Monday, March 25, 2013

It's the Magic: Goatnapper

Huh, That's Funny
Click through image for best card ruling ever.

Consider it for a moment.


It's terrible, right?

It does two things: exists as a 2/2 creature and steals a goat.

For a 2/2 red creature, Goatnapper is more expensive than you'd want. For those of you who don't play competitively, a creature's size is irrelevant if it's not cost-effective.

Stealing a goat is dumb because there basically only six goats:
I know some of them don't have "goat" listed as their type. It's just that some of them aren't beasts. Well, they are beasts, but they're also goats. They're goat beasts, which is easy to explain if...fuck it. The story is in The Grand Creature Type Update.

Those goats are only good if you paid 2R for them and got a free 2/2 creature for a turn instead of the exact opposite of that. There is a way to kill players with goats, and it's awesome, but if you had any plans on having that deck take a quick jog from the Magic Casual Bunker to the Standard Tournament Trenches, a few of your other decks are going to get a brief description of the girlfriend that's waiting for it back home.

If Goatnapper is awful, why was it in a Top 8 deck? Why does it have a 4.1/5 community rating? A rating granted by a community that, I will remind you, dismisses the value of a creature because it "dies to Doom Blade" and will write their grocery list on a card because a better card was printed in 1995 before Wizards of the Coast knew how to fashion balanced game play.

1) Ron Spencer art. It's traumatic if I need to make this case for you, but if you don't love Ron Spencer's art work it's either because you've never seen it or because you have seen it but have since gone blind and become understandably bitter about it. It's a goblin hugging an upside down lamb while a halfing/hobbit/kithkin/whatever tries to smack him with a stick. The art—in both style and subject—is a 10/10 before you note the goat is upside down and somehow more hilariously awesome for it.

2) Flavor text. You may or may not be familiar enough with Magic to know that Goblins generally can't fly and generally can't think. This is pretty clear because one can safely assume from the fairly tale influences on Lorwyn that either cloudgoats are in the clouds or they're tall enough to reach the clouds. It's an unheistable heist. Lifting an army playset from a Toys R Us as a dry run for stealing an Abrams tank from the local national guard armory would be slightly less inadequate.

3) Shapeshifters.
Lorwyn didn't just give us goats of unusual size and Goatnappers; it gave us Shapeshifters, creatures that acted like every creature type in a really clever way of enabling a very tribal block that blah blah blah are all goats and can be stolen by Goatnapper.

4) Untap. There are a lot of red cards that let you temporarily steal a card so that you can attack with it. The rules say that whenever you gain control of a creature it has summoning sickness, so you need to give it haste. Sometimes the creature you want to kill is already tapped, so you have to untap it. Giving the creature haste and untapping it are just part of the logistical package necessary to  steal and swing with a creature for a single  turn.

In Goatnapper's case, it lets you untap a goat you control when it enters the battlefield. Especially these days, having a creature enter the battlefield can be a recurring effect. Whether you copy it, bounce it, or just steal it back from your graveyard after it has died, the right engine can put Goatnapper into play enough to constantly untap a "goat" you already control.

The actual mechanics are covered by Noel deCordova, but it's a good example of the labyrinthine rules and history of Magic conspiring to create unexpected results. Magic is a game that's about a lot of things. It's about judgment. It's about...I think I've done this spiel before, but I can't find it. It's also about being mentally engaged and the sometimes surprising narrative of the game.

Now that I consider it, maybe all gaming is about that. 

I should really get past the first chapter of Reality is Broken some day.

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