Technically, this is a sequel article to one I wrote for the Casual Players Alliance a long time ago. But that one never got much attention, due to the fact it was written so early in the CPAís life span, and not too many people were around to read it in the first place.
First off, letís get one thing straight: Iím a casual player. Having played in a grand total of one small tourney (came in second), I donít exactly have the credentials to call myself a brilliant Magic theorist. All I can do is site from my experiences, and work from there. Obviously, since my experience is limited to casual play, so will this article. Live with it.
A short history is in order, as it has a direct bearing on the idea behind this article. A few years ago, shortly after the release of Ice Age (they dare to reprint Icy Manipulator?), I quit Magic. I only restarted recently, just before Stronghold was released. At the same time, I found myself drawn into a new play group, which based itself at my school. I pulled out my old Rock Hydras, and started playing again. End simple historic account.
Yesterday I looked through my trade binder. The page I happened to flip to contained my Masticores, Kegs, Ports, Avatars of Woe, Cities of Brass, and Birds of Paradise. Several copies of each. The lowest valued card on the page was probably selling for 6-7$ on Ebay. Now, thatís an exceptional page in my binder, most of it is more along the lines of foiled Fault Riders and Wyluli Wolf. But that pageÖ It didnít look like anything a casual player should have on them. Weíre supposed to be playing our five-color decks with all basic lands, right? Not some strange combo decks with Birds and Bargains. So why am I running around with all these oft-worshiped cards?
The answer is, I have to.
When I started with my play group, we all played those five-color-all-basic-land decks with combos that went off on turn fifty-six. No one could survive without a Feldonís Cane or Thran Foundry, it just wasnít viable. Probability favored the chance that you wouldnít be able to kill anyone before running completely out of cards in your deck.
At some point between then and now, something happened. I donít think it can be pinpointed (though I have a sneaking suspicion it was me and my infinite combo that did it), but someone did something drastic to my play group, something that went completely unnoticed at the time. Maybe someone brought in a net deck, maybe they just built something good for once. I donít know. But whatever they did, they started winning. And they won constantly.
That, needless to say, was unacceptable.
So, what do you do when someone starts beating your head in? Beat back. So the rest of the poor souls who were now losing so often pulled together, and started building better decks themselves. Suddenly, the Sliver deck managed to acquire a half set of Dual lands (two of each). And it started winning. So the rest of us started acquiring the cards we needed to beat (or, perhaps, be) Mr. Sliver. I got my Masticores, and my Kegs. I got the other three Greater Goods I needed to build my Greater Good deck (my signature deck). And the other players got their Tradewinds, and Bargains, and Mox Diamonds.
Welcome to the death spiral. Since that strange time, each person in my play group has at least doubled their collections. Iíve more than tripled it.
Iím not sure whether to thank whoever caused this spiral to start, since we have some absolutely stunning displays of Magic on a regular basis now, or if I should build a time machine for the sole purpose of knocking him out cold, due to the sheet amount of cash weíve all poured into this game. Maybe Iíll thank him and then punch him, that would be poetic justice.
I think, to some extent, that this casual power curve of sorts echoes through all of Magic, straight into the Pro Tour and everywhere the game has ever been played. Your opponent builds a better deck, and if you canít keep up, you get squashed like the ant who decided that the shoe made a good sun block. And, in general, he who has the best cards (and therefore the most costly cards) builds the best deck. Thatís a simple fact of life, Magic, and everything.
The question I pose is the same one I posed in the first article I wrote under this title: Is this a Good Thingô, or a Bad Thingô? Obviously, the advantages are there. You donít often see six player chaos games with four different Avatars out, as well as seven Dual lands and Tradewinds and Morphlings galore. Itís worth watching, and well worth playing. But is it worth the cost? The cost is not only monetary. To my great dismay this past year, several players who began to merge into our play group found themselves well out of their league, beaten down by cards they neither have nor are capable of acquiring. So we lose some players, too. Not many (most of the new guys stuck around for round two, and most of the veterans have been giving them favorable trade deals to help out), but some. And maybe we lose the next Jamie Wakefield (we miss your reports!).
I have no intention of answering that question. Itís a personal one. But, should you decide that you donít want to take on the monetary costs of the game, I have an idea for something that vaguely resembling a solution. Stop the curve before it starts. If you see someone bringing in an overpowered deck, just beat the heck out the guy for a few games. Maybe heíll stop, and your group will stay static. I donít know, obviously I have no way to test the theory, but it may work. Donít quit the game unless you have to. Try everything you can to stick with it, as long as it doesnít cost you your shirt, pants, and everything in between.
ďGood night and thank you, whoeverÖ If you got this far, you have too much spare time. Go build a deck.Ē
--Zadok001, aka Greater Good fanatic (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Casual Playerís Alliance Founder (www.casualplayers.org)
ďWe have more sprouts than they have hands.Ē
----------David Zadok Stroud
ďTruth and beauty have nothing in common, save this; that they exist only in the eye of the beholder.Ē