the mtg book reviews

the mtg book reviews

Critical Analysis of Magic: The Gathering Book Reviews

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1. Introduction to Magic: The Gathering and its Literature

The most comprehensive and widely-read website about Magic: The Gathering novelizations for serious players is WorldCat at last count had 389 items with ‘Magic The Gathering’ in the title. Most of these are strategies for playing the physical game rather than book reviews, but they also included at least 79 of the series’ novels and graphic novels. There are still not many comparative reviews of Magic: The Gathering novelizations. This will be necessary if one wants to include plot overlap as a criterion. There is some evidence of book review markets being less competitive to begin with. Werth (2009) and Cox (2007) showed that new Sci-Fi and Fantasy books reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly were rated less accessible than other new releases in their categories, which suggests a higher ratio of demand to supply in the review market. This is assumed to be because books that share aspects of the genre with previous best-seller tie-ins are both more likely to be used in a marketing campaign and more likely to be carried in a bookstore that reports sales to Publisher’s Weekly to begin with.

Magic: The Gathering is a popular and complex trading card game with a disproportionate influence on the market for such games. As befits a game built on so much narrative content, there is an extensive literature on Magic carried by characters and settings partially licensed from it. Magic is explicitly aimed at a male audience, and while the company has long offered starter kits and other low-cost options, Magic has grown vastly more expensive in both absolute and relative terms. This makes good advice about which Magic: The Gathering novels to buy valuable. The available information is not very helpful. Recommended reading lists, including those presented in reputable broad-based popular media, are very short and littered with standalone books. These are not, in general, the ones critics or ordinary Magic players believe are worth buying.

2. Methodology for Reviewing MTG Books

Of course, I also looked for some books to review myself, as others have mentioned that they cannot find or have not personally read the book yet. In addition to the formal reviewers, there was also a group for shadow- or informal reviewers. Often times, the shadow-reviewers were the formal reviewers themselves, and would offer to read books on a more ad-hoc basis or if their main choice was already taken by somebody else.

Ungraded: Books that I was unable to find a reviewer for. Those that would not receive positive or negative reviews would also fall into this “meta-category.” This meta-category was generally decided once I began writing the literature; not all books are accounted for in the methodology section of the literature. I simply could not find reviewers for all of the books I found.

I began the book review section of this article by querying the MTG community, particularly an MTG-focused, and several non-MTG-focused subreddits for lists of MTG books. I used this list and the resources my search generated to identify several groups of books and assigned reviewers to read these books. Each book was read and graded by at least two MTG players. Among the two grades, the average of both was used as the book’s final grade.

3. Key Themes and Trends in MTG Book Reviews

As the main purpose of the search was to gain knowledge of the various 142 currently published MTG book projects and what their content consisted of, search and selection were inclusive in order for the data to be comprehensive in addressing this purpose. This applied to publication date; the review date was not controlled to be within the time range of 2005 and 2015. This time range was chosen in relation to where MTG book publications showed an increase. With this search method, it was unlikely that all book reviews have been included on all books that had been published during that specific time. It was considered, if necessary, to carry out a follow-up search and renewal of the book review list at a later stage in the research process but this was not deemed necessary at the moment.

This study explores various book projects associated with the Magic: The Gathering franchise, and this part of the article provides a critical analysis of trends and patterns in the published MTG book reviews. Criteria included the case in which the book is associated with the game Magic: The Gathering and that it was reviewed by a book review source. The review needed to be accessible either through a web search or collected by one of the researchers as part of the article investigation. The review also had to be in English, written about a single book as a subject, and the content had to inform the researchers about, or show specifically, a perceived connection to Magic: The Gathering.

4. Comparative Analysis of Popular MTG Books

It is possible that the established topics of gameplay improvement and Esoteria will continue to generate new topical books, as they appear to have widely acceptable aspects and long lasting value. That established patterns of interest often continue, and that the books popular with the public generally focus on specific established ideas. It is unlikely that the purchase of such items could hurt a player too profoundly; reading the thoughts of established magic theorists can be illuminating, and to be sure any additional information about game mechanics could come in handy. The negative potentially arises when the book is touted as the essential purchase a player could make. The professional writing of literature about Magic: The Gathering was begun by players, to discuss the gameplay and the minutia of what happens during it.

By observing topics of popular MTG books, we see another pattern in popular subjects: gameplay advice. The magic community often promotes the concept that refined and improved play is the most important characteristic of better players. The books which offer gameplay assistance richly illustrate this preconception. Interestingly, a respectable level of disillusionment results from the literary quest for specific strategies that offer absolute success. Factor and counter-factor debates are constant, with no clear winner. Despite the existence of books that offer anything approaching widely agreed upon “how to with every deck” advice, players continue to seek a simple solution to complex questions. The idea of literary superiority in something as nebulous as “the color pie” is equally difficult to quantify. When a debate falls just short of religious intolerance, it is unlikely that simple resolution through a book will occur.

The magic community, both online and off, has extensive discussions and reviews regarding which books offer the best advice, ranging from books advertised as “surefire tools.” Conclusion and speculation regarding the contents within this genre of books depends on the author. However, when comparing the books the community deemed important enough to spend time and money on, many patterns become apparent.

5. Conclusion and Future Directions in MTG Literary Criticism

In future work, I would like to see a few things. Obviously, given my thesis that MTG creates a ready-made narrative, and given the fact that I have refrained from actually telling one of its possible storylines, I would love to see a work that tries to integrate Magic novels with official MTG card art into an actual storyline, with characters who do the things that the cards depict, who live in the worlds and cities described in the novels, and who chase the cards and the card art through the brainstorm storyline suggested to the player by MTG’s rules, symbols, and art.

By way of conclusion, it is important to remember that in the final analysis, Magic is a game – a rich and wonderful game – with incredibly deep and intricate game rules. Moreover, the thousands of card interactions take place within a constructed sociopolitical sphere, and the ongoing rules disputes between players, the competition for social status among players, and the fights for promotion and sales between the company are all part of what makes the game so multifaceted, rich, and deeply involving. On my reading, novels, comics, and other mega-games, like the issue of The Duelist, genuinely and tangibly add to the game and enhance those features themselves. On this view, these texts are worth extensive critical analysis.

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