I’m at the local Wal-Mart with my family, picking up a new vacuum cleaner and dog treats. (Do you need to know this in a Magic article? Probably not, but I’m trying to pull you into my world for narrative purposes. And maybe, just maybe, a dirty carpet and hungry dog are the kinds of distractions a player doesn’t need when continually calculating the size of Multani.) We’re in the checkout line and my eyes slide up and down the various candies and magazines they’ve stocked there. I stop when I see a small armada of tins, blue I believe, with large white lettering:
Smint? I think, and then look more carefully. I must be reading this wrong. There’s no such thing as "smint". Mint, maybe, but not…
I examine one of the tins gingerly, not exposing more than the pads of my fingertips. These are mints, by all appearances, except now they’re "sminty fresh". Also long lasting and undeniably refreshing, no doubt.
I am not ashamed to say I was repulsed. Who wants an extra "S" in stuff they put in their mouth? Do you want a frosty glass of smilk with your scookies? Some smelon balls in your fruit cup? Or how about a hot bowl of sloup? (It works with "L", too.)
Folks, we’ve refined the English language to the point where we’ve named all the foods we need. Let’s not hurt ourselves dreaming up stuff like smryup, toarst, and urange juilce. I’ve got nothing in particular against artificial food processing, but let’s keep it reasonable.
My disgust at the unnatural nature of these tiny candies is what I like to call the "Smint Reaction." I have this reaction whenever I encounter something near criminal in its unbridled audacity and capacity to disturb.
I had a Smint Reaction to some of the things I’ve read on www.Mtgnews.com lately, regarding Prophecy.
Of course, these are all rumors. And I’ll switch topics here in a moment, since I prefer to talk about cards that truly exist, here and now. But the two white cards previewed – the Avatar that sinks in casting cost when you’re below certain life level, and the "life reset" at 20 – smelled pretty Sminty to me.
First, the Avatar. I’ll admit I find this the less objectionable of the two, because I can certainly sympathize with the desire to have a big 7/7 creature come sailing in to my defense when I’m against the ropes at three life. But I can hear the whining behind the rationale for this card. This whining, it’s a common thing with white, a color we all know I love dearly. You have to imagine, in what follows, a voice pinched into a six-year-old’s sense of injustice that he can’t have four cookies instead of three:
Regarding CoPs: "Your creatures and spells are too effective! I don’t want them to hurt me. STOP it!"
Regarding Soul Warden: "It’s not fair that you get to play creatures, too. I wanna life for that."
Regarding Congregate: "There are too many creatures on the board. I’m scared some of them might attack me. Gimme life."
And now, regarding this Avatar: "OWWW! Stop hitting! I’m going to get my big brother and you’re gonna be in trouble!"
But Smint flavor of the Avatar is barely detectable, when set next to the full olfactory Smint assault that is the 20-life reset:
We all made this cry when things weren’t going our way in a ball game – someone hit a wiffle ball really far, going over the fence, an obvious home run, but it got caught in the branches of a tree, so it never technically landed beyond the fence, so the defending players desperately call out, "DO OVER!" Or, you argue that an obviously fair ball went foul, so you can negotiate a "DO OVER" out of an otherwise certain loss. (Or was it just me who was this conniving at the age of seven?)
Ugh. A "do over" card for the white life mage. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the multiplayer environment where you have to build your decks to kill the white mage nine times over (once to start, then four more times for Congregate and four more for this card)…and still cope with five other opponents.
OK, I know, I’m whining now, too. I think you all know (but I want to be sure you do), I do it for comic effect, not to justify nasty attacks on Wizards. Masques and Nemesis have been solid sets for casual group players. And I think the conditional-cost Avatars will be spectacular in many multiplayer settings. So color me happy, just annoyed that once again, it looks like R&D has designed about 20% of this new set to be white. Why, I’ll never know.
Let’s talk about some real colors, like green and black.
I promised the occasional update on the Fade to Black deck. I’ve restricted its use to casual duel and team play, since it has a hard time coping in free-for-alls. I did acquire a Behemoth, but I gotta tell you, not impressive. It doesn’t even attract that much negative attention, and it gets chump-blocked until it disappears. The Blastoderms cost less for the same effect. Rancors are not practical in the deck given the untargetable Blastoderms, so I might increase the number of Stampede Drivers from two to four. (I might also eventually cave in and use a few Rancors, since they’re just so ideal for everything BUT the ‘derms.)
My two Parallax Inhibitors work pretty well, ha ha! I’m sure they’ll be more effective once Prophecy comes out, and provides a few more fading permanents to use in the deck. Meantime, I’m just feeling good giving that mediocre rare a job in a deck.
I just acquired part of another player’s collection. This guy (who wasn’t a member of our group) had some older-school cards, tons of Ice Age and Mirage (which I’ve always been low on), and sweetest of all for this deck, a Stampeding Wildebeests. (For memory’s sake: 5/4 for four mana, but during your upkeep you must return a green creature to your hand.) A couple of readers had suggested this to me, and I’ve seen it since in a couple of green-deck articles making the net rounds. So I took it as a sign from above when a Wildebeests practically dropped into my lap from this collection. That will get a test run this week, and it may even replace the Behemoth. (It’s more likely I’ll take out the Prowler, which is another four-slot and a rather ineffective one, at that.)
Also acquired was an elusive common for me – the Seedling Charm. This was just one of those easy commons that I never seemed to get in my occasional brushes with Mirage, though I admit I never tried hard (obviously, I never bought a box of that set. I always bought Visions or Weatherlight instead). This Charm is nowhere near as good as the Emerald, but I might test a couple of Seedlings in the Fade to Black deck, since they’d allow me to return Parallax Dementia to my hand and reuse them, or they can serve as a quick trample trick. (Note on the Dementia trick – the creature previously enchanted would still be destroyed, of course. The idea is simply to rescue the enchantment.) Chances are, I’ll try them once and then toss ’em, and put in Rancors instead. Or maybe not. *Sigh.* I’m really not that dense and I know how good Rancor is, but Rancor’s been played to death in my group and I’m trying to come up with something different, here, so expect great resistance. I’m not saying Rancor’s Sminty fresh; I’m just saying I’ve had enough of its natural mint flavor for a while.
In closing, I want to discourage all players, especially columnists, from naming their new stompy decks "greensleeves.dec" in honor of the new green-backed sleeves. Cute, yes, but I still have nightmares from playing that damn song over and over again throughout junior and senior high. What IS it with band teachers that they have to keep trotting this thing out year after year? The trombone part was NEVER very exciting. And I don’t need to face these demons of musical boredom all over again. Definite Smint reaction, there. Thank you.