SCG Daily – Shuffling Up With Doctor Mox

After a hiatus caused by over-zealous falconry, the good doctor is back! As usual, he answers emails and questions from spell-slingers across the world. Today, he casts his medical eye over a few of Magic’s more casual formats, and has a little advice for a certain shuffle-shy Frenchman…

Greetings, my ogling molecules! After a break of what seems like four score years and ten, the good doctor is officially in!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my particular impotent oeuvre, may I direct you to some of the following filet mignons: I’ve written stuff here, here, and here, and even here. And here. Then again, everyone knows that clicky-click on the Internet can lead to all manner of mischief, and doubtless my detractors are screaming, “Don’t click! Run! Flee, while you still can!!!

So be it.

For those who do know of my work… welcome back! I’ve plenty of hot Magic action swelling my mailbag this week. But first, a brief word on my erstwhile partner…

When last we talked, I was recovering in hospital from a rather painful experience with a falcon. Happily, my recuperation was swift – my Swiss Ladyfriend Jetta eased my recovery with a perfect bedside manner. Sometimes I think she missed her true calling — she would’ve made a wonderful auxiliary nurse, but the siren call of the Ultimate Fighting Arena was too much for her to resist. She is currently undefeated in her weight class, in no small part due to her patented “sleeper” finishing move, known in the trade as “the Recumbent Ocelot.”

But enough! To business!

Today’s letter is from a certain fallen hero…

Bonjour Mox,

I am a Frenchman of some renown. I do not guzzle cheese and wine, and I do not smoke Gitanes. While I do have a brother, we did NOT invent the aeroplane.

Recently, I was banned from sanctioned Magic due to what has been described as an “irregular shuffling technique.” This punishment was totally unfounded. When shuffling, I have to watch my hands. If I don’t, they tend to wander, and while this is fine in a nightclub packed with fiery ladies, at a Magic tournament it is not pleasant for anyone. Okay, so some of the Dutch players like it, but that’s neither here nor there.

The thing is… I’ve given my LIFE to Competitive Magic. I’ve got six months to kill… where do I go from here?

Olivier, Paris.

PS: Le grandes garcons est dans la boucherie.

Thanks for the letter, Olivier! Unfortunately, the majority of your fine penmanship was smudged, and the text itself took a little deciphering. In future, if you must weep when writing, may I suggest you invest in a stout pair of swimming goggles?

When facing an unforeseen absence from the game, especially one that is appended with a modicum of infamy and shame, one’s natural reaction is to bury one’s head in the sand and disappear. Indeed, when Jetta suffered her one-year ban from sanctioned play — for attempting to staple a Forest to her opponent’s forehead — she buried her head in the sand literally. She succeeded, too — submerged from chin to crown. Thankfully, she was still able to breathe through her tracheal stoma, and eventually emerged from her underground vigil a few hours later, feeling rather silly.

Yes, the outlook is bleak. But never fear, Olivier! While competitive play may be beyond you — unless you choose to don a false moustache and re-register as “Guido McManus” — there are many casual Magical avenues to explore…

Five Color Magic

Five Color Magic is a format that celebrates all colors of Magic. Each deck has strict construction constraints — a certain percentage of the build must be dedicated to one of the five colors. Two-hundred-and-fifty cards later, and we have a deck!

Five Color Magic is a strange beast — it is governed by a “ruling council,” a cabal of brandy-swilling Fat Cats who lord it over the format, ruling with an iron fist. Powerful cards and combinations are kept under constant vigilance by this gaming elite; arbitrary bannings and restrictions are commonplace. Heaven help those who flout these rules — council justice is swift, faceless, and deadly.

In one high-profile Five Color Magic incident, a player was caught playing a basic Mountain that didn’t have the regulation John Avon artwork! As this was a relatively minor infraction, the scumbag was not killed… but he did have trouble shuffling up for the next game with his broken fingers. Olivier, maybe next time you face a shuffling-related punishment, you can use this as a defense.

Jetta’s Swiss family are particular fans of this format. Whenever we visit Jetta’s Aunt Frida, she often begs Jetta and I to play a Five Color Exhibition Match or two while waiting for the Fasnachtsküchlein to cook. In fact, the majority of our Five Color matches are played for Auntie.


Highlander Magic

Highlander Magic is a singleton format. Sixty-card Constructed decks cannot contain any more than one copy of any non-basic-land card. Thus, the game plays more akin to Limited. While strategies and archetypes are available, the games are longer and more random by their very nature. It seems that Highlander has taken the worst elements of both Constructed and Limited, and merged them into an unappealing porridge of a format.

As I mentioned above. Highlander Magic is a singleton format. Therefore, it is best enjoyed by singletons. Magic players in a relationship with anything other than a five-fingered appendage need not apply. Thankfully, that means that 99% of card-slingers are eligible to play, if not eligible in any other walks of life. Sadly, as Jetta and I are officially an item, we cannot partake in this particular pursuit… although Jetta threatens to renew my eligibility on a daily basis.

While the Highlander format is a winner-takes-all affair, it is not to be confused with the film “Highlander,” starring Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, and the evil bloke from The Shawshank Redemption. Whatever you do, do not try to ritually behead your opponent with a claymore.

(As an aside, a colleague of mine was recently fired for looking at Connery-related photoshopped pornography during work hours. He thought his dismissal was for sending personal emails… but no, it was the Sean Porn. True story!)

Two-Headed Giant

Two-Headed Giant is a once-casual format that is now making a play for the Big League. It comes in both Constructed and Limited flavors, with Limited being the more entertaining sweetmeat.

The format requires two people for a team, and four for a match. Maybe you can ask your brother to join you in playing, if he’s not too busy with Pro Tour and Grand Prix commitments.

In Two-Headed Giant, or “2HG,” Each player plays of his own deck, but the life totals are combined. Therefore, you start each best-of-one match at a healthy forty life. Indeed, one might almost say… life begins at forty! Did you see what I did there?

Various Magic luminaries have had success at the Two-Headed Giant format. In fact, at this year’s Two-Headed Giant States Championships, the Texas tournament was won by none other than Kyle Sanchez and a hobo he met on the way to the venue.

Rumor has it that Marco Blume, the German Leviathan, once entered a Two-Headed Giant tournament on his own. As the legend goes, he had a hellish time registering for the event, but once he produced physical evidence that he’d eaten his playing partner, it was all systems go! He was eventually defeated in the semi-finals by a team comprised of seven Ben Goodman.

There you go, Olivier! Hopefully, you’ll still be able to enjoy Magic during your time away.

And if none of these formats interest you, there are more to explore. There’s the Emperor format, which is very popular in Japan. Or Elder Dragon Highlander, much enjoyed by Elder Dragons such as Sheldon “I Will F*** You Up” Menery. And of course, there’s Mental Magic, only played by the mentally unstable, the socially retarded, and the hideously bored. And Mark Rosewater.

Remember, if all else fails, there’s always Magic Online. After all, the shuffler may be broken, but at least it doesn’t look at your cards while doing its job.

In all seriousness… hurry back soon, Olivier. We miss you.

That’s all I have today. This evening, Jetta and I attend a small wine-tasting evening at our local village hall. In all honesty, I’m rather apprehensive. While I myself have a sturdy constitution when it comes to libation of the grape, Jetta herself is not so blessed. Indeed, it’s fortunate we are allowed to return: Jetta caused rather a stir at the last soirée. Naked, atop a trestle table, swinging her copious brassiere above her head while singing “Toxic” by Britney Spears at the top of her voice… one can only assume that those in charge found the scene so disturbing that they’ve completely erased it from their memory.

Until next time, keep your eyes on the ceiling,

Doctor Mox
Doctor Mox can be contacted at [email protected]
I bake Fasnachtskuechlein. Ask me how!