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20-Point Fireball: Ravnica Edition
By Eric Turgeon
Well, I've bided my time and built up my mana base. So it's time to let loose another 20-point fireball.

1) Among the stupider things I've seen lately, the infamous spoiler website, www.mtgnews.com, has started rating cards in the new sets based on play value. Most of the evaluations seemed fair, if not debatable, but a lot of the limited ratings didn't make any sense to me:


  • Sept 22, 2005: Watery Grave was rated #6 in limited. Let me clear something up first. Limited games mean sealed deck, right? Do people honestly believe that a land that only produces mana is going to dominate limited matches? Is this the kind of card that is too good not to play its colors? Is a turn two Watery Grave so much better than a turn two Watchwolf (rated #26)? Am I missing something here? Sacred Foundry was rated #32 in limited. Is Boros that much worse in limited than Dimir? Hunted Dragon was understandably the highest rated limited card and it's almost guaranteed to only fit in a red and white deck. It makes no sense.
  • Sept 22, 2005: Caregiver was rated #9 in limited. I'll just assume this was a joke.
  • Sept 27, 2005: Some more limited ratings: Blood Funnel - #37, Sacred Foundry - #38, Boros Swiftblade - #39, Tolsimir Wolfblood - #40. Unranked in limited: Oathsworn Giant, Selesnya Guildmage and Thundersong Trumpeter. I'm thinking the guys who rated these did not make it out to the prerelease.

2) Has anyone else seen the preview trailer for Ravnica? How awesome is it that they got Michael Dorn to narrate? You know Magic is entering the mainstream when Lt. Worf is helping to sell the product.

3) No offense to Bob Maher, but I take great exception to the fact that he acquired the nickname, "The Great One." He's a Magic player. Call him the Magic Master or The Great Magician or Spellcaster Extraordinaire. There is only one "The Great One" in the world. His name is Gretzky and he was a hockey player. He got this nickname by completely dominating the sport for the duration of his career. I would say the Magic equivalent of Gretzky's accomplishments would require Maher to place in the top 8 of 90% of the tournaments he enters (approximate percentage of Gretzky's All-Star years), winning half of them (approximate percentage he lead the NHL in scoring). I don't follow professional Magic too closely, so maybe Maher's done these things, but if he hasn't then he needs a new nickname.

4) Speaking of Maher, the flavor text on his card, Dark Confidant, reads, "Greatness, at any cost." Doesn't that make it sound like he cheats? Maybe he just spends a lot of money on cards.

5) How long will it be until Counterspell is reprinted? I'd put the over/under at about 3 blocks (or 1.5 Core Sets). When they finally do reprint it (and I know they will since it still fits the color pie) how bad will the rest of the blue cards in the newer sets have to be in order for them to feel that it's "balanced"? Will it come out as a rare or merely an uncommon?

6) I was reading Abe Sargent's 5-Color review of Ravnica the other day and he had the following thing to say about transmute:

quote:
That's where transmute's sheer power steps in. Imagine a card that allows me to tutor for any one-mana card. Contract from Below, Firestorm, Ancestral Recall, and Skullclamp are just a few seconds away. Contract, Ancestral, and Clamp are arguably three of the five most powerful draw spells ever, and I can get them. Two-mana Tutors get Time Walk or Balance. Three-mana Tutors get Timetwister or Wheel of Fortune. Four mana gets Fact or Fiction or Diminishing Returns.

Um… yeah. Ancestral Recall. Time Walk. Timetwister. Good thing I have all those cards. Better yet, my Black Lotus creates the perfect amount of mana for me to transmute on the very first turn. Combined with my moxes, I'll be able to play Ancestral Recall, Time Walk or Timetwister before my opponent can do anything!

7) One of my favorite writers at magicthegathering.com is Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar. I'm not always interested in what he has to say, but he writes well and he usually speaks to casual or inexperienced players, which is a refreshing change of pace from the usual tournament mumbo jumbo a lot of internet writers spew out. One thing I don't like about Jay Moldenhower-Salazar, though, is his adamancy about getting every rare dual land available. He makes good points about deck consistency and mana frustrations, but come on. I am not about to go out and spend $20 or more on four lands ($200 for all ten). If I see them in a draft, I'll pick them up. If I have them, I'll play them. But even using Jay Moldehauer-Saltazar's own statistics, good dual lands help a deck cut mana problems approximately in half (from 17% to 10%). So if they were to cost twice as much as a basic land, I'd easily shell out the dough necessary to purchase them. Heck, if they cost twice as much as the Invasion taplands, I'd buy them. But I can still get four of those for one ticket. So I think I'll keep my hard-earned money for things like food and shelter and take the occasional mana screw. It's just a game. Not a way of life.

8) Another thing I don't like about Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar is his name.

9) One of the first articles I ever read about professional magic referred to Brian Kibler as a "pro tour heartthrob." I guess he's the one who gets all those hot Magic groupies. Save some for the rest of us, buddy.

10) The best counters ever created are called Legos. Twenty of your standard 2x1 Lego building blocks stack beautifully for easy handling and usage. More versatile than a twenty-sided die and more convenient than paper, Legos are perfect for tracking life. And you can create little animals out of them, like doggies and turtles and moose, and watch as they slowly come apart as the game goes on. Be creative. Additionally, Legos stack well to make any size token creature you might need, something that those little beady counters cannot provide. One Lego is a 1/1 creature, two are a 2/2 creature and so on. Plus, they come in a wide variety of colors to represent any color of creature. Upright, the Legos symbolize an untapped creature. On their side, they are tapped. It's so easy to keep track of. Life, counters, tokens… any non-card representation in Magic can be filled in with Legos. As much as I'd like to take credit for this idea, I believe it was my friend, Dave, who first introduced me to the concept. So five years from now when all Magic players use Legos for their counters and tokens, he deserves the credit.

11) Sometimes it's easy to forget about how much violent imagery there is in Magic. Then someone's mom sees the name of a card like Throat Slitter and you remember. Here's some Magic card names I look forward to seeing in the future: Eye Gouger, Nut Buster, Desiccated Corpse and Disembowel. On second thought, scratch that last one.

12) My wife asked if I'd ever written anything about her in one of my Magic articles. Now I have.

13) She also wanted me to make a Magic card of her, like I did for myself in my last 20-Point Fireball, but I couldn't think of anything about her that would translate well onto a Magic card. So instead I made a card that represents how she likes to play Magic: an indestructible enchantment that states, "Target opponent can't counter your spells or force you to discard or target any of your permanants." I would call it "No" because that's what she says when I try to do any of those things. And, of course, she wouldn't want to lose the card, so it would also have to have some sort of clause where if it's ever put into a graveyard, she could return it to her hand. To balance this out, it would have to be ridiculously expensive... virtually uncastable. Luckily, ridiculously expensive, uncastable cards are something she doesn't mind.

14) I love those new Pro Player cards. As someone who writes about Magic and likes to poke fun at the game from time to time, the idea of these cards is what I call a "lay-up." Choose from any one of the following thoughts on Pro Player cards:


  • Am I the only person that's super-excited over the new Pro Player cards? Finally, I get to collect all my favorite pro players in a convenient little cardboard square! Did you check out the "German Juggernaut" in that Ask Wizards? Kai Budde is so awesome!!!! And dreamy, too.
  • Thank god Wizards finally came up with the brilliant idea of creating Pro Player cards. It really cements Magic as the new baseball in the world. I haven't been this excited over a new collectible since Topps started marketing New Kids on the Block collectible trading cards.
  • Pro Player cards? Pro Player cards!? Ugh. Now all the teenage kids who play Magic for fun and have never heard of the Pro Tour can waste all their time and money trying to make the best decks because that's the only way they're going to compete with players ten times more skilled than they are until at last they become so disillusioned with the game that it ceases to be fun and they quit. Thank you, Wizards of the Coast.
  • Okay, assuming I don't hate the idea of the Pro Player cards now found in Tournament Packs, Fat Packs, and Precons, I'll simply state what's wrong with the execution: Player nicknames. The German Juggernaut? Joe Black? Give me a break.
  • The main reason I love the new Pro Player cards is that they can double as both a bookmark and a coaster.

15) I feel like lately StarCityGames has been really lacking in original casual content. I used to go there every day and find must-read material or at least something interesting. Nowadays, though, half of the content is marked "premium" and the free stuff is usually just the daily rules clarifications in Ask the Judge. Imagine how excited I was last Tuesday when there were two original articles from two of the site's best writers, Abe Sargent and Chris Romeo. Then imagine how disappointed I was when both Chris and Abe basically talked about building the same deck. There was also a third article, by Thomas Rosholm, which talked briefly about playing that same deck in the Swedish Nationals before going on to discuss the proper way to find a woman. So why are two guys who pass themselves off as casual writers talking about a tournament deck? And why is a professional player talking about picking up girls?

16) Of course I can't mention that Thomas Rosholm piece without going into further detail. The weeklong series, entitled "Geeks and Girls," is a wonderful read. Thomas tells all us geeks how to properly "make it" with a woman. Boasting a laudable record of hooking up and a girlfriend sporting D cups, Rosholm surely presents himself as an expert on the subject. You also can tell how cool he is, flashing his Wu-Tang symbol and looking pretty suave in his picture. But he's also from Sweden, where every woman is attractive and fun, leaving a shortage of attractive men for them to date. My advice to geeks looking for ladies: move to Sweden.

17) Online Multiplayer Free-For-All Tip of the Month: Kill the first person that plays Howling Mine. There are three reasons and three reasons only for someone to play Howling Mine in a free-for-all: 1. He needs to keep everyone's hands full to win the game via Underworld Dream/Teferi's Puzzle box or Megrim/Mindslicer or something else of that ilk. 2. He has a combo deck that will kill all his opponents simultaneously. Howling Mine greatly accelerates his ability to find all the pieces necessary to pull off the combo. 3. He just wants to make friends, since everyone loves a Howling Mine.
Of course, if you ever see me online and I play a Howling Mine, I'm doing it for the third reason, but everyone else is doing it for the first two.

18) One of the great things about Invasion that I've been sort of disappointed with in Ravnica was R&D's ability to take two colors that share an ability and put them together on one card to make that ability super-efficient. Examples of this in green-white are Eladamri's Call (super-efficient creature tutor) and Heroes' Reunion (super-efficient life-gain spell.) So when I heard about the green-white guild in Ravnica, I thought for sure we'd see Naturalize and Disenchant stuck together on one card. Alas, we got Sundering Vitae, instead. (I'm not trying to imply that Sundering Vitae is bad. It's not. It's just not what I was hoping for.) Here are my thoughts on a couple different directions the card could have taken:


  • Disenchanturalize1: (G/W)(G/W), Instant, Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
  • Disenchanturalize2: GW, Instant, Destroy target artifact or enchantment. You gain life equal to its converted casting cost.
  • Disenchanturalize3: GW, Instant, Destroy target artifact or enchantment. Draw a card.
  • Disenchanturalize4: GW, Instant, Remove target artifact or enchantment from the game.

I guess it's another five years before they do another multi-color themed set, so I'll just have to wait until then.

19) I need help. Does anyone out there read the Magic novels? If so, does a good one exist? When I looked at the whole back story from the Odyssey/Torment/Judgment and Onslaught/Legions/Scourge blocks, I thought it might be interesting. Kamahl's transformation, the origin of Karona and the whole post-Invasion quasi-post-apocalyptic world seemed pretty neat. So I bought the novels for Odyssey, Torment, and Judgment. They were horrible. The writing was sloppy, plot holes were explained through "magic" and the characters were really shallow. I struggled through Odyssey, Torment was slightly better, but then I couldn't get through the first couple chapters of Judgment. I've read textbooks that were more captivating. So if anyone out there reads the novels and knows which ones are the best, let me know. I'm kind of interested, but I'm not slogging through something that makes the Hardy Boys look like Pulitzer material.

20) I was reading through the Wizards message board threads and someone was using a quote from my first 20-Point Fireball in their signature. I'm not quite sure how to react to this. Perhaps, some day everyone will appreciate my work as much as this fine person does and I will be quoted often alongside other great writers such as T.S. Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Yogi Berra.

Read More Articles by Eric Turgeon!

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