On May 07 in the year 2007, Mark Rosewater introduced us to Melvin and Vorthos. If you haven’t met these two, please read Melvin and Vorthos by Maro. Even if you have, it is still an enjoyable read. It is my belief that there is a third demographic to complete this triad. I call him Titus. If you haven’t ever recognized the third, it is perfectly understandable. The presence of Titus is subtle and difficult to pin down. If you have a moment, I would like to introduce you to our neglected member of the Magic family.
Ever watch the show Frasier? When I think of Melvin and Vorthos, Dr. Niles and Frasier Krane come to mind. These TV characters dive deep into the philosophy of about anything on the show. I like to think of them as intellectual junkies. They must continually analyze and inspect every thought-provoking question to get their continual fix. It can be anything from the complexities of the human mind to the subtleties of a fine wine. In the show Frasier, Titus would be Mr. Martin Crane. Starting to get the picture? Titus is the blue-collar psychological aspect of the Magic Community, in a sense.
Truthfully, I agree with the majority of Mark Rosewater’s article. The part I don’t agree with is the intellect vs. instinct relationship. I perceive Melvin as the brain/intellect, Vorthos is the heart/emotional, and Titus is the gut/instinct of an individual. On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Titus would entail the lowest part of the pyramid with no desire or intent of pursuing further fulfillment. As an example, let’s say you are desperately hungry. This would be the kind of hunger where you haven’t eaten for days and your pet dog of 20 years is starting to look pretty tasty. When starving at this level, would you care about the finer aspects of two-day-old spaghetti in your refrigerator? Do you care about how it will make you feel emotionally? Would you even care about how the slight amount of sausage accompanies the particular spices in the marinara sauce? Hell no, you care about filling your stomach.
There are a lot of people in this world that simply don’t care about certain aspects of our society. This doesn’t mean these people are soulless beings or lemmings. It just isn’t a priority for them. They may have more important things on their minds such as finding a job, paying bills, and spending time with their children. Some people don’t even care about Magic! My personal objection with Maro’s article is the aspect that all people think this deeply about Magic and everyone has such involved thought processes.
The cards most enticing to Titus are simple and powerful cards. More importantly, each one must be powerful on its own merits. As such, the cards must be independent from other interactions with other cards. As an example, Wren’s Run Vanquisher is a semi simple, powerful card that Titus would not like. The problem relies on the fact that Titus doesn’t want to be forced to play with other elves or other cards. He would rather play with Watchwolf, which does not rely on other card interactions for it to be a 3/3. Scab-Clan Mauler is another card Titus would choose to avoid. It is powerful and simple, but the mechanics of the card make it dependent on others.
This has advantages for Titus. With this preference, their collection will be full of so called “staples” such as Wrath of Gods and Birds of Paradise. Deck building is much simpler because of this and many of these cards can be used continually in other formats. As the set rotates, many of the staples are ones that have a tendency to be reprinted. Again, Wrath of God and Birds of Paradise are prime examples, but Meddling Mage and Mystic Snake are others that were reprinted. Highly complex cards have the tendency to have a one set shelf life.
If I am explaining myself well enough, it should be clear that Titus hates, I mean, really hates hosers. Even if a certain card is logical in a certain metagame, it will be avoided at any cost. Deathmark is a good example. When Tarmogoyf began rearing its ugly head, Deathmark was an optimal choice for a sideboard. However, a Titus will try to avoid hosers by selecting less risky staples by opting for cards like Putrefy.
Another way to think of this demographic is practical. Flowers and Candy for Valentine’s Day are impractical aspects of the holiday. The only practical part of V-Day is going out to eat. Likewise, the most important aspect is what the card does. Art, overall flavor, and flavor text of the card is inconsequential. Having good art and flavor text are simply bonuses. If you asked a true Titus about the controversy around the new Meddling Mage artwork, well, he or she wouldn’t care. Titus only cares about the fact that it was reprinted.
To illustrate, here is a short list of very Titus cards.
Wrath of God, Eternal Witness, Counterspell, Vindicate, Pernicious Deed, Ravenous Baloth, Swords to Plowshares, Terror, Repulse, Woolly Thoctar, Lightning Bolt, Serra Angel, Keiga, the Tide Star, Recoil and Maelstrom Pulse.
There is one simple and easy way to identify cards Titus would appreciate. Can it go in a deck? Am I being cryptic? Let me explain. Take Swords to Plowshares. If you have a white deck, it can go in just about any white deck. It doesn’t need other cards to make it good. It is powerful and simple on its own. In reverse, now take Hana Kami. Can you stick it any green deck? No, you can’t. To make Hana Kami worth while, you need other arcane cards and other shenanigans to even think about incorporating it into a deck.
One of the most despised sets by Titus would probably the ones of the Lowryn Block. It’s not that Titus won’t build decks with synergy, but being forced to build a particular deck makes him upset. Now, if Titus would pick out his most favorite blocks, they would be the Invasion or Ravinica Block. It isn’t because they were gold sets. It is because these sets had a large quantity of simple and powerful cards. They weren’t particularly complex.
This brings to mind the Champions of Kamigawa block. One of the reasons, in my humble opinion, that the set flopped was because of its rating of almost zero on the Titus scale. Keep in mind the many players out there who can’t afford to buy booster boxes upon booster boxes of cards. With this in mind, what would Titus’s perception of the block be with three booster packs from the Champions of Kamigawa? Titus would cringe at most of the cards he opened. The majority of the cards would be unplayable. The most Titus could pray for was a whole pack of Sakura-Tribe Elders. In any case, the high amount of complexity and interdepedence of the cards in the set severely turned off any Titus looking at collecting cards.
Flipping back, Mirrodin, Invasion, and Ravinica blocks with a nod to the Legions set were some of the most popular. Legions in particular is very Titus with its all-creature theme. Such a thought makes Titus squeal with glee. The very idea of being able to play with any card in the set would make the poor Tituses of the world squeal with glee. The same would hold true for the more popular blocks. Mirrodin was the Holy Grail. Just about anything in the set was playable. Maybe not Spike playable, but playable nonetheless.
In no way am I promoting Wizards to print cards specifically for Titus. What I think is particularly important here are the sets/blocks as a whole. The important thing is to ensure a relative amount of simple cards are placed in the set. Highly complex and interdependence will reduce the excitement of the demographic. Alara Reborn has a significant amount of cards for Titus. If we had a 1-to-10 rating scale for Titus (1 being bad), I would rate Alara Reborn as a 6. Even though a large amount of the cards are independent upon other cards for interactions as a whole, a lot of the cards are a little too busy such as Pale Recluse.
Therefore, I believe the three booster pack example is key for a set. If a Titus only opened three packs from the set because he only could scrap together that much change out of his couch cushions, how happy would that player be with the cards he opened? If it were the Champions of Kamigawa set, Titus would be very unhappy. If those packs were Mirrodin, Titus just might pocket his lunch money for the week so he could go buy a couple more packs.
Combo decks are not fun for Titus. Each of the cards in their decks tend to be dependent on each other to produce some ridiculous turn or effect. The same thing can be said for Tribal decks. An elf or goblin decks are geared towards a team design. Big Red/Green Mana Ramp deck illustrates the exception to tribal cards. This deck featured Siege-Gang Commander as one of the core creatures. Unlike other tribal cards, the Siege-Gang Commander is a powerhouse on its own merits.
Decks designed with inherent synergy are fine as long as each card is not dependent on each other. Take a deck featuring Death Cloud with other cards with Garruk Wildspeaker and Kitchen Finks. Sure, there is synergy amongst these cards, but each one can affect the game state with out the other. Most often, a Titus player will often be seen playing control or aggro variants with the Rock being another favorite. If you pan through a person’s deck, it should be quickly evident if he or she is a Titus.
All Titus wants is every card in his deck to be relevant and playable. Titus does not want to be stuck with unplayable cards in ones hand. At the most basic of levels, Titus just wants to satisfy his primal needs of simply playing. Not playing spells and slamming down permanents makes Titus a very sad panda.
Why is This Important?
Beyond cards, this game at its core is about people. Too often people focus on the cards, decks, and strategies when we should focus on the person. When we understand the people we play against, build decks, or trade with, we have a significant edge. If you try trading a Titus for a Thoughtseize, Wrath of God or any other card he covets, you might as well give him your credit card, whole collection, and first born. Even though we could stick some price on Thoughtseize, there is what I like to think of as personal inflation. Titus and Spikes will treat Cashseize more like a 50 dollar card than its actual 30 dollar price. Now, the complete opposite is true if you try trading for a Mind’s Desire. Titus doesn’t even want the card. Titus doesn’t even want to play with the card. In the case of Mind’s Desire, there is personal deflation of the card.
Over the years, I have developed a strategy in trading. When going through somebody’s binder, I don’t just randomly pick or point at cards. I choose cards to help me distinguish what kind of person I am trading with. I find something Spikish and ask if they are willing to part with it. I gauge the reaction and move on to point out something maybe more Timmy. After doing this for a few moments, I can usually get a good read on my fellow trader and decide from there whether I actually want to pursue a trade. There have been times when I have come across Super Spikes and they are not willing to trade anything tournament worthy. If this happens, I just shrug and mention I didn’t find anything I want. None the less, knowing if you are trading with either a Spike or Titus can be beneficial.
Also, knowing your opponent gives a person an edge during competitive play. If you sit down to play against John Smith who you know is a Titus, their play style, deck and strategy can be predicted ahead of time. It can be assumed if John Smith is playing plains, there is a high probability that a Wrath of God is somewhere in his/her deck. Analyzing my opponent, whether he/she is a Titus, Vorthos, Melvin, Spike, Timmy or Johnny, has proven advantageous on more than one occasion.
During this article, I fully realize a lot of this is in hyperbole, but I have met people who have significant Titus aspects. When Lowryn was released, I knew a few players who absolutely refused to play tribal cards. I for one believe Titus does exist. I vouch for this strongly because I believe large parts of my Magic personality are very Titus in nature. I don’t care about flavor text and art is an afterthought. I only care if I can play with the card and incorporate it into any of my existing decks. When I open up a card like Mortify, all I think about is which of my white/black decks it can go into. When I pan through a booster, the only thought I ask myself is how many of the cards I can use with my preexisting card collection.
As the same with Melvin and Vorthos, there are crossovers. People can be a Spike Titus, Timmy Titus, and Johnny Titus with the possibility of a Dave Titus. If I were a betting man, Spike Titus would be the larger of the group, Timmy second, with only a few Johnny players having Titus qualities. Johnny combo can be more difficult to grasp having Titus qualities. Stasis and Winter Orb are two relevant Johnny Titus pieces of cardboard. Stasis is a very simple card and it impacts the board without the aid of other card interactions. The same can be said for Winter Orb. Unfortunately, good old Johnny finds ways to abuse them.
With all this said, don’t think of Titus as stupid. This would be a major error. Titus knows what he likes and doesn’t want to play with anything else. I have a brother-in-law who I would classify as a Titus in real life. His primary choice for food is a hamburger. Not with cheese, ketchup, mustard, or any other condiment, just a hamburger. Whenever we go out to eat, even in a fancy restaurant, he will order a hamburger or constantly complain there isn’t a hamburger on the menu. Does this make him dumb? Not at all, he is a very smart guy, but he lives a very simple lifestyle. He knows what he likes and that’s what he is going to do. He watches NASCAR and football. He doesn’t like politics. He knows politics and can argue with the best of them, but he doesn’t like politics. However, if we turned the conversation to anything car related, I would need to weld his mouth closed in order to ever get him to shut up. The man knows more about cars than just about anyone excluding Jay Leno.
Anyway, what do you think? Are you a Titus or is Titus just one of my multiple personalities?