Posted in Feature on November 23, 2005

By Matt Cavotta

Matt has worn many wizard hats in the 18 years he has worked on Magic—art-mage, logomancer, lightning bard, and (of course) Planeswalker.

The Metadwarfosis

Ale-sodden Sing-alongs. There should be no explanation necessary here. One thing that is not cool is the cheesy stereotypical drunken dwarf crooning in a crude Irish-esque accent. If we “axe” this, we are swiftly on the road to cooler dwarves.

All Axes, All the Time. What's the deal with dwarves and axes? Why would a race that lives under rock ever develop an affinity for a tree-cutting weapon? Why would a weapon that must be swung wide to be effective be favored by a race that dwells in the tight confines of hewn tunnels? Why, scrapping all actual logic, would a race of any kind always reach for the same sort of weapon no matter what foe they engage? It's called shortsighted Gimli-filching. Sure, he likes his axe, but do ALL dwarves have to copy him. Rumpor Bristlebeard uses a short spear (gasp!), because he can easily skewer foes invading his home tunnel. Our dwarves are cooler already.

These Dwarves are Made for Diggin'. Why would a race that burrows underground have little natural tools for doing so. Other than the fact that they're short, dwarves have no adaptations to their own environment. OK, they can see in the dark too, but their squinty little eyes don't look anything like the eyes of an underground dweller. Our new dwarves will have larger, more light-absorbing eyeballs. Also, why don't dwarves have any natural digging capability? They're basically just short, fat humans. Let's give them slightly longer arms for reaching, and big strong hands with thick sharp fingernails for digging (in case a pick or shovel is not handy.)

Up the Obsession! Let's amp up the red in these folks. Bump up their love of precious metals to all-out obsession. They could be like little twisted underdweller crows, each out to one-up the other with a bigger pile o' loot.

To Beard or Not to Beard. That is the question. I say “not to beard.” A race that defines itself and bases its pride upon its facial hair seems really trite and thin. “Don't mess with the beard!” “Are you insulting my beard?!” “All great heroes have beards!” “Beards, beards, beards!” That sounds really lame to me. It's especially lame because other races have beards too. Let's make it so our dwarves are proud of their reckless abandon in battle and of the number of foes they have pinned to the end of their [insert sword, spear, dagger, or any other weapon that is not an axe.] Oh, and of their pile o' loot too!

Cry Anarchy! Our dwarves will also be more essentially red. They will not help each other out all the time and “stick together through thick and thin.” Leave that stuff for sappy humans. Our guys are bloodthirsty little warmongers. They are a twisted by their fiery obsession, each out to spill more blood than the next guy. Now we're seeing red!

These Dwarves are Made for Diggin' v.2. I am also confused about why dwarves are so thick and heavy. It's probably just to make them the obvious opposite of thin and graceful elves. Rubbish. They live in tunnels, they should be adapted to that life. Instead of being so broad, our dwarves will be a little more wiry. Strong and hearty, but wiry. This makes it easier for them to navigate the budding mine shafts and tunnels that they burrow out. In addition to actually being short, they naturally walk with a bit of a hunch- nobody likes to hit his head all the time. These dwarves are already more believable. This is

By Clangeddin, we've created a goblin! Could this be why all the small red ground creatures of recent memory are goblins? I doubt it, but it is good for a little chuckle and a brief moment of contemplation on how dwarves and goblins represent what is red about red weenie creatures.

If I had my way, we probably would see dwarves in Magic, but they'd mostly be white, and there would be time and attention paid to reframing them as a race of sometimes bald-faced folk who sometimes might not live underground and often use weapons other than axes and who speak their own nothing-like-irish language. They would be a proud people, spiritual and devoted, wise and ancient. My dwarves would have cool cultural characteristics other than their stature, hairyness, and level of inebriation.

[The survey originally included in this article has been removed.]

Until that happens I, for one, am not all that sad that old-school dwarves have been off the scene for a while. I'd rather have them in the deep of their mines, combing their beards and sharpening their axes- waiting, waiting to see the light and emerge as something less slave to the ways of old folklore and new Hollywood mythology. I will happily wait for a true Magic dwarf.

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