Sullivan’s Satchel: Secret Lair X The Walking Dead; Kira, Great Glass-Spinner; And Garrett Temple

Patrick Sullivan opens the mailbag for questions about Secret Lair X The Walking Dead, a tricky Kamigawa block legend, and being average in sports.

Kira, Great Glass-Spinner, illustrated by Kev Walker

Hello, and welcome to this week’s installment of Sullivan’s Satchel. It takes a lot to generate controversy with a physical product during a pandemic, but Wizards of the Coast (WotC) pulled it off with the announcement of a Walking Dead-licensed Secret Lair, the first of what can reasonably be assumed to be many products to come. There’s a ton to unpack — the aesthetic quality of the product in absolute terms along with its perceived dissonance with “conventional” Magic tropes, its tournament legality in Eternal formats, the price point. Naturally people extrapolate an entire narrative based largely on their initial visceral reaction, which I don’t really object to but does make diving into the details and disagreements more challenging.

A common take I’ve seen is an objection about exclusive cards appearing in products with a limited print run, or a limited shelf life. I think this evinces a misunderstanding of how people acquire cards or how other physical products work. If I want a Goblin Guide for my Modern deck, I don’t start cracking packs of Zendikar; I either engage with the secondary market or trade for it. This is true of essentially any card outside the most recent release and often the cards in the most recent set as well. The legality of these cards in Eternal formats really drives this home — if Rick or Glenn or whoever can only be played in formats alongside Underground Sea and Library of Alexandria, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a stretch to say “just go get the cards,” and at least for a period of time you can simply order them from the website. I get that this is complicated and emotional but that critique just doesn’t register for me.

With that, Jarvis Yu asks,

Dear Patrick,

I hope you are doing well.

What’s your opinion on the Secret Lair (The Walking Dead) having cards that are legal in ‘Eternal’ formats?

I’m a bit wary of this myself, given historical evidence (see True-Name Nemesis, Containment Priest, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest as the previous big offenders). Clearly, it’s unlikely that the Secret Lair has cards anywhere close in power level to the aforementioned ones.

But related to this, how do you feel about ‘good/playable’ cards being hard to access (in paper), generally speaking? See Nexus of Fate, Kenrith the Returned King, and the like.

I’m generally opposed to tough-to-acquire cards appearing in Standard. It’s very hard to put a dud out there when the point is to drive sales of the new set, and once you can’t shoot low you’re going to come in high some amount of the time. Nexus of Fate is especially risky because you can’t “get out from under it” easily — you can’t print a better Time Walk and it’s harder to produce surgical answers that don’t come with massive risks and externalities. In short, I think Nexus of Fate is a bad bet even as a regular rare in a Standard release and the release amplifies the risk and bad feelings.

Kenrith, the Returned King is a wiser bet — it’s actually about something; the value over replacement is low (it has to compete with a bunch of other five-mana cards that impact the battlefield and draw cards and whatever else); and as a multicolor, archetype-specific card it should only show up so much. The card plays well; if it ends up showing up (which it did) it probably isn’t ruining anyone’s day. I’m sympathetic to the argument that this is playing with fire regardless of the wisdom of the specific designs, however.

My personal take is that Eternal formats are fair game but there are more and less artful ways to go about doing it. I think True-Name Nemesis is probably the most egregious example — it appears in a Commander product but is explicitly less powerful in multiplayer settings, and as such feels like twisting the arms of competitive players to engage with a product that is advertised as being for someone else. Leovold, Emissary of Trest is super-powered but at least speaks to the Commander experience.

A bunch of Humans that care about Humans feels in theme for the product and engages with some stuff that shows up every now and again in eternal formats without speaking to anything currently problematic. The cards aren’t especially cheap or synergistic with Brainstorm or whatever other characteristics would wallow in their legality and so they don’t offend my sensibilities.

From J,

This is a situation that occurred to me on an MTGO maybe a couple years ago that has always bothered me.

My opponent had in play a Kira, Great-Glass Spinner, and for reasons that I don’t quite remember, I needed it to die, but it had to die while under my control.

The sequence of events, more or less, was :

Terror Kira -> countered

Control Magic Kira – resolves

Terror Kira -> countered

To my surprise, the second Terror was countered. I always felt this was incorrect.


I share this because I frequently get “questions” that aren’t questions and are barely anecdotes and they brighten my day. I’m sorry this interaction was unfortunate for you or non-intuitive or whatever but I do appreciate that you felt that I was someone to share this with. Thank you.

From a Twitter user but I can’t go back that far into my mentions (paraphrasing):

What would it take for you and Cedric to do a podcast with a maximum of 10% Magic content?

It wouldn’t be that hard; we could just recite our texts and Facebook DMs talking about sports, betting on sports, political fatalism, grudges with individual members of the Magic community or the broader faceless community, T-shirt designs, me navigating my way through boomer tech issues that impact Cedric’s professional life, and betting on sports. Podcasting is tough on my mental health because I think my voice (literal and figurative) already occupies too much space in relation to most people and monetizing “personality” causes me to disassociate, but who knows? I leave it to Cedric, he knows how to find me, etc.

From Andre Linoge:

Are you the same Patrick Sullivan who Top 16’d the 2002 Lord of the Rings TCG worlds tournament? If so, can you tell us about your experience for that tournament? 

Nope. A weird part of my life is there is a TCG player and game designer with my name who made his bones mostly with the old Decipher products (Star War, Star Trek, LotR, etc.) That isn’t me. To my knowledge I’ve never met him, but to the extent I know of him through mutuals he sounds cool, and I hope he’s doing well.

I couldn’t wrap my head around the Lord of the Rings TCG. Decipher really set the standard for cramming a lot of words on cards combined with no editing or consistent templating, and so even during the TCG boom of the late 90s and early 2000s I never touched their games, save for a brief dalliance with Star Trek. Eugene Harvey was busted at that game, too.

From @GabeSekeres:

Who is the exact median NBA player rn?

450 players divided by two divided by 30 teams gets you to roughly the eighth-best player on the most average team. By blending point differential with win-loss record I would argue the Brooklyn Nets were the most average team this year. If you include Kyrie but exclude Durant from this year’s roster their eighth-best player was probably Garrett Temple? He squares with my intuition as a completely average NBA player, so let’s go with that.

Lastly, and the question of the week and winner of $25 in SCG credit, from @Noahmtg:

Question for mailbag. How has your opinion/outlook on bans and the Standard format changed now that you are in R&D?

I used to really value a cohesive Banned List and ideologically consistent individual bannings. I’ve written articles to that effect more than once here, and have said similar stuff on the air over the years. Turns out most people don’t care about the explanation (I don’t have data to affirm that, just my intuition) and in our current concept-of-time-shattering reality no one can remember what they read two days earlier anyway. Just do what you think is fun and smart and will maximize fun and that’s about the best you can do.

I think people value the feeling of their formats being tethered to something and evolving organically and so I prefer one massive round of bannings versus several smaller, incremental ones. That isn’t always a practical call to action; ideally the Banned List is as small as possible and so sometimes you have to wait for more information before taking additional steps. Still, keep things as stable as possible until you need to make a broad set of changes is my preferred cadence to the extent it’s possible. I don’t know if that’s a different position from what I had prior to working there but I feel it’s a good heuristic if and when it’s possible.