The Way Of The Heiss

When people in the Magic community think of me, I can only wonder what they think, but I’m sure that in between thoughts of”That guy’s terrible!” and”What was he thinking!?” they wonder why I play the most ridiculous decks every time without fail. And trust me – I have good reasons for playing a Cleric deck at Nationals!

So there I was, reading Starcitygames.com. Shocking, I know – but it was true. I was reading [author name="Nick Eisel"]Nick Eisel’s[/author] article about trying to come up with new and different articles and felt a twinge of nostalgia at it.

“Oh; he’s at that stage.”

Nick, most writers go through this stage. I should know; I’ve probably put more content on the internet than everyone except for about dozen people. The truth is that most of the time, those people go on to create columns about specific topics; otherwise, it can be very difficult to keep the creative juices running. To all you writers who have been there and done that, here’s a thanks from me and probably the rest of the Magic community: I know you don’t see them in your inbox often enough.

So what is this article about then? An article about other writers and the way we do things? No – but rather, this is an article about the way I like to do things…A topic that has entertained many for years.

It is Magic’s ten-year anniversary. Actually, I think Magic is older than that, but I’m not going to argue. All I know is that I’m going to be twenty-three now and I’ve been playing Magic for about nine years – almost half my life. In that time, I have learned a few things about how to keep the game fresh and interesting. It is strange that how even though we play a game that is entirely based around the concept of changing environments, we still get bored and frustrated with the”same old thing.”

Yeah, I hear you – it’s not the lack of new cards or interesting concepts, it is just the manner we play the game that never change. Something about the game has been rather consistent for a long time and I bet you wouldn’t see it until it smacked ya in the face….That’s certainly how I felt when I figured it out:

Magic is balanced.

Well, why is this bad? On most levels it is a good thing – it allows for tournament play and to allow the people with more skill at the game to do better than those without. Because Magic is balanced, it is a good game, right?

The answer is yes…. But sometimes a game that is well-balanced can seem stagnant. For instance, I don’t know how many people out there are really hardcore gamers like me, but there are many people in the Magic community who have a great love for the game of Puerto Rico, a Rio Grande board game that displays near-perfect balance. If you didn’t win your last game of Puerto Rico, it is a direct result of the decisions you and your opponents made. There is almost no luck in the game at all. I (and many others) enjoy this game immensely – but recently, it has lost much of its luster to me. Why? Because maybe I just want to have some fun instead of doting on every decision in fear that it will cost me the game, as it sometimes does.

In short, while we all play to win, can’t we also have a lot of fun along the way?

I mean, that’s the way I have always done things. When people in the Magic community think of me, I can only wonder what they think, but I’m sure that in between thoughts of”That guy’s terrible!” and”What was he thinking!?” they wonder why I play the most ridiculous decks every time without fail.

Antonio DeRosa, a new friend of mine with the formation of CMU-TOGIT, was not really acquainted with the way I do things. At both Nationals and Grand Prix: Detroit, he implored me to play a”good” deck just for once. He thought that I would do so much better if I just bit my tongue and played the best deck. I love ya, Antonio – but that’s not the way I operate. At Nationals, I didn’t really know what I was going to play until a few nights before I left for the tournament.

You know how I decided? We were joking around at Hobart one day testing, and either Paul or Mike was at the Magic Online site where my recent Building on a Budget: Clerics article had gone up. They were joking about how the deck had Daunting Defender in it, as many of the decks I post in that column are kind of funny to the player who is always thinking”I must win this tournament” rather than,”Is this deck really worth 100 bucks for me to build?” At any rate, they challenged me to play Clerics at Nationals, and I wasn’t going to pass up the chance… My final version did not, in fact, include any copies of Daunting Defender, but it also cost me more than $30 (Tony Tsai helped me complete it without too much trouble…he was just glad that someone was trading for his Glowrider).

Yeah, I played Clerics at Nationals – I heard one other guy did, too. (You go, guy!) I went 4-2 with the deck, and I doubt I would have done any better with the Tier One decks, considering the matchups I had. Once again, I went with what I felt was the most fun, and it paid off. I tend to play a better game of Magic when I’m having fun. When I tell you guys to play the deck you enjoy the most, it’s not because I’m blowing you off – it’s because that’s really what you should be playing!

At any rate, the point of this article is that there is hope for those of us who have been playing Magic for a long time and need a change of pace. We love the game, but it can be love/hate sometimes. We don’t enjoy it when the luck factor gets us – and for those of us who are good enough to tell the difference between when we lost because we were unlucky and when because we made errors, it can really wear you down after a while. Don’t despair; there is light at the end of the tunnel!

You know, it is a funny thing about Magic – the game is just so damn fun no matter what kind of spin you put on it. My favorite format used to be Extended – no longer. Extended is now my third-favorite format, right behind DC10 and Mental Magic.

What you say? Those aren’t formats? Well they may not be sanctioned (although that would be neat), but they are possibly two of the most interesting (Mental Magic) and fun (DC10) formats ever made.

One of the formats, Mental Magic – is great because it removes luck from the game. You will not get mana screwed. You topdeck every turn. You just have to know your stuff…I’m not saying it is easy, but it turns Magic into a game that feels more like Chess or Go; the player with a sharper mind and more knowledge of the game should win every time. It can also be more fun because you can win in almost any manner you see fit. If you see the opportunity to kill your opponent by attacking him with Cephalid Vandal, then by all means do it and bring on the demoralization! Mental Magic is a game of nearly infinite options and you can use them however you see fit, making it a helluva good time.

Try to start out playing people on a similar power level or have someone explain to you the basics of the game. You will be surprised how they differ from regular Magic. For more information, I recommend reading the Mike Flores‘ series of Mental Magic articles on Magicthegathering.com. Mike is a great Mental Magic player (slightly better than I, and much worse than Pat Chapin and John Shuler), and if you are lucky enough to see him at a tournament, challenge him! He needs the practice and the good times.

DC10, on the other hand (my current favorite format), is all about a smash up good time. For those of you unfamiliar with the format, you and your opponent play off of the same deck, and may or may not have separate graveyards depending whatever you decide. You start with no cards in hand, and draw one card a turn (yes going first is good). You have infinite mana of every color whenever you want it. Play the game as normal besides. Ideally, you should be playing with a stack of cards that has no land or mana fixers in it; however, most people just pick up the first stack they see and start playing. I recommend playing with the new optional rules that Gary Wise and Eugene Harvey invented while playing DC10 off of my 5-Color deck – you can concede at any time, but the winner of each game takes all the cards from that game and puts them in their score pile. When you are finished going through the entire stack of cards, the person with the most cards in their score pile wins the game of DC10. Since individual games of DC10 are rather short, this adds some more strategy and fun to running through a stack. Should you concede when they cast that first-turn Chartooth Cougar before you draw your first card? You decide. Just remember that the person conceding gets to go first in the next game.

DC10 is a lot of fun. Cards that are often terrible in regular play become powerhouses, and you never know what is going to happen next. Try playing with random stacks of cards after a draft or take all the land and mana fixers out of your 5 Color deck and play with that. Perhaps make a deck specifically for DC10 full of really expensive spells that almost never see play. When else can you see Arcades Sabboth face down Bladewing the Risen? Good times for all. Where Mental Magic represents Magic in its Chess hat, DC10 brings out the Talisman or Mario Party of Magic. This game is just meant to be fun, and the winner will not always be the better player… But if you are willing to have a great time playing Magic with a chance that you might not win (and you don’t even lose anything), then I highly recommend it.

These two formats are also great formats to play with complete strangers as a side note – and you will never have to worry about leaking your latest tech. If anyone sees me at a tournament and wants to play (and I’m not currently otherwise engaged) feel free to play a game with me. I usually have cards, although for both of these formats, any random stack of cards works great.

So was this a new and bold type of article? No. I bet you can probably find at least ten others like it at StarCityGames. Even if not unique, certain types of articles will always be important, and to all the aspiring internet writers out there: Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, even if a topic has been done before. All the greatest and most primal Magic topics were long dried up in the days of the Dojo and shortly after. Write about what you feel – about what makes this game special to you….

And if you were wondering, writing articles about how people should write articles is not a new one either…

Until next time, may your mana pool be infinite and your lands be utopia.

Nate Heiss

Team CMU

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