4 Popular Movies Summarised With Magic Cards by Joseph Dunlap
One of the many things about Magic: The Gathering that sets it apart from other tabletop games is its beautiful artwork and rich lore. Entire sets and blocks are designed around unique worlds with their own characters, races, locations, and even art styles.
When a card’s title, text, and artwork (and in most cases, flavour text) come together to tell a particularly engaging story, it is considered to have good “flavour”. Some recent examples of cards with exceptional flavour are Liliana, Heretical Healer (Liliana, Defiant Necromancer), Demonic Pact, Merciless Eviction, Deicide, Launch the Fleet, and the list goes on.
Every card in Magic is uniquely named to tell some kind of story, and the artwork of each card helps illustrate that story. In essence, you could consider every card in a deck to be a small part of a greater story, and the match itself a constantly shifting narrative.
Here in the 21st century some of the greatest stories of our culture are told through the movies we watch. What would happen if we attempted to translate the plots of some of our most popular movies to a game of Magic? What cards would best describe a movie’s key plot elements and characters? What unexpected twists and turns might develop along the way?
(Note: In order to accurately summarize the movie plots, some of the rules of Magic may be bent a few times, and utterly broken other times in the name of a good story. I have attempted to adhere to different formats based on the story, but sometimes I had to throw in an illegal card in order to accurately tell the story. In those cases, I tried to favour more recent cards, such as a card from M14 thrown into a Standard game.)
1. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
The Plot: The plot to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a little confusing, so I’ll try to keep things as simple as possible.
Merlin (you know, the wizard from Arthurian legend) has three apprentices: Horvath, Veronica, and Balthazar (played by Nicolas Cage). Horvath teams up with a powerful sorceress named Morgana, who apparently wants to do evil stuff to the world. Veronica absorbs Morgana’s life essence into herself to stop her, but Morgana tries to ‘possess’ Veronica from the inside.
Balthazar is forced to step in during this struggle and imprisons Veronica in a magic nesting doll (called the Grimhold) so Morgana can’t escape. Horvath mortally wounds Merlin, and Balthazar imprisons Horvath in the magic nesting doll. In his dying breath, Merlin tells Balthazar that a more powerful wizard will emerge one day to defeat Morgana.
In the meantime, Balthazar goes around history imprisoning wizards in the Grimhold whenever they try to bring back Morgana (remember, she wants to do evil stuff to the world). We skip to modern times and see Jay Baruchel’s Jay-Baruchel-eqsue character, a college student named Dave. Long story short, he becomes Balthazar’s apprentice and uses a magic ring to do magic stuff.
Horvath has been released from the Grimhold and is using it to release other wizards. He releases Sun Lok, a dark sorcerer who summons dragons, and Dave defeats him by distracting him while he is attempting a summoning spell. Then Dave loses his ring, but it’s ok because he’s Merlin’s successor and he does magic stuff without the ring to stop Morgana from killing everyone when she gets released. Balthazar gets killed, Dave kills Morgana with a Tesla coil, and Dave resurrects Balthazar.
See, I told you it was confusing.
The Magic Game: Balthazar sits down for an FNM match at a local gaming store for wizards and sorcerers. A few moments later, Horvath sits down across from him. He’s not too pleased about this because Horvath is not exactly the easiest guy to get along with, but nonetheless they shuffle up and start the game.
Early in the game, Horvath casts Liliana, Heretical Healer and appears to be able to flip her the following turn. Balthazar follows up by casting Banisher Priest targeting Liliana. The next turn, Balthazar casts Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. ‘You could say he’s my apprentice,’ Balthazar jokes. Horvath grunts.
The following turn, Horvath attempts to remove Jace, but Balthazar counters. Balthazar then casts Avarice Amulet and equips it to Jace. He is now tapped out and passes turn to Horvath, who casts Dragonmaster Outcast. Balthazar has no answers in hand, so he waits to see what two cards he draws the next turn (one in the upkeep from Avarice Amulet).
Jace doesn’t let him down, and Balthazar draws an answer to the Dragonmaster in the form of Hero’s Downfall. Unfortunately, Balthazar responds with an answer to Banisher Priest, releasing Liliana, Heretical Healer. The Dragonmaster dies, and Liliana threatens to flip to Liliana, Defiant Necromancer.
In response, Balthazar activates Jace’s ability again and is now able to flip him to Jace, Telepath Unbound. He immediately activates the -3 ability and flashes back Hero’s Downfall, killing Liliana before she can flip.
Horvath concedes, and bursts into flames. Wizards do that sometimes.
2. The Lion King
The Plot: I’m going to assume everyone reading this knows the plot of The Lion King. If you don’t, go watch it now, then come back and finish reading.
The Magic Game: Rafiki sits down for a friendly casual game of Magic with Scar, who assures Rafiki that his demise will be quick. Rafiki smiles broadly and warns Scar that his Lion Tribal deck has a few surprises of its own. They shuffle up and start the game.
Early in the game, Rafiki plays Savannah Lions and Scar opens up with Gibbering Hyenas, but sits back and bides his time. Rafiki plays Ajani, Caller of the Pride, followed by Fleecemane Lion, which he plays by holding it above his head and then placing it on the board while hooting excitedly.
Scar rolls his eyes.
Ajani is dead and the lion is exiled, but Rafiki appears unphased – even after Scar plays Might Makes Right and takes control over Savannah Lions. Rafiki draws removal for Banishing Light, allowing his lion to return from exile, then casts the large beast Rampaging Baloths. He plays a Mountain and announces that his lion is returning to his homeland. The Baloth’s Landfall triggers and the lion is now accompanied by two beasts.
Within a few turns, Rafiki is victorious and Scar reluctantly admits defeat. The Savannah belongs to the lions once more.
3. Clash of the Titans
The Plot: Perseus is a fisher who finds out Zeus is his father. Hades threatens to destroy the nearby city of Argos with the Kraken unless the king and queen sacrifice their daughter, so Zeus gives Perseus a magic sword. Perseus refuses to use the sword, and instead he goes on a quest with some soldiers, fight some scorpions, teams up with some Djinn sorcerers, and kills Medusa. He uses the head of Medusa to defeat the Kraken as it is on Argos’ doorstep.
The Magic Game: Zeus sits down for his weekly game of Magic: The Gathering with his brother Hades. This is Hades’ only chance to leave the Underworld, so he willingly learned how to play Magic and tries every week to defeat the King of Olympus. This week, they both agreed to Theros constructed, but like every week, they both cheated. If you don’t already know this, here’s a word of warning: Olympian gods cheat.
On his turn, Zeus casts Godsend but is unable to equip it. The next turn he draws Ordeal of Heliod and plays it on his hero. ‘A quest!’ he exclaims. During the next few turns, Hades casts a few deathtouch scorpions, but Zeus casts a few Djinn creatures to ‘aid the hero on his quest.’
Finally, Hades draws Hythonia the Cruel, the legendary gorgon which, to his anger, Favored Hoplite defeats easily after Zeus casts Gods Willing. Unfortunately, as a result the last time counter is removed from Deep-Sea Kraken and he hits the board with an earth-shattering thud (Magic games are no dull affair on Olympus).
Zeus casts Gorgon’s Head and equips it to his hero, but he is unable to block the Kraken during Hades’ next turn. The Kraken does its damage, and Hades passes the turn back. The next card Zeus draws is Fall of the Hammer, which he immediately casts on Favored Hoplite targeting the Kraken. The hero is victorious, and Zeus makes it a point to say as much to his annoyed brother.
To this day, Hades despises Heroic decks.
4. The Bourne Identity
The Plot: Jason Bourne is an assassin who, at the beginning of the movie, has amnesia and is fished out of the ocean nearly dead. Once he has recovered and tries to find out his identity, he ends up in several fights with security guards and police attempting to apprehend him. Each fight ends with him knocking everyone out and holding a gun in his hand, which was taken from an officer during the fight out of instinct. Treadstone, the government-funded but dishonest organization which had previously given Bourne his assassination orders, sends several assassins after him, all of whom are defeated.
Finally, Bourne begins to remember who he is and why he has anmesia. He was sent on an assassination mission and failed (because his target was surrounded by grandchildren), and was then nearly killed by his target. In the end, Bourne infiltrates Treadstone, tells his former superiors to stop tracking him, and fights his way out. Treadstone is now considered a failure, and Conklin, its leader, is assassinated at the order of his politician overseer.
The Magic Game: Conklin sits down for the final of FNM. He looks around for his opponent, Jason, but Jason is nowhere to be seen. About a minute after the round starts, Jason comes stumbling into the store, soaking wet. Jason appears disoriented but they begin the match anyway.
At the start of the match, Conklin plays an aggressive low-drop creature, hoping to get a quick start. Unfortunately, when he attacks Jason immediately answers with a burn spell in his hand. ‘Wait,’ says Jason, mildly confused. ‘How did I get that burn spell in my hand?’
Slightly annoyed, Conklin ignores his opponent’s oddness and plays another creature. Once again, Jason has a burn spell ready for it. ‘Okay, this is weird,’ says Jason. ‘Why do I keep ending up with burn spells in my hand?’ Conklin sighs impatiently.
‘I hope he isn’t going to keep doing this,’ Conklin thinks to himself. Fortunately, he has hit his third land drop and is able to start deploying bigger threats. Like clockwork each threat is answered immediately. With each kill, Jason becomes a little more confident.
Finally, Conklin loses his cool and attempts to cheat. He is immediately caught by a nearby judge and issued a game loss. As they are shuffling for the next game, Jason looks up and says, ‘Wait, I remember you now… I know who you are. You beat me at the final of last week’s FNM. This week, I’m winning.’
Conklin begins to sweat nervously. This game goes similarly to the previous game, with his threats being immediately answered. Jason starts to play some threats of his own, and Conklin begins to feel the pressure. Just as things are looking hopeless for Conklin, he attempts one last cheat, palming a sweeper to wipe the board clean and start over.
The judge catches him in the act and intervenes. Conklin is disqualified from the tournament. Moments later, the judges and tournament organizer realize Jason is nowhere to be found. ‘He’s disappeared,’ says one of the judges.
‘He does that,’ says the store owner. ‘He’ll come back for next FNM. He always does.’
So, that’s all from me, did I miss anything out? What popular movie or TV series can you think of that is embodied in a Magic card? What is the movie and what is the card? Please let me know in the comments as I’d love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading,