I’ve found it’s best for me to sleep in my room with the lights on and the door open. Since I’m on a ten-hour rotation, you’ll find me unconscious at the most ridiculous hours, regardless of my plans for the day. This has an ill effect on my partners for these proposed activities. However, an…

I’ve found it’s best for me to sleep in my room with the lights on and the door open. Since I’m on a ten-hour rotation, you’ll find me unconscious at the most ridiculous hours, regardless of my plans for the day. This has an ill effect on my partners for these proposed activities.

However, an open door and bright light contribute to a "Let’s see what the OMC is up to." kind of atmosphere. This helps overcome any societal taboos about disturbing someone in private, and ultimately leads to my getting where I need to be. Leaving it up to knocks on a closed door would be unwise.

You see, I’m a bit of a sleep prodigy. Not only do I sleep long and frequently, I apparently possess a mediating consciousness (dubbed "The Receptionist") that filters out noise as well as handling questions. If you’re behind a door and I’m safe in the darkness, you’re unlikely to convince it that it’s in my best interests to get out and face the Daystar.

(It is rumoured that my sleeping body was used in an improptu puppet show. I’m difficult to rouse. Blake "I get to be Indiana Jones, you have to be Wesley Crusher" Manders looks like the guy *ON* Rouse. There will be a quiz.)

With the help of my new accessibility, I’ve been going all kinds of places. Adam even dragged me out to watch the Pay-Per-View on Sunday, despite it being the unethical hour of 7 p.m.

He did manage to pull me aside and warn me that the PIE-LOSOPHICAL ESSAY DEATHMATCH looked suspiciously like something from one of my classes. Let’s not kid one another, the word "suspiciously" is used generously here. You didn’t have to be Columbo to pry for other motives. Was anyone fooled?

If you thought I did this out of the goodness of my heart, you’re either screwed up or sure I am.

(Again, no betting, please.)

The winner of last week’s PIE-LOSOPHICAL ESSAY DEATHMATCH was T.J.F.A., for pointing out an appropriate distinction between free-will and indeterminism. Though it isn’t enough to harmonise the conditions, it’s a good tool.

Honourable Mentions go to JFR, who might have won if not for my transparent attempts to fuel the non-feud between us, and Sanagi, both of whom undercut the entire question by finding one of the three conditions unacceptable.

DarthJustin, who has given me a new lease on life through praise, may forclose on it at his leisure.

All of the above receive their promised No-Prize, except for Rizzo, who gets no No-Prize. Rizzo is awarded instead this retelling of an actual happening from one of my classes:

Student: Sorry we didn’t get our papers in on time.

Professor: What happened?

Student: We were arrested.

Professor: Arrested?! What for?

Student: Breaking and Entering.

Professor: Breaking and Entering!??! Were you drunk?!

Student: Oh, we were drunk.

Reprinted here without JFR’s permission. The plagiarism police are on their way.

Unfortunately, response regarding the main thrust of my article was slight in comparison. Chalk up my continuing to the one relevant response I did get, as well as a number of tangential influences around the web. It’s enough to keep the investigation going, but I’m pretty sure it ends here, one way or another.

Let’s get the ball rolling. For your reference, my last article can be found right here.

When I left in despair last week, I had found that I couldn’t devise a good analytic criterion for what an archetype is. In fairness, I had come to a pretty good intuitive condition. If the concept of an archetype is a useful theoretical tool and not just a shorthand for conversation, then the best understanding of it is something like:

"Two decks are instances of an archetype if in most situations they will behave the same way. Because of the restrictions of what colours can do that have been designed into the game, instances of archetypes are bound to be of the same colour. This means that archetypes are colour combinations, along with a general ‘game-plan’."

The balance of this article will flesh out this proposed definition, and defend it.

I am indebted to Michael Granaas not only for a kick in the pants, but also for an unbiased assessment of the use of the word ‘archetype’ in magic discussion. It was he that forced an understanding of the mutation the word undergoes when it is used in different contexts.

Michael identifies three specific levels of abstraction, and what the word means in each of those cases.

The first is the highest level, where decks are separated into the three broad types we all recognise: Combo, Control and Aggro. Each of these describes a very elementary strategy and its relation to the others.

(Vanished Star City Columnist Sky Winslow Roy rightly demonstrated that theses types can be best described in terms of where the cards in your deck are focused. In a control deck, your cards aim for your opponent’s cards. In an Aggro deck, your cards aim for your opponent. In a Combo deck, your cards aim for your cards.)

The second context Michael describes is what he calls the "prototype" level. Here we find deck skeletons that do not contain cards, but rather card types. Instances of this second level will behave in somewhat the same way, because they are composed of similar types of effects. An example of an archetype at this level can be found in the rudimentary decklist I provided in my last article.

The third level Michael addresses is where we find specific deck types, like the MBC Rising Waters deck. While there are deviations from the established form of the deck, much of it is taken as given. The differences are mostly motivated by metagaming, modifying the deck’s reactions to certain expected situations.

What Michael says is true, the term ‘archetype’ can be found in discussions that take place at all of these levels. He even goes so far as to say that these aren’t exhaustive of the ways in which it is used, but these three are important places that theoretical discussion takes place.

I disagree with his maintenance that the uppermost and lowermost uses of the word hold theoretical significance. At the top end, the common area between instances of an archetype is so small that the additional information gathered is insignificant. At the other extreme, any new knowledge comes either from the practise of metagaming (which presupposes an understanding of the interaction of decks in the abstract, so we already have a sound theoretical base), or from the study of the deck in isolation.

I leave it to Michael to address the above points.

Returning to the definition I offered for ‘archetype’ above, we see that it falls in either of the two least abstracted contexts, depending on how you interpret the idea of a "game-plan". There are compelling reasons for choosing to start your analysis at "Rising Waters Decks" as well as at "Blue Mana Control Decks with Bounce". It’s not a distinction I’m up to making.

However, my insistence that it must fall here is fuelled by two separate points.

The first is that there has been a lot of useful talk lately about the concept of a Draft Deck Archetype, particularly in response to the polychromatic nature of Invasion drafting. Cards are now more than ever to be evaluated in terms of their relation to other cards. The interesting product of this is that certain colour combinations have within them different strategies, for which certain cards are better than others.

Sean McKeown most recent Neutral Ground article can explain better than


Card choice in a draft is based on what archetype you’re instantiating. An understanding of the way your deck should perform motivates picking one card over another in a way that isn’t clear from examining the cards in isolation.

For the second point, I have no authority to which to turn, so I’m hoping you’ll take my word as gospel.

When people discuss archetypes at abstractions above deck instances, I think there is an instinct to think first to a particular deck that fits the description (Rising Waters is of the archetype Control Blue), rather than the characteristics that decks within the archetype share. This suggests that there is an impetus to working on lower levels, that may in turn be propelled by an expectation of best results.

Let me close by saying: Never again. This analysis has been far more physically draining than insightful. I hope that any ideas I have put forward here may spur others to delve into their use of terms in order to get the most out of their theorising.

Josh Bennett


[email protected]

What? You want more? Read a book!