Read Part 1 here.
I make no secret of being a big fan of the online interaction we have in the community. I love the constant debate that goes on over the most trivial things.
At the top end of the pro-level play there is very little room for debate. Generally there will be one deck that is the best and then the meta shifts around that knowledge. It means that the discussion at the very top of Magic is much more focused on predictions and understanding. It’s not a debate that the entire community in general has a lot to add to.
I know there are good local players that have a great grasp of the game and an intricate understanding of how meta shifts but in most circumstances these folks don’t get to have an impact on the top end debate. However there are issues that everybody gets to have an opinion on. I’ve spoken about a few of them before but for this column I’d like to talk about nicknames.
Some names are non-negotiable. The card is born with a nickname already attached.
Bob is Bob Dark Confidant, every player knows that. Oh maybe you don’t because they don’t do the invitational anymore. In years gone past they would do a high level tournament where the best players in the world would play and the prize would be to design a card and get your face on it. If you are an invitational card there isn’t a lot of wriggle room on your nickname.
Others are slightly more organic. Tim Prodigal Sorcerer is Tim but so are all cards that have the same effects.Tim is from Monty Python’s search for the Holy Grail. The original artwork looks a lot like the sorcerer played by John Cleese. Cards that do the same thing as the first card that did that… Well now they are just known as that. A bear’s a bears, right? A 2/2 for 2. Unless you’re on Takhir where a bear is a 4/2 for 3… What’s all that about?
In Theros we had a few nicknames, for example Grey Merchant of Asphode. It wasn’t as clear cut as it might seem now but there were people calling him the Grey Santa, due in part to the card artwork showing him carrying a black sack. Alas it was not to be and he joined Bob and Tim in the ordinary men’s names as Gary. Sigled Starfish bucked the trend. Although he’s still in Standard and it’s possible it might change, his time in Limited is behind us and I think Scryfish has won out over Patrick. Y’know like Patrick Starfish from Spongebob.
For cards to get nicknames what do they need? Playability seems to be the very minimum requirement. Nobody is throwing out nicknames for [Hydrosurge], right? Ubiquity has to be a factor. There’s not a great deal of nicknames for mythics. An outside source of inspiration can also be a factor but, as we can see from Scryfish conquering Patrick, just having an outside cartoon that’s part of the zeitgeist doesn’t guarantee you a place in the nickname hall of fame.
There are other invitation cards that have alternative handles but not all of them are known by their originators. Who doesn’t like a Sad Robot Solemn Simularcrum? No seriously it’s a great card but nobody calls it Jens after Jens Thoren, and it’s rare to hear anyone call Snapcaster Mage Tiago after Tiago Chan, despite those two guys being responsible for the cards in much the same way Bob Maher was for Dark Confidant.
Other times it’s a cult of personality thing. If it has an elk or crab on it you will hear people call them Elmer or Shelly in reference to the nicknames used by Limited resources presenters Marshall Sutcliffe and Brian Wong. Personally I love the nickname for Mutavault, Mutsotoots, which is what Community Cup 2014 team member Frank Lepore calls it.
Some of the Titans have cool nicknames. Primeval Titan is Prime Time! It evokes the feel of the card. Like Ron Burgundy, this card likes to think he’s kind of a bid deal. Grave Titan has become Gravy Train, implying that you get to ride this card to a win. Both very fitting I think. But what of the latest crop of cards? Did the Souls from M15 get cool nicknames? No, they are basically just Titans. Like I mentioned in part one, sometimes cards pick up shorthand. A lot of talk when the Souls were spoiled was that they were Titans version 2.0. I’m going to go out on a limb here to say that they aren’t as good or as cool as the original Titans because they don’t have nicknames.
If the card is going to get a nickname it has to be cool and in most cases it needs to be fun. Thoughtseize has been everywhere in the last Standard, and I expect it will be in top decks until it rotates out, but it doesn’t have a nickname. In part I guess it because it’s because it is pure function. Turn one, take away your biggest threat. It’s similar to Tarmagoyf in a way… A big price card but it is so efficient that it doesn’t inspire a pet name.
That bring me to Khans.
Have we got any decent names out of this set so far? I’ve heard a few shortened names, a few two or three word names being called just one name, but that’s not a nickname is it? I’m tempted to think that the part of a Magic player’s brain that comes up with nicknames is the same part that processes colour combinations. So right now all our minds are busy converting USA into Jeskai and Dega into Mardu, we have no room for coming up with witty alternate names for Siege Rhino.
What has happened to the cool deck names? There are quite a few out there from Standards of old but they don’t seem to be around in the last few standards. What did we have last season? Mono N Devotion, a deck named after its colour and mechanic. And there were the colour archetype names, like Boros Burn and Esper Control but no-one is coming up with silly fun names.
My son is hoping to make a list that he’s calling Zebra Tokens based on Sorin Solemn visitor and there has been some talk of the old Polish burn deck making a come back. What’s that? I hear you ask. Well, as it was explained to me, it’s a nearly mono green ramp deck that kills you with a stupidly large Fireball… well, in this Standard it’s Craters Claw but you get the idea.
I like nicknames. They are part of our attachment to the hobby, a way of claiming ownership of a product. Sure, Wizards made these things and gave them names but we as a community get to use them and decide what we want to actually call them. In more local meta’s, cards acquire names from the the shop regulars and their preferences. A comedic mispronunciation or a resemblance in the artwork might spur on a creation of a new moniker. It all adds to the fun.
My examples are far from an exhaustive list. Use the comment section to let me know the more famous ones that I’ve forgotten.
I would love to read about some of the nicknames you and your playgroups have for different cards, so add them too.
And what about some crazy deck names for the coming standard?