Insert Column Name Here – Wizards’ Incredibly Lazy Secret Card-Naming Formula

Read The Ferrett every Monday... at StarCityGames.com!A whopping twenty percent of the cards in my deck this week are named using this same, trite formula. Oh, sure, it’s easy to port the card’s name into German or Japanese – but it’s also hackneyed, light on flavor, and is probably done by some sort of automated Card-Name-O-Matic 3000(tm) in the back room to save Wizards’ some time. So what is the lamest card naming process ever?

Okay, Wizards. It’s time to have a talk. Because you guys have gotten lazy.

What the heck is up with your names these days?

When we started this game, I dig that you had the whole dictionary to dig through, and so you could pretty much pull any word you darned near wanted to name a card. “Armageddon,” “Balance,” “Berserk” – the list goes on. You plundered without thought of how you were mining future namespaces.

But – and this is important – you also gave us cool names. Names that sounded foreign and exotic. What’s a Mishra? We don’t know, but he has an Ankh and that’s pretty awesome. We had Benalish Heroes. We had Llanowar Elves. We had Shanodin Dryads and Shivan Dragons.

Frankly, guys, your lack of imagination these days sucks.

Maybe it’s the fear of internationalization. Sure, I get that it’s pretty tough to translate “Mishra” into Japanese and German, since it doesn’t mean anything. But you’ve gotten so utterly rote at choosing names that I can see your damn formula.

Ready? Here’s the formula for what I’d estimate are at least a full third of all the new cards out today:

[noun] + [optional hyphen] +
[noun] + [optional apostrophe-S or -er] +
[space] +
[noun/verb] + [optional –er or -ing].

Don’t believe me? Okay, here’s the card pool I opened at the prerelease. Then I’m gonna look and see which cards match this formula. Here are the cards, all seventy-two unique line items:

…and here’s the match!

Axegrinder Giant
Adder-Staff Boggart
Deeptread Merrow
Dreamspoiler Witches
Eyeblight’s Ending
Gilt-Leaf Ambush
Gilt-Leaf Seer
Goldmeadow Harrier
Inner-Flame Acolyte
Inner-Flame Igniter
Moonglove Winnower
Paperfin Rascal
Springjack Knight
Tideshaper Mystic

Whirlpool Whelm

All right, I acknowledge it – that’s not a third, but instead a mere 21% of all the cards in my card pool. But that’s still a fifth of all the cards, and each of them uses the same damn formula!

Mind you, that figure creeps up to a full quarter of the cards if you allow the oh-so-clever switch, where “Scarred Vinebreeder,” “Kithkin Mourncaller,” and “Boggart Sprite-Chaser” reverse the first and second part in an attempt to mask the amazing lack of creativity on Wizards’ naming department.

Come on, guys. What happened to the cool names we used to have? Now a quarter of our sets are these stupid Nounnoun Nouners, which are just dumb. I could come up with this crap in my basement for free. What sort of colossal laziness is involved in just mashing together whatever words you pluck at random from a thesaurus?

Hey, you want some names for your next set? Hey, I got some!

Wingshield Gardener
Friendbane Barrier
Plowsword Hootenanny
Timeturner Staff
Cogshard’s Trumpet

Whatever, dudes. That’s not what real fantasy authors do. You didn’t see this kind of dreck in Lord of the Rings:

“Beardlong Wizenheimer walked into the village of the Hairyfoot Midgets, hoping to find his old friend Ring’s-Addict Bozo. He was worried that the might of his nemesis, Eyetower Glowstick (who had tempted his fellow wizard Creepyglare Ancient over to the dark side) would eventually find the ancient artifact that had fallen into Ring’s-Addict’s hands.

“Beardlong remembered the verse that described the ancient rings of Dipsh*t Trickery:

“Three rings for the Long-Ear Ponces under the sky,
Seven for the Surly-Armed Shorties in their halls of Rockpillar Columnages,
Nine for Normal-Man Crackers doomed to die,
One for the Eyetower Glowstick on his dark throne of Hatefury Chair
In the Land of Rune-Gutted Crags where the Lighthole Absences lie.
One Soulsucker Goldenband to rule them all, Soulsucker Goldenband to find them,
One Soulsucker Goldenband to bring them all and in the Shadowspinner Area bind them
In the Land of Rune-Gutted Crags where the Lighthole Absences lie.”

No! Tolkien was a hack, but dammit, he came up with real names! He had a guy called Strider, not Stubblechin Dreamboat! He had names that weren’t just words smashed together like two cars on a freeway, or two ravers whacked out on Ecstacy! He worked at it!

God dammit, Wizards. Stop laying about and whip your naming department into place. Get to work before I have to go over there and rename your company Coast-Creeping Wizards and your card game Magicthe Gathering.

Damn it.

…Oh, yeah, I opened some cards at the release tournament. How do they look again?

Breathe, Ferrett. Breathe.

Anyway, I’m in trouble here, since I generally rank cards as “Solid Playables” by “I’ll play it if I’m in that color.” But the problem is that a lot of solid playables are unplayable if you don’t have enough tribesmen. Lorwyn seems to be really heavy on the card interactions, and a “Solid” in one pool can be a “Marginal” in another. That’s always been true, but never more than here.

…I think.

Solid Playables: Goldmeadow Harrier, Kinsbaile Balloonist, Neck Snap, Oblivion Ring, Plover Knights

Light but solid. Obviously, Oblivion Ring is nuts, and enchantment removal is reasonably scarce in Sealed, so that’s double-nice. Neck Snap is the kind of trick that’s going to decrease in value over the season as more and more players realize that “Three mana and a White open = probable death,” but early on it’s quite nice. Plus, you know, sometimes, you have to just swing.

Kinsbaile Balloonist is very sweet… Kinda. In practice, I’ve found he reads, “Give your biggest creature flying for a single turn” against anyone with a blocker than can handle fliers. Unless your opponent’s so low he can’t afford to let the larger guy connect with his face, he’ll inevitably kill the Balloonist so he doesn’t have to worry about your 10/2 flier the next turn. But having two in this pool is nice.

The Kithkin, however, continue to not impress me. Maybe they’re awesome in Draft, but in Sealed? Where you get so few of them? Not so much.

Is Veteran of the Depths good? Well, he swings as a 3/3 and then gets bigger each time – the question is, since he’s not swinging before turn 5, will that be good enough? I suspect with some assistance, it’s okay in Sealed, but – let’s all say it together, class – “TOO SLOW FOR DRAFT.”

(Unless you’re really abusing the tappy-tappy of the Merrow, natch. I told you, everything’s dependent on the deck these days…)

Solid Playables: Amoeboid Changeling, Benthicore, Broken Ambitions, Faerie Harbinger, Glimmerdust Nap, Sentinels of Glen Elendra, Whirlpool Whelm

And see, this is what I was talking about. All of these are playable on their own, but there’s no inherent synergy among the cards. Faerie Harbinger can’t get much here, and without a strong Faerie theme she’s just a 2/2 flier with Flash – good, but not great. Likewise, Benthicore is a great body, but we have nothing to abuse Merfolk, and the combat tricks are good but not great.

I will stand by the Amoeboid Changeling for now. He’s been good to me. He may move off the list, but his critter-altering abilities have been worth the slot until now.

Solid Playables: Boggart Harbinger, Boggart Loggers, Boggart Mob, Dreamspoiler Witch, Eyeblight’s Ending, Liliana Vess, Moonglove Winnower, Mournwhelk

Aww, yeah. I get both the fetchy-thing and the Champion, which allows for some pretty sweet interactions. I’ll tell you that in one game, I Harbinged for the Mob, attacked with the Mob once or twice, then Championed the Mob out to fetch a Boggart Logger when the Harbinger returned (and thus was able to destroy a Treefolk that was hurting me), getting me tons of card quality. ‘Twas pretty sweet.

I’m also getting a little less worried about having my guys shot down as I was Championing them. Removal seems to be fairly scarce in this Sealed environment – there are a lot of ways to get rid of guys, but most of them are conditional or at sorcery speed. Tarfire’s always a danger, as is Eyeblight’s Ending, but most of the time you can get away with it.

Liliana Vess. Good? Oh yes. Sure, you don’t wanna cast her when you have no blockers – because then she just reads, “Pay 3BB: prevent the next six damage to your face and force your opponent to discard a card.”

Oh, wait. Maybe that is worth 3BB.

In any case, I won two games with the sheer power of “Discard a card each turn.” I never actually got to the point where I could Loyalty out all the dead guys to my side, but that’s because in forcing my opponents to play it then or lose it, I controlled the flow of the board quite nicely. I never needed to (and one conceded before that happened – boo!).

The only question I had was, “If you have eight loyalty counters on her, do you just activate the ability right away to get all the dead guys back, or do you attack in a suicidal fashion to try to get some more creatures to die, knowing that you’ll get them back?” The answer, of course, depends heavily on what colors your opponents are playing, because one Tarfire to your face in mid-combat can wreck your whole plan.

Oh, and when you cast it, retain priority. Use the Loyalty immediately. Thanks.

So in answer to my question from last week: Yes! Planeswalkers are pretty nice.

Solid Playables: Caterwauling Boggart, Inner-Flame Acolyte, Inner-Flame Igniter, Nova Chaser, Smokebraider, Soulbright Flamekin, Tar Pitcher

It seems that every set has a sleeper strategy – something people overlook at first until a couple of play-rounds prove it’s better than thought. In this case, one Mr. Sean McKeown informed me that Smokebraider is better than you’d think, and Elementals are pretty darned nifty. I can only agree.

I’m not saying they’re broken, but many of the large and/or Evoking cards tend to be Elementals. They can be quite scary, and difficult to defeat in combat. And by gaw, getting them out sooner is a nice trick in Sealed, as is the quietly activating Inner-Flame Igniter’s ability for the third time when your opponent only counted two Mountains and thought he was safe. And then there’s the coolness of combining Smokebraider with Changelings.

I’m a fan of the Elemental strategy. And I will be using both here, since I have a card that really helps my Nova Chaser hit home (in the form of Caterwauling Boggart), and more Goblins to use with my Goblin-centric Black build.

The only problem is that Championing my Nova Chaser might be an issue. Fortunately, there are a lot of cards that can help with that.

Solid Playables: Briarhorn, Changeling Titan, Fistful of Force, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Gilt-Leaf Seer, Nath’s Elite, Woodland Changeling

Again, good cards, bad synergy. There isn’t much here that really works together; the Gilt-Leafs help with the two solid Clash effects, but we don’t have enough Elves to go with a good theme.

I’m tempted by Briarhorn alone. I really love that guy. But no.

….And The Rest
Solid Playables: Runed Stalactite, Wanderer’s Twig

It remains to be seen whether Dolmen Gate is solid. However, mana-fixing and deck-thinning is always welcome in the form of Wanderer’s Twig… And I think that Runed Stalactite is currently not getting enough respect. It’s not quite an A-Lister, but the “Is all creatures” bit helps out in such a variety of ways that it really does help a deck hum – it’s not mana-fixing, but tribe-fixing.

Were you wondering how I championed out my Boggart Mob? It wasn’t with Changeling Titan – I just Runed it and then RFG’d it. Sweet. Likewise, you can always control whatever creature you want.

Just watch out for Goatnapper! Goatnapper. That boy needs his own TV show, teaming up with Invader Zim. I’d watch it.

So what’d I wind up with? Well, I threw as many Elementals and Goblins together as I could, then dipped into White for the good removal spells and the remarkable stopping power of Goldmeadow “I’m just the same as all the other damn names” Harrier:

1 Boggart Harbinger
1 Boggart Loggers
1 Boggart Mob
1 Eyeblight’s Ending
1 Hornet Harasser
1 Liliana Vess
1 Moonglove Winnower
1 Mournwhelk

1 Caterwauling Boggart
1 Inner-Flame Igniter
1 Inner-Flame Acolyte
1 Nova Chaser
1 Smokebraider
1 Soulbright Flamekin
1 Tar Pitcher

1 Goldmeadow Harrier
1 Kinsbaile Balloonist
1 Neck Snap
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Veteran of the Depths

1 Dolmen Gate
1 Runed Stalactite
1 Wanderer’s Twig

6 Swamp
5 Mountain
4 Plains
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Vivid Marsh

There’s a case to be made here for going with two-of Mournwhelks or Balloonists, but at the time I didn’t know which was better, so I split ’em out. I still don’t, honestly, but I did go up to double-Mournwhelk in the matches where I thought my opponent could seal the late game.

So How’d I Do?
I 2-0-1’d a pretty weak field; it was at a mall, and the competition was enthusiastic but not necessarily up on the latest Magic tech.

(Though in the tradition of all Magic nerds, they eagerly talked with great wisdom about what The Good Cards Were. Which is something I adore about Magic, the way that everyone has a stake in it; even if I disagree that a particular combo is the nuts, it’s oddly endearing to have someone telling me how Hostility + Sizzle is unstoppable. It sounds snarkier than I mean it, but there’s nothing I love better than overhearing players debate the quality of cards.)

Round 1, I knew I had it won when I asked my opponent what Leaf Gilder did, and got this answer:

“Uh, it taps for a Forest.”

I felt bad, since this opponent – who looked like a weird combination between Tim Aten and Napoleon Dynamite – was a really nice person with a very good deck. He had multiple Lys Alana Scarblades, and a very aggressive G/W deck that put me down horrifically with Kithkin Daggerblade.

But – and this is an important but – I won when I really shouldn’t have, simply because of three common new player mistakes:

1) He was terrified of losing his creatures, and so didn’t attack for the win when he could have (he had four creatures available to attack, I was at three life and had three blockers, and Kithkin Daggerblade would have ended me handily).

2) He didn’t remember to play the trigger on Lys Alana.

3) He attacked and used Kithkin Daggerblade more or less simultaneously, so I always knew how to block advantageously.

Nice guy. Very strong deck; he built it well. So well, in fact, that I didn’t actually win so much as “pulled out a draw” when I won one game by luck, lost the second game after he mulliganed down to five cards on the play, and then would have lost had time not run out.

I talked to him afterwards and looked at his deck; the deck was fine. The play needed work, and so I told him that he needed to remember the Lys Alana Scarblade triggers and to attack more relentlessly. He seemed kind of down over the fact that he tied when he should have won, so maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.

Round 2, a kid in a Halo 3 sweatshirt who had a strong deck and a bunch of really bad habits of drawing two cards a turn. I don’t think he was cheating, since he really didn’t seem to understand certain elements of the game – he kept using his Gilt-Leaf Seer on his main phase, after he had drawn, at the worst possible time.

But he did have a ton of removal, and some very large men. I fought through them thanks to the astounding power of my Champions, and aside from the Gilt-Leaf Seer botches his play was challenging enough to make it troublesome to win.

But, again, a novice mistake. He kept telling me how I was “kicking his ass,” and in fact I wasn’t. He got me down to five life in one game when he was at twenty-three, and I had to do an additional sixteen damage thanks to his Changeling Hero. That was a ridiculously tough game where I was on the verge of losing every moment.

Yes, I won, but after I slapped him back down to twenty, his shoulders slumped and he stopped really playing. I had beaten him long before I actually landed the killing blow, so morale was a factor. If I’d had the same attitude, I would have crumbled when I was at five and he was at twenty-three.

I kept telling him that, too. “I didn’t kick your ass in the first game,” I explained. “That was a hard-won battle, man. A struggle to the finish. It could have gone either way.” But he just kept telling me how awful it was, and went into the second game telling me how he was going to lose.

This time, he pushed me all the way back to three life before I rallied. And it was a close game, where I think he could have actually won it if he hadn’t just gone on autopilot with his Goldmeadow Harrier; if he’d started tapping my Harrier during my end step so I couldn’t affect his combat, his Oakgnarl Warrior could have destroyed me.

Morale. Don’t overlook it, buddy. Always look for your edge!

The third match was against the best player in the shop, and he was pretty decent, packing a deck filled with great stuff, not the least of which was Vigor, Lys Alana Scarblade (once again, two of them), and a brutal Ashling the Pilgrim combo with Vigor.

This was kind of ugly, because both matches were determined by the power of Liliana Vess. There was playskill involved, I’m sure, but realistically the biggest play of the match was when I destroyed a creature that would have dealt fatal damage to Liliana. Whoops.

So I won. And what did I get? Four packs and a life counter!

Hey, good enough for me.

The Weekly Plug Bug
Home on the Strange had a classic cliffhanger last week as we discovered the Secret Of Tanner’s Party – Izzy was in a wedding dress. This week, however, scheduling conflicts abound as we flash back briefly to deal with an obsession of Karla’s that just. Can’t. Wait.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]tyGames.Com
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy