You see the dynamite; you see the roadrunner approaching; you're led along the wires to the coyote with his detonator. You, and Wile E., have an idea of how this is supposed to work. This is the setup. Then comes the punchline. Wile E. pushes down on the handle, and the detonator, not the dynamite, explodes, incinerating him, and not the Road Runner. The elements were presented to you in a way that engaged your sense of order, and then that sense of order was upended with a bang.
-Albert Burneko, How Wile E. Coyote Explains the World
I'm 27. In six months, I'll be 28. That will mark the end of my "mid-20s," and with my mid-20s will go any of my plausible deniability of being An Adult.
As my generation keeps getting older and older, we're starting to shape the world's content (as opposed to eating up the Lisa Frank/JNCOs nonsense Generation X threw at us), and as a result, we now have the wonderful term "adulting."
"Adulting" is a nauseating self-pat-on-the-back my contemporaries use as a blanket term for "doing the things that allow an adult to sustain life." Examples include but are not limited to washing the dishes, doing laundry, and filing income taxes. It might have been used ironically at one point, but, uh, yeah. Too many people in my Facebook feed got a hold of it.
Allusions to "adulting" and the invariable subsequent existential crisis all boil down to one thing: control, and the perception of it. If I do X, the result should be Y. After all, that's how it worked for my parents. The truth at the end of the tunnel is that things are much less cut and dried than that. If I turn on the light switch, I can expect the lights to come on, but sometimes they don't! Sometimes the bulb shorts. Sometimes the power's out. The realization of how little control we have is a lot for some people to take.
I feel lucky that Magic taught me just how little I know while I was still young. It wasn't exactly painless to learn that Blastoderm and Skyshroud Ridgeback didn't match up well against Masticore and Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero, and that it didn't matter how badly I wanted my cards to be good against theirs. The takeaway from this revelation is that real-world problems way more variables than anyone can possibly account for. To an 11-year old kid whose only prior exposure to challenges had been video games and homework — challenges that scale in difficulty and have neatly organized questions and answers that fall nicely into place, which the real world rarely replicates — this was a big revelation.
Expectations are based on our perceptions. The problem with this is that our perceptions aren't reality. Who do players want to see at Worlds? Pro Tour winners? Whoever did the best in Limited at Pro Tours? The 24 players that got the most Pro Points last year? Everyone's got different takes on what people think and what they should think. Ruminating on this can be useful, but has serious diminishing returns. Going one step further and investing emotionally in your own perceptions while failing to take a reality you have no control over into account is a road to nowhere. Save your energy for the things you can control.
Oh right, we sold some Magic cards this week. Some quick hits about that: seven of our top ten sellers were from Kaladesh, and I'm including Kaladesh booster boxes in that because it's my column now and I do what I want. Players are ordering Kaladesh like crazy, likely because this Standard got stale really quickly for anyone that didn't want to play Bant Company or turbo out emerge creatures. Basically, if you don't want to play green cards, Standard has been a bummer for you for a long time now. Ever since Siege Rhino got printed, it's been much easier being green.
Verdurous Gearhulk is our best-selling Gearhulk, falling just outside the top 10. Also outside the top 10 are Botanical Sanctum, Concealed Courtyard, and Blooming Marsh, all of which have enjoyed steady sales and will see play in both Modern and Standard.
Do you want to know the first Magic card I ever designed? I know you do.
[cardname] can't be countered.
Destroy target enchantment.
As a kid, I lost to Chill a lot, so I sought to design a card to lose to Chill less, because when you're a kid you'll focus your energies on anything as long as it's unproductive.
I knew red wasn't supposed to destroy enchantments, so any red enchantment-removal spell had to be front-loaded somehow. I figured jacking up the mana cost was a perfect way to accomplish this. Realizing that a higher mana cost led to a higher propensity of the spell getting countered by a Chill deck, I needed a workaround. The "[this] can't be countered" clause sufficed; if I'm going to put all of this mana into such a narrow one-for-one spell, it really should get to resolve automatically. This was a no-brainer.
Fact is, this is horrendous against Chill. What red deck is going to have seven mana to kill a Chill? At the point a red deck can play two Lightning Bolts in a turn... through a Chill! By the time you got to seven mana to destroy a Chill, your opponent had already Brainstormed five times, had 12 cards in their hand, and was killing you with a Morphling that had a Spirit Link on it for good measure.
I do treasure this design though. It's easy to trace my logic behind each decision, and by the time I had finished my disciplined, balanced design of a card, it was an unplayable piece of garbage that couldn't even execute the function it was deigned for. Thinking: It's Great, Except When It's Not.
I imagine this card will live in the Top 10 for a LONG time. It's nothing flashy — you don't really want to open it at the prerelease — but it's still great.
I roll my eyes at everything. It's not something I'm proud of, but a childhood of reading George Carlin non-stop wrought a deep-seated skepticism in me that I'm always trying to shake, with inconsistent success rates. And I definitely rolled my eyes at this card: "Inventors' fair. Old Kaladesh saying for 'creative team ran our of ideas.'" I was also upset that the card didn't just friggin' say metalcraft on it, because... y'know, internet, am I right? Gotta get mad at something online!
Eventually I warmed up to the idea of Kaladesh, with its bright colors and vibe of creativity, if only because it's a nice departure from the last infinity sets that all just seem to blend together atmospherically. This card is pretty cool! The static ability isn't great, but its activated ability has really wide applications contextually, allowing players to, at the very worst, search up a cheap vehicle, upgrading whatever creature they've got going in play without using the spell slot.
My friend Ryan's quick-capsule review of Aetherflux Reservoir:
Repeatable removal that kills Tarmogoyf a majority of the time. Will see heavy Modern play.
There you have it!
In seriousness, the two applications I see for this card are in Modern Soul Sisters and as a handy kill switch in Commander that will immediately get everyone else's attention. Finally, that bargaining chip that Oloro, Ageless Ascetic decks needed!
This one warms my heart. I'm going to choose to believe that people want these for drafting and not because of the Inventions.
(It's because of the Inventions.)
As soon as Paradoxical Outcome was revealed, I told all my friends that it's a classic Jon trap card: establish an early aggressive presence, and then just wait for the board sweeper. It's fun to imagine what this card could've been like alongside Collected Company; I'd very much like to cast Paradoxical Outcome in response to an otherwise back-breaking Tragic Arrogance, but I don't think that's happening in this universe.
This card looks GREAT for Limited. I have no idea what the outlook on this card is for Constructed, since I have no clue what Kaladesh Standard will look like, but Aetherstorm Roc is promising — flying is relevant in an environment that's sure to be dictated by Chandra, Torch of Defiance and other Planeswalkers, and it provides an efficient outlet for small amounts of energy. Most energy outlets either have huge upfront costs or are clear Limited fodder, but Aetherstorm Roc looks to have good midrange applications and will be a fine outlet for any energy that would otherwise go to waste.
It's round two of a draft. I've got an Eternal Scourge against my opponents' Avacynian Priest — not a great place to be! — but they keep curving out, never getting a chance to tap down Eternal Scourge with the Avacynian Priest.
Eventually, I have to leave Eternal Scourge back to block, because I'm mana-flooded and can't win the race anymore, so now I'm in buy-some-time-and-hope-my-opponent-doesn't-ever-read-Eternal Scourge mode. They cast Chilling Grasp, targeting my Eternal Scourge and whatever other dork I had on the battlefield. I slowly place my Eternal Scourge in my exile pile, and my opponent gasps.
I know what's coming next.
They pick up the card and read it. Then they look straight down at their Avacynian Priest.
Here it comes.
"Dammit! I could've done this the whole time!
Yep, that's it.
People keep buying this card! I don't know. I know I got pretty judgy in the opening this week, but I can sympathize. When stuff breaks your fundamental understanding of how things should operate, it can drive you CRAZY. Why are people buying this card? And to what end? Did they read it?? WHAT IS HAPPENING SDFLKDSJBGFDGL
It's nice that these go up the same day as Craig Wescoe's column. Instead of trying to explain why Smuggler's Copter is great, I can instead point you to Craig's piece from today, where he gushes about Kaladesh's most aggressive vehicle:
The most exciting vehicle to me is Smuggler's Copter. It comes down early, attacks hard, evades, and smooths out draws both early and late with its loot trigger.
Take it from Craig Wescoe: card's great.