Quick Hits: What Grinds My Gears

Today Mark not only airs some grievances of fellow players but also talks about a few of the things that have been wearing on him lately in the Magic world.

Welcome to the Cranky Old Man Edition of Quick Hits, where I’m going to spend the next however long it takes to type this up talking about a whole mess of things that are eating away at my soul.

That might be a little bit extreme . . .

Or I’m understating.

Who knows?

I talk to a lot of people every week. I try to spend as much time as possible chatting with folks about Magic because to be frank I’m not a famous Magic player. My big wins are all localized to Florida, I only day 2 every GP I play in but finish outside of the money, and I write. That’s it. We’re total grassroots, baby. I shake hands and kiss babies—that’s how I roll.

However, this affords me an ear-to-the-ground mentality. I’m lucky enough to talk to everyone, from your typical Friday Night Magic regular to Magic Online ringers all the way up to professional players who have some of the biggest voices in the game, so I get to hear things from every spectrum possible. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

Over this week I have heard more gripes, been complained at, and had more extremely in-depth discussions with people than I ever have in a given week, which has left me frazzled and flustered.

Today I’m going to not only air your grievances but talk about some of the things that have been wearing on me lately as well.

Cranky Old Man Quick Hit #1: Magic Online Etiquette Sucks

You’re playing against an opponent, and you’re beating him. Hooray!

You go to make that lethal attack and see "Waiting for ______."

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . .

Waiting . . .

Are we really going to do this?

Almost ten minutes pass, and you commit to a new game. Who cares, it’s just a two-man, right? Finally you see the blinking on the bottom tab. Your other opponent is back! Maybe he disconnected or his internet went out. Yeah! That’s the ticket!

You declare your attackers and go into declare blockers, and then you see "Waiting for _______."


This is becoming an all-too-common trend on Magic Online, and it’s infuriating. Instead of taking their licks like an adult, these folks are going on full tilt and just walking out of the game, leaving you sitting there like moss on a log and pretty much wasting your time. That’s pretty cool, huh?

At first I thought this was just one of those things that happened to me and only me, but then more people I asked about it told me the same thing: winning and then nothing until the timer awarded them the victory. The worst is when this happens on stream because dead air is boring.

What’s The Fix? Stop being a toolbag. Losing is a part of Magic, and learning how to deal with it is a huge part of propelling your game to the next level. I know grinders that play Magic Online for hours upon hours a day, and the more games you can get in, the better. Being a sore loser and taking your ball and going home isn’t a good way to invest your money. If you’re spending money on decks and then tickets to enter events, it doesn’t behoove you to peace out your opponent, basically handing them a free win and giving you the reputation of a jerk.

While on the subject of jerkery, these are some of the things that have been written to me while I’ve been in games. I will omit the names for posterity’s sake, but these are five count ’em five different players of the course of seven days—and these aren’t even all of them. All of these are direct quotes; no paraphrasing.

Player #1: "Wow. Just wow. Draws all 4 revelations and 3 jaces. Does it feel good to win because you spend a bunch of money on cards? Loser." —My opponent playing Mono-Black Devotion against me piloting Esper Control.

Player #2: "Ur deck suck so bad I can’t freaking believe I’m losing to this scrub." —My opponent in the finals of an 8-4 against my board of Celestial Archon and Shipbreaker Kraken. I asked if he was being serious. Another disconnect.

Player #3: "No lands again. Shuffler luck. Couldn’t beat me in a real match." —My opponent in game 3 after we both mulliganed to five and I didn’t miss my land drops while he did.

Player #4: "If I don’t misclick ur just ded." —My opponent after not attacking into my Blood Baron of Vizkopa with a Jace, Architect of Thought trigger potentially on the stack if he does with his Mono-Green Devotion deck.

Player #5: "Such a lucksack whatever man." —My opponent after I topdecked a Supreme Verdict when he Duressed one out of my hand on his turn.


Why is this even remotely necessary?

Losing stinks, but why do you have to take it out on the person you’re playing? For those of you reading this, if you’re one of those people that feels like you have to stick it to your opponent for having the audacity to defeat you, read the next part.

What’s The Fix? Grow the hell up.

I hope that helps.

Cranky Old Man Quick Hit #2: Magic Online Keeps Exploding

If you were on Facebook or Twitter this past weekend, you were regaled with how during the MOCS very late in the tournament the event crashed. Hello and good luck!

Then, to make things even more hilarious because they were only mildly side-splitting before, the online PTQ the following day decided to commit seppuku. Very dishonorable display, Magic Online.

My question becomes simple: how in the blue hell does Magic Online, one of the most funded and largest generators of money for Wizards of the Coast, continue to bug out, freeze, kick off, and crash during events? Server space? Coding issues? Lazy devs?

The responses by Wizards are usually fast and appropriate; they compensate people justly, apologize, and give us their assurances that the problem will be worked on and hopefully resolved eventually.

Only it hasn’t been.

This past weekend saw people being rewarded with ten packs, a promo Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author], and if you had fifteen or more points invited to basically a reset tournament this coming weekend. That’s great for people that were hanging out in the fifteen-point bracket, but for people like Brian Kibler, who was literally robbed of a Top 8 and a potential invite to the World Championship, this is unacceptable.

You know how many of my friends got screwed in the last two days on Magic Online?

Too many.

In other games, like World of Warcraft and League of Legends, when this nonsense happens, not only are reparations made but the game is immediately fixed. When people got to C’Thun and found out that he was practically unbeatable, both due to gear issues and a bug in his second phase, he was hotfixed immediately.



Magic Online doesn’t do this. Instead they tell you that they’re going to fix it, but what happens is more of the same. Todd Anderson got the shaft from it. Brian Kibler got the shaft from it. Does alienating your most famous players sound like a good idea to you? That’d be like Tom Brady having a terrible call made on him (LOL LIKE THAT WOULD EVER HAPPEN) and Brady deciding to quit the game after making a few important interviews that damn the game. Hardly good business sense.

Wizards, if you’re reading this, which I’m vain enough to think that you do, fix this. Stop talking about it. Stop promising people that you’re going to fix these insane errors and do as Nike would: just do it. It’s a sad state of affairs when the only option we have continues to let us down.

Cranky Old Man Quick Hit #3: "Netdecking" Is The Devil

I didn’t realize that this is a crime and that it is punishable via death by extreme shunning.

While having a talk with a friend of mine, they intimated that they have zero respect for people who copy and paste decks off of the Internet. I asked why, and they replied that it is because it takes no skill to win with a build that isn’t your creation. I pondered this . . .


Eleven years ago I stepped into my first tournament: an event on a Tuesday night with a three-dollar entry fee. You only played game 1s against up to six opponents, and each win got you three points. Whoever had the most points at the end of the night would get a bunch of packs, and if there was a tie, those people would play it out in a Top 8 kind of thing.

I brought my trusty U/B Nightmares deck that I used to crush the local high-school kids during lunch. Faceless Butcher your creatures and kill you to death with Chainer, Dementia Master, reanimating your dorks after I Chainer’s Edict or Innocent Blood them away.

Whelp, it turned out U/G Madness was a thing, and I was walloped over and over again by 6/6 trampling, flying Wurm tokens. After I lost I’d go to the next person, only to have lizards and dogs kick the bejesus out of me.

I asked one of the local players why everyone in the room was playing the same deck, and he gave me the answer that has stuck with me for years: "Because it’s the best deck and winning is more fun than losing."

My perception was warped after that. Getting my cereal peed in by an entire room of people was a pretty big bummer, so what did I do? I put together what was considered one of the best decks of the time, Mono-Black Control. After a few weeks of fevered trading, pretty much getting rid of everything I had to build this deck, I showed up to our local sanctioned Saturday tournament. It was I who now had the best deck in the format! I was going to be unstoppable!!!

I sat down across from an opponent during round 1 who started playing remarkably similar cards to me. Mirror match?

He danced around every play I made, named better targets with Cabal Therapy, boarded way better than I knew how, and soundly defeated me in two games.

How could this happen? I had the best deck! How did he beat me?

Not all pilots are created equal. That’s what I learned that day.

To say that it is skill-less to play a deck off the Internet is literally crazy. I can hand you a gun, but will you know how to fire it? You can have my keys, but do you know how to drive stick?

Magic is a game, and some people like to play to win. It’s challenging to defeat a competent player, and you should give yourself every single advantage when it comes to doing that. If you’re going to shell out hundreds of dollars to travel to a tournament, pay entry, get a hotel, eat out, and all the little expenses that come with it, is there something wrong with battling with a deck that you know to be good?

This week I battled with William Jensen Esper Control list because I thought it was the best version of the deck. Yes, I made a few tweaks to it, but I kept about 70 of his 75 intact and thought it was fantastic. It was difficult to play, thought-provoking, and gave me tons of different types of Magic games to play depending on the player I was paired against.

Too often I see a player bring their own concoction to a tournament and get upset when it doesn’t pan out. They throw around slang like "netdecking" and "unoriginal." People play Magic to have fun and to have it how they see fit.

I apologize if playing Esper Control is infringing on your Griffin deck.

With that in mind . . .

Cranky Old Man Quick Hit #4: Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate

To quote my good buddy and fellow writer Anthony Lowry, "Magic is how I express myself to myself."

That’s deep, Ant, but a beautiful truth.

One pitfall we get trapped in is being too stagnant and being afraid to think outside of the box but in a clever way. Sometimes changing a couple cards in a given deck can break the whole thing. Gerry Thompson was notorious for taking a deck and making a few fixes to it that let him run roughshod over the competition.

Whenever I tell people about a few things I’d like to do to a deck, most of the time I hear those two well-planned words: "That’s bad." Hey, thanks for your input!

Recently I advocated Pilfered Plans in Esper Control instead of Divination. It’s been great for me, so I figured I’d share it with the world. Most comments were constructive, but a few people just whined, "That’s baaaaaaaaad." Why is it bad? It’s been really awesome for me the last few weeks, and here’s why! "No. That’s bad." But Pilfered Plans has given me an edge in the mirror match where deck size game 1 is really relevant. "Cool. Still bad." Can you explain why? "Nope. Card’s bad." But I hate you!

Since when did trying out new cards become a sin? Why is it that when GerryT changes a few cards people accept it in droves but when the local kid at your FNM tries out a few new things people ridicule them? Would Gerry be Gerry if people laughed at him over and over and called him stupid?

Taking that next step and trying to be the next Innovator is all that stands between you and Magic immortality. It’s just that easy.

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Whew! That sure felt good to get out of my system.

Sometimes the complaining bug bites you and the only way to fight back is to let it be known that you’re not going to take it and instead you’d rather find solutions to these problems.

Feel free to comment below on anything you agree/disagree with. I’d love to hear some of your perspectives on these issues.

Until then I’m going to turn on some Matlock because that’s what cranky old dudes do.

Catch ya on the flip-

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