Sperling’s Sick of It – March 2014

Last month I didn’t get around to documenting what I was sick of, but now I’m back and I’ve got a backlog of grievances (I’m equipped with Lightning Grievances?).

1) Don’t Overreact to the Crack

Maybe this guy shouldn’t be welcomed back to Magic events. I’ll start with that premise. I understand, he isn’t behaving in a way the organizer or WotC would appreciate. But what I won’t do is say the butt crack post was bullying, was an attack, wasn’t funny, was intended to humiliate or embarrass, etc. The guy didn’t include a face or name other than his own face. He is posed himself in a funny way and I think at this point it’s possible millions of people have found his post funny.

Don’t overstate your case people. You can say “I wouldn’t have posted this” or “This guy should be banned” but don’t shred your credibility with any of the other claims about what was going on. We’ve all cracked wise about something like an exposed crack or a stupid gameplay mistake someone made. It can make things more fun, and if you’re the butt of the joke this time, soon it’ll be your turn to expose your friends in return. Let’s not act like this post was so devastating that it’s going to ruin someone’s life. Their day or week, maybe, but that’s only because this wisecrack happened to get so many views in a way no one at all could have expected. Even as unexpectedly broad as the distribution was, this isn’t some soul crushingly brutal cyber attack.

Let’s make the most out of this and have a laugh, buy a belt that fits, and lobby Ultra Pro to make a special high-rise underwear for competitive gamers to sleeve up their Crevasse.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Regarding all the “just be kind” and “the community should be a great place to feel safe” comments, people forget there’s a spectrum between extremely boring and extremely over-the-top. It isn’t a binary nice vs. not nice. Maybe the butt cracks post struck the wrong chord, but there’s no simple fix of “Well, just be nicer!” We want to have fun. We want to be expressive. We want to make fun of things that are begging to be made fun of. You can be nice 100% of the time; we’ll be nice most of the time and take risks too.

2) Judges with Interesting Timing

I was calling a match of Theros Sealed deck at Grand Prix Sacramento between Brian Kibler and a less well known player.  Brian was all but officially dead in game 3 of an otherwise close match, when something strange happened.  Play stopped, and we soon got word in the booth that the match had been stopped for a deck check.  A few more minutes passed and then came word that Brian’s opponent had received a game loss for having marked cards.  He had used foil lands in his Sealed deck and they did not look or feel the same as the nonland cards.

Having marked cards in your Sealed deck is illegal at any stage of the tournament.  But I have to ask, how many times has your opponent been deck checked by the judging staff in the middle of a game without either player calling a judge?  I’ve played hundreds of tournaments and it’s never happened to me.

Brian didn’t do anything wrong, in fact he didn’t do anything at all, he just sat there.  His opponent did do something wrong, he played with marked lands.  The buzz all around the tournament hall, however, wasn’t “thank goodness they caught this guy” it was “wow, right before he died game 3 they did it?”  That was certainly my reaction.  I immediately thought the odds of that deck check coming between rounds, at the start of next round, or not at all, would have been dramatically higher if Kibler wasn’t the opponent and maybe even if Kibler wasn’t about to lose.  Maybe it would have played out the same regardless of which player was in that feature match, but I’m skeptical.

A few weeks later at a Grand Prix half a world away in Paris, Paulo Vitor Dama Da Rosa had played his way to a 9th place finish, just short of the Top 8, or so it appeared.  Again, some strange news began to circulate the hall.  One of the Top 8 players was being disqualified as the result of an investigation into some conduct that happened a couple rounds before the end of the Swiss.  Paulo would be making Top 8 after all, and again conspiracy theorists were treated to an all-you-can-imagine buffet of the appearance of biased or improper execution of the rules. The official announcement appears here. Again it was the timing, an area where judges seem to have a lot of discretion, that appeared was being applied sloppily and perhaps unevenly.

Judges have to manage not just bona fide improper behavior but also the appearance of impropriety.  There are two reasons this is important.  1) when even looking like you’re breaking the rules is avoided, actually breaking the rules becomes harder for those rare bad apples, and 2) viewers on the outside looking in often don’t have access to the truth and will be left to form their own conclusions about what happened.  Even leaving them 80% or 90% sure everything is on the up-and-up leaves too much room for doubt.

In Kibler’s match they investigated something right away, all the way up to penalties, but in  Paulo’s case, albeit under a different rule in different circumstances, a ruling and penalties didn’t come during the round where misconduct allegedly occurred.  Also, the the judge intervened to check marked cards in Kibler’s match without being asked, but in most other cases a judge will be reluctant to stop a match in progress until a player asks them to take a look.  These types of things leave a lot of room for error or bias in enforcement of the rules.  It’s very important to be humble about the limits of “objective” thinking.  In a very rare (but disastrously negative) case, it’s also possible a judge could actually be actively influencing outcomes using actions like the ones taken.  If you were to firm up the timing rules, there would be less room for both bias and misconduct.

Oh, one more piece of TNT to throw onto the conspiracy theory fire: on Day 1 of GP Sacramento the event running software produced pairings that had several players in the event paired against the same person.  That person?  You guessed it: Brian Kibler.  Now, my prior probability estimate for the pairings being rigged in any deliberate way is very low.  But I have to sort of update that probability when something goes wrong and out of 1800 players it happens to highlight the name Brian Kibler, and in a way I’d never seen before or since.  Strange times we’re living in, either by coincidence (I still suspect this is the case) or something else (“This is heavy, Doc”).

3) No One Cares About Your Rotisserie or Fantasy Draft

It’s March Madness time. Let me introduce you to Bracket Guy.

Don’t be the Magic version of bracket guy please. Maybe your draft is interesting to you, or the friends of yours that are in it. Same goes for your Vintage Rotisserie draft or similar waste of time. My threshold for tolerating other people’s interests on social media is pretty high. Post a link I don’t care about, no big deal. Post an opinion about some show I’ve never seen, I’m not gonna unfollow you (unless it’s My Little Pony). I get it, your likes are you likes. But the thing about Rotisserie decks and Fantasy PT Teams is that no one cares. Oh wow if Shuuhei and Ben Stark and Owen and Calcano (in a 20+ team league) win, you’ll clean up $50. Awesome. Great. Let me file that away so I can root for those guys to have their flights delayed.

4) Stupid Cards – Born of the Gods Edition

Akroan Skyguard.

Human, just straight Human? No enchantment no Faerie no Pegasus in the art? How is he flying? He looks enchanted, and yet he flies without being targeted or enchanted. Why even have a type on the creatures if it’s this poorly aligned with the art and the rules text?

Archetype of Courage

“Archetype”? Oh, like Jund or UW Control. Burn of Courage. Dredge of Calamity. Makes sense. (?). They are so far out there with these enchantment creature names they’re not even making sense. “Manabase of Austerity – Enchantment Creature – Human Soldier; Lands you control have hexproof in addition to their other useless abilities. Lands your opponents control can’t be stacked in a giant ‘cheater’s pile.’”

Eidolon of Countless Battles

Whoever named this card understood how annoying the counting for the effect would be. The FAQ reminds us:

“A permanent with bestow is either a creature or an Aura, not both (although it’s an enchantment either way). It will contribute just +1/+1 toward the bonus given by Eidolon of Countless Battles.”

So a lot of stuff in the set cares if something is an enchantment, and just when you’ve got a hold of that, they also care about whether it’s an Aura now, oh and don’t forget they stop being creatures for a while if bestowed. Flavor judge FAQ says players can agree “it’s big” and just have it deal a reasonable amount each combat.

Hold at Bay

“Nils, thanks so much for this sketch. The concept looks perfect. Go ahead and create the final art and please aim to have it in by the 27th. … wait, you’re saying this is the final piece??”

Eternity Snare

Picture is of a guy falling into a vortex right as his urban friend told a really effective mama joke.

Vortex Elemental

I’m sure there’s a reason it couldn’t be templated “Shuffle Vortex Elemental and each creature blocking or blocked by it into their owners’ libraries.” That would have resulted in a less confusing card. It’s not that hard to get it as is but I think most players have to read it a few times. Not worth it.

Whelming Wave

Apparently Whelm is a real verb. I thought it was just something snarky people say like “I’m not overwhelmed, just whelmed.” Hm.

Ashiok’s Adept

Check the flavor text, “Every nightmare is a caged bird that yearns to be set free.” –Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. There’s no way an adult wrote this flavor text. This is pre-teen stuff for sure. Maybe some poetry generator made it I guess. You plug in the noun (nightmare) into their generated form “Every ___ is a caged bird that yearns to be set free” and there you go. Really scary stuff Ashiok. Oh no, are you going to weave a dove into my thoughts!?

Asphyxiate

It’s gotta be harder to asphyxiate a creature that hasn’t exerted itself attacking. Not following. Call a flavor judge next time this hits your best rare in a draft.

Champion of Stray Souls

This card tells the story of Craig Wescoe’s Pro Tour playtesting teams.

Felhide Brawler

“Ok Nils, just got what I assume is either a sketch or your child’s finger painting. Concept looks decent but I can’t make out much. Can you send a revised… oh this is the final piece. I fell for it again, you got me. All right we’ll run with it.”

Necrobite

Perfect card-name-generator name. Frost Shock. Lightning Lizard. Angelicize. Necrobite.

Nyxborn Eidolon

“Nils, just got your piece for Nyxborn Eidolon. Can you scan this again and resend? It looks like the entire lower right was smudged or stained in some way. It looks like George Lucas smeared vaseline on your scanner lens to make it seem like the steps are floating. Please advise.”

Akroan Conscriptor

“Colin Kaepernick drops back with the red ball of flame, rolls right…”

Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass

Clever. Treefolk of Tree-People Forest. Pegasus of Wing-Horse Hill.

Forgestoker Dragon

…of Fire-Breath Cave.

Culling Mark

I wish Mark Herberholz still played Magic and we were on the same team and we had to cut one person for size reasons, no way around it, and I was tasked with letting him know the decision was made and I could just slide this card across the table face-down.

Phenax, God of Deception

I’m so sick of UB mill just being jammed in block after block.  It’s an alternate win condition that’s also very stale.  Sure, some players love it, but they’ve had plenty of time to enjoy it. I love how they hate Storm but can’t get enough mill. It’s hard to interact with Storm unless you brought specific tools. The Storm player mostly can ignore everything except its own life total and its combo. Well, those things apply to mill as well. It isn’t fun.

regina george

Thanks for reading,
-Matt Sperling
mtg_law_etc on Twitter

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