The Airing Of Grievances

As a better-late-than-never Festivus present to you all, Ross Merriam airs grievances including tournament etiquette, inefficient playing mechanics, and full-art lands. Bring the popcorn and the pitchforks!

I know I’m a little late for Festivus, but the holiday has grown so much over the last twenty years and there aren’t any other important holidays during December, so it’s really taken over the entire month. I still have my undecorated aluminum (very high strength to weight ratio) pole up and I think I’ll keep it there for a while to keep me in the spirit of the season. [That must’ve been some doll…—Ed.]

Like many of you, I spent my Festivus in the company of friends and family, performing feats of strength and most importantly, airing all my grievances from the past year.

Frankly, the people I love do a lot of things that upset me and it’s important to get all the animus out in the open. How else are they going to learn?

But that got me thinking: my loved ones aren’t the only people that seem to make it their life mission to annoy me. Nearly everyone in the Magic community (that includes you) runs afoul of my entirely rational and objective sensibilities. I know the player base skews young and maybe a lot of you haven’t had enough worldly experience to realize the error of your ways, but that’s all going to change today.

I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!

For your convenience, I’ve arranged my grievances into categories. Don’t say I’ve never done anything for you.

Tournament Etiquette

We all see the trash that players leave around tournament tables and the disaster that is the convention center bathroom at the end of a long day, but there are plenty of other things that players do to make tournaments less enjoyable for all of us. Here are the three that I find most annoying:

Push your chairs in. Magic tournaments are an exercise in efficiently packing hundreds to thousands of players into a convention hall, making sure they have space to play, judges have space to walk through the aisles, and side events can be fired quickly. Tournament organizers go to great lengths to utilize the space they rent as well as possible. Unfortunately, players go to great lengths to undermine these efforts.

Have you noticed that no matter how much space there is between tables, it’s impossible to walk through the aisles to find your next table? Every round is an arduous journey through throngs of other players, but the main obstacle is the mountain range of chairs that seem to be littered randomly throughout the aisles, blocking everyone’s path.

These chairs didn’t begin like that. When you walk in in the morning, you’ll find them neatly tucked underneath the tables, leaving oceans of space in which the players and judges can move freely. But as the players sit down for round after round, they fail to carry out the most basic of courtesies, pushing in their chairs and returning them to their original state.

Instead they see fit to leave their poor chairs open and vulnerable to all manner of abuse from an annoyed public shoving and kicking them out of the way so they can make their way through. I for one will not stand for such chair abuse.

Honestly, it’s a minor miracle that the unnecessary traffic jams that result from such inconsiderate behavior haven’t caused someone serious injury by now. Every round we’re wading through a land mine of potential tripping hazards solely due to the sloth and selfishness of the greater portion of our community. Push in your chairs, people, before someone gets hurt!

Mind the tablecloths. Not content with the wanton endangerment of our precious chairs, you all see fit to take the tablecloths and rip them away from their natural environment, lying still across the tables and protecting our cards and sleeves, instead leaving them strewn about in the most haphazard manner.

I don’t even know how this happens. I guess if you’re a Neanderthal and drag your things across the table instead of gently lifting them off like a civilized human, you can catch the tablecloth in the process, but who would do such a thing? And afterward, why wouldn’t you recognize the damage done and restore the helpless tablecloth to its original, pristine condition? Such carelessness boggles the mind.

I have personally watched a writer for this very website, a colleague of mine, callously toss a tablecloth nearly off the table with a single swing of their backpack and try to walk away, completely oblivious. Now, since this is a community-wide issue, I won’t call out this person by name (though her initials are Jadine Klomparens), but I as a prominent member of the Magic community we have to hold ourselves to the highest standards of decorum, so I was particularly disappointed by such selfish behavior. It’s deplorable. Egregious. Unfathomable.

Keep your hands down. It happens every round. The judge says “Welcome to Round X. You have 50 minutes. You may begin.” Immediately, a dozen or so hands shoot up of players with no opponent across for them, shouting “Judge!” at the top of their lungs so that they may be ensured of their Game 1 victory as quickly as possible.

What happens afterward? Judges go to each such person and give them the same spiel:

“You have won Game 1. Call a judge over when your opponent arrives or when the clock hits 50 minutes, whichever comes first.”

Everyone with their hand raised knows this spiel. We’ve all been fortunate enough to hear it at least once over the years. So what was the point in calling a judge over in the first place? All you’re doing is wasting time so you can loudly announce to the room just how lucky you are. Maybe you’re worried that your opponent can just claim they arrived on time if you don’t call the judge over first, but in what world would that work?

In most cases players don’t call a judge often enough. They are there to help us all and ensure the tournament runs smoothly and they’re very good at that. But this common call is simply a waste of time. I’ve noticed judges have started announcing to players before the round starts that they don’t need to call a judge immediately for a no-show, and I can’t wait until this bit of behavior becomes a relic of the past.

Inefficient Operations

Slow decks like Miracles or Lantern are often lambasted for the issues their pilots have completing matches in the allotted time. But I’ve often espoused the idea slow decks don’t get draws, but slow players. And I’m not referring the Jim Davises and Brad Nelsons that like to enter the tank and take 50 laps, but players whose mechanical operations are unacceptably slow.

The following are a few things that I see players do frequently that add completely unnecessary time to their games and drive me up a wall.

The double shuffle. This comes up most often in Legacy with Stoneforge Mystic, but with fetchlands in Modern it happens there too. Your opponent cracks a fetchland, searches, finds a land, and shuffles their deck. After they present and you reach for their deck, they show you a Stoneforge Mystic and have to repeat the entire process.

If you do this, you should be disqualified on the spot.

Sure, your second shuffle effect may be countered, but you can still carry out the first shuffle after finding that out. There’s no reason not to take the shortcut and do all the necessary shuffling at once.

Shuffling is an important part of Magic, and it takes a while to properly randomize a deck, especially when most players don’t want to riffle their expensive cards. I’d say that most players don’t shuffle enough and in order to consistently do so, especially in formats with fetchlands, you can’t waste any time.

Late writers. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are great cards and I encourage you all to play with them. I also encourage you to write down your opponent’s hand when you do so to conserve your mental energy. I imagine most of you do that already, but take a second to think about when you write your opponent’s hand down.

If your answer is anything other than “immediately after they reveal it,” then we have a problem. There’s little worse than someone who looks at your hand, takes twenty seconds to decide what to take, and then stops you as you try to pick up your hand and continue the game so they can take another twenty seconds to write everything down.

Think about each card as you write it down and save you and your opponent the time. Doing so has the added benefit of giving you time to carefully consider each card in an orderly fashion, which should aid in the decision-making process.

When my opponent pulls a late write on me, my first instinct is to pick up my hand and tell them that they’ve missed their chance, as their spell has finished resolving, but I don’t have the wherewithal to sit through the judge call to try to make it stick, especially when my opponent is likely to think I’m just trying to big-time them over a tiny edge, when in reality I’m trying to punish their behavior. It’s for their own good, really.

The moochers. This is a long-time problem in competitive Magic that is exacerbated by the ubiquity of energy decks. Your opponent casts a Turn 1 Attune with Aether, finds their land, and then realizes they have no way to keep track of energy. Maybe they have a die they can leave in the middle of the table or they borrow one and leave it on their sideboard divider, but the entire time I’m silently judging my opponent for not coming prepared to play their deck clearly and efficiently.

It’s your job to come with the necessary dice and tokens so you can clearly keep track of the game state, and yet countless players make no effort to do so, instead relying on the kindness of strangers or tearing bits of paper from their life pad, if they actually have one.

How hard is it to get some paper, tokens, and dice before the tournament? You can afford the hundreds of dollars for a competitive deck and ten dollars for sleeves, but the three bucks for proper accessories is just too much?

I would absolutely support a clear penalty for failure to come to a tournament equipped with necessary accessories. You don’t need to have 40 Goblins for your Empty the Warrens, but having at least two with some dice so you can have a group representing untapped and one for tapped is more than reasonable.

This isn’t hard, people.

Why Do People Like These Things?

As Magic has become more popular, the proliferation of products surrounding the game was bound to happen. Much of what makes Magic great is the vast number of ways people can interact with the game. Some of these products are among the most popular in the game, but popular things often annoy me.

Foil cards. You may think my grievance here is about the way foil cards tend to bend and can become marked, making them hard to play in tournaments. That’s certainly part of it, but my distaste for foils is more fundamental than that. Why does making a card shiny make it more desirable?

Sure, they are rarer than regular cards, so it’s harder to track them all down. But rarity should only be a factor if there is some other desirable trait to go along with it. Foil cards have no such trait. They’re just shiny. If anything, that shine is a demerit, since it can be hard to read under the lights at a tournament.

We’re Humans, not Fish. Why is everyone so attracted to shiny objects? If you want to spend time and money making your deck look cooler, then get all the cards in the same foreign language or signed by their respective artist.

Full-art lands. All right, bring on the pitchforks.

Unhinged and now Unstable lands are wildly popular, and the former command a hefty price tag for a basic land as a result. Their cheaper relatives from Zendikar and Battle for Zendikar are among the most commonly seen lands on coverage.

I hate all of them. The art is overrated (especially the bucket Island) and the cards themselves don’t even look like Magic cards. When I look at them, I see Pokemon Energy cards, which is not a compliment.

Call me old-fashioned, but I like my Magic cards to look like Magic cards. I like the old card frame because change is scary and new things are weird. Get yourself some classy Beta lands or go for some nice Mirage. The latter are inexpensive and the art is great. If you want to go big, then the APAC and Euro promo lands are great as well. I particularly like the Korea Forest and the Netherlands Plains.

Oh, and GURU lands are hideous and gaudy to boot.


The holidays are a stressful time for many people, which is part of what makes Festivus so glorious. It’s low-effort and affords us all the opportunity to release any tension built up over the year. The feats of strength are complete, and right now I feel perfectly at ease and ready to start the New Year with a clean slate. A merry Festivus to you all!