Incendiary, My Dear Watson

Tuesday, September 28th – Has Robert Frowney, Jr., Bad Play Detective, ever made an appearance in the middle of your matches? Apparently he comes to frown at Geordie quite often. Will his alter ego come to save the day?

I was chatting with Ted Knutson last week, and he let slip that a writer can tell where he or she ranks in article hits by examining the bottom of the StarCityGames.com front page. (As the week progresses, articles are listed there in order of page hits.) Curious about my place in the pecking order, I wasted no time in whipping out my ruler for a good ol’ fashioned pencil-measuring contest.

What I found was evidence of a comforting unpopularity, attributable both to my newfound obscurity and the fine work of my fellow StarCityGames.com writers.

Brian DeMar’s article

was well ahead of mine, but that’s to be expected. His offering had actual useful information in it, a writing method against which I can’t compete, having given up the practice of putting anything useful in my articles long ago. Also, DeMars looks a lot like a young General Crix Madine, so it’s possible people clicked his article in search of information on how to destroy the Death Star.

DeMars Comparison

Elsewhere on the list, Todd Anderson crushed me with ”
Eldrazi for a New World

,” and Thea Steele
Art Fight

” sent me
home without any lunch money. Other articles that were more popular than mine included Doug Linn
Merfolk Ascendant!

“, Glenn Godard
treatise on reforming the PTQ system

, and
Tom Martell forum post
listing his academic credentials.

I did manage to finish ahead of Chris Jobin, or as I like to call him, Todd Anderson With Better Lighting. I should add that this is a commentary on his author portrait only; I’m not saying that he and Anderson write in the same way. Actually, I intend to plagiarize Anderson myself in a few months, once the well is dry.

It’s a new beginning. All the people who liked the old shtick have forgotten who I am, or, at the very least, now actually have some taste. The old barns are gone, and a new era of fun and carefree expression has dawned. If you’re here, you’re part of an “exclusive readership.” It’s just you, me, and a few of our closest tumbleweeds. Perfect. If I’m ever getting more article hits than authors who have actual things to say about the playing of decks and cards, I’m probably selling out somehow.

Let’s move on to Modolol for the week. Hey, maybe I can open six Leylines, five copies each of Incite and Dryad’s Favor, and then accidentally rip my toenail off by jamming it into my case fan. That would still be better than last week’s premier.


Ah, yes — an M11 Sealed Premier. I’m sure this is the Limited format you’re all really interested in right now. Alas, lost souls who use Magic Online as their only portal to the game will be rolling out the Mind Controls and Fireballs for several more weeks, until Scars of Mirrodin arrives.

I managed to open the following card pool:

The first things that jumped out at me were the red removal and the green fat. I tried building a straight R/G deck, but it was three to four cards short of where it needed to be, and there was no good way to splash three to four black cards (three Assassinates, Gravedigger) and still ever cast Cyclops Gladiator. Not with only one Sylvan Ranger for fixing.

I switched over to U/G to get access to Sleep and Jace’s Ingenuity. That deck would’ve allowed me to play a two-color 40, but leaving out Bolts and Pyroclasms in order to play stuff like Negate and Unsummon just seemed wrong. So G/U/r it was. Wait. How many Mountains do I add? I settled on three, which gave me five cards that would get me to my red mana — the three Mountains, Sylvan Ranger, and Fauna Shaman (into Sylvan Ranger).

This is the build:

Acidic Slime
Augury Owl
Azure Drake
Duskdale Wurm
Fauna Shaman
2x Garruk’s Packleader
2x Llanowar Eves
Prized Unicorn
Sacred Wolf
Scroll Thief
2x Spined Wurm
Sylvan Ranger

Jace’s Ingenuity
2x Lightning Bolt
Mana Leak
Sleep (the blue Fireball)

I still screwed up the build. You’ll notice Pyroclasm isn’t in there, and including Preordain/Owl instead of Unsummon was probably wrong. I reasoned that they’d allow me to dig for the right mana early, but that never really happened. Unsummon would have been a good inclusion over either of those two cards just to help with tempo, save creatures from removal, or pop Elves back into my hand late game to exchange them for fatties with Fauna Shaman.

Overall, I just got too greedy with the mana and the need to play my Lightning Bolts. Bolt #1 should’ve been Pyroclasm. Bolt #2 should’ve been Unsummon. One Mountain could then have been switched to an Island. Either Preordain or Augury Owl could’ve become Negate or Flashfreeze, though I’m not sure on that one. The Owl just did nothing all day — but I never really drew it early, either.

As usual, it took me until after the event to figure out the above changes. During the event, I was so confused that I actually boarded into G/R/w with Pacifism a couple of times. Not that I lose it under pressure or anything. *cough* Just a coincidence that I’ve screwed up three straight Sealed Deck builds.

Ready to hear about the event itself? Cool, let’s go throw away some matches.

Round 1 vs. ffxKennethD

Game 1

I keep six lands and Fireball on the draw. Probably wouldn’t keep on the play or with any other card. This keep could possibly work if I draw some spells, and he doesn’t blast out of the gates.

I topdeck land #7; he plays Plains, Elite Vanguard. Obviously. MODO is like that obnoxious, contrarian friend who loves to dig the needle in whenever you lob up a softball. Luckily, things lighten up a little, as his next two plays are turn 3 Blinding Mage, turn 4… nothing. I draw lands number eight and nine, and then a Bolt. On turn 5 I Bolt his freshly cast Juggernaut and play Sylvan Ranger, planning to clear his board with Fireball.

He plays Assault Griffin. On my turn, I go for the Fireball on Blinding Mage and Griffin; he has the Giant Growth but hands me considerable time by saving the Blinding Mage instead of the flier. He probably thought I had something in my hand. Boy, was he wrong.

He plays a replacement Griffin (of the Wild variety), and I topdeck Garruk’s Packleader. Sadly, when it comes to defending the skies, Garruk’s Packleader isn’t exactly the Red Baron. His Gargoyle Sentinel makes things worse. I have nine lands in play and three in hand when it’s all over.

Game 2

I keep Elves, Leak, Spined Wurm, and four lands.

He double mulligans and has no white sources. Nonetheless, he has Garruk’s Companion on turn 2. I have Mana Leak for it but basically let it resolve because I’m the stone blades. Yes, this actually happened.

What’s that? I should just stop playing Magic? No disagreement here.

I take three and roll out a turn 4 Spined Wurm, still looking to win despite my own utter incompetence. He plays Gargoyle Sentinel; I knock him to fourteen, but watching the replay, it was a sketchy attack — he bashes back for six or seven.

This replay is actually like that security camera tape from
Rules of Engagement

— I don’t want anyone to view it. I don’t want it to exist.


“Did your opponent have Mana Leak?”

Samuel L. Jackson:


Tommy Lee Jones:

“By failing to produce that Mana Leak, our narrator, Geordie Tait, has brought dishonor into this court!”

My mana is three blue, two green; my hand is Fireball, Mana Leak, Jace’s Ingenuity, and Prized Unicorn. I decide to draw three on his end of turn — he casts Elite Vanguard, animates, and bashes with everyone. My Elf blocks his Elf; I draw three non-lands including my second Bolt and drop to eleven.

Wow… my mana is tight, and he has three creatures. Am I really going to lose this game? No, don’t worry. One of the cards I drew is Sylvan Ranger. I can cast it, get a Mountain, and get access to my two Bolts and Fireball. I’ll hold the Wurm back to block, Bolt his Gargoyle when he gets jiggy with it, and it’ll be a rainy night in Georgia.

I play the Sylvan Ranger and pass the turn.

Wait, what?

“You have eight cards in your hand, please choose one to discard.”

Oh. I forgot to play the Mountain. That’s right. With eight cards in hand, facing down three creatures, with the match on the line, my turn was “Sylvan Ranger, no land drop, go.”

He Excommunicates my Spined Wurm. I Mana Leak it just so he can’t activate Gargoyle that turn. Speaking of Mana Leaks, he bashes with Garruk’s Companion — the one I should’ve countered in the first place. I go to eight. He’s out of gas — no cards in hand. If he hadn’t double mulled I’d probably be dead.

The next turn I decide to replay the Spined Wurm. I could’ve cast a four-mana creature and kept Bolt mana up, but guess what I discarded when I had eight cards in hand? That’s right — Prized Unicorn, my only four-mana man. The mastery continues. I play the Wurm, still in trouble if he topdecks Pacifism or the like.

He draws a blank; I untap, main phase Bolt his Gargoyle, and cast Sacred Wolf.

He plays Yavimaya Wurm. Like a master, I topdeck Sleep and bash for nine, figuring that I’m finally out of the woods — he’s dead next turn.

He draws Palace Guard. Pfffft. Unreal how lucky some guys can get, huh? Clearly I deserve this game.

Luckily, I’ve drawn the favorite card of dudes who don’t deserve to win — Fireball. He has one card in hand, and if it’s something like Safe Passage, I’m in trouble. I end of turn Bolt him down to two so that my Fireball will be lethal even without drawing a land. I’m still in deep trouble if he’s got Safe Passage, but I roll it out there anyway, and he has nothing.

Game 3

I keep Lightning Bolt, Packleader, and five lands, on the draw. The hand is even uglier than it looks because none of the lands are Islands. Oh well, maybe he’ll give me some time to draw out of it.

He plays Plains, Elite Vanguard. Okay, I deserved that. I’m sure my deck will serve up a double-blue spell, but instead it gives me my second Bolt. I use one on the Elite Vanguard — there’s no way I’m taking ten damage from that guy again.

Things unfold from there. I draw some spells; he plays out his gang of G/W dudes — some beaters — but also some defensive ones like Palace Guard and Greater Basilisk. The board ends up stalemated quickly. I chain Packleader into a few guys, including Duskdale Wurm, and plan to wait until he’s tapped low, so I can Lure-serve with Prized Unicorn and eighteen power worth of fat, then Fireball him out for the rest.

The very next turn, he taps completely out for a 6/6 Protean Hydra. That’s the chance I was waiting for! I attack with everything—


Oh, it’s Robert Frowney, Jr. — the infamous Bad Play Detective. What could you possibly want?


Yes, I did say that. What of it?



Well, maybe he won’t notice.

*crosses fingers*

Got there.


Round 2 vs. Vimm

Game 1

After that richly deserved round 1 victory, I’m up against an aggressive R/G deck. Early in game 1, my hand is Fauna Shaman, Llanowar Elves, Bolt, Fireball, and two Spined Wurms, and my board is Mountain, Island.

Since I’m in such great shape, I get fancy by skillfully letting his Runeclaw Bears live, waiting for something better to Bolt. You don’t want to fill up on breadsticks when you have three-toughness steak right around the corner, you know?

Obviously, he conjures up Sacred Wolf on turn 3 and then a Sword of Vengeance for it on turn 4. My first actual non-terrible play of the day occurs a turn or two later when I chump with the Fauna Shaman while fetching Acidic Slime, binning the Shaman to no gain on the board but leaving myself at seven instead of five. I just figured five was too low against a deck playing the red cards.

I end the game at one life, facing down a Prodigal Pyromancer. How? Jace’s Ingenuity end of turn into Sleep into exactly lethal. I may suck, but at least Sleep knows what it’s doing.

Game 2

I sideboard in Manic Vandal for his Sword but skillfully leave Flashfreeze just chilling on the bench next to Adam Morrison. Why counter 90% of his spells when you can just Preordain or cast Augury Owl, amirite? I stall on four lands with no blue mana, and he casts Triskelion, which blows out my board even as I Acidic Slime it. I die with Mana Leak stinking up my hand like an overripe gourd.

Game 3

I keep an opening hand of Fauna Shaman, four lands, Mana Leak, Elf. With abundant land and little to accelerate to, I don’t play the Elf on turn 1, looking to use it as a Worldly Tutor. Skills! I know it sounds like I’m patting myself on the back here — but remember, just one round ago, I was forgetting to lay lands and cast Mana Leaks.

At this point, any play that doesn’t wet my drool-bib goes straight into the win column.

Anyway, I exchange an Elf for an Acidic Slime and pitch Prized Unicorn for a Sylvan Ranger (and thus, access to Bolt mana). Just as things start to stalemate a little because of his Mystifying Maze, Fauna Shaman takes the game home for me by making creature tradeoffs that net me small advantages. I draw a Packleader and swap it for Duskdale Wurm, having seen a Chandra’s Outrage from him in game 1. This also basically forces him to use the Maze every turn. As soon as I draw another creature, I swap it for my second Packleader, allowing me to draw an extra card from Duskdale Wurm every time it returns to play from the Maze.

His last ditch effort is Sword of Vengeance. Fauna Shaman finds me Manic Vandal on my turn, and that’s that.


Round 3 vs. PrinceValium1981

Game 1

I’m on a hostile, unfamiliar planet with a hand of Azure Drake, two five-mana beaters, and Lightning Bolt. I’ve got Forest, Forest, Island on the board. The U.S.S. Heat beams me up at the last second with a turn 4 Mountain. From there, it’s Packleader, Spined Wurm, and Spined Wurm + Bolt your guy. A non-land there, and I probably lose.

Game 2  

Around turn 4 or so he’s at eighteen and my hand is a 5/4 and a 4/4… Sleep becomes my entire plan. I play my two guys; he empties his hand of like seven creatures and then Whispersilk Cloaks the Juggernaut I’ve been refusing to trade with, threatening lethal the next turn. It’s at that point that I run the biggest Sleep blowout since “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II.”


Round 4 vs. ozmanozgunay

Game 1

He comes out fast with Stormfront Pegasus. I Mana Leak his Fiery Hellhound but just don’t have enough action. Even when he lets up on the tempo by playing Sorcerer’s Strongbox for me to Acidic Slime, I’m still down to eight by the time I Fireball his two fliers on turn 6. I have to let him untap with a Fire Servant in play in order to do that. He doesn’t hit me for a billion, but Whispersilk Cloak is game in two turns nonetheless.

I change my deck radically as I sideboard, turning it into a R/G deck splashing for the one Pacifism, adding Pyroclasm, Manic Vandals, Prodigal Pyromancer, the Cyclops Gladiator, and Hornet Sting.

I have as reasonable a draw as I can ask for, with Hornet Sting for his Pegasus and Cyclops Gladiator on turn 4. He casts Chandra’s Outrage on it, leaving me kicking myself for not playing out my Canyon Minotaur first. I follow with the Minotaur, Bolt his Fire Servant, and Volcanic Strength up my dude to serve for five, but I’m out of gas. He finds Pacifism. My last ditch effort is a Duskdale Wurm.

Hey, at least he’s living off the top of his deck with an empty board.

Oh wait, he’s had a Crystal Ball in play since turn 3.

My draws: Forest, Forest.

His Ball-assisted rips: Inferno Titan, Fireball.

Railbird: “How did game 2 go?”

Me: “He played a Ball, Balled, and then Balled me out.”

Railbird: “What a Baller.”


Round 5 vs. cwllc

Game 1

He doesn’t draw much of anything. His Blinding Mage taps an Elf to prevent a turn 3 Packleader, but I eventually start casting monsters anyway. His Air Servant can’t kill me fast enough to stop the beats.

Game 2

I side in Negate for the actual “no good reason.” I didn’t see any amazing spells from him in the first game — I was mostly just tired of Preordain floundering in my hand until turn 7 because of my bad mana. I figured Negate would be better in the late game.

We begin, and I have to mulligan a do-nothing hand into a six-carder with no green mana. My Fauna Shaman stranded, I need badly to dig for that Forest, and of course, Negate comes off the top of my deck like a champion. Guffaws. Nice one, MODO.

One Island and a too-late Cancel later, he’s beating me down with Scroll Thief. I try to get back in the game, but he just tempos me out.

Game 3  

The bladesmanship continues as I side into the aggressive G/R deck with Pacifism. I keep Garruk’s Packleader, Pacifism, four lands, Duskdale Wurm on the play and literally don’t play a spell until turn 5. He plays Blinding Mage into Sword of Vengeance and has Mana Leak waiting while I topdeck Aven Fateshaper and Crowd Favorites.

Duskdale Wurm does eventually come down, but it doesn’t do much against Vengeful Archon equipped with Vengeful Sword of Vengeful Vengeance.

It turns out the dish is best served nine points at a time.


Round 6 vs. tbh

Game 1  

Trade, trade, Ajani Goldmane, trade, Grave Titan.

Game 2

Trade, trade, trade, Vengeful Archon, (I’d better Fireball it!), Grave Titan.

Man, eff a Grave Titan.

I have two ways to deal with Grave Titan: Fireball, or fatties on board + Sleep. Didn’t happen either game.

Round 7 vs. crocopshouldretire

Okay, that wasn’t actually

username, but if I were to make a Magic Online account right now, that would probably be mine.

Game 1  

Just playing for pride, now. When I’m at eleven and attacking an Azure Drake into his eighteen-point life total, he Mighty Leaps a Cudgel Troll to try to “blow me out.” Mighty Leaping the Troll on his turn and doing approximately a billion, when I was on eleven, might’ve been better. Oh well. I guess he’ll just Fireball me.

Game 2  

Some semi-interesting Magic to talk about here — again, with the disclaimer that yes, I realize I’m useless at the game, and any “advanced” plays I discuss are probably the sorts of plays that good players make without even thinking. I start out with a hand of Mana Leak, Cancel, Fireball, two Islands, Forest, Mountain. I topdeck Sleep, and his draw is really, really slow as well, with the first play being a turn 3 Roc Egg.

Sitting on my counterspells, I just decide “Okay, Sleep is the plan” and let it come down. His next play is a Palace Guard, which I also allow. Feeling like a homeless man’s Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, I kick off my side of the board with a Spined Wurm, and he punishes me with Obstinate Baloth. Okay, probably going to have to trade — it’s shaping up to be a long game.

I draw… Llanowar Elves. Then land, land, land, more land. He slips a Silvercoat Lion through my permission and starts hitting for three per turn. I Cancel a Greater Basilisk and draw Flashfreeze. Then land again. The Sleep plan isn’t looking so good with my one-power worth of attackers. Then finally it comes — Duskdale Wurm. He’s at 24.

On low life, I Sleep and bash for nine.

He untaps, tries to Brindle Boar, I Flashfreeze. I untap, bash for nine again. But how am I going to kill him? 24 life is too much for even Sleep to handle.

Robert Frowney, are you there?


If it’s not too much trouble, could you summon your alter ego?


(Hold on, let me tap all my mana. Okay, here he comes.)

Sherlock Domes

Game 3

I triple mulligan into Fauna Shaman and four lands, and I can see a 3-4 record in my future.

The game surprises me, though — my opponent’s draw is a do-nothing, “Palace Guard, Cloud Crusader + land flood” special, while Fauna Shaman helps me hit all my drops, trading Spined Wurm for Azure Drake early and then Elf into Packleader later on. He’s G/W and can’t kill the Shaman, and it just takes over the game.

Eventually I play a second Packleader and draw my Flashfreeze off the free card. I counter his Fireball and draw my own. During one three-turn, virtuoso performance, Fauna Shaman turns the successive draws of Elf, Scroll Thief, and Sylvan Ranger into Duskdale Wurm, Acidic Slime (on splashed removal-fuelling Rootbound Crag), and Spined Wurm. Those beaters, combined with Fireball, carry me to the win.


So, what did I learn from playing in this event?

1. I’m playing like Doc Holliday in the throes of tuberculosis. From butchering my build yet again, to keeping hands that can’t possibly win, to mechanical mistakes like forgetting to lay land or counter spells, it was a comedy of errors.

2. Sleep is unreal good in fat-filled green decks. It’s the only out in the format against a lot of near-impossible situations. Without Sleep, my record might’ve been 2-5. I killed two opponents out of nowhere from 24 and 18 life thanks to Sleep.

3. Fauna Shaman thrives with a sequence of targets that makes sense (like Packleader into Packleader into fatties) and removes the sting of drawing late-game Elves and Sylvan Rangers.

4. If I could have any two non-rare green cards in the world for my deck, I’d wish for a Cultivate (obviously would have been insane in the deck) and a Plummet.

5. I can’t wait for Scars of Mirrodin to come out online.

6. Eff a Grave Titan.

Next week: Another Premier, hopefully with fewer appearances by both Grave Titan and Robert Frowney, Jr. Unless I’m the one who opens the Grave Titan.

Flavor of the Week

Ron Burgundy:

Hello. This is your doctor. I have your pregnancy results here, and guess what? You, you got knocked up, so you should probably get out of news.

Veronica Corningstone:

Who is this?

Ron Burgundy:

This is Doctor Chim. Dr. Chim Richalds. Richalds.

Veronica Corningstone:

Is this you, Ron?

Ron Burgundy:

I’m a professional doctor; you saw me. You don’t remember. You were drunk. You should — you should go, you should get out of news.

Veronica Corningstone:

This is pathetic.

Ron Burgundy:

You’re pathetic. [hangs up]

Champ Kind:

How’d it go?

Ron Burgundy:

I think she bought it.

Female characters can have it rough.

When I sat down to write my first article a few weeks back, I originally penned a passage that talked about how I’d changed in the four years since I last wrote. One such evolution: the “gamer life change” that happens when you’re in an actual relationship and can’t just do whatever you want all the time. Being the hack I am, I tried to come up with some Funny Jokes on the subject.

“Women expect ‘quality time,'”

goes one such knee-slapper,
“And meager efforts like ‘Hey, want to roll up a Priest?’ and ‘Want to play some Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne?’ don’t work.”

My fiancée Michelle and I then had this conversation (somewhat paraphrased):

GT: “Hey dear, check out this funny joke, lolz! See, it’s funny because women like shoes and clothes.”

M: “What did I say when you actually

ask me to play Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne?”

GT: “Oh. Well, you said, ‘Yes.'”

M: “And I did play WoW.”

GT: “Yes, I guess that’s true.”

M: “So in order to make a cheap joke, you’re perpetuating the stereotype that women are anchors that force men to curtail their fun — and you’re lying about your own experiences to drive the point home.”

GT: “Errr…”

M: “Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this one out, stop talking for a while?”

Yes, one may consider himself “enlightened” — but a drop back into the hobby gaming world dredges up all the old “ostracized male” behavior. I’ve since been forgiven, but most people don’t even realize when they do stuff like this.


Probably 90% of the people who play Magic: The Gathering are dudes. (Could be higher for all I know.)

The creation of compelling female characters in a male-dominated industry is a process fraught with pitfalls. Luckily, Wizards of the Coast has a number of safeguards in place to prevent things from taking their natural course. And by natural course, I mean down into the fan-service gutter.

Why do they need to keep such a close eye on this? Well, they pull their creative people from a pool of gamers. And a lot of gamers have terrible attitudes about women.* This is especially true of the sort of guys who wind up on flavor and creative content teams.**

Why would I dare to make these
sweeping generalizations


Well, let me walk you through it.

Flavor guys grow up obsessed with the minutiae of various fantasy and sci-fi settings. If you want to know the name of the most powerful sorcerer in the history of the Forgotten Realms, just ask one of these peeps — they can probably recite his biography. This very quality of single-mindedness may be a professional boon, but socially, it can be a hindrance.

Often, the result is an unfamiliarity with, and resentment towards, women. In some cases, cynicism about relationships evolves into outright misogyny.

Flavor guys are relentless consumers of media, and they bombard themselves with idealized depictions of the females they wish would give them the time of day. Every perfect, jiggle-physics body you’ve ever seen in a video game is designed with this sensibility in mind. This happens even if the designers themselves are well-rounded enough to know better, simply because the desire for these idealized depictions is pervasive and worth its weight in Nerd Gold. Constant immersion in idealized imagery leaves aspiring sourcebook writers to wonder why neither Kim Kardashian nor Samus Aran attends Game Night.

“Hey, have any chicks who look like Ice-T’s wife showed up yet?”

“No, but the Suicide Girl B-Team just waddled in.”

Flavor guys enjoy fiction with characters written by other flavor guys. The nerdy universes that they revere are worlds filled with female characters written for men, by men.

Hey look, another strong and capable 110-pounder who loves a good firearm strapped to her scarecrow thigh, but would still totally get it on with the “nice guy” from the comic store.

Because badass babes love hooking up with a bespectacled lump who raids seven hours a night underneath a layer of Bugle crumbs. Need someone to play her in a movie? Quick, get Milla Jovovich on the phone.

Now, stay with me here — it’s getting complicated. Audiences prefer characters with thoughts and motivations they can admire, right? Because of this, men try to create female characters in this mold. The foremost mannerism that a flavor guy sticks onto a female character to make her “admirable” is to make her someone who could fall in love with him. Since most flavor writers are shaped like inflatable furniture, they have two methods they use to make a hook-up plausible:

a) She’s smart, sexually adventurous, and enjoys a good romp with just about anyone, especially a creative sort of guy who writes sourcebooks on how to randomly roll up a female harem.

b) Braving the dangers of the world day in and day out has made her crave the company of a non-threatening “nice guy” to peel her out of her skintight, latex X-Suit every evening.

You’ll notice that “she wants someone as fit and capable as herself” is not on that list. Nerds view this as judgmental selfishness, and it makes them like the female character less. If a man were to write a female James Bond, she’d be hooking up with every IT worker in all of British Intelligence.

“She enjoys sex with attractive men simply because they are buff, good-looking slabs of beefsteak” is also not on the list of characteristics that men put onto the characters they write — unless she’s getting murdered in Act One. Trysts of that sort, according to flavor guys, would make her a strumpet.

James Bond gets to use the performance model of sex — the more he hits it, and the more luxurious the partner, the cooler he is. Jane Bond? She has to keep her stuff on lockdown unless she’s giving it up to a stammering sidekick played by Michael Cera.

To sum up: Most men are terrible at creating female characters with depth.

To their credit, WotC has a policy that takes care of this, at least in part. The policy is (and I’m paraphrasing here): “No humongous breasts, no damsels in distress.” I’m not sure how long they’ve explicitly spelled this out in the style guides, but it’s been part of every one that I’ve read. It’s primarily a guideline for artists. The artists comply with it, and the flavor text writers, who draw so many cues from the artists, fall into lockstep behind them.

How important is it to warn artists away from inflating Sisay’s chest with a pair of 36 DDs? Pretty important. Artists are not exactly filled with restraint in that department.

No matter how much you love the serious work of any given male illustrator, there’s a 99.9% chance that his closet contains a portfolio filled to the brim with taut keisters and areola collages. Remember, we’re talking about fantasy artists here, not Georgia O’Keefe.

These guidelines leave creative people with little option but to create women who kick butt and take names, who are not the princesses to be saved from the next castle, but the protagonists who do the saving. WotC employees do the job of keeping “let’s have Koth slap a bondage collar on Elspeth”-type ideas from ever seeing the light of day. (In fact, one of the key creative contributors to Magic is Jenna Helland, a female writer, world-builder, and judo practitioner.) That oversight is the first line of defense. The “no oversized breasts, no damsels in distress” policy is the second.

The fact that planeswalkers are essentially gods is the third line of defense. How does this prevent flavor guys from screwing things up? Basically, if
your female protagonist lacks humanity, any lack of knowledge on the part of the writer about how females interact with other humans is going to be

well hidden. When a character can snap her fingers and wink a whole continent out of existence, the fact that she’ll never have a convincing human relationship doesn’t matter much. This also explains how superhero comic books can survive without much character depth. (Superhero comics with really well-written characters tend to stand out a mile from the pack.)

The last line of defense is that Magic: The Gathering is about conflict, first and foremost. It’s about planar disasters, invasions, upheavals, about characters and ideologies clashing across Dominaria. Every faction in Magic is defined by what it wishes to destroy. Because of this, there really is only one sex when it comes to Magic: The Gathering characters, and that sex is “badass.”

Nobody has a husband, wife, or child.

Nobody falls in love.

Yes, gamers tend to have distorted attitudes about women and relationships, but Magic: The Gathering is perfectly insulated against that. It’s never going to be a fan-service cesspool, but the nature of the beast dictates that it’s probably never going to produce an Emma Bovary, either.

If Chandra wants to escape the malaise of poor country life, she’ll just set it on fire.

I’m going to leave you with a flavor text — one of my favorite texts or all time.

“In these, our final days, I offer this. Though we could not save Icatia, we gave our children time to grow, and love, before it fell.”

—Ailis Connaut, diary

What a stone blade of a text. See? You can go to war, and have children, and love, all at the same time. And maybe you’re going to say, “Hey, you should try reading the novels,” or something like that. Maybe. But I’m addicted to the 2.5×3.5 window — Magic flavor has always been about what’s on the cards to me.

*ringing phone*

GT: “Hi, is this Elspeth Tirel? My name is Chim…Richalds. Richalds. I’m a professional writer, you saw me. You don’t remember. I have your market research results here. You should only hook up with Michael Cera.”

ET: “This is pathetic.”

Well, kinda, yeah.

Next week:

Some commentary on the flavor of Scars of Mirrodin, including my favorite and least favorite texts in the set.

Geordie Tait


* Just being a “nice guy” to women doesn’t mean that a guy’s attitude about women isn’t terrible. If a gamer finds himself saying, “How could she do X? I’m a nice guy!” where X is anything that doesn’t involve being attracted to him, that’s a pretty good indicator that he still has a few issues.

** Don’t get all butthurt. If you’re a well-rounded person who keeps his work with characters of all sexes in the proper perspective, and doesn’t take himself too seriously, then obviously this doesn’t apply to you. On the other hand, if you’re currently pocket-pooling your way through the Aphrodite entry in the 1980 print of Deities and Demigods, it does.