As Displaced As My Collection

I feel that the set rotation should be a confusing and unsettling time.

I’ve been having some trouble coming up with an article idea for this week, mainly because I’m as displaced as my collection. Upon realizing this, I came to the realization that no one in his right mind would understand if I prefaced my article with that.”So why not make an article out of it?” says I to myself.”Sounds like a good idea,” I reply.

I guess I’m not so displaced anymore – but allow me to enlighten you as to my previous state of affairs.

To start, you have to understand the state of my collection. Looking around my desk area, I notice several elements that usually are not present. To my right are three stacks of cards: Basic land, playable commons (even if slightly illegal in Standard), and uncommons. Next to the mousepad is a large stack of Invasion Block commons. My once-thin pre-Standard binder is has been transformed to a large one and a half-inch binder, and my Standard Binder has shrunk. My deckboxes are sparsely populated, but an unusual inhabitant is a stack of rares.

What’s happened? Odyssey. I’ve forgotten just how much of a pain it is to translate decks to the new Type II format – last time I did it, I didn’t have twenty decks! I’ve taken apart about seven that could never work without Masques Block (Rebels, for instance, and a Seismic Assault deck with Trade Routes, Thwart, and Gush). Other decks are waiting for an overhaul – or, if not that, disassembly. Unused rares are idly waiting by for me to finish deck reconstruction so that I only have to make one major entry into my binder. Displaced commons and uncommons are waiting to be placed in proper holding facilities, and whole bunches of sleeves are just sitting there, not in particular counts of sixty. It’s really in a state of disarray – and I don’t like it.

However, finding the time to fix all my decks is hard. Whenever I build a new deck, I usually make proxies by writing all the cards I need on the computer and printing out the names, cutting them out, and putting them on overturned commons within sleeves (hence the stack of Invasion Block commons). This takes a considerable amount of time – but moreover, it takes an intimate knowledge of what the cards do. And there’s the problem: I’m not familiar with Odyssey!

I don’t find myself reading set review, and, although I read the spoiler, I didn’t commit it to memory. There aren’t really any defining decks in the metagame (that I don’t already have put together), so the cards that I might use to replace cards in fun decks that I have put together aren’t coming to mind, and I don’t have the time to delve in-depth into the spoiler to find the gems I’m looking for.

So, what am I doing for right now? The same thing that many others are, but for a different reason: Anxiously awaiting States! Reading tournament reports will give me a better insight as to what cards are what, and it will provide me with guideline decklists after which I can model my non-competitive decks so I can still have a gauntlet to use to test and to provide variety to my collection.

And that’s where my own disarray comes in. Since I’m waiting for States, I’m not really doing anything with my cards. I test my B/U/W deck whenever I get a chance, but I haven’t had a night of Magic in a long time. Hopefully, in the next month my collection can be put back together and so can my unsettled sense of order. 🙂

So what does any of this have to do with any of you? Well, here’s my relation to my life and everyone else’s. Beware; what follows is my built-up-to point, and it’s steeped in wisdom and keen observation. Or not.

Despite the disorder of my collection and my anxious anticipation of States, I don’t think of myself in a bad position. I feel that the set rotation should be a confusing and unsettling time. The entire environment has changed – not just Standard, but Extended and Vintage as well. However, what have I been noticing?

There are many articles written all about Odyssey, with Odyssey-legal decks and in-depth analyses of the set. Tournament reports have been written, and decks have been built. It seems like life has moved on quite handily and with hardly a pause to notice the passing away of Masques Block. And all I can say is,”Wait up!”

Many players who stop playing do so because they”Can’t keep up” with the”ever-changing environment.” Well, it seems like the”ever-changing environment” has by now turned into a foreseen and planned-for event. Players take much care in reading the spoiler days before the set is released, and spending hundreds of dollars on newly-released boxes and singles while cataloging Masques block rares into trade binders before the set is even legal! It seems to this old-fashioned player that things are going much too fast.

And here’s my climactic self-revelation: It seems like the folks who bring us Magic can’t surprise us anymore. Wizards releases a new base set every year – players get ahold of the spoiler and know the power cards by heart before they pick up a single piece of cardboard. R&D gives us spells that we can play from the graveyard and others that are more powerful if the graveyard is full, completely changing the way resource management is thought about – players simply integrate the cards into their decks, hoping for the best result. The DCI bans cards, players, and vocabulary words – we raise our eyebrows and continue along our merry ways.

And this is where cyclic and sometimes unoriginal writing comes from. Over the course of the year, you’ll see metagame analyses and tournament reports of whatever season it currently is. You see analyses of power cards of current sets and gripes about broken cards. Over and over again. Sure, there are some creative folks like John Rizzo, but even he writes tons of tournament reports and gives his opinions of”strategy.” It almost seems that Magic players have gotten themselves into a rut, and there’s apparently nothing that Wizards and company can do about it.

Or is there?

I think that Magic players need a slap in the face. I’m not talking about the printing of a huge combo card – that’ll only start the same wave of articles we saw about Academy and Replenish, and how to beat them, and how players fared against/with them in tournaments. Even a rules overhaul might not do the trick – we got over Sixth Edition relatively quickly. I think it’s time for something drastic: A new element of the game, never explored before.

What could this be? Maybe a new color. Imagine what would happen if there were suddenly six colors and six basic lands. Things would turn upside down! Older cards would be almost obsolete, and judges might never get to sleep. There would be a whole new system of checks and balances. What if the color was Brown? It could be compatible with any two colors – it’s different on different cards. Or maybe it’s compatible with all the colors, making it the perfect supplement. Or maybe it’s not compatible with any of the colors, being so powerful that to play that it requires major sacrifices. Wouldn’t that be something?

“No way!” you exclaim.”Unheard of – absurd!” Is it really? How many black-white decks have been successful? Blue-green (minus Squirrel Prison)? Not too many. Wizards’ release of Apocalypse changed that aspect of the game. A new color would be taking it a step further, though it would have much greater consequences.

Or, maybe something else could happen. Maybe you could play with two decks at once. Or they could reinstate ante. Or a new card type could be printed: Unique player characters, anyone? An overbalanced superset? Expansions based on world leaders? Player-designed sets? No more spoilers? Any of these things, while turning Magic on its head, would revitalize the Magic players. We wouldn’t just be playing anymore – it’d almost be a whole new game.

I’m not saying this is necessary for Magic; on the contrary, Magic would hardly be what it is today if any of these suggestions were followed. But who’s to say whether this would be good or bad? I don’t know, and neither do you – but it would be different. And it would give players something to talk about. Even if it were only temporarily legal, it’d be something to talk about. And, imagine this:

Newbie:”Wanna trade?”

Veteran:”Sure, kid, whatcha got?”

They exchange binders.

Newbie:”Wow! You have purple cards. Those were only around for one expansion!”

Veteran:”Yeah, and it was pretty crazy, too, let me tell you.”

Cool, no? Cool yes!

So, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. All Magic players need is some coffee put under their noses. Will this happen? Probably not – at least, not any time soon. But, if Magic ever starts to decline, it might be interesting to see just what Wizards can pull out of its hat to revitalize the game.

But, in the meantime, I’ll just have to be content with waiting for States.

Daniel Crane

[email protected]