This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series True Conviction

By Matt

(Generals being “tuckable” by cards such as Hinder and Oblation is a ruling that is inconsistent with other such replacement effect rules and ultimately discourages players from building general-centric decks or from even casting their general in the first place, which is the defining characteristic of this format and plays the largest role in its success and sets it apart from normal, deceased Highlander. It’s the mating call of the scrubby player to insist that some Generals are “clearly overpowered” and that tucking them is the only solution, especially given that there are plenty of efficient answers to every General that should already be staples in any well-built deck, and simply communicating to the player with the “clearly overpowered” general and requesting that he/she play something more to the level of the group is a more viable solution yet. Rendering entire archetypes moot for three mana at instant speed is what’s truly “overpowered.” I find this debate so absurdly one-sided that writing another structured argument like I did about the sideboard rule would be excessive. Already I’ve said too much on the topic. So, instead, you get a short allegory about a man and a woman going through couples therapy. Enjoy!)

“Please, have a seat,” Dr. Morris gestured to the modern couch, a white-upholstered oddity that looked more like a paper airplane than a piece of furniture. Reluctantly, Eric and Rachel sat down, making sure to sit at the extreme opposite ends from one another.

The doctor adjusted her glasses, looking intensely for a moment at the couple’s body language, already asking herself if the two had any hope of reconciliation. Regardless, she had a job to do. Rachel’s brows were furrowed, her arms folded; Eric looked exasperated, wearing a smirk. Dr. Morris crossed her legs and readied a pen and paper, “How long did you say it’s been since you two last spoke?”

They both started to answer over each other, and then they immediately went silent, and then Rachel started again. “It’s been nine days since he spoke to me.”

“And vice-versa,” Eric interjected, drawing a spiteful glare from Rachel.

Dr. Morris made a note, and said to herself, mainly, “Well, the fact that you’re not bound by law and are still trying to make this relationship work is a good sign.”Eric started to say something, but Dr. Morris put up her hand and said, “And it doesn’t matter which one of you initiated the contact with me. The important thing is that you both agreed to do this. You both want to make this relationship work.”

That seemed to make the both of them ease up a bit, their expressions relaxing, suggesting truth in the statement. Eric chanced a look over at Rachel. Her eyes remained fixedly forward. She said, “How long is this going to take?”

“That depends on the both of you,” Dr. Morris said. She smiled. “Now, Eric, if you’ll begin: what do you think triggered this rift between the two of you?”

“Well,” he cleared his throat and shifted nervously. Of course he’d given it much thought, but he’d not quite put it to words before. He wondered if it would sound ridiculous out in the open. “I was crawling into bed next to her after my late shift, and she was sleeping. There was no blanket to spare. She had it all. I put my hand on her shoulder and rocked her gently, saying that I needed the blanket, too. She’d turned away from me, pulling even more of the blanket with her, and told me to ‘Go tuck yourself.’”

“This triggered the silence?”

“I mean, no, I guess not.” Eric didn’t dare glance over at Rachel now, but he felt her eyes burning into him, or at least imagined that he did. “That’s just the last thing she said to me, nine days ago.”

“I see,” Dr. Morris tapped her pen on her pad a moment, and then turned to Rachel. “And before that? What compelled you to say those words to Eric?”

It took great effort for the couple to keep their eyes forward, as they wanted to search each other first as if for permission to reveal the truth. Rachel bit her lip, and hunched forward, “I don’t like to point fingers, not usually.” She frowned. “But Eric sucks the fun out of every activity we do.”

“Now wait just a minute!” Eric practically leaped from his seat in protest.

Dr. Morris raised a hand again, “Let her speak, Eric. Could you give an example?”

“Oh, where to begin?”Rachel inhaled deeply, fixing her gaze halfway between the doctor and her significant other. “I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a very competitive person. I won’t lie about that. And I’ll go ahead and admit on Eric’s behalf that he’s a very competitive person, too–but he’ll tell you differently. He’ll say that he puts fun first and that winning is irrelevant. Both of us were used to always winning at everything until we met each other. I’ll also admit that neither of us has handled our losses gracefully.”

Eric’s eyes were downcast, but nothing in his body language suggested that he disagreed with anything that had just been said. Dr. Morris made a note of that and said, “Go on.”

Rachel continued, “Well, everything is a competition to him, down to who can hold more wine and who can a finish a book the fastest.”

Knowing that he wasn’t allowed to interject, Eric nevertheless raised his hand as if he were a school child again. Dr. Morris humored him, “Eric, you have something you’d like to say?”

He said, “We’re both guilty of this. I mean, even now! At first I tried to break the silence between us, but I swear she’s trying to outlast me in a game of ‘who can ignore the other person the longest.’ But really,” his voice took on a mocking philosophical tone, “can such a game truly have a winner?” Rachel rolled her eyes.

Dr. Morris was rapt at this dynamic. She’d seen countless dysfunctional couples destroying each other with spite and malice and sarcasm, but these two were so similar yet struggling to best the other and tally more wins–but to what end? She asked, “What sort of games do you two play? Actual games, I mean.”

Rachel spoke first, “All games, really. Board games. Card games. Video games. Anything that requires skill–”

“And luck.” Eric broke in.

Again, Dr. Morris had to interject to soothe the couple, both of which looked ready to punch the other. She said, “Eric, do you remember the first game the both of you played?”

“Well,” he answered, “we’d bought Monopoly on a whim at the Borders liquidation sale. It’s funny what you’ll buy just because there’s a sale. I never thought I’d get a mani-pedi, but then Groupon makes everything sound so darn necessary. Anyway, we’d made a night out of it by scheduling a get-together with our couple friends, Jill and Cooper. None of us had ever played before, but Rachel and I mastered the game almost immediately.”

“And then?”

Eric went on, “Jill and Cooper didn’t exactly share our competitive spirit, we’ll say, so we had to invite other friends the next time we wanted to play, and different friends still the next time. And that’s when things started to get ridiculous. That’s when Rachel started imposing restrictions on me for winning too much–”

“Objection!” Rachel stood and exclaimed, drawing a confused look from the doctor and an embarrassed look from her significant other. She sat down and murmured, “Sorry. I watch too many court dramas.” Composing herself, she added, “Your honor–I mean, Dr. Morris, if I may. I made certain balance fixes, is all.”

Some days, Dr. Morris really loved her job. This was one of those days. She asked, “What sort of ‘balance fixes?’”

Eric was grinning, waiting for her to explain. Rachel looked helpless for a moment, but finally volunteered, “Well, I made it a rule that if Eric opts to stay in jail by rolling the dice when he’s in the lead, he has to mortgage his most expensive properties one by one until he decides to play sportingly.”

Now Dr. Morris was thoroughly amused, but she had to pull her lips tightly together to hide it. She nodded with an “mhm”and scribbled some more notes, finally responding, “Eric, are there any other ‘balance fixes’ that Rachel has made?”

“Certainly,” Eric almost laughed. “When we started playing Tetris Friends, she said we had to ban the Twister power-up because it was, in her words, ‘obviously overpowered.’ Yeah, it wasn’t obviously overpowered to her when she beat me with it multiple times, but only after I’d mastered it slightly better than she had.”

Rachel sounded almost pleading now, “I just want our matches to be fair–”

“And they are,” Eric jumped back in. “Neither of us has the clear edge, but whenever I start to pull ahead in anything, you pull out some sort of arbitrary ban and say that the thing is overpowered. You said I couldn’t use the Crab powerup in Peggle anymore because it was like obviously cheating, getting multiple swings in–even though I don’t even come close to some of the lucky point totals you’ve gotten at random with the Bunny powerup.”

“Luck!” Rachel exclaimed. “There he goes again. Any time I win at something, it’s ‘oh, if only I’d been so lucky.’ As if none of my victories have ever been deserved. And seriously, I don’t think that defaulting to overpowered strategies every single game is a prouder victory than occasional good fortune, which is part of these games.”

“And those strategies are part of the game, too!” Eric bristled. “Strategies that have counters and counterparts. I shouldn’t be punished for mastering a game, should I Dr. Morris?”

Dr. Morris remained stoic and replied before Rachel could, “I’m not here to pick a winner, Eric.” She glanced at the clock on the wall behind the couple. She looked panicked, and suddenly stood up and started stripping off her clothes, hurriedly revealing her fishnet stockings and corset underneath, saying, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to be late for my other job.”

Rachel exclaimed, “As a prostitute?”

Dr. Morris looked indignant. “Dominatrix, thank you very much.” She switched her heels for stilettos and stuffed her formal wear into her briefcase, saying, “Therapy doesn’t pay what it used to. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” She darted for the door.

Eric called after her, “Wait, what about us?”

The doctor/dominatrix paused a moment in the doorway and said, “You two should find other people to play games with, but you otherwise seem very much in love to me. Anyway, I must be going.” And in that same instant, she vanished, flipping the lights off behind her.

Eric and Rachel sat there in the pitch black room, saying nothing for a long while, trying to figure out just what to say. It was Eric who broke the silence. “I’m sorry that the way I play games upsets you so much.” He paused a moment, waiting for her response, then continued, “I just wish you’d told me I was making you so upset instead of making me agree to all those silly restrictions to try to figure out your idea of fun.”

Dr. Morris burst back into the room suddenly, flipping the light back on, and went straight to her dresser drawers, scavenging for something hastily, muttering, “Forgot something.” She soon pulled out a well-worn riding crop and, just as quickly as she’d appeared, left the room again and turned the light back off.

Rachel sighed, “Should I have to spell out everything so clearly? If we’re playing something for fun, I shouldn’t have to say ‘you’re trying too hard’ and ‘hey, you should try doing something else for once’ every time I get upset. Don’t you notice when I get upset?”

Another pause. Eric thought a moment and said, “Remember our last game of Scrabble? You intentionally shut off all the expansions with 3 letter words to force us into a corner after you already had the lead.”

“I remember,” She said. “Are you saying that upset you?”

“No. I mean, yes, It was cut-throat, it was inconsiderate, and it absolutely ruined the game. But”–he grinned again–“I kinda loved it..”

She couldn’t see his grin in the dark, nor could she see him inching closer to her on the couch. Regardless, Rachel wore a grin on her face now as well. “You always were a glutton for punishment.”

And then they [deleted by the editor] by using five [deleted by the editor], grindingly [deleted by the editor] until their [deleted by the editor] held no more charge. [deleted by the editor]. [deleted by the editor]. [deleted by the editor] like Charlie Brown.

The end.

Series Navigation<< True Conviction 03 – “Let’s use the optional sideboard rule!” or How to Fail The Voight-Kampff TestTrue Conviction 05 – The Worst Ban List In Magic >>