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Hyperbolism and Magic

November 15, 2013

If you are regularly reading articles and tweets, and/or listening to podcasts and/or watching streams that contains strategy advice about our beloved card game, you have probably noticed that the authors of these works often use very “definite” descriptions when they try to offer you as a consumer advice or when they try to convey their points. I’m going to rattle off a couple of the classic ones below:

“I have been nothing but crushing dailies with this deck.”

“This matchup is unlosable.”

“This matchup is so bad for them, they can’t possibly win.”

“(Insert card name) is just bad.”

“(Insert card name) is just strictly worse than (Insert other card name).”

Sounds familiar, right? This phenomena within the Magic community have been on my mind a lot lately, because when people use these hyperbolic expressions they are more often than not just vastly exaggerating their claims or even just straight up lying about it. And this upsets me quite a bit. Well, at least enough for me to write a blog post about it.

I have been playing Magic for a while know, roughly 7 years straight by this point, and as long I can remember strategy related content about Magic have always been filled with adamant adjectives and descriptions. Why does this upset me? What’s my problem with this practice? Well, it’s simple really: very few things in the world of Magic are actually so definitive that they may be explain in such a manner.

I’m not saying that there is no space for descriptive words such as “crush” or “utterly destroys” in when it comes to talking about strategy for Magic. What I’m saying though is that I think these words are far too loosely used.

Every so often tweets will appear on my feed that have people saying something in the lines of:

“I have been crushing the last few dailies on MTGO with (insert deck name). This deck is insane!”

However, what they really mean is something in the lines of:

“I went 4-0 and 3-1 in the last two dailies I played with (insert deck name). Half of the matches was against Mono Red Aggro, and I won all of them.”

So, it turns out that a “few dailies” were actually just two of them, which in great scheme of things are not a whole lot of matches. In fact I would even say it’s still a relatively small sample size of matches. Further on it turns out that the sample size of decks played against were also quite small, with half of the matches against the same deck. Please note that I’m not suggesting that Mono Red Aggro is a “bad” deck in this example. Mono Red however tends to be a very one dimensional deck, which means that given enough dedication to beat said deck, it’s not something that is too hard to pull off.

Anyways, given the “clarification” above regarding the original statement, would you say that words such as “crush” and “insane” are suitable to use here? Unless Mono Red Aggro is actually a huge portion of the metagame, it’s not in my book. Hell, even if it were I would still be careful to say something like that in this context. There are still so many variables to consider before I feel comfortable saying something so definitive about a deck.

Because of the frequent use of hardlined descriptive words and being exposed to them constantly for so many years, the meaning of words such as “crush” have been so watered down in my head. I understand why players choose to use them; often they will be talking about a deck, some cards or a general strategy that they want to sell to their audience. From a sales perspective this manner makes perfect sense. I mean, you don’t hear car salesmen describing their cars they want to sell as “alright”, right? No matter what though, even if the manner of using hardlined descriptive words in Magic is understandable, I feel bad about it being this way.

The reason for me to writing these words about hyperbolism and Magic is not to start a crusade for a paradigm shift in content creation for Magic or to make authors and other vocal players within the Magic community feel bad though. Want I want with these words is to create an awareness to newer players in the community that haven’t yet been extensively exposed to this manner to see beyond the hardlined words. Much like as they taught you in school to be critical of what you are reading/hearing/watching, both off- and online, you also need to be critical when reading, listening and watching strategy related content when it comes to Magic. Although you should of course take the advise and teaching of what someone who is more experience than you in great consideration, it doesn’t mean that every sentence they utter is divine truth. Particularly if they are using a lot of definitive descriptions.

P.S. In the text above I have had the usage of hardlined descriptive words when it comes to strategy related content in mind. Of course I don’t have any issues or want to raise any flags regarding using such a language for comedic effect and whatnot. On the contrary, in that context hardlined descriptive words can be pure gold. Who doesn’t love a bit sarcasm every now and then? 😉

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 17, 2013 15:58

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