6/16/2010 StF: "Fear No Good"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Savor the Flavor, which goes live Wednesday on magicthegathering.com.

Okay, guys, I've figured out what really happened:

Some low-level guy at Wizards was caught by a superior with about 85 tabs of tvtropes.org open (it's tvtropes - these things happen), and he cleverly weaseled his way out of unemployment by improvising the Archenemy pitch right there on the spot.
Hell, it was practically a Twix commercial!






...and we were so close to getting a "You magnificent bastard, I read your book!" scheme out of the deal...
Archenemy is one of the more flavor-driven products out there, and I appreciate the effort.  But aside from my concerns about the gameplay itself, I'm forced to say that only a bit more than half of the flavor text works for me.  Almost all of the names are good, the art is never less than passable, but the flavor text was flubbed on a number of cards.  Here are the ones I find particularly egregious:

Evil Comes to Fruition - "The plants justifiy the means".  WTF is that supposed to mean?

Realms Befitting My Majesty - The quote is perfect in Trample Civilization Underfoot, but seems a bit out of place in the blue and black decks.  Something more gluttonously ostentatious would have better driven the sense of mad hubris home.

Behold the Power of Destruction - Not a bad quote, but a little more B-movie than I would have preferred - it's the simpler, less theatrical quotes that really work.  And I think this flavor would have been the perfect place to reuse the original card name:  "This is but a taste of what is in store for those who oppose me."  Of course, even more perfect would be something about "this fully armed and operational Doom Citadel", but I'm sure the lawyers nixed that idea.

Ignite the Cloneforge! - This is far and away the dumbest name in the set, one of the very few I don't like (a few, like I Call on the Ancient Magics, are a bit strange in context but cool enough for general purposes that I can live with them; this is one of the only ones that just plain sucks).  The flavor text, however, is genuinely crappy, and it's not like they didn't have room on the card to give us some lovely technobabble about Etheric Mimicry or Doppelganger Dimensions that would have been so much cooler.  I feel like this must have been one of the last ones to go through, or they'd have had time to think it over and realize it wasn't up to snuff.

Feed the Machine - This isn't bad, but it clearly had room for a longer line which could have delivered the goods with just a few extra words - "Even one such as you..."  or the like, instead of just "Even you...."

Embrace My Diabolical Vision - Again, close, but missing an important detail - it should have ended with "Especially me."  It's ironic that the deck of the deranged artificer would have so many details that went awry, since he'd be the one who should be paying the most attention to making sure every tiniest aspect of his creation is perfect.

The Pieces Are Coming Together - "Cretins build machines.  I construct destiny."  Not horrid, but rather flat IMO.  I'm sure I could have come up with something stronger, but this is one case where I'm able to accept that some others might feel differently about it than I do.  Most of the others I have confidence that my take on it would have been outright better, but here it's just my personal preferences coming through.

Know Naught but Fire - Yeah, this is basically just dumb.  Granted, he's a red mage, but still.  You could send the same message in a more elegant way with something like "Oh, you've come up with a cunning plan, have you?  Here's what I have to say about that."

My Wish is Your Command - I'd rather have heard something about how the Archenemy knows how to press your buttons, rather than what he plans to do with that ability.

Which of You Burns Brightest - A great name, not matched by the flavor text.  Actually the name seems to imply that this should have been a Self or Others card.  Perhaps it and Fate of the Flammeable were switched at the last moment.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
Archenemy is one of the more flavor-driven products out there, and I appreciate the effort.  But aside from my concerns about the gameplay itself, I'm forced to say that only a bit more than half of the flavor text works for me.  Almost all of the names are good, the art is never less than passable, but the flavor text was flubbed on a number of cards.  Here are the ones I find particularly egregious:

Evil Comes to Fruition - "The plants justifiy the means".  WTF is that supposed to mean?



This is supposed to be a variation of "the ends justify the means".  The Archenemy believes that since what he does creates more plants that his means are justified.  Seeing as how the scheme is from the point of view of a nature mage, it makes sense.



Realms Befitting My Majesty - The quote is perfect in Trample Civilization Underfoot, but seems a bit out of place in the blue and black decks.  Something more gluttonously ostentatious would have better driven the sense of mad hubris home.



While I agree that the flavor text appears to make more sense in Trample Civilization Underfoot, any Archenemy would consider it "natural" for him/her to rule the world around them whether they like nature or not.



Behold the Power of Destruction - Not a bad quote, but a little more B-movie than I would have preferred - it's the simpler, less theatrical quotes that really work.  And I think this flavor would have been the perfect place to reuse the original card name:  "This is but a taste of what is in store for those who oppose me."  Of course, even more perfect would be something about "this fully armed and operational Doom Citadel", but I'm sure the lawyers nixed that idea.



I somewhat agree with you on this one.  I still think that it is fine as is.  Your last idea was pretty good though.


Ignite the Cloneforge! - This is far and away the dumbest name in the set, one of the very few I don't like (a few, like I Call on the Ancient Magics, are a bit strange in context but cool enough for general purposes that I can live with them; this is one of the only ones that just plain sucks).  The flavor text, however, is genuinely crappy, and it's not like they didn't have room on the card to give us some lovely technobabble about Etheric Mimicry or Doppelganger Dimensions that would have been so much cooler.  I feel like this must have been one of the last ones to go through, or they'd have had time to think it over and realize it wasn't up to snuff.



The device being used is obviously being termed the "Cloneforge" so the name is fine.  While it may have been more interesting to use "technobabble" the flavor text emphasizes that the Archenemy duplicates the creature instead of trying to create it.


Feed the Machine - This isn't bad, but it clearly had room for a longer line which could have delivered the goods with just a few extra words - "Even one such as you..."  or the like, instead of just "Even you...."



I agree with this but the current flavor text is fine with me.


Embrace My Diabolical Vision - Again, close, but missing an important detail - it should have ended with "Especially me."  It's ironic that the deck of the deranged artificer would have so many details that went awry, since he'd be the one who should be paying the most attention to making sure every tiniest aspect of his creation is perfect.



Saying "especially me" implies that the creation is in fact good for everyone when it is not.  The creation will only be good for the Archenemy and those he/she is willing to keep around.


The Pieces Are Coming Together - "Cretins build machines.  I construct destiny."  Not horrid, but rather flat IMO.  I'm sure I could have come up with something stronger, but this is one case where I'm able to accept that some others might feel differently about it than I do.  Most of the others I have confidence that my take on it would have been outright better, but here it's just my personal preferences coming through.



Things could have been better, but I think that they are fine the way they are.



Know Naught but Fire - Yeah, this is basically just dumb.  Granted, he's a red mage, but still.  You could send the same message in a more elegant way with something like "Oh, you've come up with a cunning plan, have you?  Here's what I have to say about that."



Your flavor text idea would make the card target only one opponent.  The flavor text shows that the effect hits all opponents and hurts them for the amount of thoughts they have.



My Wish is Your Command - I'd rather have heard something about how the Archenemy knows how to press your buttons, rather than what he plans to do with that ability.



The Archenemy doesn't need to be pushing buttons, he/she/it already has control of your mind.  I personally like the flavor text of this card.  I like the fact that it shows the inevitable result and what the player would likely do.



Which of You Burns Brightest - A great name, not matched by the flavor text.  Actually the name seems to imply that this should have been a Self or Others card.  Perhaps it and Fate of the Flammeable were switched at the last moment.



Agreed.

IMAGE(http://pwp.wizards.com/1205820039/Scorecards/Landscape.png)
Archenemy is one of the more flavor-driven products out there, and I appreciate the effort.  But aside from my concerns about the gameplay itself, I'm forced to say that only a bit more than half of the flavor text works for me.  Almost all of the names are good, the art is never less than passable, but the flavor text was flubbed on a number of cards.  Here are the ones I find particularly egregious:

Evil Comes to Fruition - "The plants justifiy the means".  WTF is that supposed to mean?




This is supposed to be a variation of "the ends justify the means".  The Archenemy believes that since what he does creates more plants that his means are justified.  Seeing as how the scheme is from the point of view of a nature mage, it makes sense.



I think the biggest problem with this is it looks like the flavor-text writer thought the quote was "The plans justify the means".

Something like "The ends justify the seeds" or "Now you begin to understand the scope of my plants" would have been better. 
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
I like most of the over-the-top Scheme names and flavor text. But I have got to say I agree on "The plants justify the means."

I do think one groaner of a pun is probably needed, though I'm not personally overfond of any puns. That one, though, I don't even get. I prefer the suggested "Now you begin to understand the scope of my plants." That actually makes me half-chuckle along with my groan. "The ends justify the plants" just makes my brain start running through Kant before going "It's the pun again. Don't start overthinking the Categorical Imperative here."

(Though I have thought from the time I first studied Kant in college that "Let's go violate the Categorical Imperative, shall we?" would make an excellent villainous thing to say around people geeky enough to... actually know what it meant. Ffff.) 
And re: the letter on swearing in fantasy/sci-fi/etc., one example I do like is "Slag" used as a curseword in various Transformers universes. It makes sense to me, as the kind of thing a robot would think of as disgusting refuse.

The problem with it is, though, that as I understand it that's an actual nasty word in British English in a way it's not over here! (Watch me not be right about that and sound like a fool. Heh.)

The other problem I've noticed is that just using that word limits what the characters can say. "Oh slag!" is fine. Better than fine, because it has a direct analog to a curse that humans use talking about human waste.

"What the slag are you doing?" sounds a little off, though, somehow, because it makes me envision someone actually doing something with refuse, and that just makes me feel puzzled (and slightly nauseated) in a way that "what the [heck] are you doing?" would not.

The writers got around that one by using "the Pit" to mean "[heck]," which broadens one's cussing horizons somewhat.  Still, I never really liked that one -- it always felt to me that the characters mean something so clearly analogous to [heck] that even though [heck] is based on a specific theological concept in the real world, it's jarring that they don't just say [heck]. Because they mean "Go to the place of eternal torment because you deserve to be punished for all eternity!" just like we do.

"Slag" is creative and fitting given that those talking are sentient machines. I think that good curses for invented cultures should be like that, rather than euphemisms like "Pit." What kinds of things do these characters/cultures find appallingly disgusting? If you as a writer of flavor text, or novels, or whatever, can think of something, the cussing will feel much more natural.
I always thought the end justifying the means was more of a Machiavelli thing.

Although, it does run contrary to Kant's categorical imperative.

As for the letters. . . .

Why did we need to address something that's already stated in the block novel (world gift), while flavor issues as fundamental as basic land go unresolved? 
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
I need to stop reading these Archenemy articles. I have no intention of purchasing them, and I just keep getting madder and madder that these delightful card names are basically wasted on a side product, instead of put into the game proper in an attempt to move back to the "heart" of Magic design. 
Proud member of C.A.R.D. - Campaign Against Rare Duals "...but the time has come when lands just need to be better. Creatures have gotten stronger, spells have always been insane, and lands just sat in this awkward place of necessity." Jacob Van Lunen on the refuge duals, 16 Sep 2009. "While it made thematic sense to separate enemy and allied color fixing in the past, we have come around to the definite conclusion that it is just plain incorrect from a game-play perspective. This is one of these situations where game play should just trump flavor." - Sam Stoddard on ending the separation of allied/enemy dual lands. 05 July 2013
... while flavor issues as fundamental as basic land go unresolved? 




Excellent point. For nearly 17 years they've wasted opportunities for worldbuilding on the basic lands. All that space in the text box, and not a darn thing done with it. 
Proud member of C.A.R.D. - Campaign Against Rare Duals "...but the time has come when lands just need to be better. Creatures have gotten stronger, spells have always been insane, and lands just sat in this awkward place of necessity." Jacob Van Lunen on the refuge duals, 16 Sep 2009. "While it made thematic sense to separate enemy and allied color fixing in the past, we have come around to the definite conclusion that it is just plain incorrect from a game-play perspective. This is one of these situations where game play should just trump flavor." - Sam Stoddard on ending the separation of allied/enemy dual lands. 05 July 2013
Not to mention that Creative can't really seem to get a cohesive grasp on what basic lands actually represent.

The current consensus seems to be something along the lines of "mana bonds", but that leaves a lot of issues with every mechanic having to do with lands, ever

I've heard of them representing actual lands on the battlefield, the aforementioned bonds, memories of land (raising serious color pie concerns--like making red the color of "mind magic" by way of land destruction), all the way to mystical floating mana bottles. 
"We will all be purified in Wurm. What is good will be used to heal Wurm, or grow Wurm, or to fuel Wurm's path. What is vile will be extruded, and we will be free of it forever." --Prophet of the Cult of Wurm
This is supposed to be a variation of "the ends justify the means". The Archenemy believes that since what he does creates more plants that his means are justified. Seeing as how the scheme is from the point of view of a nature mage, it makes sense.



I know that was what they were going for, I just don't think they pulled it off.  A good pun has to sound witty and clever, even if it's groan-inducingly so; this just seems dumb and random.  If they absolutely had to use a version of this phrase, it should have been "The ends justify the greens.".  Although since the ends - specificially those of the good guys - were kind of the point here, you could go a little further.  Anyway, I think they could have done much, much better than a cheap pun for this concept.  Offhand, I like this: "They'll drain the sap from your limbs, and I don't even need to bother bringing a bucket."


Saying "especially me" implies that the creation is in fact good for everyone when it is not. The creation will only be good for the Archenemy and those he/she is willing to keep around.



Actually this is one of those schemes that can backfire on the Archenemy - if he had six cards in hand and the heroes were all almost empty, he would gain almost nothing and might give them what they need.  It stacks the odds in his favor, but has a certain sense of fairness.  This is an example of how the Doomsday Machine deck's Archenemy seems to be a trifle more high-minded than the others - still power-mad, but at least theoretically idealistic, the kind of guy you could reason with for at least long enough to sucker-punch him.  I like that a lot, although it's sad that only the two decks containing white got a sort of reasonable villain.  I don't blame them for going "arch" with their enemies (it is in the name), but I would personally have preferred gray morality all around, with the Dragon deck featuring lots of quotes explaining why the villain there honestly believes that dragons are so beautiful and majestic that it's only fair and reasonable to have them ruling the world and devouring filthy humans.  Instead, he's just a standard pyro/megalo/etc.-maniac; so last century.
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi