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Soapbox Time


I’m not the first to ply this schtick, and I won’t be the last, but there sure are a lot of things bothering me these days.

Maybe it’s because I’m turning thirty-one and I’m getting a pretty bad case of the “In my days” and “Get off my lawns.” Maybe it’s because the weather has been unusually gloomy here in Austin, Texas. Or maybe it’s because everyone else sucks.

Yeah, I’m a cranky old man sometimes.

Still, I felt the need to get on my soapbox this week to address a few things that have been bothering me . . . 

People Who Don’t Bring Their Own Dice, Paper, and So On

Jace, Architect of Thought
This seems to be a trivial complaint, but pretty much nothing grinds my gears more than someone bringing a deck that uses tokens, planeswalkers, or +1/+1 counters to a tournament and then having to borrow dice and/or counters from other people. You decided to play the deck! You brought the cards! Ostensibly, you know what your cards do! So, why in the world are you having to borrow dice from your opponent, who can’t possibly be happy to hand you a twelve-sided die to represent the eight Elemental tokens about to kick his or her teeth in.

Look, I understand that sometimes you forget things. It happens. But even then, there’s a right and a wrong way to handle it.

This last week, I played against a very pleasant guy at a local box tournament. He was on mono-blue, and I was on Esper. I ended up losing the games to Bident of Thassa, which was all fine and good, but every time he played a Jace, Architect of Thought or a Master of Waves, he’d reach across my play mat and grab my dice—without even asking.

The next round, I played against a G/W heroic deck, and when he needed counters for a heroic creature, he sheepishly apologized for forgetting his dice. He didn’t even have to finish his sentence before I placed one on his creature. We had a fun, friendly match, and that was that.

Now guess which one of these people I semi-irrationally hate for the rest of time . . . 

I-Know-a-Pro-and-He-or-She-Is-a-Jerk Syndrome

Violent Ultimatum
The following story actually happened to me a bit ago, with the names omitted to protect me from justified social outrage.

Sitting around before a local tournament, I heard a player start talking very loudly about how he used to play with a number of well-known Magic pros. He singled out one of them as particularly awful, angry, and, as he described it, prone to violence. He claimed the pro threatened him with karate.

It was at this point when I piped in despite my typical inclination to mind my own freaking business (as you do). I actually know the pro from my time on coverage, and everything he was describing seemed to be the opposite of what I knew about the guy. I said so, and the guy repeated the claim, but with less veracity. I again insisted that sounded nothing like him and then made sure to drop in there that I interacted with said pros fairly regularly on my coverage gig. I wanted him to know I really knew what I was talking about. He muttered something and moved on.

At this point, I thought that, possibly, the interaction could have happened as he described it and the named pro had simply grown up and matured. It happens all the time. The karate claim seemed especially ludicrous, given the pro’s, um, build, but who knows?

Later that night, I, unsurprisingly, had a very unpleasant match against the guy in which he berated me for being lucky. Now the warning signs were piling up, so I sent the pro in question a quick message over social media. Somewhat surprisingly, he or she knew the guy. Unsurprisingly, the pro had his or her own stories.

Basically, don’t be that guy. You might know some pros, and it might give you some kind of cache over local players who want nothing more than to partake in some hero worship. And it might make you seem way cooler to call them jerks. But the fact of the matter is that very few pros actually are jerks. Most of them are pretty good people.

And even if you’re totally correct, it comes off as petty and jealous.

Playing Your Cards in Awkward Positions

Obzedat, Ghost Council
I’m not going to chime in on the lands-in-front-of-creatures debate because debates over idiotic and tiny things like this are also on my list of things that bug me—and because I’m going to complain about something super-similar instead.

I understand that Magic doesn’t have a set board on which pieces have to go in certain areas, but there are generally accepted ways to play your cards so that both players have clear pictures of what’s happening. For example, I’ve never seen any player line his or her lands up vertically along the far edge of his or her play mat.

Similarly, I know of only one person who plays his or her cards so they face his or her opponent rather than himself or herself, and it drives me nuts. I don’t know why this person does it, but when I pointed this out to another player, that person immediately knew what I was talking about and said he or she found it condescending, as though the assumption was that the opponent needed help reading and understanding the cards.

Some games have very strict rules about where game pieces sit. Risk, for example, couldn’t function if you were free to organize your pieces however you pleased. Same with chess.

Magic is a bit looser with those rules, but some of them still exist. You can’t place exiled cards on top of your library, no matter how bad you are at remembering Obzedat, Ghost Council triggers, for example.

Playing your cards in the “normal” way just helps keep the game state clear. Deviating just confuses things and makes me question where you learned to play that way.

Speculating during Pro Tours: Players and Stores

Thassa, God of the Sea
I kind of hate speculating, not because the practice is necessarily unethical or untoward, but just because I just hate the environment it has created wherein everyone is a value trader and serious value traders always feel like that guy trying to sell you gold watches from his trench coat.

Smartphones have played a role in this, as players line up trades to make sure values line up almost completely. I’ve seen trades with $60 in value on each side derailed because of $2 they just couldn’t make up for. If it’s a pure value trade, sure, I kinda understand that, but for most transactions, you’re quibbling over fake money that will never matter because you’re playing all of the cards in the meantime anyway. I mean, there’s a reason you’re trading for those cards, right?

And all of this is amplified during Pro Tours. During this last one, Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves were already peaking in price by the third round of Standard. I started trading for them—at full value—because the deck looked sweet. And I had a ton of takers both because the price was high and because the high prices priced a lot of people out of playing otherwise sweet devotion brews.

The second point is the saddest one. I traded for Thassa from a few people who only had one or two Thassa and usually fewer Master of Waves, and, though they loved the cards, they now knew they’d never be able to afford to put the deck together. And all of this happened before any player made the Top 8 that weekend.

Nightveil Specter
Just as stupid is the practice of stores canceling orders made by players during the weekend of a Pro Tour. It’s stupid for a few reasons, first and foremost being that it’s terrible customer service, and as some people have said, it’s possibly illegal (I have no idea; that’s not my area). But it’s even dumber because these online stores have one job: keep up with current price trends. Why are they not scouring Pro Tour coverage as it’s happening and adjusting their prices? Why are they not watching StarCityGames like a hawk to see what they do? Why do they even allow ordering during a Pro Tour if they’re just going to snatch back cards they misprice?

On the other hand, I don’t know whom to root for or against when I hear stories about a player speculating on a million copies of Nightveil Specter at $1 and having all but eight copies on their order canceled (true story). Do I root against the store, who still sent some number? Or do I root against the player who speculated on a million copies of Nightveil Specter?

Probably both.

(Also, how did people not see Nightveil Specter coming from a million miles away? It was an excellent card in Block, and then they released a set wherein the number of mana symbols in a casting cost mattered. Any speculator worth his salt should have pulled that trigger long before Pro Tour Theros.)

Reddit – Like, All of It

This isn’t a knock on r/spikes or r/magictcg specifically (or any other Magic-related subreddit), but we can throw those in, too. For every helpful, entertaining, or informative post or comment, there seem to be thousands of hateful, angry, and morally reprehensible posts.

The Magic subreddits are actually, by and large, fairly positive compared to the rest of the site. But making your way to r/confessions or any number of disturbing subreddits will make you despair for humanity generally and question all that you believe about good and right.

And I’m not just saying that because r/magictcg called one of my articles terrible once. Because, to be fair, they were kinda right.

“X Is the Best/Worst Thing Ever”

Though Best Week Ever taught us that hyperbole was a universal condition, the Magic community has a case of this in a bad, bad way. Everything ever is either the best thing ever done, and you’re missing out if you’re not doing/watching/playing it—or it’s the worst thing ever, and anyone who likes it is clearly an idiot.

Because, apparently, nothing is just okay, merely passable, or not appealing to you specifically.

You can see this in a few places (including reddit), but none more so than Twitter. My Twitter feed (you can follow me at Blakepr, though, in all honesty, I don’t Tweet very often . . . hence my two hundred five followers, approximately two hundred of which are probably bots or old journalism contacts) almost exclusively follows two things: news (New York Times, CNN, etc.) and Magic players/sites.

And, every single day, I see multiple Tweets like this (all made up, but I’ve seen some version of them somewhere):

Bunheads is the best show on TV that you’re not watching, not close.”

“This Esper deck is the worst deck I’ve ever seen do well, not close.”

“John Rizzo is the best writer ever to write a Magic article, period. Also, not close.”

Rizzo was the impetus for this particular complaint. I don’t read Rizzo. He’s not for me. I can see the appeal to certain players who like certain kinds of (manic) articles, but I’ve never enjoyed his articles. But I don’t understand why people who don’t like him can’t just ignore him. Why do you find it offensive that he’s on a website you frequent? Just ignore it and move on.

But, on the other side of the coin, everyone who loves Rizzo doesn’t need to tell me eighty times how he’s the best Magic writer in the history of ever, because physics. (Paraphrased from Rizzo’s article this week.) Why can’t you just say you enjoy him instead of trying to claim he’s the best at something?

Because personal opinions.

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