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CardShark Content - Kevin Knack (6/19/2002)

Changes are a comin’! We’ve all known for quite some time that Wizards would be pushing out a new basic set next year. What most of us didn’t know, however, was that WOTC management has decided to let the population at large make some decisions on what gets put in the set. Being able to decide which of two cards lives or dies is a nice thought, allowing some players to help keep their type 2 pet decks alive. Being able to choose card art is cool also. Come on guys, we’ve all had conversations about playing with the Elvish Ranger
Elvish Ranger
Elvish RangerSet: Alliances
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Power:
4
Toughness:
1
with ‘the good art’ (well, those of us who insisted on playing with Elvish Ranger
Elvish Ranger
Elvish RangerSet: Alliances
Cost:
3
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elf
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Power:
4
Toughness:
1
anyway). Considering how the art on many cards has seemed to degenerate over the years (Oh Unholy Strength
Unholy Strength
Unholy StrengthSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Black
Type:
Enchant Creature
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Target creature gains +2/+1.
, how far have you fallen…), listening to the fans on this surprisingly sensitive matter is a great idea. In my opinion, however, the greatest contest is the search for new flavor text. For the first time ever, short of winning some big ol’ tourney where lots of pros with sharp nasty teeth are playing, the average Magic player has a chance to exert their influence and leave their sweaty, sticky fingerprint forever on the game.

The flavor text has a powerful influence on the overall demeanor of a card. It can make the card seem more solemn and profound, such as when they used quotes from Shakespeare, Poe, and other classic literature (or they subscribed to the school of H.P. Lovecraft and made up the literature they quoted from). It can also just make a card more enjoyable to play. Let’s face it…half the fun of playing a Lhurgoyf
Lhurgoyf
LhurgoyfSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Lhurgoyf
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Pete Venters
Power:
*
Toughness:
1+*
Text:
Lhurgoyf has power equal to the number of creature cards in all graveyards and toughness equal to 1 plus the number of creature cards in all graveyards.
was quoting dear departing Hans and his friend. On the other hand, flavor text can also damage a card (at least as far as casual play goes…I doubt a pro will give up a card just because it has goofy flavor text). In my opinion, just about the whole Gerrard
Gerrard
GerrardSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
2
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
-4
Toughness:
+0
Text:
During your draw phase, draw an additional card.
storyline was an example of this (and to be honest, was at least partially responsible for driving me from the game for a couple of years). I didn’t really care about what was happening to Gerrard
Gerrard
GerrardSet: Vanguard
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
2
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
-4
Toughness:
+0
Text:
During your draw phase, draw an additional card.
and the gang. Reading snippets of their story quickly began to resemble a series of radio commercials keep replaying, over and over until they claw into your mind and begin to flay your very sanity. Good lord, some of those commercials were annoying…at least until I discovered the magic of the ‘tuning’ button. But back to Magic. Personally, I’d rather play with a spell that makes me feel like a mage instead of playing with something that reminds me of a cheap comic book.

Anyway, in the spirit of making a personalized mark on the game, I offer up these alternative flavor texts for the cards we love and loathe.


Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise
Birds of ParadiseSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Mana Birds
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Mark Poole
Power:
0
Toughness:
1
Text:
Flying T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.


”Often disregarded by novice mages as colorful amusements, the experienced know these creatures to be the sources of many a problem.”

Wild Mongrel
Wild Mongrel
Wild MongrelSet: Odyssey
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Hound
Rarity:
C
Number:
283
Artist:
Anthony S. Waters
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Discard a card from your hand: Wild Mongrel gets +1/+1 and becomes the color of your choice until end of turn.


”The mongrel doesn’t bite the hand that feeds it…it consumes it”

Fact or Fiction
Fact or Fiction
Fact or FictionSet: Invasion
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
57
Artist:
Terese Nielsen
Text:
Reveal the top five cards of your library. An opponent separates those cards into two face-up piles. Put one pile into your hand and the other into your graveyard.


“I’m going to be annoying you for the rest of the game.”

Might of Oaks
Might of Oaks
Might of OaksSet: Urza's Legacy
Cost:
4
Color:
Green
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
106
Artist:
Ron Spencer
Text:
Target creature gets +7/+7 until end of turn.
(Seventh Edition Art)

“Unfortunately, Harthang had a pretty good idea where his opponent was planning to stick that tree”

Urza
Urza
UrzaSet: Vanguard
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Character
Rarity:
X
Number:
7
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Power:
-1
Toughness:
+10
Text:
3: Urza deals one damage to target creature or player.
’s Rage

”Ah….hell.”

Ok, maybe I’m not so good at this after all. That’s ok though. Some player, somewhere is going to come up with something genuinely good and personally be responsible for improving the game. That’s some good.

Ok, and now onto Batman.

Recently, Ron Vitale wrote an article called ‘Wizards, You Have Lost Us!’ on Brainburst. The article was a statement of disapproval in regards to how Magic treats its older players. Normally these rants come off as whiney and ridiculously impractical. Such was not the case with Ron’s article. His piece was actually well written and had some obvious thought behind it. I don’t agree with most of his ideas on improving the game; frankly I think making a set based on Dragonlance would ruin the game (I’m afraid I read the series too late in life to become enamored with it. If I’m reading fantasy, I’d much rather reread something by Robert Asprin or, if it must be D&D, the Icewind Dale trilogy). The idea could certainly appeal to many fans of the series though, so I could be wrong. I’m not here to critique or argue with his article though. It just reminded me of something that explained a great deal of life to me that I think should be shared.

In 1998 I attended Wizard World (a comic convention, not a WOTC convention). I’m only a casual fan of comics, but it was my friend’s senior trip and his folks were paying so hey…why not? Besides, there were Magic tournaments and special guests so I figured there’d always be something to do. It turns out I had an absolute blast (Origins and Gen Con are coming up…if you get a chance to go to these, or any other convention, do it! They’re a great time!), but that’s not the point (I’m wandering off topic a lot with this article, aren’t I?). During the convention, I had the opportunity to listen to a speech by Todd McFarlane (of Spawn fame). My friends and I have forever dubbed it ‘The Batman Speech’. I believe I’ve heard a few other sources expound on its principles, but for those of you who haven’t heard it I’ll cover its main points.

The basis of ‘The Batman Speech’ is simple. Every time a new Batman movie comes out, fans and critiques lambast it, claiming it was much worse than the last one and never as good as the first one. What people never seem to realize is that a Batman movie comes out every four years or so (give or take, I’m not sure on the exact dates). That means that every time we see the new incarnation of Batman, we’re four years older. Those of us who were ten when the first Batman came out were teenagers when we saw the second one. We were out of school by number three and practically adults by four. It’s not Batman who’s changing…we are. Try watching MTV sometime and you may not find it as entertaining as you used to. That’s because we are no longer the target age group. Magic is starting its foray into double digits. Some of us have been playing for almost 10 years now…and we’re just not the same people we used to be. There are two schools of thought on what Magic should do now. It can either try to grow old with its original players or keep new blood in. I believe they’re trying to accommodate us old-timers, but I think it’s apparent which path they are choosing.

WOTC and Garfield created a very new and very original hobby (I suppose you could quibble over who came up with card fueled games first but for the sake of my own damn laziness, let’s not). Theirs is the only card game to truly stand the test of time (L5R, Pokemon, and DBZ are all slowly but surely losing support after a lifespan of less than half M:TG’s). They are pioneering new territory in the entertainment business. Why were they successful where so many others have failed? Honestly, I don’t know...they might not either. Personally, I suspect their continued success is because of two strategies. First, the game is always changing while yet remaining the same. Each new set brings new cards and mechanics, keeping things fresh. It’s still, however, recognizable as the same game we started playing years ago. The old strategies and cards can work just as well as the new, given enough thought and skillful deck building. The second reason I think Wizards is successful is because they are hanging onto their core audience – the coveted fourteen to twenty-two year old. Sure, they make some concessions to younger players with sets like Portal and the Basic editions. They also keep in the hands of older players by supporting big money, high profile tournaments (I think these appeal to all levels of players, but let’s face it…a lot of the pros have had their hands in the game for a long time). The horrible truth is that 14-22 year olds have the money and the time to spend on the game. If they aim any lower, they have to start appealing to parents. If they aim any higher, well, despite having more money to spend on cards, I doubt the thirty year old set actually does so. Buying a box of each new expansion may not hurt the pocket book as much as it used to, but I doubt too many older players are buying more than that. They have too many other concerns like families and jobs. They also don’t have the time they used to have to spend on the game, so why bother? One box is an indulgence that keeps the cardstock fresh and the trade binders full. More just isn’t practical. Obviously there are going to be exceptions to the rule, but my own experience and observations support this view.

Anyway, WOTC created something new and are writing the rules as they go. That they’ve lasted so long and been so successful is testament that they have some idea of what they’re doing. I think that by having contests and votes for eighth edition they are proving that they’re still evolving and responding to the wants and needs of the players. The old-timers are going to have to either evolve with the game, or quietly duck out. They’ll be missed, to be sure, but there’s a hoard of players who started playing with Mirage block that are ready to step up and take their place as ‘the granddaddy’ at the table.

Regards,


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