CASUAL FRIDAYS #65: Making Your Deck Sing

In the spirit of holiday procrastination – yes, we are close enough to the holidays to start procrastinating, why put it off? – I am delaying the Connect the Dots contest winner for another week. Honestly, when I start one of these things, I look over the stuff I’ve promised in the recent past for…

In the spirit of holiday procrastination – yes, we are close enough to the holidays to start procrastinating, why put it off? – I am delaying the Connect the Dots contest winner for another week. Honestly, when I start one of these things, I look over the stuff I’ve promised in the recent past for "Coming Soon" and take the topics I find most engaging. That means some unpredictability and delays; but you’re all used to my quirks by now. I don’t think I’m shocking anybody.

This week, I’m obsessed with songs. Travel back in time with me for this…


Hmmmm…actually, first, a non-Magic digression, since I mentioned travelling back in time. Mary and I are pretty solid fans of TV’s Buffy and Angel series, and I would just like to vote this past week’s double episode (which focused on Spike’s history in Buffy half, and Darla’s history in Angel half, and then tied the two together) as easily the most engaging and dramatically satisfying. (Not the same as the Best. "Hush" is still the best episode, Buffy or Angel. I will not accept arguments on this point.) (So you readers "Hush" up now – The Ferrett) Any of you who are remotely into fantasy, and/or just plain good television scripting, are watching these two series, I hope. They are in full creative swing, the way Seinfeld was right after The Contest and Star Trek Next Generation was right after Picard was assimilated (and the way Simpsons was from years three through eight). Secondary characters are going from two to three dimensions, fans are getting rewarded with inside humor and backstory that doesn’t alienate newcomers, and the narrative flow is just plain compelling. I’m probably demonstrating too well that I analyze most entertainment from a writer’s perspective. Isn’t that the way we should ALL analyze everything? Let’s move on.

In the 80s, there were two kinds of music I was not too crazy about. The first was funk, as it began to evolve into rap. The second was whacky alternative rock. I appreciated the roots, artistry, and emotion behind both genres; but at the time I preferred… here we go again… analyzing the melodic and temporal intricacies of Van Halen and Rush. (How the mighty have fallen! Both of these bands should have hung it up in the early ’90s, as grunge rock outdated them. Again, I will accept no contrary arguments… say, you’re all aware that’s my way of inviting arguments, right?… Great. Didn’t know if you got the memo.) So acts like Grand Master Funk and the Fabulous Five (or was it Four?), Run DMC, Violent Femmes, Flock of Seagulls, etc., all that 80s crap just meant very little to me.

There were two exceptions, one from each of those genres.

The first, George Clinton’s "Atomic Dog." Folks, this is just TOO funky to resist. I’m pretty firmly Caucasian, but I nevertheless gain the illusion that I can dance every time I hear the "bow-wow-wow-yippee-yo-yippee-yay" foundation of that song. I can remember watching the video on MTV, furtively, hoping my siblings or (worse) parents would not catch me getting my groove on, as it were, to this song.

The second guilty pleasure was the B-52’s "Rock Lobster." What I liked about the song then was the fact that this entire song was devoted to a really cool crustacean, and how people could be cool around them ("everybody had… matching towels!"), and very little else. That kind of annoying, I-don’t-sing-I-just-talk-around-the-women-who-can guy for once didn’t bother me. His lyrics spoke to me, I guess. I can’t explain it, so don’t ask. Maybe I was a rock lobster in a past life. Or maybe I ate one the week before.

These songs and their respective genres petered out as the 90s kicked in, but in the past couple of years, the 80s are making a supposed "comeback". (This is, as anyone above 25 can tell you, because everyone under 25 has apparently run out of ideas. Yes, folks, grunge and gangta rap are apparently the leaf tips of music’s evolutionary tree. Nowhere else to go but back. Seriously, has anyone heard an original musical movement in the past ten years? Anybody? Folks, it’s the MILLENNIUM. Surely we can put something in the time capsule beyond "K-tel’s Best of the ’80s" CDs…) So I’ve been hearing Rock Lobster a lot on the alternative radio station I tolerate, and Atomic Dog… well, I have a five-year-old, you’ve all seen the "102 Dalmations" promos on television, you do the math.

Hearing these songs again did my heart good – keep up the dearth of originality, kids – and I was on my way to a night of Magic with my posse (sorry, still working my way of the 80s, here) when I thought to myself, "someone should build decks based on these songs."

Hey, look, we’re at the subject of the article! Glad to see you all still with me.


So I think my group may take this on sometime soon. While we decide, I thought I might put out for consideration decklists based on the aforementioned 80s cultural landmarks.

Before you read the following decklists, you may want to go on the web (Napster, or wherever) and listen in on the songs again.

4x Jackal Pup
4x Blood Hound
2x Scarred Puma ("Why must I… chase the cat?")
3x Monstrous Hound
4x Wild Dogs
4x Wyuli Wolf
1x Kasimir the Lone Wolf
1x Snow Hound
4x Vampire Hounds
2x Darigaaz the Igniter (oh get over it, no deck theme is perfect…besides, he kind of LOOKS like a dog…).

And, for the Atomic component:
4x Global Ruin (see artwork…this definitely qualifies)
4x Unearth (digging…get it?)

22 lands should be something like this:
6x Mountains
4x Forests
4x Swamps
2x Plains
4x Gemstone Mines

* Vampire Hounds are very difficult creatures to get rid of. They are, more often than not, your most valuable creature, since they’re tough to get rid of, offer surprises, let you ditch creatures you can’t cast (or want to Unearth), and are just generally cool doggies.
* The lands should be basic lands, except for the mines (which give you blue and white, or anything else in a pinch). That’s because of Global Ruin.
* Unearth gets you back the creatures you discard. Good dog.
* Do you see that synergy between Jackal Pup and Blood Hound? DO YOU SEE IT, PEOPLE? Damn, that’s style.
* The creature is virtually all creatures, no utility. Atomic Dogs need no backup. Play appropriately.

And, now, for the B-52’s chef d’oevre:

4x Homarid
4x Homarid Warrior
2x Giant Spawn
2x Giant Crab (close enough…there just aren’t that many lobsters out there!)

From the Second Verse:
3x Voldalian Illusionist ("Everybody had…matching towels!")
3x King Crab (to take advantage of everyone’s matching towels)
2x Horshoe Crab ("And there he found…a rock.")
2x more Horshoe Crab ("It wasn’t a rock…it was a rock lobster!")

From the Third Verse:
2x Troublesome Spirit ("Lots of trouble…")
2x Bubbling Beebles ("…lots of bubbles…"
2x Distorting Wake ("He was in a jam…"
2x Giant Oyster (…then a giant clam!!!")

From the End:
4x Counterspell ("DOWN! DOWN!"…all right, YOU think of something for that!)
2x Man-o-War ("…there goes a jellyfish…")
1x Narwhal ("…there goes a narwhal…")
1x Taniwha ("LOOK OUT FOR THE TANIWHA!"…or is he screaming Killer Whale? I could never tell. Either one will work.)

22x Islands, and/or other blue mana.

* Yes, I know there is an Unglued card named Rock Lobster. If it weren’t so conditional, I would have considered putting it in the deck.
* Look at the synergy between Troublesome Spirit and… umm… well, nothing. I guess they’re just in there for the lyric. Put in Morphlings instead…the REAL B-52 bombers.
* The chances that you will have both an active Illusionist and an active King Crab on the table at the same time are low, but if you manage it, you should be sure to say "somebody went… under a dock!" everytime you redeck the creature of your choice.
* Really, this deck is just for humming "Rock Lobster" while you lose. You can probably hum other B-52 songs after you’re done with "Rock Lobster"; but I doubt you’ll last that long.


What else can folks think of? Feel free to send me ideas; I’ll post the most entertaining. (Really, I will! Possibly before I get to Connect the Dots, too.) Pick any genre. Bear in mind you should really try to make every card fit the lyrics of the song. If your song has no lyrics (e.g., Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite), you should find a libretto and stick to the storyline, hard.

Looking forward to seeing (hearing?) them!

Anthony Alongi