Too Many Questions: The Death of Decknaming
By Jake Sticka on July 13th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
A while back all of you, the general Salvation public that is, said you were tired of bad deck names. So much so you almost got ButteBlues18 to write an article talking about it. Sadly the article lost in the poll and was never written. However the public showed that they would like to hear more about the death of deck names. So I am here to give it to them!
Table of Contents
What was decknaming of the past like?
What Was Decknaming of the Past Like?
Before we can really talk about where deck naming is today and how it compares to yesterday we really need to define what it was like then. We will do this by using T2 and Extended decks and their names through of the years on the Pro Tour. A handy-dany Pro Tour History is included for those of you interested!
The 98-99 Season:
Pro Tour New York:
This Pro Tour was the first major event which is listed on MTG.com that features deck lists and and deck names. So let us look at some of the top decks from this Pro tour:
This is, of course, the deck which Zvi won his first Pro Tour with. Its title? Those savvy readers out there who actually read deck titles already know the title was Zero Effect, referring to its ability to play free spells as well as its ability to win the game through decking via Stroke of Genius. Being a combo deck, it is much more likely to have a good deck name as we will see once we have completed this year by year analysis. However, it still matches up well with what this deck might be titled today. What would it be titled today you ask? In all likelihood, Stroke or Blue Stroke. Which is better? You decide.
A YMG product, Utility Belt was the only deck to make multiple showings at this PT. Its name, while still being descriptive, also has flavor. This is a classic example of the kind of deck naming that players miss. While it has the kind of name that would allow you to know what it was without knowing its name, you could also have fun with it.
Also seeing the light of the Top 8 at New York were decks titled “Where is the Phoenix?” and “Hidden Green” once again being decks which are identifiable by name but also are not just its color or its key card. Then again, I guess another of those Top 8 decks did it for them when Shawn Keller titled his Academy deck “R/U Academy.” Okay so deck naming was not perfect even then; it can be agreed that it had quality.
The day on which Kai made his rise to top. That it what it will be remembered as for most. However, when speaking about deck naming this day can be remembered as the one when Wizards began its long phase of not listing the names which players register their decks as but the implications which they had. All Standard Decks were listed as “Standard Top 8 Deck” with the Extended Portion being listed similarly.
With D.C. being a limited event and London being uncovered Washington, Chi-Town is the first event of the 1999-2000 season to be covered. What does it yield? Bob Maher and the cereal craze.
Ah, the deck that spawned what is probably the most famous trio of deck names: Cocoa Pebbles, Fruity Pebbles, and Trix. While somewhat strange and untraditional, they were fun little names. They were sometimes dreaded which just added to what made them such great deck names. You are fearing your next round because you know what your opponent is playing: a brand of cereal. Another invention of Zvi and the Mogg Squad.
Almost mocking of what was the deck of the time, Suicide Black, Necro, The Skull, Alan titled his deck Suicide Brown. There is little to say except that we need more of this today. I mean you can't tell me you wouldn't laugh if someone brought Lip and Nail to your local PTQ (okay, maybe you can). Also props to Raphael Levy who premiered the still played 5 Color-Green in this PT.
This World Championship was the first major step-back for deck naming. Then again this is based on the Mercadian Masques deck names, which players may not have felt deserved the effort the think of a good name for. I mean, that is the effort Wizards seemed to put into block. Did anyone like that format? It was one of the slowest just generally uninteresting ones in Magic’s History. Anyway what kind of deck names did we get? “B/W Rebels”, “Rising Waters”, “R/G”, and “B/G”. Great, eh? Even Zvi couldn't fight it. The only even reasonable title was “Blue Skies” which while better than the best is still somewhat unoriginal. This was not a good day for deck naming although it would recover soon enough.
Well I never said it would be an overnight improvement. Pro Tour: Chicago is probably remembered for being the best Pro Tour in history, with seven of the eight probably one day being inducted into the new “Hall of Fame” (see my notes for more on my opinions of the Hall of Fame) and Kai coming out on top. I hope it is remembered for something, for it will not be for its deck names. We have the return of “Rebels,” a name that was old before anyone even named it. We have good old “Fires,” a deck that was named after its key card, of course being Fires of Yavimaya. Others out there such as “Ernham-Geddon,” “U/W Contro,l” and “Black/Red” were self-descriptive boredom. Good job, players of the world, good job!
Tokyo: We are back! Well, kind of. Tokyo was still lacking in the form of deck names. However, it was a vast improvement over what we had seen with MM legal. The deck that emerges as the powerhouse in the format is R/G. We are not off to a great start, now are we? Let us look at other parts of the Top 8 to see if we can find some improvements. Oh look, there is Zvi, back once more to save the day. In this case deck names, while still having time to win the Pro Tour. How does he do it?
As I said, red dominated, dominated Invasion block. Unless, of course, it was playing this deck which looked more like a Limited deck than a Constructed one. What did this deck do? It solved the red problem. What was its name? The Solution. Was it a flavorful name? Yes. Was it descriptive enough? Yes. Zvi once again creates the perfect balance. This is also the deck which evolved into the Extended deck, Temporary Solution.
David Williams also had an interesting deck title, DC-10.
(Anyone have any idea where the hell this deck name comes from? I don’t.)
With fourth of July having just passed, I am sure we Americans are feeling rather patriotic (actually, I haven’t felt patriotic once during the Bush Administration, save 9/11), so let us remember our Post-PT Block deck, USA or Captain American. Capitalizing on such great U/W/R cards added in Apoc, such as Lightning Angel and Fire//Ice, it stirred up quite a bit of fun before the Block season ended. And when your colors mean something, why not name it after that meaning? It is the kind of thing that plays the scales well: descriptive yet original. Remember that when I am naming the next great W/R/G deck “Tengo el cardas de Mexico.”
Worlds: Worlds 2001 yielded mixed results in the way of deck names. While the Standard part was overloaded with Fires and the Extended format just as clogged with old and abused decks there were still some surprises to be had in Top 8 decks. “Probe Go,” while using a keycard in the title and being less original than possible does score points on the name scale for atleast using a “cool” card in its title and for sounding cool.
Here begins the fall. Not of Kai Budde, who is still the man winning this Tour, but of the deck name. With only two of the eight decks in the Top 8 qualifying as good under our criteria. The rest fall under the title of either “Reanimator” or “Donate Illusions” both of which describe what the deck does in the most basic of ways. The two decks which do have creative titles are as follows:
This second deck, Secret Force, is a great example of how just because a deck fits into the mold of an old archetype name which is still applicable, does not mean you need name it after said old archetype. This is a practice which needs be considered and used more often today in order for deck naming to return to where it was.
This is the fall which I have been foreshadowing. In Osaka every single deck in the top 8 was a mere description. 3 Mono-Black Controls, a Blue/Green Threshold, a Blue/Green Madness, Black/Blue Beatdown, and a Black/Blue Psychatog round out the Top 8. Is there anymore to say? A true disappointment indeed.
Worlds was not an improvement. With two Squirrel Opposition and six Psychatog decks in the Top 8, the creativity in naming as well as deck building was as low as ever.
The plague was growing and then was the year in which it spread to the rest of the general public. In the three constructed Pro Tours in this year, there were a total of two creative names. Two in a year! It is at this point that I believe we can arrive at the conclusion that yes, deck names have worsened over the years. I believe the question which first comes to mind once you have formed this conclusion is:
Why Has Decknaming Died?
So we know when deck names died. The next logical question is why did they die? There are many reasons for this, several of which we will address today. However before we get into that I think I need first explain that there is no real one reason. It is very hard to put a finger on the one reason for it, even harder than pinpointing when deck names died, as a matter of fact. However, one overall reason is the growth of the game. Because it has come so far is very possible this is a natural evolution. How are we supposed to know, right? Magic, is, after all the first and only TCG to go as far and as long as it has. However I am not here to stroke Garfield’s ego, I am here to talk about the death of deck names. So let me do so.
The first and primary reason, at least in my opinion, can be contributed to the growth of the Magic community. Don't get me wrong; this article is being published on a Magic community site after all, but community often leads to refinement which begets unoriginality and conformity. Now some of you may be confused at this point as to what I am getting at, so let me explain in more depth by using this example.
I log on to Salvation and I need to get some information about what deck I am playing this Friday Night. So I load up the Type 2 forum and scroll down. What do I see? The Official Tooth and Nail Thread, the MUC thread, the White Weenie thread, and the list goes on. Looking at this forum I know which deck is which because the titles are self-explanatory. So if I am planning on playing Gifts that night I do not need to read through multiple threads titled “Christmastime,” “The Collateral Santa Claus,” or “Etched Gifts;” I can just know that I am on the right one when I click “[Official Thread] Gifts Ungiven.”
So yes, I am implying that forums such as the ones you are on right now have led to the decrease in good deck names. Much like in Magic design creativity always gives way for functionality and for the good of organization it must. However in doing so you kill the idea of original deck names. However once I tweak my Gifts deck that I read about in the thread to make it better against my meta, is there anything keeping me from registering it as one of the aforementioned original named decks like “The Collateral Santa Claus?” No there is not. However it is human nature not to; after reading about something under one context you are going to stay with the same context.
However the growth of community is not the only problem with deck names. It can also be attributed to the life of the game. With Magic going headstrong into its 12th year, some themes are beginning to repeat themselves as I am sure you have noticed. This obvious repetition is another reason for deck names having been worse in recent years. With decks being made that resemble others which have been made and played you begin referring to them with the same name as the prior deck. Why reinvent the wheel right? However this leads to stale and worn-out deck names. I mean how many years has it been White Weenie now? Or how many years has it been Ponza? I am not saying they are bad names or insulting those who named them but they are old; we all know that. And in reusing them we do not encourage creativity or originality.
The last aspect we will be covering today in the decline of deck names is the effect of magicthegathering.com, the Wizards-sponsored site, on deck naming. If you look on the back of your booster pack or even on your DCI card you will find its address. Due to this it is the first place that most if not all new players look for their online information on the game. Therefore the first impression of the game, how it's played, and more importantly for today’s article how decks are named, for new players all come this site. How they name decks for the rest of their Magic careers can be attributed to this site. And what impression do they leave on the said youth? They leave the impression that decks should be named in a descriptive and uncreative format. In any “competitive” Magic article found on the site you will find that decks are not listed as most players refer to them as but rather the much more descriptive term. When the R/G Affinity hoser was alive in the format and accepted as “The Freshmaker,” MTG.com and Wizards still referred to it as “R/G Aggro."
Edited by Goblinboy
Written by SorryGuy
Banner by votan
By Jake Sticka on July 13th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
About Jake Sticka
Achievments: Two JSS Challenges Top 8.
Expertise: Look above. What do you think? I know about Magic in general and have some knowledge about Extended and Limited. If you want to talk any other constructed format, go find HKKID.
Favorite Article: Aimless Wanderings: The Poster that Changed it All
Closing Comments: More? More? It was hard enough for me to formulate the above!