Three parts to today’s article. First, some early feedback and ideas on "singing decks." Then, a followup to an earlier conversation on women in casual Magic groups. Then, the winner of Connect the Dots.
PART ONE: NOT OVER UNTIL THE FATTIE SINGS
I am really pleased with the mail my last column generated. It felt good to do wacky stuff again and hear about it. Karl Kovaciny rightly pointed out that my "Atomic Dog" deck needed Lava Hounds (especially with Blood Hound), so anyone half-nutty enough to try my decks might want to make that change.
I did get in a couple of song ideas that I do want to pass on, in a summary kind of way. First, "Ken" (no last name… people, if you want unending fame and fortune, you have to use your full name!) took a look at Bach’s Cantana BWV 19 (Es Ehrub Sich Ein Steit) and matched up verses like:
"There arose a great strife" with Jihad
"Saint Michael wins the day" with Warrior Angel
"And the host which follows him" with other angels
"our body and our soul
by angels be protected with Serra’s Embrace, Angelic Protector
You get the idea. Good thinking, Ken. Also, from Erin Dilbaitis: "My Favorite Things," from the Sound of Music…this one went line-for-line, verse-for-verse:
4x Refreshing Rain (Raindrops on roses)
4x Pouncing Jaguar (And whiskers on kittens)
2x Copper Gnomes (Bright copper kettles)
4x Woolly Spider (And warm woollen… er… spiders…)
2x Mox Diamond (Brown paper packages tied up with strings… with jewelry!)
(These are a few of my favorite things!)
4x Rayne, Academy Chancellor (Girls in white dresses with smooth satin sashes)
4x Winter Blast (Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes)
4x Thawing Glaciers (Silver white winters that melt into springs…)
(These are a few of my favorite things!)
4x Howling Wolf (When the dog bites!)
4x Unyaro Bee Sting (When the bee stings…)
4x Wall of Tears (When I’m feeling sad)
4x Brainstorm (I simply remember my favorite things… and then I don’t feel so bad!)
Neither Erin nor I have any idea if this deck will play well. I mean, geez, it features Unyaro Bee Sting. But heck, it will PLAY. Hitting two full verses and a bridge (and keeping it within two colors!) is no mean feat. Well done, Erin.
Continued submissions/reactions/comments are welcome.
PART TWO: WOMEN IN CASUAL MAGIC
A couple of months ago, I mentioned that our group had welcomed a couple of new players on board, among them the first woman that has played regularly with our group. Kelly has been around long enough to get that fake name here in the column… what a milestone! She has also enjoyed the game enough (or become disturbed enough by the rest of us) to recruit her boyfriend Ty into Magic as well. The two of them join us about once every couple of weeks, and bring what all new blood brings into groups: New learning, new sharing, new perspectives, new energy, new victims.
They’ve each stuck to some color combinations so far: Kelly with white and green, Ty with white and blue (occasional black). Neither is stooping to red yet, despite my own considerable efforts to corrupt Kelly…hang on, I feel a half-true, half-exaggerated story coming on:
TY: I’ll play a Fog Bank.
KELLY: Darn. Now my cool angel can’t bust through.
ANTHONY: What a shame. And you haven’t been around the game long enough to pick up Swords to Plowshares for your deck, have you? Hmmm. If only you had a way of getting that wall out of there, a way of…one might say… REMOVING it…
KELLY: You mean, there are green and white spells that can remove things?
ANTHONY: (Sighs.) No. You have to think outside of the box here, Kelly. You have to consider…another color.
KELLY: (Gasps.) There are other colors in Magic?
TY: Why, yes, there’s blue!
ANTHONY: Mm, er, yes, Ty, that’s right, blue. I guess. But blue doesn’t really do removal too well. For that you have to play black, or red… why, look, Ty just played a mountain, he understands!
TY: Actually, this is a proxied island.
[space to think]
ANTHONY: No, I’m sorry, that’s not enough, I still need more time to absorb that.
[more space to think]
ANTHONY: Ty, you are using mountains as proxies for islands because you’ve built so many decks with blue in them, you have run out of lands that make blue mana.
ANTHONY: There is so much wrong with that, I don’t know where to start. Back to you, Kelly. You need to think red, or black…
KELLY: I don’t like black. You know why.
And I do. This is my fault. The first time Kelly played, I played one of my simpler decks, a black slash-and-misery deck that killed all of her wonderful green creatures. Ever since, she has loathed black. She loves white lifegain, too.
That’s right. Our group has finally spawned a player that is the exact opposite of me.
For now, I’m too overwhelmed by a mixture of disgust and admiration to do anything about it. So instead, I have been collecting some thoughts on women and Magic from other women players around the Internet. I recruited the feedback of unsuspecting female readers who just happened to write in response to a random Casual Fridays, I recalled recent (and older) articles from various sites, and I did a quick, regulated fly-by of The Charm School (my thanks for Sara Camarata for acting as a go-between). The conversations drifted between casual play, tournament play, etc. Some of the respondents were fine with me using their names, others weren’t; I’m just going to do this as an anonymous summary.
Where I hear most men get into trouble is in making assumptions: That the woman does not play and is at the shop with a (playing) boyfriend; that the woman does not play very well; that the woman got lucky after she beat you; that the woman is a bitch because she gave you a dirty look after you told her just how lucky she was. In groups, we assume she is the safest to leave until last; that she is too intimidated by everyone else to make her mark on the game; that if we attack somebody else this turn, she’ll pump your creatures, or date us, or whatever. Outside of playing, we assume they need more help than others in building Sealed decks, or making favorable trades, or recognizing just what a cool player/person we are. (And I can’t resist – if you really wanna see a top woman player let loose, Michelle Bush has the article of the year going up tomorrow on this very topic, proving once again that great minds think alike – The Ferrett)
I’m glad to say I believe our group, so far, has steered far clear of these assumptions. We each give Kelly as much help (and cards, and encouragement, and trash talk) as we have given each new member of the group. Ty, since he came on board at about the same time, actually serves as a fantastic measuring stick: If we’re about to do something for Kelly, we can always ask ourselves, would we do this for Ty? If yes, great. If no, then we’re making an assumption somewhere.
I’ve heard advice given on the topic of women and Magic in past articles; my observations may or may not add weight to them. I hear that Michelle Bush may tackle this topic herself soon; and I am looking forward to reading her insights on the matter. (Like I said, be here tomorrow – The Ferrett)
In the meantime, a useful exercise to contemplate:
When you see a woman sit across from you/in your group/in the store/at any Magic venue, before you do or say ANYTHING, immediately look around and find a man of the same age. Okay. Got him in your sights? Good. Now, look back at the woman. Paste the mental image of the guy you found onto her. Don’t just PRETEND she’s a guy… she IS a guy for the rest of the evening, okay? That way, when you feel like telling him you’re surprised he plays Magic, that you’re so thrilled your opponent is better-looking than everyone else’s, that you’re humiliated because you let his girly self beat you, etc… you will feel just as awkward as s/he does.
And if you make it through the whole exercise without saying or doing awkward things, good for you. You’re probably not irritating every woman you meet. (Not a universal guarantee.) And I promise I’ll never make you do anything that disturbing, ever again.
Egh. (This is my current favorite variant of "ugh." Soon to follow: "oogh," "yigh," and "smurfity-smurf!") It’s hard to write about social issues in Magic, be it gender or cheating or whatever, without sounding preachy.
PART THREE: DOTS CONNECTED
The mission of Connect the Dots, for those of you with scant memory, was to begin a deck with the following:
…and make it all hang together.
From the responses I got, I want to highlight two quickly and then give full listing for the winner. Just about all entries used Howling Mines to help smooth the wrinkles between Unnerve and Darigaaz. Mark Acheson balanced out the drawback of Eureka by stacking his deck full of creatures like Nekrataal and Man o’ War. He also used Duress as a "preview" for Darigaaz.
The winning decklist goes to Lucas Berghaus:
Instant – 4
4x Blood Oath
Lucas had a "sideboard" prepared with Void, Defense Grid, Massacre, etc. But I think this deck is interesting enough on its own. What got my attention the most was the presence of Blood Oath, which of course can be used to either (1) target the player with the type of permanents that would make a Eureka bad for you or (2) target the player with instants and interrupts, which can’t be played after Eureka. Smokestack is a great controller for Eureka excess; and Atog is a smart and creative choice given the load of artifacts in this deck.
I am worried, as any rational mind would be, that Winter Orb and Ensnaring Bridge would cause so much frustration that the player of this deck would need many, many answers ready for the backlash. I might consider putting in alternate-casting-cost direct damage, Seals of Fire, and/or other appropriate responses to that kind of pressure (they could replace the Viselings, which are unlikely to see much duty, or even the Orbs themselves, since those do not help Darigaaz very much).
But that quibble aside, Lucas put forward the deck that made Eureka, Unnerve, and Darigaaz most seem as if… well, as if they didn’t totally screw each other up. Congratulations, Lucas. I totally forget what your prize is. I have your email address and will contact you to arrange for a Darigaaz in the mail, or something else appropriate to your effort.
PART FOUR: BY THE WAY
As you read this, I am in Chicago reporting on the Pro Tour for the Sideboard. I expect that writing will be a bit drier than what I do here; but I hope some or all of you will take the time to check it out.