Returning to the Fold: MtG’s Global Planeswalker Series

24 Jun

$By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

In concept, Wizards of the Coast announced a terrific idea: to get “a team of Chinese artists, writers, and folklorists to explore a new branch of Magic lore rooted in Chinese aesthetics and mythology.”

They released two new Planeswalker decks a few days ago—Global Series: Jiang Yanggu & Mu Yanling—to appease a new (re)generation of players, like myself who is part of that demographic and heritage they want to appease. I love works inspired by ancient worlds. My return to playing this game is because of Amonkhet. When that phases out, I do not know if I will continue. I hear Modern tournaments are brutal, and I am not sure if I want to play in that arena.

This release is not meant for serious competition or Friday Night Magic tournament play. Not everyone will know this detail. It’s not written on the accompanying story card. From WotC’s own mouth: “After much discussion, we settled on something unusual: these cards would be legal for Standard play in mainland China events. They will also be legal in Vintage and Legacy everywhere. They will never be Modern legal, because once they rotate out of Standard, the reason they were Standard legal no longer applies…”


I have no issue with this ruling. But to expand upon this line of cards, does this mean the 1999-2007 Portal set will make a comeback? I’m thinking about the greater picture. This company is missing the boat by a huge margin. They moved forward by identifying “Portal” as a new app to be released later this year to track gameplay and keep up to date with the latest in-house news. The original product had the same purpose, to introduce players to this game. Aside from one reprinted card (Brilliant Plan), I am truly saddened not enough connection is made with this with prior sets. I do not buy into the developer’s reasoning.

Also, the aesthetic in the artwork feels different. The original cards had a consistency which truly transported me to a world I admired in the original art prints my family owns. This latest release feels like I am owning a factory-made reproduction to emulate the past. There’s something missing in the experience as I’m playing Mu Yanling for the first time. The set from more than a decade ago does better! Horsemanship, communion with the spirit world and uniting China were key back then. If the creative minds were considering cinema’s contribution, where’s the kung-fu fighting?


When considering my love includes the many adaptations of the Monkey King, one token card does not feel like enough to capture this world’s flavour. This subset takes inspiration from Classic of Mountains and Seas over other works of Chinese literature. I feel a broader scope is needed.

Yes, I’m being brutal. When I am not seeing the folklore I grew up with (especially regarding a troublesome monkey or his journey to the west), I am thanking my parents for giving me books to read to remind me of my heritage. WotC caught my interest, but when there is lack of further product which truly explores Ancient China at its fullest (from its historical perspective to Daoism to Ancestor Worship), these two planeswalker decks are not enough. I’m actually interested in exploring the Portal release more than to continue playing these preconstructed decks. A few details, like animism, is at least acknowledged.

I hoped this release would be an addition to the Portal set more than a decade later. That’s why I feel this release failed for global recognition. My ancestors are not pleased.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: