Men, Vedalken, and RachelR

Posted in Feature on October 5, 2004

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Talk about your close poll results! Check this out...

What's next for Into The Aether?
Tribal 714 12.7%
Singleton 699 12.5%
Draft 693 12.3%
Two-Headed Giant 667 11.9%
Multiplayer 3-6 587 10.5%
"Casual" Extended 515 9.2%
Three-Headed Giant 452 8.1%
"Casual" Standard 401 7.1%
"Casual" Mirrodin Block 366 6.5%
Teams 2 vs 2 304 5.4%
Teams 3 vs 3 215 3.8%
Total 5613 100.0%

I have two reactions to these results. First, it's clear that Tribal Wars, Draft, Singleton, and Two-Headed Giant all need some individual attention, and soon. Expect the next month or two of Into The Aether to tackle these topics. My second reaction is: Where's the Team multiplayer love? Are people uninterested in this format, not playing it, or does your interest in the others simply outweigh anything else? Speak up on the Boards. I'm interested.

For now, let's talk Tribal.

Pick A Tribe, Any Tribe

I'm guessing that unlike some of the other formats I've discussed until now, most people know what Tribal Wars is. In brief, a Tribal deck means:

What's cool about Tribal Wars? First and foremost, there's something thematically satisfying about playing tribe-versus-tribe. Tribal Wars captures the same sort of feeling I tried to embody in my Clash of the Empires article, the idea that you as a mighty planeswalker are marshaling forces in a Tolkeinesque war of attrition. It's fun (at least to me) to match Goblins vs. Angels, Soldiers vs. Clerics, Elephants vs. Squirrels, and on and on to see who comes out on top. It feeds the same sort of inner nerd of mine that hungers for the World Cup or United States' NCAA basketball tournament. Before Onslaught was ever designed, my friends and I were already building tribe-based theme decks to do battle on my living room table. Now there's a format online that allows me to play my theme decks against everyone else's. Wheee!

The other thing about Tribal Wars that makes it interesting is--believe it or not--the strategic complexities. For example, you know that every deck you're going to face has at least twenty creatures in it so cards like Hobble or Electrostatic Bolt have inherently less risk in your main deck, but you also know that your deck is relying on creatures too. When your opponent plays her first creature, you can immediately and reasonably guess at least a third of her deck. Add in the built-in strengths and weaknesses of each tribe and you have not only a clash of theme decks, but a fairly rich format to test your deckbuilding and play savvy.

Thanks to magicthegathering.com, you have a lot of starting points. The Wizards Invitational had a Tribal Wars format. Randy Buehler talked about his Zombie deck for this event. Nate Heiss has made Cleric, Elf, Zombie, Goblin, Bird, Beast, Sliver, Soldier, Wizard, Druid, Myr, and (gasp gasp... pant pant... Nate sure has written a lot...) Mutant decks. Mark Gottlieb has even made a few Tribal Wars decks of his own, including Wizards, Walls and Cats. If you want to quickly jump into Tribal Wars, you have plenty of options. Heck, there's even a Tribal deckbuilding clinic on the Message Boards.

Over the next two weeks, I'm going to talk through several Tribal Wars decks and explore what Tribal games are like. When Champions of Kamigawa rolls around in a month or so, expect me to revisit the format via new or improved tribes like Moonfolk, Fox, Samurai, and Shamans.

First, though, let's step back and see how Tribal Wars has evolved since its official birth. The format began, quite reasonably, as an extension of the tribal-focused Onslaught Block sets. Because the mechanics of Onslaught so clearly speak to Tribal Wars, any time you play a Tribal game you should still expect to play Onslaught-based Elf, Goblin, Beast, Cleric, Soldier, or Zombie decks. A deck based on an Onslaught tribe is simply going to have more tools at its disposal than any other tribe, so these tribes get the most attention. For some reason Elves seem to be the Most Hated Tribe, since several people play Tribal Wars games advertising "No Elves Allowed." Poor pointy-eared leaf-lovers.

Mirrodin Block obviously distanced itself pretty significantly from the tribal theme. By my reasoning, the non-Onslaught tribes that received a significant boost in Mirrodin are Myr, Rats, Golems, Humans, Cats, Vedalken, Elephants, Shamans, Knights, and Warriors. Sure there are other tribes represented throughout the Mirrodin Block, but these are either new tribes or ones that received significantly yummy tools.

Rhymes with "Zoomin'"...

 

Trinket Mage
Let's take a look at two of the tribes spawned by Mirrodin and start with Humans. Humans are the Magic tribe, or at least they will be. I expect that every future Magic block will have Humans now that Magic R&D has decided humans are, in fact, Human. As a result, Humans are a tribe that will have increasingly more deckbuilding options as time goes by. Until Champions of Kamigawa comes to Magic Online (October 25th, baby!), only twenty-five Humans are available spread across all five colors. Sounds like a nice deckbuilding challenge to me.

By far my favorite Humans to date are Trinket Mage and Auriok Salvagers, two cards that also have some nice synergy. I hate to dip into three colors, but these two also hang out with Moriok Rigger and Disciple of the Vault. Add Thought Courier--another compliment to Auriok Salvagers--and that's twenty Humans. Twenty critters is about all I can fit if I'm going to throw one-mana "cogs" into the deck to make it sing. Aether Spellbomb is a natural fit, as is Chromatic Sphere and Wayfarer's Bauble to help out with my three-color deck. After that it's time for a "toolbox" approach with individual cards Trinket Mage and Thought Courier can help me find. Here's what I decide:

The Race

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How does the fledgling Human tribe stand up against its competition? Let's peek in and find out...

(boxing ring bell sounds)

Humans vs. Myr (blue/black)

Myr plus Opposition... shudder. That's a sick, but very good, idea. Thankfully a first and second-turn Disciple of the Vault, coupled with an Engineered Explosives with two counters, stopped any and all Myr nonsense. The Explosives cleared his side of the table of creatures, then Auriok Salvagers kept the dynamite coming to blow up Opposition. Sixteen of the twenty damage was due to Disciple-induced life-loss. Ouch. It's nice to know that despite Memnarch's diabolic schemes, the Humans can still kick Myr butt.

Humans vs. Zombies - Round 1 (black)

My opponent began the game sighing with how nice it was to play a deck with rares in it. Uh oh. Thankfully all I saw was Festering Goblin, two cycled Gempalm Polluters, a Loxodon Warhammer, and a Graveborn Muse. The Goblin killed my Disciple of the Vault, but an Auriok Salvagers kept an active Aether Spellbomb going to both bounce his Muse and protect my Salvagers. When Moriok Rigger showed up it was all over. Humans triumph over their undead counterparts! Huzzah!

Humans vs. Zombies - Round 2 (black)

 

Call to the Grave
Back for more, you fleshless drones? New opponent, same tribe. This time, though, the combination of two cards dragged the Humans into soiled graves. Withered Wretch (two, actually) kept my graveyard clear of cogs while Call to the Grave kept the table clear of Humans. Noxious Ghoul putrified two Disciple of the Vaults, which were my only hope to win. Shortly thereafter an army of undead shambled over to tear me limb from limb. Don't worry, though: We haven't seen the last of the Humans vs. Zombies war.

Humans vs. Soldiers (white)

I ask you: How can mere Humans, trained as Wizards, Rogues, and Clerics, be expected to defeat an army of disciplined Soldiers? Everything might have been fine, since I had two Disciples of the Vault, Auriok Salvagers, and an Aether Spellbomb. But I also only had four land all game while my opponent amassed two Daru Warchief, an 8/10 Daru Stinger, and--the kicker--a Catapult Master. I got my Soldier-summoning opponent to six or so life, but the Humans eventually lost to their military brethren.

Humans vs. Zombies - Round 3 (black)

Alright, the grudge match! Have I mentioned what a bummer Withered Wretch is for my poor little Humans and their poor little artifacts? Luckily there was no Call to the Grave this time, so my Moriok Rigger grew bigger... and bigger... and bigger... with help from Auriok Salvagers and some timing tricks to befuddle the Wretch. Engineered Explosives cleared the way and allowed my 9/9 Rogue to finish up.

Humans vs. Beasts (red)

 

Aether Charge
You know where Human ingenuity is useless? When Engineered Explosives face off against an Aether Charge. You know when those crafty Aether Spellbombs Humans love so much look like junk? When two Aether Charges are on the table. Meekstone can only do so much. How come Humans never learned to Disenchant anything? Hm... Disenchant. Good idea. (JMS scribbles notes)

Humans vs. Zombies - Round 4 (black)

No Withered Wretch. No Call to the Grave. Not even Noxious Ghoul. But the Humans were still dragged down by hordes of Skinthinners, Festering Goblins, Carrion Feeders, and Gempalm Polluters. A well-timed Cruel Revival didn't help matters either. Oh, and what I'm sure at one point was an unmorphed Skinthinner turned out to be a non-Zombie Infernal Caretaker. Drat and curses those Zombies are tricky! There was nothing two Thought Couriers, a Moriok Rigger, and a lone Trinket Mage could do but succumb to the filthy stink of the dead. That's two games apiece, so the verdict is still out on whether it's better to be dead or alive.

Let me pause for a moment and say... SHEESH, people! Where's the creativity!? Okay, Zombies are cool and all, but do they all have to be monoblack? Where are the Drone, Kavu or Treefolk decks? Just as my frustration was mounting, as I saw Humans battling an endless stream of Zombies, Soldiers, and Elves, I encountered...

Humans vs. Dwarves (red)

That's right... Dwarves! You know, Dwarven Scorchers can actually be kind of scary with Browbeat and Blistering Firecat behind them. Actually, no they can't--not with two land on the table. A manahosed opponent dropped two Scorchers and then helplessly watched while a Disciple of the Vault, Auriok Salvagers, and 5/5 Moriok Rigger pounded his little dwarves into the ground. After concessions I saw a hand of two Browbeat, a Firecat, Dwarven Recruiter, and some burn, so I know how intimidating the little buggers could have been.

Humans vs. Horrors (black)

Now we're talking! Two cool tribes in a row! Two Chainer's Edicts (a theme deck, no less!) killed an early Thought Courier and Trinket Mage. Moriok Rigger hung around, though, and grew to a 6/6 face-smashing size. Engineered Explosives killed two Mesmeric Fiends and by the time Laquatus's Champion showed up I had an Aether Spellbomb to bounce it. The Rigger inflicted all twenty damage and proved Humans' resistance to bad dreams.

Humans vs. Walls (green/blue)

Green/Blue Walls? Yep... it's a Shared Fate deck, which if you ask me is brilliant. I give major style points to eraco for coming up with a cool Tribal idea. A whole fistful of Serum Visions wasn't fast enough to stop the Human onslaught, though. By the time Shared Fate hit the table, I already had two Disciple of the Vault, a 4/4 Moriok Rigger, an Auriok Salvagers, and plenty of cogs to recycle. The final turn was a flurry of Disciple-induced death. Too bad, because I would have liked to have seen more of eraco's deck.

So the Humans go 6-4 with nary a Disenchant to their name. Not bad. Maybe twenty-five options was too many for me to handle...

Rhymes with "Christopher Walken"


Vedalken Archmage, by Kev Walker

I played around with several other tribes before finally falling into Vedalken. Elephants didn't quite work out for me. Knights and Cats seemed too straightforward. Golems were frustrating; I tried to avoid the Battered Golem-Voltaic Construct interaction and instead focused on Brass Herald with Mycosynth Golem. The result was a clunky Golem deck that was expensive to build.

I noticed that only five Vedalken exist, so to make a Vedalken Tribal Wars deck means using four copies of all of them. As ridiculous as that might sound, Vedalken aren't like Slith--the Vedalken actually compliment one another and all fall into a single color. Vedalken Archmage is the horse of the group, with Vedalken Engineers helping cast the artifacts that fuel him. Vedalken Mastermind can bounce cheap artifacts to draw more cards while also protecting the Archmage. Lumengrid Augur helps sift through an artifact-heavy deck. I couldn't really see the use of Synod Artificer, but figured at worst it's a 1/2 body and at best it can pull funny combat tricks.

But what to do with Vedalken Archmage's card-drawing goodness? I must admit, I was affected by Nate Heiss' combo deck from last week, which had me turn my attention to Temporal Fissure. The result is a deck that has a bit of that nasty Affinity taste to it, but that also can give the poor Vedalken a fighting chance against other tribes.

Synod Surprise

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Vedalken vs. Spirits (white/green)

The great thing about Vedalken, I found, was their ability to curse an opponent with manascrew. My opponent cast Angelic Page with a Secluded Steppe and a Plains then got stuck while I amassed Vedalken and artifacts. By the time he found a Forest to cast Phantom Nantuko and Elephant Guide, I had Vedalken Archmage and was going cuh-razy with card-drawing. When I played Temporal Fissure with five copies on the stack, the Spirits vanished into thin air and allowed Vedalken constructs (because let's face it, Vedalken on their own have zero beatdown capability) to mop up.

Vedalken vs. Clerics (white)

This was a great back-and-forth game versus a cool deck. My opponent was using Auriok Champion, Genesis Chamber, and Howling Mine to gain lots of life. I managed to play a bunch of free Frogmites, bounced them to my hand with Vedalken Mastermind to gain a bunch of Myr tokens, then Temporal Fissured his side of the board. The lifegain meant the Clerics could regroup, so I had to do it all over again. The Clerics recovered again, but this time I had enough offense such that my third Fissure was too much for the Holy Ones to handle.

Vedalken vs. Elves (green)

A Myr Enforcer was able to hold off a few Elves, even after they got pumped by Elvish Champion. Wellwisher helped my opponent's life climb to thirty, but I was still feeling okay with a Temporal Fissure in hand. Then Kamahl, Fist of Krosa hit the table and suddenly that 1/2 Taunting Elf looked downright deadly. The Elf taunted my Enforcer and two Frogmites, allowing a horde of happy 5/5 Elves to waltz by and pound me into the soil. Poor Vedalken never even showed up for their own battle. Stupid pointy-eared leaf-lovers.

Vedalken vs. Specters (black/blue)

Again the Vedalken curse struck. I saw a Swamp, two Tainted Isles, and two morph creatures while I stockpiled Vedalken on the table and Temporal Fissures with zero-cost artifacts in hand. I cast Vedalken Archmage, then went crazy with artifacts by laying a series of Frogmite, Welding Jar, Chrome Mox, Welding Jar, Frogmite and then Temporal Fissured away his side of the table. My meager Vedalken swung once before an even more ridiculous turn ensued which left three Myr Enforcer, another Frogmite, and a fistful of cards. My opponent commented with dismay that his spooky Specters got killed by skinny, four-armed Vedalken.

Vedalken vs. Spirits (white/green)

"My opponent commented with dismay that his spooky Specters got killed by skinny, four-armed Vedalken."

My Vedalken Mastermind and Artificer got a little worried, frankly, when my opponent busted out of the gates with a Phantom Nomad, Phantom Tiger, and two Banshee's Blades. I stalled a bit with a Frogmite and the Mastermind, bouncing my creature each time it blocked then playing it next turn for free. Eventually I found a Vedalken Archmage, which let me draw into a Temporal Fissure. As my life dropped to six thanks to a Phantom Flock and Windborn Muse, I played a second Archmage. One massive turn resulted in Temporal Fissuring his side of the table away. A turn later, with fourteen cards in my library, my Myr Enforcers and Frogmites stomped over the red zone.

Vedalken vs. Beasts (red/green)

Some Beasts are not meant to be cast. Some Beasts are meant to be cycled, first to find Lightning Rift, and then to fuel Lightning Rift. My first Vedalken Archmage lasted an unusually long time in the face of a cycling deck, long enough to draw me several cards and eventually set up a mini-Fissure to slow my opponent down. Frogmites slapped at my opponent with abandon, but the game started slipping away. Lightning Rift cleared away any trace of Vedalken influence, and at six life my opponent summoned two Macetail Hystrodon to finish me off.

Vedalken vs. Zombies (black)

They're baaack. At least it's a non-traditional build this time around, with Grave Defiler, Gravestorm, and Ghastly Remains. In fact, for awhile I got stuck on five land with a Vedalken Archmage on the table and more Vedalken in hand while my opponent stockpiled cheap Zombies. I dropped to eight life, then four, as I found another Archmage and happily "went off" to draw all but ten cards in my library and stack twelve copies of Temporal Fissure to bounce all but two Swamps. Two Zombie Cannibals ably showed up to block Myr Enforcers, but a turn later the Vedalken triumphed.

Vedalken vs. Ogres (red)

Major props to Ainle Eirigh for making an Ogre deck work with Aether Vial and Cloudposts. In fact, at one point it looked so incredibly bad for the Vedalken that spectators started dropping from the game. After all, I had six life, two Vedalken Archmage, a Frogmite, a Myr Enforcer and some land to go against a Rustmouth Ogre, Krark-Clan Ogre, and Ogre Leadfoot equipped with Sword of Light and Darkness and Mask of Memory. An Aether Vial set at five counters promised to keep the flow of Ogres coming, so yes... it looked grim. One fifteen-minute turn later, and I have drawn all but two cards in my deck and left him with no permanents on the table. Whew.

Vedalken games take longer than Human games, so I'll stop there. 6-2... who knew?

Look for me over the next week and see if you can wow me with your Tribal creativity. I'll be packing two new tribes to shake things up, so beware.

Switching gears...

Introducing Rachel Reynolds

Twice now in my "behind the scenes" updates I've focused on Alan Comer and mentioned someone named Rachel. Most people know Alan, both because he was a "name" player on Magic's Pro Tour and because of his role as Magic Online's lead card programmer. But who is this Rachel person? I've decided to clue you in...

First, let's get Rachel's "official" dossier. We've done these sorts of things in the past with folks like Doug Beyer, Joe Hauck, Elena Moye, Henry Stern, Brandon Bozzi (my man!), Corey Macourek, Scott Larabee, and Mike Elliott. Here's the scoop on the mysterious Rachel...

Name: Rachel Reynolds

Job title and duties: Jr. Software Developer. I program new card sets for Magic Online. I am also responsible for implementing changes to the live client.

Age: 23

Educuation: I have a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Penn State. I also have two electives remaining to get a Masters in Language Technology from Carnegie Mellon University (which I should hopefully finish early next year).

Began working at Wizards: January 2004

Previous job: I was a graduate student/research assistant at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

How you got your job here: I applied online through the Wizards website, had a phone screen, flew out for an interview, and got the job. I moved across the country rather abruptly because the position needed to be filled immediately.

Magic accomplishments prior to working here: I starting playing Magic in the summer of 2002. I qualified for and played in my first and only Pro Tour, PT Boston, in September 2003, shortly before moving out here.

Expansions or projects you've worked on: I started working here right before Darksteel went to Beta. I did some work on Darksteel (mainly bug fixes), and programmed most of Fifth Dawn and Champions.

Favorite part of your job: The first few days of programming a new card set. Programming the easy cards in the set is a lot of fun. It is also a nice feeling of accomplishment to get a lot of cards working quickly. Of course, finishing the last card in a set is nice too...

Least favorite part of your job: The time between programming card sets, when I'm in withdrawal from programming cards.

Thing you've worked on that you're most proud of: I would have to say the client work I did to get flip cards to look right. I heard about them several months before I actually had to start programming Champions and knew that as the programmer responsible for implementing changes to the client I would have to program the flip card interface (get the layout correct on the new frame, rotate the card, and print text upside down). So I knew that having to work on flip cards would be a major challenge, plus this would be my first big set! It turned out that once I started programming flip cards it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, but it was still a big relief to have them done.

Other games you currently enjoy playing: I really enjoy playing Duel Masters a lot, and I've also had fun with D&D Miniatures and Neopets since I started working here. I enjoy other types of games too, like German board games (I really like Puerto Rico), and video games, particularly for the gameboy. My current favorite video games are DDR, Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, World of Warcraft, and all 20 of my gameboy games that I carry in my purse at all times, especially Fire Emblem, Advance Wars, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga, Golden Sun, and the Sims Bustin' Out. Also, I somehow managed to get addicted to the Neopets web site recently.

Favorite Magic card(s): Before I came here, my favorite Magic card was Wonder. The first constructed decks I built when I started playing Magic were U/G/R Madness decks, and Wonder is the card I had the most fun with. Also it's pretty and has a lovely Italian name (La Meraviglia, my MTGO username). I think Wonder is still my favorite card, as I haven't been able to look at cards in quite the same way since I started programming them, but in recent sets I have liked Door to Nothingness and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (which has an awesome name, slightly better than Ben-Ben, Akki Hermit and Azusa, Lost but Seeking).

But wait, there's more! I had a chance to ask Rachel a few questions as she slipped her dossier under the door...

IntoTheAether: Let's start with an easy one. What's your MTGO username?

RachelR: When I do decide to head onto the live server, my username is straightforward: RachelR.

IntoTheAether: What's been your biggest surprise since working "behind the scenes"?

RachelR: The real mana pool (a decorative pond here at Wizards of the Coast) is not as deep as I expected!

IntoTheAether: Any insights for the layperson about what coding a set like Champions of Kamigawa is like?

RachelR: Coding a set is a lot of fun and rather addictive, at least for me. It's divided nicely into small, manageable tasks which can, for the most part, be done in any order. There is a feeling of accomplishment every time you get a card working. I have a whiteboard at my desk where I count down the number of cards left to program, and I am constantly driven to get that number lower. Some days are much better than others, and a lot of times a really productive day is followed by one in which I get frustrated by a card. But the more I get frustrated by something, the better I feel when I eventually figure it out. I enjoy the challenge of solving the unique puzzles that each card presents.

IntoTheAether: Alan says that he starts on the "complex" cards, you start on the "straightforward" cards, and then the two of you meet at the middling cards. Is this accurate?

RachelR: Yeah, that's about right - it usually means I program about 90% of the cards, some of which are fairly difficult, but not too terrible. For Champions, Alan programmed the splice cards, the flip cards, the new legend and targetting rules, Time Stop, Struggle for Sanity, Takeno, Sensei Golden Tail, and Sideswipe. I think I programmed pretty much everything else.

IntoTheAether: What was the trickiest card for you to code in Champions of Kamigawa and why?

RachelR: Two cards stick out in my mind:

The last card I programmed was Swirl the Mists, and since I start with the easiest ones and work up, it was likely to be tricky. I had never programmed a continuous effect with this level of complexity, as most of them tend to either only affect one card or just make simple modifications like +1/+1. After procrastinating as long as possible, implementing it was easier than I expected. My first attempt at coding it crashed the game, my second attempt only worked for one color, and the third attempt worked like a charm. I was done with the set and extremely happy!

Another card I found tricky was Imi Statue. I started that card, got frustrated with it, and went back to something else multiple times. The combination of Imi Statue, Static Orb and optional untap cards like Vedalken Shackles kept making my head spin. Eventually, I just resolved to sit down and hammer it out, and it turned out to not be as bad as I thought.

IntoTheAether: What do you do in your job when you aren't specifically coding?

RachelR: Well, I do spend a lot of time in some sort of coding process, but most of that time is not spent typing code. During the times I'm programming a card set, I pretty much repetitively go through a procedure of looking through my collection, finding a card I feel like programming, deciding how I want to implement it, writing the code for it, testing it, and then fixing bugs until the card works properly. Also, I spend some time in meetings, and occasionally go to playtests in R&D so I know what's coming and can start thinking about the cards that are likely to be tricky. Well, that and because it's a lot of fun to play with the future sets.

IntoTheAether: What kind of cards/decks/formats do you most like to play?

RachelR: I'm a big fan of booster draft, particularly with wacky combinations of sets. I picked up some Prophecy, Spanish Fifth Edition, and Italian Scourge recently when R&D decided to consolidate their library. I also like the infinite mana goofiness that DC-10 with a random pile of cards provides.

Online, I enjoy all the casual formats, although my favorite is definitely Prismatic. I'm looking forward to trying it out with the new bannings. My craziest deck ever was built before I got my Wizards account. I decided to put every single rare I owned into a deck, add lands, and shuffle up. Well, not every rare, as a single card, the fifth copy of Gratuitous Violence, had to sit on the bench. The resulting concoction wasn't, say, "competitive," but it was a whole lot of fun.

IntoTheAether: How many times a week do you read "Into The Aether"? Ten? Twenty? A hundred?

RachelR: On a good week a few hundred, but sometimes it's only in the double digits.

IntoTheAether: What is it like working at Wizards of the Coast?

RachelR: Wonderful. It is a great place to work, and I really enjoy my job. It's awesome to have a job where I like coming in to work and I'm not constantly looking forward to the end of the day. It's also very relaxed, in terms of both the dress code and the general atmosphere. I participate in a kickboxing class two times a week in our very own dojo, and there are always employee leagues taking place for various games.

Games are a big part of everyone's life here, and it definitely shows. I can't imagine I'll ever find another workplace where, one day each year, all four hundred people get the afternoon off to compete against each other with company-provided Nerf guns.

IntoTheAether: Anything else you'd like readers to know?

RachelR: Well, when you're in the middle of programming a card and it's not working quite right yet you can see some interesting things happen. The craziest I saw while programming Champions was my initial attempt at programming Devouring Rage and Devouring Greed. My code to only let you sacrifice Spirits wasn't functioning even close to right then. Not only did it let you sacrifice permanents that were not Spirits to pay its additional cost, but you could sacrifice ANYTHING...including cards in your hand, library, and graveyard. And you could continue sacrificing the same card in your graveyard indefinitely; it would just stay there. But getting too greedy with this could turn out very bad for the caster of the spell. I had also swapped the life loss and gain for Devouring Greed, such that the target player gained life and you lost it. So really the card turned out to just be a very effective way to commit suicide.

So now you know. Feel free to wave howdy to RachelR if you see her online, and maybe express your thanks for a job well done. She and Alan are the reason we get to play with Champions of Kamigawa ahead of schedule, so I for one am planning on naming my next child Meraviglia. Thanks Rachel!

Two final tidbits before I leave today: First, thanks to the interest in PDC from my last article, there is now a standing room where you can find all-commons games any time of day. Just type "/join pdc" and have at it. I've already dropped in for a game or two, and it's great to see interest in the format rising.

Second, I've started helping out with Champions of Kamigawa beta-testing and will probably be sharing some stories between now and the end of October. One thing I noticed almost immediately is that Magic Online in the beta has the ability to read text files. That means you will be able import text file decklists into Magic Online and export your decks as text files without bothering with .dec files. Since I jot deck ideas down at weird times, this strikes me as a very cool improvement that, assuming the beta goes well, will be available when Champions is released.

Hoping to see your goofy tribes online,

-j

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