If Magic: The Gathering has managed to endure over time, it’s because it has been able to change and take on different forms. It has never been stuck in a single form or way of seeing things. It has navigated through the aesthetics of each era, the ways of doing things in each time, and also different ideas and settings. Magic doesn’t take place in an absolute monolithic universe. It takes place in a multiverse where practically anything is possible. That’s why it’s so fascinating, and why it can change radically from one set to another.
The latest Magic set, “Throne of Eldraine,” was released just over a week ago. In this set, we journey to the plane of Eldraine, a world where fairy tales and Arthurian myths come together in an unusual yet fascinating combination. We’ve discussed the specific details of the set at another time, so this time we want to talk about something else. What makes this set special. All the references to fairy tales that we can find in Throne of Eldraine.
How could we begin to talk about Throne of Eldraine? Of course, in the only way possible.
Once upon a time, there was a young man who didn’t know his father. This young man was named Kellan, and he had both fairy and human blood in his veins. Driven by the curiosity to discover who his father was, he embarked on a mission to become a hero for his kingdom and defeat three wicked witches. Once upon a time, there was a young prince burdened with a heavy responsibility. This prince was named Will, and despite the death of the kings, he had decided to unite the kingdom and find a way to bring peace after a terrible war. Once upon a time, there was a young princess who couldn’t bear the loss. This princess was named Rowan, and unable to accept the death of her parents, she chose to separate from her brother and seek her own answers through violence.
Each one is the protagonist of their own story in their own way. They all face the same adversary: three witches, three sisters, with terrible powers. Hylda, Agatha, and Eriette. But as in every great story, there’s always a twist. Behind the witches, there’s an even more terrible power, someone who calls themselves Ashiok, pulling the strings from the shadows…
If you want to know more about the fairy tale that Throne of Eldraine tells, Magic: The Gathering publishes a series of stories on their website with each new set, completely free, recounting the story of that set. Following its main characters and usually delving into secondary characters in some side stories, it’s their way of delving into the game’s lore. But that doesn’t mean their exploration of fairy tales ends there.
One way to play Magic is through draft. It’s basically playing with the cards you get in booster packs, which can contain cards of all kinds. Typically, sets design drafts around two-color archetypes. This is something that Eldraine has used to pay homage to various classic tales.
In Magic, there are five colors, which means there are ten combinations of two colors, ten possible draft archetypes. All of them make different nods to classic tales. Some are very explicit, like Ruby, Daring Tracker, who is Little Red Riding Hood, or Neva, Stalked by Nightmares, who is Snow White. But the funniest ones are those that reference classic tales through their interactions with the game’s mechanics. Totentanz, Swarm Piper is based on the Pied Piper of Hamelin and keeps creating rats, while Greta, Sweettooth Scourge is based on Hansel and Gretel and can sacrifice food tokens to produce different effects. These nods take the original stories and create fun gameplay effects.
Of course, the references to classic tales don’t stop there. Throne of Eldraine is full of nods to classic tales, some of which we’ve mentioned, and others we haven’t. Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty also make appearances, among others. The set is packed with cards that pay homage to this type of literature in a demonstration of boundless love. But we’ll leave it here for you to discover for yourself. Sometimes, you have to leave a few breadcrumbs to find your own path.