A very recent X-Files (quick! if you taped it last Sunday and haven’t watched it yet, STOP READING) featured a quiet housewife who ended up being the alter ego of a horrible, vengeful monster. I enjoyed this episode immensely – have you noticed many of the really good ones feature Scully and Mulder doing most of their dialogue in separation, e.g. over the phone? – and it played right into the theme that I had painstakingly crafted for this week’s column.
For those of you who need to get up to speed, X-Files doesn’t always focus on the damnable hunt for alien conspiracies. The good episodes are the one-offs tilted toward a bit of horror, or humor, or both. (Please, don’t start a response thread on how cool the conspiracy episodes are. The awesome "life is a box of chocolates" retrospective featuring the Cigarette Smoking Man aside, these characters have been spent, the themes are tired, who CARES what the aliens are, what they want, or what box they’ve stuffed Mulder’s sister into now. The truth is out there – and bored silly.) This particular episode had Mulder chasing down a strange demon-style creature that attracted ravens to its imminent victims, and busted mirrors wherever it passed. To say that it ended up being a woman scorned undersells the nice, subtle twists that they threw in there. This woman plays Mulder’s incredibly attentive hostess throughout the episode, both of them completely unaware that it’s her doing the killing.
Her ignorance of her own condition was put in extreme terms, but we all have hidden halves to ourselves that we know little or nothing about. My wife, for example, recently pointed out to me during a recent argument that I am "a flat-out pain in the ass… there, put THAT in your column (I hear, and obey).? And I had no idea until then! Imagine my shock.
In the spirit of such self-discovery, I felt I could offer my readers a similar service. (No, I can’t tell you if you’re a pain in the ass or not. But your loved ones can; go ask them.) I have, in the past, received emails from people who tell me that they like columns like mine, and others, that remind them of when they used to play casually, but now they’ve been doing so much tourney play, they don’t really do casual anymore.
To which I reply, denial ain’t just a river in Uganda and Sudan, with a couple of sources from Ethiopia.
I suspect a great deal of casual play is happening where you just wouldn’t expect it – in playtesting, local shop grudge matches, even during the Pro Tour – and like the woman with the scary face she’s too afraid to acknowledge, these high-rollin’ players can’t recognize that they still have that demon within.
If you feel ready to face your fears, I suggest taking this simple quiz, complete with standard quiz-style haiku. For Omeed’s sake, each has been thoroughly 5-7-5 approved, and been honed to full artistic tenor.
1) When you opened that Nemesis pack and saw the Rhox, your first thought was:
a) "Hmmm… while exhibiting a lower power and toughness than the Thorn Elemental, that relative drawback is more than partially offset by a lower casting cost and regeneration capability. A sound choice for the emerging mono-green Masques block archetype."
b) "I’ve GOT to find a spot for this in my all-Beast deck."
c) "Mmmm. Phat. This will go in my Phat deck. Heh, heh. Phat."
Horns sprout like steel weeds.
A hill rises to stampede.
Let the beats begin!
2) When you’re drafting Masques/Nemesis and you see Sizzle, you:
a) Barely see it because you cannot BELIEVE Silverglade Elemental is still available seventh pick.
b) See it, smile faintly as you reflect on the havoc that might wreak in a dozen-player game, and then take the Silverglade Elemental.
c) Think of sizzling sausages, which makes you think of that dog-treat commercial where the cartoon dog keeps muttering "SNAUSAGES"… which makes you think of that other dog-treat commercial from the little guy’s view where he keeps smelling bacon but can’t read the bag, which makes you think of bacon, which gets you back to Sizzle, but by now everyone else is ticked at you because they’ve said "PASS" about five times.
Like rain through a haze
Sparks streak through the smoky air.
Dogs love Snausages.
3) You’re at a local shop mucking around, when Sally, who plays there often, comes up to you and asks if you want to play a couple of rounds. You:
a) Ask her what her rating is so you can calculate how much a win or loss would be worth if you were taking her on in a PTQ.
b) Say sure and ask what level of deck she’d like to play.
c) Stand there, stunned, as you digest the fact that women play this game, too, you misogynist pig.
Dark shadows mutter,
The smart woman flees, disturbed.
Try ‘N-Sync posters.
4) You make the top eight at the regional PTQ. As you sit down for your quarterfinal match, you shake hands with your opponent because:
a) You’ve got a cool subliminal move with your index finger that really distracts them on the near-subconscious level;
b) You want to beat the tar out of everyone in your way, but are looking forward to a good match;
c) You are collecting DNA samples from each player’s sweat so that you can go home and make (and then clone) a super-fruit-fly.
A ladder of fate,
Aminos twirl like snarled vines.
That’s why you’re so short.
5) Later that day, you make it to the final match. You lose a close first game. In the middle of an extraordinarily long second game, you burst out laughing at:
a) Your opponent’s futile attempts to look at your hand;
b) The fact that your opponent uses ripped-up pieces of bad cardboard like Carnival of Souls as Saproling tokens;
c) A well-spun yarn of ribald twenty-second century humor the mother ship just transmitted to you.
Going by the name,
Saprolings should be sticky.
But they don’t look it.
6) While playtesting with your team in your shared hotel room the night before the Pro Tour’s first day, the newest member says, "Hey, let’s do an Emperor format!" You all:
a) Beat on him mercilessly until he coughs up the bloody, evil spirit that has possessed him, and then relax cheerily since there’s more sleeping room for everyone else now;
b) Pass for the moment since you’re tired but spend a few extra moments awake in your hotel bed later, thinking how cool it would be to be the Emperor with a Squirrel-Opposition deck;
c) Tell him to take his kinky royal fetish elsewhere, preferably off the tournament hotel premises.
Warriors at night
Hone their skills under the Moon.
"I call bathroom first!"
7) When you’re talking to another player and they mention their favorite deck has 20+ enchantment cards, you immediately:
a) Groan, since he must be talking about a Replenish deck;
b) Roll your eyes, since it must be some intricate eight-piece combo that goes off in the twenty-fifth round of a multiplayer game;
c) Do both, since it’s a Replenish deck that uses an intricate eight-piece combo that goes off in the twenty-fifth round of a multiplayer game.
An aura thought dead
permeates the sky once more.
Replenish, or Smint?
8) Oath of Mages is a bad card. This is because:
a) The basic philosophy of the red mage is to remain ahead in life at all times as they burn or beat down their opponent, and the Oath can only be activated by a player with less life;
b) There are plenty of other red cards that do more damage, wreak more chaos, and are more fun to play;
c) The mages in the artwork are stirring their soup upside down.
A vow is spoken,
The solemn words ring clearly:
"We suck together."
9) Your local store holds a chaos tournament every week, with prizes. You do not go because:
a) You are too busy working with your team on a rogue deck to go for the remainder of this PTQ season;
b) You’re not sure going for prizes doesn’t encourage inappropriate collusion among players;
c) Your Saturday evenings are filled with the awesome responsibility of adhering yourself to the Lay-Z-Boy and watching as many episodes of "The Others" as you can before it gets canceled in a frenzy of network originality.
Swirling blood-stained seas,
Sharks gather at the nexus,
Where booster packs float.
10) The following statement is MOST true about you:
a) I love dogs.
b) I love cats.
c) I love emus.
d) I love trying to figure out what personality trait of an animal showcased in a quiz like this is supposed to determine my feelings on something complex, artificial, and intangible, like whether or not I enjoy collectible card games for the more competitive, or more social, aspects.
As the leopard prowls,
and the antelope run hard,
The platypus snores.
SCORING: For every (a), score yourself five points. For every (b) except #10, score yourself three points. If you answered (b) on #10, score yourself two points. For every (c) except #7 and #10, score yourelf zero points. For (c) on #7 or #10, subtract one point. If you answered (d) on #10, subtract three points.
Double your total, and divide by five.
King of Spades, right? I knew it!