Charlie-In-The-Box: I am the official sentry of the Isle of Misfit toys.Â
Hermey: A jack-in-the-box for a sentry?
Charlie-In-The-Box: Yes. My name is…
Rudolph: Don’t tell me: Jack.
Charlie-In-The-Box: No, Charlie. That’s why I’m a misfit toy. My name is all wrong. No child
wants to play with a Charlie-In-The-Box.
Bad names are going to be the least of their problems.
So, Mark Rosewater big reveal about the Great Designer Search 2 turned out to be that
WotC has built a Wiki where designers can come together
and share their ideas. It’s a real spectacle. You can check out the
yourself. If you’re inclined to peruse every entry, you’d better bring a lunch bucket â€” some of these guys aren’t
joking around. There’s a lot of design muscle being flexed in preparation for the first phase of the contest.
Pretty soon, MaRo the Red-Nosed Reindeer is going to swoop down and rescue eight promising
souls. These eight will be taken to Christmastown to fight to the death. In the end, three survivors will be allowed to make “authentic” toys
for all the girls and boys who aren’t on Santa’s DCI “naughty list.”
My really quick thoughts:
1. Rosewater indicated
introductory article) that collaboration would be part of what the Wiki is about, and this strikes me as something to which designers may not be accustomed.
They’ll be asked to incorporate feedback and ideas from many potential sources instead of going
, and for many of these hamburglars,
it’ll be their first experience in allowing the mayonnaise-stained hands of the gaming proletariat to clutch at their divine works.
I have an inkling that they’ll handle it the same way Jennifer Lopez would handle being
made to share a dressing area with seven or eight sound technicians.
I’m not saying designers are defensive about their designs, but… yeah. Expect a lot
I see where you’re coming from, but I really want him to cost BBBBB…
sorts of deals. The
collaboration requirement will actually get them two different ways â€” they can either refuse to take any advice and lose out to egomania, or take advice
and lose out to their “helpful” buddies being, for lack of a better turn of phrase, huge turds.
A few people have even asked
for opinions on their designs. The way I play, they may
as well be asking John F. Kennedy, Jr. to help them design a small aircraft.
Designers who can separate the wheat from the chaff will have a leg up on the others.
That’s just Way #7863 of saying that talented people who keep their egos in check will win.
2. Early on, nobody wants to give large numbers of designs away, so they’re concentrating
on big-picture, creative overviews for their personal fantasy worlds. They’re setting the scene, as it were, for when the contest kicks off, and
then they can start busting rhymes.
For these eager flavormeisters, coming up with a good name is step one! Now, without looking at
the Wiki, let’s play a game. This game is called:
“Loathsome Disease, Or Plane/Block Name?”
The game is simple. For each entry on this list, guess whether it’s the name of a
plane/block from the MTG Design Wiki, or some sort of foul affliction. Once you guess, click the name and all will be revealed.
If you correctly guess ten out of ten you win an (un)official “I Kold Magicians”
3. The most important thing to take from Mark Rosewater Monday article:
“Isn’t this more testing applicants’ ability to recognize good ideas than coming up
with their own?
Yes, yes it is.”
In my opinion, a vast improvement over the first contest.
Next week: More GDS2 yammering.
Rudolph: But you fell off the edge of the cliff.
Yukon Cornelius: Didn’t I ever tell you about Bumbles? Bumbles bounce.
For those of you sick of all the space I devote each week to a Sealed Deck pool you
couldn’t care less about, rejoice. While the card pool I opened this week was the strongest yet, I sadly neglected to save it. Don’t worry â€”
the build was pretty obvious.
The deck was:
Check out that blue! I’ll be drawing more extra cards than [Note to self: Try to create
illusion of connection to pro game by inserting name of cheater lambasted by Paul Rietzl].
My pool also had two Lightning Bolts and a Fireball, but I had no Terramorphic Expanse, and with
two Corrupts, lowering the count of Swamps in the deck would’ve really messed with the way it played. I didn’t end up running them. I went
4-3 last week using a Fireball/double-Bolt deck with bad mana and fixing, and I wasn’t about to do it again.
I should’ve cut a Barony Vampire for an Island, however. My deck was the sort that would
like to hit land drops all game, especially if they’re Swamps. For those of you thinking that seventeen lands were fine because I had two
copies of Preordain, I didn’t really want to have to Preordain for land early â€” I’d rather have a four-land hand and use
Preordain to find gas instead of having a two-land hand and ship gas to the bottom in order to find land #3. Throughout the day, I boarded in an Island
after almost every game 2, usually for Barony Vampire.
Here’s what happened, and for the safety and sanity of all concerned, I’ll try to
avoid switching tenses every sentence or so.
Round 1 vs. xpMetal (53
) — U/G
Three of his turns were:
“Play Brindle Boar, go.”
“Play Warlord’s Axe, no attack, go.”
The veritable Tempo-matic, but I was somehow able to cope with the heat.
With the World’s Biggest Brindle Boar holding down the ground, I settled for attacking him
in the air, and he didn’t have much of anything to stop me. When it was over, I resisted the urge to click “Show Hand” while holding
two Corrupts and a Mind Control.
I kept a hand without blue mana on the strength of a Liliana’s Specter (and I was fine if
I drew an Island). Things went downhill quickly as his turn 3 Scroll Thief burgled me of more than my scrolls. On turn 5, he added a Whispersilk Cloak,
and I had to figure out how to win the game while he was drawing two cards a turn, and while I had no tempo and bad mana.
Anyone here think I’m capable of that? No? Me neither.
I was off to a nice start in this game, but my flying force soon ran into a stumbling block in
his Air Servant, which was backed up by plenty of mana. I emptied my hand of fliers. He added a Platinum Angel, and it looked like I might be in
Luckily, I topdecked Corrupt for the Angel and prepared to nickel and dime some damage through
his Air Servant. It turned out I didn’t need to think very hard, as I topdecked Mind Control the turn after.
Round 2 vs. 26kaboom26 (16
) — R/U
I had to double mulligan into Specter, Corrupt, Azure Drake, Foresee, and Island. This
didn’t turn out to be too much of a disadvantage, as my opponent was enamored with the Leyline of Anticipation in his opening grip and kept a stinky
two-Mountain special in order to take advantage. He was still stuck on two Mountains when I drew Swamp and then Preordain, which got me a third land.
I followed up with Foresee, and we entered a mid-game where I had seven spells in my hand and
four lands; he had three Mountains and seven spells of his own. (And let’s not forget that all-important Leyline of Anticipation.)
Leyline of Anticipation, everyone.
I was racing his air force with a Cloaked Nether Horror when he dropped down a Harbor Serpent
that threatened to fix my wagon. I couldn’t get through with anything but the Horror, which alone wasn’t enough to finish him off, and he
was threatening to pop me back for an ungentlemanly figure, an amount that could’ve taken us to a rubber match.
I decided to send a call-out to a member of the WotC creative team to see if he could help.
Round 3 vs. mrjebus27 (13
) — U/G/r
Game 1 was a long and drawn-out affair. Really the only important thing you need to know is that
I resolved Jace’s Ingenuity and Foresee twice while I was under no pressure. A lot of my money cards were buried somewhere deep in my deck,
but I still eventually won through his Giant Spiders and Azure Drakes just by having more stuff.
His Augury Owl gave him a smooth draw â€” Owl, then Bolt/Mana Leak, Azure Drake. I had tons
of gas in hand, but by the time I could start drawing cards and casting Corrupts, I was at eleven with a Whispersilk Cloaked Air Servant beating me
down. He was at twenty.
Game 3 was a funny game. I kept five lands, Jace’s Ingenuity, and Corrupt on the play. His
draw seemed really slow, with a Sylvan Ranger and little else. Reading him for Mana Leak, I did the following things:
- Passed instead of playing turn 4 Conundrum Sphinx.
Passed instead of playing end-of-turn Ingenuity when I had five lands, meaning I actually
did nothing on both my turn and his.
- Nantuko Shade turn 6 instead of any other spell.
I hit seven lands and cast Conundrum Sphinx, but it died to Diminish after one attack. He then
sent in Gaea’s Revenge, but it just traded with my Shade (not sure about this attack on his part), and I cast Jace’s Ingenuity at the end of
the turn, allowing me to keep hitting land drops. He’d tapped low for the Gaea’s Revenge, so I tapped out in turn, casting Azure Drake
and Nightwing Shade. The Shade was a bit of a monster with nine lands in play. I’d also picked up the second of my two Corrupts and had five
swamps to power them.
He played Air Servant leaving UURG untapped; I topdecked a sideboarded Duress and scoped him for
the lulz-worthy hand of Mana Leak, Mana Leak, Sylvan Ranger. That made me feel a lot better about my early plays.
From there, Iâ€”
Yes, yes â€” very good. I’ve been waiting to make that joke for eleven years, since the
article. When I bird drafts, I
can’t get enough of guys taking Leaks.
Oh, and I Corrupted his Air Servant and whittled him down with my guys.
Round 4 vs. bourdibourdi (3
) — U/W/r
I was racing his Serra Angel with a Cloaked Rotting Legion and dropped Liliana’s Specter.
When he had red mana open but discarded Lightning Bolt anyway, I figured I was cooked â€” his other two cards were clearly the Nutter Butters. The
next turn, I was bracing for anything from Sun Titan to Ajani Goldmane, but all he did was cast Scroll Thief, bash, and pass.
The next turn I knocked him to four and put a call in to Nug Beyer.
In this game, he was on the play and declined to trade his Wild Griffin for my Child of Night,
but as I curved out, he changed his tune and kept his 2/2s home. (God bless you, Scroll Thief!) He had two Mana Leaks and managed to counter Corrupt
and Mind Control with them, but I had plenty more gas where that came from, thanks to my never-ending supply of card-drawing spells. His Sword of
Vengeance made things interesting, but he was too land-light to really move it around much, and I had so many cards I just suicided my guys into
it for a couple of turns when the end was in sight.
Round 5 vs. DanDaleney (9
) — U/W
I had an aggressive start, but his speed bump, Elite Vanguard, took a lot of the luster out of
my Barony Vampire. While I struggled to find an Island in my top eighteen cards, he was looking for a second blue to cast Frost Titan. I was holding
Mind Control and drew my first Island right before he drew his second, allowing him to cast Titan and lock my blue source down. I couldn’t
His board was Cloud Elemental, Elite Vanguard, and Assault Griffin to my Nightwing Shade, Thief,
and Child when I decided to crack with Shade and start sitting on Cancel even though I had Liliana’s Specter, Azure Drake, and Rotting Legion in
my hand, all castable.
The reason I did that is that he couldn’t really do much with that board, despite having
five power worth of fliers. Cloud Elemental can’t block Scroll Thief, and Elite Vanguard just dies to it. So he couldn’t attack with Assault
Griffin â€” it was his only Thief blocker.
Anyway, it turned out to be a good decision because I managed to Cancel his Ajani Goldmane the
next turn, which would’ve completely blown me out had it resolved. He ended up swinging anyway and letting me get in for a card with the Thief,
and from there, I just buried him by having more dudes. Frost Titan might have saved him, but it didn’t show up.
He just didn’t have it. I had a Child of Night, Whispersilk Cloak, Mind Control, Corrupt
kind of draw, and he had an Ajani’s Mantra, Siege Mastodon kind of draw. Neither of his bombs appeared, and I was able to beat him down with his
own Air Servant.
Round 6 vs. 141Woyak (4
) — U/B/r
Game 1 was long and involved. He had Crystal Ball going for ages and cast both Frost Titan and
Rise from the Grave (on Barony Vampire… okay, just kidding â€” it was on Frost Titan), but I managed to win with Whispersilk Cloak on a stolen
You know, MODO… if you wanted the guy to win that badly, all you had to do was say so. You
didn’t need to be a jerk about it.
We traded for a while, and the only option I was left with was to race Inferno Titan. Sounds
like a winning proposition, right?
Round 7 vs. bolov0 (5
) — U/B
My breakers were the best of any 15-pointer, so I wasn’t too worried about this round.
I punted by missing Nantuko Shade pump damage on turn 3 for no good reason. I cast Preordain and
then just served and chilled instead of tapping my Swamps. The game became very complicated: he was on one life multiple times, and a comical
series of topdecks occurred that allowed him to live even though I had Whispersilk Cloak for the entire latter half of the game.
He eventually won. That’s fine, I certainly didn’t deserve it.
This was a tight one; he was facing lethal and had to draw the game by bouncing and replaying
his own Howling Banshee.
I assembled Child of Night + Whispersilk Cloak early, and we traded cards until he was sitting
on eight life, and I was on thirty with a hand full of gas thanks to Foresee. Sure was nice to just have a four-point life swing every turn about which
his colors couldn’t do a darn thing.
He blew me out with Viscera Seer/Reassembling Skeleton vs. my zero pressure, graduating to
Triskelion once it was time to take care of business. Viscera Seer had the nice side effect of making my Corrupts awful.
I ended up finishing either seventh or eighth.
The draft had its ups and downs.
I started out on the U/W path with an Aether Adept first and a Squadron Hawk second, and pretty
much followed that the whole way. I never cracked anything amazing and didn’t get any Blinding Mages, but I did get my hands on four (!!)
Squadron Hawks and three Aether Adepts.
Looking for finishers, I was happy to pick up a Warlord’s Axe that nobody else wanted.
Without an Inspired Charge or a five-mana blaster like Serra Angel or Air Servant, I’d have to depend on my Hawks and Stormfront Pegasi to take
it home for me while my Adepts served up steaming hot ladles of tempo.
The deck was:
The infamous Siege Mammoth was actually in the side, but he saw a lot of action against non-blue
decks when I boarded out the Harbor Serpent.
Quarterfinals vs. ozmanozguney (7
) — U/B
This was a little rough. I was off to a Hawkin’ good start when he played Conundrum
Sphinx, completely shutting my offense down. Waiting him out wasn’t an option because he had Alluring Siren down as well. What I needed was a Pacifism
or an Aether Adept, but I couldn’t find a second Island, and my Pacifism was Negated. Even Harbor Serpent couldn’t take it home, and he
started chaining Elixir of Immortality with card draw spells â€” first just to stay alive, then to take control.
I conceded when he had four creatures to my none, seven cards in hand to my none, and was
nowhere near dead.
He Assassinated my first two fliers, but I soon had all four Hawks out again. He Signed in Blood
himself early and had too much land and too little time. I drew Safe Passage to go with the Cancel in my hand, which slammed the door on his only
chance to stabilize â€” a big Corrupt. He had it â€” even had Cancel backup for the Corrupt, but since I had a Cancel of my own, it
Semifinals vs. 141Woyak (4
) — R/G
You may remember this guy as the dude with the two Titans.
His Mitotic Slime wanted to chat, but I replied with less talk and more Hawk. He still had a
chance, as he was on five and Plummeted me down to four power worth of fliers after I Safe Passaged his swinging team. Of course, I Holy Strengthed for
the win, with Negate for his Lightning Bolt.
I curved out with Silvercoat Lion, Aether Adept, two Stormfront Pegasi against his Steel
Overseer and zilch. When his next play was Mitotic Slime, and I got to untap and Pacifism it with Negate in hand, I knew it was over.
Finals vs. GMANSokol (1
) — B/G
Well, it comes down to this… for all the glory! I’m not going to go into too much
detail here â€” these replays are too painful to watch.
He had a turn 4 Acidic Slime for my only Plains, and I lost despite having two Aether Adepts and
a Squadron Hawk in my opening hand. One more Plains, and that would’ve been all she wrote, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
Sigh. Oh, America… it stings.
Check this out. He took a mulligan and even whiffed on a Duress against my hand of Squadron
Hawk, Siege Mastodon, and five lands. So I was up two cards. Squadron Hawk put me up a couple more, and I had all four Hawks out on turn 4.
He shut me down with Howling Banshee; I mucked up the ground with Siege Mastodon and lived the
dream by putting Holy Strength on a Water Servant. He responded with Cudgel Troll. So we were totally locked up with high toughness creatures and
regenerators on the ground and my Hawks staring down his Howling Banshee in the air. An Aether Adept at any point would’ve put the game away, but
it didn’t come. What did come was a lot of land â€” I didn’t miss a land drop for the first eleven turns of the game.
Eventually a lot of attacking and counter-attacking happened. My Hawks gradually traded with his
fliers, his ground guys did some chumping of my Water Servant (even Cudgel Troll went down while double-blocking Siege Mastodon on a turn when he
I gradually got him down to one life. I was at nine. My board was Water Servant with Holy
Strength to his was Stone Golem, Garruk’s Companion, and Llanowar Elves. He had no cards in hand. I had Diminish and Negate.
I attacked into him, knowing he would chump with the Elf, but also knowing he’d only be
able to crack back with one guy if he drew anything besides a creature. He did in fact draw a nice one â€” Acidic Slime. He cast it and attacked
me down to two, leaving me to wonder what would’ve happened if I’d just left my Water Servant on defense.
On my turn, I topdecked Stormfront Pegasus.
I realized I still probably had him despite my reckless attack. If I were to play the Pegasus
and hang back, he’d likely attack with everything and try to kill me. I could then block two guys and Diminish the third, taking one damage,
falling to one life, and attacking back for the win. Even if he were to pull a sneaky one and attack with only the Acidic Slime, I could just either Diminish
it or block with Water Servant and swing for the win while protecting Stormfront Pegasus with Negate.
I played out the Pegasus and waited. He drew for his turn and then turned all his guys sideways.
With fifteen cards left in his deck and twelve creatures already accounted for between the board and graveyard, there was about an 80% chance
that the last card in his hand was a blank or a spell I could Negate.
Yes? Robert Frowney, I’m really rather…
Robert Frowney, if it’s all the same to you, I’m really trying to concentrate here.
I don’t know what your problem is, butâ€”
Guess I’ll play for eight hours just to throw it away.
Not much else to say. I kicked myself around the apartment for a good five minutes, but
don’t feel too sorry for me. I still received 27 packs of M11, and winning the whole thing would’ve been too much of a temptation to “Big
Now I’m right back where I belong â€” hurfing and durfing it with the rest of the
Next week: No Sealed portion next week. I can’t get excited about M11 Sealed with the
online Scars Prereleases just around the corner. And I once got excited about an episode of “Ice Road Truckers,” so it’s not like
my standards are high.
Flavor of the Week
Yukon Cornelius: This fog’s as thick as peanut butter!
Hermey: You mean pea soup.
Yukon Cornelius: You eat what you like, and I’ll eat what I like!
At least he didn’t say it was as thick as steel.
Now that Scars of Mirrodin is out, let’s talk about the texts. Texts are something akin to
a bonsai tree â€” a tiny version of something that’s usually much larger, requiring considerable expertise to get “just
right.” If you botch one word of your novel about the defiant bad-boy teen who plays by his own rules, it’s likely that none of the thirteen-
year-old girls will notice. In flavor text, one word is an eternity.
I’m going to list my favorite texts from Scars of Mirrodin, as well as texts that I believe
could’ve used a little more work.
I was actually part of the flavor
team for this set and won’t be talking about any of the texts I contributed.
Fangren spur may sound louder, but Viridian resurgents claim that the horn of the vorrac
creates a truer, more inspiring note.
A great idea almost always makes for a great flavor text. It makes sense that on a plane of
metal, the “bones” of wild animals can pretty easily be molded into various wind instruments. This card also shows us a slice of Viridian
life. You can imagine a Viridian scout lecturing a young underling on the best way to make a signal horn, and in doing so, you get the idea that these
people are part of an actual society with unique customs and traditions.
“Before the blessed assault begins, we must seek specimens that are well-adapted to our way
of . . . life.”
â€”Sheoldred, Whispering One
It’s rare for a speaker quoted in flavor text to show some subtle personality with the
cadence of their words. I’m not talking about “Haha, I’m a dumb goblin!” sort of personality â€” that stuff comes across
loud and clear and rarely rises to a thought-provoking level. In this case, though, the speaker seems to sense some irony in what is being said.
Characters who sense subtle things are smart. Smart characters are characters we can respect. And characters we can respect are the easiest to root
Long reach, short attention span.
I give a pass to one-line flavor texts most of the time â€” one line isn’t enough room
to do anything really amazing. It’s for this reason that they deserve extra appreciation when they work.
This text is pleasantly funny and fits the card mechanics perfectly. In only five words, this
text gets across the idea that:
- the Ogre is large
- the Ogre takes things
- the Ogre is precocious
- the Ogre quickly discards what it grabs
That’s an idea every 1.2 words. A really good text.
Where the Oxidda Chain mingles with the Mephidross, oil-suffused metal crumbles away,
leaving walls of blackened bones.
Where the Tangle overruns the Oxidda mountains, metallic beasts scratch their territories in
Where the Razor Fields beat back the Tangle, the crowded thicket yields to bright scimitars
Oil-suffused metal crumbling away to reveal ashen, skeletal substrata. Metallic predators
clawing their hunting boundaries into tarnished surfaces. Razorgrass reflecting the Whitesun, creating a glinting demarcation at the place where the
Tangle ends and the Razor Fields begin. There’s a lot of great imagery here, information that works in tandem with the art to really flesh out the
world of Mirrodin.
I’m not sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say that all five texts from the lands were
written by actual WotC employees and not contractors. These texts took a lot of effort and brainstorming. It’s also hard for a contractor to
nail a full cycle.
“Until we shed the curse of sentience, we must endure its grotesque handiwork.”
â€”Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
A lot of texts strive to rise above the level of dime-store insight. The “grotesque
handiwork of sentience” is just a really nice turn of phrase that is head and shoulders above a lot of the stuff you’ll see. This text also does
a nice job of making you ask yourself how alien must be the mind that formed this idea, that it sees sentience as grotesque. Quality work.
Nitpicks & Stinkers
Overall, the flavor text in Scars of Mirrodin is pretty good. I don’t really have many
complaints that aren’t obviously subjective. That said, it’s time for some complaining.
Its venom drips with Phyrexia’s hate.
Fangs can drip with venom, and water can drip with regularity, and words can drip with hate or
venom… but I don’t think venom can drip with hate. Venom can drip
, I guess… if you stretch it.
See, this is constructed like venom is the object from which hate is dripping, when in fact,
venom itself drips… bah, whatever. I need a drink.
“Let my ignominy build walls thicker than iron and stronger than darksteel.”
â€”Thrun, the last troll
“The hypocrisy of these elves is thicker than steelâ€”destroying â€˜unnatural metal’
with their own enchanted swords.”
â€”Kara Vrist, Neurok agent
Somebody in high places likes this “thicker than” thing. The problem is,
“thickness” is usually something you use to describe the consistency of non-solids (or the dancers at a strip club in Baltimore). Solid substances
don’t have a uniform “thickness” in the way these flavor texts use the word. Iron can be thin if pounded into a sheet, or
“thick” if molded into an anvil or barricade. The word you want for solids is “dense,” or something like that.
A statement like “blood is thicker than water” makes sense because thickness is an
actual property of liquids. “This fog is as thick as pea soup” also makes sense.
“Their hypocrisy is thicker than steel” doesn’t make sense. “Their
hypocrisy is thicker than a steel wall” makes sense; though of course it’s awful, and you don’t really need the word “steel”
This blunder is a bit awkward, since Thrun is supposed to be wise, and yet this quote makes him
sound like he’s senile and wanders through the Bladehold suburbs at night in his bathrobe, looking for his son even though the kid has been out
of his soul-trap for like twenty years. I mean… what is he even talking about? Does iron have some special property of thickness that other
metals don’t? “Hey, darksteel is strong â€” now I need to name something thick! How about iron? That’s much thicker than other
If you’re going to “thicker than hurf and stronger than durf,” at least have
the text make sense. Both of these texts could’ve been fine if someone had thought about it for a couple of minutes. Asceticism especially is a
worthy idea; it just needed to be executed properly.
Also, it’s a children’s card game, I’m a windbag, and nobody cares.
“Death shall prevail as long as our will falls to rust. May necessity anneal our
â€”Ghalma the Shaper
I get it. She’s a blacksmith. I wonder if Ghalma says “forge me up a bowl of
cereal” to her Wardens when she rolls out of her metallo-bed at anvil-rise each morning. If they’re not snappy enough with breakfast, does
she lose her temper? Is her favorite movie
Ferrous Bueller’s Day Off?
PS: Generally, annealing actually makes things softer and more easily workable. Oops. I dunno. I
guess she’s saying that she hopes people will be less likely to break, or that they’ll be able to roll with the Phyrexio-punches, or
something. No doubt it would’ve been clearer with more references to metallurgy.
Next week: The Ten Types Of Bad Flavor Texts (with examples from throughout Magic’s
See you guys in seven days or so. In the meantime, remember that if you love doing something, it
doesn’t matter what I say about it. Also, all of your designs stink.
So do all my flavor texts.
* Okay, not really. I can’t back that up.