So! What did we learn this week?
Well, we learned that giving out dating advice is patently worthless, and usually ends up revealing more about the person doling out the advice than perhaps he or she intends to share. It’s easy to tell a guy what to do to convince a girl to hook up with him, but putting this advice under the category of “dating” is borderline irresponsible. Trying to teach someone how to secure and maintain a relationship with substance and fulfillment is a waste of time. It’s not . . . teachable. Real relationships: Two best friends opening up their crazy, neurotic worlds with each other. I can’t get over how insane the presumption is that you could ever teach this. Finding your soul’s counterpart in another (thanks, Wedding Crashers!) has nothing to do with any sort of prodigious skill or “being excellent”; it’s dumb luck, and telling anyone that anything else has to do with it is just you saving your ego. Knowing the sciences behind The Tendencies of Women versus The Tendencies of Men isn’t worth dick; in an actual, grown-up relationship, with mutual respect, it’s really important for you to throw your preconceived notions about your partner’s gender out the window and start getting to know her (or him) for who she (or he) really is. And if this much was already obvious to you, congratulations! You’re not a sociopath.
Men and women are both pretty easy to manipulate. You can convince anyone to agree to be your girlfriend if you really want to. But the likelihood of a relationship borne of that kind of manipulation actually making you happy? Pretty fuckin’ low. The only advice I can give in good conscience is for you to work on yourself. Take bartending classes. Learn how to drive a motorcycle. It sounds like bullshit, but feeling better about yourself is a good first step to getting a nice lady or bro to notice you, and when someone good for you crosses your path, you’re probably not gonna wanna fuck that up.
I played mono-Red at FNM last week.
2 Hero of Oxid Ridge
3 Kargan Dragonlord
4 Chandra's Phoenix
4 Goblin Guide
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Searing Blaze
2 Arc Trail
3 Forked Bolt
4 Shrine of Burning Rage
4 Arid Mesa
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Teetering Peaks
3 Manic Vandal
3 Vulshok Refugee
3 Act of Aggression
1 Arc Trail
I wasn’t sure how good Kargan Dragonlord was gonna be—I was very openly ridiculed while running around for a third copy of the card—but I was still happy to be playing an uncomplicated deck for a change.
Round 1, I play against a dude named Cody. He tells me it’s his first time at FNM, so I’m expecting some misplays, some scrubbiness . . . you know, the usual. This ends up not being the case.
I have a feeling Duels of the Planeswalkers did a lot more for Magic than anyone could’ve ever imagined. Not only has it brought a ton of new players to the game, but it makes it so that their understanding of the rules, the stack, combat, and priority—all the cumbersome shit that makes Magic overwhelming to teach in person—is eerily on-point.
For a reference point, I started playing during Masques block. The stack took me forever to learn. I didn’t even know priority existed until I got my Magic Online account during Kamigawa block. The way DotP allows people to pick up these concepts so quickly and completely . . . it’s awesome. Watching these players plug their own paper cards into the concepts they picked up playing DotP and figure out the interactions of their decks and how they relate to what they already know is fun to watch.
Cody is playing a mono-White brew, and he’s a little nervous. He has some Puresteel Paladins and stuff, so he’s pretty disadvantaged in the matchup, but he still plays well and knows to respond to an Arc Trail with a Dispatch. Game 1 is pretty close; I have all dudes to start, but I draw running burn spells too late to win the race. Game 2 is a little less close; he has no pressure whatsoever, and I get there with an ultimated Kargan Dragonlord.
Round 2, I play against Louis, who decides to celebrate the joyous occasion of the last FNM with Zendikar block by playing Valakut.
What’s wrong with that?
This sets off some alarm bells for me. I don’t harbor any beliefs that Louis is a casual player; I hardly believe any casual player would ever choose to run Valakut at an FNM. Because of that, I also hardly believe that this is the first time he’s ever drawn off a Goblin Guide on the draw and then followed it up with just a land.
“Uhh . . . cards in hand?”
[Counts cards in hand.]
Louis untaps and plays a Mountain, stares at it for a full five-count, looks at his hand, looks at the Mountain, looks back at his hand, and then puts the Mountain back in his hand, plays a Forest, and casts Khalni Heart Expedition.
In hindsight, I definitely should’ve prison-ruled him. If you’re gonna play Valakut against me, you gonna pay the price. But I didn’t hold him to his mistake. Instead, I pandered. I pandered to my commenters. I pandered to the people who wanted me to play Magic the way they prefer (take-backs, loose interpretation of the rules), as opposed to the way I prefer (strict interpretation of the rules).
Here’s the thing: I’m not ever doing that again. Ever. I need the Magic cards to keep doing this column; I need to win. Everyone pays the same $5 entry. That entry fee comes with a tacit agreement that everyone has to play by the rules, no matter how cruel and unusual you may think that is. Magic is a complicated game. If that bothers you, I don’t know what to tell you. E-mails go to email@example.com. Back to the show.
I lose that game on Louis’s last turn he has to live, but I take the back two games, thanks to his having no ramp spells Game 2 and me having Act of Aggression Game 3.
After the match, Louis asks me if I want to play some more games. Not a normal Spike request. Yeah, I’m pretty sure I got the wrong read on Louis; maybe he’s just a new player with a really good deck. Something else that indicates my first impression was grossly incorrect: Louis comments, “Damn, that’s hot!” in reference to my shuffle, and he asks if I’ll teach him how to do it. I don’t think my shuffle is that cool; it’s just a sideways bridge. I try to teach Louis how to do it, but fail (still a bad teacher!), and after our casual games, I feel pretty shitty about how I’d felt about Louis earlier. He’s not a Spike trying to get one over on me—he’s just a dude trying to stay competitive at FNM and who compensated for his lack of tournament experience by playing a very good deck.
So I guess I have to eat my words on that whole “take-backsies” thing. As the saying goes, only a Sith deals in absolutes. Things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as your first impression. Kinda like dating—amirite?
Game 1, I lead with a Grim Lavamancer, and Phil has to read it because it’s from Torment.
“Oh, it’s Grim Lavamancer. I didn’t recognize it right away. Wow, the old art is way better than the new art. I want you to put that in your article. That’s a for-the-record type statement.”
Sure thing, Phil!
Phil and I split the first two games, and the third game is decided when Phil keeps a one-lander on the draw. He’s counting on hitting hands with my Goblin Guide, but he doesn’t and just loses. It’s probably worth noting that he draws all four of his Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, but I still think he had some pretty loose reasoning for keeping a one-lander. Goblin Guide isn’t guaranteed to draw you cards. If the top three cards of your library happen to be spells, you don’t get any advantage and you just lose. Hell, even if one of your five top cards is land, like it was in our game, you’re still losing. The chances of either of those occurrences, to me, are too big to justify Phil’s keep.
I’m to play the mirror Round 4, piloted by a quiet dude named Brad. The games themselves are not interesting—I just stone out-draw him: three Goblin Guides Game 1, three Shrine of Burning Rage Game 2. After the match, Brad sheepishly shows me the four Shrine of Burning Rage he sided out, having forgotten that, while slow, they might come in handy against the Vulshok Refugees I’d be bringing in. As it stands, that’s exactly the card he loses to.
Round 5 (yup, still doing extra rounds at FNM), I play against Aaron, marking the third time in this series I’ve had to play Aaron in the ultimate round. He’s playing a mono-Blue Eldrazi deck, but he doesn’t really have a whole lot of ways to interact with me short of Wurmcoil Engine. He does show me this hand he has to ship Game 1:
When I was a little kid, I used to watch a lot of TV. This bred the unusual desire of wanting to literally break into my television set, ostensibly so that I could hang out with Thomas the Tank Engine. I know that’s an insane thing to want, but that’s what I wanted. I used to dream about it a lot. The most vivid of these dreams came when I was four years old.
We’re on a flight of stairs, heading down into a finished basement. We’re wearing footie pajamas. We go down into a big room (the door’s already open), and there’s a bar—a bar with a lot of glass bottles of water behind it, each of the bottles marked differently. Some of the bottles even have Coke in them, but they’re all covered in dust. Plus, there’s plenty of Coke in the fridge, and that stuff’s nice and cold. But we only have eyes for the TV set on the wall behind the bar. An episode of Barney is playing, so we pull up a barstool and watch. We watch as Barney stops what he’s doing and breaks the fourth wall to beckon us into the TV set. This confuses us, but Barney patiently points to a spot on the bar to our right; we look down, and we see that Barney’s trying to draw our attention to the hammer on the bar. Was it there the whole time? We pick it up, get off the stool, walk toward the TV, and bash away at the set while Barney patiently watches, unharmed. Once we decide there’s a big enough hole, we climb onto the bar and take a running jump into the TV. And we’re in! We’re on the playground! And Barney and Baby Bop and BJ and all the child actors come running toward us to give us a big hug, and the second Barney makes contact with us, we wake up.
See you next week!