I've been playing Magic for a long time and when I decided to try writing about it, the Casual Player's Alliance really stood out as one site that catered to my Magic-playing demographic. So I tried to fill a niche that didn't seem to be explored: Magic Online. Now I've come to realize that most people know more about it than I do, so where do I go from there? Everywhere, apparently. So here's some random thoughts I've jotted down on all things Magic-related.
1) Has anyone else heard about this new game sponsored by Axe body spray? It's called Mojo Master and the point of the game is to try to get phone numbers off 100 different women using different personality traits to woo the women. Sounds pretty innocent, but upon closer examination, it's a complete rip-off of Magic. First of all, in order to seduce women, you need to change your Bling and your Style. To quote the game's own website, "Think of Bling as your weapon, and Style as your armor. Bling helps you do more 'damage' to her Indifference Meter, and Style helps reduce the amount of damage you take from her Moves." So in short, Bling = Power and Style = Toughness. Of course, every game ever conceived where you could kill or be killed uses a Power/Toughness relationship. It's essential. The real kicker, though, is the Seduction Compass. Apparently, each girl is attracted to any of five different "element" attributes: light, earth, fire, shadow and ice. These elements are arranged in a circle, called the Seduction Compass, with each element having two friendly elements and two opposing elements. It's the color pie, people! Light is white! Earth is green! Fire is red! Shadow is black! Ice is blue! The site's description for each element even copies what the colors do in magic. Fire is daring and passionate. Ice is sophisticated and intelligent. Even the symbols for the elements, which you can see here, are uncannily similar to mana symbols. The sad thing is that I'd be even more outraged if the point of the game were anything other than trying to seduce attractive women.
2) One of the things I never really understood about cards like Nausea, Infest, Mutilate and other –X/-X spells is that too many of them are sorceries, usually making the loss in power completely useless, since it affects all creatures. You can't use it to reduce massive damage from an opponent's attack, only to inhibit all creatures before you attack, wherein most cases, you'll be wanting to do as much damage as possible. I can't say I have a real problem with these cards being printed as sorceries, but do they have to say –X/-X? Why can't they just be –0/-X, since they're obviously intended to be board-sweeping cards? I guess –0/-X is too confusing for new players. And yet +X/+0 is not.
3) When I started playing (around 4th Edition) the rulebook would always refer to a player as female, so as to avoid using the more awkward "he or she" used nowadays. Can't Wizards just admit that girls don't play Magic and make the switch to singular male pronouns?
4) How long will it be before Wizards tries to create a Magic-based movie? How bad will it be? And will anyone watch it? I probably will, but only if the Prodigal Sorcerer is played by John Cleese.
5) Why does everyone complain when R&D pushes the power envelope on a particular card while simultaneously complaining that things were better when cards like Ancestral Recall and Moxes were still in print?
6) Does anyone remember those commercials for Magic that used to run during South Park? They were awful. But since Magic was the show's only sponsor at the time, the South Park creators gave them a special promo before the commercial break, which Kyle said, "South Park is brought to you by Magic: the Gathering." Then Kenny said something that was muffled and I can't repeat here. I've often wondered if Wizards caught on and pulled the sponsorship or if South Park just got too pricey to keep it up.
7) I like how Mark Rosewater mentions his gig writing for Roseanne about once every 5 – 10 columns. Does anyone else remember that show being spectacularly unfunny? I have to believe his best writing came at his current job.
8) A while ago, there was an "Ask Wizards" that questioned all the spelling mistakes on the site. In reality, they were asking why Scott Wills has to write everything in Canadian or British or wherever he's from. Wizards' answer was that they cater to an international audience and saw no point in changing it for one group of people. Okay, I have no problem with that. When Wills uses words like colour and humour, it's just the way he learned to spell the words; it's a cultural thing. But I do have a problem with proper names spelled incorrectly, like Saviours. There is no card set called Saviours of Kamigawa. It's Saviors. Look at the box. Did Wizards print a Canadian version of the set? Is there a card called Hand of Honour? Actually, aside from an article here and there, Wizards has done a nice job cleaning up the proper names. And the majority of American players seem to believe that a set called Judgement was released, so I guess I have no right to complain.
9) How come so many pro tour players have names that either sound like they should be starring in adult films (Mike Long, Mark Justice, John Finkle, Darwin Kastle) or sound completely made up (Alex Shvartsman, Zvi Mowshowitz, Osyp Lebedowicz)?
10) When I was growing up, I wanted an Atari. They were new at the time and my best friend had one, so I knew it would be a lot of fun. Instead of an Atari, my dad bought a TI 99. No, it's not a calculator (although it can be used as one); it's a video game system. It was actually a lot like Atari, except instead of original games like Space Invaders and Pac-Man, it had imitation games like TI Invaders and Munchman. I wish I were making this up. Anyway, one great original game that we had on the TI was called Hunt the Wumpus. I grew up playing that game and it was awesome. You'd roam through a cavernous maze of blue circles and sneak up on the wumpus and then shoot it with your bow and arrow. The trick was that the blue circles would have red dots in them when you were close to the wumpus, so you had to deduce the exact wumpus location based on the location of the red dots. If you shot into the wrong circle, the wumpus would eat you. If you stepped into the wumpus's circle, the wumpus would eat you. And watch out for the pits! Whoa! Um, anyway, you can imagine my excitement when I first saw a Hunted Wumpus from Mercadian Masques. Finally, an obscure reference that speaks to me. But the drawing was all wrong. A wumpus is supposed to look like this:
Just a lesson for all you wumpus-loving kids out there.
11) Someone, somewhere in the world has a permanent tattoo of a mana symbol on their body. Think about that.
12) And if you think that's pathetic, I think if I ever had a daughter I would have to consider naming her Serra. It's a good name for a girl. It's not quite just an alternate spelling of Sarah or Sara and it originates from the word "serrated." But there's no way I'm naming my son Urza.
13) I have a friend who got interested in Magic after watching a professional match on ESPN2. I find this unfathomable.
14) I never liked the idea of a pro tour in Magic. Sure, it's a great way to flesh out powerful deck ideas and it clearly keeps a lot of people interested, but to me, this is like having a Monopoly or Dungeons and Dragons pro tour. Magic is a game, a hobby, and a source of entertainment. It's not a spectator sport and, to the best of my knowledge, prizes are generated from the sale of cards to casual players. And the idea of a Pro Tour Hall of Fame (with monetary benefits!!!) is just ridiculous. I fail to see how it will accomplish anything except cost the casual players even more and allow some pros to pat themselves on the back.
15) Speaking of the Hall of Fame, will they actually have a building? It's a HALL of Fame - not an Abstract Idea of Fame. Will they fill it with busts of all the best players or merely with plaques of their likenesses? Will anyone visit? My guess is that they'll make a real "hall" near or on site at Wizards headquarters in Washington and that the hall will be best described as the "Converted Janitor's Closet of Fame." It will have its hallowed walls covered with Polaroids of all the members and possibly some decklists written on 4x6 index cards.
16) For those who aren't aware, Mirage is going to be coming to Magic Online soon. Mirage came out about the time I started getting less interested in Magic. Phasing? Flanking? These were the new mechanics for the set. I thought phasing was way too complicated (way more complicated than banding) and flanking was about the stupidest combat-related keyword ever. But now Mirage is coming online and I'm excited. Why? Lion's Eye Diamond. I opened one of these in a pack and thought it sucked. I had no use for it. What good is mana if you don't have a hand. For a while, I had it in a pestilence deck, just to throw extra black mana to possibly finish off my opponent, but it clearly didn't fit. I know someone used it successfully in a tournament a while back, but I'm not familiar with who or how. For me, it's all about the Auriok Salvagers. Right now, I've got a cog deck that uses this little two-card infinite mana engine and a Pyrite Spellbomb to wreck any number of opponents in no time. And now that Mirage is coming out online, I can play it against people who aren't expecting it. Awesome.
17) Another reason I'm excited about Mirage: Dark Ritual. No explanation needed.
18) In online multiplayer free for all games, always watch out for the guy who does nothing but play lands and mana accelerators for the first 6 turns. I guarantee you, he's about to kill everyone else.
19) I think one of the hardest concepts in Magic to learn is the difference between lands and mana. Whenever I teach someone new how to play, I always begin by showing then a land and saying, "This is a land. Lands produce mana. Mana is used to cast spells." I then show them a spell to complete the relationship between the mana production and the mana symbols. That's the most important concept to learn.
For this reason, I feel one of the worst decisions in Magic templating was to replace the line "Add one (insert color) mana to your mana pool" with the giant mana symbol on basic lands. I know a handful of newer players who think only basic lands are tapped to cast spells. All other lands are used to put lands into play or create "land tokens" that can be tapped to cast spells.
Perhaps these people are stupid for not knowing the difference between mana and lands (more likely, they weren't taught correctly), but I think had the templating never changed, it would never have been an issue. I used to argue with these people, but now I just build decks to abuse the rules. For those who weren't aware, a full Urzatron produces seven colorless land tokens every turn.
20) If I were to become a Magic card, I think I would be black and blue. I'm pretty selfish and sort of smart. I would have a power of 1 and a toughness of 2. I arrived at these numbers because I'm pretty sure I could kill a squirrel in a fight and survive, but not a bear. I think I would cost one black mana and one blue mana to cast. Unless I was broken. Then we'd have to add some colorless mana. I would have the following ability: BU, tap: Shuffle your library, then remove the top two cards in your library from the game and draw a card. Because that's sort of how my mind works.
Until next time, beware the wumpus.