Yay Snakes!

Posted in Serious Fun on November 2, 2004

By Anthony Alongi

Why snakes have Anthony's vote this Election Day

With Election Day upon those of us in America, I hope my readers worldwide will indulge me in a bit of political advocacy.

My recent stint as a “developer” for Wizards notwithstanding, I don't often get a chance to influence Magic set design or development – certainly not to the extent many readers appear to think I do. (For the hundredth time: I refuse to reprint Swords to Plowshares. It would violate Wizards' copyright.) But on this most democratic of days, I would like to pretend I have some say in what Wizards does next and…well, I'd like to vote for snakes.

Yay snakes!

Snakes for representative 1/1 green creature!

Snakes have gotten a great boost from Champions of Kamigawa. They have an accomplished history in the game (see: River Boa), are a natural set-up for the return of poison counters, and have ten times the presence of a no-good, nut-hunting, mangy-fur squirrel.

Yay snakes!

Boo squirrels!

Snakes are reptilian perfection. They need no limbs (with apologies to recent artwork), are cold and calculating combatants, and aren't made up, like no-good, never-heard-of-‘em, sticky saprolings.

Yay snakes!

Boo saprolings!

Snakes are fun to read about. My son has a great picture book on snakes that show them in all their unique, sometimes frightening, sometimes silly glory. Snakes also figure prominently into the new fantasy novel my wife and I will publish through a major print publisher next autumn. (More details to come – we've still got to sign that contract!)

Yay snakes!

Boo – um, boo unpublished snakes!

Now, I know a lot of you mis-educated, squirrel-lovin' pipsqueaks and saprolin'-lovin' saps are going to fire off all sorts of nasty retorts on the boards and email forms. And that's your democratic right, assuming you live in the right sort of country. But in this three-way race, there's only one true contender.

We'll start with a nifty, generic theme deck with virtually no utility. (You could add stuff like Predator's Strike, I suppose)


Download Arena Decklist

Some neat tricks already – not bad for a creature type that only gets mention in 31 cards' titles, type, or rules text. Let's review the assets snakes bring to the generic 1/1 green creature, and how such assets might play out in the future over a broader range of snakes:

Snakes bite. I mean, really bite. Not nibble with buckteeth. Because of this, you can actually imagine getting bitten to death by snakes. This is important to newer players, and players who like to use common sense.

Flavor translation: a 1/1 snake token just makes sense. You'll never need to create a 0/1 snake. 0/1 creatures are annoying, whether you're playing with them or against them. Snakes don't do 0/1.

Marsh Viper

Snakes poison. The bite of a snake can be pretty serious, beyond whatever damage the fangs themselves do.

Flavor translation: Poison counters aside, you can imagine snakes in real life that do more than “1 damage”. This means Wizards can design (and has designed) more lethal snakes – creatures that do 2, 3, 4, and more damage. There's more design space for snakes than for past 1/1 green creatures – which means in the long run, you can build a wider variety of theme decks around snakes than you can for squirrels (no poison) or saprolings (no poison).

Snakes slither. Snakes are very sneaky.

Flavor translation: To be a successful creature type in green, players have to believe you could conceivably have forestwalk. No problems here. Saprolings would stand out like the freaks of nature they are; and squirrels make way too much noise. (My dog goes crazy all the time from hearing them.)

Snakes hiss. Some also rattle or throw their hoods up. The point here is they have a variety of ways to tell you to back off. This is what we call personality. Squirrels? No personality. (Don't get me started on Chatter of the Squirrel.) Saprolings? Big, crusty worms.

Flavor translation: In addition to all of the different sorts of snakes Wizards could explore, there are lots of card title and flavor text possibilities for instants and other non-creature cards (“hiss of the cobra”, that sort of thing).

Snakes spit. Spitting cobras – quite possibly the coolest animals on the earth. Can you imagine that step of evolution? Some cobra 200,000 years ago is chasing some squirrel, the squirrel zips up a tree, starts laughing because the cobra just barely falls short of reaching him…and the cobra just decides, “I'm taking this jerk out.” Ptooi! Squirrel goes down. Snake teaches trick to sons and daughters. They pass it on. Happy ending for everyone, except the rat.

Flavor translation: To me, this is a first strike creature, not unlike Voracious Cobra – but perhaps one that can block an additional creature. Or maybe it can do damage like a Chainflinger. (It wouldn't kill anyone for green to get the ability to ping a creature, now and again. Isn't nature all about creatures zapping each other, chain of life, etc.?)

Snakes stare. Cold, reptilian eyes. Great concentration as a predator. Sure, their tongue's doing most of the work – but the point is, they pay attention.

Flavor translation: This one's hard. Maybe it's the ability to make a creature lose forestwalk. Maybe it's the door to opening up even more flavorful snake shamans or snake monks. Or maybe it's just nifty artwork.

Snakes fly! Really! And despite what you may have seen in Ribbon Snake, they don't need wings! Check out these videos (especially the gliding ones further down the page). I really do want to know about those people who rush in after the snake has landed, though: who runs after a snake that can fly? Cripes. Isn't nature trying to tell you something, right there? These people wouldn't last ten seconds in the Amazon.

Flavor translation: Wizards should do a gliding snake – one that can block as though it had flying. (I have no problem kicking spiders to the curb for a set or two.) It would rock, as long as it wasn't a disappointing 1/1 for . (Those guys never make it anywhere, unless they can pump to 3/3 and let you play them for free when you discard it.)

But What About Elves?

“But what about elves?” you may ask (probably in a whiny, elfin voice). “Elves are the penultimate 1/1 green creature, aren't they? Wizards will reprint elves again someday, won't they? Elves still love me, right?!?”

Easy there, Elrond. Elves are old hat. Old, green, floppy hat. There are two or three elves worth respect; but this is a small percentage of all the sappy entries out there. How can you have respect for a creature type that brought you Savaen Elves and Viridian Scout? And no matter how good the artwork gets on stuff like Gaea's Skyfolk and other worthy creatures, we cannot escape elves' sinister association with Keebler.

Meanwhile, no uncool snakes. That's because snakes don't do uncool. (They can't. They're cold-blooded. Ba-dump.)

So at a time when our country is looking for leadership at the 1/1 green creature slot, I say: snakes are your man. Or reptile. Or whatever.

Anyway, it was fun to argue passionately about this topic. I honestly don't feel that strongly about it – but it was fun to geek out a bit and speak in favor of this emerging creature type. Readers of differing opinions may now bite and scratch each other on the message boards – good fun for all.

Snakes, in real life, are fascinating creatures – fascinating creatures that my wife will not allow as pets into the house. (We got geckos instead. About 90% of the cool, with only 20% of the creepiness. Good deal for both of us.) You can find out more about snakes at a million different web sites (something else you can't really do for saprolings and elves; and something you'd never bother to do with squirrels). A few that I found pretty easily include http://pelotes.jea.com/vensnake.htm, http://www.ahc.umn.edu/rar/MNAALAS/Snakes.html, and a cool graphics site at http://www.etereaestudios.com/docs_html/snakes_htm/snakes_index.htm. In addition, http://www.snakesandreptiles.com/ is a decent portal site, with links to web banners, search capabilities, and even cricket-buying!

Yay snakes!

A Not-So-Venemous Note For Emailers

I have found an increasing occurrence of the blah@blah.com address in emails to me. This represents a generic address that certain telecommunications customers can use in sending emails. As a strong advocate of information privacy, I understand your desire to remain anonymous. (Some of you appear to have more reason than others to remain anonymous – follow that instinct!)

However, you should know two things: (1) while I try to respond to every reader email, I cannot respond to emails that use this address; and (2) if I cannot respond to an email, I don't spend as much time reading it. Hey, it's who I am. Maybe a couple of seconds out of courtesy…then I'm done. I assume an email coming from blah@blah.com (or any similar service) is from someone who wants to say something quickly and spur no action. Personally, I prefer to spend my time and energy on those readers interested in conversations, either via email or the message boards.

If you're sending from an anonymous address like blah@blah.com and want a reply, include a working alternate address prominently in the text of your email. Thank you.

Anthony cannot provide deck help. His attention is cast skyward, in search of gliding paradise tree snakes.

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