give it some time in the spotlight.

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Tell why Truth must fight with Falsehood, and why Truth will always win."
—Love Song of Night and Day


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