Hello again Magic fans,
The ongoing experiment continues, as I do my best every couple of weeks to give you an update on what’s going on in the greater Magic Multiverse without resorting to such unseemly tactics as research, asking anyone or reading stuff. This is an off-the-cuff, purely from memory recap of the last two weeks, and due to some last minute info dropping about Ixalan it’s a long one so let’s get started:
First, let’s talk MTGO. Now, I haven’t been doing this very long, but already I think you guys know I have some mild concerns about Magic The Gathering Online. I swear to you, dear readers, that my constructive criticism comes from a place of love and support. If I sometimes seem a little annoyed or cross with MTGO, it’s only because I want so badly for it to succeed. And because of the sucking and failure. But mostly because of the love thing. And I have an opportunity to show off my love and pride in “The Little Program That Almost Managed” when they bring out my very favourite feature, the flashback draft.
For those of you blessedly ignorant to the workings of Magic Online, Flashback Drafts are the best and most comforting promise that WOTC might actually want us to be happy. They’re a simple opportunity for players to draft older sets for a brief period of time. It’s fantastic use of the MTGO formula, because actually putting together a flashback draft in paper is a rare, complicated and expensive process which few people will have very much opportunity to do. Whereas on Magic Online, the ability to click two buttons and be drafting Rise of Eldrazi is like a gift from a just and benevolent God. These past two weeks, the draft formats have been Odyssey, and original Ravnica. Here are the basics:
Odyssey block is an enchantment matters block with centaurs, graveyard counting, flashback and madness. It’s like Innistrad and Theros had a slow, ugly baby with tremendous halitosis. I love it. I love its weird janky rares and its bizarrely odd colour balance. It has Werebear, which is both the greatest mana dork ever printed and what Channeler Initiate would be if it wasn’t such a lazy slacker. One of these cards needs to spend a few turns psyching itself up for a fight. The other has a big red switch that says “BEAR” and it’s always five seconds from pressing it. No contest. I would love Odyssey block even more…if it goddamned worked. Seriously MTGO? Am I the bad guy here? You gave me one of my favourite blocks ever and every draft I did, I found some awful game destroying bug. Thermal Blast apparently can’t activate Threshold? I don’t set the bar high MTGO but you need to be able to count to seven. You know, seven? As in the number of minutes you spent playtesting this goddamn block before hitting the “print money” button that made the drafts go live?
Also Ravnica is up for drafting and should still be up for one more day as of the posting of this. It seem to work, it’s a great format and you’re robbing yourself if you don’t go try it.
In real news, it turns out the big Ixalan marketing push is all about exploration. Specifically, Geocaching. I’m not an expert, but from what I understand Geocaching is the act of hiding something in the woods with the hope that some bored teenagers will soon stumble across it and move it for you. Basically, if a serial killer would do it with a body, it’s something you should consider doing with your geocache. The connection appears to be that Pirates, specifically fictional pirates, were always burying treasure off in the wilderness and then leaving conspicuous maps to help people rob them. That’s impossibly lame, but I guess it is difficult to craft a positive marketing message around armed robbery and dying of scurvy. Or maybe it’s because you also dig up dinosaurs? But seriously if you’re marketing a product that contains dinosaurs and the best tie-in you can come up with is “They’re all dead now!” then you are woefully under-equipped to work in WOTC marketing, sir. Let’s get you over to MTGO Quality Assurance ASAP. Also, it would appear that the following conversation actually happened somewhere in the depths of WOTC:
Earnest Employee: You know what would be a fun way to promote Ixalan? Why don’t we play off its “Treasure Hunter” vibe and use Geocaching!
Realist Employee: So…your plan is to take some or all of our promotional materials, and hide them in the woods, buried in the earth?
Earnest Employee: Yep!
Realist Employee: Meh, still a better idea than our early TV ads.
Ixalan’s mechanics were also spoiled. The short version is, Vehicles are back, Raid is back, don’t poke the Dinosaurs. Vampires care about lifegain and Merfolk care about +1/+1 counters and being hard to block which is sort of the magic equivalent of “the sky is up” but I’m sure some folks are jazzed. There’s also Explore, which is apparently what happens when you tell Scry that you don’t love it enough, so it goes out and starts a steady regimen of anabolic steroids and hating itself.
The other big news story this week seems really complicated and I was tempted to break my own rules and actually know what the hell I was talking about before I wrote anything. But damnit, no. I committed to being a lazy jackass and nobody likes a quitter. So here we go, here’s what I can figure out about this whole “Judge Lawsuit” thing, purely from memory.
Apparently several lawsuits are currently on the stack, regarding whether Judges are Wizard employees or not. Judging Magic Events is a volunteer position that absolutely every event you’ve ever attended absolutely hinged on. A good judge makes a fun night of Magic. A bad judge will make you pendulum between blind searing rage and self-doubting confusion for an entire week. Wondering if you got a bad call or if you just don’t actually know the rules of this game you supposedly love is a terrible limbo to be caught in. It’s like bouncing back and forth between a savagely personal argument with an ex-girlfriend and that Quantum Leap GIF where Sam wonders if he’s retarded. There seems to be some question of whether they should get paid, and while I don’t pretend to understand the legal intricacies or nuanced positions of both sides, the answer is yes. Judges should be paid. Not because of legal standing, or because it’s the right thing to do or any of that crap. They need to be paid because without them the clanking machinery of WOTC’s whole operation comes to a fractured, screeching halt. Every GP, every Pro Tour, every FNM and rinky-dink side event requires a bunch of living breathing humans to actually run the damn thing. If those events stop, it will cost WOTC an ungodly amount of revenue. The kind of money that makes Hasbro executives hard enough to do a push up with their dick. If you don’t want to pay people to put all that work forward, especially when you’ve given them so much leverage over you by making them indispensable, then your only option is to find a replacement. Maybe you could teach robots all the rules of Magic? *Glances over at MTGO*. Yeah, you should just pay the goddamn Judges, WOTC.
Finally, and this is really just a more a nitpick, but Maro had an article last week called “Unhinged jokes explained”.
No, that’s a Bad Maro. Bad. No biscuit.
You don’t explain jokes. Jokes are either funny, or their not. Believe me, I’m an expert at producing both types. Now, Un-set jokes are sometimes called “in-jokes” because they are targeted at the Magic Community. They are about things were are already familiar with. All humour requires context, and you have to tell a joke you think will land with your audience. But the Magic community are the people reading the articles you write Maro! No random non-player found a Hurloon Wrangler on a street corner and was suddenly possessed with a deep need to know if it was funny or not. If they didn’t understand it, either it wasn’t for them, or you screwed the pooch. That’s it. And no human being has ever saved a joke by writing a few hundred words explaining it!
Example for emphasis: You see, the humour of the piece is derived from the similar, but distinct, pronunciation of the word “Pianist” and certain terms for human genetalia. Once the listener has accepted the basic premise of a Genie and magical happenings, relying on their suspension of disbelief, we then counter their expectations with a mundane reasoning for why our protagonists’ wish has gone awry. In this case, a simple case of poor hearing has gifted our hero with a tiny skilled musician, instead of a truly magnificent Man-hammer.
That’s it for me this time, folks. Remember, my self-worth lives and dies on your comments!