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# /r/Peloton Pre-TDF Survey 2020
Gentlemen, Ladies and those otherwise addressed - we know you've been waiting for a good thing, and the survey results are finally ready! The answers were collected from you all during August 2020 with 1428 unique replies. That's a participation of 0.5% of all subscribers! That's really not too bad, when you keep in mind how popular these kind of surveys are. But we here at /peloton want to show you that this is all about presenting the information in the subreddit to cater better to our audience! Updated after a few hours to include some more historical data the final edit that for some reason wasn't copied properly
Without further ado, let's get cracking on the response
You and Cycling
1. Where do you live?
Largely the same picture as ever, with the US leading the way, the UK in second and then a sliding scale of Europeans countries. Slovenia continues to pick its way up the pile for obvious reasons! World Map to demonstrate
2. What's your age?
Pretty much the same as last year, with the usual reddit demographics of majority 20 somethings dominating.
3. What's your gender?
More normality here for reddit.
4. How much of the men's season do you watch/follow?
March '18 (%)
August '18 (%)
WT Stage races
WT One day races
Non WT Stage races
Non WT One day races
Literally everything I can consume
Whilst GT following may be down (somehow), all the lower level stuff is up, which makes sense considering how desperate we have been for any racing during the season shutdown.
5. Do you maintain an interest in women's professional road racing?
Do you maintain an interest in women's professional road racing?
Still very much a half/half interest in women's cycling on the subreddit.
6. How much of the women's season do you follow?
The following is true for the half of you that follows womens cycling.
Just the biggest televised events
Most of the live televised/delayed coverage stuff
All televised racing
Down to .Pro & beyond
7. How long have you been watching cycling?
Under a year
25 years +
Simplified the years a little this time, but whilst we have a fair number of newbies, most people have picked the sport up since around 2013/14.
8. Do you have like/dislike feelings about WT teams?
Once more, 14.4% of people really don't have feelings on the subject. Of those that do:
So, the most popular team this year is Jumbo-Visma, followed by Quick-Step & Bora-hansgrohe. Least popular are Ineos & UAE. As per usual, no one cares about NTT & CCC, with nearly 81% of users rating NTT as meh. Pretty damning stuff. Lastly, we have the usual historical comparison of how teams have fared over time, normalised to respondents to that question on the survey. Things to note then, firstly that the Astana redemption arc is over, seeing them back in the negative, maybe Fulgsangs spring issues helped aid that? The petrodollar teams of UAE & Bahrain are stubbornly negative too, with Israel keeping up the Katusha negative streak. Meanwhile, at the top end, EF & Jumbo go from strength to strength, whilst some others like Sunweb are sliding over time - their transfer policies no doubt helping that.
10. Do you ride a bike regularly?
No, I don't
Still a fairly small group of racers out of all of us
11. Out of the sports you practice, is cycling your favourite?
A new addition to the survey prompted by a good point last time, just over half of us rate cycling as the favourite sport we actually do.
12. What other sports do you follow?
Association Football / Soccer
Track & Field
Esports (yes, this includes DotA)
Motorsports (Not including F1)
Football always tops the charts, and Formula 1 continues to rank extremely highly among our userbase. Those who have a little following below 5% include Sailing, Fencing, Surfing, Boxing & Ultra-Running. Other cycling disciplines
13. Out of the sports you follow, is cycling your favourite sport?
Good. Makes sense if you hang out here.
14. How often do you participate in a /Peloton Race Thread whilst watching a race?
I always participate in Race Threads during races
I follow Race Threads during races
I often participate in Race Threads during races
I rarely/never participate in Race Threads during races
Slightly less invested than before, reverting back to an older trade.
15. How do you watch Races?
Free Local TV
Desperately scrabbling for Youtube highlights
Paid Streaming services
Year on year, paid streaming services go up - the increasing availability of live content legally continues to improve, and so do the numbers on the survey.
16. Where else do you follow races live (in addition to watching them)?
We can safely say that most of us were wrong about this one. That's not a lot of confidence in Richie Porte either, the man who was to finish on the third spot of the podium. Alexander Foliforov (0,23%) had just a tiny number of votes less, and that man wasn't even in the race.
24. What for you was the defining cycling moment of the previous decade?
We had a lot of brilliant suggestions, but these were the clear five favourites when we tabulated the results.
2018 Giro - Chris Froome Solo Attack
2016 TDF - Chris Froome Running up Ventoux
2019 TDF - Landslides, First Columbian Winner, Pinot's bitter abandon - This was one race for the ages
2016 Paris-Roubaix - Mostly known for Tom Boonen losing. Also, some guy called Mat won.
2019 AGR - MvdP with his incredible catch-up for the win.
Honorable mentions go to the Giro 2018, which had Tom Dumoulin winning, and of almost identical fascination to many of you - Tom Dumoulin going on someones porta-potty in the middle of the stage. Little bit of recency bias perhaps, but that's better than ignoring that this was for the last decade and firmly insisting Tom Boonens 2005 WC win was the biggest thing. Special shoutout to almost all the Danes present in /peloton who voted for Mads Pedersens WC win last year. It's an understandable reaction.
25. Any suggestions for the Survey?
Could you add a section on rider popularity, same as for the teams?
Ask how people became interested in cycling
Ask how people watch cycling (e.g. TV Channels/Streaming etc.)
If you could be an animal for one day, which one would it be?
Would you wear a facemask while watching a cycling race live?
Which race do you look forward to see the most every year?
Favourite riders of your own country?
How many bikes do you own?
We promise to feature one of these suggestions in the next survey Suggestions
Always have a “no” or “not interested” option
We will try to implement this. But it will also skew results. About the Survey
More questions about womens cycling would be nice.
Less questions about womens cycling
The subscribers are torn on Women's cycling, nearly a 50/50 split there as the survey showed - The moderators at /peloton are firmly in the "more cycling is better" basket, and we will continue to get as good coverage of womens cycling as possible.
Are you trying to give the moderators PTSD? Because this is how you give the moderators PTSD.
26. Any suggestions for the sub?
More stationary fitness bike related content
ALSJFLKAJSLDKJAØLSJKD:M:CSAM)=#/()=#=/")¤=/)! - Your moderator seems to be out of function. Please stand by while we find you a new moderator
The Weekly threads are great for these types of questions, where several people can contribute and build up once it is understood which information is relevant.
Allow limited doping talk in result threads.
Our experience is that "limited" will never be so, if we're going to moderate it fairly. Moderating is not a popularity contest, but believe it or not, we're actually trying to be as fair as possible. and for that, we need rules that are not subjective. Unless you have a stationary exercise bike.
Written original content is always great - recaps, old race reviews or interesting rider bios, etc.
More non-race threads
Try and do some AMAs with pro cyclists, coaches, trainers, etc
All of these are good suggestions, but remember that all of you can also contribute - The mods are sometimes stretched thin, specially in the middle of hectic race schedules. It's easier if one of you has a way to contact a rider or a person of interest and can facilitate the initial communication.
Standardize major event thread titles for better search.
We've worked on this! The Official Standard is now as follows: [Race Thread] 202x Race Name – Stage X (Class)
A wiki that explains how races work. Roles of diff riders/support staff. History of racing.
This sounds as a nice community project for the after-season, and hopefully many of you subscribers can contribute.
Tidy up the sidebar!
Come with suggestions on how to tidy it up!
Don't assume everyone reading is a man, "thanks, bro". But that goes for all of Reddit. I know you can't fix that.
We have chastised all the mods. They are now perfectly trained in gender-neutral pronouns. Be well, fellow being.
Have a buy you a beer link for the mods for all the work you do.
If we can implement this for hard liquor, you know we will.
Remove the spoiler rule during grand tours. It kills the hype.
The spoiler rule is one that is discussed frequently - in general - some users absolutely hate it, but a majority love it. Perhaps we'll include a question in the next survey to see how this divide is exactly.
Lose the spoiler tag when it is for serious things; Lambrecht death, Jakobsen fall.
We actually do - whenever there is a matter of life or death, we think public information is more important than a spoiler rule. But at the same time, we try to collect all the different posts into one main thread, so to keep things focused and letting very speculative posts meet with hard evidence from other sources.
Less downvoting of opinions that differ from the fashionable consensus.
This is a tough ask of the internet. While we can agree that voting should be done accordingly to what insights they bring, not subjective opinions, it is very hard to turn that type of thinking around. We can ask of you, our subscribers, that you please think twice about hitting that downvote button, and only do so because of you think a post is factually incorrect, not because it differs with your own subjective opinion. That's the primary analysis of the survey! Feel free to contribute with how you experience things here!
Selling your Covered Call - Thoughts on How to Select Your Strike and Expiration
Congratulations! You are a bag holder of company XYZ which was thought to be the best penny stock ever. Instead of feeling sorry, you consider selling covered calls to help reduce your cost basis - and eventually get out of your bags with minimal loss or even a profit! First - let's review the call option contract. The holder of the call option contract has the right but not the obligation to purchase 100 shares of XYZ at the strike price per share. This contract has an expiration date. We assume American style option contracts which means that the option can be exercised at any point prior to expiration. Thus, there are three parameters to the option contract - the strike price, the expiration date and the premium - which represents the price per share of the contract. The holder of the call option contract is the person that buys the option. The writer of the contract is the seller. The buyer (or holder) pays the premium. The seller (or writer) collects the premium. As an XYZ bag holder, the covered call may help. By writing a call contract against your XYZ shares, you can collect premium to reduce your investment cost in XYZ - reducing your average cost per share. For every 100 shares of XYZ, you can write 1 call contract. Notice that that by selling the contract, you do not control if the call is exercised - only the holder of the contract can exercise it. There are several online descriptions about the covered call strategy. Here is an example that might be useful to review Covered Call Description The general guidance is to select the call strike at the price in which you would be happy selling your shares. However, the context of most online resources on the covered call strategy assume that you either just purchased the shares at market value or your average cost is below the market price. In the case as a bag holder, your average cost is most likely over - if not significantly over - the current market price. This situation simply means that you have a little work to reduce your average before you are ready to have your bags called away. For example, you would not want to have your strike set at $2.50 when your average is above that value as this would guarantee a net loss. (However, if you are simply trying to rid your bags and your average is slightly above the strike, then you might consider it as the strike price). One more abstract concept before getting to what you want to know. The following link shows the Profit/Loss Diagram for Covered Call Conceptually, the blue line shows the profit/loss value of your long stock position. The line crosses the x-axis at your average cost, i.e the break-even point for the long stock position. The green/red hockey stick is the profit (green) or loss (red) of the covered call position (100 long stock + 1 short call option). The profit has a maximum value at the strike price. This plateau is due to the fact that you only receive the agreed upon strike price per share when the call option is exercised. Below the strike, the profit decreases along the unit slope line until the value becomes negative. It is a misnomer to say that the covered call is at 'loss' since it is really the long stock that has decreased in value - but it is not loss (yet). Note that the break-even point marked in the plot is simply the reduced averaged cost from the collected premium selling the covered call. As a bag holder, it will be a two-stage process: (1) reduce the average cost (2) get rid of bags. Okay let's talk selecting strike and expiration. You must jointly select these two parameters. Far OTM strikes will collect less premium where the premium will increase as you move the strike closer to the share price. Shorter DTE will also collect less premium where the premium will increase as you increase the DTE. It is easier to describe stage 2 "get rid of bags" first. Let us pretend that our hypothetical bag of 100 XYZ shares cost us $5.15/share. The current XYZ market price is $3/share - our hole is $2.15/share that we need to dig out. Finally, assume the following option chain (all hypothetical):
Purely made up the numbers, but the table illustrates the notional behavior of an option chain. The option value (premium) is the intrinsic value plus the time value. Only the $2.5 strike has intrinsic value since the share price is $3 (which is greater than $2.5). Notice that intrinsic value cannot be negative. The rest of the premium is the time value of the option which is essentially the monetary bet associated with the probability that the share price will exceed the strike at expiration. According to the table, we could collect the most premium by selling the 110 DTE $2.5 call for $0.95. However, there is a couple problems with that option contract. We are sitting with bags at $5.15/share and receiving $0.95 will only reduce our average to $4.20/share. On expiration, if still above $2.5, then we are assigned, shares called away and we receive $2.50/share or a loss of $170 - not good. Well, then how about the $5 strike at 110 DTE for $0.50? This reduces us to $4.65/share which is under the $5 strike so we would make a profit of $35! This is true - however 110 days is a long time to make $35. You might say that is fine you just want to get the bags gone don't care. Well maybe consider a shorter DTE - even the 20 DTE or 50 DTE would collect premium that reduces your average below $5. This would allow you to react to any stock movement that occurs in the near-term. Consider person A sells the 110 DTE $5 call and person B sells the 50 DTE $5 call. Suppose that the XYZ stock increases to $4.95/share in 50 days then goes to $8 in the next 30 days then drops to $3 after another 30 days. This timeline goes 110 days and person A had to watch the price go up and fall back to the same spot with XYZ stock at $3/share. Granted the premium collected reduced the average but stilling hold the bags. Person B on the other hand has the call expire worthless when XYZ is at $4.95/share. A decision can be made - sell immediately, sell another $5 call or sell a $7.5 call. Suppose the $7.5 call is sold with 30 DTE collecting some premium, then - jackpot - the shares are called away when XYZ is trading at $8/share! Of course, no one can predict the future, but the shorter DTE enables more decision points. The takeaway for the second step in the 2-stage approach is that you need to select your profit target to help guide your strike selection. In this example, are you happy with the XYZ shares called away at $5/share or do you want $7.5/share? What is your opinion on the stock price trajectory? When do you foresee decision points? This will help determine the strike/expiration that matches your thoughts. Note: studies have shown that actively managing your position results in better performance than simply waiting for expiration, so you can adjust the position if your assessment on the movement is incorrect. Let's circle back to the first step "reduce the average cost". What if your average cost of your 100 shares of XYZ is $8/share? Clearly, all of the strikes in our example option chain above is "bad" to a certain extent since we would stand to lose a lot of money if the option contract is exercised. However, by describing the second step, we know the objective for this first step is to reduce our average such that we can profit from the strikes. How do we achieve this objective? It is somewhat the same process as previously described, but you need to do your homework a little more diligently. What is your forecast on the stock movement? Since $7.5 is the closest strike to your average, when do you expect XYZ to rise from $3/share to $7.5/share? Without PR, you might say never. With some PR then maybe 50/50 chance - if so, then what is the outlook for PR? What do you think the chances of going to $5/share where you could collect more premium? Suppose that a few XYZ bag holders (all with a $8/share cost) discuss there outlook of the XYZ stock price in the next 120 days:
Person A does not seem to think much price movement will occur. This person might sell the $5 call with either 20 DTE or 50 DTE. Then upon expiration, sell another $5 call for another 20-50 DTE. Person A could keep repeating this until the average is reduced enough to move onto step-2. Of course, this approach is risky if the Person A price forecast is incorrect and the stock price goes up - which might result in assignment too soon. Person B appears to be the most bullish of the group. This person might sell the $5 call with 20 DTE then upon expiration sell the $7.5 call. After expiration, Person B might decide to leave the shares uncovered because her homework says XYZ is going to explode and she wants to capture those gains! Person C believes that there will be a step increase in 10 days maybe due to major PR event. This person will not have the chance to reduce the average in time to sell quickly, so first he sells a $7.5 call with 20 DTE to chip at the average. At expiration, Person C would continue to sell $7.5 calls until the average at the point where he can move onto the "get rid of bags" step. In all causes, each person must form an opinion on the XYZ price movement. Of course, the prediction will be wrong at some level (otherwise they wouldn't be bag holders!). The takeaway for the first step in the 2-stage approach is that you need to do your homework to better forecast the price movement to identify the correct strikes to bring down your average. The quality of the homework and the risk that you are willing to take will dedicate the speed at which you can reduce your average. Note that if you are unfortunate to have an extremely high average per share, then you might need to consider doing the good old buy-more-shares-to-average-down. This will be the fastest way to reduce your average. If you cannot invest more money, then the approach above will still work, but it will require much more patience. Remember there is no free lunch! Advanced note: there is another method to reduce your (high) average per share - selling cash secured puts. It is the "put version" of a cover call. Suppose that you sell a XYZ $2.5 put contract for $0.50 with 60 DTE. You collect $50 from the premium of the contract. This money is immediately in your bank and reduces your investment cost. But what did you sell? If XYZ is trading below $2.50, then you will be assigned 100 shares of XYZ at $2.50/share or $250. You own more shares, but at a price which will reduce your average further. Being cash secured, your brokerage will reserve $250 from your account when you sell the contract. In essence, you reduce your buying power by $250 and conditionally purchase the shares - you do not have them until assignment. If XYZ is greater than the strike at expiration, then your broker gives back $250 cash / buying power and you keep the premium. Early assignment - one concern is the chance of early assignment. The American style option contract allows the holder the opportunity to exercise the contract at any time prior to expiration. Early assignment almost never occurs. There are special cases that typically deal with dividends but most penny stocks are not in the position to hand out dividends. Aside from that, the holder would be throwing away option time value by early exercise. It possibly can handle - probably won't - it actually would be a benefit when selling covered calls as you would receive your profit more quickly! This post has probably gone too long! I will stop and let's discuss this matter. I will add follow-on material with some of the following topics which factors into this discussion:
Effect of earnings / PR / binary events on the option contract - this reaction may be different than the underlying stock reaction to the event
The Black-Scholes option pricing model allows one to understand how the premium will change - note that "all models are incorrect, but some are useful"
The "Greeks" give you a sense about how prices change when the stock price change - Meet the Greeks video
Position Management - when to adjust, close, or roll
Legging position into strangles/straddles - more advanced position with higher risk / higher reward
Open to other suggestions. I'm sure there are some typos and unclear statements - I will edit as needed! \I'm not a financial advisor. Simply helping to 'coach' people through the process. You are responsible for your decisions. Do not execute a trade that you do not understand. Ask questions if needed!**
The C++ standards committee met in Prague, Czech Republic between Feb 10 and Feb 15. The standard is wording complete, and the only thing between here and getting it published is ISO process. As is typical for me at these meetings, I spent a lot of time doing freestanding things, Library Incubator (LEWGI) things, and minuting along the way (15-ish sessions/papers!).
I had three freestanding papers coming into this meeting:
P1641: Freestanding Library: Rewording the Status Quo
P1642: Freestanding Library: Easy [utilities], [ranges], and [iterators]
P2013: Freestanding Language: Optional ::operator new
The first two papers are pieces of my former "P0829: Freestanding Proposal" paper, and had been seen by the Feature Test study group in Belfast. During this meeting, I got to run them by the Library Incubator for some design feedback. The papers were received well, though some potential danger points still exist. Library Evolution can look at the papers as soon as they have time. P2013 is the first smaller piece taken out of "P1105: Leaving no room for a lower-level language: A C++ Subset". Exceptions are probably the most important thing in P1105, but there's so much activity going on in this area that it is hard for me to make good recommendations. The next highest priority was new and delete, hence P2013 being born. I also felt that P2013 was a good test paper to see if the committee was willing to make any language based change for freestanding. I had presented P2013 in a prior Low Latency / SG14 telecon, and received unanimous approval (no neutral, no against votes). I was able to present it in the Evolution Incubator, and received no against votes. Then, in a surprisingly quick turnaround, I was able to present to Evolution, and again received no against votes. So now I just need to come up with wording that accomplishes my goals, without breaking constant evaluated new.
Errors and ABI
On Monday, we held a join session between Evolution and Library Evolution to talk about one of the C++ boogeymen, ABI. P1836 and P2028 have good background reading if you are not familiar with the topic. The usual arguments were raised, including that we are losing out on performance by preserving ABI, and that breaking ABI would mean abandoning some software that cannot be rebuilt today. We took some polls, and I fear that each person will interpret the polls differently. The way I interpreted the polls is that we won't do a "big" ABI break anytime soon, but we will be more willing to consider compiler heroics in order to do ABI breaks in the library. One ABI area that is frequently overlooked is the situation that I am in. I can rebuild all of my source code, but even despite that I still care about ABI because I don't ship all of it together. I build a library with a plugin architecture, and breaking ABI would mean updating all the plugins on customer systems simultaneously... which is no easy task. I also ship binaries on Linux systems. We would prefer to be able to use new C++ features, despite targeting the various "LTS" distributions. ABI stability is a big part of that. I am hoping to make another post to cpp with my thoughts in the next few months, tentatively titled "ABI Breaks: Not just about rebuilding". On Tuesday, LEWG discussed "P1656: 'Throws: Nothing' should be noexcept". This is a substantial change to the policy laid out in N3279, authored by Alisdair Meredith. That's why it is informally called the "Lakos" rule. We discussed the trade-offs involved, including how adding noexcept can constrain future changes, how noexcept can make precondition tests more difficult, and how this will change little in practice, because implementers already mark most "Throws: Nothing" calls as noexcept. Arguments about performance, code bloat, and standards guaranteed portability won out though. This paper was "only" a policy change, so a follow-on paper will need to be authored by someone in order to actually do the noexcept marking. Wednesday night we had a social event celebrating the impending C++20 release. The event was held in the Prague Crossroads, built in 927 A.D.. The large tables let us have conversations with people we may not have really bumped into during the rest of the meeting. I started talking exceptions with a few of the other people at the table, and one of the had some particularly in depth knowledge about the topic. As it turns out, I was sitting at the same table as James Renwick of Low-cost Deterministic C++ Exceptions for Embedded Systems fame. I ended up talking his ear off over the course of the night. Thursday in LEWG, we talked about Niall Douglas's "P1028: SG14 status_code and standard error object". This is the class that may one day be thrown by P0709 "Static" exceptions. Coincidentally, the most contentious parts were issues involving ABI. In several of the virtual interfaces in the standard, we've wanted to add things later, but haven't been able to do so. Friday, James Renwick was able to present his paper, and the room was very receptive of it. One of my concerns going in to the presentation was that the committee would be unwilling to change anything in the standard related to today's exceptions. After the presentation and discussion, I'm less concerned about that. There was definitely a willingness to make some changes... but one of the big challenges is a question of whether we change default behavior in some cases, or change language ABI, even for C.
This one is the "high level" linear algebra paper. There's a different, "lower level" linear algebra paper (P1673) that covers BLAS use cases. P1385 is intended to be something that can sit on top of P1673, if I understand correctly. For being a math paper, there was surprisingly little math discussion in Library Incubator. We were generally discussing general interface issues like object ownership, concept requirements, and how to spell various operations, particularly inner product and outer product.
We are still in the philosophy and goals stage of this paper. We got to discuss the finer points of the distinctions between "kilogram" and "1 kilogram"; the difference between a unit, a dimension, and a quantity; and the difference between systems and models. This paper is challenging in that there is significant prior art, as well as strong opinions about "the right way" to do things. This gets to one of the trickier parts of standards meetings... driving consensus. The interested parties have been requested to (preferably) work together outside of the three meetings a year, or failing that, to write a paper that gives some outline of what a solution should look like. This paper also has an absurdly awesome / terrifying metaprogramming trick in it. A base class uses a friend declaration to declare (but not define) a function with an auto return type and no trailing return value. The derived class then declares and defines the function (again via friend) and lets the definition of the function determine the auto return type. This lets the base class use decltype to pull type information out of the derived class without explicitly passing that information down in a template argument (sorcery!). The main caveat with this trick is that it only works with exactly one derived class, as otherwise you end up with multiple conflicting definitions of the same function.
It's amazing what a minor paper reorg will do for productivity. This pair of papers used to be a single paper in the San Diego time frame, and we had a difficult time understanding how the pieces worked together. With the paper split as it is now, we have a small, concrete piece to review, which we were then able to see how it fit in to the interfaces and concepts of the larger paper. We got to dig in to some corner case traps with exception safety, move semantics, and race conditions. There were implementers in the room that could say what their implementation did, and I feel that the room was able to give good feedback to the authors.
Antony Polukhin is secretly my accidental nemesis (well, not so secret anymore). Over the course of C++20, he sprinkled constexpr on many of the things. As it turns out, there is a large (but not 100%) overlap of constexpr and freestanding. Each thing that went constexpr turned into a merge conflict that I got to resolve in my papers. And he's still at it! In this case, 100% of the things that were constexpr'd were also things that I have previously identified as being potentially freestanding. So that's a positive. There were concerns about implementability though, as sometimes, the C library and the C++ library come from different vendors, and having forwarding wrappers is far from trivial.
A minute about minuting
For the wg21 readers out there, if you think you are bad at taking minutes, that just means you need more practice :) . If you find yourself in a room that is about to review a paper that you are not heavily invested in, volunteer to take minutes. That way you can make a valuable contribution, even for an area where you don't have domain expertise. As a bonus, you get to follow the minuter's code (something I just made up) about spelling other people's names. As the person taking minutes, you have license to change up to three letters in someone's name, so long as it isn't used maliciously. You can freely take any double letter in a name and convert it to a single letter (e.g. Connor -> Conor), turn a single letter to a double letter (David -> Davvid), or completely rearrange any consecutive series of vowels. And people will thank you for it! You are also given free license to interrupt people in order to ask them who they are. Give it a try!
I've got a bunch of papers to write for the next mailing, and I won't even be in Varna. So if you're interested in championing some freestanding papers, let me know, and I can coach you on the topics.
‘They are us’ – an urgent, uncomfortable call to action
"By Morgan Godfery | Contributing writer March 13, 2020 A proper reckoning with March 15 2019 demands that we take up a generations-long struggle to destroy all the exclusions that make up our society and produce the conditions we know as racism. An essay by Morgan Godfery. This work is made possible bySpinoff Members.
I was cleaning out the garage the other day and found an old Crusaders jersey. If I remember right it’s their team kit from 2005, the white knight sewn into the chest and the old Ford logo printed in the centre. The jersey itself is still as fresh as new paint, a novelty purchase from when we were passing through Christchurch on our way to Christmas in Oamaru. I was a year 9 in school and a Super 12 jersey was the kind of item you had, just so you could say you had one. This is about the same time it was still acceptable to whisper things like how the white players in the Crusaders were responsible for their team’s championship success, playing their footy with brains, and the problem with mid-table finishers like the Blues were too many brown boys who only knew how to throw their weight around. I’m not quite white-passing, but my upper middle-class accent, generally preppy affect, and not-quite-pasty-not-quite-brown skin makes me ethnically ambiguous enough that people are happy to share their thoughts about big Polynesian units, Asian immigrants, Muslim terrorists, and the Jews. The first time I remember running into entirely casual racism was in Christchurch, on the way back from that Christmas in Oamaru, when a retail worker caught up with me on the street apologising for short-changing me in store. I didn’t realise or particularly care, but years later I thought about his apology. “Sorry, I just Jew-ed you”. At the time it was nothing to me. In high school and later in my flat at Victoria that was just what people said. “Jewing” someone was a verb for ripping them off, taking an advantage, or just a way to give someone a bit of stick. In my experience it was especially popular with the Christ’s College boys, which probably has something to do with the city’s private schools inheriting their culture from Britain’s public schools. “A Jewish boy at a public school almost invariably had a bad time,” wrote Orwell in 1945. Things probably aren’t that much better in 2020. The other day I read an old mate – a private schooler too – on Facebook joking about how Jews are useless at sport. I suspect for good liberals this is probably shocking. This isn’t language that ever sneaks through our circles. But outside of our cosy hermetic world words like coconut, boonga, fob, wog, gook, curry muncher, towelhead, the hundred variations on the N word, and “Jew” as more than a noun are common currency. The stains from that vocabulary seep into every part of the culture and society, and nothing much has ever been done to wash it out. The first time I remember encountering deliberate, menacing racism is on the rugby paddock when a white coach was yelling at my mate on the wing “run you BLACK bastard”. I thought about that moment when spectators in Christchurch were caught vilifying Fijian player Sake Aca in 2015, screaming from the stands “black cunt”. Fandoms like to imagine their sports, multicultural rugby especially, as pure and independent realms (“a level playing field”) absent race, politics, or any disadvantage other than skill. It’s a seductive argument, I’ll concede that much, but it’s so self-evidently false it still surprises me every time someone insists on it earnestly. Sport? Not racist? In 2012 talkback callers and trolls went after then Blues coach Pat Lam and his family for the great crime of simply being Polynesian. In 2010 former All Black Andy Haden was put through the wringer for telling media the Crusaders only recruit a maximum three “darkies”, presumably to preserve the team’s famous brain-brawn balance. Even in the laudatory histories New Zealand rugby was, and probably remains, a notorious nexus for down home conservatives, know-nothing administrators, and out and out racists. In 1960 the rugby union sent the All Blacks on tour to Apartheid South Africa, waving the team off without any Māori players or officials in a remarkable sop to the country’s colour bar. In 1976 the national team were sent back, this time defying international calls to cut sporting ties with the racist state. In protest at the tour more than twenty African countries led a boycott at that year’s Olympics, a moral stand that should perpetually shame New Zealand Rugby. Not racist? As if. In an ideal world the Canterbury Crusaders would study this history, carefully considering whether their decision to retain the team name is another brick in rugby’s wall of shame. The managers might consider how “deus vult”, meaning God wills it, a battle cry from the first Crusade, and “Acre 1189”, a reference to a siege in the third Crusade, are URL shorthands and postscripts for white supremacist users constructing a historiography for their neo-fascist movement. The managers might also reflect on how real-life white supremacists in countries like Brazil, Norway, and Australia are adopting the Knights Templar, the Christian warrior monks who made up the crusading hordes, and the literal white knight that was formerly the Canterbury team’s logo, as their saints. 📷 CRUSADERS MASCOTS AT AMI STADIUM IN CHRISTCHURCH IN 2019. PHOTO: DAVID ROGERS/GETTY IMAGES. FEATURE IMAGE: FRIDAY PRAYERS AT AL NOOR MOSQUE ON MARCH 22, 2019. PHOTO BY SANKA VIDANAGAMA/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES As it happens the team’s managers, after kicking the issue to a “market research” firm shortly after March 15, made the call to save the name. It’s an unconscionable decision, for obvious reasons, but the team bosses seem cognitively incapable of reasoning through the issue and its implications beyond mere “branding”. In a statement announcing the name-stay the team’s PR people wrote “for us, the Crusaders name is a reflection of the crusading spirit of this community,” as if it’s possible to just reframe the holy war using a press release. It’s a cretinous thing to do when not even a year earlier an alleged shooter undertook a massacre at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques as part of his own “crusade”. A28-year-old man is before the High Court facing 52 murder charges relating to the events of March 15. What we know about his life is little, save the things he was curating about himself online, which in this essay I treat with caution and scepticism. But it seems clear enough the Australian citizen was an obsessive for the Crusades, scribbling references to the religious war for the Holy Land across the weapon police accuse the man of using to carry out the massacre. Investigative reports note in his pilgrimage to Europe the 28-year-old – who pleaded not guilty to all charges – made particular visits to Christian-Muslim battlegrounds in the former Ottoman Empire, apparently as a tribute to the crusading warmongers he was so keen to match. To outsiders the obsession with this particular historical episode is probably bizarre, if not creepy. But in the nether world this man and his neo-fascist comrades inhabit they imagine they’re acting out the thesis and title in Samuel P Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations. In his 1993 essay the American political scientist argues that in the immediate past global conflicts were between warring ideological factions – capitalism and communism – but post-Cold War conflict will centre between clashing civilisations. The West vs the rest. Christianity vs Islam. The Crusades II. In Huntington’s telling, and in the alleged shooter’s head, the West and the Islamic world are fated to compete. Yet that competition won’t centre over economic issues like stable oil supply lines, or even political issues like the territorial integrity of Western allies in the Middle East, instead the clash is meant to happen over Islam’s apparently regressive values and the West’s progressive tradition. It’s a striking thesis, especially for the generals and politicians who were hunting for cover for their military adventures in the Middle East and East Africa in the late 80s and early 90s. But it was always a notion that was impossible to apply, reducing the Islamic world to a series of stereotypes (it never had its enlightenment) and setting it against an equally reductive West (it did have its enlightenment). The late Edward Said, the Palestinian scholar, cut right to the heart of Huntington’s argument in identifying it wasn’t an argument at all – rather, he was “a partisan, an advocate of one so-called civilisation over all others” who maps billions of people into “vague” and “manipulable” abstractions and then presents it as a true account of the world. “Thus to build a conceptual framework around the notion of us-versus-them is in effect to pretend that the principal consideration is epistemological and natural – our civilisation is now and accepted, theirs is different and strange – whereas in fact the framework separating us from them is belligerent, constructed, and situational.” In other words, the thing separating the Christian us from the Islamic them, to the extent a clean separation is possible at all, is history – of colonialism, of Cold War power politics – and not immutable categories like “the West” or “the East”. That the categories exist at all are a function of history and political convenience, not a universal law stipulating conflict as the only end. Yet for the neo-fascists like the alleged shooter every thought they cherish orbits this particular rock: that the entire Islamic world is one dirty blob of terrorism, rape, and invasion, and that all its more than one billion members act with a single purpose and co-ordination unknown in the entire history of humanity. But why commit to a dichotomy so obviously stupid at all? The 28-year-old grew up in Grafton, a waterway town in northern New South Wales, and in his time on the Eastern seaboard it seems unlikely he ever actually met many Muslim people at all. In his own family’s account they were just ordinary Aussies. It’s impossible to interrogate the claim – every family thinks itself the norm and we can’t penetrate their private lives to investigate how true it is – yet the family were probably ordinary in one sense. They were unremarkable. Just another white family. The alleged shooter’s parents were in traditional jobs. Mum a teacher. Dad a rubbish man. The people who were closest to him – cousins, old school mates – pinpoint his OE to Europe as “the moment”. As RNZ reports in his manifesto the alleged shooter recounts his trip through North Korea and Pakistan, paying tribute to the locals’ kindness and hospitality (noticing the contradiction he explains he doesn’t hate the yellows and blacks who stay in their own “homelands”). Eventually he lands in Europe, road tripping France. In one passage he despairs that he can’t seem to find an all-white town or city. In another passage his travels take him, quite conveniently, to a cemetery for the European dead of the world wars. “I broke into tears, sobbing alone in the car,” he writes, mourning the apparent Islamification of Europe. “Why were we allowing these soldiers deaths to be in vain?” He didn’t realise that the dead he mourned died trying to kill people like him. In 2018 I wrote (presciently, without claiming too much credit for an insight this awful) that “white nationalism is, for the basement dwelling 4chaners, mouth breathing Redditors, and Youtube philosopher kings, nothing more than a desperate search for an alternative fatherland”. That search is what drove the alleged shooter from his Australian home. “The origin of my language is European, my culture is European, my political beliefs are European… most importantly, my blood is European”. To the alleged shooter his actual home was irredeemable. “What is an Australian but a drunk European?” In each claim is a desperate narcissism, reaching for an imaginary identity when your existing accomplishments don’t match your personal ambitions. It’s tempting to extend that psychoanalysis. The alleged shooter’s fetish for imaginary “whites” is a cover for the trauma of being a nothing, disembodied. Or maybe the urge to order and rank the world into competing civilisations is a neurosis, like stacking your knives and forks in a row. Perhaps the pleasure he takes in trolling is jouissance, a momentary transgression in the service of briefly feeling. Yet those readings are weightless if they stand alone. The alleged shooter’s interior life is relevant, certainly so for a conviction on murder, but studying the actually existing politics that shaped his positions and actions seems more important than base speculation. In The Invention of Tradition the historians Terence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm argue that traditions, far from the ancient wisdoms of old, are often nothing more than recent beliefs that help foster a common identity when – to borrow from Said – “organic solidarities” like the family or village break down. The inventions are easy to spot in the courts and parliament where British ritual connects the two institutions to a pedigree and past that their move half away across the world broke. In the neo-fascist movement the inventions are slightly more subtle, taking actual historical happenings like the Crusades and pick-and-mixing the symbols (Knights Templar), battles (Acre 1189), and language (deus vult) that they can contort around the various anti-Muslim bigotries. The idea that traditions are a kind of stand-in where old connections break down seems especially apt in settler colonies where the relationship to the past and a present community often amounts to nothing more than a shopping list of shared habits and references. Gumboots as culture. I appreciate that description could come across as banal, or even malicious, but it gets close to the impulses apparently guiding the alleged shooter: the search for meaningful political connections and political community. As he saw it Australia had no identity to offer. Instead he found his connection in an “imagined community” – in violent European nationalisms – and online. “I am a racist”, the man writes in his manifesto. His neo-fascists comrades were too.
One of the first inspirations he cites is Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian neo-Nazi who, with a 9mm glock, went on a drive-by shooting injuring six African migrants in Macarata in 2018. The racist rampage lit a fuse under that year’s Italian general election. The left went after Matteo Salvini, the League Party leader, the same party in which Traini stood as a mayoral list candidate, for inspiring his violent work. In an ordinary election a political leader would make an immediate climb down, condemning Traini and his crimes. But Salvini, best known in the English-speaking world for closing harbours to refugees crossing the Med, was surprisingly consistent. He said the left had “blood on its hands” for packing the country with “illegal migrants”. The unspoken implication: Traini was doing his patriotic duty. The alleged shooter, watching on from another hemisphere, found a brother in arms. The two men had built their identities around all the same hatreds and had clothed their boogeymen in all the same threads. One stitch for migrant “invaders”. Two stiches for liberals and Marxists, and a needle for the “race traitors” among them. But where the twin gunmen’s hatred really met, transforming from online big noting to a real-life passion, was in protecting “their” women. Traini undertook his crime as an apparent act of revenge against the three Nigerian refugees in court for killing 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro. In his manifesto the alleged shooter offers a similar provocation, taking 11-year-old Ebba Akerlund’s death as his red pill. In his self-mythologising, the Stockholm truck attack, a deadly terrorist attack that took Akerlund’s and four other lives, was his waking moment. “It was another terror attack in the seemingly never-ending attacks that had been occurring on a regular basis throughout my adult life,” he wrote. “But for some reason this was different”. What was that difference? Akerlund. An innocent. It’s a vile misuse – he doesn’t care for anyone or anything beyond himself – but the narrative demands an affect, the shooter turning in his coward’s rags for a knight’s armour. For neo-fascists it’s essential to tell their origin stories through the opposite sex. For aspiring movement leaders like the alleged shooter it’s the fight to protect the “virtue” of “our women” against “Muslim rapists” that forces their hand. For lurkers, shitposters, and like-avores it’s the feminists and “Staceys” who never recognise the genius and vigour of their own race (plain meaning: “women don’t want me”) who lead them into fascism. Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger, a martyr for beta males, undertook his crimes and suicide as an apparent act of “retribution” against women for denying him the sex and love he thought of as his by right. This, not the customary declarations of love for the race, or even the thrill of sharing the same enemies, is usually the heart of online fascism – it’s a reaction against women. In Male Fantasies the German sociologist Klaus Theweleit argues the fascist men who fought against the Weimar Republic from 1918 to 1933, and who went on to prominent positions and a political home in the Nazi regime, were in their heads and hearts afraid of women. For the “Freikorps” there were two womanly classes: White Women, “the nurses” representing order and servitude to men and country; and Red Women, “the communists” representing disorder, whoring, and the end of patriotic men. The latter were the women the paramilitary movement were under an obligation to kill. In one speech a general complains that when “a few old girls get blown up the whole world starts screaming about bloodthirsty soldiers”. “As if women were always innocent,” he said. This is why every fascist movement purges women first – metaphorically and actually. In Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema the American historian describes how films under the Duce’s regime “remove the Italian woman from the colonial space”, portraying the colonies as where men might find purpose through trans-national thuggery, and attacking women’s emancipation at home as a “corrupting” force and a check on the people’s success. The alleged shooter undertook his killings with similar illusions. That he could forge a new identity in gun fire and blood, and that liberated women (and Jews) were responsible for his personal and racial decline. In his manifesto the opening line is “it’s the birth rates”, repeated three times. 📷 THE WELLINGTON 15/3 VIGIL HELD AT THE BASIN RESERVE (PHOTO BY ELIAS RODRIGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES) It’s easy to diagnose the same pathologies in his comrades. Game developers Zoë Quinn, Brianna Wu and media critic Anita Sarkeesian – the victims in 2014’s Gamergate troll – were made targets for harassment for no other reason than they were women crossing the border between a man’s stuff (the spacies) and a woman’s role (sex and housework). In New Zealand the death threats against Golriz Ghahraman, our first MP who arrived in New Zealand as a refugee, are so frequent Parliamentary Services ensures special protection for the Green MP. The critics go after Ghahraman for everything from fakery (her “CV” is a lie, she isn’t a “real refugee”) to acting as part of a globalist conspiracy to wipe out the white race. It’s impressively stupid, of course, but the point isn’t the truth in the charges. It’s that an Iranian-born woman sits in our parliament. The same trolls go for the prime minister on Twitter’s #TurnArdern hashtag too, condemning Jacinda as a lazy woman (#parttimePM) who coasts along on nothing more than her femininity (“she’s a pretty communist”). That’s hardly out of the ordinary, of course. In the 2000s print commentators were comfortable enough to throw equally chauvinist slurs at Helen Clark, using “Helengrad” for Clark as the controlling woman and “political dominatrix” for ball-breaking the men around her. The difference is today’s trolls serve their sexism with Islamophobia on top. Last year activist Rangi Kemara found a telling correlation between tweeters of Turn Ardern and tweeters of Islamophobia. The Christchurch man selling MAGA hats – “Make Ardern Go Away” – on TradeMe once wrote he would destroy “mosque after mosque till I am taken out”. Give me the misogynist, to corrupt an old saying, and I’ll show you the Islamophobe. Simone Weil, the French philosopher, would recognise in the turn to Europe – and the turn against women – a classic “uprooting”. In almost every country material comfort and security often rely on cutting the cord between a person, the past, and a present community: removing Indigenous people from their land; separating citizens from their homes and families in one place for work in another; and reducing people to their supposedly “innate” categories (race, gender, etc). These uprootings, in Weil’s words, are a “sickness of the soul” that leave men especially vulnerable to demagoguery. In their search for past and present connections they turn to “false conceptions” like patriotism and national greatness, and at the core of each in 2020: hatred for and fear of women.
What’s notable about this neo-fascist movement isn’t necessarily its reach but its mode. Online, yes, but more importantly: politically free. Other than finance, the alleged shooter had no political or bureaucratic restraints. He could post all the tell-tale things he apparently did, and it seemed neither the police nor the spy agencies would ever flag it. He could acquire the semi-automatic weapon the Crown charge him with using with nothing more than a gun licence – and the seller was under no obligation to log the purchase. And he could move between Australia and New Zealand’s practically open borders with only a passport and a straight face for the eGate. I hope you register the irony in this. Borders were the very thing the alleged shooter was desperate to enforce against the Muslim hordes. After moving to New Zealand, ostensibly to plan an attack back home, the 28-year-old found instead that “the invaders were in all of our lands”. Even at the bottom of the world in formerly lily-white Christchurch. “Nowhere was safe”, he wrote. The alleged shooter, in a bonfire of pomposity and self-regard, actually did think himself at the centre of a civilisational struggle between the out-bred West and Islam. In the mind of the manifesto writer, massacring Muslims would enforce the borders the supposed sell outs in government wouldn’t. But in allegedly killing the innocent people he did he wasn’t taking on a powerful soon-to-be majority. Rather, on one side is the 28-year-old with all his political and social freedoms, and on the other are the shooting’s victims who were living their lives under significant political and social restraints. The spy agencies were dedicating their resources to “Islamic terrorism”, not the alleged shooter’s terrorism. Police commit more resources to “street gangs” – that is, Māori – and barely even bother with the alleged shooter’s brothers and sisters in white power. The immigration department, as any anecdote can confirm, focuses disproportionate attention on non-white entries, and the only people who move freely between borders are people like the 28-year-old. In short: non-white people live their lives under scrutiny and surveillance. The government’s official response to the Christchurch shooting is to extend that scrutiny and surveillance to, well, white people. Jacinda Ardern is leading reforms to gun laws and the rules governing how online users share violent, racist, and other objectionable material. Last month the country’s top spies told a parliamentary select committee that they’re keeping watch on dozens of suspect characters. Police, even a year on, are still making home visits to destroy illegal weapons and otherwise interview lurkers and posters. The changes, taken together, rightly remove the freedom and options the alleged shooter had, and make it almost impossible for his comrades to organise. Yet as good and necessary as those changes are some of the structural conditions that produce the racial distinctions the alleged shooter holds so dear are left intact. In organised debating one of the famous moots is the “balloon debate”. In it each speaker, usually arguing on behalf of someone famous, proposes why the others shouldn’t toss him or her over the side of a hot air balloon in order to save the others. It’s a riveting hypothetical, placing six people in disaster’s mouth and exercising the collective choice to doom one and rescue the others. But for anyone who understands how it feels to have their apparent merits and demerits subject to “debate”, with someone else drawing up a balance sheet in red and black, it’s horrendous. The idea is we’re born equal, but after that all bets are off. This is what women, takatāpui, Māori, Muslims, and other deviations from the “norm” deal with most days. Are we worthy? It’s the same principle that organises immigration to New Zealand: who’s worthy? In our system the government literally attaches “points” to the world’s hopeful according to their potential for improving the lives of the hosts. Good English? Points. A tertiary qualification? Add to the tally. Assets? You’re basically in. The system’s political champions admire this approach for its rationality. Unlike the US where immigration sometimes relies on a lottery – eg the American Diversity Immigrant Visa – or just keen racism – i.e. the Muslim travel ban – New Zealand immigration is hassle-free and non-discriminatory. It’s a self-serving argument, of course, because an immigration system where the purpose and function is defining inclusions and exclusions (who’s in and who’s out) is never neutral. When Winston Peters calls for tighter English language requirements, for example, that’s really an argument for conferring an advantage on applicants from the Anglosphere over people with equivalent skills or greater need from other parts of the world. This isn’t explicitly discriminatory, at least in the sense the exclusionary threshold doesn’t depend on a person’s race, but the impact is racist in that one group of people (mostly white) enjoy an advantage over another group (mostly non-white) thanks to nothing more than the great good fortune of being born an English speaker. It’s a perversity. Yet this is what border systems, including our points system, do: they force you to think about inners and outers. The threshold between the worthy and the unworthy. This is one reason the refugee-led campaign to end the “family link policy” was so important. In removing the rule barring African and Middle Eastern refugees from settling in New Zealand (unless their family were already here) the campaigners saw to one of the worst racial exclusions our border system made. If you’re an optimist you might hope the other racist exclusions in our border laws – like The Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act, the legislation stripping Samoans of their Privy Council-confirmed New Zealand citizenship – are but a campaign away from abolition. I’m a pessimist. I suspect most people imagine borders as objects, a line in the ground demarcating our country from theirs. Yet the American southern border, as one example, is notable more for “the Wall’s” absence than its presence. The northern border is even less dramatic, a largely wide-open space with fences here and there to pen in the farm animals. In New Zealand airlines usually enforce the country’s borders thousands of kilometres from our actual line on the map. Under the Advance Passenger Screening programme carriers only board passengers with the appropriate documentation. 📷 A POLICE OFFICER DEMONSTRATES ILLEGAL GUN MODIFICATIONS. (PHOTO: RNZ / ANA TOVEY) It’s another marvellous technocratic achievement, appointing airline staff as de facto border patrol agents. But like the points system the screening programme’s impacts can end up perverse and racial making it almost impossible for refugees and asylum seekers from “non-visa waiver countries” (i.e. the developing world) from ever making it far enough to lodge a claim for protection in New Zealand. The programme, more than anything else, exposes borders for what they really are – a list of biased inclusions and exclusions – and the structural violence borders perform are in whom they include (the English-speaking, the educated, the wealthy) and who they exclude (the desperate, the poor, the mostly brown and black). The alleged shooter and the neo-fascist movement understand a struggle is happening over the nature and function of borders. This man recognised new borders – the “balkanisation of the US” – as the only way to guarantee “the future of the White race on the North American continent”. His comrades, like the neo-Nazi who went on a stabbing riot on a train in Oregon, claim their end goal is smashing the US into competing ethno-states. For them – and their king in President Trump – reconfiguring the borders, whether as policy changes to the inclusions and exclusions or new border lines entirely, is the best way to guarantee their political supremacy this century. Are borders by their very nature racist?
I took my last trip to Christchurch a month and a half after March 15. I had a speaking engagement with Network Waitangi Otautahi, the local tauiwi Treaty group. I thought about putting it off. Post-March 15 the only conversations that seem urgent and necessary are about March 15. Taking up space felt wrong, and even stepping off the plane felt intrusive. The city was grieving. Even the affect was off. People were unusually quiet in public spaces. In private one person I spoke to was literally in tears. We weren’t talking about March 15 at all but she was thinking about it every day. Even that felt like I was taking up space. Am I here to grieve too? I thought about Sam Neill breaking down in a taxi when the news broke, openly weeping, and how he took comfort from his Muslim driver. Hmmm. I spoke, in the end. Not entirely comfortably, but an intervention of one kind or another felt right after the racism debate went from “individual hate” to “firearms access” to “the internet”. Each is its own valid connection, sure, but it felt as if all the most important connections were missing. In the English-speaking world it’s fashionable to name private, individual acts as “racist”. The intolerant, unfair, or simply racial things that fall out of people’s mouths. Like “cheeky darkies” on the 7pm telly. But it’s unfashionable, of course, to name racist systems. Instead bureaucrats and opinion-makers opt for euphemisms like “unconscious bias”, reducing racism to a state of mind and not a systemic design. This is why I thought it important to issue a reminder, in the very small way that I could: racism is a social relation. It’s the principle governing the relationship between coloniser – the people who took this land and built the institutions to control and profit from it – and colonised, the people from whom the land was taken and the institutions built to protect and exploit the founding theft. The same principle shapes the relationship between citizens – people who enjoy all the rights the state confers – and non-citizens, outsiders who must prove their worth through their contribution to citizens. 📷 These are the systemic conditions that produce racism – unequal power relations – and it’s what makes it so easy to condemn the Māoris or the immigrants or whoever else. When one people are up and the other are down, and the scales are apparently resistant to any remedial attempts to balance them with Treaty settlements or an increase in the refugee and asylum seeker quota, it makes it seem as if their disadvantage is a state of nature and not a centuries-long project to exclude certain people from prosperity. To the alleged shooter his victims were by their very nature irredeemable, abusing the West’s generosity, and he understood himself as enacting the same permanent exclusions his ancestors made, from the Crusades to the war on terror. In this sense, the alleged shooter was an individual racist. Of course he was. But in another sense he was taking our exclusionary systems to their logical end. Is there any response to savagery like this? The government’s reforms are one. I entirely support them. And yet they fall so short. People will still define their identity in different nationalisms, just like the alleged shooter did, so long as there are racist border system to enforce them. Neo-fascists will still define their identities against women as long as there is an unequal “domestic sphere”, an unequal workplace, and a society where one group – men – accumulate and exercise disproportionate power over another – women, trans people, non-binary people. That makes the struggle against the alleged shooter’s politics longer than his trial, his probable conviction, and his probable imprisonment. It’s a generations-long struggle to destroy all the exclusions that make up our society and produce the conditions we know as racism. On my read Simone Weil’s original, vital insight is that as people and communities we find our identities in the obligations we owe – and in the obligations owed to us. In those reciprocal relationships we find meaning and purpose. In the give and take, in its delights and frustrations, and in the everyday work of making a home in these islands. This is where we find our roots, connecting to each other in different ways – whether as Māori or women or Muslims – but never excluding. “They are us” is an inclusion. They are us is an affirmation. They are us is also an urgent and uncomfortable call to action. As New Zealanders, it’s our responsibility to take on every exclusionary system, whether it’s racist borders or enduring gender roles. The memory of those who lost their lives on March 15 demands no less."
Dear Reader (including the poor Biden staffers who have to white-knuckle their armrests when not sucking down unfiltered Marlboros every time Joe Biden gives an interview), If you’ve never heard the Milton Friedman shovels and spoons story, you will (and I don’t just mean here). Because everyone on the right tells some version of it at some point. The other Uncle Miltie (i.e., not the epically endowed comedic genius) goes to Asia or Africa or South America and is taken on a tour of some public works project in a developing country. Hundreds of laborers are digging with shovels. Milton asks the official in charge something like, “Why use shovels when earth moving equipment would be so much more efficient?” The official replies that this is a jobs program and using shovels creates more jobs. Friedman guffaws and asks, “In that case: Why not use spoons?” The story might not be true, but the insight is timeless. Here’s another story: When I was in college, we were debating in intro to philosophy the differences between treating men and women “equally” versus treating them the “same.” At first blush, the two things sound synonymous, but they’re not (indeed the difference illuminates the chasm of difference between classical liberalism and socialism, but that’s a topic for another day). I pointed out that there were some firefighter programs that had different physical requirements for male applicants and female ones (this was before it was particularly controversial—outside discussions of Foucault—to assume there were clear differences between sexes). Female applicants had to complete an obstacle course carrying a 100-pound dummy, but men had to carry a 200-pound dummy, or something like that. A puckish freshperson named Jonah Goldberg said: “I don’t really care if a firefighter is a man, a woman, or a gorilla, I’d just like them to be able to rescue me from a fire.” A woman sitting in front of me wheeled around and womansplained to me that “you can always just hire two women.” I shot back something like, “You could also hire 17 midgets, that’s not the point.” (I apologize for using the word midget, which wasn’t on the proscribed terms list at the time.) But here’s the thing: Sometimes it is the point. Whether you’re talking about spoons or little people, the case for efficiency is just one case among many. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an important one, but it’s not the only one. Sometimes older children are told to bring their little brothers or sisters along on some trip. They’ll complain, “But they’ll just slow us down!” or, “But they aren’t allowed on the big kid rides.” Parents understand the point, but they are not prioritizing efficiency over love. Or, they’re prioritizing a different efficiency: Not being stuck with a little kid who’s crying all day because he or she was left behind. One of my favorite scenes in the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer is when the chess tutor Bruce Pandolfini, played by Ben Kingsley, tells the chess prodigy’s parents that they have to forbid their son from playing pickup chess in the park because he learns bad chess habits there. The mom says “Not playing in the park would kill him. He loves it.” Kingsley replies, accurately, that it “just makes my job harder.” And the mom says, “Then your job is harder.” I love that. I love it precisely because it recognizes that good parents recognize that there are trade-offs in life and that the best option isn’t always the most efficient one. This is one of those places where you can see how wisdom and expertise can diverge from one another. The Unity of Goodness Efficiency can mean different things in different contexts. In business, it means profit maximization (or cost reduction, which is often the same thing). In sports, it means winning. Always giving the ball to the best player annoys the other players who want their own shot at glory, but so long as he can be counted on to score, most coaches will err on the side of winning. Starting one-legged players will wildly improve a basketball team’s diversity score, but it’s unlikely to improve the score that matters to coaches—or fans. I’ve long argued that there’s something in the progressive mind that dislikes this whole line of thinking. They often tend to find the idea of trade-offs to be immoral or offensive. I call it the “unity of goodness” worldview. Once you develop an ear for it, you can hear it everywhere. “I refuse to believe that economic growth has to come at the expense of the environment.” “There’s no downside to putting women in combat.” “I don’t want to live in a society where families have to choose between X and Y,” or “I for one reject the idea that we have to sacrifice security for freedom—or freedom for security.” Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were masters at declaring that all hard choices were “false choices”—as if only mean-spirited people would say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Saint Greta Nowhere is this mindset more on display in environmentalism. Everyone hawking the Green New Deal insists that it’s win-win all the way down. It’s Bastiat’s broken window parable on an industrialized scale. Spending trillions to switch to less efficient forms of energy will boost economic growth and create jobs, they insist. I’d have much more respect for these arguments if they simply acknowledged that doing a fraction of what they want will come at considerable cost. Consider Greta Thunberg, the latest child redeemer of the climate change movement. She hates planes because they spew CO2. That’s why she sailed from Sweden to a conference in New York. As symbolism, it worked, at least for the people who already agree with her. But in economic terms, she might as well have raised the Spoon Banner off the main mast of her multi-million-dollar craft (that may have a minimal carbon footprint now, but required an enormous carbon down-payment to create). The organizers of this stunt had to fly two people to New York to bring the ship back across the Atlantic. And scores of reporters flew across the Atlantic to cover her heroic act of self-denial. Her nautical virtue signaling came at a price. The organizers insist that they will buy carbon offsets to compensate for the damage done. But that’s just clever accounting. The cost is still real. And that’s not the only cost. It took her fifteen days to get to America. In other words, she actually proved the point of many of her critics. Fossil fuels come with costs all their own—geopolitical, environmental, etc.—but the upside of those downsides is far greater efficiency. If you want to get across the Atlantic in seven hours instead of two weeks, you need fossil fuels. The efficiency of modern technology reduces costs by giving human beings more time to do other stuff. The Conservative Planners The unity of goodness mindset has been spreading to the right these days as well. The new conservative critics of the free market see the efficiency of the market as a threat to other good things. And they’re right, as Joseph Schumpeter explained decades ago. For instance, just as earth-moving equipment replaces ditch-diggers in the name of efficiency, robots replace crane operators, and the communities that depended on those jobs often suffer as a result. I have no quarrel with this observation. My problem is with the way they either sell their program as cost-free, or pretend that the right experts can run things better from Washington. They know which jobs or industries need the state to protect them from the market. They know how to run Facebook or Google to improve the Gross National Virtue Index. Many of the same people who once chuckled at the Spoons story now nod sagely. I don’t mean to say that there’s no room for government to regulate economic affairs. But I am at a loss as to why I should suspend my skepticism for right-wingers when they work from the same assumptions of the left-wingers I’ve been arguing with for decades. Embracing Trumpism to Own Trump Instead I want—or I guess need—to talk about another trade-off. I’ve been very reluctant to weigh in on the Joe Walsh project for a bunch of reasons. The biggest is that I am friends with some of the people cheering it on. But I think I have to offer my take. I don’t get it. Oh, I certainly understand the desire to see a primary challenger to Trump. I share that desire. And I understand the political calculation behind the effort. It’s like when one little league team brings in some dismayingly brawny and hirsute player from Costa Rica as a ringer. The other teams feel like they have to get their own 22-year-olds with photoshopped birth certificates in order to compete. My friend Bill Kristol is convinced that Trump must be defeated and that Walsh is just the mongoose to take on the Cobra-in-Chief. I try not to recycle metaphors or analogies too much, but this seems like another example of a Col. Nicholson move. As I’ve written before, Col. Nicholson was the Alec Guinness character in The Bridge Over the River Kwai. The commanding officer of a contingent of mostly British POWs being held by the Japanese, Nicholson at first follows the rules and refuses to cooperate with his captors in their effort to use British captives as slave labor for a bridge project. But then his pride kicks in and he decides he will show the Japanese what real soldiering is like, agreeing to build the bridge as a demonstration of British superiority in civil engineering. [Spoiler alert] It’s only at the end of the film that he realizes that building the bridge may have been a kind of short-sighted moral victory, but in reality he was helping the Japanese kill allied troops because the bridge was going to be used for shipping Japanese troops and ammunition. When this realization finally arrives, he exclaims, “My God, what have I done?” Walsh’s primary brief against Trump is that Trump is temperamentally unfit for office and a con man. Fair enough. But he has to focus his indictment on Trump’s erratic behavior. Why? Because he’s a terrible spokesman for much of the rest of the case against Trump. I may not call myself “Never Trump” any more, but I was in 2016. And back then, the argument against Trump wasn’t simply that he was erratic. It was also that he wasn’t a conservative, that he happily dabbled in racism and bigotry, and that he was crude, ill-informed, and narcissistically incapable of putting his personal interests and ego aside for the good of the country. I’m sure I’m leaving a few other things out. But you get the point. Walsh may be sincere in his remorse over all the racist and incendiary things he said in the very recent past. He may regret supporting his anti-Semitic friend Paul Nehlen, though I haven’t found evidence of that. But none of that history should be seen as qualifications for the presidency, the Republican nomination, or support from conservatives. And yet, it is precisely these things that make him attractive to his conservative supporters. Trump is an entertainer who trolls his enemies with offensive statements for attention, so let’s find someone who does the exact same thing! Walsh may have been a one-term congressman, but his true vocation was as a shock-jock trolling provocateur. It’s ironic. As I’ve argued countless times, much of Trump’s bigotry in 2016 stemmed less from any core convictions than from a deep belief that the GOP’s base voters were bigoted and he needed to feed them red meat. Trump's reluctance to repudiate David Duke derived primarily from his ridiculous assumption that Duke had a large constituency he didn’t want to offend. He may have believed the Birther stuff, but he peddled it because that’s what his fans wanted. And Joe Walsh was one of those fans. It may also be true that Walsh never really believed most of the bilge he was peddling and that he was doing the same thing Trump did—feeding the trolls—on a smaller scale. But if that’s the case, then he’s a con man, too. I don’t want to beat up on Walsh too much because, again, his epiphany may be sincere. There are lots of people who pushed certain arguments too far only to recognize that the payoff was Trump and the transformation of conservatism into a form of right-wing identity politics. There are a lot of Col. Nicholsons out there. And I have too much respect for Bill Kristol to believe that he would lend his support to someone he believed to be as bigoted as the man Walsh seemed to be a few years ago. But from where I sit, the prize we should keep our eyes on isn’t defeating Trump; it’s keeping conservatism from succumbing to Trumpism after he’s gone. This isn’t easy, and no tactic is guaranteed to be successful. We’ve never been here before. My own approach is to agree with Trump policies when I think they’re right—judges, buying Greenland, etc.—and disagreeing when they’re wrong. My own crutch is to simply tell the truth as I see it, regardless of whether it fits into some larger political agenda or strategy. Truth is always a legitimate defense of any statement. But for those who see themselves as political players as well as public intellectuals, I think this is a terrible mistake. Intellectually and morally, the case for continued opposition to—or skepticism about, Trump cannot—or rather must not—be reduced to simple Trump hatred. But by rallying around Walsh—instead of, say, Mark Sanford, or Justin Amash, or, heh, General Mattis—that’s what it looks like. Because you can’t say, “I’m standing on principle in my opposition to a bigoted troll and con man as the leader of my party and my country and that’s why I am supporting a less successful bigoted troll and con man for president.” Walsh isn’t a conservative alternative to Trump; he’s an alternative version of Trump. And his candidacy only makes sense if you take the “binary choice” and “Flight 93” logic of 2016 and cast Trump in the role of Hillary. Let’s imagine the Walsh gambit works beyond anyone’s dreams and Joe Walsh ends up getting the GOP nomination (a fairly ludicrous thought experiment, I know). If so, I have no doubt that my friend Bill Kristol will say, a la Col. Nicholson, “My God, what have I done.” Various & Sundry Canine Update: It’s good to be home. The beasts were delighted to see us. Everything is settling back to normal, except for one intriguing development. I think Zoë has finally had enough with Pippa’s tennis ball routine. The other day on the midday walk with the pack, Kirsten managed to film Zoë putting an end to the tennis ball shenanigans. She took the ball and buried it. It was, to use an inapt phrase, a baller move—and she was unapologetic about it. Maybe she just didn’t like all the commotion with the other dogs, because she’s tolerant of the tennis ball stuff again. Or maybe she was being protective of her sister given that many of the other dogs in the pack are known thieves. Regardless, they’re doing well and having fun. If you haven’t tuned into The Remnant lately, please give it another try. The first episode of the week was with Niall Ferguson and the feedback has been great. The latest episode is with my friend and AEI colleague Adam White on all things constitutional. Word of mouth is really important in building up audiences, so if you can spread the word about The Remnant or this “news”letter, I’d be grateful.
bones' word wall - "it's called word wall for a reason" edition
greetings, i'm bones, the aggro/midrange player of TESL and i have a few things i wanna talk about. They directly correspond to, like, practically every complaint i hear recently, especially in relation to gameplay. It's worth noting that some of these can't be blamed on our current developers, Sparkypants, because they come from darker times of neglected client, so don't go shopping for pitchforks for the amount of stuff that'll be covered in this post, but with that said, let's go through this stuff, one by one. I want to divide this post into 3 sections:
Client design (where i'll also put UI related nitpicks because there's a few of them)
Core mechanics design
i'll make the subsection names pretty bold so if you're interested in only one specific part feel free to scroll down to the section of your choice starting with
1. CLIENT DESIGN
I can't say anything objective about aesthetics - to each their own. Personally, the game looks much better now than it did in the old client. Loading times have been overall much shorter and that applies both to transitions between menus and switching pages in collection. Clickables on the board, while completely unnecesary, are a nice addition to the overall "feel" the game gives. The way cards look now in comparison to the old client are, again, a subjective matter, but I've grown to like them quite much, especially things like Premium Legendary Guards, they look stunning on the board. Long story short, the game LOOKS damn fine, at the very least for me. That includes the animations that cards have. However, the speed of these animations, not all of them - mostly ones that occur multiple times per turn, depending on the deck, like Fifth Legion TraineBruma Armorer buffs on creatures played in quick succession, Bruma ProfiteeNecromancer's Amulet in similar instances, Galyn/Ungolim/Therana shuffling cards to the deck, Relentless Raider dagger (in Wispraider), cost reduction animation (for abomination scout and leafwater OTKs), Piercing Twilight banish (control decks), even something as recent as multiple instances of Training Grounds - is abysmally slow, they make the whole game feel like it's covered in some gluey substance or, in case of the new playmat, that the action takes place underwater. I know that devs are aware of it, because it's been pointed at several (dozen) times already and in Patch 2.7 they have taken a step towards fixing it - namely buffs/heals happening for cards that summon multiple creatures occur at the same time. Baby step in what to us feels like an easy solution (just replicate what was happening on direwolf's client), however i can't discredit a step being taken. Some of the decks are practically unplayable on the ranked ladder because of the animation speed, like the old terror called Nix-ox Telvanni. Figured I'd put it here mostly to keep everything I hold against the game altogether contained in one spot. Then there comes the issue of when a card becomes interactible (for a lack of better word). By which I don't mean how good the card is, but rather the timing in between what occurs in the game. Here are two examples that I know of to illustrate the issue better:
affects my stupid deck but bear with me - if you have an Orc on board and at least one Fifth Legion Trainer, play Wood Orc. Only when he gets Charge he's able to be selected.
in Leafwater OTK, you cannot play the Leafwater until it ends showing you the discounts from either Thieves Guild Fence or Gates of Madness.
In first case the problem is minimal, but there is a tiny chance to screw you over. In second case, it's actually pretty big, because that and animation speed makes this OTK (and many others) much slower. Amongst other things that devs know is the issue of not being able to check your discard with a selection box present (like the one Mudcrab Merchant, Merchant's Camel, Indoril Mastermind, etc. give) which is pretty important for control decks, especially considering deck tracker is still absent. But while we're at clicking discard pile icons... How about being able to click the Deck icon to see what's in your deck? An option to view your deck is already there in Laaneth, so I can't imagine there's too much coding that needs to be done to actually implement being able to view your deck's contents. Halfway through Heroes of Skyrim, for some reason we got buttons to remove and copy a deck in the collection menu... while simuntaneously the same options were taken away from the specific deck's menu. It's a very tiny thing, but I reckon it'd be nifty to have deck code, copying and removing deck button somewhere on the deck screen as well. By no means a high priority thing, but i thought i'd mention it nevertheless. There have been personal issues with TESL i've been facing on both Steam and Mobile clients. On steam the game slows down a LOT just before the game starts, while server registers i'm in a game. This causes me to, often, miss mulligans. It's more likely to be on my end, but no clue what causes it. On mobile, when building a deck, clicking on an attribute once only highlights said attribute for some reason. Again, nitpicks, but I want everything gathered in one spot. This is something that I'd call more of a wishful thinking than an actual complaint - Something as simple as being able to highlight (just to keep tabs on it) a card in opponent's hand, without revealing it obviously. This would be helpful with things like remembering Galyn target, a card that Thieves Guild Shadowfoot stole or just keeping a tabs on Tome from Daggerfall Mage or Dagger from Crown Quartermaster. With this inclusion, an option to sort cards in your hand would become available. Necessary? Nah. Priority? Fuck no. Would it be welcome? Maybe? Idk, that's more like a personal suggestion. I feel like there should be more options for friendly matches. Since there's no reward for winning or losing them (at least not in any internal way), these would be very welcome for customization - Picking lane effects, who gets the ring when challenging, some sort of toggle for an option that allows you to draw specific cards to make testing interactions or bugs far easier, something that lets a player (or both players) see both hands to make coaching/explaining much less of a hassle in a stress-free environment - just to name a few things that come to mind. Last, but not least, very undertalked issue. Logs. They are very uninformative. I don't think I've ever seen worse logs, sorry guys. Being limited to only 8 last events, which includes minor things like a buff happening is seriously terrible. Not only does it keep information away from each player, it comes with incredibly small amount of information. For example, when your opponent plays an item, you don't get the information whether it's from their deck or was it an item obtained via Gardener's Harvest. Another example is the card Shadowfoot stole - because it's not a copy generated by anything, logs leave no indication about the card's origin. But that's not all the issues this uninformative log causes - bug reports are much harder to actually verify! We're not ideal, we sometimes misremember things. Or sometimes things can't be logically explained. Take this for example - I somehow kept the ward on a creature after attacking with it. I have no bloody idea how did that happened and logs only tell you as much as you can see - Ordinator was placed down and opponent passed the turn, then I equipped Battlemace on Wardcrafter, swung into the Ordinator and was left with a 6/1 with Ward. Keep in mind, I don't even wanna mention things like Decktracker and such. They'll be there when they'll be there. However, there's something that rubs me the wrong way about... Tournament Mode. You know, thisthing. It's been 9 months since we've seen these two teasers, but ever since that it's been radio silence about Tournament Mode. I can understand priorities like honing the client and stabilizing expansion releases, but to tease something that community has anticipated for a good while and not have anything to show to us other than "we're working on it" is really a big let down that is worth pointing out. On a similar note, we really could use Gauntlets and Chaos Arena. Not only because they add tons of variety to the gameplay, but... um, i'll mention why a bit later. I know I pointed fingers at plenty of issues, but this is still tons better than what direwolf offered, because we see improvements to the client done at a much faster rate, so kudos to the team and here's to hoping that whatever problems we have with the game right now are going to get solved relatively fast. So far I can't say the quality of the client has disappointed me. In contrary to...
2. CORE MECHANICS DESIGN
TESL's main stand-out mechanics are rather easy to spot. Let's go over them one by one:
One a field line, the other's covered in shadows. At the point of me writing this, there are only three (soon to be four HOPEFULLY) means for someone to actually play around with more lane conditions than the default two. These being Solo Arena, Story Mode and recently added Syl, Duchess of Dementia and Thadon, Duke of Mania. With how fresh in our collection these two cards are, I'm fairly certain Sparkypants will start slowly introducing more intricate lane conditions or maybe possibly using some of the existing ones. Here you can find all the conditions available in game, in case you're curious. With two lanes come options to move between them. This, I'd say, is one thing that TESL nails. Moving is a strong mechanic and cards that enable the move are similarly potent. If a moving card isn't utilized, it's most likely due to the card itself, not because of it having means to move - Riverhold Escort, for example, isn't played because you want your guards, for the most part, to protect the lane they're in. Cliff Strider's problem is its text that prevents it from ever going face, etc. If there was one problem someone could point out with moving mechanic, it'd probably be a very small pool of cards (a total of 1!) that lets you move opponent's cards. That, however, is probably even stronger in a vacuum and should be made extremely carefully. So yeah, overall, kudos to design team, past and current (Mad Dash is very, very good as a 1-of surprise card). Strictly attacking between lanes seems to be kept to minimum, which is fine - the lanes are there for a reason, elevating in-between lane combat to a much higher power level is a cool idea. However, there's also... idk how do I put it better, attacking creatures not strictly? This exists in two forms. Since this part is about mechanics, i'm going to focus on only one of these here - Battle. Battle allows the creature with it to trade blows with any single one of the enemy creatures on the board. Until very recently, Battle was... actually kept in a rather nice state - cards with it saw either very limited play in some decks (Ashlander Zealot in Doomcrag, Fighters Guild Steward in Rage Warrior shortly before Isle of Madness) or were solid arena picks (Cliff Hunter, Skyborn Dragon). Some were incredibly unique, like Dragon Aspect, where you battle with your face! Had we kept it that way, no one would probably notice an issue with this mechanic - it allows a creature that has just been placed on the board to instantly attack. This includes the health it gains from its Drain, any Slay effects, Breakthrough damage, and so forth. Until Isle Battle was strong, but its strength was kept on cards that required plenty of work put in to dish out results or weren't strong in a vacuum. Then Squish the Wimpy happened. That card is what happens when you don't realize how powerful giving any card Charge and Bushwhack effect is. And, let's be honest, it's not exactly it - you can't battle your opponent's face - but even that has workarounds nowadays, like Flesh Atronach OTK. Between Flesh Atronach OTK (cards needed in it aren't necessarily always useful, but Squish is never really bad and Flesh Atronach can be brought back from Discard Pile with Odirniran Necromancer if need be) and the amount of ways you can use Squish in Rage/Ramp Warrior (from just removing creatures, to ramping while removing creatures, to healing and stealing creatures, just healing, dishing out insane damage with breakthrough, etc.) this card elevated Battle onto godlike status. However, if you take a gander at how good Battle was prior to Isle and how good it is now, it's easy to figure out that the culprit is one very strong and flexible card that gives interaction to a class with no interaction prior to this. Because of how much power this action carries, I don't think keeping its text the way it is and just fiddling with cost is going to make it any less powerful - even Duel Atop the World, which costs 5 magicka more and its only difference is +3/+3 to the target of the action, has seen some fringe play, mostly in decks that also ran Morag Tong Nightblade. There's one more big thing that happens between lanes that, at least I, didn't put too much attention in when looking at mechanics. Summon effects. We don't have too many cards whose summon effects affecting opponent's cards are limited to the lane they're played in (Skaven, Tiny Dragon, Cradlecrush Giant, Knight of Order, Giant Snake, Sanctuary Pet, Belligerent Giant, Mantikora... total comes to maybe 20 cards at best) and... I'd say that's not really a good thing. I think more creatures should have its summon effects limited to the lane they're played in, both positively and negatively, however, quite frankly, I have no idea how to approach that kind of balance change for all of the cards in the game, so I'm going to refrain from in depth means of changing this. My only idea was changing Camonna Tong Heavy's Plot effect to affect the whole board, given how little play he sees. But yeah, Summon effects have gotten sort of problematic, with their instant value that's only stoppable by "silver bullet" cards. More on these later.
Prophecies and Runes
If utilizing two lanes in card design would get a B- from me, then utilizing Runes would get an E-. Sure, there are some interesting cards that even to this day some of the best players can't quite agree on (Wilds Incarnate being the best one), for the most part anything that isn't a Prophecy and does something with Runes themselves was very mediocre. Morokei in Singleton decks is a great card, but... it's also a Singleton card. That's not gonna bring you tons of playability. He's gonna be an auto-include in Singleton decks, but Singleton decks aren't going to top the tierlist because of built in increased variance and an unsufficient reward for gimping your deck (only three singleton cards). Mechanical Heart is the other card that brings back a rune, but it's also relatively easy to deal with, a huge tempo loss on play and unique legendary, meaning only a singular card in 50 or 75 of them in your deck. The fact that Runes have been this unexplored for the longest time is a sin, especially because coming up with things to do with them is actually very simple and straightforward.
Replacing runes with other effects upon reaching health threshold.
Using up a rune to pay for an additional effect (ala' Exalt)
Forcing a rune break of your own.
Cards that punish opponent for breaking runes for a turn
Changing conditions for rune breaks (amount of creatures removed, amount of extra cards drawn, etc)
Cards that let you select a card from your deck to be a guaranteed draw when the rune is broken (possibly more late-game).
The list really does go on. Even on this list alone you could probably make a split for offensive and defensive options. The reason I gave Rune-related mechanics E- and not F is completely on the cards that reward you for breaking a rune - These I find for the most part very well done. Simply put, high risk, high reward cards that present a fair deckbuilding challenge to the ones willing to take it. Playing with these cards is also handled really well - they are prime targets for removal with their low health or other vulnerabilities, so it's quite easy to punish playing, for example Haafingar Marauder or Relentless Raider at a wrong moment. This sentiment doesn't quite extend to Beast Form. By themselves, most of these cards are alright, similarly to how "rune break" cards perform. However, with Companion Harbringer and Skyforge, there was a clear attempt at introducing something ala' a Werewolf deck or a Beast Form deck. Without alternative means of destroying opponent's runes, there's not much reason to go full werewolf, sadly, and without Beast Form these cards are nothing more than understatted creatures with no weight on them. Similarly to other very fringe and not played mechanics, only the most swingy of representants see play, like Circle Initiate (for very average statline at its cost and Prophecy tag), Aela's Huntmate (draw) and Whiterun Protector (just a solid body in a midrange deck post-Beast Form). Still, probably more blame lies on underutilizing means of breaking runes rather than Companions themselves. So let's talk Prophecies... However, not in the way people would probably think about them. Instead of trying to describe in my own words how do they feel, I'll try and draw links between them and mechanics in two other, seemingly completely different games - Team Fortress 2 and Wargroove, starting with the former Between Prophecies and Critical Hits, there's plenty of similarities. So in TF2 Critical Hits are Random. Matter of fact, they are very similar in its randomness to Prophecies in TESL in that you can technically influence the percentage (in TF2 by dishing out damage, in TESL by... adding more Prophecy cards to your deck), but regardless of percentage, you can go several seconds with nothing but crits or you can never see a critical hit in the round. Random critical hits remove a lot of decision making from the player, as this little tidbit styled after Pokemon battle explains really well, lasts about 3 minutes tops. Now, TESL doesn't have it quite as terrible, because the "critical hit" that happens does actually end up teaching you the essentials of when to play your cards, the ordering of your actions and whatnot, however what holds true in both cases is that it feels just as bad to die to a random critical hit as it is to losing to a random Prophecy that stops your lethal. I think these Prophecies in particular are the biggest offenders - things that create insane swings capable of changing not only the way you play out the remainder of your turn, but flip the entire game upside down essentially. Your Cloudrest Illusionists, Mystic Dragons (at least early game), Lightning Bolts, Piercing Javelins, Shrieking Harpies, Golden Initiates (to an extent) and many others all affect the game state significantly the moment they are played. Again, you can (and you should) play with a possibility of these cards popping in on your turn in the back of your head, and admittedly aren't executed in the worst way because you are capable of playing around them, however losing to one of the big prophecies from first rune or dying to a prophecy lightning bolt don't feel fun, matter of fact they're pretty frustrating to lose to. Then there's Wargroove, one of the recent games, turn based strategy (if you liked Advance Wars I highly recommend you pick Wargroove up!). The reason I'm mentioning this game is its way of handling critical hits. Instead of bigger and smaller random percentages, which no doubt would end up being frustrating to deal with, the game has conditional critical hits. For example, your cheapest infantry unit only does critical hit when the army's general is standing on a tile next to that unit. This adds a lot of depth to the gameplay and feels very rewarding to pull off successfully. As for TESL, I don't know how could you introduce something that gives you similar feeling - whether introducing conditions that one must meet in order to be able to play the card for free or just making it so that when the conditions are met that one card is guaranteed to appear during the breaking of your next rune. Maybe there's a way to somehow utilize leftover magicka from your last turn during opponent's turn. I want to just present how other games handled something that's widely considered frustrating. The details of execution I'd rather leave to card designers. I'll explain my last pet peeve with rune-related mechanics in next sub-chapter. Conveniently, we're done with what TESL does differently to other card games, so let's move on to:
First of all, I have nothing against your Treasure Hunts, Exalts, Betrays, Assembles and the like, however I can't help but feel that all of the "new mechanics" are only here to make expansions sound better. Whenever a big release was coming to TESL, be it a story or a new set, one of the main advertising points were new mechanics. They were one of the first things we heard about the set as well, for example in case of Houses of Morrowind, for which the very first announcement covered Rally, Plot, Exalt, Betray and "5 power or more" condition. Then there was nothing new that came for these mechanics. The reason this makes me miffed a bit is twofold:
We could've gotten mechanics that no other game but TESL can pull, especially anything involving Runes.
If the mechanics I mentioned in the first point are too complicated to just introduce, then at least take proper care of the things you do introduce.
Things like Factotums, Beast Form, Shouts, Exalt all are probably around a card or two away from being very much viable. I don't see much reason to keep them hanging. Treasure Hunts and Rally desperately crave for more, at least from Constructed point of view. Ironically, I think the most recent monthly card, Training Grounds, together with Ring of Lordship, are... perhaps not viable, but definitely a step in the right direction, especially compared to Singleton. These two present specific deckbuilding challenges that grant you plenty of cool perks and flashy plays should you overcome them. Not only that, playing against decks built with these two cards doesn't feel unfair, because you can see the synergy coming if you're observant enough. I'm not sure, however, what to think about Supports and Support Removal. This interaction feels very binary and, similarly to prophecies, not really fun for either side of the interaction. You're going to feel just as bad when your opponent has a few supports on their side of the board that you can't deal with as you'd feel when your freshly played support you didn't quite reap benefits from gets instantly removed by Dushnikh Yal Archer, Shadowfen Priest or Edict of Azura. I'm not sure how can this be designed in a better, more fair for both sides, way - perhaps make it so that supports have health, but can be targetted with creatures to deal 1 damage to them if guards aren't on the way, while reducing the support's cost all around, dunno really. Other mechanics that we had since the dawn of TESL time, namely Pilfer, Slay and Last Gasp, have been for the most part kept safely tame. Last Gasp has maybe two problematic cards at best (Haunting Spirit and Balmora Spymaster, for different reasons), but at the same time I can't help but feel that the whole Last Gasp bundle is being really overlooked by all of us. Pilfer is kept at VERY safe levels, probably because of how dedicated Tier 1 Pilfer deck would negatively affect newer players - they'd feel cheated by the Master of Thieves combo, which to them would have no counterplay what so ever, especially if another card that gives any creature pilfer gets printed for Monk. Finally, Slay in a vacuum is also more or less fine, but in tandem with Squish the Wimpy and battle tricks like Sword of the Inferno, Archer's Gambit and Crusader's Crossbow starts raising a few issues, the last three specifically with creatures that have both a Slay effect and Lethal. I also think that Slay and Drain shouldn't affect your own creatures if you end up killing them with Unstoppable Rage or any of the pings mentioned above. The possibility to turn one lane with one big creature in it into almost 30 health or an OTK in one turn is rather disgusting, especially the latter, since you can just place Child of Hircine in shadow lane against an empty board and use your next turn to add a Brotherhood Sanctuary and a bunch of Firebrands, Rage and attack a total of 7 times. There's also this elephant in the room... you know, Tricolors. What initially was perceived as a fun little gimmick (after all, why give up consistency for increased variance?) turned out to be the most viable way of building your decks. The results speak for themselves. Turns out that increased variance isn't really an issue for the tricolor player, because of several things:
Deck that they play can't really be shut down by anything - your class lacks support removal? Third color has you covered. Short on pings? Good thing extra 25 cards can fix that. What in 50 card decks could be called "identity", a set of strengths and weaknesses, is gone with transition to 75 cards. Every tricolor deck has access to everything, in smaller or bigger amounts.
The only conditions one needs to meet to play a tricolor deck are the deck size and having at least one tricolor card in its deck - That's... not really a setback. Sure, you increase the variance, but that variance often gets lost with how the deck gets built. Tempo Scout has proportionally less reach in its deck than Tempo Telvanni, for instance. As for the second condition... name a single deck in which tricolor card is a detriment to that deck.
With increased variance comes increased unpredictability. As someone facing a tricolor deck, I can't reliably play around its weaknesses, because they can have a multitude of different things. The only safe 2 magicka cards that one can play against Tribunal are Siege Catapult, Mournhold Traitor, Snow Wolf and Steam Constructor. Everything else dies to Negation, Execute or Firebolt.
Because of Tricolors, previously balanced cards start becoming a problem - the nerf of Goblin Skulk could be mostly attributed to Hlaalu and Telvanni with their Firebrands and Fireblooms respectively. If we were to favor classes over houses, Hlaalu Oathman and Cruel Firebloom would become more likely nerf targets than the Skulk itself. Similar things could be said about Tullius' Conscription.
Even with increased variance, tricolor decks can contain a bigger amount of more powerful cards. Telvanni is probably the biggest offender, with Negation, Black Hand Messenger, Emeric, Queen Barenziah, Thorn Histmage, Scout's Report, Telvanni Catspaw and Sun-in-Shadows all being a part of their control lineup. 18/75 is more than class' highest ratio of 1/5th.
Practically every possible group of people, Timmys, Johnnys, Spikes and everyone in between, have at least a few people admitting that the introduction of tricolor decks changed the game for worse for various reasons. The stats we have are definitely in favor of their strength. But at the same time there's a group of people who consider tricolor fun and different enough, which is perfectly fair. There isn't a lot i can think of in terms of solutions - rotating tricolors out first would need to happen, because honestly the design itself requires plenty of tweaking to make the games with it fun and that's not really something i know how to achieve. All of different solutions i've heard haven't really been elegant. But yeah, following rotating out the tricolor I'd either make an expanded queue for ranked/casual or run some tricolor gauntlets, should they make a comeback. don't think there's tons of things to say about specific cards that I feel like should be adjusted or cards whose design philosophy ought to be changed, but i still feel like giving 'em a section of their own.
3. CARD DESIGN
Starting off with something that was already talked to death by other people, most notably mr Ian Bits in his video here, namely heavy RNG cards. Now, it's understandable why are they made - giving fun to Timmys and some Johnnys, but i don't think power level of some of them is in the right spot. Biggest offenders of course being Suran Pawnbroker, Mudcrab Merchant and Manic Jack/Mutation (although i feel like Barilzar's Tinkering and Desperate Conjuring are also worth looking at). Still, this issue is explained in the video I linked far better than I would be ever able to explain it. There is, however, other type of rng cards that i feel like wasn't mentioned and is arguably a problem of similar size - Ring cards. By that I mean cards that are extraordinarily good on curve, but only with ring. When played without ring on curve, these cards have a lot more answers than with ring. Pre-nerf Goblin Skulk was very much a ring card, but even currently we have Cornerclub Gambler, Fifth Legion Trainer, Mournhold Traitor, Withered Hand Cultist to an extend belongs there too, East Empire Crafter has potential to land in this spot soon, although on a much smaller scale. Granted, when playing against control decks a lot of these become non-issues, as they have sufficient amount of early game removal to be able to deal with them swiftly, but for aggro mirrors these may as well be winrate swings. For all the things bad about Mudcrab Merchant there's one positive - Crabo has let us play more than one 1 drop that still holds its value during mid-game. I'd say this is worth looking at closer, because if there's something to fix the issue of Ring of Magicka in Aggro mirrors, it's decently powered 1 magicka creatures. Currently 1 drops fall into one of these categories:
Insane on turn 1, quickly lose value - Sarethi Scion, Palace Prowler, Ungolim, Deathless Draugr
Offer an unsufficient value across the entire game - Aldmeri Patriot, Blood Sorceress, Descendant of Alkosh, Blackreach Rebuilder, Covenant Marauder and many others
why are they still here? just to suffer? - Enraged Mudcrab, Niben Bay Cutthroat, Prophet of Bones (sorry my prophet), Voracious Spriggan
actually viable, as they are alright on turn 1 and their value is still solid mid-game - other than Mudcrab Merchant and Crown Quartermaster there's Deepwood Trapper, Gearwork Spider, Shadowmere, Marked Man, Karthspire Scout and, arguably, Scroll Seeker.
Even in the last category, only some decks really want these cards over others at a different point of the curve. Giving people a tad more incentive to go for Scroll Seeker or Karthspire Scout could potentially improve the means of fighting in Aggro mirrors or maybe bring back Midrange out of the sorry state it's been in. Endurance in its current state from aggressive point of view is an ideal color - comes with a lot of overstatted creatures, perfectly pairing up with other colors, either with enabling plenty of trades or supplementing big bodies with smaller, but Warded bodies (Willpower and Intelligence) or with buffing these creatures even further and abusing movement (Strength and Agility). At this point of time we're like 99% sure that Catapult will receive a nerf, if anything then because of community issues with the big body, now made much harder to punish with Skinned Hound, but to ignore Haunting Spirit, Young Mammoth, Dragontail Savior, Corrupted Shade and Bleakcoast Troll would be similarly unwise. The problem is, I suppose, in the fact that it's really hard to balance something out regarding these 5 cards without wrecking Endurance. I have faith that our card designers will be able to overcome the difficulties currently caused by this attribute. On the other side of the board we have cyclers and recyclers. Granted, it's safe to say that in a vacuum cards like Merchant's Camel or Indoril Mastermind are, for the most part, fine as is. Enter houses and Odirniran Necromancer, however, and we end up with cards that absolutely neglect the negatives of tricolors (reducing the increased variance) and, because of constant milling, allow these decks to find an answer to opponent's gameplan much more reliably while simuntaneously progressing forward with the board state. Don't get me wrong, it's not a problem that's only restricted to control - cards like pre-nerf Ash Berserker and Cornerclub Gambler should land here just as well. The amount of milling we have is one of the likely reasons the meta is in its extremes - it's either extreme aggro, extreme control or extreme swings/cycle. The solution sort of comes naturally - slow down! Less mill makes for a smarter game to play for both players. The second part of "Indirect card combat" that we call pings, also belongs here. However, by that I don't necessarily mean actions that just deal damage, like Firebolt, Rapid Shot, etc. These are necessary, fair and harmless. The only problematic cards are Archer's Gambit, Sword of the Inferno, Crusader's Crossbow and Unstoppable Rage. The first two, even at their low cost of 2 magicka, are almost always used on lethal creatures to act as a hard removal with benefits - in case of Archer's Gambit it's the ability to trade the lethal creature into an enemy creature on the same lane and potentially reap benefits from Astrid's effect, for Sword it's proccing Slay twice (on enemy creature and on itself), especially on lethal creatures, on top of just being able to remove two creatures with one so long as the wielder has 3 or more health. Crossbow feels the least problematic of all of these, mostly due to its cost, but also due to lane limitations - in Shadow Lane you can't quite always deal with two creatures at the same time, due to cover. It also doesn't give Guard to the wielder, so it doesn't force 2 for 1s with benefits. Unstoppable Rage is a whole different story. It's perfectly fine as a lane clear, but becomes unfun to play against when paired with a Drain creature or a creature with Slay effect, mostly due to these two things proccing off your own creatures too. This results in even 50+ health swings on top of the lane clear. Of course, there's a difference between feeling bad and being badly designed - I don't think the card itself is problematic, you can play smart to deal with Rage for the most part, but I can't deny its demotivating effect. Finally, there's silver bullet cards. You know, ones that are useless for all but one matchups - Grummite Magus, Memory Wraith, Piercing Twilight and Cast into Time (sort of, they're helpful everywhere to an extent), Garnag, Bedeviling Scamp and Withered Hand Cultist. These ones are probably the things I hate the most about card design. We're playing a Card Game. You can eliminate the problems by tweaking cards or card interactions in order to help players make punishing certain plays easier. Printing a card that answers the problem for you is an insult to card player's intelligence. It's the equivalent of giving a worse of two chess players an extra handicap piece that can move on any tile of the chessboard - why improve your play, when you can just play an easier game? If your goal is to welcome more casual players easily with these cards, then consider making something along the lines of an advanced tutorial. These could be a series of puzzles for free that any player can partake that would teach them the most important essentials of playing smart and playing to win. Not only that, these would play well into a marketing strategy - you can then direct someone done with advanced tutorial to the store, where he can find more puzzle bundles. It's really worth putting more effort into the game than just creating an easy answer for a card - it makes for a more compelling card game, a more satisfying esperience when you do overcome this one strategy you had troubles with in the past. Don't take this joy away from new players by giving them the middle finger card. Please. And if you're truly set on introducing hate cards to the game, at least split them into several smaller cards that affect different aspects of an archetype. Cultist, for example, should probably receive a big nerf in tandem with introducing cards that affect Summon effects, ability to be shackled, damaged by lethal creatures, affected by actions, etc. The very last thing I wanted to mention, more as a closing note, is the speed of making changes. Hearthstone recently went on to create drastic changes to the card game, mostly in the amount of nerfs/buffs but also in changing the base set. I mentioned a lot of things in this word wall of mine and I believe introducing even half of them from section 2 and 3 would greatly increase the quality of gameplay TESL definitely deserves. But in order to get there, serious changes need to be made, for we've kinda dwelled a bit too far into some of these problems. For an example of a game that undergoes gigantic changes with every patch to keep the experience fresh and enjoyable, look no further than Dota 2. The game has balance patches which are about as long as half of this article of mine, affecting various little tidbits of gameplay. While TESL by no means has as many gameplay intricacies, it still has cost, attack, health, card text, starting hand, interactions, etc. This game has tons of potential for really compelling games across all kinds of players and between all kinds of players, but a serious amount of effort and dedication needs to be put in in order for us to get there. Passion is what got us some of the all-time great games in the past, like Chrono Trigger, for example. But I direct this not only to design team and developers at Sparkypants, but to each of you reading this. First of all, thanks for making it to the end. I hope I didn't cause ya to fall asleep. I also hope that what you read helped you understand that not all of the enjoyable things are really good for the game and that, vice versa, there are still tons more enjoyable things to TESL that we haven't gotten yet. I don't expect for you to agree with all that I have written here - we're all humans (hopefully) and we're going to have our different points of view and different preferences. I encourage you to discuss things in the comments, for fruitful conversations help immensely in more means than one. If you come up with an idea to fix things better - post it! Sparkypants devs have been reading our feedback much more often than Direwolf devs and we should seize the opportunity to hopefully change the game for the better. In the end, if you've made it to the end, I'm rather certain that you do love this game. If a piece that takes almost the entirety of symbols on reddit is any indication, so do I. Regardless of how cheesy it sounds, this love for the game and this passion is what will make the game a better experience, and, eventually, us - better players. Whether you're a fun-loving person who cherishes all of the huge flashy plays above everything else (Timmy), a guy/gal whose primary interests lie in deconstructing the game's interactions and trying to discover more of the interesting combinations, treating the game like a box of Legos (Johnny) or you want to be the very best at everything the game offers and for your game sense and game knowledge to thrive (Spike), in the end we're all a part of this big family. thanks and goodbye
Remember, I'm not going to do uncommons and rares because if you still need those set packs are a better buy to get less dupes. Also, if you have any of the good cards in the pack at 3-4 copies, the pack becomes a worse buy, because the rating is going to assume you don't have any.
Teleportation Zombie Rating: A Decks: Swarm mostly, but is an option in anything Overview: Although often outclassed by teleport because it cycles, costs less and doesn't potentially clog up the board, tele zombie makes up for that in swarm by allowing multiple teleportations and makes up for it in general by being super durable. Also, unlike most overlapping cards, teleport and tele zombie don't really interfere with each other too much because teleport draws, which makes running both also a valid option. Move this up to S if you don't already have teleport, and even if you do, it's worth having for quite a few decks. Binary Stars Rating: B Decks: Dance, Midrange, Trickster Overview: While the card has a lot of potential for pushing damage, the fact that it's somewhat slow, has weak stats and requires committing to it before seeing the plant hero's plays makes it considerably weaker. Dance can run it for pushing game, but since it comes down on 5, it's too slow for what is currently the best version of dance, that just ends the game on 5 with flamenco. Trickster can throw it down, keep it alive, and then throw down tricksters for 12 each, but that's still slow and makes you run PBS trickster, which while not inherently bad, does have a large potential weakness to a certain 4 cost flower. Regardless, this card has potential for use in midrange as well, as part of a transition to pushing damage that works well with keeping the board. It's a decent card that's worth getting for multiple decks, it's just not core for any of them. Zombot Battlecruiser 5000 Rating: C Decks: Graves, Midrange Overview: The first card on the list that actually works with MuG (and therefore potentially fits in actual grave decks), Battlecruiser unfortunately suffers a problem a lot of cards have: It requires you to already have a board and therefore already be winning, making its effect largely useless because it'll usually only matter when the game is already over. This is especially true for battlecruiser, however, since its effect prevents your cards from being hurt for a turn, something that's only really useful when BOTH players have a board, which makes it only really good on either A: cheaper reactive cards like ETT that allow you to build and protect the board on the same turn, or B: cheaper preventative cards like coach that also block plant phase damage from kabloom and bonus attacks. Battlecruiser is neither, which leaves its small utility as a decent body that can't be hurt and maybe protects 1-2 cards, which is ok enough to make it a C, but leaves it out of most decks due to not fitting with most gameplans as much as other cards. Mixed up Gravedigger Rating: A Decks: Graves, Trickster, Anything else that has repeatable effects on play Overview: You're going to see me refer to MuG a lot on this list, and it's easy to see why. It has great stats and an even greater ability, that not only shuffles your cards, forcing your opponent to guess when making their plays, but also repeats any when played or when revealed effects, including but not limited to: pogo for repeatable bounce, intergalactic warlord for massive buffs to every zombie you have, zombot plank walker just in case they didn't die the first time somehow, regifting for more draw and potential overflow of your opponent's hand, and even smaller cards like sumo for extra disruption or monkey smuggler to open up block (or, if you're really, really tired of berries, squirrel herder). Grave decks are basically just this card and support for it, and it's good enough to be splashed into many more decks.
Electrician Rating: B Decks: Graves, Science, Mime Overview: Pretty simple card, lurch stapled to a 2/2 body. The body is probably one of the biggest improvements lurch could get, because it makes it reusable by MuG, never dead since it can be used on itself, and enables science to have another good 3 drop as a drone engineer followup. Outside of those the extra cost and forced commitment gives it potential to be worse, but it's still an option for decks focused around mime garg as well. Mad Chemist Rating: C Decks: Minion Trickster Overview: Now that it actually has good stats, it's almost playable. Emphasis on almost, because this is basically the same story as trick or treater: trickster doesn't want it because it'd rather just run tricks that give actual draw, and other decks can't trigger it often enough for it to be worth it. The minion trickster deck that also runs trick or treater is really the only home for it, and while it isn't amazing, it's decent enough to make this a decent card. Grave Robber Rating: C Decks: Grave Aggro Overview: This doesn't fit in traditional graves, and traditional aggro would rather have disconaut because the one health difference barely matters. Impfinity can run an okay grave aggro that runs this and a bunch of small graves to rush down the opponent, but even then this card isn't great and is probably better off just being disconaut. If disconaut wasn't a thing, this would be a solid B at least and maybe be a staple 1 drop because 2/2 bullseye is still pretty good. But it is, so it's not. Abracadaver Rating: C Decks: Boog Pets, Aggro Overview: No, boog pets isn't really a thing, but I have to list it there as an option. This card suffers from the fact that there aren't really any gravestones that you get punished for fronting. Line dancer is often a reward for fronting since your opponent can't trade, fronting is often done with small cards so smelly isn't an issue, and jester's damage is more or less a joke, with you being more rewarded for not fronting it than you're punished for fronting it. Anyway, this would be a good-great card, even without any direct buffs, if crazy got a good gravestone that punishes fronting, giving you the potential to play mindgames and maybe sneak damage in with it. A smaller but less prevalent issue is that the damage is random, but considering that only really matters against swarm which crazy already has tons of answers for, it's not that big of a deal. As of right now, though, it's just ok and doesn't really fit into anything competent. Disco-tron 3000 Rating: D Decks: Dance, but not really Overview: Dance can barely run binary stars, and that card would still be better even if they costed the same. Yes, dance loves flooding the board, but that's bad for disco-tron, because it means A: It's way too slow since you want to end the game by turn 5-6, and B: You're either going to have a board or the game will be lost by the time you can play this. Furthermore, the stats are divided abysmally, making most plays you have with this trading down, and it's even worse if you can't trade down, since you'll just charge block. Landscaper Zombie Rating: A Decks: Graves, Midrange, Control Overview: The attack nerfing effect fits with hearty removal perfectly and is a decent thing to recur with MuG. It can turn anything with 3-4 attack into a block chargespray range, bring anything with 4-5 attack into KO range, and make a card with 2 attack more or less dead and clogging a lane. Very solid card that fits into a lot of decks. Turquoise Skull Zombie Rating: B Decks: Midrange Overview: I really believe a lot of people are sleeping on this card, especially after the health buff it got. It doesn't fit in graves at all since MuG resets the buff, but for board focused decks it's a 4 cost 3/5 that keeps growing and sets your opponent back a turn. God help them if you get 2 out, they'll never recover from that tempo loss. It's not the absolute best card, but it's good enough that it should be seeing more play than it is. Just don't run it if you don't want to frustrate people, because mana/sun/card playing resource denial is the least fun mechanic to play against in any card game. Line Dancing Zombie Rating: B Decks: Aggro, Graves, Dance Overview: As far as MuG goes, the effect is decent to recur, but more importantly it helps control the board until MuG turns while also being decent to recur and decent to hit with a carver buff. Aggro also likes it due to the 3 and usually 6 free damage, which takes a good chunk out of their life total and often allows a transition to finishers, especially for impfinity dance because it also buffs flamenco. Good card, just not core enough to hit A tier. Excavator Zombie Rating: B Decks: Graves Overview: Another card that people are mostly sleeping on, excavator has great potential use with cheap environments like trapper territory and especially black hole since it draws plants in to bounce (which also happens to be great in tuna graves to deal with a certain 4 cost flower, so it's not like you weren't running it anyway) as a way to slow down your opponent. The stats are great too, because short of it being a 3/3 stats don't get any better for 3 costs, and the 4 attack, especially when people are expecting something like line dancer or landscaper, can punish people expecting to get some free damage in or make a free trade. Definitely worth considering alongside pogo, though I'm not sure I'd replace it. Tomb Raiser Zombie Rating: D Decks: Midrange Overview: Doesn't have anything to recurr with MuG, so doesn't really fit into graves, but it has potential to be in some kind of midrange deck... if it was any good. It runs into the same problem abracadaver has of graves always getting fronted, but that is compounded by the fact that the RNG on this actually matters and will often lowroll you into a more or less dead lane. Also like abracadaver, this becomes decent if a card that actually punishes fronting graves is printed, but until then, it's not worth running at all, and probably still wouldn't be even after. Pogo Bouncer Rating: A Decks: Graves, Aggro, Midrange Overview: MuG is the heart and soul of grave decks, and this is going to be the main target for it. Repeatable bounce not only massively disrupts opposing plays, but also often discourages playing anything in the first place, which is even better disruption. It also happens to fit in aggro and midrange for the same reasons: put a body on the board, take one of theirs off, and push damage or keep board control. It's a great all around card, just don't run it in control since it's not a great value proposition. Cursed Gargolith Rating: B Decks: Gargs Overview: Returning from the monster pack, gargolith is somewhat restricted by only fitting into gargs, but singlehandedly makes sneaky a viable class for gargs. Protecting all your massive hard removal targets from hard removal and also letting them get a full heal every turn is amazing for value and protection of it, and grave counters like blockbuster aren't very prevalent in the meta. Zombie High Diver Rating: C+ Decks: Graves, Midrange Overview: "But Justini, you said cards that don't have any utility with MuG aren't good for graves!" I can hear you asking, and yes, at first glance, this doesn't have any utility with graves. However, as the only amphibious grave, it allows MuG to shuffle things into the water and gives you another lane to work with. While it itself is mediocre after being shuffled, getting anything with a decent ability in the water is great, since it makes it easier to stick around for another MuG, and getting MuG itself there can often end the game from 5 damage per turn hitting their face with few options to mitigate it. It's inconsistent at best, however, and I'd never run more than 2 since they get in each other's way if you draw multiples, which is why I'm not going to put it any higher than C+. Trapper Zombie Rating: B Decks: Graves Overview: Recurable environment creation is pretty good, even if the environment itself is really low value. Mostly, this card is good as a decent body that helps sneaky counter swarms (and it hard counters cyclecap, so there's your answer if you need another one) and cover other environments if necessary. It also provides food for excavator bounces, so if you're running that you definitely want to run this as well. It's significantly less useful outside of graves though, and I wouldn't bother with it there (unless you really hate cyclecap).
Legendaries: 75% (3/4) Super Rares/Events: 64% (9/14) Is it worth it?: Definitely, especially if you want to build a gravestone deck.
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