The Magic Show #55 — Issues vol. 2

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Hello everybody, and welcome to another Issues article. Today sees Evan rant long and hard about the quietness of August, the shoddiness of the Magic Online Version 3 Beta, the ridiculousness of the cult of Magic celebrity, and the awesomeness of Kenji Tsumura. Enjoy!

Hello everybody, and welcome to another Issues article. Are you ready for this jelly? Because it’s time to get raw…

Death of Content
Music — “23” by Blonde Redhead

First up, let me say that August is frickin’ dead. Dead in Magic terms. I mean, last year we had to suffer through Coldsnap, and that was pretty bad, but this year there is even less going on. Tenth Edition, while the best core set that’s ever been released, in black borders even, is just not really driving the metagame scene right now. If you didn’t play in Nationals, which is like the most overblown PTQ ever, why would you work on Standard? Block PTQs still have a few weeks to go, and then we’re going to be looking forward to Lorwyn.

But August… man, the dog days just drag on, don’t they? I don’t even want to think about how little action we’re going to be seeing over the next few weeks. I mean, Mark Young took weeks off, the Magical Hack Sean McKeown decided to let others write his column, and the weekly schedule hasn’t been the same since.

Now once September comes along we’ll be talking about the new mechanics, the unfair blue cards, how green got the shaft. But until then, we’ve got weeks to fill with something… and sometimes that something is kind ugly.

Face Lift
Music — “I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)” by John Mayer

What is up with people looking NOTHING like their pictures? I mean NOTHING. Who is Chris Romeo? Who is this Kyle Sanchez picture and what guy is looking at me from his articles?

I know I need a new picture, I’ve lost weight. But damn people, can we please accurately represent ourselves? This doesn’t affect all of us, including Patrick Chapin who does his best Marilyn Manson impression, and, Stephen Menendian, resident metrosexual GQ lawyer guy. (Music — “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred)

Me? I don’t write mind-blowing articles week in and week out about three turn games. I just try to make d*ck and fart jokes to keep you guys entertained.

MTGO v3 Beta
Music — “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit

Okay. Okay. I get it. You’re a huge company. You create a digital product for the masses. Oh, the meetings you must’ve been privy to. I wonder if anyone asked if the icon can come in Cornflower Blue, because the rest of it is pretty ridiculous.

I don’t know about you, but if you call that an interface, you should be ashamed of yourself. There’s a lesson to be learned here: Don’t mess up what already works. Version 2.5, while ugly, slow, and prone to crashes, at least had an interface that was usable.

Suddenly here comes Version 3, and instead of those nice bubbly icons to navigate with, we have this miniscule little Start Menu where we are supposed to jump from room to room.

Let me tell you a little secret, Wizards: You know the last thing I care about when I play Magic Online? Other matches. Seriously. I have never understood why I have to sort a spreadsheet when I enter a play area. Those other people in the tournament practice room? They’re practicing. I shouldn’t have to navigate around their damn matches to try and find my own. Why not separate those who are playing and those who aren’t? Why are they in the same list?

Why not try and create feature matches in each room? Perhaps those with the highest rating get noticed, but the rest are, well, the rest. You don’t need to know how many other matches are going on. I sure don’t, anyway. What I need to know is, are there any other players looking to play in my format? And if not, I’d like for new players entering the room to find me easily.

And now let’s tackle the deckbuilder. Have you ever used Magic Workstation? They have what can only be described as the best deckbuilding tool ever. It has the ability to search based on keywords, it also has the ability to search on keywords and the exclusion of certain keywords, plus searching by mana cost, show only certain colors from certain sets, the whole bit. You should take notes here Wizards. Don’t be afraid to steal good ideas, because the ones you’re coming up with aren’t cutting it.

Oh, and whoever told you that you have to theme out the interface to the point of unreadability should be taken outside and beaten with a tire iron. I am so tired of trying to read black text on a green marble background you have no idea.

I’ve played the version 3 beta for awhile now, I even game my hard earned money to Gamespy in order to do so. And I tell you, if this is the future of Magic Online, I’m afraid I’m going to have to cash out. This is ridiculous, guys… you can do better than this.

Stop trying to recreate the wheel and realize what good things you can take from version 2.5. The new interface is awful and the use of tabs is not bad. I repeat: Use tabs, don’t be afraid. Stop relying on your miniscule Start Menus and impossible-to-read text. I want this to be a great product. Right now it’s got a long way to go.

World Champs
Music — “Abel” by The National

So Legacy is coming to the World Championships, woohoo! It’s about time we get a format like Legacy rocking the hurricanes of the biggest stars in Magic.

Oh, did I say stars? Because I wonder how many “stars” we have in Magic right now. Are the Pro Player Cards working? Do more people know who Osyp, Wafo-Tapa and Herberholz are? What about Antonino De Rosa, who was issued another card to make up for his goofy one?

Are we trying to create a celebrity culture? Do we want to know the private lives of these guys, or are we just interested in their playskill? Being that Magic has such a high amount of variance, meaning it can give wins to players who don’t really “earn” them through something like mana screw, how can we truly cheer on a guy who can get a few bad draws and mulls to five before he just up and drops out of contention?

Can we invest in “stars” that have to battle these hindrances? Obviously players like Kai and Finkel made it look easy, but is that because they were so good (probably) or because there was less competition? Do you know how tough it is to win a PTQ? I’ve even heard of scrubs at a Pro Tour. Let me repeat: scrubs at a Pro Tour. How in the hell do these people exist? Where do you get scrubs in any Pro Tour that wasn’t the lucksackian Two-Headed Giant format?

I mean, you know a format is inherently lucksackian when the Pro Tour champs were two unknowns who killed people with poison. Sliver kids for the win!

But that’s another distinction: How “unknown” are the unknowns? How many wins does it take for people to know who you are? To go beyond a picture on MagictheGathering.com and become a name and face people trust? I mean, let’s face, should Wafo-Tapa ever decide to write Magic articles, the world would listen and put complete faith in what was said. Even if got something wrong, the detractors would be drowned out by the cries of “you just don’t understand his genius.”

But good Magic writers aren’t born overnight, and many writers struggle for a long time before they get the recognition they deserve. Sometimes, even when you do earn that recognition, people try to play it off. Remember when Brian David-Marshall tried to call Friggorid “Ich Bein Ichorid” or some garbage? Deck names are as much a pedigree as the deck themselves. The ability to claim technology for your own, or at the very least getting credit for such discoveries, drives many of the deckbuilders. Why would Patrick Chapin be called the Innovator if he didn’t show us stuff like Amrou Scout and Bound in Silence? Even if it did scoop to Poison Slivers, no one was thinking of using that stuff before.

But that’s another caveat: If you have a stage and a forum where people listen to you, many players can get the impression that your shared technology is all your own. That the best plays and combos were all from your brain and not your collective friendly playgroup.

I mean, not all of us can draft at John Finkel’s house, and not all can name decks after ourselves, whether we designed them or not. But this is another gray area where people get uncomfortable and try to play off such egomaniacal claims as Overzealous Writer Syndrome.

I’ve been guilty of it, pushing my Glittering Wish Control with a horrible manabase. But luckily I had other smart people, such as Josh Silvestri and Richard Feldman, who set me straight on the manabase and the card choices. It made it a better deck. A deck I wish I had played in the Kentucky Open, but such are the breaks.

Just remember: The next time you play Flores Blue or Innovator Korlash, think of all the little people who may or may not have suggested cards to make them better decks. Not all figureheads are creative geniuses. Many of them simply take the best suggestions and put them together, a sort of Dr. Dre Flores to Snoop Chapin Dogg.

(Dancing…yes, really) Music — “Ain’t Nuthin But A G Thang” by Dr. Dre)

Music — “Paranoid Android” by Radiohead

Finally, I’d like to point out a few people who, despite the doldrums of the season, are still producing incredible work.

First up, Adrian Sullivan is the motherfreaking man right now. Every article he’s published recently has not only been true but can make you a better Magic player. This is important stuff as he not only innovated The Baron, which used the U/B Teachings shell with Gaea’s Blessing, but then qualified for Valencia with it and then wrote a brilliant article on how using 61 cards isn’t the end of the world. I’ve ran 61 before and I kinda liked it. Sure I’ll adhere to the sixty-card limit as necessary, but when you look at the math, it’s not quite the shocker you’d expect.

Also, Richard Feldman still gives me a reason to tell everyone to get Premium, and Stephen Menendian, as mentioned earlier, writes the most dazzling articles on Vintage I’ve ever seen. God forbid Menendian ever leave his post, I don’t think I could read about Vintage from any other person.

Patrick Chapin is also rocking his new weekly series, and I look forward to it each week. Sure, I’ll poke fun at him (poke), but that doesn’t mean I don’t barn him extensively and don’t love all of his decks. Sure, he’s got a hard on for Korlash, and that’s fine, but that’s not where it stops. New ideas are his stock-in-trade, and they’re worth paying for.

Kenji also dropped by for another article, and it’s hard to describe how cool that is. The guy gets a translator and lays down both his technology and his playstyle, while giving us the goods on his Mono Blue Control deck. The deck who, I might add, took half of the Top 8 spots in a recent PTQ in Lincoln, Nebraska. Powerful much?

The rest of that Top 8, by the way, featured more U/B Teachings lists, which often come in three and four-color varieties. Boy, what an interesting deck, huh? “I guess I’ll go tutor for this tutor and then play Finkel while I tutor and then tutor. Oh, and tutor. Tutor.”

Block format looks to have devolved into the following: Mono Blue, U/B Teachings and all of its bastard children, and stuff with Tarmogoyf in it. I’m just waiting for the “innovation” of putting Tarmogoyf in the Mono Blue Control list. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t know. But someone will do it with Coalition Relics or something, just you wait.

And that’s all the time I have today to rant and complain. I thank you for listening. We’ll return next week with a very special Invitational-esque announcement that I’m sure you won’t want to miss.

So until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin, tapping the cards so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written and performed on Thursday, because I was so busy filming content for next week’s special episode…