On Limited Fodder

Wizards likes to boast that Magic is a game with over 10,000 unique cards. That sounds impressive until you consider how many of those are actually functional reprints of one sort or another (printing another 1/1 for 1 with a new name or creature type is barely a new card – although to be fair, a search for vanilla 1/1 creatures for 1 only produced 8 distinct cards spread across the colors – guess what color doesn’t have a vanilla 1/1 for 1?) or have such a narrow application that they can’t really be played in 99.99% of decks. And then there’s the large body of cards that can be classed as “limited fodder”– those cards that are made strictly for the limited environment (booster draft or sealed deck), which has a relatively limited lifespan. I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of cards for the game, but if you can pick the card up for 5 or 10¢, it’s probably not actually any good. Consider how many of those 10,000+ cards are actually “constructed playable” in a format like Legacy? There’s a lot, but it’s nowhere near 10,000+ cards. I would imagine a serious Legacy player only has to be aware of a few hundred cards, max.

Let’s look at the newest set out, Magic 2013.

First, let me tally up my count of “limited fodder”–cards that I marked as such when I went through the spoiler. Keep in mind that as a “super casual” Magic player, I’m always going to be willing to cast my net a bit wider than others when looking for playable cards – tribal decks can sometimes demand chaff to stay on theme. Plus, I wasn’t overly aggressive in my markup either–the hyphens are the cards that I figure might be limited fodder but can’t be sure.

White: 12-2

Blue: 14-2

Black: 10-4

Red: 13-3

Green: 12-1

Artifacts: 3

TOTAL: 64-15

For an expert’s opinion, let us turn to Luis Scott-Vargas’s set review.* If he rates a card at 1.0 or lower for Constructed, then we can safely call it limited fodder. I’ll also take note of how many cards he considers to not even be limited playable (less than 1.0 limited rating).

W: 22 (3)

U: 14 (4)

B: 12 (0)

R: 14 (3)

G: 13 (2)

A: 14 (3)

TOTAL: 89 (15)

89 out of 229 is only 39%, but when you consider how many of those are commons, you start to see that any booster pack you open is gong to be filled with Limited Fodder. This also doesn’t take into account how many ‘constructed’ playable cards will only see play in some sideboards if certain decks become prominent.

Just saying.


*As LSV puts it, “One of the tricks of the trade when it comes to Constructed is ‘don’t play Auras’.” So almost all Auras are automatically limited fodder to him (except maybe Rancor???).

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Parental Advisory Review – Avacyn Restored

A new set, which brings another opportunity to evaluate the art. Remember, my guiding questions are “Would I want my teenager to be viewing this in a movie or on TV?” or “Would I let my teenager out of the house dressed like that?”

The main categories of evaluation are GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, NIGHTMARE HORROR, PROVOCATIVE DRESS, IMPLIED NUDITY, and BLATANT SEXUALITY. Before proceeding any further, however, let’s examine the promotional art for Avacyn Restored. This set brings the angels, especially the angel Avacyn, front and center. Now when I think of art and angels, this is what comes to mind:

or

I know, I’m a bit old fashioned. Apparently, this is what Wizards of the Coast and Magic players think of:

A curvaceous woman with large white wings, a black bustier, and thigh-high leather boots. Hmmm…. Now I get that this is supposed to be a serious, butt-kicking, valkyrie type of angel, but why doesn’t she get to wear some pants or something to protect her upper thighs? I mean, if I had to fight one of these things, I’d be looking to do some damage right where they seem to be asking for it. And Avacyn is not alone in this set:

Obviously some of these are more problematic than others, but I think this spread makes the main issue quite clear: Here are some portrayals of tough women that demand to be respected, but even they can’t seem to get by in life without showing a bit of skin. I’m just not convinced that “sexy” has to be part of the job description when demon-killing is the job at the hand, that’s all. I mean, ever heard of a bra, or perhaps a camisole, there Angel of Glory’s Rise? I still remember Mike Flores’s immediate reaction to the art on Restoration Angel (a card we’re apparently going to be seeing a lot of in Standard): Dude why is that Angel wearing a nightgown while this guy looks up her dress? Is it a cool picture with that mix of color and wind-effect? Absolutely! Would I let my teenaged daughter out in public in that nightie with a train longer than a TGV? Not a chance! The same goes for poor Bruna – my reaction is that she is there mainly for decoration not demon butt-kicking. Is that what Wizards is going for?


I will conclude with an examination of a side issue that is often raised, the question of the inequality in the portrayals of women. I think it’s pretty obvious that a game marketed primarily towards young lonely males is not going to be equal in its treatment of the sexes–how many of these guys really want to stare at a ripped male hotty? But it’s also unfair to simply assert that men are never portrayed provocatively or in some state of undress and women always are. So, I’ll try to highlight this issue a little by noticing these sort of depictions of males and also some of the more positive portrayals of women.


Graphic Violence

The horrors of war and death don’t have to be sanitized, but there is a point when an image becomes overly graphic in its portrayal of violence. That’s not something that most teenagers need to be exposed to.

Butcher Ghoul Exquisite Blood

Not too bad on the violence front. These are the only two that really stand out. That ghoul has arrows and knives going in AND coming out of his flesh. Ouch. And that is a lot of blood there that she is feasting on.

Nightmare Horror

This category is about disturbing images that linger in the mind, and sometimes come back to haunt you in your dreams! These are images that aren’t necessarily violent or gory, but might be described by many (note: not necessarily all) as ‘disturbing’, ‘evil’, or ‘horrific’.

Banishing Stroke Defang Appetite for Brains Essence Harvest Human Frailty Eaten by Spiders

I don’t think any of these are particularly egregious, but still I can say that I would want these images, or some variation of the idea, to appear in any of my dreams.

Provocative Dress

So, we looked at the angel problem already. Who else is dressed mainly to allure or incite lust in the opposite sex? The answer is almost EVERYONE!

Cursebreak Farbog Explorer Bloodflow Connoisseur Killing Wave Predator's Gambit Triumph of Cruelty Aggravate Havengul Vampire Heirs of Stromkirk Lightning Prowess Rush of Blood Geist Trappers Pathbreaker Wurm Somberwald Sage Triumph of Verocity

Liliana is wearing her same old off the shoulder dress as always, so no comment needed there I think. Some of these women look like they are tough and out for some serious ghoul-killing business, so why don’t they get clothes/armor that cover everything? The Farbog Explorer is typical – all armored up except for the cleavage bursting out the front. I don’t think most of these need any further comment. The girl from Lightning Prowess is covered up, but the image still puts you-know-what front and center (imagine if they could make 3D cards – she might poke your eye out with those!). And how come the male Heir of Stromkirk shows off his lineage by over-dressing his body, while the female has to under-dress hers? Just saying…

Implied Nudity

A PG-13 game can’t really have full-on nudity, I guess, but you can certainly imply it for dramatic effect.

Crypt Creeper Dark Imposter Unhallowed Pact Reforge the Soul

Notes:

  • The Crypt Creeper isn’t exactly “sexy”, but she is definitely in a state of undress and a mammal!
  • That girl in the background looks like she’s been raped by the Dark Imposter.
  • That corpse being dragged out of the grave is naked, but at least he’s male, right?
  • There’s no doubt that that Reforged Soul is female is there?

Blatant Sexuality

I’m happy to report that unless you’d like to move a couple of the Provocatively Dressed women above down here, there isn’t any blatant sexuality in this set.

Men vs. Women

Interestingly, in a set full of scantily-clad angels to gawk at, there are no half-naked men to gaze at. The only guys showing off their physique are, appropriately enough, I guess, some demons (and a ghoul who is literally losing his physique!).

Griselbrand Renegade Demon Hunted Ghoul

And, to its credit, there are a lot of females (and even some Angels) in the set who represent the nobler and more chaste side of their femininity:

Angel's Mercy Emancipation Angel Goldnight Commander Holy Justiciar Moonlight Geist Thraben Valiant Voice of the Provinces Elgaud Shieldmate Galvanic Alchemist Gryff Vanguard Infinite Reflection Stern Mentor Tamiyo Kruin Striker Riot Ringleader Thatcher Revolt Champion of Lambholt

See, women can be tough, dressed, and beautiful all at the same time.


Now let’s tally up the results for Avacyn Restored (244 cards total in the set):

Graphic Violence: 2
Nightmare Horror: 6
Provocative Dress: 15 (+12 questionable Angels)
Implied Nudity: 4
Blatant Sexuality: 0
Objectified Males: 2.5
Female Protagonists: 17

While still obviously imbalanced towards a male audience, I think this set is, overall, something of an improvement over Dark Ascension.