Read…um, what I read…at ManaNation!

After a bit of a glitch, the full version of my guest hosting take on This Week in Magic is up at ManaNation. I’m filling in for Trick, who had to cut out early to go attend GP DC and thus couldn’t do his normal extensive reading.
Boy, does he read a lot of sites. More than I tend to, at any rate.
I hope it’s a nice sampling of the top items from the community over the past week.
Click here to read it.

Leveling up – rares that should have been mythic

If you haven’t read it already, check out my evaluation of mythics and let me know if you agree or disagree. Overall, I found I was pretty happy with the hit rate on mythics feeling like mythics.
The corollary question, of course, is whether any rares feel as if they ought to have been mythic instead. With that in mind, I did the same set-by-set run through of rares (from those sets that also have mythics) with an eye toward identifying rares that push my ‘mythic’ button.
Fascinatingly, I noticed that my emotional response to most rares during this review was either “meh” or “seems good.” That is, a rare either doesn’t interest me or strikes me as a good, functional card. Sometimes I found myself thinking, “Yeah, this clearly needs to be rare for Limited,” but I almost never found myself thinking “This card is awesome!”
To be clear, I think some of the rares are very good, or even amazing – Stoneforge Mystic comes to mind. But they don’t trigger the “awesome” response that I’ve noticed I tend to attach to mythics. It often feels like rares are rares for the sake of Limited, but mythics are mythics for the sake of awesomeness.
So, applying the same, “Is it exciting to open this card?” standard, which rares really should have been mythic? Click through to the extended entry to find out.

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The mythic hit list – mythic or not?

So what makes a good mythic? What differentiates a mythic from a rare? Why do I have a Princess Mononoke themed Thornling side-by-side with the real card?
As a regular listener to any number of Magic podcasts, I’ve heard variations on this question come up again and again. My take on the idea behind what makes a mythic is very simple:
Opening a mythic should be awesome.
Just that. Something about the mythic, some combination of its traits and flavor should make that experience of opening a pack thrilling – something that makes me glad I’m opening packs.
To clarify, I only ever open packs if I win them as prizes. Nonetheless, I think this is the clear best standard for mythics, and it’s one that I’ve experienced with the Uniques in Mechwarrior and the Very Rares in Star Wars Miniatures.
With that in mind, I’ve gone through all the mythics to date and rated them on how appropriate they are as mythics. Click through to the extended to see how close to the mark Wizards are in making mythics, well, mythic.

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The case for Force of Will

Last week I wrote about possible design solutions to keep Legacy healthy in the wake of the firming up of the reprint policy. Prior to that, I talked about why I have non-power-card reasons to want reprints, and since then I’ve put together an estimate of the total number of dual lands in the world. Now, I want to turn toward something else interesting…
Are Legacy staples all necessarily overpowered?
Click through to the extended entry to read more.

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On fishing

“Fishing,” if you’re unfamiliar with the colloquialism, is the practice of trying to win games and matches not on deck choice or play skill, but by very actively following up on apparent tournament rules violations in hopes of getting your opponent game- or match-lossed.
There’s a lot of fuzzy thinking about “fishing” versus “proper play,” and this is contributes to some players’ hesitation about calling a judge. Are you “fishing” if you call a judge because your opponent missed a trigger, or because they searched for a card, riffled once, and then presented the deck to you?
Fishing is usually done intentionally in gray areas, like insisting that a scuffed sleeve is actually marked (which amounts to fishing for a DQ, which is pretty ugly) or that your opponent is player slowly when they actually aren’t. More to the point, if you know you aren’t fishing, then you aren’t fishing. If you legitimately want to call a judge, do so. Don’t sit there second-guessing the decision to call. If you have correctly identified a game play issue, then the judge will let you know. Similarly if you haven’t. Either way, it’s fine.
I was accused of fishing by one commenter on my report from GP Oakland because I count out my opponent’s deck each time it’s presented to me to start a game. That’s not fishing – it’s just good standard operating procedure. If everyone did this, it would stop any cheaters and generally lead us all to clean up our act in sideboarding. Perhaps even more to the point, at GP Oakland I caught my opponent’s error of shuffling his Marit Lage token back into his deck – there was no game loss for that one, and it headed off the giant mess that him drawing his token would have yielded once we were well into the game.
So far in my sanctioned tournament career, I’ve only made three judge calls that led to opponent game losses. Two were for tardiness, which doesn’t really fall into the same category – although one of these led to a match loss when my opponent was tardy, and then we were deckchecked and he had a registration error. The opponent was Kenny Ellis, though, so he naturally had a great attitude about what a comically bad beat he’d just experienced. My one other “game lossing” of an opponent came during a Standard tournament just after the 9th to 10th edition transition, when I was resolving a Head Games against my opponent and noticed he had Weird Harvest in his deck.
Overall, I’d say that good players don’t tend to fish. They may call judges more often than a typical PTQ player would, but I think that comes down to an attention to proper player procedure more than anything else.
This is on my mind after a match yesterday that mixed clumsy fishing with player sloppiness.
This was late in the tournament, and I was having one of those “deck malfunction days,” including highlights like mulliganing down to four cards in search of land in a deck featuring twenty-four of them. I’ll talk more about the deck in another post, but this was Extended, so it was Gifts.
In game one, my Scapeshift opponent hits the eponymous spell and says “I do eighteen to you” without doing anything else. I wonder for a moment how many people have just been scooping to him there, and say, “Show me.” He then explains that he’s going to get a Valakut and six mountains.
“Okay. Run through it for me.”
And no, it wasn’t a bluff, he had the lands (in fact, barring a weird draw that saw them all in his hand, I don’t know how he couldn’t have, so I don’t know why he didn’t just do the spell properly in the first place).
I lose that game, then take the second on the back of a Bitter Ordeal for all of his Valakuts. Ordeal is a hilarious card in an environment with fetchlands.
In the third game, I play a Snow-Covered Island and he asks, “Did you write Snow-Covered Island on our deck list?”
I don’t know if I was annoyed more by the fishing, the fishing in the wake of the half-assed Scapeshift execution, or the half-assed nature of the fishing itself. I assured him that I did, indeed, write the correct card names on my deck reg sheet and we moved on…to him playing two lands in the same turn a few turns later.
I said, “That’s your second land this turn.” He picked it right up and put it back in his hand, and I said, “It’s not a big deal, but I’m going to go ahead and call a judge.”
Which I did, and he picked up a Warning for a Game Rule Violation. I wasn’t fishing for anything here – I didn’t imagine he had prior Warnings, and I was going to be dead to an unopposed Scapeshift awfully soon. That said, you need to do these judge calls because:

  • 1 – You don’t know if they’ve been doing this all day, and you’re going to actually stop them by netting them their third Warning
  • 2 – You don’t know if they’ve been doing this all day and no one’s called them on it, so you want to be a good citizen and make sure they play properly and there’s a record if the sloppiness continues

Either way, I did die to that unopposed Scapeshift soon after, and even that execution was sloppy, as he cast Scapeshift, then picked up his library and began to search without sacrificing anything. At a PTQ, I think I’d stop him there, call a judge, and point out that he was searching for no lands because Scapeshift requires that you make the sacrifice choice first. At this local tournament, I just stopped him and made him do it right.
My punchline here is that this was one of those rare moments when my opponent’s behavior just put me off. That said, I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to call a judge, and helps improve the environment of the tournament in general. Even though some folks will clumsily fish for wins via the tournament rules, if all you want to do is make sure the game proceeds correctly, it’s okay to call a judge. Fishing is all about intent – if you’re not trying to do it, you’re not doing it.


As you’ll no doubt have caught from all the traffic on the topic, Wizards has updated their reprint policy with respect to the Reserve List. Here’s the update:
A previous version of this policy allowed premium versions of cards on the reserved list to be printed. Starting in 2011, no cards on the reserved list will be printed in either premium or non-premium form.
As a stakeholder and someone who was playing and buying cards back when the original Reserved list policy came out, this is disappointing. Way back when in the early 90s, I supported the idea. Then again, I was also in high school. You’re going to read a lot of material elsewhere about how this impacts competitive Legacy play – a topic that’s worth the discussion, and inspires me to hope that Wizards will just do some hacky workaround like special, not-legal-in-Standard, nearly functional reprints of certain cards.
What bothers me is that I’ll never get to play Vesuvan Doppelganger in Standard. I have five of them (Revised edition, which is the printing I’m showing above). It’s not an overpowered card by any means, and it’s probably not good enough for Standard play unless I can particularly channel my inner Johnny nature, but it’s a card for which I have a lot of nostalgia and affection, so if it came up in a future set, I’d certainly try to make it work.
I came back to Magic partly on the strength of Time Spiral block, which had a pleasing mix of modern Magic design (which is much, much better) and callbacks to settings and cards I was familiar with from my first pass through the game. The “time shifted” reprints, in particular, were kind of fun and a neat way to plug the old into the new.
These days, one of the fun parts about having an older card reprinted – such as Duress in M10 or Reflecting Pool in Shadowmoor – is getting to see earlier printings of the card, with their often very different art, being played across from you at a Standard event. I’d like that option to be open to all the cards, and it makes me sigh a little that there’s now not even a finite chance that I’ll be able to plunk one of my white-bordered, Quinton Hoover, Doppelgangers down on the battlefield so my opponent can ask, “What’s that?”

A snapshot of Constructed interest

I’ve noticed that the MTGSalvation forums are among the most active out there. Conveniently, they also display how many users are on any given forum at the moment, giving us a snapshot into what topics are drawing the most interest. Right now, the number of users actively viewing each forum tallies like so:
Standard – 254
Extended – 24
Legacy – 43
Vintage – 9
Block – 9
Interesting, but about what I would expect. There are other venues for dedicated Vintage players, and Extended, while being my favorite format, tends to go in bursts around PTQ seasons, whereas interest in Legacy is perennial. I don’t know if I was expecting Standard to win by an order of magnitude, or for Block to be as weak as it is, but there you go.

So you’re going to your first big tournament

Over at, David Ochoa’s latest article has sparked a big discussion based on this little bit of text:
I knew that some people had dropped in the early rounds at X-1. That gave me a glimmer of hope that the number of X-1 people would be able to accommodate a draw in round seven. When the standings were put up, I found that to not be the case. Pairings went up and I went to my match. I had been paired up against the only 6-0. I asked if he wanted to concede after explaining to him that he was a lock for top even with a loss. He said that he wouldn

Going oldschool

Thanks to the search acumen of Kelly Reid of Quiet Speculation, I have been reunited with my original DCI number. I just got off the phone with Wizards’ customer service, who have started the process of unifying the original number with the one I was issued when I got back into the game.
Naturally, I’m keeping the old one.
This means I’ll be moving from ten digits to a much more svelte five digits.
Also, my rating’s going to take a bit of a hit. Turns out I wasn’t quite as good back in 1995.

Work at Wizards

A design position has opened up at Wizards:
The Game Designer will lead and participate on teams to create game play content, focusing on trading card games such as Magic: the Gathering, Duelmasters, and others, but also including digital games and other game categories. The individual will be responsible for brainstorming new product concepts and ensuring the quality of existing game content. The position requires a mix of creativity, analytical ability, project management skills, and knowledge of the game design field.
Click here to learn more