RESCO, IOWA – The sleepy city near the junction of State Highways 9 and 139 seems like the last place a rising star from Britain would choose for a new hometown. But this "midwestern corn-fed paradise", as Cresco's newest resident calls it, gives her the solitude she needs – and, more importantly, steady access to a multitude of crops for her new vegan diet.
Marcia Goodblood, 24, is as (other)worldly as her appearance suggests. It's not the black scales covering her dragon-styled hindquarters that gets your attention first; nor is it the eight-foot batlike wingspan, even though it shuts out the dim light from the two dozen candles adorning the rim of her quaint living room sacrificial pit. No, it's the teeth, which are pearly white, often bared in a smile…and completely straight, with not a fang to be seen. "I filed them down," she admits when asked, with a charming London lilt to her raspy death rattle of a voice. "There's just no point when you've given it up." It? "You know…meat." She fixes her guest with a stare. "Like you. Meat."
Drooling over plates of creamed corn and tofu, and occasionally flipping her collar-length jet hair out of her pale face so that she could get a better estimate of her guest's cooking weight, she revealed secrets about herself, her past life, and her fight for respectability. (That battle reaches a turning point this summer, as Magic: the Gathering's Eighth Edition rolls out with this Vampiric Spirit in the Core Set.)
AA: Let's start with you and Eighth Edition. How did you find out you were in?
MG: Oh, it was perfect. Not like those times when you find out with the rest of the world because of a Magic Online software bug or something, if you know what I mean. Randy Buehler called me at my flat in Cambridge, England and gave me the good news. Very romantic! Well, not Randy, though I'm sure he's a charming fellow. I mean I was dining on a very handsome Oxford student at the time. [Sighs.] He was my last. Randy pointed out I'd have to stop that sort of thing.
MG: Well, every Portal card searches for respectability. Vizzerdrix and Eager Cadet rather ruined it for the rest of us, didn't they? Volcanic Hammer was a bit popular, but people keep beating her down, comparing her to Incinerate or even Lightning Bolt whenever she walks by. That's not exactly fair – I mean, not every card can be so skinny when it comes to casting cost efficiency! Every time I see one of those old-school waifs, I want to scream, "stop throwing up your lunch, you vegan harlot!"
AA: Which brings us back to you. You're a vegan now. Unusual, for a 4/3 fattie.
MG [chuckles]: Yeah. I keep my food down because I'm not an idiot, plus the undead don't gain weight anyway. But there are some things you gotta do if you want to compete and focus, right? Like giving up red meat. And keeping your casting cost low, even if you're a 4/3 flyer. In fact, to keep it as low as it's been, I have to have this life-loss drawback. Sorta stings the boys who want to play with me, but it's a lesson they'll learn later on in life anyway, isn't it? Nothing good comes without sacrifice.
AA: What about Morphling? She's pretty good, and –
MG: Don't talk to me about that [expletive deleted] whore. Do you see her in the Core Set? No. There's nothing left of her but a stinking aura. She's so five years ago.
As I was saying, nothing good comes without sacrifice. It's like this aeronautics engineer from the British National Space Centre told me before I had him for lunch a few years ago: "You can have your technology cheap, fast, and powerful…as long as you only pick two." It's a lesson I took to heart. Speaking of which, his tasted pretty good. Damn, I miss the taste of a hot, still-beating heart. [Looks up with a dark glint in her eye.] So, Meat. What's your story? Any relatives who might miss you, if you were to disappear?
AA: Let's change the subject. You're a creature type "spirit", not "vampire". Does that bother you?
MG [bristling, but at least no longer licking her lips]: I don't buy into the false social hierarchies of creature class. That sort of thinking is so…typist. Arrogant Vampire is a vampire, but he didn't exactly make the leap from Portal to the world stage, did he?
AA: And you think you'll succeed? Few cards make it into the Core Set, but even fewer see tournament play.
MG [moves her hand like a blabbing puppet and imitates a crude American accent]: "Tournament play, tournament play, bleah, bleah-bleah, bleah-bleah." You a big tournament playa, Meat?
AA: Er, no.
MG: Ever won a Grande Picante, or whatever they call those affairs?
AA: Grand Prix. Again, no. But once, in a five-player chaos game, I –
MG: That sounds like a really intriguing story, Meat, and I'd love to hear it right after I nap. But first, let me finish my bloody point. If a 4/3 flyer for cannot make it in today's Standard environment, it won't be my fault. Current ruling on my ability even makes loss of life contingent on my getting played from hand – so in a reanimator deck, I don't even have a drawback! What exactly about me is not attractive? [Stretches out wingclaws, stomps cloven feet.] Tell me seriously, Meat. You think I'm not pretty enough?
AA: You're gorgeous. Let's talk social life. Besides playing Magic, what do you do for fun?
MG: I hang out with my spirit friends. They get ignored a lot, too, because like I said, we're an "unpopular type". The four casting-cost ones are my closest chums – Extravagant Spirit can even liven up a town like Cresco when she comes stateside! Liege of the Hollows makes a mean squirrel soup, which I can't really have any more but sometimes I sip the broth. And Mindwarper just blows my mind when we're watching Pink Floyd's The Wall…he just has the spiffiest insights. Like those cartoon hammers? He says they're really a metaphor for the guardians of our self-imposed, self-damaging social and cultural structures.
AA: No kidding. Are there cards in the Core Set you think you'll hang around with?
MG: Oh, I'm no good at predicting that sort of thing. Specific cards aren't important as broader strategy. I'd guess together with Ambition's Cost, we form a sort of decent suicide path. Newer players will try too hard to combine us with life gain, which probably isn't worth it in a duel. More experienced players might try to exploit my recursion loophole.
AA: Sounds vaguely pornographic.
MG: Grow up, Meat.
AA: Sorry. We've talked about friends, now let's talk about enemies. What cards are your deepest fears?
MG [pauses, then speaks slowly]: Well, I don't want to say too much in public…
AA: Go on.
MG: There are plenty of cards in recent sets that scare me. Phantom Centaur and Dawn Elemental are probably the most frightening. And one good thing about being vegan is that I don't have to eat Rukh Eggs. [Her stomach rumbles. She eyes this reporter again, with the same odd expression as before.] Though bone marrow still goes down right as rain.
AA: And how about Akroma, Angel of Wrath?
MG [shrugs]: Depends on what side she's on. She could be another nice contributor to that reanimator deck. In fact, I've thought this through and made a (briefly) Standard-legal decklist amenable to your site's web format. It's a bit heavy on the fourth turn and has a shaky color flow, but it should do reasonably well at a local card shop. Care to take a look?
AA: Love to.
AA: Thanks for sharing that.
MG: No problem. Like I said, it won't rip up the high-level tournament scene anytime soon; but I bet something like it will put me on the map. I'm going to be a big star someday, Meat! A big star! It will be absolutely fabulous! [She fluffs her hair, then pats her scaled stomach as it rumbles.]
AA: Well, we'll all say we knew you back when. Thank you for your time, Marcia.
MG: Absolutely. Hey, let's play a game. We'll call it, Can You Make It to the Door before I Break My Stupid Meatless Diet?
Assuming he made it to the door, you may reach Anthony at email@example.com. Regretfully, Anthony cannot help with readers' decks. But he loves hearing from fellow players on just about any other topic. He also checks the message boards regularly for reader ideas and comments, and the skies for hungry quasi-vegan spirits.