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Good Grief - Nick Rohr (7/15/2008)

Shock
Shock
ShockSet: Classic Sixth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
206
Artist:
Randy Gallegos
Text:
Shock deals 2 damage to target creature or player.


It appears I’ve entered the Cenozoic Era of my Magic career. I’ve been jaded by casual play for too long now. Too long have I played the decks that were more fun than competitive. Far too long have I been out of the tournament scene. Now that Time Spiral
Time Spiral
Time SpiralSet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
103
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Remove Time Spiral from the game. Each player shuffles his or her graveyard and hand into his or her library, then draws seven cards. You untap up to six lands.
block is falling into the annals of Extended though I still don’t feel I’ve had enough play testing time with it, this new Lorwyn/Shadowmoor superblock is in, and albeit fun tribal mechanics have been introduced, I am finding myself needing to switch gears again. I can see why I drifted out of the game in the first place.

Before you ask, no, this isn’t me just getting frustrated and giving up because I’m not good enough or can’t afford the right cards. In this block, some of the more unique and jankiest decks have emerged. In fact, possibly too many. Somehow, Wizards has managed to flip Magic back into the days before the internet was so integral to the game.

I remember reading that Richard Garfield wanted to stray away from printing official spoilers because it demystified the game. If you knew all the cards that existed, you could essentially do some card counting a couple of turns into the game. With the wide availability of winning deck lists, players would just go get the cards from the decks that reigned in the top 8’s and they’d be set. Their work was cut out for them. They were scavengers.

Well, that’s how it used to look from the outside.


Denial

Magic can’t honestly be about who has the most expensive deck out there. It may not seem like it at first, but the cards that are high in demand go up in price, so the more people copying deck lists, the more their value skyrockets. Sometimes there will be a couple decks out there with a nice win ratio and overall low cost, but they generally still underperform compared to the sure shots of the block.

Standard then becomes this sort of money pit quagmire because the blocks change, so you have to buy new decks pretty consistently, as well as the new sets reveal cards that are thorns in the side of the popular decks out at the time. The first set of the block is a very limited indication of what eventually gets played towards the end. Then you’ve got Vintage and Legacy which are pretty unchanged since their card pool widens, but generally keeps the same winning lists around.

Surely Magic isn’t just newer brands of cigarettes released every three months by the same manufacturer. A deck that does serious damage in its block is usually thrown by the wayside because its real power was in how it abused the specific metagame.

I’m starting to think that Magic is less of a developing game and more of a carefully marketed cash cow.


Bargain
Bargain
BargainSet: Portal Second Age
Cost:
3
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Phil Foglio
Text:
Your opponent draws a card. You gain 7 life.
ing


Still, I tried to give it another chance. I was heaviest into Magic in the 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 Saga block. Even though I was still fairly young, I saved up allowances, did everything I could to make enough money to buy the cards for the Wildfire
Wildfire
WildfireSet: Portal Second Age
Cost:
6
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Rob Alexander
Text:
You destroy four of your lands and your opponent destroys four of his or her lands. Then Wildfire deals 4 damage to each creature. (This includes your creatures.)
Red deck. I’m not sure exactly what inspired me to do it, really. It was mostly rares and obviously out of my price range. I was going to need four Covetous Dragon
Covetous Dragon
Covetous DragonSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Dragon
Rarity:
R
Number:
80
Artist:
rk post
Power:
6
Toughness:
5
Text:
Flying When you control no artifacts, sacrifice Covetous Dragon.
s, four Wildfire
Wildfire
WildfireSet: Portal Second Age
Cost:
6
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Rob Alexander
Text:
You destroy four of your lands and your opponent destroys four of his or her lands. Then Wildfire deals 4 damage to each creature. (This includes your creatures.)
s, four Masticore
Masticore
MasticoreSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact Creature
Rarity:
R
Number:
134
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Power:
4
Toughness:
4
Text:
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may choose and discard a card from your hand. If you don't, sacrifice Masticore.2: Masticore deals 1 damage to target creature.2: Regenerate Masticore.
s, etc. Come to think of it, the only commons the deck ran were the Mountain
Mountain
MountainSet: Arabian Nights
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Text:
Tap to add R to your mana pool.
s.

I did it, though. I had the deck and just in time for the Mercadian block. Of course, getting into Standard I didn’t really realize that in about a year, my deck would pretty much become void. Sure, the Masticore
Masticore
MasticoreSet: Urza's Destiny
Cost:
4
Color:
Colorless
Type:
Artifact Creature
Rarity:
R
Number:
134
Artist:
Paolo Parente
Power:
4
Toughness:
4
Text:
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may choose and discard a card from your hand. If you don't, sacrifice Masticore.2: Masticore deals 1 damage to target creature.2: Regenerate Masticore.
s could see some play in other formats. I guess that meant I could’ve just did what I could to buy four of them and then leave it alone.

I drifted out of Magic because of how underwhelming the Mercadian block proved to be and how I pretty much got burned on accumulating a deck that pretty much went void after I completed it.

I dabbled in Invasion, always kept up in reading articles and checking message boards. I continued to play casually, which admittedly rusted my gears because when I decided to get back into Standard, I was swallowed by the undertow. Magic has become so much more competitive each year, and now, rather than there being a couple definite decks to prepare for, the format is so screwy, I have no idea what to expect each game.


Guilt

But isn’t that what Richard Garfield wanted? Now that spoilers come out predating the sets themselves and players adjust their decks accordingly, plus the top lists are pretty much required knowledge if you plan to go to tournaments, the only way to bring back the surprise in Magic is to inject the sets with the right cards.

And by right cards, I of course mean broken.

First, let’s look at Time Spiral
Time Spiral
Time SpiralSet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
103
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Remove Time Spiral from the game. Each player shuffles his or her graveyard and hand into his or her library, then draws seven cards. You untap up to six lands.
Block Constructed. First off, Timeshifted cards allow for cards that wouldn’t see the light of a numbered edition to be reprinted. This was cool because now we got to bring back out our Avalanche
Avalanche
AvalancheSet: Ice Age
Cost:
5
Color:
Red
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Brian Snoddy
Text:
Destroy X target snow-covered lands.
IFJpZGVycw==, Gemstone Mine
Gemstone Mine
Gemstone MineSet: Weatherlight
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Brom
Text:
When Gemstone Mine comes into play, put three mining counters on it.tap, Remove a mining counter from Gemstone Mine: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. If there are no mining counters on Gemstone Mine, bury it.
s and Uthden Troll
Uthden Troll
Uthden TrollSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Troll
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
R: Regenerates.
s. Time Spiral
Time Spiral
Time SpiralSet: Urza's Saga
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
103
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Remove Time Spiral from the game. Each player shuffles his or her graveyard and hand into his or her library, then draws seven cards. You untap up to six lands.
also brought back a lot of abilities into a very chaotic mix that really rekindled my love for Limited.

Then comes Planar Chaos
Planar Chaos
Planar ChaosSet: Judgment
Cost:
3
Color:
Red
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
U
Number:
97
Artist:
Ron Spencer

Text:
At the beginning of your upkeep, flip a coin. If you lose the flip, sacrifice Planar Chaos. Whenever a player play a spell, that player flips a coin. If he or she loses the flip, counter that spell.
. Now you’ve got a black Wrath of God
Wrath of God
Wrath of GodSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Quinton Hoover
Text:
All creatures in play are buried.
, a red Arrogant Wurm
Arrogant Wurm
Arrogant WurmSet: Torment
Cost:
5
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Wurm
Rarity:
U
Number:
120
Artist:
John Avon
Power:
4
Toughness:
4
Text:
Trample. Madness 2G
, a white Force Spike
Force Spike
Force SpikeSet: Fifth Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Artist:
John Matson
Text:
Counter target spell unless its caster pays an additional 1.
, etc. Mashing up the color pie may seem exciting, and again, fun for Limited, but the idea is becoming apparent that you’re being encouraged to run any deck, but by this logic, you have to prepare for every deck.

Future Sight
Future Sight
Future SightSet: Onslaught
Cost:
5
Color:
Blue
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Number:
84
Artist:
Matt Cavotta
Text:
Play with the top card of your library revealed. You may play the top card of your library as though it were in your hand.
really hits the money scam nail on the head by printing things that mention Contraptions and develops a new card template system that’s surprisingly uglier than the upgrade we have now.

This whole block looks like a hopeful reversal to encourage players to try rogue strategies and in a Limited environment, it was a lot of fun. However, in Standard this means buying some really expensive cards that you’ll later regret because with each set release comes new ones that introduce not just new firepower for the hottest decks, but suggest entirely new decks.

Now, I’m all for revolution. I occasionally wear a Che Guevara t-shirt and wholly support some sort of junta or action against a junta or something like that in Bermuda. But I’m beginning to wonder if it’s my fault or just the turn of this particular block that I’ve tried dozens of decks, and still can’t decide on one (or afford a playset of Tarmogoyf
Tarmogoyf
TarmogoyfSet: Future Sight
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Lhurgoyf
Rarity:
R
Number:
153
Artist:
Justin Murray
Power:
*
Toughness:
1+*
Text:
Tarmogoyf's power is equal to the number of card types among cards in all graveyards and its toughness is equal to that number plus 1. (The card types are artifact, creature, enchantment, instant, land, planeswalker, sorcery, and tribal.)
s and/or Korlashes yet). There is just too much to choose from.


Anger
Anger
AngerSet: Judgment
Cost:
4
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Incarnation
Rarity:
U
Number:
77
Artist:
John Avon

Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Haste. As long as Anger is in your graveyard and you control a mountain, creatures you control have haste.


But who could blame me for getting back into Magic? It is a fun game, and it’s got its own qualities that echo back chess-like strategy, with each player getting to customize their own decks. The real issue here is the Timeshifted cards and the mysterious choices in Tenth Edition.

Suddenly the players who’d somewhat given up on Magic could use their own Mogg Fanatic
Mogg Fanatic
Mogg FanaticSet: Tempest
Cost:
1
Color:
Red
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Goblin
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Brom
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Sacrifice Mogg Fanatic: Mogg Fanatic deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
s or try to rebuild their Enduring Renewal
Enduring Renewal
Enduring RenewalSet: Ice Age
Cost:
4
Color:
White
Type:
Enchantment
Rarity:
R
Artist:
Harold McNeill
Text:
Play with the cards in your hand face up on the table. If you draw a creature card from your library, discard it. Whenever a creature goes to your graveyard from play, put that creature into your hand.
decks. This was their second chance.

This was my second chance.

I tried so many decks, and so far I keep scooping to these newcomers. They’ve got that leg up on me because they have no attachments. Magic isn’t a game to them. Magic is a career now. Now people are raking in great profits and this is something to be taken seriously.

There isn’t room for theme decks, there isn’t room for casual, there isn’t room for people who don’t playtest at FNM’s consistently. To the victor goes the spoils, and if you work for it, you should earn it, no doubt. But honestly: where are these kids getting these playsets of every chase rare every block?

I’m at my wits’ end here. Magic is declining in fun, it’s all business and it’s killing me just to keep up with the new card nicknames, lingo and top 8 deck lists. The Magic I remember was flavor over function, and that’s why I’m so nostalgic about it. The cards weren’t as broken as they are today, they just had abilities that fit the storyline.

Nowadays there are two types of cards. Those that see play in any deck that runs that color, and those that barely even see any limited play. Why does Wizards even bother printing 700 some cards a block if for no other reason than they want people to lose money on buying packs like lottery tickets?


Depression

So now what I do? The game I’ve been playing for God knows how long has become more and more apparent to me as a waste of time. If you aren’t going to play big, why play at all? If you can’t support yourself by playing the in the big tournaments, then you’re just burning up your money on cards that have little or no actual value anyway.

In fact, I would have better luck throwing my money away on lottery tickets or going to Atlantic City to gamble. Poker cards don’t change, it’s always the same fifty-two card deck. Why not learn how to count cards, buy some obnoxious sunglasses and a tweed blazer and hit the circuit. I could at least start making some sense out of playing a game that is more widely accepted. Talk about firm ground under your feet, you can only get better at poker, whereas in Magic, every new block is a new twist, new metagame is introduced.

It gets to the point where all you think about is tightening a 60 card deck list, how many land you should run for each color, how to best maximize your plays, why you keep losing to one type and how to prepare for it without devoting too much main deck space.

I can at least keep my dignity by losing to handlebar mustached Texas tycoons than losing to people who are better than me at their age now than I was when I was their age. Or, maybe I should just face facts: not only am I losing my edge, I was probably never even that good in the first place.


Acceptance

Why would it have taken me so long to figure this all out? Maybe I do suck at Magic because I refuse to spend much money on it at all, and because of that, those who don’t are rewarded by winning. That makes sense. I couldn’t afford to keep up, but that doesn’t mean I have to quit playing altogether.

In fact, maybe I’m just giving up too easily. Plenty of cheap decks go on to be successful, if they’re built strategically enough. It’s possible that the cards available really do allow for any deck to be successful, the obvious cards are only there to be exploited, how else would Wizards make their money? If it’s obvious what people will play, and you can win with the unexpected, then you’ve won two victories right away.

Casual play is still fun, anyway. It may feel pointless because I’m not getting money out of it and I know I can, but I play video games. I don’t get any money from them, and they’re just as fun (and usually less mentally interactive). Magic is really a game that only really gives you back what you put into it. The more you play it and work on your deck, the more fun you’ll have with it. So what if your deck rotates out, you’ve got a whole new block to toy with.

Who knows, maybe through some more playtesting, my deck(s) might even make it through the gauntlet and I can take them through some higher caliber tournaments. Maybe I’ll remain just playing for fun with my friends. Chances are it’ll be one of the two because of all the grief the game has caused me, I can’t really neglect the escape and enjoyment the game has provided me for all these years.


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