Jonathan Pechon

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Jonathan Pechon's
Therapy Sessions

April 14, 2004  -  As Contagious as Bubonic Plague

I’ve been putting a little bit too much time playing casual formats the last week.  Between the papers I’ve been attempting to work on and the other tasks I’ve had to accomplish, I shouldn’t have had a moment to put any sort of time into this game…and yet, I manage to sneak a game in whenever I get the chance.


From my point of view, I’ve felt that my attitude towards playing Magic has improved; I’ve actually had fun playing this game!  I’ve gone to pretty substantial lengths to put Memnarch into play in the effort to try to steal my opponent’s permanents, hoping to eventually steal all of his land (mmmm….flawless victory…).  So, you’d think that everything would be a positive experience, right?




I have played a number of casual games lately where I have had people complain at me regarding a number of things.  “What, you do direct damage to me?  That’s awful…” has happened at least once, along with numerous requests that my deck consist of at least 400 cards.  I haven’t countered a single spell since I started playing, but I’d wager that I’d get flak for that.


The biggest single issue, however, has come from one card that I have four copies of in my deck: Lay Waste.  Now, I realize that land destruction is a mechanic that is not favored among a lot of casual players; it’s why so many of the posts in the Casual rooms say things like, “Open, no LD or counters,” and things like that.  For a normal-sized constructed deck in which 40 percent or so of the spells could destroy a land, I can see this as a big problem.


However, we’re not talking about a tightly built deck that can effectively control its draws.  This is 250 cards people!  It’s not like I’m going nuts and destroying their hopes of making a life for themselves; I’m just casting one spell that in no way manages to net me card-advantage.  I worry about what might happen if I ever cast a spell like Vengeance…


However, in the space of one week, I’ve had multiple instances of people disconnecting immediately upon a Lay Waste being cast.  One person, before disconnecting, threatened, “You’re lucky I don’t block you outright for that.”


There is an illusion among some that casual players are greater sportsmen than “pros.”  Somehow, just because they sit at a table with a bunch of their friends and play cards like Riptide Entrancer like they’re the bomb-diggity, they somehow create this illusion that halos hover above their heads and to worship at the shrine of fair play is to kneel at their feet and worship them with sacrifices of Cheetos and cold Mountain Dew.


The fact is that these guys have just as much potential to whine and complain and generally act like a jackass as the rest of the Magic players.  The reasons this happens are numerous, and stem from several things.  A part of it is that we have developed an outlook in society that competition isn’t a good thing; it’s better to promote mediocrity than success.  That is a larger issue that can’t be resolved.


However, what we’re looking at here is a certain kind of outlook among Magic players.  If you recognize my quote from the title of the article (from The Natural, in case you missed it, one of the better baseball movies of all time), you’ll have a fair idea of where I’m coming from.


“Losing is a disease…as contagious as the bubonic plague.”


First thing, let me clarify that this is not a blanket statement of casual players; a lot of these guys are decent and out to have fun; just like all of the “pro” players aren’t raging jagoffs who are just looking to smash your face, insult you, and beat up your grandmother while you watch.  It’s just another set of stereotypes; even though it’s a “positive” stereotype, it’s one worth breaking.


The people complaining about things like this are people who aren’t comfortable with losing; the problem is that they are even more uncomfortable with learning how to win.  They think that constraining what their opponent plays will ensure that the game that they play is “fun.”  They don’t look at how they can try to play in such a way as to be able to deal with an issue; they would prefer to simply avoid it by manufacturing conditions to their liking.


It’s not a matter of these people wanting to really play the game; they just want to play in such a way that they can win, mostly because they aren’t able to figure out how to do so within an environment where people can play whatever they want.  The word “improvement” doesn’t enter their vocabulary; they confuse the word “fair” with “mediocre.”  And the result is a lack of consideration towards the game, towards other players, and a mindset that leaves me scratching my head while I go look for a reasonable opponent who actually likes to try to win games, but doesn’t mind if I do the same.


On the plus side, playing Prismatic regularly has helped to show me a few new cards that I think need to be added to my list, if for no other reason than for fun-value:


Psychogenic Probe


There are so many effects that are common to Prismatic that cause you to shuffle your deck that the Probe can account for a ridiculous amount of damage if left unchecked.  One game where my opponent played this against me resulted in me going to eight in very short order before I was able to destroy the Probe.  While this is also an absurdly fun card, it’s not something to worry about too much.




I didn’t mention these guys, but with four Fabricate in the deck, running one or two of the relevant replica (Goblin, Elf) gives you additional outs against random problem-cards.  It’s just another way to ensure that you have outs against enchantments and artifacts.  This goes along with my next set of cards…




These are obviously for those of you with bigger wallets out there, but these are ridiculously powerful in this format.  If you become “serious” about playing this format, you need to go out and get 12 wishes for your deck (Living, Burning, Cunning), then these are absolute must-haves.


Halam Djinn


This guy is such a monster that it’s ridiculous.  He seems to make the cut in a lot of decks, coming down a pretty fair amount of the time as a 6/5 haste man for six; he’s easier to get than Rorix sometimes, and has only a single red in the casting cost, making him very appealing in a format of such strange mana. 


Next week…a serious look at regionals, if I can manage to stomach it.  What’s going on with Ravager-Affinity, and where are the Ravagers going?  Is Slide a real competitor in the field?  Should I try to buy cards while I’m here, or will the people with vendor-tables try to crush my skull?  All important issues, and all queued up for next week…


-Jonathan Pechon
Sigmund' on IRC (EFNet)
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