Dining at Abe’s Kitchen Table

Read Talen Lee... this Thursday only, in place of Abe Sargent, at

Agent Sargent — Abe, I believe you call him — is, as we speak being mailed in a package through every last British town with a vaguely dirty name, starting with Sussex, then Essex, then Wussex, and well, let’s not bog ourselves down in how clearly filthy-minded the British are. He’s in a large brown package, wrapped with string and tied with paper. And inside that package, my army of crack ninja pirates are extracting that final tidbit of information I need.

Why, hello there, sir. I know you’re reading this — how else are you to get the messages left by Agent Sargent as he undergoes his deep cover mission to infiltrate my organization? Oh, you needn’t bother trying to stifle the leak — you and I both know that nobody reads this site. As if a site could exist about a card game — let alone a card game ten years old. A very clever ruse, and a number of well-laid lies on your part, sir. Well done. We haven’t duelled so fervently since the Cold War, have we?

I suppose you’re wondering where Agent Sargent is – aren’t you smashing the Emergency Recall button to try and pinpoint him through GPS? Well, you’re too late, I’m afraid. It’s been a long, winding road, but finally I have set my plans in motion.

Agent Sargent — Abe, I believe you call him — is, as we speak being mailed in a package through every last British town with a vaguely dirty name, starting with Sussex, then Essex, then Wussex, and well, let’s not bog ourselves down in how clearly filthy-minded the British are. He’s in a large brown package, wrapped with string and tied with paper. And inside that package, my army of crack ninja pirates are extracting that final tidbit of information I need.

Of course, I needn’t have bothered. To instigate The Device, I only need a two-word password, set by Mr. Sargent when he was able to infiltrate our Leicesternippleshire offices. Yes, I know — it’s the fault of a rather prurient mailman and a piercing studio that declared independence. No, don’t worry, the “Leicester” and “shire” are silent.

Turns out that Agent Sargent was quite foolish enough in his correspondence to the head office — disguised, as it is, as lengthy articles on this fictional “Magical Gathering” card game — to leave the code, just lying around, waiting for my potent Ninja Pirate Monkey Cryptologists to crack it.

Oh yes.

These codes will be mine, Head Office. Here, let me show you how I deduced the code. Kryptos is really quite piddling by comparison. You thought you had me foxed, I’m sure, but let’s not waste one another’s time with posturing — you can simply submit now, or read through and see how casually I smashed your pittance of a trial to pieces.

Aping Abe
There’s a lot of Abe’s writing to get through, of course, and most of it all is just Read-Forward or Billet-Read Double-Blinding just to try and outfox counter-intelligent agents. Results, factors, designs, and overall trends have to be weighted though, because in order to communicate his messages, like a carrier pigeon, or possibly one in a series of tubes, every bit of information that flows has relevance. After sifting through this information with a complex sieve based on winnowing out Lucky Numbers, and applying them through a Beatrix Potteran Matrix, I was able to glean the secret message woven throughout all these articles.

Abe really likes an enchantment that costs two mana.

Now, if there was some way to find it, I’d be going through the process, to find this mysterious enchantment, but he’s buried that particular note too deep to merely picked up like one might pick up a carton of braincases, or perhaps buying suicide pills in bulk (a lifetime supply of those things is a remarkably cost-effective purchase).

So. If the secret was in the cards, it was time to explore them. How would Abe work with this vast slab of pseudo-information, this elaborate codebook that is this ‘Garnering Magic’ concept, the solution was simple. In the idiom of Abe himself, I had to construct several of these Code Matrices — ‘Decks’ — if you will. So, by the time you read this, of course you’re going to be well-aware of the situation — and I will be quietly cradling Sao Paulo in the palm of my hand.

A Stitch In Time
He who hesitates is lost — an idiom I can very much agree with. In my attempts to weave out this “favorite enchantment,” I did find myself with a dead end — specifically, I found that the card Abe so loved was from Rath Block. Well, the only thing I found truly worthy of him there was Hesitation — which is why, you’ll find, he’s been captured. A man should be willing to kick the occasional puppy, especially one wired with gas grenades.

However, I did still attempt this through the matrix — though all I got was gibberish, as if the ravings of a madman! What use could that be to me? Gods only know!

I’m not even sure what this deck’s supposed to do! I mean, there’s Muddle the Mixture to toolbox up various two-mana enchantments, all of which occasionally leap into the graveyard with nary a word of warning, and I’m sure that somehow, that hippy centaur is expecting to “taste the resonance” of the passed-on enchantments, but to what end, I wonder, is all this kerfuffle? It’s not like the deck has an easy way to win after that point, is it? And the Stomphowlers? They destroy your stuff! That’s just counter-synergy. Don’t get me started on the mana — how does one expect to cast anything with all these lands that want to return things, or even make you pay life? How!? I’m covered in bees!

But still, if one could, theoretically rush up to five mana, make a Dowsing Shaman, then slap down a Standstill or a Hesitation, one might actually succeed in annoying one’s opponent a great deal! Shame the manabase is clearly terrible. And there are those that turn into men! They’re not men! They’re supposed to be lands!

I can’t imagine what kind of madman made this.

Oh, right, myself.


Earth Is Full: Go Home
You know, it’s an awful shame this game doesn’t exist. It’s got everything, you know — even an evil megalomaniac hell-bent on ruling the world! This “Ruels Manager” you invented is quite the interesting chap, but the idea of using Wombats is simply fanciful. Far too hard to herd — you’re best off taking something well-spirited or easily-trained, such as rabid wolverines, or perhaps a pygmy allosaurus.

However, within this game there’s a certain diabolical charm to these effects. The way you can convert resources from one thing into another… it’s… it’s hypnotic. I’m amazed the intricacy, the depth you’ve put forward in trying to make this “game” seem realistic. It’s a remarkable length to go to in order to claim verisimilitude in your little game… in fact, I actually concocted this while playing with an option for the Key. Of course, I dismissed this — since when could Sargent’s favourite card be Red? That’s just silly. And dealing damage over time? Pshaw.

This cycling engine gathers my attention. One could consider investing in a large, flying win condition or three, though I prefer the Dragon Roost for how they fit the theme of long-term exhaustion. If only the Twisted Abominations weren’t so very efficient! They don’t just beat down and thin your deck, they also mana fix — giving you the right color as well as more. Such a brilliantly made little piece, this.

It’s like watching the pendulum swing, this is, each stroke bringing death inexorably closer without any real hope for rescue. You cycle early, find a Rift, and then simply go to town on your opponent’s face. Something I learned early on is that it’s very, very rarely right to Rift a creature. No, it’s best to go straight for the face, using the long term game plan of “kill the bastards” as your rule of thumb.

If a creature won’t kill you before you kill your opponent, the Rift is directed at the face. Every time. You also pack a rather large suite of good creature control in here — Slice and Dice can be an emergency reset button, with Scrap dealing with any potentially bothersome artifacts.

The final note is that if the Undead Gladiator is on the table, you’re doing it wrong.

First Hint
Once I’d veered sharply away from Red and the Rath block, the solution became clear — I needed something that was sophisticated, subtle, and ideally, did its best work without any distinct effort from me. This is how to represent Agent Sargent — obviously. It also had to be mana-free, and every instance of its effect would put my “opponent,” as you quaintly call it, one point closer to their eventual but inevitable demise.

Yes — Invigorating Boon.

You can bask in my genius now. Clearly this is Sargent’s favourite card. Let’s not beat around the bush. So this “Deck,” as you call it in this silly parlance?

You have a mere fifteen threats in this deck, but courtesy of the eighteen cyclers, the deck plays like a much smaller deck — it’s almost like the days of yore when you could cheat your deck size, sit on the back of your chair and put cards in your lap! Hahaha, the glory of villainy!

Good thing that such behaviour would never be rewarded now, right?

So here’s the first part in the Encoding Matrix. You merely have to run this through an elegant Fibonacci system to decipher the back-tracking matrix, which will in turn re-encode your systematic parlance. You’re probably already doing it, even accounting for the Ripple-Feedback Reese Roperisms.


So there you have it, Central. You’re all clearly doomed. All I have to do is input the key words — “Invigorating Boon” — and The Machine will rumble into motion! Haahahahah! HAHhAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAHHAHAHA!

But Seriously, Folks
It’s good to step back. I write about “casual gamers,” in the context that I don’t think I’m well-enough informed to write about serious tournament scenes. Those “would-bes,” “can’t-bes,” or worse, “think-they-ares” who aren’t. That said, that’s not to say I don’t kick back and play casual magic at all.

There are still more decks sitting around in my bookshelves that I’ll never get to write about. There’s the signature deck, in which whenever my opponent wins or loses, I ask them to sign a card — if they won, their choice, if I won, mine. There’s the Prism decks, focusing on mono-colored decks engineered to beat opponents across two colors. There’s a thousand different multiplayer decks, some teamed, others not (hint, the boon and rift decks would really like one another).

I hope you all were able to put up with my little conceit as long as I asked, and that you enjoyed. And now, thanking Abe mightily for the permission to take over his little corner of the Intarwebs for this little while, I must bow and step back into the shadows, off to my own terrain.

Just remember — if it’s not fun to play, you’re doing it wrong.

Hugs and Kisses
Talen Lee
Talen at dodo dot com dot au