Over the past two or three months, I have entertained several offers by well-meaning readers to pool resources and co-write a column or two. I have (politely, I hope) turned all of these down, not least because it is hard enough coping with the multiple screams in my head that direct my writing, without entertaining any external voices. And I’m not terribly good at sharing authorship duties: my wife will gladly share many tales that illuminate my control-freak impulses. It would be rather unpleasant, I think, for all concerned.
However, I have no illusions regarding my mortal nature. At some point, I will die, probably as a result of ennui during a Magic seven-player chaos where the six other players all play Congregate simultaneously and quadruple their life totals. (An alternate theory of my eventual demise involves pulling off my own spacesuit helmet to preclude my wife’s fruitless attempt to save me while we both float several hundred miles above the surface of Mars… but that would probably just result in a listless, manipulative movie.) And when I move on to the next K-level, so to speak, there ought to be a well-trained corps of writers capable of swooping in behind my corpse and navigating the perilous seas that define casual Magic. Don’t you think?
And this way, even if I turn out to be immortal (as my dog insists I am), I can still take a nap every once in a while, and let someone else talk for a change.
So, if you folks feel up to it, I hereby offer you this one-class correspondence course in writing an Alongi article. While there will be no diplomas awarded, the bright and shining work you create as a result of this tutorial should, if you do it right, be suitable for framing.
Writing articles Alongi-style, perhaps unsurprisingly, involves twelve steps:
STEP ONE: SIT DOWN, DORK.
Preferably in front of a computer. In the midst of a sizeable pile of finger-friendly soot will also do.
STEP TWO: THINK OF SOMETHING.
Preferably not Magic related. For example, what are you thinking of right now? Grilled cheese sandwich? Great. Go with it.
STEP THREE: WRITE IT DOWN.
That’s right, write down Grilled Cheese Sandwich. (Caps optional.) This is called your FIRST DIGRESSION. It’s also a decent enough beginning to an article. As you write out the words, describe to yourself what you think of grilled cheese sandwiches. American cheese, or cheddar? (Or are both choices too conventional, too trite? Perhaps a fine Havarti?) Burned sides, or light brown? Crust or no? Horizontal or diagonal cut?
By the time you’re done with this step, you’ve already got 300 or so words. (I myself am at 432 and counting!) Heck, people have been using the same 300 words over and over for the past twenty postings on the bannings of Dark Ritual and Mana Crypt in Extended format. Rearrange the words enough times, and you’ve just written twenty articles, too! You’re your own thread!
STEP FOUR: THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE.
You should probably think about Magic now. People will get impatient. Okay, how about that time when Sara played that ridiculous Twitch–Twiddle–Mind Games–Rishadan Port deck, that didn’t do anything but tap other players’ permanents all game long? Or why Rhox, an obvious mammal with extraordinarily complex and non-redundant features, can regenerate, while the Thorn Elemental, which ought to be able to regrow things like any plant can, doesn’t? Or whether a Two-Headed Dragon should be able to block another Two-Headed Dragon?
Let’s go with that last one.
STEP FIVE: WRITE THAT DOWN, TOO.
While you’re doing so, you should probably try to think ahead since your ultimate objective is to link this BASIC SUBJECT MATTER with the FIRST DIGRESSION. (I don’t know right now, either, but we’ll figure it out together by the end of this article.) Here’s what I’m writing down; check your work:
First, the context: Its ability text states that the Dragon may block an additional creature, and also must be blocked by two or more creatures. (It also has that kinda neat pumping ability, too. And flying. Self-blocking potential notwithstanding, no one has ever accused the Two-Headed Dragon of being horrible.)
Next, the issue clarification: The question isn’t whether a Two-Headed Dragon CAN block another Two-Headed Dragon. (For the record, D’Angelo is silent on this, and the judge I consult with would rule that it can’t… but FYI, TWO Two-Headed Dragons could block two OTHER Two-Headed Dragons!… that would be pretty spectacular.) The question is whether it OUGHT to be able to do so.
Then, the next step:
STEP SIX: MAKE YOUR THESIS.
My head tells me that the Two-Headed Dragon, since by itself is not "two or more creatures", cannot block another of its species on its own. But my heart wishes it were not so. Something with two heads ought to be able to handle something else with two heads. You’re a person with one head, could you block another person with one head? Sure. You’re a dragon with one head, could you block another dragon with one head? Of course. You’re a dragon with two heads (one, incidentally, capable of blocking two DIFFERENT dragons, each with a single head), could you block another single dragon with two heads?
STEP SEVEN: EXPOUND ON THE CENTRAL "LOGIC."
Don’t tell me that one head of a two-headed dragon is smarter than the average spare head, here; or that one neck may be a bit longer or more supple than the other three involved. One two-headed dragon is just as good as the next, I say, and they all take the same jujitsu-at-five-hundred-meters training when they’re cute little fledglings with only one and a half heads. Two heads meet two heads, and that’s the end of it.
You need more? How about this. If you’ve got two heads and you’re going at someone, and someone else gets in the way and swings something at your first head, what do you think the second head is doing? That’s right, coming up with a solution to save the first head. Your first head is always getting into trouble, and it’s all the second, cooler head can do to devise ways of bailing out the overly aggressive loser head. Duck here, blink there, bob for a different apple and quick. There’s no end to it, ever.
STEP EIGHT: THROW IN ANOTHER DIGRESSION. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.
And while we’re on the subject of multiple heads, what happened to the poor hydras? (Yes, it’s hydrae; but that sort of thing gets cleaned up in step eleven below.) Hydras have more than one head. Most have more than two. What happens if THEY attack or block? Some dork with a single sword (and, if mythology rules, torch) can handle this mass of scaly skulls. Do you know why? S/he’s got the right moves. They block the body, not the heads. Smart thinking. Apparently, one-headed heroes get dumb when they start flying, so when encountering a dragon, you don’t think of things like that.
STEP NINE: GET BACK ON TRACK.
I prefer to use a story of actual play that has occurred. With deep regret, I must inform you all that I have had no game experience in which a Two-Headed Dragon has attempted to block another Two-Headed Dragon. So I’m a bit spent here, but I can tell you of a really fun blocking-based deck I built from red and white back when Exodus had just come out. It used Heat Stroke, High Ground, and Angelic Renewal, as well as nifty suches like Yare and Oracle en-Vec to make creature battles immensely uncomfortable for anyone attacking OR blocking. It lost to anything with less than twenty creatures, though. I think there are some Masques block cards (including the Dragon) that might help create a flashier, more efficient version.
STEP TEN: CLOSE IT UP; TIME’S A-WASTING. AND HAVE YOU LINKED YOUR INITIAL DIGRESSION WITH THE MAIN POINT, YET?
Didn’t think so. The main problem with the deck above is (and would be, if I rebuilt it), it absolutely required Heat Stroke, which is hardly a path to victory in and of itself. It was a game-changer, though, and it was fun to see what it did to people’s strategies. There’s nothing like a cheesy combo to… hey, hey! Cheese! CHEESE! GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES!
Naw, I can’t do that. Too many groans from the audience.
Let’s try this: perhaps the grilled cheese sandwich is linked somehow to the method one two-headed dragon uses to get around another one. Hey, let’s not hide from the truth, these are tasty treats. No warm-blooded, fire-breathing, winged beast can resist the lure of two golden, buttered slices of toast on either side of a melted mass of cheesy goodness. And the flexibly divisible sandwich must have been a godsend for mother dragons seeking to encourage their fledgling children’s superior heads to share their lunch with the baby extra half-heads. Finally, can’t you see it, hello, two heads, even grilling on both sides simultaneously? (Do I have to do *all* the work here?)
So the young dragons grow up, nourished by a mother’s love and the goodness of Kraft, or Real, or someone. Eventually, two adult sister two-headed dragons fly off separate directions. Years later, by coincidence, each gets summoned through the aether (THAT will ruin your grilled cheese sandwich and freshly killed cow break) and called to fight for opposing mages.
After a prolonged bout of staring from across the charred battlefield, the one from the north suddenly alights and shrieks with fury, twice. The sibling to the south does the same. They rush at each other through the gathering clouds, eight eyes ablaze, the two heads of the younger sister locked firmly upon the trajectory of the older sister’s own heads.
Then, at the last second, the elder dragon pulls a grilled cheese sandwich out of her wing-pocket and tosses it high and to the left.
Stunned at the horrific waste of a perfectly good snack, the younger sister allows the attention of her eastern head to wander in dismay. And BANG! Like that, the dragons slam into each other, the western heads locked together in a mortal clash of teeth and fire, the eastern heads only brushing scales.
The older sister extends her treacherous eastern neck as far as it will go down the spine of her sibling, looks right into the eyes of the enemy mage far in the distance, and spits a wad of flaming, melted cheese right at him. The dairy missile pumps itself up with frightening speed, and the southern mage is soon nothing more than skeletal remains in the midst of a bubbling pool of grease and fat.
Yeah, it’s not pretty, but like organized religion, it gets us to where we want to go.
STEP ELEVEN: DO A THOROUGH, RIGOROUS EDITTTING JOB.
I think this goes without saying. Nothing makes you look unprofessional like sloppy work. And Omeed just won’t stand for it. He won’t just fix it and send you a nasty email, oh no. This guy’s an English major (or if he isn’t, he does a startling impersonation). He’ll come to your yard and yell, loudly so the neighbors can hear, several verses of Shakespeare, Milton, and other dead people, pointing out what cards they should have graced with flavor text. It ain’t a pretty picture.
STEP TWELVE: SEND YOUR SUBMISSION TO STARCITY VIA THE SECRET ACCESS EMAIL ADDRESS THAT OMEED GIVES OUT ONLY TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE PASSED THE SIX HUNDRED SIXTY-SIX TRIALS OF FATE AND CUNNING.
You don’t want to fail these tests. Oh no you don’t. But the utopia of fast and efficient communication that is opened up when you do! – it is a thing of glory.
And there you go. Your very own, original Alongi-style article. Unless, of course, you simply plagiarized my thoughtful sandwich-dragon essay. An optional thirteenth step, squeezed in somewhere between steps four and nine, might be to add in some insights or theoretical musings about what works and what doesn’t in multiplayer games, but let’s not rush the learning process. (Incidentally, in this case you COULD mention a multiplayer variant based on the rule of common sense logic, in which a valid logical argument can overrule any rule of the game…e.g., "There’s no WAY your ballista could really wax my shadow creature! It’s on a different plane of existence!"…but that’s a whole new kettle of grilled cheese sandwiches.)
COMING SOON: The Alongi School of Multiplayer Magic, redux.