I like fantasy, and I like much of my fantasy traditional, with cloaks, horses, feudal relationships and swords. A recent rejection said my story was too much like “regular” fantasy. Well, duh. (And yeah, it happens, editors get rejected.) While we’re on the subject, I’ve not seen all that many submissions of traditional fantasy at this ezine.
Not that I’d ever speak against urban fantasy, which often has that wonderful sexy, dark slant, or even SF, which broadens my world every day. (And horror gives my brain delightful tingles.) But, I primarily like to write and read fantasy set in a vaguely medieval world. I like the play of world-building against reality, the known rules of "archaic trope," and that creative slant that makes me really want to be there.
I sometimes discriminate against the use of magic in fantasy, though, because it’s so powerful that an author might write herself into a corner trying to define it and put limitations on it. Commonly used tactics: Magic uses life energy. Magic takes training. Magic requires physical elements. OR, it’s uncontrollable. There might be that tempting dark side, or even amusing side-effects. I don’t immediately discount such mechanisms for storytelling, so don’t worry if yours has any of these, but I think the best limitations are based firmly in the nature of the character rather than some world-building rule. Spec writers often get so caught up in their world that they forget to fully flesh out the people inhabiting it. Characters need internal as well as external conflicts, and somehow the two need to be linked in a way that makes a reader know it could have only been done in that particular story.
I think trope can work when the sacrifices required to make the Great Leap, via magic or pure, rabid strength, makes the character face his worst demons, and makes him a better person for it. Not to say I must have the quintessential happy ending (bite your tongue, for I am the “dark editor”), but such connections between internal and external struggles make me believe a kitchen slave can become a king, a farmer can tame a dragon, or a blacksmith can save a city from destruction.