With the ancient-Greek-inspired Theros block now underway, one of the major topics for speculation in the Magic rumor community is what real-world historical and folkloric sources future planes and blocks will draw upon. One of the as-of-yet unused inspirations that seems to be on Mark Rosewater's shortlist is Arthurian mythology, with the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Morgan le Fay, Avalon, and the rest. He recently answered a spate of questions about it on Tumblr.
When urzishra14 asked, "All this talk of 'not wanting traditional fantasy' in MTG makes me curious. I would think MTG would jump at a top-down traditional fantasy block a la Innistrad for 'horror.'" he answered:
We’ve tried hard to define our own take on fantasy. That doesn’t mean we can’t touch upon some more traditional fantasy things but we want to be very careful with it.
Ordinarily, "traditional fantasy" is defined as medieval and Arthurian-derived, so this answer would seem to rule out the possibility. However, when the question is couched in a different way, the outlook gets brighter.
When chemicalchemical asked, "If you ever do the British myth / Arthurian-esque block you've alluded to, producing a wise old wizard with a long beard might just be unavoidable, eh? Sometimes the tropes are too good ignore entirely . . ." the response was:
When we do an Arthurian legend inspired set, we’ll talk. : )
The "when" is, of course, significant. Rosewater seems to regard it as inevitable, and the only mystery is how long it will take. The replies to this were enthusiastic; ascoat wrote "That could be pretty neat. If they do have a pointy-hatted staff-wielding long-robed-and-bearded wizard in such a block, it’ll have a lot more impact because it’s NOT the norm in Magic," while anaivecynic indulged in a terrible pun: "Mordred Stax = that thing your opponent calls you is technically true."
A slightly different take on "traditional fantasy" is pulp, Robert E. Howard-esque sword-and-sorcery, which vicisaposer brought up, saying "Do you realize most of us MISS normal elves, goblins, dwarfs (etc) AND pointy hat wizards? Thats fantasy. Kinights, vampires, zombies and steampunk redheads in flames are not as fantasy as old sword&sorcery people is. (Please dont kill Chandra)" and prompting the response:
Magic is a more contemporary take on fantasy. Dungeons & Dragons is Wizards’ more traditional take on fantasy.
The replies to this were divided, but some interesting ideas were brought up - bagelsandfox wrote, "I don’t need magic to be have more high fantasy, but I’d love it to have more pulp fantasy influences like Conan and Strange Tales," while anaivecynic replied again, "Even sword and sorcery is more than just Robert E Howard pastiches (Frazetta lens optional, but more often than not). The genre itself is more deconstruction these days than playing the tropes straight," and goibon said, "There’s room for a little comedy, right? The idea that there are NO pointy hat wizards in the multiverse is ludicrous. If they offend the world so much then make them overtly silly. Eccentric Mage, for example, with robe, pointy hat and epic beard." Going in entirely the other direction, panblogodytes wrote, "I’m probably in the minority in wishing Magic should be able to get even more modern in the places it goes: Victorian isn’t a recent enough cut off point for me, and I want to see a Soviet-inspired plane."