From Right Field – What is the Opposite of Writer’s Block, Alex?

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Right now, the card that has me the most torn up is Mobilization. I love that card. I was enamored of it back when it was first printed in Onslaught, and I’m no less taken by it today. It makes token Soldiers, no less. They have Vigilance. I can make as many as I can afford to pay for. What’s not to love?

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. The author tries to limit the number of non-land rares as a way to limit the cost of the decks. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Sulfurous Springs, Birds of Paradise, or Wrath of God. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Everyone’s heard of Writer’s Block. That’s where a writer can’t figure out what to write, or has a subject but can’t get started. I heard a funny story years ago, when I was still in high school, on one of the late night talk shows. I wish I could remember the two people involved, but, sadly, I can’t. The host asked the guy about his writing process. The writer said that he treated it like a job. “If you don’t make yourself write, you’re not a writer; you’re a waiter or a plumber or a sales clerk who wishes he could write.” The host followed that by asking what the writer’s routine was. He said “Like any other job, I get up in the morning, I have breakfast, I work for a few hours, I have lunch, I work for a few hours, and I call it quits.” Finally, the host asked him:

HOST: What do you do when you get writer’s block?

WRITER: This is a trick I learned as a young man. I will put a piece of paper into the typewriter and type the word “The” on it. Then, I’ll go for a walk, maybe take the dog with me, do some chores to free up my mind, have my lunch, and, if nothing’s hit me yet, I go back outside, maybe sit down by the lake or go into town. At the end of the day, if nothing’s come to me still, I type “hell with it,” and go to bed.

I tell you this because I couldn’t think of a better way to start this column. Not because I have writer’s block, but because I have the opposite. Same result, though. I have so many ideas that I can’t focus on just one right now. I tried, but I gave up because another one seemed more fun.

So, what’s the opposite of Writer’s Block? I asked the Interweb, and, so help me gawd, it came back with an actual disease called Hypergraphia. Now, I’m going to try to head off any “you’re insensitive” comments before I go on. I know that essentially any compulsion can be a disease or disorder. If the compulsion interferes with the regular routine of your life, it is serious. The most famous is probably alcoholism. Most of us can have an alcoholic drink or two and life goes on. For many folks, they can’t stop. This causes them to misbehave, sometimes criminally so, to miss work, and simply to be unable to function. When you have these problems, you either fix them or learn to deal with them in a constructive way.

I said that so that I could say this:

Oh. My. Gawd! Is everything a disease now? Is there no such thing as personal responsibility? You can’t even be “prolific” anymore. You’re hypergraphic. Heaven forbid you should have to show up on time somewhere:

BOSS: Simpson! This is the third time this week you’ve been late. You’re fired!

SIMPSON: You can’t fire me for that, boss. I have a disease.

BOSS: A disease?!

SIMPSON: Yes, I suffer from The Trentorian-Reznoric Obsessive Tardiness Syndrome, also called The TROTS. It makes me late for everything. It’s a disease, so I can’t be fired for it.

BOSS: Can’t you just set all of your clocks fifteen minutes ahead? Then, if you’re late according to them, you’ll be on time.

SIMPSON: My doctor told me not to do that since I’d actually be feeding the disease instead of trying to cure it.

BOSS: Well, okay. Just get to work.

SIMPSON: Ooooo, sorry. I can’t do that right now. I have group therapy in half an hour, and I’m already gonna be late. I’ll be back sometime after lunch. Of course, next Thursday is after lunch, too…

Since I couldn’t get myself to focus on one interesting idea…

Oh, yeah, just so you know, I am borderline AADD. Therefore, I know that certain diseases and disorders are real. I’m not poking fun at the people who suffer from them. I’m actually jabbing at the people who don’t have these problems but find a way to use them to their advantage anyway.

Since I couldn’t get myself to focus on one interesting idea, I thought I’d let you see what ideas I’ve been looking at lately with some deck skeletons. Unless you have a fear of bones. Not that I’m making fun of people with Cartilogenophobia or anything.

Aetherplasm as a Pseudo-Reanimation Enabler

Why can’t I get this guy off of my mind? In about four weeks, it’s not even legal in Standard anymore. And yet… and yet… it still gnaws at the back of my mind. Couldn’t I get a Blue/White deck going with this guy and, oh, I dunno, Akroma, Angel of Wrath? “I’ll block your 5/6 Tarmogoyf with my Aetherplasm. Oh, no, wait. Now, it’s Akroma! Aw, big Goyf awl dead.” In addition, even if Akroma dies or you have to pitch her to, say, Compulsive Research or Careful Consideration, Blue and White give you access to Body Double and Resurrection. It might look something like this:

24 Lands

4 Something Small to Start With (Sage Owl?)
4 Aetherplasm
4 Body Double
4 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
4 Other Non-Rare Guy

4 Compulsive Research or Careful Consideration
4 Cancel
4 Resurrection
4 Bounce, Faith’s Fetters, Persuasion, or Some Other Control

I’m pretty sure that you’d need to keep it to the colors that would allow you to cast the creatures. I’m a big believer in not having spells that can’t cast. I’m also sure that you have to be able to cast some guys because Aetherplasm is pretty frah-jee-lay. Must be Italian. If you’re simply counting on him to do all your work for you, you’re in for a very short day.

Obviously, you’d want a manabase with as many dual lands as you can have.

By the way, “dual” means of or possessing a character of two. “Duel” means a battle or confrontation between two entities. They are similar because the root word from whence they both come is the same. Still, they are different words.

Yeah, anyway, if you have Adarkar Wastes (which you should be budgeting for if you like playing Blue and White) or Nimbus Mazes

Nimbi Mazes? Nimbuses? Hmm…

You’ll want to use any Wastes and/or Mazes that you have. However, with Boreal Shelf, Azorius Chancery (for the next few weeks), and Calciform Pools, you shouldn’t have any problems. One last idea for the lands: use Urza’s Factories…

Urza’ses Factories? Urza’s’s? Hmm…

At least two. Those things have been huge for me lately. When you get to the long game, they give you advantages the other guy doesn’t have. Unless he also has Factories. In which case, they keep you in the game, and that’s better than losing. You know what I mean?

That last part there – from “better than losing” on – is a paraphrase of something Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh said in Bull Durham.

Speaking of which, does anyone else find it ironic that, in Bull Durham, part of Kevin Costner’s big soliloquy as Crash Davis included the line “I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone[,]” and then three years later Costner was in JFK playing Jim Garrison, a guy who was trying to prove that Oswald was part of a huge conspiracy?

Give in to Your Primal Rage

If you’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering for more than a few months, you’ve probably figured out the kind of evasion that each color’s creatures tend to get. White and Blue, for example, get flying. Green’s evasion is Trample. Ever since I started actually wrapping my head around this game – last Spring sometime – I thought that was an incredibly inspired bit of game design by Dr. Garfield. I mean, Green gets those huge beasties, but they tend to be grounded. Any ol’ 1/1 can just keep The Big Green Guy from dealing combat damage to the opponent if The Big Green Guy doesn‘t have Trample. Without Trample, there‘s very little incentive for players to invest nine mana in a 9/9 guy.

The only problem with this analysis is that the biggest guys don’t seem to get Trample anymore. There are only four Green creatures in Standard with power greater than six and Trample. There are five if you include the two-colored, fifteen-mana Autochthon Wurm. There are five Green-only creatures with power seven or greater and no Trample. If you include multi-colored cards, you’re up to seven thanks to Sisters of Stone Death and Sliver Legion. Let’s compare this to another color, say, Black. Black has three creatures of power greater than six and Trample. Remember, Green has only four. If you add multi-colored creatures, Black gets two more in Dread Slag and Rakdos, the Defiler.

This doesn’t seem quite right to me. Therefore, I propose making a deck with lots of efficient Green guys who don’t have Trample… and with Primal Rage to give them that Trample. Heck, who knows. Krosan Cloudscraper might even be worth playing.

Now, a lot of the players who are smarter than me will say something like “Primal Rage is an awful card because it does nothing on its own.”

This begs the question: how can they be so much smarter than I am when I have anticipated their very questions? Am I finished yet? Not even remotely!

I can’t argue with the fact that Primal Rage does nothing on its own. If you have no creatures in play, it just doesn’t matter if creatures you control have Trample, does it? The answer is “No!” On the other hand, when you get those efficient creatures into play and swing with them, 1/1 Saproling tokens won’t be stopping them cold, will they? Again, the answer is “No!”

Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not proposing a mono-Green deck. Other colors have efficient creatures without Trample. With Green being the color of mana fixing, we shouldn’t have a problem making a two- or three-color deck that can take advantage of Primal Rage. I only focused on Green because it seems to have gotten cheated of its signature move. Do you know why I only looked at creatures with power of seven or more? Because other colors actually have a bunch of creatures at six or less. If a 6/6 Green guy with Trample meets a 6/6 White guy in combat, Trample is pretty useless.

Sure, Green would lead the way. You want Imperiosaur, right? But, maybe Twisted Abomination would be good, too. Lavacore Elemental would just love love love Primal Rage. Chump blocking by opponents will no longer prevent him from getting those Time counters. You know what? I might even start using Juggernaut again.

The Capital of Iceland is “I”

Speaking of those Time counters, some readers have asked why I capitalize certain words like Time, Trample, or Red, even when Wizards, the publisher of the game itself, doesn’t. The answer is simple. I think they should be capitalized. Let me elaborate.

I am one of the people of a school of thought – while we may be small, we’re obnoxious – that says that, if a word has a peculiar meaning in field of endeavor, a meaning that isn’t obvious outside of that field or has a different meaning outside of that field, it should be capitalized. For example, I don’t capitalize flying when I talk about Oros, the Avenger, because flying is flying. Yes, technically, the card itself is not flying across the table, but, if I told someone with no clue about Magic that I had a Dragon named Oros and he flew, that person would know what I meant. She’d think I was off my rocker, but she’d be thinking the exact same thing I would regarding Oros. “It’s a dragon; of course it flies. It’s one of those things that dragons do.”

That’s why I capitalize the word “Time” in “Time counters” or “Trample.” Outside of Magic, time isn’t Time, and you don’t even want to venture into Trample.

What about the colors, though? Red is red and White is white, right? Not really. Take, for example, Goblin Piker.

Okay, if I ask you what color Goblin Piker is, you’d say “Red” because you play Magic. Sure, enough, Goblin Piker is a Red creature. He could be the biggest Goblin Piker you’ve ever seen, carrying a Bonesplitter, holding some Maniacal Rage, and, barring some sort of evasion like flying or Trample, Silver Knight stands in front of him all day long without flinching because Silver Knight has Protection from Red.

Now, show Goblin Piker to someone who has no clue about what Magic is and ask that person what color Goblin Piker is. I’ll bet they say green. That’s why I capitalize color words when they relate to the color of mana or a card’s characteristics.

“Hey! Why didn’t you capitalize mana in that last sentence? Mana means something different to non-Magic folks than it does to those of us who play, you know.”

There are two reasons for that. For one, most likely, when you say that mana has a meaning outside of Magic, you’re talking about the food that God provided for the Israelites as the escaped from slavery. That word is actually manna. Two “n”s. Of course, now you’ve gone to the Merriam-Webter website and found that mana is indeed a word from the non-Magic world meaning “the power of the elemental forces of nature embodied in an object or person[.]” Everyone who knew that before you read it, raise your hand. Yeah, right.

Even if you did know it, though, it’s so arcane and esoteric that almost no one else knows the word. Besides, I seem to remember a story from way back that the word on the M-W website is actually where Richard Garfield got the name. I mean, look at the real-world definition of mana and compare it to what it means in Magic. As opposed, of course, to what it means in magic.

The bottom line is this. The vast majority of the time, mana – as opposed to manna – will only mean something to people who play Magic. Since it isn’t likely that there will be any confusion, I don’t capitalize it.


Right now, the card that has me the most torn up is Mobilization. I love that card. I was enamored of it back when it was first printed in Onslaught, and I’m no less taken by it today. It makes token Soldiers, no less. They have Vigilance. I can make as many as I can afford to pay for. What’s not to love?

The problem this time around, though, is that I can’t figure out if this is a control card or an aggro card. On the one hand, it looks a lot like Sacred Mesa, and I think that card’s turned out to be pretty much a control card. On the other hand, there are so many Soldiers with which to pair this thing right now, chief (heh) among them being Field Marshall. So, I’m torn. Do I make an aggro deck or a control deck? Again, I have a problem. I can’t convince myself either way is the “right” way. So, my decks come out half-baked. (Shaddup!) They aren’t focused because, as I work on them, I keep thinking “Maybe I should go the other way.”

Maybe, though, just maybe, both answers are right. Maybe Mobilization is both an aggro card and a control card. Why can’t it be both? Isn’t Faith’s Fetters, for example, great in both aggro and control decks? In control decks, well, Fetters does what it does. In aggro decks, it removes a blocker and gains a little bit of life. Why can’t Mobilization also be both?

The answer, so far, is because I can’t make it be either. If it can’t be either, it can’t be both. Maybe some of you fine and smart folks can post some suggestions in the forums. Right now, I’m stuck on a Black and White thing that runs Wrath and Damnation – Hey, I saved up my money! – as well as a bit of spot removal like Sudden Death. Remember, all of you B/W Control players, that once Lorwyn hits the scene, you’ll need a way to handle Gaddock Teeg that doesn’t require four or more mana. I still like Sudden Death for that kind of thing.

Casting About for Help

A year or so ago, Our Esteemed Editor and The Last English National Champion Craig Stevenson floated an idea that would help me with this problem. He would post a poll on five cards, ask you, dear readers, to choose around which card I’d build a deck. I pooh-poohed the idea. I didn’t need any help coming up with ideas. True enough, but I did – I do – need help focusing. The poll starts this week. Obviously, we need time to let some voting get done and then time for me to work on a deck. So, the column from this poll will show up in two weeks. Next week, I’ll have a new column with another poll. The deck based on that poll will show up two weeks after that. And so on, as long as we do the poll thing. This week, your five choices are:

Ana Battlemage
Grinning Totem
Life and Limb
Lord of the Pit
No Rest for the Wicked

Have fun. I know that I will. I can’t promise anything except that I will do my best and concentrate as hard as I ooooo butterflies!

Chris Romeo