Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Magic

In which Tim explores the world of Magic: The Gathering one
card at a time, courtesy of Gatherer's "Random Card" button.

Plaguemaw Beast (Mirrodin Besieged, 2011)

Ladies and gentlemen, Plaguemaw Beast!

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How are you, Mr. Beast? It's been a few years since you were in the spotlight. What have you been up to?

Well, Jim, it's been a rough few years, but I'm hanging in there.

Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.

Yeah, you know how it is. That's the way the world works: if you're a Magic card, even a good one, you really only get one shot. If you're lucky, you're good in limited, which means you get a year or so in the spotlight. If you're really lucky, you see a little tournament action. Only a few folks get to stick around for too long after that.

You do have an advantage over most green Beasts, though - you've got a very popular keyword on you - Proliferate.

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That's true, but honestly, Proliferate is as much a gift as a curse. Sure, people love it. They love being able to use me to sac tiny guys to put more counters on their Planeswalkers or their opponent's poison total. That's fun. Problem is, Proliferate - it was pretty powerful. Players like it but design has problems, you know. Not a lot of design space left, they say. Don't look at me, I don't know these things. And even if they did bring it back, they'd want to bring back something flashy like Thrummingbird. Not a five CMC Beast that dies to a Lightning Bolt. But hey, I'm not terrible. I even won a few games, back in the day. Say, for instance, you've got your opponent up to nine poison counters, but you've only got one creature - me. I can swing for four damage, yeah, but without another creature to sacrifice, I don't have Infect or anything. Your hand is empty. You opponent's itchy because he knows the game hinges on the next draw - then BAM you pull a card, slap down a Chimney Imp, tap me and BOOM, the fat fuck opposite you is poisoned.

Why . . . why would anyone be playing a Chimney Imp with you? No one plays Chimney Imp. You weren't in the same block as Chimney Imp, so you're implying someone would choose to construct a deck years after the fact with both you and Chimney Imp in it.

Look it was just a figure of speech, you know? That's what my ability did: no matter how crappy the card, I could bury it and Proliferate counters. Any counters, not just poison.

Also, in that scenario, couldn't you just sacrifice yourself to yourself to get the Proliferate effect?

. . .

What was that?

Next question.


I don't like to remind people I can eat myself to get the effect. Some guys forget, and that's OK with me.

Oh, I'm sorry if it's a sore -

It's unpleasant, you know? I've had to do it a bunch. It feels weird. It's not fun.

Well, er, let's move on then!

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Ah, which brings me to my next question - you've known some Planeswalkers in your time, haven't you?

Yeah, I knew 'em. I was in Standard with Zendikar, so I -


Jace. Yeah. Everyone asks about Jace.

Is it a sore subject?

No, no. Jace is a nice guy. Real down to earth, you know? You wouldn't think so, I mean, being the first banned Planeswalker. The guy dominated. Dominated. People were hocking jewelry for a foil playset of that guy, you know? That's not the type of stuff that happens anymore. He still does well for himself, you know. Not very many cards get to go on to Legacy. I saw him a few weeks back, he dropped into the office to say hi to the old gang.

Of course, you weren't in Standard with Jace for long.

Nah. It's a shame, really - they should have known. Him and those Squadron Hawks and Batterskull - it was trouble waiting to happen. I mean, don't look at me, I don't have a lot of experience with tournament decks. It's Greek to me. I'm five mana so I don't usually get out until at least turn five, but those Caw-Blade decks . . .

It was a rough time.

Yeah. The ban wasn't a surprise, but at the same time, they should have seen it coming. Me, I still don't understand how those Hawks carried those damn Swords in their beaks like that. I mean, I've carried some equipment in my time, even though I don't have hands, but I'm big enough I can make it work. Gimme a sword and I can hold it in my mouth. Put an invisibility cloak over my shoulders, I'll make it work. But those birds, they're just too small. I don't get it. And now I see they're printing four-ability Planeswalkers again - it's like playing with fire. They never learn.

So what does a day look like for you now?

Well, some days are pretty quiet. It's cool, I took up gardening a few years back. I'm from Mirrodin, so you know, everything's metal there. It's a nice break to go home in the evening and put my feet in the soil. Soil that isn't filled with pieces of jagged steel because, you know, did I mention that Mirrodin is made of metal? I still see some action. Poison decks will always need something to fill out the mana curve in the mid-game. Maybe some idiot puts me in a green Superfriends deck - I mean, come on, let's be honest here, if you've got a mug like me defending your Superfriends, you're probably going to lose, but who am I to say. I do what I'm told. I eat little creatures and crap out counters. It's a living.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Well, Lookie

So, a new piece of mine just went up on the AV Club - a comparison of the most recent season of House of Cards to one of my favorite all-time runs, Warren Ellis' Doom 2099. Ellis' run is something I've wanted to write about basically forever but just never got around to. I don't think I've done the subject justice here, as its nowhere near being the comprehensive overview the series deserves. The word limit, along with the TV show connection, translate to a piece that reads - to me - rushed. But that's part of writing for an outlet like The AV Club, learning to once again write compactly and precisely, trying to reign in my natural tendency towards digression.

It makes me both appreciate the outlet of a personal blog like this all the more, while also chiding myself slightly for the fact that I've grown wooly and savage in the years since last I worked under an editor. Also, I'm a complete hypocrite, considering the fact that I regularly break all the guidelines that I lay down for my own writing students. Do as I say, not as I do, kids!