uthor's note: Sometimes, I do things for this column's readers that I just wouldn't do for anyone else. Honestly. To give as authentic a feel to the material that follows, I read, cover to cover, two completely vapid women's magazines. (Disclaimer time! Not all magazines women read are vapid, women who read magazines can easily be brilliant, "women's magazines" is a generally accepted publishing term that pertains to a specific set of magazines profitably geared toward issues that happen to interest a large number of women, Wizards tries really hard and well to attract women players, and most Magic players are still men or boys...who may or may not shower regularly.)
As a result of this absolutely objective research, I learned at least four things:
Women have no business being smarter than men. I don't know how they do it, but they can read stuff like this on a regular basis and still outsmart us guys. Granted, Maxim isn't exactly the high water mark of intellectually satisfying literature – but at least they're smart enough to put less clothes on the models. Here's a disturbing thought: Maybe women are way smarter than us, so much so that they could not possibly relate to us without dumbing themselves down, and they use these magazines as a sort of handicapping tool. Very sporting of them.
None of these people know a darn thing about collectible card games. I'd love one of these four items to be something like, "women get a high level of insight on proper sealed deck builds from the regular 'Ask a Serra Angel' feature." But no dice. Just advice on how to get "revenge hair." Personally, I think Revenge Hair would make a fine Aura for that would give the enchanted creature a bonus every time a creature you control died; but I think the magazine's editors had something else in mind. In any case, there simply can't be a lot of Magic content in this very long introduction. But bear with me – the body of the article talks about Magic tons. Though if you're looking for Magic strategy, you're still going to be in a dark, dark world of disappointment. Adjust your expectation seat belts now.
Matthew McConaughey is surprisingly attractive. According to one of these magazines, Mr. McConaughey is "so hot, we had to hose down the girl who interviewed him." This got me thumbing through the magazine, looking for the picture of the young woman with a wet t-shirt. But on the way, I met up with the thoughtful, gray gaze of America's most eligible bachelor. Then my beautiful but devious wife, who had acquired this magazine on a special shopping mission (as if I'd be caught dead buying it), walked by, caught sight of the article over my shoulder, tripped over her own feet, and called out "Matthew, save me!" on her way down. Some readers don't like articles where I discuss my personal life. Those readers may or may not still be with us this week; if they are, I'll bet if they took the time to study photographs of Matthew McConaughey, and I mean really study them…well, their wives and girlfriends would think they're pretty strange, too, before tripping on their feet and falling flat on their faces.
It is only a matter of time before Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar and The OC's Mischa Barton finally give in to love. I don't want to get the fabulous JMS in trouble with his wife Sarah – who, after all, just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl of theirs – but there's a lot of buzz out there about these two crazy kids, ever since Mischa went splitsville with scruffy boyfriend Brandon Davis. The OC star is blonder and sexier than ever – and she just can't get enough of her new squeeze's latest modifications to the Selesnya United deck! Poor Brandon completely underestimated the competition. Sarah, surely you can share the attentions of your loving husband with this up-and-coming starlet? Maybe she could just come by and do laundry occasionally, walk the dog, model some elegant evening gown fashions? Um, Sarah? (Jay, I'm doing my best; but I don't think she's buying it. It was a good plan of yours; but you're on your own now.)
So what is it these well-coiffed women's magazines have that has anything to do with a game enjoyed primarily by teenaged boys who keep getting lost on their way to the shower?
They've got the Cosmo Quiz.
Cosmo Quizzes, named after (but not limited to) popular magazine Cosmopolitan, are an essential thread in the tapestry of modern civilization. Women all over North America (and probably elsewhere, but I'm so totally not interested in pinpointing current markets) use these quizzes to find out the answers to all sorts of things – am I sexy enough for him? Is he seeing another girl? Am I too fat? Too thin? Do I take too many quizzes?
It occurred to me one day, as I mocked my beautiful but devious wife for reading one of these magazines (and to be fair, she doesn't indulge much anymore), that teenaged boys and older men could benefit with a little self-examination, too. Especially when it comes to their Magic formats. Yes, we need a Cosmo Quiz. Except we shouldn't call it that, cuz that would sound stupid. We need a smart name.
So without further ado, I present: this week's Cosmic Larva Quiz! Yes, much better.
WHAT'S YOUR MAGIC FORMAT?
If you're like most Magic players, especially tournament jockeys who are used to duels and nothing else, you can get confused by all the different multiplayer formats out there. Columns like Serious Fun, and countless other efforts in print and electronic media, are always throwing around perplexing phrases like two-headed and attack left. Like all those tiny decorated boxes at the department store makeup counters your wife or girlfriend drags you to so she can "test-drive a new look", it can be horribly confusing to face all that variety and color. What's a guy to do, beyond bemoaning the bastardization of the term test-drive?
Fear not. While I've got no help for the makeup counter thing, I can help you out on your Magic preferences. With this week's Cosmic Larva Quiz, finding your "format match" has never been easier! Simply answer the twelve questions, apply the scoring matrix that follows, and then read your results at the end!
Get your pens ready…
1) How many friends are you sitting with right now?
a) Maybe two or three. My buddies and I are killing time between playtesting rounds, doing research on the latest deck archetypes…whatever that word means.
b) None. It's just me and my computer. Ah, my computer, my confidant, my holder of my secret deck formulas. No, look away! You may not know the contents of my latest super-awesome-combo creation!
c) One. And he's my best friend in the whole world! We do everything together – study, throw a football around, we even date women who look about the same. Whadda guy! He's the best.
d) About 14. Don't mean to bother you now; we're just all passing through on our way to looking up the Magic rules database to figure out what happens when four Confusion in the Ranks are on the table with two copies of Humility, a Psychic Battle, and an Opalescence.
e) I don't see any to my left, but there might be one to my…no, I can't look right. Sorry, um, I'll just go with none here.
2) What do you see when you look at this picture?
a) An opponent with six arms, holding a Magic card in each one. That's what I call card advantage!
b) A careful balance of clockwork elements, all ticking neatly toward the ultimate explosion.
c) Hey, that's my buddy, the one I just told you about! Wow, he's lookin' good! Hey, buddy! I didn't know you had your photo taken!
d) A single domino in the chain of opponents I must slay.
e) An asymmetrical pattern featuring several jutting appendages, all on one side – hey, if you had a mirror image of this thing, it would make a cool Rorschach test image!
3) How many complete Magic decks do you have, ready to play, right now?
a) Just the one I'm playing this Saturday at Regionals.
b) Forty-three. I'd have forty-four, but I only have four copies of Sorrow's Path, so I haven't been able to complete that last one.
c) I don't consider any of my decks "complete" unless my buddy is right there next to me, playing his deck.
d) About a dozen. Once, I played them all at once, against a dozen different opponents. That was a cool format.
e) Aiiiigh! Someone cut my favorite deck in half lengthwise! I can't see…oh, wait, I just moved it to the left. Um, looks like one. I'll look around for others.
4) Who is this man?
a) That's Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic. Like you, Alongi, he writes a Magic column I can't stand, since it never gives me any insight on how to solve Umezawa's Jitte in a Standard environment. In fact, hey, didn't this guy design the *@#$ing Jitte?!? I hate him!
b) That's Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic and minor deity. Thanks for the pic; I'm going to blow it up and frame it on my living room wall, right above where I keep the smoking incense and chickens in sacrificial cages.
c) That's Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic and an all-around terrific guy. Based on his writing, I tell he's a gentle soul, and a family man who knows what it is to sacrifice and share. I'll bet he's swell to work with, and everyone in his division probably loves working with him. Gosh, I wish I could too! But only if I could bring my buddy along, too.
d) That's Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic. I don't know much about him, but he looks like a sporting fellow. He's sure welcome to join us at the gaming table and…AAAARRRRRRRGH! You dare sit at my table of pain, Mark! Don't you see the fear in the eyes of the other players assembled here, my friend?! Don't you understand they only continue to sit at this table because they are too terrified to move? Victory will be mine, and no one else's! YOU TOO WILL FEEL THE AGONY OF MY UNHOLY WRATH, MASTER WATER OF ROSE!
e) It's about half of Mark Rosewater, Head Designer for Magic. His right eye is gorgeous; but how does he walk around with no left side?
5) How do you spell "pain"?
a) P-A-I-N, dumbass.
b) Hang on a second. Do you mean "pain" as in "bring on the pain", or "pane" as in "you see right through the window pane of my tortured soul"?
c) B-A-Y-E-R. Wait, that's how I spell pain relief. Darnit, I need my buddy to bail me out here…buddy, how do you spell pain?
d) Pain? You wanna know how I spell pain? I'll tell you how I spell pain, buster. I spell it S-A-P-R-O-L-I-N-G-[spacebar]-T-O-K-E-N. That's how I spell pain. Take three thousand in "pain", my friend!
e) Trying to turn my head to the right.
6) Okay, what do you see when you look at this picture?
a) Hey, that's the same guy you showed me a few questions ago! And he's still got six cards! How is he doing that?
b) By putting two exact copies of an image in the same quiz, you have offended me with your didactic adherence to socially accepted patterns. It's the same thing as when all the so-called "experts" tell me to put four copies of every card in a deck. You're trying to stifle my creativity! I won't have it, Mr. Man!
c) Another buddy! WOOOOT!
d) Another domino in the chain of opponents I must slay.
e) Yeah, that's what I'm talking about! Now just invert this image, put it next the first one, and…hey, where'd it go? Now I only see one again!
7) Put these numbers in their proper sequence: 100, 10, 1, 1000, 101.
a) 1, 10, 100, 101, 1000
b) "Proper sequence?" That's too rigid a structure. I refuse.
c) I prefer to add them up: 1,212. Now they can all be friends.
d) All I need to do is knock out the strongest ten, and the rest will fall into line.
e) Just 1. One at a time, baby. One at a time.
8) What is this woman smiling at?
a) She's holding a hand of two Islands, four Counterspells, and a Morphling.
b) She just heard my insightful explanation of my Mycosynth Lattice – March of the Machines deck, and she understands how it's really different from all the other Lattice-Machines decks that are out there.
c) She's smiling at my buddy! Whadda gal! I hope they hit it off.
d) She's not smiling. She's baring her teeth in an attempt to kill me. I see this at the Magic table every day. Wake up, people! She's a monster!
e) Am I the only one who notices she's not wearing a shirt? Focus, people, focus.
9) How do you think you are doing on this test?
a) Where's the strategy? I need strategy! *Gasp.* I feel faint…
b) The question isn't how I think I'm doing. It's how well I think you're doing in understanding my genius. Right now, you've got a long way to go, Meat.
c) I think I'm doing fantastic. And you're not so shabby yourself! We make a great team.
d) Just fine, but I'd feel better if I could watch ten other people simultaneously failing it.
e) Um, is there someone off to my right also taking this test? It's making me awfully nervous…
10) Tell a story around this picture.
a) A guy is showing his friends where he lies in the Top 8 standings of the latest tournament round.
b) Some faceless dorks are running themselves ragged in the endless Rat Race. Run, little rats, run! Hey, that gives me a deck idea…
c) One guy is sharing information with his buddy. They will use this information to defeat the corporate posers sitting across from them.
d) I am demonstrating to my opponents the effect my ingenious Celestial Dawn deck has had on the copy of Phage the Untouchable in my hand. All they can do in response is weep at their common sealed fate.
e) That guy in the blue shirt and tie is working alone.
11) What would you like the last test question to be?
a) What deck will win at Regionals this week?
b) How would you break Oath of Mages and Transcendence in the same deck?
c) What can I do for my buddy?
d) How many opponents can you take on at once?
e) Are you left-handed?
12) What is this dragon doing?
a) Analyzing the mana curve of a W/U/r sealed deck.
b) Reveling in the – hey, wait a second. Dragon? You're trying to sell us one of your books, aren't you, Alongi! You're a sell-out! A shell of your former self! It used to be about the music, man. The MUSIC!
c) I'm sorry, I'm still trying to figure out what B's problem is. Why can't you just play nicely with others, dude? What's your –
[D looks on while B and C get into a rocking fist fight. We'll outright skip the part where E wonders where the dragon is, and why only one guy seems to be fighting…]
SCORING YOUR QUIZ
Now, don't read too much into the color designations here – they're just for, well, color.
For each A answer, give yourself .
For each B answer, give yourself .
For each C answer, give yourself .
For each D answer, give yourself .
For each E answer, give yourself .
RATING YOUR PERFECT FORMAT
Look at your final score, with all the numbers added together and the letters still spelled out, like a huge casting cost. Use the table below to find out your most suitable format, and to read an individually tailored warning about your deepest, darkest fear.
Not all casting costs will be exact. Just find the closest one.
If you can most easily cast…
Then your best format is…
Four copies each of Impulse, Accumulated Knowledge, and Telling Time
Tournament duels. Plainly, you are in the wrong column. My hat is off to you for your persistence today, and I wish you well in your next event.
Be careful! Multiplayer enthusiasts are everywhere, teeming like socialized cockroaches.
Four copies each of Brainstorm and Contract from Below, and two copies each of Fact or Fiction and The Abyss
5-color duels in between tournament matches. What better way to pass the time between 50-minute rounds than piling up stacks of 250 cards? A great format for loosening up a bit, without that dirty "multiplayer" feeling.
Be careful! Some bully may mistake your place in the tournament hierarchy and knock over your very tall deck.
Four copies each of Carnival of Souls, Blood Funnel, and Abyssal Gatekeeper
Casual duels. While you may think you want to play multiplayer, you'll really be happier playing casual duels as much as possible. This allows you to play your inventive, seven-card-combo creations adnauseum, while only disturbing one opponent at a time.
Be careful! Nobody completely understands your genius, not even the girlfriend who patiently listens to your fifteen-minute explanations of why the deck didn't work out this particular time.
One copy each of Death Grasp (X = 42 or more), Grave Defiler, Enlistment Officer, Diversionary Tactics, Putrid Warrior, Zombie Boa, Helionaut, Dead Ringers, Urborg Uprising, and Divine Light (with five more commons left in the pack)
Pack wars! A great way to open your new booster packs that I forgot to mention in a previous column, you can do this with any number of players you want. With each fresh pack an entirely new deck, and with infinite mana for all colors at your fingertips, you can play dozens of games in an evening. Everybody wins, even if they lose a lot!
Be careful! Some people play this as a form of gambling, where the winner gets all the rares in a given game. Don't gamble if it's not legal where you live, if you're under 18, or if you're an adult but just horrendously bad at it.
Four copies each of Reverent Mantra, Defender en-Vec, and Coalition Honor Guard
Team formats. Whether sanctioned Two-Headed Giant or non-sanctioned three-team Emperor, looking out for your teammates is your number one priority. It's one for all and all for one – no play is wrong if it helps a buddy out, am I right? Your shared mission: the absolute destruction of the misguided evildoers leering at your from the other side of the battlefield.
Be careful! When you sit down at the high school cafeteria lunch table, don't assume the pretty girl across from you is your mortal enemy. Of course, you can't assume the pretty girl sitting next to you is your friend either, can you???
Two copies each of Serra Avatar, Dryad's Caress, and Hurricane (X = 68)
Star. This is the format team players play when an unwanted fifth player shows up, and the precious sixth player has not yet arrived. (You can also do it with seven.) By focusing your win condition on the elimination of the two players opposite you, you can pretend to be teammates with the players on your immediate left and right without really having to help them or listen to their whining when you don't win the game for them.
Be careful! As soon as you start your game, that stupid sixth player is going to show up, followed closely by the seventh.
Four copies each of Verdant Force, Beast of Burden, and Aether Vial
Chaos, also known as free-for-all. This is the "ultimate" multiplayer format – the one where you're completely on your own, with no friends, just enemies. Sweat and blood are your trade, and you don't know how long you can possibly survive.
Whew! Good thing it's just a game, eh?
Be careful! It really is true that nobody likes you – not here in this particular game, not in the local store you play in, and not really anywhere else, either. Paranoia is an artifice of the conspiracy. They're coming! Fight or flight! FIGHT OR FLIGHT!
Ummmm…a bunch of red and green stuff. (You would not believe how difficult it is to come up with these card combinations, in a way that uses up the average expected mana and still fits the basic idea of the format. How do the geniuses at Glamour do it?)
The Hunt. Limited-target formats, especially where you have a succession of single assigned opponents you must eliminate, appeals to your sense of singular heroism, without overwhelming your capabilities.
Be careful! Hunter green looks awful on you, and so do those yucky fluorescent orange vests. Try brown-based camouflage with a fashionable orange skull cap. (Sorry, but through my research I've learned that every quiz like this has to have at least one fashion tip.)
Four copies each of Bloodshot Cyclops, Flash Conscription, and Cunning Giant
Attack left. Your desire and ability to focus very intently on one side of your world speaks to your affinity for left-handed things.
Be careful! There's a slobbering boogeyman behind your right shoulder!
Twelve copies of Karona, with plenty of mana left over for several Beasts of Burden
Heck if I know. Congratulations, ace. You've stumped me. You've cracked the amazingly complex Quiz Code. No one can label you, man. You're your own person. An individual! A unique entity! And yet…you still fit very neatly inside this little box.
Be careful! The edges of this box are very, very sharp.
Hope you had fun with this week's Cosmic Larva Quiz! If any of you took the answers more seriously than I intended, or if you're just curious about any of these formats that look new to you, check the rules site for formats like Two-Headed Giant and Emperor, look through the Serious Fun archives, and ask on the message boards. If you have specific questions after doing all of that, or just want to give me great money-saving tips to "better and redder" nails, feel free to email me.
Anthony has been playing multiple Magic formats for several years, and has been writing for much longer than that. His young adult fantasy novel JENNIFER SCALES AND THE ANCIENT FURNACE, co-written with wife MaryJanice Davidson and published by Berkley Books, is available now.