Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Redder is better

I have played Magic: The Gathering (as opposed to Magic: The Lathering) twice in the last six weeks. This constitutes the first two times I have played MtG in five years, roughly. The last time I played with any sort of regularity was Third Edition, and I had still had some alpha and beta cards in my deck. Enjoying the high school level of arguing around what a colon meant and how there was a cap on the same card now, and what did it all mean?! Could I spent my theoretically infinite black mana to make my vampire a horrific monster? Did he gain unlimited damage and toughness when he ate bitches?

I pretty much stopped collecting cards when Mirage and Ice Age were the two big sets. While the cards had fewer rules, they were all about the shit ruining. Let's face it, the primary goal of MtG is to ruin shit. Now the shit ruining has more variety, and more rules. The goal hasn't changed, and never will.

Last night was interesting because it was the first time I had ever participated in a draft. The experience was a positive one, and the drafting process is something that I can get engrossed in very easily and treat as the first game in the overall meta game of draft play. The three parts to this game would be draft, deck and sideboard creation, and play. Drafting is something that always interests me, in just about any possible type of draft scenario. The strategy of the counter-pick early on is something I believe in strongly, if given the opportunity. Sometimes this ends up being a formative experience and you draft your team/character make-up/deck around those early picks. You then have the choice of thematic picking or strong picking. You can also "draft bait" by leaving certain elements on the table and then either scoop them up or entice others to take them.

Part of the drafting excitement in MtG is that first pick when you open a pack. It's a moment of excitement, and you get to make an informed decision before anyone else. Each pack that opens grants this moment of suppressed excitement, though later packs are less exciting than the first, because your deck has begun to coalesce. Later picks become arguably more valuable, and you have begun to take note of what other decks might be forming by when cards are taken. This is somewhat guess work in seeing who took what, but it's much like a game of memory to see when cards are taken. If it's not clear, I treat this like a puzzle without a unified solution, and delight in the experience, even if my building and play aren't up to snuff.

I was lucky to open a deck that had this dude:
Holy crap. I didn't know what any of that junk meant, but I was clear about two things:
1) Cards that look visibly different in MtG are better than cards that have a normal design. This has always been the case.
2) It had a red symbol, signifying Ultra Rare.

Planeswalkers are, as far as I can tell, from the Plane of Shit Ruining. They exist to be bullshit. Had the text on the first ability been clear, I would have begun the process of fecal destruction the next round. However, due to Text Parsing Errors, something now rife in MtG, this was not the case. The word next is confusing and exists only in case a card prevents your normal end phase. This lead to my moment of confusion driven embarrassing anger. This happens when I think I understand something and it turns out to not be the case because of some error and it makes me look foolish. I get a flash of anger directed at no one but myself, followed by embarrassment because I got angry. So the Venser, the Shit Ruiner died because of an error that turned out I was correct about, but there was really no way to tell. Oh well. That's the biggest issue with MtG, there are HUNDREDS of clarifications about the text. While the text is normally pretty clear, interactions are just not. This is a finicky barrier to play, not really to entry. Still, live and learn.

The next example of Redder is Better comes in the form of this swell fellow:
Now, his cost is very, very excessive. However, we were playing a multi-player game, so the build was slower. Please note his red symbol. Now couple that with a -1 loyalty cost to make him unblockable. Yup, look at that, shit is ruined. The power level of red is just an order of magnitude higher. It's silly. Of course, some common cards are unbalanced in multi-play as well. I am fairly certain gaining 20 life off of a 2 casting cost card is unintended, but them's the breaks.

The other big path to defecation destruction is Infect. Infect negates regeneration, adds poison counters to make the game twice as short for you, and exists to make proliferate crazy awesome. This is working as intended and is awful. That being said, once you cope with it, it's neat. Then again, all of these counters everywhere are pretty bad. It's 4e higher tier debuff/buff/status tracking. There are counters and conditions everywhere. We had a lot of dice for visual tracking so it wasn't that bad, it was just...voluminous.

It has been hard to get back into the mindset of being a Magic player, but the experience has mostly been fun. I look forward to learning more of the rules and embarrassing myself less often. Seeing people's decks work as intended would be a lot of fun, too. I just need to get used to having my shit ruined as an acceptable way to have fun. I just need to remember that kobolds are too good to block.


  1. I'd like to play some one-on-one matches with the decks we drafted, and I'd like to figure out how to make my unblockable/flying + infect with proliferate deck do its thing. =)

  2. Kobolds ARE too good to block! Damn straight!

  3. The nice thing about duels is that, since they are faster, you have time to tweak and change around your deck with the sideboard after the draft phase. Multiplayer games are generally so long that by the time you realise you needed to add a couple more lands, or include that high-cost card you bailed on, you're pot committed.

    All said, if you guys want to do Draft Night at gamer's armory or something, I'm so down.

  4. Man, I don't even recognize Magic anymore. I haven't been into it since Stronghold.

    However, "Plane of Shit Ruining" made me spew my Coke Zero. :D

  5. Look at that guy's abilities. He built a keep on Shit Ruin Island. He calls it La Chambre des Shit Ruiné.

    While things have changed, it's mostly just wording you have to be really, really careful now. Every single word matters.