Hello again Magic Community,
It’s time a for another Jester’s ReCap, the article where I break down all things happening with Magic from memory, for folks who are only sort of paying attention. I like to keep it light, breezy and fun. We need that these days. The world’s a big, scary place these days. It’s filled with hate, lies and paranoid delusions. People have learned that baseless accusations hold as much weight as facts, truth is subjective, and people will take comfort in hollow promises just to feel better. There are monsters in this world. Where once a card game about dueling wizards could be a respite from the nagging sensation that the universe is a vast, cold and uncaring machine built on the ceaselessly clinking gears of inequality and cruelty, now it’s just another reminder that even when good people try to have casual fun, some assholes will always try to ruin it to make themselves feel important. I am, of course, referring to people who draft Storm in Vintage Cube. You know who you are.
MTGO sucks like a Dyson Vacuum desperate for a hit of smack. It sucks with ferocity and commitment. This isn’t some minor league suckage. This game came to suck and chew bubble gum, and bubble gum would get in the way of its’ sucking. Our most recent example is this past week when Limited leagues were “paused” while the MTGO team worked out some “issues”. Which is corporate PR-speak for “Shit’s broke”. One day it was working, and the next we had to shut down events to stop the whole thing from catching fire. Imagine how bad it has to be before your company turns off the big machine that prints money, even for a few hours. I wish I could tell you what actually went wrong, but I’m fairly certain they don’t know, so how I could be expected to put it together. Games were frozen or crashed, people were booted from leagues, reimbursement remains an opaque, if now much less Byzantine, process. The problem, as I have said before, isn’t that MTGO’s people aren’t dedicated. It isn’t that WOTC doesn’t know what it’s doing. It’s that instead of setting some brush fires to clear out the old overgrowth, WOTC just keeps trying to trim back the hedges. MTGO is 15 years old, written on the scrapped together code that was likely not cutting edge at the time. It’s toppling under it’s own weight, like a stripper who loves Waffle House. It’s crushed under the clarity its own failure, like me when I go to work in the mornings. It’s a house of cards, except using WOTC card stock.
Vote For Control of the Golden City
Ok, so WOTC put up a Twitter poll for who should control the Golden City at the end of Rivals of Ixalan. Not the Immortal Sun, mind you, since a leaked art book apparently spoiled that Nicol Bolas is walking away with that. I mean, I guess that’s a spoiler? The 25,000 year-old Elder Dragon whose whole thing is that he’s unbeatable and always two steps ahead told us months ago he planned on taking that thing. That’s not a spoiler, that’s exactly what they told us would happen. We had no reason to believe Jace “The Brain Injury Made Me More Likable” Beleren , or Vraska “Good Guys Have Last Names” _______, would stand in his way. I’ll be talking about the latest piece of lore later on, and you better believe I have opinions.
Anyway, like most things that don’t matter in any meaningful way, Twitter was the perfect place to vote about it. I’d like to take a minute to point out that I don’t really “get” Twitter. I have an account, and I voted, but I don’t check tweets, or follow anyone important or really go out of my way to experience Twitter. Which means, to me, Twitter is this magical place I sometimes hear about, where Wendy’s is funny and Arby’s is Nihilist, famous movie and TV characters all actually exist and Jayden Smith is some kind of raving lunatic prophet. From the outside looking in, Twitter seems like a sort of Zeitgeist-powered dreamscape where reality is always just in the peripheral but never touching anything. And, it lets Wizards give us a level of engagement and involvement with their story that is a humdrum, commonplace, basic PR move today, but would have been a wild-eyed children’s fantasy just 15 years ago. The idea that the people who made stuff I liked would listen to what little Adolescent Blake had to say is the kind of exciting that would have made sleeping through math class that much harder. I still would have done it though, because math is a genuinely useful life skill and young me was determined to avoid those at all costs. Now, I’m not sure people even ever doubted that we might get to choose who wins the race to Orazca. We take our technological paradise for granted sometimes, is my point.
So, there were four groups vying for control of the city. The Sun Empire (mistakenly phrased as though to suggest the Dinosaurs were running things instead of just mounts), the Merfolk, the Vampires and the Pirates. People are entitled to their opinions, and I know what the most rational course of action for me in this situation is. I should remain humorously detached, crack a few jokes and remain jovially coy about who I supported in order to avoid alienating any of my small readership. That would be the smart thing. So obviously, I’m not doing that.
Brazen Coalition for life, you scurvy landlubbin’ piles of driftwood! Any of you bilge-drinkin’, whisky-rotted sons-of-bitches who deny me lads and lasses their proper fortunes can taste my steel. Anybody who tries to hornswaggle us out of ours will be dancin’ the hempen jig by day’s end. No fish-faced scaly river-runners are going to keep us from our city. No poncy, self-righteous fang-freaks neither. Nor will be stopped by any stompy, peanut-brained, walking suitcases, nor the painted-up simpletons riding them around. We be the true heirs of all that vast fortune, and all fortunes for that matter. The bloodsuckers took our homes. The scale-asses took our seas. And no damn lizards or feather-wearing scallywags will be keeping us from our damn city. YARRRRRR!
Damn, that was fun. Anyway, yeah, pirates forever. Fight me.
All Aboard the S.S. “Blue Gorgon”
So the latest Magic Story bit is out and it’s divided into two bits. The part where some folks actually get to the city, and the interesting part. In the first part, arrogant fish man whose name I refuse to look up gets to the city first, and holds it for all of 60 seconds before Vona and Mavren show up to toss his ass out of a window. Like, really easily too. He doesn’t even bloody their noses. He just eats shit immediately, like a drunk guy on an icy parking lot. Apparently, being powered up by the Golden City and it’s inherent awesomeness doesn’t let you fly, or overpower two measly vampires. Seems to be some hype that so far this city is not living up to.
Then there’s the interesting part. So Jace suffers another whack on the noggin, and his memories start pouring out all VR-style. The thing is, it’s not just the memories he lost in his battle with Nicol Bolas, it’s all the memories from all the numerous times his mind has been erased, or fractured itself in trauma. Jace’s brain has more holes in it than Sawgrass. We get a lot of Jace’s story filled in and fleshed out. And we’re not the only ones getting a clearer picture. Vraska gets a front row seat into Jace’s headspace and she likes what she sees, mostly. She thinks Kid Jace is a lot like her, and they would have gotten along smashingly. She thinks Jace has done some shit he’s not proud of, just like her. She thinks Jace has been used, manipulated and victimized by nearly everyone he’s ever known, just like her. And she thinks Liliana is a manipulative whore who any sane or reasonably intelligent person would never, ever become romantically entangled with, just like I do. And just like that, despite my protestations, despite the fact that it won’t last, and doesn’t really make all that much sense and despite the fact that “I saw inside your brain” is a big cheat for how to speed up a relationship, I’m suddenly on board for this ship. At first, I was just certain that anything was better than Lilli, but Vraska has really won me over here. Jace is a better person since getting smacked down and learning a bit of self-sufficiency and humility. Vraska is a better person when she has people she cares about and people who care about her. This was a big moment for them, where they face the history between them that Vraska was afraid of. And nobody lost their shit. They spoke honestly, maturely and each let the other see how much their new found relationship meant to one another. I’ve seen worse bases for a relationship. Also, and I know this would never happen, but holy shit how awesome would it be for Vraska to show up and call Lilli on all her shit? Who’s the black Gatewatch member now, bitch!
Judges Sexual Assault “Controversy”
I can’t believe I have to talk about this, even a little bit. I don’t want to. I don’t think it’s funny. I don’t think it’s interesting, but it sure did take up a lot of news space. So, ok, fine. Here’s your rundown:
Judges are a volunteer position that are fairly well organized and tenuously independent of WOTC. They are usually folks in the community with a good handle on the rules who want to help run events or keep Magic thriving in their area. They are the lifeblood that the entire game runs on. They are, for the most part, wonderful human beings. They are also still human beings, and lots of those are shitty. In the past, some Judges have been accused, or even convicted, of some heinous shit, including pedophilia. You will note, that when an organization of mostly amazing people tends to have access to children, it tends to draw out some real goddamn monsters. Priests, teachers, scout leaders, etc. This is not news, it is not a story, it is not an appreciable percentage of the Judge community.
But some god-awful losers, who have either not enough self-respect or entirely too much time on their hands, think they can embarrass WOTC by either pointing out former Judges who were convicted of these crimes, or by making accusations against others. They also publicly posted personal info for over 1,600 judges online. Just in case you were unaware, these scum-sucking wastes of skin are not noble vigilantes attacking dangerous criminals. They’re witless, hapless punks attacking community volunteers in order to mildly inconvenience a corporation they have a grudge against. Make no mistake, WOTC is being given a hard time, and innocent people are being hurt, because they decided to do the right thing and take an active role in bettering our community. The filth we scraped off our boots grew legs and is now chasing us down the street screaming bloody murder. We’re still better off, and I for one am doubling down on my support of Wizards. They screw up a lot of shit, but this isn’t that.
And just so this entire section isn’t completely without one stupid, freaking joke:
“What does Doran think about all this manufactured outrage and these bullshit attacks?”
“They’re Tree-Mendously Disappointing”.
Holy Shit, They Banned WHAT?!
Ok, so this article was done, finished, in the can. I was ready to kick back and go back to thinking up creative ways to describe failure. Then WOTC had to go and ban 4 cards in Standard, all at once. Rogue Refiner, Attune with Aether, Rampaging Ferocidon and Ramunap Ruins all bit the dust. And honestly, in one way, I kind of get it. Temur Energy has been running away with Standard for a long time now. Banning Attune will definitely at least force decks to be less greedy on colours and Rogue Refiner is a solid value card that helps the deck hum. So yeah, the deck is 30% of the meta and this seems like a good way to kneecap it.
Killing Ramunap Red is…premature? To put it mildly? The reasoning in the DailyMTG article is that after you remove Temur Energy, RR’s win percentage is incredibly high against the entire rest of the field. Not wanting to ban one oppressive deck just to make room for another, WOTC has apparently opted to cut that shit off at the pass and just ban two important cards to this deck, too.
Except, you can’t know what banning Temur Energy will do the format long term. How many great decks were suffocating under Longtusk Cub beats? And there’s always a best deck in Standard. Shouldn’t a deck actually get a chance to…you know, be the best deck in Standard before you decide to kill it?
Also, and I’m sorry, but even if you were completely right and Ramunap Red would have made Standard even less fun… you gotta know how this looks right? Banning 4 cards in Standard all at once? This isn’t an emergency fix, this is an admission of guilt. This is laying yourself down in front of the lion’s den covered in barbecue sauce. This is bitching to your spouse about your Ex’s sexual prowess. This is expressing a political opinion in a YouTube Comment. This is eating pure capsaicin on a dare. There’s no way this ends clean. This get messy. This gets ugly. I do not envy WOTC for the next few weeks. At least one guy must have suggested just cancelling Standard. It must have seemed so much easier.
“Wow, these copies of “Chandra, Torch of Defiance” are a lot cheaper than yesterday. What happened?”
“Oh didn’t you hear? They cancelled Standard.”
“Like, at our LGS or…?”
“Nope, all Standard is cancelled forever. All formats are eternal and Draft EVs are terrible.”
“Wow. Well, I guess it could be worth it. WOTC could have tried to hobble the two top decks in the format simultaneously.”
Whew! And we’re done. This was a long one. I hope you liked it. Feel free to tell me how awesome Pirates are or to be wrong in the comments. Feel free to pair off other formerly minor Planewalkers with other members of the Gatewatch since apparently I’m in full shipping mode. Or just say hi. I live for your feedback; it’s a condition I have called “Low Self-Esteem”. See you in a couple weeks.