Welcome to Aura Week. For those with excellent memories, you might remember that we sort of had an Aura week back in April of 2002. (You can read my article for it here.) Technically it was just Enchant Creature Week so the two theme weeks aren't strictly identical. (Power to the noncreature Auras.) After eight years, we thought it was time for an encore. Some of you might think that we've chosen to do Aura Week here on magicthegathering.com because there's a strong Aura theme in Rise of the Eldrazi. The truth though is that this theme week is being done in conjunction with our publishing department. Aura, the Magic subtype, has written a tell-all book called Disadvantaged and I thought I'd use my column today to give you a few excerpts on some of the sections that are more relevant to Magic players.
One last thing before we dive in. I have been asked to remind you that this book was written by Aura and his opinions do not reflect those of Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro or magicthegathering.com.
- On the Early Days:
Not a lot of people remember this, but I didn't start off as a subtype. Back in the day, I was almost a full-blown card type. They called me Enchant. Enchant Creature, Enchant Land, Enchant Artifact, Enchant Enchantment, Enchant Wall, Enchant Flying Creature, Enchant Dead Creature—I did it all. Yeah, I was an enchantment but I was a different breed of enchantment. Hell, I didn't even have the word "enchantment" written on me.
I wasn't some small player. I made up almost two thirds of the enchantments in Alpha. I was forty-two cards!
Sorcery was thirty and Instant only had twenty-nine and one of those wasn't even really an instant. Even Artifact, who was a pretty major player, only had forty-seven. I was somebody. Take a look at the latest set, Rise of the Eldrazi. I'm a major subtheme and one of the four keyword mechanics is restricted to me. I still only have nineteen cards.
Back then I was somebody. Players clamored to put me in their decks and designers were excited to use me. I was king of the world and I loved every minute of it.
- On His Drawbacks:
I'll never forget the day I was diagnosed with card disadvantage. It was back in '94 and the game wasn't even a year old. It was just some random Usenet post so I dismissed it. I got a second opinion and then a third and a fourth. The strategists were all in agreement. Using me just put a player at risk. It was never my intent to 2-for-1 anybody. I was just trying to make the game more exciting. I wanted to transform little creatures into big monsters.
The players turned quickly. Once my affliction became public knowledge, I started getting shunned. Sure, I showed up in Limited and every once in a while I substituted for creature kill in Constructed, but my heady days quickly took a downturn. I heard the whispers. I knew what they were saying about me.
I'll be honest. It hurts. I didn't ask to have card disadvantage. I've come to accept that it was just something I was born with and that either I deal with it or let it consume me. But there are still times when players are fanning through the cards and they put me in the "don't play" pile that it all comes rushing back.
- On Timmy:
Through it all Timmy's really been my rock. He's the only one who's always been there for me. We met in Alpha. It was love at first sight. Timmy just got me. He understood what I had to offer and he honestly enjoyed it. When the whole card disadvantage thing came out, Timmy didn't care. He didn't shun me like the others. As far as Timmy was concerned, I was still the light of his life.
- On Spike:
Spike could drop dead for all I care. In fact, he's dead to me. I tried so hard for so long to just get a little respect from him. I went through all sorts of designs to try and offset my card disadvantage for him and he wouldn't even give me the time of day. I wasn't worthy of his attention. You know what I decided? I can't exist for him. If I judge my own value through his eyes, I'd be a neurotic mess, well, more than I currently am. It's not healthy; I can't do it any more. And I shouldn't have to. Now when someone asks about Spike, I just say, "Spike who?"
- On the Various Attempts to Undo Card Disadvantage:
About once every other year, some designer gets it into his head that he can fix me, that he'll be the one to undo the card disadvantage. In the early days I used to get my hopes up. This time, I'd say, they'd crack it. This time I'm going to start showing up in tournaments. Every once in a while, something would click, but more often than not the players would read my new text and then toss me aside like always.
- On Rancor:
Is it better to Rancor or to never have Rancored at all? I'm not sure if Rancor was my salvation or my damnation. It proved it was possible—that I could matter competitively. The problem is once you taste the Big Game, you're never quite satisfied around the kitchen table. There are nights as I drift off to sleep that I dream that Rancor's getting repeated. It's that moment right before you fall off to sleep where anything is possible.
I try to think of Rancor as being a positive thing. If design can do it once, they can do it again. I don't have to be saddled with card disadvantage. The technology exists to let me be free. Okay, I know the card disadvantage is never completely gone, but now I know that it doesn't have to hold me back.
- On Lightning Bolt:
They won't bring Rancor back but they'll bring back Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt! Man, I hate that dude. It's like he has this crazy vendetta against me. I look around, no one's there. I do a little stretching while keeping my eye out. Then when everything seems serene, I quickly enchant some bear and BAM! He pulls it right out from under me and I fall right into the graveyard. It's happened so many times that I'm starting to feel like Charlie Brown with the football.
But at least Charlie Brown can do other things. He has kites to wrap around trees and baseball games to lose. He gets to crush on the little red haired girl and buy junky Christmas trees. This is all I have. I enchant creatures. That's what I do. And no matter how much design builds in answers it never matters if I can't enchant the creature in the first place.
My therapist says I have to let this go. He suggested that Lightning Bolt and I have dinner to talk out our differences. The whole time I'm pouring my heart out, he has a stupid grin like he's moments away from laughing in my face. And then, when the check comes, what does he do? He bolts.
- On Thrull Retainer:
If you history buffs reading this book wanted to know when design first got a clue, the answer is Fallen Empires. Thrull Retainer was the first real attempt to solve my card disadvantage problem. Finally, I had a way to stand up to creature removal. This is the precursor to totem armor Auras.
- On Totem Armor Auras:
The cards will all say that keyword mechanics don't mean anything. You have one, you don't have one—it's no big deal. They're lying through their cardboard. The first day you turn up in a card file and you have a keyword mechanic on you, you pump your fist. Cards with keyword mechanics stand tall. Why? Because when little Bobby cracks open his pack, you know what he's looking for? The new thing. You know what he believes the new thing is? Keyword mechanics.
You can have the most awesome, innovative, mind-blowingly cool mechanic, but if it doesn't have a word in front of it, they just blow on by. Nothing new. So, when you finally get a keyword mechanic it's a big honking deal. That's how I was with totem armor. It gets better than that. When I see a keyword mechanic, I knew it means more than just a mechanic, it's at least a subtheme, maybe an entire theme. We're just marking time until "Auras matter" shows up.
So was I happy when I saw totem armor? Damn right I was. It was about time.
- On Urza's Saga Block's Enchantment Theme:
Design thought it would be a cool idea to do a block built around enchantments. So they do it. Then, a couple months in, the creative team springs on them that this block is going to jump back in time thousands of years. It's going to be all about Urza, you know the greatest artificer of all time.
Ramp;D lays down the line. They say that the set is an enchantment set, not an artifact set. No problem says the creative team. Then they name the block the "Artifact Cycle". Not Urza's Saga Block or Urza's Saga Cycle or Urza's Cycle—The Artifact Cycle. Then Ramp;D goes and prints stupid stuff like Tolarian Academy and Memory Jar—cards that were artifacts or strongly cared about artifacts.
In the last seventeen years, that was our one chance, the one time we were supposed to be center stage—the block full of broken artifacts called the Artifact Cycle. Bravo, Ramp;D. Bravo!
- On a Future "Enchantment Matters" Block:
I'll be the first to admit that there have been one or two late nights where I probably had a little too much and I called up Rosewater then started rambling on about when enchantments are going to get another block. I mean Artifact seems to get a block every other year. Creatures got an entire set to themselves. Land just got a block. Land! It doesn't even do anything.
There's not many permanents left. What are they going to do, "planeswalkers matter?" It's like Ramp;D is avoiding the obvious. Just look at Future Sight. You can clearly see the inklings of some ideas. Enchantment creatures might not have shined, but there's something there. Every freaking set has artifact creatures.
I started up several anonymous email accounts so that I can jump on the boards from time to time to try and rally up support. Seriously, Urza's Saga was over twelve years ago and that was hardly Ramp;D's best effort. Deep in my soul, I just know it's going to happen. I have to have faith. Although if it doesn't happen in the next few years, I'm egging Rosewater's car.
- On Licids:
Occasionally I'm asked who my favorite designer is. My answer is Mike Elliott. Why? One word—Licids. That was like amazing covered in awesome sauce. You know how often I get to attack? Even with Opalescence out I still don't get to join in on the fun. I know that they're not Auras when their creatures but it's the closest I've ever been to dealing damage.
One day we're going to get another enchantment set and I just pray to the card gods that Licids find their way back to the game. I know, they're complicated and they confuse inexperienced players and they have some rules headaches, but I don't care. There's no feeling in the whole wide world like jumping off a creature to block another creature and then turning back into an Aura and hopping back on the first creature before the combat damage is applied. Hopefully, one day I'll have it again.
- On Enchantresses:
I kind of have a way with enchantresses. I just have a natural flare that they appreciate. I mean I am a pretty desirable subtype. It's not like they're dropping hints for Shrine to give them a call. How'd I get such a stellar rep? Back in Alpha, Verduran and I used to hang a lot and we had some good times, and, you know, enchantresses talk.
Why just the enchantresses? Where are all the enchanters? What can I say, I just have a way with the ladies—and apparently Zur. I don't know quite what's going on there. He always buys me drinks and talks my ear off about the ice age and Terisiare. A drink's a drink, but he does freak me out a little bit.
- On Equipment:
A lot of people seem to think that I resent Equipment. I don't resent him. He's just a card subtype like myself trying to make the game better. Does it hurt a little bit that Ramp;D went behind my back to find someone that looked so similar? Of course, how could it not?
My therapist and I have talked a lot about Equipment. I've been trying my whole existence to rid myself of card disadvantage and along comes someone who just does it naturally. My therapist keeps reminding me that there are things I can do that Equipment can't. For example, I can be put onto other player's permanents and I can go onto things other than creatures. Future Sight reminded me though that I shouldn't take any of that for granted.
Rosewater and I've talked and he's promised me that he's dedicated to keeping Equipment and me separate, but I still have the nightmare where a set comes out and there's equipment that goes on the opponent's guys. I peeked in Multiverse once and there was a card called Straight Jacket. Sure, it didn't see print, but it means design's thinking about it.
- On the Unholy Strength Pentagram:
I get asked from time to time about the Pentagram thing. For those that might not know the story—in Alpha the artwork for Unholy Strength had a pentagram in the background. Shortly after the release of Ice Age, Wizards of the Coast began selling to mass market stores and got a little nervous about the whole "demon" thing so they changed all the Demons to Horrors. In addition, they pulled any imagery that they thought might be controversial. One of those items was the pentagram from the Unholy Strength art.
Here was the problem. There wasn't much going on in the artwork. The guy pictured looks like he's stretching after getting out of bed. The only thing giving the artwork any hint that something "unholy" was going on was the pentagram, so when you took it out, it looked pretty silly. I've already talked about some of my image issues, so you could see how I might be upset.
I went to Wizards' corporate offices and threw a fit; maybe you would label it as a little more than a fit. I'm not sure what about the whole thing made me lose it. I'd been going through a pretty rough time with the whole card disadvantage thing. The cops were called and I ended up spending the night in the Renton jail. It was a pretty big deal at the time but now in the context of the whole Interrupt fiasco, it seems kind of quaint.
- On the Current State of Auras:
Therapy has really made me realize that I serve a purpose in the game. Maybe I'm not the powerhouse that other subtypes might be, but I have something most of them will never have. I have pizzazz. I stand out. Players stand up and pay attention to me. They don't think less of me until they are told to do so.
You know why? Because I'm fun. Making little creatures into giant monsters is awesome. It was true in Alpha and it's still true today. And you know what? Ramp;D's working on the card disadvantage thing. They made Rancor and totem armor Auras. They're figuring it out. One day, they'll crack it and then I'll be as awesome in practice as I am in perception.
And until then, I still have Timmy, and sometimes Johnny when I'm quirky enough. Life ain't so bad. Hey, Rise of the Eldrazi used me as a subtheme. I think I'm doing pretty good. I like to think I'm only a few dozen posts away from getting the "enchantment matters" block. And when that happens, maybe Licids will make a triumphant return. Hey, a subtype can dream.
- Rush Aura
The book should be hitting stores soon, so if you like what you saw here, you should think about picking up a copy.
Join me next week when I'll come face to face with my worst enemy.
Until then, may you write a tell-all autobiography to let the world know what it is you have to deal with every day.