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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

philosophers play multiplayer magic

A: I play an Island and pass.

B: are you going to do anything this game at all?

C: why do you think she hasn’t?

B: because she’s played eight Islands and nothing else. She’s sitting there doing nothing.

A: I have played Islands. There is a distinction.


B: Islands do nothing. They are a means to an end; the end being the playing of spells with text. And let me check, ah yes, your Islands are literally textless.

A: no, they have a U. Your Recollect is textless.

B: Recollect let me cast more spells, which I used to advance my board position. It made an impact. The specific printing of my Recollect isn’t the point, you pedant, the point is that my card had an actual effect on the game.

C: what cards have a greater impact than lands? Clearly, I must be missing something, I don’t see how anything could happen without them.

D: is it to me?

A: it is, unless someone is going to respond to my Island going on the stack.

D: that doesn’t use the stack.

A: well then, we’ve found an answer.

D: okay. I’ll cast Primeval Titan.

C: and I will Mana Leak.

D: of course. Are you going to counter everyone’s spells, or just mine?

C: I’m fairly new to this style of play, I admit. What was I supposed to counter instead?

D: it’s not what you countered, it’s that you only counter what I’m doing.

C: was there another spell I was supposed to counter?

A: he hasn’t countered any of mine.

B: that’s because you-

D: I suppose you’re right. And anyway, the game is more of a challenge if I’m the only person trying to do anything.

B: bullshit, I’ve been casting-

A: well that’s the most accurate description of your deck I’ve-

D: I cast a spell, it gets countered. I accept the futility of my previous spell and move on to the next one, down to the bottom of the hill once again, pretending not to know that it won’t do anything either. Or do I even pretend? Do I just cast it anyway, because that’s just what I know I will do, even with the full knowledge that it will be futile?

C: why is that the only possible result you acknowledge?

D: I suppose someone could destroy it before it’s useful.

A: “Mother of Runes died this turn. Or maybe last turn; I can’t be sure.”

D: you really aren’t contributing.

A: I have contributed a flawless aquatic habitat to our play environment. Or have I destroyed a fragile ocean ecosystem with the spontaneous generation of landmass in the middle of it, eight times? I am unsure.

B: the purpose of a deck that’s nothing but countermagic is unclear to me. Why even play, when your purpose is to make people not play? Where is the enjoyment in anti-happening? My deck is constructed to make plays, to do things, to accomplish goals. What is yours? A roadblock? A double-sleeved Jersey barrier?

D: Magic is not, as you seem to believe, a solitaire game where rainbows erupt from the ceiling when you’ve assembled a suitably large Voltron. You could very easily make your deck “work” on your own, one hand drawing cards as you stroke yourself with the other-

A: I had assumed that was on the reserved list until-

D: -but by sitting down at a table with other human beings, you have decided instead to test your strength against three others who are here to stop you, well, supposedly we are, at least. The game of Magic is a struggle against everyone wanting you to stop what you are doing, it is a race to be the first one to dictate that we no longer play Magic.

A: we could still play chess.

B: if Magic was, as you seem to be proposing, a zero-sum game of one player stopping the other from doing anything, then no one would bother with it. Magic is about players advancing their own unique plans, which contain within them their own identities, their own hopes and dreams-

A: So does a Dorito-

D: I don’t think Jacques was invited, he was never a fan of constructed-

B: -but the essential aspect of Magic is each individual defining what Magic is to them and proactively accomplishing that.

C: what distinguishes your gameplan from mine?

B: yours is entirely negative. Your deck is nihilistic. It exists only to further separate a player from their goals.

D: and yours has a more complete plan? All I’ve seen you attempt is something with Doubling Season and making your enchantments into-

B: that is the first part, yes, that is what I’m attempting to-

D: but your spells might as well have no text, because they all just sit there. There is no purpose. You are not remotely attempting to advance the game toward any kind of victory; you are entirely opting out of Magic: the Gathering for something unrelated that happens to technically follow the rules of Magic: the Gathering with absolutely no respect for the purpose of Magic: the Gathering. The part where one player wins, and they win via overcoming obstacles placed in front of them by dedicated opponents, opponents looking out for their own self-interest, not opponents laying down their swords or assembling Rube Goldberg machines off in a corner.

A: hand me an eraser, I’ll help with the de-textifying. That sounds more fun.

C: why were you outraged that my deck challenged yours, then? What is the purpose of a deck if not to challenge another?

D: okay, fine. I was just upset. I blame the two of them sitting there doing nothing.

A: I resent your sideways glance. I have been dutifully and precisely keeping to the parts of the turn.

B: you’re both assholes. You, for pretending like you’re doing something, and you, for pretending like I’m doing “nothing” despite casting twice as many spells as you. How can “nothing” cost that much mana?

D: I’ve been wondering that on every single one of your turns.

A: it’s wonderful how you’re both trying to give purpose to a children’s card game. The purpose is to distract us momentarily while they make a profit off our distraction. We exchange a softer, more often-desired paper for another, stiffer, smaller yet somehow more expensive paper.

C: are you referring to the stickers on your cards as expensive?

A: certainly. The Kinko’s charged me almost three Americanos worth of currency for these.

C: did you… not own any Islands?

A: clearly I own Islands. They’re sitting in front of me.

C: what about the ones from booster packs?

A: I probably do.

C: then why print them as stickers?

A: why is the Wizards-sanctioned card assumed to be a priori superior to the home-printed one? Or Kinko’s-printed, thank you, wonderful chain business. If I had made you a gift of my own design, you would appreciate the thoughtfulness, the craft, the work ethic far more than if I had walked into a store and bought you a Hallmark. Yet somehow, the exact opposite is true for Magic. The bourgeois playerbase rejects the homemade in favor of the corporate. Why? Because the corporation who made the corporate-sanctioned card tells them that theirs is better, and others are not allowed anywhere.

B: you have white slips of paper with a big “U” in the middle.

A: what I have is the idea of Island. Same as if had somehow turned a token creature into an Island, or played a Gem Mint-graded Alpha Island, or an M15 Island. When someone plays an Island, from any printing, with any art, from any year, we do not see it for its collection of dots and bumps and curves. We see, in our minds, the essence of “Island.” I could do the same thing with nothing physical whatsoever, I could simply say, “I play an Island and pass,” and it has the same impact.

D: I’m done, by the way.

B: as am I, but I have a turn to take. During my upkeep, my-

C: with those triggers on the stack, I cast Time Stop.

D: what an inappropriate name for a spell that just saved us half an hour.

C: why do you celebrate half an hour less of the game? I’m confused at the idea of a voluntary activity being worse when it lasts longer.

B: that was your spell!

C: I’m questioning his reaction to it, not my own casting of it. You are advocating Magic as a game of competition among equal rivals, correct?

D: yes.

C: and what advances one of those rivals must therefore-

D: harm the others.

C: so if I successfully do something that helps me, shouldn’t you-

D: yes, yes, you’re very clever. I should bemoan anything you do that doesn’t help me win. But in this case, I’m happy not because it helped me, but because it pissed him off.

B: at heart, then, you are just like me, despite being in denial of what it is that you want. You pretend to aspire only to victory in the game, but you take joy accomplishing a personal goal. It just happens that your personal goal was, instead of attempting to cast Overwhelming Stampede for 700 additional power-

C: and you think that would resolve because-

B: -your goal was to see me get annoyed at the game, and maybe just stop playing. Welcome to the dark side. Welcome to not caring about “winning” one game. Welcome… to casual.

A: while you’re here, have you tried the cheese and the acknowledging the arbitrary nature of caring about this game for a lifetime instead of others?

D: no, I’m not going to abandon the purpose of Magic just because I didn’t have to sit through another one of your “synergistic” turns-

B: “synergy” is simply a more accurate label than-

A: your Llanowar Elf could really use a mustache.

D: -and since your turns have no purpose in progressing this game toward its conclusion, a fast forward is more than acceptable, it’s- put that down!- the only way we can get through this charade and onto something where every person in the game is at least trying. Because what is a game where some people aren’t trying to win? It is nothing. A game succeeds, as a design, when players get so wrapped up in it they forget all else but the strategy, the planning, the twists and turns in the gameplay; if one person is just dicking around, it destroys the possibility for everyone.

A: why do you view these cards as mere tools to help you accomplish a grander goal? You are skipping over the most important part of the game’s artistry, the part that separates Magic from Monopoly or any other “sit down and enjoy” game, the fact that each of us bring our own artistic creation to the table. Your ideology is like going to an art gallery and declaring that you’ve “won” by bringing the biggest sculpture. Your goal is victory in the game, but is anyone going to remember it tomorrow? A week from now? Your victory accomplishes nothing; creating something meaningful is more important than a deck that successfully ends a game.

C: which is why your last deck was-

A: I randomly picked 60 cards out of a box, yes. It was perfect.

B: it couldn’t cast spells.

A: traditional deckbuilding has failed. It says nothing. Affinity and Delver and Splinter Twin, all are irrelevant to this age. They are attempts to be the biggest fish in a pond with an incoming nuclear weapon pointed at it. One day, Magic will die, and they will be forgotten. A truly random deck is bigger than Magic.

C: this should bring it to my turn… I will play Watery Grave, lose two life, and pass the turn.

D: why did you… is that just to play more instants? There’s no way you have eight mana worth of instants that you needed to lose two life there.

C: how do you know that?

D: because you only have two cards in hand, so unless you… hmm… well I was going to…

A: what if he doesn’t have anything?

D: he clearly has something I need to play around.

A: unless he doesn’t. He could be bluffing you.

D: but he lost two life.

A: but he’s making you play differently. He has succeeded. By playing a card in way that you deem “worse” than it would have been to just play a basic land, he has altered your own course of action. It’s wonderful. Thank you. I am inspired.

C: you are quite welcome. You may play now.

A: I play an Island and pass. Wow, can you believe my luck? All lands again.

8 comments:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matthew Butler said...

Wonderful. I was slightly expecting an Omnipotence joke at the end, but I am pretty delighted with the whole thing.

Matthew Butler said...

Wonderful. I was slightly expecting an Omnipotence joke at the end, but I am pretty delighted with the whole thing.

Unknown said...

I think this is your most MaRo article ever. Still quite good.

Brian Duddy said...

I think this is a Maro article from an alternate universe where Wizards really hates EDH for some reason.

Unknown said...

You got laughs from me on:

"Or have I destroyed a fragile ocean ecosystem with the spontaneous generation of landmass in the middle of it, eight times? I am unsure."

"hand me an eraser, I’ll help with the de-textifying. That sounds more fun."

"How can 'nothing' cost that much mana?"

and

"attempting to cast Overwhelming Stampede for 700 additional power-"

P.S. Big numbers are inherently funny to me.

Juicebox360 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Juicebox360 said...

WotC x SAMUEL BECKETT presents Endgame: MTG edition

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