Flavor of the Month: Text is for Nerds

Brandon Amico • April 14, 2024

Orcish Librarian by Phil Foglio

Reading the Card Explains NOTHING

Welcome to Flavor of the Month, dum-dums. That's right, this isn't your grandma's Flavor of the Month article with its boring literary references and whining about the beauty of creativity and self-expression. Leave that to the inevitable Masterpiece Theater Universes Beyond set. Today, this column is gonna be all about badass art and as little reading as possible.

The real ones out there will be excited to hear that I've hijacked the column this go-around from its usual author, Brandon Amico. No more of that blowhard giving "look at me, I minored in English during undergrad" energy. Dude made this column smell like a bookstore basement.

My name is Chester Spitz, but you can call me Chet, Chef, or SpitzFire69 (that last one is my Arena handle, hit me up if you like matchups against win-con-less Azorius builds). Honestly, I'm surprised the lot of you with your giant eggheads made it through the door frame, but since you're here, take a seat on the high-end gaming chairs I set out for guests.

Chester Spitz, Esq. No, you can't see my face. I don't give that shit away for free.

Last time, the walking sweater vest that normally runs this column tried to make a badass Godo, Bandit Warlord deck, but the dipshit forgot to put in any Mountains. He was going on about some theater play or something, but based on the deck he built for it (I scrolled down to the decklist right away and skipped the boring stuff), the theme of that play must have been "sucks shit." And before that, he built a deck around....a poem? About flowers?! Yeesh. Dude, if I wanted to think about my mortality and cry, I'd watch the "I don't feel so good, Mr. Stark" scene from the first Infinity War movie.

Look, I have nothing against creativity. I love building decks, especially control ones that give me new ways to say "no" to my opponents, and in Commander, I can say no three times at once (and in three languages:"no, nein, no!"; that last one was Spanish).

I just think we should leave the creativity to the professionally creative types, and holy shit, stop making us read so damn much. There are more words on modern Magic cards than ever before, and if a supercomputer can't figure out this game, what chance do the rest of us have as Studio X frantically tries to invent scroll bars for paper cards?

That's why I took over the column this go around: to do a favor to all the readers who have been stuck with Mr. Fleet Foxes and his Sleepytime Tea builds for the last year or so. I'm not going to get clever with flavor texts or overarching themes. I'm not going to bore your shit to death by making you research some text from 300 B.C. that was found in an archaeological dig but turned out to be some dead guy's bathroom reader. Instead, I'll let the card art shine, and everything else is taking a backseat.

I'm building a deck where you don't have to read shit. 

Ingredients (Yeah, we're not doing "ingredients" this time)

Last Friday, I was at FNM, and after I 0-2 dropped out of the Standard event going on (that's what I get for pregaming too hard on Bojangles Hard Sweet Tea), I joined a pod of three people looking to jam a game of EDH. A lot of boring stuff happened in the middle of this story, but since we're about cutting down word counts let's just get to the end.

"Enough with all this reading!" I screamed as my opponent took a breath and started to turn around his Etali, Primal Conqueror to explain A WHOLE 'NOTHER CARD on the backside of his commander. Enough! I've had it. I'm here to play a game, not have you read the essay you wrote for your high school homework (or middle school; I think that kid was in 8th grade). I knocked that shit right out of his hand, and as a result I'm no longer allowed at that particular LGS. Whatever, no skin off my ass.

Back when Magic was good, cards would do one thing and be happy about it, like Royal Assassin, or would be so confusing no one bothered with them. Serra Angel having two abilities was about as complex as we were willing to handle; any more text than that and we were likely to shit our sky-blue denims. If anyone tried to play Takklemaggot against me, I'd just call their uncle and claim they had been huffing paint, then they'd get in trouble and have to leave. The problem would solve itself. Easy.

Kill a creature. Counter a spell. Deal three to whatever. Fuck up a Wall. These were all cards needed to do: be simple, clear, and useful. How far we've strayed. Now you need a Ph.D. in bumming people out at parties in order to understand these new cards and not get killed on turn six in a "low-power pod." THAT DECK WAS MORE THAN A SEVEN, CASSANDRA!

So today I'm building a deck that's so simple to pilot, we don't need words at all. Well, we need to know what the cards do, but we can remember what a Mana Leak or a Rampant Growth does without reading the text box, so let's just get rid of the text entirely! Back in the day, they used to do Player Reward cards that had no text on them; they looked cool as hell, and either you knew what they did already or you were shit outta luck. It was friggin' hilarious to lie to some loser and be like Yeah, one of the modes on Cryptic Command is "Take another turn" and another is "Target opponent returns all creatures to their hand." 

But as the saying goes, "nothing badass can stay"; they discontinued these promos in 2011. We got a couple of MagicFest promo cards in the meantime, but that was it until 2022, when they started giving out textless promos for the sole winner of Store Championships. That's my exact type of shit: no rules text, and if I get the card it means no one else can. Even in the age of endless Secret Lairs and variants, while "unreadable" cards are all over the place, truly textless cards remain something scarce and sought-after (read: badass).

So let's take one of these new textless, Store Championship cards and make a deck with little to no words in it. I don't see a better commander for a mostly textless deck than Omnath, Locus of Creation, and if you think there's a better option you should go live in a cave, you Neanderthal. Better yet, delete your social media, throw your phone in a river, and find a better place to hide than a cave because I AM COMING FOR YOU AND I AM INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH OUR NATION'S MAJOR CAVE SYSTEMS. 

Preparation (He really sticks to this pretentious subtitle theme, huh? What a dweeb.)

I have the patience of a poorly trained horse with his nuts on fire, so let's get to the good stuff. Whoever (Brandon would probably say "whomever" here, because he's a twerpy little nerd) chose the cards for those old Player Reward reprints had good taste. There are a lot of instants and sorceries that get shit done

Kill spells and board wipes:


More burn (man they make fire look fun, eh?):

And of course, lots and lots of counterspells. What if my opponents want to play cards, and I have to read them? HELL no. I'm an All-Star tier Subway Rewards member, I don't need this shit. Counterspells, a bevy of textless ones to boot (plus this copy of Disdainful Stroke where my dude is literally chopping a scroll IN HALF), make up the best part of this deck, because it lets me say no and skip over the worst part about Magic: other players. And their stupid shit.

On the small chance that an opponent sneaks a creature past my Navy S.E.A.L.-trained eyes, I can humble them. I don't care what your creature does if it's not gonna try that shit any more thanks to Dress Down, Humility, and a host of one-off ability-nuking effects, like Witness Protection and Eaten by Piranhas. Polymorphist's Jest is a great way to fuck up somebody's turn, and Overwhelming Splendor is the exact kind of "middle finger on a card" they should be printing more of! (That's me ending a sentence with a preposition just to piss off the regular guy!)

Not every one of my cards for this deck is textless, but most are, and the rest are in service of the game's win-con or just killing the spirit of my opponents and everything they dare try to put in my way.

Of course, this deck is also packing the King himself, the guy who was unjustly imprisoned for his sole crime of wanting to go back to a simpler time when everything was a vanilla creature: Oko, Thief of Crowns! What does your creature do? Not anymore! Oh, you're gonna gain incremental value over the next few turns with your Tireless Provisioner? I think not, fuckwad. 

Between counterspells, Oko, and all the Humility effects, the person playing this deck can sit back and enjoy not reading their opponents' cards, and if you're one of those people who say Oko should be banned in Commander, you and I have beef. He's already banned everywhere else I could play him! Leave him out of this! I WILL BREAK THE SEAL ON THIS SIXTY-GALLON DRUM OF TIGER'S BLOOD AND FIGHT YOU IN A KIDDIE POOL.

This deck can't just say "no" all game, unfortunately, and as much as making an entire family--father, mother, and twelve-year-old who convinced them to try out the Open House at the game store--fight back tears of frustration feels like a win, they need to be put out of their misery eventually. Like my uncle on the day he turned the ripe old age of forty-five.

So how does the deck win? The key is Omnath, Locus of Creation. He's sitting in the command zone, and he looks like he has no text, so hopefully my brain-dead opponents forget that what he does is patently insane. If I can hit three land drops in a turn--not hard with all the fetchlands, Harrow effects, and play-lands-from-your-graveyard shenanigans in the deck--I'll be gaining four life, paying for my next spell, and taking 10% of my opponents' life totals that turn. 

Between a few shots to the ol' skull box with Omnath, the burn from some of my more Fireball-y of spells, and even a Ledger Shredder to keep gas coming and provide a way to peck out my opponents' eyes (he's an honorary textless card since he's literally shredding words! Ledgers of them! I don't know what a ledger is exactly, but I know there's an ass-ton of words on it! So it deserves to be shredded!), victory is all of a few smug laughs and a couple "If you don't know what it does, feel free to look it up on your phone"s away!

I could describe all of the textless cards in here, but that's just too. Many. Words. So here's a whole bunch of them I haven't highlighted yet. Put on your readers, old folks, and take a good look at their glory.

Cool shit, right?

Yield (What is going on? Yield means "stop," numbnuts. Just call this section "DECK")

Text is for Nerds

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Creatures (9)
Instants (31)
Enchantments (8)
Sorceries (11)
Planeswalkers (1)
Artifacts (1)
Lands (38)

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Sleeve up that puppy and you're going to be the coolest guy at the third-closest LGS to my location (I was already banned from another for insisting that we bring the ante rule back for their fledgling Legacy tournament series).

I gotta go and hit submit on this article before Brandon realizes I hacked into his author account and wrote it here. To be fair, that's what he gets for making his password "I<3EmDashes". Don't read any more of his shit articles (sharticles? Damn it, I don't have time to make that better), just check in on all his new ones to see if it's really your new best friend Chester Spitz calling the shots. Peace, nerdz.

Brandon hosts the MTG Variety Hour (@mtgvarietyhour on TikTok, IG, and Twitter) and has been playing Magic since Odyssey back in 2001. When he's not slinging cardboard, he works as a freelance copywriter and is an accomplished poet with a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship. His literary work can be found at brandonamico.com.