CASUAL FRIDAYS #84: Tossed Salad

84 Ingredients, dressed up with Love. Possibly his longest column ever!

There’s something magical about the number "84." Perhaps it’s its divisibility by 2, 3, AND 7. Perhaps it’s a George Orwell thing. Or perhaps it’s because we’re halfway to 168, at which point I will have to admit unconditionally that I have been doing this schtick for far too long.

Whatever the circumstances, the fact is, over 84 issues’ worth of Casual Fridays I’ve collected quite a few pieces of information – unfinished musings on cards, scribblings in my e-notebook that won’t ever evolve into full articles, informational snippets about my collection, and just random thoughts that will no doubt occur to me as I write this week’s offering. So what follows below is one of those "I was just thinking…" kind of articles. Some readers find this sort of thing annoying. Those readers, if they want a real challenge, can scroll all the way down to #84 and then read the list backwards. (Your computer speakers will grate out, in an appropriately demonic tenor, "Anthony worships white life gain! White life gain is my master!" over and over if you do this.)

1) I am thinking of completely reorganizing my collection. I am dissatisfied with the system I am using now. Has anyone else ever done this, after they reached thousands of cards? Any thoughts on how to organize a Magic collection are welcome. More on this later…

2) Crypt Angel is my bellweather card. In my Punisher deck, I have lost only three times when I have played this card (out of twenty-five to thirty games). When I play the foil Crypt Angel, I am undefeated. I have not lost sight of the fact that as I built the deck, I designated the three foils as three members of my family. The Crypt Angel I lovingly designated to my wife. (Despite what I implied in the Sideboard article, I honestly didn’t mean it as a slight! I just knew the card would kick ass, just like my Mary would, if she ever played the game seriously.) So here’s my interpretation: when my wife shows up, she’s trying to tell the rest of our group that the game is over, and we should stop playing Magic and go home. To our wives, of course!

3) Actually, our group has decided I don’t have to play the foil Crypt Angel to win; I just have to REVEAL it. This was proven in a recent emperor game, when Ty had out a Seer’s Vision. In my hand I had both Crypt Angels and a Crosis. That’s a pretty good feeling. Hell, you WANT to reveal your hand at that point. "Reveal my hand? Where do I sign up? What, you sacked the Vision? Oh, that’s okay, I’ll keep the other two cards face-up."

4) I keep all of my basic lands in a separate box, where they can just think about all the color-screw situations they’ve put me in over the years. Sometimes, just to freak them out, I tape the box up tight and then rattle it around, screaming "ARMAGEDDON! IT’S ARMAGEDDON! THE END FOR YOU COMES! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!" This, I am pretty sure, makes me feel better.

5) A few months ago, my friend Todd Petit put a few non-rares up on eBay with my signature. He wanted to know "how they would do", and if my signature was worth anything. (We also put a link to the auction on our front page, seeing as we were kind of curious ourself – The Ferrett) Assuming Pouncing Jaguar, Jangling Automaton, and Wishmonger are worth nothing on their own (and I think we can all agree on that), three of my signatures are worth about $12, which breaks down to $4 a scribble. This is highly embarrassing. People, I demand you NOT pay money for my signature, at least not until I am President or win an Oscar or play in the Super Bowl. But there is a happy side to this morbid tale: those of you who have won the Break this Card contest now have your own little nest egg! Keep it warm.

6) Deadshot, Tahngarth, Arena, and Melee all belong in a deck together. Someone bird-dog that for me, will you? Thanks.

7) I hate the expression "bird-dog." Can you imagine this thing as a creature? "Bird Dog: 1/2 for 1G. Tap, G: Search target player’s library for a bird creature card. Put that card in that player’s graveyard." Whenever I realize I don’t like a word, I find it’s usually because the Magic card I would make out of it completely stinks.

8) My collection has somewhere around 15,000 cards, exclusive of basic lands and Portal cards, as of this article. This is not necessarily a lot, as anyone who has been playing for more than two years can tell you.

9) Also in that bird-dog category, for WotC’s future reference: "mirth," "psychic," and "pale."

10) Should those of you newer to the game try to get up to 15,000 cards? Well, it depends on the 15,000. My collection has gone through a great deal of thinning – I’ve passed on tons of commons and uncommons (and yes, rares) to newer players to jumpstart their collections. That means my rares-per-100 ratio is pretty high, relative to many collections. Building up a 15,000 card collection that’s made up of so many rares and uncommons is probably not advisable to anyone college-age or younger. Spend your money on bettering yourself, like a good kid. Don’t you have an academic journey to study ancient literature in Nepal you could be taking? Your parents would be so proud of you.

11) "Rares-per-100 ratio" sounds like an official term, but it’s not. Nobody at WotC or Star City has endorsed this concept. But if you want to sound like you pay a lot of attention to your collection, it’s the phrase for you.

12) Flametongue Kavu.

13) It’s enough just to say those two words, isn’t it? You hear what you want to hear.

14) Arrest, if gating didn’t exist, would be a pretty spectacular multiplayer card nowadays. Think of the creatures it could reliably stop, which are popping up in groups all over: Mirrorwood Treefolk, Lin-Sivvi, Tahngarth, Thrashing Wumpus, Nemata Grove Guardian, Kavu Chameleon, any Master or Apprentice…etc. etc. Creatures are getting more complicated, and that makes inefficient removal really funny.

15) But gating DOES exist. So Arrest, not so good even by inefficient standards. For three mana in white, Afterlife is probably better (and in fact, Last Breath deals with a few of the threats named above just fine). Of course, if you’re looking back further in your collection, why would you use anything but Swords to Plowshares? Better yet, splash red and use…you guessed it…Flametongue Kavu.

16) After a winning booster draft night at a local shop, I told one of the shop’s regulars about my first-pack choices: Opening Teferi’s Moat, Shivan Emissary, Vicious Kavu, and Duskwalker as all potential #1 picks, I chose the Moat, feeling that (1) it shuts down multiple cards, whereas all of the others can at best trade one-for-one (Emissary can repeat, with Lava Zombie); and (2) the black-red signal I could send to my left was just too tempting. (Rare-drafting, incidentally, had nothing to do with it: I have all the Moats I need in my collection, and will probably never use them.) According to this shop regular, who’s frequently on the Pro Tour and has made top 32 and top 8 in such instances, Emissary was the better choice. If faced with this identical situation again, I think I would still take the Moat. Does this make me an idiot, or brilliantly unconventional, or both? Comments welcome.

17) I entered the Magic scene while Rath block was in full swing, and when Fifth Edition was the basic set. My first pack of Stronghold had a Mox Diamond in it, and my first pack of 5th had a Shivan Dragon. I thought both cards sucked, when compared to cool Portal cards like Thing of the Deep or Ebon Dragon.

18) My collection has considerable gaps in earlier expansions. I’m retroactively cherrypicking the good stuff, leaving not much in between. Whereas I think I have near-complete sets of Urza’s Legacy (when I really started paying attention to the quality of my collection) forward, and I’m pretty good from Tempest through Saga, I have swathes of rares missing across Mirage and Alice blocks…and don’t even talk to me about Antiquities, or Arabian Nights, or The Dark. I have two German black-bordered Ball Lightnings, a couple of Mazes of Ith, several decent representatives of Legends…and that’s kinda it.

19) "KUGELBLITZ!" is German for Lightning Ball. Does every Magic card translate in such cool fashion to German? I hope so. Maybe if I ask him nicely, I can get Kai Budde to bird-dog that.

20) I still think the artwork on Ebon Dragon is fantastic. I just started my five-year-old daughter on the game using Portal cards; her reaction upon seeing the Dragon was, "Ooooooo!" Very similar to what I had said three years ago.

21) The StarCityMTG mailing group spent way too much time last week debating the merits of Glacial Wall. Adrian Sullivan, Nicest Man in Magic though he may be, should be held accountable for what he has wrought. Adrian, stop the madness!

22) I hereby apologize to the StarCityMTG mailing group for "lurking" on that topic, and not bringing my ennui up at the time. Getting the list’s mail in digest format makes it really hard to get motivated to write in! But I’ve just started a thread on team sealed, so I’m contributing to the community now.

23) I have just about four of every dual land, but I couldn’t begin to tell you where the gaps are. (I THINK it’s Tropical Island. Wait, no, Brushland. Hmmm…Taiga? Dammit.) So trying to trade for them is a futile exercise for me. No matter how many you have yourself, I am sure you can relate to the sinking feeling I get when I have an opportunity to acquire a coveted card…only to have to grapple with the sinking feeling that this isn’t the card you need, it’s another one. Yes, yes, I could write the ones I’m missing down; but I’m not the type to write a lot.

24) Yes, that last bit there was irony.

25) I’m going to have to make #23 up to you all somehow, aren’t I? Okay, here’s a chunkier one: I currently have two of the Power Nine. (A Mox Jet and a Library of Alexandria.) I am not yet using either one, and I think it’s because I am afraid they will break, or squawk, or something. This bothers me a little, because until I got them I unabashedly played any card I got, no matter how valuable. Of course, I used sleeves; but I also recognize that even sleeves do not completely stop wear and tear. So I guess I want to maintain the value of the collection…but I also want to use the darn cards. I welcome thoughts from the community on what cards are good to play…and what cards are just best left in the box, waiting for that day when you will sell them off joylessly. Wait, I think I have my answer…

26) Sleeving and desleeving is a pain in the butt. Someone please tell me why I bother to sleeve every rare AND uncommon I own?!?! Couldn’t Wild Wurm and Kavu Lair, really, do without?

27) Doomsday Specter may be the most difficult creature to keep on the board, ever. (Either that, or it’s a close runner-up to Royal Assassin.) Nearly two months into Planeshift’s release, I believe I have seen the Specter get played in games I’ve played (group, duel, casual, tournament, whatever) 20-30 times. Number of times it has actually hit to pull a card: Twice.

28) Oops, in the spaces between writing pieces of this massive article, I have played another game where the Specter hit. Unfortunately, it hit me. Took a Ghitu Fire; I couldn’t play it the previous turn since I was stuck at two mana. (Okay, I could have played it for one to the dome. But wouldn’t that have been even MORE pathetic?…Plus I would have then lost ANOTHER card when the Specter hit!)

29) The next five entries are going to be card names, followed by a colon and a word association exercise. I do this not to stretch out the article so that it fits 84 numbers – no, not at all! – but rather because word association is a very important psychological exercise. We should all learn the technique.

30) Phyrexian Scuta: Scooter, the ringing of a bicycle bell. Bubble gum.

31) Gaea’s Cradle: Fat, plump babies. Bad babies.

32) Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero: Thin Lizzie, Lizard Lounge, ‘Zard (this woman I knew back in college…long story).

33) Escaped Shapeshifter: Big noses. Anteaters. Escaped anteaters, ravaging the countryside, terrifying innocent termites everywhere.

34) Cinder Elemental: Smooky.

35) "Smooky" is not a real word. Really! But it still counts. About two Halloweens ago, my (then) four-year-old deemed an older neighborhood kid’s ghost costume as "smooky." "Smooky," to me, sounds more disturbing than "spooky." (On the latter, I just get a carnival funhouse image, complete with cheap cardboard skeletons and riffled paper spiders.)

36) Like most collections, I separate out all five colors, and artifacts, and non-basic lands, and gold cards. If the length of the rows across all my boxes is any kind of indicator, I have more unused red in my collection than any other color, followed closely by blue and black. My collection is "light" (by about fifty cards) in white and green. Of course, I could just be using tons of white and green cards in my decks. While this is probably true of green, I just can’t see it for white.

37) Utopia Tree: The new metaphor for overhyped expectations in a Magic card?

38) Apocalypse expansion: As the last expansion in the set, will answer this question pretty definitively. (My prediction on the answer: yes.)

39) I just built a new black/red deck, intended as a general deck in Emperor format. It blends sweeping damage and discard spells (Sizzle and Unnerve) that help my whole team, with mana acceleration including Mana Flare, Dark Ritual, and Lake of the Dead to get to Urza’s Rage. I have pulled off successive Urza’s Rages – yes, with kicker – on turns FIVE and SIX. I’ll give you folks a while to work that out; it’s not horribly difficult with the cards I’ve mentioned. Answers coming below.

40) Gold cards are a thorn in my collection’s side. I hate having them all dumped together, as if I could pick any ten and run them side-by-side without a care for color consistency. But how to split them up? You can’t just use the convenient allied color scheme of Invasion block; old-school gold cards don’t work that way.

41) Another thing about gold cards: Database searches (e.g., Yavapai Open) don’t find them when looking in the relevant base color. Seven years from now, when searching for good cards for your discard deck (or good creatures with haste), you will have to think to look at black (or red) and catch what you catch, and THEN search gold to find that Blazing Specter.

42) Of course, since Yavapai Open is looking for a buyer right now, they probably won’t be around in seven years. But you know what I mean.

43) If you look out the left side of the airplane, you’ll see we just passed 42, the halfway point of this article. Forty-two is probably just as special a number as 84, since it, too is divisible by 2, 3, and 7. I should probably use at least one of these paragraphs to discourage those mathematical geniuses who are tempted to send me a list of all of the numbers under 1,000 that are all divisible by 2, 3, and 7. (Hint: they’re all factors of 6×7, or 42.) What would be far more impressive would be to send me a competitive multiplayer deck list using ONLY Type II cards with converted mana cost of 2, 3, and 7. Team, chaos, whatever. Just make it good and use all three mana slots. I see one that truly deserves it, I’ll give out a rare from that deck as a prize. (If there are no rares in the deck, I’ll choose a decent one like Doomsday Specter or such and send it along.) See any "Break this Card" contest for typical guidelines (include name, etc.), and put "84.dec" in the subject line of your email. (If you want to cater to the lowest common denominator, go ahead and use "42.dec".) Deadline is next Thursday at midnight, CST.

44) Doesn’t Goblin Game have a converted mana cost of seven? Crap. Okay, Goblin Game is banned. That leaves you twelve Type II legal cards in that slot (touching all five colors! Hooray!). I’m using Sixth Edition as Type II legal; you’re welcome to use Seventh Edition but I can’t vouch for the seven-slot there.

45) Foil promotional cards are a fantastic idea. I say this, of course, because I have a few. Alternate artwork is the best part of it. Tahngarth on the regular card is a misshapen cow. Tahngarth on the foil promotional card is a beast.

46) About those fifth- and sixth-turn Urza’s Rage: Turns one and two, lay a mountain and a swamp and do anything you want. Turn three, lay down a swamp and the Mana Flare. Turn four, lay down a mountain. (You can use this opportunity to play two Blazing Specters or Skizziks and swing. But that’s optional.) Turn five, tap a swamp for BB, play Lake of the Dead and sack used swamp, tap the Lake for BBBBB as you sack another swamp (don’t forget to tap that one, too…you’re now at BBBBBBBBB), and then tap your two mountains for RRRR…presto, thirteen appropriate mana and a nasty surprise for your opponent. Yes, you must burn for one. On turn six, you’re starting with the Lake and two mountains. You’ll need another Dark Ritual and a swamp, as well a your next Urza’s Rage (yes, I got a little lucky that game). Lay the swamp, tap for BB, play the Dark Ritual to get you to BBBB, tap the Lake and sack that swamp for another BBBB, tap the two mountains for RRRR and rock on.

47) Dumb Mana Flare tricks aside, what I really think the deck needs, though, is four Sleeper Agents. Yes, Sleeper Agents! Recalling that my group gives generals a range of two, and disallows creature movement, I want to slap down an Agent on turn one, give it to the opposing emperor, smile, and say: "See you ten turns." If they’re still alive by turn eleven, I should be able to Dark Ritual out an Urza’s Rage with kicker, right?

48) Reason #1 (of three) to love Root Greevil: The name. The creature classification of the Greevil as a "Beast" notwithstanding, I firmly believe that WotC is about to unleash a series of Greevil cards that will make Kavu look like ferrets, if ferrets only barely stunk. (Hey! – The Ferrett) Soon we will have Winged Greevil; and Spotty Greevil; and Lesser Greevil; and Greevil Gambit; and Vinny, Greevil Champion; and even creatures with (and/or circles of) Protection from Greevil! THEN, my friends, we will have entered a new Golden Age of Magic.

49) Reason #2 (of three) to love Root Greevil:Inefficiency (2/3 and conditional ability for four mana) is a lovable quality. Folks, we’re grading on a curve here. Not all of us in real life are exactly untargetable 5/5s for 4, if you know what I mean. The more efficient creatures there are in the world, the worse the rest of us look. Right now, my wife finds my neurotic nature "eccentric" and "charming," and my other drawbacks tolerable. On the plus side, I can stop small, early-game threats like spiders and burned out light bulbs. I am the Root Greevil of husbands. Of course, if Russell "Blastoderm" Crowe were to show up at our door, well, there wouldn’t be fire in just Yavimaya. (Of course, true to Mr. Crowe’s nature he’d last exactly four turns before scampering off to somewhere else.)

50) Reason #3 (of three) to love Root Greevil:On the card, it looks like that guy is scratching the Greevil’s tummy, and the Greevil LOVES it. "Tee hee hee!" giggles the Greevil, like some kind of four-armed, olive-green, hairy Pillsbury Dough Boy. How can anyone not like this guy?

51) Despite all three of these most excellent reasons to love Root Greevil, I have never in fact played with Root Greevil, in any format.

52) Gary, who with about a year’s experience is considered one of the newer players in our group, has just built one of the better Emperor decks I’ve seen. I particularly like it since it refrains from the typical black/red removal or white lifegain types that are so common. It’s a black-blue-white meant to maximize his generals’ chances: Benalish Trapper, Confound, Malicious Advice, Word of Binding (for general to the left only), and a bit of typical black removal in Seal of Doom and Avatar of Woe. I think it wants a few more Absorbs and Undermines; but it’s wonderfully effective against a broad range of general decks.

53) The artifacts in my collection are kept in that pretty orange and brown Battle Royale box that WotC released a year or so ago. I use a lot of artifacts in decks, so what’s left does barely fit in there. I separate out artifact creatures from regular artifacts, which always screws me up when I’m looking for a Chimeric Idol, Xanthic Statue, or Chimeric Staff. You’d think I’d figure it out after a while, but no.

54) Battle Royale was a nice little boxed set; but I haven’t invested in the Beatdown (I think that’s its name) set. The alternate artwork for Sengir Vampire and Ball Lightning just didn’t look that good from web site previews. Folks are welcome to write and argue with me on this (or any other) point. (Well, you can’t argue with me about that Root Greevil stuff back there. Or you can, but I just won’t listen. Or I’ll listen, but I just won’t agree. Okay, maybe I’ll agree.)

55) Gary’s new emperor deck also includes two Spiritual Asylums, which is a bit of an inspired choice. Our group disallows creature movement and it works quite well; in a group that allowed it Spiritual Asylum might actually be "broken" for Emperor, since you can slide your Avatar one player to the right and (since you still control it) thwack away with impunity. Heck, put in Mishra’s Factories and Spawning Pools and slide them over while they’re creatures, too.

56) One more note on Gary’s emperor deck: it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put two Ivory Masks in there. (I wrote this tidbit before reading Stijn van Dongen second casual play offering; by the time I wrote #72 I had read it, and came right on back here to avoid suspicions of plagarism!) Sometimes, a general will have such an aggressive red/black deck, he will just put out enough creatures to give his opposing general trouble, and then just try to shoot directly at the Emperor (generals have a range of two in our group; that seems pretty common…there’s another school of thought that gives generals only a range of one). The Ivory Masks, together with Spiritual Asylum, should prevent that.

57) Creating a list of Magic-related things that goes for longer than, say, sixteen items is phenomenally difficult. Unless you’re writing one of those set analyses, in which case you can cheat and give feedback on each and every card.

58) I can’t be too negative about set analyses, I suppose: I read the infernal things, especially if it is a well-known, experienced player. If it’s a writer I don’t know, I start reading it and only stop if I see something like, "Mageta: Why did they print this card? I get that it kills all other creatures…but it kills yours, too!!!"

59) I have only heard a couple of comments about my proposed changes to the Multiplayer Hall of Fame. This is pretty much a pattern: I solicit feedback in advance, then do it, and then get fifty emails after the first installment asking me "why didn’t you include [insert card name here]?" and "it would be so cool if you did [insert cool innovation here]…" To avoid the incredible frustration I feel when I get this feedback AFTER Internet publication, I admonish you all to go back and check out "Funky Animals After Twilight" in the archives. Then give me an e-buzz and let me know what you think! Thanks.

60) So, our group finally tries 5-color Magic a couple of weeks ago. Not too bad at all! We’re test-driving a version without ante. You can all save yourselves the trouble of email on that topic; we’ll progress at our own pace. But I am always open to feedback and ideas on the various decks we’ve been sporting so far; I’ll give some details on them as we continue…

61) Our group welcomed a new member recently. Cal, a work buddy of Pete’s who only swings by once every month or so, has just gotten his wife Jody hooked on the game. We are now up to fifteen group members, or eleven fairly regular and four occasional. I’ll revisit the group members as an annex to a future Casual Fridays.

62) In one game where Kelly (our first female member) and Jody were both on the same emperor team, the sole male (Gary) commented, "Look at this progressive army!" He then frowned over at our side of the table, where three guys sat shoulder to shoulder. "You people are so anachronistic. We’re going to kick your butts." They did eliminate one of us (Kelly took me out with an untimely Hurricane); but the two remaining teammates did barely manage to scrape out a win. Misogynist jerks.

63) Pete’s first 5-Color deck makes liberal use of "scape" creatures, especially the apprentices and battlemages of Invasion and Planeshift. He initially had lots of Invasion dual lands and such to help fix colors; but in reality our group is inefficient enough with their builds for him to get away with just basic lands. Since every one of the battlemages has at least one good ability, having four of each battlemage and apprentice (including the Sunscape and Nightscape) assures that he will likely be able to recur at least one beast, over and over.

64) Within each color of my collection, I sort by expansion, then creatures/spells. Within creatures, I sort by power, then toughness, then casting cost, then alphabetically. Within spells, I sort by casting cost, then alphabetically. My wife points out every time she sees me putting away cards that I am, in effect, doing the same type of filing I loathed when I was an intern at a non-profit research and consulting firm. I then point out that she is the same incredibly annoying person I fell in love with fourteen years ago. I don’t know if that helps my case or not, but it gets me a smooch.

65) One of the neatest things about 5-color, 250-card decks – and I have no idea if this is sacreligious or not, so proponents of the format will have to cut me some slack here – is that when someone forgets to bring their deck, you can just split your own in half and play the two halves against each other.

66) That’s blasphemy, isn’t it? I think the fundamental problem here is our group doesn’t use ante; so a 250-card deck playing against itself pretty much screws up three or four rules. Hmmm. Well, onward and upward.

67) Dave’s 250-card deck pretty much contains every fabulous rare he owns. He literally took apart every deck he owns and just smashed it all into one 5-color monstrosity. Even though Dave does not have any of the Power Nine, or anything like that, the combination of dragons and card drawing and all that is just gross. To make it worse, he actually put a Planeswalker’s Mirth in there. I think this is a joke; but I’m not sure. It may be a clever metagame call, given that he probably expected all of us to cram a bunch of 6+-casting-cost bombs in our decks as well.

68) Those of you who have never played 5-color and/or have no intention of ever doing so are probably going through a rough patch, here. Let me break the monotony: Kelly, Ty, and I are playing Emperor format against Pete, Theo, and Carl. (Kelly – who insists we call her Xena – and Theo – who most graciously does not – are emperors.) We are getting smashed hard, and at one point I, as Kelly’s more seasoned general, make a respectful recommendation to my empress that we concede the game and go for the rematch. Kelly reacted rather badly to this counsel; I fear that had we been actually involved in a war between kingdoms during the 13th century, this general would have lost his head by daring to suggest such a thing. After giving me a stern talking-to, my empress actually raises her voice even further to begin an inspirational rallying of the troops: do I think, she asks, that Xena would give up in such a hopeless situation. Before I can answer, she provides the answer in turbo-Socratic mode: No, Xena would not give up. Xena would creatively find the resources to combat the forces of darkness. Xena would use her enemies’ strengths against themselves. Why in episode #92, when Xena and Gabriella…

69) At that point, this general’s head collapsed onto the table in exasperated fashion, and I informed my empress that she had to stop talking, RIGHT NOW. Normally, this is a horrible breach of royal protocol; but everyone at the table agreed that I did what had to be done.

70) My own 5-Color deck is a tribute to commons and uncommons, with very few rares thrown in since I do not use sleeves. (Once I figure out what makes a 5-Color deck really tick, I’ll put some more choice rares on the line.) My base is primarily green/red/black. I use cheap, efficient creatures like Mogg Fanatic and Suq’ata Lancer, as well as landwalkers (Bog Wraith, River Boas, looked for Goblin Spelunkers and amazingly don’t have any left!) and dupe-searchers like Llanowar Sentinel and Nesting Wurm. My blue is there for library manipulation (Lim-Dul’s Vault, Diabolic Vision, Sealed Fate) and my white is there because it has to be (Benalish Heralds). Instead of $10.00 Birds of Paradise I’m running $0.25 Skyshroud Elves, and I don’t yet feel the difference. I imagine I would if I went to a serious 5-Color event.

71) I have all basic lands (90 of them) in my 5-Color deck. I have had only two cases of color screw: one for blue, one for black. Okay, maybe the Birds of Paradise need to come in sooner rather than later.

72) Stijn van Dongen, the newest casual play writer on Star City, is just scary, scary good. Damn Europeans and their multilingual skills! He’s like the Kamiel Cornelissen of casual play writing: Right out of nowhere, the guy is terrifying the hell out of the rest of us. (VERY true – The Ferrett, impressed all to hell) I hereby beg The Ferrett to keep this man AWAY from Fridays. Try, say, Sunday mornings. Or Tuesdays, around midnight.

73) Of course, Mr. Van Dongen is still dead wrong about politics in multiplayer. (VERY untrue – The Ferrett) It has been a long time since I defended my stance on this issue; I expect within the next couple of weeks I will do again, just to remind everyone that I haven’t fallen asleep on this point.

74) Dregs of Sorrow. What a phenomenally impractical card in design, what a smashing success it is in implementation. In my 5-Color deck, Dregs of Sorrow is the only card that absolutely feels like it must stay. (Okay, Lim-Dul’s Vault, too. That is just sick, sick, sick.) I’ve already begun reconsidering the card for some of my faster, more traditional group decks. What it represents in card advantage is simply outstanding. The more you kill, the more kill you get: that is what black is all about. And it’s splashable! Get the net.

75) What is the pride and joy of my collection? It may sound stupid, but even with a Mox Jet, Library of Alexandria, a bunch of promo foils, an Italian Abyss, and a foil Urza’s Rage that all players at the L.A. Multiplayer Invitational signed, the card I feel the most affection for is my Beta Berserk. I got this $50 value (estimated) recently as part of a favorable trade with a group member (the trade was favorable for HIM, not me!…but I made the offer, since I wanted it so badly…he’s a cool enough guy that he was actually going to give it to me for free, but I wouldn’t have it). What do I like about this card? I can use it flexibly as pump or removal, it’s cheap as all get-out, and it wreaks havoc in multiplayer. And it’s green, one of my favored colors. The fact that it’s one of the few (in fact, I think the only) Beta cards I own just puts icing on the cake.

76) If I tried really hard, I suppose, I would have more old stuff (read: pre-Mirage block) in my collection. I just can’t get up the motivation to do it full steam. So many of the old cards are so horrific. I can’t go out and buy a box of any of those expansions; I’m afraid of all the nasty rares I’ll open. Dread Wight? War Barge? Trailblazer? (Okay, Trailblazer’s got me thinking. But still…)

77) Even Juzam Djinn, by today’s standards, is horribly overrated. As a creature, as a collectible, you name it. Too many colors have too many options now. Am I saying I wouldn’t want four? No. Am I saying I’m going to break a leg getting just one? No.

78) I was about to send off this article to The Ferrett when I realized that I had totally forgotten to fill in this item. (I didn’t write all of these in the order you’re reading them.) Technically, this is the LAST ITEM ON THE LIST. Everything you read from this point on was written BEFORE I WROTE THIS. So I already know how it’s going to end. Jealous? Exhausted? Annoyed? Let those feelings out. I mean, I could be using these slots to tell you about cool cards! Don’t take this foolishness any more. Go RIGHT NOW to your collection, pick out a really cool rare that you love to death, put it in a hard plastic sleeve and mail it to my attention c/o Star City Games, 5263 Williamson Road Northwest, Roanoke, Virginia, 24012 (pass them along, won’t you, Pete?) with a note to the effect of "THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE WRITING ABOUT, JERK." If the card is really, really good (and preferrably foil), I will write a full article on it under the pseudonym "Card Whore."

79) So I started this list with a call for help on organizing my collection, gave a few tidbits as to what’s in there and how I do it…and I’m not sure if there’s a better way. I am thinking of breaking down and just going alphabetical within each expansion; but I feel I would lose something there – the pressure of needing to know each card in an expansion in a way that’s useful to the game. ("I need a four-power creature," or "I need a non-creature spell to fill the three-mana slot here.") My current organization forces me to learn each new expansion pretty deeply; as a result I’m still pretty aware of cards like Marker Beetles and Seething Anger. (I didn’t say I used these cards. I’m simply more aware of them.)

80) Pete is a great tester of simple quality in decks – not his own, of course, but others! He’s a solid player who picks an idea for a deck and then focuses his deck very well toward that end. Sometimes the idea is intricate…And sometimes the idea is as simple as can be. In the latter category, he just built a deck with stupid red "ground" burn and blue flyers. Just picture a Blue Skies deck with Earthquake, and you’ve got the general idea. He actually uses Seething Anger (see #79) since all of his spells are incredibly cheap and he wanted a use for the mana. (I might recommend a Shivan Hellkite or Firestorm Hellkite, if you’re trying this at home.) There’s no argument from him that the deck is great. But it tests your deck in a basic way: if you lose your army and you have no air force, what do you do?

81) There are lots of other basic tests you can run on your group deck: what if you can’t play creatures (say, Aether Flash and Death Pits of Rath)? What if your combo is broken (Lobotomy or Jester’s Mask)? What if you only get to four lands, or three, or two (Limited Resources, or Wake of Destruction, or simple bad luck)?

82) Collections are in a constant state of disorganization, no matter how hard you try. If you’re at all active in your playing, you are taking apart decks and putting together new ones. You’re drafting, which means you’re bringing home a few new cards each time. And you’re trading or buying, when the mood hits. So perhaps there’s no point to a massive reorganization. No matter what I pick, I’ll fall behind. And then I’ll be thinking about it, and all those cards in there, and I’ll start thumbing through, and come up with the bright idea of doing one of these "list" articles, except then we’ll be up to 130 or something, and that will simply kill each and every one of us.

83) Eighty-three is a prime number, isn’t it? (I haven’t thought about it much; but my basic calculations lead to "yes".) Well, even if it isn’t, we should celebrate (I originally had this item at #79, but moved it when I realized 83 was out here. If either is NOT a prime number, I don’t want to know. Let me live out my ignorance in peace.) 83 goes into 250 three times, with one left over. I think every reader of this column should create a 5-color deck that has 83 cards of each color, and one artifact. (Of course, if you’re going to make it legal, you still have to respect the 18-card minimum of two colors. In other words, two colors will only be represented by gold cards.) Put a list together, send it off to The Ferrett at Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2. Tell him this is what he MUST run at his 5-color Invitational in Barcelona, and/or else he’s an idiot.

84) A four, a six, and a seven walk into a bar. The four orders two draft beers and two marguaritas, no salt on the marguaritas. The bartender nods in understanding and dutifully pours them out. The six orders three rum & cokes with three Tequila chasers. Again, the bartender nods and fixes the drinks. Finally, the seven walks up. Just as the bartender starts reaching for seven glasses, the numeral says, "no, no, I’ll just have Sprite." "Oh, you’re the designated driver, aren’t you?" "No," slurred the seven, "I’m smashed beyond belief; I would never drive in this state." "All right, so, what’s up with you?" the bartender asks. The seven says, "I can’t drink any more. I’m already primed!"

Get it? Primed? Prime? Prime number? Oh, screw it, YOU people go 84 items without making up a bad joke. (It would be fair to say I have, in fact, made more than just one this time around.) If that last one left you feeling empty, here’s a bonus Magic item:

84a) Vexing Arcanix in a 5-Color deck is a hoot. Actually, put better: Vexing Arcanix AGAINST a 5-Color deck is a hoot. Go ahead, run the probability statistics. Ten-turn clock, baby. I’ll put it in mathematical function format for you (or at least, what my deteriorating memory tells me is mathematical function format):


F(BW) = "Big Walls", and
F(AC) = "All Colors", and
F(VA) = "Vexing Arcanix", and
F(AS) = "Artifact Searchers", and
F(VY) = "Victory for You,"

(BW*AC) + (VA*AS) = VY.

COMING SOON: What? I’m all out of stuff. Come back in two months. Seriously, I think next week we’ll look into the formation of Team "Mom Has the Kids…Again". A typical casual-tries-to-go-pro story? Oh, my friends, I think not…

Also on the way, that re-defense of multiplayer philosophy that I promised above.

Don’t forget the contest back on #43, and my Hall of Fame reminder back on #59! The 5-color, third-person contest in #83 was a joke, but feel free to take it seriously. Ditto #78.

Anthony Alongi