I'm Gonna Suck - The Ignant Rodent at the Fifth Dawn Prerelease
After you edit an independent Magic site for a few years, you notice that Magic is an extremely cyclical business. The same things happen every year.
For example: States is always a busy time, since it's the first post-rotation Standard event. A whole block is no longer legal, but there are now three hundred-plus new cards in the mix. Everyone has their own crazy theories as to what works, and Magic sites everywhere start spouting conspiracy theories:"No, man - Aqualube really works, I tell you! The Zombie deck is gonna kick some major ass!"
Half of these decks die a horrible death at States and are never heard from again. The other half turn out to be contenders - and it doesn't matter how cool they were when you first saw them, they're going to calcify into boring old Net Decks within three months.
But every four months, Wizards releases a new set. And from a Magic editor's point of view, the New Set is the biggest pain in the ass you could possibly imagine.
No, really. For an Editor, the New Set is like a paper cut to the eyeball.
Do you know why?
First of all, the three weeks preceding The New Set are the most boring time you could possibly imagine. Nobody wants to talk about draft, because The New Set is coming out. Nobody wants to talk about Standard, since The New Set will smack those goldfishes right out of the water.
The entire world is waiting for The New Set - and as editor, you're reduced to begging writers for articles that will be completely worthless in under a month.
But you can't just put up a sign saying,"Come Back In Three Weeks When We're Relevant Again." Strangely enough, people prefer filler pieces to no articles at all. So you get to spend your time editing useless articles written by people who are too clueless to realize that their articles serve no purpose.
"This deck," they say in the same breathless tone usually reserved for scientists who've discovered the cure for cancer,"Has dominated my FNM group for the past three weeks."
Okay, so it's a deck that revolves around Darksteel Reactor and five million life gain cards. He's at least played it against a Ravager Affinity deck. Sure, it's a Ravager Affinity deck played by Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, who thinks that Arcbound Overseer is more powerful than Arcbound Ravager...
...But it's something.
StarCityGames.com readers prefer something to nothing. Even if you don't.
The complete inverse of job satisfaction is editing an article where you're going,"Man, even I don't care about this. When's the New Set coming out?"
But the New Set arrives, leaking out a card at a time! Every forum is abuzz with the rumored cards! Every person in the world looks at these cards and has the same thought:
"You know, I should do a set review."
And the reviews come pouring in like acid rain through a leaky tin roof.
Everybody wants to review the cards, cutting and copying directly from the exact same MTGNews spoiler and writing a few sentences to keep 'em. You can't keep up as your email box goes ding, ding, ding, as people are so excited by the latest spoiler that they have to comment upon it in some form.
Some of the reviews are good, some of them bad - but the main thing is that before you get through this vast pile of Set Reviews, you will have viewed each of these cards forty or fifty times. You've edited the same card's spelling mistake forty times, heard the same obvious comparison forty times ("Gemini Engine is the new Stangg"), and witnessed the same basic power rating assigned to it forty times.
By the time you're done, the words"Roar of Reclamation" already provoke a mild nausea, even if you've never physically laid eyes upon the card.
For an editor, the prerelease is not a happy kickoff, but a grueling confirmation. After you've edited the flood of New Set Reviews*, these cards are as familiar and worn-down as Salvation Army coats; the New Set contains as many surprises as an episode of Scooby Doo. The only reason you go is to see if the cards are accurate; say, is Ponderous Mooblender really as powerful as it looks? Is the new"Deathblow" mechanic all that and the bag of chips?
This is supposed to be a special sneak preview premiere, but the only surprise left is the art. The cards are already mundane, each one catalogued and ranked before you even crack the cellophane.
And I ask you: What kind of a prerelease is it when you already know what bombs you want to open?
That's why I'm glad I'm no longer the lead editor.
Mr. Knutson has cheerfully taken over my duties while I have been programming the super-duper new StarCityGames.com shopping cart - which will feature, among other things, the best Magic card search engine available, gift certificates that actually work, a wishlist that allows people to buy cards for you, and the ability to paste a deck into a form and have it show you how much each card is worth. [He called me cheerful. What a skillful liar. - Knut]
It's been exhausting. But the real reward is that I haven't seen one card from Fifth Dawn.
I've always wanted to attend a prerelease as a tabula rasa. I want to crack my deck and flick through the cards and go,"Holy crap, this does that?" Sure, it'll take me twice as long to make a deck, and I may run out of time...
...But it'll be fun. I won't flick my gaze across a title and sigh,"Oh, that card." I'll be attending in full-on"gee whiz" mode, completely oblivious to whatever amazing Magic advances have been developed since I stopped paying attention.
And you know what?
I am going to suck.
I mean, I sucked back when I practiced, but this Saturday my play is going to be Hooverriffic maelstrom of mistakes. I won't know what cards do, I won't know what to expect... It'll just surprise me. All the time.
And this raises an interesting question:
Will it be better?
I don't know. I do promise that next week, I will bring to you my Tales from the Prerelease - what it was like for a fairly competent Magic player to attend a prerelease with absolutely no idea of what the cards do.
But will the cards be too confusing? Is Magic so complex that I'll just lose track of things without my precious spoiler? Are prereleases really meant to be attended with a computer print-out in hand, the Hot Cards to Trade For neatly highlighted in yellow ink?
Or will the"learn-as-you-go" nature catapult me straight back to the pre-Internet days of The Dark, when spoiler lists were nonexistent and every pack held the possibility of a card that nobody in your neighborhood had ever seen before?
I don't know. I've never been able to do it before, and I'm excited to get the opportunity. But that's what I want to ask you all - have you ever attended a prerelease completely devoid of knowledge? How was it? Was it better, or worse?
And is the Magic community too devoted the card mechanics and not respectful of the Magic experience?
The Here Programs This Here Site Here Guy
Webmaster and Editor, StarCityGames.com
P.S. - Just in case you have some excess money around your pockets, you might wanna buy this:
I'm just sayin'.
* - Comin' right at you.