From the Teeming Millions

Posted in Serious Fun on August 16, 2011

As advertised previously, it's Feedback Week! Before diving into your question extravaganza, I did want to touch on last week's Pauper Commander event:

Thank you!

I was very pleased to see games firing off, and from what I observed the advantages of using any rarity of commander (as opposed to only those at common) really shined. Games were faster and more dynamic, with a greater variety of colors being used. Nicely done!

    Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

As much as I love recounting games, this week is dedicated to you: the readers and responders of Serious Fun. I cast a net for questions, and these are the most interesting ones that came in.

Comboranger "What's fun?"
Fun is something you find enjoyable, pleasant, and engaging. Easy.

Did you mean what's fun in Magic? That's a bit trickier.

"Fun" is, ultimately, relative to the player. Cards, colors, themes, game play, and virtually every other facet of the game can be pleasant or unpleasant to individuals. That is, anything and everything you find fun could be exactly what someone else finds forgettable or, worse, painful.

For Magic, I believe "fun" can be generalized to an experience. Fun is when:

  • All the players of a game found pleasure in it, by their own definition of it.
  • All the players of a game were able to make measurable steps towards their deck's plan.
  • At the end of the game, players want to play again.

That total experience cannot be described as anything less than fun. While it's impossible to pair every player together perfectly and have every game played be fun, when you find the right group, with the right decks, at the right time, fun will be insufficient to describe it.

It's up to you to seek out those experiences. (And, of course, how others perceive fun to be will vary too. It's a really elusive idea to nail down!)

CMDRDecks If you could create your own format, what would it be?

I did create my own format: Planar Invaders. It could admittedly use a little more tweaking (which is a topic for another day), but it's something all my own to break up the steady stream of four-player Commander.

However, if I could create another format there is one beast I'd like to tame:


Well, not the Calvinball, but a Magic approximation thereof. Planechase and Archenemy have some of this rules-changing randomness built into them, but the rules are fixed and cyclical. You'll have the same, or relatively similar, games once you play with them enough. They're chaotic but with just enough comfort of familiarity.

"Magicball" would be like its Bill Waterson–penned progenitor: rules are creative, random, and fiendish. Scoring (life totals) would take a back seat to the enigma of creative interaction; Magic meets improvisation theater, with a splash of Balderdash for good measure.

There is, of course, a little matter of the rules of Magic. I really don't have a good plan on how to deconstruct something built entirely on an ever-refining foundation of rules structure. As much as Magic is perceived and experienced through the creativity of each card, it's wholly defined by the logical rules structure carefully constructed for it.

So, uh, do you have any ideas?

seanFsmith I don't have a regular group, so I often sling decks against me. Is there a cool solitaire format I'm missing?

Well, there's Solitaire Magic. It's been around forever and something I've heard kicked about time to time. I can't vouch for it myself (as I'm really lucky to have a great local crew to feed my social need), but for paper-based Magic I'd start there.

If you can go digital I recommend Magic Online, and not because there's an editing corporate overlord lording over me. (Hi Kelly!) Whether it's Draft or Sealed, a variety of constructed formats (including Commander), or even the chaotic fun of Momir Vig Basic, you can find just about everything through the magic of Magic technology.

I'll be honest: it took me a little while to warm up to it. While I still prefer paper over circuitry, there are times when only Magic can scratch my itch to game. At 2 o'clock in the morning, when I usually have this decision hit me, I can't really rally the local troupe.

Thanks, Magic Online!

Absird Is there a way to make Skullbriar fun? I've only been playing for a year, but my decks don't let my opponents have fun.

Without more details it would be hard to make specific recommendations. What are you playing in your deck? What are your opponents playing? What do they say they like or dislike, specifically? What do you like or dislike, specifically?

Answering those questions can help you better understand what changes could be made. Changing your deck can be as easy a swapping a few cards in or out. There isn't a good answer for what would make your Skullbriar, the Walking Grave deck fun for opponents because, sometimes, what you and some opponents find fun is incompatible.

If you're sharing your thoughts, and soliciting for theirs, you'll have some of the information you need. Instead of asking me, I'm asking you to ask them!

DanTack Why is Skywinder Drake so good? XD

Dan, Ialreadycoveredthis. Try to keep up!

thewachman What podcasts do you recommend listening to? With links please.

Since my day job affords a lot of free auditory time, I have the pleasure of listening to several different Magic-themed podcasts. I say "themed" because I enjoy the talk-radio style of 'casts, where hosts and guest divert discussion from purely Magic pursuits.

I may or may not occasionally, intentionally, divert the topic at hand when casts invite me to join them.

Thanks to the access to technology our modern world has privileged us with you can find Magic podcasts all over, with topics as narrow as a specific Magic Online clan or as broad as anything remotely related. While I may not listen to, or list, every podcast out there, it doesn't mean they aren't excellent. My time is pretty full, and I give what I can to the hardworking folks sharing through their 'casts.

These are the ones I spend my time with, but I encourage you to look though to see many more:

Yo! MTG Taps! – Joey and Joe are two incredibly passionate guys whom I run into regularly around my local Magic area. While their topic of choice changes each week, I nearly always find them interesting. Like a cookies-and-milk combo, they play off each other in a way only best friends can.

Monday Night Magic – In this grandfather among Magic podcasts, Tom and an ever-changing crew of Magic misfits deliver some of the most interesting discussions I've ever heard. While the items shared can vary from the same things featured in Magic Arcana to things very adult in nature, my week wouldn't be complete without my favorite doctor on the Internet.

The Mana Pool – Chewie Slate and all the other dorks are a group of everyday Magic players. Sometimes they attend events, sometimes they show up at kitchen tables, and sometimes they just plain talk about what Magic means to them. When I'm looking to connect to the essential core of what makes Magic for me, and many of you, these are the guys to turn on.

Top 8 Magic (Podcast) – Two familiarfaces choose a noisy spot in New York City to engage in some of the best Magic theory, history, and current trends discussions you can find. Sometimes there are guests, but Brian David-Marshall and Mike Flores never need one for it to be worthwhile.

The Men of Magic – If you're curious about the names and faces bounced around the Magic community, this podcast is a series of interviews with said faces. From Pro Tour champions to Community Cup participants, getting to know a little more about Magic personalities is easier than ever.

The Third Power – It's no secret that I enjoy Cube, so it should be no surprise that I enjoy a podcast dedicated to it. Anthony and Usman always have a topic to soapbox about, and it's that passion that brings me to consider (and reconsider) many of the things I take for granted.

In Contention (Podcast) – Sam and Kranny have a particular chemistry about them. Like BDM and Mike, or Joey and Joe, there's something reassuring and engaging when these two sit down to discuss Magic. They have recently begun moving to recording video of a draft, then providing discussion and commentary around it. If thinking about Limited has intrigued you, these guys indulge in spades.

Limited Resources – And speaking of Limited, the podcast with the most apropos title has to be this one. Dedicated exclusively to Draft and Sealed, this is where I turn when I'm hungry to hear about gaming with just booster packs.

kaokun What's your top 8 funnest (sic) cards in all of Magic?

The top eight cards I find the most fun in all of Magic, eh? You know, as much as have a penchant (and developing habit against) verbosity, I think a question like this is best served as an entire article.

Thanks for the awesome idea; your question will have its day soon!

treborj60 How long did it take you from deciding to build a cube to actually having one to test out? Did you "goldfish" it first?

Building a cube is certainly a long-term process. Rigging my way from nothing to an assembled contraption was harder work, more tedious, time-consuming, and tantalizingly frustrating than I had originally thought.

Getting to the testing stage was much easier: one month. I spent four weeks roughly doing the following:

  • Weeks 1 and 2: Combing Gatherer for cards, meticulously cataloguing those that I found interesting. I sketched out rough ideas of what I wanted every color and combination to be.
  • Week 3: Furiously riffling through every card I owned to find every card I wanted to own. I then spent the rest of the week waiting.
  • Week 4: Cards I didn't actually own arrived by mail, and I had a solid 360 cards to work with.

"Working" is probably not the correct term for what I had at that point. My cube was more of a rough idea of what a cube could be. Thanks to help from some amazing friends (such as the incredibly talented Eric Klug) it coalesced into more refined versions.

Sealed Deck with five "booster packs" was my favorite way to help clarify things. By slightly restricting the cards available, more interesting and unusual choices presented themselves. Being forced to choose cards you would like to avoid choosing altogether is one way to test it. And if I had to do it all over again, I'd try Winchester Draft instead as that format is particularly challenging when it comes to deck construction.

With a question like that I can only guess you're thinking of diving in yourself. If so, I wish you all the best, and please share your product when it's ready!

Josh R. (via email):

For Feedback Week I'm asking all of the columnists over at Daily MTG to write something about my favorite Creature Subtype: Wurm!
Doesn't matter exactly what as long as it incorporates Wurms in some way.
Have I mentioned that I really like Wurms?

Well there's no wurming my way out of this one. When you bait the hook with a wurm like that you know you're going to land a big one. Even Garruk couldn't wurm (or beast) his way past it.

Andrew B. (via email):

Have you ever come across a set or block that you would call lucky? IE: you always manage to get great cards every time you open a pack. For me, I feel like Scars of Mirrodin block is my lucky block. About 2/3 of the time I've pulled great rares, New Phyrexia has almost always had a foil card in the packs I've bought (always fun) and a New Phyrexia fat pack offered up not one but twoKarn Liberated cards.

The set that was lucky for me was Mirrodin Besieged. The reason is quite simple: my opening Sealed pool at the Mirrodin Besieged Prerelease. I mean, the likelihood of my beating that story ever is almost zero.


And that was Feedback Week for Serious Fun! I know I had to leave some questions off, but I hope you enjoyed those that made it in. Speaking of enjoying Feedback Week, here are the results from last week's poll:

Are you excited for Feedback Week next week?

It seems that you were a little pessimistic about coming into this week. While I work hard to share the passion and excitement I have, sometimes I miss the mark a little. Now that it's said and done, I'd be interested to hear what you thought about it! The forums, email, or Twitter—however you want to respond, I'll see it!

This week's poll is just as straightforward, but a little more general:

What format do you enjoy playing the most?Duels (traditional two-player Magic; Limited or Constructed)Duels (using variant rules: pauper, singleton, team Limited, etc.)Multiplayer (traditional three-or-more-player Magic)Multiplayer (using variant rules: Commander, Two-Headed Giant, etc.)

Join us next week when we take eight to heart! See you then!

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