Building You

November 23, 2011

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Crossover Month

Hello everyone! I’m Jack Obligatory-Long-Name/Title LaCroix, co-host of various podcasts on the MTGcast network, as well as the degenerate gentleman behind The Bitter, Better Man and my column over on Mana Deprived, Troll Aesthetics. It is my pleasure to step in for Sean this week as we both participate in Cross-Over month, and just as you can read my startling, clarity filled sentences here, you can likewise catch Sean over at MD with the tastiest of suggestions for spicing up your game night-the color identity of whiskey. Coincidentally, the subject of identity is multi-layered when it comes to MTG, and we see no greater display of the psychographics than we do in Commander.

Casual magic is a play ground for the creative mind. It’s rare to hear “that won’t work for X and y format based reason” from players-rather, people say it’s something they wouldn’t do or enjoy. The limits of your creations are determined by the depth of card availability alone, and with no real barriers to keep our builds in check, our decks become an extension of ourselves rather than just the by-product of preferred play styles and meta stability. We are what we build, and creating a list for Commander is no less an artistic endeavor than painting or writing an article. Were this not the case, I doubt players would put forth the time, money and resources that they do towards pimping and altering their cards.

Think of the last time you sat down to play with your friends. Everyone has their own unique play style, general and game assessment skills, regardless of the board state. While how we play is often influenced by what is on the table, what we play is an individual decision. We form attachments to our generals and strive to perfect lists, but will compromise if it means getting to fit in our pet cards. These selections are often the most telling details of a player, and can give away personality and plays alike. I’m not going to play or assess my friend’s Momir Vig list in the same fashion he would, nor is he going to see the same potential I do in my Sharuum list. A quick proof of concept would be as easy as taking our lists and swapping them, then recording out confused comments and expressions as we attempted to muddle through a game-we’d both stumble for a bit not due to unfamiliarity with the lists, but from the creeping unease of trespassing upon our neighbor’s door when they’re not around.

So what then does your deck list say about you? Does it make for quick games, or long ones? Can it be agonizing to play against, or pilot? Does it interact with the rest of the table in a proactive fashion, or a reactive fashion? Lastly, how long have you played the list, and how “pimp” have you attempted to make it? To illustrate this point, I’m going to use my current list for everyone’s favorite metal kitty, and use it to answer the above.

“My Girl’s Got a Fuzzy Face” by Jack LaCroix

[mtg_deck title=”My Girl’s Got A Fuzzy Face”]
1 Sharuum, The Hegemon

1 Magister Sphinx
1 Filigree Angel
1 Sundering Titan
1 Trinket Mage
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Triskelion
1 Duplicant
1 Solemn Simulacrum

Boys in Blue
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Tezzeret the Seeker

1 Artificer’s Intuition
1 Leyline of The Void

Spells ‘N Stuff
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Austere Command
1 Open the Vaults
1 Unburial Rites
1 Bitter Ordeal
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Reshape
1 Buried Alive
1 Thirst For Knowledge
1 Mortify
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Intuition
1 Brainstorm
1 Spell Crumble
1 Momentary Blink
1 Hinder
1 Revoke Existence
1 Vindicate
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Path to Exile
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Impulse
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Esper Charm

Cat Toys
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Diamond
1 Mox Opal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Dispeller’s Capsule
1 Executioner’s Capsule
1 Pithing Needle
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Voltaic Key
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Mindslaver
1 Nim Deathmantle
1 Helm of Obedience
1 Scroll Rack
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Krak Clan Ironworks
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Memory Jar
1 Scrabbing Claws
1 Oblivion Stone

Real Estate
2 Island
2 Swamp
2 Plains
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Marsh Flats
1 Arid Mesa
1 Watery Grave
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Vault of Whispers
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Ancient Den
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Strip Mine
1 Wasteland
1 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Blinkmoth Nexus
1 Glimmervoid
1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Command Tower
1 City of Brass
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Celestial Colonnade
1 Creeping Tar pit
1 Miren, The Moaning Well
1 Phyrexia’s Core
1 Buried Ruin
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Maze of Ith
1 Tolaria West
1 Cephalid Coliseum
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1 Academy Ruins

I like to take a more casual approach to winning, using incremental board advantage to put me ahead of my peers while staying under the rader. I eschew many ways to win in favor of a solitary, multifaceted strong combo, with any other combos and win conditions as a by-product of design rather than intention. While the list carries a seedy reputation due to general hate, I try to interact with my fellow players as often as possible with cards like Slaver and Intuition by formulating positions beneficial for both parties. I find this to be a proactive approach to problem solving, as it makes use of politics to staff away complications late game when I’m attempting to win. Sharuum and I have been together for almost 4 years now (I’ve had friends with marraiges that didn’t last that long), and I’ve treated my lady right as much as I possibly could-foiling out a popular artifact based general don’t come cheap. So what does this say about me as a person?

I enjoy surprises-unexpected outcomes are another part of how the universe works, and without them life would be far more boring. I’m unafraid to flex my authority, but prefer to sit, listen and learn. I can’t say no to people-I can however reprimand them with their own folly. I pride myself on flexibility, but know to stay focused long enough to ensure reaching my goals. I enjoy structured environments that I control, but I’m open to the considerations of those dwelling within my construct. I love the finer things, especially when they mix well. And while I’m unabashedly an Esper player,  I’m open minded to all possibilities if it means learning something new. I seek answers and knowledge like a miner digging for a jaw-dropping jewel, and I’m sure to put my finds to good use.

Surface details alone are a shallow way of gleaming personal details from the table. I stand by what I’ve wrote earlier-what we play over the course of a game is largely determined by board state, but through noting how others react to our actions with their own plays can tell us more than card selection and archetype preference. Within my playgroup, I tend to be the biggest target, and players will bum rush me without focusing on the actions of others. At first, this seems like the smart option, and a typical sceanario at any table. Peering deeper, I’ve come to notice that their actions are motivated by personal interpretation more than factual board strategy.

Player A is aggressive and passionate, prone to extreme emotional bends. He launches the assault, while passive Player B who prefers nonaggression in all his/her decisions uses the sensitive political situation as leverage to further their own ends by assisting either myself or Player A-they’re not out to win, but avoid conflict long enough for the possibility to present itself. Player C watches from afar, and with a cool head calculates how many turns it will take for him to win if I live versus all other alternatives. Without going into detail, if you guessed that Player A favored fast music, has vices and plays red,  you’d not be far off the mark. The same educated thinking could lead you to make accurate statements on the other players as well, right down to their color preference. The entire game, from our card selections to our plays, is a conversation, and with each passing turn we delve deeper into the dialogue. I can’t stress how vital this is not just to personal development, but playgroup health as well.

Interpreting what’s said and responding to it isn’t a natural talent-much as with forms of rhetoric and conversation, it’s a skill that can only be honed through dedication and careful study of people. Magic is a social sport. The moment we stop chatting with our opponent, congratulating them on their plays and inquiring about their deck choices, our own ability to express ourselves in the same manner diminishes considerably. In regards to Commander, you might as well not play at all if you can’t take time to open up about the hows and whys of your creation (and subsequently, yourself). Speaking as someone with tremendous social phobias, overcoming your own awkwardness and quirks can be a damning experience filled with a lot of fumbling, but having a common interest with the guy or gal across the table from you means you’ve already got a foothold towards becoming one of those well rounded, charismatic characters on the mic of your favorite podcast, or video cast.  Get out to FNM, attend those large events, but more importantly, just get out and play with other people, have fun and enjoy life. A few rounds of Commander filled with feedback, jabs and jeers from your peers can benefit both deck and personal health alike, as bettering ourselves in both aspects often requires stepping back and allowing the voice of others to be heard.

So pay attention to those plays. Note those pimptastic cards, and enjoy your games. Because in the end, it’s not about the win or loss, but the people we share them with along the way.

It’s been a pleasure writing here for CommanderCast. Tune into Sean’s excellent article as well, especially if you’re like me and tend to imbibe the best. If you’d like to reach me, shoot me an email at or on Twitter @jacklacroix. Alternatively, you can ask me (anonymous) questions at my (NSFW) blog, The Bitter, Better Man : Have a great week everybody.

Jack does his thus thizzle on ManaDeprived in his column Troll Asthetics, on his blog The Bitter, Better Man, and on various MtGCast podcasts–primarily Monday Night Magic. His crossover partner this month is Sean, whose article you can find here.

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