Twitter Big Bag: Toddle Goes West

Todd Anderson takes a break from packing for California and shipping stuff out to see what came in the mailbag! Get his thoughts on good and tough times, what Magic needs, and Stoneforge Mystic!

Today’s article is going to be a fun one!

With Core Set 2020 Standard being relatively stagnant, and Modern waiting for a Hogaak ban, we content creators are left trying to fill a void. So, with that in mind, I decided to get Twitter to ask me some questions. Most of them are Magic-related, but some are more about me. Hopefully, this nugget of insight into my Magic career and life will be a fun read. The “mailbag” article is one that we content creators use sparingly, but it often leads to some of the most cathartic and thoughtful pieces we create. Mostly because we get to make it with you, the community! Let’s get started.

Indianapolis. Ale Emporium.

I love going to Indy because that means I get to go to Ale Emporium. Their wings are literally the best wings I’ve ever had, and their deep dish pizza is also quite good. Even Ross Merriam, a vehement vegetarian, said that the Hermanaki wings were one of the few meats he missed the most. I don’t know how they do it, but their “Hermanaki” style wings aren’t wet, but they’re still covered in sauce. I think they fry them and then grill them with sauce so that it caramelizes, but you might have to ask Herman himself.

That’s actually a pretty interesting question, because I’ve played a ton of different “weird” formats over the years. I have to say that Mental Magic was probably my favorite, if only because very few games were ever the same, so long as you kept changing out the pile of cards you were playing from. It was always interesting to see who knew the “good cards” that said “draw a card” while doing the task you set out to do.

Ever cast Afflict on a Llanowar Elves before?

I’ve gone over this one a bunch of times in the past, but I think my answer is starting to change. I doubt it’s “too good” for Modern, but that doesn’t mean it should be Modern-legal. Stoneforge Mystic is one of the easiest “I win” cards for two mana that you can play, requiring very few actual cards invested into deckbuilding. And for a control deck, that just means the rest of your strategy can be dedicated to killing creatures and drawing cards, all while your win condition takes up roughly six slots in your deck.

I’m all for having cards be legal in Modern that are of “Modern strength,” but Stoneforge Mystic is one of those creatures that will probably end up being too good at some point, and it has nothing to do with Batterskull being legal.

While the driving to and from events usually sucks, you’ll occasionally have a trip where everyone in the car just meshes. You all listen and like the same music, and you can talk for hours about one or two different topics. I once gave Brad Nelson the entire oral history of a D20 tabletop game in post-apocalyptic world based on the Fallout universe. It took almost three hours to recount our entire two-year adventure, and I’m sure I missed some stuff, but it just happened and it was magnificent.

In short, the people are what I’m going to miss the most. Driving for ten hours to an event hurts. But I wouldn’t trade all those miles on the road for anything.

I think stronger nonbasic land hate would be fine, but have it be actual land destruction. I want fetching basic lands or playing monocolored decks to be a thing. I’m sick of cards like Molten Rain never seeing the light of day again. Ponza (Land Destruction) was always one of my favorite archetypes growing up, and seeing it be relatively nonexistent for the last ten or fifteen years is pretty sad.

We also need more cards that straight up kill or interact favorably with planeswalkers. I don’t care how you do it, but you need to punish people who play ten or even twenty planeswalkers in their deck. Have a Lightning Strike that becomes a Lightning Bolt when your opponent controls a planeswalker. Have every Doom Blade be able to hit planeswalkers. I don’t care. It’s too much! In general, I think cost reduction is cool, as long as it doesn’t become free. I want more synergy between cards in your deck, not just “all the best red cards in one pile.”

Without a doubt: Jeskai Black. Khans of Tarkir and Battle for Zendikar gave us four-color manabases, but it also gave us a ton of breathing room when it came to actually building decks. And getting the manabase right was tough! Not only that, but figuring out how to sequence your lands every game was also pretty darn hard on occasion.

Overall, the power level of that format was pretty high, as expansive manabases often lead to expanding the overall number of color combinations at your disposal. And while four-color manabases were possible, the drawback was that many of your opening lands would enter the battlefield tapped. And if you’re playing against an aggro deck, you’d get punished pretty hard if you didn’t have a bunch of cheap removal and/or sweepers at your disposal.

In general, free spells are healthy for the game because they can lead to dynamic gameplay. They only really get “broken” as the formats get bigger and some random effect or ability ends up exploiting it. I mean, I wouldn’t classify Nourishing Shoal as being broken, but it sure feels ridiculous when you pair it with Griselbrand and Worldspine Wurm!

I absolutely adored Phyrexian mana spells, so I would take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. Gameplay that involves cards like Mental Misstep isn’t for the faint of heart. It gets really tricky sometimes, but it’s pretty easy to see design mistakes fifteen years later when a format develops with cards that were never really tested with other cards in mind. Modern isn’t an anomaly, but perhaps the mistakes are just more pronounced because more people play the format, and ultimately more bugs are found in the system.

I think Magic players, as a collective, could save the human race if we put our minds to it. It was a competitive outlet for many of us who needed it when we were younger, but a game that good just sucks you in. I think my time in Magic has been worth it because I feel like I’ve given others knowledge that they didn’t have before. I think I’ve brought people joy and made them have a better day because of it. I’m a writer, teacher, player, and entertainer, and I absolutely love every minute of my job.

I could have probably turned my attention toward something else at a younger age, like the stock market or exploiting various systems within our government and social and economic structures, but I also could’ve ended up a junkie or dead. Magic gave me solace when no one else could. It helped me make friends when I was lonely. It helped me meet my wife, almost all my best friends, and has steadily put food on my table for about a decade.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change a thing.

For the better, definitely. As a kid, I was always the smartass. Even as I grew up and moved into adulthood, I was pretty insufferable. I mean, just read some of my early articles on Star City Games! Over time, it wasn’t Magic itself that shaped me, but the people who I surrounded myself with inside the Magic community. I grew up, became more responsible, and ultimately became a better person. And while it was more the people around me doing the shaping, they wouldn’t be in my life if it wasn’t for Magic.

Rarely, but when I do, I tend to grab someone else’s deck. I like to see other people’s commander decks because it gives me a glimpse into their personality, their thought processes, and lets me see just how much I have in common with them. All in all, you can learn a lot about someone just by looking at and playing one of their Commander decks.

As for playing with Ross, I can’t imagine that’s ever a good time. For anyone. Including Ross.

I think that, over time, the constant play-for-keeps mentality really started to drag on me. I hated tying my self-worth to my most recent Magic accomplishment(s). I’m a competitive person, and I love playing in tournaments, but you really start to feel it on the fifth or sixth bomb in a row. When it comes to commentary, I don’t get the same blood rush that comes with winning a tight match, but I do get the tingly feeling that comes with helping bring good Magic content to the rest of the world.

As for the stretch of tournaments in a row where we played almost every week, I’d say that I quite hated it since you (almost) always beat me!

The Stubborn Denial.

Yeah. That one.

After I move out to the West Coast, I’m going to start streaming full-time, and perhaps dabble in some other games. I love Magic, but I’ve really been enjoying some extra free time playing other games. I’ve always thought that playing other games helped relax your mind, which in turn can make you play better Magic when it comes down to it.

Hell, I might even start a podcast!

Online reactions are a lot worse, in my opinion. With that small veil, even known players are prone to blowing up at their opponent’s lucky topdeck. I don’t do it often, but I’ll occasionally slam my desk or yell out a particularly aggressive phrase every now and then. But I think that’s more the adrenaline speaking than anything.

Long story short, people are generally a bit more willing to open up on you with their anger because there is no public recourse, and there’s a good chance that they won’t know who you are too. There’s rarely a punishment for such activities, which is unfortunate, but I almost never see people act salty in real life. But maybe that’s because of who I am and not really about who I’m playing against.

Well, Nox, I think planeswalkers are generally very good for the game. However, I think having three or more in every single set is a bit ridiculous, as they gum up the works when it comes to deckbuilding. I think planeswalkers really jumped the shark in War of the Spark, but ultimately have added a lot of positive things to Magic as a whole.

Could they stand to be a little more balanced out? Absolutely. I’m all for making them easier to interact with, or just generally worse if you don’t get to untap with them. Some designs are egregious, but there are also a lot of really fun ones too. I just wish they all had lower starting loyalty! Gone are the days of Nissa Revane and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. You need six power on the second or third turn in order to kill these new ones! And all your creatures need hexproof or haste!

Honestly? No. While I know I’ve had some haunting mistakes, I think it’s important to forgive yourself. After all, humans are pretty dumb. We constantly forget things like what day it is, so how could we be held responsible for figuring out combat math over a three-turn period with staggeringly different variables? Oh and sometimes you just tap the wrong lands like the Arena autotapper. Technology mimics art or something like that.

It’s important to move on from mistakes too. Every time you get mad at yourself or focus on a negative in your previous game, or even previous turn, it can drastically affect the rest of your tournament. Just know that everyone messed up from time to time. Even Jon Finkel.

I learned a long time ago that I don’t like to lose. Playing on the SCG Tour helped remind me of that, but even playing on VS Live! showed me that losing just isn’t acceptable. It doesn’t matter that we’re playing for nothing. It doesn’t even matter what game we’re playing. If I lose, I want another chance. I want to try again. I want to jump into another event and prove to you (and me) that I’m better than that loss.

In some ways, that’s a pretty unhealthy outlook, but it also keeps the fire alive and hot. But it also starts to hollow out the victories. I often joked that losing hurts more than winning helps, but over time that just became the truth. In retrospect, I wish I’d spent more time playing the decks I loved instead of the decks that I thought were best, but winning tournaments sure as hell feels great.

There was never one instance, but I’ve quit Magic multiple times in the past. But as I’ve always said, you never really quit. You just take a break for a while. A friend always has a deck for you to borrow or there’s always a PTQ or Grand Prix to go to when you want to dip your toes back in. My local playgroup in Birmingham dropped Magic multiple times in favor of various games like Magi-Nation or .hack//Sign. But we always came back to Magic eventually.

It’s just the best. And no other game will ever replicate the same tabletop experience. I hope Wizards of the Coast remembers that as they delve deeper into the online realm. While Arena is great, there’s nothing like sitting down across from a player face-to-face.

A fairly complex question.

Let me start by saying that getting to my level isn’t easy, if only because it takes playing Magic way too many hours a day. Like a psychotic amount. Like twelve hours a day, every day, for years. Magic has to become a way of life. And for almost all the players in the MPL, that is almost assuredly the case. You can’t have a family, you can’t have another job, and you certainly can’t phone it in. You need to make Magic your top priority, and I think I stopped where I am because I stopped putting it above everything else.

The MPL are all great players, but they all want it more than me. Maybe that will change when I start streaming full time and start playing eight hours a day or more. Maybe I’ll just realize that staying home and playing Magic is just as rewarding as flying across the country to try my hand at winning a few thousand dollars. And it’s a much smaller investment!

Like everything in life, you gotta put in the work.

Absolutely. The card is great, and all it takes is having a fetch/snow manabase, which isn’t hard to do. Modern is just completely absurd right now, but that should change here very soon.

Hopefully today on VS Live! as I win the marbles for good! Other than that, we had an epic two-game match where I won 2-0 as time expired in a Legacy Maverick mirror where we both played insanely fast. The games were just super-grindy. And other than that, we had a great match at the Players’ Championship one year where he played Sneak and Show and I squeaked by with Death and Taxes. If I recall correctly, he hit me with Omniscience plus Emrakul on the second turn while on the play. And yes, I did have a Karakas at the ready if he just put in a big monster.

At one Grand Prix in Dallas/Fort Worth, I missed Day 2 and decided to spend all day on Sunday drinking because I just wanted to relax. I walked down to a local watering hole a few blocks from the convention center, sat at the bar, and ordered a beer. A few minutes later, some fellows sat next to me and offered to buy me a drink. Apparently, they were fans. We spent the rest of the evening pretending to be best friends, and even made up nicknames for each other.

As the tournaments in the convention center ended, more and more Magic players showed up. It ended up being one of those nights that you never really forget, even if you don’t exactly remember everything that happened.

I enjoy the ABC gameplay of Standard. I think it’s important to have a vanilla format. And on occasion, we get a dynamic vanilla format that ends up being incredibly enjoyable for everyone. As for Modern, I adore the volatility and its exploitable nature in deckbuilding and deck selection. In Legacy, I love that Brainstorm makes games end in their “natural” conclusion more often. Less flooding and mana screw means you get to play more actual turns of Magic.

Limited sucks and Vintage is…something else.

You don’t have to play an event on Sunday. I know they’re there, and you “should” play them for SCG Points or “value” or whatever, but there’s also a ton of value in going home early! Or just having a day out on the town with a few friends in a city you’ve never really explored because you’re always stuck in the convention center playing Magic!

You’re traveling to all these cool places with great food and locations to visit, and yet you choose to play Affinity in a nine-round Classic? Oh crap, Cedric is gonna read this, right? Um…in all seriousness, you should play the Classic, wink wink.

Probably this:

Not sure if the Players’ Championship Party counts, but those were always my favorite weekends of the year. Karaoke on Thursday, followed by an intense weekend of Magic, all culminating in a huge after-party that I got to help host, even though my wife Kali did all the work.

Other than that, I’d have to say hanging out with Gerry Thompson just going to get Five Guys, going out on the weekends with Brad Nelson, or traveling to tournaments with The Dizzler (BBD).

Buy Amazon stock. Then sell 99% of it and give it to charity, because you don’t need that much money. And also, tell everyone that the glaciers are going to melt a lot faster than anyone anticipated and we should imprison anyone who has more than a million dollars (maybe 100 million, not sure on the specifics).

I’ve always leaned “abolish.” Either that or ban everyone from competitive play.

Finally, a question about Alabama football! I’d have to say this is likely due to his general demeanor and approach to these young kids. When they’re winning big, he’s down their throats about every little mistake. He breaks his headset and kicks the dirt and goes red in the face when someone drops a pass or something. But when the game is close or we’re behind, he’s Mr. Cool. He understands that blowing up on someone when you’re behind only ups the amount of pressure on them.

Honestly? The first show of this year, Tigtone and all. I had a blast hanging out with you, Ryan Overturf, and a few others. I finally felt like I found something I’d been missing for a long time.

I’d have to say Kevin Jones. As a person, I’ve seen him do a lot of growing up over the last few years. But as a player, he’s gone from “someone I beat mercilessly” to “someone I don’t want to play against” in very short time span. And he’s had success all along the way, all while constantly getting better at the game.

I once used an Izzet Staticaster on a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben…while a Mayor of Avabruck was on the battlefield. Did I mention this was in the Top 8 of an Invitational? In Game 5?

I was always pretty critical of casters as a player. They’d miss stuff all the time, and I’d think to myself “Gee, why don’t they understand that card got discarded to Inquisition of Kozilek last turn!” In actuality, as a caster, you regularly have someone talking in your ear while you’re formulating a thought, and sometimes you just miss stuff because you’re trying to finish a sentence! I try to give people a break nowadays or go out of my way to offer constructive criticism.

Honestly, your answer is as good as mine. Hell, that’s half the reason my article this week is a mailbag article instead of anything super-heavy or tournament related. I’m flying out to California in a few days. The contents of my house are either in a shipping container, in someone else’s possession, or in the trash. I’ve spent the last two weeks packing everything I own and want to keep and tossing or giving away the rest. And since we’re moving into an apartment instead of a house, there’s a lot of downsizing to do.

I’m tired. My back hurts. And all I want to do is get this over with so I can get back to “real life” and stop living out of a suitcase. But that will come soon enough, and my journey into the unknown starts again. Eight years ago, almost exactly, my wife and I moved to Roanoke and started the chapter of our lives that we’re now closing. She’s now working at Blizzard, and once again I’m kinda trying to figure things out.

For now, I’ll still be doing commentary on the SCG Tour and writing regular articles about various constructed events coming up. I plan on starting a full-time stream early in September. And if you’re curious about anything else in my life, I’m pretty much an open book on Twitter, you can follow me @strong_sad. I’ll be posting life updates, memes, and even a stream schedule when I hammer it down! I’ve already contracted a company to revamp my entire page, and that’s almost finished! I’ll be unveiling more and more as we get closer to the “reset button” after I’ve finished moving everything into our new place out West.

See you on the other side!