The Kitchen Table #249 – Casual Thoughts

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Thursday, September 4th – Hello folks, and welcome back to the final article before my 250th article next week. Instead of the normal full length article today, I want to write up several topics of recent concern, praise, and import to myself. From the Casual Banned and Restricted list, to a request to all gaming sites on behalf of casual players, I have several things here. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Hello folks, and welcome back to the final article before my 250th article next week. Instead of the normal full length article today, I want to write up several topics of recent concern, praise, and import to myself. From the Casual Banned and Restricted list, to a request to all gaming sites on behalf of casual players, I have several things here. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

For Next Week

One of the things I want to do for my 250th article is to create one, two or three decks around your favorite cards. All I need from you is to know your favorite card in all of Magic. Just hit the forum, and type in your card name. That’s it. Then I will use the pool of favorite cards to build a few decks. It should take less than a minute to click the forum button in this article, and type “CARDNAME” then submit, and hit the back button a few times to get back here. You can even do it after you read the article, so you don’t get confused as to which article you were reading.

A Plea to All Gaming Sites

This next section is a plea to various gaming sites regarding the rarity of Magic cards. A vast majority of sites, including StarCityGames.com and MagictheGathering.com are offenders of this admittedly minor issue, but it’s one I’d like to clear up for casual players.

When the Mythic Rare comes out in Shards of Alara, gaming websites will call them Mythic Rares, but not simply Rares. Why? After all, they are found in the rare slot. Why not refer to them as rare? Because they have a different commonality than regular Rares. Stores, articles, and such will refer to them as their real intended name, not as some other name. Even if Mythic Rares only last a year or two and then leave the game, in ten years, they should still be referred to as Mythic Rares on websites and such, because that was their rarity at the time of their publication.

Arabian Nights, Antiquities, The Dark, Fallen Empires and Homelands are unique among Magic sets. In addition to being among the first sets printed, and having power issues with either being too powerful or not powerful enough, these sets have a problem. For over a decade, players have gotten used to the common/uncommon/rare triumvirate. However, for these five early sets, there were no printed rares.

There were eight cards in a booster pack. Six of those cards were common. Two of those cards were uncommon. Some uncommons were printed at three times the frequency of the other uncommons. The rarer uncommons were called U1s, and the more common ones U3s.

When you opened a pack, you were not guaranteed a U1. You could get two U3s, or a U3 and a U1, or in a very few special packs, you could crack two U1s. (There were a few variations to the numbers in some of the sets, but the basic math, with one set of uncommons more rare than the other set stands true).

Therefore, the rarity scheme of these sets was common/U3/U1, not C/U/R. There are no rares in these sets, period. However, when you look up a card on most gaming sites, they list the U1s as rares. For example, let’s look up Frankenstein’s Monster, from The Dark. Oh look, it says he’s a rare, despite the fact that there were no rares in The Dark. The same is true for, say , Zelyon Sword from Fallen Empires.

Now, I understand that most modern players are not used to the U3, U1 designations. Stores have to demonstrate that Frankenstein’s Monster is more rare than Book of Rass, and this is how they do it. I get that, and saying merely U1 and U3 may not transmit the info that stores need it to. The worst offender, to my mind, is the Wizards website and Gatherer, which lists U1s as rares. They aren’t in the business of selling cards, so why do they need to deviate from the truth?

Why does all of this matter? Why do we care if a website lists Frankenstein’s Monster as rare or U1?

I suppose the old “Truth Matters” may not sway you. We should strive to be truthful where possible. Perhaps you want a more convincing argument, and here is where my casual point above lies. Why should you care?

Because there are formats in which it matters. A perfect example is Peasant Magic, which allows only five uncommons and no rares. I might look up a few cards, unsure as to what their rarity is. The search engine tells me they are rare, so I don’t use them, despite the fact that they are uncommon, not rare, and therefore eligible for those five slots.

There are other formats out there as well that care about the rarity of cards, so it is important to know whether or not a card is rare or uncommon. It’s a simple fix. Change all U1 “rares” to their actual rarity level, and then have a hypertext link to a blurb that explains the rarity of these sets in detail.

Theory of a B&R List

One of the major obstacles I discovered when I published the B&R List for casual players was that people didn’t think casual needed a list. Good! However, I really missed talking about the theory behind the list, and I think some people missed that, so let’s start from the beginning.

Does your casual group use any B&R list as the backbone for decks for your playgroup? Perhaps they use the Legacy list, or the Vintage list. My group uses the Five Color list. Some groups don’t use any lists. Bring whatever you want, and let’s duke it out. If you group qualifies as one of these groups without a list, then of course you will not want a Casual B&R any more than you want any other B&R.

However, for those groups who do use a list, either official or not, would a more casual friendly list be preferred? Wouldn’t having the option to use a new list be a good thing? Sure, it’s not for all groups. Some groups probably don’t have a 60-card deck minimum or a four-copy card maximum. I never intended my B&R list to become the default rule for all casual groups everywhere.

I do want it to be an option for those groups who do use a list of some sort. There are more casual groups out there that have an unofficial set of rules for their kitchen tables than those that do not. From 60 card decks to what formats are legal and whether or not Un- cards are allowed, there are a lot of groups out there with various rules.

There are a lot groups out there that have to do surgery on a B&R list to bring it in line with their casual group’s needs. This was made more obvious when Brainstorm and Ponder were added to the Vintage B&R list. You can see how cards like Yawgmoth’s Will and Tolarian Academy might be problems even in a casual setting, but it would have to be a really screwed up metagame for a multiplayer group to axe Brainstorm and Ponder. Since more groups use the Vintage list than any other (based on unscientific feedback from various articles, e-mails, forum posts, etc.), these groups had to do even more surgery.

Having to print out a Vintage B&R list, and scratch through ten cards on the list and add five more is not an easy thing. How much simpler would it be to have a B&R list that has casual games and casual principles to heart? Sure, you may still have to make changes for your individual playgroup. No single list is perfect for every group. I simply proposed a list more aligned with casual needs.

As an example of that alignment, I present to you the “No Banned Rule,” wherein no card is outright banned unless it is an ante card. Why? Because casual players should be allowed to play with the cards they own. Sure, we might restrict it, but you can still have one in your deck.

Therefore, I think the Casual B&R List is good because it gives playgroups who use lists another option. Even if your particular playgroup is against lists altogether, or is perfectly fine with the Extended List, or has created your own list, or whatever, surely you can see that having another option, especially a casual friendly one, for those that want it is a good thing. It‘s a project worth doing, and worth doing well.

It’s also going to change less than official lists. Just Monday a bunch of cards were pulled off the Vintage list, for example. Barring the printing of a significantly powerful card, there will not be many updates.

Casual B&R Update

So with that, allow me to append to the casual B&R. The first is an optional setting. I got a few e-mails from readers who play with Un- cards but want the B&R to cover them. Excellent request! Here is an optional adjunct to the Casual B&R List, for those groups that allow silver bordered cards.

Silver Bordered Restricted Cards

Aesthetic Consultation
Blacker Lotus *
Enter the Dungeon
Goblin Tutor
Johnny, Combo Player
Mox Lotus **

* – If your playgroup uses errata like ours, then this is restricted for this errata: “Sacrifice Blacker Lotus, Reveal a torn up Blacker Lotus: Add four mana of any one color to your mana pool.” We have the same errata for Chaos Confetti, where you just have to reveal the torn pieces.

** – Oracle actually has this card tap for eight mana, not infinite mana. If your playgroup uses the Oracle wording of this card, then it is not restricted. If they allow this artifact to tap for infinite mana, then it is restricted.

I know that there are a lot of cards there for just two sets, but to be fair, Wizards pushed the power envelope on these sets in many areas, because it would be funny and they would not be used in tournaments. On here we have an effect similar to Shahrazad, which is already restricted. We have a couple of tutor effects. We also have fast mana. Finally we have the ultra annoying Gerrymandering.

The problem with Gerrymandering is simple enough. Suppose I play a card that removes all creatures from the game, then brings them back under other people’s control, like Dimensional Breach. You can remember that the Morphling and Horseshoe Crab are yours. However, it is virtually impossible to remember who’s Mountain, Island, Plains, Forest, and Swamp is whose when Gerrymandering gets played. With such a high annoyance factor, and with a strong chance that you will not get your lands back after the game unless everyone has different sleeves, it’s restricted.

Also note that if you do not use our group’s errata for Blacker Lotus, and you use Oracle for the wording of Mox Lotus, then there are only six cards above, not eight. That makes it more manageable.

I am not anti-tutor per se, and there are a lot of tutors not restricted. You can also play all tutors that are restricted, from Demonic to Vampiric to Imperial Seal. I just want the best tutors restricted. There are tutors like Entomb, Insidious Dreams, Grim Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, and Transmute Artifact that are running around in fours, so there are still lots of good choices out there to round out your deck.

Format Attack

By the way, I am looking for some alternate formats to feature in some upcoming articles. If you would like to see me tackle your personal favorite format, what is it? Hit me up in the forums with your favorite formats.

Ajani Vengeant

I’m telling you now, that if you play this against me in a multiplayer setting, I will personally nut punch you. Then I’ll attack you (not the ‘Walker, but you) and kill you for being annoying. I am not going to let you blow up my lands, and no one else’s, that’s just unfun in multiplayer. Don’t worry, it’s not Casual B&R worthy, but it is something I don’t want to have to have, so my wrath will be revealed upon those who play it. Just as a warning. (The above statement is in jest about the retribution, but means the basic idea of Ajani Vengeant just being flat out bad to play against. )

From the Vault: Dragons

By the time this is published, the mystery will be revealed, but as of right now, there is a lot of confusion as to exactly how many of these will be made, and what the distribution to stores is. I’ve been told by stores that they are only getting two copies, and that’s it, and they are encouraged to sell at whatever price they want.

So, when this is published, we’ll know if this information was correct or not. I suspect that if it is, and there is just a tiny trickle of these released, then there will also be a fan backlash. People want product, it’s that simple. So, make sure you have enough product to go around. WizKids just had a problem with a promotional piece called World’s Finest and not printing enough to go around, so I’ve seen a backlash, and I doubt Wizards wants that.

Still, the rumors are there. It will be interesting to see what is what when all is said and done. It’s also neat to write this on Wednesday, August 27, over a week before the article sees publication, and put down what the rumors are.

Stigma Lasher and Burn

I believe that Stigma Lasher has become the third Fundamental Foe in multiplayer, along with Akroma the First and Darksteel Colossus. It is played a lot, and you simply must have an answer, or else you will die.

Now, there are some decks that don’t plan on gaining life, so against them Stigma Lasher is just a 2/2 creature with wither. However, there are a ton of decks that have some aspect of life gain, from Kokusho and Drain Life to Temple Acolyte and Radiant’s Dragoons to Congregate. Life is more important in multiplayer, where you have to survive multiple threats and opponents, as opposed to duels.

Stigma Lasher’s quick ability to come down and hit with a game changing attack is very, very powerful. If someone manages to Entomb an Akroma, and then bring it back into play on turn 2, you can take a few hits before you must kill it. Therefore, your answer can afford to be three or four mana if needed. That’s an unusual situation, but you can survive if the cards just happen to fall the right way.

Stigma Lasher is different. You don’t need to find the right cards in order to get it out early, you just have to have it in hand along with the mana it requires. You can drop it as soon as the second turn, and swing by the third. Some opponents won’t have any creatures out by then, and some may not have even had a third turn yet. You can hit one of them, and the chance they are winning this game just dropped to nearly zero.

Just like you need removal that can kill an offending Akroma as well as Darksteel, you need very cheap removal that can remove an offending Stigma Lasher, and that means two mana or less, because it can hit you before your third turn.

There are some older cards you might be playing, such as Swords to Plowshares. Swords will kill all three, and remove them from the game to boot.

However, I have found that the inclusion of cheap burn, such as Lightning Bolt, has become more important after the release of Stigma Lasher. Sometimes you would pull these cards for more effective removal spells that do more, like Eyeblight’s Ending or Rend Flesh or even Terminate. However, cheap and easy to play burn is vital in taking out a quick Stigma Lasher.

It’s best to use one mana removal spells. That way, any comes-into-play-tapped lands don’t affect your ability to kill an offending Lasher. It also avoids problems that a card like Terminate might have, with you not having both colors of mana available to you. I’d stick with two cards over the others. Firebolt and Lightning Bolt. Both can kill a Lasher with a minimum of effort. One does extra damage and is an instant, the other rocks flashback. Both can find a way into your decks to kill the inevitable Lasher.

There is another answer to Stigma Lasher, and I want to mention it now. I run Golden Wish in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy. I have a wishboard of cards that I think are useful for me to use as targets of wishes. I am adding Transcendence. With that out, after getting hit with a Stigma Lasher, you cannot die, so that’s my anti-Stigma Lasher tech card. Enjoy!

Five Color Update

Everything passed, so ante is removed from the rules, and all of the cards up for grabs are unrestricted, which includes Bribery, Grinning Totem, Sterling Grove, Skullclamp, Doomsday, and Channel. I voted in favor of making all of these changes except for Skullclamp, so overall, I am happy.

And that brings me to the close of another article, which I hoped you enjoyed! Next week is the 250th article, so get ready for fun! Remember, any formats ideas or your favorite cards are welcomed in the forum, so we can rock some future articles.

Until later…

Abe Sargent