Sperling’s Sick of It – November 2015

1) The Amount of Salt on Convention Center Soft Pretzels

The convention center concessions stand is brutal for everyone who doesn’t feel like grabbing a $3 Snickers or a $8 meat tube with a bag of Lays potato chips (if you’re reading this in Europe then think of whatever soggy pierogies they serve over there at conventions). I usually get a soft pretzel if they have one. Cheap on the concessions-inflation-scale at $3-5, and more filling than a candy bar or bag of chips. Less messy than nachos, more consistent than a burger or veggie burger.

There are two salt options on the convention center soft pretzel: no salt at all, and enough salt to convert lake Michigan into the Dead Sea. I like my food salty, especially snacks, but I’m not rich so I won’t be purchasing a drink with this soft pretzel and without one I don’t think a human can consume the salted version.

Yes, I realize I can knock salt off before taking a bite, and that’s what I do. But I want to know who the hell orders this and likes that much salt? Someone has to like it. I asked Paul Rietzl, whose last name is (I believe) German for “one who sells or otherwise disposes of pretzels” and he had no idea what I was talking about. He mentioned something about being bad at Magic after winning for 4 years straight and then walked away.

2) The Guys at GP SeaTac Who Couldn’t Be Bothered To Lift the Seat In the Gender Neutral Restroom

The gender neutral bathroom is a good idea to try out, as far as I can tell. They had a women’s restroom around the corner somewhere, but converted the closest one to a gender neutral restroom. The men’s room at these things is basically a linoleum swamp, so I was excited about this new opportunity to live in harmony with our more considerate counterparts. I’m an idiot. The first stall I checked had a urine-soaked toilet seat no different than the one I could have found next door in the men’s room. The next stall over had urine all over the floor. How hard is it fellas? Reach down, lift the seat, and wash your hands when you’re done. I try not to write “take a shower” articles about common sense, so I guess this is my fault for having poorly-calibrated expectations. I had to mention it because this gender neutral restroom concept is new to me, and now the entire concept is ruined.

All the promise of having less of a crowd in the men’s room and making life a little easier on trans players—gone. We didn’t convert a clean restroom, we destroyed one.

3) Announcing Birthdays During the Player Meeting

When Keeping it Nice Goes Wrong, Chapter XXVIIX. Let’s say you’ve got somewhere between 300 and 3,000 players waiting to start a long day of tournament play. You’re the tournament organizer or head judge, so this is your moment on stage, with everyone’s attention on you (sans the guy who isn’t about to have his boring Magic story interrupted). 90% of the players will give you this time. Please be respectful of that gift.

“Stand up if this is your first Pro Tour” is fine. I like seeing the fresh meat—it’s like chum in the water, and it wakes me up at 9 a.m. and gets me ready to play. But I have to ask that we stop short of announcing anyone’s birthday, be it the head judge, Richard Garfield, or a wheelchair-bound player in the tournament that you asked to stand up (this happened last PT). Birthdays are unimpressive enough when it’s someone you know and care about. You think Martin Dang flew from Denmark to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to be told to stop talking so he can hear that the guy calling the draft just turned 47?

4) “There’s a side draft starting here, you guys have to move your game somewhere else”

How about you shepherd these eight lost sheep in your charge one table over since they haven’t started their game yet and we have? If every restaurant in the world can seat new guests who haven’t gotten their food yet at the empty tables, not the occupied tables covered in food, why can’t these side event judges do it?

Just as there’s that tapas waiter cliché “These are smaller plates—has anyone not had tapas before?” Magic has “You’re gonna be doing what’s called ‘zone drafting,’ has anyone never drafted before?” I understand that not all 7 billion people on Earth have eaten tapas and done an 8-man, but you guys sound silly, I’m Sick of It ™, and I want you to know that.

5) Unprepared Players Make Less Actual Play Time

If my opponent sits down and starts shuffling right as the round starts, I have 47 minutes to complete the round, but if my opponent shows up 3 minutes before the round starts, I have 50 minutes to complete the round.

How is this fair? I have no control over when my opponent shows up. It’s hard to play fast enough to finish a round when you’re both fetching a land out of your deck every turn in every format. I have to also be at the mercy of my opponent’s walking pace, or their mobile phone’s ability to connect to the online pairings (20% of the time, they work every time)?

Proposed requirements: Players shall be seated before the clock starts, present their decks before 2 minutes have elapsed from a 52-minute clock, and the game cannot begin before that 50-minute mark. Easy.

6)The Announcement of the Counterfeit Cards DQ in GP SeaTac Did Not Include Player Name

At Grand Prix Seattle last week, a player was disqualified for intentionally using counterfeit cards. I was surprised to read an announcement that didn’t include the player’s name. It seems like other announcements of disqualifications appearing on the Wizards website have included the name of the disqualified player. Well, if there’s ONE guy you want to alert people to, it’s that guy. If he’s knowingly passing off fakes in a tournament, maybe he’s trying trades as well, and maybe his Snapcasters are better fakes than his Tundras—who knows? Just seems strange to rake someone over the coals for offering $100 for a scoop, but then let this person come and go.

7) Return to, Scars of, Shadows over, Battle for that Other Set

The next block has been revealed… drum roll… Shadows over Innistrad! It seems like we’re getting a lot of nostalgia for every bit of new world/concept we encounter. The current block involved taking 3 creatively designed legends, the original Eldrazi, and turning them into 350 boring cards each with exactly 1 thing in common with those Eldrazi.

Innistrad was great, but so was Caddyshack. Sequels are hard to pull off and rarely live up to the hype. Part of it is that pulling the rabbit out of the hat once is cool and surprising the first time but not the second time. Another part of it is that designing/writing things is hard and the people who do it for a living are pretty good, so a lot of the low-hanging-fruit—the safe bets and backbone designs—make it into the first version.

I am not opposed to the “Revisit World XYZ” model, but if you do it every damn set, people may get Sick of It ™.

8) Two-Sided Playmats

The concept is neat. I understood the idea: what if we had two versions of Narset/Narset, or Delver of Secrets and Insectile Abomination on opposite sides of a playmat?

Then I got to use one.

On some surfaces, these two-sided mats slide around on the table. Even if it doesn’t slide around, one of the design-bearing sides of your playmat is encountering whatever Diet Coke and Ketchup your cards are protected from.

One side is plenty.

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