Dog Of Two Head
(A door swings slowly open. Tony is sat upon the toilet. He looks up and smiles)
Right back in the way-beyond-when, I planted my rigid flag into the Star City moon soil by means of a ‘Mandatory Health Warning’ – a brief summary of various afflictions to which the Magic-playing individual was susceptible. Time’s winged chariot has dodged a few jet engine intakes since that moment, and I squat before you an older, wiser (if fatter) individual.
(Close up on hair-ridden bar of soap. Sound of a cistern flushing)
That’s MUCH better.
(Re-ties dressing gown and walks from bathroom into bedroom)
Of course, while physical symptoms are all to easy to spot and, to a certain extent, remedy; what of the psychological pitfalls, stumbling blocks, and sleeping policemen? How should one protect oneself from the mental torments that this (seemingly) humble hobby can inflict? The answer is, of course, to be prepared. One cannot hope to avoid or defeat such assaults upon the consciousness without knowing one’s enemy in the first place – and that, dearest of all things dear to me in the world of M:TG, is what I am prepared (at great personal risk) to reveal to you today. That and some exercises in mitigation.*
1. STUPID WED BURN
Married/long-term attached players experiencing a breakdown in the relationship with their partner. Relationships with children tend to remain unaffected, as the kids are only interested in candy, birthday presents, and watching videos – all of which can be accomplished/provided without the particular Magic player’s presence being required.
Constant arguing and bickering over anything to do with Magic: The Gathering; often related to the number of cards lying around the house, the amount of money spent on cards (as opposed to the amount of money spent on shoes, Interior Design magazines, or chocolate), the amount of time spent away at tournaments, clubs etc and/or the ‘afflicted’ partner talking about nothing else day-in and day-out (even in their sleep).
In the rarest of cases, players may undergo divorce, trial separation, cancelled engagements and hired Contract Killings. If the situation becomes irretrievably sour, you may even be forced to give up Magic: The Gathering altogether!
* Ensure that you have a dedicated space in which your cards reside. Never let them stray from this sanctuary, not even when showing off a particularly nice rare; she (let’s face it, we’re talking about women who hate that their men play with cards and not them) will NEVER be interested – not if it’s one of a kind, not if it has particularly splendid art-work, and especially not if it cost an arm, a leg (and probably a kidney) to get in the first place!
* Absolutely DON’T tell her how much you spend on cards each month. Open boxes in secret and dispose of the wrappers in the middle of the night. Keep the number of expose.d, i.e., visible cards to a minimum – if necessary, covertly rent a garage or industrial plot. If pressured on credit card anomalies, simply state that you’re having an affair and hotels and flowers don’t come cheap.
* Get her to take up yoga or something so she’s out of the house for a couple of hours a week – then you can allocate those special moments to re-sort the layout of your lever-arch files, or update your trades folder without snide comments from the TV room. You might even get ten minutes of one-handed surf-time!
* Listen to what your partner has to say about the other areas of life. Give her some of your time and encourage her to open up about even the most trivial of subjects – remember that she needs to let out feelings about HER day – she has problems and issues too, you know! Be sensitive to these needs, and your relationship will blossom. More importantly, as long as you nod or grunt occasionally, she’ll think you’re taking it all in while you’re really sketching out a design for a new Red/Green Aggro deck.
* Give plenty of notice of when you are planning those weekends away at double-header PTQs or the occasional Grand Prix. Some words of warning: Keep checking the calendar for double-bookings because, while unfair, a visit from Grandma Wilkins can always be argued as ‘more important than a stupid game.’ Consider euthanasia for all elderly, guilt-inducing relatives if this might prove a persistent problem.
2. MANA CASH (and MANA CASH BY PROXY)
A deep-rooted pre-occupation with the game, resulting in the foregoing of essential life elements to financially-support this obsession. Also referred to as "spending your last cent on Magic cards." Mana Cash is often the catalyst for more visible afflictions that are allowed to develop because of the environment it maintains, i.e., STUPID WED BURN, LESSER GARGLEDON etc
Weight loss, estrangement of sexual partner, eviction, a burgeoning collection of commons and uncommons, empty pockets, letters from the Bank Manager etc. In general, an unwillingness to part with money unless one gets a foiled rare in return.
* Ensure that the regular side of your life is maintained by joining ‘direct debit’ schemes and the like, where cash is regularly siphoned off without your intervention. While distasteful, you will thus be safe in the knowledge that the rent is paid, utility bills are kept in check, and the Benefit Agencies won’t come sniffing round your door with burly bailiffs with the intention of selling off everything you own to cover thirty-six months of back alimony. This last bit isn’t as threatening as you might first think, because bailiffs like objects such as TV’s and furniture and NOT iddy-biddy bits of painted paper – you will, by this time, have sold off all of the former in order to garner the latter!
* If you still manage to have a partner, sign everything over into their name (including any wage cheques) and get them to give you a regular allowance (this is NOT a good idea if your partner ALSO plays Magic: The Gathering, as they’re likely to develop MANA CASH BY PROXY – a variant that is harmless to the afflictee, but crippling to you!) To be extra sure, you could always legally empower an external agency to manage your finances for you, e.g. ADB Fiscal Services Ltd (A Subsidiary of The Boydell Corporation) – send me an email and I’ll forward an application form.
* Open an account with your local CCG vendor and tell him to only let you buy $X worth of cards a month. It’s worth a try, though you might get bored and leave before he’s finished laughing.
3. LESSER GARGLEDON
The complete disintegration of feelings with regard to personal hygiene and appearance. This malady is what we brainy-types like to refer to as a ‘secondary condition,’ i.e., it mostly exists as a result of other, more serious, ailments, e.g. as a result of relationally-terminal STUPID WED BURN (a.k.a. "since they split up, he’s let himself go a bit"), or because you’ve become financially-inviable due to MANA CASH.
Halitosis akin to "afflatus" from the arse of the Devil himself; chronic body odour; skin rashes / parasitical infections (lice, ticks, tape-worm, dung-beetle etc); raggedy clothing; matted, unwashed hair; acne you could have people’s eyes out with; and/or crusted, unremovable undergarments.
* If early signs of LG emerge as a result of STUPID WED BURN, it is advisable to move back in with one’s parents as soon as is humanly possible. This stable, comforting environment maintains essential access to hot water, sanitary products, and ‘pocket money’ – the latter is a great combatant to a subsequent MANA CASH infection (unless you are particularly virulent and end up affecting yer good old Dad – see MANA CASH BY PROXY)
* One of the delusions experienced by LG sufferers is the tenet that you don’t NEED to look your best in the M:tG world, as its primary goal is social interaction for the sake of game-play, rather than social interaction in order to get laid.**
4. URZA’S RAGE
The onset of URZA’S RAGE transforms normally mild-mannered, peaceable, amicable individuals into raging, raving, foul-mouthed aggressives. UR is attributable to a deficiency in the IOAG-lobe***** of good Magic players, rendering them incapable of losing gracefully. A recently-discovered variant, named BLINDSEERITIS, has the same physiognomy as UR but includes delusions that the loss is ‘always someone else’s fault,’ e.g. due to mana screw, mana glut, color screw, opponent topdecking in a timely manner etc
An increasingly short-fuse combined with surliness; bad-temperedness; sloth; aggressive body movements; Tourettes-like vocal outbursts; tendency to throw one’s deck across the room; and vicious self-deprecation / personal disgust. Apart from that, nothing to worry about, eh? Such unreasonable and anti-social behaviour is catalytic in the onset of STUPID WED BURN and, possibly, secondary MANA CASH/LESSER GARGLEDON. It may also increase the risk of you getting your friggin’ head kicked in.
* The basic underlying cause of UR is taking the game too seriously, so stop taking it so seriously. Er… That was rather trite advice, wasn’t it?
* Stop drinking coffee and start smoking outrageously large reefers. This has the medicinal benefit of calming you down and, if the toke-rod is huge enough, of calming the entire play hall down as well.
* Allow your partner to tie you to the bed and act out sado-masochistic sexual fantasies upon your naked person. It works for me – and I’m not even suffering from Urza’s Rage.
5. BLINKERED SPIRIT
An inability or stubborn refusal to take up another hobby (eg. Coppertwaddle) in conjuction with / parallel to Magic: The Gathering – despite the ability to coexist without harmful side-effects. In my limited (almost negligible) experience, BS sufferers start out with the reasonable idea of not spreading themselves too thinly (i.e.. financially, temporally, and intellectually) across games and game resources, but the Magical part of this maxim becomes inflamed and swells enormously, destroying normal interests and pastimes in the process.
Not wanting to buy Tony’s excellent two-player, medievally-themed strategy card game; a myopic view of what’s available in the gaming world; stubborn refusal to listen to / read about anything that doesn’t have a mana symbol somewhere on the box.
* Try different games. Face up to the fact you’re an addict and attend one of many local ‘group therapy’ sessions.
* It might be useful to imagine a world without M:TG (probably 2002 onwards, by the look of things, eh? Eh?) – how would you occupy your time?******
6. SERRATED ARROGANCE
Not as uncommon a condition as you might first think, Serrated Arrogance is primarily a malady of the top players who, once they have achieved some measure of success, immediately regard the rest of us with a contempt and spite hitherto reserved for dog-sh*t and local elections.
A tendency to gather together in secret locations with other infected players and/or set up strenuously-moderated e-mail groups to discuss and share ‘Tech’; unwillingness to speak to people with a ranking lower than 1900; derisory and insulting comments about people who don’t win as many boosters as they do; feelings of impregnability; eating a lot, if not all, of the pies; and generally being a rhino’s butt about stuff.
* In an experiment conducted by the DCI last year, several Pros were deliberately infected with Urza’s Rage prior to a major tournament; this had the effect of temporarily reducing their ranking points and, as a consequence, their exhibition of SERRATED ARROGANCE.
* Unfortunately, this illness is not one that can be overcome alone. It is recommended that the infectee is ‘treated’ by a gauntlet of disgruntled medium-ability players with cricket bats and a local police force willing to turn a blind eye, just for a moment, if the remuneration******* is right.
So there you have it, my freshly-squeezed oranges. Don’t say I didn’t warn you (again).
Until next time, may Lady Luck check out your M:TG buns and find them squeezable.
Keep those synapses firing.
* – This is nothing to do with my semi-naked, be-dressing-gowned state; it is how to avoid or reduce the effects of the internal maladies I have heretofore described
** – For the Europeans amongst you, ‘get laid’ is equivalent to ‘have a good shag’***
*** – Some have tried to affect game-play using love-making techniques with limited success****
**** – There’s probably a binaries newsgroup URL for this sort of thing somewhere
***** – "It’s Only A Game"
****** – For the purposes of this exercise, please assume you don’t have an Internet connection. Further exercises in Magical meditation can be found in Dr Gabriel Sneeep’s recently-published self-help manual: "Wake Up To Baking: A Guide to Reducing The Role Of CCGs In One’s Life And The Joys Of Home Baking"
******* – Money