Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Card Nicknames

We all love customizing cards. Whether it be with alters, with names, with jokes, Magic is as much our game as it is WotC (arguable even more so). It's not unusual that since the early days of the game, nicknames have been a common sight on the table.

I love card nicknames, I often refer to them as such instead of their actual names.

While some nicknames are actually really common in MtG, some are sadly forgotten relics of time, and some, as you will see in my list, some of these are local favorites, or names I've heard over the years. If I remember them, it means they stuck somehow, and are worthy of being on this list. So here, in attempted chronological order of release, although I had initially intended this to cover all mtg cards, I've decided to stick to 95-back for the sake of this blog, since I realized just how many of these cards their are.

Limited/Unlimited Editions

Prodigal Sorcerer: While his nickname Tim or Tim the Enchanter is extremely common, and so well known it created the name for the entire archtype of creatures that would follow him.  This name comes from the Classic Monty Python's The Holy Grail, where a wizard in the movie is named Tim.

Another Nickname for him, from The Don himself was 'The Blue Assassin'. It included written text bubble and flavor text that said 'where is my royal friend?'

Birds of Paradise: Often called in my circles, and occasionally heard elsewhere as mana birds. Probably came from the original printed creature type 'Summon mana birds'.

Circle of Protections: Often abreviated as CoPs, this has lead to occasionally being called COPS, The Fuzz, The Police, and so forth.

Veteran Bodyguard: Lou Ferrigno was the model used for this art, and as such is often called it. When running my Alpha print in EDH, I'll always say 'Lou Ferrigno has my back'. 

Swords to Plowshares: Often called STP, I've heard more then a few rockers/Metal heads make a joke about that by calling it Stone Temple Pilots after the 90s alternative band. 

Llanowar Elves: In recent years, calling them Lawnmower Elves has gotten really common, especially with his reintroduction in standard earlier this year.

Juggernaut: I often call it the Choo-choo train. Recently, after my acquisition of a 9 seater Station Wagon, I've named it the Juggernaut and use the two interchangeable. 

Benalish Hero: Similar to the Bodyguard above, I've seen this one called Sigourney Weaver, due to a similar appearance to how she would have looked when MtG first dropped.

Samite Healer has a long history of being called Sammy.

Dragon Whelp: My older brother's original play group commonly called this 'The Flying Time Bomb'

 Hurloon Minotaur: Back at Don's, it was often customary to yell 'HUUURRRLOOOON' as you summoned one. 

Lightning Bolt: In a similar vein, we use to go 'bzzt' when casting a bolt.

Hypnotic Spectre: Often called Hippy/Hippie, one of the most iconic creatures of old school magic.

Arabian Nights

Juzam Djinn: I've heard of him called 'the Devil', as well as 'InQuest' due to him being the unofficial mascot of the late magazine.

Edit: I was informed in Denmark, this card is commonly called 'the cow' or just 'cow', and making a low bellowing Moo noise as it attacks isn't uncommon.

Ernham Djinn: Erny//Ernie

City of Brass: Called City of Ass numerous times, including in an InQuest, and referenced on an Unhinged card.

The card named after Richard Garfields wedding party I've seen named by the people their names were inspired from (Mijae=Jamie, Ydwen=Wendy, Wyluli= Lily Wu).


Armaggedon Clock: Often gets called 'the clock of doom' in my circles.

The three Urza lands are often called Urzatron named after the 80's Saturday morning cartoon 'Voltron'. 

Atog: The 'tog, and the goat (which it name comes from) are occasionally used.

Dakkon Blackblade: I've called him Dakkon 'Motherfucking' Blackblade (or 'motherloving' depending on who's in the room) for years now.

Craw Giant: Craw Daddy, something that was a common nickname where I grew up. Often joked with 'Daddy's coming home' when paired with a Lure.

Marhaults Elsdragon: Due to his flavor text and art, I've heard him called 'Spock' more then once.

I call him John Travolta, due to an uncanny appearance to the actor.

Angus Mackenzie: Sometimes also called 'Tim the Enchanter' for looking like him.
The Dark

Uncle Istvan: Often called 'My Favorite Uncle' 'the Good Uncle' or simply 'Summon Uncle'. 

Tivadar's Crusade: Sometimes just called Genocide. Other times it's just called 'that other crusade'. 

Ashes to Ashes: Naturally some in more immature times called this 'Asses to Asses'

Fallen Empires:

Pump Knights: Common names giving to Order of Leitbur and Order of the Ebon Hand (and their two cousins in Cold Snap and Ice Age).


Autumn Willow: The original 'Mom'. Some people also named her 'The milf', due to her mature feminine art work. 

Baron Sengir: Common nickname for him was 'Baron Badass', and a term I still use to this day.

Eron the Relentless: In the slew of celebrities that look like creatures, I've seen this one named Axl Rose. 

An-Haava Constable: Sean Connery. Just look at the art.

Didgeridoo: Do to the popularity of minotaurs at an particular local shop in Upstate, Didgeridoo was a common spells. Any type or form of countering it, usually was responded with a Didgeridon't.


Arena: A local classmate use to utilize an aura enchantress deck, along w/ Pacifism style effects to benefit his cards. When he discovered that my pacified creatures could still kill his w/ this particular land, he refered to it's 'cheapness' as 'The Jew Land'. It's a name I still occasionally use (in right company) to this day. 

Ice Age Block

Zuran Orb: I met a person who hadn't played in a considerable amount of time, and he asked what ever happened w/ Zuran Orb. He said it's the reason he stopped playing, and dubbed it 'Cheater's Orb'. I'd honestly say the name is fitting. 

Gorilla Shaman: Often called Mox Monkey due to it's cheap price tag and cheap ability to blow up moxes. 

Necropotence: Has been called 'The Skull' before.

Blinking Spirit: Named Blinky 'the most annoying creature in Magic'

So I hoped you liked this simple article on some interesting card nick names? Did I miss some? Do you have any local favorites? Please, comment on them and/or tell me.

Good luck at Gen Con everyone!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Howl from Beyond: The forgotten combat trick.

"A thundering howl seemed to emanate from the Brown’s hand, a loud shrieking roar that struck with such intensity that Garth staggered backward even as he raised a protective shield about himself. The sound was blocked within his circle of protection but behind him he could hear the screaming of the mob as the demon howl bowled them over. With a wave of his hand Garth extended the wall of protection to the crowd, many of whom were writhing in agony, blood pouring from ruptured eardrums, so shaterring was the scream summoned from the demon realms."--William R. Forstchen, Arena


In these days, you always see three major combat tricks, Bloodlust (in red), and Berserk/Giant Growth (green). However, a few combat tricks haven't stood the test of time like the others. Righteousness and Blaze of Glory were commonly paired cards in those days, but they are both defensive, it's understandable why they don't see play.

However, another one that use to be fairly common was Howl from Beyond. I understand Black is the strongest color, and there usually isn't room, even in black aggro, for what's essentially a minor, and occasionally expensive combat trick.

However, I feel it's best to think of it less of a combat trick, and more of a x burn spell with a creature restriction. If you get through, you can dump all your mana into an unblocked creature, potentially doing lethal, you can even the odds of a chump block, you can even kill a blocker if used on a first striker (which in old school black has no shortage of). If running dual color w/ red, it can also be forked, if you are into that sort of thing.

In all actuallity, its a fairly boring card, with even the art being lack luster at times. I also feel it really gets it's stride in the 95 format, which gives us two of the best black ritual spells, Songs of the Damned and Spoils of War. Not to say it's bad in 93/94, but it's probably a bit lack luster. I did however, long consider it in the black/red Kobold deck, combined with an Ashnods alter could make for an amazingly big Kobold that might just sneak if for that 0 damage.

Mark Poole actually drew both versions of this card. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Second Sin: Banding

"The most popular question was 'how does banding work?" 
--Mark Rosewater, The Baby and the Bathwater, Dec 1, 2003

"It lets you ban an entire card?!"--An 8 year old, in response to Benalish Hero

"How does banding work?"
 --Common banter among Magic players.

Banding, one of the original mechanics in the game, and one of the few designed by Garfield himself, is an often confused, underutilized, and even misunderstood mechanic. In the six years it was part of the game, it caused poor rulings, funny interactions, broken combat math, and it was a fan favorite of the general at heart. You see, banding was a complex, but rewarding combat mechanic that allowed your creatures to fight in teams (and in the case of Bands with Others, form D&D parties, but that is a story for another time).

Banding simply put existed until Mirage block, as an 'evergreen' mechanic, which meant it belonged to the base set and could be reprinted at any time, as with so many other odd ball mechanics, including Poison Counters (not Infect), Enchant Worlds, and Rampage. Mark Rosewater, as well as a number of other designers openly despise banding, and removed it from the game, sometime during the design of Tempest, since the initial Tempest print sheet not only has banding creatures, but also has poison counters and Enchant Worlds. In fact, currently banding on the Storm Scale sits at 10, while it's younger brother Bands with Other's sits alone at 11.

Notice both 'cooperation sliver' and a Time Walk enchant world.

So why? Why did the mechanic 'need to go'. While it's true it wasn't the most understood mechanic, and by 1996 it's appearance in tournament play was unlikely, but it still had (and has) a dedicated fan base. In reality, it was too complicated to fit on the text of a card (Phasing got a similar reason, but at least that got a recent card printed), and it wasn't marketable enough. The sad thing is, despite them trying to make mechanics that make creatures 'a team' (Soulbond, Partner, Partner with X, Battalion). All these, from both a flavor and mechanical stand point don't come close to the same thing as banding.

"Er, I think there's a word for this. It's called "Banding".

But when WotC shifted their target market from experienced adult gamers to Pokemon kids, I guess they were scared of their clientelle not understanding how banding works. So they made an inferior, simplified version of banding that only works in defense.

2 out of 5 stars for functionality,
0 out of 5 stars for defiling the spirit of the game."
--DrJack, Gatherer comments

However, it's removal, while tragic, is understandable (while being officially removed in Classic 6th, it did get a power upgrade, and still uses the old pre-M10 combat rules). After all, some simplicity to rules is understandable, especially in the uncertainty of the mid-90's.

This however, set up a terrible precedent, one that would only come into full fruition in the most recent of times. It meant essentially, there was no sacred cows. Sure the removal of mechanics in the game, only happened fairly recently, but remember Bury? Yeah, this would leave to that efficent keyword being phased out entirely. Numerous other mechanics have been removed, not just from the coreset, but from future sets all together. These include landwalk, Fear (and it's bastard younger sibling Intimidate), Regeneration, Protection, and Shroud. Some of these were removed due to 'drawbacks being bad', others due to complexity. However, designers who feel shuffling is the equivalent of 'load times', landwalk being unfair (but unconditional unblockability is fine), and protection to be to risky, might not be people worth taking design advice from.

"When I see this card, I see Banding at it's core, it's heart, it's soul. A mechanic that was broken from the start."--Evilcleavage, gatherer comments 5/19/2010

Maybe banding being removed wasn't a sin in on itself, so much as it was the harbinger of the sin of 'over-simplification' that has been creeping it's way into the game, since Classic 6th edition. Which is most definitely a sin, but we will get to more of that in later entries.

"Landwalk has many of the same issues as intimidate…but even more severe. What do you do against a landwalk creature if you're playing the appropriate land? Not play your basic lands? Magic games are best when there is some interaction, and landwalk was not clearing the bar."--Mark Rosewater