Jester’s ReCap 19: Codes of Conduct, Chandra Lucks Out, Sales Tests, Brawl Blake Treleaven May 8, 2018 Jester's reCap Hello again Magic Community. It’s that time again. The time where I frantically try to organize the furious scrawls left in blood and shit adorning the walls on the dark and sinister asylum that is my own brain, and hammer it into an article fit for human consumption. Or as it is sometimes known — The Jester’s ReCap, a semi-monthly breakdown of some stuff that happened around Magic in the past few weeks, dependent entirely upon how much I care. A fair bit happened since my last article, and I was kinda, sorta, maybe paying attention, so let’s jump in and see where this ride takes us: MTGO Sucks – But It’ll Suck Less If You’re Cool You know what I love? People. People are the best. People play Magic. They love Magic. They design Magic Cards. They are friendly, creative, supportive and well-meaning. They act out of a place of self-respect, compassion and a general belief that they are the hero of their own story and that being that hero takes a certain amount of personal responsibility. People are why Magic is fun to play. People are why Magic is strong and survives. All hobbies and activities, especially online, are more fun because we’re connected to other people. You know what I hate? People. People are the goddamn worst. People play Magic, but they never seem to enjoy it. They bitch about design constantly while contributing nothing. They are mean-spirited, rigidly hold only to their own narrow beliefs, and are condescending, privileged and selfish. They act out of insecurity, contempt and general cynicism that insists absolutely everyone is as miserable and as unhappy as they are. People are why sometimes I want to set all my cards on fire and uninstall MTGO. People are why Magic is reactive and often has a terrible reputation. All hobbies and activities, especially online, are more challenging to enjoy because we’re connected to other people. I truly believe those two statements are both completely true at the exact same time. I realize People is about the broadest category of anything possible, outside of maybe “organism”, but it still rattles me sometimes: the depths and heights we can achieve simultaneously in the way we choose to treat each other. Which is why I’m so conflicted any time a company launches a new “crack down” on toxic player behaviour, as Wizards is planning on doing with MTGO starting…well if this goes up on time, yesterday. On the one hand, it is entirely true that 90% of all the chat messages I have ever been sent on MTGO are salty, salty jerks bitching about how I don’t deserve my rare and occasional victories. (The fact that they are correct and I’m so sloppy I should put on a bib after resolving mulligans makes this no less of a dick move in my opinion). The ability to block players, and a more judicious and finely-tuned reporting process seems like a fantastic move forward and I would consider this a quality of life upgrade that MTGO has been long overdue for. On the other hand, even though 90% of my chat interactions are mean-spirit douchebags who can’t even take the time to spell their insults correctly (That’s about standards, asshole), 90% of every single match I play on MTGO actually has no chat interaction at all. People are mostly just happy not to engage and take the chance that their opponent is a raging toolbox, and now Wizards is going to give players the opportunity to opt-out of in-game chat altogether. I hate that. Not because anyone should have to be exposed to abuse or bullshit of any kind, but because the kind of people with the maturity and restraint to say “Screw it, I’d rather not wade into that shit swamp” are exactly the kind of people who should be encouraged to stay and interact with other players! Look at it this way: Imagine all people could be sorted into two major groups. We’ll call group A “The Magic Community”. The Magic Community are folks who say “GL HF” and mean it, say “GG” even when they lose and maybe make a friendly joke when I resolve my 4th “Cabal Evangel” in a draft game (I’m not kidding guys, I’m really terrible at this game). They’re the kind of people that not only do I enjoy talking to, but also I immediately have something in common with. Fast friends, if you will. Now, let’s imagine a second group. Let’s call it “Loudly Screeching Sewage People”. The LSSP are the filthy muck that ferments at the bottom of the internet and know only the worst of all human tendencies. Which group is going to see an option to turn off chat and go “Oh yeah, that’s way less stressful”. We are essentially risking self-selecting out all the decent people and leaving only the scum to scream at each other. Which is fine, I guess, but it feels a lot like giving up. MTGO sucks, it’s ugly and it’s broken and it’s limping to the end of it’s miserable existence. But goddamnit, it’s also OURS. And the jerks shouldn’t get to claim it for their own just because they’re louder and have less shame. I’m going to be friendly and chatty in every match I have this week. I’m going to reach out and try to make sure everyone has fun. When that update goes live, I want people to say “I can block the assholes, but I’m not turning off chat, because who knows maybe my opponent is a nice guy, like that Jester fellow.” Who’s with me? Magic Story: The Chandra Interlude We interrupt this story to show you Chandra hunting for Jaya Ballard and also scorching the ever-loving shit out of some 0/1 Kobolds. Seriously, the Crew of the Weatherlight is forming up, and we’ve spent like 7 weeks “getting the band back together”. This would be the part of Blues Brothers where they start playing “Rawhide”, if you want to over extend that metaphor, and instead we followed the world’s hottest Planeswalker around while she chased a shortcut to the ultimate knowledge of… that thing she already does. That is nuts. Chandra wounded Nicol Bolas more than any of the other Gatewatch. Chandra burned a dragon, which isn’t even a thing you should be able to do. And when that didn’t work, her plan was to learn more about burning stuff. You know, that is so impossibly on flavour for a Red Mage it’s almost crazy. Spectator: Wow, that other Planeswalker sure does have a lot of (Countermagic/Life Gain/Wall of Zombie Minions/Fire Proof Skin) Red Mage: Yep. Spectator: What’s the plan? Red Mage: Gonna burn him to ashes. With fire. Spectator: Uh, you’ve been using fire. Red Mage: Well, yeah….but you know, more. More Fire. Spectator: But that hasn’t been working at all. You’re getting creamed. Red Mage: Yes, because clearly I haven’t been using enough Fire. Obviously, I need More Fire. So now I’m going to use More Fire. Try to keep up. Spectator: What if More Fire doesn’t work? Red Mage: Then I’ll really pull out all the stops and use Yet More Fire. And if that doesn’t work, then ultimately it’s my fault for not having access to enough Fire. Spectator: What about something other than fire? Red Mage: Ohhhh. Right! Right, good idea. Change it up a bit. Lightning and Lava, coming right up. So anyway, Chandra goes back to the Keep and steals Jaya Ballard’s Goggles, because nothing says “Trust Me” like “I robbed your disciples” and an older Pyromancer woman shows up and spends a lot of time there trying to talk her out of it. Chandra doesn’t listen, goes back to Dominaria and turns some Kobolds in barbaque, then runs into Walking Trees so the writer can name-drop Multani and then meets… Karn? Did I miss a chapter? Wasn’t Karn, um, let’s call it “indisposed” last time we saw him? You guys will have to fill me in on that one. And then finally at the end, that old Pyromancer woman, who spends a lot of time at the Keep that follows the teachings of Jaya Ballard and has a bunch of relics of hers on display, shows up and Whoops, she’s Jaya Ballard. Lame. Look, I love the idea that Chandra has been taught by Jaya Ballard this whole time. That’s a fantastic little retcon. But we only know like, three named Pyromancers in the entire Multiverse. Making two of them retroactively be the same person makes the whole setting feel so damn small. I am disappointed, but I do hope that this pair or peppy pyros gets a bit more focus than just this one chapter. They’re more fun than Chunk Manwhich’s almost-extant personality and Lili’s new mantra of “I don’t care. Who said I cared? I’ll show them, I’ll Zombify anyone who even suggests I cared, that’s how indifferent I am to all of this.” The Feedback Era So “Theme Packs” are a thing, and they’re interesting. They’re a new sort of product available for now at a few hundred Wal-Marts and every card in them is arranged both by colour and by “mini-theme”. It’s probably not a great idea to sell a pack that has 35 cards in it and still only one rare slot, but it’s neat to give a players a way to combat the randomness of a common booster. I applaud the effort, and more than that, I applaud the new “era” that Gavin Verhey wrote about when he announced them. The basic idea here is, Wizards wants to try a bunch of goofy and weirdo products, but they don’t want to release a hundred million things a year. So instead, they’ve developed a bunch of test markets to release stuff on a smaller scale first, and get a feel for how we feel about them. Which makes smart business sense, assuming the Magic players in Milwaukee like the same stuff as a Magic player in Milan and visa versa. I’m pretty sure Fast Food and Junk Food distributors do this too, which is why there are some cities in the mid-west where you used to be able to buy Bacon-Flavoured Sprite or whatever. Except, the test products Wizards are making aren’t using their small number of Wal-marts to make sure Magic Cards aren’t giving us cancer or something. Unless they are, in which case the new card coating is not worth it. And now that we’ve got a product development area where we can try riskier things, Wizards can finally take some of my pitches for less “mainstream” products! Wizards, these ideas are free, some are even serious, all I ask is a personal thank you from R&D and chance to have Chris Perkins DM my Sunday DnD Brunch this month. Magic: Single Player* Adventure Decks – Build 5 decks in escalating scales of strength. Connect them with a story booklet that places them in chronological order and gives them a cool tale to read through as you progress. Challenge the player to build a deck that meets certain restrictions (if the hero of the story is an Izzet mage, they can only use blue and red mana) and see if they can beat all the decks in order. (They aren’t really single player, you’d need a DM, a friend or opponent, to run the pre-built decks, but you get the idea. You could even take turns.) Magic: Mystery Packs – Print a few hundred packs of every set since…let’s say 8th edition to keep it Modern legal. Keep the same print runs as before, just scale down the size. Then sell them all in the exact same packaging and give players even less control than usual over what they get. A gambling addict’s fantasy. Winston Draft Packs – Just sell me a pre-shuffled 6 packs with the lands and tokens removed. Open with a buddy, draft Winston style, completely blind. Two-Headed Giant Duel Decks – 4 Decks in the box, all roughly the same power level, which can be paired off which each other in all the the different combinations. Backdraft Packs – All the worst cards ever printed, randomly slotted into booster packs just so you can troll your friends, or set up a backdraft and try to stick your buddy with something truly malignant. I Was Wrong About Brawl Fine. I admit it. The Format is genuinely pretty fun. I’ve played a ton of it and it’s great. Sorry Wizards, I guess I should have had more faith. I was just blinded by your long history of screwing up and being terrible, that’s all. Also, competitive events seems to be solved to make it Baral mirrors every time. So, maybe fix that. And that’s it for me this week. This was a long one! Did you guys like it? Did you hate it? Please Please Please comment either way. Your love thaws my cold dead heart and gets me out of bed in the morning and your hate is the fuel I churn in my spite engine, which drives me to be even better. Have a good couple weeks! 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