Narset, With The Short Attention Span, by Liam Casserly
It was so very easy for me a few weeks ago to do that polite cricket clap and shout “Well done, Wizards. So brave.” from the sidelines and pat myself on the back for being right on, but this week I’m on here writing 1000 words about how Wizards hurt my feelings.
Well, that’s not actually the case.
I love the lore. I think the way in which the story is being delivered through the Uncharted Realms column is fantastic. I was already excited we were presented a new Planeswalker card to oggle at. However, the story of Narset in the Sarkhan-altered timeline made me uncomfortable. It reminded me of a time in my life when I felt out of control and not like everyone else. It also made me think of today’s players who might get a kick out of seeing Narset in the Multiverse and then become attached to her as a game piece.
If you don’t want to know how life on Tarkir goes on like at the present, please look away now.
Lots has changed since Narset died at the hands of Zurgo Helmsmasher at the very end of the Khans of Tarkir storyline. Gone are the Khans. Gone are the clans. Welcome Dragonlords, over 1000 years old dragons who became leaders after successfully resolved sieges: Citadel Siege, Monastery Siege, Palace Siege, Outpost Siege, Frontier Siege. Welcome two colors identities. Abzan have lost their Black. They no longer have connection to their ancestors in the way they used to. Temur have thrown away their Blue, which represented their intellect and reverted back to a more primitive clan. Mardu are now just Black and Red, losing their White. This was displayed in the story where Alesha left a comrade behind when chasing Kolaghan, something she wouldn’t have done before. Sultai have forgotten the balance that Green brought to their clan. They are going full frontal against nature with lots of zombies and other unnatural things.
And Jeskai… their Red is gone, so they have lost their emotional part of the colour pie. The clan now has a much more clinical and controlled approach.
Here comes Narset Transcendent.
Narset’s spark igniting was hinted at all the way back in the Planeswalker’s Guide for Khans part 1 and part 2, so the reveal wasn’t that much of a shock to avid story watches like myself. Nevertheless it was done in a very cool way. But as I read the story I started to feel slightly uncomfortable with what was going on.
In a flashback section we are brought along on a shopping trip with an eight year old Narset and her mother. Narset is not the monk as we know her from Khans storyline. She is a young girl with a very agile mind. She is feeling stressed about not having enough to do with her mind. She is anxious that she runs out of stimulation. She needs to be doing something and when she isn’t, she finds herself compelled to act, bringing a lot of trouble upon herself.
I did not enjoy this part of the story. Don’t get me wrong. It was well told and I think it reflects the feeling that the author was trying to express very well. In fact this was probably why I was feeling uncomfortable. These days it’s called Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or sometimes ADHD or just ADD. Back in the 80s it was just called being disruptive.
I struggled in school because I found it hard to concentrate. I spent a lot of time acting out, and knocking over my own stacks of apples, and then not being able to adequately explain what had happened. Another theme was that I was forever being told how “Could do better.” Unfortunately for me I was not lucky enough to find any Dragonlord who saw my potential and taught me things to keep my mind occupied.
It’s pretty hard growing up, no matter who you are or what privilege society thinks you might have. Growing up is hard and when it’s possible you aren’t quite the same as everyone around you it can be isolating. I’m an adult now and sometimes I go out of my way to watch or read challenging material for my own entertainment. Let’s face it, most Oscar-nominated movies have a challenging subject matter. So, whilst I felt uncomfortable reading it at first, I understand why Wizards have included a character like this.
It’s important for younger players who are not neurotypical to be able to read stories like these. Because these things are on a spectrum, not everyone is going to identify with everything to do with Narset’s disorder, but they will certainly be able to pick out things they have experienced. I’m very impressed with Wizards inclusive policy. I applaud the way in which they are being progressive within the multiverse. I have seen a few complaints of tokenism or even saying that it is a publicity stunt but I do not feel that way.
The only problem is that, in my opinion, Narset is a very playable card. On top of that she’s a Planeswalker. Both of these factors mean that anyone who identifies with Narset and wants to play with her will have to fork out real money. It’s a small gripe, and I can see that if they’d made an unplayable legendary creature as the first non-neurotypical character, I would probably be moaning about being shoved in a corner.
In the end WotC have gone down this path and so far they’re doing a great job. They could have just said “Guys it’s fantasy. We don’t want to deal with real world problems because they are icky and make people feel bad.” Magic is the second biggest brand that Hasbro owns, after Transformers. The very fact that they still take what could be perceived as risks with a property like this is really amazing.
I just keep my fingers crossed that when we go back to Zendikar that Gideon will have developed a social anxiety disorder or maybe Nicol Bolas will have drug dependency issues.
Community Question: Do you know about any instance that playing Magic or being a part of the Magic community changed anybody’s life for the better?