Blog Elemental – Defining Casual

The many meanings of the phrase”casual Magic player.”

Blog Elemental – Defining”Casual”

June 11, 2004

I often see players in the Casual Constructed room of Magic Online complaining that their most recent opponent wasn’t playing a”casual” deck. Usually this triggers a chat-room argument about what”casual” really means.

People try to force all manner of stereotypes onto the”casual player” (those people who build and play”casual decks”). Staunch definitions of casual players include players who:

a) can use any card ever printed,

b) only play non-sanctioned formats,

c) play”rogue” decks,

d) use cards or strategies tournament players avoid,

e) have limited budgets,

f) don’t play often,

g) play multiplayer,

h) suck at Magic,

i) only play against friends,

j) build theme decks,

k) play to”have fun” instead of”win,” and on and on.

Since each of these characteristics define some casual players, those confusing chat-room arguments never seem to reach any kind of satisfying conclusion.

Here is my definition: A casual player is someone who doesn’t aspire to win sanctioned tournaments. A casual deck, by extension, is a deck designed for some purpose other than winning a sanctioned tournament.

Notice the aspirational angle there. I draft every now and then, but I’m a casual player because my aspirations for Magic don’t center around sanctioned tournaments. Some people are casual because they don’t know tournament Magic exists or are too intimidated to try it out. In my mind, these people are casual players. So is Anthony Alongi, though, who has a very respectable Limited rating.

I guess I just begged the question why I don’t aspire to be on the Pro Tour. There are two things holding me back from being interested in tournaments (to be fair, there are several more holding me back from being successful in tournaments… let’s not go there).

First is time. I think that on average tourney players dedicate a lot more time to Magic than I have available. I used to play in PTQs and at some point realized that I either needed to throttle up my time spent on Magic to master it or throttle back to avoid frustration. Maybe the standards I have for myself are too high, but I throttled back and now only play in the nooks and crannies of my many other interests.

Second is my particular hang-up about rooting for the underdog. Netdecks bore me. I don’t use Arcbound Ravager even in my Roar of Reclamation deck because it’s too obvious. As soon as something gets wildly popular or is shown to be wildly powerful, I lose interest. I like making decks around cards other people consider junk, because to me that’s more fun. I don’t think it makes sense to have realistic tournament aspirations with this kind of hang-up, and I think most good tourney players correctly see their available card pool as much narrower than my own.

Time and underdogs. My two tournament bugaboos. I had lunch with Randy Buehler awhile back and started to explain, while looking at my plate, why I turned away from tournament Magic. It was almost a confessional, trying to prove to him I deserved my spot as a mtg.com weekly columnist. He got this bewildered expression, then frowned and said,”I think you’ve done just fine for yourself.”

One final thought: The name of the”Casual” room is in part responsible for the many arguments about casual games. People enter the room with way too varied expectations from one another. Sometimes I get grief for using too many rares, because”casual” players wouldn’t use Solemn Simulacrum and Blistering Firecat in a Bloodshot Cyclops deck. I’ll then turn around and give the same grief to a person tuning their Goblin-Bidding deck in the”casual” room. There’s gotta be a way to link like-minded players for games, but I haven’t really thought about it yet. Maybe another day.

Blog Elemental – Practicing My Roar

June 10, 2004

So I like Roar of Reclamation. Can I make a deck around it?

There are three and a half things you need in a Roar deck. First, you need artifacts. If the artifacts can somehow sacrifice themselves to some cool effect, that’s great. Second, you need mana – a lot of it – to cast the Roar consistently. Third, you need some kind of defense to survive before casting the Roar. Finally, it’s nice if you can make the effect asymmetrical, either through graveyard destruction, using a heckuvalot more artifacts than an opponent, or just having better artifacts.

You also need to decide why you’re playing Roar of Reclamation. Nantuko Husk? Rust Elemental? Bosh? Grinding Station? Lich’s Tomb? Razormane Masticore? Krark-Clan Ironworks? Arcbound Ravager (ugh)?

Let’s try out a couple of those ideas. First, let’s try a White Masticore deck since it’s funny to think about all of those discarded artifacts coming into play. Why haven’t you already won with your Masticore when you play the Roar? Phhh. Beats me, but let’s see what happens anyway.

Roar & Razor

Standard-legal deck

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Scrabbling Claws

4 Guardian Idol

4 Thirst for Knowledge

3 Altar’s Light

3 Roar of Reclamation

4 Leonin Elder

3 Solemn Simulacrum

3 Razormane Masticore

4 Ancient Den

4 Darksteel Citadel

4 Seat of the Synod

10 Plains

2 Island

Okay, now let’s try something slightly more straightforward than I am used to making, a Fireball combo deck. Maybe this is too obvious for people, or maybe it’s just an excuse for a rude deckname. In either case, I probably should have left well enough alone:

Roaring Balls

Standard-legal deck

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Fireball

4 Guardian Idol

4 Sun Droplet

4 Pentad Prism

4 Thirst for Knowledge

4 Wrath of God

3 Krark-Clan Ironworks

3 Roar of Reclamation

2 Pyrite Spellbomb

2 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Ancient Den

4 Great Furnace

4 Darksteel Citadel

4 Seat of the Synod

5 Plains

1 Mountain

Blog Elemental – A Pale Shade of Dawn

June 9, 2004

I haven’t done a Fifth Dawn menu yet (read my article to see what the heck I’m talking about) for two reasons. One, my relationship to sets is different now that I’m a names and flavor text writer. I’m not able to qualify that difference just yet, only notice it’s there. Two, I’m only beginning to revive my deckbuilding brain from its Skullclamp-induced hibernation.

This blog feels like a good space to work my way through a Fifth Dawn menu. Let’s start with the white cards:

Class IV (Cards I like that others are talking about or using)

Currently nothing to see here.

Class III (Cards I like that no one else seems to like)

Auriok Salvagers & Leonin Squire

General interest outside of Type I has waned because of Skullclamp’s banning. For us non-tournament folks, however, there is still great potential in a one-mana artifact deck with things like Chromatic Sphere, Baubles, Spellbombs, Scrabbling Claws, and Engineered Explosives. For non-Standard, try Eggs, Sextants, more Baubles, Ashnod’s Transmogrant, Claws of Gix, Shield Sphere, Triangle of War, and more!

Class II (Cards I really like that others are talking about or using)

Bringer of the White Dawn

It’s big, it’s cool, and I named it. Everyone seems to be stuck on abusing Mindslaver, but I think there are a whole slew of fun things you can do with recurring artifacts. I picture a mono-White deck with things like Bottle Gnomes, Oblivion Stone, Pentavus, Coretapper, and Triskelion. I mean, why win outright when you can do weird things instead?

Class I (Cards I really like that no one else seems to like)

Roar of Reclamation

One of my”special three” cards. Everyone looks at the cost and moves on, but I would rather think through possible decks first. There are enough graveyard-destroying cards in Magic to make it one-sided, and this comes in the same color as Akroma’s Vengeance. More on this one tomorrow.

Y’know, all four of these cards might actually fit into the same deck. That makes my head hurt, if you must know.

Blog Elemental – An Unlikely Tribe

June 8, 2004

I have a running list of cards from Eighth Edition I think could make for fun decks – some people will recognize that I call these lists”menus.” Bloodshot Cyclops was on the list, but I’m pretty sick of him at this point (notice my decided lack of deck discussion last week). One day I’ll print my Eighth menu, but today I’m plucking another”bad rare” from the pile.

Brass Herald was probably included in Eighth because of the Onslaught Block and its heavy tribal theme. What I noticed when Mirrodin came out was that it was a golem. Then Darksteel came along, adding to the pack of golems from the previous set. Now Fifth Dawn completes the Artifact Block, so let’s see… are there enough golems to make a fun deck?

The Standard-legal golems: Arcbound Overseer, Arcbound Reclaimer, Battered Golem, Bosh, Iron Golem, Brass Herald, Cobalt Golem, Composite Golem, Dross Golem, Hematite Golem, Lunar Avenger, Malachite Golem, Mirror Golem, Mycosynth Golem, Oxidda Golem, Patagia Golem, Pewter Golem, Razor Golem, Spire Golem, Tangle Golem, Titanium Golem, Tribal Golem, Voltaic Construct.

I think a golem deck is either going to go the 5-color route or monocolor to use the Darksteel golems. I like mono-Green because you can ramp your mana, thin your lands, and thus make Brass Herald more bang-worthy.

Something like this, which is obviously hypothetical, untested, and full of holes:

Brass & Iron

Standard-legal deck

4 Battered Golem

4 Eternal Witness

4 Brass Herald

4 Tangle Golem

3 Bosh, Iron Golem

2 Voltaic Construct

4 Rampant Growth

4 Reap and Sow

4 Explosive Vegetation

3 Tel-Jilad Justice

1 Riptide Replicator

4 Wooded Foothills

2 Mountain

17 Forest

Or here’s a 5-color version:

Brass Ring

Online Extended-legal deck

4 Emblazoned Golem

4 Eternal Witness

4 Brass Herald

3 Composite Golem

2 Bringer of the Black Dawn

1 Goblin Replica

1 Junk Golem

1 Voltaic Construct

1 Arcbound Reclaimer

1 Cromat

1 Bosh, Iron Golem

1 Bringer of the White Dawn

4 Chromatic Sphere

4 Rampant Growth

4 Pentad Prism

4 Mirrodin’s Core

2 City of Brass

2 Grand Coliseum

10 Forest

2 Plains

2 Swamp

1 Island

1 Mountain

Blog Elemental – I Did That! ME! MEEEEE!

June 7, 2004

Unlike Magic card design, credit for names and flavor text isn’t terribly difficult to determine. It may not be quite as clear-cut as a card’s artist, but writers get paid by the number of names and pieces of flavor text accepted for each set.

If you missed it from my mtg.com article today, here is the list of cards for which I can take credit in Fifth Dawn:

Card names: Abuna’s Chant; Battered Golem; Blind Creeper; Bringer of the Black Dawn; Bringer of the Blue Dawn; Bringer of the Green Dawn; Bringer of the Red Dawn; Bringer of the White Dawn; Conjurer’s Bauble; Ebon Drake; Fist of Suns; Goblin Brawler; Grafted Wargear; Guardian Idol; Ion Storm; Lantern of Insight; Leonin Squire; Neurok Stealthsuit; Possessed Portal; Retaliate; Skyhunter Prowler; Steelshaper’s Gift; Suncrusher; Tel-Jilad Justice; Fill with Fright; Joiner Adept; Roar of Reclamation.

Flavor text: Arachnoid; Auriok Windwalker; Blind Creeper; Channel the Suns; Circle of Protection: Artifacts; Devour in Shadow; Fold into Aether; Gemstone Array; Loxodon Anchorite; Moriok Rigger; Night’s Whisper; Retaliate; Roar of Reclamation; Skyhunter Skirmisher; Viridian Lorebearers.

There are also some cards I desperately wanted to name but my submissions weren’t accepted. For legal reasons, I can’t say what I submitted for cards like Relentless Rats and Endless Whispers, but trust me when I say they were Friggin’ Brilliant! Or, at least, I liked them a lot.

For those keeping score at home, there are three cards with both my name and flavor text stamp: Blind Creeper, Retaliate, and Roar of Reclamation. I was trying to figure out how to mark my special affinity for these cards, something better than just owning them and something less than tattoos.

Then a very cool person gives me all the cards with my flavor text as foils, along with a set of Bringers. Man, I love my life. I tell you, this whole gig feels too good to be true. Someday I’m going to give Aaron Forsythe and Brandon Bozzi a big wet kiss on the lips. [Note to self: Don’t give JMS any jobs. – Knut]