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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Yo ho ho it's Magic you know

BEEFWIT: ::reaching out, touching Serra Angel with +1/+1 counter on it, pushing it forward aggressively:: Ha! I fling my +1 Serra Angel forward at you in an aggressive posture, dotard! Take five points and cringe in abject humiliation!

BLOODLUST: Feh, I say, and feh!, again! I wag my buttocks enticingly at your hapless foolish Serra Angel! My puissant Icy Manipulator taps your ridiculous creature before you can declare it as a combatant, leaving it caught in the agonizing throes of attackus interruptus! ::thrusting fingers into armpits, flapping elbows vigorously:: I cuckoo in indisputable triumph! Cuc-KOO! Cuc-KOO!

BEEFWIT: Puh-tooie. Your Icy Manipulator wets the bed, and is as useless to you as it is to the feebleminded women of its tribe. For with my Vigean Graftmage, I now Untap my most magnificent +1/+1 Serra Angel, and it resumes its relentless seraphic barrage as if never interrupted by your puerile and pointless maundering! Die, recreant, die!

BLOODLUST: ::preening smugly:: Oh no, my old. Oh no. Your Vigean Graftmage is worthless and weak, and I sneer at it and at all of its miscegnated, 0/0, no casting cost offspring, as well.

BEEFWIT: You babble like a polluted brook, old man.

BLOODLUST: Oh no, my foolish foolish friend. You do not understand how ‘the stack’ resolves. You see, all goes in reverse order,mon ami. So, you attack with your Serra Angel. This goes on ‘the stack’. I then TAP your Serra Angel, with my most scintillating and very very exciting Icy Manipulator. This ALSO goes on the stack. If this were all that were to occur, then we would resolve them ‘first in, last out’. So my tapping your Angel would occur BEFORE you attacked with it, and it would be tapped, and you could not attack with it, and would therefore need to guh-nash your teefies in frustrated rage, oui oui?

BEEFWIT: Okay, but I used the mage to Untap it after you tapped it…

BLOODLUST: Ah ha! You did, and yet, you did not. A conundrum worthy of Zen philosophy, yes? But so simple. Your untap effect goes on ‘the stack’. The stack is then resolved first in, last out, which is to say, the effect on TOP of the stack resolves, then those underneath it, in descending order. So -- your mage UNTAPS your Serra Angel first. And yet, your Serra Angel is not at that moment tapped! So your effect has no tapped creature on which to target. And then, too bad, so sad, it fizzles. And THEN my tap effect is resolved. Your Serra Angel is of course untapped, so, quad erom demonstratum, my Manipulator has a valid target, and it taps your Angel. NOW your attack resolves, and there is no untapped Angel with which to attack, and you cry like ze little girl, yes?

BEEFWIT: Bah. Bah. Bah. You’re not doing it right. You TAP my Angel, then I UNTAP it. That’s how it works. It MUST work that way, or the universe itself will fall in shards about our hapless heads. You would wreak havoc on the very laws of causality itself! Entropy will openly rebel! The stars themselves will reel backwards in their gravitic paths and implode into lightless, heatless husks! Take it back! TAKE IT BACK!

BLOODLUST: Alas, my old, these are the laws of Magic. And now, to add insult to injury, I shall tap my Royal Assassin to slay your hapless Angel!

BEEFWIT: Stuff and nonsense, old buffalo chip. For in response, I shall tap my Aysen Bureaucrats to tap your Royal Assassin, and by your foolish ‘last in, first out’ reasoning, my effect resolves before your effect, and your Assassin is tapped before you tap him! Hu-hoo, hu-hoo, I crow at you!

BLOODLUST: ::muttering:: Jerkwad.

* * *

So, I'm playing Magic again.

And nearly everything in the little one act play above is wrong, it turns out.

A few weeks back, I noticed SuperDrama Teen moping around the house. Well, she's always moping about the house; as per her sobriquet, moping is pretty much her super power. But this time she was, from what I perceived eavesdropping around the edges of various conversations, she was moping because nobody would play Magic: the Gathering with her.

Well, I figured, what the hell. I hadn't played since probably the earliest years of this millenium, but still, if she had a spare deck I could tap some cards with her, if it would make her happy.

Why did I get out of Magic in the first place? Well, I'd found it to be a fun game, some of the time, but only if you eliminated about 2/3s of the cards in print from your opponents' decks. Otherwise, whenever you sat down across from someone, chances were excellent that you'd end up having everything you put out blown up instantly, or you'd be discarding all the cards in your hand into your graveyard before you got a chance to play them, or everything you cast would be countered, or everything you got out would be stolen from you by control spells, or all your land would be destroyed before you could cast a spell, or someone would toss down three Moxes and a Black Lotus and a dual land and pop a Dark Ritual and end up throwing down four Black Vises and hitting you with a Brain Geyser for 17 cards, and you just die, before you ever get to even draw on your first turn.

All of which is to say, I enjoyed the permanents -- creatures, enchantments, artifacts, land. I didn't much enjoy the non permanent spells, especially the stuff made to be used on other creatures (mine) and other players (me). The games I enjoyed most were the drawn out duels of differing tactics and strategies, where each player struggled to build an interesting network of different permanents that, when put out properly, interacted in some effective, yet unanticipated manner.

What I didn't like were all the strategies I outlined the the paragraph above the paragraph above -- cheap destruction, discard, counterspells, control, land destruction, or simple straight up cut throat buzz saw decks meant to go for a kill before the third turn of the game. All these strategies but the last are based around one central concept -- 'we don't need our own strategy as long as we can keep you from playing yours'. And a lot of people played those decks, because, sadly, they were extremely effective. And I hated playing against them, so, I pretty much stopped playing Magic.

Another reason I stopped playing Magic was, well, the game was changing, and who wants that? The designers kept adding in new powers, and tweaking the underlying rules structure, and it aggravated me. There was nothing wrong with Magic, I felt, that couldn't be solved by banning very nearly every non-permanent spell, along with about half the permanents. I started losing interest in the game around the time they added a power called Flanking, and really stopped caring when they brought in Flanking. Last I heard, they'd changed the rules to allow you to block with a creature, and then tap it to use a special power, and the creature would still do its damage. No, I decided, this wasn't Magic the way I liked it.

But, what the hell... fast forward five years, and give me a mopey teenager, and suddenly, I'm playing the game again. But just to make her happy. It's not like I'd really get back into it.


So I ended up buying a few boosters. And then I taught SuperGirlfriend to play. And then she spotted a couple of deals on Ebay where we got like 700 red and white common and uncommon cards for something like $3. (But we still need land. I mean, we need it a LOT.)

The problem is, the game has changed while I've been gone. And I mean, it's changed a lot. Several thousand more cards have been printed. Around a dozen new powers have been added, while a few of my old favorites (Banding, for one) have pretty much vanished. And the rules have been modified on a fundamental level. Where one used to have slow effects and fast effects of varying speeds, which chained together in odd and sometimes bewildering ways (see my one act play, above), now we have 'the stack'. Which is supposed to be this profound clarification and brilliant innovation to the horribly complicated rules of Magic, that makes everything as clear as a ray serene.

And it baffles me, despite the fact that all this week I've had different people trying to explain it to me with differing levels of condescension and exasperation. Apparently, everything goes on 'the stack', and then 'the stack' resolves from top down, or, 'first in, last out'. But, there is also 'priority', whereby certain players get priority, or pass priority, and if every player passes priority without throwing another spell on 'the stack', then the spells on the stack at that time all resolve, one at a time, top to bottom.

However, certain things are 'costs' that do not go on the stack and cannot be responded to. For example, if I tap...

No, never mind. Suffice it to say, it's really confusing. But I'm playing Magic again.

Just, apparently, incorrectly.


At 11:32 PM , Blogger AaA said...

I remember the good old days of M:TG, way back before I met you. My buddies and I sitting at a table, summoning Craw Worms and throwing Holy Strength on them. Games that lasted hours. And then, slowly, almost imperceptably at first, it began to sour.

I think it all started with Terror, and went downhill with Hypnotic Spectres and Mana Drains from there.

By the time we met, I had given up on permanents for the most part, and was playing that horrifically overpowered blue-white-black menace that I'd have won that Mindgate tournament with had the other finalist not stalled his balls off, knowing that I wanted to get into your game.

Then, I discovered the majesty and splendour of Theme Decks. Decks not based on instant victory, or sometimes even on victory itself, but rather, upon a theme. The Merfolk Deck, the Swampwalk Deck, the Goblin Deck. Those also happened to work really really good. Then there were some of the whackier themes... like Thallid Surprise, Ashnod's Artifact Altar of Eternal Colorless Mana, and a few others I don't recall.

But I'd trade every card in those decks for a trip back to that old table, and my Craw Worm with Holy Strength on him.

At 10:57 AM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

It's easy to see why Conan hates wizards as much as he does.


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