No – "I’m not dead yet."
Something did die, however – and that was my computer after it took a hit of lightning. The dateline there was July 2nd, and it took the techs my wife lined up some two weeks to get my machine going and back to me. And then it didn’t work properly, my USB mouse only being recognized by the system every other reboot or so, and I had to send it back in to find that out. Fun. And my modem is a little whacked too, so that after any drop I have to reboot the system. Twice, of course, because of the state of the mouse.
Now I might stand to get a new PC or at least good working parts – but something has come up that has caused me to count every penny. See, I have a chance to be the owner of the local shop. Not long ago, I found out that the current local shopkeep was planning to move his mostly books and some gaming store about twenty minutes away to the Twin Cities area – which, as you should guess, is a bigger place than the humble burg here. After finding this out, I began to count heads and so forth and thought I might make a more game-oriented business fly. It looks feasible, as most of the players have told me they are interested in the convenience. I had a big hurdle to overcome in finding retail property, but I think I’ve found a spot and also think the monetary concerns work out this way. So sometime in the middle of August, I plan on throwing the doors open.
Getting ready for that opening, of course, is eating up just about every minute. I have quite limited capital for the venture and so I’m spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to save money and am checking out leads on any cost savings I can for the startup.
This is all probably rather boring, but I wanted to let folks know why I hadn’t written in a month or so. The reasons again were simply a busted computer and the act of trying to open a game shop. Further, when the thing opens I expect it to take some time for me to get settled in and acclimated to the change of life this is going to entail – this means I probably will be writing in to Star City only sporadically. For those of you who’d sent in deck lists for my deck clinic, I’ll have to say "sorry" and tell you that I’ll try and get back to those as soon as I can.
As to the current strategic Magic concerns, well… I fear commenting too much right now as I lost touch with the Team for a good chunk of time and now it looks like my trips to the PTQs will be replaced with the need for me to be behind the counter in my own shop. Also, my whole collection will have to basically be up for sale, as that’s the nature of the business side of things and that might limit my competitiveness some – at least initially. After a while, I might be able to afford an employee and that both my wares and playing time will increase – and then I’ll be able to pass on more and better info to the readers of this site and my column.
For now and for the rest of this piece, I’m left mostly with issues and opinions. So here goes…
I’m still not exactly sure how to feel about Magic Online. I think I once imagined that the economic strategy of the game would be discussed – and lo and behold if Mowshowitz didn’t jump straight to it. What you find out is that it’s very good for very good players – and notably, hardcore drafters. It’s somewhat less so for almost everyone else.
Whether this is good or bad, I haven’t figured out. For me the lure was that I’d like to have easy access to more casual play – but that certainly isn’t what I think I can get without a big investment in the game that I’m not going to make. The good side, perhaps, is that this may keep a lot of casual players sticking to the real cards, even at the cost of the convenience that Online offers.
And I’m still not sure the set trade idea is good.
In short, I don’t know what that program is going to do to the overall game other than help the good players get better.
The local league that I jumpstarted is still going strong, although I haven’t participated much in playing of late. When I have gotten into the shop, it has often been that I’ve been swamped in trading by the kids and wind up losing the chance to play. Beyond that, however, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this approach to Magic as I still find it very worthwhile.
Now when I came up with my idea, I had known that a Pauper format was being played somewhere, but I couldn’t find the more accepted rules. Those rules are here, courtesy of the father of organized Peasant magic Rob Baranowski.
What I have noticed about the game stemming from Rob’s rules are that it seems very beatdown-oriented; if I remember right, the Origins top eight were all beatdown decks. This seems a bit limiting to me – in fact, I find the five uncommons rule a tad strange. I didn’t discuss this in any detail with Rob, but it seems that that number was pulled basically out of thin air. When I constructed my "Twelve-Point" rules, I tried to make them fit with some of the existing structure of Magic as best I could. First of all, you do get a rare in any booster pack and I thought that they should be allowed. Secondly, the ratio of uncommons to rares is three to one, which I used to set their relative points value. Lastly, the rules allow you to play four of any one card so if I allowed four rares, that worked out to twelve points.
What I seem to have found in using this simple approach is that things become more balanced in terms of what types of decks a player can play with ideas like CounterBurn, control black, and millstone decks becoming much more viable. You also get options to play more "interesting" cards that lead to things like my Fecundity/Haunted Crossroads/Spore Frog "Mystery Machine" deck. More "neat things," of course, leads to possibilities of "brokenness" – but so far, I haven’t gotten the impression that "Twelve-Point" is easily broken. I’ve run the format rules by just about everyone that would listen, and I’ve found it interesting to watch them wrestle with trying to mentally plot out that "broken" deck time after time – only to have them admit to the maddening level of restraint that the points rules seem to hold.
But really, Pauper or Peasant, it’s a very good format to run under any set of rules because it is so inclusive of just about any community of players – that is, anyone should be able to have or get the cards to have a very competitive deck, and so many players have some old cards that they’d like to use.
The next league that I hope to run in my very own shop is Sealed Deck ante. I see it in the same mold as Pauper, although the startup cost might be prohibitive to some.
Lots and lots has been said – and as usual, I’ll chime in.
Ideas about which format is "best" may have some interest to many… But the truth of the matter is that playing in any format is simply a choice. Magic is fun, and I think any of the formats are highly worthwhile. Players will and do have personal preferences – but those are simply that. Personal.
I had a conversation with Darren Di Battista where I said that I thought that one of the problems with Type One is that I think it has an image problem. First of all, it is stuck in a bad Catch-22 in that the format is lacking in promotion and support by the parent company, which leads to decreased play… And now the company has said that they want to see increased play before they increase support.
I don’t know how that gets rectified, but that isn’t my point here. My point is this: The people that most often do promote the game don’t do a very good job, and those that could do a good job of doing it aren’t or aren’t doing it enough. Darren is the only Type One player that I regularly read. I do this in part because his approach, while often containing a lot of type one specific information seems to me to translate well to the overall game in general. Plus he’s just a good writer, so I read him.
The other part, which may be psychologically-based singularly with me, is that for some reason type one seems to have the worst sort of people on prominent display more than any other format. I don’t follow Type One specifically… But nevertheless, I was quite aware of the issues concerning Ed "Legend" Paltzik and his flamboyantly infamous nature in relation to the format. Now standard and the Pro Tour have their share of "bad guys," but these are offset by the presence of the "nice" guys like Dave Price and Eugene Harvey and excellent theorist writers like Zvi Mowshowitz. No player with a Type One bias that I know of fits in any of those categories, which leaves that format’s internet presence lacking. It may be a false myth that Type One is represented most often by the unpalatable elitist… But as it is that’s how I see it, and it’s going to be left up to the type one community to break that myth.
I know Darren is highly involved in creating a new type one site but I had to question him if this was the proper approach. To get the type of respect that at least some of its players want, Type One needs to have good writers that appear regularly on major sites and not segregate themselves to their own site – otherwise I feel that game will continue to dwindle in the eyes of the general Magic public and also with the company.
Goodbye for Now
I wish I could go on at length about OBC or something, but I’ll have to leave that in the hands of folks like the Ferrett, Bennie Smith, and Elliot Fertik. I’m happy that Elliot won the GPQ at Origins because he’s a good guy and put in the work to get there – and also that I was able to be a part and help him get ready. Star City and Team Diaspora may not have broken the format, but we gave folks as good a start I think as anyone on the net – and those writers that I mentioned (and many other Star City writers too numerous to mention) should help keep any more established players up to speed with the game and help introduce newer ones to the important ideas that concern better play.
To that end, I’ll leave you with a fun "Twelve-Point" Pauper control deck and say that while my presence may be infrequent for a while, I plan on trying to get back to writing three or so articles a month as soon as I can.
12 Point Pauper Lifestone
1 Feldon’s Cane
4 Moment’s Peace
2 Heroes’ Reunion
1 Ancestral Tribute
4 Soothing Balm
4 Reviving Dose
4 Life Burst
4 Lay of the Land
4 Maze of Ith